Book Notes: The Will of God as a Way of Life

Author: Jerry Sittser
May 2014 – Ryan Stemkoski

The Will of God as a Way of Life reassures us that God’s will is not difficult to find, confusing to follow, or easy to miss. We discover that even if we make the wrong choices or head in the wrong direction all is not lost. This book helps guide us to towards the answers to common questions like if I am suffering or failing does that mean I am headed in the wrong direction? Or ho does God speak to us?

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
As if our present busyness is not enough, we feel pressure to accept new responsibilities, for we fear that we will miss out on something important or let someone down if we decline. Yet rarely do we consider the implications of the choices we make. Each new responsibility puts us deeper into the hole of distraction, stress, and overcommitment. Page 46.

Ironically our very productivity keeps us from hearing the voice of God and doing the will of God. Page 47

He gave up his freedom, in other words, for something more valuable to him. My sister helped, too. Every day she sent him a long letter; every day she sent him photos of his baby daughter; every day she sent him a cassette tape capturing the ordinary sounds of their household. Jack plastered the walls of his bedroom with those photos, as if to remind himself a reality of the world that seemed so far away. Page 66

Hatred poisons the soul. It obsesses about wrongs done and plots revenge. It drives out all understanding,m compassion, and forgiveness. It is ruinous to health and relationships. How is such hatred overcome? By trusting that God’s justice will prevail, whether in this life or the next. God is the ultimate judge; he has both the wisdom and the authority to settle all scores and set the world aright. But we must give him room to do it. The apostle Paul teach us how to obey the sixth command. We must learn to love and show mercy, giving God the freedom to execute justice. “Beloved,m never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirst, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Page 75

Noel’s wife discovered that she had inoperable cance. She lived for three years before she died. Noel told me that he decided after her death that he would devote himself to serve and obey God right where he was, as a single father of six motherless children, no matter what the cost. He never remarried, having committed himself to a celibate life. Page 82

If he had been humble in spirit and attentive to God he would have understood he could seve God right where he was. God’s will is done in the little things of life, daily and locally. God commands us to do his will in ordinary circumstances, which is the setting where most of life is lived anyway. These circumstances are so mundane at that it is easy – but in the long run fatal – to overlook them as unworthy of our attention and energy. Page 8

Scott was too proud, however, to admit mistakes and listen to advice. For example, he refused to pack the quantity of food that advisers had suggested he would need in case of emergency. He got lost because he did not listen to the advice of his men. And he kept blaming bad weather and sickness for their problems rather than admit he had failed. He justified himself and his decisions to the very end painting himself as a hero and insisting he was the victim of forces beyond his control. Page 147

Yet the ordinary tasks we do every day are alive with the presence and power of God, if we have the eyes to see it. Page 152

I just learned that Ernest Hemingway quit writing at noon everyday, even when he was in the middle of a sentence, in order to go fishing for the afternoon. C.S. Lewis took daily walks and answered every letter he received, though he could have easily excused himself from the responsibility. Suzannah Wesley, who raised nineteen children (including John and Charles, who became the leaders of the First Great Awakening in England), spent an hour a week with each child individually. Kathleen Norris, author of Dakota and The Cloister Walk, spends imte every year in a Benedictine monastery, where she follows Benedict’s Rule. Dale Bruner, a retired Whitworth professor, reads classic literature every evening. These disciplines refresh and restore enabling those who practice them to return to their busy lives with renewed creativity, perspective, and gratitude. Page 152

He also created us with the capacity to enjoy our work, if we give ourselves to what we are doing and not simply work for what we can get, whether income, recognition, status, or power. Page 153

Thus, we must discern what is in us, recognize our limits, and allow doors to close as well as open. “The God who created us does not ask us to conform to some abstract norm for the ideal self. The God who created us asks us to honor the nature that is our birthright from God, which means both our potentials and our limits. When we fail to do , reality happens – God happens – and the way closes behind us. Page 180

A person who loves God and has some experience in finding his will is the kind we should look for. I have been blessed in having several friends of my own age who have helped me often. But I have been especially blessed through the advice of men and women older than I. They see things I don’t see. They’ve been over roads I’ve never traveled. They hav perspective I couldn’t possibly have. Page 181

Balance means establishing proper priories, choosing to do what is most important rather than what is most urgent, and organizing our lives around central commitments. Page 194

John Wesley, for example was unusually disciplined and dedicated. This eighteenth-century evangelist presided over a spiritual revolution that changed England forever. He travled over a quarter million miles on horseback and preached over forty thousand sermons to reach people for Christ. He died penniless because he gave all his money away. He was largely responsible for starting the Great Awakening in England. Yet his marriage was not happy and his friendships suffered because he was so unbalanced.

Many Christian leaders whose names are household words have accomplished great things for God but have failed as husbands or wives, fathers or mothers, and friends. They took advantage of the loyalty of their spouses, without giving much in return, neglected their children because they were too busy, and used or betrayed their friends. I have watched several famous Christian leaders at a distance and observed with great sadness the contradiction between their public ministry and their private life.

Yet no one can deny the good they have done, the vision they have brought to the church, and the success of their ministries. Balance is a principle, but it is not a law. We should strive for balance but recognize that it is not always possible. For one thing, some people do not have it in them. They all to easily hurt others and themselves for the sake of their calling. Bug God is gracious enough to bless their work anyway. Page 195

We may have too much to do and not enough time to do it, but if we strive for balance, we will create an order to our lives that reflects good priorities. Family will become more important than hobbies; friendship and service will hold careers in check; our concern for people will temper our passion for truth and vision for ministry. Good priorities will set a course for our lives and guid the choices we make along the way Page 196

What would happen, I wondered if God were obvious? I am not sure we would like the outcome. God’s undeniable presence would make faith unnecessary. We would have no choice in the matter. We would have to believe. In fact, believe is hardly the right word. God’s bright and blazing presence would overwhelm us. His ineffable glory would blind, crush, and annihilate us, sinful creatures that we are, which is hardly the goal God had in mind when he created us. Page 228

We never do know how things will work out, but we know that God will work them out. He will work them out for our redemption. We will fall in love, change jobs, bury lived ones, say good-by to children, move to faraway cities, raise cats, lose a fortune on the stock market, go to war, and end up living in Singapore. Sometimes we will choose to put God first; sometimes we will choose not to. Still, somehow God will work things out for a good, both because that is his nature and because that is his will for our lives. Page 236

How to Stop Google From Indexing HTTPS Instead of HTTP Address

I ran into a strange problem recently. One of our client’s brought on a new hosting customer. Our client had just rebuilt this company’s website and launched the new site on our hosting network. Shortly after launch they discovered a problem. The previous site had run entirely in H mode and Google had indexed all the pages with the https:// included. After the launch of the new site Google had updated their cache records but had not updated from HTTPS to HTTP and this was a problem because the new site did not require nor did it have a security certificate. Anyone that attempted to click through to the site form the search listings actually got the SSL warning page because there was no certificate configured for the site.

In this case, due to some constraints with the way the hosting for these sites is built we weren’t able to apply a certificate or even complete a redirect out of https mode. This left me a bit perplexed…. how to solve such a strange issue. It turns out that there is a very easy way to resolve this issue using the canonical tag to each page with the properly formatted URL in place.

We added a canonical tag to the header similar to the following:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.site.com" />

Google automatically updated their index removing the HTTPS and instead using the proper HTTP connection. I had used the canonical tag for helping to sculpt indexing before but never for this type of purpose but it worked great!

Easter 2014

We spent Easter 2014 with Kayla’s family at her parent’s house in Ritzville / Odessa WA. Weather was cloudy with some sun breaks and just enough breeze to get the kites in the air for a few minutes.

How to do a Search and Replace String or str_replace() in MySQL

We were recently tasked with updating the name of a company on various pages of a large content managed website. This task could’ve taken quite some time and I found myself thinking how easy it would be if the site were static and I could do a simple find and replace or search and replace.

I started doing this by hand… until my brain engaged and I realized how easy it would be to do with a simple MySQL query. Using MySQL’s built in replace function I wrote the following query to do a string replace operation that replaces old_string with new_string for all occurrences within a particular column.

UPDATE table_name SET column_name = replace(column_name, 'old_string', 'new_string');

This was a quick and painless way to update a large data set.

Book Notes: Why Grace Changes Everything by Chuck Smith

Overview:
Without it grace our lives are dry and dusty. But when grace comes, it transforms our lives into something rich and beautiful. Pastor Chuck Smith explains the mystery of grace and reveals the surprising truth: We can never grow in grace by our own efforts. True grace flows from the heart of the Father through the love of Jesus Christ. To know that God is for you, that He loves you, is the greatest source of security you will ever know. That is grace-and that is what makes life worth living.

Quotes:
But later I discovered that the ultimate witness we can offer the world is the love we have for one another, a love that flows from the very heart of God Himself. Conforming to rules and regulations simply can’t produce that kind of love relationship. We can try to impose the law on our relationships, but God’s love is the only way to gain the stability and security we long for. The Bible tells us that love is the fulfillment of the law. In fact, when asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied that it was to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love — not the law — is the key to our relationship with God and with one another. (Page 12)

He revealed to me the meaning of the simple, well-worn but rarely understood word: grace. From that time onward I encountered such a free and loving relationship with God that I could not have cared less if I ever saw a spectacular miracle in my ministry. (Page 14)

In fact, the more we experience God’s love the more He Himself becomes the primary desire and focus of our entire life. The coercive aspects of the law become unnecessary. We find ourselves longing to please God simply because we love Him. (Page 14)

Whenever we try to establish our righteousness by keeping rules, eventually we are forced to admit we operate on a sliding scale. I will ask look morally better to myself than I do to you, and you will always look morally worse to me than you do to yourself. I can look at your life and see all kinds of flaws; but when I look at myself, the few flaws I notice don’t seem so bad. (Page 18)

The root meaning of the word grace is “beauty.” In the New Testament, grace means “God’s unmerited favor.” Grace is God giving to me something that I cannot obtain on my own. Grace is being accepted by God even though I do not deserve it, even though I am not worth of it. (Page 22)

God is a specialist at taking the unlikeliest of candidates and turning them into trophies of His grace. (Page 40)

In other words, true faith is more than a verbalization. True faith leads to appropriate actions. If I truly believe a certain thing, then my actions will be in keeping with what I believe. I may vehemently protest a belief in something, but if my actions are inconsistent with my professed believe, then my belief must be called into question. (Page 59)

Our actions must be in harmony with what we believe or our belief can be called into question. (Page 60)

There are many who claim to have a relationship with God, who throw around all the right Christian buzzwords and catchphrases, but who simply aren’t walking with God in any practical way. It is crucial that we learn to “walk our talk.” Our lives must be consistent with the calling, the blessings, and the profession we make concerning our new relationship with God. (Page 68)

It is when we admit our utter powerlessness, however, that we find hope. We finally turn to the grace of God the Lord intervenes and begins to do a work that we could not do for ourselves. It is not until we find ourselves driven by desperation to a cry for helplessness and hopelessness that we begin to enjoy real victory in Christ. (Page 103)

A love relationship with God is vastly different from that. NO longer do I debate whether something is right or wrong. Rather, I find myself asking, “Is this pleasing to my Father?” I love Him and want to please Him. He loves me so much that I don’t want to hurt Him. Sometimes even where the law is silent, my heart tells me God would be grieved if I carried out an activity I’m considering. (Page 127)

I am a Dad! My son Colton Stemkoski was born 1-9-14.

My wife and I are excited to announce that our son Colton William Stemkoski was born at Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane WA on January 9th 2014. He weighted 8.0 lbs and was 20.5 inches long. We are really excited to welcome him and can’t wait to watch him grow. As an amateur photographer I have already taken loads of pictures of him, here are a few for you to enjoy and I am sure there will be many more to come.

How to Select Row From a Table Where a Particular Field Starts With a Specific Letter or Number

I have seen countless instances around the web where people are using the letters of the alphabet to sort a large recordset, in fact, I have even done it before but it has been ages since that project and I had forgotten exactly how I accomplished it.

Today I working on a project where I need to sort through a large number of manufactures for a particular customer. They wanted them sortable by clicking on a the first letter of the manufacturers name.

For the English alphabet, my solution was quite simple. By using the MySQL LIKE statement and filtering out everything after 1 letter I was able to quickly and efficiently find matches for a particular letter. The example below shows a sample query assuming we are sorting by the letter A.

SELECT * FROM table_name WHERE column_name LIKE 'a%'

I also found this solution works well for numbers and other symbols. Unfortunately, in my case the client wanted all items that start with any number grouped into a single result set because there was a small number of those items. Essentially, we I needed to do a MySQL select statement that captured all items that started with any number and return those manufacturers. After doing some noodling I came up with a solution that works quite well:

SELECT * FROM table_name WHERE column_name RLIKE '^[0-9]+'

This regular expression will capture any number 0-9 and include it in the result set. This strategy could amended with different regular expression to fine tune the data selected.

How to Programmatically Trigger a Click with Plain/Standard Javascript

I was working on an older website today and ran into a problem I hadn’t faced before. I needed to modify a complex Javascript based slideshow, that was written several years ago so that it would automatically rotate between slides without user interaction. This slideshow works well but has no methods I can use to configure its functionality. I looked through the code and it was not structured in a way that I could easily modify its functionality without a substantial amount of code and testing. I decided the easiest solution would be to set a timeout that would trigger a programatic click of the next button allowing the slideshow to operate unmodified.

Until today, I had never had to trigger a click with standard Javascript. I have done it a few times using the jQuery trigger() method but jQuery was not included on this older website.

Example of triggering a click using the jQuery trigger method:

$('#test”).trigger(“click”);

I did some experimentation and discovered that this can be achieved using plain Javascript quite easily. The following code triggers a click on an element with the id of test by calling the onClick() method programmatically:

document.getElementById('test').onclick();

This simple bit of code will get the element with the id of test and then will simulate a click on that element. Enjoy!

Fixed: Google Drive Silently Crashing on Mac OSX Mavericks / OSX Mountain Lion

google_drive_logo_3963At our office we love Google Drive. We use it to store just about everything. Since migrating to Google Drive we have been incredibly happy with the service. Our users can now access important information from any computer and they are not confined to our office location or VPN. That said, we have had one major problem we had a great deal of difficulty resolving. For some reason, several of our users have had problems with Google Drive silently crashing on a very regularly, almost hourly basis. Other users have had no problems at all. For many, this issue has been maddening, and after hours of research we were unable to find a solution online for our problem so we have been living with it for quite some time. We have even gone as far as considering moving to Dropbox or another solution to solve this problem.

It turns out, the real problem was we were struggling to see the pattern. As we figured out the pattern the problem was easy to solve:

Our revelation came when we realized that for some uses Google Drive was installed under the computers administrative account and for other users it was installed as an administrator under their account. This happened based on the era in which the computer was setup and dependent on which administrator configured the computer. It appears that while Google Drive will function to a limited degree if the software is added under the administrator account something within the operating system causes Google Drive to crash regularly. We discovered that if we were to uninstall Google Drive and then reinstall it when signed in under the account for the Google Drive user, Google Drive ran smoothly without crashing. Victory! Now back to work.

Connecting: A Documentary About User Experience Design

If you are involved in web design, mobile app design, or software design in any capacity this is a must watch documentary.

Connecting:

The 18 minute “Connecting” documentary is an exploration of the future of Interaction Design and User Experience from some of the industry’s thought leaders. As the role of software is catapulting forward, Interaction Design is seen to be not only increasing in importance dramatically, but also expected to play a leading role in shaping the coming “Internet of things.” Ultimately, when the digital and physical worlds become one, humans along with technology are potentially on the path to becoming a “super organism” capable of influencing and enabling a broad spectrum of new behaviors in the world.