Thursday, May 31, 2007

Need to learn auto mech and woodworking

Since my pay to time ratio is now at infinity, it looks like I need to learn basic auto maintenance skills as well as learn how to do woodworking.

I had the standard lube-oil-filter service done at the local shop and the bill came to almost $90! When (materials + labor + sales tax) are taken into account, that's about what would be expected. Still, when I'm still used to all the competition driving down service rates, $90 is a bit of a surprise.

We'll need quite a number of bookcases, shelves, desk units, and cupboards once we move, and I'm pretty sure that in the long run building them myself rather than purchasing them will come out to be much less expensive.

Once we have a place to store additonal tools and equipment, it looks like I'll be venturing into yet more skill areas that I have not had any need in the past. We'll see if the next year turns me into something more than a bumbling mechanic and carpenter.

We did finally get the signed purchase agreement from the seller. It's been faxed to the lender so that loan processing can begin. Now it's a matter of waiting to see if the loan will be approved. I've arranged for a home inspection this Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Choir News Notes in the NPUC Gleaner

A news article from when we had the "campmeeting" during the first part of April is in the current issue of the North Pacific Union Gleaner. The article is also online here.

Since the article was published, I wrote in an previous blog that we added two members. Here is the photo of all six members at the end of our (short) season. We'll be restarting in the fall.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Finally starting to set down roots

For the past eight months we've been sort of like seedlings waiting for the weather to warm up so they can be transplanted into their permanent locations. We've been living in an apartment that I recently measured to be just under 800 sq. ft. -- not unlike one of those little starter containers that the plants just can't wait to outgrow.

Just as with many seedlings that you need to harden to the outdoor conditions that they will eventually reside in, we've experienced fall, winter, and spring at this location and have experienced quite a bit of the seasonal rhythms that occur annually.

But as with seedlings that are getting too big for their little starter containers, that's about where we are now. We think it is time to permanently set our roots into the soil of Petersburg. And various things have converged in the last couple of weeks -- some might say coincidences, I think it more likely that God's been orchestrating things -- so that we looked at several properties for sale and made an offer on one last Thursday. It was accepted almost immediately, even though it was not a full-price offer.

The whole purchase process will likely take up to six weeks. If all goes without a hitch, we should be moving out of our apartment sometime in July.

For those who are interested in looking at a few photos of the property and house, click here or on the image:

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bible Reading 2007, Week 22

The story of David continues in our Bible readings this week in 2 Samuel 11-24; 1 Chronicles 18-27; and Psalms 51 and 52. We enter the latter part of David's reign, the story of the decline of his rule. Yet in spite of all David's mistakes, God still keeps his promises to David.

No sermon from yesterday

Just a short note to say that I didn't give the sermon yesterday as Pastor Brown gave it.

This coming Sabbath, June 2, I continue our journey through the Gospel of John by taking a look into what chapter 4 teaches us.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Salmon Derby

At 7:04 a.m. yesterday morning, several skiffs in the Narrows began racing past our front window. One might almost (almost...) be forgiven for thinking that this was the start of a powerboat race... The spray and wakes churned the calm morning waters. As the minutes passed by, more boats went by. Soon enough, the first of the larger boats, going as fast as it could safely do so, sailed past. Trollers, gill netters, purse seiners, long liners all began to sail through into the Sound -- all for a shot at one of the prizes up for grabs this Memorial Day weekend.

The boats continue to head out this morning to increase their total catch for the weekend, and also to try to catch one of two specially marked salmon. Bringing one of these in brings in one of the big prizes. The chances for winning one of these is probably about the same as winning a lottery.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sunny and hot

Yesterday, we matched the record high for the day set in 1992. It was 68F in the afternoon, and as far as everyone in town was concerned, getting a little too warm for comfort. If I heard correctly, Elise said that there were some heat-related incidents yesterday...

The kids and I walked into town during mid-afternoon to visit the hospital for their 90th birthday celebration. There were snacks and a few prizes to be had.

By the time we returned home, we were beat from the heat. Our apartment gets quite a bit of afternoon sun, now that it is approaching the summer solstice. That means the indoor temp can reach 80F or more. It's definitely shorts weather, and pretty close to outdoor swimming weather.

Everyone here is happy to see that we are having spring, and hopeful that we will have a real summer instead of the soggy mess that was summer last year.

The skies are overcast today and some showers and rain forecast for the next couple of days. So it looks like our "heat wave" of temps above 65F only lasted a couple of days.

Elise's dad arrives this morning. Pastor Brown arrives this evening. And the annual Salmon Derby kicks off tomorrow and runs through Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Recital and Choir videos

Last evening, Amy and Shelley participated in the Spring recital for their piano, fiddle, and guitar instructions. The video can be viewed or downloaded by clicking here (right click and select "Save Target As..." to download). The video file is approximately 10.1 MB in size and requires a recent version of Windows Media Player. It is encoded at about 128 Kbps.

I also finally got around to encoding last month's choir performance at our church. This video can be downloaded by clicking here. The file size is approximately 5.7 MB in size.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Little Norway Festival 2007 Part 2

Yesterday afternoon was the Festival Pageant held at the High School gym. There were a number of (mostly) Norwegian related music, dances, songs, speeches, and poetry. Shelley performed as part of the Fiddleheads fiddle group. The governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, flew in to be part of the celebration (including an impromptu inclusion in one of the Norwegian dances when she was drafted by one of the Vikings to join in). The U.S. Coast Guard is the "big" military installation here, so they are the ones who bring out the flags and take them away.

This is definitely a small town. Even the big festival events have a very informal, intimate atmosphere. I also thought it was interesting that even for an event that would be considered "secular" in any other place, an invocation was given at the start by the Bible Church pastor.

This afternoon, I went out to Sandy Beach where the Rotary was holding their fundraising Seafood Bake & BBQ. For $25 I got a number of tasty salads and generous servings of king salmon, black cod, and halibut. I brought back home about half of it to finish later. Elise is working so she couldn't go, and the girls would have had to pay $12 each for not eating any fish... Though I suppose I could have had them take servings of the fish anyway for me to eat... I hadn't thought of that.

The High School Baccalaureate was held this evening at the High School auditorium. The Baccalaureate is where the members of the Christian Ministerial Association provide the graduating seniors with a sermon and a charge. This is the first time and place where I've encountered a religious (Christian) service for graduating public high school seniors. Maybe there are other towns and cities that do this, but if so, I've never heard of it.

My participation was to play the accompaniment to two of the hymns. When I was assigned those items originally, it wasn't clear if I was going to lead the singing or play the accompaniment. When I arrived this evening and spoke with the pastor organizing the program, he wasn't sure either. He had sort of assumed that there would be a piano and pianist, but you know how assumptions are often wrong. So it was that I ended up on the piano and he did the leading. I suspected that this might happen, so it was a good thing I came prepared with music and had practiced beforehand. It's been a while since I felt so nervous being up front.

Over the last several months, I've come to see that the line between what is common and what is sacred is a lot more fuzzy here. I think this is perhaps closer to the Biblical model of how life should be. When I read about the Christian life, it seems that there really shouldn't be a distinction between common and sacred. Rather, everything in a Christian's life should be an expression of worship. And in that respect, I think the Petersburg community gets closer to that than other places we've lived. Whether it is a celebration, a commemoration, a remembrance, or anything else, God is frequently a visible part of it.

Bible Reading 2007, Week 21

The readings this week are found in 2 Samuel 1-10; 1 Chronicles 10-17; and Psalms 42, 43, 46, and 46. These passages retell the glory days of Israel under David's kingship.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sermon: Friendly Fire

(Click on above link to listen to MP3 audio.)

What happens when two Christian ministries, both who believe they are doing God's work, appear headed on a collision course? Or when one group of Christians see another group who appear more successful, what is the reaction of the one that is struggling?

The story of how John the Baptist responded to Jesus' ministry as recorded in John 3:22-36 sheds some light on how Christians today ought to respond to other Christians and their ministries, when some even seem to invade existing ministry turf.

Children's Story: Seals


Props: 1 or 2 reproductions of government seals, or seals on official documents.

This morning we're going to talk about seals. No, not the kind of seals that you find in the waters around here.

What I'm talking about are seals like these. [Show reproductions of government seals.]

What are these kinds of seals used for?
On government documents
On official correspondence

Can you think of some reasons why governments place these seals on important documents?
To identify the documents as being from the government (identification)
So the recipients can have confidence in the source of the document (affirmation)
To show that the bearer of the seal speaks for the government (authority)
To show that the document or item bearing the seal belongs to the gov't. (ownership)

In the part of the world we live in, we don't really give too much thought to seals. Today our signatures are often sufficient for conducting business. But in years past, seals were much more important in everyday life. Even today though, in some other parts of the world, seals are much more important.

For example, in the country where I was born, Japan, instead of signatures, seals are still used to identify, affirm, and to claim authority and ownership in transacting business.

Did you know that the Bible talks about seals too? In the last book of the Bible, called Revelation, we learn that God's people can be identified as His because they have God's seal on them.

Is God's seal something like the seal of the State of Alaska, or the seal of the City of Petersburg? Is it something that is stamped onto us? It is, but not in the way that you might expect.

The book of Ephesians tells us that the seal of God that identifies people as His is the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit lives in a person's heart, that person is then identified as belonging to God.

What's even more interesting is that people who love Jesus become seals themselves. We read in John 3:33 that "Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true." What this is saying is that anyone who learns to trust in Jesus become seals that identify and affirm that what Jesus says is true.
How does this happen?

It happens like this. When a person learns to love Jesus, she wants to spend more and more time with Jesus. When she spends more time, she becomes more like Jesus. Becoming more like Jesus means becoming more loving, patient, and kind with one another, even people that might annoy you at times -- even your sister or brother.

When a person begins to show that kind of love, other people around them begin to notice. They see that what Jesus said about loving one another really can be true.

So you see, when you learn to love and trust Jesus, you become seals that help show the world that Jesus' words are really true. You become seals that show to the world that you've made Jesus' words the rule (or authority) for your life, that you've made Jesus a part of your life, and that you identify yourself with Jesus kingdom.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The troublesome Stripey

Our big, 18+ lb. cat, Stripey, has been nothing but trouble today. Somehow, sometime, he snuck his way out of the apartment without any of us knowing (except our other cat, Vivvy).

About 2:30 or so this afternoon, Vivvy began to yowl and whine about something. Elise put her on a leash and she went out for a few minutes, but came in and continued to yowl very loudly. After a few minutes, I understood what she was saying -- this was her "Stripey is outside the apartment" yowl. And so we began a frantic search inside to locate Stripey -- which, obviously was unsuccessful.

Then we expanded the search outside, but he was nowhere to be seen. And with his cute, dainty voice, it certainly would not be heard, even if he were to make noises rather than cowering in fear. We search all around the apartment grounds multiple times. We went across the road to see if we could spot cat-like movement along the beach rocks. I took my bike and rode around several blocks to see if he had made his way away from the apartment.

In my initial search around the grounds, I came across a handful of locations that could hold a hiding, cowering cat. I searched around them but didn't find anything. It was about an hour later, searching the same area for the fifth or sixth time that I saw a little kitty head poking out in a little hole underneath a pile of concrete slabs on the next property. And there he was. He had found a hole just big enough where a dog wouldn't be able to get in, and where even a team of Bald Eagles would have a difficult time pulling him out.

Elise came by, so I had her work on Stripey while I went to search for Shelley who had gone off in her own search. We were all safely united a few minutes later.

We then rushed off to the parade pictured in the earlier posting.

After the parade, we came home, and then headed almost right back out for a picnic supper on the west side of the city.

Upon returning from the picnic, Stripey used the litter box -- sort of. He somehow used it backwards, so that his business landed outside the container, onto the floor, the rug, and the door.

How much trouble can an 18 lb. cat get into in a single day? From the looks of it, quite a bit. I've had just about enough of it.

Little Norway Festival 2007 Part 1

The annual Little Norway festival is in full swing this weekend. Last night we attended the Mitkof Mummer's annual melodrama in their continuing saga of Halibut Harbor. It was an entertaining bit of theater, though I think quite a bit of the inside jokes went past us. But even so, we found it amusing and enjoyable.

This afternoon was the march of the festival parade down Main Street. You'd almost think you were walking down Disneyland's Main Street with the crowds and noise so thick. Click on this link or the collage image to view the photo gallery from this afternoon.

Amy's Birthday Party

The theme of Amy's birthday party on Thursday was "chocolate chip cookies." So that's what she and seven other girls did -- make chocolate chip cookies. There were a few other activities besides that, including an unexpected Piñata from one of the guests.

Trying to find a place to hang the Piñata was a serious challenge. We discovered that throughout the entire church proprety, there are no naturally available locations to hang one. So we improvised by wrapping the rope around the roof of the church entry and making a makeshift crossbeam from rope from which we hung the Piñata.

Click on this link or the collage image to view the party photo gallery.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Old phones, new phones, wasabi almonds

I cancelled our cell phone service with Verizon Wireless today. Our contract expired at the end of last month, and I discovered that our monthly usage was falling below 30 minutes/month. I picked up a couple of prepaid cell phones that are currently on special -- free phones and no activation fee when purchased with $50 or more in prepaid minutes. We'll use these for basically emergencies, for Elise to take on-call calls, and for the kids to take along when they're about town on their own.

Of the two numbers that were activated, one of them didn't work completely until today. I could call out from it, I could call into it from the local landline, from another cell phone on the ACS network, but NOT from a number on the Cellular One network (on which my T-Mobile service roams). After spending an hour this morning myself with technical support, I took the phone back to the office where I purchased it and let them fight with it. It finally got working after someone at ACS figured out there were additional ports that had to be opened... whatever that means in cell-phone network speak.

Cell phone service is notoriously unreliable here. I've experienced outages that went longer than a day. Sometimes it's both service providers, sometimes it one or the other. So a landline is a must, and if you have more than one cell phone, it kind of makes to have them on separate networks.

While my sister was here, she found that we are able to get Blue Diamond Bold Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds at the convenience store. So she purchased a can for us and I've been hooked...

We began our search for a house today. We went into and looked at three today. We'll look at a couple more on Friday. There just aren't that many homes to choose from here, and none meet all of our needs and desires. We'll see how things go during the next days and weeks.

Groceries are getting really expensive...

This is one of the specials this week...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cruise ship runs aground

The paddlewheeler cruise ship, Empress of the North, whose photo I posted a few days back, has run aground according to the story on the Anchorage Daily News site.

This story has also made the front page of the MSN site via MSNBC.

Week back and week ahead

Last Tuesday we had our last children's choir get-together for this season. With May and summer upon us, schedules get busy, school lets out, travel occurs, and things just don't lend themselves too well for weekly meetings. I'd like to get together a few times so that we can sing at the Manor (assisted living) and perhaps at the long-term care (nursing home).

If you're looking for a vacation in which you are forced to relax... this may be the place. That's what my sister and husband discovered (and enjoyed) about their visit here. It was "vacation" in the way it should be, but so often when we go on "vacation" we discover that we need a rest from our "vacation." That just isn't so when you come here. You simply cannot get yourself too busy here. You can walk, see and visit the entire city in about half a day. You can drive from one end of the island to the other in about the same amount of time (including time to get out and walk). You can take a flight tour or a boat tour that takes half to a whole day. But once the end of the day comes around, you are back at your hotel. There really isn't much nightlife, unless you're into bars... So if you're looking for a few days in which to walk along the rocky beaches, or tromp through some muskeg, splash about the rivers and creeks, watch the eagles soaring in the air, watch the boats sailing past, watch the tide go in and out... this may be the place.

We begin our house hunting this week. Not that there is much to hunt from, mind you. There are a couple of for-sale-by-owner properties, and about three listed with the Realtor that we are sort of interested in looking at. None of them, just looking at them, have jumped out at us yelling, "Buy me, buy me!" So we'll see how things go. We're looking for a house that has 3 or more bedrooms, more than 1 bathroom, a large living area, and a respectable kitchen (since I've lately found myself spending 2-4 hours most days in it). We want a large living area so that we can open up our home to different gatherings. There are people who are reluctant to come to church, but may be open to a gathering in a home. We would like to make that option available, but would need a sufficiently open space to do that comfortably.

The Little Norway Festival occurs from this Thursday through Sunday. We'll be out and about at some of the events that occur. I'm sure the city streets will be the busiest we've ever seen since our arrival.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Wishing all mothers a happy Mother's Day

A happy Mother's Day to our mothers in Alaska, Oregon and Japan; and to all other mothers that happen to drop in and read this.

It's Sunday so Elise is once again at work today. We'll see what, if anything, we do this evening.

Bible Reading 2007, Week 20

The Bible reading for this week is found in 1 Samuel 8-31 and Psalms 26, 27, 30, 44. The theme is once again Kings and Prophets. The readings focus on the rise and fall of King Saul, and David's stories during the time of Saul.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sermon: A Chosen Disappointment

(Click on above link to listen to sermon audio.)

Today I spoke on the story of Samson and applied some of what is found to Mother's Day. Some might wonder how Samson's story could possibly be a source for Mother's Day.

I think that there are many mothers (and fathers, too) whose value and worth are inappropriately tied to their children. And when their children don't meet expectations, they might experience a letdown and a sense of failure. Samson's story is one where things should have turned out quite well -- godly, devout parents and God's Spirit working in Samson -- but it did not. It's a story with a warning that parents should not base their success as parents in how their children turn out.

Many mothers (and fathers) today have become known as "helicopter parents." They hover (and hover, and hover) over and around their children for fear that something might go wrong. I think that Samson's story is one that shows us that children must be allowed to drive their own lives.

Some mothers (and fathers) may have children who seem headed into ruin, or perhaps are already there. Samson's story is finally one of hope and encouragement, because God does not give up on anyone. Our God is a God who is able to rescue anyone who wants to be rescued.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Children's Story: Chosen by God

Chosen by God

A long time ago, in a town called Zorah, there lived a man and his wife. The man's name was Manoah. We're not told what his wife's name was. For our story today, we'll just call her "Jaffa" (pronounced Ya-fah). For many, many years they prayed to God for a child to be given to them. But no child came for many years.

Then one day while Jaffa was working out in the fields, a handsome and beautiful young man came up to her and told her that God was going to answer their prayers for a child. This man told her that this child would be a special child, one dedicated to God and who would work for God.

The man gave Jaffa instructions about what she was to do. She was no longer to eat and drink certain categories of food and drink. For the child, the man gave instruction that this child's hair was to never be cut. The hair would be a sign of the child's specialness to God.

During this time, Manoah and Jaffa's people, the Israelites, were being treated badly by the Philistines. The Philistines were a neighboring nation who worshiped other gods. The Philistines were stronger than the Israelites. Many of the Israelites, because it looked like the Philistine gods were stronger than their God, began to worship the other gods instead of their true God. The man who came to Jaffa told her that God was going to use her child to show to the Israelites that their God really was the stronger God, and also to the Philistines that their gods were no match for Israel's God.

After the man left, Jaffa ran to her husband, Manoah, to tell him about the man and the news that he brought. "A man of God appeared to me," she said. "He looked like one of God's angels, terrifying to see," she continued. "I didn't ask where he was from, and he didn't tell me his name. But he told me, 'You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must refrain from wine and all alcoholic beverages, nor must you eat any forbidden foods. Your son will be set apart for God from the moment of pregnancy until the day of his death.'"

Manoah thought maybe his wife was confused and had seen and heard things that really weren't there. So he asked God that if his wife was really telling him what happened, that this man would come to them once again. God answered his prayer by sending the man again to Jaffa. She ran to tell her husband that the man had come. Manoah went to see the man and after speaking with him, was convinced that Jaffa wasn't confused and had heard correctly the first time.

Manoah asked for this man's name and the man just told Manoah that his name was too Wonderful for him to really understand. (Did you know that many years later, Jesus would be known as "Wonderful?") Manoah brought some sacrifices to offer to God. As the sacrifices burned upon the rock where Manoah had placed it, a wonder happened. The man that was talking with them entered the flames and rose up to heaven in it.

Both Manoah and Jaffa became scared and fell to the ground. They realized that this wasn't just a man -- it was God himself that had come to speak with them. Manoah thought he was going to die, but Jaffa pointed out to him that if God wanted to kill them, why would he have accepted their offering and showed them this wonderful miracle, and promised them a son?

They returned home and Jaffa followed the instructions of God carefully. About a year later a boy was born to Manoah and Jaffa. They named this boy Samson. He grew up strong, but he was not the most obedient child around. He wanted to do his own thing. Manoah and Jaffa tried to teach Samson about God and how to live life in a way that would please him, but it seemed that Samson didn't really listen nor want to do that.

I'm sure Manoah, and especially Jaffa, had many moments when they became discouraged and probably felt some disappointment with Samson. Here was a special child from God, but it didn't look like he wanted anything to do with getting to know God, to come to Him, to be with Him, and to walk with Him. Maybe there were times when they thought God had made a mistake about choosing Samson to be his special person.

Samson did eventually come back to God. In the book of Hebrews, we learn that Samson is listed as one of the heroes who had faith in God. But before that happened, Samson made lots of mistakes that eventually resulted in his enemies taking out both his eyes to make him blind. His parents never learned about Samson's return to God. His parents died wondering what would ever become of Samson.

Boys and girls, your parents, and especially your mother, are always concerned and worried about what kind of adults you'll become. It's always better to learn to please your mother, father, and God early in life instead of later. That can save you from a lot of troubles later in life. But remember that even if you choose not to love and please God, God still loves you. Even if you choose to ignore him, he won't ignore you. God will keep trying to get your attention and do everything he can in order to bring you to where you will want to choose to love and please him. [E.g., the story of Jacob and God's pursuit of him.]

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. You might have cards or flowers or gifts you are giving to your mother. I'm sure she'll appreciate these tokens and symbols of your love for her. But the very best gift of love you can give to your mother is a commitment to her that with God's help you'll train to become the kind of person that pleases both her and God.

Family Visit

(Updated Friday to fix photo link.)

My sister and husband are currently visiting us. While Elise worked today, we drove out to Blind River/Slough in the rain. We walked out on the boardwalk to the river and rapids which you see in this photo.

We headed back to town, then past it towards Frederick Point on Frederick Road. I've never been past the first mile on this road. I discovered that there are a number of homes out this way. The roads are not plowed during the winter, and I don't think they have city utilities. The road continues to go up and eventually comes to a number of places where it is possible to take in the view of Frederick Sound. Unfortunately the skies were rather cloudy. We'll have to come up here again when skies are not quite so heavy with mist.

On the way back down we stopped at City Creek, a location where we walked last summer. Shelley and Amy immediately went into the creek. Actually, Shelley started to, slipped, and got wet and muddy, water filling her boots. But that wasn't enough to faze her. Both girls splashed about in the water and the rain for a few more minutes before we headed back home to dry clothes and warmth.

I prepared a couple of Indian dishes - lentils with spinach, and dry cooked curried potatoes -- plus a salad.

Shelley received a small set of bonsai tools from her aunt. Tomorrow, we plan to go out and see if we can locate a good bonsai tree specimen for Shelley. We found quite a few that would have made good ones out in the muskeg at Blind River Rapids. But I don't think the Forest Service would have liked to have them dug up.

Monday, May 07, 2007

May Photos

This was taken last week. The deer munch on the lawn, and then sit down to let it digest.

There are more than just fishing boats going by now. I've seen quite a few pleasure yachts and a few small cruise boats. Here's a sternwheeler cruise ship, Empress of the North, that went by today.

Petersburg Mountain is due SW from where I took this photo. During the summer the sun sets close to 90-degrees to the right, almost to the northwest. During the winter the sun sets off the left side of this photo. (As I'm writing this, a few minutes before actual sunset, the mist in the space between the foreground hill [that you see just on the right side] and Petersburg Mountain is glowing red.)

Here's looking out the other direction towards Frederick Sound. It was just an hour or so after high tide, so the current was fairly calm, and with no winds, the water was calm enough to reflect the clouds and mountains.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A few happenings

Here's another summary of things that have happened since the last update.

Thursday was the National Day of Prayer. The evening service was at the Baptist church, in which I was to take part in leading a few songs, and the children's choir was asked to sing a song. The congregational singing was to the accompaniment of a digital hymnal. It was an interesting experience trying to sing along to a very mechanical accompaniment. It would hold notes unexpectedly, and then not hold notes where it would be expected. The kids sang quite well -- much better than what I thought was going to happen after going through the rehearsal on Tuesday. On Tuesday there just wasn't much volume in their voices, and I didn't think they would be heard beyond the first few rows. But on Thursday things were much better.

This afternoon was the annual Blessing of the Fleet in which anyone who wishes to have their boat and their fishing work prayed can have that done by the pastors of Petersburg. It was an interesting service. It was indoors this year because the rain and wind was pretty strong. It is normally held outside, even with rain. Afterward there were refreshments. This was my first time inside the Sons of Norway Hall, one of the landmark buildings in the city.

Sometime after returning home, I was startled by a knock on the door. It was the lady for whom I translated some school transcripts for her boys. She works at one of the canneries in town, and she had with her a bag full of "kazunoko" (herring roe), a Japanese delicacy. I'm pretty sure these are fresh from a recent catch that came through the cannery. My sister and husband are arriving in a few days, so I've set aside a few to soak out the salt.

A month after the Good Friday service in which I took part and gave a short message, there are still people coming up to me telling me how much they appreciated the message. I can only credit the Holy Spirit with bringing all the pieces together for what I said, and for how I delivered it. The Adventist congregation here is tiny, but it appears that the work I am doing is having an impact beyond the walls of the Adventist church. I don't really expect that the Adventist church here will ever be that large, but if, through some of these community events, I can share a new perspective of God that some people haven't seen before, then I would consider our work here a success.

Bible Reading 2007, Week 19

The readings this week are found in 1 Samuel 1-7; Psalms 14-17; Proverbs 16-20; and 1 Chronicles 1-9.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Sermon: When Right Isn't

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

Based on Matthew 18:1-6, 10; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 15.

It is so easy to do or say something that results in children or someone new to the faith ("little ones," according to Jesus) receiving the wrong impression of God. The longer believers spend with other believers, the more calloused they become to insensitivities that could cause a huge wound in someone more inexperienced in faith. It might even result in spiritual death for someone.

The responsibility of watching and weighing to make sure that doesn't happen falls upon the more experienced believers -- those who are more mature in faith. But it seems that so often, those that have been Christians, supposedly walking with Jesus, for the longest time have become the most insensitive towards children and new believers. Some of Jesus' harshest words are directed against those that wound and kill, intentionally or not, his "little ones." We take a look at a couple of these admonitions from Jesus in this sermon.

(The responsive reading that is mentioned is Matthew 18:1-6, 10 and Mark 10:13-16.)

We need to remind ourselves that the more experienced disciples of Jesus must carefully watch their words and actions so that we do not become obstacles to God's children, his little ones, as they make their walk towards Jesus.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Children's Story: The Brothers

This story is meant to accompany tomorrow's sermon. Tomorrow, I'll be focusing on the value God places upon his children.

The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 doesn't give any reasons why the younger son got tired of living at home, tired of his father, and therefore chose to leave. As I was thinking about it this week, the attitude of the older son at the end of the story triggered the speculation that led to the following story.

Children's Story - The Brothers

Once upon a time, in a land quite different from ours, there were two brothers, Gary and Ken. Gary was older than Ken by five years.

They lived with their father and mother on a large estate. This estate was surrounded by orchards, vineyards, gardens and trees. A river ran through the property on one of its boundaries. There were numerous animals and livestock as well. The estate was cared for by the numerous hired servants.

Although the servants took care of all necessary tasks, the father believed it best for the boys, Gary and Ken, to learn the tasks and duties associated with running the estate and caring for it. As each became old enough to handle certain tasks, the father assigned to each appropriate responsibilities. These tasks involved such things as feeding and cleaning their animals, weeding and caring for the garden, sprucing up the landscape, trimming the vines, and so on.

The boys, being typical kids, did not particularly enjoy these daily responsibilities. They would have rather spent all their time running through the fields in spring, swimming in the river during the hot summer days, climbing through the golden trees of autumn, and having snowball fights with their friends in the winter.

During one of these times when the boys were working alongside one another, Ken began to complain particularly vociferously about the work. Ken was about seven and Gary, twelve.

Gary glared at Ken and in a loud whisper admonished, "Shush! Don't let dad hear you."

"Why not?" asked Ken.

"Because if you continue to whine like that, you'll get dad angry, and who knows what'll happen then! Just do what dad tells us, and everything will be okay."

Gary and Ken were adopted. They both knew that. What Ken didn't know, because he was still an infant at the time of the adoption, was that their birth parents were short-tempered, demanding, alcoholics, and abusive. It was up to Gary to keep Ken quiet, for when baby Ken started to cry and scream, Gary would inevitably be on the receiving end of some kind of vicious beating. Gary learned that in order to keep from being beaten, from being yelled at, and just to survive, he had to control Ken and to meticulously obey every command of his parents, however illogical and ludicrous they might be.

Even after arriving at his new home, Gary never got over the fear that his new parents might somehow explode in anger if he or Ken did something wrong. So Gary made sure that he would always do exactly what his father and mother asked of him, and he took it upon himself to make sure that Ken did so, too.

As the years went by, Ken entered his teen years. His resentment of his brother, Gary, grew stronger with each passing day. His fear and disdain for his father also grew. It seemed to Ken that Gary actually enjoyed being so "perfect" and enjoyed telling Ken what to do.

"Is Gary right about our dad?" wondered Ken at times. Ken wasn't as "perfect" as Gary seemed to be, and every now and then his father would have words of correction for Ken. Each time it happened, Ken would cringe inwardly, wondering if this was time he crossed the line and his father would finally explode into rage. That never happened, however. But that didn't seem to make any difference in Ken's mind about whether or not his father might someday.

A number of years passed by. Ken was now in his late teens. Gary was a young adult, responsible for helping run part of the estate, which he did exceptionally well. Ken, however, had become tired of living in fear and resentment, of both his brother and father. He determined that he could no longer live with them. His only choice, he believed, was to leave his family and home. For once, he wanted to live life as he pleased, outside the control of others.

One afternoon, Ken approached his father with trepidation and trembling. He demanded, "Father, I want my share of your estate now before you die." Ken stood with his arms crossed across his chest and looked defiantly towards his father, awaiting the lightning and thunder from his father to strike. But there was none.

If Ken had been more observant, he would have seen an expression of sadness and dismay in his father's face. But Ken was too obsessed with himself, his fear, and his desires.

"Ken," his father said softly. "Are you sure about this? It will take a few days to divide up the estate between you and your brother. If you're determined to go, I can't stop you. But think about what you're doing, for my sake, okay?"

Ken was surprised that there was so little reaction from his father. There was no way he would reconsider, however. His mind was made up. As soon as he had the title to his portion of the estate, he would be on his way.

The rest of this story is in the Bible, Luke 15:13-32:

[Read Luke 15:13-32 in a modern, dynamic-equivalence translation, e.g., ICB, NLT, TMSG.]

Children [or kids, or boys and girls], don't ever believe it when someone tells you that God only loves and accepts you when you are good and behaving well. The truth is that God loves all of you, all of the time. We are told in the Bible that Jesus had to scold some people, who like the older brother, Gary in this story, gave a false picture of God to the children and got in their way. I'm going to talk more about this in just a few minutes.

Children, always remember that just as Jesus loved to have children come to him when he walked on this earth, God loves to have all his children come to him today. It doesn't matter if you've been good or bad, whether you're clean or dirty, or whether you think you're acceptable to him or not. God wants you to come to him. Don't let anyone, whether it's someone else your age, an older youth, or even an adult tell you that you're not welcome to come to God to be with him. Don't allow anyone or anything to come between you and God. You are just as much a part of God's family as anyone else. In fact, as far as God and Jesus are concerned, you are more precious to them than me and all the other adults here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Locks of Love

Shelley had her hair cut short today. She is donating her locks to Locks of Love. Word got around about this event to the city newspaper earlier this week. We got a call from them yesterday asking if we'd be okay if a reporter came out and wrote up a story for the paper about Shelley and Locks of Love. So this afternoon, at the salon (I wasn't there so I'm going on what I've been told), the Pilot reporter came to observe and write a story for the paper.

Here are the before and after photos.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Sea Angel

Amy got a brine shrimp kit for her science experiment. With that set up, she proceeded to go down to the Narrows to see what else she could find. She came back with some snails and a sand flea.

And then Shelley got into the act and discovered an interesting creature. I thought it looked like a little translucent angel swimming around in the water. After a bit of Googling and such going from one article to another trying to figure out just this creature is, I came across an entry for (drum roll...) Sea Angel.

Here is a close-up photo. The actual size is somewhere around 2 cm.