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Monday, April 30, 2012

Reason versus Faith

There seems to be a contradiction between faith and reason. Recently  “University of British Columbia study finds that analytic thinking can decrease religious belief, even in devout believers” The research looked into the way in which problem-solving thought processes affected the self-reporting of religious belief. When participants used analytic thought, belief went down, but intuitive thought did not adversely affect belief.

So, what does this all mean?

From personal experience I have to say this is true. When we analyze something, we apply critical thinking skills and look for flaws. The closest analogy is the difference between rehearsing a song and finally performing it. In the rehearsal, every note is analyzed, the rhythm, pitch, tone and tempo are all dissected. Once the elements of the song are mastered, then they can be put back together to form a coherent whole. But in working on a difficult piece, I will often just speak the words in rhythm to get the pronunciation down. Or I’ll sing the notes without the words to cement the melody. I’m applying so much focus to the act of learning the music that it ceases to be come musical. It’s mechanical. Rote.

The process can stop there. With music, art, writing and religion. There are many people who study these disciplines, dissecting them to the most rudimentary components. Art is about the styles and periods, writing is grammar and syntax, and religion is a series of propositions that must be accepted or denied. It’s mechanical. Rote.

When I rehearse the music enough I can get past the mechanics. What was once dissected is whole again. I don’t have to think laboriously about the words, notes and rhythms. Instead I can focus on the meaning, feeling and musicality of the song. That’s the moment that makes all the effort worthwhile, when I can sing the song as it was meant to be: whole, complete and full. Technical proficience will never produce music. The notes, words and rhythms may be correct, but music is more than that. Music engages the soul as well as the mind.

Analytic thinking has, for me, reduced my religious feelings. It’s hard to believe strongly in God when I’m studying the arguments for the existence of God. My brain is looking for the logical fallacies, not engaging on an emotional level. Prolonged religious study can damage or even cripple religious feeling. I’ve seen it in the people I went to school with. Working through the rationale of faith is a natural and necessary part of discovery. It’s a good thing. But it must happen in context with belief. The head and the heart need to be engaged and communicating.

But what do you do when the head and the heart disagree? 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ignorance Is (Not) Bliss

There's a bumper sticker that reads: "God said it, I believe it, that settles it."

I don't want to deride anyone's faith. That's not the point and it's not helpful. Faith must, in some sense, be a leap from the known into the mysterious. There comes a point at which logic and reason fail, beyond that pale, only belief will go. Faith is a beautiful, essential part of human existence that allows us to experience more than we can see, taste and touch.

Willful ignorance, however, is worthless.

No one benefits from intransigent ignorance masquerading as devout belief. It's not belief, it's mule-headed stubbornness and a refusal to do the hard work necessary to live an examined life. I apologize for the brusqueness of my tone, but few things get me more angry than contentment, and even praise, with obliviousness. It's the same attitude that led to the Great Depression, the Great Recession, slavery, Jim Crow laws, the Trail of Tears, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades and most of the awful things done by one human being to another throughout the course of history. It's not excusable, it's not acceptable and it must stop.

Ignorance is not bliss. It's foolish, dangerous and destructive. It doesn't only hurt the one in ignorance, but everyone surrounding the ignoramus.

Jesus doesn't teach people to be ignorant, willful or otherwise. He consistently challenged the willful ignorance of the religious leaders. They didn't want to consider the human cost of their Sabbath observances, Jesus considered people over religious rites. They found ways to circumvent their family responsibilities, Jesus derided their convoluted rationale for ignoring their parents. They wanted a military, political, religious figure to lead them, Jesus challenged them to apply the Golden Rule.

If you want to be a follower of Jesus, you have to eschew ignorance. Enter into the process of discovery and start on the Disciple Cycle.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review - You are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins

In his new book You are a Writer (so start acting like one), Jeff Goins combines a pep rally with an autobiography with a marketing class. The resulting cocktail is both encouraging and motivating.

Early on, I kept hearing flashes of Seth Godin in the tightly-packed prose filled with delectable one-liners that seem to effortlessly parse the state of things. Some examples that stood out to me:

“Stop writing for accolades, and start writing for passion.”
“Everything is practice.”
“Multitasking is a myth. You can either create or react. But you can’t do both. Choose wisely.”
“There is no wrong thing. Just begin. Once you learn how to finish, you’ll be able to start again.”
“But the greatest failure is to never risk at all.”
“Serving people is the best way to earn influence.”
“If you want to be a writer, if you want this badly enough, you will work.”

Goins doesn’t soften the message that writing is hard, unforgiving, low-paying, grueling labor that can’t be done lightly. But the way he peppers the text with stories of both his failures and his successes makes the butt-kicking seem more like friendly encouragement and less like the crack of a whip.

At about the half-way point of the book there’s a transition from the ‘why’ of being a writer to the ‘how’ of being a writer. No, this isn’t a text on grammar or plot, instead Goins outlines the business of writing and explains how to do the work necessary to get your words in front of the eyes of your readers. In an industry that is beholden to the lightning-strike stories of Harry Potter and The Help, Goins contrasts them with the slow, steady, methodical work that most writers actually go through.

You can hold on to your dreams, hoping that one day someone will choose you and ask you to be a writer. Or, you can do as Goins suggests and “choose yourself.” It won’t be easy, but, “writing is mostly a mind game. It’s about tricking yourself into becoming who you are. If you do this long enough, you begin to believe it. And pretty soon, you start acting like it.”

As a writer who has struggled and stumbled to find out many of these truths, I wish I would have had this book to read two years ago as I was starting my journey. But even now, I have a lot to learn about believing I really am a writer and acting like it. No matter where you are in your career, this book will give you hope and insight into the craft and industry of writing. 

(Update: the book has launched, links are live: Book website Amazon)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Discovery isn't Enough

When Louis Pasteur discovered that microscopic organisms were the culprit behind infections, he recommended that all doctors and nurses wash their hands between patients. There was massive resistance in the medical community because they didn’t see the benefit. Pasteur’s discovery was doing nothing to save lives because the people who needed to change weren’t doing it.

Christopher Columbus discovered (or is credited with discovering) a new world with new cultures, new plants and animals and new opportunities. Yet the European nation-states didn’t change their actions. They simply transferred their existing conflicts to the Western Hemisphere. The chance to start everything over with the new discovery was ignored.

For whatever reason we humans can be so enamored with discovery, yet change isn’t the natural next step. We want to know new things, but not have the responsibility to do anything about it. Knowledge is safe, sterile and distant. Knowledge can be contained and tamed so that it makes no demands on how we live. The US educational system is a testament to knowledge divorced from action. The test of learning is a multiple-choice exam. Riskless, feckless and pointless.

I have two degrees in bible, an undergraduate and a master’s degree. In 8 years’ worth of schooling (it may have taken me 12) I had three classes dedicated to practical experience. And there was nothing in all my education that demanded that I change. I was confronted with discoveries about Jesus, the bible and the church on a daily basis, but the litmus test used to determine the worth of my education was writing papers and taking exams. Dedicating my life to discovering more about God had no connection with changing my life to look more like Jesus.

I was discontent, but I didn’t know why. One of the reasons it took me 50% longer to finish my schooling was the fact that I flunked out of college. I didn’t do it on purpose; I just couldn’t muster up the effort necessary to turn in my final projects. I tried, but I just couldn’t do it. Eventually, after taking some time off, I was presented with a compelling reason to finish my education. If I didn’t graduate first, I couldn’t get married (that was the condition set by my father-in-law-to-be). I re-applied myself, finished college and found a purpose for all the education.

But it wasn’t quite the point of all my education. I was happy to complete the task, for the joy set before me, but it didn’t require me to apply anything that I’d discovered.

I can’t blame my professors for teaching me poorly. They did a wonderful job of educating me about the bible. I’m the one who didn’t make a connection between what I was learning and what I was doing. Our educational system isn’t designed to make that connection obvious, but ultimately, it’s my own fault that I didn’t apply everything I discovered and change my life. Not at first, anyway.

Discovery isn’t enough. It must lead to change or the knowledge is useless.

Monday, April 23, 2012

How to Change

Change isn’t a switch you can flip. Too often we treat it like that. New Year’s resolutions are approached with the attitude that deciding to change and trying harder will, somehow, create the change that we want. It doesn’t happen and then we feel guilty for not changing (especially if we’re trying to use guilt as a motivator). It doesn’t work and we just end up feeling worse in the long run.

The reason is pretty simple. Our brains are creatures of habit. Once a habit is created, we don’t want to change. No, it’s more than that. Our brains have wired themselves into that habit, so it’s physically difficult for us to change. Change requires rewiring our brains. Every time you do something, your brain creates a neural pathway for that action (or thought process). The more steps and processes involved, the more complex and far-reaching the pathway will be. If you do something often enough and long enough, the neural pathway will be enormous and easy for your neural impulses to follow. If you’ve ever driven home without realizing it, this is because you are so accustomed to using that neural pathway that you don’t even need to be consciously aware of it.

So, changing a well-established habit is the process of re-mapping your mind. Think of what was required to put in Hoover Dam (or any major dam construction). In order to harness the power of the flowing Colorado River, the workers had to first divert it. They blasted holes through solid rock, taking months of work, just to divert the water around the main worksite. But as long as the waters were raging through the established channel, nothing could be done. The flow had to be completely diverted before the real change could happen.

The way to enact real, lasting change in your own life is the same. Think of what you’re doing, not as change, but as diverting the flow of a river. First you have to create a pathway for the river to follow. You have to carve out the neural tunnel for the water to follow through. Step by step you start into the new habit or activity. You’re chipping at rock, tunneling through, blazing a trail. It’s slow, steady, necessary work. But, once you break through, you have a new place for the water to flow.

The way to tunnel through rock is the same way you eat an elephant – one bite at a time. One bit, one moment, one action. Just do one thing at a time to work toward change. Don’t try to do it all at once. Don’t beat yourself up for failure. Just take one bite, one step toward change. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

How to Motivate Change

If change is what motivates change, then how do you set up the cycle? All changes start with an awareness of the need to change. You know you need to stop smoking. You know you need to lose weight. You know you need to get out of debt. You know you need to . . .

But just knowing that you need to change isn't enough. Nearly everyone is aware of some change that they need to make, but there's no motivation to actually do it. It might be because the change seems too big or difficult. The changes necessary might affect other things that are hard to give up.

If you're committed to the Disciple Cycle, though, change isn't something you can choose if it's convenient. Change is the heart of being a disciple of Jesus. If you've become convinced that Jesus has taught something, and you want to follow Jesus, then you need to do it. Not out of guilt or fear, but as a way to be more like him.

Ephesians 2:10 says (in my paraphrase) that we are all glorious masterpieces, skillfully crafted by God, in Jesus, to do the good deeds which he made us to do.

You are a work of art, but your purpose isn't to sit on a shelf or hang on a wall. You were created with a purpose. If a Stradivarius violin isn't played, then the true artistry is never revealed. If a Frank Lloyd Wright building is never occupied then it's merely a shell. You are art as well, but art with a job to do, and that job is to grow to look more like Jesus every day. The image will be shaped by your skills, passions and history, but without it, an essential piece of the image of God will be missing from the world.

Change starts with knowing that you need to change, but the next crucial step is learning why you need to change. If you are a follower of Jesus, the why is because you want to look more like him and to be the masterpiece that he created you to be. You need to change so that you can come alive to the full range of beauty that God has shaped in you.

Once you understand why you must change, then you can start to figure out how to change. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guilt isn't a Good Motivator

Real and lasting life change isn't motivated by guilt or fear. If you want to be on the Disciple Cycle, to change your life in response to Jesus, and to share that good news with other people, then guilt and fear need to be put in their place.

Guilt isn't a bad thing, neither is fear, but they aren't motivational tools. Unfortunately, they are often used to try to motivate people. Churches and preachers may emphasize God's punishment in response to sin as a way to frighten people into following Jesus. Other groups use guilt as a tool for pushing people away from sin and into righteousness.

The problem is that guilt and fear can't be maintained over a long period of time without losing effectiveness. The physical analogy to the emotions of guilt and fear is pain. Pain can be used as a motivator, but the motivation will only last as long as the pain is present and the pain has to constantly increase to maintain the same levels of motivation. Pain wasn't meant to be a physical motivator, so when it's used that way things get bad, quickly. Neither were guilt and fear meant to be emotional motivators.

Pain, like guilt and fear, exists to tell us that something is wrong. If we're injured or about to be injured, the pain of our bodies announces it to our minds. It's telling us to stop what we're doing and look for a way to heal. Guilt and fear are the same; they hurt us emotionally so that we realize we should stop doing something and find a way to heal.

If you're doing something that makes you feel guilty, that's an indication that you should stop. But the next step is to look for healing and hope. If you feel pain because the fire is too hot on your skin, you'll pull your hand away from the flames. You might even run your fingers under cold water, if you burned yourself. When guilt is used as a motivation, it's the same as holding your hand as close to the fire as possible. Guilt can only be maintained in close proximity to the cause of the guilt (the same with fear and pain).

Instead, go to the opposite of what's causing the guilt. Like cool water, look for what will alleviate the pain and heal you. If you're struggling with substance abuse, don't spend time around the substance, look for the reasons that drive you to abuse and address those. If you're trying to not gossip, avoid people who do and find positive things to say.

Motivate change with successful change, not with guilt or fear.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good News Must be Both Good and News

It all starts with good news. That's a simple fact that most Christians seem to forget. We have (or we're supposed to have) news that is incredibly good to share with the world. The angel announced Jesus by saying, "I bring you good news of great joy." When's the last time you heard news like that? When's the last time you heard it in a church?

The good news is there, if you look for it, but so often it's hidden, underground and obscured. It's more sensational for news organizations to report about churches abusing children, pastors doing drugs and congregations spewing hate. The obvious and glaring dichotomy between the teaching of Jesus and the publicized activity of the church is anything but good news. It's news though, it gets passed around and repeated to the point where Christians have a reputation for being hypocrites. It's definitely news, but it's not good.

Good news is undeniable, no matter the religious convictions of the person hearing it. Good news is the man I met in Kenya who had a reputation for being the town drunk. Through the church, he got sober and started a farm and is now a leader in the community. Good news is the racist white man embracing a black man because they are brother's in Christ. Good news is a woman off drugs, off the streets and out of an abusive relationship. Good news is a marriage that was falling apart finding restoration. Good news is a mourning couple being surrounded and supported by strangers. Good news is there, if you look for it.*

Then why do we have such a hard time sharing good news with non-Christians? One reason, I think, is that we don't experience the good news. All the stories of good news happen when Jesus-followers let their lives be changed by what Jesus has to say. The drunk doesn't sober up unless Jesus has a claim on his life, the racist doesn't give up hate and the addict doesn't stop doing drugs. But for some reason Christians have stopped changing in response to the teachings of Jesus. It seems like there's a point at which the change is deemed no longer necessary. Christians work to achieve a certain level of goodness and then stop, or, at the very least, slow way down.

What if we continued to let the words of Jesus make claims on our lives? What if change was a mark of a Jesus-follower? The Disciple Cycle culminates in change. Questions lead us to do thing differently. If we stay the same, there's no point. There's no cycle and there's no good news. But, if we continue to let Jesus answer our questions with a challenge to change, then we won't run out of news that is too good to keep to ourselves.

*Note, all of these are real things that I personally witnessed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Go See Blue Like Jazz the Movie

I admit I'm biased. I loved the book. I contributed to the Kickstarter fundraiser and I want to see the movie be successful in the theaters. I haven't seen it yet (I bought my tickets for Saturday), so I can't post a review myself, but I do want to point you to some great buzz going on about the movie.

It was screened at South by Southwest to good reviews.
"While I do not think one little review from me will convince you that Blue Like Jazz is not out to convert you, it is a film that does not deserve the dismissal from everyone just because it does deal with religion.  It has enough credibility with SXSW to at least be on your radar as a film to take a chance on."
The Onion's AV Club gives is a B+ (and the fans give it an A-).
"Blue Like Jazz tips its hand at the end, but until then, it’s a glorious anomaly: a subtle, sophisticated, open-minded, and courageously non-judgmental Christian film even non-believers can enjoy. Hallelujah!"
The New York Times is less complimentary, but still finds beauty and value in the film.
"Directed with the occasional imaginative (if unnecessary) flourish by Steve Taylor, “Blue Like Jazz” was adapted from a book by Donald Miller, and much of it feels as if it were drawn from real experience. Sincere and literary in its presentation of themes — “Animal House” it ain’t — the movie aims for quirky comedy but mostly settles for broad." 
As of this posting, 93% of Rotten Tomatoes viewers like the movie.
"Blue Like Jazz is a movie that apparently wants to do for Jesus what "Garden State" did for The Shins" ~Rob Thomas, Capitol Times
So, are you going to see the movie?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tangible Kingdom Disciples

Connecting with people, becoming friends and letting them see how you live as a disciple happens because of your life as a follower of Jesus, not in the spare time when you're not doing something else. In the book The Tangible Kingdom, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay talk about the three spheres of kingdom life: Communion, Community and Mission. They see the work of Jesus in each of these areas.

Communion is connection to God. Time at church, reading the bible and praying are all communion activities. Most Christians don't have a problem with this sphere, and in fact may spend too much time here.

Mission is connection to a purpose. Whenever you do something to make the world around you a better place, you're doing mission stuff. Jesus would feed the hungry, heal the sick or simply show respect and dignity to the marginalized. Service, love and hope - with no strings attached.

Community is a connection to people. Loving people, just because you want to be around them, not with any ulterior motive or schedule. Jesus was a hit a parties and he was often invited to be with people who shouldn't spend time with a religious leader, but he liked going and they liked inviting him.

Hugh and Matt say (and I agree) that the kingdom of God becomes tangible when all three spheres are being expressed. We can't just do one or two of them, that leads to an imbalanced and disconnected faith. When all three are working together, though, they reinforce and amplify each other.

The Disciple Cycle connects with this picture beautifully. Community activities give a place to meet, connect and become friends with people. Mission activities provide an opportunity to connect, become friends, question, search and discover. Communion practices let people question, search, discover and change.

We meet people and form a connection at parties and other social events, but we don't have to only develop the relationship doing fun things. We can join together and make the world better. Connections and friendships can be cemented working side-by-side at a food bank or swinging a hammer.

Questions don't only happen in the context of a church meeting. Often questions are sparked by activities or conversations that can exist in the community and mission spheres. Let the questions flow where ever they might happen. Likewise, searching and discovery aren't limited to a bible study. Often the practice of serving people can provide an answer that pouring over the text can't quite reach.

Discovery and change, in the light of who God is and what he wants us to do, are communion activities. We are working on learning about God and submitting to what he wants us to do. But communion never stops at the change. A disciple has never arrived at a finished point. We continue meeting new people and inviting our friends to join us in honest questioning and searching for meaning.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Relational Spaces and the Disciple Cycle

Not every kind of space is conducive to making friends. In the past I've talked about the four relational spaces and how they function online, but if anything, they are more important for real-life interaction. The four spaces are: public, social, personal and intimate. Notice how the different steps of the Disciple Cycle are grouped by the types of relational space. Meeting, connecting and making friends happens in the public and social spaces. Meeting and connecting with people can happen in the public space or the social space, but really making friends typically only happens in the social space.

Once you're already friends with a person, then you enter the personal space. This is where questions are alright. Obviously the better you know someone, the deeper the questions can go. But questions about the existence of God or the meaning of life are typically not good for the social space and are definitely not alright for the public space.

You want to match the tone of the relationship to the type of space you're in. If you meet up with friends at a concert, don't try to start a discussion about religion or spirituality. Public spaces are much more well suited to talking about the weather, sports and the new movie coming out this weekend. If you're in a social space, there is some room for deeper questions, but you probably shouldn't lead the conversation in that direction. Let your friends set the tone. If they want to hash out the church's stance on abortion, go ahead and share your thoughts.

The important thing to remember is that each space has a level of solidity to the statements made. So statements made in the public space are not open for discussion while things said in the personal or intimate spaces have a lot of opportunity for change.

  • Public - Positional statements that cannot be challenged without sparking an argument.  
  • Social - Rehearsed statements that don't necessarily lead to argument, but aren't up for in-depth discussion. 
  • Personal - I-Think statements that are qualified as personal thoughts, but are still defended as positional statements. 
  • Intimate - I-Feel statements that are qualified by emotions and can give insight into the principles that underlie positions. 
The closer to public the space is, the more calcified the statements will be. There's really no room to move with positional and rehearsed statements. You can get to know people, but they don't lend themselves to good questions. It's only once you start to get into the freedom of I-think and I-feel statements that honest questions can be a part of the friendship. 

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Disciple Cycle

The Disciple Cycle starts with us giving up the task of trying to convert people. Then, we need to learn how to be disciples ourselves. So, when we start making friends, we can invite them into the life of a disciple. It's not an artificial move, but an invitation based on a relationship and natural observation.

Once we're friends with someone it can take months or years before they are ready to have a spiritual conversation. Your job is to be transparent and available without being pushy. They need to know that you love Jesus and that you're his disciple, but you don't try to force them to think or act in any way. You love them as they are, for who they are, with no strings attached.

I'm writing all of this knowing that any of my non-Christian friends may read it. There's nothing to hide here, they should already know who I am and what I do, and (here's the important part) they should feel comfortable being themselves around me. Because I'm a disciple of Jesus, doesn't mean I can't be friends with non-Christians (Jesus was great at being friends with the people labeled sinners by the religious establishment). Guess what, not all of Jesus "sinner" friends were converted by him. Some of them had fun at the party, enjoyed the wine that he provided (he made some good wine) and went on their way. Jesus didn't run and stop them, he didn't make them feel uncomfortable, he just kept loving them and going to parties with them.

However, if a friend is interested in your spiritual journey, you should be ready to share. Here's the trickiest, touchiest and scariest part of the whole process: let them ask any question. Remember that the life of a disciple starts with questions. When you invite your friends to see your life, they get to ask questions too. But their questions may be different from the ones you're used to asking or hearing. That's OK. It's fine. There are no off-limits questions in the disciple life. God isn't afraid of us asking anything.

Here are some of the questions I've heard:

  • Why does God hate Jesus and kill him? 
  • Isn't the bible controlled by the Vatican? How can we trust it?
  • Did Jesus have wet dreams? 
  • Don't all religions point to the same goal? 
  • Why would you want to go to heaven anyway? 
  • Can the church give me money for my marijuana to help me get off meth?
  • Isn't God kind of like an abusive husband? 
Note, all of these are real questions asked by real people who seriously wanted an answer. You cannot laugh, mock, scoff or scorn questions unless you want to damage the relationship. It's also a bad idea to try to answer the question outright. First off, you probably don't know the answer, and secondly, that's not the disciple process. You don't ask questions and then get answers. The process of searching and discovery is powerful and important. Don't try to short-circuit the process to help your friends or to prove that you're so smart. 

I would respond with: "That's a great question. Can you tell me more about what you mean by it?"

Then, just keep digging as long as you can. What you're doing is acting as a sounding board for your friend to explore their own thoughts on the subject. One of the best ways to start searching for an answer is to have a clearly stated question. If you help your friend to state their question well, then you've invited them to take the next step of the disciple journey. 

What are some of the best questions you've heard? 

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

A Review of Photoshop CS6 Beta

The original
For a fun, April Fools Day joke, I decided to put my Florida Gator fan friends into FSU gear. You can see the original picture of them at The Swamp (where the Gators play) all decked out in UF blue and orange. Their hated rivals are the red clad Seminoles of Florida State University.

Edited with Paint.NET
My first go at this was in the free Paint.NET software. I copied the bottom layer and then deleted everything that wasn't a shirt or a hat. Then I separated each article of clothing into its own layer. I changed the colors by using the hue, saturation and lightness adjustments. It worked well for the polo shirt and the visor, but, as you can see, it introduced some artifacts into the tshirt. The difference between the red and the blue was too much and my clone-tool application didn't do enough to fix the problems. The result was an obvious edit that just doesn't look very good. I'm happy with the visor and polo from Paint.NET, but the tshirt just didn't turn out very well.

Edited with Photoshop CS6
So, I downloaded the Photoshop CS6 Beta, which is a free download and will be free to use until they come out with the retail version later in the year. The first thing I noticed was that the selection process was much faster. The smart select tools automatically found the edges of the shirts and hat, though it had trouble differentiating the hair and the visor. I could quickly cut out the clothes and get to work.

Instead of using the hue tools to change the color, I used the color change tool in Photoshop. I was able to select the source color and the destination color, then I just painted over the shirts and the colors changed to the relative tone. That resulted in shades that were much more similar between the shirts, but it also removed the artifacts on the tshirt, which was good.

The content aware fill and spot-healing brushes were invaluable in Photoshop, allowing me to fade in the logo on the polo and remove stray hairs on the tshirt. Overall the tools and options available in Photoshop made the process of editing the picture go much more quickly than with Paint.NET. I'm estimating that it took me 1/4 the time to complete the job in Photoshop versus Paint.NET.

My biggest gripe against Photoshop is that they use a unique control scheme. Where most other programs use a "Ctrl+" scheme to enable different options, Photoshop uses "Alt+" for no apparent reason. More than that, the single level of Undo really annoyed me. The "Ctrl-Z" for Undo is still available in Photoshop, but if you want to step back further than one action in the history you have to press "Ctrl-Shift-Z" which is unnatural and awkward. I've been trained to use the keyboard shortcuts of "Ctrl-Z" and "Ctrl-Y" for Undo and Redo in virtually every other program on every computer platform. There's no reason why Photoshop needed to change things (other than Adobe's need to be different for the sake of being different).

Overall, Photoshop has proven to be a powerful tool that can quickly tackle any editing task, but you'll have to learn the unique and arbitrary control scheme of Adobe to unlock the power of the software.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

How to Make Friends

If you're going to share the life of a disciple with people, you have to meet them first. The problem that I've found is I'm not very good at intentionally meeting new people. Sure I've met a lot of new people, but it has been through activities or groups that made the process easy. I was in school or at church where I was bound to meet people and then develop friendships with them, over time. But now that I'm not in school anymore I don't really have a non-church way to connect with new people.

Meeting new people takes time and intentionality. You won't accidentally meet new people if you don't work on it. It takes shared social space to meet new people. So, first, you need to find a social space that isn't threatening or closed. Then you need to find a way to share that space with other people. One of the best ways I've found to meet new people is through shared interests. It could be a Toastmasters meeting, a community choir, a woodworking club or a basketball league. Whatever your interests, you can find a way to meet people through them. But once you meet someone, that's only the beginning.

Connecting with the people that you meet narrows the number of relationships significantly. You may meet hundreds or thousands of people, but you only connect with a few of those. It might be a shared interest or a carpool or something you can't define. You'll connect with a few of the people you meet in a way that is noticeably different from the majority of the people you meet. From there you need to figure out how to make friends with them.

Friendship doesn't just happen. It may seem like it since most of our friendships weren't planned, but there is a consistent process of making friends that isn't random or mysterious. You obviously need to meet people and then connect with people, but turning the corner from connection to friendship takes time. There's no substitute for time spent together to transform an acquaintance into a connection. You need to find ways to spend time with the people with whom you develop a connection and then a friendship may sprout. Just like the way connections narrow the field of people from those you met, you will only become friends with a limited number of people with whom you develop a connection.

Remember, this process takes time. You will probably be discouraged by spending months searching for connection after you meet someone or waiting for a friendship to develop from a connection. Just keep spending time with people and genuinely loving them for who they are (no strings attached). It's not your job to convert people, your job is to love people, so do it well.

How do you develop friendships with the people you meet?