Sunday, December 25, 2011
Daniel J. Summers
From me and my family, to you and yours - have a truly blessed Christmas!
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Friday, December 23, 2011
Daniel J. Summers
Christmas 2011 happens to fall on a Sunday. This has led to a number of churches moving their services to Saturday in lieu of Sunday, and a number of other churches loudly proclaiming that, of all days, worshiping Christ is something that should and will happen on schedule. One would think that this would be the end of it; however, some (not all) people on both sides seem to be invoking the “more spiritual” argument in defense of their schedules. This bothers me, and I believe both sides are causing harm with this argument, turning the focus from Christ (the reason for the season) to man's actions.
Let's take the rearrangers. The primary motivation I've heard for churches modifying their usual schedule is so that families can maintain their Christmas morning traditions. Having a church service requires “work” for more than just the Pastor; for a 10am service, people may need to be there as early as 8am to prepare the facilities, and may require people as as late as 12:30pm to close everything up once the hour-long service is over. Adjusting the schedule frees all these people from these obligations. God's presence is not limited to the walls of a church building, and as the second-biggest celebration on the church calendar, moving a service is not contrary to Scripture. The meeting is still happening, so these people are not violating Hebrews 10:25, which says:
...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.
On the other side, we have the people who feel, of all days of the year, the celebration of the birth of the One we worship is the last day they would consider not meeting. They see it as an opportunity - Christmas only falls on Sunday once every 6 years (depending on how leap years fall), and this year is one of those lucky years. Worshiping on the Lord's Day and Christmas at the same time? Awesome! They see the worship of God as preeminent, not subject to rearranging at the whim of man's schedules.
Neither of these positions violates any Scripture I can find. And, let me be clear, I believe that “right with God” Christians can hold either of these views. It is not the views, it is the “holier than thou” arguments I'm hearing made in defense of these views. The thing is, we as mere humans cannot possibly know enough to make value judgments about either of these views. Motivation and heart are the key items here. Jesus made it clear that good works from a wrong heart are worthless.
On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.”
If those who are rearranging are doing it out of selfishness, they are wrong. If those who are keeping their schedule are doing it out of moral superiority, they are wrong. Those who are looking down on either of these groups is also wrong. The focus should be Christ, not man's performance.
This weekend, worship Christ, the newborn King. Do it Saturday, do it Sunday, maybe even do it both days (that's our family's plan). Focus on Him, not on others. Then, after this weekend, continue. Worshiping Christ should be a daily occurrence in our lives.
Fifteen years ago today, there was a ceremony in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where a beautiful young woman and a (hmm… clean?) young man became husband and wife. That young man was me, and the beautiful young woman was my bride Michelle. The vows we took were not remarkable; in fact, we discussed it and decided to use traditional vows, which were (to the best of my memory)…
I, Daniel, take you, Michelle, to be my lawfully wedded wife; to have and to hold from this day forward; for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health; I promise to love, honor, and cherish you, as long as we both shall live.
Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with these vows, although it's a shame that “for richer” part hasn't kicked in yet. However, I didn't have a clue as to the amazing journey that these few words would start. On this occasion, in front of God and these assembled witnesses (that's you, Internet), I would like to offer some additional vows.
I will gladly remain your husband for the rest of my days. You truly complete me; where I'm weak, you're strong, and where you're weak, I'm strong. As we've shared our life together, I have learned to love you more deeply than I ever thought possible. Through each challenge, standing with you has made us stronger, and together we've fought down every one. I cannot remember my life before you, and I do not want to imagine my life without you. You are a blessing from God to me on a daily basis; yes, even in those things I may not want to hear, you love me enough to tell me what I need to hear. You believed I could become more than I was, and you inspire me to become better than I am. I am forever in your debt for the love you have shown to me, and I hope that I can return at least a portion of that to you in the years to come. I love you, and will always love you, as long as I may live.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Daniel J. Summers
This post begins (and ends) my look back at 2010 called “2010 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” If you've been reading them as I posted them, this is the end; if you're new, just keep scrolling, and all three posts are there in order. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of the things I considered good in 2010.
Toward the end of October, a Firefox plugin called Firesheep was released. This plugin illustrated a gaping security flaw in the way a large number of sites handle trusted communications. While the media reaction was negative, with accusations of this being a hacker tool, I think it's a good thing. Firesheep didn't create the problem, but it did illustrate, in vivid detail, how easily non-secure web traffic can be intercepted and impersonated. With the explosion of Facebook (which does login securely, then switches back to insecure, and has not changed as of this writing) over this past year, the time was right to remind people that there are serious flaws that need to be addressed.
I should note, for those unfamiliar with this whole scenario, this only affected open, unencrypted Wi-Fi points; if you're connected to a secured wireless network or a switched wired network, the plugin wouldn't be able to see your traffic. In response to the plugin, many sites have begun enforcing or offering an always-encrypted (https) connection to their sites. Also, note that WEP-secured networks are now able to be broken in less than a minute - WPA or WPA2 is what you want to use to secure your wireless network.
I don't know if Forest Home Christian Camp in Forest Falls, CA was better-than-ever in 2010, as 2010 was the year I became acquainted with it; however, I can state unequivocally that 2010 was a great year to attend Forest Home's family camp! We checked in on a Sunday and checked out on a Saturday, and were blessed from the time we got there until the time we left. Worship, eating, hiking, exploring, a night-time zip line - and that was just the first 36 hours. They have a lake (fed from melting snow - refreshing!), several hiking trails, swimming pool with diving boards, mini-golf course, as well as a game/lounge area with pool and ping-pong tables. If you're looking for activities, they've got it.
But what made the week there such an amazing week was the quiet times. There was singing and teaching in the morning with the director, Kent Kraning, and singing and teaching in the evening, let our week by Dr. Erik Thoennes of Biola University. Other than those times (where all age groups had their own programs), there were hikes before breakfast, family devotion times after breakfast, free time in the afternoons between lunch and dinner, and time after the evening sessions where you could reflect on what you'd heard. One of their core values is solitude - getting away from the noise so that you can hear God speak. I presented a laundry list of activities, but through the campground, there were benches and seats where you could just stop, sit, think, and pray. It's amazing how clearly God can speak when you unplug for a week and listen. I pray that 2010 is only the beginning of many years of family camp at Forest Home.
2009 was the year I got my head right, and 2010 was the year my body followed. The scale said I was 17 pounds lighter at the start of 2011 than I was at the start of 2010, and I can tell that I'm in the best shape of my adult life (possibly excluding the month or so immediately after basic training). The big change in 2010 was the way I view food - food is fuel, not fun. We used to celebrate everything with food as a central focus - birthdays, holidays, date nights, even fitness achievements. I have actually celebrated passing a fitness test by going to Outback Steakhouse for an order of Aussie Cheese Fries. How ironic and self-defeating is that? The quantity of food that I now eat is less than half of what I used to eat, and I'm still consuming enough calories that I have the energy to exercise. Of course, I'm not perfect - occasionally I will have more than I know I should, but it's still nowhere near the huge amount of food I used to eat.
NASCAR in 2009 was a two-horse race between Joe Gibbs Racing (Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano) and Hendrick Motorsports (Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.). 2010 saw the resurgence of Richard Childress Racing (Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Clint Bowyer) and Roush Fenway Racing (Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, and Greg Biffle), and steady improvements in Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray). That's a lot of driver names, and while some of them weren't title-competitive this year, the teams are becoming more and more balanced. Every year brings new rules to which teams must adjust, so 2011 is still up in the air; however, the parity that existed in 2010 is a good thing for the sport, and makes for good races for its fans.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Daniel J. Summers
On the suggestion of a friend, I subscribed to the Daily Audio Bible (DAB) podcast. In this podcast, Brian Hardin reads the Bible through each year - 2010 is the fifth year. It's been a blessing to me to listen to God's Word, as well as enjoy some of his comments as well. (I'll have to own up to skipping a good bit of the commentary, especially when I was trying to catch up a few days.) It was great to be able to listen while I did other things; however, this was a mixed blessing. I found that I would sometimes get distracted with the “other” thing that I was doing, and would mentally check out of the podcast. During one of these distracted times, I felt the Lord telling me that it was time to take the next step.
For this reason, beginning 2 Jan 10, I'll be beginning a 52-week Bible reading plan, reading it the old-fashioned way, off words printed on paper. My main Christmas gift this year was an ESV Study Bible, and this will help put that to good use. One of the aspects of DAB that I liked was the community; I knew that, although I might be the only one listening to my computer, there were thousands others that were listening to Brian. Although my participation in that community could be described, at best, as a lurker, it encouraged me to have it there. To help encourage others, I've created a group on Facebook called Read the Bible in 2011. This group will function as a community where we'll encourage each other along this journey. I'd like to invite you, my reader, to join me in this journey. The group is closed, but if you request access, just send me a separate message so I'll know who you are.
While the goal is to read through the Bible in a year, we don't want to go so quickly that we don't have time to stop and listen to what God is trying to tell us in the passage of the day. So, the stated goal of reading through the Bible in 2011 is not really the goal; it is merely the means to the greater goal of allowing God to speak to us. I'm looking forward to it - won't you join me?
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Daniel J. Summers
As most of you know, this past two weeks have been quite an experience. We were supposed to leave for a trip home, visiting Dollywood, seeing family and friends, and in short, having an actual vacation. That's not how it went down…
Wednesday evening, having gotten our vehicle completely loaded, we sat down to eat. Michelle had cream of chicken soup, and when she was through, she said that she felt a little off. About a half hour later, she was having abdominal pain so severe that it was making her black out if she tried to get up out of bed. She called a specialist who was familiar with her history, and he said that it sounded like she needed to go to the ER with a suspected a gall bladder problem. She also had a hernia that she's had since our third son Jameson was born; she had been consulting with this specialist to have it fixed January/February of next year. At the ER, they ruled out a blockage in this hernia and gall bladder problems, and it looked like we may have been sent home. Michelle asked the ER doctor to talk with her specialist, and once he did, she was admitted. The next morning, this specialist evaluated her, and said that the hernia had become incarcerated; it wasn't blocked, but blood flow had been cut off to it, and the intestines were starting to die. This hernia repair became a 4-hour, 15-minute emergency surgery, followed by a day in ICU, two days in a step-down unit, and four days in the standard post-surgical inpatient unit.
Although this situation was scary at times, there is a whole lot more about which we can be thankful. For the balance of this post, I'd like to take some time to, as the old hymn says, “count my blessings.”
First, look at all the good things dealing with the timing of this. Praise the Lord we were here in Albuquerque, and not somewhere on I-40. It is highly unlikely that the diagnosis would have been made, and surgery performed, were we not where Michelle's history was already known. Even if they had, the week-long hospital stay in some unknown town would have been difficult; as it was, we were able to use our home, and rely on our network of friends here for support (more about them next). Michelle's specialist, who made the correct diagnosis, is only in Albuquerque once a month, but he was here that night; we found out later that he actually stayed over an extra day to do this surgery. Also, a surgeon whom he trained as a resident (and called his “star pupil”) is the director of surgery at Lovelace hospital here in town; he and she both were able to work together on the surgery. And, while we knew this surgery was coming, the fact that it had to be done as emergency surgery means that it's automatically covered; no paperwork hassles and waiting for referrals! I had already lined up time off from work, so I wasn't expected to be there.
Second, I'm exceedingly grateful to my friends here in Albuquerque. I won't name them all publicly because I haven't asked their permission, but there were many families that came together to help take care of our children (even offering for them to spend the night, which never did materialize). There were also many other families that made meals for us, bringing us so much food that we were able to get at least 2 meals out of each one. Phone calls, visits, and e-mails of support also helped Michelle and me during this time. Finally, prayer - I know that the one thing that has made the difference in this situation was the intercessory prayer on Michelle's behalf, and prayers for me as I was working through everything else. During the entire time, I was never worried; I had a peace that the doctors were going to figure it out, and we were going to be OK. While I try not to let on too much, that mindset is pretty rare for me when facing medical situations - my mind wants to go off and worry about these worst-case scenarios, rather than trust God in the scenario in which He's placed me. As I put prayer requests out via Twitter (more on that below), we often saw near-immediate change in situations. Both Michelle and I are very grateful for those of you who lifted us up in prayer.
Third, special thanks go to our families. From the time they heard about what was going on, the planning was continuous. Everyone worked together, and the children were able to still get to go visit them. Thanks to our families, they were even able to spend a few days at our vacation condo in Pigeon Forge and meet up with friends with whom we were going to be vacationing. Having the children safely with grandparents, I was free to focus on Michelle, and helping her during her stay in the hospital. It's also helped her to be able to focus on her recovery now that she's at home. The children will be coming home soon (in time for Christmas), and we're really looking forward to seeing them.
Fourth, Twitter was great. Sure, it may seem strange to offer thanks for a social networking site, but Twitter really helped me during this time. Facebook would have seemed to be the solution for keeping people informed, but Michelle has friends, and I have friends, and some of those cross, but some don't. Since you have to be friends to see updates, I would have had to have double-posted. (I don't even know if the Facebook client on our phones lets you easily manage dual accounts; and while I've boasted about Seesmic Web's ability to dual-post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time, Seesmic for BlackBerry doesn't support Facebook.) Twitter, being public by default, was what I needed. I didn't need to give the same update by phone 14 times, and I didn't need to fiddle with changing settings. “Pull up the box, type my 140 characters or less, and press send” was much easier for providing up-to-date information to people who wanted to know it. There was a little resistance from some folks, but once I reassured them that my profile page was a simple web page with no account needed, they got it. I'm now grateful for the micro-blogging platform I scorned for so long.
Finally, I want to praise the Lord for this outcome. Although it wasn't our timing, God knew when this hernia needed to be repaired. It's been hanging around (pardon the pun) for nearly six years - the fact that it's in the past, even now, I don't think has truly sunk in yet. The doctors who needed to be here were here. We avoided the disaster of being sent home from the ER with the problem unresolved. While, obviously, Michelle isn't completely healed from surgery this extensive in two weeks, her healing progress has been in line with what the doctors have expected; this isn't an exercise in “speed-healing.” Looking back, we can see how everything worked together to ensure this bad situation had a good outcome. Thank you, Lord.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Daniel J. Summers
Here a while back, I had tried to get to Inbox Zero, and succeeded for a while. However, things happen, and with multiple inboxes, Inbox Zero was a memory. While I've been at the hospital with Michelle, while she rests, I've used tools provided as part of Gmail to integrate my personal and two business e-mail accounts, as well as my Gmail account, which I started using a few months ago as my primary e-mail address.
Before we dig in, let's talk about Inbox Zero. It's basically Getting Things Done applied to e-mail. In GTD, you collect everything that's on your mind (which an e-mail inbox does by default). Once you have all these loose ends collected, you “process” them - you either deal with it (if 2 minutes or less will do it), defer it (which can involve prioritizing), or delegate it. E-mail “processing” is different from what we usually do when we sit down to an inbox with 400 message, 285 unread, looking for subject lines with things to which we can respond in the short time we have. Processing's goal is an empty inbox; to look at every thing and make some decision with it. This brings clarity, because a good bit of the noise will be quieted. Then, when you have time to “do” e-mail, you start with your highest priority, and work your way down. (Of course, there's a little more to it - I just summarized an entire book in a few sentences.)
Here's a screenshot, to prove that I got there. :) It also illustrates how Gmail can help you get there and stay there - labels, conversations, filters, and search.
The first is labels. Within Gmail, messages can have one or more labels; in fact, “Inbox” is a label as well. This allows messages to be identified with the topics addressed, as well as a priority. “1 | Pending”, “2 | Follow-Up”, and “Scouting” are labels in the image above. There is an experimental feature (that seems to work well) that shows or hides the labels in that list based on whether there are any unread conversations in that label. Labels are displayed in alphabetical order, so starting the priority labels with a number sends them to the top of the list. With an e-mail folder (or a file folder), you can't file something in more than one place at a time. However, with labels, you can have a single message labeled with several labels; in fact, one of the messages in “1 | Pending” is also the unread message in “Scouting”. Using read/unread as a status is a help, too; of course I've read the e-mail, but by marking it as new after I had applied the labels to it, it increments the number beside the label in the list (and makes the label show). I can then “archive” it (remove it from the inbox), and I have a reminder of what I need to do.
The second is conversations. Gmail groups all e-mail communications into conversations, and sent and received messages are stored together. This means that you don't have to go plowing through your “Sent” folder to find the message; assuming you labeled it, the entire back-and-forth e-mail exchange is right there in that label's list of messages. It works great for mailing lists, personal e-mails, etc. The only thing I haven't found it working well for is Facebook e-mail notifications; it groups them by subject line, so all the “this-person commented on your status” messages get grouped, and they're not in the order that they are on Facebook. However, that hasn't really bothered me too much.
The third is filters. This is where Gmail would earn its price, if it weren't free. Filters are run against messages as they are received. The most common options I've used in filters is “Skip the Inbox” and “Apply this label” - using those two options, you can make a filter that automatically delivers e-mails to your labels, without you even having to take action to process them! All my daily/weekly e-mails and newsletters are now delivered to “3 | To Review” - the only time I see them is when I say “OK, now I have time to check up on news” and click on the label. I've also created filters for all the ads I've started getting for the sites where I bought that one thing some time ago, and now I get all their ads; I decided against completely deleting them (in case I'm looking to buy something and want to see these e-mail specials), but it's easy to click a label, click “select all”, then click “Delete”. Additionally, if I find myself dealing with the same type of e-mail more than once, I take the do-it-in-two-minutes-or-less route and create a filter for that message; instead of working to get one e-mail done, it's work that will enable future e-mails to be done more quickly.
The fourth is search. How many times have you wanted to “Google” within your e-mail? In Gmail, messages can have any number of labels (or none at all), can be read or unread, starred, etc. In fact, archived with no label is the equivalent of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. However, with their search (you can see the box near the top of the screen shot), you can search all of your messages, including archived message, very quickly. You can also use it to search for e-mails from or to a specific contact. Knowing that search is there can help relieve you of the stress of making sure you apply lots of labels; you can find what you need, when you need it. Want to keep an e-mail? Archive it. You'll never see it until it comes up in a search result and you think “Man, I'm glad I saved that!” Also, searches return conversations, so you have your results in their context.
As a side note, you can also see that, even with one of my accounts that collects zipped database archives every day, I'm only using 4% of my allotted space (near the bottom of the screen shot). This is all my processed e-mail from the past three years, complete with messages I've kept for historical reasons.
The one thing I have yet to do is connect my BlackBerry with this account (Gmail supports IMAP), but that's only because I can't remember my login from a year ago. :) And, because of the Facebook issue I mentioned earlier, I have Facebook e-mails still going in the inbox; once I do connect this account, it will let the BB Facebook app use its integration with the BB inbox. However, these messages are labeled automatically so that I can search that label, then delete my search results.
So, there it is - from chaos with 4 different inboxes to a unified, automatically-filtered organization system in less than two days. The filter and label system are a system I can trust to tell me what the next thing is that I need to do. I even found a feature request for one of my websites while I was processing the imported e-mail, and got it implemented in about 10 minutes. Now I'm ready to GTD!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Daniel J. Summers
Earlier this year, I wrote about my experience in switching to Family Life Radio as my day-to-day radio station. In that post, I mentioned befriending Dan Rosecrans, their morning show guy. FLR has a national morning program, but in Albuquerque, we got Dan (and Nathan the Station Engineer) from 0600 to 0900. While I'm new to FLR, and relatively new to Albuquerque considering how long others have been here, I quickly grew to enjoy the information that he would pass along during his morning program. It had to be God working through him, as well, because my drive to work is short; how else would Dan have known not only what I needed to hear, but when I was actually in the car?
Dan has been serving faithfully in this position that for over 20 years; however, this past Monday, he announced that this will be his last week on the air doing the morning show. He'll still be involved with the Albuquerque FLR station, and will still have the All Praise show on Sundays (4-12 MT), but as he said this morning, “This means I don't have to get up at 4 every morning.” :) (Congratulations on that!)
So, Dan - I just wanted to take a few minutes and publicly thank you for your many years of service, and to thank you for allowing God to work through you. I know the positive effect that your ministry has had on my life in these past 11 months, and I'm sure I'm not an exception. Your dedication to inspire, inform, challenge, and entertain those of us out in radio land is something for which I'll always be grateful. I'm glad that you're not completely stepping back from the ministry, and I'll enjoy hearing the music you play and the encouragement you give during All Praise. I pray that God blesses you many times over as you move into this new phase in your ministry.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Daniel J. Summers
I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a Happy Thanksgiving! While I'm sure there will be more about the true meaning of the next major holiday, let's not forget the original meaning of today - praise to God for His providence, and for friendships formed by people of differing national origins. I have seen suggestions of other things to ponder today, and those aren't necessarily bad. But, in all of this, let's keep the intent of the holiday. We have been blessed (in some cases, beyond what is even believable!), but these blessings aren't about us; they are about the grace of the God Who has chosen to bless us. Were it not for His hand on our lives, everything else we do would be absolutely meaningless.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Also, remember that the first Thanksgiving wasn't celebrated as a family holiday - it was a celebration among people who had recently met each other. Gratitude and thankfulness are expressions that are common among all races, nationalities, and political persuasions. While it's probably too late for this year, think about this in years to come when you're planning your Thanksgiving guest list. Why not use it as a time to get to know new friends better?