Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Faith and Death

A close relative of mine is dying of cancer: sent home from the hospital on hospice. I was talking with him the other day and he tells me he thinks God is healing him. "I've felt better the past few days," he says. "And, I've cut out tortilla chips and some other bad things from my diet." God and diet are doing the trick.

A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine died of Lou Gehrig's disease. Same thing, "I think I'm going pull through this," he told me. His twin brother had died of the same condition a year previously. He died a few months later. He was a great guy. Great guy.

I believe God heals people. I hope God heals people. I know doctors and drugs heal people. I use "believe," "hope," and "know" purposefully.

One time, I'd been hiking all day with a group of about 10 other people. Around dinner time, we said a prayer and asked for strength. While the prayer was happening, I felt something in my legs. I kept going for another 5 hours and had energy that really surprised me. I've hiked a lot. I know what it feels like to be tired. I know I had energy on a level different from other hikes. I believe God had something to do with that. I share this story because I have personal experience leading me to believe God can make adjustments to my body. I assume he can to other people as well. : )

Anyway, my relative is going to die, of this cancer, in the next few months. He's not going to be healed. I believe God could, if He wanted, heal him. He's not going to. Maybe it's comforting for my relative to believe this. OK. I guess he's allowed it. And, if it helps; who hasn't found comfort in a bit of irrationality at one point or another.

I don't think it's faith though. I think maybe it's hope. Faith, as I define it, has some condition of being in alignment with God's will. If God's will isn't there, it might fall under an expansive definition of "hope." You can hope for things that aren't true. I wonder if Christians sometimes do their faith a disservice by conflating this "hope" with "faith." Non-Christians might think "faith" is silly because it's so often in things that aren't true. If you, instead say, "I have hope God will heal me," maybe that's more accurate.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The view from just ahead...

Hiked to the top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong today. Love that hike. On the way down, not too far from the top, I was walking down a windy two-way road. I came across a traffic accident within a couple of minutes after it happened. It was serious enough that the airbags deployed in both cars, one car was certainly disabled, the other maybe could be moved, but not driven. I snapped a photo and continued on my way. Within 80 yards of passing the accident, I was passing cars queued - the drivers had no idea what the problem was ahead ( couldn't see the accident - curves with lots of trees). As I passed cars, about 2 of 3 would roll down their window and ask what was the problem. "Head-on crash, cars not drivable, note how many yards ahead." Many drivers, immediately executed a 5 - 7 point turn (narrow road remember) and headed down the road.

This went on for at least a kilometer. After that, people stopped asking. Enough people were turning around (and maybe they moved one of the cars) that there was enough forward motion, that they didn't feel a need to ask.

This experience got me thinking about a few things.

First, my words (for those closest the the wreck, the ones not moving at all) helped them make a decision. Some chose to stay and wait, others chose to turn around. The additional information was sufficient for some to execute on that decision.

Next, for those making some progress (around 1 km from the accident and further), there were none interested in asking my perspective. Nothing was different except that they were making some progress. Since they were't stopped, it wasn't worth the effort for them to ask me.

Next, no one, not even those completely stopped, just 100 yards from the accident, made any sort of effort to gather any additional information. Now, for cars where there was just one driver, that'd be difficult - you don't know when the traffic will move again and it's not a good idea to abandon your car. However, for those cars where there was more than one person, it would have been easy to send them on ahead to get more information. No one did.

I started to think about this in more of a religious context.

For a few hundred meters, I was Moses coming down from the mountain. No one was willing to come up, but they were all interested in talking to me on my way down. Just the limited, but very important information I had, helped people make decisions. I suppose, the analogy to Moses had some traction. It also helps explain a couple of things about my religious tradition: the LDS faith. Joseph Smith claimed to have gone to the mountain (figuratively). He claimed to have talked with God. I understand, just a bit better today, what that means.

Unfortunately, my experience also helps me understand part of what's wrong with the LDS faith today. The leaders aren't going to the mountain. They are no different from the people sitting in the cars. They have no idea what's ahead. Sure, they say nice things, some are pretty good speakers, but they haven't been to the mountain. I understand better why LDS Church members are interested in people like Denver Snuffer. Denver claims to have been to the mountain. The current LDS leadership talk in vague generalities.

BTW, the view from the top is incredible.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lehi

This year, in the LDS curriculum, we "study" the Book of Mormon. (Of the eight opportunities we have in a four-year cycle (4 in Sunday school and 4 in Priesthood) we dedicate one to the Book of Mormon.) This past week, we read the first few chapters of 1 Nephi.

If Lehi were to show up amongst the LDS Church today, the Church would treat him just the same way the Jews treated Lehi. Allow me to elaborate.

You don't have many people called Lehi today. So imagine our protagonist is named, say, Brian. One day, Brian has a vision. In that vision, he learns that if the people don't repent, they will be destroyed. In Sunday school the following week, he says so. "If you don't repent, you're going to be destroyed," he says. The following Sunday in Fast and Testimony meeting, he says the same thing. And, for good measure, he posts a like message in Facebook and on his blog. After all, in his vision, he was told to warn the people.

Next thing he knows, he's called into the bishop's office. The bishop reminds him that he can't receive revelation for the ward, the Church, or really anyone but himself and his family. The bishop lovingly tells him to stop with his repentance message. Brian tells the bishop he's been charged to preach repentance by a higher authority than him, and vows to continue.

The bishop reports this to the Stake President. The SP calls Brian in for a meeting. In the intervening Sunday, Brian preaches repentance again in Sunday school. This time, the member who had been whispering things under their breath, now are a bit more vocal with some "sit down and shut ups" heard. The Relief Society gossip network has kicked into high gear with damaging stories about Brian. The stories are full of sorrow toward Brian's wife and how much she must be suffering because of Brian's actions.

The meeting between Brian and the SP goes much the same way as the meeting with the bishop. Only this time, Brian is told that he is committing apostasy. Brian, amazed, asks how this is so? The SP tells him that by continuing to tell people (and their leaders) to repent, now that he's been counseled not to, he's "committing" apostasy. Brian tells the SP he will continue to fulfill the responsibility given to him in his vision.

The following Thursday (4 days later - these happen very quickly), Brian is excommunicated from the LDS Church for apostasy. Brian, however, is not deterred. He continues to show up on Sunday and preach repentance. By now, the calls to "sit down and shut up" are vocal. Jeff's kids are having troubles with their peers in Sunday school and the Relief Society gossip network has gone from being sorrowful for Brian's wife to pointing out some of Brian's wife's flaws and maybe she is somewhat responsible for this - wasn't she always just a little bit strange. One sister observes that this Brian and his family were always a bit unstable and, doesn't he own a gun.

Later this week, Brian get's a letter from the LDS Church law firm. The letter tells Brian if he steps foot on LDS property anywhere in the world, he'll be charged with trespassing.

I'll stop the story there. I'll leave it to you to ponder what would happen if Brian continued to preach repentance to his local congregation. What if Brian lived in an area with a high concentration of LDS people? How would Brian's kids do in school?

Yeah, it shouldn't be too hard to relate to Lehi's experience. Want to amp it up a bit. What if Lehi had been specific in his calls to repentance? What if he named names. If he noted that the Sunday School teacher lived and immodest lifestyle. What if he called out Andrew's exceeding pride? Oh, how we'd get rid of Lehi.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Offended

You will, on occasion, here religious leaders make a plea to the disaffected in their congregations/churches to come back. They'll often include some words something like, "Even if you've been offended, please come back."

I think the plea to the "offended" is troubling. First, it places the blame on the people who left. They're the one with the problem, they chose to be offended. If they had simply let the offense roll off their back, there'd be no problem.

What this plea doesn't recognize is that the people no longer attending may be staying away simply because the cost of attending outweighs the benefit. This has nothing to do with being offended. It is simply a cost/benefit analysis.

A second problem with the plea to the offended is that it doesn't address the potential problem: a caustic environment caused by the people in positions of power (not necessarily authority). People who have stayed away who might listen to the appeal, will only return to find the same awful environment.

"Why this post?" you ask. I attend a congregation where members are doing some amazingly mean things to each other. Some, unfortunately, are directed at my family.

This post may be the first of several. I'm not ranting. Nor am I trying to extract some sort of anonymous revenge (pretty sure no one in my congregation cares anything about my blog anyway). I'm simply exploring some of the dynamics of church congregational bad behavior.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Infants on Thrones: an open letter. Share your new name.

Infants on Thrones - an open letter

For the past several months, I've listened to several dozen Infants of Thrones podcasts. The "Infants" podcasts are mostly related to the LDS Church. The podcast participants are all individuals dissatisfied with the LDS Church (I hope that's an accurate representation). Their podcasts are often critical of the LDS Church, its leaders, and its members. The Infants often talk about how they've moved on past all the LDS silliness. One is agnostic/atheist and the others, at a minimum, don't fellowship with the Church.

I have a suggestion for a future podcast. But first, I need to give a bit of a background.

In the LDS religion, there are temples. In the temple, LDS members go through an "Endowment" ceremony. In that ceremony, LDS members are given a new name. They're charged to never reveal that name. (you can read more about any of this online) Church members keep this charge pretty serious. You'd NEVER hear an active Church member say what their name is.

So, here's my suggestion to the Infants.

Dear Infants,

You've left the LDS faith behind you. You've abandoned all the silliness. You've recognized the Book of Mormon is just one big fraud (there were no real Nephites or Lamanites). The Book of Abraham... give me a break, right? The entire thing is just a big load of hogwash.

I have a suggestion for your most popular podcast ever. Here, I'll write the abstract for you:

In this episode, each infant shares his temple name and the temple name of his spouse. They talk about what this means and how they felt while sharing their name with the world. They'll talk about the irrational power the LDS Church has over them and the freedom they feel as they sever this final link to that oppressive influence. You'll not want to miss this episode where the Infants shatter this long-standing LDS taboo.

Regards,

Andrew

Note: I sent a version of this in an email to the Infants with no response.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Twenty-some-odd years ago I spent two years in Ohio as an LDS missionary. They were a great two years. I met so many wonderful people.

In December, my son will be doing the same thing, in a different place: the Philippines.

Over the past two decades, I've thought a lot about my experience and what I could have done better. Here's what I told my son a couple of weeks ago... (knowing that he was going on his mission, but not knowing where the assignment would be)

The next two years will be an opportunity for you to _learn_ how to serve and help other people. Probably, at no other time in your life, will you have such an opportunity to focus on something quite this completely. Use the time well. Your job is NOT to convert people to the LDS Church. Your job is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to love people, serve them, and help them. Don't ever get caught up in how many people join the Church or how many discussions you give, or anything like that. Those things are easy to measure, but they don't mean anything.

If you want to measure something, keep track of the number of times you get a sincere "Thank you" from someone.

I've spent time in the Philippines. There will be no end to the good he can do. What a great learning experience this will be.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Marriott Executive Lounge - Manila

Associate: "Hello Mr. Teasdale, good to have you back."
Me: "Wow, you know who I am?"
Associate: "I'll never forget you."

This interaction happened a couple of nights ago - about 11:00 PM. I just arrived in Manila after about 17 hours on 3 different airplanes.

I'm not a memorable person. Not handsome, tall, short, skinny, fat. Really just particularly average. I don't stay too often at this particular hotel, maybe 18 nights in the past 30 months. I didn't recognize the associate speaking to me. However, I'm pretty sure I know why she responded as she did.

You see, last time I was there, there was a bit of a tension in the room. Some self-important customer was behaving like an ass and giving this particular associate a pretty abusive treatment because he wasn't getting his way. From what I remember, he either wanted a room upgrade or a lower rate on the room he had. Given how important he thought he was, and said he was (there was no problem overhearing him), you'd think that 500 pesos wouldn't really be that big a deal ($13). However, you'd have thought the Marriott associate was telling him he was about to be dipped in boiling oil.

Anyway I apparently checked in during a lull in the fight and then his argument picked up after I arrived. I listened to this man berate this associate for a long time (> 10 minutes). I contemplated stepping in and suggesting he cool off. However, here's what I did. I took out a business card and wrote the following on the back: "I am so sorry you have to go through this. If he complains to ANYONE, please feel free to contact me and I will confirm that you behaved in a professional manner. Andrew Teasdale"

I didn't actually do anything. They never called. However, that simple offer made a difference to this person.

I'm not relating this for anyone to think I did anything great. Again, I didn't actually do anything. I write this to illustrate that little acts of kindness mean a lot. Her comment back to me, "I'll never forget you" meant a lot to me. She just said a kind thing to me, and it helped me at the end of a long day.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Virtual Office Hours

Talking with our intern today, we decided to try something new.

I don't remember if I mentioned this, but our intern is working remotely. She visited our Cebu location this past Friday and Saturday, but aside from that, she's been working from her home. I've been trying to do different things to compensate for working at a distance and the lack of interaction with other people in the company. Today I had what I think is a brilliant idea.

I had our intern send me some hours when she knows she will be working. I will have a tech support guy in our office setup a computer for "Intern Office Hours." We'll set it up so it doesn't fall asleep (i.e., the monitor doesn't go dark when the computer isn't being used. We'll connect a headset to the computer. On that computer, we'll initiate a Google Hangout with the intern. For that hour, she'll have her camera pointed at her and anyone walking by that computer will see her sitting there. Anyone who wants to can then stop by, put on the headphones, and sit down and chat for a moment.

I'll let you know how this works. She agreed to try it for three hours: two hours this week and one hour next week.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Designing an Internship

Savvysherpa has an office in Cebu. A board member in the Philippines asked that we do an internship program with his alma mater: Ateneo de Manila University in Manila. I was tasked with taking care of that.

I worked with HR to get a pool of candidates. We interviewed and selected three candidates. We made three offers. Three originally accepted, with two bailing out on us. We have one intern. That's OK.

The design challenge is to develop an internship. Here's what we have working for us:

  • we selected a great intern,
  • we have a board member invested in this being successful
  • we have some good problems for the intern


My goals for the internship program:

  • for the board member to be pleased that a student from his alma mater had a good experience
  • get positive word of mouth from the intern about our company
  • get helpful effort applied to the problems we're giving to the intern


Challenges:

  • the intern is working remotely - we don't have an office in Manila and she will not be traveling to Cebu
  • the intern is 11 hours away from Minneapolis (0800 here is 2100 there)
  • the intern will not have access to the company intranet


Here's what I've designed.

Weekly "Meet the Sherpa" (clever, eh? Savvysherpa is the company name, "Meet the Sherpa"). Using Google Hangouts or Skype, every week the intern will meet 2-3 people from the Cebu or Minneapolis location. After those meetings, I follow up with a message to the Sherpas asking them to occasionally "reach out" to the intern. Trying to find a way to duplicate "stopping by the cube" that's possible when the intern is located in the office.

I've apprenticed the intern to one of our Cebu researchers. He's teaching her how to use a fairly sophisticated data visualization tool - I think something that will set the intern apart when she returns to class in the fall and a plus to add to her resume.

I've found two people with problems the intern can research. I've connected her with them and then gotten out of the way so that she can work with them. Both are senior people in the organization, so she is getting good face time.

She'll be meeting with the well-connected board member I mentioned earlier. That's a great opportunity.

I've identified some additional learning resources for the intern. One is a Coursera course on Data Science. The other is a codeacademy course. Learning from these resources isn't her primary task, but I want to be sure that should she have ANY downtime, she has something to do that's worthwhile.

I'll meet with her twice weekly to review her experience and determine what additional things we can do to make the experience positive for her.

I've asked her to compose a weekly summary of her activities. This is NOT a check to be sure she's working. It is to keep me updated so I can inform stakeholders here what's happening. It gives her an opportunity to reflect on her experience.

Today is the last day of week 1. So far, so good. The intern commented to me today that she went to Coursera and registered for the course I suggested. She didn't know about Coursera. She reported that she actually found several other courses she wants to take. That's good! All the other events have kicked off as I've expected.

Oh... Just a note on technology. I met with the intern when I was in Manila a couple of weeks ago. I told her she'd need a good internet connection. She worked with her family and made that happen. We've done several Google Hangouts. The thing I want to mention is how much of a trouble the technology is NOT. It took us a minute or two to get the Google Hangouts thing working the first time, now it's a complete non-issue.

I'll continue to post updates on the experience an what I learn from it.

Have any suggestions?

instructional design designing internship remote Philippines Cebu

Friday, March 29, 2013

Just a little Christian

I'm a Mormon. Sometimes we're accused of being not-Christian. I don't think those accusations are accurate. I think a more accurate accusation might be that we're just a little Christian. Let me explain.

Last Sunday, the topic in one of the classes was the Atonement. The instructor shared this story...

He's preparing for a Tough Mudder race. He hasn't exercised much in the past and he's started lifting weights. He talked about how sometimes, when you're lifting weights, you have a spotter. The spotter, on that last set when you just can't quite lift the bar all the way to the top, sticks out his finger and gives just an ever-so-slight nudge to the bar to help you get the bar to the top.

The Atonement is, he related, like this example of lifting weights. You struggle to overcome sin and become perfect and grace is that little extra nudge that bridges the gap between your effort and perfection.

Hence the title of this post, "just a little Christian."

I think, with this attitude, you don't need Christ all that much. After all, you're almost perfect doing it on your own and he's just helping a little.

For the record, I didn't just sit there. After he paused, I raised my hand and said, "I think maybe it's the other way around. The atonement and grace are really all the heavy lifting and our effort is the ever-so-slight nudge to the bar. After all, as I recall, it was Christ who sweated blood. I don't recall ever working that hard."

The instructor did agree that I have a point.

So, maybe we're sometimes just a little bit Christian.

I was asked, this past Sunday, to give the benediction on the main service this coming Sunday - Easter Sunday. The more I think about it, the more I wish I didn't know in advance. It's easier to give a prayer without warning. You just say the usual stuff. With time to think about it, I'm worried I might decide to say something more, well, controversial. Could you imagine what would happen if I were to say something like:

"Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to meet on this holy day. Perhaps more than any other day of the year, we direct our thanks to the for the gift and sacrifice of your son, Jesus Christ. We're so thankful for his sacrifice. Thank you. Now, that said, we're in serious need of help. We've, for the most part, rejected many of your commandments. We don't treat each other all that well. We're supposed to proclaim peace, but somehow we've become a warlike people. I could go on and on. We need help. Would you please help us to wake up to our precarious situation? Would you give us the strength to admit where we're wrong and make changes? Please forgive us! In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

I don't know. Somehow, I don't think that'd go over well. We don't do well at calling out our unworthiness.

Anyway, to anyone reading this, I wish you a most joyful Easter. Peace.