Feeds:
Posts
Comments

According to The Boston Globe, this is the statement that Trump made today (1/29/2017) about the executive order he made, which has been widely referred to as “The Muslim Ban.”

“America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say. My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”

I agree that the ban’s common name is a bit of a misnomer, as Christian immigrants and refugees have also been affected, as described in this CNN article.

I also agree that what Trump said may sound good in principle, but it defies facts.

In reference to the 7 banned countries, an article by New York Daily News writes,

“Not a single American was killed on U.S. soil by citizens from any of those countries between 1975 and 2015, according to statistics tallied by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute.
However, the same set of statistics show that nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by citizens from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt in the same time period — with the bulk of those killed being victims of the 9/11 attacks. Yet, people from those three countries are still welcome to apply for U.S. visas and travel permits.”

That CATO Institute article referenced above can be read here, and provides facts such as these:

terrorismvsmurder

Your percent chance of being killed on US soil by a foreign-born terrorist is 0.00003%. You have a 252.9% greater chance of being murdered than dying in a foreign-born terrorist attack on US soil.

According to this article by The Wall Street Journal,

Approximately 85% of all suspects who took steps toward terrorist-related violence inside the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks were U.S. citizens or legal residents and about half were born U.S. citizens, New America Foundation officials calculated. Birthplaces couldn’t be definitively determined in 10 of the cases.

None of the major U.S. terrorist attacks or plots on or since Sept. 11, 2001, appear to have been carried out by people from the seven countries. The 19 men involved in the Sept. 11 attacks were from Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. The same is true of other prominent incidents since the Sept. 11 attacks.

In essence, banning these seven countries is like saying you’ve fixed your wasp infestation by chasing one wasp out of the house, when in reality there’s a swarming nest in the attic you’ve left untouched.

wasp-nest-2

The same Wall Street Journal article quoted a reputable source saying,

“We have a lot of things that we need to build upon, some stuff we need to refine, some stuff we need to do better,“ said Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who worked on high-profile terrorism cases and worked on some of the systems in place to vet travelers during the Bush administration. ”But we can’t be bulls in a China shop and say you’re not allowed in the U.S., period. Because that’s going to create a lot of animosity and that’s going to feed the ideology of many of the terrorist groups we’re concerned about.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

If you do not, please provide support from reasonably unbiased sources supporting your case, and remain civil in your discourse. Thank you.

Religion is like a day at the race track.

I have given the topic of world religions a lot of thought recently. Admittedly, this allegory has been constructed from my (imperfect) Christian perspective, but this is the allegory I have decided fits best.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/Racing_at_Arlington_Park.jpg

We are all patrons at a race track. The rules at this particular track are:

  1. Entry to the track requires a $100 investment, no more, no less, which gets put into an account with your name on it.
  2. You only get to bet on one horse at a time, and each bet is for $9.
  3. If you don’t bet on a race, $10 is automatically removed from your account.
  4. There will be 10 races throughout the day, and you don’t get to leave the race track until the last race is finished.
  5. During Race 10, you have to place a bet, and it’s all or nothing.
  6. You have to pay the House $10 for parking on your way out of the racetrack, whether you won big or lost it all.
https://i2.wp.com/www.winningponies.com/images/drf_markedup.jpg

Sample portion of a Daily Racing Form (click to enlarge)

Upon our entry to the track, we all are handed a slip of paper with the day’s odds on it. Many of us, at our first race, really don’t know what to make of all the names and numbers– so we ignore them. Instead, we observe the bets that our parents/guardians (or people we trust) make before we start placing our own bets. We simply copy what they do for the first several races. During this time, we start to notice if our parents seem to be getting it right– if they seem to be making reasonable gains, or if their logic for picking their horses really makes any sense to us. If they do, and it does, we likely will continue to place our bets in the same manner as they do. If they don’t, or it doesn’t, we will start taking a closer look at the paper with the day’s odds, or what other people we come in contact with are doing with their bets.

https://i1.wp.com/media.nbcnewyork.com/images/1200*675/kentucky-derby-betting.jpgThroughout our day at the track, other patrons we come in contact with are trying to convince you to place your bets one way or another– insisting that we can all win big, and that they have the best interpretation and understanding of the day’s odds and that if you stick with their betting algorithm, you’ll leave the track at the end of the day with your pockets full. Some have your best interest in mind and want to spread the luck all around, others don’t have your best interest in mind, and lead you in the wrong direction for their own gain in a “more-for-me” mentality; you have to discern who is who.

https://www.kentucky-derby-online-betting.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/how-to-bet-kentucky-derby.jpgSometimes the popular choice is a “guaranteed” win, but with a tiny payout. Sometimes the unpopular choice is the right choice, and has the biggest payout. Sometimes defying the odds works in your favor, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes going with the crowd works in your favor, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes going with your gut works in your favor, sometimes it doesn’t. It is, after all, a gamble!

Sometimes we bet along with our parents’/guardians’ forecasts, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we don’t want to do the work of crunching the numbers and making heads or tails of the odds sheet and just go with the flow. Sometimes we just bet the same as those around us. Sometimes we just tune everyone out and do our own things because it seems like no one really knows how to win every time.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/05/04/article-0-199CD93C000005DC-275_964x639.jpg

Selfies at Churchill Downs.

Sometimes we get caught up in all the noise around us and miss the betting deadline, or get busy with other things, or we lose interest in trying to determine the winning horse all together and just let the $10 evaporate without chance of returns. Some people may be of the opinion that the money they earn here won’t have any bearing on what happens to them when you leave the racetrack at the end of the day, so they don’t bother to try.

Just before race #10, the announcer’s voice booms over the sound system:

Good evening everyone, I hope you’ve had a lovely day at the track! Hopefully you’ve chosen your bets wisely during the last 9 races and have earned a good chunk of change and have the potential to win even bigger in this final race! But, if you haven’t, never fear! You’ve still got those last $10-19 in your account!  Race 10 is about to get started in just a few moments; you all know the rules: you have to place an all-in bet, or lose everything you’ve already earned today. Best of luck to you folks! 

When it comes down to the wire, you put it all on the line, say a prayer, the gun goes off, and you wait for the final crossing of the finish line.

https://i2.wp.com/wdrb.images.worldnow.com/images/3639044_G.jpg

Ok. I know, I know. It’s not a perfect allegory, and obviously I’ve never spent a day at the racetrack, but bear with me.

A few translations for the allegory:

  • Money = spiritual “currency,” our investments of faith and good works, driven by said faith.
  • Each race = a decision point in life.
  • Each bet = where we actually choose to invest our faith and actions in response to the decision points were are presented with.
  • Winnings/Payout = amount of glory brought unto God, based on our “bets.”
  • Algorithms/strategies = Religions (Catholicism / Lutheranism / Judaism / Islam…).
  • 10th Race = your 11th hour, the defining moments before your death.
  • The Parking Payment booth = the gates of the afterlife.

With the $100 bank account, we all start out even with God. We are all born into this word with the same spiritual potential to win big by pleasing God. What we decide what to do with our spiritual currency (how we place our bets, as represented by our faith and works) determines how much we enjoy our day at the races. Winning is fun, losing is not– since we are stuck at the track until the 10th race, we all want to win as much along the way as possible. But sometimes, even winning comes at a cost:some people may give you trouble for doing better than they did, others may approach you and ask you for your secret. You must decide how to handle these situations.

Each race represents a decision point in life (Yes, I realize that people generally encounter more than 10 decision-points in their lifetime, but regardless of the number, it gets the same point across). There is spiritual “currency” at stake at each decision point, and the investment/bet you make determines the “payout;” which is ultimately the amount of glory brought unto God. If you don’t place any bets or are totally disinterested in “winning,” all of your chances to win are lost at that particular instance.

Algorithms for winning the races are like each of the world’s religions. Each religion has its formula on how to best relate to, and please, God. Each one has a variation of “if you stick with the program, you’ll come out ahead” ideology. At the end of the day, some of them are closer to the real list of winners than others. The interesting thing is, that I think most of our algorithms are flawed (albeit, some more than others). No one has a perfect understanding of exactly how to please God; we have theories, which we have molded into religions. We are doing the best we can to “win” as often as possible based on our own understanding– which, by essence of being human, is flawed.

As children, we don’t really understand how religion (relating to and pleasing God) works. We usually follow in the faith footsteps of our parents/guardians until we are old enough, or wise enough, to try and figure it out on our own. Sometimes we come to the same conclusion regarding the most successful algorithm/religion, a prescribed pattern of decision making, as our parents/guardians. Sometimes we don’t. As people who genuinely care about your wellbeing, it may cause some arguments between you and your parents/guardians if you choose an algorithm/religion different from the one they have decided is the best one out there. Pressure and persuasion to switch algorithms may come from either side, or neither side.

Sometimes when people make decisions about where to place their bets, they don’t take the time and the effort to look at the facts they are presented with. Sometimes we don’t want to do the work of researching the holy texts, the context of holy texts, or making heads or tails of conflicts between religions. Sometimes we just go with the flow. Sometimes we come up with a Frankenstein system of decision making by piecing together other algorithms we have heard, or just make up our own from scratch. Sometimes we just fly by the seat of our pants with what feels right to us at the time. Sometimes the algorithms get it right, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes we all just get a strike of dumb luck. Sometimes we make the right choice for all the wrong reasons; sometimes we make the wrong choice for all the right reasons.

Sometimes we get caught up in the noise of life, or get busy with other things and miss major opportunities to grow our spiritual bank account. Sometimes we just lose interest in trying to determine who or what’s right and just let the funds in our spiritual bank accounts evaporate without any chance of return. Sometimes we figure that we won’t win anyways, so “What’s the point of taking the time to try and figure out where to invest our bets?” and wave the funds in our spiritual bank accounts a “goodbye and good riddance!”

However, just before the end of the day (our time here on earth), we get one last bet. It’s all-in. We have one last chance to consider all of what we were bombarded with during our day at the races, one last chance to sort it out, and put our money where our mouth is. This final bet determines how we leave the racetrack. Do we leave with something to show for our time, or with nothing at all? I chose to include this in the allegory because most religions have some sort of exclusionary clause written in. For Christianity, if you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you win big with entry to heaven, but if you don’t, well… you don’t (John 3:18, anyone?). Per my understanding (which may be flawed), in Islam, salvation is earned by total submission to worshiping God, who is understood to be separate from Jesus (Jesus is one of the flawless prophets, but not the son of God). At the end of the day, you are kind of forced to choose one because the bet you make, your faith and works, can only fall into one final decision — and you either get it right, or you don’t.

After we leave this life, the racetrack, we have to pay our dues to the House for “parking.”

https://i2.wp.com/guardianbooth.com/assets/img/gallery/img6.jpg

If you won races (pleased God) along the way, and ultimately won the last race, $10 for parking won’t be missed; and you’ll get to go home (to heaven) and party with your extra winnings (with extra glory to give unto God) .

If you only won the final race, and came to please God in the 11th hour, $10 for parking will likely let you break just about even, perhaps with a few extra dollars to spend once you get home. Either with the extra winnings or not, since you have the $10, you get to go home (to heaven).

If you lost the final race, or decided not to place a bet at all, $10 will be more than you have in your pockets. It’s between you and the House (God), how that debt gets settled. I don’t claim to know how that works. My algorithm predicts that this results in going to hell; but the god I worship (as I understand Him), although He requires faith and repentance, is also merciful and loving. To repay your debt, do you get taken to prison (hell), to therapy for gamblers (purgatory/reincarnation/…?), or do you just get stuck in a boring waiting room (the grave) until God returns during the end of days and lets you go home (to heaven)?  So, like I said, I don’t really know how that debt is repaid if you lose the final wager. I just know that I plan on making bets throughout my life in such a way that hopefully I don’t have to find out the hard way.

Anyway, that’s the product of a whole lot of thinking on the subject. If you think it’s a winner, cool. If you think it’s a pile of horse $#it, less cool, but, hey; you’re entitled to your opinion. Either way, I’d love for you to (politely) let me know what you think!

 

The intended audience for this post is my Christian readers. If you’re not Christian, you are welcome to continue reading, but I don’t think you will be particularly interested in what I have to say.

In this time of President-Elect Donald Trump, scrolling through my Facebook feed, I see that many of my mid-20’s aged friends are in a call to arms. Many are discussing their pet cause that they now plan to start giving their time and or money to to make sure that one marginalized group or another will have community support regardless of the political minefield that lays before us between now and 2020.

Christians in particular, of all political backgrounds, should also be in a call to arms. As Christians, we need to help ensure basic human decency for all; we are shown time and time again by the perfect example of Christ that it is our job to care for the marginalized. However, a lot of us find ourselves between a rock and a hard place trying to find an organization that supports the targeted groups and Christian values.

The overwhelmingly conservative American politicians elected into office in the 2016 election will likely propose a slew of ultra-conservative policies. If internet chatter can be taken for any indication of what will happen in Washington, I would not be surprised to see bills proposing restrictions on abortion and gay rights. And regardless of how you integrate these issues into your understanding of Christianity — it is no secret that The Church(es) don’t all see eye-to-eye on these issues– if any such legislation is passed, it will likely further strain an already strained system: the Foster Care System.

If you’ve ever read any of my blogs, you probably know that this is my pet cause. And I feel like now, more than ever, it’s a very important place for Christians to be.

I’ve written about different ways to volunteer to help kids in foster care multiple times on this blog (See this post, or this post). But today I want to focus you on one specific charity: Royal Family Kids Camps.

As stated on their website, “The primary purpose of Royal Family KIDS Camp is to give foster children ages 6-12 a week of positive memories and royal treatment in a Christian Camp environment.” Each counselor is assigned a maximum of 2 campers. As a counselor, your job is to make sure that your campers are having fun, staying safe, and learning about how much God loves them. There is a fantastic film called “CAMP” — which is available on Netflix — that shows you what a day at an RFK camp might look like. The first time I watched this movie, it seriously moved me, and I had to write this blog post about it to process all of my thoughts.

Yesterday I made the call to my “local” Royal Family Kids Camp contact. I asked her when their 2017 summer camp was going to be held, and I put it in my calendar. My husband and I are on the list of emails that should receive counselor applications when they are sent out for our specific camp (in January). We are very hopeful that we will be selected to be counselors at a camp in early June.

But why think about volunteering for a summer camp the week before Thanksgiving?

Reason #1: As of right now, very few people have started to make plans for their summer vacations yet, which means most people’s summer schedules are still flexible enough to accommodate spending 5 days/nights as a camp counselor at a Royal Family Kids Camp.

Reason #2: Becoming a counselor for foster children takes a background check and some training, so the due dates for applications are pretty early. Different camps have different application deadlines, but November is early enough to start the conversation with your local Royal Family Kids Camp contact that you should be able to complete all of the paperwork on time. Like I said above, applications for our specific camp need to be submitted in January.

Reason #3: We’re all about to spend the Thanksgiving holiday, celebrating family traditions with our families. As much as we may moan and groan about having to listen to that one uncle talk about politics before dinner, we should not take family for granted, because there are a lot of children in foster care (as of September 30, 2014, “… an estimated 415,129 children…” in the United States,) who don’t have a permanent family — annoying or otherwise.  So, as you’re sitting there, stuffed full of turkey and pumpkin pie, I encourage you to think about whether or not you could afford to spend a few days and nights next summer helping kids in foster care create some positive memories and grow their understanding of how much God loves them, during one of the most chaotic times of their lives.

If you are interested in signing up for a 2017 Royal Family Kids camp with us, message me on Facebook or send me a text or email. I’ll let you know which camp we’re heading to, and maybe we can do it together. We would love to share this experience with you!

Back in September, before the 2016 presidential election, I attended an after-church presentation on being “Christians in a Multireligious America” given by Rev. Dr. Paul D. Numrich at another church the next town over.

The majority of his presentation consisted of what I would categorize as “fun facts” about the growing diversity in the United States, which was mostly statistics about what original nationalities comprise large portions of the American populace.

This segwayed into the religious diversity of America, and statistics about which religious populations are where and how concentrated they are. Interestingly enough, and sadly (in my opinion), roughly 1/5 Americans consider themselves as religiously “unaffiliated.”

He described several different responses The Church-es have taken to the influx of religiously diverse immigrants and converts. Somewhat to my dismay, Rev. Dr. Numrich didn’t offer much prescriptive advice about how to interact with people of other faiths in an evangelical way. But he did offer some prescriptive advice about how to interact with people of other faiths in a Christian way:

  • 1 Peter 3:15-16:
    • But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
    • Be ready and open to talk about your faith when people ask you about it– the key words there being “when people ask you.” Be careful with your wording, truthful and respectful– you are representing Christ after all.
  • Exodus 20:16:
    • You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
    • Don’t spread mistruths about those who practice other religions. Step in when you hear someone spreading rumors or falsely representing those who practice another religion. Be a beacon of truth.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:
    • If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

      Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

      Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

      And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

    • We usually reserve this chapter of the Bible for weddings, but it is pertinent to our interactions with all people.

  • Romans 12:18:
    • If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
    • The truth is it may not be possible. The truth is that most of the time it really is possible, we just pretend that it isn’t. If others are making scene, do not add gasoline to the fire. Offer to help snuff the flame. At the end of the encounter, you should be associated with the peace-making, not the scene-making.

Upon the presentation of these Biblical suggestions, and the conclusion of the formal presentation, Rev. Dr. Numrich opened the floor for questions from the overwhelmingly white, age 55+, Christian audience.

I was honestly taken aback when most of the commentary/questioning was hostile, and that the majority of the hostility came from those in the 45-65 age range.

One man voiced his anger that there is some town in Tennessee that is now overwhelmingly Muslim. He feared that because Muslims are now the majority there that they could vote Sharia Law into power and thereby oppress the Christians/other religions in town.

Rev. Dr. Numrich responded by assuring the man that there is a large enough division between “Church” and State, or in this case “Mosque” and State, that Sharia Law would never be able to be put into legal effect in America as the laws now stand. Additionally, he pointed out that “That’s Democracy,” the one ideal that all Americans seem to hold most near and dear to their hearts.

I also mentioned that even if somehow Sharia Law gets put into effect in this Tennessee town, our God is bigger than our worldly governments. Our faith should be in His deliverance, not that of our government. Just this week at church one of the readings, Luke 21:9-19, captured my understanding of what Christians would be called to do in such a situation:

When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

“But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.

At one point, Rev. Dr. Numrich told us the story of when he went to Malaysia (?) to discuss how America has managed peaceful religious integration policies despite our religious diversity rates. In many countries, this sort of diversity results in civil wars (Numrich also noted that our wars have always been about race, rather than religion (even if religion was used to support the arguments) which I’d never thought about before). One woman commented that she thought that it was ridiculous that anyone consult the US on religious integration after the way we’ve taken prayer out of our schools. She was downright outraged.

I raised my hand to respond and said something along the lines of: We were lucky to be the dominant religion during the beginning of America as we know it. How would you feel if instead a Muslim country founded the modern day US, and the Islamic equivalent of the “Lord’s Prayer” was said over the loudspeaker every day at your school? As a Christian, wouldn’t you just prefer no prayer at all, rather than being forced to sit awkwardly through a prayer you don’t want to pray?

I then asked her a final rhetorical question, paraphrased: Why are you relying on the school system to maintain your child’s religious health? Faith should be fostered in the home, in the family, in the big-c Church. It’s not the responsibility of a public school teacher to make sure that your kids say one prayer a day– it’s the parent’s (or caretaker’s) job!

Then, came one question from another man I had heard before: Are God and Allah the same god?

Rev. Dr. Numrich explained that historically, they are– both names refer to the god of Abraham. Then either he or I explained that the major differences are our picture of God, how we understand Him, how we to relate to Him, and how we aim to please Him.

Then I got to be a nerd and explain how “Allah” is a unique word in Arabic. The “al” portion is like the definite determiner “the” in English — denoting singularity and specificity. However, the “lah” portion is not a generic noun for “god” like “the Greek god Zeus.” In this instance, the “al” and the “lah,” –the “the” and the “god,”– are inseparable. It’s a cool thing that Arabic did to honor God.

The man who posed the question said that he’d never met anyone who knew Arabic well enough to explain that to him, or knew anyone who could read Arabic well enough to let him know if in an Arabic Bible it uses the word “Allah” for the word “God.” He then said that he had an  Arabic-English dual-text New Testament in his van, and asked me if I could read it, to which I responded “Well enough to let you know if they use the word ‘Allah.'”

He brought the text in from his van and we flipped to John 3:16.

John316.png

The word “Allah” took the place of “God” in the passage. I showed him, and he was satisfied.

Then he offered me the book, saying that I would get a lot more use out of it than he ever would… which is kind of funny because at one point in time, God called me to minister to Saudis and He has been giving me the tools to do so ever since.

arabicbible

So… what was the point of this post, exactly? I guess it was intended more for my personal record keeping of that very interesting experience where I felt confused by the dissention within the Church, even when we’re just talking about between parishioners just one town over. As Christians, especially young Christians, we have a lot of work to do.

I also think it’s important to remember that hearts aren’t won by “REPENT OR DIE” picket signs, but through heart-felt conversations with neighbors and friends, who we trust have our best interest at heart.

If you’re not old enough to get the senior discount at your favorite restaurant, I’m sure you’ve probably heard the term “Man-crush” thrown about in conversation a time or two. Well, ever since I took the ICE Honors Program seminar (Innovation, Creativity and the Entrepreneurial Mindset), I’ve had a “Company-crush” on a company called IDEO. I’m pretty sure that 30 seconds after figuring out how to use LinkedIn, I started following IDEO, and one of my most exciting LinkedIn moments was having Paul Bennett accept my request to become a “connection.”

My affinity for this company stems from their ‘holistic’ approach to designing. Instead of throwing a bunch of engineers in a room and instructing them to design something to solve a problem, they throw a smattering of folks with different fortes into a room and then come up with a design idea (or 37,000).  Usually their team is comprised of people from each of these disciplines:

Summarized from “The Ten Faces of Innovation” by Tom Kelley of IDEO.

With clientele like 3M, McDonald’s, Microsoft, and design success stories like the original Apple mouse, IDEO has made a powerful argument for the methodology of design.

As a robot programmer who has had to deal with robotic cell designs created by cubicle-bound engineers who have no robotic experience, I can tell you that it pays in time* and end-product-quality* to have “boots on the ground” people involved in the designing process (*And let’s be honest, as businesses, we care about time because it is money, and we care about end-product-quality because it leads to higher customer satisfaction, which leads to a good reputation, which leads to repeat business, which leads to more money). I’ll provide an example:

Theoretical conversation that should happen (but never does because Robot engineers never see the Cubicle-bound engineers):

Cubicle-bound Engineer: I want the pick position of the robot to look like this *points to robot in virtual simulation*.

Robot engineer: You can’t design the robot’s pick position with joints 4, 5, and 6 aligned like that. The robot will fault.

Cubicle-bound Engineer: What? Why?

Robot engineer: It causes an instance of kinematic singularity, which means that the robot’s motion algorithms basically find infinite solutions to move to the position where J4, J5 and J6 are aligned, causing a mathematical panic on the robot’s part, so the robot faults.

Cubicle-bound Engineer: Oh! I didn’t know that, but now that I do know that, I won’t design paths like that anymore. I’ll make sure that J5 has a bit of an angle to it at the pick position.

Robot engineer: Awesome! Now I won’t have to drastically reprogram paths nearly as often!

As a foreign language-loving robot programmer, I can assure you that the optimization of time derived from succinct communication between involved parties gets my heart all a flutter.

But more often, this is what happens instead:

Cubicle-bound Engineer sitting in cubicle: I did an awesome job on my virtual simulation and offline program generation. Look how nice the robot looks with joints 4, 5, and 6 all lined up at the pick position!

–meanwhile–

Robot engineer on shop floor: *on the shop floor, loads offline program and tries to run to the pick position*

(EXPLETIVE)!!!!

*bashes head on nearest available surface after finding out the robot can’t move to the pick position because of singularity*

*spends the next 30 minutes trying to program the robot to complete the pick in a different pose, finds out it’s not possible based on the design restraints, reports this to their superior, who gets the nearest builder to adjust the height of the pick tooling table to accommodate the robot, and the 3 days and lots of hourly-wages later, the robot can finally pick the part off of the tooling table*

— and when the succinct communication is not there and it results in wasting my time, well, I get cranky. And instead of my heart, it’s my inner rage monster that gets set all a flutter.

The funny thing is that the plant kind of looks like that, with all the sparks flying from spot welders and such…

And then I pacify myself by pretending that one day I’ll work for IDEO– where they get that this is such a waste of time.

This one is for all you Avengers nerds out there.

It’s not that I think all Cubicle-bound engineers are incompetent. I think they can be extremely competent– the problem is that no single human can be competent in everything, which is why the titles of Design Engineer and Robot Engineer are two separate positions in the first place. The issue is that we generally don’t get enough differently-competent people in a room together to discuss how to design better from the get-go instead of fighting fires three weeks after the project is due. If we were to compile a human library of competency and reference it in our designing process by consulting a cross-competent team, we’d end up with better products faster, and less wasted time, money and other resources along the way.

Now that you understand why, and how much, I love IDEO, I can tell you in good conscience why I am recently a little disappointed with them.

As I mentioned, I follow IDEO on LinkedIn and a few weeks ago this article titled “Death, Redesigned” appeared. The luring title got me to bite, and I ended up reading the lengthy article from start to finish.

Paraphrased, my LinkedIn connection Paul Bennett wanted to take on the “design challenge” of changing the way we look at death and the preparations for it. If you want to skip to what I consider to be the “good part,” search for the phrase “The app was called After I Go.” This is when they start to explain the concept they had for what I think is one of the most useful sounding apps I have ever heard of.

Gaffney described After I Go as TurboTax for death: a straightforward app that would allow people to write wills or advance directives and, in general, preemptively smooth out the many ancillary miseries that can ripple through a family when someone dies. Bank accounts, life-insurance policy numbers, user names and passwords, what night the garbage goes out — all of it could be seamlessly passed on.

Now that I’m legally an adult and have a husband, some money in the bank, and a few belongings of enough worth that they would be worth including in a will, I feel like I really should get to writing a will. And specifically because I have a husband, I really REALLY feel like I should get to writing a living will, so should I be rendered comatose and unlikely to recover as a result of a catastrophic accident no one has to have the “to pull the plug, or not to pull the plug, that is the question” argument. The main reasons I haven’t yet are because, A) I don’t have the time to sit down with a lawyer and draft all of this up, and B) I don’t have the money to pay a lawyer to sit down with me and draft all of this up. So the idea of an app that can be used whenever you have the free time, and would assumingly cost less than an hour with a lawyer, seemed like a fantastic idea! Do all of the research, document searching, and drafting whenever you have time, and then when you’ve got a finalized draft, schedule a 1 hour appointment with a lawyer to make sure everything is legal. I was SO ready to hit the “buy” button on that app.

Then a few lines later the article read,

Gaffney assumed there’d be a big market for an app that eliminated that risk… But he was spectacularly wrong. Bouncing his ideas off potential investors, he quickly understood that no one welcomed a chance to prepare for death. It’s thankless drudgery — plus, it reminds you you’re going to die.

Really? Investors didn’t think this would be highly utilized? My heart sank a little bit, but because I knew about IDEO and how they work before reading the article, a bit of hope continued to excitedly jump up and down in the back of my mind while I read on.

They won’t give up that easily on such a great idea!” I said to myself.

The minds at IDEO contrived alternatives to make a death-reliant service more appealing. The article continued (square brackets mine):

Someone proposed sending Sherry [the newly-widowed] a “condolence kit”: a courier could bring all of Bob[the newly deceased]’s passwords and information along with a nice bottle of wine…. Why not deliver the information to Sherry in a letter, handwritten in advance by Bob?

Instantly, the circle felt electric. Bennett was vibrating; he loved it.

And I did too! How neat would that be (in both senses of the word)?!? A tidy package of all the nitty-gritty data, and the comfort of a lovely letter from the hand of your recently lost loved one– on a very small scale, that’s everything a person needs in the wake of grief.

They had theoretically solved their product desirability problem by changing the focus of the product to be:

“Selling a service → Delivering a Message → Executing A Wish → Providing Comfort.”

That was the emotional payoff, the only way to entice people into filling out all those tedious, frightening forms. Bennett tapped at the word comfort. Then he circled it. “That’s our big idea,” he said. “Comfort is the product. That’s the genius of it. You sell that.”

I had been excited to buy the first so-called emotionless, purely practical app. Now I could barely contain myself for this comforting “Condolence Kit” “upgrade.”

It was at this point that I googled “After I Go app” and came up with no matching results.

Disheartened yet again, I continued reading, hoping that perhaps they changed the name during the process and a link to purchase the app was at the end of the article.

But the next paragraph explained why I didn’t find any results when searching for the “After I Go App,” and that was because shit got weird.

The team’s most mind-bending innovation was something it called After-Gifting, whereby a person could arrange to dispense preselected birthday gifts to family members for years after his or her death. Baby booties made from your favorite jacket could be delivered to a newborn child you’d never meet. The dead might also send time-delayed text messages on special occasions, or just to say hi.

They even went so far as to imagine a Pinterest-esque webpage where you can make suggestions for your funeral party.

The even weirder part was that this was the stuff that seemed to turn the investors on (I’m going to go out on a limb and say that maybe this is because the financially-savvy investors already have all of the nitty-gritty data of their death perfectly planned out. I don’t know.) What I did know was that I went from:

–to–

And honestly, by the time I had finished reading through all of the other incarnations that the app had spun through, I wasn’t surprised to read the line,

BY THE END of the summer, After I Go was effectively dead.

And as unsurprising as it was, I was upset. I was sad. As ironic as it would seem, in a sense I was mourning the death of an app designed to lessen the mourning involved in death. 

I understand that brainstorming can result in a creative euphoria, and it’s easy to get swept away by your wildest imagination being spoken aloud– especially if it’s met with the accepting environment that is ingrained as part of IDEO’s corporate culture– but that doesn’t always mean we should follow each of the mythical creatures born of our brainstorming sessions all the way to the totally outlandish. It’s okay to say, “Those are all great ideas. Let’s sort through them for ones that stick a little closer to our original goal, and we can pursue the other ideas as separate projects.”

And I wish to goodness that IDEO had made that call on this project.

I wish they would have made the decision to reel the creativity back in, just a little bit, and stick with the iteration of “After I Go” that didn’t cross the line between comforting and creepy. The part that kills me is that there was a distinctly notable moment where everyone stood in the room in awe, a specific moment just before it crossed into the creepy pursuit of the ‘transcending death’ ideas. After this bridge was crossed, IDEO took a step back to evaluate what they had accomplished in the drafting process. And instead of just hitting the figurative “ctrl+z” to revert back to the last promising iteration of their draft, it’s like they hit “ctrl+alt+delete” and then restarted from scratch with an entirely different thesis because they didn’t like the last few sentences of the draft.

*and so is the creator of this meme’s lack of apostrophes.

I’m sure there were other hardships in the design process of the “After I Go” app that were not mentioned in this article– input from investors or the man who came to IDEO with this idea in the first place, instances of the people in charge putting their foot down and putting the kibosh on different elements due to lack of funding or interest or available test subjects. I don’t know.

I’m just bouncing through the five stages of grief, and this blog entry is the embodiment of my bargaining stage (in case you missed it, Denial was the part when I hoped the app just had a different name, and Anger/Depression were just successfully conveyed through Grumpy Cat).

 

In all seriousness though, I really wish that IDEO would resuscitate this idea. Until then I’ll likely be ignoring my mortality and the documents associated with it.

Shell Dream

I had another dream last night that I think came from God.

This one is much shorter than the last one I shared about the Lilies.

This one took place at a camp. I think it would be something like the Royal Family Kids Camp I’ve also written about wanting to volunteer at in the future, as there were kids of all ages, some with behavioral issues, and a focus on God. Another clue was that the adults were making “Goodbye, we’ll miss you!” shirts for the last day of camp. That’s a little beside the point, but hey.

Anyway, there was a prayer journal station where you were matched up with campers and there was a brown paper bag full of small objects to meditate on and then notebooks were you could anonymously write anything that came to your mind during the meditation. If nothing came to mind during your own meditation, you could read the musings written down by the others that had been at the station before you.

The items in the bag for the day all seemed to be beach themed. It seemed like everyone had drawn a sand dollar from the brown paper bag, looking through the notebook.

img_0298

I immediately connected this idea with a compass. I was ready to give my quippy comment when it was my turn to share.

However, when it was my turn to draw an item from the bag, I got something more like this:

turritella_communis_13-06-12_3

Tower Auger Shell

I was set aback, as it seemed everyone had pulled a sand dollar. I had to reevaluate my clever plan.

Then, it came to me:

 

If you quiet yourself and draw Him near, you will hear His plans for you as big as oceans. 

ocean

“He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” — Psalm 46:9-11

 

““For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,”” — Jeremiah 29: 11-14a

 

 

 

.

I started a new job on Monday and haven’t slept super well since– I’m going to blame a change in sleep schedule and a bit of anxiety about oversleeping and getting to work late. As a result, I’ve been having a lot of what I call “mini-dreams,” which are ones that take place in less than a half an hour of time (usually 15 minutes). Each is their own short story between my moments awake.

This morning I had a particularly striking one that I’d like to share with you all:

_______________________________________

I am alone and am somewhere unfamiliar. I have a map, likely from  the ticket kiosk. I am already I am at my solemn destination (I think it was an old concentration camp memorial). While looking at the map, I notice that this memorial camp is right next to a school (*1).  Dreamscape

The school yard’s boundary terminates in a body of water. The “beach” between the school yard and recess pool, as well as between the public park and public beach, had no sand where the water met the land. It was a man-made stone path down into the water (*2).

meersburg

I abandon my plans to visit the memorial camp and instead go to to the public “park” (which is just open grass), to observe the antics of the school children. The school yard and recess pool are full of children, aged about 10-14, enjoying their afternoon break from lessons. Some of the boys in the recess pool have a foam football that they are throwing back and forth amongst themselves.

Watching the children, I begin to become indignant (*3).

“How can they be playing so close to what used to be a concentration camp? A place so full of sadness, and commanding of reverence. How can they giggle and not be concerned that their joyful outcries which pollute the air will spill over to the other side of the wall?”

It just seemed wrong. The memorial camp deserved an atmosphere of solemn, silent introspection, not one full of laughter and carefree play.

At some point during my internal diatribe, I have left the public “park” and waded out into the public beach water.

I rest my elbows on the low cement wall separating the public beach from the recess pool, mulling over the inappropriate juxtaposition of scenes when, suddenly, I am hit in the face with the foam football. Startled, my mind resorts to auto-pilot, and instinctively I throw the football back to the boys. They must have been impressed with the spiral I somehow managed because they intentionally throw the football back to me again. I catch it, flattered, and then return the ball to them.

Then, a bird, which resembles a seagull in form and a hummingbird in behavior, begins to fluster about just to the right of my head– sometimes running into me. This distraction brings me back to my original outrage.

I return to the public park and pick a single tiger lily.

lily20tiger20header1

I wade back out to the wall between the public beach and the recess pool, gather the attention of the children, and I say to them (presumably in German),

“You can’t just wipe out a black spot in your history like that!”

Then I submerge the lily in the water, expecting it to come out the same as it went in– but when it surfaced, all of the spots on the tiger lily were gone– even the ones that had permeated all the way through the petals.

771607-bigthumbnail

Thinking it was a fluke, (perhaps it was just a dirt-spattered orange lily instead of a real tiger lily,) I decide to repeat the demonstration, but this time with an entire bundle of tiger lilies.

orangetigerlily

All at once, I submerge the bouquet. After about three seconds, I pull the bunch out of the water.

Every petal emerged without their spots.

photo_4215

My jaw drops; flabbergasted and dumbstruck.

The children giggle and then continue playing as they had been before (*4).

 

________________Then  I woke up. ________________

Immediately, I recognized several connections from my past to the story, which I marked with asterisks.

(*1) The feeling of inappropriate juxtaposition between concentration camps and “normal life” was something I have felt several times before; twice during visits to Dachau, a concentration camp outside of Munich (München), and during my visit this summer to Buchenwald, a concentration camp outside of Weimar.

(*2) The beach without sand reminded me of my trip to Meersburg, which is on Lake Constance (der Bodensee). The picture in the post is actually one I took during my trip eight years ago.

A little out of order for the sake of continuity,

(*4) The reaction of the children, unsurprised yet patient and attentive, reminded me of a biblical concept that is mentioned in three of the four Gospel books:

“And he [Jesus] said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”” (Matthew 18:3)

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”” (Luke 18:16-17)

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”” (Mark 10:13-15) 

The combination of these passages, the lilies (which make me think of Easter), and the spotlessness of the lilies, make me think of the whole dream as a message about God’s forgiveness.

Through repentance, we are able to be forgiven for every sin– no matter how dark the blemish. It’s not a fluke. That’s how it works, every time, with God’s love.

Additionally, once we have been forgiven, we should be rejoicing– even in the midst of sorrows.

And in today’s world of terrorism, governmental corruption, and war, it’s easy to to think that there are some people/things that are simply unforgivable. It’s easy to get indignant about the state of the world and the people in it– what’s hard is finding joy.

(*3) Another thing that really hit home for me, while writing this was that I felt the need to use the word “indignant” when describing my feelings toward the joyfully playing school children… as in I looked it up to make sure I was using it right. You may have noticed that in the  (Mark 10:13-15)  passage, I bolded the word “indignant.” That’s because I looked the verse up after I wrote the narrative portion. That was not planned (by me).

However, in the Bible passage, Jesus’ indignance is not directed at the children– it’s directed at the disciples! The very people that are supposed to know Jesus and his teachings the best out of anyone! Jesus meets their rebuking of the children (you know, like what I did in the dream with my little speech and flower demonstration,) with “strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting, or base.” Jesus basically says that the children have got it right, the disciples have it wrong, and the disciples should sit back and try to learn something from the kids if they want to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Ouch!

As a Christian, the closest thing modern day has to a disciple, sometimes our attitude needs an adjustment. We need to get told, “you’re going about this all wrong,” when we focus solely on  norms of the world. Sometimes we need to just let ourselves be cleaned spotless of our sins and simply enjoy it for the incredible gift it is.

My final note about this dream is that after I had it, I got up to seek out a pen and paper to write the important parts down before going back to sleep and possibly forgetting the details. After I scribbled down all of the key points, I looked at the clock to see how much longer I would get to sleep before my alarm was to go off at 6:45 for work.

It was 7:10.

My alarm was somehow not set for this morning, and had I not gotten out of bed to write down this dream, I very well may have rolled back over and been catastrophically late to work.

God sure does know what he’s doing.