Friday, May 30, 2008

Safety in the Workplace

Forgive my pride. My plant has done very well in recent years. Kewaunee Scientific Corporation has received the Certificate of Safety Achievement from the North Carolina Department of Labor for the fifth consecutive year. Last year, when we received it for the 4th year we were to understand that it was a first in North Carolina. Needless to say, a fifth year is quite an accomplishment. Kewaunee has four manufacturing groups and a distribution center. My group produces and fabricates solid-surface chemical-resistant work surfaces and sinks for fume hoods, benches (counter tops for cabinet assemblies) and tables. We also produce and fabricate liner for fume hoods and acid units and cut float glass for the other plants. The Resin Plant has distinguished itself for going injury-free for seventeen months now.

So they recognized us and awarded us with nice shirts, cupcakes and a photo op. Here are the people I keep busy every day:

The Plant manager, Clint Webber, is the tallest guy in the back on the left. I'm just in from the right about the third row back. Slightly obscured to the left of me is Keith Smith, the VP of manufacturing. I've worked with him since he was a lowly manufacturing engineer in the metal plant. My "secretary", Gary, is the big guy on the far left. Not pictured are the three amigos on second shift. If Clint gets their picture tonight, I'll update this with it.

Some of these people are Christian. A few are strong, but many are nominally so. A few follow a false gospel. Of the three ladies in the front, the one in the center is Carla, a strong sister in Christ. She doesn't tire of bearing the gospel to many of these people daily. Just behind her to her left and right is Tim and Ned. Ned is a deacon in his church and Tim is the pastor of a small country church. So, thank God that we have remained safe in the place we work. Pray for those who don't know Christ at all, but also for those who think they do, but could know Him better (hey, that could include me).

In any case, I count myself blessed to work among all these people.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Personality Perspicuity

I just took Dr. Phil's Personality Test on my Facebook. It's not that I hold Dr. Phil (or Facebook tests for that matter) in high regard. Pop psychology does not truth make. This is the resulting canned, computerized analysis:

Your Dr. Phil's Personality Test Score: 47

Others see you as someone they should "handle with care." You're seen as vain, self-centered, and extremely dominant. Others may admire you, wishing they could be more like you. However, they don't always trust you, hesitating to become too deeply involved with you.

First, I notice that this purports to elucidate others' opinions rather than the test-takers own self-image... by asking questions about the test-taker. The only way I know that such questions could be accurate indicators is if it is demonstrated that the opinions others hold normalize relationships with the test taker that are consistent with common human experience resulting in predictable indicators in the emotional and behavioral construct of the test-taker. Otherwise, such a test is mere sophistry.

I can't speak for the way others view me. Assuming that this test is accurate, I'll compare this to who I really am and how I want others to view me and see if there's something that can be done about rectifying the difference.

"You're seen as vain, self-centered..."

I would say this is accurate. The fact that I'm posting this is evidence. Of course, we all are. But the human will is not so monolithic to stop there. I suppose I could stop eating, because feeding myself is rather self-serving. But if I die, then that just places a burden on others. In conversation, everyone I know are self-oriented. I've counted the items of self-interest that people offer to others and my self-discourse is rather low. In fact, I make it a point to ask others about themselves before I say anything about myself. I truly am interested in others. Few people return the favor and ask anything about me.

So the perception doesn't wash with reality. Here in these virtual pages I'm an author writing to a general audience and must necessarily be transparent, but in real life I'm either very quiet or boisterously enjoying the company of others. I often refrain from being transparent in real life because I fear being seen as self-centered and I'm aware that much of my considerations are incomprehensible to most. Can you imagine someone striking up a casual conversation on the debate on free will between Luther and Erasmus or the problems with string theories in quantum mechanics? It's not polite to confuse people on purpose.

"You're seen as... extremely dominant."

I seriously doubt this. People don't ask me to lead anything precisely because they don't see me as extremely dominant. I'm not a type A personality in the least. It's not that I can't lead. I'm just not perceived as being dominant enough to lead. So, I find it difficult to assume that this is true. Often, I call someone's name to get their attention several times before they realize that someone is talking to them. I'm clueless as to how to get people to listen to me when I have something important to say, and at my level of intelligence I have much that is important to say. I've just learned that other people will figure it out on their own without me if given enough time, so I usually keep my trap shut.

"Others may admire you, wishing they could be more like you."

With regard to music, this is obvious. Musical performance is overt and many have expressed a desire to perform music like I do. I have had some indication that people believe me to be intellectual. They generally don't seek me out in this regard, however.

"However, they don't always trust you, hesitating to become too deeply involved with you."

I can see this, but I don't understand it. Perhaps they perceive that I'm not very transparent. Maybe if I talked about myself more, they would think that I was less self-centered and trust me more. No. This is the difficult balance. People trust transparency, but not conceit. You become transparent by talking about yourself. You exude conceit by taking about yourself. You build relationships by exchanging information about each other. Almost everyone I meet doesn't want to know anything about me, so they don't ask. I try to encourage a relationship by asking people questions about themselves and offering bite-sized pieces of information about myself if they don't ask.

I suspect that most people don't want to become heavily involved because they sense that there is more to me that they cannot tap into. My wife and I watched National Treasure last night. At some point she made some offhand reference to "intellectual geeks". I asked her about it and she said people like this make normal people like her feel stupid. I think this is the key: if people don't trust me it's because they cannot understand me and I challenge their self-image.

Oddly, it's the "least of these" type of people I can most easily befriend because they don't have any illusions about their place in the world. If I want to spout off something they don't understand, they don't get put off by it. They just say they don't have a clue and love me anyway. I think this is part of what Christ was talking about when He said we needed to be like little children. Adults believe they have something to lose by following Christ. Children know they don't.

God can be difficult to understand. Some deal with it by resorting to anti-intellectualism. They say, "I don't understand all that stuff, so it doesn't matter." Others deal with it by creating a small god that they can understand. That's dangerous. Children know they don't understand and struggle to grow up so they can. May we struggle in our relationship with God and out relationships with each other so that we can learn to understand better.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Random Thoughts

I’ve been slammed with projects lately and haven’t had time to post much. I’ll give you a run down of some of my latest disjointed thoughts and musings.

It occurred to me that materialism is necessarily deterministic. Then, I realized that unless God is not the creator of all things or He is not omniscient or He is not omnipotent, then all things are ultimately determined by Him. However, materialistic determinism is physical and existential. Therefore, unless God created a physical universe where the laws of physics are always constant, then metaphysical principles, which precede and define the physical, at least occasionally override physical laws thus making materialistic determinism an impossible proposition.

In this same vein, if the human will is limited to mere neurological activity then our minds are products of materialistic determinism. It is true that nothing informs our decisions that are outside of God’s created order. But this created order includes that which is spiritual. Inasmuch as the spiritual is metaphysical, then we are agents of metaphysical manipulation of physical existence. That doesn’t mean that we can go about breaking the laws of physics on our own, but rather that the animation of our bodies is a product of something greater than the mere chemical and electric impulses found in our nervous system.

I’ve come to realize that DNA is arranged to store and convey information, much like a language. The two differ in one astonishing regard. Language requires an external common frame of reference for the purpose of communication. If I write using the Phoenician alphabet with the understanding that most people in this world don’t know Phoenician, then I can expect that most people will not be able to understand what I’ve written. However, if I write in English, there are dictionaries all over the place to fix the common frame of reference. If you don’t understand a word, then you can look it up. If you understand the word order and usage of at least most of the words, then you can understand my intended meaning. If I write the word “branch”, you have the experiences of trees, streams of water or genealogical lines associated with that word.

The language of DNA is different because it does not exist for the purpose of communication. It exists for the purpose of defining and building biological morphologies. The astonishing thing is that you can define a biological morphology in any language you want. You can invent your own language for the express purpose of defining all the morphological possibilities of an organism or its genetic family. It’s useless unless you have a frame of reference with which to translate the definition from the language into an actual functioning morphology. The astonishing part is that the language of DNA is self-referencing. Within the language and definition is the information required to perform the translation. The breadth of this capacity exceeds that of, say, the Rosetta Stone by several orders of magnitude.

DNA is more than mere information. Necessary for its function is an understanding of quantum and macroscopic physics since the DNA itself functions on the quantum level and defines organisms that function macroscopically.

I’ve often contemplated the benefits and drawbacks of evidential and presuppositional apologetics. Although presuppositional apologetics is compelling if you understand it, evidential apologetics is better understood by the average person. There is yet a third way, and I haven’t named it yet. Its intent is evangelism where the truth is espoused. Either the Holy Spirit quickens people to understand or He doesn’t. In those who He quickens the truth will resonate.

Perhaps when I get through some of these projects, I’ll be able to finish a thought. Until then, you’ll probably see more of these partial thoughts here. Keep my church in your prayers. Missions have been sporadic throughout this year with teams having been to China, Costa Rica and the near East recently. We have people and teams preparing for China, Nepal, London, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Four Corners, etc. We are excited about what God is doing, but it is a lot of work and requires much prayer…

So pray!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Elizabeth Wall - The Measure of a Life

For those of you who have been waiting, this is the graduation memorial video for Elizabeth Wall. Her mom narrates.

I wasn't sure about the quote from Tozer toward the end and the more I pondered it the better I liked it. It fits well with the song the family sings: "In Jesus' name we press on." On toward a new day tomorrow? No, but on toward a new day today. This is the measure of a life - not that our hope is in the future or that our hope is in the past, but that the hope of Christ is for now. We press on as though to win the race, not hoping for the trophy, but that our steps continue. For we don't reach the end of the race by forgetting that we have another step to take right now. And we don't ever reach the end of a life that is eternal. Emmanuel, the Christ, is with us now. His salvation is available to us now to be sure, but beyond that we are His presence and those to whom we minister present an opportunity to minister to Christ in them. It's no mistake that my previous post is about how we minister to each other. The difference we make in each other's lives is the measure of our life in Christ - not that there is any extravagant and immediate evidence as though to say, "Look at my good life!" But the measure is that which God uses of us in our weakness. I've always had a heart for the underdog. Maybe that's why sports don't interest me much: I always pull for the loser. Competition is okay and comeuppance is short lived, but the losing team that sticks it out bravely has the greater award.

What is the measure of Elizabeth's life? Not that it was short. Not that it took a lot of resources to keep her alive as long as she was. She made a difference in the lives of her immediate family. She made a difference in her church. She made a difference in the children to whom she ministered the gospel. she made difference in the lives of the community at large. She has made a difference in my life even now. May she make a difference in yours.

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Is There a Friend in the House?

Someone is hurt at a convention. People rush to assist and the call is made: "Is there a doctor in the house?" Someone has a heart attack and the call for and ambulance is made. The house is burning and the call is made for fire fighters to bring their trucks and extinguish it.

There's a truly spooky commercial I hear on the radio a few times a day. A sea of voices say, "We are your friends." A few of those voices say, "We are the friends you work with." A few others say, "We are the friends you hang out with in Saturday night." This goes on through a few iterations. If I heard voices like that, I always think to myself, I'd have to check myself into the mental ward. Just then a single voice announces herself in so many words as the friend who is your psychiatric counselor. I knew it was coming. It's a public service announcement or some such encouraging people to support their friends who are having emotional problems. I always ask myself, what if the person having emotional problems doesn't have any close friends? Perhaps the call should be made for a friend. Thus the title of this post.

Some recent cartoons:

It's better that someone yell at you like Violet just did to Charlie Brown than to be ostracized by someone who tries not to hurt your feelings by it. That's the southern way, the sickeningly sweet, "Bless his heart."

I really identify with that poor apteryx. I couldn't say in person the things I'm able to type; and if I actually get the chance, I get so nervous I have trouble speaking and forming words. I practice talking to people when no one is listening so I'll have something coherent to say when the time comes. Pathetic, no?

The only person who calls me on my cell phone is my wife. I know other people have my number, but they generally never call. What does that say?

Well, I do have friends. In general, they're not overly close friends. My closest friends outside of my marriage are found on the Internet. I can hear the argument now: get off the computer and go out and make some real live friends. It doesn't happen easily for me, and I suspect that it doesn't happen easily for many of the people who may read this. Generally, people like to keep me at arm's length. I'm the kind of guy who can walk into a crowded room, meander to the corner and stand there alone. Some people may say hello and go on their way to another more interesting person. I see other people who can walk into a crowded room and not be able to make it to the corner without being swamped with people vying for their attention. Charisma is a mysterious thing.

I also know that many who read this are the type of people I just described: people who don't know what loneliness is. They've never felt the hopelessness of not being able to express themselves and be understood. They don't know what it's like not to have people who value their opinion enough to seek it out or to have people the number of which is significant enough to trust their leadership.

I wrote this post for both types of people. Listen to David Moss teach from Hebrews 10:24,25

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The obvious message is to those who have more than their fair share of cool charisma. Be on the lookout for those watching from a lonely corner of the room who are NOT vying for your attention. They are the walking wounded. If you ask them if they need anything, they may be like the apteryx and not know what to say. If so, they need immediate attention. A person having a heart attack may not die anytime soon if nothing is done, but they need immediate medical attention. The socially inept need a friend like a heart attack patient needs to be tested to see if they need a stint, medication or bypass surgery.

The other side of the message is to my fellow lonesome doves. The tendency for those of us who have less than our fair share of cool charisma, when our condition wears on us, is to isolate ourselves. There is no shame in asking for help. It is the call for a friend as one who needs a physician for a physical ailment. If you call for your fellow Christians, they should respond. If they don't, God will be their judge.

I can hear another argument: we should be satisfied with the friends that God has given us - or the lack thereof. This is like saying that we should be satisfied with no food. Humans are design by God to be social creatures. As such, we need other people. I can hear another argument: we need to change in order to attract others. How, precisely? I've not a clue. I hear people keep a group of people enthralled when they talk about themselves. I do that and people tune me out. The only way I can keep a conversation is to get other people to talk about themselves. Then they go away. The arguments for the less than socially astute to be different don't fly.

Now, I must be fair. I'm not unliked. Actually, many people hold me in high esteem. They just don't con how to connect with me on my level and it intimidates them. I don't know how to connect with them until I know better how they respond to certain behavioral patterns and simplify my approach. However, I know people who are pretty much ignored. These are people I try to reach out to.

Are you reaching out? Are you lonely and need a friend? Are you reaching out to your Christian brothers or sisters as though to call for a doctor? Are you endowed with more friends than you have time for? Try reaching out to someone who drives off the people who only hang around for what they can get out of a friendship.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Elizabeth Wall - Strength in Weakness

April 6, 1989, marks the day that Lori Elizabeth Wall drew her first breath. Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder that causes pulmonary and digestive problems by affecting the mucous in the lungs and obstructing the function of the pancreas. Elizabeth had CF. Four years ago it became imperative that she receive a lung transplant. She never got new lungs and her time on earth ended April 22, 2004.

Elizabeth's dad, Charles Wall, is the Pastor of Grace Alliance Fellowship here in Statesville. The Wall family homeschools, which is where I've come to know them. Each year some of the homeschoolers among our group join together in a joint graduation ceremony for graduates. This year, the graduates asked the Walls if they would like to participate in graduation with a memorial to Elizabeth.

I was asked by the family to put together a video for the occasion which I finished only this weekend. I haven't uploaded it yet to YouTube, but when I do, I'll post it.

Elizabeth had a difficult time throughout her life with her condition. Nevertheless, she was no less active than any healthy kid. She loved to jump on the trampoline, climb trees, hula hoop, jump on the pogo stick, ice skate, ski, swim, ride horses, fish, go on hay rides, and so much more. She sounds like an active kid. She was so much more.

She was often found caring for babies. She loved to share the gospel with other children. She was active in Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), where she would share her faith. Where many who call themselves Christian shy away from speaking of Christ, even to other Christians, this little girl boldly endeavored to fulfill the Great Commission.

She also loved to sing. The whole family is musical and has always sang together. I've sung in choirs most of my life. Most of these choirs have been for churches. Some churches are more responsive than others, but normally when the choir looks out at a congregation, there can be found many who refuse to even wiggle their lips in praise to God. One wonders what they're doing there. The typical excuse I've heard is that a person can't sing. I think there's a common confusion between "making a joyful noise" and "talent". Some of the dearest moments I've had in worshiping through special music is when an amateur with a shaky, almost-in-tune voice drops the pretense of feigned spiritualism and offers praise to God with every ounce of childlike humility they have. Elizabeth was practiced, but not professional. As I screened the footage her family provided to me to include in the video I saw Elizabeth, hardly a month before her death, singing praises to God with her failing lungs. What a testimony to the rest of us when we complain about anything we think prevents us from glorifying God.

The video is soon to come...

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Winning the Debate Against Straw Men

I don't debate as much as I used to. The reason is that most of the topics I've debated haven't changed and neither has the level of the debate. In other words, most debates pretty much rehash the same arguments over and over. One reason is that people aren't generally convinced.

As an example, in many debates I often see one side or the other make “straw man” arguments. That means that they misconstrue what the other side believes and attack this misconception as though to win the debate. For example, many Arminians accuse compatibilistic Calvinists of hyper-Calvinistic beliefs. Muslims often use straw man arguments because Mohammad was not exposed to authentic Christianity and only knew the pseudo-Christian heretics that lived in his area. Therefore, when he dictated the Koran he made arguments against the only “Christianity” he knew.

It's easy to win a debate against someone who uses straw man arguments if your purpose is to win the debate on logical terms. If your purpose is to convince someone that your conclusions are true, then you must first help them to understand your conclusions. Typically, someone who makes straw man arguments either believes that his opponent actually believes it or thinks his opponent's position is logically dissonant. This is because he's using a different set of presuppositions and doesn't understand his opponents presuppositions.

Therefore, if your goal is to actually convince your opponent to change his mind, then the prospect of waging a debate becomes more difficult. It's not enough to simply call a straw man a straw man. You must help your opponent understand your presuppositions.

Perhaps the most interesting debate I ever had was with a college fellow who wasn't quite settled on the issue of Reformed theology. As a compatibilist, I argued from one extreme to the other working him into a mind frenzy until he realized that hyper-Calvinism and libertarian free will are both untenable. He was then willing to consider compatibilism.

The most difficult people I've debated are Darwinists. The problem is that Darwinists typically refuse to discuss presuppositions. They have a set of mid-level presuppositions that they use as an acid test. If you accept these, then they'll talk. If you challenge them, they shut down and resort to ad hominems and are generally dismissive. The reason they don't go any deeper than these mid-level presuppositions is that down deep they are afraid they might be wrong. This is where Dawkins is instructive. He goes deeper and verbalizes it. Then, when he all but admits that the more foundational presuppositions to Darwinism are conflicted, he becomes dismissive and retreats back up to his mid-level presuppositions.

All you can do at that point is say that you gave it a try, but your opponent was unwilling. As it goes, for those of us who know the Holy Spirit, a desire to assent to the truth requires no foreknowledge of the truth, because that desire cannot be debated into someone either evidentially or presupposition ally. That desire is only given by the grace of God.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Old Photos - 1970s

Well, FY2008 is finally over. I've been plenty busy at work so I haven't posted much. Tomorrow, I'll be singing in Ridgecrest for the Child Evangelism Fellowship international conference with our music ministry from church. I've also been putting together a video, which I'll post on later. On to the photos from the 70s...

LEt's start with a school photo from South Elementary School in Greenville, Oh:

We had four neighbor girls next door. These were the oldest two, Charlotte and Gerri Enicks. I don't have any photos of their younger two sisters, Jo Anne and Kelly. If I was Charlie Brown, Gerri was my Lucy van Pelt. She's the one sitting at the top of the slide. She's the one that let go of the bike when I was coasting down the small hill between our houses. I learned to ride then, but I crashed and burned big-time.

This is the front of our house. It was a duplex and we rented out the other side of it until the mid-70s. Then mom tore out a few walls and build doorways to the other side. I got a piano room out of the deal. Dad got a ham radio room. Mom got a washroom and me and my brother got a spare bedroom and bathroom to play in during the summer. During the winter, the upstairs of the other side was closed off. I remember goin up there and seeing the water in the toilet frozen. That was weird.

This was when Happy Days was the rage. The Fonz was cool!

My cat, Tasha, liked to have kittens. She's being held by my brother, Mark. Another girl, Julie, from across the neighborhood is holding the other kitten.

In the summer of 1976 we took a fishing trip with my aunt Wilma and her family to Bemidji, Minnesota. That's me trying to climb up Paul Bunyan's leg. My brother is squatting in the front. Cousin Marie has found herself a boyfriend there and cousin Eric fancies himself a junior giant.

Back at the lake we fished. I'm at the bow. Is that great-grandpa Oaks? There's dad in his Bocephus look with Uncle Jerold at the motor.

After Wilma and Jerold had moved to North Carolina, we came to visit and went camping at the beach. That's one reason why almost all the guys are shirtless. Here I am reading and practicing poor posture.

My brother was sleeping on cousin Bill. I'm not sure who the guy behind us is, but he and some other people hung around us while we were there.

Whenever we camped, we hoed down. (That's easier to type than to say.)

We also stopped and saw some historical sites. This is me with my Gilligan hat, jeans jacket, clod-hoppers and stripey jeans. This is very 70s.

The winter of '78 we had a blizzard. The front of the house wasn't too bad.

This was our church after the parking lot was grated. I was baptized here that February.

We moved to North Carolina after that because my mom had been diagnosed with cancer and dad already had a job in Statesville, NC. At my aunt and uncle's house in Lexington, NC, the hoe-downs didn't stop. I'd say "pickin' and grinnin'" but I don't see anyone grinnin'. They're just pickin' hard.

Later that year we moved to Statesville and mom died. We buried her back in Ohio.

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