A Sidekick's Blog

No Regrets

November 11, 2017
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via Doing the Right Thing Hurts Sometimes

Monday I will “fly solo” on my new route for the first time.  This is actually the first time in three years at FedEx that I have actually been trained for a FedEx route instead of just thrown into the deep water to sink or swim.  So there’s a lot less dread and terror this time, even though this is a Ground route instead of Home Delivery, and the tools that HD drivers enjoy (turn-by-turn directions, detailed maps, even GPS route downloads if you wish) are unavailable to me on the new route.

Training makes all the difference, and I wish every FedEx contractor could see that.  If you want to retain good drivers, for goodnessakes, TRAIN THEM properly!

No regrets.

 

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Social Media and Mental Health

July 18, 2017
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So I got on Diaspora and dumped Facebook (and Google) because of all the paranoid geeky stuff about them manipulating news and spying on people and using all your stuff to take over the world.

I ran away from systemd on Linux because of all the paranoid geeky stuff I read on Diaspora about how Red Hat and Microsoft (and the NSA, FBI, Illuminati, and who knows, some alien race from the Eighth Dimension) are using systemd on Linux to take over the world and enslave Linux users.

As it turns out, in spite of Monstanto, GMOs, vaccines, the Left, the Right, Microsoft, Google, the Borg, Canonical, Red Hat, and systemd, my computer and my privacy are as safe as anyone who ever connects to the Internet on any device or platform can expect to be.

Who is manipulating who here? Who is really thriving on the fears of others here?

People told us to stop flying the American flag and stop showing our support for the military and first responders or else we could be targeted for violence, blacklisting, discrimination, etc. Did I take down my flag? Hell no. Let them come. I’ll gut them if they bring their threats beyond my front door.

And guess what else? I’ve got a systemd-equipped Linux distro running because it works better on my machine than the two systemd-free distros I tried. And y’know what else? I rejoined Facebook today. I’m using it with my eyes open and sensible precautions in place. I’ll keep my Diaspora but I’m making big changes there. All that paranoia and conspiracy stuff is not good for people who have ever been diagnosed with depression, whatever the cause.

All I can say now is,

I didn’t take my flag down. And I’m not avoiding systemd, Facebook, Google, or any other tool that serves me.

I’ll use the Internet wisely, my systemd-equipped Linux distro wisely, and Facebook wisely. Just like I do with my car, my firearms, my power tools, and anything else that requires a little thought and caution. I’m not throwing away all the perfectly good tools that make modern life so nice and so rich.

I’m through running away from phantoms. If and when the time comes to fight, against whoever the bad guys are, I’ll fight and die like a Klingon in glorious battle. In the meantime time, all you anti-vaccine, anti-Google, and anti-everything-that-isn’t-home-grown-or-home-made people can kiss my grits.

Hey, I just had a thought…. maybe my medicine is working now after all!


Robin’s Ramblings

June 25, 2017
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Just some random ramblings today. On church, on work, on social media, on

I was always taught that on Sunday when you go to church, you leave all the stuff that’s bothering you or weighing on you at the door, and enter just to worship God and at least for awhile, forget about everything else. Oh, and for goodnessakes, wear a tie! This is, after all, God’s house.

Well, I have changed my mind about that. If I can’t bring all that stuff with me into God’s house and lay it at His feet – just as I am, suit and tie or shorts and flip-flops – then church is missing the point, not me.

My worship to God is seven days a week, not one. My worship occupies me all day long, even at work, at school, doing laundry, mowing the lawn. The “worldly” stuff that weighs on me during the week belongs to God anyway, and my so-called “secular life” is not a separate thing, apart from my “church life.” I’m not at God’s house to put my best foot forward and protect the other churchgoers by hiding all the stuff in my life that isn’t “spiritual.”

It is God who qualifies us to stand in His presence and make our offerings of worship in singing, in giving, in communing with His other children, and in listening to His word. Wearing a suit sort of suggests the other thing, the old way. The popular song that goes, “So forget about yourself, concentrate on Him and worrrrrship Himmmmm…” is just bogus. Sorry. Church is not an escape from worldly concerns, but a way of equipping ourselves and each other to deal with all that “secular” stuff that occupies most of our time the other 6 days of the week! So leave the suit and tie at home and bring the whole messy ball of stuff to God’s house. TV sermons are no substitute for meeting with real people, forming real relationships, and discipling one another to Christ.

We want to transform the people and culture of our city through the power of the gospel. The culture has been racing in the opposite direction, far from God’s design and far from His purpose. In just the last few years, right before our eyes, stuff is just being turned upside down, opposite, inside-out, and backwards. The media push these changes as though doing so is a matter of great urgency, as though traditional are brutal and responsible for all the hatred and violence in the world. The “new normal” should be anti-male, anti-God, and politically correct.

I suspect most people don’t agree, but don’t wish to risk being labelled “hater,” “bigot,” “homophobe,” “holier-than-thou,” etc. So they don’t speak up for sanity, but just either go with the flow or isolate themselves from all the turmoil – or worse, use our churches as “safe spaces” where they can retreat and sing hymns and use church busy work the same way that snowflakes use crayons and Play Dough in their “safe spaces.”

This is closest I have seen to any kind of backlash against the Left-driven cultural madness. Except of course, among little sheltered communities of fundamentalists, evangelicals, and “church people” who want to turn their churches into safe spaces for Christians instead of lighthouses for those facing shipwreck.

Pft. I wore shorts to church today. For the first time ever. It won’t be the last time.

On to completely different stuff now:

While this isn’t my “tech blog” (that’s here if you’re interested), my philosophy about technology has also been changing quite a bit. I dumped Facebook and Google because of privacy issues and the simple fact that I’m not a commodity to be mined and processed, and all my likes, photos, comments, and opinions sold to advertisers. And don’t gimme that “If you have nothing to hide you shouldn’t be concerned about privacy” crap. It has nothing to do with having anything to hide! Lemme ask you this: Why do they have doors on bathroom stalls? It’s not as if everyone doesn’t know what you’re doing in there, so why hide it behind a door? Because DIGNITY, dude. Simple human dignity. That’s what I mean by privacy on line. Hopefully that is sufficient explanation.

Anyway, even the most popular Linux distros are becoming less and less respectful of their users’ privacy. A many-tentacled monster called “systemd” has been adapted by all the most popular Linux distros, and one very popular desktop environment (called Gnome) has become dependent upon it. It “supervises” and keeps a record of every process on the computer! Convenience is supposed to be the reason, but I don’t see any improvement in convenience for the Linux desktop user. But again, in the interest of privacy, I ran like a scalded dog from systemd to a new Linux distro that has been around for years and remains unencumbered by the many-tentacled monster.

More on the tech blog of course. But I guess I’m just not one to easily surrender my rights, my privacy, or my dignity. And not one to retreat to a “safe space,” whether in college or at church, or online.

Keep that computer
running perfectly with
PCLinuxOS!

Confessions of a
Technophobe


Finally

June 5, 2017
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Last night my lovely bride and I finally joined a church we can both agree on, and the adventure begins anew towards mutual growth on common ground.


Presbyterian Again

May 24, 2017
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I guess it was about 2 years ago that I left a Presbyterian Church in America – henceforth PCA church for a Reformed Baptist church that was truly Reformed, not a mixture of Eastern Orthodox liturgy with popular evangelicalism and secret flirtations among the staff with the writings of N.T. Wright. I explained in a blog post why I became a Baptist. Now, I find myself back in a PCA church – and with the blessing of the Elders at my former Baptist church! Not due to doctrinal differences (which do still matter), but because my bride and I need to be of the same mind and under the same spiritual headship. We had been getting some marriage counseling. Everyone should! It’s very helpful to avoid self-deception and making me aware of way I was hurting my family without even knowing it. At a certain point, because church is central and vital to making the best of a Christian marriage, and because my wife wouldn’t join my church (why is not relevant to this post), I asked the Elders about looking elsewhere, even though I had a vital role in worship there. It is with their blessing that my wife and I – together – are joining with a PCA church here in town. None of the fancy Orthodox-inspired liturgy, no flirtations with damnable heresies, and the Lord’s Supper every week (I have always wished for that)! A chance at real friendships is part of the reason God is moving us there too, I think. It just wasn’t possible without both of us being committed to the same church.

In the post linked above, I cited three differences between Reformed Baptists and their Presbyterian brethren. In my situation now I’m having to give them a second look, especially since we’re joining this new church and expect to be more than just “regular attenders.”

Hermeneutics:

“Baptists don’t deuce,” my former pastor told me in explaining the difference. But to reach some of the conclusions they have reached, they had to have deduced them “by necessary consequence” even though not contained, per se, in the Scriptures. Baptism, for example, which they define as immersion only, forbidding any other mode. In Scripture there are multiple baptisms, and not all of them by immersion. “The Greek word baptizo means ‘to immerse,'” they say, yet I can’t find independent proof of that claim from anyone but Baptist scholars who simply assert it as fact. Applying the sacrament only to believers is also deduced, since creating a type-and-shadow relationship between physical birth and spiritual birth (regeneration) also requires deduction beyond what is strictly contained in the Scriptures. The Scriptures themselves draw a parallel between Old Testament circumcision and New Testament covenant baptism. One of my favorite little Baptist deductions is drawn from 1 Peter 3:18-21, in which Baptists must deduce that “baptism now saves you” means “only believers should be baptized.” Two Old Testament events are compared to baptism (besides covenant baptism): Noah’s flood (in the 1 Peter 3 passage), and the flight from Egypt (1st Corinthians 10:1-4). In both of those events, I say with a wry but sincerely friendly smile, the people of God were sprinkled, and it was the enemies of God who were immersed! Oops…

Covenant:

The covenants of God with Adam, with Moses, with David – are eternal, even though ancient Israel as it was in Moses’ time and David’s time is long gone. Baptists separate them, reasonably so, into Old (type and shadow) and New (reality prefigured by type and shadow). But Christ fulfilled the Covenants rather than doing away with them. There remains one everlasting Covenant of Grace, which existed even before Creation itself, as the Three Persons of the Godhead covenanted together to redeem a people for God from the fallen race of Adam. Type and shadow are certainly demonstrable from the Scriptures, but they do not represent separate covenants, nor separate people.

The Regulative Principle of Worship

Since the baptism of the children of believers is not expressly and explicitly commanded in the New Testament, Baptists are wise to refer to the Regulative Principle as their main argument for not practicing covenant (“infant”) baptism. We are, however, expressly and explicitly commanded not to neglect the traditions of the Apostles (2 Thes 3:6, 25). The validity of custom is asserted “for those who wish to be contentious,” in 1st Cor. 11:16. So I’m not sure the RP truly applies when it comes to baptism.

A lot of Baptist ways of thinking and applying the Word will remain with me as long as I live, and I’m grateful for it!

But – omygosh, my friends – I’m a Presbyterian. Again.


One Speed: Deliberate.

March 2, 2017
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For most of the last couple of years I have worked as a delivery driver for FedEx Ground/Home Delivery. Unlike the FedEx Express drivers who work directly for FedEx, we Ground/Home Delivery guys are contracted to FedEx. Drivers work for a contractor who buys the right to service certain territories and routes. I wear a FedEx uniform but I work for the Contractor. I actually have worked for two Contractors.

The first hired me for a very busy city route and eventually replaced me because I am “too slow.” Even after months on that route, which I came to know very well, I couldn’t get up to 100+ stops a day, because I’m “too slow.”

The second contractor I worked for, over 8 months, couldn’t find a place for me after having trained me on a half-dozen routes but never leaving me on a route long enough to really become familiar with it. Then complained that I’m “too slow.” They waited, of course, until after peak season to let me go.

Too slow.

Yes, I’m slow. I have only one speed: DELIBERATE. I am concerned first and foremost with accuracy and customer service. If that takes a little longer, fine with me. Speed comes later, with familiarity of the route and finding the most efficient way to run it. But mis-delivered packages and disputed deliveries take more time to correct than just being careful to be accurate and deliver good service. Train me for a route and leave me there long enough to become familiar with it, and my speed will naturally get faster.

Now starting with a third Contractor, who supposedly understands my “weakness” and who supposedly agrees that it’s actually a good thing to deliver good customer service, accurately and carefully, even if it takes more time for the first 3 or four months while I learn the route.

God, I hope so.


A True Church is More

January 30, 2017
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According to Ligonier, the marks of the true church are:

Pure preaching of the gospel,
Pure administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and
Church discipline.

But of course, a true church ought to be more than just these. It is a place where disciples are made. It is a place where the people become a family and friendships are forged that make discipleship – and pure gospel preaching, pure sacraments, and church discipline possible.

Friendship is absolutely vital. One can belong to any church with these three marks and still never become a disciple if he or she is not open to the risk and joy of forging real friendships. We can call each other “brothers and sisters in Christ” without ever learning the real meaning of the common bond we share under our Father God and Elder Brother Jesus Christ.

That’s the hard part. In every church I have ever been a part of, with the exception of two in my childhood, I have forged no friendships at all. Lots of acquaintances, lots of people that I shared a lot in common with (music ministry, youth trips, mission trips, etc), but no friendships that fostered real discipleship to Christ. I’m lonely as can be, surrounded by people who call me “brother” but with whom I share nothing but handshakes and casual conversation once or twice a week.

I can’t say I ever really learned how to make friends, or even to be a friend.

At my age I wonder if it’s too late now.


A Tribute to My Father

January 22, 2017
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We were not on good terms when my (biological) father died last Thursday. He had attacked my bride, blaming her for “all my troubles” following my life-threatening battle with severe depression. He never showed any respect for the female members of my family. Neither my wife nor my daughter – both of whom I am immensely proud of – was worthy of any mention in his letters or phone calls for the last several years of his life. Informed of my brush with death, his response was heartless and cruel, especially toward my wife. That was our last contact, about a year ago.

“Joe,” as we always called him, was a brilliant composer of classical music that never got published as far as I know, but efforts to get one of the local colleges up in his hometown to publish it and play some selections were mostly successful. He wrote several hymns as well, which were heard, as far as I know, only at the little Lutheran church he attended. I hope they will find their way into publication so that that part of his legacy can live on and bless many others. Joe was a military veteran, an arch-conservative, a certified NRA firearms instructor, and a faithful husband.

When Joe and his wife Hilda visited us in Florida, he had nothing but good things to say about my stepfather, who was living with us by then. One of my favorite memories of Joe was one wonderful day of target shooting in which everyone including my kids and nephew participated.

Joe helps Danny perfect his technique.

That’s “Dad Hiley” seated on the scooter, Joe teaching, and Hilda poking her smiling face from behind Dad.

Shooting sports were a love we both shared. Here Joe and I went skeet shooting a few times, both at his home in Virginia and mine down here in Florida.
Great memories!

I renewed my acquaintance with my biological father when I was 14 and intensely curious about finding and getting to know my “real” father. He was very accommodating then, and we kept in touch by phone and correspondence for many years.

I met my half-brother Charles on that first trip to Virginia, and always enjoyed the pride that Joe had in him. Charles is a French-trained pastry chef who owns and operates the best bakery in Luray, Virginia. If you’re ever traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and plan a visit to Luray Caverns, be sure to stop in at the Main Street Bakery and Catering shop and tell them Robin sent you!

Joe hated technology. I tried several times to get him a computer in the hopes of teaching him to use it, if only so that our correspondence would be easier and faster, to include pictures, links, and other stuff to enrich it. But really, nothing beats pen and paper and “real” printed photographs, newspaper clippings, and the like. It seems technophobia was another trait we shared.

Joe never got my Star Trek references.

“Holy moley, it’s genetic!” was Suzie’s first response to meeting Joe and witnessing the idiosyncrasies we shared, from the frequent lack of a proper “filter” for our words and behavior in social situations. I was not raised by Joe at all. Yet I act like him in several ways and share his contempt for the new math and modern technology. In a conversation with him about Asperger’s syndrome (before it was re-named to “high functioning autism”) his reaction was, “Holy moley there’s a name for this?” I believe that is a trait we also shared.

Even though we parted on unfriendly terms – so much so that I was not supposed to be informed of his death – most of my memories of Joe are really good ones, and I’m proud to be his son.

Rest in peace, Papa Joe. I’ll see you again soon, in the next world, where our falling out won’t matter one little bit.


Depression Makes Me Intense

May 1, 2016
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Prolong, profound stress – living in “crisis mode” for years – takes a weird toll on a person’s body and mind. I’m not going to explain how I’ve been in “crisis mode” for so long, but suffice it to say that a lot of it is my own dumb fault after some events took place like loss of job, loss of home, loss of life savings, kids leaving home, economic woes; dementia, alcoholism, divorce and death in the family – in other words, normal life! But rapid-fire and sustained for a long time. And my own reactions and responses to these events has been unhealthy and made matters worse.

Maybe I can get off the medication that helps restore normal brain chemistry, but probably only after I learn and practice some better coping skills and make the hard choices needed to relieve the financial burden that keeps me one lost paycheck (or one car breakdown, etc) away from disaster. I should be able to handle crises – even long term stuff – without losing perspective. Especially as an (alleged) Christian who is supposed to have supernatural resources and godly purposes, for whom all things work together for good!

That’s where the counseling has really helped, even though putting practice to biblical principles is new territory for me, though it shouldn’t be. It’s hard work! But it has to be done, if not just for my own mental health, but for the eternal consequences!


Back From the Brink

March 21, 2016
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Well I think I can finally write about my recent brush with death, and maybe I can do it with less of that false sense of shame rooted in the total fantasy that true Christians never get anxious, never get depressed or suicidal, and never give up hope. While I am ashamed of this in a powerful sense, in another sense I think it’s really important as a disciple of Jesus to share my weaknesses and failures as a means to help others. I’m sure that King David would rather that his sins of lust and murder were not recorded in the bible for all of history! Yet they are instructive for the rest of us forgiven sinners, all of whom are lust-driven murderers at heart anyway, and me most of all. I also want to offer encouragement to saints who are dealing with depression and ashamed to admit it, much less to actually get help. The idea that “real” Christians never give in or lose hope in the face of overwhelming odds and impossible circumstances is totally bogus, unrealistic, arrogant, and dangerous! Here are a few examples from the Scriptures of great men of faith who suffered from depression even to the point of pleading for death, just as I did. I also want to state very clearly that those who vehemently oppose the use of medication for treating even extreme mental illnesses, based on the notion that “the problem is sin, not chemistry,” may be liable in part for the profound and prolonged suffering of those believe them; and may even be liable in the Day of Judgment for lives lost. While I can agree that sin is the root of every form of mental illness, and that exposing the sin, and learning and practicing repentance the ultimate cure, I cannot and will not discount medication to help address the damage done by such sin. Persistent mental stress causes physical and chemical changes in the body. Like in the normal “fight or flight” response to a physical threat in which the body dumps adrenalin into the bloodstream, increases pulse, raises blood pressure and respiratory rate, and readies itself to repel an enemy – if that adrenalin dump occurs and no physical battle or flight follows, then real damage can be done! This ain’t Star Trek where you just cancel red alert, disarm torpedoes, power down shields and phasers and be on your merry way. That adrenalin surge needs an outlet. And if it doesn’t get one, it’ll do some damage of it’s own. If that is repeated a lot – or if it happens almost continuously as in the throes of unrelenting depression, whatever the cause, then real, measurable, chemical and physical damage follows. Leaving that untreated is inexcusable if a simple medicine is available to interrupt the cycle of continuous adrenalin surging without a “fight or flight” following and the organ and tissue damage resulting from that. If you tell me I should be ashamed to be taking an antidepressant for a while until I sort out and deal with the cause (sin) of my depression, then I’ll tell you that you should be ashamed for multiplying the suffering and threatening the safety of sinners just like yourself. When I no longer need the antidepressant I’ll quit using it. But until I identify the sin behind my depression, learn what real repentance from that sin looks like, and practice that repentance until it becomes a new habit, I’ll take whatever help I can get to interrupt that destructive chemical cycle that interferes with that repentance!

So here’s the story, briefly:

A lot has happened in the past two months, including a near-hospitalization for an episode of such deep despair that I became briefly suicidal. Marital and financial stress has gone on for so long that something snapped when I got turned down for the umpteenth time for a decent job. The only thing that saved me was the fact that I published my feelings and intentions online and someone who saw it alerted someone who intervened. It has been a few weeks since then now, and medication and counseling (not from a psychiatrist or psychologist, but a “nouthetic” counselor, bible-based) are helping me keep a lid on that despair while I undergo training for a permanent new job. It’s far better than the well drilling job I was doing before! I complained about safety there and it got me fired, so I went ahead and filed an OSHA complaint against that stupid arrogant buttwipe, then took the only available job that wouldn’t take me far from home. It was selling carpet, tile, hardwoods, vinyl and other flooring. I’m no salesman, and I was failing miserably at it. That’s when I finally had my “breakdown” of sorts. We were two months behind in bills, I was forced to give up a car I had just bought in December because we couldn’t afford the payments, our landlord was threatening eviction, and then I got turned down for a dream job after two interviews. My wife still had only part-time minimum wage work in a small retail shop (and that’s with an MBA degree!). I was done with life and ready to end it. If I hadn’t said something, I would have pulled the trigger and ended my profound sorrow and hopeless misery.

Because others intervened, we got some help with overdue bills, got caught up on rent, took drastic steps to curb unnecessary spending (cut the cable, let the car go, took in a family member to help with the rent, and count every penny of earnings, spending absolutely nothing on anything we don’t absolutely have to have. I got hired only last week, finally, and have been training. This job appeared literally out of the blue, one day before I was supposed to go back on the road in a truck for no other jobs where we live. Doing so would have ended my counseling and put me right back where I was. So this job can only be a gift from God. His Name be praised and His will be done!

I don’t think I’m out of danger yet. Lingering despair lurks just out of sight. My wife has our firearms safely hidden away. I’m only in the second week of nouthetic counseling (my wife is going with me), and I still need the antidepressant, while we uncover the sins that have taken us so far down this road, learn what repentance for those sins looks like, and practice it. And then navigate out of this mess. It will take time. But for the first time in many years, I have some hope for a way out of these lifelong issues of sin and bad decisions.


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