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Chris Pollock

Chris Pollock - web developer & ecommerce entrepreneur
undivided… my thoughts on world, family, church, business, technology and Jesus Christ (all in all)

Dirty Love and Spiritual OCD

I am beginning to understand that love is fundamentally messy. Think about God’s seedbed for love, the family. Conceiving children is messy. Giving birth to children is messy. Raising children is messy. There’s absolutely nothing clean or aseptic about this process, it’s a big mess. Move from the family to another display of God’s love, the cross. What a mess: betrayals, denials, beatings, and then finally a bloody crucifixion.

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

Jesus was not afraid to get dirty. He touched lepers and dead bodies. He hung around with the “dirty people” like the tax collectors, prostitutes and other “sinners”. The Pharisees on the other hand had spiritual OCD. They hated the idea of getting dirty.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

In opposition to the Pharisees, Jesus’ chief teaching on love has to do with someone picking up a half dead person from a ditch. Can you imagine what the Samaritan must have looked like as he pulled into the inn to drop off the injured person? This would not have been a pretty picture.

If we’re going to love we must be willing to get dirty. We must not allow the spiritual OCD of this generation to define our behavior. Instead, we must follow the Samaritan and the Lord down a dusty, dirty road where wounds bleed and blisters ooze.

Perhaps we can do this we can do this because we know the One who can cleanse us and make us whiter than snow. Perhaps we can do this because we believe that whatever dirt that sticks to us in showing love to God’s creatures will become sparkling diamonds of radiance in the kingdom of our Father. Perhaps it would be accurate to say that the dirtier we get in loving, the more brightly we will shine in the kingdom (God loves a good paradox).

Look to the forerunner. He became a mess in his endeavor to love us… and in exchange was given a name that was above every name.

It would be a mistake to relegate all benefits of the dusty, dirty road to the future. Perhaps the greatest glory of walking this muddy path is that Jesus is there with you. It’s a dirty road, but now a lonely road. It’s a messy road, but he’s there with you. With the lowest of the low, you take up fellowship with the King of Kings.

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Face to Face Lending

Our generation has been dominated by faceless lending.  Our recent economic crisis was spurred on by the increasing layers of abstraction that are introduced between borrower and investor.  Abstraction of borrower and lender has been an attempt to protect both, but has the really been the outcome?  Can we look at the signs of the times and read for ourselves that the more abstract that the borrowing process becomes, the more malicious and pain-filled it will become. 

A lesson I have been learning over and over again over the past five years is that Jesus came to set people right with himself and one another.  Not only does Jesus make it possible for us to have relationship with God, but also proper relationship with one another.  Another way of saying this is Jesus puts us face to face with our God and with our brother

1 John 1:1-4

1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

So often what I have seen in the church is not the kingdom lifestyle of face-to-face living but the embracing and encouraging of worldly abstractions that separate and insulate.  Why is this?  Chris has set us free from the fear of being wronged (hasn’t he)?  And yet we mitigate risk and loose valuable kingdom investment by continuing to run to the worlds financial system. 

For years I have been meditating on such things.  (See this document I produced five years ago).  And recently my Gracious Father has been allowing me to taste some of the concepts that I have so long thought about.  In order to purchase a house, a friend lent me a large sum of money as a bridge loan.  Lord willing, I will soon have the opportunity to do the same for another friend.  Here are a few of the goods that I have experienced in personal, face-to-face lending:

  • Sober Spending – Part of the credit culture that we live in is a disconnect between desires and the consequences of that spending.  Face to face lending puts a real face on spending in a number of ways.
    • 1. It ensures that my purchases are inline with the values of my community.  It discourages lending for the purposes of getting an advantage or “moving up”. My friend was more than wiling to lend me money when I was basically buying a house of equal value and size.  If I was trying to elevate my social standing by buying something with far more comforts than my friend possessed I doubt he would readily lend me the money. 
    • 2. Because I am returning payment to a person and not an institution, my repayment of the loan has a direct impact on his life.   While borrowing I was tempted to buy one of the latest gadgets on the market, but knowing that I had a debt to a friend, and that buying this item meant slower repayment to him helped to keep the “gots to have its” in check. 
  • Preaching the Kingdom of God – Loaning to one another preaches the veracity and reality of the Kingdom that God himself governs.  Let’s face it.. why are people in the church afraid to lend to one another?  Fear.  The Kingdom that God rules is run by Love.  Love cast out Fear.  Personal lending preaches the reality that God can manage his Kingdom and help his children come to terms when when there is a disagreement or problem.   Institutions and prophylactic structures make sense where love is NOT the governing rule, but do they make sense where it is?

There is really so much more.. but I’ll leave it there and with a Scripture that I read just this evening.

Psalm 112:5

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
who conducts his affairs with justice.

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Non-Charitable Charity – Why Giving the Government’s Way is Void of Love

It’s tax time again and for the past couple of years I’ve been struck that my method of giving is totally unrecognized by the government.  Before you mistake this as a complaint, it’s not, it’s simply an observation that I wish to bring to the attention of those that are interested in love.  It has slowly become my conviction that what the government calls “charity” is exactly self-interest in disguise.  Why self interest?  Giving to get.  If I give X to a valid 501(c)3 organization I’ll get my tax write off.  I admit that loving the way God tells us to love is full of rewards, but none of those rewards have anything to do with mammon.  Giving to get a tax write off is simply NOT charity… call it what you will, but don’t call it love. 

For more clarity I call your attention to one of the most well known passages of Scripture.  Where do we get our understanding of love?  Is it not from the story of the Samaritan?  After all, who loved their neighbor?  The one who picked up a stranger, washed his wounds (at expense to himself) and paid for his needs of recovery.  Where were the other two headed (the priest and the Levite), but off to their jobs at the governmentally-recognized institution. 

Ironically the government does not recognize “contribution to a specific individual” or “contribution to a nonqualified organization”.   The Samaritan’s expenses would not have been recognized by the government.   The irony is rich and hopefully the implications are clear.  What God desires is not for us to leverage and extra percentage or two by getting a tax write off, but rather to be open to do radical works of love to those whom won’t be recognized or “qualified” as outlets for the world’s charity.

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Psalm Visualizer Gets Its Start

Well over this Resurrection weekend I had the chance to start building the Psalm visualizer that I talked about several posts ago.  The idea behind the visiualier is that it shows you by varying opacity the psalms that have NT references or allusions. 

ScreenShot006

Right now the interface is very simple, but then again, it's just for me at the moment.  The idea is that I insert a psalm reference and then a cross reference.  In the dropdown I select "Direct", "Allusion" or "Pondering".  Each of these has a different weight.  The weights are then added up to calculate the opacity representation of each psalm.  Feel free to take a look around

My hope is that as I trek through the psalms I continue to add references to this site.  When you click on the Psalm, it shows you the text of the psalm (thanks the the ESV web service) and the references I have marked in the margin.  There are a lot of ideas for enhancing the UI that I would like to develop.. but all in due time. 

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Visualize New Testament Usage of the Psalms

Ever since hearing Bob MacDonald at BibleTech 2008 I have been increasingly captivated by seeing Jesus Christ in the Psalms.  This prospective has thoroughly dislodged the Psalms from whatever purely academic rubrics I was placing on top of them in the past and set me about looking for a Person.   What is shocking is that the looking is not very difficult.  He's everywhere!  How did I miss him when He was so close, even in my mouth? 

This new found excitement has got me thinking about how to actually try and visualize the new testament writers usage of the Psalms.  This book more than any other seems to hold a certain amount of weight when it comes to the number of Old Testament quotations in the New Testament. 

If you have ideas or input on how to visualize, please comment.

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babies, the elderly and the imago dei

Babies and the elderly are two groups of people to really challenge our ability to build the grandiose idols of self-fulfillment.  They (babies and elderly) wreck our day and wreck our plans for the future.  And the beautiful thing is, I think that is part of God's design in his order of birth and death. 

Jesus rebuked those who marginalized children, even when they were the closest to him (see Luke 18:15-17).  James, the brother of Jesus, and Paul, the apostle went so far as to say the trueness of ones religion depended upon how they treated "widows and orphans" (see James 1:26,27 and 1 Timothy 5:4).   

I have come to believe that the image of God is not so much a substance that is in you as much as a something that reflects off of you when you relate to other people.  The image that reflects off of many people (including myself) when they relate to the weak and the helpless is their god's of convenience and self-fullness. 

The image of God helps me to understand the purpose of people who are not "functional" in the normal workings of our society.  Without this meta-narrative (over arching story) to interpret the weak and the helpless, it is easy to see them as "optional" or a "problem to be solved".  I do not believe this is how the Lord Jesus would have us receive such people.  Not as obstacles, but rather as gifts that provide the substance of our hearts to be reveled for what it is (for good or for ill).   

The frightening prospect of this belief is that our hearts to get revealed, the comfort is that they can be changed. 

When you see who you are in the image of your relationship to the weak and helpless.. remember to present yourself to God, who is able to transform that broken image into a shining reflection of Jesus. 

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Yahoo Meta Data Search and Bibleref

At BibleTech I learned of an initiative to create a Bible reference microformat.  At the conference we mused about a tool that would be able to spider these microformats and then return a set of matching results.  So if I searched for Matthew 1:1, I would get back results where a bibleref metadata tag had been embedded on that page for that particular verse.

Well it appears Yahoo is working on a meta data search engine. I read about it on sitepoint.com and even found a link to the research version.  Perhaps an engine like this could be told only to search for bibleref meta data.  Tapping into a main search engine data store, like Yahoo's, is probably the only surefire way to return comprehensive results.

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ESV Manuscript Maker

One of the struggles I have with a modern published version of the Biblical text is the amount of technology that invades the space where reading is being done. The amount of information crowding in on the biblical text can actually be an impediment to thoughtful study, instead of an aid. The technology that I'm referring to is not just the notes that show up in the footer or margin, but that which actually disrupts the plane of reading, such as headings, versification and the like.

The other night I was particularly frustrated with the amount of headings that communicate the beliefs of the compilers, rather than leaving the reader to form the breaks along lines make sense to him or her. I find this particularly frustrating in the Gospels where most publications note every pericope, drawing attention away from the larger structures in the text.

Thanks to the forward thinking folks at the ESV, I have constructed a small tool based on their web service that allows you to create a manuscript version of the text to your own liking. This is just the first version, and I only a piece of a larger community tool that I (and others) would like to see come together.

The tool can be found here: http://sim.plified.com/manuscript/

Please give it a try and let give some feed back by commenting on this post or sending me an email: cwpollock at gmail

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Lost in Translation… Bring it Back in Color

One of the most inspiring sessions of BibleTech08 was Bob MacDonalds presentation on Micro and Macro patterns in the Psalms.  In his presentation he used color to try and emphasize the patterns that he was seeing in the text. 

As someone who has been exposed to the interpretation of the original Biblical languages, there is a frequent lament that goes that goes something like this: our English translations are often incapable of carrying through some of the nuances present in the original language.  An example would be emphasis through rhyming words.  I imagine that rhyming words in Hebrew may not always be able to translated with corresponding rhyming words in English.  So the translators are left with a choice: do I translated the rhyme or a more literal meaning of the word.

So this is where I began to think: what about the application of color to this problem?  Nuances in the text that translators agree upon could be noted by differing background colors, thus enabling the reader to see what they can no long hear. 

Would color be too distracting?  I'm not sure, but I think it could complement well when the text is being read aloud, rather than just scanned with the eyes.  This way, the ears can hear the words, and the eyes can see the color.

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How to think about Science – Arthur Zajonc

While visiting in Seattle, I had the opportunity to listen to a podcast from the CBC series "How To Think About Science". In the podcast David Caley talks with Arthur Zajonc. They discuss a method of science that is less about theory and more about meditation and contemplation on a subject. I find the talk fascinating because Zajonc's observations of where science has gone might be just as easily transferred to theology. So often in theology we are analyzing a subject instead of pondering and contemplating the immeasurable, yet knowable God. In many ways this talk shows me just how much of our theological study has been influenced by science and technology!! I invite you to listen to Zajonc's analysis of science and leave a comment as to how you think this applies to other areas of life.

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Cute little town of #jimthorpe #poconosPhotoGetting acquaintedPhotoJail birdWinning food art1st day of co-op for this school year. Everybody gathering together before splitting into the different classes. #homeschoolcoopStrange building art in #rochesterPhotoThe turning point in today's rideThe lineupWinners (and the crazy wife)Yup. I live with seven children :)Mimi school. My mom spends 6 hours a week in Skype w the four oldest boys working with them on reading and writing. So thankful for her help!!Happy bath face.

Chris Pollock

Web Developer - proficient in both PHP and ASP.NET.
Rochester, New York

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Cute little town of #jimthorpe #poconosPhotoGetting acquaintedPhotoJail birdWinning food art1st day of co-op for this school year. Everybody gathering together before splitting into the different classes. #homeschoolcoopStrange building art in #rochesterPhotoThe turning point in today's rideThe lineupWinners (and the crazy wife)Yup. I live with seven children :)Mimi school. My mom spends 6 hours a week in Skype w the four oldest boys working with them on reading and writing. So thankful for her help!!Happy bath face.