Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Regression Analysis

In my job, I look at regression analyses all the time. Before I go any further, I’ll break down a regression analysis: it is a statistical process for estimating the relationships among variables (dependent variables and independent variables). About now, only two sentences in, your eyes are glazing over and you’re thinking: This poor girl...

Yes, it is true. Regression analyses are not exciting at all. However, (nerd alert) if you can determine how correlated (or interdependent) certain events are...you can predict the future! And that’s what regression is used for in my job. We use 36 historical situations, and then use that information to predict/forecast the future.* And it works! 

I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve spent nearly 10 years of my life looking at regressions, but using historical data points as predictors of future results is often how I approach real life. 

For example, someone I know is going through a trial at work. They are the victim of character assassination and outright lies. I was discussing this situation with my mother, and she said: “but God takes care of His people.” And I, being the realist that I am, said: 

“Ummm, Joseph went to prison on a lie.” 

Mic drop. 

You know Joseph: the teenager who was thrown into a pit, then sold into slavery where he was falsely accused of rape, and then imprisoned for several years? That guy. I used a historical data point, from a child of God, and used it to predict a possible future for another child of God. Same same? For so many reasons these situations are not at all correlated, yet that didn’t stop me from making that tiny regression analysis. It shows where my faith was in that moment. 

And you know what I wasn’t thinking about when I thought about Joseph? I wasn’t thinking about this: 

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. - Genesis 39:1-4

And when I was thinking about that lie that landed Joseph behind bars, I wasn’t thinking about this: 

But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. - Genesis 39:1-20-22

Come to think of it, how did Joseph come to be in this crummy situation to begin with? Seems like I forgot this: 

Correlation between cat ownership and dementia? Debunked.
[Joseph] said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. - Genesis 37:6-8

Why do we only put the bad historical data points in our analysis? And by “we” I mean me. Why? If I’m going to look at historical data points as predictors of the future, why didn’t I look at the correlation between God’s favor and Joseph’s leadership ability? Yeah he was a slave, but he was running the show! Yeah, Joseph was in prison, but he was in charge! Why did I see God’s vision for Joseph’s life as a HUGE variable? Scientifically speaking: jacked up faith. 

Joseph’s life was full of data points that pointed to a destiny of leadership. Joseph was getting on-the-job training for being Vizier/“ruler of all Egypt!” There were signs pointing to this future all along, but if we build our analyses using only tragic historical data points, our predictions will be faith-crushing doom and gloom. 

In all the Joseph scriptures it says: “the Lord was with Joseph.” That turns out to be the biggest variable of all. Everything is dependent on that. So when you’re building the analysis, make sure you build in Jesus’ parting words from Matthew 28:20:

 ...And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

*This is ridiculously over-simplified. I’m a derivatives accountant, and there is a bit more nuance to establishing the correlation between a hedging instrument and a hedged item...but this is the basic truth. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Seeing is Believing

Over the past 6 weeks I have been taking swimming lessons. It's not because I'm training for a triathlon. Nah, that would be way cooler than I can lay claim to. It’s because I simply cannot swim and was like: no more. One of the most frustrating aspects of learning to swim is buying the right pair of goggles. I need goggles because (per an article):

The human eye was not designed to work in an aquatic environment, so when we open our eyes whilst submerged in water our vision is blurred.

However, it wasn't so easy to just go buy goggles. Clearly, I had to make a bunch of mistakes first: 

Goggles #1

The first pair of goggles were pretty basic. Nike. A little pricy. Functional. They did what goggles are supposed to do: kept water from going into my eyes. But I still couldn't really see. Why? Well, because, I wear corrective lenses (i.e. I wear glasses). So I'm like: I'll just wear them over my contacts. However, research informed me that doing so could result in a severe eye infection if pool water was trapped beneath my contact lens. Such infection could lead to permanent blindness. Needless to say: those goggles are now dead to me.

Goggles #2

You can buy goggles with prescription! I got a pair of -2.50 goggles (even though only one of my eyes is -2.50...this would have to do) and they were GLORIOUS! I could see everything in and out of the water! This greatly improved the swimming experience. But over time, the pool water became cloudy. I started to dread the pool, because the water was so gross. It took me weeks to realize it wasn’t the pool...it was my goggles! There are two rules to goggles that I didn’t know about:

  1. Rinse the goggles after every use with pure water
  2. Do not touch the inside of the goggles
I had already washed these with soap after touching the inside of the goggles numerous times Apparently all of this destroys them...who knew? 

Goggles #3

Same as googles #2 just treated with appropriate care. So now I can see. I bought these goggles with a case! And the water at the pool was magically clean again! 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.2 Peter 1:5-11

You might be thinking: girl, this is a stretch. But hear me out! 

I was drawn to this scripture because the person who does not add these elements to their faith is “nearsighted.” I’m nearsighted! And so I know what that means: I can only see things that are close to me. If I look ahead to things in the distance? I can’t see them. Spiritually, that means I don’t have enough faith to trust God for my future. I can only see the here and now...because it’s close. If I turn around and look back a ways? I can’t see anything. Spiritually, that means I can’t see God’s love for me in the form of Jesus on the cross. Since I can’t see Him, I forget that my sins were washed away in His blood. I can only see my current situation...because it’s close

Sometimes we’re in a situation where we can’t see well, and it’s because we need to add something. With the goggles, I first had to add knowledge: don’t wear with contacts. Then I had to add prescription. Then I had to add proper care. And soon I’m going to add comfort because goggles #3 hurt! But, I’m doing everything I can in order to make sure I can see

And we have to be the same way with our faith. We have be the same way with our spiritual sight. Can you only see what’s close? Can you only see what’s now? Then maybe you need to pray about what you need to add. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


It's that time of year again: LENT!

I have long been a critic of Lent. Supposedly, Lent originally began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves of the value of repentance. Lent was a time to step back, self-reflect, and grieve over our past wrongs and moral failures. And after we've cried it out...we make a personal commitment to stop the behavior that caused us grief and live better.

Hallelujah! Nothing to be critical of there. We are all called to repentance. But...let's keep it real. So few Lenten seasons result in true repentance. In fact, it's not even really designed to do so:

Practically Speaking: We give something up for 46 interrupted days (there are 6 Sundays when you're FREE). At the end of these 46 days, the thing that we gave up returns.

Biblically Speaking: 

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. - Colossians 2:20-23

Lent can be a time of self-inflicted self-deprivation. And what's messed up about it is that it doesn't have the power to change you. Repentance is the beginning of transformation. And Lent, as it is currently celebrated, is not geared towards transformation! 

And yet...here I am. Trying to write in this blog (which I truly abandoned) for Lent. Why? 

Because I wanted to. 

Because I didn't need Lent to feel sorry. Most people who are planning to give up something are already sorry and are dealing with repentance and sorrow over sin in their personal spiritual journey. 

I know what Lent is "supposed" to be about, but why does it have to be that?  It does not necessarily have to be 40 days of transformation or some other lofty goal. Sometimes you just want to do...something. For God. To God. And let that be that. Transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit anyway: 

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. - John 14:26

I think I've been cynical of Lent because I still didn't understand my job. My job is not to kickstart and manage my own salvation. If it was...then yes...giving up chocolate is a poor start. But rather, we live in a time of grace where God is the author and finisher of our faith. So, since we live in a time of faith, where by faith our sacrifices are accepted (Hebrews 11:4), it doesn't matter what you give up, or what you start up for Lent. If it's done in faith, it's probably perfect.