Month: June 2015

What do you want?

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“What do you want?” How warmly I remember my little girls sheepishly approaching me with angelic faces and saying the word I loved to hear “Daddy?” That simple phrase would instantly melt my heart. Still does! And, of course, my response was always the same “What do you want?” More often than not, my girls left with exactly what they were hoping for. It was well understood, dad was a pushover! (For some reason I wasn’t quite as easy on my sons, but that’s a topic for another day.)

As parents, we know how much we love our kids and how much we want to give them good things. But why don’t we assume God has those same desires! Surely God loves us as much as we love our kids. In fact I’m sure of it.what

In the tenth chapter of the gospel of Mark there is a fascinating set of stories. First, as the disciples are walking with Jesus along the road to Jericho, James and John make a quite ridiculous request. They ask Jesus to give them whatever they ask for! Surely Jesus will reprimand them for their arrogance or teach them about humility and meekness.  But, does Jesus rebuke them? No! Does he tell them they should not asking for so much? No! He says “What do you want?” Really!  “What do you want?”

Later as Jesus enters Jericho, the scene is chaotic. Everyone in town had come to see him. Suddenly, by the side of the road, a poor, blind beggar starts yelling: “Jesus, have mercy on me!” The crowd tells him to shut up and mind his manners. But the beggar keeps pressing: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Now the beggar was causing a stir. Surely Jesus would hurry by and get somewhere where he could teach the crowd without hecklers. But once again, Jesus does the unexpected. Jesus tells the crowd to bring the man to him. When the beggar arrives, Jesus  asks him simply “What do you want?” Really?

Believe it or not, God is not the mean tyrant who waits for you to make mistakes so he can squash you and make your life miserable. No, God actually wants to give you what is good and best in life. He wants us to ask him for those things. I think C.S. Lewis puts it well.

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

So, what do you want? Really!

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The race

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once upon a time

there were two men

who set out to run a race

the first man

being an experienced runner

trained hard

set goals

and never let his eyes

stray from the prize

while the second man

being just a rookie

took it easy

enjoyed life

and never trained for the race

when the day

for the big race

finally came

the first man

being the mature athlete

got to the race early

to warm up and prepare

while the second man

that eager young lad

got to the race just minutes ahead of time

stripped off his warm up suit

and sprinted to the starting line

when the race began

the second man

a young man full of energy

took off as fast

as his feet would carry him

while the first man

the well prepared runner

began running at a steady pace

as the race dragged on

the second man

the unprepared youngster

began to tire

his mind began to wander

he thought about enjoying life

he thought about taking it easy

and he thought about how tired he was

while the first man

the one who trained hard

kept his mind on the goal

kept a steady pace

persevered (even when it hurt)

and did not falter

when the race was over

the second man

the immature man

the rookie

was no where to be found

while the first man

the mature runner

the one who pressed on to the goal

claimed the prize

once there were two men

who set out to run the race of life

the first man

a humble servant

forgot the treasures of this world

and strained on to the prize

while the second man

a worldly man

indulged in pleasures

and gained all this world

had to offer

when the race was over

the second man

the man’s man

was no where to be found

while the first man

the godly man

the mature child of the King

the one who focused on the prize

reached out and grasped the crown of life

runner

The story II … how to find an author

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How do we find an author? If our story was written in book form, we would simply look on the back cover or the last page and we’d have it. The author bio. However, we don’t have a book. There isn’t even an e-book available. So, how can we find and get to know our author? Where do we begin?

Let us begin by looking at what we do know. Our story. Could it be that the author is revealed in the writing of a story? Surely this is true since all the elements of story come from the mind of the author. So it seems we must © Sarah Klockars-Clauser for openphoto.netstudy our story to have any hope of finding and knowing the author. But how do we carry out this study if our story is not recorded? What do we have to go on? We have only our daily experiences and personal history.

So how do we dissect our story to reveal the creative genius that is its author? There are several key elements that go into a good story. First, there are the characters. There is always a main character. Is that me? Is that you? Somehow I doubt it. If you ask writers, they will tell you that there are protagonists and antagonists. Put in simpler terms, heroes and villains. Who is the hero or heroine of our story? Who is the villain? And of course, there are many more minor characters in stories. Given the vast number of people on our planet, it would seem our story contains many smaller characters. Perhaps we are one?

All stories have a setting. The setting is where a story takes place. The setting helps set the mood of the story and introduces constraints on the characters. Would texting in a medieval setting make sense? Nope. Wrong setting. So what is the setting of our story? It appears to be Earth in the 21st century. But maybe, like Neo in the Matrix or the Pevensies in the Chronicle of Narnia, we will find our story existing in another setting altogether. That could change everything.

Of course stories have plots. Plots are basically what happens in a story. If we agree that we are in a story and this story has an author, then there must be a plot. However, as characters in a story without a script, understanding the plot seems daunting. But isn’t that one of the questions we ask most often: “What should we do?”

And of course there is conflict. All stories contain conflict. You and I both know that our story most certainly does! This conflict is obvious, good versus evil. We may not all agree on the definitions of good and evil, but we know they exist, they are in conflict, and somehow we are caught in the middle.

And finally, there is the resolution. Good overcomes evil, the hero triumphs, the lovers are reunited, families and friendships are restored. While these are not the resolution of all stories, we certainly hope that they will be the resolution of ours. Isn’t that one of our greatest desires? Of course, but there is a problem. We don’t know the resolution of our story, do we? How would your life change if you knew the resolution of your story before its end? Would that change your view of our story? Your role? The author?

So where do we go from here? We go to our story …

The story …

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What is the story you are living? I would propose that this is the most important question that we could answer. Why, you might ask? Because this is the place where all the other major questions of life find an answer – the questions that haunt us all the days of our lives. What is the meaning of life? Is there life after death? What is truth and what is its source? All these questions can only be answered if we understand the story in which we live. Hence the problem. Most of us are ill-equipped to answer even begin to understand our story. And, how can we? For if the truth be known, only the author of the story can provide that understanding. Unfortunately, we lack the insight to even name this author. Certainly the author is not one of us, for if it were, that person would surely write a much better and happier story than the one we face on a day-to-day basis. There would not be danger, poverty, or illness if we were the author. No, the author is not among us.

Perhaps, as some would have us believe, there is no author and thus no real story at all. Life is just a random selection of atoms thrown into a galactic mixing bowl where certain molecules bind together. Here events are just perplexing occurrences based on the interaction of these atoms. However, if this be the case, then the answers to the questions that haunt our lives are, themselves, meaningless. But we are forced to reject this authorless premise as the questions that haunt our lives are universal and speak to something transcendent that ties humanity together. No, surely there is more.

So, if there is an author and that author is not one of us, the author must be different. Before we can answer the haunting questions, we must understand the story. To understand the story, we must know the author. To know the author, we must discover the author. So there be it. Resolved. Our first step is to find the author.

And so we begin.

So why am I writing again?

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So why am I writing again? As I said on my “About Scott” page, I have been writing for years, both creatively and scientifically. However, it had been several years since I had really done any creative writing. I had been doing a lot of writing, it just wasn’t creative. And it sucked the joy of writing right out of me. Then a curios thing happened. While writing a paper for a research workshop in the summer of 2014, I let a little of my creative side slip out.

I was writing a paper on a new technique for cybersecurity, called the moving target defense. As motivation, I wrote about how pilots of a fighter jet used various maneuvers to defend against an attacking plane. Then I penned the following paragraph.

If we compare cyber security with military combat, we look nothing like the defender in a dogfight. Instead of trying to out maneuver our attackers, we are simply content to wait and rely on outmoded techniques to survive the onslaught. We actually look much more like the defenders of the “impregnable” Maginot Line on the eve of World War II who waited in their bunkers relying on static defenses and “defense in depth.” It did not work well for the Allies in 1940 either.

I know its not much, but I was thrilled! I rewrote it several times before it was perfect. I actually felt like I had been truly creative for the first time in a long time. We went ahead and finished the rest of the paper and submitted it to the workshop to see if would get accepted. When the reviews came back I just had to laugh. Our paper received very good reviews and was accepted for publication and presentation at the workshop. But in the reviews was the comment

Remove Section 1.1, as it does little to add to the reader’s understanding.

Yes, Section 1.1 was my description of a dog fight and my favorite paragraph. To make it worse, the sentiment was echoed by more than one of the reviewers. What was I to do? The paper could have been improved technically by eliminating the section and adding more details and explanations. And I was supposed to update the paper based on the reviewer’s comments. But, the paper was already approved for publication, I was an established professor, I had tenure …

You will find my paragraph in the paper, Towards a Theory of Moving Target Defense. And my creative juices are flowing again!

Life sucks and then you die?

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Several years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said “Life sucks and then you die.” Uplifting? Inspiring? Not quite. Years earlier, I had learned in school about a character named Macbeth who claimed, “Life … is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” If I asked you if you believed those statements, your answer would probably depend on your belief system. If you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Jew you would probably answer with a resounding “no,” while an atheist or agnostic might be more apt to consider them as possibilities. However, if we are Featured imagetruthful with ourselves, regardless of our proclamations, we would have to agree, we often live like that is exactly what we believe.

You see, there is something going on around us that looks very much like a play. There are characters that interact with each other and the conflict and drama is unavoidable. Some characters are winners, others are losers. Unfortunately, we can’t tell exactly what kind of play we are in simply by watching the characters around us. At various times it looks like comedy, drama, romance, satire and even at times like an adventure. But the story of mankind is none of these, it is, in fact, a tragedy. However, the tragedy is not that we fail to live up to our highest ideals or other’s expectations. It is not that the world around us is corrupt and dangerous. Nor is it the fact that we never even got close to the life we dreamed of as a child, teen, or young adult. No, the tragedy is that we have gotten used to it.

Just look around and what do you see? There are terrorists killing and maiming hundreds and thousands daily. There is corruption and greed at every level of government. There are millions of children that go to sleep hungry at night, even in the wealthiest countries.Or worse yet, when we do experience true joy and happiness, there is a part of us that refuses to indulge in it because we know it is fleeting; we will wake up to reality in the morning we tell ourselves.

Are we stuck? Is this how our story will play out? If so, then life really does suck and death will be a welcome relief. But no, what if what we see play out day-to-day is not part of the main plot line? What if the play is not about us? What if main plot has a hero? After all, every good story has a hero, right?

Yes, thank God, there is a hero. Like all heroes, this hero was forced to take a chance. And hero-chances usually demand the hero’s life – this one did. In our story, that chance required special-ops deep in enemy territory. An operation to bring good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, and free prisoners from bondage. But, in a plot twist, the hero was not armed with the most ingenious and deadly of weapons. Our hero was a baby. God’s baby. A baby who has, as we speak, a place prepared for us and who is coming back to take us there. The baby who is no less than the God of the universe.

If we focus on our plot line, we forget. We think that this is all there is. We become used to this world. However, if we focus on our hero, we have hope. When I get home, I’ll be looking for the bumper sticker that says “Life’s awesome, then you live.”