Sunday, May 31, 2015

51 Stars

Last night, a terrible thought struck me. "If Puerto Rico becomes a state, how will we adjust the stars in the US flag so that there is symmetry in their placement?" I know, I know--it's the same kind of thing *everybody* thinks about. I grabbed a legal pad that I keep on my desk, and here is what I came up with. Keep in mind that 51 is a difficult number to deal with. Currently, the stars are arranged in alternating rows of 5 and 6 stars (or columns of 4 and 5 stars) to add up to 50. Here is what I came up with: If you line them up *diagonally* rather than horizontally or vertically, starting in the bottom left corner and ending in the upper right corner, you can do it with seven lines (or "rows"), each with the following numbers of stars: 4, 6, 9, 13, 9, 6, 4. The row of 13 of course would reach from the upper left corner to the bottom right corner. It's not perfect, since the row lengths do not increase consistently, but the increase of the *increase* is at least consistent; we increase by 2, then 3, then 4, then decrease by 4, then 3, then 2.
A Google image search revealed that others have already thought through this problem with better results.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Resolutions from Today (and technically I mean yesterday since it is 2:36 AM)

1. No more dark chocolate. Unlike tea, which I tend to drink at more responsible hours, I make terrible mistakes eating dark chocolate in the evening, and find myself restless and awake late into the night (and the following morning).

2. No more soy. Because soy is bad for you, and I have an autoimmune disease. Actually, the only source of soy that I am currently aware of in my diet is the dark chocolate I eat, which includes soy lecithin.

3. The $5,000 kickstarter campaign for my album is worth a try, even though the odds are stacked against me. But what is most important is that, one way or another, I finish this album.

4. Narrowing the subject matter of the album to 1961-1968 may be a good idea. That's the main storyline that compelled me from the beginning, and most of the album's best material is focused on that period. This also makes a more normal-length album (instead of a 2-disc) more appropriate than it would have been if I'd covered all of 1953-1974.

5. Don't spend any money. You don't need that thing. You definitely don't need it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Principle of Ownership, Part 2 - Forthrightness

A few months ago, I feverishly scribed a 2-paragraph statement which elaborated on something I called "The Principle of Ownership", then snapped a picture of it and posted it on this blog.

One year ago, I wrote an entry called "My One Resolution", which I believe was posted on my other blog, "Reality of Christ", and in which I described my felt need to be more forthright with people in various situations. I made it my lone "resolution" for 2012.

Well, various thoughts have been blossoming in my mind which are continuations of both of these principles.

1. One thing we must take ownership of, if we are to be honest men, is our conversation. What I mean is, we must take ownership of our own thoughts, feelings, and preferences, and state them as our own, rather than passive-aggressively making them out to be lifeless responses to what somebody else said. Do you want out of a crappy dating relationship? Consider saying, "I want out of this crappy dating relationship", rather than, "You obviously don't love me anymore," "You're a great friend", "I just don't think I can handle a relationship right now," or something else.

2. The whole process of being forthright is a lifelong endeavor. None of us is made of steel; all of us are growing in the process of fearing God rather than men. So we must grow in courage. But we also must grow in wisdom. The thrust of honesty is wonderfully simple, but there are complex situations that come up. Simply put, there are some things that don't need to be said right away, and some of our feelings need to be evaluated privately before we throw them in somebody's face. There have been times this year when I was offended by something somebody said and took it the wrong way. I had thoughts of speaking in a very plain and confrontational all-or-nothing manner. But the voice of sensibility inside my head told me that, as much as I could not understand why this person would say this, there was a good chance I was either taking it the wrong way, or taking it way too far. I cooled down, deferred my reaction, and was able to handle these situations in a much more constructive way. It's a good thing, because would I have been honest if I had spoken my mind? Yes, but not beneficial to anybody, in fact possibly devastating a person here, ending a friendship there. "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29, ESV

3. Being forthright doesn't heal all wounds. Even if I tell my friend Billy he was wrong to tell all my friends that I eat worms in the backyard and it makes me trust him less as a friend, I will still be hurt that Billy would do this, and that people were so quick to believe him. I will lay in bed at night, thinking, "Do I really act like a guy who would eat worms? Is it my beard? Am I too quiet? When I'm quiet, do people think I'm plotting my next worm feast? I genuinely hate worms. This is all not fair and I hate this world."

More personal:

4. My neurotic tendencies, fears, and hangups are my own burden and nobody else's.

5. As an INTP, my most difficult thing to deal with is when people have sudden and emotional reactions, because I find this dangerous and not helpful. I imagine they are just as alarmed by my heady approach to life. I don't even know how to *begin* in a situation like that. I am detached in almost all situations, and even feel detached when the other person carries on and ascribes to me certain emotions that I do not actually feel. I find that seeking to explain myself in such situations is not helpful, because it is seen as some kind of emotional response, when in fact it is not. What I generally do is, "slowly back away", because the harder I try to seek clarity with the person, the worse the situation gets. Perhaps what is needed is, "Jim, I'm actually not offended at what you said; I think you've misunderstood what I'm telling you. The giant banana was chasing me in that dream, and I killed it with an umbrella toothpick, and I was not telling this story as a parable for your failed business venture, but as a humorous anecdote." I guess that's the best thing to do.

Advice for the NYC-bound

Recently a dear friend of mine asked me if I had any advice for her; she is expecting to move to NYC within a year. Here's what I told her:
Dearest Ashley,

New York City is an amazing place to live. These adjectives come to mind:


Now, I know some of those will sound contradictory, and they are. It's a place of conflicted experiences. Whatever happens, you will never forget it.

Some people have positive experiences, and some people have negative experiences. Some of that has to do with whether a person is a homebody, and whether they are cut out for city life. Since you are drawn to it, odds are you are cut out for it, though there will be an adjustment period. Some of it has to do with a person's disposition, but some of it has to do with some specific factors.

So, my dear little sister, this is what I have for you:

1. Find a good church. I know you haven't been going to church, but Ashley, I guarantee you that you will find no better opportunity to meet interesting people who actually care that you will thrive, than in a good Christian church. And that is perhaps the single most important aspect to having a positive experience in NYC. For two reasons: (1) NYC life is lonely life, and this way you will be connected, and (2) You'll meet more people this way, and the more people you meet, the better. Somebody will have a rooftop apartment in Brooklyn and you'll watch the July 4th fireworks with an amazing view of the whole city. Somebody will be living the life you want to live (maybe they're a photographer) and potentially have connections for you, and/or advice. And some people, you'll just plain love and be so glad to have them in your life.

2. Better to be somewhat poor in the pursuit of your dream, than somewhat stable in a life-sucking, dead-end job. But those are two extremes, both of which you'll hopefully be able to avoid.

3. Be safe. Hide yo kids, hide yo wife. Best to have somebody with you if walking the streets at night. Depends on the area. You'll figure it out, though. Most areas are quite safe.

4. Travel light. You won't have a lot of space.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Principle of Ownership

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My life as an INTP

A post like this seems long overdue. Some may say I am "obsessed" with the Myers-Briggs personality types, but I'm no more obsessed with this, than anything else that grabs my attention. I'll provide a link at the bottom (if I remember) to a site where you can take the test for free.

INTP stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving. This means simply that I am an introvert who takes in information my intuition, makes decisions based on logic rather than feelings, and am an improviser by nature. Here's a photo of me improvising from back in December 2008: refers to INTP's as "The Thinkers" and another website that I cannot remember used the title "The Architects". Here are some quotes about INTP's (the bold introductions are mine):

Crazy about knowledge: They live primarily inside their own minds, having the ability to analyze difficult problems, identify patterns, and come up with logical explanations. They seek clarity in everything, and are therefore driven to build knowledge. They are the "absent-minded professors", who highly value intelligence and the ability to apply logic to theories to find solutions. (

Walking contradiction: INTPs do not like to lead or control people. They're very tolerant and flexible in most situations, unless one of their firmly held beliefs has been violated or challenged, in which case they may take a very rigid stance. The INTP is likely to be very shy when it comes to meeting new people. On the other hand, the INTP is very self-confident and gregarious around people they know well, or when discussing theories which they fully understand. (

Oddball geniuses: The INTP is usually very independent, unconventional, and original. They are not likely to place much value on traditional goals such as popularity and security. They usually have complex characters, and may tend to be restless and temperamental. They are strongly ingenious, and have unconventional thought patterns which allows them to analyze ideas in new ways. Consequently, a lot of scientific breakthroughs in the world have been made by the INTP. (

In relationships: Although they choose to keep things straight-forward in their relationships, this does not mean that the INTP is lacking in depth of feeling or passion. The INTP is very creative person, who has vivid imaginations. They can be very excitable and passionate about their love relationships. Sometimes, they have a problem reconciling the exciting visions of their internal worlds with the actuality of their external circumstances.

I've taken a major interest in this for years now. I can often guess people's MBTI after getting to know them a little while--that and their birth order. While I believe a Christian's identity is found in their belonging to Christ, I do find tests like these to be useful, as a sort of "secondary clarifier". Being somebody who has "unconventional thought patterns" provides a lot of moments of misunderstanding, some of them very frustrating--which I admit pulls me back towards *this* stuff, trying to better understand myself and others.

And that's not a cowardly retreat from life--that's simply how an INTP relates to the world. 

Now to get on with it, here is a series of observations:

1. If God is infinite in all of His attributes, and we as humans are created in His image, and different genders (male and female) display different *aspects* of the image of God, it seems logical to further suggest that this is true not only of genders, but to at least some extent also of personality types--that different personalities display certain attributes of God in higher degrees.

2. If different personalities display different attributes of God in higher degrees, we should value and respect others for their uniqueness, because so long as they are in submission to God and obedience to Scripture, they are displaying something sacred--the image of God--in the way they think, feel, make decisions, socialize, plan, celebrate, and grieve. It's important to remember this when somebody is very different from us.

3. My greatest aspirations are not quantifiable. There's a lot of stuff I want to do--but I don't really want to "be" anything. I long to teach and preach, not for recognition but because of the truths that precede me, and my desire that those truths be known more widely, and more clearly. As that same page explains:

Their natural drive to turn theories into concrete understanding may turn into a feeling of personal responsibility to solve theoretical problems, and help society move towards a higher understanding.

That's me. I once told a pastor I was more interested in preaching than in some of the other pastoral responsibilities. He misunderstood me--he thought, that I felt, that I was a good "communicator". What that makes me picture is a slick young guy in a headset who walks on the stage with his Bible and says to himself, "I GOT this". Now, I am a pretty fair judge of my own strengths and weaknesses, and anybody who's heard me preach would generally agree that I am a very effective communicator. But I am not motivated by a desire to "be" that--I am motivated by the Gospel itself, and by the words of Scripture, and a conviction that those words matter greatly. Church programs inspire me about as much as government programs inspire Ron Paul. Big productions to me are "big compensation" for the Holy Spirit not moving--a man-made replacement that creates church busy-ness in the place of wild, untamed transformation. Francis Chan's teaching on this resonates with me a lot.

4. One lovely habit of mine is to isolate myself and then say, "Where'd everybody go?" As time goes on I am learning to fight this by being disciplined in my handful of close friendships...making sure we're staying in touch and so on. Most of my regrets have to do with not maximizing past being more of a mentor to younger students when I was an upperclassman at MACU, etc.

5. My unique thought patterns have been a source of bewilderment, aggravation, and inspiration to others. This is not at all done on purpose--as some studies of the brain can tell you, I'm literally wired this way--the American Journal of Psychology published a a study of brain scans revealing different chemistry and bloodflow in introverts and extraverts, for example.

Friday, March 23, 2012

8 Practical Ways a Young Man Can Embrace Biblical Manhood

These will be short and to-the-point. I wish somebody had explicitly directed me this way when I was a new Christian as age 16-17-18. These are adapted from a discussion I led at camp last summer.

1. Be industrious. Do your best to keep a neat room (not my strong suit by any stretch of the imagination). Keep up with your chores around the house. Get the best grades you can (within reason--don't make an idol out of grades), perhaps even learn a trade (lots of high schools offer programs to learn a trade). Or take your skill/passion and start being really dedicated and disciplined to it--be it music, painting, working with wood, writing, history, etc. This is actually one of the ways you should channel the sexual energy God has placed in you--if you want to be a husband, you're going to have to provide financially, which means you're going to have to do something people will pay you to do.

2. Get a holy ambition. Give your heart solely to the Lord and see what burden He places on you for the benefit of His glory, and His church. Figure out why you are on this planet! Take a nice, long, LONG walk if you have to. Or crack open a notebook and start writing. This is not necessarily about a career--though it will definitely affect your career, and it may lead you to a specific career, such as medicine, preaching, counseling, etc.

3. Seek mentors. Seek out godly men from your church or elsewhere--Christian men who can assist you in your walk with the Lord. I have a few. Some simply became that, and some I specifically asked for mentoring.

4. Be pure in your relationships with girls. So easy to type out, but a huge challenge to live out! Not sure what this will mean? Perhaps you should talk to your mentor (see #3). Also you should really listen to this message here it's way better than this little post of mine. It's from Paul Washer, and it's called "A Young Man's Attitude Towards Women". So important. Another subject I wish I had been given explicit advice on when I was younger.

5. Cultivate an attraction to genuine womanhood. Not sure what genuine womanhood is? Glad you asked. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon focuses on this in chapter 31--he tells his son what kind of woman to look for. So crack open Proverbs 31 and think about the women you've known who have exemplified these qualities. Admire these qualities more than physical beauty. It will take discipline--be careful what you put before your eyes.

6. Submit to authority.

7. Learn the Bible. Spend lots of time in it! Have a hunger for it. Ask God for a hunger for it.

8. Be a man of prayer. I'm preaching to myself here...but one thing I have found helpful is keeping a list of people and situations requiring prayer. It's a good way to help me spend more time with the Lord in prayer, and lift up peoples' burdens.