How Should We Approach Bible Study in Discipleship?

We don't come to this book looking for options to consider, we come to this book looking for commands to obey.

Feb 25th, 2013

Vulnerability

Remember how Aphrodite gets struck by an arrow and Zeus says, who cares, you’ll never die anyway? And then when people get killed, throughout the book, Homer makes a big deal about it, and goes back to the person’s childhood and through their life. **It’s because there is no virtue in living unless that life is vulnerable.**

I immediately see a career parallel, of course. **You cannot connect with people if you cannot show them where you’re weak**. People don’t have a capacity to care about someone who is not vulnerable. So there is no point in networking with people you won’t connect enough with to show a weak side of yourself.

Penelope writes brazenly about careerism (see what I did there?), and does a great job at it. For her readership, she provides some very cut-and-dry advice in a world of people who are generally fickle. This particular post's point is that "networking means making real friends". I completely agree with this. I'm admittedly not super at this -- I've made many surface-level friends in my life, but the deep, personal, reliable friendships are few and far between. Perhaps I'm not a fantastic networker?

This is just an appetizer, though. I didn't spend more than a few minutes thinking about Plato because I immediately thought about Christ. He spent His entire mortal existence exemplifying vulnerability while also exemplifying strength.1 Let me take this in a parallel direction: Following Christ means making real disciples. I don't think you can do that without being vulnerable. If Christ is our model, let us "be Holy as he is Holy" and whatever comes along with it.

Each year, 2-3 dozen of the men from my church head to Camp Berea for Man Camp2. During one of the afternoon session times, we skip out on the mini-sessions and meet as a men's group to talk about a topic that's on our hearts and minds at the time. Man Camp was my gig this year, and so I had spent the hours leading up to this conversation a smidge panicked about what we should talk about. The Spirit stepped in and assuaged it all. Between the messages from this year's lead speaker, Paul Friesen, and just asking the group what was grabbing at them throughout the weekend, we had a very long and very deep conversation about accountability and the need for accountability relationships between the men of the church. For 90 minutes we discussed weakness, accountability, trust, the need for partnership, the need for us to live alongside one another and all of the ramifications of living life together as Christians. It was a fantastic result of the weekend.

Without trust and vulnerability, an accountability relationship has little effect. Friesen said "there are Denny's groups and accountability groups". We need to invest in the latter, and that's what we're pushing the men of the church to do now. God was glorified during that 90 minutes together, and the conversations and partnerships that are coming about as a result continue to do so.

Going back to Penelope's statement, though, I really think she's onto something. Peter's relationship with Jesus jumps out to me here. Peter strikes me as a total hothead and the kind of gruff guy you didn't want to piss off (or, you know, he might just cut off your ear3). He was quick to act courageously and just as quick to become discouraged.4 His relationship with Christ was deep, personal and vulnerable, though, and that vulnerability led to deep blessings5 and a mission that began the spread of Christianity in the first century.6

Without that vulnerability, without the trust that his vulnerability would lead to deep blessings, Satan's request to sift Peter like wheat might have been met with denial. He may not have been ready to be tested. But he put himself out there, and trusted in Christ completely (except when trying to walk on water, I suppose) and had his life changed as a result. Personal accountability is like this, only dryer. We open ourselves up to another believer who trusts us and trusts Christ. The risks seem huge: betrayal (you might pick a Judas), judgement (you might pick a Pharisee) or the loss of trust. You might, though, change your life. Satan will ask to sift you like wheat, and with a brother in Christ and Christ to walk beside you, to live life with you, to pray for you, your sifting is bound to remove impurities and flat out change your life.


  1. I could turn this right back around to careerism here. You need to show vulnerability and strength in your real friendships because all friends need both at some given time. That’s not my bailiwick, so I’ll leave that to her.

  2. Man Camp is a fairly atypical men’s retreat, based on much of my previous retreat experience. While we spend 11-14 hours between Friday and Sunday in the Word of God and the topics that the speaker(s) bring, we spend almost all of the rest of the time in recreation, relaxation and consumption of vast quantities of food. There’s no hand-holding, no crafts and no organized crying. (There are some bad men’s retreats out there…) Many of the men of the church look forward to this event every year. November can’t come quickly enough.

  3. EDITED on ½/13: I had said when this was published that the Bible did not say it was Peter that cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant, but it was. I was reading Matthew and Luke and had ignored John 18:10-11 which clearly says it does. Totally my bad.

  4. Matthew 14:28-31, for example.

  5. Luke 22:31-32

  6. John 21:17

Dec 27th, 2012

Being a Corporate Mac User

I'm not "a Mac" in the commercial persona paradigm, I'm more of a VMware cluster.

Starting in 2006, my primary home computer has been a Mac of one sort or another. It's become very familiar, even when I was a lifehacking Windows or Linux nerd at the office. It took a while, but I was able to convince the powers that be that I could be even more productive at work if I was using a Mac full-time. So far, this has been mostly true, with one major exception: Microsoft Office.

Most of the rest of the company use a PC with Windows 7/Office 2010. Last year the company moved from Exchange 2003 to 2010, and deployed an expansive OCS 2010 infrastructure. As a result, the overall corporate feel for messaging improved greatly. When I was using a PC full-time, I used Lync to talk to anybody / everybody in the company. I could pick sets of meeting rooms when creating a meeting request so that I was easily selecting an unbooked room that met my criteria without needing to hunt through the directory. It was a good place to be in terms of Messaging.

Then I got a Mac with Office 2011 and the first release of the Mac version of Lync. My productivity for everything else went way up, but my productivity for anything Office-related went way, way down. What I painfully discovered was that the Mac version of Outlook, though it looked/felt better than Entourage (Office 2008), wasn't anywhere near parity with Outlook 2010. (Or 2007. Or, really, 2003.) It lacks so much that makes its Windows (distant) cousin look like a Cadillac next to its Fiat.

For instance:

  • There is no HTML editor for composing messages.
  • There is no table support when composing messages.
  • Tabs get translated to new lines when used to separate text when sending an email.
  • There is no way to see the details of a meeting in a shared resource's calendar. If I want to ask someone to move a meeting, I have to go find a PC and use Outlook there to see who owns a meeting.
  • Lync crashes 50% of the time that someone sends me an IM.
  • There is no Mac-native version of WebEx tools, so booking a WebEx-based meeting ALWAYS takes 3x the effort.
  • The default reminder time is applied to any meeting invites you receive with "no reminder" set, so my phone reminds me about people's vacations at 11:45pm the day before.
  • All of the apps are slower than nearly any other native Mac app, and far slower than the equivalent Windows-based Office app. They're even slower than Office running on a Virtual Machine (more on that later)
  • Lync Audio/Video is flaky. Most of the time my video calls work, but my audio-only calls work about 50% of the time.
  • In Outlook 2010, I had this great trick to ensure I never sent an angry email: I set a client-side rule to hold all non-urgent outbound email for 1 minute. Outlook 2011 does not support rules on outgoing messages.

None of these are horrible, but they're all pesky. Each was capable of triggering a regular groan upon occurrence.

A couple of months ago I tried to move to Outlook 2010 running in Parallels, but kept stepping on my own fingers, so to speak, by not remembering the difference between Ctrl and Option/Alt and Command/Win when in each OS' apps. I'd delete entire paragraphs of text in Outlook and not remember immediately that I could Ctrl-Y to get it back (it's been a while!). Back in Office 2011, though, I was dying the death of a thousand cuts, and something had to be done. I even tried Mac Mail + iCal only to have it completely destroy my Outlook calendar and contacts list. The state of affairs is very poor for Exchange-hosted services with Mac clients.

After a particularly bad day with Mac Office, I decided to give the Parallels option a full day's try to see if I really could have my cake and eat it too. I haven't looked back. It's not perfect, of course, but it's ~90% of what I had before. Here are the hangups I've found so far:

  • The Command key is the Windows key, so remember which OS' app you're in. Ctrl-Y is your best friend when you accidentally Win-Bksp when you meant to Ctrl-Bksp.
  • The Mac "Delete" key is Backspace in Windows (and you want it to be most of the time) so on my MacBook Pro keyboard you have to use Ctrl-D to delete. This only bugs me when I'm not standing at my desk where I have a full-size keyboard with a non-backspacing delete key.
  • Growl For Windows doesn't seem to like publishing its messages to its own IP address so that the native Growl can intercept them. So, no Growl for Outlook. This just means I look at my email a smidge less frequently. I can live with that.
  • The only thing that Outlook 2011 had that Outlook 2010 doesn't have which I used frequently was a shortcut key to move a message (Cmd-Shift-M). Supposedly, I can use SimplyFile, but that's pricey. I have a SpeedFiler license, but the developer has gone AWOL and it only kinda sorta worked with Outlook 2010. I'm using the Quick Steps functionality and that covers me most of the time.
  • The default Parallels audio driver horribly distorts Lync's audio (and Skype, supposedly). If you follow these instructions to replace it with one from Windows Update, and crank up the gain in Windows, it's just fine.
  • I didn't want my VM to share Documents folders with my Mac, so saving/attaching files takes a few extra clicks. Not a big deal.
  • By default, the host OS "mailto" protocol is handled by the host OS. You can change that in the VM's configuration, which is fantastic.

All in all, this is a good place to me. I'll add more quirky notes as I find them.

Image courtesy of cybaBABE on DeviantArt

Outlook and iOS 6 update

Via BGR, it looks like iOS 6.0.1 is being tested now and would address the Outlook / iOS 6 bug that caused meetings to be deleted.

In addition, the new software will improve Wi-Fi support, fix cellular data not working in some cases, add a consolidated cellular data switch for iTunes Match, fix a bug that allowed access to Passbook pass details from the lock screen, and also finally fix the bug that caused Exchange meetings to be unexpectedly cancelled for the entire calendar invite group.

Oct 23rd, 2012

Awaiting Burial

...any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them... is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.

Martin Luther King Jr.

...saw this while reading this article on Obama's faith being the "wrong kind" of Christianity.

Oct 22nd, 2012

Outlook and IOS 6 Problems

Just received this notice at work:


Outlook Calendar Issues with iOS Devices (iPad and iPhone)

There is currently an issue with Exchange calendars on devices running iOS 6 (iPhones and iPads). The issue manifests itself when a meeting recipient declines an invitation, which then cancels that meeting for everyone. Apple and Microsoft are aware of the issue. For now, until the issue is corrected, we recommend users with iOS devices manage their calendars from the Outlook client on their computers.


Irritating. Even more irritating that I hadn't heard about it yet through all of the Apple channels I read on a semi-regular basis. It's been out there for a while, however. (TUAW, MacRumors)

Oct 5th, 2012

I'm Matt Shelton, and This is How I Work

Lifehacker, one of my favorite place on the internet, started a series a while back called "How I Work", which details how various internet/tech/media personalities work. It gives some interesting insights into the habits and technology behind many people who folks may not know or only know by name. Kinda neat. For the sake of documentation, I thought I'd do the same thing about myself.


Name: Matt Shelton

Occupation: Engineering Manager for Nuance Communications, Healthcare Division, Clinical Language Understanding Applications

Location: Boston Metro West, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Current computer: 15-in MacBook Pro for work, central Mac Mini for family stuff

Current mobile devices: iPhone 4 for me, iPhone 4s for work, iPad 2nd gen for lots of other stuff

I work: Pseudo-Randomly

What apps/software/tools can't you live without?

Dropbox. Everything I need is in Dropbox: my family's photo library, all of our documents, my scanned file cabinet, all of my files for work that I need to keep in sync between machines. I have the Pro200 account with their Packrat unlimited file history feature.1 I use LastPass for password management.2

In the non-digital world, I would have a hard time without my Gerber Compact Sport. I've owned the same one since 1998. It lives on my belt.3 I've considered replacing it with an EVO or the Bear Grylls Ultimate Multi-Tool, but I have no good reason to do so.

What's your workspace setup like?

At work, I have a Jerker in a standing desk configuration. I've been standing in the office for about 18 months with no plans to stop any time soon. I have a small conference table with chairs for meetings, and a Pöang chair for when I need to relax/think/nap/etc. (No, I don't really nap in the office.) I have an extra display that swaps between a mac mini and a 4-year-old Dell that I use as a file server / terminal service / VM host. Mostly that screen is off.

When I work at home, I sit at a very cheap Ikea table. It's not at all ideal, but it works and I've moved my desk around enough times now that trying to come up with anything more permanent wouldn't be a good use of time or money. I had a standing desk in an office for a while, but that's now our guest room and the mobility is more important to me now.

What do you listen to while you work?

It depends on to what I've recently been tipped off. I tend to go from an assortment of CCM tracks to listening to any given album by BT on repeat. In August I listened to Overexposed by Maroon 5 about fifty times. Today I can't stop listening to BT's new track "Must Be The Love", and I'll probably go back to ITSAESAYAI shortly.

What's your best time-saving trick?

Any email that I receive to which I can reply immediately, I do. It keeps the small stuff from getting in the way of the big stuff.

What's your favorite to-do list manager?

I don't have one. At the moment I'm capturing tasks in Reminders on either one of my phones, and having Outlook nag me. If it's convenient to type them in at a given time, I jot them on paper and transfer later. This is one area that I would love to find some level of improvement in some day... I'm terribly dissatisfied with every single thing I've tried. My work life is in Outlook, but on the Mac, it's a pretty terrible e-mail client. Running it in a VM isn't sustainable performance-wise, and anything I've tried to use for tasks that syncs with Exchange is fairly terrible. I was using Remember the Milk for a long time, but its Outlook sync was really buggy and kept corrupting itself. Maybe having Reminders natively in 10.8 is enough of a reason to upgrade. Maybe?

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?

My Grid-It. It makes my bag so insanely tidy and has every cable/connector/drive that I need in one place. What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret? Cutting through the BS to help someone when they are asking for help but can't/won't say it. My secret is... not really a secret... It's the base of my personality to want to fix everything.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

I posted my favorite non-biblical advice here a long time ago:

I don’t care how good you are at programming, finding bugs, whatever. If you’re rude, or if you speak poorly to people who don’t understand your... quirks... you will wind up being shunted to the side. No one wants to work with someone who makes them feel beat down all the time, or someone who they simply can’t understand, or someone whose reaction to every issue is to start wailing about the end of the world.

It reminds me to be kind, even why my default reaction might be to tell someone just how stupid I think they are acting.

Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?

LOL. Fans?


  1. When Dropbox doubled its existing pro accounts, I was ecstatic. I was using about 97% of my 100Gb then, and now that gives me a few more years before I have to care about the size of my account.

  2. I’ve been toying with switching to 1Password since my LastPass subscription is about to lapse, but I’m not really all that motivated to switch while spending $115 for new software. LastPass works as it should and I’ve been able to increase my password security nearly everywhere as a result.

Regular Purging

I go through these cycles of collection and purging in my office. Between spare computers and displays to random extra office supplies, I end up with a marginally cluttered work area from time to time. (My idea of cluttered is realistically most people's idea of tidy, so it's not like it's hoarders up in here.) Today felt like a purging day, so here's what I cleared out:

  • Short Micro and Mini USB cables (went to the Grid-It in my bag, replacing longer versions of the same)
  • Longer Micro and Mini USB cables (from above bag... one went home for my RaspberryPi, the other to my external hard drive)
  • Spare desktop PC tower, display, keyboard, mouse, cables (to an automation engineer who needed an extra machine)
  • Wired phone headset (to one of my staff)
  • Desk Lamp (taking it home for my desk there)
  • Various user manuals (recycling bin)
  • Old loose tea (trash, but i probably should have composted this)
  • Rollabind notebooks and associated hole punch (home, not sure what I'm going to do with these yet, but I couldn't throw them away yet)
Oct 2nd, 2012

A Shield About Me

Wow.

Sep 13th, 2012

Posted wp-markdown-syntaxhighlighter to Wordpress Plugin Directory

I caved. I'm not proud of fine with it. The plugin is now available on the Wordpress Plugin Directory. Fancy.

Sep 13th, 2012