Technology and the Heart

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I had a wonderfully opportunity recently to speak to the young adult community at Hope Church. What a great community of people.

In this message I unpack to paths…

One is an example of utter Self Centeredness…Rebellion against God that leads to a life of futility, isolation and misguided fear. The other is a picture of what a God Centered life can look like. One that can lead to true purpose, community and love.

As I think about the Self Centered Path, is the world really any different than that is was back in the time of Babel? Now the whole world can connect more easily than ever…we can “make a name for ourselves” more easily than than ever….technology gives us more access to information, comfort and convenience than ever before.  With all that we have at the touch of a finger or the sound of our voice, do we feel any less futile…less isolated …less fearful? Do we long any less for Purpose, Community and Love than we did thousands of years ago?

If your want to find purpose, community and love then I urge you to ruthlessly pursue and practice inefficiency, inconvenience, and even discomfort when it comes to seeking purpose, community and love…First with God then with People.

There was nothing efficient, convenient or even comfortable about God’s love for us. In Fact….Throughout history we have turned our backs on God consistently. Yet he continues to reach out to us persistently…Roman’s 5:8 reads… But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. You would think that with all that humanity has been through…we would learn that we can’t find purpose, community and love without God…Even so…It seems that each generation tries to build it’s own new and improved version of the tower of Babel.

…Nevertheless…Jesus still died for us so that we could have a relationship with him…a relationship with God is not always convenient. It is not always efficient and it is not always comfortable but it always brings purpose…community…and love…

Let’s apply this principle to our relationships with people that we care about.

I am not talking about the hundreds or thousands of friends and followers that you have on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When you really care about someone, true relationships are rarely efficient, caring for someone is rarely convenient and I can’t think of one time when I have ever heard anyone say that they were comfortable going through difficult times like conflict, loss or illness with a close friend or a loved one.

So What is our voice activated…connected world of social media and technical convenience incapable of affecting when it comes to our Heart? It can’t give us purpose…It can’t deliver community and it can’t give us true love. Only God can bring about these things through Christ…

 

BlackHistoryMonth

Test Your Knowledge of Black History

In honor of Black History month my dear pastor friend in Chicago posted a short quiz in the church Bulletin last weekend.   I decided to post some of the questions here…  It is inspiring to learn the amazing things that Black Americans have done to make this country great. Test your knowledge of Black History in the U.S.

Black History Quiz

Black History Quiz

 

 

There’s No Fear In Love

As I take a few moments to pause with God at the start of my day, today’s “verse of the day” at BibleGateway.com really caught me this morning.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18 NIV

 

In the context of this verse we find John, the disciple of Jesus, talking about how God’s love is complete in us so we don’t have to fear judgement in eternity. He goes on to explain that if we live in fear, we are not complete in Christ. Christ first loved us, even in the midst of our fear so if we claim to love Christ but hate our brother we are living out a lie. You can read it for yourself in 1 John 4:7-21.

I know that the “judgement of God” feels like it is a long way off and that most of us feel that we have a great deal to fear right now. Perhaps we are missing John’s point…and please don’t miss it…If Christ’s love is strong enough for things as huge as “the judgement of God” and “eternity” then it must be strong enough to teach us how to live without fear right now.

I used to think that apathy is the opposite of love. Now I believe that the opposite of love is fear. We cannot love if we are controlled by fear…and many of us live in fear.

Many reading this will think to themselves, “I don’t live in fear, bring it on.” I have a side arm with at least six reasons why I am not afraid.” If you believe that you don’t live in fear then try this little test. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, examine how you feel toward that person at the moment. If your first inclination is to pray for that person then you are beginning to understand what it means to live without fear.

I know…It seems naive and maybe even a little silly to think that way. The world can be a dark and ugly place…and after all…”the guy made me angry.” “What does me being angry at a person who cut me off in traffic have to do with me living in fear?!”  It is in these little things like praying for the people who annoy us where we find the very radical ways that Christ calls us to love others. If we can’t do the little things, how can we be trusted with things that really matter? Furthermore, I believe that if we dig at the core of even the little things that frustrate us and make us angry we will find fear. I, therefore, believe that if we examined the core of much of the evil hatred in our world, we would find fear.

So what do we do to conquer fear and live in love? The answer for the Christ follower is to practice. Paul writes in Galatians 5:25, “if we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit.” Many of is think that living by the spirit is only a mystical idea. It is actually a very practical idea that requires will and physical effort. So lets bring this home as and make practicing love over fear very practical.

The next time someone cuts you off in traffic force yourself to pray for that person. Now I  don’t mean that you should pray for that person the way that Jaron and his long road to love suggests. I challenge you to force yourself to really pray for God to bless that person’s day. Everyone has a story. You will not lock eyes with anyone who hasn’t, is, and/or is about to deal with some sort of drama or tragedy on their lives. So pray for those people who cut you off in traffic. You don’t have to be weird and try to say “God Bless You” to everyone and you don’t have to be friends with everyone. However, you might be surprised. God may bless them through your prayers, but God just may change you in the process. You may just take one step away from fear toward love. To live without fear, is to live in and practice the radical love of Christ.

 

 

 

Workplace Ministry

I often here people say that the church is really a business and should be run like a business. I must admit they have a point. Some of the basic principles of a business plan or even the accountability of a P & L are just good practices. Churches would do well to apply them appropriately to ministry.

However, I wonder if we have this whole church/business thing turned around. I wonder what would happen if instead of asking how we can run our churches more like a business, we started asking how we could treat our work places more like a ministry?

I am not talking only to bosses and business owners. Every person who believes in Christ has the power to be a minister of Christ right where they are.

So this question is for all of us who call Christ Lord. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, How can we make our work places be more like ministries?

I you are wondering how to answer this question, you could start by learning about your main purpose on Earth.

Virtual Server Platform Survey (Results)

I recently asked posted an informal survey asking a few friends about which virtualization platform they prefer. I only received a few responses, however, I still found the information helpful since the responses I did receive came from a relatively wide range of organizational types and sizes. I expected a higher number of people voting for HyperV, and I suspect that if I would have pushed a little harder for responses from some of my peers I would have seen a higher percentage of people who are pro HyperV. Nevertheless, The results seem to loosely tie to a current ongoing tech debate on the subject hosted by Network World so I am satisfied with the results. I will probably write more on this in the future, since I, of course have my own opinions on the subject. However, I won’t bore you with that now. For now, I’ll just post the results I have below.

Results

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 7.40.41 AM

Why?

Not everyone took the time to explain why they preferred their platform of choice. Those who did wrote the following:

  • Mature Platform…Great experience with it [VMWare]…Very rich set of tools .
  • Experience, stability, its what we know [VMWare], the freeware is an option for some but not others.
  • Hyper-V might be a great choice in your situation. The value proposition is great: rich feature set and cheap.  In spite of this, VMWare is still a great choice because of the availability of consultants and trained experts. There’s a lot to be said for sticking to what you know and what is the most easily supported.
  • I tried HyperV 2012 and it works fine in a small environment.  But, once you connect iSCSI to it and start getting more professional.  It wasn’t passing its own tests.  I was trying to connect it with FreeNAS.  I even rebuilt my storage into windows 2008 R2 with a SCSI initiator…  I switched back to VMWare 5.x and bam!  Fast and nice and stable!
  • excellent stability, tools, and support [VMWare].
  • We have clients who use all of them.  The stability in VMWare is unsurpassed.  We have had nightmare issues with Hyper-V and avoid it if at all possible.
  • [HyperV] Built into the product, better mgmt across apps, much lower cost.
  • Market share Reliability Stability  [VMWare

 

Other demographic Information

Industry

Please Note: In this questions that other category was represented by Consultants and value added resellers.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 7.40.34 AM

 

 

Purpose and Privilege (an invitation to love and to purpose)

The  purpose of his physical presence on Earth was so crystal clear in his mind that given the opportunity for fame, Jesus withdrew. Given the opportunity for power, Jesus withdrew. When he was given the opportunity to defend himself when He was falsely accused, Jesus withdrew. The only time Jesus didn’t withdraw was when he had opportunities to love God and love us faithfully, passionately and fully.

But what was Christ’s purpose on Earth? After-all the Bible says he did come to seek and save the lost. The Bible also says that Jesus died for us. Was it Christ’s mission to die for our sins that drove him to withdraw from everything else? Let’s apply this question to our own lives. What is our purpose on Earth. As Believer’s in Christ, the Bible clearly tells us to, “Go and make disciples.” Shouldn’t that commandment be our primary goal on Earth.

As humans we are so hungry for purpose. Our search for meaning in our lives is a billion dollar industry. We want to do something, “we were born to do.” We want to be someone who makes a difference. We long for fulfillment and meaning. All of these desires are not necessarily wrong. However, with all of our striving, I wonder if our perspective on the subject of purpose is more than a little off. I wonder if we don’t often confuse the ultimate purpose of our existence with the opportunities we are privileged to fulfill. I believe that it is possible that we often mistake purpose with privilege.

For example, I passionately believe that Jesus died for my sins. It was His right to atone for our wickedness even before he entered our world. It was His privilege to lay down his life for our debts when he walked among us. Jesus alone is the one person who could do this for us. It was His choice to make. As much as this single act of Christ was central to our Christian faith, I believe that the primary mission of Christ, his purpose if you will, is not limited to the redemption of humankind. It was his right and privilege to save us. However, I believe that His primary purpose was, and is, and will be forever, to passionately love his father, (to be one with God), and to radically love us, (the way a husband should sacrificially love his bride).

Every action of God that occurs through His Son Jesus flows from his central purpose of love. Imagine, the creation of the universe, the creation of our world, the creation of every living thing as an overflow of God’s love. He has that much Love.  It is through this central purpose of love that He is our Lord and Savior.  It is through this central purpose and for this central purpose of love that you and I were made.

Yet, we search for purpose and meaning. We long for fulfillment. We yearn to do the things were “born to do.” Candidly, I do believe that it is healthy to learn about how we are wired. God’s word is clear, we all have certain gifts and abilities to contribute. Every single person has the potential to add value that is consistent with their own God given design. However, the things we get to do with the best hours of our lives do not define our purpose,  they embody our privilege. I believe that in the great sceme of things, we as humans really only have one purpose that matters, that is to love. Everything else is a privilege we get to do to support our primary purpose.

One of my greatest heros is man named Reggie Tucker. Reggie and his bride Mary run Orange Mound Outreach Ministry (OMOM), a church/community center in the Orange Mound community of Memphis, Tennessee. Reggie puts his life on this line daily for the kids in that community. His ministry provides affordable housing to families to promote a stable environment where kids can grow. Twice a week he holds church services for young people in the community so that they can be grounded in God’s word. It is not an uncommon practice for Reggie to meet with gang leaders in the community in order to help a kid get out of a neighborhood gang. Last week he and a group from OMOM even installed siding on one of ministry’s houses.  Reggie is a tough, driven, fighter for Christ. However, I bet if you asked the kids in Orange Mound how they see Reggie, they would say that they see love. Reggie knows that his purpose is not to hang siding, preach the bible, raise money, etc. He knows that his purpose is to love those kids in Orange Mound. He knows that the best way he can love those kids is introduce them to Christ, teach them how to live like Christ, and teach them how to love like Christ. Every other activity that Reggie works on in the context of his ministry, and in Reggie’s case his life, is a privilege that he gets to do to support his ultimate purpose.

I wonder what the world would be like if we all looked to love instead of vocation in order to fulfill our purpose. I am sure that we would still have doctors and lawyers, plumbers and carpenters. I am sure that we would still need people who are willing to do all the dirty jobs that need to get done. And I am sure that we would need people to be passionate about the things they get to do with the best hours of their day.

Additionally, I don’t think that a world driven by love would be free of conviction and conflict. However, imagine a world driven by love, where everyone acknowledges that to fulfill love is to fulfill our greatest purpose. Where everyone sees all the activities of their lives as potential privileges that they get to do in order to support their purpose. I wonder if a world like that would be filled with people who are more tolerant, less self righteous and less self centered. I have to believe that a world driven by the purpose of love would be an amazing place to live.

I close this post with an invitation discover true purpose. Jesus said,

37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

I fully acknowledge that the words above are commandments from our most high God. According to Jesus, they are the greatest commandments of all. However, God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to die for our sins. God paid a tremendous price so that we would be able to celebrate with Him forever. With God’s great love for us in mind, I would like to present the two greatest commandments from our most high God not as austere decrees to fulfill His holy requirements, but as an invitation to His holy love and to his holy purpose, and so I end with these words as a return path to God’s invitation to love and to purpose.

- To find purpose is the find love -
- To find love is to find Christ -
- To find Christ is to find God. -
- To find God is to love others. -
- To love others is to love God. -
- To love God is to fulfill our purpose. -

AMEN and AMEN

 

 

 

 

 

mlk

A Legacy of Love and Justice

When I think of the heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from our past who have paid so much for the freedoms that we take for granted, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Why is Martin Luther King Jr. such a hero to me?

 

I can tell you that it is not because he walked on water, because he didn’t.
I can tell you that it is not because he was a savior, because he wasn’t.
I can tell you the it is not because he was perfect, because he wasn’t.

Martin Luther King Jr. is a hero of mine precisely because he was merely human. A mere human who from the basement office of a humble church started a revolution. A mere human who let nothing stand in his path of faithfulness for the cause of justice and for a dream of equality and reconciliation.

Dr. King is a hero of mine not just because he died for a dream that was bigger than all of us. The life he lived is also a symbol to me of the lives of so many others from his generation who paid in blood for many freedoms we take for granted.

Yes, we have such a long way to go. Perhaps it will take generations for us to realize how absolutely foolish and pathetic it is for us to allow something like melanin and money to incite such injustice and division that continues to scar the legacy of humanity.

Today I pray that we don’t pause to grieve about the distance we have yet to travel for the cause of justice and righteous. The road to justice will be there tomorrow. Today, just for a moment, I pray that we pause to thank God for the distance we have traveled, and for the faithful souls who, like Martin Luther King Jr., paid for the freedoms we do have, in blood.

To all my elder brothers and sisters who gave the best days of your lives for the cause of freedom and equality of all human beings regardless of nationality or color of skin, we thank you. To think, it was only one generation ago that you paid so much.  Yes, we have a long way to go, but I hope we can all acknowledge that your sacrifice was not in vain. I pray that my generation can be faithful enough to honor your legacy of love and justice by carrying the dream forward to our children.

I.T. vs Users – Part 2
(Value & Trust vs. Scope & Process)

Yesterday I wrote a description of I.T. from one perspective and a description of computer technology users from another. Today I started writing a list of practical disciplines for end users and technology pros to hopefully gain a better understanding of each other. As I started crafting the list I quickly realized that there is way too much information about these disciplines to cram into one post. Therefore, I have decided to explore these disciplines in several posts over the next few weeks. For today, I am simply going to explore the differences between Value and Trust versus Scope and Process. I will then provide some disciplines that computer users and I.T. pros can use to better understand each other and avoid unnecessary drama when it comes to leveraging technology to help organizations move forward.

The Discipline of Choosing Value and Trust over Scope and Process.

As I have written before,  I acknowledge that there will always be a healthy tension that exists in the process of leveraging technology to solve problems and help people. Computer technology users don’t always know what they want. Technology often fails to meet our expectations and technology professionals aren’t always effective at adding value. I believe that practicing the discipline of choosing value and trust over scope and process is a key discipline that can help technology professionals improve customer satisfaction without losing their own minds. Description This discipline comes right out of the Agile Manifesto. Many technology pros have been trained to approach the process of providing technology solutions using predictive methodologies. These methodologies typically place scope as the highest priority of an initiative or project. As an alternative to predictive methodologies,  I would agree with Agile principles which state that defining value is more beneficial than defining scope when it comes to leveraging technology to solve problems and help people. Therefore, the number one question the technology pro should always ask themselves throughout any process of designing, planning, transitioning, maintaining and/or improving any given technology solution is, How can I add value and build trust? Sure, it is necessary to have clear definitions of scope and process.  Appropriately developed Statements of Work and/or Product Backlogs are just part of doing business in technology. However, defined processes and specifications should serve to move organizations forward. They should serve to add clarity and promote excellence. Too often the opposite occurs. Too often technologists push so hard for definitions that they lose sight of adding value. Too often they end up fighting so hard to keep the scope of a technical project in check that they miss the mark completely and trust is broken.

A Note To Technology Professionals

The technology pro must remember that the customer/end user could not care less about Scope. They don’t care about “best practices” or any other project management buzzword floating around out there. All they care about is figuring out how the technology solution you are proposing will add value to their lives. All they care about is finding solutions they can trust to help them accomplish what they perceive they need to get done when they perceive they need to get it done. They may have defined something 3 months ago during a discovery or analysis process. Now that they see the solution in front of them they realize that they defined Y, but they really need X. They are not trying to drive anyone crazy. They were just not as clear as they thought they were on the appropriate solution to their technology needs. There are numerous empirical models for helping Technology professionals manage these kinds of changes flexibly and effectively, (e.g. Lean Six Sigma, ITILv3, Agile Project Management). If you are a technology professional, I do recommend that you look at these methodologies in greater detail. However, for the purposes of this post, elevating the disciplines of value and trust to the forefront of all technology initiatives is a good place for the technology professional to start.

A Note To End Users

As technologists push toward adding value to the people they serve and as they strive toward building trust with the people they serve, end users would do well to take some steps toward engaging in scope and process development. I submit that Value and Trust are more important than scope and process. However, a basic understanding of technical tactics as they relate to scope and process can help you as the end user ensure that you will gain value and trust from the technical solution you are paying for. For instance, lets say that a technical lead for a given project decides to employ an Agile method for software development like Agile Scrum to implement a software solution. The selected method is well known for being value driven and flexible to end user needs. However, the process still requires involvement and discipline to gain an optimum return on investment. Therefore, the technical lead  decides to hold a couple training classes in order to bring everyone up to speed on the methods that will be employed to deliver the solution. In this case the end user would do well to engage in the classes and learn how the process works. Flexibility and value driven problem solving should not be void of discipline and good management practices. Learning how some of these practices work and accepting them as catalysts balanced by appropriate controls can add value. Additionally, I have gone to end users and asked them to prioritize various tasks and/or features according to the value those tasks and/or features offer. In some situations the user answered with the statement, “I need them all.” I can’t think of one time when I have come across a situation where all of the individual feature requests of an I.T. service or solution needed to be fulfilled in one shot in order to add value.

Practicing the Discipline of Value and Trust

A Tip for Technology Professionals

I have found the following question helpful in developing the discipline of Value and Trust. How is this ________________ adding value and trust for my customer? I find that applying this question to meetings, tasks, documents, etc. on a daily/hourly basis to be very helpful in keeping value and trust at the forefront of technology projects. For example, we have all been in those meetings where blood pressure rises over misunderstood specifications. We have all been in those meetings where tempers flair because both technology and business divisions can’t agree on the tactics for improving a process. Problems are never solved through ongoing organizational stalemates and impasses. I find that asking questions like, “Help me understand the value you are trying achieve through this process?” can be very helpful in working through impasses toward a mutually agreeable compromise. Perhaps it is necessary to re-evaluate our priorities on a given project. I find in most cases, when the end user has had a chance to step away from the minute details of a proposed solution and reiterate the value they are trying to achieve through the solution they are requesting, the important details related to scope of their request fall into place. Another example Another application for the “How is this ________ adding value?” question is in meeting planning. Most of us are trained to have agenda meetings in order to ensure that the meetings make good use of our valuable time. I would say that before even an agenda is planned, that the meeting planner is crystal clear on the value that the meeting will add to the objectives of the project, organization, etc. For example, Agile Scrum defines daily 15 minute stand-up meetings with a standing agenda: What did you do yesterday?, What did you do today? What are your current blocks? The agenda for the meeting is not very exciting. However, the predictable 15 minute time-box discipline, the opportunity to check progress, and the opportunity to articulate blocks in progress provide a tremendous amount of value in terms of communication and productivity.

A Tip For End Users

As an end user you too can also think in terms of value when you are participating in  technology projects and solutions. Let’s use Microsoft Word as an example. There are easily over 1200 features in MS Word from Spell Check to Word Art. At any given time you might use a fraction of those features to gain value for your organization. If we bog down technology solution providers with engineering a solution to every possible solution we can think of at the time, we risk losing sight of the value we are trying to add through the solution.  Like the old cliche goes, “Every time we say yes to one thing, we say no to another.” In this case, I am not even talking about an organization’s inability to say no when they need to say no. In this case, I am talking about all hollow yes’s and half baked deliverables that get passed off as solutions all because end users and I.T. providers don’t take the time to work out, prioritize and focus on solutions that are most valuable to the organization. For instance, here is a good example of well formed user story as it relates to a church operational function: As a family life pastor I need to have an accurate email list of family members so that I can send family life news to people on a monthly basis who are not deceased.  Why is this user story such a good example? 1. It defines the role of the primary user who is looking to gain value from the solution. 2. It defines a clear description of the primary value of the list…”to email living recipients.” 3. It defines the primary value of the “data quality” of the list. Data quality is a very broad topic  when comes to information technology. It is the kind of topic that can expand quickly into an exhaustive list of requirements that is so long, the original requested value never gets fulfilled. Thus, we end up having perfectly standardized  and geocoded mailing addresses, but we are still sending email to dead people.

Conclusion

Whether you are an End User or you are an I.T. Professional, your common ground is Value and Trust. When it is all said and done, everything we do in Information Technology is about people. The challenge of working with people is messy. Often we try to escape the untidy effort of working through difficult solutions with people by implementing over-engineered processes. Practicing disciplines that continuously clarify value and reinforce trust ultimately helps keep our focus where it belongs…on helping people.

Epilogue – (Where does Trust fit in to all of this?)

Come to think of it, I did not elaborate on trust very much in this post. The reality is that trust is at the center of value. It is impossible to add value if there is no trust in the solution, the people who deliver the solution or the people who use the solution. In terms of I.T. services, trust is built on consistent patterns of adding value to an organization. Value and Trust are both topics that have enough depth to stand on their own. I chose to couple Value and Trust in this post because I have observed how closely linked the two topics are when it comes to successful I.T. service delivery.