My Homemade College Computer Desk

There is wilted lettuce in our refrigerator that is more handy than I am, so I am the last person to blog about handmade furniture.

That being said, many years ago I was getting ready to move into a college dorm as a first-year comp-sci major at Georgia Tech. Since I knew my next 4+ years would be spent at a keyboard, and since my budget for furniture roughly equaled my budget for interplanetary spacecraft, I hit on a dirt-cheap, mobile (to simplify those quarterly moves back home for my alternating co-op job at Big Blue) homemade design that I used thru college and into our first years of marriage. Once we upgraded, my mother-in-law wanted it, and now it is who knows where; no doubt decayed in a landfill.

Given my lack of handyman skills and knowledge, it may very well be nothing special, but I don’t know of another desk that I can fold up and in the back floorboard of a car for transport and get the use that I did out of it, so I thought I would pass it along in case anyone else found it useful.

As I’ve already described somewhat, the idea is to have a decent workspace for computer work and just plain studying, with storage space for books and such, and have it be portable enough for a college kid to pack into the back seat along with luggage and boxes and such. So what I ended up with looks like the following. Apologies for the fact that my artistic abilities rival my woodcraftiness.

desk1

Basically I bought a big sheet of plywood (wait! see step one below). Add to that I guess eight small hinges, eight small eyehook screws, four short lightweight chains and a single simple bracket-style shelving set. A handful of wood screws.

The most demanding aspect of this project is getting the plywood cut. I had no power tools, so I went to a neighbor who did, gave him my target cut sizes, and he had it whacked up in minutes.

1. So the sheet is cut into seven pieces. All of the brown in the pic is from that sheet of plywood. It was many years ago; maybe it required two sheets. I don’t recall for certain. Wing it. Now that I think about it, maybe the back of the desk was a single uncut sheet, and the other six pieces were cut from the second sheet.

2. The simplest part to describe – the top. I fastened the bracketed shelving (the green vertical lines) and just laid one small piece of plywood on that as an upper shelf.

3. The piece numbered 3 and the matching one are attached to the back piece with hinges (identified by black marks). This allows them to fold in for transport. This is one obvious place for improvement. If one of the two was attached instead to a spare strip of plywood that was first screwed to the back, then the two number 3 pieces could fold flat. As it is, after you fold one of them in completely, the other won’t fold in completely, so it sticks out a little. I didn’t really mind. It still fit in my back floorboard easily.

These two pieces form a base for the desktop piece. That is just another section of the plywood, and it is just laid on the number 3 pieces. I didn’t attach it or anything.The weight of my computer kept the surface in place just fine. Told you – basic and simple.

4. This last step is optional. Of course this whole thing is optional. I wanted a little additional shelf space, so I had two small plywood pieces cut (number 4 and the corresponding one on the left side hidden by the left-hand #3 piece) and attached them with hinges so they would simply drop down and hang out horizontally. For transport, just flip them up. For reinforcement, I attached one end of each of the four chains to the edges of the number 4 pieces, and attached the opposite end to the backboard. The chains are poorly pictured in blue. The eyehook screws were used to attach the chains.

These two side shelves didn’t hold a lot; I think I put software cases on them or something. Back then, maybe diskette boxes :).

There you go. Won’t win any Bob Vila prizes but it was cheap, I made it myself, and it was highly functional. Hope it is useful to someone.

 

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Rest Stop: Take Heart

My son and I went geocaching last Thursday and got to see Arkabutla Lake. To get there you take “Scenic 304″. Along the way there are the gravel stops where you can take a break and take in the view. Today’s post is like that; a brief stop to take in an interesting portion of God’s word.

This study of walking in love has led to a look at Matthew’s use of the word “heart”. Every use of the word “heart” in Matthew’s gospel is spoken by Jesus. There is an expression that Christ uses three times in Matthew that I almost passed over: “take heart”:

Matthew 9:2  And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
Matthew 9:22  Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
Matthew 14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (ESV)

We can act and speak and even think courageously, confidently and without anxiety because of His presence. Jesus can calm our storms, heal our sickness, and most importantly, He can forgive our sins. When we as believers love Him with all our heart, we can trust Him, and this changes our behavior.

Take heart.

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WWWD?

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

We are commanded by God through the Apostle Paul to be imitators of God. Do what He does, say what He says, think what He thinks. Then Paul follows that up with another command, and that command just happens to be a particular pattern we can use in order to *be* imitators of God.

We are told to walk in love. We are told that Christ is the example for us. How Christ “walked” – what He said and did – is our pattern.

In the Sermon on the Mount, He said to love our enemies. In the sacrificial death of Jesus, following the horrific abuse by the religious leaders and the people, in which Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. What he said and did demonstrated love. As God in the flesh, He paid the price for our sins, and our forgiveness comes only through Him.

Matthew 19 (as well as Mark 10 and Luke 18) tells of a confrontation between Jesus and the rich young ruler. Here again we have a command to love. Jesus reminded the man of the command to love our neighbor. Now the focus of the passage is a deeper truth, which, unfortunately, the young man never claimed. This command that Jesus reiterated, and that Paul alluded to, is beyond us. We are not capable of the love that we are commanded to give and to live.

We saw how the young man was convinced, like so many others in his day and in ours, that he had loved his neighbor, and had honored his parents, and honored his wife, and kept himself sexually pure and treated others properly. But Jesus showed him that his heart was in his possessions, and that he was trusting in his own actions to redeem himself. The young man likely was not present at the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus made clear just how easily we fall into sin with our thoughts (see Matthew 5:21ff and 5:27ff).

We cannot love as we should outside of Christ. We are sinful people, and our acts of righteousness are worthless. We can only rely on the righteousness of Christ. Salvation means God grants us Jesus’ perfection and lays on Him the blame for our iniquities, our sins. There is nothing we can do except trust in His atonement. For an excellent sermon covering the primary message of this encounter, I recommend the one by John MacArthur on Matthew 19.

But there is another example that Jesus gives us in this encounter that we can learn from. Another way to imitate Him and walk in love.

Mark includes this … “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” (Mark 10:21) In our sinful nature, we are not loving. We are anything but loving. Especially in situations like this one.

The young man came to Jesus in ignorance. He was ignorant of the only way to acquire eternal life. How do we respond to ignorance? With impatience? With pride? With scoffing? With frustration?

The young man came to Jesus presumptuously. He believed he had been righteous, obedient. How do we respond to presumptuousness? With scoffing? With anger? Maybe we simply ignore the offender. Maybe with “How dare you??!”

He came to Jesus in vain – – at least for him. Jesus knows our hearts, and knows our past and our future. He knew the young man was trusting in himself. He knew the fellow would leave trusting in himself – and not heed Jesus’ words. We may not know the future, but oftentimes we can predict it pretty accurately. And when we know that someone is going to drop the ball, not follow through on their commitment, not “get it”, our reaction is typically not Christlike.

The young man interrupted Jesus. Mark tells us “And as [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Mark 10:17 ESV)

How do we respond to interruptions? Frustration, disgust, impatience, anger.

And [the young man] said to him, “Teacher, all these [commandments] I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
(Mark 10:20-21 ESV)

Jesus responded in love. Notice that love doesn’t mean letting the young man off the hook. He still left Jesus unrepentant. But Jesus loved him.

God in His sovereignty will engineer all sorts of situations every day that are, to us, unfair, inconvenient, disruptive, “NOT OUR FAULT!!”, as opportunities for us to respond in love. Will we lash out or love? Will we lose our temper or love? Will we leave or love?

What Will We Do?

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WordPress Sandbox

This page will serve as a place for trying out WordPress posts – a technical sandbox. There are some quirks that can only be easily figured out by trying. For example, at least some style sheet features cannot be previewed. You only know how they look by first publishing them.

Title Author Genre Why
Space Trilogy Lewis, C.S. SF Incredible dialogue, word pictures, plot. Probably my all-time favorite SF work
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Imitator of God

As parents we enjoy seeing our kids imitating grown-ups – especially when they imitate us. Putting on our shoes, saying the things we say – – well, some of the things we say. To see us in them – – again, the good things – – is encouraging. We hope it is an indication that some lessons are sinking in – although I doubt we really think that far down the road.

There is a passage of scripture that calls to mind this tendency to imitate those who care for us and show their love to us.

Verse one of Ephesians 5 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Right away the connection jumps out at us. “Be imitators”. The word used in the original text eventually turned into our English word “to mimic”.

God say “mimic me. Mimic My Son.” He says we are to imitate Him. No conditions there – it is a command. We are to copy Him.

Our children pick up our mannerisms. God says, “pick up My mannerisms”. OK, maybe not. But our children often pick up our temperaments. God says, “behave the way I behave”.

Our children say the things we say. God says, “say what I say”.

Our children learn from us how to react. Is this not true? Parents, can you see some of your own tendencies in your children?

Why do our children do this? Why do they act like us and not like someone in another city, state or country? Silly question. They are in our presence – – a lot. Many common expressions reflect this.

“Cut from the same cloth”. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” “The spittin’ image”. “Hey, he has his father’s ears”, or “she has her mother’s smile”.

Some of these traits are inherited, to be sure, but many more are picked up – caught rather than taught, as the expression says.

How do we obey Ephesians 5:1? How do we become imitators of God? The same way our children become imitators of us. We must be in His presence.

In His Presence
Luke 10, beginning in verse 38, tells an interesting story. Jesus took a break. We don’t hear of that too much in the Gospels, but He did. And He visited the home of Martha and her sister Mary.

It was Martha’s house. So as expected, Martha went right to work. She began cooking and maybe straightening up so that she could give Jesus some of what she had.

Mary lived there too. But Mary recognized something that Martha needed to be reminded of. Martha got upset when Mary wouldn’t help. Why wouldn’t she help?

Because Mary wanted to be in the presence of the Lord. Mary knew that what Jesus had to give to her far outweighed anything she had to give to Him.

We can easily become busy with our service. Our service to Jesus is important. But the first priority in our lives is what He has for us, not what we have for Him. Be in His presence. Daily. Part of that would include being in His house. We are encouraged by those we fellowship and worship with, and we have much to learn from each other. So that is important. But each one of us is responsible for being in His presence *daily*. We can’t imitate Him if we are not around Him.

The great thing is, He makes that easy. We can come into His presence during our lunch break. Many important encounters with Jesus happened around food!

We can come into His presence as we travel from here to there. An Ethiopian man encountered Him for the first time as he traveled back home from Jerusalem.

But I think Jesus Himself gave us the clearest picture of how we can be in His presence. It is when we get away, alone. Think about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Before going to the cross, Christ didn’t run to the temple. He went into a garden. He took some friends, but He even got a little ways away from them.

Early in His ministry, we read of another instance. Mark 1 tells us of a busy day of ministering that ran on into the night. People were bringing their loved ones to Jesus for His healing. But then in verse 35 of chapter one, we read, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”
(Mark 1:35 ESV)

And again in Mark 6. Jesus had had another busy day – He fed thousands of people after teaching them all day. After this Mark tells us, “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.”
(Mark 6:45-46 ESV)

This has been said many times before, but I know I tend to forget it. If the One who created the mountains needed to go into those mountains to be alone with the Father.. if the One who created the gardens needed to go into those gardens to be alone with His Dad… if the one who gave us the cool of the morning needed that quiet time with God, then how much more do those He created with His hands need to do the same thing?

Spend the time. Get up 30 minutes before the kids and before the Martha tasks of the day distract you, and sit at the feet of Jesus. Learn from Him. Bow before Him. Worship His holy name. Asaph, one of the writers in Psalms, says in Psalm 73:28, “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
(Psalm 73:28 ESV)

In His Word
Our children say what we say. God says, “say what I say”. But how do we say what He says? Well, what does He say?

We must go to His word. Not someone else’s words. He didn’t say “find the most creative communicator you can and listen to them.” He didn’t say, “listen to an MP3 or the radio to your favorite preacher”. There is certainly nothing wrong with listening to truth from reliable people. But what did God say?

My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
(Proverbs 7:1-3 ESV, italics mine)

What does Psalm 119:11 say? “Thy Word have I hid in my heart..” or the ESV says “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Often when I have gotten busy with Martha tasks and gone a couple days without spending time in the Word, I see a clear image in my mind. Well over ten years ago – before we relocated – a fellow church member and I taught the older elementary school boys in summer Bible School. One of the boys made a craft – a simple block of wood cut in the shape of a Bible – and gave it to me. It had a simple convicting passage: Psalm 119:16, the second half, which reads in the NIV “I will not neglect Your Word”. The NIV is not my preferred version, but their use of the word “neglect” is so powerful. We don’t like to think of neglect. I think that is part of the reason it sticks with me – neglect of God’s word is the worst sort of neglect.

We spend time in His word in the obvious way – reading it. But to truly be an imitator, we must do more than read words. When our children learn expressions from us, they don’t usually just spout them at random. They learn them in context. They (hopefully) learn when it is appropriate to use those expressions or terms.

Our time in His word is not just quantity of time or quantity of words. It is learning His word in context. We understand what He says, when He says it and why.

And it is important to learn the right words. I don’t think I will ever forget a funny experience many many years ago. I was helping in our church’s children’s church one day, and one of the children volunteered to do the prayer. She had heard the adults pray that God would “bless the sick and afflicted”. In her prayer that day she prayed “flick the sick”. She had the context right at least!

I have always been very weak in the area of scripture memorization. But the passages that mentioned earlier, Psalms 119, Proverbs 7, and others such as in Deuteronomy 7, tell us to “store it up”. Christ is again our example who we should imitate. In two of the Gospels, both Matthew and Luke, chapter four in both, we read of Jesus’ face-to-face encounter with Satan. Jesus has been without food for weeks on end. Satan comes to Him and tempts Him with food, power and possessions.

In every case, Jesus responds with Scripture. He doesn’t try to reason with him. He certainly could have – Satan is of course no match for the One who created him. But Jesus knew the power of God’s Word, and He set us an example.

Sure – He wrote the words, so he should know them. But the lesson is clear nevertheless. We are best prepared for temptation when we imitate Christ, and Christ knew Scripture.

Be an imitator of God.

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Glorious Music

The first time I saw a video of a flash mob, I had two thoughts. One was that I would love to see one in person.

The other, and the reason I continue to enjoy them, is that they spark my imagination.

The Bible gives us our only genuine description of what heaven will be like. It won’t be cloud-walking harp players because what we do know is:
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
(1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV)

Beyond what we can comprehend.

But when I see flash mobs like the one above, I cannot help imagining that heaven might be a bit like that. Spontaneous worship – – perhaps when the Savior walks by – – that is full of joy, reverence and truth. That *is* what we were made for: “…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:7 ESV

So maybe everyone around will always automatically join in. We are commanded to “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” (Psalm 98:4 ESV) and “… be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Ephesians 5:18b-20 ESV

But God has certainly gifted particular people with musical talent. Scripture specifically identifies those who are gifted at music (1 Chronicles 15:22) and those who are able to play instruments. It stands to reason that those who are skilled in music might spend more time using those talents even in eternity than those who are not so blessed.

If that is the case, then often in glory there may be onlookers who listen and get joy out of the music just like those in the crowds in the flash mobs always have a look of wonder, amazement and indeed joy on their faces.

I don’t know for sure what words are being sung by the choir in this video, but I would not be at all surprised if the words of the redeemed in that glorious day might just be

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us sunward in the triumph song of life.

(Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee by Henry Van Dyke)

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Leadership

Leadership

To say “Leadership is a popular topic” is like saying Starbucks is a popular coffee chain. A quick keyword search of books on Amazon.com returns over 76,000 results. Using that as the measurement, topics such as music, love and cooking have it beat, but that is still a respectable showing. Google returns 219 million results pertaining to the subject.

I could speculate on the reasons for its popularity but I have neither the time nor the inclination to do so. The volume of information at least demonstrates the fact of its popularity, regardless of the reasons. Personally, the subject is one I have avoided in as many ways as possible. I work in a corporate environment and there are leaders everywhere. I report to someone who, along with her peers, reports to someone who, along with her peers reports to someone who, along with her peers – – well, you get the idea.

The few opportunities I have had to be in a formal or short-term leadership roles have shown me how ill-equipped I am for “managing people”. I have taken a sort of pride in the fact that I am happy to follow rather than lead. Development opportunities such as are encouraged with the start of each new calendar year in most corporations typically include an abundance of focus areas related to leadership. I have happily neglected them.

But in recent years the foolishness of my attitude has become increasingly evident. More could be said about how this came about, but that can wait. The upshot is that finally, this year, as part of the aforementioned development goals, I have committed to work on this glaring weakness.

To facilitate this goal, I have selected John MacArthur’s book on the subject, “The Book on Leadership”. I have read other books that touch on the subject, but that is all I really ever did: read the books. I determined this time to take the matter more seriously.

MacArthur’s model for leadership is the apostle Paul, who lived in the first century A.D. MacArthur covers a number of principles of leadership. As I read about the first principle, “A Leader is Trustworthy,” it occurred to me that one tactic to help me assimilate the information would be to study other individuals in the Bible to see how they led. Initially my thinking was to consider how they manifested that first principle.

As I got going though, it became clear that the study should not be so limited. Mainly I realized that taking each principle individually would prolong my study (and my progress through the book) significantly.

So here I am months later and I have yet to move beyond the first principle. But there is so much to learn. Currently, I am looking at each individual who figures prominently and considering their failures. Better to get the hard lessons out of the way first, I thought.

So my plan for the blog is to share what I am learning through this study and through the book. What better curriculum than the word of God?

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