13 December 2015

RMS in Houston

So, I am flying through Houston on my way to a training in San Diego and I look up from eating something in a waiting area and I see this guy and say to myself, "That sure looks like Richard Stallman."  I just keep looking and he flips open his laptop (a little Thinkpad, good choice) and there are FSF stickers on it.  "Oh, my," I think, "It IS Richard Stallman!"

Now you probably don't know RMS, but you can look him up on Wikipedia:  Richard M. Stallman. He is a virtual god in the free software movement and was either the original writer or major contributor to a lot of GNU software that I use everyday.  He might even be more famous for being a catalyst behind the GPL: the GNU General Public License that applies to the Linux kernel and the bulk of open-source (don't use that term in front of him) or "free as in freedom" software.

It wasn't enough to just note that I might have sighted him.  I walked up (pretty bold move for me) and said "You are Richard Stallman."  He looks up and nods his head.  Gutsy still, I sit down across from him and say I want to shake his hand and that I have respected him as the premier free software advocate.  He seemed nonpulsed, as he gets this often enough, and says I can help him by going to http://www.fsf.org/help-menu, which is where you can donate to the Free Software Foundation that he was instrumental in starting.  I said that I would visit, so I have.

I was confused because I figured there would be a lot of people around him, but he said that he rarely gets recognized, although he looks exactly as he always does - unkempt. He said he came from Mexico City earlier today and someone recognized him, but to have two people in two airports in one day was really quite rare.  He said he was only famous to a very small group of people, statistically.  I guess I am a pretty rare guy.  Leave it to an MIT hacker to talk statistics.

He was trying to find a cell phone to use because he though someone had screwed up his flights.  I told him that I had a cell phone but I don't have cell service for it and only use it with wifi.  He smiled and congratulated me for doing that, which seems consistent with what I know of his tech view and basic distance from popular culture.

I was sitting there saying that I should get a picture with him, just to show off to other people, but I talked myself out of it.  I think that sort of stuff is pretty corny anyway, so I let it go.

He said to visit the fsf.org site once again and I said again that I would and that it was really cool to meet him.  He ended with "Happy Hacking!" and I replied "You, too, RMS!"

So, I finally meet one of the people I always read about!  Stallman was never on my list of people I wanted to meet one day, but it was very cool nonetheless and put me on cloud nine!  Of course, I didn't tell him that I was more a BSD type of guy, which would have raised his hackles probably, but I do definitely respect highly everything he has done for the universe of free software, even his political stuff!

23 June 2015

Long Now Seminars - TED Talks with Brains

When circumstances permit, I often walk to work. I did it as a WIC Nutritionist in Tucumcari (1 mile), a SysAdmin for ENMU in Portales (5 miles) , and a Linux Support person at Dell in Oklahoma City (4 miles). I cannot do it now as I am about 15 miles from work, but I was always looking for good things to listen to as I walk (when I am not recording my scattered, heretical thoughts).

If you like TED talks, you must understand that I think they are a mixed bag of psychobabble with some nice gems.  If you want far more intelligent presentations that are consistently high-quality, I will happily point you to the excellent Long Now Seminars that are sponsored by the Long Now Foundation. As always, there are many times that I disagree with concepts spoken about, but it never fails to get me thinking!

Forward and Upward!

21 June 2015

Tailoring to the Listener

The entire 15th chapter of the Book of Luke is a study in the attitude that we should have about "the lost". Each of us as gospel teachers have a duty to seek out these "lost" sons and daughters of God and help them find the joy that the gospel brings.  Sometimes, that person doesn't come to church or may not feel welcome there. You may even find that our "lost" class members are present but, for whatever reason, they are still somewhat lost to the principles that can bless their lives. May I offer a personal experience of reaching out to some "lost" brothers?

In 1999, I was working at a correctional facility in a remote place in New Mexico. One of the men incarcerated there found out I was LDS and asked if I could arrange for an LDS gospel class at the prison much like several other religious groups were providing. I worked with the facility chaplain and arrangements were made for a time and classroom for weekly gospel sessions. As an employee, I already had the required training to have contact with inmates, so I was a logical choice to teach these classes.

There had been a major riot at this prison just a few months before our meetings began. A correctional officer had been killed and a handful of inmates had been identified as the instigators and taken to other facilities. The prison was under severe restrictions as a result and everyone, inmates and staff, were at a heightened state of tension, wondering if there were not still more of the riot leaders inside our prison. Hand-crafted weapons were regularly confiscated, more than usual, indicating that inmates were arming themselves however they could, either to start another riot or to attempt to protect themselves from it.

Under these conditions, it is understandable that the inmates attending LDS gospel classes were distracted. The man that they shared a cell with or the man next to them in Gospel Principles class may very well use our classroom as an opportunity to start another riot. It was nearly impossible to help these men feel the Spirit with such fear and distrust. Lessons on the Word of Wisdom or celestial glory didn't seem to address the immediate needs of these men. I decided that the best I could do was to offer a good benediction to our efforts.

With all eyes somewhat closed, I asked Heavenly Father to bless our prison with peace and calm.  I prayed that the inmates and correctional officers would be inspired to foster this peace and calm so that fear and anger would cease. These sentiments became a regular feature of our prayers in the weeks and months that followed. It was noticed that inmates and correctional officers were becoming less apt to lash out at each other. Over time, it was seen that the prison was more settled and fewer infractions of prison rules were happening, resulting in the eventual lifting of many of the restrictions put in place following the riot.

Some of the LDS inmates spoke later about how skeptical they were early on that prayers for peace and calm would help them. Many of the men felt a great distance from God and that the prayers of prisoners would not be answered. We learned and could bear witness that our appeals to God, from a dark circumstance and dark place, were heard and answered. It was a testimony to us all that Heavenly Father helps his children (even incarcerated ones) that turn to him!

As each of us teach the gospel in our individual classes and settings, we will come upon brothers and sisters who are lost to the joys of the gospel and cannot see how such things can make their lives better. One of our missions as gospel teachers is to help recover the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son from Luke's account. I encourage you to identify these "lost" souls, discover what they need most from the Gospel, and help them discover how the Savior can provide for those needs. If a handful of men in a prison can find solace from their troubles through the Gospel, the "lost" souls can do the same with the help of their gospel teacher!

God bless you all in your inspired efforts!

31 May 2015

Alma 41:14 - Alma's Advice on a Good Resurrection

Everyone wants advice about how to live their lives, right? What better source than Alma the Younger, former bad boy, Chief  Judge, mega-missionary, and a recipient of the "hey, he got translated" prize?

After clarifying that resurrection is an incorruptible restoration of ourselves, good or bad, Alma give some advice to his wayward son, Coriantion, in Alma 41:14.
  • be merciful to others;
  • deal justly;
  • judge righteously; and
  • do good continually. 
He says that if we do these things, we will get them in return in the resurrection.  In his words, they will be "restored unto you again, and you will have good rewarded unto you again."

So, you want a nice afterlife? Alma's advice is to learn to spread niceness around during life and it will come back to you in the hereafter!
 

24 May 2015

What is Important about Resurrection? - Alma 40

The "one-a-day" study plods on and I am to the chapter where Alma is telling his son Corianton about how the resurrection works from his perspective. Of course, I am now interjecting my thoughts on the subject from my perspective as well, so as Alma did, "...I give it as my opinion..." (Alma 40:20).

One has to recall that Alma lived before the coming of Jesus Christ, so his perspective on it is different than those of us that live after Jesus himself was resurrected. Alma uses the phrase "first resurrection" in this context to mean the resurrection of the people that happens somewhat immediately after Christ's resurrection and involved those who lived before Christ, like Alma himself.

Often, we, from our perspective, talk of the "first resurrection" as the one that is next in coming on the time-line, the resurrection of the repentant previous to judgement, which has not yet begun. I suppose we call it "first" because others will follow where the unrighteous are resurrected.

So, here is the same phrase used to talk about two separate happenings and occasions. I never really noticed this before, but Alma is talking about the earlier "first resurrection" at some length. It is a bit confusing.

Apparently, there was some confusion about resurrection in the times of Alma and Coriantion that the father felt the need to clarify to the son. We only get to read Alma's response to that confusion. He said that no resurrection happens until Christ has come. He also says that God reserves many of the particulars of the process to himself and that, for our part, we only need to know that resurrection comes for all and the timing of it doesn't matter too much and God hasn't revealed such. (Alma 40:1-10)

I think this is instructive about what we feel is important about many gospel subjects. We can dig about in the minutia of sentence structure in the record, "strain at a gnat" (Matthew 23:24) as it were, but we are better served to realize what is important and leave "the small stuff" to the Lord. Righteousness, the thing we will be judged by, is determined by how we live and spend our time, not particularly by knowing sometimes confusing scripture details we hope to reconcile one day.

To Alma explaining things to his errant son, some things just don't matter as much as others. We will be resurrected and judged for our obedience during mortal life - that matters.

03 May 2015

Alma 39:14

Alma 39:14
  • Seek not after riches nor the vain things of this world; for behold, you cannot carry them with you.
A few days back, I read one of those "riches" scriptures as part of my "one-a-day" study. At one time in the past, I did a rather in-depth study of the whole idea of money and the Lord's feelings on the subject. I can't say that I found any amazing insight into the subject, but I did learn that the manner in which one becomes rich and how it is used are of more vital interest to the Lord than the wealth itself.

For most of us, it is better not to have or pursue riches in the first place. The whole endeavor can cause spiritual problems that are just as well avoided. But one must also understand that wealth can be the consequence of obedience to the Lord and his desire to increase your stewardship.

Helaman 13:21
  • Behold ye, the people of this great city, and hearken unto my words; yea, hearken unto the words which the Lord saith; for behold, he saith that ye are cursed because of your riches, and also are your riches cursed because ye have set your hearts upon them, and have not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you. (emphasis mine)
The problem with wealth is that we often pursue it for its own sake, having our "hearts (set) upon them". If you seek riches simply for the luxuries that riches can bring, you are not listening to the Lord, who has other plans for the things he permitted you to acquire.

This scripture brings up the truth that, if you have riches, you must remember who provides it, which is the Lord. We don't have a thing that the Lord hasn't generously provided. Also, he has the absolute right to take such away from us, including our lives if it pleases him. He lets us have these things and even lets us misuse them, for a while. We must always remember that we must give an accounting for the use of everything, as we are merely stewards of our possessions and bodies. As it says in the first scripture, you can't take it with you!

Helaman 6:17
  • For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain.
Boy, does that sound like us? We have been so blessed, especially in the United States of America, with such abundance. I am trying to lose weight that is a result of enjoying the riches of this land more than is good for myself! It is a magnificent blessing that also comes with its evil sisters of pride and greed, which quickly turn such richness into a curse. We think we are better than the poor. We think we are rich because we are better people. In the end, we might even steal and murder to increase our riches and status.

Jacob 2:19
  • And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
Of course, the result of righteousness is to be blessed and some of those blessings may include riches. It becomes important that we have the right heart when dealing with riches, and that must be to share it with others in need. If you are generous with what you have, the Lord will help you acquire more so that you can expand that generosity! The goal is that everyone will be rich, or rather more richly blessed.

Doctrine and Covenants 38:39
  • And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.
And now, the Lord's modern rendition which is a nice sum-up of the subject. Be careful in seeking riches - your only intent in doing so should be the blessing of the needy. Don't fall into the constant cycle of the Nephites, where they were humbled into righteous, blessed, grew prideful in their wealth, and were punished, over and over again. Trust that the Lord always blesses righteousness and punishes pride.

23 April 2015

Update to the Mariner's Log

You may have seen this string of characters before:

03IXI8E0OC

This is the Mariner's Log, or God's Plan of Happiness in Ten Simple Symbols.

It has been available to the public for several years, but its home on the Internet, which explains all about what it means, has recently moved.

If you would like to learn more about the Mariner's Log and share it with others, you can find it at:


The Mariners Log is a major feature of Escape, the first book of The Navigiary Allegory, available at Amazon.com.

19 April 2015

Alma 39:15

Today's Scripture - Alma 39:15

"And now, my son, I would say somewhat unto you concerning the coming of Christ. Behold, I say unto you, that it is he that surely shall come to take away the sins of the world; yea, he cometh to declare glad tidings of salvation unto his people."

Some years ago, President Henry B. Eyring gave a talk that included his earlier reading of the Book of Mormon where he did it at the pace of about one scripture per day. [I was looking for the conference talk where he referred to this, but I can't find it!  I hope I didn't manufacture the memory!]
That sounded like a good idea to me and I have been doing this for several years.  As you can see from the scripture reference above, the progress takes a while.

The whole point is to read that scripture and to think about it that day. I am finding that little nuggets of insight are found in such a study where our usual "hot-rod" reading of a page or a chapter of scripture a day will speed over such "gravel"-sized wisdom that might be missed on the fast-paced super-highway of our modern lives.

In this scripture are two important ideas about the mission of Christ:
  1. "take away the sins of the world" - This is a reference to the atonement, where Christ was resurrected and overcame the effects of Adam's original transgression, which was physical death. Also, the atonement involved Christ's punishment for our individual sins and opened the way for our effective repentance, our purposeful improvement, and our possibility for ultimate exaltation. Adam's sin and its worst consequences was taken away and so to can many effects of our sins be taken away as we follow Christ and repent.
  2. "to declare glad tidings" - This is the "good news" of the Gospel being taught to everyone. It also mentions "unto his people", which could be a reference to the fact that Christ only comes to "his people", the children of Israel, and that it is up to us to go and "declare" the the fruits of Christ's atonement to the rest of the world (the "gentiles" in a term).
 While I was mulling over the atonement, I recalled the plight of a young man in a wheelchair that I met on my mission.  He told me that he had prayed and fasted often to be healed and he was losing his faith in Christ's ability to heal him.  He asked for a blessing, which I dutifully gave although I certainly can't remember what I said then. I am always a little slow in insight, but I get there in time, where I think of what I would have said to that young man. In the grand scope of the atonement, it may or may not be important for a young man to rise from a wheelchair and walk. That young man receives the full benefit of the atonement, including the potential for exaltation, and whatever handicap put him in that wheelchair was now temporary at best given what Christ had done for him (and us all). More worrying would be his loss of faith that would keep him from the best eternal reward.  If it were a choice between celestial glory albeit with mortality in a chair on wheels and the lesser reward that comes with a lack of faith in Christ, I hope I would choose the former.  I hope that young man chose this as well.

The atonement of Christ is meant to provide us a way to become exalted as Christ is.  No matter our circumstances in life, we can take advantage of it!

So, one little scripture stirs up so much (and a lot more that I don't have time to type out).

12 March 2015

3 Ways You can Be an Effective Philosopher Now!

Jason uses a few marketing gems to help you become the amazing philosopher you always wanted to be! Here is how the "master" does it!

Check Out Culture Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Xenos Now on BlogTalkRadio

05 March 2015

Being Slow and Late

I am the tortoise and I don't know if there is any virtue in it...

I am realizing that I am a slow person and that, when it comes to life's accomplishments, I am typically running a bit late.  As the years pass, I notice my colleagues and my supervisors are getting younger and younger in comparison to myself. They seem certainly to have accomplished far more and moved up the "ladder of success" earlier in life than I did and it is a little depressing.  In this break-neck-paced world, I can't even begin to keep up!

I take consolation in the fact that, in the eternal scheme of things, it really doesn't matter how long your personal development takes as long as you are on the right road, you are faced in the right direction, and you are moving forward. To be early about things is an advantage surely, but the reward it still the same - if you continue on, you will reach the destination of God's exaltation.

14 February 2015

Back to Prison

In 1999, I had just left my off-shore job and I was able to find work at a prison about 60 miles from our home as a computer technician. I only worked there for a few months, but I met some inmates that were Mormons like I am. One of them hooked me up with the prison chaplain and asked that I start a "sunday school" class for the Latter-Day Saint inmates. I decided to do it and a friend of mine, who had spare time and income on his hands, got involved with it as well.  Many Saturdays, we would make the drive to the prison in my friend truck, spend some time with a handful of inmates, and drive back, which took up the bulk of the day.

It was a marvelous experience and I can say that some of my most enduring spiritual experiences happened in a tiny, cinder-block room in the bowels of the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility (GCCF)!

Sadly, as the years passed, I guess my friend got burned out and dispirited as our favorite prison chaplain died of cancer and the cost of travel and time was taking a toll on my family and causing a few problems, so our prison visits came to an end.

I don't remember when we stopped visiting at the prison, so I don't know how long it has been since I did it, but it has been a long while.  A few months ago, I got the impression to look up what the Church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) had on its website about prison services and was quite impressed with the progress made. When we started fifteen years ago, there was very little guidance and we were basically on our own.  I said something to my wife, looked up what prisons were nearby, and dropped the subject.

Then, one of our high councilors came and spoke at our ward and I had an impression to ask him what the stake was doing for prison services.  He surprised me by saying that they were just getting something pulled together and that they would love to have someone who had some experience or even interest in doing this! I was hooked up with another man who the stake had identified and finally got on the phone with him last night.

So, I am getting back involved with LDS Prison Services after a bit of a hiatus and it seems to be motivated by the Lord. Perhaps there will be more on this in future posts.