Adam Frieberg
Minister, Computer Programmer, Geographer, Photographer

captures, reflections, sketches of and about images Even though Adam lacks classical training, he tries to pay attention an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Adam serves the church and the world, experimenting with non-traditional models of ministry "didn't I already solve this once?"
the reminders of frontend (JS/TS), backend (C#), database (T-SQL)
issues and how Adam has solved them
August - November 2014
Adam and Heidi go across the U.S. on trains, retreat at monasteries,
and live in Jerusalem and Rome. Attempting to be "guests" for the entirety.
Discovering new ways of looking at humans' relationships with each other and their spaces

A couple of weeks ago I learned from a high schooler how intimidating change can be. For many changes in our lives, we don't get a choice; external forces are at play and we may just be along for the ride. But for some very few decisions where we get to feel like we're in control, the possibility of change in those moments can also be paralyzing.

I was on a trip to Washington D.C. and New York City with 24 high schoolers. On a Friday afternoon, we split up into small groups and each group got to pick what they wanted to do in Manhattan. You'd think the choices were endless, right? Well, in our group's case, the choices were so numerous that they stifled us.

One of the choices I'd been lobbying for was to go ride bicycles for an hour in Central Park. We had amazing weather. We had energy. We had all of the time in the world. But what we didn't have was all of the high schoolers wanting to do it. One, in particular, said she was nervous since she hadn't ridden a bike since she was very young.

As leaders it was tempting to find a way to bring her around to the rest of the group's desires.

Enough assurances from us and we probably could have talked her into it.

But if that would've happened, the actual bike ride would not have been the same as we were wanting. We'd be worried about if she'd fall. We'd be worried about the group staying in a pack with the tour guide. We'd worry about lots of other "what-ifs."

Choosing to try to persuade someone from reluctance to a group consensus -- that process isn't really about consensus. That process is about transfer.

In this instance, it would have been a transfer of the girl's fear to the leaders. It would have been the transfer of responsbility for the group to make the choice on activities, to instead have the persuader assume the responsibility.

So what does this leave? LCD consensus-building? (LCD = "Lowest Common Denominator")

Done poorly, yes - that's exactly what results. Decisions get watered down to irrelevant, boring, no-one-is-happy results.

Done rightly, however, and group consensus doesn't mean settling; it means hearing out and saying "not now" when the group hasn't coalesced on a possibility they all can live with.

I'm curious what this model requires. I know of a church (Spirit of Joy in Lakeville, MN) that doesn't take votes. I know of discernment groups for people considering lives of ministry that have no finite deadline; there's no point the decision needs to be reached by.

Had we as leaders tried to talk the high school girl out of her fears, it would have been a disaster. Had we as leaders tried to talk the group into a Manhattan-sized, unpalatable adventure, it also would have probably been a disaster.

Instead, we let the youth decide. And they decided on Times Square, the Toys-R-Us store, empanada and hot dog stands for lunch, Union Station, the outside of the UN, and an awesome coffee shop outside of Chinatown.

There was no one point of consensus throughout the day. There was also no talking group members out of their fears.

And I'm grateful for all of it.

Heidi's denomination (the Episcopal Church) has a Book of Common Prayer that has the prayers written - if not in totality, then at least in majority - for what people speak during the service.

In it is a tradition called Rite I - a worship service written with very dated, but beautiful language. For example, the beginning of one of the stanzas says: "And we most humbly beseech thee, O merciful father, to hear us; and, of thy almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify ..."
We don't talk like that any more. But many Christians around the world still pray that way.

Every once in a while, at special services at Heidi's church, we use Rite I for a worship service. At this year's Ash Wednesday, something stuck out to me. Maybe it's because I'm a computer programmer; maybe it's because I was willing to get lost in thought at just the right moment.

There was a phrase, with a homonym (a different word that sounds the same) -- a phrase with changed meaning and deeper insight into God because of the mistaken identity.

"... rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same."


"I dare you infinity x infinity + 1". Surely I wasn't the only one who'd put conversations into infinite loops when I was a kid. I would try to think of the most biggest, largest, bigger-est number I could in order to one-up friends. This especially worked well with dares -- since everyone knew that double-dog-dare was so much more of a dare than just a normal one.

So innumerable benefits? It's like the number of stars in the sky. Like the grains of sand. Uncountable. Unknowable. Immensely, exorbitantly many.

Innumerability is pretty nifty -- especially when it's God bestowing benefits on creation.


But I didn't hear in the prayer "innumerable benefits"; I heard "enumerable benefits."

And for a computer programmer, if something is enumerable, it means we're in business and there's a heck of a lot we can do with it! Innumerability may be the red light for going further; enumerability is the green light.

One of the interesting things about enumerables is that, at least in C#, they're collections of things ... but they're collections with some tight restrictions. One of their most basic forms is that of a lightweight version of a collection with some basic functionality. They're not meant to be the Swiss Army Knife of collections. But there are other types of generics that can are built for certain performace and feature needs. Lists, Dictionaries, Queues, Hashtables ... the types of collections are many.

But at their core, when something is enumerable, it means it's a defined, finite, knowablecollection of things.

And when it's enumerable, it gains the benefits: searchability, sortability, comparability, index-ability, neighbor-identification, etc.

Two Sides of the Same Thing

Hearing about the benefits God gives to all of creation -- they're surely innumerable to us; but they're also just as surely enumerable to God.

I'm going to hear that prayer differently from now on. I want some of those same benefits that enumerability brings. I want to be able to search the stars and count them. I want to know my neighbors. I want to be findable and never orphaned. I want to be searchable.

There's a meeting place where enumerable and innumerable touch -- I want to always be moving closer to that place.

For those who haven't heard the "Fiasco!" episode on This American Life -- it's worth a listen:

Saturday morning I went on a bike ride. It did not turn out like expected. Some gravel / sandy snow-melt proved to be the thing I should have been paying more attention to. Brakes were applied, but I was still going too fast in the turn.

The video captures much of it.

Bad news was that water and band-aids weren't enough for the gouge in my arm. Two washings + the campus safety officer at Heidi's writing conference confirmed: I needed a doctor to examine it.

I'll end up needing to heal from the inside-out, rather than having the 0.5" hole sown shut. As he said, "with all of that shredded skin around it, we'd just be locking the infection in." Luckily my knee, elbow and shoulder are all structurally intact and no surgeries will be required. Pain killers + antibiotics are in my future ... as is the good dose of humility that I obviously needed.

The Dilemma

  • Seasonal maintenance activities usually escape me. I have trouble remembering to do them before the deadline is breathing down my neck.
  • Tax Preparation for my CPA (3rd year in a row I've almost been late)
  • HVAC furnace/air-conditioning servicing
  • Lawn fertilizing
  • Christmas Cards
  • Bicycle spring maintenance!
That last one was crucial for me this week. I was heading out on a three-day trip to a scenic, bike-path-filled city and I really wanted to do a long trip one of the days to just ride around and relax.

But my bike that I purchased last year has been hanging in the garage since late fall. And not only that -- but we've had polar vortexes too.

(How did the rubber in the tires hold up to the invasive sub-zero cold? I've seen what happens to rubber when it freezes; I've seen The Fantastic Four! And I definitely didn't want to see what happens when riding 20 mph down a path in a strange city.)

The Solution

So I called up my local bike shop - Bicycles, Etc. in Lisle, IL. How long was it going to take to service it? Two weeks! It's a first-come, first-served system for the spring maintenance and I was going to be somewhere in the 80s.

With other vendors or other types of that turnaround time, I'd normally shop for other options. I'd try to figure out who else could do it quicker.

With these guys, though, it was worth it to wait.

I trust these guys.

Mike and Brian are phenomenal salespeople who obviously do what they do because they love helping people and love biking ... not because they are looking to get rich or always push bigger and better gear.

Why do I trust them? Well, it was all with the first impression.

Last spring, Heidi and I were shopping for the bicycles. There was a major chain store -- not going to name names, but it was a bike manufacturer ... four letters. We went to that store on a Sunday afternoon and the salesperson seemed very helpful. He told me to look on the upper rack for bikes my size, and when I found one, to ride it around in the parking lot behind the store. So I did, and found the bike I wanted to purchase. Then I tried to find the salesman again. I found two of his assistants, neither of which knew how to run the cash register. After waiting for him for 10 minutes, Heidi and I walked out.

45 minutes later, we'd found a better, cheaper bike, fitted to my tall body size, and had two new friendships because Bicycles, Etc were great listeners.

[Fast-forward in time]

I took my bike in to get it in the long line. Mike saw it, saw that it was still in decent shape, and expedited my servicing. (Not only that, he gave me such a deal on it that I had a perfect excuse to buy more gear!)

[Fast-forward in time again ...]

So I wrote most of this post in Grand Rapids and needed a part to make a change on one of the pedals for my bike. I called Bicycles, Etc and they told me over the phone which part I needed. I went to one of the local bike shops in Grand Rapids (West Michigan Bike and Fitness in Kentwood) and the Sales Manager, Geoff, knew exactly what I was talking about and even recommended local trails he thought I might like.

Two bike stores, 200 miles apart, and it was the same customer experience in both.

Sure - Amazon may be cheaper if you know what you're looking for. Sure - specialty brands may not always be in stock.

There's nothing like great customer service to clear out all of the excuses and meet your goals. There's nothing like giving your local bike shop a try in delivering that customer service.