01 February 2019

Programmer Hands

My wife's hands have callouses on callouses.
I, on the other hand (both hands, in fact) do not.
When the children are in bed and the lights are out
And we lie in tangled sheets
Our limbs and fingers and hearts intertwined,
Breathing deep, satisfied breaths,
She teases me about the softness of my skin.
"I have programmer hands," I say, and find
Some other pleasant occupation for my hands.
(She does not complain of their softness then.)

Nonetheless, it is true: I have the hands of a programmer.
They don't get much exposure to the elements.
They don't carry heavy things all that often.
They don't change many diapers these days.
They are hesitant in the morning, tapping
Like a woodpecker who knows bugs are in this tree,
Somewhere or another -- they just need to be found.
My fingers tread forward, then back, then retrace their steps again,
Feeling for the trail like blind cross-country runners.
By the end of the day, they're slow but steady,
A tortoise who has finally hit his stride,
Coating the napping hare in sedately trodden dust.

All day long, my hands reflect my mind.
They are sluggish when it is slow,
Inspired when it is brilliant, and they make
Predictable dumb mistakes every so often,
Like the comforting ticking of a clock.
(I'd hate to stop making these mistakes,
Since then I'd feel utterly out of place.)

My hands work to embody my thoughts
In symbols on the screen. Through occult magic,
These symbols will compile into electromagnetic artifacts
That will help a balding pharmacist to fill prescriptions
In a warehouse a thousand miles away.
Like the miller's daughter, I weave the straw of thought-stuff
Into the pure gold of my boss's bottom line.
My fingers are the spinning wheel,
And my Rumpelstiltskin's true name is C++.

28 January 2019

Winter Workout

I had to try the steep entrance twice,
Battling snow-covered ice
With my front-wheel drive Corolla.
Nevertheless, I arrived five minutes early
So I played Hearts with obliging robots
While outside, flurries softened 
The sharp, icy edges of the world
And the full moon's light 
(A light not even its own)
Overwhelmed the harshbright fluorescent bulbs 
Humming patiently above the empty parking lot.

Fifteen minutes later, sweat dripped off the tip of my nose
As I army-crawled my mass across artificial turf,
Feet on plastic sliders and elbows protected by a foam mat.

Thirty minutes after that, my lungs were aflame,
My heartmuscle flexed frantically
As my artificial rower 
Skimmed the surface of a digital pond
And I fought to focus my mind
On maintaining my average watts.

Finally, after one last stretch
Of warm, fibertorn muscles, I stumbled
Once more unto the icy breach,
Pausing in the parking lot
To enjoy the Arctic blast
That had I had hurried through
Only an hour before.

Bodyheat and sweatvapor drifted from me
In visible foggy waves,
Carrying my thermal energy beyond,
Dissipating my warmth
Into the insatiable cold of the wintry morning.

Five more minutes in that wind,
And I would begin to shiver.
Five more hours in it, dressed as I was,
And I would surely die.

But this cold is warm
To most of the universe.
Even in the dead of winter,
Even if I were to freeze solid
In this lovely snow-coated parking lot,
I'd still be a toasty 273 degrees Kelvin.

All the heat in my body -- all the heat 
From all the suns in existence --
Would hardly make a dent
In Absolute Zero.

As I pondered all this, 
A quarter of a million miles off,
The moon continued her task:
Reflecting the radiance 
Of distant nuclear explosions
Onto the pristine snow
That I had to disrupt, defile
To get to my Corolla.

08 January 2019

Social Justice in Amos 5

About a year ago, the leadership of our church wanted to join a coalition of churches that work toward social justice  in our city. The results were not pretty. When the decision was announced, some folks left the church. Others essentially threatened to. The most vocal opponents refused to even hear from the organization -- they heard "social justice" and went into full-on rage mode. In the end, the elders decided to value peace within the church over their desire to make a practical, Christlike difference in the community.

This isn’t to say the elders’ plan was flawless. The national organization affiliated with this local justice coalition sometimes treats the Bible as a political football rather than the inspired word of God. Other churches within the coalition  have been pressured to place members in same-sex relationships into positions of leadership, which is something our church has convictions against. Our elders should have asked the congregation what they thought before moving forward so quickly.

Nonetheless, there is much to be said for pursuing a fair, equitable society through political action. In Amos 5, economic injustice is one of God’s chief complaints against his people:
7 There are those who turn justice into bitterness
   and cast righteousness to the ground.
8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
    who turns midnight into dawn
    and darkens day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
    and pours them out over the face of the land—
    the Lord is his name.
9 With a blinding flash he destroys the stronghold
    and brings the fortified city to ruin.
10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
    and detest the one who tells the truth...
14 Seek good, not evil,
    that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
    just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
    maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
    on the remnant of Joseph.
God cares about how we treat those who cannot defend themselves. He cares when humans made in His image are victimized and taken advantage of. And his wrath in this case falls on both individuals and the nation as a whole. This should cause American Christians to sober and consider what our society is doing to care for the needy, disadvantaged, and helpless in our midst and at our borders.

Unfortunately, I think the Republican party (the political party that "my" people have long affiliated themselves with) has a history of treating the nation like a piggy bank to be raided for the profit of those who are already wealthy. I fear they -- we -- will soon have a great deal of justified regret over these actions. May God have mercy on us all -- and may we repent soon.

13 November 2018

Canceling Query

This query has been running for six and a half minutes and I'm expecting a call from a DBA any minute now. So I try to cancel it, but SQL Studio knows: I'm in too deep. It tells me, "Canceling query..." and there's a helpful little spinner to show it's doing its best.

Nine minutes. Ten.

Not good enough, SQL Studio. Not good enough, Micah.

Nothing. Is. Good. Enough.

Ring, ring.

Our Meal

This morning, I shared a meal with a 97-year-old woman who should have died in surgery and a single mother struggling to keep the lights on and an older man immersed in a slog of depression. We came hungry, broken, and tired, intensely aware of our deep need.

We feasted on the holy love generated by our shared lives, shared pain, and shared redemption. We wept and laughed and prayed together, delighting in brothers and sisters who gladly bear our burdens, share our joys and sorrows, and give selflessly, generously, of themselves.

We also feasted on physical food: Bits of bread torn from the loaf, just as our outlawed Lord's body was torn by His tormentors; sips of blood-red juice poured from the cup, just as His blood dripped onto the dry dust beneath His cross.

It's a desperate sort of remembrance, I suppose. After all, what sort of fool places his hope in the strength of a condemned, tortured man slowly suffocating beneath a darkened sky two millennia ago?

The answer is desperate fools like me. We see the weakness of our own strength. We see the futility of our self-made righteousness. And we are captured by the glorious hope in this story that sometimes seems too good to be true. 

More than that, we see its fruit in our lives. If this be a vain pretense, then it is at least one that has swept away vast swaths of darkness and death in my life and the lives of my sisters and brothers. It has utterly changed me and continues to do so.

So I partook of the blessed feast again this morning, looking back with thankfulness at how it removed me from the realm of darkness and death and looking forward with hope to the redemption of my flesh and this lovely broken world. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.