Pssst! You’re Mortal!

Supposedly, when a conquering general returned to Rome and was given a triumph to celebrate his victory, a slave would ride with him in the chariot, holding a wreath above his head but whispering in his ear “Remember you are a mortal.” Sometimes I feel that way after a sermon.

A while ago, I went through a period of several weeks where my sermons just didn’t seem to work well. The idea was fine, but I never felt satisfied with my ability to communicate it. And, judging from the faces looking back at me, I think it rubbed off on the congregation. If I communicated much, it seemed to be my vague dissatisfaction with the sermon.

Eventually, my “bad streak” ended. (I say “bad streak” because of my perception of the sermon and its impact, but of course I have very little insight as to how God may have used my words to speak grace to the assembled faithful.)

Finally, after several weeks, I preached a sermon that I liked. More of the faces out there seemed to be following me. Great day.

It was a great day for about 2 minutes, at least. Then this dear saint came up to me after the service to offer a critique of the sermon. She told me she didn’t appreciate it when I’d said Jesus was talking “crazy talk.”

It’s true; I’d said that. I’d been talking about how the things Jesus said didn’t make any sense according to the world’s standards. And the way I said that was that Jesus said a lot of crazy talk.

And I was right. The woman was clearly wrong about Jesus. People who heard him face to face thought he had a demon. They grumbled about his “hard sayings.” They said his disciples were turning the world upside down. If you think everything Jesus said is self-evident and obvious, you either live in a bubble that keeps you isolated from the world — which I doubt — or — more likely — you have completely missed the point.

But that’s not what bugged me about this woman. My real frustration was that I wanted to enjoy my triumph and this woman was whispering in my ear that I was mortal.

My Next Church, for sure!

Check out this video from one of the next generation of churches. It’s Contemporvant, which is the cool way of saying it has everything I’m looking for in my next church:

I showed this to the people in my Pastor’s Bible study today, and we had some fun with it. So, obviously, did the people who made it. (Take a really close look at the tattoo, for example.)

I wonder if my church could make fun of itself in that same way. And, if we could, what would we say about ourselves and the way we do worship?

Windows 7 setup

Well, my laptop won’t be the only functioning computer at church any more. I got the secretary’s new computer set up today.

Secretary's Computer

It’s an Inspiron Desktop 570 MiniTower, and features:

  • AMD Athlon II X2 240 (2.8GHz, 2MB) processor
  • 640 GB SATA II Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
  • 4 GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz (4 DIMMs)
  • FAX/modem (!!!)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium

All that plus a 1-year warranty of sorts. And the amazing thing, to an old duffer like me, was the cost. We didn’t buy a monitor, so the total, including tax and free shipping was $368.66 from the Dell Outlet.

It only took me about an hour to get the software configured. XP used to took forever. Partly this is because Dell seems to be including substantially less crapware that has to be removed.

It would have taken forever, though, if not for Ninite.com. If you still run Windows and you’re not using Ninite, you’re wasting your time.

Linux to the Rescue (Again)

My secretary’s machine blue-screened a couple of days ago with a STOP 24 message, which tells you (or rather, doesn’t tell you) that either the disk or the filesystem is broken.

Crash 1 - Windows PC

Fortunately(!) we’d just gone through a couple of weeks restoring everything after a virus infestation, so there wasn’t much on it of value, except for the Quicken bookkeeping data.

I spent awhile learning about Windows recovery disks, and made a WinPE disk that I ought to have been able to boot off. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t, and — honestly — I don’t have time to figure out how to route around Microsoft stupidity.

Today, finally, I had a half hour to spare, so I extracted the hard drive from the Windows box, slapped it into an external USB housing, and connected it to my linux backup server. (Elapsed time: about 10 minutes. That’s too long, but I didn’t have a good phillips screwdriver and had to use my leatherman. Also I was flummoxed briefly by the easy-to-open case on the Dell Dimension 3000.)

Sadly, it didn’t automount on my desktop. I run Ubuntu 9.10, and have become accustomed to it “just working” no matter what I need doing. But apparently support for NTFS USB drives doesn’t come in the out-of-box configuration.

No matter. I hit the internet (specifically, I did a single Google search for “ubuntu external drive ntfs“) and found out I needed to install ntfs-config. The search and subsequent installation took about 2 minutes. I cycled the power on the external drive, and — voila! — there was the drive. I popped into terminal, ran a quick find|cpio, and Bob’s your uncle.

Funny Videos

I really enjoyed the Catalyst (West) conference again this year. I’m too old and its target audience is younger, etc., but there it is: I still enjoyed it.

One of the reasons I enjoyed it was Tripp and Tyler.

When a series of speakers challenge everything you think you know about a series of important topics, it’s useful to have some court-jester emcee types between them, to lighten things up. Otherwise you’ll just hunker down and miss everything the following speaker is saying.

Here’s an example of how it works: before Donald Miller came out to talk about whatever he had to say, Tripp and Tyler ran this video about him.

Blue Screens

Man, I’m sick of Windows. The secretary’s machine at church got infected with something a couple of weeks ago. I was only able to get rid of it by reinstalling Windows. I got an antivirus solution set-up and spent, well, a couple of hours, but it seemed like a month, uninstalling all the crap-ware and getting everything down to the bare minimum. My next project was to make a Ghost-type image, to avoid all that work the next time. But I don’t know how to make a Ghost image on Windows, so I put it off until I had a couple of hours to figure out what to do.

That was a bad decision. Today, we got this:

Crash 1 - Windows PC

The infamous Blue Screen of Death

And we got it every time we rebooted, early in the boot process. So early, I don’t know any way past it. So now I need to come up with some kind of recovery media and boot off that, and save all her data.

Then I need to migrate us away from using Quicken and replace it with some kind of cloud-based Web 2.0 service in its place.

And, honestly, if I get that far, then we’re replacing Windows with Linux, because Quicken is the last Windows-only app we use.

Preaching Advice

I like this, from Mark Batterson:

The longer I preach the more I realize that people don’t need to hear what I have to say but they do need a word from the Lord.

(Interesting permalink for that article, by the way.)

Budget Day at Church

Today we’re working on the 2010 budget. It’s mostly the same as 2009’s, but we’re going to try to find places to cut.

The biggest problem with the budget is our bookkeeping. It’s good enough to keep checks from bouncing, but not so good I feel wonderful using this year’s actuals as a basis for next year’s budget. But there it is.

Back to work

I spent Friday and the weekend on a brief mission trip in Arizona, but I’m back at work today. Well, sort of. I have almost no time to do, uh, work. In the morning, I’m meeting with some people to discuss a sermon text I won’t preach until September 20 (really!). In the afternoon, I’ll be doing some computer tutoring, which I’ll follow with my 8-weekly bloodletting. So, I’m back at work, but only just barely.

Catalyst West 2009

I spent Thursday and Friday in Irvine at the first-ever west-coast Catalyst conference.

Catalyst 2009 West Coast

As a whole, the conference was outstanding. (The weakest part for me was the worship music, by Hillsong United and other bands, because it was mostly unfamiliar to me, because I’m mostly a clueless old duffer.)

The speakers included Andy Stanley, Guy Kawasaki, Ravi Zacharias, Brian Houston, Erwin McManus, Craig Groeschel, Jud Wilhite, Perry Noble, Francis Chan, Catherine Rohr, and Nick Vujicic. Here’s a sample of Nick Vujucic: