Saturday, December 30, 2006

Old year, New year, Communion

It's almost hard to believe, but the year 2006 is nearly gone. This was our last Sabbath of this year. I spoke on Joshua 1:1-9 this morning. Recently I subscribed to kine of a a pastor's book club that sends out a hardcover book with a set of sermon outlines once every 4 to 6 weeks. The first one of these was on Joshua.

This being Christmas week and everything, Elise starting to work full shifts at the hospital (meaning I have to take care of many more things around the house), Elise getting sick... I lost a couple of days that I would have normally used for sermon preparation. So I needed some jumpstarting for my sermon preparation. I took one of the sermon outlines as a starting point in putting together this weeks Year-End/New Year's/Communion 3-in-1 sermon. It's amazing how God is able to bring together diverse thoughts and order them in such a way as to meet the needs for a given Sabbath. This hasn't been the only week where I struggled early in the week to both identify an appropriate message, and then work with ways to communicate it. You can listen in on the final result, titled "Imagine..."

As noted, this was also our Communion Sabbath. First of all, on Thursday as I was pulling out the buckets and the basins, I was utterly astonished to discover that these were not the run-of-the-mill hardware store plastic stuff, but quality porcelain/steel deals. I don't know when and where the last time I encountered something like these were. It might be way back when I was a small child. The problem with these is that after use, they have to all be set out individually to dry completely. Otherwise, they rust. So plastic may be more efficient.

And then this morning, the communion trays were brought out to be filled. I couldn't find them earlier because they were located way back in one of the top cupboards. Again, I was astonished! These were real glass juice cups. For as long as I can remember, all I've ever seen used were the plastic disposable cups. Again, the problem is that each of these have to be washed. Good thing our congregation is tiny!

We have one ordained deacon who was not present today. We have no other elders. This meant that for this Communion, my first one in which I lead out, I also was responsible for distributing the elements. This was ceratainly a very different experience from days past, when I was one of the many assistants in the Communion service.

Maybe I've mentioned this in the past, and if so, it keeps getting reinforced all the time: Small churches require just as much work and effort, and it seems even more, than larger churches.

The congregation has an assignment for this week, and maybe you might want to consider doing something similar, too. The assignment is that each person is to imagine how they want to grow spiritually during 2007, to write it down together with some ways of reaching the targets, put it in a sealed envelope and hand it in to me next week. Then after six-months I will hand or mail them back to each person as reminders and encouragements to continue on with the process for the remainder of the year.

Bible Reading 2007, Week 1

The Bible Reading for the week of Dec. 31-Jan. 6 is
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Psalms 8, 19, 65, 77
  • Genesis 1:1-11:9

The theme is Creator of Life.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Upgrade to latest Blogger complete

You might notice that the appearance of this page looks a little different. I started the upgrade to the latest version of Blogger yesterday, and completed the template upgrade just now.

The main difference is in the easier ways to access past postings. The contents of the left column can expand to show all the postings chronologically, or you can filter by category labels to see just a subset of postings.


History, heresies, and failure to learn

Over the last few months, I've been more and more convinced that we need to do a better job of educating ourselves from history. Whether it's The Da Vinci Code, religions that deny the God-Man incarnation and full divnity of Christ, the nature of Biblical inspiration, or anything else, there doesn't seem to be anything controversial and/or heretical that hasn't already been a part of church history, all the way back to the first century AD.

I think these "issues" keep coming up because we fail to educate ourselves about history, and we fail to adequately teach these history lessons to our congregations. And because of these failures, many of these things that come up from time to time are shocking to many church members, and can in some cases result in people falling away from Christianity altogether.

During this next year, 2007, and perhaps even beyond, I sense my duty in our congreation is to go back to review and teach some of the very basics of Christianity, to reinforce the fundamentals, so that our foundations of faith will no longer be shaken. My sermons will primarily go through the Gospel of John, and I will try to incorporate church and denominational history to show how our beliefs developed into what they are today.

Additionally, I will challenge the congregation to read through the Bible this next year, together. I would like our worships and prayer meetings to be times when members are able to share with one another what they have been learning from the Bible, rather than me being the only one up front doing all the teaching. This seems more like the church God has in mind -- where everyone is a minister to one another, and where each person's spiritual gifts are being employed.

Elise is out with a flu

For spending the last two days with long-term residents with a variant of the flu, Elise is now out of commission this morning with the same thing.

Me, I'm hoping I don't come down with it, though the chances are getting pretty good that I will. I've increased my raw garlic consumption from occasionally, to regularly in the hopes that I can ward off the flu vampire.

The ground is white again this morning. It looks like we got about an inch of snow overnight.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Work and stuff

It's brrr.... cold this morning. It's been a few weeks since temps dropped into the mid-20's, but that's where they are. The skies look fair, and fog (freezing) is drifting through the Narrows. There is shiny, sparkly frost on the front lawn and on the roads. Once again, I drove Elise over to the hospital for her 2nd 12-hour shift.

Well, even though we don't have to directly pay for heating costs here, we sure are paying for heating an empty house in Tigard. Last month's natural gas bill that we just received came to almost $150. Here's another reason we really want to have the house taken off our hands.

The hoar frost was absolutely stunning today. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me on the bike. They looked like hundreds of little flowers coming up out of the sheets of ice and the wooden outside steps at the church.

For those with more British leanings, yesterday was Boxing Day, and for all others, December 26. It was Elise's first 12 hour shift at the hospital as part of her clinical experience. Everything apparently went okay, though she says her feet are tired from standing so much.

There's been a strain of the flu going around, and the long-term (nursing home) patients at the hospital are all down with it. There's probably a better than even chance of most of us coming down with it, now that Elise will regularly be exposed to all the nasty stuff.

What this all means is that I'm responsible now for handling many of the domestic duties in addition to the church duties. Things will get busier now, I suppose. Fortunately, the kids are mostly pretty good at taking care of themselves. What needs some prodding and motivation is in regards to schoolwork. I noticed that Amy has quite a bit of schoolwork left for this week still, so I'll have to nag her some more.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been doing quite a bit more sitting than moving. Various reasons, but the overall result is that I've been feeling sluggish. This morning, I rode the bicycle over to the church, stopping at the Post Office on the way to drop off a few items to be mailed. The cold air sure felt good hitting my face. On the way back a couple of hours later, there were a few snowflakes coming down.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day, part 2

This afternoon/evening, we spent our time and had dinner with Verne and Wanda. They live 8-1/2 miles or so away from town, or about 10 miles from our apartment. We had a pleasant evening -- and I had some turkey.

The drive there and back seemed really long. Now that we've gotten used to 1 to 2 miles at most to get to just about anything we need, driving 10 miles (about 20 minutes) feels like eternity. When I think back, 20 minutes was the shortest commute time between Tigard and Beaverton -- and I'm talking about those rare commutes at 3 or 4 a.m. where all the traffic lights are in my favor.

I think one of our top priorities in locating our permanent home here is something in town, convenient and close to everything we need.

Over the last twelve days, Elise and the kids gave out themed gifts each day according to the Twelve Days of Christmas to our landlady and one of our neighbors in the apartments. I think both of them suspected they were responsible, but everyone on both the giving and receiving ends had fun.

Last evening, we were surprised to find on our doorknob a bag containing anonymous gifts. So this morning, those were the first ones to be opened, and we found little Norwegian figurines, but couldn't for the life of us figure out who left them or why they were given.

The mystery was solved this evening when Elise went to give the twelfth gift to our neighbor. She (the neighbor) had seen little black-haired "gnomes" running around, ringing doorbells, and leaving little gifts outside the front door. So she dropped off a couple of Norwegian gnome figurines, plus a figurine of a dancing pair of male and female gnomes -- in memory of the little Christmas gnomes of 2006.

Christmas Day

5:00 a.m. - The children were awake and bouncing. For whatever reason, I didn't get very good sleep, so I would have preferred to stay in bed, but that was no longer an option. The children searched about the house for their hidden stockings. (We don't have a fireplace, nor a hearth, so I suppose Santa comes through the water pipes...) Upon locating the stockings, the children pawed through its contents -- candy, puzzles, art supplies, playing cards, small baskets, etc.

7:00 a.m. - A quick breakfast and clean up because the children want to get on with the Christmas gifts.

7:30 a.m. - Opening of gifts. Clothing, toys, knick-knacks, games, food, and more. The thrills and joys of discovering what had been wrapped up and sitting about, beckoning peeks and shakes.

7:50 a.m. - We got the kids a couple of this year's U.S. Tamagotchi models, and so they are now reading through the instructions and raising their first little ones in their brand new world. These are able to talk with one another via infrared, and they can also sort-of interact with an online world via a PC and web browser.

8:30 a.m. - It's now sunrise -- We've officially entered Christmas Day (the day part). It's going be a cloudy, rainy day.

Thank you to everyone who provided us with a wonderful Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

JAJAH for long distance calls

Recently, I discovered, while browsing the Wall Street Journal site, an Internet-based phone service that uses regular land line phones as well as mobile/cell phones for low-cost or even free calls, even between many foreign countries.

The service is run by a company from the Netherlands and is called JAJAH and is at To make calls the number of the phone making the call must be registered on the site. What you do is dial the call using the web site. The service calls your phone and when you pick up, it then rings the other phone number. A call to an unregistered number can be as low as 2.5 cents/minute, including many foreign countries in Europe and a few in Asia, including Japan. (The rate charts are all online.)

Calls to another registered number can often be free. There are some restrictions on how long and how often free calls are allowed. The registered number to be called must also be an "active" number -- in other words, that number has to be an originating call about once a week using the JAJAH service.

Within the U.S. it might not make a whole of sense for people with cell phones with plenty of minutes because most of the plans include nationwide free long distance included in the minutes. But for people without cell phones, or with plans that don't include free long distance, it could make sense.

And for calling overseas, it can make a whole lot of sense. For example, my calls to a landline number (mobile is more expensive) in Japan are 2.5 cents/minute, any time of the day. If the landline number in Japan is registered and active, the call can be free.

We've occasionally experienced service outages or busyness, so it isn't 100% reliable, but for the lower cost for calls, I think it's worth the hassle. And unlike many of the other IP-telephony services, no special equipment needs to be obtained. Just continue to use the existing landline and mobile equipment.

Gingerbread creations

Here are the kids' gingerbread creations that I mentioned a few posts back.

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas. We thank you for your support and your prayers for us during this year. There's no need to go into details of the last few months as they are all available here for your perusal.

The year 2006 began for us in a state of flux and uncertainty. I was still in the middle of seeing if a computer support service business would grow or not. The first couple of months seemed to bring an answer. Rather than growing, despite increasing the advertising, business shrunk to virtually nothing. And of the business I got, I was unsuccessful in resolving the majority of them. It was an exercise in sheer frustration, futility, and humility.

It was during this time that I received an unexpected e-mail from Ken Crawford from the Alaska Conference office inquiring if we might be interested in moving to and working in Petersburg. Elise wasn't yet too sure that our future plans involved a move to such a distant location. But we all agreed that we should look into this new opportunity -- just in case.

Elise continued to home school our girls, take them to piano lessons, skating lessons, and participate in a few home school cooperative group classes.

We continued our work at the Tualatin church, but as the months continued to pass by, there was a growing sense that our work was to be done elsewhere. We went to our annual Big Lake winter retreat, together with a few Canby church families. It would be our last trip there for the foreseeable future.

So in June 2006 we took the initial plunge to test the waters by making a two week visit to Petersburg. The first week we were treated to what a Petersburg summer is like. In fact as we later found out, it was the only summer that we had. The second week returned to the typical Petersburg weather pattern -- plenty of rain. However it was then that we began to discover that Amy really likes the rain. As others around here have noticed, Amy is seen outside more when it rains than when it is dry.

We had a wonderful time during those two weeks, meeting and visiting with a number of the church members plus others from the community. Upon our departure, we were pretty much certain that this is where our future lay.

So we began to make plans for our move. We knew that it would have to occur after the first part of August as that was when we were already scheduled to attend my cousin's wedding and make a final round of visiting relatives. We couldn't seem to get anything much accomplished during the month of July. We tried to clean things up and get ready to put the house on the market, but somehow neither the motivation nor the effort was there.

And so August quickly rolled around and we were nowhere near ready to go. In the week prior to leaving for our vacation, we quickly interviewed real estate brokers. And then we went on our vacation. During the middle of the trip, one of the brokers had been working hard and both called and sent us an e-mail with updated market analysis and plans. It was for that reason, and because of the brokers we interviewed, she was the one who appeared to genuinely love the house, that we hired her has our broker. I'm sure the others were just as good, but the one we chose has proven to be very conscientious in handling affairs and our requests from a distance.

Our initial plan was to wait for the sale of our house before moving, but in hindsight, if we had followed that plan, we would still be in Tigard. Now some (many?) of you might say, "Well, that would have been better for us." But for us, making the move meant making a firm decision and provided at least some closure to the uncertainties that we were having to live with.

The couple of weeks after returing from our vacation were very busy ones. We had to clear out much of the living areas of clutter and excess stuff. We rented a 20 cubic yard disposal container from Pride Disposal and filled it about 2/3 full. It actually was one of the most enjoyable things I did during the move -- tossing stuff in there and seeing it get full. I recommend it to anyone with too much stuff in their garage, attic, basement, and house.

And then we had to clean the house -- this was not fun at all. We also hired painters to paint a number of the rooms to their original, neutral colors. We hired window cleaners to clean the windows -- some so high that we had never cleaned them ourselves. We got the carpet shampooed.

Unfortunately, about the time we put the house on the market was when the market, which had already been slowing, took a nosedive for the worse. And as the weeks went by, things just kept getting worse and the real estate news was just one bad news after another.

But we were already committed to moving. We had begun working with the movers, we had already reserved spaces on the ferry. We didn't yet have a place to move into in Petersburg, however. And that resulted in yet more frantic calling and searching. In the end, things worked out and we were able to find an apartment that was willing to make an exception for our two lovely, well-behaved (except for their orchid destroying tendencies -- one is still alive, the other I think is still fighting a losing battle) kitties. I think God helped us find this place, not just for its grand vistas, but for its included water and heat. This has so far been one of the coldest autumns, and we were spared the cost of heating that would accompany the cold.

The remainder of our story from then until now can be found in the archives of this blog. Just click on one of the month links in the left column.

Merry Christmas, from the Kubo family -
Mark, Elise, Shelley, and Amy

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Now for a little rest

There are definite advantages to leading an Adventist congregation vs. another denomination. When the Christmas Sabbath is over, that is it -- finished -- done -- finale -- until next year.

Because Christmas is a Monday this year, the other churches are extra busy during the next two days. First, there is the regular Sunday morning service, then many will have a Christmas Eve service, and then for a few, there will be another Christmas Day service.

We remember Christmas, but we don't feel the need to make it the biggest religious time of the year. The Advent is important, but what this event eventually leads to, the rest we find in Jesus accomplishing the work of salvation for us, is even more important, and we celebrate that each week during the Sabbath.

So the big work is now behind me, and I might actually have a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas Day.

Christmas Worship

We spent the last hour continuing our preparations for the brunch and worship. As 10 a.m. rolled around, we had a few individuals. One of the infrequent attenders, a young lady, brought along her boyfriend, which was his first time in the church and staying for the worship.

We began the brunch portion, and as the minutes passed by, some of the other members drifted in. We definitely had much more food ready than would be consumed. It's better to have more than to run short. There were rehearsals for tomorrow and Christmas Day going on in other parts of town which conflicted with the schedules of some who would have liked to join us.

As we moved into the sanctuary to begin our worship time, about half the family living across the street from our church entered in. The other half arrived mid-way into the program. We were thrilled to see them accept our invitation and join us. Altogether, we had a total of 23 -- about double our attendance on a typical good Sabbath.

We started the worship singing hymns and carols, and then went into the story of Christmas (Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 1 & 2) told in three parts with musical interludes in between. The story was read by Elise, Sheena (spelling? -- the young lady mentioned earlier), and Gerry alternating the paragraphs. Shelley played the more difficult version of Silent Night during the first interlude. Amy and I played a duet, Angels We Have Heard on High, and Sheena sang As a Deer during the second interlude.

Following the reading of the story, I gave a short sermonette on how our mission is to bring and live the hopeful message of Christmas all through the year (and used lyrics from a song in the Sesame Street Christmas CD as an illustration). This was the lead-in to O Holy Night.

Everyone joined in It Came Upon the Midnight Clear to close the service. The audio of the program is available. It begins from the story portion and continues to the end.

Of all the Sabbaths I've had here so far, this one had to be the most stressful. The perfectionist (or is precisionist?) part of me wants everything to play out exactly as planned. And with something like this where I have no idea who and how many might show up, and with so many things that could go away from the plan, it is very stressful. But in the end, it was a very nice and enjoyable service. Nothing I feared happened (as is usually the case).

So will this be the First Annual Petersburg Seventh-day Adventist Church Christmas Worship? I'd like to see it happen.

Winter Solstice

I think we are pretty close to that. It starts to get dark here around 2:30 p.m. as the sun goes behind the taller hills surrounding the island. By 3:00 p.m., it is sunset, and an hour later, it feels like the middle of the night.

On the other hand, sunrise is after 8:00 a.m., so we got to see the brilliant colors of sunrise in the sky this morning as we were driving to church. The small sun break lasted only briefly, as much of the remaining morning hours consisted of off and on snow showers. (Too warm to stick, though.)

Piano recital

Last night, Shelley performed at her first piano recital here. In addition to the 25 piano students, there were about a dozen vocal, guitar, and fiddle students also performing. When I first saw the list, I thought we were in for a three hour recital, but most of the pieces were fairly short and things kept moving along. So it was only about an hour and a half.

Shelley was the last pianist, prior to the finale by the ensemble of guitars and fiddles. I guess having one of the older and better pianists is not always an advantage, as we could not simply slip out in the middle of the recital (as did a number of families).

Shelley performed well, an arrangement of the Swan, and Silent Night. A dial-up friendly (i.e., very small and choppy) video is available for your viewing. You will need to use Windows Media Player, or another player that can play WMV (Windows Media Video) files.

Friday, December 22, 2006


The church now looks quite festive. We (actually Elise, kids, and Deloris) spent much of the afternoon decorating. I spent a good part of is spreading de-icer on the parking lot surface, though it seems like a losing battle. The ice eventually did soften somewhat, but to break it apart is going to require heavy-duty pounding. I tried breaking it apart with my YakTrax and stomping, and I succeeded in small sections, but also succeeded in breaking one of the straps on the YakTrax. I think it still remains usable, though.

I wasn't planning on doing much speaking tomorrow, but after starting to write down a few thoughts on Christmas that were going to lead into O Holy Night, which I will be singing, I ended up with about a 5 minute sermonette. Provided the technical stuff doesn't go awry in the morning, I plan record a video of the whole thing.

Three months

It's hard to believe, but it's been three whole months since we first arrived. We've managed to get through all the trials of moving, the difficulties of settling in, and getting on with our daily lives. As we look back, we know we couldn't have done it all by ourselves. Family and friends, both from where we were and where we are now, have certainly helped. But it can only be our Lord and Savior, who works out all things for his good plan, who has worked things out and sustained us, and promises us that he will continue to do so.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A busy and long day

There wasn't a whole lot out of the ordinary yesterday, so consequently, there wasn't anything really to write about.

Today, however, was a different story...

Elise went to work this morning, and spent the entire day there. It was mostly about learning the hospital procedures, becoming familiar with things there, and such. The actual clinical practice begins on the 26th. Once those 80 hours are completed, and additional paperwork gets passed around, Elise will really be able to work.

Because I would need to carry some things over to the church later in the day, I drove Elise to the hospital in the morning. She walked back home in the evening.

Yesterday, the children started making gingerbread cookie creations from scratch. Today, they continued their project. Shelley made a house, complete with a front porch, thought one side of the roof seems to keep sliding off. Amy made a christmas tree from multiple star-shaped pieces stacked on top of another. Our kitchen has been absolutely chaotic since yesterday.

I did some cleaning about the church this morning, and also worked on the church bulletin for a while. Gerry stopped by to improve the cosmetics of the roof leak in the church. The leak had caused some of the plaster and paint in the ceiling to start peeling and it just didn't look very good. So the piece hanging down was taken off and new plaster spread. It isn't quite as noticeable now.

I came back home and packed up ingredients and equipment for making a triple recipe of latkes, both the regular kind and an herb kind. I was originally planning a quadruple recipe, but after peeling (with a mediocre peeler), grating (with a food processor), washing and soaking (repeat multiple times to get rid of as much starch as possible) 10# of potatoes (which filled all three large bowls that I found), I decided enough was enough. I didn't want to, nor have room, for 3 more pounds.

Once that part was done, I started with the first bowl to further rinse and wash the potatoes, then wring dry a handful of potatoes at a time in a kitchen towel. After that add all the other ingredients. Heat up oil for deep-frying, form the potatoes into little patties, and fry. And then while the frying is going on, prepare the next bowl of potatoes in like manner.

After 3-1/2 hours, half the batch was fried and done. I went back home for supper, then with Elise in tow (to decorate the church), I finished frying the remaining half. When it was all done, I smelled like hot oil, and so did the church. I aired out the building for a while, and hopefully most of it will dissipate over the next 1-1/2 days. That was one of the main reasons for getting all this ready early.

I don't know how many people will show up. I think it will be more than the usual crowd. I think it would be great to see the building full, but there's a bit of trepidation when I think about that actually happening. We won't have to wait too much longer to see how things go.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My recent reading list

Today, I thought I'd share my current reading list, ones I've recently completed, currently reading, and those on the to-read list. (Items marked with * open to All others open to free online versions on SDANet.)

  • (*) Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations . . . One School at a Time, by Greg Mortenson
  • (*) Latter Days: An Insider's Guide to Mormonism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by Coke Newell
  • More Than a Prophet: How We Lost and Found Again the Real Ellen White by Graeme Bradford
  • Altar Call: A Call to Meet Christ at the Altar, by Roy Gane
  • (*) Called to be God's Leader: Lessons from the Life of Joshua, by Henry & Richard Blackaby
  • (*) Crossing Jordan: Joshua, Holy War, and God's Unfailing Promises, by Roy Adams
  • (*) The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11, by Ron Suskind

As far as things happening today, I posted up some flyers for the Children's Choir in a few locations about town. We'll see how much interest we get.

Grandpa Tom and Danny are boarding the ferry past midnight for their sailing back to Bellingham. There are some high wind warnings in the general SE region of Alaska, so there could be some rough seas on their way back.

Yesterday morning, the children baked and decorated a couple of small cakes. Last night a couple of candles were placed on them for my (day early) birthday.

This evening, we were attempting to put together a Sloppy Joe topping from ingredients we had available. The flavors weren't quite where they should be. Elise added more salt, but it still wasn't right. I sauteed a couple cloves of garlic with additional seasonings, added it to the mix, and it was a little better, but it still wasn't quite right. As I was pondering what else would make it right, I started reading the ingredients from a completely unrelated food package and noticed sugar. I took the topping out of the microwave and added a few tablespoons of sugar into the mix. Voila! All of a sudden the flavors had improved. Somewhere I seem to recall hearing that in many foods, it's the balance of saltiness, sourness, and sweetness that gives it the right flavor. Anyway, something for me to keep in mind in my culinary explorations. And a good analogy to life in general, too. Everything in life needs to be in the right balance for it to be harmonious and pleasant, both to self and others.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Santa and filling in

Yesterday around 1 p.m., Santa arrived in Petersburg. Around this part of the country, reindeer (particularly flying ones) are scarce and sleighs aren't to be found, so Santa has to make do with the next best thing -- an Alaska Ferry!

I didn't go, but Elise, Grandpa, and all the kids went to the ferry terminal. From what I hear, it was quite crowded there, with children and their parents waiting for Santa to appear. Once he arrived, the children went to see him and received some goody bags. Shelley and Amy went and talked with Santa (as you can see), but apparently Danny did not.

While the rest of the family was at the terminal, I was busy making latkes (Jewish shredded potato deep-fried pancakes). I wanted to make sure this would work for our Christmas Brunch this Saturday. It can be made up to three days ahead and reheated in an oven to crisp-ness. Anyway, it looks like it will work, though I don't plan to shred 12-15 pounds of potatoes with a box shredder, nor grind 3 cups or so of Matzo (unleavened bread) meal. Elise did locate our food processor after she returned, and hopefully we can also locate our stand mixer as well.

Shelley went to a Wyldlife Christmas party at the Lighthouse church in the afternoon. It consisted of a movie, some games, and snacks.

And then right after that, all of us headed over to the Presbyterian church for their little Christmas play. I think we made up about the quarter of the attendees. And they were missing a couple of non-speaking parts, so Shelley and I volunteered to fill in. I was the innkeeper's son, Jonathan, and Shelley became Ruth, the daughter.

The play was an imaginative account of Christmas at the inn in Bethlehem, where all the dinner guests are transformed into inn guests. As dinner is being served and consumed, the play goes on around the inn. At the end of the meal, after Jesus is born, everyone goes to the "stable" to see the newborn baby. The whole play is written in a very engaging and humorous manner.

This was the first time inside the Presbyterian church. Size-wise, it looks to be about the same size as our church. They have more in regular attendance, from what I've heard.

The rain that started yesterday afternoon and continues has washed away most of the new snow from yesterday.

The rest of the family are over at the Hashagens baking cake (which I'm not supposed to know about). Something about my birthday... :)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A little more snow

We got three or so inches of snowfall last night, blanketing the landscape with a new layer of fresh white. The weather is warming up again, so it probably won't remain too long. We will be getting heavy rains, according to the forecast, for the next few days.

Danny, Shelley, and Grandpa went for a walk yesterday afternoon. At the far terminal of the trail, Danny was apparently being his usual self, jumping off of things when he slipped on a snow covered, icy log and fell. I got a call from Grandpa asking for someone to drive up and pick them up, while I heard screaming in the background.

Apparently everything was okay, because Elise said later that evening that Danny was subdued to the activity level of a typical child his age. This morning, he is running around in the snow, as if nothing had happened.

This week will be somewhat busy for us. Shelley is going to an event this afternoon. All of us are planning on attending the Presbyterian potluck and play this evening. There are some other things going on in the middle of the week. Shelley has a piano recital on Friday. And we have our Christmas worship on Saturday. Will we make it through the week in one piece? Find out during the next few episodes of "As Alaska Turns."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Today's sermon (Dec. 16)

Today's sermon is based on Luke chapter 1. I discuss the difference in responses to the angelic announcement of miraculous births made to Zechariah and Mary.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Invitations in the snow

We've had off and on sporadic snow showers since last evening. There's been a little accumulation -- an inch or two.

I went out on the bike this morning to deliver more of our bullein inserts for our Christmas service to a couple of the churches. As before, riding in snow and ice is a bit different from pavement and even dirt. Where there are ruts, the wheels simply want to follow them and not necessarily where I want to go. And even a couple of inches of snow requires much more effort to plow through. Coming down the hill from the Bible Church, I ended up falling -- the only time today. I'm sure there were plenty of people who saw me out there, pedaling away, wondering who this crazy idiot is.

So now the invitations have been sent out. I've been wondering what I'm getting myself into. I wonder if anyone from outside our church will come. Will we have none, a few, or too many? I want this to go well. And so I worry about it. And then I realize that I'm trying to accomplish everything with my own strength, planning, and abilities. I need to do less worrying and do more trusing in God. If there are people who can benefit from what we are doing, God will see to it that they are present. And however things go, I need to trust that as long as what we are doing is in order to bring the message of Jesus closer to the hearers, then God will see to it that all that needs to happen will happen.

It appears that today, both Shelley and Amy have gotten a little tired of trying to keep up with Danny's activity level. This afternoon both our girls have been reading books, and Danny's been kind of left alone. He built a small snow-person outside, but apparently wasn't balancing too well and has since toppled over. He's gotten a little bored with having no one to really bounce his energy onto, so it appears he took a short nap, after taking a loooong bath.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Elise starts clinicals on Dec. 21

Elise just got word today that she can begin the clinical and final part of her relicensing process. She will begin that on the 21st, after our guests head back home. So we are one more step closer to stabilizing our long-term finances.

We are now mostly Alaksa residents

Yesterday, both Elise and I exchanged our Ore. driver's licenses for AK ones. I say "mostly" because many of the benefits of being residents (such as fishing license and hunting tags) won't be available until spending a year in residence. There are others things, such as the state-based health insurance pool that isn't open to new residents until at least a year has passed.

The DMV licensing office here is located at the city Police Department office. It's open three days a week for just a few hours each. On the other hand, there's no having to take a number, wait an hour (or two, or...) get something done, get back in line, and then wait again, etc.

I'm not sure exactly why, but I had this sense of dread of having to take the written exam. Even though I know that it's designed so that even teenagers and elderly people can pass it, and people whose first language isn't English can pass it, there's the lingering fear that somehow I might manage to miss too many questions. But it was all unfounded as I ended up with a perfect score.

Elise's dad has been spending some of the time working on fixing some physical plant issues with the church. He says that's his hobby, and has in the past worked with Maranatha in church building projects. So our panic/crash bars on the doors, which used to feel loose and wobbly, are all feeling much more secure. He's been fixing some of the outdoor light fixtures and has found where the malfunctioning photo-cell is located. So it looks like we will have fully functioning outdoor lights before he leaves.

The weather forecast says that the rain this afternoon will likely turn into snow and may accumulate up to 4 inches by sometime tomorrow. I'm sure the kids will enjoy it, if things turn out as the forecast says. But as mentioned some weeks ago, forecasting here seems more art than science. So we will see.

We had an interesting discussion during our Wed. morning pastors' coffee time. We started out talking about Christmas sermons, and how after twenty or so years, pastors run out of new ways of telling the story, and most congregations have heard the story so many times that they might just tune out. I guess I don't have that problem yet, as I'm new and most of the members in our church haven't had the benefit of a regular pastor for many, many years.

And then we got on the topic of how some church members and pastors believe that they have an exclusive hold on salvation and that anyone not believing like them will be lost. All churches and denominations have a certain set of individuals who hold to this line of belief. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, at least one of the pastors says he's experienced Adventist pastors of that ilk. They're entitled to their belief and opinions, but I believe this reflects negatively on Christianity and only reinforces the stereotypes that many non-Christians have of Christians. If Christians are attacking one another, claiming exclusive hold on salvation (isn't that a cult?), why would someone on the outside want to become one? Of the pastors who regularly meet together here, we do have doctrinal disagreements, but we are first of all Christians, and only secondarily identify ourselves with a particular set of beliefs.

The discussion moved on to politics and religion, and we pretty much agreed that what we need in American politics is a party of the middle. And we wish the self-appointed spokepersons of Christianity would shut-up and sit down, and allow the moderate voices to be heard. We wish that the Christian contributions to political discussions would be more than just a couple of divisive issues, but rather, be more inclusive especially of those who are truly oppressed and beaten down.

Since Alaska is a so-called "red" state, there were some individuals back in Oregon who warned me that I might find myself isolated in my societal views, but that doesn't seem to be the case here in Petersburg.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hectic and stressful

Last evening, Elise's dad and our nephew did indeed arrive on the Matanuska. After picking them up we headed over to our church as that is where they are staying this week. We had supper there, and examined the contents of one large piece of luggage filled with various items that Elise's mom sent with them. The thing I was looking forward to the most -- some whole Indian spices -- was in there. So I was happy.

This morning, Elise picked them up at the church and they came over to our wee, little apartment. A highly active 8-year old boy is not very conducive to quiet and reflection necessary for outlining a sermon. Fortunately for some of the time, the children were outside in the residual snow and falling rain. And so I managed to put together some initial thoughts for this Sabbath's sermon.

A doe came around to the front and she was offered some carrots. She warily took them from Amy and Danny.

A little while later we had a short snow squall episode. They were large, wet flakes, but the air temperature was still above freezing so they did not really stay around long. The snow soon turned to rain. Tonight, there may be a little bit more snow as the temperatures have fallen. But it looks like most of the moisture has moved away.

This afternoon was another episode of "will they, or won't they." I called the Browns to find out for sure if they were coming here this week or not. They thought they were, and so the van was already being packed so that when Dave flew back in from Seattle, they would be able to catch the ferry tonight. When I mentioned that the guest room was in use, Eunice thought they wouldn't come. But then Elise called a couple of hours later and Dave, who had returned by then, was preparing to come. So in a fit of panic and rushing, we had to start making alternate plans for Elise's dad and Danny. And then almost as soon as Elise's dad left our apartment to walk back to the church to start some laundry and pack things up, I got a phone call from Dave saying that in fact, the Conference had some other plans and needed Dave to stay in Wrangell this weekend. So the plans reverted to what they had been. Anyway, it was highly stressful dealing with unexpected changes.

So after all this, it appears that the next opportunity for the Browns to come over here is the first week of February. I have it penciled in using very light pressure and soft lead...

A few weeks ago I ordered a couple sets of bicycle pedals to replace the clipless pedals on my mountain bike and Elise's bike. Given the start of winter and all, these particular pedals were out of stock everywhere. They finally came in and arrived in the mail today. I got them installed so it will now be possible to cycle in the snow and ice using winter hiking boots. These pedals are called Power Grips and work a little like clips and straps, but are easier to deal with and work with wider range of shoes.

I drafted up flyers for the children's choir and our bread/cereal cooking class. I also put together a bulletin insert regarding our Christmas brunch and worship. These will be given to a number of the churches here to distribute. I have no idea if anyone from outside our own church will come, but as we've been invited to participate in some of the other churches' events, I thought it only right to reciprocate.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cost of ink

We discovered today how much more inkjet inks cost here. Last night I discovered that one of our printers was basically running on empty. I had an extra color cartridge already, but discovered to my dismay that I didn't have the black. So this morning, Elise went out and purchased one -- for $45. It's one that can be had most anywhere else for under $30.

So I promptly went to and ordered an extra pair of color and black cartridges. And 2-week super saver shipping is still free, even to Alaska, at least for some items.

I also have a sneaky suspicion that the stores here don't carry the fine-art, archival inks for my Epson printer. Fortunately, I did come up here with enough replacements to last me for a while.

I got a message back from the owner, who now lives in Canby, of one of the houses here. It looks like there is a potential party to take over his loan here, so it looks like, at this point, the possibility of "trading" properties won't come to fruition. I did find out that the property is located about 10 miles out of town, which is much farther than we'd really like, so perhaps it's just as well things aren't working out.

I received another real estate update from our broker. Our property continues to get exposure, but with the holidays and continuing negative news from other parts of the country (East, California), these are holding back buyers from making offers. However, the projection for the Northwest continues to be good for the coming year. So we will continue to hold tight.

In case anyone reading this feels so inclined, I've added a couple of links on the left side column of this page where you can purchase some of my Alaska photos. The Fine-Art link will take you to where you can request prints that are made by me using archival materials. The other link takes you to the dotPhoto site where you can purchase regular photographic prints, posters, and photo gifts.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sermon audio for December 9

Today's sermon is now posted. Two posts earlier, I mentioned the sad news coming from Oregon this week. This sermon makes application of the idea of preparation and how in our spiritual journeys, Christians need to be adequately prepared to meet life's storms and trials (which we are guaranteed to experience), and times where we might feel lost, or may actually find ourselves off the good path.

No real changes

Things have been pretty much the same the last few days. There hasn't been any change in the things we've been doing, nor the challenges we continue to face. We still haven't sold our house, and being in the middle of the holidays, it seems unlikely that this status will change.

Elise's dad and our nephew are currently somewhere along the inside passage and will be arriving here tomorrow evening.

Two Sabbaths from today, we are planning a Christmas brunch and worship in place of the regular Sabbath School and church service. Our hope and desire is to see some of the irregularly attending individuals, plus other friends and neighbors, to be able to come and enjoy a time of remembering Jesus' first advent.

Yesterday, while browsing Lillenas' online store, I discovered a set of three DVDs on the topic of starting and leading a children's choir, and teaching music to children. So I ordered the set, and as soon as they arrive, I expect to spend some time viewing them to really understand what I am commiting myself to, and hopefully gain some insights into how I need to proceed and what I need to do to make this enjoyable and successful for everyone involved.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A sad reminder

I'm sure many of you by now know that the search for a missing person in Southern Oregon ended in tragedy. It's a reminder that none of us are immune from unforeseen problems coming upon us. Whether or not we live past them depends on how adequately prepared we are.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Presbyterian minister here is part of the regional Search & Rescue team. He is also an avid kayaker. He often goes out for a week all by himself. But before he heads out, he lets someone know where he is going and when to expect him back. He is also prepared with enough supplies and equipment to survive longer than planned, if needed, until help arrives. This is particularly important in a remote area such as what we have here.

So I took his advice (he doesn't want to be the one to tell Elise and the kids that because I was ill-prepared, the rescuers didn't reach me in time) and purchased a few essential gear for those times that I might head into the forests and other remote areas, whether by myself or with others. It's a few dollars that could mean the difference between coming out alive or dead.

So some of the essentials that everyone should do & carry, whether it's an afternoon hike, or a car trip through remote areas. Not only do you owe it to yourself, but to your family, in order of importance --
  1. If lost, stay where you are -- if you start moving and don't know your surroundings, you might become injured. Once injured, the possibility of survival diminishes greatly.
  2. Some form of shelter to keep dry and maintain body heat (space blanket, portable tarp, rain poncho). Just a few dollars and a few ounces.
  3. Water - unless you're in SE Alaska, in which case an empty water bottle or skunk cabbage will do just fine in collecting fresh, clean water as it comes down.
  4. Food - a few energy bars to maintain your body engine, enough to last a couple of days. Again, a few dollars, a few ounces.
  5. Weatherproof matches, candle, and possibly some kindling - useful for both heat and signaling.
  6. Useful, but less critical: Bright colored clothing, tarps, flashlight, glo-sticks, etc. to help searchers more easily locate you fro the air. Handwarmers for heat. Small toolkit -- like a Leatherman.

Cell phones may or may not be useful. Don't rely on them to be available when you need it most.

"Be prepared." That's also a good spiritual motto. None of us knows what sort of storms and trials are around the next corner in the journey of life. Are we sufficiently prepared to weather out the storms and make it through the inevitable wildernesses that we travel through?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Haircut, meeting, ice, bread

We tried out the hair clipper on me this morning. I think it came out fine. Some of the finer touch ups could probably benefit from more practice, but from what I can see, everything is still presentable. While being worked on, I was doing fine until the touch ups -- trimming near the ears, sideburns, and the back edge. It was then that I started feeling just a tad nervous. But in the end, it was all fine.

I went to the monthly Ministerial Association meeting at the Salvation Army church. We talked about things that were happening over the next month, talked about the recent Thanksgiving, what we might do next Thanksgiving, the problems caused by recent weather, etc. The pastor from the Bethesda Fellowship (a member of Faith Christian Fellowship) was present, and for me this was the first time meeting him.

Walking around town is very dicey once off the main downtown areas due to the solid layer of ice and the thin layer of water on top. I had taken my YakTrax with me, but hadn't needed it until after the meeting and walking towards the Post Office that is a half-mile or so outside of town. There is a bike/walking path that is absolutely icy. When I found myself not making any progress (it's a slight uphill incline -- imagine an ice skating rink whose surface has been tilted a degree or so and try walking up it), it was time to put on the YakTrax for the remaining 100 yards or so to the Post Office. YakTrax is great on ice, but it does hinder walking on bare pavement, which is why I hadn't used it until I didn't have a choice.

This evening, Amy (with the assistance of Elise) is making some bread. Shelley did this last week, and this week, it is Amy's turn. Meanwhile, Shelley is working on crafting some invitations to some sort of get-together for some of the homeschooling girls around town.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Cooking adventures

This will be a short posting. There hasn't really been anything new, different, or unusual since yesterday. Rain and clouds continue outside, and probably will do so for another week. Pastor Brown has confirmed that he will be arriving tomorrow and staying for the week, leaving Sunday. Or so I thought -- as I was just writing this, I received a call from his wife, Eunice, informing me that Dave's sister just passed away and so he will be heading south.

We haven't found any "a-ge" (deep-fried tofu) in either of the grocery stores here, so for the last couple of weeks I've been making my own. I think I've gotten fairly proficient at it. Heat an inch or so of oil on medium-high heat, then deep-fry tofu sliced to about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick until the color starts to turn to a light brown. Turn up the heat almost to high to brown the surfaces a bit more, then turn the heat back down and take out the finished a-ge. I find that for stir frys, curries, and soups, a-ge is more flavorful and soaks in flavor much better than plain tofu.

I found a recipe for Pad Thai from scratch so I tried my hand at that this evening (and used the a-ge in place of the chicken). It came out pretty good. Everyone except Amy liked it. Amy has never been a big fan of the Thai rice stick noodles. The recipe was one that used linguine pasta, so I might try that next time and see if it's the noodles or the flavor that Amy objects to. She did like the a-ge though.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Back to normal

We are back to normal Petersburg weather -- i.e., rain, and lots of it. But with all the past snow still blocking much of the normal drainage paths, many roads and parking lots have become lakes. It makes for interesting driving and even more interesting walking. The snow outside is quickly getting packed down by the rain. I expect that in another day or two it will all be a memory.

We are in for this warm (relatively speaking) and wet pattern for another week to ten days. After that things are expected to get colder again.

We had a total of eleven at chuch yesterday, though not the same eleven as last week. If everyone who has shown up at one time or another in the last couple of months came together all at the same time, there would be around fifteen.

There is no audio for yesterday's sermon. Firstly, I discovered too late that the batteries on my recorder were low. Secondly, the sermon was based on the outline (Adobe PDF download) provided by ADRA for this year's World AIDS Day.

Shelley began fiddle lessons last Friday. So we are now "privileged" to listen to violin/fiddle practice sounds :) I'm told there is a special place in heaven for parents who have had this "privilege."

Elise's dad and our nephew will be arriving in about a week's time. We've asked our church member who owns a fishing boat to take us on a tour of it and show us a bit of how fishing is done here.

Just now, looking out to the Narrows, I noticed that the tide is quite high this morning, and the waters are quite rough. Sometimes, the water can be nearly as still as that of a calm lake, and sometimes, there are whitecaps. The scenery could be said to be the same, yet at the same time, it is always different and changing. The combination of light, clouds, water, wind, and many other elements ensure that things are never quite the same.

We have not had any word back from the interested party in our house. I'm not holding out much hope at this point. On the plus side, our house is getting a few showings each week whereas many other similar homes are simply getting no activity whatsoever. We ask for your continued prayers on this matter.

Another item that we would like you to remember in your prayers is Elise's RN re-licensure. Right now, most everything is out of our hands and waiting on various bureaucracies to shuffle the multitudes of data and papers around to their respective locations.