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Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Designers View of Nature

Greetings Scholars and Warriors!

I hope you have had a great Thanksgiving and that you are enjoying the weekend filled with family, shopping, and the beginnings of a crazy season full of holidays.

Today I want to do something a little different. I want to share some thoughts about designing lighting and the elements of design I see in creation/nature.

As a lighting designer I have to make sure a show comes together with a series of lights. I use truss and sometimes other pipes to hang lights and sometimes we use some of our cases to raise lights as well (if we don't want them on the floor but also do not want them very high). I choose specific lights for specific spots depending on what those lights do and how those lights will interact with the environment we want to create and what we need. Some of them are just white light. Some change colors and some will move, change colors and use metal plates called "gobos" to create different patterns in the light. The lights have power lines and signal lines run to them and I control them using a board that has had several features programmed into it by very smart computer programmers to create the looks and cues that I need. These features all come out of planned and finely tuned mathematics.

Now, let us look at creation. We live on a planet that circles a sun. The planet, and other planets, are held in orbit around a star by this force called gravity. In reality, we don't know a whole lot about gravity. We know that it works and that it has a huge affect on tides and how we move on our planet. I am not sure we know much else about it, though.

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We also have a very excellent oxygen system and a very adequate water system (although admittedly we often don't use it well or share the resource well). Amazingly the oxygen cycle brings oxygen to us and carbon dioxide to plants in quite the perfect combination. The water that falls (after evaporating) provides another piece of the recipe for energy to all living creatures.

Finally, we have DNA. Such an awesome feature of our planet! It took decades to decode this linguistic code. Each strand sets up the traits of a creature with specific combinations. For black hair you need one combo and for green scales a very different set. It is amazingly specific. I am not sure if DNA is found elsewhere in the universe, but it is amazing on our planet.

Do you see the coloration I am making?

  Truss/Supports = Gravity
            Lights = Creatures/Plants
  Power/Signal Cords = Oxygen/Water
            Programmed Mathematics = DNA

Some say there is no evidence of design in nature. I say it is there. As someone who designs all the time I see the elements of design all over creation. I remember subbing for a biology teacher last year and showing an amazing episode of the Life series by the BBC which comes from a personal viewpoint of random existence. It showed all these very specific features of different insects and how particular the jobs of those traits and features are for the insects. I could not believe how specific it was. There are so many fingerprints I could see of a creator all over the insect kingdom!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fight for Your City

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

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Today I watched the new episode of "Arrow". This show is all about saving a whole city. A city filled with corruption, pain, even terror. A city that is terrified because of extreme crime and poverty (although there does seem to be plenty of rich people there and plenty of expensive restaurants). It is something that many cities in our real world are dealing with right now.

One of the sub-plots going on right now is about Mr. Oliver Queen running for mayor. Within the scope of this episode, a few things happened with that. First, we learn that Queen wants to revitalize the bay area of the city but his campaign consultant doesn't like the idea. He thinks the focus should be on crime. Later on, we find Damian Darkh at a recruitment meeting. He is about to have around 16 to 20 men take a pill to make them more obedient to his commands. Of course, they all already believe that without Hive(the organization Darkh is working for/with), the city can not be saved. Interestingly, Darkh used to work with Ras al Guhl hundreds of years before this and before Darkh came into town, Ras was gonna have the city destroyed. We are still not sure of Darkh's ultimate plan, whether it is destruction or control. At some point, Darkh approached Queen at an event about his campaign and wanted to align with him (not sure if he knows Queen is the Green Arrow or not). We come to the end of the episode and Queen is at the bay announcing his plan for it. Darkh is there in the audience and they stare each other down as Queen says "This city will not be saved in the darkness, but in the light. For all to see."

Right now a lot of cities are unsure what to do. The problems include poverty, crime, fear, hatred, terror threats, and many others. Paris, Beirut, Kano (Nigeria) all experienced horrible events in the last week. Detroit is an example of cities that simply have no jobs, hundreds of empty buildings, and a slumber of sorts. So what do we do?

During the time of Jeremiah, a prophet who served when Jerusalem was sacked and many sent into captivity. He wrote a letter to those in captivity. You can read it in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 29. This letter is often quoted for the piece that speaks of God's great plan for them, but we will consider verse 7:
"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:7
God told them to seek the best of the city around them. If he told an exiled people, who were only going to be there for 70 years to do that in a city they may well have hated...what would God have you do in a city you love?  Beyond this, what did Jesus tell us?

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us:
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
In this seasons first episode of Arrow, Oliver went on a broadcast to say "I declare my intention to fight for this city." Jesus just told you what He expects of you. "Let your light shine...that they may see your good deeds..." Saving a city isn't done by sitting around. It is done by serving. By contributing to the needs around you. Our light shines by our deeds. So if a city is to be saved "in the light" as Oliver said, it will happen with deeds.

How do we get started? Well, where are the needs? Does your city need more volunteers for a food pantry at a local church? Do that. Does your city need a clothing drive? You can do it. Do you intend to fight for your city? There are plenty of ways to do it. If you are already doing something, how can you grow in that? Is that enough? Is it time for you to make a bigger commitment? Find the needs, ask God for opportunities and take them as they come; just do something.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Doctor Forgives

Greetings Scholars and Warriors!

Spoilers ahead if you are not kept up with our favorite timelord. 

Well, that was one amazing episode of Doctor Who that aired this last weekend. We find the Doctor out to deal with a separatist faction of the shape shifting Zygons who are upset about the deal with U.N.I.T. You know, the deal made in the "The Day of the Doctor".

He eventually gets their leader, who has taken the form of Clara. She has this box in front of her that might let all Zygons reveal themselves, or might be more harmful. U.N.I.T. also has a box, one that might let out a gas that will destroy all Zygons. What does the Doctor say? Well, here it is in this nice meme:

Sorry, I have forgotten who made this meme! If you find out, please let me know! Anyway, the Doctor asks her to do one amazing thing: forgive. He asks her to forgive all of the transgressions she feels are coming at her and to live in peace. "Bonnie", the lead separatist Zygon, says she can't do that. That the humans would never let her go after what she has done.

The Doctor's response? "That is what all of you always say...but guess what, I forgive you." You see, the Doctor is able to forgive because he has been there. He has participated in a huge war that ravaged a universe and he has come so close to pushing a button himself. Then, he wipes some memories of those around them, but not Bonnie. He wants her to remember. She is stuck as "one of them" now. Oh, and he makes a comment at one point about the "other 15 times" the cease fire has been in danger.

Will you break the cycle around you? Will you forgive others? Forgiveness is an attitude and it takes work and time to live it out, but you can get there. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that God will forgive us only as we forgive others (see Matthew 6).

I am not hitting all of the nuances of this scene. You really should watch it for yourself if you can find it online or catch a rerun. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Confusing Deeds of Saving

Greetings Scholars and Warriors.

This season of Doctor Who has been very interesting (I almost used "quite interesting" but I didn't as that has the opposite meaning in Brittain as here in the US). I think it is confusing to see who he saves and who he doesn't save. Time after time we see the Doctor saving people, and sometimes people he shouldn't save. Other times he is accused of ignoring deaths.

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Think about it:

He went back to save Davros, whom he knew would create his worse enemy.
When facing the ghosts he seemed to try hard to save people yet was accused of allowing some to die.
He saved Ashildr/Me (Maise Williams) even though he felt he was breaking rules.
Then, he worked to redeem her when he met her later on.
He told soldiers this last episode to kill as few Zygons as possible, even though they were starting the war.

I think we get way more confused by God's salvation. We look at the death in the world and we think He isn't doing enough. We hear stories of people's lives changed by Him and wonder "why that person and not my friend/brother/etc.?" In both cases, God and the Doctor, the subject of our confusion is doing a lot more than we can see.

Think about what we have done since God created our species: We have lied to each other and tried to lie to Him. We have cheated. We have damaged the planet He put us on. We have killed each other and blamed God for death/suffering that comes from our own poor choices. We have a terrible track record. Some claim He is doing nothing for those in droughts and natural disasters.

No news station is going broadcast huge stories on God's miracles of salvation. They don't talk about that. When someone is healed of cancer miraculously, you don't find TV cameras trying to film it. The news just won't show us that part of life. We could come up with a lot of excuses and blame for this, but that won't help.

God told Moses in Exodus 33 that he would "have mercy on he whom I will have mercy". In other words, God won't let you decide his plan of salvation. But here is the amazing thing...God does want anyone who is willing to come to Him. Jesus called for the "weary' and the "sick" to come to Him (i.e., those who were filled with sin and would admit it). During Matt Smiths reign as the Doctor he once said that he had never met anyone who was unimportant. That is how Jesus will respond if you tell him you are unimportant. If you ask for salvation for your friend, well, God wants that to. But he won't force it on your friend.

Those who are around the Doctor have to choose between trusting him or not. "Me" had to make the same decision at one time. She had been living a life of crime after the Doctor had given her a way to live for a far longer time than she would have gotten. At first she chose to ignore her life as Ashildr and use the Doctor to help a dangerous alien. Then, when she realized she was helping with an invasion, she changed.  We have the same choice with God. We can either work with Him in salvation just as a parent expects a 5 year old to help clean their room, or we can throw a tantrum and see what it gets us. What will you choose?