On the controversy with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

Mars Hill Church, Bellevue WARecently, Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has been in the news for alleged behavior that disqualifies him to be in ministry at all, much less pastor of a church. You can read all you want to about it here, here, and here if you wish.

In response, a private Facebook group was created for Mars Hill members and supporters to share encouraging personal stories about how Mark has touched their lives. The following is my contribution to that group.

Having read much about this issue I will reserve my comments on the issues for another time. For now, here is my personal experience with pastor Mark.


By 2006 I had become disillusioned with church. I had been a Christian for 34 years at that time and I was tired of sermons without any real meat; sermons that were rehashes of the same points from random selections of verses I’d already heard a 100 times, or presentations of pop psychology with a Bible verse thrown in here and there for good measure. I was tired of churches that had flat lined; that were the same size this year that they were last year and the year before that … and ten years before that.

I felt like there must be something more.

Then my daughter decided to attend college in Seattle.

She also decided that she should visit Mars Hill Church to hear this guy, Mark Driscoll, preach. She had heard good things about him and thought it might be interesting.

So, during the move-in time at her school, we went to a service at Mars Hill in Ballard. I was, to be honest, skeptical, having a hard time believing there could be a good church in the Godless Pacific Northwest.

So, I was impressed that my wife and I were, by far, the oldest people in the building. Where I come from, you just don’t see that many people under the age of, say, 40 years old in church. Especially guys. I figured any church that would draw that many younger adults — and men — had to be doing something right.

And then Mark got up to preach.

Then I knew why people were there. I mean, this guy could preach. He opened the Bible and started laying it out, explaining what it meant and not pulling any punches.

I was hooked. As soon as I got home, I began downloading Mark’s messages to my iPod and started listening. Since then I’ve listened to them everywhere: driving across the country, flying across the country, hiking the trails at Valley Forge, exploring the back roads of Wyoming and Nebraska, working in the garage, mowing the grass, painting the bedroom. But mostly in the car as I drive to and from work. And I’m still doing that, nearly every week.

Finally, the scriptures opened up to me in a way I had never seen.

For the first time I saw that the scriptures were all about Jesus, from the opening words of Genesis to the closing words of Revelation. Things that I had known were true but hadn’t understood finally made sense. I had known that I was a sinner since God saved me (or, I gave my heard to Jesus, if you’re Arminian) when I was 16 years old, but I finally I saw myself as I truly am: not as underserving of God’s grace, but ill-deserving; yet, clothed in Jesus’ righteousness and empowered with his Spirit to live a life I couldn’t live on my own (although I had tried).

As a result, I was better able to love and serve others; my wife, my kids, my family, my neighbors, my co-workers, and my church.

I don’t attend Mars Hill except when we visit our kids, both of whom now live in the Seattle area. (If our kids can’t live close to us, I’m at least grateful that they can attend a good church like Mars Hill.) But Pastor Mark’s messages rejuvenated my interest in the church in general and especially our local church. I serve, give, and pray for our church in a way that I hadn’t for a while and that I’m sure I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t heard Mark’s sermons.

I don’t like to contemplate where I would be had I not stumbled across Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, but I think it would be a dark place. Would I have walked away from active participation in church? There’s a good possibility. Would my personal walk with Jesus have suffered? Absolutely. But, by God’s grace and his ministry through Mars Hill and Pastor Mark, I’m not there. Instead, I’m where I am today and I’m eternally grateful. And I hope that, in some tiny, tiny way, I’ve been able to pass on the things I’ve learned and the changes I’ve undergone to those around me.

Some have accused Pastor Mark of doing things that disqualify him for ministry. My perspective, and I believe that of scripture, is that we’re all disqualified for ministry. There is only One who is qualified, and his name is Jesus. Only Jesus can work though pathetic, misshapen, broken pottery like Paul, Moses, Peter, Elijah, David, Noah, and Matthew.

Like Mark Driscoll.

Like me.

Posted in Christianity, Personal | 1 Comment

On the controversy with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

Recently, Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has been in the news for alleged behavior that disqualifies him to be in ministry at all, much less pastor of a church. You can read all you want to about it here, here, and here if you wish.

In response, a private Facebook group was created for Mars Hill members and supporters to share encouraging personal stories about how Mark has touched their lives. The following is my contribution to that group.

Having read much about this issue I will reserve my comments on that for another time. For now, here is my personal experience with pastor Mark.


By 2006 I had become disillusioned with church. I had been a Christian for 34 years at that time and I was tired of sermons without any real meat; sermons that were rehashes of the same points from random selections of verses I’d already heard a 100 times, or presentations of pop psychology with a Bible verse thrown in here and there for good measure. I was tired of churches that had flat lined; that were the same size this year that they were last year and the year before that … and ten years before that.

I felt like there must be something more.

Then my daughter decided to attend college in Seattle.

She also decided that she should visit Mars Hill Church to hear this guy, Mark Driscoll, preach. She had heard good things about him and thought it might be interesting.

So, during the move-in time at her school, we went to a service at Mars Hill in Ballard. I was, to be honest, skeptical, having a hard time believing there could be a good church in the Godless Pacific Northwest.

So, I was impressed that my wife and I were, by far, the oldest people in the building. Where I come from, you just don’t see that many people under the age of, say, 40 years old in church. Especially guys. I figured any church that would draw that many younger adults — and men — had to be doing something right.

And then Mark got up to preach.

Then I knew why people were there. I mean, this guy could preach. He opened the Bible and started laying it out, explaining what it meant and not pulling any punches.

I was hooked. As soon as I got home, I began downloading Mark’s messages to my iPod and started listening. Since then I’ve listened to them everywhere: driving across the country, flying across the country, hiking the trails at Valley Forge, exploring the back roads of Wyoming and Nebraska, working in the garage, mowing the grass, painting the bedroom. But mostly in the car as I drive to and from work. And I’m still doing that, nearly every week.

Finally, the scriptures opened up to me in a way I had never seen.

For the first time I saw that the scriptures were all about Jesus, from the opening words of Genesis to the closing words of Revelation. Things that I had known were true but hadn’t understood finally made sense. I had known that I was a sinner since God saved me (or, I gave my heard to Jesus, if you’re Arminian) when I was 16 years old, but I finally I saw myself as I truly am: not as underserving of God’s grace, but ill-deserving; yet, clothed in Jesus’ righteousness and empowered with his Spirit to live a life I couldn’t live on my own (although I had tried).

As a result, I was better able to love and serve others; my wife, my kids, my family, my neighbors, my co-workers, and my church.

I don’t attend Mars Hill except when we visit our kids, both of whom now live in the Seattle area. (If our kids can’t live close to us, I’m at least grateful that they can attend a good church like Mars Hill.) But Pastor Mark’s messages rejuvenated my interest in the church in general and especially our local church. I serve, give, and pray for our church in a way that I hadn’t for a while and that I’m sure I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t heard Mark’s sermons.

I don’t like to contemplate where I would be had I not stumbled across Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, but I think it would be a dark place. Would I have walked away from active participation in church? There’s a good possibility. Would my personal walk with Jesus have suffered? Absolutely. But, by God’s grace and his ministry through Mars Hill and Pastor Mark, I’m not there. Instead, I’m where I am today and I’m eternally grateful. And I hope that, in some tiny, tiny way, I’ve been able to pass on the things I’ve learned and the changes I’ve undergone to those around me.

Some have accused Pastor Mark of doing things that disqualify him for ministry. My perspective, and I believe that of scripture, is that we’re all disqualified for ministry. There is only One who is qualified, and his name is Jesus. Only Jesus can work though pathetic, misshapen, broken pottery like Paul, Moses, Peter, Elijah, David, Noah, and Matthew.

Like Mark Driscoll.

Like me.

Posted in Christianity, Personal | Leave a comment

We’re not very good at predicting the future

04-21-jetsons_full_600When I was a kid I read a lot of science fiction.  I mean, a lot of science fiction.  I was fascinated by the creative and interesting story lines and by descriptions of what the future might look like.

One thing predicted by science fiction back in the ’50s and ‘60s was self-driving cars.  But if I recall correctly, every self-driving car in those stories had the same limitation:  they all had to follow a wire embedded in the pavement or some other guide to determine where to go.

Fast-forward 50 years to 2012, and self-driving cars actually exist:  Google has a self-driving car that has driven 300,000 miles on regular roads in real traffic without an accident when under computer control.  The difference – and this is a huge difference – between the Google car and the one predicted by science fiction:  there’s no wire in the road.  The car looks at the road, the cars around it, pedestrians, bicycles, traffic lights; all the stuff we look at (or should look at) when we humans drive and decides when to start, stop, turn, speed up, slow down.

OK, it also looks at GPS data.  I’ll give you that is an external input.  But a lot of humans do, to; and if I was going to some place I’d never been before I’d probably at least look at a map before started out.  But that’s a huge difference from following a wire in the road.

So, where did the authors of the ‘50s and ‘60s go wrong in predicting the future?  They couldn’t imagine that a computer could be made small enough to fit in a car.  Back then, computers were the size of a house, weighed tons, and used enough electricity for a small factory.  They couldn’t foresee the integrated CPU that would eventually lead to today’s cell phone having more computing power that existed in the entire world in 1960.  Shoot, Gordon Moore wouldn’t even publish his paper on Moore’s Law (predicting ever more powerful computer chips) until 1965.

And yet, here we are with self-driving cars that contain computers almost unimaginable 50 years ago.

As amazing as that is, here’s what I wonder:  what will things be like in another 50 years?  What are we missing now because we don’t think it’s possible?  Faster-than-light space flight?  Star Trek-style transporters?  Anti-gravity shoes?

Maybe I’ll finally get that flying car I’ve always wanted!

Posted in Engineering, Geekery | Leave a comment

Father’s Day, 2012

This is a hammer.  (No, really?)

Specifically, it’s a Stanley Tool Works 16oz framing hammer.  At 16oz, it’s a little light for a framing hammer, but I don’t have the arm strength to use a heavier 20-32oz framing hammer.  Still, it’s an incredibly useful tool, probably the most useful tool in my toolbox.

I’m pretty sure I had this hammer in college. I may have used it in the original improvements (such as they were) we made on the original 777 Techwood Theta Xi house. I know I had it after college, first in Arizona and later in Colorado.  I can’t begin to count the projects where I’ve used this tool:  when I finished the basement, built the storage shed, put up the privacy fence, remodeled the bathrooms, laid tile in the kitchen, build the camp box; the list is almost endless.  There’s not much around the house that I’ve done or built where I didn’t use this hammer.

It was a gift from my dad, years ago.  I don’t recall the situation; in fact, it may not have been anything special.  He did that with a number of tools he gave me.  Just out of the blue he’d give me something he thought might be useful.

Sometimes the things we pick up in life are like that.  We don’t see them as all that important or useful at the time, but as life goes by we begin to use them when the need arises without thinking about where we picked them up.  When our son was on the way we needed a changing table but we didn’t have a lot of free cash.  I thought, “I can make one from some plywood using my saw and hammer and some paint”, and so I did.  We used it for years through both kids.

Having tools like a framing hammer in your toolbox gives a kind of confidence to face life. It gives you a sense of, “I can do this.  I can fix this problem.  I can take care of myself and the others in my family. I can help other people.”

I think my dad knew that when he gave it to me.  He knew I’d need to be on my own someday, and that I’d need a toolbox filled with useful tools to make it in this world. So one day he gave me a hammer.  Now I think of him every time I use it (which is often), and I’m thankful that he did.

Thanks, dad.  And happy Father’s Day.

Posted in Personal | 1 Comment

“I don’t get no respect!”

These “What People Think I Do” picture montages are popular on Facebook, so I’m glad someone created one for engineers:

Sadly, this is my life.

Except that it’s Excel instead of Word, the last panel is pretty much true.

It didn’t start out like that.  When I started grad school, we got a pep talk from the dean of graduate students. He commented that, “Engineering is one of the oldest and most respected professions known to man: most respected, second oldest.”  I thought engineering was cool (I still do!).  But I don’t think the public shares that perception.

I think that one problem with the perception of engineering by the public at large is there are very, very few portrayals of engineers in popular media. For example, you can’t channel surf for 5 minutes without coming across a show about lawyers, doctors, police, or actors, but there are almost no TV shows about engineers. (Is there one? I couldn’t think of any off-hand.) The same is true of movies, although there are a few exceptions. (“Apollo 13” comes to mind as one of the best.)

Two big differences between those other professions and engineering is that 1) people encounter those professions on a regular basis and thus know a bit about what those people do, and 2) the story lines about those professions usually focus on the interactions of the characters with other people (think, “Gray’s Anatomy“); the law, medicine, etc. is almost incidental to the story.

Engineering, on the other hand, is mostly about solving technical problems. Yes, I know about the people-related issues, but let’s be honest: most of us got into the profession because we liked the science, not because we wanted to interact with people. That makes our profession uninteresting (at best) or incomprehensible (at worst) to a lot of people. Indeed, when people ask me, “What do you do?” I’m kind of stuck: how do explain what an engineer who works for a high-performance ASIC company does? Usually I just say, “I work for a computer chip company”, and move on to another topic before their eyes glaze over.

That’s not the greatest sales pitch for engineering as a profession, but what can you do?

*     *     *

BTW, the picture for this article came from this blog, where I also posted most of this article as a comment.

Also, my apologies to Rodney Dangerfield :-)

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Happy 40th Birthday, 4004!

Ok, this could get really geeky really quick, but I’ll try to keep it readable.

It's not much to look at, is it?

Forty years ago, on November 15, 1971, Intel ran the first ad for a new type of integrated circuit:  the 4004.  Why is this important?  Because it was the first commercially available integrated CPU.

“What’s a CPU?”  It’s that thing inside your computer or smart phone that makes it more than an expensive paperweight.  It’s the brains that run the programs that let you read this article.  Most people who use computers don’t really care about what the CPU is or what it does, but for those of us in the business it’s almost unbelievable the progress we’ve made in the past 40 years.

“What kind of progress?”  The 4004 was a tiny, tiny CPU.  Not so much in size:  the package (in the picture above) was about an inch long.  The package for  the CPU in your computer is probably 1.5 inches square; not that much physically larger.  The chip of silicon in the 4004 (not visible, but under the gold lid on the package in the picture) is about a quarter-inch square, about the size of a pencil eraser.  The chip of silicon in your computer is probably about an half-inch square; again, not that much larger.

But thanks to Moore’s Law and the shrinking of the size of components on a chip, the CPU in your computer probably has in the neighborhood of 150,000 more components that the 4004.  Another way of looking at it:  if the CPU in your computer had been built using the same process as the 4004, it would about 8 feet square.  That’s not going to fit on your desk (or in your smart phone!) very well.

Thanks to the miracle of engineering, the 4004 led to the 8008, then the 8080, then the 8086, the 80286, … and so on to the Intel Core 2 Duo you might be using to read this (if you have a current, higher-performance computer).  It has been a slow, methodical process getting to this point; one that we tend to take for granted.  Seriously:  if your under the age of 30, computers have been ubiquitous for your entire life!  Only us old guys can remember what is was like 40 years before the 4004, when computers filled entire buildings and yet were less powerful than my phone.

And yet, there you are:  reading this article on a computer that has more horsepower that all the computers in the world combined at the time the 4004 came out.  What will the next 40 years bring?

FYI:  If you’re curious, The Register has a really nice article on the 4004 and the development of CPUs since then.  It’s a rather geeky read, though, so be forewarned.

Posted in Engineering, Geekery | Leave a comment

What’s wrong with America: Part 286

Just in case you were wondering if the government ever over-regulates Americans, here’s the latest from the geniuses at the Department of Labor and their effort to destroy the American family farm improve the safety of children on farms (from “Critics fear new Labor Department rules will take the family out of family farms” in today’s Denver Post):

Oh, the horror!

Nonagriculture workers under 18 would be banned from grain elevators, silos, livestock exchanges and auctions.  And the provisions also would stop children younger than 15 from working near “sexually mature” livestock, including bulls and boars or nursing cows and sows.

Well, that would pretty much kill the FFA and 4-H, not to mention youth participation in the National Western Stock Show in Denver.  God forbid children see a sow nurse her piglet, or a cow her calf!  They might be scarred for life!  And as for where the piglets and the calf came from … well, their precious little psyches couldn’t handle it.  And no raising rabbits, because they breed like … well, rabbits.

Seriously, is there anything that the government doesn’t feel like it needs to regulate?  For our own good, of course (“Think of the children!”).  I wonder if the people writing these regulations have ever actually been on a farm.

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Encouraging kids to become engineers with office supplies

I commented on an article entitled “What Were Your Childhood Inspirations” on the Engineer Blogs site today with the following observations that 1) point out my age, and 2) emphasize my nerdiness:

I’m not exactly sure whether my parents pushed me into engineering or whether they merely encouraged my interests, but I always had science toys around growing up. So, I had Erector sets, blocks, Tinker Toys, and chemistry sets (back when chemistry sets actually contained chemicals!).

The survey list was undoubtedly created by someone much younger than me, since it left out several staples of my youth: Heathkits; model cars, planes, and ships; and “Things of Science”. Of course, some are no longer even available, and others are sadly out of favor with kids today.

A manila folder.  Duh.

Oh, the possibilities ...

But by far my coolest “toy” was … manila folders. My dad picked them out of the trash at work brought stacks and stacks of these home for me. I then colored, cut, and glued these into spaceships, ships, and Star Trek phaser and communicator models (among other things). The kids of things I could build was practically unlimited (although objects curved in two dimensions were impossible). Based on this experience, I should have been something other than an electrical engineer (mechanical? civil? architect?), but the experience taught me much that I’ve used since: the value of having a plan before you start out, there are limitations to what is physically possible, and things can be use for tasks other than for what they’re designed, for example.

Of course, this hobby has been a source of endless mirth for my children, who have gently mocked me for years about building paper spaceships instead of having a social life (something which, of course, was not entirely true). I reply by reminding them that it helped me learn skills that put food on the table, a roof over their head, and send them to college.

It’s been a long time since I turned a manila folder into a model of the Star Trek shuttle craft, but I still can’t pick one up without thinking, “Hmm … I could make a model of an X-wing fighter out of this …”

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9:45 a.m. EST on December 12, 1965

Where were you at 9:45 a.m. EST on December 12, 1965?

Gemini 6 launch abort

Oops.

What?  You don’t remember?  Maybe you weren’t even born yet?  I remember exactly where I was:  watching the launch of Gemini 6 on television in my parent’s living room in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Or more accurately, watching the attempted launch of Gemini 6.  After the Titan rocket engines had ignited but before the rocket lifted off, an umbilical cable fell off causing the rocket engines to shut down.  Procedure dictated that the crew was supposed to eject from the capsule, but since in tests of the ejection seats the test dummy had been smashed against the unopened capsule hatch, Wally Schirra decided to take his chances that everything was going to be OK if they stayed where they were.  Seeing the aborted launch I remember thinking at the time, “I’m not sure what just happened, but that can’t possibly be good.”

Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

How about 10:56 p.m. EDT on July 21, 1969?  No?  I was watching Neil Armstrong step off the landing pad of Eagle, the Lunar Landing Module of Apollo 11, and say, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind”.  I’m still amazed that my parents let me stay up that late.  Since it wasn’t a school night, I guess it was OK.

OK, how about 10:21 a.m. PST on April 14 1981.  Still no idea?  I was standing the conference room at ADR Ultrasound in Tempe, Arizona, the company I worked for after graduating from college. 

Columbia landing at Edwards AFB at the conclusion of STS-1.

"Well what do you know, the son-of-a-bitch works!"

We had set up a television on the conference table so we could watch the landing of the space shuttle Columbia at the end of the first space shuttle mission.  As one of my co-workers said at the time, “Well what do you know, the son-of-a-bitch works!”  Yes, it did.

I wanted to be an astronaut.  Almost every kid did when I was young.  It was new, it was exciting, it was adventuresome … in short, it was cool.

But then I got glasses in the 5th grade, and that was the end of that dream.  Back then, only military pilots could be astronauts, and military pilots had to have 20/20 vision.  So I was never going to be an astronaut.  But I didn’t lose interest in the space program:  I watched it from afar; encouraged by its successes, disappointed by its failures.  To me, it was still cool.

Launch of Atlantis on STS-135, the final space shuttle mission.

So sad.

Which brings us to 11:29 a.m. EDT on July 8, 2011, the launch of Atlantis on the final space shuttle mission, and (perhaps more significantly) the end of the nation’s manned space flight program.  I didn’t watch it; maybe I should have, but I couldn’t bring myself to.  Not so much because the shuttle is being retired:  it was a technology that had reached the end of its useful service life.  I understand that.  What makes me sad is that there’s no plan to replace it.

Yes, I know about SpaceX and the other private concerns that are developing manned space flight capability.  I’m quite encouraged by their work and the results they’re achieving, and I wish them well.  But I think there’s something missing in not sending men into space as a national effort.  It seems to me to be a sad comment on the state of the national psyche.

I can’t say that the space program was the only reason I chose engineering as a profession, but it had a big impact.  The space program made science cool, and since it was cool I studied it and loved it.  Other kids felt the same, and we’d build models of rockets or shoot off actual rockets in vacant lots.  Do kids even build models any more?  Would a national space program have the same effect now?  I wonder.  Maybe it’s too late and the United States has already passed a tipping point.  Maybe as we outsource manned space flight to the Russians and possibly later the Chinese it’s just another symptom of the diminished nation the United States is becoming.

I hope not.

Posted in Geekery, Personal, Politics | 1 Comment

OK, I’m addicted now

Worth Dying For by Lee ChildSo, I got to the grocery store to pick up a prescription and discover the pharmacy doesn’t open until 9:00 am.  It’s currently 8:45 am, so I have a choice:  drive home (5 minutes), do something for 5 minutes, then drive back (another 5 minutes).  Or, I could just hang out until the pharmacy opens.  I chose the second option.

To kill the time, I went to the book section and picked up the first thing that caught my eye:  Worth Dying For, a novel by an author I’d never heard of before: Lee Child.  By 9:00 am, I was hooked.  So much so, that I immediately went home and bought the Kindle version and spent every free minute over the next several days reading the rest of the book.

Since Worth Dying For is the fourteenth book in the series, I bought the first book (The Killing Fields) as soon as I finished, and pretty much read it straight through.  Then I stopped, because I do have to get other stuff to get done in my life.

Granted, these are “guilty pleasure” books; full of action and intrigue, but not particularly intellectual.  His writing style reminds me of Louis L’Amour, one of my other favorite authors:  he’s great at describing the scene and makes you feel like you’re really there; short on conversation and character development but long on action.  The hero of the series, Jack Reacher, is just a guy who wants to be left alone but isn’t afraid to use his unique talents to take care of himself and help others.  He’s the “everyman” that every guy wishes he could be.  He’s probably a sociopath since he kills and maims without remorse, but the people certainly deserve it (as they say in the South, “He needed killin’.” is a valid defense).

Guys will like these books, girls probably won’t.  If you like thrillers then Child is an author you may like, but be forewarned:  you may get hooked!

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