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Friday Morning – 3/12/2010
I have to say up front that I didn’t sleep at all last night (i.e. never fell asleep). So, after several hours of staring at the ceiling, I decided to get up and redeem the time by getting some of the thoughts swirling around in my head all night written down. The thought of traveling all day and night over the next 24 hours and going two nights in a row without sleep seems pretty daunting at this point, but I’m also at peace about it because I know God’s goodness and kindness will fill in all the gaps exposed by my weakness. So, since I have lots of extra time on my hands, I thought I might share some of my busy thoughts here, if you don’t mind, and if you do, by all means skip this likely-to-be verbose entry.
Well, it’s been an interesting past 24 hours or so. The trip down to Houston was quite busy. We made several stops along the way to pick up supplies. We needed to buy some more things for friends in Bosnia (some things are difficult to get there and expensive if you can find them – so we’re glad to help out the permanent missionaries there as well as native Bosnians). We had other Bosnian friends buy things online and have them shipped to our house in Texas, so we have quite a collection of things packed in our luggage – still not sure how much of it we will have to claim in customs just yet. We had picked up 5 grocery bags of things (some of it our own supplies) by the time we arrived at our destination last night and stayed up until after midnight repacking these items into our luggage.
I was on the phone during much of the 5 hour drive. I had submitted a 15-page proposal to one of my clients to build out 4 ministry websites for them over the next couple of months. I needed to follow up and answer a lot of their questions and so Anita was gracious to drive for a while as I took care of that call. It went well.
I had also touched base with an old friend and colleague on the East coast. He and I have partnered together on some large projects over the past decade or so. We hadn’t talked in years and so it was good to catch up with him. He and my company developed GenerousGiving.com a decade ago to connect wealthy donors and foundations with needy ministries around the world. He caught me up on new developments with that project since I was last involved. He is also Rick Warren’s personal technology and marketing consultant. He handled the launch of The Purpose Driven Life. So, he’s been pretty busy since the success of that initiative. He also is involved with initiatives with Ronald Blue, Crown Financial Ministries, National Christian Foundation, the Mustard Seed Foundation, the McLelland Foundation and such (many of the wealthiest donors in the Christian community). Mark tried to get me to move to LA and head Rick Warren’s Pastors.com initiative several years ago and but it wasn’t the right fit for me.
Anyway, it was good to catch up him. I’ve stayed at his house in Connecticut in the past while we worked on projects together. He caught me up with developments in his family and career. He was interested to hear what I’m doing with technology and ministries now and wants some demonstrations when I get back from Bosnia. Note to self, call Mark in 2 weeks.
I got to catch Mark up on the developments with my family. He was compassionate when I told of how my oldest son David who is 23 now and lives in Chicago was recently diagnosed with Testicular cancer. But, the latest diagnosis has been good. Since the surgery over a week ago, all the catscans and the biopsy suggest that they got it all and that he won’t need chemotherapy or additional treatment other than additional catscans 2-3 times a year for the next few years.
I also got a call from the Texas State Controller on the drive down. Anita and I turned over the responsibilities of managing the finances for Cornelius Connection International to the group in Houston last year. This included managing the collection and reporting of state sales tax for products the ministry sold to consumers. I had given the Houston group the information they needed to report and pay the sales taxes for 2009. The state controller called to say no report had been filed for 2009. So, I ended up spending an hour of the drive contacting them and the new accountant for CCI. We discovered they had filed and paid the taxes under the wrong account number and CCI now had two different accounts. I had to coordinate fixing this problem while driving. I finally got it all resolved after getting Houston on the phone with the state to explain what they had done. We ended up closing out the account I had opened with the state a few years ago and transferring it over the new account Houston had just created. Problem resolved. It was a little stressful dealing with this situation while driving and taking care of all of the logistics we had to get in order before arriving at our destination in Houston. But, God is good and it all got resolved easily enough.
We got to go into a Whole Foods grocery store in Houston and Anita thoroughly enjoyed the experience. She found some healthy goodies to bring along and enjoy on the trip. It’s fun to watch her getting to enjoy such experiences. She gets so much life out of exploring and discovery new healthy foods. It’s always a learning experience for me to just watch her in action. She’s got so many strengths I simply marvel and wish I possessed but I’m thankful that I married into it because I know it’s pretty hopeless for me to develop those areas as well as her. We were both pretty spent and didn’t get to stay as long as we would have liked before we had to complete our shopping list before everything closed.
Traffic was pretty thick by the time we made it into Houston. We needed to find a free WiFi spot last night around 9pm and work on some projects until our hosting family here in Houston arrived at home around 11pm. Every option we found had closed. So, we ended up parking in front of a Panera Bread store and working with our laptops until time to connect with our host.
We bought some Airborne tablets last night at Walgreens when we arrived in town. We like to take these while traveling to help build up our immune systems before being crammed on board airplanes with hundreds of other people for several hours. We took them when we got settled into our host house last night before bed. I didn’t think about it at the time but these types of things sometimes interfere with my sleep. So, I suspect that is at least one of the culprits responsible for my lack of sleep last night. I also have a sore throat and every time I had to swallow last night, it was very painful. I bought some throat lozenges last night and they brought a little comfort in the middle of the night.
End of Important Bosnia Stuff
Beginning of Rabbit Trail Rambling 1
As I was lying in bed awake all night, one of the thought captivating my attention was about missions and technology. I started a website 15 years ago at www.ocean.org (Online Christian Evangelical Alliance Network) that focuses on sharing the gospel and helping people grow spiritually. Technology can’t solve all the needs for evangelism, discipleship and missions, but it can fill in some of the gaps and augment other initiatives. I continue to give a portion of my spare time to expanding this website on an ongoing basis but not at the level required to allow it to really take off. It seems to have a gained enough critical mass to have a life of its own at this point. Besides publishing my own articles on discipleship and spiritual growth, I now have many ministries offering me permission to publish their free evangelism and discipleship content and resources on the site.
I was thinking it costs about the same amount to operate this website each year as the cost for one mission trip to Bosnia (and those technology costs are shared with some of my technology clients so that it ends up costing me almost nothing). At the same time, what we accomplish on the ground in Bosnia is very valuable and could never be replaced by technology. I think an effective strategy is to use both strategies in their areas of strength.
I could never visit as many countries as Ocean.org is reaching every day. I continue to have people registering on the website from 87 countries each month on average. Each day I receive email notification of people registering on the site from all over the world. My analytic reports show a map filled with visits from just about every region of the planet. Over half a million documents are read and downloaded each year from this site.
I’m considering talking to some of our friends in Bosnia about the possibility of adding spiritual growth resources on the site in Bosnian. Some of our contacts there do a lot of translating of materials from English to Bosnian. They are translating the teachings we are bringing on this trip into Bosnians for the students to have on hand. It would be pretty easy to publish these on Ocean to bring touching Bosnian lives at a whole new level. I built the Ocean website on a technology platform that supports all written languages. So, there are some interesting possibilities there.
I just have to figure out how to balance this opportunity with other responsibilities. There are a couple of proven, time-tested funding models that could allow it to fund itself and even pay for our income needs so that I could give more time to this initiative, but it could take a few years to grow it into reality. So, I’m praying for wisdom for God to do all that’s in His heart with this opportunity while taking care and Anita and my needs well into the future. I’m also willing to partner with others who could add resources I can’t give to it. I need to reinvent how I think about this initiative and possibly partner with others to allow it to really soar.
Beginning of Rabbit Trail Rambling 2
Now on a different but connected line of thought, I was thinking about thinking last night to occupy the hours of ceiling gazing and thought I’d put down a few of my thoughts in hopes of eventually flushing them out more at some point in the future. Particularly, I was thinking about what I could learn from lessons Einstein experienced – and those he didn’t quite learn. He did some initiative things by thinking differently and yet he made some pretty big mistakes by not adapting his thinking when he should have when the time to change strategies came and went. I want to learn to think differently in some ways, like Einstein, and yet I want to avoid some of the mistakes he made in not adapting the way he thought when further change was needed.
He challenged Newtonian physics by thinking through thought experiments (granted a birth defect caused an enlarging in the part of his brain involving imagination) to disprove centuries old conventional thinking about how our reality works. He imagined what it would be like to ride a light beam reflecting off the surface of a clock to discover how time slows as acceleration increases up to the speed of light (your maximum velocity through both space and time can only reach the speed of light combined – so if you are moving through space at the speed of light you have no velocity left over to move through time and so time stops for you). He imagined riding an infinite elevator into space to discover how acceleration and gravity behave the same and are connected.
These thought experiments led him to the development of special relativity. Then, this same approach allowed him to discover that gravity is the warping of space/time due to the presence of mass. He expanded this realization into the theory of general relativity in the years that followed. How he came to understand gravity by thought experiments alone is pretty mind boggling.
It’s interesting that he turned physics on its head by thinking differently than anyone else before him. Yet, despite all of these breakthroughs, he failed to discover the limitations of these thought experiments. And then when a new way of thinking was called for, he was unable or unwilling to make the needed shift and he got left behind by science in the latter years of his life.
After conquering gravity, he set his eyes on a bigger goal. He wanted to try to discover what he called the Unified Field Theory (UFT). After figuring out how mass and energy are interchangeable with E=MC2 in the early years of his life, he later wanted to take the theory to the its ultimate conclusion. He felt that all 4 forces in nature – gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force – could all be unified under a single equation. He spent the rest of his life vainly trying to solve UFT using his old tactic of thought experiments.
Yet, before he ever started tackling UFT, a new science had emerged, in some ways as a result of his revolutionary ways of thinking. Quantum Physics or Quantum Mechanism emerged and quickly proved formidable because its theories of how the tiny particle reality works were so thoroughly provable – more so than any previous arm of physics. When Einstein discussed his thoughts on UFT, the leaders in quantum physics suggested that if Einstein wanted to find a unifying equation for how all forces operate in our reality, he could utilize the advances they had made in the mathematics of quantum physics.
But, Einstein largely rejected the use of quantum physics in the application of discovering UFT (possibly because quantum physics clashed with his general reality and no one at the time could figure out how to merge Einstein’s general relativity that explained how the universe works on the big scale with quantum physics that explains how the universe works on tiny scale). What he didn’t know at the time is that his thought experiment just didn’t have the tools necessary to solve UFT.
However, quantum physics did hold some of the tools needed to solve this problem. Although UFT hasn’t been completely solved yet, many strides have been made in unifying some of the forces. We will probably never have a particle accelerator long enough or powerful enough to experimentally prove UFT. Yet, quantum mechanics has paved the way for even more advances such as Superstring theory and eventually QED, to at least attempt to resolve the apparent contradictions between general relativity and quantum physics.
Because Einstein, who was so innovative in his thinking, didn’t recognize the limitations of his new ways of thinking, he was left in the dust by science in the last decades of his life. He spent the remainder of his days using antiquated ways of thinking trying to solve problems that were much too big for his methods. Einstein’s tools of innovation had a small window, but he didn’t realize this factor. He was convinced they could solve even bigger problems. Had he been able to see these limitations, he may have had many more innovations under his belt in his latter years.
I think there is an important lesson to be learned here. We can’t assume that the ways of thinking that got us to where we are now, will be adequate to get us beyond our current limitations. When we get stuck, the most important question we can ask ourselves is whether we need to change the way we think if we are to move beyond where we now find ourselves. If we aren’t able to periodically reinvent ourselves and our way of thinking, we may just get stuck spinning our wheels and get left behind by those who embrace the next round of innovative thinking.
I have also been trying to apply this thought process to ocean.org. It has grown enormously over the past 15 years. But, I don’t think it can continue its current growth curve by me continuing to do what I’ve done in the past. If it is going to become more than what it is today, I must embrace new ways of thinking about it. That may include some new partnership with people who have the pieces to the puzzle that I’m missing.
Well, enough rambling for now… It’s daylight out now and time to switch gears. Time to get ready, pack up and continue on with the adventures… more to come…