Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

The Garden Tomb, now empty.
The Garden Tomb, now empty.

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Fun with Atheism

One of the things I’ve been able to do this year is teach robotics, using the Lego MindStorms NXT system, at the Academy for Science and Design chartered public school, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. I volunteer two mornings a week, and teach two different student groups, numbering about 10 each. Until December, the program focused on FIRST LEGO League, in which we were competing. Since then we have taken up building robots for an intramural robot Sumo competition.

A few weeks ago, we mentioned a requirement of ethical behavior in class. One of the kids pondered, “Why should I care about ethics?”

“Because God requires it,” I replied. (Just because I’m working in a public school, there is no reason to pretend I’m not a Christ-follower. I don’t beat them over the head with it—indeed, it hardly ever comes up—but it is the foundation for my moral beliefs, including why we need to behave in an ethical manner.)

“But I’m an atheist,” claimed the student, “so that doesn’t apply to me.”

“Well, then,” I suggested, “The FLL program requires it; your school requires it; and this class requires it. Will that suffice?”

A few moments later I asked the student, “So, you’re an atheist? Really?”


“Honest to God?”

“Ye—waaaaaaaaiiiiiiiit a minute.”

We’re still laughing about it.

Gas at $23 a Gallon (No, Not Here)

Now that I have your attention (the headline is explained below), let me tell you about my nephew Mike Matheson and the missions trip he is leading to Guinea-Bissau …

Missonary Kid/MK Minister/My nephew Mike Matheson. (I warned Mike I’d get even someday for the time he swiped my camera at my Mom’s wedding and put all sort of shots like this one on it.)

Mike Matheson is a missionary kid (MK) who married another MK and now works as a minister to MKs and their families with Wycliffe Bible Translators, at and around the JAARS (Jungle Aviation and Radio Services) center in Waxhaw, North Carolina.

Currently he’s co-leading a group to Guinea-Bissau, which is on the western coast of Africa. Gasoline there was averaging $23 per gallon … until supply ran out completely. (Yes, the whole country seems to be without gasoline at the moment.) Thankfully, the driver they needed for part of their trip managed to save up enough gas ahead of time to get them where they needed.

I highly recommend reading up on Mike’s trip, which has been updated whenever e-mail access allows, at the Guinea-Bissau Team BLOG and the GB Team Notes Page. You can follow the exploits of Mike and Beth and Leigh at their main ministry page.

Mike grew up in Brazil, and Beth in the Philippines. They are among the most caring people we’ve ever met, and have a real heart for working with the unique needs of MKs and their families—which they are singularly qualified to understand. (Nichelle and I think so highly of them that they are our designated choices to inherit our brood if we both kick.)

You can read more about the Republic of Guinea-Bissau via Wikipedia or the CIA World Factbook.

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus

While I am working on posts about “The Weaker Vessel,” and “Verbal/Emotional Abuse” (and looking into how a ‘bot hacked my BLOG files to include hidden Spam links), here’s a bit to get you thinking:

Clay Shirky published a lightly edited transcript of his speech at a recent Web 2.0 conference, entitled, “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus.”

You will definitely want to read the whole post, but here are a few noteworthy excerpts:

Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened–rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before–free time.

And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV.

How much television do we watch?

[H]ow big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, “Where do they find the time?” when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

This reminds me, I was listening to “This American Life,” episode 328, “What I Learned from Television.” In a live broadcast, Ira Glass announces to the audience that average Americans watch 29 hours of television a week. There is a loud, collective gasp from the audience, which is composed of course, of not merely NPR listeners, but NPR listeners who paid to go out and see a live presentation of the radio program. Twenty-nine hours is the average? Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about playing World of WarCraft.

As Shirky writes,

In this same conversation with the TV producer I was talking about World of WarCraft guilds, and as I was talking, I could sort of see what she was thinking: “Losers. Grown men sitting in their basement pretending to be elves.”

At least they’re doing something.

But I digress.

As I write this, our pastor is speaking on “Reflections from the Back of a Bike,” noting how we prefer to ride in a car metaphorically driven by the pastor, instead of providing our own power on a bicycle, comparing the early church’s prayer to “speak the Word of God with boldness” as recorded in Acts 4:29 to our typical prayers of, well, whatever; of how we fail to really act on our belief in an Almighty God and actually serve Him with actions, every hour of our lives. How we need to embrace the mission of Christ and actually do something to reflect what we say we believe.

To be honest, I have heard many such sermons over the years, but this one is different. It’s Scriptural. It isn’t designed to evoke an emotional response. Its success won’t be measured by the number of people who raise their hands or “go forward” to the altar. Its success will, rather, be measured by how we let Christ give us boldness to use our associations and talents and burdens to change others’ lives. It’s real. It’s a reflection of how he actually lives in following Christ.

And the Word of God convicts me, that I ought to be so focused.

P.S.: Shirky makes some fascinating conclusions based on analyses of both current society and the Industrial Revolution, getting into such subjects as cognitive surplus, shared information projects, and participatory media. It’s one of the few must-read pieces I’ve encountered in the past year. He wraps up with a look into this gem (which in this context of excerpts seems disconnected, but in reality is not):

I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she’s going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn’t what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, “What you doing?” And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, “Looking for the mouse.”

2008: Year of the Nerd

I hesitate to include this, but this is the sort of thing that goes on at a New Year’s Eve party at Heritage Baptist Church.

In addition to “praying in” the new year, we also spent several hours playing board games and doing improv skits. Lynn B., our great game organizer, ran a Family Feud session, which was quite fun, although at first we demonstrated our vast lack of knowledge in how this particular game show operated. Once it got going, the competition was fierce.

I loved the fact that all the kids were involved as well. David was interviewed by me in one of the skits as an eyewitness to the events of “The Ugly Duckling”; in his version he ran over the Ugly Duckling with his car! Tom H. brought a snowball inside, which ended up recycled a number of times by being thrown or dropped down the back of people’s shirts. Pastor Erik told people (not necessarily children) not to run about 4,328 times. Phil L. and David E. carried Isaac outside a couple of times and threw him in a snowbank.

Afterward we went home and let the kids stay up as long as they wanted, as is our tradition on New Year’s. NaNi didn’t make it much after 1:00. David was up until about 4:30. Isaac stayed awake until 6:40 p.m. on the first. We woke him up for dinner, and trounced him at Halo 3, which is extremely unusual, but shows how drastically sleep deprivation can affect performance and critical skills.

Late afternoon on the first, we were in the process of getting ready to go see Enchanted, when David came in calling, “It stings! It stings!” I thought he’d hurt or frozen his hands, until he pointed to his head. Isaac had accidentally hit him across the eyebrow with a snow shovel, splitting the skin open quite deeply, so we went to the emergency department at SNHMC instead of to the movies. (The physician’s office had just closed.) David was very worried about stitches, but got to have his skin superglued together instead.

While David and I waited, and waited, and waited in the waiting room, Nichelle was at home making beef enchiladas, our last bit of holiday eating-too-much-for-our-own-good.

Welcome, 2008!


“We acted badly, badly, until they brought us God’s carvings. Then, seeing His carvings and following His good trail, now we live happily and in peace.”