Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Generating more time...?

Here's a bonus reflection for today.

I'm reading a book, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, by Mark Buchanan. (BTW, I'm finding it to be insightful -- seeing an intepretation of the Sabbath from a different perspective.)

In this book, on p. 83, Buchanan quotes Proverbs 11:24 from The Message, by Eugene Peterson:
24 The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.
Now this is usually quoted and understood in terms of money and possessions. But Buchanan raises the question: Does it apply to our time also? He suggests that indeed it does. The more time we choose to give away (to God, to others), the more time we will actually find. In terms of normal space-time continuum, this sounds impossible, but maybe something miraculous happens when we choose to give God all of our time and let him direct our daily appointments.

What do you think?

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like an Onion

The Kingdom of Heaven is like an onion. There are many, many layers to it. I'm sure you think I'm going to say that as we peel the first layer, then go deeper in, we discover something more. But if I follow that logic, eventually I get to the center where there are no more layers. When I get to the center, I've discovered all that I could possibly find and know.

No, the Kingdom of Heaven is like an onion, but not in the way just described. Rather, we start in the center -- we are born there. It is a place where rules and regulations govern every aspect of our lives. It's a place where we are very certain of how things in this world work, how everyone is supposed to relate to us, and how people and organizations are supposed to behave and act.

But then, we discover that the world can be a bit unpredictable at times. We discover that the onion we live in is a little bigger than we first imagined. Peoples and things don't quite work and behave like we thought they should. Rules, which seemed so black and white at first, we discover now cannot be applied indiscriminately in every situation. There is a different force at work. Things become a bit more uncertain.

At this point, we have a choice: We can refuse to accept that the world is a little bigger than we are comfortable with, and choose to explore this new layer; or, we can refuse to acknowledge that there are some things which we don't know yet and retreat into the comfort zone of what we already know.

Those who are courageous enough to venture outward discover that there are even more layers. And unlike onions in this world, this metaphysical onion is infinite in size and layers. The more you choose to venture outward, the more you discover. The more you choose to explore, the easier it becomes to explore. Your world and universe continue to get bigger and bigger. You can't imagine what it was like when you were trapped in the center -- when that was all you knew of the universe. As you travel outward, you discover more and more freedom.

As you travel outward, you discover and experience more and more of this force that more and more strongly attracts you and drives you outward. The force is love -- the force is God himself. To those still in the middle, the attraction of God is minimal, but as a person begins to move outward, the attraction becomes stronger and stronger until it becomes nigh impossible to even consider a retreat. You become less and less certain of your own knowledge, but more and more certain of God's love and the true freedom love offers.

I think it is better to imagine God and his love surrounding all of us and all of his creation, rather than the more standard metaphor where God is at the center and we are all trying to find the one right and perfect answer. In the model described here, where God surrounds, no one will ever have the one complete, right, and perfect answer. Because if any person ever achieves that, then he or she is, in essence, God. No, if God is infinite as he claims he is and we believe he is, then our spiritual journeys never end. It always moves into new territory as we discover and experience more of who and what God is.

Each spiritual journey is different. There is none identical. In the model where God is at the center, the implication is that eventually all spiritual journeys converge and become alike. With God surrounding, no spiritual journey ever can be alike. Every person will have a differing understanding, knowledge, and experience with God for eternity.

The Gospel according to John in the Bible seems to describe this -- in different words, of course. Every person starts out in the same place. Those who choose to accept Jesus Christ, even a little bit, begin their journeys outward.

But those who refuse to believe and accept Jesus choose to retreat. They distance themselves from the only force that can help them grow and find freedom. The more they distance themselves, this force that use to attract they now find repels them further inward. The more they move inward, the more trapped and smaller they become. They become slaves to themselves and to their knowledge. They find it becomes impossible to even acknowledge that some other viewpoint could be more correct. They shrink until they cease to exist. This is the judgment that John writes about Jesus speaking. It is the decision that people make for themselves.

Those who choose to accept Jesus, as John describes Jesus saying, escape judgment. These people find freedom. But those who choose to retreat until they disappear, enter into the judgment of infinite nothingness, deciding for themselves that freedom and life is not what they want.

Where are you in your journey through the onion?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Trouble comes in threes

Okay, so tell me, when things go wrong, why do multiple things go wrong all one right after another -- usually in threes?

Everything was going along fine today. Nothing terribly unusual. I met with an individual who came to our Sabbath worship for the first time this past Sabbath. I purchased some under-cabinet lights and despite a few hiccups, got them successfully installed this afternoon (first set) and this evening (second set). I thought that was quite an accomplishment for someone (me) who is clueless when it comes to handyman and home improvement projects. I usually end up causing a worse mess than before I started. But that wasn't the case today.

Tonight was a different story, however. The girls (and I include all female members of our household plus a guest) were putting together a puzzle this afternoon in the living room and somewhere in the process had also gotten some chocolate drinks in tall, unstable cups. They were not necessarily emptied at the time and they sat around until late this evening. As one cup was being carried over (it could have only been carried horizontally), there was a trail of chocolate liquid from the edge of the living room and across the dining room. After chewing out one girl, then scrubbing the floor and using some Spotshot on the small carpet portion, things seemed okay.

Well, no, that was just the beginning. As I was slicing a loaf of bread and putting it into a bag, one of the girls yelled out that some chocolate drink had spilled. I expected just a little bit was left at the bottom, like the earlier cup. WRONG! Somehow the cup had been placed beneath the coffee table, and got kicked, and it was perhaps half full, or more. There was a huge brown puddle, and then a splash 18 inches long. I got out some paper towels and had one of the girls blot (although apparently the difference between blot and scrub was unknown, so I had to show what blot meant) the spill while I tried to figure out what to do with the stain.

I first thought Spotshot again, but there was just far too much of the spill. We do have a Kirby vacuum cleaner with carpet shampoo attachments. I got it out, but that's always a huge amount of work to set up, shampoo, and then clean all the attachments. So I got out the sprayer that comes with it to see how it works, and I couldn't figure it out. So back to the full shampooer. It's probably a good thing I did go with it because it took a dozen or so shampoo passes to finally get it to where the big stain is barely noticeable. The splash stains appear to have been erased.

I then had to go down to the basement to get the extra dehumidifier (which Grandpa Tom so fortuitously brought this last visit) to set it up in the living room to help speed up the drying of the carpet. I cleaned up the attachments.

And then came the next evil of the night. The vacuum cleaner dust bag was full, so I went down to throw out the bag and replace it with a new one. For the last several months I've been puzzled as to why so much dirt and dust was ending up outside the disposable bag and inside the outer bag. I went outside the basement and shook out much of the dirt and dust that had collected in this outer bag. And then I saw that the dust hose had cracked near the base. That certainly explains the problem I've been seeing.

It looked as if we might be out a vacuum cleaner now. I recalled seeing replacement parts for sale online, so I checked it out. Probably about $30 for all the parts. But how in the world do I replace the dust hose? What if I don't order all the necessary parts to reassemble the dust bag? Arrrggg! Maybe we should just get another vacuum cleaner? As I'm dealing with increasing frustration, stress, and rising blood pressure, I go back to examine the dust bag and hose. There's plastic tape around the top of it, probably to reinforce it or something. Then duct tape comes to mind. Hmm... Can I duct tape the base of the hose and patch up the crack? Will it hold? I don't know. So I gave it a try. I'll know over the next few weeks if the thing holds. If it does, great. If not, I guess it's back to figuring out how to replace the hose.

With all that went on (understand that all the troubles began after 9 p.m. and by the time I've gotten things settled down, it's about 10:20 p.m.) I never did get more than 1-1/2 loaves sliced. I finished slicing the remaining portion of the second loaf and bagged it. I wasn't about to slice the remaining loaves so I started bagging it. And then I discover that I'm two bags short... Sigh (or is it AAARRRRGGGG!?)... I try a gallon Ziplock (actually it's made by Glad...) but the loaf is too big. I try a the Western Family gallon bags -- same size as the Glad, so the loaves won't fit. But the Western Family bags are the cheaper kind, so I stick the remaining two loaves into these bags with an open end. I'm tired of fighting all the things that go wrong.

So as I write this, it is 11:15 p.m. I'm so worked up at that I can't fall asleep. So I might as well put my wakefulness to some use and do some therapeutic blogging and venting my frustrations.

Oh, and a new rule -- no stain-causing drinks are allowed outside the kitchen and dining areas -- unless they are contained in stable cups or mugs. Which brings me to a question I've had for some time now (because accidents have happened before) -- why are so many drink glasses tall and unstable?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bible Reading 2007, Week 35

This week, the readings are found in Isaiah 49-57 and the Gospel according to John.

Reading a part of Isaiah this morning, I came to the following verses in 50:10-11:

10 Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God.
11 But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon fall down in great torment.

I don't think I've really noticed these verses before. The message is quite profound:

It's better to be living in darkness, trusting in God, than to be living in lights of our own creation.

It's better to be uncertain about our lives here in the visible world, but certain of eternity by trusting in God; than to be certain, or trying to make things certain, in this world but lose sight of God in the process.

That which is might be taken for light in this world may turn out to be deceptive -- like some of those ocean creatures that live in constant darkness... It's better to be in darkness, trusting in God's leading, than to be lured away by false light.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Feeling at home

This evening, I got out a number of the candles that we unpacked this week and lit them. For the first time since we started our moving process back in Portland a year ago, it feels like we've finally come home. Just staring at the flames glowing around the room gave me a feeling of peace, relaxation, and home-ness... if you know what I mean.

These images don't convey the full sense of what I felt, but it's the closest thing you readers are going to get.

Sermon: Honor Your Father and Mother

(Click here for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today's sermon looks at the fifth commandment as found in Exodus 20:12; Jesus' exchange with scribes and Pharisees recorded in Mark 7:5-13; and a Proverb, 23:22. All these say something in regards to honor and respect for parents and those who are older, particularly those who are elderly.

As mentioned in a couple of earlier blog posts, this sermon uses material from the supplied sermon for today provided by the North American Division.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Children's Story: Tony's Discovery

This Sabbath's children's story comes from the Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day resource kit. Download the Word document and you will find the story in there.

A brief synopsis: Tony, an elementary school boy, dreads a field trip to a Senior Center where they are required to interact with some of the elderly people there. Once there, he is assigned to a man named George. Tony discovers that they have more in common than he realized, and that he even ends up enjoying the time spent with George. Tony learns about some of the difficulties faced by the elderly, and about what he can do to help.

A week's worth of tales

It's been about a week since I last posted anything in regards to how we're doing, so I guess today's the day. Believe it or not, I've been somewhat busy this past week.

But prior to this week, now that we actually have a water faucet that I can connect a hose to, I washed our pickup for the first time since I drove it through a car wash in Tualatin last September. Believe me, it really needed a wash. I don't know if some of the dirt will ever truly come off. It think some of it is embedded into the paint itself now. After the wash, I could see quite a few scratches and such that we're hidden...

This Monday I picked up a lawn mower that I had ordered. It's a... manual reel mower. Why on earth would I get something like that, you ask? Because I don't like gas-powered mowers and all the costs and maintenance that go into one. I don't like having to breathe exhaust fumes while mowing.

The model I got is a Sunlawn LMM-40. It's about as maintenance free and environmentally friendly as a lawn mower gets. I used it and was quite happy with it. Some of the grass in the back was quite high, so even afterwards there are pockets of them sticking up. I need to get a string trimmer (which I need anyway to trim the edges) and whack off the tops so that the mower can be used on them more successfully.

While mowing though, I got bitten by a bunch of noseeum flies. My lower arms are covered now with little red circles that can itch like crazy. I've been using Benadryl topical ointment, hydrocortizone ointment, and taking Benadryl orally to try to keep myself sane. It's especially bad at night when the itching wakes me up. Benadryl taken at night seems to help reduce the itching, but I have a problem in that when I take it, I don't sleep well at all. The itching seems to be a bit better today, so I hope it will go away in the next day or two. I need to spray on some bug repellent the next time I mow.

Grandpa Tom could not locate a satellite signal at our house. He tried the big 9-feet dish but still couldn't find a signal. The good news is that the equipment at the church is now working. Since we have to tape the programs anyway (our time zone is so far away that all the broadcasts are over by the time our time zone comes around), that isn't too much of a big deal.

We discovered that one of the church members here (who currently doesn't attend regularly) used to know Grandpa Tom, Gummy, and Elise when Elise was a little girl. Grandpa Tom and he were in the Army together in Virginia. (Cue up, It's a Small World After All...)

This week we also started bringing up boxes and unpacking. So instead of the basement filled with boxes (well, it still is) we have a house full of stuff, on the floor, waiting for a home. We still have a large quantity of boxes at the church that we will need to haul back to the house. My (very ambitious) goal is to be completely unpacked by the end of September.

Yesterday morning, our kitty Stripey paid a visit to the hospital. Not as a patient, mind you, but as a visitor. It was "take your pet to the hospital" day and Stripey was one of a number of pets from town to pay a 15-minute visit for the residents to enjoy. The residents and staff may have enjoyed it, but from what I hear (from Elise, who took him there), Stripey was more than ready to come back home.

I got a call last night from Elise asking me to put a bit of the "good" rice (which our my aunt mailed late last year) in a Ziplock bag for an exchange student from Japan. Apparently the one thing she really misses is good rice. The usual stuff just isn't satisfactory to a discriminating palate.

Her host drove her to our house this morning and I gave her the rice. I went out to converse a bit with the girl in (my ever diminishing) Japanese. She came here originally for two-years in college, but apparently has decided to stay for a full four years. She is returning to Bellingham on the ferry tomorrow.

We are nearly out of bread, so I suggested to Amy that she make the bread. She's gotten to where the bread is in their pans, rising. We'll know in a couple of hours how they turn out.

We are definitely starting into an autumn weather pattern. We've had fog, rain and showers, mixed with periods of sun. Daytime temperatures are in the low 60's now.

I spent a few hours today putting together tomorrow's sermon. I have it a bit easy this week because this Sabbath is Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day and the North American Division provides a prepared sermon that can be used as-is, or adapted. As with the previous few prepared sermons that I've used, I've chosen to adapt it so that about half of the sermon tomorrow is original content.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bible Reading 2007, Week 34

This week's Bible readings are in Isaiah 40-48; 1, 2, and 3 John; Malachi 1 and 2.

A few improvements

Grandpa Tom from Idaho arrived last Wednesday, bringing with him a large assortment of tools and various items from Gummy in Oregon.

The main task for Grandpa Tom was to try to see if he could get a satellite dish set up so that we could receive the Hope TV and Esperanza channels. These are the Adventist Television Network channels that broadcast a number of community outreach and evangelistic series programs throughout the year. There are a couple of programs coming up this September through November that I am planning to use at our church and home, and I had hoped to get a satellite receiver working.

Grandpa Tom tried to get a signal at our house, but so far he hasn't had much success. He looked at the one we have at the church and discovered that the LNBF on the dish had gone bad there. After replacing it with a good one, it looks like we have good reception at the church now. As long as the receiver at the church is working, we will be okay. Because our time zone is so far to the west, all four daily broadcasts of the upcoming programs will have taken place hours before we need to use them here. So I can simply record the programs onto tape and take them wherever they will be shown.

Elise got an early birthday present on Friday. It took Grandpa Tom the entire day to install it. "It" is a garbage disposal unit for our kitchen sink. Having to put kitchen scraps into the garbage can gets old rather quickly when we've been used to putting them into a disposal. To put it in required adding a switched outlet under the sink. His result was much more professional looking than what I would have ended up with -- assuming I would have been able to complete the task.

Grandpa Tom also replaced a couple of light switches. The one in the kitchen and our bedroom had been buzzing unless they were fiddled with until they were at just the right position. It turns out that the on/off switch was actually connected to dimmer switches... I didn't care to have them on dimmers (at least for now), so they were replaced with real on/off switches, and now they no longer buzz. I'm sure that I would have gotten fed up with the buzzing eventually to figure out what was going on, but well, now they're fixed.

Yesterday evening, we went with some friends to take a look at a house raising. The family building it had harvested local trees (residents can get permits to harvest a limited number of board-feet each year for free), taken them to one of the local mills, and had begun putting it together. When we got there all of the wall framing had been put up, and several people were working to install roof boards. The whole area was perfumed with freshly cut timber. The house overlooks a creek and a bit of the Narrows. It is located amongst the forest.

However, the visit reinforced my conviction that I am not a construction worker, nor do I ever want to be one. I climbed up the ladder to the second floor, and as I looked down to the ground some 20 feet below, and then watched the workers putting on the roof, I couldn't help but be amazed how comfortable they were dancing about on the beams and boards. And here I was, trying not to let the fear of falling get to me...

I'm seeing a bit of sunshine this morning. The rest of the day looks like it might be dry. The fall rains are trying to push out the summer sun, but maybe summer will fight on a little longer.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Summer is drawing to a close

Well, it looks like our summer is quickly coming to a close. We started getting rain yesterday and it's continued today. Prior to that we had about two weeks of straight sunshine and warm temperatures.

The weather forecast says that we'll see a few more days of sun this coming week, but starting about Thursday, the sun will go into hiding behind the clouds for a looooong time. By then, we'll be approaching our fall season -- which means more clouds, fog, and rain.

I do recall from last year that we did see some sun during the October and November months (before we got socked in with all of the snow).

Sermon: Offensive Grace

(Click here for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today I discussed a few thoughts based on John 6:60-71. This is where, after Jesus declares himself as the Bread of Life and that his flesh must be eaten and his blood drunk, many of his disciples turn away and leave.

The main question is: If the message of Jesus Christ's offer of grace, the Gospel, is such good news, why do so many people reject it?

John's recording of this incident shows to me that having the most perfect methods and words (i.e., think evangelism) still won't guarantee everyone will choose to believe and trust in Jesus Christ. Who could be a better evangelist than Jesus himself?

John's record also tells us that the most perfect discipleship program won't guarantee complete success either. Jesus knew perfectly how to help each of his disciples in their spiritual journeys. Yet we could say that Jesus failed when it came to Judas.

When we choose to share the gospel message, we should expect that not all of our efforts will result in success, at least the way it's usually measured. And we shouldn't take rejection of the message as a rejection of us.

I think rather, that evangelistic success might be based on whether or not the receiver of the message came to a point of decision. Did he or she make a decision? Did he or she make a choice to either draw nearer or move farther away from God? If the answer is "yes" to these questions, then regardless of the outcome, the evangelism was successful.

Children's Story: Jesus Loves You, Warts and All

How well do you know yourself?
  • Do you know what kind of job you'll have when you're 25?
  • Do you know who you'll have for friends in a couple of years?
  • Do you know whether or not you'll even like some of the friends you have now?
  • Do you know if you'll be making good or bad choices over the next year?
  • Do you know what your great-great-great-great grandparents were like?
  • Do you know who you'll be marrying? (Assuming Jesus hasn't come back yet.)
  • Do you know who your great-great-great-great grandchildren will be?
    (Again, assuming Jesus hasn't come back before then.)
  • Do you know if you will continue to follow Jesus all through your life?

There's a whole lot that we don't know, even about ourselves.

There was a man named Judas, who had a father named Simon, and who came from the town of Kerioth. We usually refer to him as Judas Iscariot. Judas was one of the Twelve specially selected by Jesus to be close to him everywhere he went.

When we read the Bible, we learn that Judas was the one who helped the Jewish leaders capture Jesus in the middle of the night and put him on the cross. Why would Judas do that?

I don't think he really knew himself -- what he really wanted. Judas thought Jesus could give him what he wanted. When Jesus didn't do what Judas thought Jesus should be doing, he tried to force Jesus into doing the things he though Jesus should be doing. Judas thought he was doing the right thing -- that he was helping Jesus. But Judas didn't really know himself, nor did he really know Jesus, even though he had been with Jesus nearly every day for a few years. And when Judas realized that Jesus would allow himself to be crucified, Judas didn't believe Jesus would or could ever forgive him.

One of Jesus' other disciples, John, wrote:

(For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) ... “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a [the] devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

You see, Jesus knew from the very beginning that Judas was going to help put him on the cross. But that didn't stop Jesus from loving Judas, from allowing Judas to be close to him.

Why? Because Jesus wanted Judas to get to know him, Jesus. And Jesus wanted Judas to get to know himself, so that he might choose to allow Jesus to change his heart. Jesus wanted Judas to come to know and trust him. Jesus wanted Judas to know and believe that even after he had chosen to betray Jesus, he loved Judas so much that Jesus could and would forgive him.

Jesus hasn't changed in the two-thousand years since then. He's chosen every one of you to be with him. He wants you to get to know him and to learn to trust him. And as you get to know and trust him, he wants you to learn about yourselves. To get to know things about yourselves that disappoint and hurt Jesus, so that you can let Jesus change those things for you.

Jesus already knows all the ways in which you will hurt him. But he has chosen you anyway. That's what the Bible calls grace. Jesus has already chosen to forgive you. Even if you choose to turn away from Jesus, if you want to come back, He's there to welcome you back.

Judas couldn't believe that someone who turned away from Jesus could ever come back. But Jesus isn't like us people. It doesn't matter what we do to him, or how many times we turn away from him. If we want to come back to him, he's there to welcome us back.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thoughts on the story of Job

Some of last week's Bible readings were in the book of Job. This story is frequently interpreted and seen as one where:

  • Job is the hero of the story. He is the one who shows patience amidst all the calamities and suffering. He is the one who defends God against the accusations made by the friends.
  • Job's wife is the faithless one. She gives up too easily.
  • Job's three friends (though there were actually four) say all the wrong things. They don't know what they're talking about. They're useless as friends.
  • The fourth friend (Elihu) is often overlooked. Or he gets lumped in with the other three. What he says is usually seen as not very different from the first three friends.

While reading through Job again, the usual interpretations were challenged. Here are some observations that I made:

  • None of the human actors in the story, including Job, had a very clear picture of God. They were all under the impression that blessings are always the result of good behavior and calamities always the result of bad behavior. The difference between Job and the first three friends is that Job began to question this impression and assumption, whereas the three friends held rigidly and adamantly to how they thought God acted.
  • Much of what the friends said about God were correct -- some of it most of the time, some of it some of the time. The problem as I see it is that they held to the view that God must always act in ways that they (humans) thought God should act, because that's how God acted in the past (their experience taught them).
  • Elihu, the fourth friend and it appears the youngest of all of them, came closest to understanding God's ways. Even though Elihu, too, does not understand fully (who does?), he leaves open the possibility that God acts in ways that run contrary to human thinking and understanding. Perhaps that is why Job does not respond, nor does God condemn Elihu.
  • It seems that the three friends, in their zeal to defend God, ended up slandering Job and accusing him falsely. They also, in their desire to be "right" about God, ended up slandering God. They seemed to have a problem with pride in self-knowledge (about God, even). They could not accept that they could be wrong. It seems that this was the core reason why God spoke out against them at the end.

There are several lessons for us today that I hadn't seen during previous readings of Job. These are:

  • When we speak about God, his character, and how he works, we should be very careful to speak about what we really know to be true, rather than what we assume to be true.
  • We should leave open the possibility that our view and understanding of God's ways are, in fact, quite different from what we believe. Just because in our experience God works in certain ways does not mean that he always works that way.
  • God does not need us to defend him. Our compassion and love for one another is a far greater defense of God's character than any word, argument, or logic that we could bring to the table. It may even be that in our zeal in attempting to defend God, we become so rigid in what we view as "right" that we stop defending God and rather end up slandering both the person we took offense from initially and God, because our "right" view of God allows no room for God to be otherwise.
  • It is okay to question God. It is not okay to demand that God respond.
  • Our theologies, doctrines, and beliefs can become a source of self-pride; i.e., idols. Part of true humility is to acknowledge and admit that we really don't know much, that others, possibly younger and less educated (and perhaps even of a completely different religion), might actually have a better understanding of God's ways than we do.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Southeast Alaska Campmeeting 2007

So we survived the weekend campmeeting, August 10-12, at Camp Lorraine on Vank Island. (Click here for map. Vank Island is the bean shaped island in the middle of the map. Camp Lorraine is located in the north of the island, where it looks like someone chewed a piece off the bean.)

Mitkof island, where Petersburg is located, is directly north, and the boat launch is located directly north of Camp Lorraine. The boat launch is about 28 miles from the center of Petersburg. The last eight or so miles are on dirt and gravel roads and some places are quite rough due to the ongoing construction. It takes about 45 minutes to get from the city to the launch.

Friday morning, we picked up the speaker, Stan, and his wife at the airport. They were supposed to arrive on Thursday, but due to airport delays, they didn't make their flight and ended up staying a night in Juneau. Their luggage had already made it on Thursday. We waited for the passengers to come through, and then waited for a couple to retrieve their luggage and look lost. The problem was that since their luggage was already here, they just got it and made their way outside. We waited until most of the passengers had retrieved their luggage and left the building. Since we didn't see anyone that needed picking up, we wondered what happened and went out. Which is where we finally met the couple.

We had lunch at home, and then took them over to the church to sort out the luggage that they would leave behind. Since we had a little bit of time, we walked into the city. We walked Sing Lee Alley and onto North Harbor where we watched a crewman doing maintenance on a fishing tender (tenders collect catches from smaller fishing vessels, and then take the load to one of the canneries), and watched a few people catch herring (used as bait for larger fish).

We returned to the church, loaded up, and went to the ferry terminal to wait for the other people going to campmeeting. At about 3:45 p.m. we left for the boat launch. There were a total of fifteen of us that headed south.

Once at the launch we unloaded the cars and loaded the boats. There were too many people and gear to fit into both boats, so several of us waited for one of the boats to make a return trip. The boat ride itself takes about fifteen minutes. The water feels quite solid when traveling on an aluminum skiff. It feels almost like a roller coaster with the bumps, drops, and jumps. It was 6 p.m. when all of us finally made it to the camp.

The camp consists of a main lodge (kitchen and dining, rooms upstairs), a bathroom building, camp director's house, and eight cabins. This camp is on the rustic side. All electricity is provided by a generator. None of the cabins have power. And once the generator shuts down at night, there is no power at all. During the summers though, that isn't too much of a problem since twilight lasts until 11 p.m. or so, and the day begins to light up around 3:00 a.m.

We located an empty cabin (on the boys' side) for our family and then headed off to supper. Supper consisted of hotdogs (vege and beef) and chili provided by the Craig church.

We were responsible for the music. I chose not to bring an electronic keyboard. I kind of wish I had, because the piano was in pretty poor condition -- sticking keys and out of tune notes. We sang songs during all of our meetings.

The theme chosen by Stan was Waiting. The first evening's message was about waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus and the importance of keeping that hope alive while we wait. Sabbath morning's message was about how Jesus voluntarily chose to wait 20 years in order to fulfill the mission of salvation for which he came to this world. Sabbath evening's message was about how we should relate to one another while we wait for Jesus to return. The final message on Sunday morning was about how we should welcome the waiting period that we are in, so that many more can be brought to salvation. The final challenge was for us to be active in our waiting.

Sabbath breakfast was a fairly standard cereal breakfast, hot and cold. This was followed by Sabbath School where the topic of discussion was the life of Samson. I found an error in the Sabbath School lesson guide: Samson was a Nazirite, and not a Nazarite. Unfortunately the discussion went predictably to someone saying that Jesus was a Nazirite like Samson, which has no Biblical basis. Jesus was a Nazarene, which is quite different from a Nazirite, even though the words may look and sound similar.

I also took issue (silently, in my mind) with another statement made: that at the very end, Satan would suffer much longer than any other being before finally being destroyed. This statement is found in The Great Controversy, chapter 42 (and only there or its derivatives in other books). I looked at the context of some of the scriptural references, phrases, and allusions around this statement. If any case of scriptural support can be made for this statement, I find it extremely weak. It is based on quite a few assumptions of other biblical texts that are open to multiple interpretations. What I find troubling is that this particular statement is assumed to be fact by many Adventists and is in fact present in quite a few Bible studies, and was found in one Sabbath School lesson guide. We criticize other Christians for creating doctrine out of isolated, singular statements, and here we seem to be doing the exact same thing.

What I also found rather troubling is that a number of the participants in the Sabbath School discussion appealed to Ellen White as the doctrinal, theological, and historical authority for their positions. Did they realize that there was at least one non-Adventist (excluding children) present in their midst? It was a perfect example of practice (placing Ellen White in the position of interpreting the Bible) above our stated position (Ellen White is not an exegete of the Bible). Again, the better part of discretion seemed that I should just let this go -- but should I have spoken up and created dissension...?

Anyway, off of my soapboxes...

Between breakfast and Sabbath School, and also between Sabbath School and worship, several of us Petersburg-ites made lunch preparations. We assembled the Sweet Potato (actually most of it was yams) Gratin; sliced up zucchinis, yellow squashes, and eggplants for some Fried Vegetables. Deloris sorted the lettuce, and Ronnie sliced tomatoes.

Following the worship, we dove into the final preparations and then the cooking and baking. In addition to the above two dishes, I also cooked some Corn with Mustard Seeds. Deloris finished the salad and prepared the bread.

Lunch was at 1:30 p.m. and we were able to get everything in place. Elise and I continued to fry the vegetables for another 20 minutes or so. It appeared that the meal was a hit with everyone. A number of people commented that it was an unusual meal, but good.

Sabbath afternoon was free time. With the sunshine out, most people opted to sit outside and enjoy the sun. A number of the children donned wetsuits and went out for a swim. Several people took out kayaks and canoes for a short jaunt in the ocean.

Supper was haystacks followed by the evening meeting, which was moved outside for everyone to enjoy the last hour of sunlight.

Sunday breakfast was pancakes, potatoes, and eggs. This was followed by the final meeting, camp cleanup, and then loading onto boats for the travel back home.

Our Petersburg group required two boat trips back. After getting back to Mitkof Island, the boat owner discovered that his wife, who was given his truck keys after the first trip, had left. This meant there were three people and a boat stranded. Cell phone coverage is spotty and intermittent at best in this part of the country. I called and left some message on answering machines.

I took three kids that were left and the speaker and his wife and headed back to Petersburg, leaving Elise and two others behind. This was turning out to be another rather warm day, and noticing that the kids had a couple of water bottles, left them for the people left behind.

I raced down the road, dropped off one child, then the speaker and his wife, and finally ended up at the home where the truck keys would likely be. At the same time, the wife discovered that she had the keys, phone calls were being made, and preparations made to go back out to the boat launch.

I volunteered to go back. Taking their car and taking Shelley with me, I stopped by our house, dropped Shelley off, got several water bottles filled with water, and then rushed off again to the boat launch. I discovered that in loose and deep gravel, there is a huge difference between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. Control with a two-wheel drive vehicle on gravel is much more difficult. On the same road I was able to go 55 mph in my pickup with 4WD, but in a FWD car, I was lucky to do 40 mph.

I made it back to the three stranded ones, handed out the water bottles, made sure the boat got back onto the trailer, and then Elise and I returned to Petersburg.

It was quite the weekend. I think the worst part about going away from home is the going away part -- the travel. If there was some way to avoid the travel and get to the destination without it...

Fried Vegetables

  • 1 - 1.5 lbs. zucchinis, yellow squash, or eggplant
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  1. Slice zucchinis and squashes into 1/2-inch slices. Eggplants should be quartered first, and then sliced into 1/2-inch slices.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the sliced vegetables with the salt, turmeric, black pepper, and cayenne. Mix well so that the spices are evenly distributed.
  3. Pour oil into a large saute pan (10-in. or more) with high sides to a depth of about 1/2 inch and place on medium heat.
  4. When oil is hot, carefully place vegetables slices into it in a single layer.
  5. Fry until the bottom of the vegetables are well browned, and then flip each slice to fry the other side. When both sides are well browned, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper-towel lined plate.
  6. Repeat 4 and 5 with remaining vegetables.

Note: The frying temperature needs to be medium so that the vegetables can fry slowly to cook out the moisture and turn them soft and buttery.

More Camp Lorraine photos

Panorama of Camp Lorraine lawn, lodge, and Sumner Strait

Sunset, first evening

Sunset, first evening

Tidal marsh, low tide, day two

Amy searching for ocean life, day two

Girls' cabins (west side)

Sunset, second evening

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Returned from Campmeeting

We did return this afternoon from our campmeeting at Camp Lorraine on Vank Island. The return trip took longer than it should have, but I'm too tired to go into length about it.

I might have more to say in a day or two.

Here are a few photos for you to enjoy.

Sunset, first evening

Misty, first morning

Camp Lorraine beach

Evening talk, second evening

Sunset, second evening

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Kids back home, etc.

The kids came home from camp this morning. They arrived back in a not-so-pristine condition...

I was told the speaker for our campmeeting this weekend was flying in this morning also. So after picking up the kids and loading their luggage, I rushed back to town, unloaded, and then drove up to the airport. But there was no one waiting there... I checked the church, went back to the airport, but nothing. I called the Conference office and left a message. About an hour later I got a call back saying maybe they might have just gone to one of the hotels when they didn't find anyone at the airport (because I was a bit late). I called, but nothing. Then a little while later, I got a call again telling me that I was given the wrong date. The speaker is flying in tomorrow morning.

Shelley learned to water ski at camp. Now she wants to get some water skis and then find someone to take her out... Hmm... We'll see.

Shelley also picked up her very first paycheck this afternoon. A nice bit of pocket change for 1-1/2 weeks of work. We'll go to the bank tomorrow and see about getting her a bank account.

At camp, Amy mostly did art and craft type activities. One of the things she did though, was life skills which apparently included how to build a wilderness shelter. This afternoon and evening, she's been busy at work in our backyard forest, building a shelter.

I went grocery shopping for the Sabbath lunch meal for campmeeting: 9 lbs. of zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplants; 16 lbs. of yams and sweet potatoes; 1 gallon of vegetable oil; 2 quarts of heavy cream; 10 lbs. of frozen corn. The menu involves fried vegetables, yam and sweet potato gratin, and corn cooked with mustard seeds. Another family will provide the salad, bread, juice, and dessert. Tomorrow I'll start some of the early preparations of the food -- mostly peeling, cutting, and freezing the potatoes. Friday morning, I plan to cut the squashes and the eggplant and season them.

This evening I was curious about where, approximately, our property lines are. I took out our 25 feet measuring tape and did some rough measuring. The front to back depth was about where I expected, but the side to side width was much more than what we thought. Our house only covers about half the property width. There is almost an equal amount of property adjacent to the house. This is the part currently filled with salmonberry vines and a forest.

To give you a rough idea, I took some photos and stitched them together into two panoramas. (They are not meant to be good panoramas -- the lines are distorted and you can see the seams between frames.) Click on each image to see a larger photo.

This one was taken from the back southeast corner of the lawn (which you can see on the right side of the second pano image). It covers about 120 degrees of view. Our property is 100 feet wide. The halfway point is just a few feet in from the end wall. There is another close to 50 feet of shrubs, vines, trees, ferns, and skunk cabbage to the right of the house.

This second pano was taken from between the hot tub and the barbecue grill that you see in the first pano. It covers a field of about 90 degrees. In the dark shadows underneath the trees, you can see Amy (easier to see in the larger image by clicking on the image below) building her lean-to shelter. All of that forest is on our property. The back property line is a few feet behind the playhouse structure that you see.

Earlier this evening, we saw a few deer grazing on our lawn. One of them might have been a six-point buck. (I did see one walking about in the front later, so I assume he came from the back.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Relationship of Prayer

I spoke this last Sabbath on the importance of prayer -- on how those who accomplished much in the service of God usually spent much time in prayer with God. Other than give some of these examples, I didn't speak on why prayer is important or why there is power through it. In fact, I didn't have any good responses if someone had asked me.

The same Sabbath afternoon, I was reading through Lenswork No. 70 when I came across two items -- an editorial and a portfolio by the editor -- that provided me with some ideas about prayer.

The article was about a fictional e-mail exchange between the author and an alien being from outer space. The premise was that this being did not understand music -- to him it was just plain noise. How does a human explain music to a being that cannot understand and appreciate it? What is music? Does music serve a practical purpose?

The article goes on to have the human explain that music is not necessary to life, but that when present, it adds a transcendental element to life. It can be a basis for shared experiences between groups of people that otherwise might not be able to communicate nor understand one another. A slow, minor key melody; a soft, lyrical passage; a building, rhythmic, crescendo symphony -- they communicate universal experiences. They bypass the limits of human language and communicate at the heart level.

The portfolio, titled Wakarimasen ("I don't understand" for those whose communication facilities lack Japanese) was a set of abstract images. The introduction to the portfolio asked something to the effect of: When we see something, read something, hear something, how do we know we understand? What if language fails us? What if we don't know what the symbols mean (after all, written language is just a set of visual symbols, and auditory language is just a set of audible symbols). What if the world is trying to tell us something, but we don't recognize nor understand the symbols?

Putting the article and the portfolio together, I began contemplating on how they might explain the dilemma I was having with prayer. I believe that God is trying to communicate with us. He has left us with quite a few artifacts that tell about him. But they are all symbols, and not the reality. Symbols can go unrecognized and they can be misunderstood. I believe history shows plenty of examples of both. Even Jesus, who was the perfect revelation of God, is not present physically in this world today. What we have left are records in the Bible, and again, they are words -- symbols -- with all their inherent limitations and possibilities for error.

I think that's where prayer comes in. Through prayer, we are somehow able to transcend the inherent limitations of our own experience, knowledge, understanding, and language. When we pray, we are no longer speaking English, or Japanese, or French, or Swahili, or whatever. I think that Romans 8:26-27 allude to this transcendent communication that takes place during prayer. Through prayer we are able to get a glimpse into the reality of God, and we are able to, if briefly, communicate in God's native language. The communication is no longer mouth to ear, but heart to heart.

Through prayer God is able to bypass the filters of written and audible language, of physical symbols, and give us a glimpse into his heart. And as we increase our time looking into God's heart, our own hearts are changed -- our hearts grow closer go God. As our hearts come closer to God and begin to resemble his, we understand his purposes for us in this world.

The more our will and our actions come into alignment with God's, the more he is able to work through us. I think it is instructive and illuminating that the rest of Romans 8 (vv. 28-39) talks about how nothing can stand in the way of those who truly seek to follow God's will, and nothing can separate such people from God.

(BTW, I've mentioned this to a number of people in the past, but I don't think I've written about it here:  I find Lenswork to be a frequent source for spiritual insights.)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sermon: Chew on This

(Click here to download and listen to MP3 audio.)

In today's sermon, I discuss a number of different things, but the most time is spent working through a progression of action verbs present in the passage from John 6:22-59. This progression tells me the steps taken whereby God becomes a part of a person's life.

Much of the discussion is on the one part of this progression where I know I have the most problem, and which I suspect many other Christians also share.

There were no children in church today as they are all away at camp. We had yet another dry day for the children to enjoy at camp.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Is the garage opening tall enough?

We did more hauling of boxes from the apartment to the house. All of the book boxes and nearly all other boxes have now been moved. There are still quite a few items back at the apartment, however. These will need to be placed into boxes and moved over the next few days.

Today I decided to find out once and for all if our pickup, standing at 6-1/2 feet, fits through the garage door opening. I took the antenna off (because that makes it too tall) and pulled in slowly. I called on Elise to watch to make sure the roof remained clear of the door as well as the hinge. Everything was okay until the rear wheels came to the edge of the garage floor concrete slab.

The garage floor is about 2 inches above the ground. When I tried to slowly pull forward, the rear wheels just spun. The wood molding for pouring the slab is still in place, and the wheels just splintered and broke chunks off of the wood. I had to place the transmission into 4WD to be able to pull forward. It looks like I'm going to have to build a ramp up into the garage.

Anyway, the pickup did make it all the way in. So it gets to sleep there tonight. This is actually the first time that it gets to permanently make a home inside a garage. There was one other time, when we went on vacation a few years ago, that it saw the inside of a garage for a few days.

We've had dry weather and sun since Wednesday. The forecast for the next week still looks pretty good with just occasional chances of rain. The next weekend, however, looks like it might end up being quite wet. At least the kids should be enjoying the dry weather at camp. 

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Kids off to camp

The kids (our two, plus thirteen others from Petersburg) headed off to camp yesterday. The kids and gear were piled into three vehicles and we headed off together to a boat launch area 24  miles away on the south end of our island. The last five or so miles are dirt and gravel (which I think they are working to pave).

The kids and gear were unloaded from land transports onto two water transports. And then they were off. Vank Island is about a 15 minute trip over water. We can see the island from the boat launch.

We didn't hear that there were any problems, so I'm assuming no news is good news. They'll be back next Wednesday.

On the way back, once we got onto the paved section of the road, I turned on cruise control for a few miles. It still works! I'm pretty sure this is the first time it's been used since our trip up I-5 last September.

For our campmeeting next weekend, our church is responsible for Sabbath lunch. I worked a bit last night on putting together an itemization of food that we'll need to purchase and prepare. One to one-and-a-half pounds of food per person adds up to quite a bit.