God vs. Responsibilities

Last Friday, there was an ICPF retreat here in Ahmedabad themed “What makes God smile?”. It was good. Better than expected (Or should I say as expected, since God is the master of doing the unexpected!). During the retreat there was some time allotted for a question and answer session. I love those sessions. I love them because I love questions. Questions are those peculiar creatures that go Pop! in people’s heads at random times and then do Kaboom! to some false assumptions or give birth to some Eureka! moments.

So, I was listening intently to the questions and there were a few that caught my fancy. However, if I try to answer all of them in one go, this post will become a huge pile of jumbled radioactive mess that will make your brains melt at the rate of 12 grams per second! So, taking in consideration the mental heath of my readers I’m going to answer one question at a time.

So, the first question goes like this: In our daily lives we have different responsibilities. Responsibilities to our families, to our friends, to our studies, to our work and in some cases, to dogs and cats(umm… I mean, pets). Situation is just like the spelling of the word : RESPONSIBILITIES. Complicated, big and with lots of I’s into it (‘I’ have to do this.. ‘I’ have to do that..). So, in fulfilling all these different responsibilities, sometimes, we don’t have time for God. But if we drop our responsibilities, that’s no good either. So, how should one balance the two?

Look at the title of this post and say, “The title is wrong”. Do it. “The title is wrong”. It should be, God and Responsibilities. Now why do I say that? First of all, that’s how God works. All of us who are Christians believe that God has a definite purpose for our life. If he has a definite purpose and plan for our life, he will at times tell us what we need to do. And then to do those things will be our responsibility. He will never force us but only lead us. It’s our responsibility to follow.

But, is it possible that he tells us what to do only at certain times and at other times we should do as we please because God hasn’t told us anything specific to do? No. God’s plans are way too intricate to be left up to chance. And he never leaves them to chance. He is constantly watching from the shadows and shaping us as we are going about our daily duties. And for him to shape us as we are going about our daily duties, he must use the things that we do daily.

A thing about our nature is, an action, an activity or an event will not have a significant impact on our lives unless it happens daily. To be healthy, one must exercise everyday, not once in a year. Now, there are exceptions to this rule but these exceptions most of the times are disruptive and abnormal. I mean, if someone close to us dies, it will have a significant impact on our lives bit it’s not everyday that this happens. It’s outside of the domain of what we call normal.

So, only the things that we do daily has significant impact on our lives. And God uses this simple principle to shape our character. He is constantly at work on us and he is constantly testing us if we are ready for the next phase of our development. We might or might not plan our days, but God certainly does. And his way of planning our day is assigning us responsibilities. He constantly watches us how we handle these and by using these responsibilities he slowly shapes our character.

So, that’s how I understand the relationship between God and our responsibilities. But, there is another aspect to this topic that must be addressed. And, because this aspect exists, the title isn’t totally wrong. Think. What would make a person to ask such a question? For the questioner, there are so many responsibilities that he/she doesn’t have time for God. The person truly feels that he/she should spend more time with God and is feeling guilty about it. But if the responsibilities are also assigned by God, then it would be like going into the temple of God when he has clearly told us to do something else. It would be disobedience. It would be hypocrisy.

There we have a dilemma. If one does follow through all the responsibilities, the responsibilities eat up all the time that one has and there is no time left for God. But if one cuts on the responsibilities, he/she is indirectly disobeying God. However difficult the problem looks on the surface, it is not as difficult as it looks. It can be addressed with one simple but profound truth.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (ESV) – 1 Corinthians 10:31

This particular verse has been like an eye opener for me. For in it lies the definition of worship. Most people think of worship as what we do in church. Singing songs. But bible talks about worship in spirit and truth. Not in songs and tunes. And, the last part of this verse says, “Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” So, the definition of worship becomes, “Worship is anything that we do for the glory of God.” Now, it may look on the surface that this definition is inclusive of every action but it is not so. One can certainly give his parents a glass of water for the glory of God but one can not lie to his brother for the glory of God. So, one must examine what he/she does before doing it.

So, how does this new perspective about worship help us in our current dilemma? Well, it helps us because it makes possible for us to be constantly in touch with God. There is simply no reason that you can’t go about attending to your responsibilities and worship God both at the same time. Certainly, some time does need to be kept aside for studying of his word and prayer. But this time will be like the topping of a cake. Because at that time, you will not come to God asking for his presence, you will be in his presence throughout the day worshiping him through the things that you do throughout the day. Now, instead of little or no time for God, one would have the whole day with God.

There are also a few more things that I would like to say but this post is long enough as it is. So, I’d explore this idea of worship and staying with God throughout the day in some other post. I have also put forth the same idea of worship in an earlier post A life of Worhsip in much more detail. I’d also recommend reading this excellent book for pointers on how one can be with God throughout the day: Practice of Presence of God – The Best Rule of Holy Life.

Dual booting Windows 7 and Archlinux on Lenovo Ideapad U410

Last week I got a new laptop. Lenovo U410. It’s a nice ultrabook. However, the chief topic of this post is not to review it, however to set up Archlinux on it without loosing any of the features that are, what should I call them… um, factory inbuilt. I’m talking about a raid0 array and a one-key rescue system that came preconfigured with the system. I searched much on the internet to find a safe way to install linux on this system however all of them did something that I didn’t want to do…

The usual method went something like this: backup everything, turn off raid, turn off UEFI and enable legacy boot in the bios, and then install whatever you like. I thought if they have given such nice features then why not use them? There must be a way of installing linux in this system without nuking it first. So, I went on and found the way… I will just write down the steps here for future reference.

Goal

The system that I wanted to create was something like this: 80GB for windows, about 40GB for Archlinux (20GB root and 20GB home plus about 200MB for boot) and the remaining space for a big data partition that can be shared between windows and linux.

Partitioning

First of all, there were two drives in the system. One big 500GB hard drive and another 24GB SSD. For our purposes, we don’t need to touch the SSD. Our dealing will be solely with the big one. The system comes with 4 primary partitions preconfigured. What it means is, we can’t make any new partitions without deleting at least one partition. Now, the partitions that one can see were only two. A partition in which windows was installed and another one labeled “Lenovo” which contained drivers and other softwares that came with the system.

To reach our goal, I needed to make some adjustments to these partitions. First of all, backup all the data in the partition labeled as “Lenovo”. Around 5GB of drivers and softwares. Once that’s done, fire up a partition manager. I used the combination of Gparted and Easeus partition manager to accomplish the following tasks… however, all of it can also be done with gparted.

I used a Ubuntu live disk for gparted. Then I did the following things:

  1. Deleted the partition labeled as “Lenovo”
  2. Resized the partition that contained Windows 7 from about 420GB to 80GB
  3. Created an extended partition in the unallocated space after the windows 7 partition
  4. Created an NTFS partition for storing the data. About 325GB.
  5. Created an FAT32 partition for /boot for the linux system. About 20GB.
  6. Created an EXT4 partition for / (root) of the linux system. About 20GB.
  7. Created an EXT4 partition for /home of the linux system. Used all the remaining space… about 21GB.

You might notice that I have created a FAT32 file system for the boot partiton. Why? Well, we need it. We will not replace the windows bootloader in the MBR, rather, we’ll point the windows bootloader towards grub of our newly installed system. That grub, will be installed in a partition(specifically, the boot partition) and not the mbr. However, windows can’t see ext4 partitions… we’ll need something that the windows bootloader can see. It will probably see NTFS but it will certainly see FAT32. That’s why I went with FAT32. And, it paid off…

Installing Archlinux.

Well, I didn’t do anything special while installing Archlinux. Just follow the beginner’s guide and do the normal set up. Don’t worry about UEFI and stuff. Follow along until you come to the part where you need to install grub. There we need to take a detour. But first, we need grub installed (not in the MBR or partition but in our system. Using pacman):

pacman -S grub-bios

Once grub is available in our system, we need to install it in the boot partition. How? Like this. But for future reference, in case that if the page is edited for some reason, I’ll also post the commands here.:

modprobe dm-mod
grub-install –target=i386-pc –recheck –debug –force /dev/sdaX
chattr -i /boot/grub/i386-pc/core.img
mkdir -p /boot/grub/locale
cp /usr/share/locale/en@quot/LC_MESSAGES/grub.mo /boot/grub/locale/en.mo
chattr +i /boot/grub/i386-pc/core.img

Note: When I issued the chattr command, it game some strange error… I looked it up but didn’t understood much. So, I decided to ignore it… seems that my computer also did the same as it works flawlessly right now. So, it doesn’t matter.

Alos, create a grub.cfg while you are at it:

grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

So, once grub is installed in our boot partition, we need to make a copy of it’s boot info by doing the following: (Again, taken from the awesome archwiki)

my_windows_part=/dev/sdx#
my_boot_part=/dev/sdx#
mkdir /media/win
mount $my_windows_part /media/win
dd if=$my_boot_part of=/media/win/linux.bin bs=512 count=1

Adjust that to your setup and execute it. You might need to install ntfs-3g to write to the windows partition. If so, do so.

Configuring windows bootloader

Once grub has been installed, our work on the linux end has finished. Now, all we need to do is point the windows bootloader to our newly created boot partition with the info contained in the linux.bin file that we just created. To do that, I’m gonna directly quote archwiki page that I referenced earlier.


Boot to windows and open up and you should be able to see the FAT32 partition. Copy the linux.bin file to C:\. Now run cmd with administrator privileges (navigate to Start->All Programs->Accessories, Right-click on Command Prompt and select “Run as administrator.”)

bcdedit /create /d “Linux” /application BOOTSECTOR

BCDEdit will return an alphanumeric identifier for this entry that I will refer to as {ID} in the remaining steps. You’ll need to replace {ID} by the actual returned identifier. An example of {ID} is {d7294d4e-9837-11de-99ac-f3f3a79e3e93}

bcdedit /set {ID} device partition=c:
bcdedit /set {ID} path \linux.bin
bcdedit /displayorder {ID} /addlast
bcdedit /timeout 30


And that’s it. You’re good to go. Now, you can boot up both windows and linux and you haven’t sacrificed any of the nice things that came with the system. One-key rescue still works and so does the raid0 array. All in all, an ideal solution.