Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Adventist church in Japan

I came across a just-posted blog entry containing an interesting interview with Yasuki Miyamoto, an Adventist pastor in Japan, and also the director of the Japanese agency of the Willow Creek Association. In the interview, he relates the challenges facing Christianity in Japan and what the Adventist church is doing in its effort to overcome some of them.

Interview here:

Last day of February and Some Photos

A couple other pastors and I were talking this morning about the weather this winter. One made the comment that the winter had been bookended by cold and snow. It came in with a bang in November with single-digit temps and snow after snow. Now at the end of February, it's not leaving without a fight. A winter storm is forecast for tomorrow. That on top of the teens and twenties, and the several inches of snow we've already had this week. I wonder if Elise's flight tomorrow afternoon will be able to land...

Today was a spectacularly beautiful day. All morning and about half of the afternoon was with sunny to partly cloudy skies -- very cold, but also very bright. Mid-afternoon the clouds started to roll in, foreshadowing the storm that is likely to hit in 8 to 12 hours' time.

I went to meet the other pastors this morning without my camera. There were no clouds to speak of in the sky, and scenics just don't look very good without at least a few clouds. By the time I left the restaurant, about an hour later, puffy, interesting clouds were covering the sky. So I made my way back home, grabbed the camera, and began walking back into town and past to the church, stopping along the way to capture a few images.

Of the photos below, the one with the deer was taken a few days ago. All the rest are from today.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sale is moving forward

Last night I received a few escrow papers to fill out and return. I heard that the earnest money was deposited yesterday. This morning I got a call from our broker telling me a few concerns brought up by the buyer. One of the issues I've already arranged to have someone come out and look and do some maintenance, if needed. So the sale of our property is moving forward.

Due to a number of factors, Elise and Lorean had stayed in a motel in Rapid City instead of going all the way into Wyoming. They leave today to spend one night in Wyoming, before returning to the same motel tomorrow night for an early flight out and back here. But it turns out that this worked well, because the escrow paper needed Elise's signature, and the front desk at the motel was easily able to accommodate this need.

By now you probably know that the global stock market took a severe downturn in today's trading. Was it coincidence or providence that there was an offer made for our property just a week ago, and that we chose to accept it last Friday? If I was considering purchase and the market started to fall off a precipice like it did today, I would become very reluctant to go forward with such a large purchase...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mt. Rushmore

I just spoke with Elise. She was able to go and see the big faces at Mt. Rushmore in the Dakota hills. They were delayed out of Atlanta, missed a connection at Salt Lake City, waited for another flight, and got into Rapid City later than scheduled. So rather than going into Wyoming, it looks like they will be staying their entire time in Rapid City. Lorean's brother and his wife came into Rapid City and they will be staying there the next couple of nights as well.

The girls and I are managing ourselves back here in Petersburg. We had extra butternut squash from last Thursday, so I made the same soup last night, plus some fried rice to go with it. Amy does not like the little fake-meat gluten burger bits, so she didn't have any of the rice.

The weather here continues to be mostly cloudy, cold, and dry. The snow remains on the ground, slowly evaporating away. I went to the Post Office yesterday on the bicycle. Riding through soft slush is worse than ice. It's like riding through deep sand or mud. I was trying to go up a slight incline, and my rear wheel kept spinning and sliding sideways. I'm sure the driver of the car following me must have been amused...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bible Reading 2007, Week 9

This week's readings are in Numbers 26-30; Hebrews 5:1-4; Proverbs 4, 9; and Psalm 95.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sermon, Feb. 24: The Heart of Worship

(Click on above title to listen to audio.)

In today's sermon, I explore what I've come to understand as the main reason why Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah refused to eat the food from the king's table. Although the clean/unclean issue, as many of us were probably taught, likely did play some part, I no longer believe that that was the main issue for Daniel. I believe there is a much more fundamental and universal principle at work -- one that is relevant to us today.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Psalm 95 Leadsheet

Here is the leadsheet for the tune composed by the children's choir and set to words taken from Psalm 95 (click on each page for a larger view) --

Buyer's offer accepted

Last evening the interested buyer offered us $5K less than what we said was the final offer. After considering the merits, including the proverb, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," and getting a hold of Elise over in Atlanta, we decided that it made sense to go ahead.

Among the factors that led to us deciding it was good enough, was that the buyer wants to close on the property in under 3 weeks, and he won't be asking for fixes of minor issues that come up in the inspection.

Elise had to find a fax machine where she could receive and send the signed agreement. She called me about 5 a.m. this morning, waking me, to tell me that she found a place (of course that was already 9 a.m. where she is). Anyway I asked her to wait until I was a bit more awake. I had planned to go back to sleep, but of course with my brain starting to race, sleep was out of the question. So around 6 a.m. I tried to call, but no answer. I called every five minutes or so until close to 7 a.m. when Elise happened to have her purse and phone next to her and answered it. It's a phone that I hadn't been using all that often, so it was probably set to either vibrate, or the ring set to the lowest setting.

Anyway, we are now a little closer to having our housing limbo finalize into something more tangible.

On the weather note again, during Shelley's fiddle lesson, a snow squall came through for about an hour. Now it's all let up again and we have mostly cloudy skies.

It's definitely winter again

After a night and day of snow, I awoke to partly cloudy skies and the sun radiating on the hill just outside our window, across the Narrows. It is cold, crisp, and dry today. The weather forecast looks like much of the same for the next ten days or so -- though that forecast could well change in a blink of an eye.

Last night I taught the second cooking class. Probaby due to the snow and ice, as well as some Lenten services going on in a couple of churces in town, the turn out was low -- just two from the community, two of our church members, my girls, and me. But we had a good time, and it appeared that everyone was quite pleased with the new dishes to try out on their own -- an Indian potatoe dish, an Indian green beans dish, and a butternut squash soup. We used lots of garlic, ginger, and cayenne.

Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, I arranged a series of notes, composed by the children's choir on Tuesday, into a little praise and worship style song using a few texts from Psalm 95. The series of notes were composed by the children, by holding up plastic plates at three levels -- above the line, on the line, and below the line -- all on a count of three. We repeated this about four times so that I would have around 25 notes to work with. I'll get the music posted here sometime in the next few days. The kids will get to listen to their composition on Tuesday.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My Linguistic Profile

An interesting little self-test to see what you speak. Here's my result:

Your Linguistic Profile:
65% General American English
15% Upper Midwestern
10% Yankee
5% Dixie
0% Midwestern

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Merry February Christmas

I wasn't the only one that Ms. Weather had fooled into thinking Spring was coming along. I heard of people going out earlier in the week to do some gardening. Our church member that plows quite a number of places in town had just taken off the plow attachment this week. It's now back on the truck. There's already been two or three inches just tonight on top of the inch or two that had fallen earlier in the day. Lots of plowing to do in the morning...

On their way

The flight was delayed about 1.5 hours, but it did manage to come in and leave Petersburg. It wasn't able to get the next destination, Wrangell, however, and went straight on to Ketchikan.

We've had snow coming down for pretty much the entire day. The heavy snow warning is still present for tonight through tomorrow morning.

Shelley is attempting to make Alfredo sauce, but her first try she neglected to follow the instruction regarding heat levels and ended up with a rather lumpy sauce -- not very useful at all. Her second try is progressing much better.

Race to beat the snow

The skies are holding off at the moment (except for a few light flakes), but starting this evening there is a heavy snow warning issued for this area. We could see over six inches of new snow through tonight.

Elise leaves this afternoon, at least that's the plan. If the storm comes in early, there's a chance the flight could bypass Petersburg. Yesterday morning's flight did just that due probably to the unexpected bit of snow that came down in the morning. The afternoon flight came in just fine though, so I'm not quite sure how the airline makes the decision to overhead or not.

We did get an offer on our property a couple of days ago, but it was absurdly low. We countered a couple of times and are now waiting for the final verdict to come in this morning.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spring to winter

The warming temperatures and a little bit of sunshine this morning fooled me into thinking that Spring was coming. About an hour after I captured the photo of the sun radiating off of the top of this hill, the snow started to fall. The snow came down for several hours, and is continuing to come down, and now the whole city and countryside looks like winter all over again. The remainder of the week looks like it might get colder -- back into the 20's, even. I thought about changing the studded tires on my mountain bike to regular street tires, but it looks like that will have to wait.

Here's how things look now.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Still waiting for a buyer for our property

We continue to wait for someone to make an offer on our property. Our broker visited a number of the new construction brokers in the area over the weekend. Most of the new construction in the area is listing from $50K-100K more than our asking price, and many potential purchasers cannot afford that. So our broker went around to suggest to them that when interested parties come around to look and cannot afford the new construction, that they take a look at our property. Since the brokers don't get paid until the property sells, if they can bring a resale to close more quickly than a higher priced new construction, it benefits them as well.

Elise received her RN refresher course completion certificate last week. She needs to find out in what form to send this certificate to the AK Board of Nursing, and then following that, a few more weeks of waiting.

Once our property sells, once Elise begins working, then we can figure out how much we can/need to borrow, and then look for a permanent abode here.

Snow is falling again this morning, turning the lawn outside into a pale shade of green.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Start of another busy week

President's Day notwithstanding, we are heading into a busy week. On Wednesday Elise leaves with Lorean for a trip across the U.S. for eight days. We continue our choir rehearsal on Tuesday, prayer meeting on Wednesday, a cooking class on Thursday, and sermon preparation. I also have to keep on top of the kids by myself, make sure they get their schoolwork done and make sure they don't get too antagonistic towards one another.

I'm not sure how I'm going to mange all that and retain my sanity...

Bible Reading 2007, Week 8

This week we're reading from Numbers 10:11-25 and Hebrews 4.

This is where we learn that we aren't so different from the Israelites. We like to have our own ways, seems to demand more, and just generally not content with what we have and how things are. I'm sure there are a few lessons to be learned from our readings this week.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sermon, Feb. 17: Come and See

(Click on title above to listen to the audio.)

Today I spoke on John 1:35-51 and what John, the Gospel writer and the Evangelist, says to us about witnessing and evangelism. I'm not sure how and where we got the usual stereotypes of witnessing and evangelism, but they aren't what John describes.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thoughts on the flu and children's choir

Yes, it's been a few days. There really hasn't been much happening here besides the usual routines. Additionally, although I'm not showing much at all in the way of observable symptoms, I've been feeling just terrible the last couple of days.

Whatever bug is going around is apparently more severe than usual. I've heard from a number of people how in most other years they don't stay down for a week with the flu, but this one just knocks a person out good and cold (or hot, I suppose depending on your point of view). I heard this morning that the high school is seeing an unusual number of substitute teachers.

While I was miserable and unable to get to sleep last night, I came up with a hypothesis. I have no idea if its correct or not, but it's my explanation of why it seems like the whole town is sick. Maybe someone's done a study on this and has a more scientific answer...

Hypothesis: A person, regardless of where they live, probably interacts with about the same number of people over a period of time, say a day or two. In a larger community, these interactions are quite likely to be with different people with few overlaps. But in a small community, you tend to bump into the same people -- lots of overlaps. In a larger community, the people carrying the cold or flu probably tend to be more spread out and a person comes across them less frequently. In a smaller community, a person tends to have more frequent contact with those that are carriers. The immune system is able to handle and combat new threats, but it takes time to build up the proper antibodies. In a larger community with less frequent contact with carriers, the immune system is able to build up the necessary antibodies before being overexposed to the threat. In a smaller community, with the more frequent exposure, the immune system doesn't get enough time to build up the necessary antibodies before the body gets overwhelmed by the threat.

Monday we went from dry and clear to snow, and then overnight it changed to rain. Tuesday was a mixture of rain and occasionally some heavy, wet snow. It's been just rain today.

I'm also trying to figure out how to most effectively run the children's choir. The kids range from 3rd to 8th grade -- a very wide range. And to add to that, some have had extensive musical training already while some are complete novices. How and what are ways to make sure kids at both ends of the spectrum are engaged so that they want to continue?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

You know the kids are feeling better when...

After severals days of being very docile and compliant, they begin to argue with each other and with you.

Starting about last night, we've been noticing that they are regaining their physical and mental energies back, and things are returning to normal around here.

Bible Reading 2007, Week 7

The last two weeks have been heavy on the number of pages that we had to read. This week is giong to be a very light week. It's just Numbers 1:1-10:10; Hebrews 3; and Proverbs 1, 2.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sermon, Feb. 10: Will You Be Mine?

(Click on title above for MP3 sermon audio.)

As you know, we've all been, and continue to suffer from some type of flu -- I think it's more than just the common cold. Elise and the girls have been suffering a few miserable days here.

I've resorted to my "suppress the symptoms and stimulate the immune system" concoction of crushed raw garlic, grated fresh ginger, large amounts of cayenne pepper, and a bit of concentrated lemon juice. So far it seems to be having some effect.

Yesterday, I was not feeling well and thought things might get much worse today. I did awake in the middle of the night with some aches, but some ibuprofen took care of that and I managed to continue sleeping. I felt much better this morning and knew that I would at least get through Sabbath School and Worship without any physical problems.

A family that hadn't been attending for a while, and with whom I visited this past week, came this morning bringing along two of their girls and another girl. I sort of suspected that there might be a few kids, even with ours flat out at home, so before leaving home I quickly downloaded a Sabbath School lesson for earliteens. Fortunately the adult class teacher was able to make it so we had a teacher in there, and I was able to go in and lead out the kids' class.

The sermon was based on John 1:19-34, where John the Baptist gives his testimony regarding Jesus. From there I tried to give an answer to the question, "What would a Valentine from Jesus look like and say to us today?"

Now that morning duties are done and I'm back home, I am feeling somewhat worse than I was. The aches are returning and I'm feeling about 70%, down from about 95% earlier.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Everyone down with a cold

I think I'm over the cold that I had last weekend, but the rest of the family is now coughing, sneezing, and generally cold-ish. I'm just hoping that this is the same cold as mine and not a new one. It's always difficult to tell because in nearly all cases, my symptoms are much milder than everyone else. It's almost more annoying that way, because I don't feel ill enough to stay in bed, so I end up working at my daily tasks even though I'm only feeling at about 75% of normal.

On another note, for whatever reason, I've lost more weight since getting here. I'm now just a few lbs. above 100. If this keeps up, in just a few more months I might be at my college low of about 95 lbs. and will need slacks with a 26 in. waist...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sun, Clouds, Mist

This morning started out cloudy, but by afternoon the skies had cleared enough for the sun to come through.

I got the brakes on our vehicle checked, and was told that the pads were still good for a little while longer, and to come back in later in the year. So it was about $40 spent for a bit of peace of mind. When the pads do need replacing, we hope to be in somewhat more secure footing...

Truth, half-truth, or fables?

The last few days I've been listening to the audio version of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. It was available from our online audio library, so I said to myself, why not? I might as well know firsthand what all the fuss was a couple of years ago.

From the very first "pages" I've got to admit it is engaging. I find it difficult to shut off the playback so that I can get some other things done, or get some sleep (even though that hasn't been forthcoming in great quantities as of late). Even if the story doesn't come close to being a masterpiece work of fiction, the elements engage curiosity and emotions.

Why am I writing about, what would be in this digital age, ancient news? I think it is because there are some things that I can learn from the book and the way it is put together. And I think I was meant to read it at this particular point in time.

The main point I think I was meant to learn, or be reminded, is that a story, no matter how well crafted and logically laid out it may be, it not necessarily true. The story's "facts" even when presented so convincingly, may not be facts at all, or may be misinterpretations of reality.

Another point that I think I am supposed to glean is that a person's perspective, to a great degree, colors what is reality and truth to that person. If I'm wearing yellow lenses, I'm going to see everything as yellow. If someone else is wearing red lenses, they are going to see everything as red. What another person is convinced is truth and reality, may not be, or only be partially. The same goes for my perspective and opinions.

A third point may be that when enough truth is mixed with fiction, the fiction begins to seem like truth. Even with all that I know about Christian history, when I'm listening to the Da Vinci Code, I find myself thinking, that makes sense... but wait a minute... is it really that way? So I can understand the many individuals who have come to question Christianity based on reading or listening to this book. The story for the most part sounds plausible, especially in the context of a conspiracy that organizations have supposedly kept hidden for centuries. I think most people are suspicious of organizations, especially in today's context, and are willing to believe plausible conspiracy theories.

A final point that I needed reminding is that when a person believes fiction, fables, and errors long enough, for that person, the fiction becomes reality. The take away for me is that whenever someone tells me stories, I need to be (I hate to do this) skeptical enough to separate what is truly true from what someone simply believes to be true, albeit sincerely.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Life goes on

On Saturday night, Elise got a call from the hospital about coming in for a few hours on Sunday to help "babysit" a woman whose husband takes one day off a year for his Superbowl party. So yesterday Elise spent noon to 7 p.m. getting a little bit of pay.

However, I've been noticing that the front brakes on our pickup are starting to make noises. So I'm sure the cost for replacing brake parts is going more than make up for any pay.

The blind lady in our church wants to go visit her sister in Georgia. No one has been found so far that has time to do it. Except Elise, who may be able to go if the trip fits into the last two weeks of February, and it doesn't cost us anything out of pocket. With more fees and such for nursing paperwork, expenses for selling our house, auto repairs, and just the regular living expenses, things are definitely looking tight.

That plus other things related to what is happening around here have definitely contributed to my insomnia experience. I'm afraid it might turn from acute to chronic... I've been trying Valerian supplements upon a suggestion, but so far without much effect. The one study I saw on this herb, in which the results appeared to be statistically significant, showed that positive effects usually started to be observed 14 to 21 days after starting it. So I might have another ten to fifteen days to go before I experience any change.

I've also had a mild cold since Thursday or Friday. I first thought I had a neck or shoulder muscle problem because the right side of my head felt some pain when I tugged on my ear. But then after a couple of days I noticed that my throat was scratch and dry. Things seem much better today, though after riding the bicycle over to the church, the cold air hurt more than it would have if I had been feeling fine, and I also seemed to feel a bit more tired, even after the short trip.

Last week, the weather cleared up after I moaned about the fog. Now, the clouds have rolled back in and we've seen some sprinkles, but no major rain yet. There was a few days of strong auroral activity, but as it typically seems to be, it occurred when the skies were obscured. Now we are in a period of quiet activity.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Bible Reading 2007, Week 6

This week's readings are from Exodus 19-40; Leviticus 18-27; and Malachi 3.

As I read through Moses' life again, I get the distinct impression that he was a strong introvert. For example, he doesn't like to speak, he wrote a lot (the Pentateuch), he keeps his feelings bottled up until they explode, he survived 40 years in isolation caring for sheep...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sermon, Feb. 3: What's So Special About My God?

(Click on above title for audio.)

Today's sermon is the conclusion of the prologue section of John's Gospel, John 1:14-18. I explore the question regarding what sets Christianity apart from other religions. The answer is found in today's texts from John, together with texts from Leviticus, Matthew, and Colossians.

We had an individual come to our worship today that hadn't attended for many years. It's always a pleasure to have another person join us in our worship.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Finishing up another week

But not quite. One more day to go. Once I get past the first half of tomorrow, I can take a little break -- maybe.

For different reasons, this week seemed more difficult and troubling than ones in more recent memory. The last time my psychological state was in this somewhat brooding, downward mode was a couple of months ago.

A number of somewhat negative data have all converged this week, so that even though I wasn't as busy as I was last week, this week just seemed much tougher, mentally and emotionally.

For instance, the transit and bureaucracy needed for Elise's paperwork to travel through before she can start working for pay is expected to be another six or so weeks. The good news is that we now have a more definite end point. The bad news is that we had hoped the end to have come by now. So our cashflow situation will continue to be severely negative for another couple of months.

That compounded with having to lower the asking price on our Oregon property again last week, followed by additional, unplanned, marketing costs (interior staging and spring exterior cleanup) that we have to absorb adds to my anxiety and frustration -- neither very constructive to my mental and emotional well being. Neither does this help our cashflow problems...

I also learned this week about some troubling, unresolved issues within the church. So that adds more on top of everything else. The experiences I've gone through during the last ten years have been valuable training in ways I would never have imagined.

Finally as I was finishing up tomorrow's sermon, I felt my words and efforts seeming so inadequate to the task. All through the week though, I saw little signals here and there that gave me confidence that both the theme and the approach were right, but today, it just hasn't felt right. I've re-read the sermon, adjusted a few things here and there, but overall I can't do any more. Maybe what I'm feeling now is just a reminder that it's not my words or my cleverness that touches hearts. I need to rely on the Holy Spirit. I'm just a tool.

Lately I've been letting God know that it's okay if he pauses faith-growing activities in my life for a little while. I'd like to coast along on a plateau for a little while. You know, just let me spin along for a while until I catch my breath and recover a bit. So far though, God isn't granting me my request.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Book: Evangelism for the Rest of Us

Evangelism for the Rest of Us: Sharing Christ within Your Personality Style

This is the how-to evangelism book for those of us with an introvert personality. On the Myer-Briggs Extravert/Introvert scale, I come out as far as a person can on the "I" side of the scale. I'm sure if it could go any more, I'd be right there.

So my thoughts and feelings resonated strongly while reading this book. I could identify with nearly everything in the book, from having the "evangelism is not for me" feelings, to the fears that introverts have, the discomfort of large-scale evangelism methods, and so on.

The book is really an affirmation that we, introverts, are uniquely equipped and gifted in ways to reach a portion of the population that is turned off by the more traditional methods and forms of evangelism that continue to be promoted and employed.

Extraverts who read this book will probably not understand and may even think this book is completely wrong about evangelism. Guess what!? We, introverts, think the same about 90% (maybe even more) of the evangelism methods and training out there. Welcome to the club!