Sunday, January 08, 2006

Robotics


This weekend I have a team of six students going to a robotics tournament. It’s pretty cool. I am a novice robotics coach, meaning this is my first year. I was told it was nuts to try to manage four teams (and it is) but I did it and all four teams did very well at the local tournament (each earned a trophy, and one is going to the state tournament!).

It was thrilling to watch the kids. They had to do a six minute presentation on an aspect of real world aquatic robots to a group of judges, as well as explain their engineering and programming decisions to another panel. They needed to demonstrate their problem solving abilities, and think on the fly to solve the problems that crept up. The most exciting part was the competitions. They went up against other teams in a two minute thirty second race to earn as many points as possible, performing various missions on the challenge field.

It is good for the kids. They are saying things about how they learned to work as a team, how they learned about researching, and engineering, and programming. And they had such a good time. Picture me gripping four trophies while my students dance around me shouting, high fiving, cheering.

We have a challenge table (this year’s theme is ocean-related) and the kids decide which of the nine missions they wish to attempt. Then they design, build, and program a versatile robot to do them.

What I like about it besides the educational values and the team building, is the concrete sequential thinking it forces the kids to do. Thinking through the sequence of logic and programming commands is good for them. Middle schoolers are pretty random. Random does not work with robots.

If a robot fails to do as they expect, they go back, look at the programming, and see exactly what they told the robot to do, step by step. The robot hasn’t any preferences, it doesn’t think, or want. It is doing precisely as it was programmed to do.

Unlike people. We are unpredictable. I think God wanted it that way.

It is true we often fail. Nearly continuously. But we have choices, and that is as it should be. God gave us choices from the start.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Genesis 2:15-17

Choices.

We usually choose wrong.

The point is to be willing to set ourselves aside and be obedient to the Lord. This isn’t to say we are to be puppets. We aren’t to pray over every detail and anguish whether or not it is God‘s will. Usually it is clear enough. If we are to love the Lord with all we’ve got, and love each other the same way, it is usually easy to see what we are to do. It flows from who we are, what our skills are, what we can do for others.

I know how to put together little videos, and if I am asked to do something like that for our church, or for someone who really needs it, I am happy to do it. But being a servant does not mean always trying to do everything that comes along.

For example, I was asked if I would be a “greeter” at our church. Somehow it felt awkward. There was an immediate sense that I had to find a way to kindly say “no." Why? Another time I was asked if I would be willing to be placed on the usher schedule, assisting every other month or so with those duties. Again I felt a slight hesitation in my heart. My first impulse is to say “yes," why was I hesitating? I believe that each time it was the Holy Spirit guiding me. It turns out that I have been rather busy at the times those duties would have been performed, doing something for Him. Even though it is a small task, it fills my heart. That is the Holy Spirit telling me that I am doing what I should be doing.

There are times when there isn’t any sort of real feeling, one way or another. The last few months I have been leading a Sunday School class that discusses the sermon we had just heard (those sermons are posted on a blog linked on the left). I never felt a lot of passion one way or the other about that class. It was not an unpleasant task, it was not an enrapturing one either. There are times when I am simply working for my Lord, doing His will, even though He has not specifically pulled my strings in the process. Perhaps He knew I would do it, that the discussions there would be pleasing to Him, He didn’t need to tug me anywhere.

I might be teaching a different class, starting next month. Now this is something I feel a hearty excitement over. I know I am supposed to say “yes” to this. You may notice I didn’t say the Lord wants me to teach it. It may be that something will come up, the plans may change. But I believe that for now, the saying “yes” is what I am supposed to do.

That may sound a little confusing. Let me give another example of a “yes” that didn’t make sense.

When I was going to a junior college, getting a transfer degree on the long road toward my teaching credentials, I was carpooling with someone from my small town.

One day she asked me if I wanted to adopt a child, a pregnant teenager's. I instantly said “yes.” I quickly added that I would have to talk to my wife, but the prompting to say “yes” was very strong.

There were confirmations for that decision. There were miracles in that story. Again and again things fell into place. Again and again financing became available for things we couldn’t afford. Again and again I found things guiding me, teaching me, preparing me for the bringing home of that child born on my wife's birthday. I had a dream that clearly told me to go ahead when it got close to the actual adoption.

Now it would seem that the decision to adopt a child who would die three months later was a mistake. It wasn’t. That adoption was a great "first run" for us. It taught us the ins and outs of adoption, so we were ready for a later adoption that was interstate as well as international. It prepared us for the processes of home studies and state agencies and attorneys and background checks. And it prepared our hearts for fully loving children who entered our homes with luggage.

It prepared my heart for many other tasks as well (including this blog), such as helping those who grieve, or those who yearn for children, or simply loving more deeply. I found a broken heart can heal larger.

It was a good choice, adopting Willy.

I usually choose wrong.

My tendency is to do things that make me feel good, or make me look good, or make me comfortable. I am a selfish person. I am sinful. Anytime I think about anything before God or others I am sinning.

It is typical. People think first about themselves all of the time. I think the whole point in getting older is to grow out of that tendency. I don’t think we need to pray that the Lord gives us a parking spot by the mall entrance. We needn’t think about ourselves to that extent. We should be concerned over what He wants to do in us, not that we get every little perk that comes in life. I think we should pray the parking spot opens up for someone who recently hurt her ankle.

We are born into the world thinking we are the center of the universe. “Feed me! Change me! Play with me!” An infant’s desires are a demand that the universe recognize how important he is.

Then we learn to play along side each other, permitting others to share our toys. Gradually we learn to play with each other, then as a team. Sooner or later we learn that to woo a mate we need to place another person’s wishes before our own (at least temporarily). If we don’t stop our maturing there we begin to learn how to do it earnestly, consistently. If we keep going we can become one of those gifted people who mature to the point where they are always searching for ways to become more obedient to the Lord’s will (Lord do that in me!), which is to love Him with all we’ve got and share that love with each other.

Now the Lord didn’t have to make us that way. He could have created beings that were strictly obedient (and perhaps he did), but the opportunity to fail in our choices must make our right choices even more pleasing to Him.

He designed us to love. He wired that in... to love our children, our spouses, and perhaps to let that grow to include loving many other people and things, such a beauty, and grace, and sacrifice, and servanthood.

We weren’t programmed to follow a strict concrete sequential code of instructions. We aren’t robots on a challenge board scurrying about, blindly seeking to complete our missions.

I think in our bumbling attempts to follow Him, to follow the right instructions through all of our choices, we can please Him greatly. That is when we love one another, just as we were designed to do.



34 comments:

Pia said...

at first, i started blogging just for the fun of it. but now, i blog because i want to reach out to others, share my faith to others and to be able to help others in my own little way. life is full of choices. choosing to obey God is never wrong.

"Even though it is a small task, it fills my heart." true. i do children's registration for kid's church once a month and doing it for God feels so good.

David said...

Regarding the robotics thing - teaching kids team work is fantastic - there is too much I amd me in this world.

Once again you took a slice of your history and turned it into a lesson for all of us. I hope that I can learn from it as well as others. Again thanks for opening up your heart and mind for us.

Seeker said...

I agree with you that it's usually very easy to see which choices are best. And the Lord gives us so much freedom to make choices within His moral will. Praise Him!

JeffGeorgia said...

Thanks to the liberal left and the lukewarm middle and right, we have lost the true meaning of the word OBEY or OBEDIENCE.

The dictionary defines it this way:
OBEY - Dutifully complying with the commands, orders, or instructions of one in authority.

I love the scripture about Jesus, learns to obey, meaning He was in flesh and had to rely on G-d for everything.

Good blog. Keep it coming brother. I love it.

FTS said...

I had to learn that in order to pour from my cup, I had to replenish it once in a while. Otherwise I'd be pouring from a dry well.

Learning how and when to say "no" is making sure our plate doesn't get too full. Like most, when I joined my church, I was afire and taking on so much that I was wearing myself thin -- and wearing myself out. Pretty soon I wasn't good for any of the tasks, so I had to pare them down to the ones I was most drawn to.

Now I'm a bit better at knowing when to say "no," but I still have to fight the urge to say "yes" to everything.

bjk said...

Can I ask you to pray for a new ministry starting at our church...Christianity Explored...prayers for a movement of the Holy Spirit in Northladn of Kansas City Missouri and really...really for people ALL OVER...to just WANT TO KNOW JESUS....and to find places like Christianity Explored to ask their questions...just prayer for participants and leaders alike here ....to be whatever it is that He wants us to be....somehow...someway.....

Pirate said...

you are a blessed man to be in the driver's seat for so much of tomorrows leaders and citizens.

Hope said...

"We are completely unpredictable. I think God wanted it that way."

That made me smile. I have a few people in my life right now who think I am very unpredictable based on my latest post. Thank you for your encouragement over there btw.

This was just a great post.

Jim said...

I like your comparison with humans to robots. Did your competition involve a game with a ball played sort of like hockey or soccor?
Last Monday's 'message' reminded me of a comparison I make. The dog has absolute unconditional love for its master. We should have this same love for God.
Yet knowing of this love, we playfully tease our dogs. That same spirit may be in some of God's testing us? Most dogs like it that way. They are more playful than we are.

Fred said...

Congrats on the excellent showing at the tournament. Best of luck at the next round.

Bethany said...

Congratulations from one teacher to another on your students accomplishments (and your accomplishments!) What a cool deal!

And thank you for sharing stories about your sons.

God bless you.

music.angel said...

"I think the whole point in getting older is to grow out of that tendency."

It's so true. Babies, as beautiful as they are, are all about "me". The first few years of their lives revolve around people doing for them and helping them do anything. We spend the rest of our lives reversing this. Or at least we can hope people get it and work on "growing out of that tendency."

Thx again.

deni said...

Last week I was highly upset at my husband's possible relocation to another state for his job. As I prayed about it, one thing kept running through my head, 'My ways are not your ways.'

I know now that wherever God leads me that is where He wants me, I may be afraid but He will hold me up. Talking it over with my husband, he said, 'If it is God's will that we go then the door will be opened, if not then it will be shut.' He is right. Selfishly I was praying that it wouldn't happen, but now I am praying that God leads us where He will. If it's His will then I will follow where He leads.

Thank you for writing such wonderful posts, I need to visit here more often.

Maripat said...

Another wonderful and thoughtful essay. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Jim said...

Hi Servant

I read your blog. Thanks for the visit to mine.

It fits my reading pattern, I do it sporadically and catch most all 'messages.' Lurking, I guess.

I can add you to my "Blogs I Read" link if you would like.
..

BHGA said...

As always, I leave here inspired.
God Bless....
Donna

Live, Love, Laugh said...

wow, that was an amazing post! Thanks for sharing all of that! I will have to reread it again now to make sure I didn't miss anything!

4evergapeach said...

I loved your comment on my post. Thanks! I read your post earlier this morning and have been thinking about it before I commented. The only thing that keeps coming to my mind is this - following God's will can at times be difficult but at least you know what it is. Not knowing what His will is, well, that's what gets difficult for me. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit will help me open my eyes and heart to recognize it and have faith that I am following His path.

Bad Alice said...

A wonderful post, as usual.

eyes of a tragedy said...

well thanks for stopping by, i guess you might have found my comments on judas hate's site? i just skimmed through this entry, (i'm feeling a bit under the weather) but you do really have a lot of amazing things to say and you do sound like a great person, who is lucky enough to have a strong belief in God.
Glad the robotics tournament was a success.

jollybeggar said...

yeah- robotics and choice. classic.

my desire is to eventually be at the place where my ideas are already God's- where there is no discrepency between what i decide to do in real time and that which i decide to do after much spending much time in prayer and the word.

in my view, that is an attainable evolution... it is, i believe, what God intended back in the garden before we botched up his plans with our own little attempts at being 'like God.'

being like God means far more than being in charge. look at him: he's perfect and holy and gracious and loving and selfless and all powerful and sovereign and and and... we're NONE of those and the fall, the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil just took us further away from being like him when, had we not crossed the chasm between right and wrong so that we could view things from the fallen side, we might have stood a chance.
***

on a mildly different track, have you ever read 'do androids dream of electric sheep?' by philip k dick. a really interesting approach to the whole notion of cyborgs and suck. it's got many really interesting allusions to faith and raises some powerful questions about memories and our spin on reality... that and it was strangely adapted into an entirely different story which became the movie 'blade runner' in the same way that 'heart of darkness' became 'apocalypse now.'

shalom

curious servant said...

Phillip K. Dick has written an awful lot of great stories, and I can think of three of them that were turned into movies.

There is a gritty quality to his novels and short stories that comes out, even in the film versions, and much of it I think has to do with Man rising above his own ugly nature, and the civilizations it creates.

I am intrigued by your connections here though.

I've been tinkering with a theological science fiction novel myself.

As for your comments re. the Fall and the nature of Man vs. the Nature of God, I think you have some points that could develop into interesting posts.

I wonder if others might have some thought-provoking comments on the subject?

Judas Hate said...

Aha! Great idea my friend. I shall have a story for your review within a few days.

Thanks again:-)


J.

Dem Soldier said...

Congrats on the excellent tournament. Good with then on the next round.

Matthew Wireman said...

This is one of my favorite topics...that is: how God inclines the heart of an enemy to love him and serve him. The hymn "Amazing Love" is a great testimony to God's free and sovereign reign over his creation and the salvation of men. There is a sermon that will also be useful to read - heavy treading, but you have got to dig for diamonds. God's Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men Enjoy!

Coco said...

Congratulations on your students' success! What a wonderful learning experience for everyone involved : )

The choices that we make...
right or wrong- because God has given us "free will". HE loves us so much that he lets us decide how to live our life.

Blessings.

David said...

Thank you for the link you provided in your comments to me.

hanni said...

C.S.,
I can't thank you enough. I have finally finished reading all of 'Reordered', and I seriously think you should get it published so I can buy a copy.
You wrote so many things that helped me identify what I was currently struggling with or feeling. Things I couldn't understand or put into words, were validated by your writing.
I too, identify with the book of Job, and I really struggle with remaining in an attitude of worship while in the midst. Things just seem so overwhelming, at times that I feel like someone just shoved my head under water and only my hand can be seen above the water's surface, frantically searching for something to hold onto. Your writing, your example has made an incredible impact during this time. I pray that the Lord will give you a double-portion and that you will be blessed in the latter part of your life, much more than you have ever known. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Hanni

Max said...

First of all, I wish I had you as a teacher in middle school! Sounds like great fun.

Secondly, it's nice just to know that we're all in this thing together, "bumbling" heavenward. :)

Lillee said...

Your stories of Willy make my chest hurt to the very depths of me. I can not imagine losing one of my kids, but thank you for sharing them, because they help me appreciate what I have.
And Congrats to your students!

Kitty Cheng said...

CS, thanks for this wonderful post. It's a pleasure to be your fellow follower of Him. I can see that you're a fantastic teacher.

God bless you!

Natala said...

wonderful, thank you...

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