After God’s Heart

Thoughts on living as a man after God's heart in every aspect of life: as a husband, a father, and in my work as a Bible Software developer.

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Name:David Lang
Location:Maitland, Florida, United States

I'm a Florida native, a graduate of Florida State University, a seminary dropout, blissfully happy husband to Lisa, and immensely proud father of four. I've ghost-written six books, helped illustrate another, and been working on the development team of Accordance Bible Software for more than ten years.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Have an Incredible Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Every year, my family sends out a Christmas card and letter. We do our best to come up with a creative Christmas photo and to avoid writing the typical list-the-year's-greatest-accomplishments letter. This year's letter takes its theme from the movie, The Incredibles. If you'd like to check out the Photo, go to our Lang Gang HomePage. You can download a PDF of our Christmas Letter from the Stuff to Share page.

Hope you enjoy it, and have an Incredible Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Real Artists Ship

When Steve Jobs was trying to motivate the original Mac development team to meet their looming deadline, he scrawled the words, "Real Artists Ship" on a chalkboard. The concepts they were trying to bring to the masses had been pioneered by the computer scientists at Xerox PARC Labs, some of whom were now working for Apple. Yet Xerox never turned those ideas into a shipping product.

The rest of the Mac development team was made up of people who had bought into Apple's renegade corporate culture. They fancied themselves artists and innovators, eschewing neckties, profit motives, and bottom lines. Jobs' bottom line was right on the money: if you fancy yourself an artist, you need to produce something. It's not enough to have the insanely great idea; you need to implement it in the form of a shipping product.

I've been thinking about Jobs' aphorism a lot in the past week, as I've been desperately working to finish a new version of The Accordance Bible Lands PhotoGuide. The PhotoGuide is basically a dictionary of Biblical locations, complete with photographs, which you access from within Accordance Bible Software.

Developing the PhotoGuide has been lots of fun, but extremely challenging. Basically, I have to go through thousands of pictures of places I've never been to—in Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Iraq, and Iran—deciding which shots best illustrate each site. Then I write in depth descriptions of each picture, explaining the historical and/or Biblical significance of the places or things being shown. This involves a fair amount of research, and it always seems to take longer than anticipated to finish each site. Add to that the fact that I've had to set the PhotoGuide aside several times this year to work on higher priority projects, and the new PhotoGuide is being released quite a few months after we had first hoped to have it ready.

One of my biggest frustrations with developing the PhotoGuide has been my fear that we would have to ship it before I was really finished adding everything I wanted to add. Caught between the desire to finish and ship a new product that would bring in revenue, and my desire to do it right, I sometimes despaired of ever finishing or ever getting it right.

This December, a new deadline was set, and I've been fairly killing myself to meet it. I failed. When I was supposed to have the master CD ready so that we could ship the PhotoGuide two weeks before Christmas, I still had several important sites left to do and lots of little things to fix. Fortunately, my boss cares about the quality of the product too, and was patient with me as I took another day, and another, and another, until we finally finished the project a week after it was due.

The PhotoGuide CD-ROM will ship about a week before Christmas, which is not a lot of time for customers to discover it's available and decide to buy it. Nevertheless, it WILL ship, and it will ship in a form I can be happy with.

In the end, Jobs is right that real artists ship. But occasionally, shipping dates must slip while the artist puts the finishing touches on his masterpiece.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Young Men and Fathers

“I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have had victory over the evil one.” (1John 2:13, HCSB)

I recently spoke with two men in charge of a competing Bible software company. One was about the same age as myself, and although he can be affable enough, whenever I talk to him I feel as if he's trying to spar with me—or at the very least as if he's circling the ring. This man is gifted, successful, and almost certainly far wealthier than I am. Yet every time I spar . . . er, I mean speak . . . with him, I always feel like he's trying to prove something. Even as he bemoans the animosity which some of his competitors have toward him, everything he says and does gives off the impression that he is trying to take over the world.

The second man I spoke with was about the same age as my father. This conversation felt very different. This man was friendly, relaxed, and complimentary. Also successful in business, this man almost certainly has a competitive side, but if he does he did not show it with me. I asked him questions about his business, and he was frank and open with his answers. I never felt like he was trying to hide anything or engage in competitive posturing.

Why must I be on guard with the young man when I can be at ease with the older one? I suspect it's because the older man has nothing to prove—or at least nothing to prove to me. He appears to be more interested in running a successful business than in taking over the world.

In the upcoming Orange Bowl, my Florida State Seminoles will be playing the Penn State Nittany Lions. The two oldest and winningest coaches in college football will clash for the first time since the 1990 BlockBuster Bowl. (I was there for that game, which FSU won.) Yet both of these football legends have faced challenges in recent years. Paterno's program was in the dumps for several years, and in spite of all Paterno has done for Penn State, there were those who were calling for him to retire. Likewise, Bobby Bowden has been criticized in recent weeks because the Seminoles took a late-season tumble, and while few people were calling for his job (just yet), they were doing plenty of armchair coaching and second-guessing.

In spite of the criticism, both coaches have shown the ability to bounce back. When their fans were doubting them, they were steadily addressing problems and making adjustments. Paterno's team has come roaring back this year, and the Seminoles managed to upset Virginia Tech to win the ACC Championship. These men have been coaching long enough to know that sometimes you're up and sometimes you're down. And while everyone else was panicking and trying to fix things that weren't necessarily broken, they were addressing the things that really were broken.

Whether or not age brings wisdom, I think it certainly brings perspective. The young men to whom the apostle John wrote were all about the battle with Satan, and we need young men who are gung ho to engage the enemy. But we also need "fathers" who have "come to know the One who is from the beginning"—those whose faith is not centered around the fight, but around the One who has already achieved the victory. In business, in football, and in our spiritual lives, we need to move beyond the "zeal without knowledge" which so often characterizes "young men," in order to become "fathers" who know that there is something bigger than the battle itself.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Seeking to be a Man After God's Own Heart

In 1 Samuel 13:14, the prophet Samuel declares, "the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart." Neither Samuel nor Saul (to whom Samuel was speaking) knew it yet, but that man after God's heart was an obscure shepherd named David. Perhaps because I share his name, I have always longed to have it said of me that I am a man after God's own heart. Too often, I am anything but. Yet as one who has been given a new heart through faith in Jesus Christ, the physical son of David and eternal Son of God, I am perpetually brought back to this central purpose: to become a man after God's heart.

Like many blogs, this will be a place for random thoughts and postings on a variety of subjects, yet my intention is that whatever the subject and however random the thought, each post should reflect this desire to follow after God's heart. My prayer is that in writing about that desire, I will come to cultivate it more and more in my own life.