Policing Ourselves

This week I attended the last of three court dates to deal with some misdemeanor charges I incurred last May concerning how I had secured our dog so that he wouldn’t jump the fence and get out while we were away from the house. Our dog was confiscated by Animal Control and we were unable to get him back due to the high fees incurred from his confiscation, vaccinations (which he already had been given by us), registration, and boarding fees for one night since they picked him up after their office was already closed.

The first court date in July, I was assigned a public defender who tried to get a plea deal with the D.A, but the D.A. was unwilling to drop any charges and wanted me to plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges of illegal tethering. My public defender didn’t think my crime warranted that harsh of a sentence so he advised me to try for another court date with a judge that might be more willing to bargain. My second court date in September brought a judge that was willing to drop my charges to infractions if I would attend a Responsible Pet Ownership class. I finished that class and at my third and final court date this week, my charges were reduced to one infraction of Disturbing the Peace with no animal connection to the charges. My fine of $283 was waived if I can keep out of trouble for a year and I have to pay $100 in court fees at $25 per month until it is paid in full.

If you have never been to court to face charges before, let me walk you through my experience. You are given a ticket with a date and time to show up. When you get to court you have to go through a metal detector and put your belongings through the bag screening conveyor belt. Then you have to line up in front of the department you need to check in to, in my case it was criminal court. You wait until your name is called and then you are handed a copy of your constitutional rights and a financial form to fill out in the event that you are in need of a public defender which you handed to the bailiff for review by the court. Then you wait to see if you qualify for a public defender. If you do, the public defender will take you out of the courtroom and discuss your case with you and advise you of the District Attorney’s willingness to bargain or not. Then they go back in and speak to the judge and D.A. and come back out to talk over the outcome with you, let you know if there are any requirements or the plea deal that is reached. At this point you either enter your plea or another court date is set to come back and do this all over again. There is a lot of waiting as each public defender is usually representing 4-8 clients at one time in court and each attorney presents all of their clients cases one after another at one time. Then they have to discuss one at a time with clients, then go back and hash out, then come back and talk and so on and so forth. Once everything as been hashed out as far is it can be, you go into the courtroom and either enter your plea or request a trial. Luckily my case did not need to go to trial and I was able to waive my constitutional rights and enter a plea of guilty to a much lesser crime than I had been accused of committing.

During all of the waiting time between talking to the lawyer and being in the courtroom, I listened, I watched, and sometimes I chatted with the people around me. A lot of the folks that were sitting and waiting with me were there for charges of driving with a suspended license and/or driving while intoxicated. One man even laughingly bragged to a friend that he was there for his 10th incident of driving under the influence. A few of the people that were there did not speak English as their first language and I was pleased to see that court appointed interpreters of many languages were there and were utilized often by public defenders to make sure their clients fully understood the court process, their constitutional rights, and the choices they faced about their charges. Two ladies I talked to were facing domestic violence charges, one because she poured a beer over her husband’s head and broke his sunglasses (charged with assault and vandalism) and another because she had pushed her boyfriend out of her personal space during a verbal argument and when the police arrived the officer told her, “Well I’m going to be taking someone to jail tonight!”

I share all of this because I have some things I’ve been pondering over during this whole experience. I have wondered so many times what would have happened if, instead of calling animal control, our neighbor had come over and shared and explained to us their concerns about how our dog was tied up? I like to think of myself as a fairly civil person who takes constructive criticism to heart and really thinks over and weighs concerns that people bring to me. What if they had explained to me how to properly secure our dog on a home made trolley system with supplies we had visibly lying around in our backyard? The same backyard that they looked into to see how our dog was tied up before they called the authorities. What if that aunt who had overheard the loud fight of the quarreling boyfriend and girlfriend had instead walked over to see who was quarreling and tried to help solve the problem or encourage them to go to separate places until they cooled down instead of calling the police? What if the neighbor’s of the married couple had befriended them and offered to lend an ear or a place for one of them to cool off instead of calling the police? What if friends and family of the man with 10 DUIs had, instead of laughing at and encouraging his behavior, stepped in and took his keys or took him to a treatment center or offered to listen to and help him problem solve what he was so desperately trying to drown in alcohol?

I know my questions are completely idealistic and the reality could be quite different from a utopia where everyone behaves perfectly and responds perfectly to intervention. Still, I wonder if we took it upon ourselves to be involved in our neighborhood, in our community and to intervene ourselves instead of relying on the police to intervene, how different would things be?

It’s so uncomfortable to introduce ourselves to our neighbors. It’s so inconvenient to take the time out of our busy schedules to get involved in anything outside of our own circle of interests and friends. It is so annoying and scary when people have loud verbal arguments and confrontations. It’s so hard and complicated to confront someone and bring accountability to a situation that is spiraling out of control. There are a lot of legitimate excuses to pass responsibility to the authorities who have been drafted and are being paid to govern the affairs of the populace and make sure everyone plays nice.

I don’t have answers to all of this, really. I have a lot a questions. I have a lot to think about.

Terrorists keep winning the west

On the one hand, one could say the US along with its “Western” allies is letting the terrorists win.

On the other hand, one could just as easily say the US wanted more military control & a police state anyway.

Oddly enough (or not that odd, really), GOP Presidential candidates believe these terrorists hate our freedom (e.g. Rubio). So, in response to terrorism, they take away freedom.

Even more odd, I’m not sure DEM Presidential candidates would be that different. Pres. Obama hasn’t been.

And, of course, it’s times like these when our racism and prejudice really shine forth. (Spoiler Alert: Sarcasm coming) You’re right, Gov. Robert Bentley. Absolutely every one of those oppressed and persecuted refugees is guilty of terrorism and should be treated as unworthy of your time, effort, support, care, or even your oxygen.

Israel, a nation which currently does not follow YHVH, continues to act like terrorists. But because of fallen, greedy man-made politics, all Palestinians, even the Christians, are Muslim terrorists worthy of persecution and death.

We live in the age of fear and a culture of death, where war is what gives us life.

Yet, in all of this, I know that Christ remains on the throne. I know that the Lord and God of all is in control, will act justly, and continues to call on His people to follow His example. His people do not live in fear, and His people to do not persecute and murder others, especially those in need of the Good News of Jesus the Messiah.

No obligation to turn the other cheek?

“I’m not obligated to turn the other cheek because I’m not living under the Kingdom of Heaven.”

As a dispensationalist, Charles Lawson, a pastor out of Knoxville, TN, went to great lengths during an August 2014 sermon to confine the teachings of Jesus found in what’s popularly called the Sermon on the Mount, to a future time, a future dispensation, referred to as the Kingdom of Heaven. I’m using his language and terminology. And because that is not this current time or dispensation, he is “not obligated” to abide by those particular teachings.

Throughout his sermon titled “Turning the Other Cheek,” he emphasized our obligation to fight for our survival, that we our obligated to take care of our families. Displaying an all too familiar misunderstanding of the beliefs of those of us who would take Jesus seriously in the Sermon on the Mount, who find those teachings relevant and essential today for any disciple of Christ, Mr. Lawson quickly established the various strawmen normally seen in these monologues and knocked them down so he could encourage his listeners with his message of obligation and right to fight and harm, even kill, others.

There is some serious irony when he says to pacifists that, “You’re not going to be able to pick and choose the times that you’re going to apply Matthew 5 to your life.” That’s interesting because he has essentially deactivated and greyed out Matthew 5-7, setting everything Jesus said there aside until the Kingdom of Heaven dispensation. By his clear reasoning, and being consistent as I think he would agree we must be (he discussed consistency in his sermon), he is under no obligation to anything Jesus said there. I think he would say that he could turn the other cheek if he wanted to, because there could be a good message in doing that (but also if the guy who slapped him had a gun in his hand, Mr. Lawson would retaliate with harm in mind). But by the fact that he is under no obligation to the words of Jesus there, he is free to pick and choose what he can apply to his life or his church.

A Christian who believes that Jesus was serious in Matthew 5-7, and that his words were and are relevant, and bore an expectation here and now for his disciples, are not allowed to “pick and choose” when they apply. But Mr. Lawson is free to do so, because he is under no obligation to abide by any of it in the first place. Because Christians are under no obligation to abide by the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, here are some interesting thoughts:

• You are free to worry
• You can store up for yourselves treasures on earth
• Serving two masters just might be possible
• Don’t feel bad if you don’t forgive others
• If you want to pray and give to the needy so others see how awesome you are, that’s alright
• You don’t need to love your enemies, or even pray for those who persecute you
• If you want to divorce over issues not having to do with sexual immorality, then do what you’ve got to do
• Judge away!
• You don’t need to go through the narrow gate; the way of the world is alright
• Perhaps everyone who says, “Lord! Lord!” will in fact get into Heaven; that’s easy

Perhaps some of these points might be covered elsewhere in the words of Jesus, but is the Sermon on the Mount the only statements of Jesus that are bound to a future dispensation? Are we to believe that it’s only this portion of his teaching, while everything else is relevant? Strikes me as arbitrary and incoherent. Still, regardless, when the Kingdom of Heaven arives, we are all then under the obligation of the Sermon on the Mount.

One thing Mr. Lawson was right about when it comes to presenting the beliefs of Christian pacifists (accuracy wasn’t of paramount importance for him), was that we don’t get to pick and choose which teachings of Jesus apply to us. That’s spot on. We believe Jesus was serious when he spoke, and that his words and example are relevant to and imposing on the life of a disciple. It just doesn’t seem that Mr. Lawson, apparently bound to his dispensationalism, doesn’t take Jesus the same way. And seemingly, according to the point of this sermon of his, all to support and justify the idea that we Christians can do harm to others, or even kill them, if we feel the need to. That we determine how and when we can exact vengeance on others. And that is not the way of Jesus, and sad for a community that claims to follow the Lord and Creator of all.

Thoughts on a Consistent Pro-Life Idea

I was just thinking on the drive into work about some tips for “Pro-Life” folks, for what it’s worth, as I was pondering more about the issue of abortion and an inconsistency I think many of us have observed over the years.

“Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.”

Inconsistency in beliefs (which we all need to work at) causes concessions and a disconnect between what you preach and what you practice. If we say we believe an unborn child is a precious human life from the moment of conception, and deserves the community’s support, love, and respect, from that moment on, then here are some thoughts. Please, do not take the “You” in an offensive way. I include myself in these thoughts; I’m just not a splendid writer.

A) You must also show that baby support, love, and respect at and after birth. So, step up. Help out more.

B) You must stop treating children as a burden, an annoyance, and a strain on the community. They are not. They need mentors and teachers and helpers and friends. Just like you did. If they are poor, then they need free meals (breakfast and lunch) available during the week when they are not in school. And not the super-cheap, full of junk, extremely unhealthy stuff because it’s convenient. They need quality, life-supporting food that will benefit them and the community in the long run. They are worth it.

C) You must stop treating childbirth as a disease or an illness that must be dealt with or treated in a hospital. To oppose home births for perfectly healthy soon-to-be-mothers because you think it’s not safe or that a hospital birth is the safest situation around, and to force perfectly healthy soon-to-be-mothers and their perfectly normal soon-to-be-born babies to endure a hospital experience (and the unnecessary exposure to the seriously ill at hospitals), is to treat the birth experience as a health problem and the soon-to-be-mother as a sick person. Enough already. They’re not sick. They are growing life and giving birth to a boy or girl crafted in the image of God.

D) You must be willing to deal with poverty in your community as a preventative measure against the need or desire for abortions, and you must be willing to love and care of impoverished, pregnant teenage girls. You must be willing to try to understand the possible plight and struggles of sex workers (most of which are poor, & many of which are slaves), instead of holding to a blanket judgement that they are all foul workers of iniquity bound for the fires of hell. Perhaps if we learned more about them and tried to understand them, we might see just how we may have been a piece to the puzzle that drove them to those dark corners at night, looking for a way to make some money to pay rent or for the water bill so their school bound child doesn’t have to endure ridicule for smelling bad around his classmates. We might see some effective, individual solutions.

E) You must support the right for mothers to breastfeed (for those who want to and are able) their children wherever and whenever. If you sexualize breastfeeding, and consider it a matter of modesty (while some folks at the same time go about their business supporting the sexualization and objectification of women through certain TV shows and magazines), especially over and against the need for a child to eat, that would be your problem. It sure isn’t the mother’s problem. No one has any place to complain about or even go tell a mother to go somewhere else when they are feeding their child, including bottle feeding. Right now, in this hypocritical society, we need to encourage and embolden mothers who are feeding their children in public, for both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding.

F) You must support the right for a baby to feed from their mother wherever and whenever. They need to eat. You need to eat. When you need to eat, you probably eat. Why would someone else not get the same courtesy and respect when they are hungry? Because they are not as valuable? Because they are not as precious and important? Is it their size that matters? Or is age the determining variable in whether or not a person is free to eat when hungry?

G) You must stop forcing mothers to take their children to cry rooms in churches. Tied to B above, children are an integral part of the church community, not an annoyance and a burden. Sending the child and mother out, separating them from the congregation, letting the mother and children know they are not welcome with the rest of the congregation unless they can be silent, is a disgrace. If the mother wants to go the cry room on their own accord, great; have that area and option available. But it must be as a last resort. A mother and her children should feel welcome and a part of the community. They should feel like they have a place in the body, and a participation in the meeting time, but have that place as an outlet if the child happens to have a really rough time and they need a change of scenery. If you feel they could potentially be a distraction or hindrance to the show being displayed up on the stage, then that is your problem. It sure isn’t God’s problem. Jesus seemed to welcome children while he was teaching people some important truths. Instead of looking down on a family with some extra-squirrelly or rambunctious kids having a tough time staying out from under the seats and bumping into people’s feet, or even shaking the pew in front of them, why not get to know the family and perhaps you’ll find a way you can help the parents as they try to teach their kids patience, discipline, listening, attentiveness, and so on.

H) After church, take an entire family out to lunch, or invite them over for lunch, or have lunch at a park somewhere (or whatever is most feasible and reasonable). Don’t separate a family into individual pieces: a man, a woman, and then there’s the children. Some (perhaps most?) families like being families, and like being together while with other folks.

I) That being said, mothers do need breaks and adult conversation. And I think they greatly appreciate friends, new or old, who are willing to come over and be with them, just to attempt a conversation, while kids are being noisy and, well, kids. It builds a bond among the adults, and the children see it and also build a bond with their mom’s friend.

Again, these are just some tips. Take it for what it’s worth, from a struggling Christian dad who, along with his wonderful wife, is trying to help our six boys grow into Jesus-loving, God-fearing, unique and jubilee-filled kingdom builders, ready to do the work of Jesus using their particular talents and gifts.

It’s inconsistent, and even hypocritical, to say we are pro-life if we’re not actually pro-life. We oppose abortion because those committing abortion take the unborn child, kill them, and toss them in the garbage. How is it any different if we only support the life of a child before they’re born, if at the moment of birth and thereafter we too treat them like garbage?

Perhaps you have some other tips on how a community can support a consistent, effective idea of Pro-Life. Would love to see them.

Trying My Hand at Textures

While playing out in the front yard with the kids, I was taking some photos and thought, “Why on Caprica haven’t I tried my hand at offering textures, either for free or for sale?” I love using textures in my own work. It adds depth, mood, a particular feel, contrast, and so forth. I’m far from the only designer who does it.

Over the years my wife and I have taken photos of odd and random things, along with the standard scenes, to use as textures for things. Some are good, some are great, some aren’t. Just the way photos go. Today, I was taken some shots of a cool old tree in our front yard, some of the greenery out there, and some old wood pieces.

I’ve set aside 10 or so of today’s photos to work on and offer as textures for any of you out there to use. The only limit to your use will be that you cannot sell it yourself, or add it to a bundle that you sell. Outside of that, go crazy.

I plan on offering maybe 4 or 5 for free, then put a bundle together for a super, ridiculously low price. I figure if I can sell a few of these, it can cover the cost of hosting the server. I’m not looking to get rich; just to be able to offer some cool resources. Maybe do this once a week or so.

Here is a sampling. This is a photo of the tree out front, along with a screen texture created from that photo. While I will not do the fancy effects to these (I’ll leave that sort of Instagramming to your imagination), I find having the screen versions is very helpful.


Download Hi-Res Photo Here (9+ MB)


Download Hi-Res Photo Here (6+ MB)

Let me know what you think of these.

Rachel Held Evans goes Episcopal…so what

Rachel Held Evans, whether she likes to embraces it or not, is a Christian celebrity, and there will undoubtedly be folks who will « follow her lead to the Episcopal church ».

But, she’s not really leading here. Going Episcopal has been trendy for years now. (No…I am not saying any and all evangelical/non-Episcopalian Christians who then went Episcopalian did so as trend followers.) The high church has an appeal, especially to younger Christians, and sacraments bring a very solid, awe-inspiring aspect that is typically absent from the more open ended world of evangelicalism.

Evangelicals tend to turn their nose up so much at the idea of a sacrament that they will relegate communion, the holy meal, to a once a month, or even once every three months (or less, if any important events happen to conflict with that particular Sunday’s communion schedule…yes, I’ve been to a church who did that), “special event,” stripping away everything that is truly special about the meal. Fear of being like Roman Catholics, or falling into some sort of idolatry, or even an arrogance that they know and do it better, can create an atmosphere that necessitates a good show, great productions during sermons, and other peripheral stuff, in order to either bring folks in or keep them there. Through it all, the awe of God and the authority of Jesus can easily get lost, leaving gaping holes in theology and practice.

The Episcopal church offers an experience, with some solid elements intended to draw attention and focus to God. It also offers, or at least is perhaps supposed to offer, a more welcoming atmosphere where anyone could participate in the community. Rachel Held Evans isn’t leading a charge, but is joining in.

I don’t really care what Rachel Held Evans does. Maybe that’s deeply rooted in my general aversion to celebrity Christians and celebrity pastors. Could be. But, my family doesn’t make decisions based on what she or other celebrities do or say. I think it is a very sad testimony to the state of the church, particularly in the US of A, if many folks do.

There has also been growth among young folks heading into Orthodox churches, which also offers a high church experience, but with far superior artwork (in my opinion).

Grief Lived-Trigger Warning this is about loss

It has been almost seven months since we miscarried our baby at 15 weeks gestation. It’s been three weeks since we passed our sweet baby’s Estimated Due Date. I have grieved off and on since we first found out our baby had died, since our family that was to remain just 8 for now all saw the perfectly formed, perfectly human, and perfectly still and lifeless body of our baby on the ultrasound screen. We have celebrated the birthdays of our living children, we have celebrated the lives of the two babies we have lost, we have celebrated pregnancy announcements of friends, we have celebrated the births of all of the babies of our loved ones who have been born since we lost our baby.

I honestly don’t know why, on a completely non-consequential day, just sitting in my pajamas in our rocking chair thinking about what to do with my day now that my quilting project was defunct due to the purchase of incorrect thread for the project, that my grief hit me like a ton of bricks, ripped out my heart and gutted me right where I was sitting. The sobs and the tears came, so guttural that I choked and gasped and probably scared the life out of my family with the suddenness of it.

I found myself saying, “It’s not fair!!!” and trying to explain to myself why I was suddenly so overtaken by the grief that I thought I had such a good hold on. Grief that I have verbalized, that I have dealt with, that I have allowed myself to feel without holding back. I found myself again regretting that I had not simply asked the ultrasound tech for just one picture of my precious baby. The memory of what he looked like has already faded so much. It makes my heart ache that I just didn’t think to ask until it was too late.

The regret and doubt that maybe it was something I did that caused him to die. The decision to stop sifting through all of the horror of our miscarriage to find and see the body of our baby, to allow him to be flushed away because I was too weak to do anything but bleed and try to not pass out again and to realize that it was all my husband could handle just to take care of my needs. The relived horror of my miscarriage every time I started my monthly cycle and found bleeding, the feelings returning of finding that first blood that indicated something was wrong with our precious baby.

Grief is such a strange thing. I’ve had so many people tell me that the only way is through it and I do believe that to be true. One day at a time, choosing to keep living, to keep loving, to hug my boys and thank God for their sweet lives, to remember our babies lost and look forward to the day that we finally get to meet them when this life is through. How does one truly move through the grief to the other side of it?

Sometimes I feel like if we had been blessed with another baby by now that it would be easier to deal with this great loss. But then I also fear a lot. I fear that people will judge us for already having so many children. I fear the future and whether we would be able to afford to raise so many children. I fear that tiny life is too fragile to sustain at this stage of my life and we would just deal with this again. I fear that my health will be compromised if we have any more children. I fear that it would leave my children without a mother. I fear the day when we no longer have any babies in our family. I fear allowing God to work in our family as He will. I’m not saying all of this to spark debate or to invite commentary and opinions from others on our family. I share simply to share in case there may be others out there who identify and can know that they are not alone. That we are all human and that we all have struggles and fears.

I felt that writing out my thoughts might be a way to help me process my feelings. I guess in a way it has, and in another way it was just to document my grief. I wonder how many more of these moments there will be. I will never be truly whole again, of that I am certain. I have lost too much that is irreplaceable. I have lost too much.

Passion vs. Agenda

I tend to be a very passionate person. If there is something that strikes my interest, I find myself researching it, reading all I can about it, telling my friends and family about it, trying to help others to catch the same passion for it that I have. You could say that when I’m passionate about something, I’m all in.

I have had a lot of passionate people in my life as well. For the most part, I tend to become or remain friends with those whose passions align with or at least compliment mine. That was one of the most attractive things about my husband when I met him. He thinks like me, he’s passionate about a lot of the same things that I am (albeit in a much quieter, tamer way than I am), and he supports me in passions of mine that don’t necessarily match up with his and I him. It’s a beautiful thing.

Then there are those who are passionate about things that I may be mildly interested in or that I am mildly or vehemently opposed to. These are the folks that cause me to remind myself, on occasion or frequently, that they are simply passionate like me and I need to extend the same grace to them that I would hope others extend to me when I’m in the throes of whatever it is that I’m passionate about. It was one of these encounters that made me ponder this question. What differentiates between being passionate and being dogmatic and/or having an agenda?

It’s possible that these are simply differentiated by the eye of the beholder. It can be difficult to self diagnose passion versus agenda because we humans do not tend to be objective or to evaluate ourselves without personal bias. I honestly don’t have an answer. All I can comment on is how a perceived agenda has effected the way I interact with passionate people.

When you think of someone with an agenda, what comes to mind? I think of someone who, no matter what the conversation is or has been about, they will insert themselves into it and turn the conversation towards their agenda and beat that drum until everyone has either gone AWOL or has stepped into line with the established beat. I have an involuntary knee jerk reaction of sighing to myself in my head and thinking “Here we go again.” and then mentally checking out of the conversation.

Agendas make us hard to like and hard to sympathize with. Agendas build walls around us that keep those we want to reach with our passion at arm’s length or even drive them away. Agendas turn those who may have rooted for the cause we are passionate about to turn tail and run away from us, to hide us from their newsfeed on social media. Agendas make formerly nice, genteel folks turn on each other; they break down communication and cause discord.

Do you see how negatively I have come to associate with the word agenda? I feel that I might not be alone in that association. So how do we keep our passions from turning into agendas in the perception of those we interact with? Should we even be concerned about that at all? Should I even be thinking along the lines of passions opposing agendas?

Survey on churches and art & design

I know I have a bunch of connections and friends around the interwebs who are either pastors or otherwise heavily involved in their local church bodies. I had a few questions for you folks in particular, but this is welcome to any one else who might be knowledgeable about their church.

Please leave your responses in the comment section. I really appreciate it. And, don’t feel like you only need to say “Yes” or “No.” Feel free to elaborate as necessary. You can even « email your response » if you like.

1. Does your church have a designer/artist/marketing person (who handles the church’s design work) on staff?

2. Does your church have a designer/artist/marketing person (who handles the church’s design work) you contract with?

3. Are there designers/artists in your congregation who handle the design work for your church on a volunteer basis?

4. Is the design and art work handled by people in the church, whether on staff or not, who are not designers/artists?

5. Are there any printed resources (magazines, books, etc.) you use to help with design/art ideas, inspiration, tips?

6. If not, and some printed resources exist, do you believe the staff or the church (or the people mentioned in the previous questions) would use them…if they seem to be helpful?

7. Are there any digital/web resources (websites, apps, etc.) you use to help with design/art ideas, inspiration, tips?

8. Does your church host activities, gatherings, or even protests that involve putting together designed or artistic products (e.g. signs, posters, flyers, buttons, etc.)?

Odd Design Requests: eBook for how much?

(Sometimes I check out freelance job forums, just to see if there are any potential leads there. In over 9 years of putting bids in through sites like Elance or Freelancer, I’ve only ever successfully won a bid 3 times. I don’t rely on them at all. And designers trying to make a living can’t outbid folks who offer $10 logos. But, those forums can be good for realizing just how unreasonable some potential-client requests can be.)

Seen Today

A client has a book ready they need converted for Kindle. It’s 128 pages long in print.

This is a well laid out book and I’m expecting this to be an interesting job for an experienced Kindle designer, so am expecting to pay up to $50.00.

Any questions, do ask.

$50 per page? I accept…

Oh. You mean up to $50 for the total job? Umm… No thanks.

Well, to win this bid a designer will need to be in the $10-15 range. So, if we look at the low end of $35 / hr for a good freelancer (most quality designers are way above that, but I have seen some very, very good freelancers at $30 or so per hour), that comes to around 20 minutes of work.

That’s probably enough time to download the manuscript, open it in Calibre, hit Convert Individually, select MOBI, and hit Convert. In a couple of minutes, Calibre will be done and a Kindle ready file will be in your folder.

Now, it will be readable. It will function. The Table of Contents will probably be as bad as you can imagine, but it will have one. There will be some weird page breaks, and the images, if they convert at all, will be funky.

But you get what you pay for. There are plenty of people around the globe ready to accept $10-15 USD for a $400-600 job. But you get what you pay for.

When I worked on an eBook a few weeks ago, I spent roughly 9 days converting the manuscript (I made the print manuscript as well) to an ePub and MOBI. I cared about the details, pretty much page by page (320 page book), and wanted more than just a file that opened in my Kindle.

And it cost more than $10-50 for the entire job. My rates aren’t astronomical, and I won’t put small businesses out of business. But I like to think I do a quality job.

If you happen to need some design work done, don’t hesitate to contact me « eddie@schleitheim.com ». Web or print, just let me know and we can work it out. You can check out « my online portfolio » (currently upgrading/updating, so this is slightly older), or my « Behance page ».

Does your bowl have enough?

I’ve been seeing it a lot lately. The memes about that lady at the grocery store talking on her iPhone while using food stamps or cash aid. The stories about the MediCare patients who you see at the ER because they seem to have a cold and are wasting our tax money and keeping us from being able to get the emergency services we feel we need. The entitled folks who suck up all of the nation’s resources that you feel should be going to you instead because you are, after all, a tax paying citizen in good standing. I also recently saw a meme to the effect of “life isn’t fair, it’s never going to be fair and you should learn that now. The only reason you should be looking into someone else’s bowl is to see if they have enough, never to see if they have the same or more than you.”

I have knee jerk reactions to both types of posts. Maybe you do, too. What should our reaction be to the first kind of posts? Agreement? Re-share the post and add our own comments? Identifying with either party in the post? Nothing, it isn’t my problem? Educating people about poverty? Depending on your perspective and world view, it could be any of those. How does one deal with poverty when one comes face to face with it? That is a question we all deal with, sometimes on a daily basis.

Let’s look at a scenario. You hear of a family in need. You want to help! So you collect food and toys and hand me downs and you give them those. You feel good! You helped! But did you? Did you ask the family what types of food they eat? What they can afford to buy and what they can’t afford to buy, but need? Or did you just have all of your friends empty out their cupboards of what they don’t need anymore and gift that to the family? Did you ask if they need clothes? Did you ask if they wanted you to buy presents for their children? Did you even consider their humanity and dignity for one second or did you just decide to do what “felt right?” Are they still going to be extremely thankful for your help? Absolutely! Their heart will probably overflow with gratefulness to be remembered and thought of and helped.

Maybe what they actually needed was the dignity of having their children’s gifts come from them, not some beneficial stranger. Did you ever consider that now makes it look like a stranger loves them more than their own parent? Their own parent couldn’t even buy them a gift. Maybe they see it as their parent doesn’t love them enough to buy them gifts, but this stranger/friend did. Maybe what they really needed was a bill to be paid for them. Maybe they need legal help because they are so deep in poverty that is the only way out.

Well, they are poor. I guess if they had dignity, they would have a good job and be providing for themselves instead of relying on others for things.

The poor are not animals. They are humans with feelings, and thoughts on life, and dignity and pride and dreams. Have you ever had to apply for state benefits like food stamps and cash aid and state insurance? Have you ever walked with someone through the process? Have you ever applied for and tried to spend WIC coupons? Let me tell you, it is a dehumanizing process. It is a last resort for most people. It is being kicked in the gut when you are already so low that you decided this was the only way. It is a frustrating, fearful, life and time sucking process. It is very easy to harden yourself and become jaded while trying to get through it.

So where do we go from here? May I suggest that we let go of our feelings of what is fair and what is owed to us and someone not working for what they are getting. Instead can we focus on how we are the same? How we would like to be treated should we find ourselves in a similar situation? How we can respect each other’s humanity and help with actual needs not just perceived needs? Let’s start the conversation. Let’s think and let’s talk and let’s do.

Be peace,

Don’t Assume Commentaries are Right

This is a reminder of caution when reading a commentary. We can’t simply assume they are correct because they have Commentary in the title.

I just got a hold of Teach the Text Commentary Series: Mark. Regarding « Mark i.17 » (Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.”), the commentary reads

The disciples are professional fishermen, and Jesus uses a brilliant metaphor to describe their new careers. In their profession they kill fish, but now they will bring life to people. In the Old Testament the fishing metaphor is used for coming judgment (Jer. 16:14–16; Ezek. 29:4–5), but Jesus reverses the imagery: netting people for salvation.

While I appreciate how the commentator points out the judgment language associated to fishing, I am lost as to how he could immediately (in true Mark form) switch to a place where he says, “but Jesus reverses the imagery.”

Where did he reverse the imagery? When speaking with the soon to be disciples, he never mentioned netting people for salvation. He never mentioned salvation at all.

This passage is often romanticized and expounded on as a great missionary call, speaking of fishing for men as going out into the world to save sinners. But, as the commentator admitted, “the fishing metaphor is used for coming judgment.” There is simply no explanation given by this author showing the shift from judgment to salvation. If Jesus is reversing the imagery, ought there not be some evidence of that? Or is the commentator bringing those ideas in from somewhere else, ultimately forcing the text to say something?

I’m thinking most commentaries do not mention the judgment language and imagery. Even resources like Wuest don’t mention it: “The addition of the words ‘to become,’ indicates a long, slow process in making them soul winners.” (Wuest, Word Studies, Vol. I, pg. 29) I’m not saying a commentator isn’t free to present their own conclusions, e.g. in this case, that Jesus is calling for disciples to start a ministry to save souls. I’m trying to emphasize the idea that a commentator, like a Bible teacher or preacher, needs to have a higher standard when teaching the text. What this author did shouldn’t be considered good enough. If he believes Jesus is talking about soul winning and salvation, and that Jesus is reversing imagery, than present the case because it’s simply not in the text.

Instances like this remind me to stay a bit cautious when reading a commentary. It’s good to remember that an author of a commentary still has his or her own agenda, vision, theology, etc. being poured into their work. They have traditions and blinders like anyone else. The fact that it’s published does not mean everything published is fact.

Pacifists, non-pacifists, and What would you do?


Christian Pacifists (or non-violent or non-resistant practitioners) get asked by Christian non-pacifists (for lack of a better term; don’t want to label them violence lovers or something like that) the “What would you do?” question constantly. The most common comes with a scenario having to do with a violent home invasion when the lives of our loved ones hang in the balance. But there are times when the question has to do with a historic situation, and they’d like us to share how we would solve the problem without the use of violence. Maybe the most popular is everyone’s favorite man to hate, Adolf Hitler. “What would you do with Hitler? Would you kill him?”

Along those lines, there’s, “How would you handle the massacres in Rwanda?” Or, “How would you have stopped World War II without dropping the nukes?” Or, “How would you stop the Muslim and Christian kill-fest in Nigeria?” And, of course, there’s, “What’s your solution to ending the massive killings between Israel and Hamas?” (Though, let’s be honest with that last one: they would have said Palestinians not Hamas, as if the two were equal.)

Whatever the particular scenario might be, there is a general problem underlying just about all of them. They are asking peacemakers (genuine peacemakers, who abstain from the use of violence) to fix a problem that was never created by peacemakers. These conflicts were created, long ago, by people who at some level of their ideology, philosophy, theology, or practice believe that violence has a just or proper place. They believed then or believe now that there is a time and a place where killing is necessary and right. When violence entered the conflict, and then violence was used as a counter or response, especially in attempt to solve the problem, the cycle of violence took over.

Violence was then used to stop the violence. What else could you do? We have to respond violently, because those people are being violent and will only respond to violence. Nothing will end this without a violent act. For decades and centuries, violence was the only solution that had any serious chance of making a difference.

And it’s at this point in the game when we’re asked what we would do to stop it. When violence is in complete control they want to know how we will put a stop to it. My knee-jerk reaction is, “What? It’s your mentality that got you into that mess. How are you going to stop it?” (I’ll touch on that some more in a little bit.) The problem is they want to take a completely populated ferris wheel going at full speed–faster than safety allows, with everyone already in danger–and hit the emergency brake, causing an immediate stop to the spinning. The ferris wheel will stop (end of the conflict), though everyone on the ferris wheel will die (collateral damage), but it was for the greater good. They feel as though the only viable solution is another Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and want to hear from us if there is a pacifist equivalent.

The answer to that is, “Of course not.” Keep in mind what the US did when they dropped the nuclear bombs on the Japanese people. While it could be argued they brought World War II to a quicker end, the clear reality is the action only added to the cycle of violence, with decades of threats, the Cold War, nuclear missile defense systems, the US wanting all other nations to eradicate their nuclear arsenals while keeping their stock at the ready. What ended exactly? Many people died as the ferris wheel stopped, but the killing kept spinning.

The mentality that believes violence is okay at times can’t seem to get away from it. People who have that mentality might say, “Only as a last resort,” yet reaching that last resort seems to come quite quickly these days. They create the deeply seeded situations where violence begets violence and violence takes control. When they see that violence isn’t solving the problem, they seek alternative solutions but still want it to look and act a certain way. My knee-jerk response earlier has some validity. Those who advocate the use of violence do need to answer how violence will solve the problem. If they can’t do it, they must immediately stop considering violence as an option.

Only then can they begin to understand how the pacifist will respond. Because the first answer is to look at the history and how we could have avoided, if possible, the problem in the first place. Then we move on to looking at how the road will be very long, and very hard. It will involve putting ourselves in potentially fatal situations among the people being killed while the various warring factions and leaders keep fighting over whatever they are fighting for.

It will involve emulating Jesus, who died more times than he killed.

And it will continue to seem pointless and misguided in the eyes of those who believe violence is necessary and right. If our non-violent ideas–which are nothing more than taking the words of Jesus seriously, as if he meant what he said–are pointless and misguided, then how do those Christians who support the use of violence propose to stop the violence without adding to the cycle?

As a last little aside, did you catch on to the underlying assumption here from the folks asking the pacifists what they would do? They tend to ask the question as if we aren’t doing something already. It’s a subtle idea, but pervasive: because non-violent action doesn’t look like violent action, it must not be action at all. Just something to remember as the conversations will continue to happen.

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