Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Working In the Cloud With the Google CR-48

It's been a couple of weeks since the UPS driver delivered my own personal free netbook from Google. I was totally blown away by the fact that I even qualified for it. Even though I have 5 PCs in my office here at church, I'm not a computer geek - just a hoarder. :)

The CR-48 is a lightweight, low powered, minimalist netbook powered by Google's new Chrome operating system. You'd never really know that last part if someone didn't tell you, since everything you do happens within the same Chrome browser you may already have installed. Everything happens in "the cloud."

It's been a roller-coaster ride with the CR-48. Initially I loved it for its minimalism. It's like a stripped Thinkpad with even more rubberized coating. And even though the Atom CPU is not all that, it's plenty fast enough for most everything I do. Then I started to notice things like not being able to download and open common files. Or use my USB stick or SD cards. No local storage at all, just enough internally to house the operating system. It basically forces you to use Google Docs and apps that run online.

That strategy could work, if you stay in wifi territory. But I've already run into two instances where I had no wifi. The second one caused me to fire up the built in Verizon WAN card. It worked great but you have to be mindful of the data charges. Google does chip in 100MB per month in free data. So in rare circumstances you could make do.

I love the size, the battery life, and the simplicity. If Google can continue to mature the software to add SD and USB support, and open most common documents directly in Google Apps when you download them, I could see me and a few million of my friends paying $150 or so for a device like this. Thanks Google!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Trying To Follow

It's not even Sunday yet, and I feel like the last 3 days have really taught me more about the way God is working all around us. Yogi Berra, that master of the malapropism once said "You can see a lot just by looking" and I think he was right. Let me try to explain what I mean.

Wednesday - Pam Roberts called me mid morning and asked what we were having for supper at church . Since I put on the chef's hat each week except for potluck night, I told her spaghetti, but added "I haven't gotten the groceries yet." She then reminded me about the people in need she had seen in two locations within Valparaiso on her scouting trip with the "Supper on Saturdays" last weekend. "Could we fix enough to take to them too?"

"Sure." So I got busy and Bunny and I went to Publix to buy the ingredients. I had never cooked that much of anything before, so I was unsure about how much to buy, and nervous about how much it was going to cost. Then I remembered the grant the local Rotary Club had given us to help with our neighborhood meal outreach. Still, it was going to be a lot of money. So I gather all the items and head to the checkout. The cashier scans it all and the total was $35.74. That's what it normally is. But we were feeding 30 more people.

Loaves and fishes. Give what you have and let God multiply it. 

Last night I attended a men's conference in Chipley with John and Ian Anderson. Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention was the speaker and he was great, but you know what I loved seeing? All those men ready to give their allegiance and hearts to God, singing, praying, and studying God's Word. Johnny Hunt told us of a recent Sunday at their church where he stopped during a message about 15 minutes in and asked his 4500 member congregation "Who has lost a job, a home, a business? Who is in need of help?" Over 200 people stood. Johnny called the congregation into a time of prayer for them but as he did, people came forward and laid checks on the altar at the from of the church. The prayer over, Pastor Hunt saw the checks and moved by the Holy Spirit said, let's take up an offering. If you want to give money, do that. If you lawyers, CPAs, financial managers, physicians, dentists etc. want to give of your talents to help these families, give that, if you have rental property, spare cars - whatever you feel God wants you to do - you do. The result was that 241 families were helped with a total given for the fund of $400,000.

If God has blessed you, He has blessed you to be a blessing.

Then today Frank, Diane, and Michael Weech, along with me and Bunny - participated in the "Supper on Saturday" ministry. There are eleven churches involved in this ministry coordinated by FUMC Niceville. Our group delivered 157 meals to locations and individuals all over Valparaiso and a little bit of Niceville. We met a lot of new people and saw some we recognized from the past. It was hard work and I'm tired. But it's a GOOD TIRED.

If you've done it for the least of these, My people, you've done it for Me.

The people of New Hope, including their pastor and his family, are trying to follow the will of God as we understand it for our church. Our past successes are just that - past. We can thank God for the honor of seeing Him work through us, but we cannot sit around talking about "the good old days." God is up to something friends. He's bringing people and churches to the realization that we have to live in the constant mindset of a missionary "whatever it takes." We used to cheer those folks when they came back from the "mission field" to tell us about the miracles they had seen. It's still awesome to hear what God is doing "over there."

Well, I'm here to tell you that whatever God has ever done at any time, He can do now. Whatever He has ever done through anyone, He can do through us. And whatever He has done anywhere - HE CAN DO RIGHT HERE.

I can say that, because I have seen that in just the last three days. Can't wait to see what's next.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pass It On

Reposting this tonight, because I'm writing a paper for class about the most influential teacher I've ever had. Dr Kathryn Futral was that teacher for me. My prayer is that I would be that for someone else. -DW
If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching.8 If your gift is to encourage others, do it! Romans 12:7-8 (NLT)

How many people have you met in your lifetime? You probably can't count that high. Okay, how many can you say made a real difference? Chances are, out of a list of the top ten, there will be a teacher in there somewhere. Think back - who would you choose?

You'd probably not choose someone who laughed at you while scrawling an "F" on your essay. But that's exactly why I'd put Dr. Catherine Futral high on my list of women who've affected my life.

After a long time away, I had returned to Mercer University in Macon, GA to finish my undergraduate degree. I was majoring in business, because that's what my company would pay for, and was checking off the squares of required courses when I ran head on into Dr. Futral. A fixture for years at Tift College in Forsyth, she was teaching in the evening college after Mercer had absorbed her beloved campus. My goal was to get all my English courses out of the way as quickly and as easily as possible. Her goal seemed to be the destruction of the ecosystem by flooding the world with red ink.

To give you a mental picture of her wouldn't be hard. Think English teacher. That was harsh. Okay, think English teacher with a great smile and eyes that twinkled as she explained just how miserable she would be making our lives for the next 12 weeks.

She was a woman of grace, peppering her lectures with humor, and her comments on our work with wit. A committed Christian, and member of First Baptist Church of Forsyth, she'd often bring her faith experiences into her lectures. She'd quote Shakespeare, Faulkner, and the Psalms all in the same example of how to write a compelling paragraph. But when she evaluated your work - well, you'd better be ready to hear the truth.

I'll never forget one paper I wrote which received this comment: "Until the very last line of this paper, I felt that it was one of the best I had read. However, your thoughtless comma splice in the last phrase ruined it for me - and you." Beside that snippet she inscribed a large red "F".

Can I call that the gift of encouragement?

It was for me. My mission from that point on was to make Dr. Futral see the error of her ways. She kept trying to change my style, wanting me to use less punctuation - create shorter sentences - eliminate the passive voice. At one point, I ran a paper through a grammar checker program (new technology at the time) and handed it in. Her comment? "This isn't your work." "Oh yes it is," I replied, "and it's perfect." "It may very well be perfect as far as grammar is concerned," she shot back," but it is perfectly awful prose." You've never seen a smile leave anyone's face as fast as mine did. "You can do better," she said now smiling as she handed it back to me, "write it like David this time - from the heart."

Maybe she was from another time, when teaching was less a career and more a calling. All I know is that she gave her best and expected ours. I think of her often and thank God for her. In a sense I'm still writing partly for Dr. Futral. She believed in me. Every time I write I remember, "from the heart."

Do you remember someone who encouraged you along the way? Someone who helped you become the person you wanted to be?

Let them know it. They gave you their gift - pass it on.


David Wilson

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Way Over My Head

And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. 9 My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Gal 3:8-9 (MSG)

Like Paul, I know I am in way over my head. But I also know that God loves me and has chosen me to do this work of telling His story. So I watch and listen.

I was rearranging my office thursday and picked up a wooden plaque dated 1981. On it rested a hand print of one Adam Wilson, my first born son. It was so small. The writing on the plaque was some of that sentimental stuff about looking back at kids when they grow up. Uh yeah. Wouldn't want to do that. I'd be one of those saps, huh.

When Adam came into this world, I had no clue what being his daddy would mean. I wasn't just in over my head, I was clueless. All I could do is look at him and wonder what in the world am I supposed to do now?

I thought back to a baby lying in a yellow inflatable "tub" so we could bathe him. To a little boy who followed his daddy around. To a young man who I played basketball with. Then I thought about times when we worried over him - when he was sick, when those first days of school came, when we left to come down here and he didn't come with us. There were times of great joy - he was an awesome boy, and there have been times of sadness. Yet he has grown up and is a man anyone would be proud to call his son.

Yes, looking at that hand print made me think of God's grace - His love, and His mercy.

For through it all, even before Adam was born, God knew him, and He knew Bunny and me. We'll never know the extent of how God blessed us with His providential care. A lot of things could have gone wrong. An awful lot of things went right. In that boy, now a man, I got to watch God's work and have a part in it.

"And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ."

Well, sometimes they aren't over your head. I've got a hand print on a plaque to prove it.

Buttons and believers

One of those things you find out about after it happens and can see God's hands all over it.

The girls here at New Hope are learning to sew on Wednesday nights. Kinda cool that they'd acquire such an ancient skill, huh. :) Last week they were learning how to sew on buttons and they wound up doing that on two pieces of cloth that Bunny's going to send to the two girls our family sponsors through Compassion. Sean sponsors Ribka, a little girl in Ethiopia, and Bunny and I sponsor "Mookie", who lives in Rwanda.

So the work of little hands will soon be in... little hands. I love the idea of the hands of little girls here in Valparaiso Florida will be held by other little hands in Africa. Buttons and believers.

When Bunny and Sean were sitting in church Sunday, she told him about it and Sean sewed a button on too. Sponsoring Ribka in Ethiopia is something he did on his own. His mom and dad are very proud of the way he has found his own walk with Jesus. I pray the Holy Spirit delivers more than just fabric, thread and buttons to those two little girls. I pray He helps them find their way with Jesus too.

Everything we're doing at New Hope ought to be aimed at the same goal.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting What They Deserve

From It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life

One of the pieces of information I've picked up in my recent foray into public education is the disturbing realization that some of the same ills that plague the church are also found in the halls of education. For example, I have found that they "we never did it that way before" cult lives within education as well. And it is just as unwelcome and just as harmful to the goal of education as it is in the church.

We were discussing classroom assessments (tests, projects, quizzes, etc.) in class on Saturday. Our teacher, who works with kids in Panama City who are having difficulty learning to read, was telling us about one kid, we'll call him Charles, whose mother is a gang member. Charles doesn't come to school all the time, and has trouble staying motivated. So the teacher and Charles have worked out a system for assisting Charles. If he comes to school and stays engaged, he gets a coke. Sounds simple.

Well, the only coke machine is in the teacher's lounge and when Charles went there last Friday, a teacher shooed him out despite his insistence that his teacher told him to go there. When confronted, the teacher said "we never let children into the lounge." Didn't matter that Charles' attendance had tripled. Didn't matter that another teacher sent him. WE NEVER DID THAT BEFORE!

Later in the same class, the teacher was sharing how she handled homework with a group of kids like hers. She uses homework to see what the kids are learning - to help her help them. The district wants her to count homework in their grades. But because the kids don't come every day, and don't do their homework sometimes even when they come, the resulting zeros would doom any chance they have of passing the class. So the teacher simply uses what they do to see how to adjust her teaching, and then uses the tests to determine their grade.

A woman in my class who is a long time substitute teacher (and who I'm glad my kids never had) was irate with that idea. "But you are breaking the RULES. If the kids can't be troubled to do the homework, what are you teaching them?"

Our teacher said, "We had a test over the chapter Friday, and everyone made a "B" or better and Charles made a 92. It was cokes for everybody."

Then she said, "You have to decide whether you really want this kids to learn, or you would rather them fail as long as they did it YOUR WAY."

It got real quiet.

And I wondered... How many Christians would rather see someone go to hell rather than experience the love of God through Christ Jesus in Salvation simply because "We never did it that way before"?

How many of us secretly root for people who are far from God and caught in sin - to stay there, because by doing so they confirm what we believe about them?

I am sick of it. Sick of people who are graceless zombies. Sick of folks who take some perverse pleasure in pointing out other people's failures. Sick of it.

If you can't love your brother who you can see, how will you love the Father who you can't see?

Listen, if we all -you, me - got what we DESERVE - we'd be toast.

If you can't embrace grace - then at least get out of the way.