Journal entry 100611: XFD 1048576

One day this week, Tuesday, actually, I was working on a wellbore diagram in Excel when I hit “End {right}” and found myself in column XFD. I’ve done that many times before, but for some reason it was a bit spooky this time. Looking at my computer screen past that last column … was nothingness, just gray.  Edge of Excel

Being a 21st-Century guy, I tweeted about my experience immediately. I wrote, “Whenever I cursor to the last column in an Excel spreadsheet, XFD, it feels like I am peering past the edge of the known universe. Scary.”

Clark asked, “Why did Excel stop at XFD and 1048576? Was it some sort of magic formula?”

“Maybe we should ask Cory (the high school physics teacher) if those are actually important coordinates. Where space begins to curve back on itself, for example.” And the conversation was launched …

“Beyond XFD, there be dragons.”

Cory wrote, “I don’t think it would be curved as much as it would be folded into multilayered quadrants representing opposing values.”

“I thought that the values actually represented the inner dimensions of Mary Poppins’ bag …”

“If you look closely, you’ll see Reepicheep over there.”

“So with the current number of cells at the given dimension we have only ¼ of one two-dimensional coordinate system in an infinite number of radians about a cylindrical axis.” (I think he made that up.)

“How many columns are there? I’m not very good at base-26 math?”

“I calculated the number of columns and came up with the 16,384. So there are 1.71799e10 cells in total.”

“On the flip side, wouldn’t XFD 1048576 be a really cool name for a nerd rock band?”

“Maybe it would be a good custom license plate for the guitar player for U2.”

“I should feel safe going to the edge. All it takes is “CTRL HOME” and you are back to cell A1.”

OK, that’s enough of that. But for some reason, the notion of peering over the edge stayed in my mind for three days. I kept thinking about how scary it can be to peek over the edge. I kept thinking about how energizing it can be to peek over the edge.

I thought about one of the coolest destinations in the Guadalupe Mountains: Bush Mountain. It’s round and flat on top, so hard to know where the actual summit is, but you can sit on the cliff edge and hang your legs over the Western Escarpment and consider the meaning of infinity. While it’s not a knife-edged cliff, it is a 3,000’ drop, and severe enough to take your breath away.

I also thought about the two times God took Moses up on a mountaintop to give him a peak over the edge. The first time was when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the Law, allowing him to see what a life of obedience and faith would look like going forward. The second time was at the end of Moses’ life when God took him up to the top of a mountain to show him the Promised Land. God allowed Moses to see over the edge into the future, to know that he was released from his duties, that he could finally relax and come on home.

I remembered another Bible story, when God told Abram to go exploring, to go out to the edges, and see how big His blessing really was. God said, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you … Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13)

Some years ago, when we were reading the Prayer of Jabez, Cyndi told me, “You can’t know how big your boundaries are until you walk all the way to the edges. You can’t know the limits of God’s blessings until you push out to the fence lines.”

She said, “I wonder how often we settle for a small portion of what God has for us, thinking we have it all, because we stopped exploring too soon. We don’t know where the boundary is until we walk up to the fence. Don’t stop too soon.”

Well, I don’t know what else to say about this. I’m pretty sure God didn’t intentionally hide any messages in Excel, except that He is everywhere, and in everything, and always calling out to us to come join Him. I pray that you will hear God calling you out to the edges, all the way to the fence lines, to give you a bigger glimpse of what life with Him can be.

But you’ve got to be brave. And don’t stop too soon.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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