Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sunny and breezy Clear Lake

Yesterday was somewhat cloudy and quite windy. On the way to Nice, we even encountered a few sprinkles. The clouds were all blown away by this morning and the skies were once again brilliantly clear with nary a cloud in the sky. It was still quite breezy. The waters of the lake remain quite choppy.

This morning Elise's grandmother came over to our condo where we had breakfast. I survived yet another session of cooking with dull kitchen knives.

Later in the morning I took a stroll from where we are currently staying to the grocery store, about 2 miles away going the most direct route. I took the longer, scenic route along the lake shore (on Lakeshore Blvd. so aptly named). I picked up a few grocery items meaning to use them in the evening. I got a call from Elise that we were going to go out to lunch in Lakeport, so she picked me up, returned to our unit to store the perishables in the refrigerator, and then headed out to the city.

We went to a little restaurant that serves crepes, omelettes, and sandwiches. We all had rather large crepes. Next to the restaurant is a used/new bookstore and so all of us browsed there before and/or after lunch. I picked up a large tome of vegetarian Indian recipes. Across the street is a kitchen supply shop, and so we went there to browse. Even though I only have a few more meals to prepare during our vacation, I am so tired of using useless knives that I purchased a small Anolon Kyotsu (Japanese for universal or all purpose) knife. I also picked up a julienne peeler not knowing quite exactly how it works.

Returning from Lakeport we stopped by Elise's grandmother's friend's and spent some time admiring her (Nancy's) garden. Afterwards we paused at Elise's grandmother's and had a few things to eat.

I returned to the condo to try out my new kitchen gadgets and to work on the photos from today and post this blog entry.

I was not disappointed in the knife. I am able to slice through a ripe tomato cleanly and make very thin slices. I updated my travel checklist to include essential kitchen items for the next time we leave home.

The julienne peeler was a new experience. I tested it on a carrot I had and learned that it certainly does a wonderful job of julienning vegetables. I also discovered that it is not meant to be used to simply peel vegetables, although in a pinch I think I can make it work for that. I think I might use it to prepare hashed brown potatoes tomorrow morning. It will also be useful for preparing vegetable juliennes for salads and also for some stir-fry dishes. Even though this wasn't quite what I expected, it should prove to be a useful addition.

The rest of the family went off to the local Adventist school, which is holding some kind of a program this evening.

(Click on image to open today's photo gallery.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monterey to Clear Lake

I wanted some tea tonight. I boiled some water. I looked for the tea bags. They weren't there. I found plenty of non-dairy creamer packages, though. I made do with a sprig of fresh mint leaves that we brought up with us. I picked off the leaves, placed them in a mug, poured the hot water over them, and steeped the mint infusion. I guess this is one thing I can do with extra mint sprigs.

Click on the image to open the gallery with a few sights from today.

Fresh produce

I'm amazed at how long fresh produce lasts. Just in the last few days we've had ripe strawberries and tomatoes sit on the counter and stay good.

Now for the majority of readers this is probably normal, but for us where food is shipped on barges and take up to a week, produce remaining good for more than a day or two is quite amazing. Tomatoes in Petersburg rarely stay good for more than a day or two. Strawberries have to be refrigerated or used immediately. Fresh basil is already wilting by the time we get it - and it costs a fortune for a tiny amount.

I might have to reconsider the air shipped organic produce that a number of families in Petersburg subscribe to. It might be worth the expense.
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Make sure you and the GPS agree

We left Monterey this morning and drove up to Nice, CA which is on the shores of Clear Lake. On the way I missed a turn. This was my problem and not the GPS's. I needed to stop for a break so I left the freeway and stopped at a service station.

Trying to get back on the freeway took a little bit of work. I finally found a way to the other side of the freeway and got on. Unknown to me, the GPS somehow ended up getting the wrong destination programmed into it. It thought the destination was in the middle of I-80 south of Vallejo, CA. As we drove for a couple of minutes, it occurred to me that if we kept going we probably would end up in San Francisco. And that's when the GPS told me we were at its destination. Unfortunately by that time, we had passed by the last exit before the Carquinez Bridge. I reprogrammed the correct destination into the GPS and saw that the only way to our destination was to turn around and go back over the bridge -- this after already crossing the Benicia Bridge and paying toll earlier. So after paying another $4, we were headed in the right direction.

The rest of the drive was uneventful, though still kicking myself for wasting a good $4. I'm still not sure how the GPS managed to get itself set to the middle of a freeway for the final destination... Technology: Can't live with them, and can't live without them -- well, maybe we can, but it would sure be inconvenient.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Visiting the Monterey area

Today, with nothing on the agenda, we simply went about visiting a number of locations in this area. We went out to the Cannery Row area of Monterey where we strolled through a number of the gift shops, candy shops, bead shops, and a used book store. We had lunch at a Thai restaurant across from the aquarium. We didn't go to the aquarium since admission is a rather steep $25/person.

We drove further down the road to Pacific Grove where we stopped and roamed about the beaches and rocks for a while.

Click on photo for gallery of a few sights from today.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Several more photo galleries

These galleries cover the past several days. Click on each image to open each gallery page.

Windsor to San Francisco

Monterey Bay Academy Class of 1988 20-year reunion

Monterey Bay Academy and Environs

Moss Landing and Marina Area

20 years

It was great getting back together with so many of the class of 1988 who returned to Monterey Bay Academy. The weather was sunny and warm all weekend. It's amazing how little seems to change. Even though there have been changes in the buildings, overall the campus looks about what it did 20 years ago. The church still *smells* the same... (Scary...)

Here's the 20 year group photo from yesterday afternoon.

Some people have changed quite a bit. Others haven't changed much at all. Some I recognized immediately. Others, for the life of me, I still can't recall going to school with...

The big highlight for us was the evening party at the Seascape Resort in Aptos. Mingling, dinner, and a program. The dinner was good, and the program entertaining. Augie MC'd the event.

There was a bit of 1988 trivia and for some reason, me, the non-movie watcher (though I must admit I used to watch quite a bit of it during the 80's and 90's), the non-trivia buff, gave the correct answer to some Oscar related question. All I heard (it was quite noisy) was a hint that the movie title was two words beginning with "B" and "N" and the second word was "News." I shouted out, "Broadcast News," which was the correct answer and won a package of Oreo cookies.

Shana hosted the "awards" section of the program in which various awards were given for longest married, most recently married, farthest traveled to reunion, closest living to MBA (there is one person who lives on campus), most four-legged pets, most kids, etc. I'm going to take it as a compliment that by acclamation I was given the "Dorian Grey Award" for "Who looks the most like their senior photo." It came with a large package of Twix.

Lara hosted the part of the program where various current statistics of the class of 1988 were read. Number married, average number of children (1.55 is what I recall hearing), various quotes and tidbits pulled from Facebook and e-mail responses to a questionnaire. I was honored to have something I posted on Facebook as the closing summary of the program. Here's what I wrote:
It's the journey, not the destination. Focusing on the destination gave me stress, migraines, and basing my value as a person on achievements. Achievement is like crack (no, I don't know from personal experience)... A short high followed by a dive into the pits... The need to achieve something even greater to experience the same "high."Learning to enjoy the experience of the journey, learning to take and adapt to things as they come... It's much less stressful, fewer opportunities to worry, and much more contentment.

The evening ended with a slideshow.

Friday, April 25, 2008

In Marina

I forgot to pick up the Internet access device tonight so I'm once again posting via BlackBerry.

Yesterday was a long, long, long day of driving from Portland to Windsor. The last couple of hours involved going over very twisty roads and I got fed up with driving. We did finally stumble in to the place where we stayed.

In the morning we went grocery shopping to get a few things for breakfast. Looking at the prices there and in Petersburg, I didn't see a huge difference.

Today we drove down through San Francisco. We stopped near the Golden Gate Bridge and then at Fisherman's Wharf. Early afternoon we headed down the rest of the way. It was awful navigating through the city. I never liked cities and after 1.5 years, it's even worse. Once finally off the city streets it was clear sailing until Capitola where 17 meets 1. And then it was gridlock for 20 minutes, and another reminder why I hate cities. Finally things cleared up and we made it to the resort in Marina.

The weather is sunny and quite warm. Hopefully with the nasty driving behind us for a few days, I can relax a bit.

After a quick supper we headed to MBA where I caught up with a number of classmates and a few teachers.

I do hope to get real Internet access tomorrow so that I don't have to use little phone keys to type the next post.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Easy to spend and acquire

That pretty much sums up my feelings over the last few days. With so many stores and so vast a selection it doesn't take much effort to overspend and accumulate all sorts of stuff. I think it's healthy to live where things cost more and selection is limited.

We're basically doing 18 months worth of shopping in the span of a couple of weeks. So even though it seems like we're on a huge shopping spree, spread over the 18 months, it probably is within reason.

Last night we went to Sweet Tomatoes, an all-you-can-eat buffet. It's been a long time since we were stuffed to the point of being nearly ill. Again, it's probably healthier that we don't have a vast variety of restaurants, and the ones we do have are expensive.

We're at a mall right now. I spent a long time in Williams-Sonoma drooling over kitchen equipment and supplies. I could've spent thouands just in there, but I was really restrained and only got myself three gadgets: a nice grater, a vegetable and garlic multi-chopper, and a salad spinner.

Amy and Elise are getting new glasses today. It's taking a while.
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Monday, April 21, 2008

Driving, shopping and such

For the first time in 18 months I am experiencing driving on multilane roads, freeways, more than a handful of cars on the roads, stoplights, and left-turn lanes. It's a really odd and almost frightening experience. Fortunately, like riding a bicycle, the dormant skills, senses, and intuition do come back. But I think I better understand now the fear that someone whose never been exposed to a place like this might have. And as we head down to California and the even bigger cities, the traffic will only get worse. This is one major reason for living in a nice, quiet place.

Today I got a look at a bit of the fire damage to the rental property. Tomorrow I get together with the contracter to go over some things.

After that we headed off to do some shopping. One thing I've noticed is how clean everything is. There is a benefit to living in a concrete jungle -- even if the Portland area is much less so than many other cities. Pavement and concrete sidewalks do a lot to cut down on dust, dirt, and mud. So I suppose this might be a positive thing for cities, though I can probably think of many other negatives.

We went to a strip mall type place with a large collection of discounters. Competition is good for consumers. This single strip mall is bigger than the entire city of Petersburg. Put together a large Safeway and a large Target, and you have the entire commercial area of Main Street Petersburg.

Now having too many stores and low prices is also a bad thing. How is that? A person can spend too much. "It's on sale!" often means, "Let's buy it, just in case we need it." In Petersburg, substantial sales happen a couple of times around the year-end holidays. At other times of the year, merchandise is pretty much full price. Even if there is temptation to purchase, it's difficult to go through with it. Even stuff that might fall into the "need" category, I often consider for a long time before finally making the purchase. Here, I can see how it would be very easy to subconsciously purchase everything that might someday fit into the "need" category. IMO, this is not a positive aspect of cities.

We had lunch at Subway. Our first fast-food-ish foray in a very long time. All four of us ate for under $20. That's less than half what we would end up spending for four sandwiches, drinks, and chips in Petersburg.

The weather certainly has been interesting here. We must have brought down Alaska weather with us. Portland has been getting snow, hail, rain, and sun -- sometimes all in one day. While taking out some purchases to the car this afternoon, I was hit with a torrential downpour. By the time I had finished and was back under cover, my coat was rather soaked. I don't think we get rains like that in Petersburg. If we do, I'd never been in it. I hear though that Ketchikan gets rains like that were a person can get utterly drenched from their car to the store entrance.

The background stress level just seems to be higher here. Everyone is busier with things going on all day long, from morning and well into the evening hours. There is a lot more that can be done, and so people opt to do more things. I don't necessarily see that as being better, though. After 18 months away, I like the "forced" rest that comes around 7 p.m. each evening when the entire city, except for a handful of places (e.g., bars and the hospital), shuts down until the morning. I can see how someone like me could experience regular migraines living somewhere that is going 24/7. So I'm pretty certain I will welcome my return to Petersburg in a couple of weeks.

Flight to Portland

Yesterday we flew out of Petersburg to Portland. We made stops and plane changes in Juneau and Seattle. The skies were clear all the way until we hit somewhere around Victoria, Canada.

Here are a few photos from the air. Click on the image to jump to the image gallery.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Traveling next two weeks

Just a note that I will be traveling over the next two weeks. What that means is that there won't be any new sermons until May 10. It also means that I'm not certain if I'll be able to find time to post any of the weekly Sabbath School lesson comments.

Sermon: Friends With God

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today's sermon discusses John 16:16-33. This is the passage in which Jesus continues to try to tell his disciples that he is going away, that they will have sorrow but will then have joy, that they will have troubles but they will have peace.

My sermon extracts from this passage God's principles of true friendship that I believe Jesus showed. These principles are another reason why "the world" hates God and gives his disciples troubles. The promise is that true friendship with God and with one another results in joy and peace.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sunny, windy, chilly

South Narrows

Yes, the snow, rain, hail, sleet, and clouds have finally gone away giving us a truly Spring-like day. I set aside the sermon preparation for tomorrow and headed out on the bicycle with a camera and couple of lenses in a backpack.

First stop was to drop off a book I had borrowed, and then down the hill to Middle Harbor. After a few photos there, I went the across the boardwalk on Sing Lee Alley and over to the north end of South Harbor. I didn't come across good images so I made my way down to the south end of South Harbor. Again, I couldn't see anything too compelling. I went to the dirt parking area for South Harbor (my first time there) and captured a few images. My route continued on South Nordic and onto the bike path on Mitkof Highway. There I took a few more photos before ending up near Scow Bay.

Before leaving home, I debated whether or not to bring along my 100-400mm telephoto zoom. I'm glad I did because I saw a pair of snow geese just entering my field of vision. I quickly changed lenses to the long one and fired off a number of frames. The exposure was on Manual, set for the rule-of-thumb "sunny f/16." After I had about a half-dozen frames I looked at the histogram and saw that accordi ng to that my images were rather underexposed. Hmm... I changed it to Program and saw that the histogram remained about the same. I bumped up exposure compensation to bring the histogram closer to the right. The main issue is that snow geese are... you got it - white! Thus to expose for most of the frame, I suspected, might mean the geese would be way overexposed. I discovered that this was the case after getting home, loading the images on the computer, and began to work with it. All the images of the geese where the histogram said they were underexposed were fine. This is another of those times when it's best not to second guess rules of thumb or the camera's exposure programming.

Once the geese swam too far away, I turned to look around. I looked up at the top of a huge machine tower and saw to my delight a couple of kingfishers. Again I was glad to have the long lens with me because I needed all 400mm (640mm using 35mm equivalent because of the 1.6x APS-C size sensor) and could have used another 100-200 if I had it. Good thing though with this camera is that because of the higher resolution, I can crop and still end up with a detailed photo. (Of course what you see online is a reduced resolution, so you won't be able to tell either way.)

On the way back it was strong headwind all the way. The wind sure blew away the clouds, but it is also quite chilly.

(Click on contact sheet to open the first image in the sequence.)

Contact sheet - click for images

Thursday, April 17, 2008

All Clear

Or so the weather forecast says it will be (more or less) for the next 10 days. Highs might even approach 60F. Of course we'll be missing it. It might just be our luck to have rain in California...

Anyway, here's what Main Street in Petersburg looks like on a sunny evening (okay, some Photoshop work to bring out the contrasts in the sky), after all the shops ('cept for the bar) have closed.

Main Street - Petersburg

Mid-April Snow Storm

Just when we think the last of the snow has fallen, we get another one. The good thing now, I guess, is that it is much warmer so even when the snow sticks, it doesn't stick for very long.

This morning I awoke to snow falling and a white landscape. It soon turned to rain. Then the sun tried to poke through, but not quite. Small hail fell for a while, and then it all stopped. Early afternoon it started out with what looked like small hail again -- it resembled the appearance and consistency of little chunks of feta cheese. Anyway, this stuff fell for quite a while. I took Shelley over for her piano lesson and watched the stuff falling become more like snow. While driving there the visibility was quite poor. It continued falling through the lesson and all the way back. Mid to later afternoon the sun finally won out, though sleet continued sporadically.

Gardening in the snow Rain, shine, snow, sleet, or hail, Amy was outside doing some gardening. The bed you see in the photo was cleaned up all by herself. Last summer it was full of weeds. Now it is looking quite good and ready for planting. Amy moved the rhododendron that was at the far end of the bed. I helped drag the plant to the new location, though she did all the rest -- digging it up and digging a new spot for it -- by herself.

While waiting for Shelley's lesson to finish, I went out next to the church and photographed trees, branches, and moss with snow on them. After getting back, once the sun started to come out, I went down to the Narrows to see if there was anything of interest.

Snow on branch Colorful moss and snow Lacy moss with some snow Contrasts and shapes Narrows Tide pool

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jesus: Accomplishments through His Humanity

The following are my comments on the lesson for April 19, 2008 - Lesson 3: The Reality of His Humanity.

Jesus was all God and all human. Last week discussed the former. This week discusses the latter. The combination, the incarnation, is a mystery. Science as we understand it today cannot explain it. It remains then, ultimately, a matter of faith.

However I believe there is ample Scriptural evidence in the Gospel accounts that show that Jesus was human. He got hungry, got thirsty, got tired, evidently got frustrated with the people around him, cried, got angry (though not for selfish reasons), was born, grew up, held a job, bled, died, was resurrected, and ate some fish just to prove that he was still a physical being (Luke 24:42-43). So just as I believe Jesus was divine, I also believe he was human.

For what purpose did God become human in Jesus? This is the question for this week.

Some of the more common reasons include: To become an example for those who follow him. To show what it means to depend upon and trust in God in all things, and how people can do the same. To identify with human experiences including temptations, trials and sufferings. To portray God's image in terms understandable to humans. To save the world.

In my comments I will focus on the last one -- to save the world -- to save humankind -- to save me. The Study Guide goes into discussions on the atonement later this quarter so I will not dwell on the various theories this week. What I will do is to keep things at the big-picture level.

In the daily devotional, The Gospel from Patmos by Jon Paulien, on April 16's (p. 115) comments on Revelation 5:1-4 part of which reads, "No one was found worthy to open the scroll:"

The point of this scene seems to be that the universe has a huge problem, one so large that God Himself is reluctant to handle it on His own. It has to do with the right to rule. God is certainly powerful enough to seize control if He wanted to. But might does not make right. So ultimately only a "worthy" person can solve this difficulty.

A few pages later on April 21 (p. 120) Paulien comments on Revelation 5:6-7 which contains, "A Lamb... slaughtered... And He [the Lamb] came and took it [the scroll]...:"

Since divinity cannot die, humanness was a prerequisite for opening the scroll. The Creator had to become a creature. Because the Lamb was human, He could also die to redeem the human race...

Jesus is worthy not only because He is human and He died, but also because He is divine...

Philip Yancey, in Rumours of Another World, writes (p. 103-4)

Most of the science fiction films I have seen circle around the same basic plot. Human beings, weak, error-prone, fools of passion, dangerously "free," encounter aliens who at first glance seem superior... Yet somehow by the end of the movie it is the humans, not the extraterrestrials, who save the universe.

... As the movie plots suggest, despite our complaints we deeply cherish our humanity, notable for its freedom...

It seems there is more truth to what Yancey writes than what he probably intended, or we typically might allow ourselves to consider.

Here is how I understand why God had to become man in order to save the world. I think God could have saved the world without having to come as man and dying; e.g., God could have destroyed sin and caused all beings fall in line. But that would mean using force, as Paulien suggests, thereby violating freedom of all created beings. Without freedom there can be no love. And because God is love, salvation through coercion is something God simply could not do. In other words, I believe that if God tried to save via any method using his powers and prerogatives as God, it would ultimately be tantamount to employing coercion and force.

What could God do? There was just one solution: God had to limit himself. He had to save through love. Not only that, I believe that for the war with evil to be fought and won without giving any grounds for excuse for which the adversary could claim unfairness. God had to not only limit himself, he had to disadvantage his natural powers below that of the adversary's. Limiting himself to a human being allowed God to do just that as well as accomplishing other necessary and/or desirable purposes. In other words, I believe that salvation of humans could only be accomplished by a human being who showed perfect God-love. Only Jesus could meet those qualifications -- i.e., "the Lamb" of Revelation 5.

As a human being who chose to constantly abide in his Father, Jesus won the war against sin and evil (John 12:31; 16:11, 33).

In addition to winning the war against evil, in coming as a human being, I believe Jesus affirmed the value of humans as physical beings.

Yancey (ibid, p. 104) continues the earlier quote:

(And to Christians, whose faith centres in Jesus, the God who became man, it seems clear that God cherishes humanity as well.)

In doing so, Jesus refutes any philosophy that devalues what is physical and material. Through the incarnation Jesus gives equal worth and value to what is physical and seen and to what is spiritual and unseen. The physical world has value. Our daily lives and experiences, however mundane or however difficult, they are valuable. Jesus' incarnation should put to rest any thought that all that Christians are supposed to do is be spiritual and wait for the Second Coming. It should put to rest any notion that it's okay to abuse this world and any of its inhabitants.

What Jesus shows is humans as they were meant to be. Jesus is the complete human, the founder or pioneer of salvation and life in faith (Hebrews 2:10-11) for all who follow him.

Although we are never God, we can have the Holy Spirit abide with and in us just as Jesus did. In so doing, I believe that an aspect of the miracle of incarnation repeats itself in each person who chooses to abide with God and open the door to let him abide in them (Revelation 3:20).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Another fire update

I suppose things are going about as smoothly as they can after a disaster event. The insurance company is working to get things quickly settled so that rebuilding can begin. From what I can tell, they are doing a great job so far.

The contractor brought out to look things over estimates four to six months of work during which I think the whole building is going to be stripped down to basically foundation, floors, and framing and then rebuilt. (BTW, this is NOT the recommended way of remodeling a home.)

As I wrote earlier, we can't go back and do anything over, so we might as well go with the flow and try to not let it worry us.

Sermon: Bearing Witness

(Click here for MP3 sermon audio.)

Yesterday's sermon discusses John 15:18-16:15 (though I stop at verse 8 - remainder will be part of sermon(s) on the Holy Spirit in a month or two).

Last week I discussed the first part of John 15 in which Jesus talks about the vine, branches, abiding, and then gives the command to "go and bear fruit." This week the sermon discusses what it means to "bear witness" and why disciples would want to do this. This is the first of a two-part set of sermons on the overall topic of "God, the World, and Disciples." Next week continues this topic by examining the remaining verses in John 16.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Book Review: The Book of Psalms

The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, by Robert Alter.

I'm not a big connoisseur of poetry. In fact as far back as I can recall, I've not enjoyed them much. So it's no surprise that I've never thought too highly the book of Psalms in the Bible. If I was charged with putting together the canon, the Psalms would probably be the first book I'd ditch.

So whenever I'm trying to read through the Bible, the Psalms are a challenge for me -- even more so than say Leviticus and Numbers. This year I spotted Robert Alter's book in our library. So while I was reading through the Bible, I intentionally skipped Psalms with the intention to go through it using Alter's translation.

This other site gives a much more comprehensive review so I'll keep what I write fairly short.

I particularly appreciated Alter's foremost consideration in trying to stay faithful to the best manuscripts. His commentary honestly describes textual difficulties in translation, and does not hesitate to mention places where whole stretches of text are beyond reasonable recovery and thus translators simply have to insert guesses at what the original might have meant.

In the Introduction Alter describes another perspective on how the book of Psalms might have come to be what it is today. According to Alter, the traditional story of much of the Psalms written by David is just a myth. The poetry that ended up in the collection might be earlier or much later. And more likely than not, it was a later compilation of psalms that were generally a part of Hebrew culture.

I think these are what I most appreciated about this book, translation, and commentary. As the other review notes, it is about honesty. There is no attempt to try to find or insert Christologic meanings in the psalms. It tries to explain the psalms in the way a Hebrew reader or listener during the time of the compilation might have understood it. The words and phrases are unfamiliar, even abrupt. It is an attempt to recreate a little bit of Hebrew using English words. The result was that it kept my interest through all 150 psalms.

I recommend it to anyone who wants a fresh perspective on the Psalms. I also recommend the other review for more about the book.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Long-Term Care Luau

The Long-Term Care at the Medical Center had a potluck "Luau" to drive away any remaining winter. It seemed to work, because during the luau the clouds began to break apart and the sun came through. Shelley made a pineapple-upside-down-cake for the luau.

The clouds came back while I was out on my out-and-back to the Post Office, but by evening the sun was shining through the clouds once more.

The LTC photos are in one gallery site. The landscapes are in another. Just so you aren't confused when you don't see all of the photos on the same site.

Ward clerk, Shelley, Elise 
Shelley and Dad  Family, attempt 1  Family, attempt 2  Anne (who is of Japanese descent) and Mark

Muskeg reflections 
Clouds over muskeg  Clouds over muskeg

The last two are the same photo, processed differently (obviously). If I had wanted to, I could have taken the time to convert the RAW file for highlights and shadows, and then used Photoshop to carefully merge the multiple images for a higher dynamic range. (I don't have CS3 -- still on CS1 -- which I think will more or less do that automatically.) That way the color version could have shown shadow detail while retaining the contrasty sky.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Jesus: Does His Divinity Matter?

This entry is my commentary on the the Sabbath School lesson 2 for April 12, The Mystery of His Deity.

"Why does it matter whether or not Jesus was God?" I raised this question last week, but deferred making any attempts to respond to it. This week the Study Guide dives right into the topic of Jesus' divinity.

I was hoping for more direction, guidance, and suggestions than what the Study Guide provides. It basically assumes that Jesus' divinity is important and much of the material this week concerns possible evidences that show he is indeed divine. But the "why is it important" is not, from my perspective, adequately addressed.

Maybe that is actually a rather difficult question, because there are two other lesson discussions that I listen to during the week. In one of them the participants never (unless I missed it) raise the question. Everyone presumably assumes that everyone else considers it of primary importance. In the other discussion (Good Word from Walla Walla University), the question is raised right up front. I found it interesting that the guests asked the question, both from the school of theology, at least the way I heard them, appeared to have some difficulties arriving at meaningful responses.

Both C. S. Lewis and Josh McDowell, considered some of the best Christian apologists, argue that if Jesus wasn't God then he had to be a fool, lunatic, or the biggest fraud or liar in history. And if that was the case, Christianity is also a fraud. Although I don't find fault with the logic of their arguments, personally I find the arguments less than satisfying. To me they seem to stop short of really answering the "why" question.

I also have a number of other apologetic books that defend Jesus' divinity. But again, none of them adequately, if at all, explain why Jesus' divinity is so important that it needs to be defended.

So perhaps I am going to tread on ground that even the best educated theologians and the best apologists shy away from or seem to provide answers that don't cut it anymore today. But it is important, no critical, that I know why Jesus' divinity is important.

At this point, I think it is also important to make a distinction between questioning the importance of God's existence vs. importance of Jesus' divinity. One can believe in the existence of God, even a personal God, without accepting Jesus' divinity. Now, if God doesn't exist, then the ramifications seem quite clear. But why should someone who believes in God also believe that Jesus was and is God? What difference does it make what one believes about Jesus? That's the question that I am going to try to address as best as my limited knowledge and reasoning allows.

If Jesus was and is God...

  • I have a better picture of God than we would if all that was left were impressions of humans. (Critics would argue that even the records about Jesus are just impressions of humans, but that is beyond the scope of this current discussion. I believe that the available evidence is sufficient to support an accurate, if not precise, portrait of Jesus as God.)
  • I have assurance that the laws by which this world operates -- resulting in oppression, injustice, suffering, violence, evil, sickness, death -- will come to an end and be replaced by a completely opposing set of laws based on love.
  • I have assurance of complete acceptance by God, because he walked all the steps necessary to reach me where I'm at.
  • I have all the power I need to continue walking with God, because his promise to send the Holy Spirit is as sure as his word.

On the other hand, if Jesus wasn't God...

  • I really wouldn't have a good idea of what God is like. Most likely God would be a lot like how many of the Old Testament writers depicted God. Certainly more benevolent than say the Canaanite gods, but still somewhat tyrannical, unpredictable, unapproachable, rewards and punishment based. What kind of a god would create a man, Jesus, just for the purpose of going through crucifixion?
  • I wouldn't know how to relate to God. Do I do my best to be good and to obey all of his demands? What are all of his demands? Could I ever know what they all are? What if I accidentally missed one? He might zap me.
  • I would forever be unsure where I would end up after death -- if there was anything beyond the grave.
  • The laws governing the universe -- physical and spiritual -- would be unfair. Those with genetic predispositions toward sin and evil, those raised in environments bent toward sin and evil -- they would be inherently more unacceptable to God and less likely to ever be acceptable.
  • There would be no assurance that what Jesus taught and demonstrated was the truth about God. Like I noted earlier, God could be the complete opposite of Jesus, if Jesus wasn't God -- Jesus could have gotten God all wrong.
  • None of Jesus' promises would really be sure.
  • God would have never initiated reaching out to rescue sinners. Effectively I would be on my own, relying on my own effort, to attempt to bridge the gap between God and me -- ultimately a futile effort.

I'm sure others would put aside some of the above and come up with their own. Maybe some of the reasons I give aren't logically sound. But I hope that this is a good starting point for thinking about the importance of recognizing, accepting, and believing Jesus as God.

I'm not going to discuss the evidence for and against Jesus actually being God, because that is the main thrust of the Study Guide; and also there are many good books available.

Yes, Jesus' divinity does matter. It provides solid assurance and certainty of God's love and his promises to us.

Obligatory deer photo

They are so annoying. They block traffic. They eat flowers. They eat vegetables from gardens. They drop pellets in the yard. But oh, they're so cute. I found this one grazing along our driveway as I pulled in. It sat down and posed.


Fire update

On one hand it's difficult being away from the scene in that all I know are what others tell me. On the other hand, it's probably a good thing because I have to accept that there is nothing I can do about it. I have to leave things up for others to handle. I can sign papers and make decisions, but that's about it.

Here's what I know: the attic, roof, and siding are pretty much a total loss. There may be some interior work that needs to happen as well. Do we replace/rebuild or demolish it and put up the land for sale? Trying to sell property is difficult right now, and with the building slowdown, materials costs have come down, so rebuilding is probably the better option.

Given the type of fire, that any of the structure was saved appears miraculous. That the living areas and all in them were spared -- some might call it just a convergence of luck -- but maybe it's one of those miracles that God still brings together from time to time.

Discipline of "I don't know"

I came across a blog entry today with which I identify. The more knowledge I acquire, the more I realize how much I don't know. At times I might appear to be speaking or writing with confidence, but really, in my mind, they are more often than not beliefs that I hope are true.

I think I've whittled my basis (pillars) of faith and belief to three points: 1) That God is love. 2) That this love is at least partly expressed by God in giving everyone, including me, freedom to explore the vastness of the universe of matter, ideas, and the unseen in ways that are both beneficial and harmful. 3) That God desires everyone, though not everyone will, through experimentations in freedom, to come to know and accept that his ways are best.

Everything else, for me, is pretty much hypothesis and theory -- I think they're true at this point in my experience, but I may change my perspective or belief if any turn out to not fit the three points above. For me, all of the other details of theology (salvation, justification, grace, Jesus, sanctification, etc.) are derived from and are further explanations of those points. I hold (or at least I like to think I do) most of my beliefs loosely.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Learning stoicism

Petersburg having a strong Norwegian history, and Norwegians known for stoicism, among other things, maybe some of it is rubbing off...

This morning I got a call about the rental property we have down in Oregon. It was on fire. I didn't believe it for a few moments there. When I asked again, I heard the same thing. Uh, oh... So I'm thinking, maybe I should panic, get all worried and anxious... And then I realize it's quite a few miles away and no realistic way to get there and do anything about it, so I begin thinking:

"Ya..., vell..., vaht can vee do abvout it anyvays?"

What's happened has happened. It can't be reversed like a video, and there's no reset button or do-overs.

"Might as vell go veeth the floh..."

I go upstairs, pull out the files for the property, double check the landlord policy to make sure at least there's coverage, though there's a pretty hefty deductible. At least it should cover the majority of the repairs and reconstruction if it turns out to have major damage. So I call the phone number and begin the claims process.

Later I learn that most of the living areas weren't affected too badly. Initial thought is that the chimney from the fireplace caught fire. Even later, this evening, I learn that in fact it wasn't the chimney, but probably the back behind the fireplace was where the fire started. From there it traveled up and caught the attic on fire. Apparently the attic was pretty heavily damaged. The fire crew thought it was pretty lucky that the fire was actually found and contained when it was. Usually, they say, fires like these aren't found until the whole structure is beyond saving.

"Ya, vell..., it could have veen vorse... At least no vun vas hurt or dead..."

Yeah, it's yet another unexpected expense. I wonder how it is that something always comes up to use up money that we'd rather use for something more discretionary... Does anyone have a good answer to this question? It's one thing to have planned expense, but major unexpected expenses are really annoying (to say the least).

"Ah, vell... It's just money. It ain't doin' any good just sitting around..."

So there you have the excitement for the day. Now you see why I needed to take a nice long walk outside, and take and bask in the peace and tranquility between our house and the Post Office. I needed more stoicism to get me through.

And no, I don't, for even a moment, see this as "part of God's plan." Now something good may come out of it, but I don't believe God needs bad things, evil things, in order to work out his purposes. He uses what happens, but I don't believe he causes evil. (So I do have disagreements with insurance companies and their "acts of God" phrases in policies. But I won't argue with them about it, because I need the coverage. :)

Winter's Last Gasp?

We awoke to a reprise of winter. It snowed and there was some slushy accumulation during the morning. And then there was a hint of blue sky mid-afternoon. By evening rain was coming down. We'll see if winter finally lets go of its grip on 2008.

Snow covered branch  Snow covered backyard 
Spring muskeg 
Muskeg reflections Muskeg reflections

Monday, April 07, 2008

Yes, it's snowing again

It's too warm to stick (so far) but cold enough for a nice snow shower even though we are well into Spring.

Spring snow  Spring snow

Sunday, April 06, 2008

New (used) camera and photos

Way back in October, about six months ago, I wrote about my good camera no longer working. Last week I finally was able to find enough room in our budget to finance a replacement body. For weeks and months I agonized over whether to go with a 40D, a Rebel XT, the Rebel XTi, or the new upcoming Rebel XSi.

I think I would have really liked the XSi except that the release date is expected at the end of this month -- not early enough for our trip down to the Lower 48.

I would have really liked the 40D also, except for the cost. The differences between this and the XTi are significant, but weren't enough to justify the price difference for my needs.

The XT is a decent camera, and even though it is some three years (an eternity in the digital camera universe) old now, I consider it better than the 10D which I was seeking to replace. However, in this case the differences between the XT and the XTi were significant and the price between the two IMO was justified.

I'd check B&H Photo daily, just to consider all the specifications once again on the different models, check the prices to see if they'd gone down, look at the accessories (extra battery, bigger memory card, remote shutter release) I'd need and want, etc. Last Sunday as I went to the site I noticed that there was a decent used XTi unit available for purchase. That clinched the deal. I could purchase that and a few accessories and still be under what I was expecting to pay.

The unit arrived last Friday, after the good weather went away. Even so, on a walk yesterday afternoon I snapped a few photos. I generally use RAW capture, so the image sizes now are huge: 10MB per image. It turns into 50MB or so inside Photoshop, before any layers are used. I'm going to have to be more critical about images I keep vs. throwing out so that my storage space doesn't get overwhelmed.

I was afraid that not having the status LCD on top of the camera would be a problem, but I needn't have worried. It turns out the the back LCD and the way it handles both status and image review is implemented quite well. Probably the only complaint is that even for my relatively small hands, the camera feels a little cramped. On the other hand, I do like the small size in that it packs well. It is much easier to carry around than a larger body. The controls are quite intuitive and I was able to figure out probably 95% of access to features without having to look in the manual.

Sandy Beach Park area in the distance  Frederick Sound, mountains, icebergs
Rock  Examining marine biology

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sermon: Go and Bear Much Fruit

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today's sermon discusses the vine and branches and the relationship of abiding that is found in John 15:1-17. What do the vine, the branches, and the fruit mean in John's account? I find a curious resemblance of today's passage in John to the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28:18-20.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I purchased a Crock-Pot

For quite some months now, I've frequently experienced wanting another large pot. There are many times when the one large pot that we had was already in use for something like soup. And then I'd want to cook some pasta, but none of the other pots we have are quite large enough. I recall one time, as a last-resort, getting out our wok and boiling some pasta in it.

Recently, too, I've frequently made stews and chilis for Sabbath lunch, but the problem is that I can't just leave the pot on the burner and keep it going while we're at church. So it has to be placed in the refrigerator, meaning a huge amount has to be reheated later; or I just leave the pot sitting out and hope that there aren't too many bacteria multiplying during church.

I've been eyeing a Crock-Pot slow-cooker for a number of weeks now as a pretty good solution to the two big dilemmas I've been facing. I finally broke down today and brought one home. It's a nice, big 6-qt. unit. We don't really want yet another counter top appliance, but I think this one will get quite a bit of use.

I tried it out this evening to make some yam and carrot cream soup. I didn't really measure anything, so measurements below are approximate.

Yam and Carrot Cream Soup

  1. 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  2. 1 large yam (about 1 to 1-1/2 lb.), peeled and 1" diced
  3. 1/2 to 1 lb. carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  4. 2 average sized russet potatoes, peeled and 1" diced
  5. 2 cups vegetable stock
  6. 1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  7. 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  8. 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  9. 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  10. Hot water as needed
  11. 1/2 cup whipping cream


  • Combine ingredients from onions down to nutmeg (nos. 1 through 9) in a slow cooker. Cook until vegetables are soft (about 4 hours on high, 7 hours on low).
  • Using an immersion blender, puree the vegetables.
  • If the mixture seems too thick, add hot water until consistency is to your liking. Add the cream. Stir to combine well. Continue to cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.

The Beauty of Ambiguity

I found a blog post elsewhere by the title, The Beauty of Ambiguity. It's an entry by the author of the book The Shack. The entry itself uses elements from the book, so if you've read it, the entry makes much more sense because you'd understand the context. But regardless, I think you will get the main themes.

What the blog entry discusses resonates with me because in my search for God and in my growing relationship with him, I've had people ask similar questions of me. Some of the thoughts that I am experimenting with, trying to wrestle with, are indeed quite different from traditional orthodoxy.

By the way, I do recommend The Shack. It has the potential to do what C. S. Lewis wrote about images of God: "My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself." (From A Grief Observed as quoted by The Good Word for April 5, 2008.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

This was not intentional


We were advertising our smoking-cessation program. Last Sabbath, we were housing a volleyball player from Wrangell and she noticed the odd placement and the unintended result/message. She had first thought perhaps that someone hostile to the church had tacked on the sign.

It's probably a good thing that we don't get everything we pray for answered in the way we desire. Because if that was the case, the above picture would become quite apropos.

A few spring photos

These were from last Saturday afternoon (March 29) while out on our friends' deck.

Spring muskeg
Spring mountains Spring muskeg

Jesus: Who Was He?

What follows are a few of my personal comments in regard to this week's lesson, Lesson 1: Who Was Jesus?

One of the first thoughts that popped into my head after reading the title for this week's study was, "Huh, that's an interesting question." I know the answers I'm expected to give, but have I really paused to ask myself this question? How many Christians have really taken the time to figure out a response of their own? Don't we generally assume and take for granted whatever we were taught about the person of Jesus? And don't we read the New Testament through those filters?

What difference does it make who Jesus was? Does it really matter whether or not Jesus was God? I think it makes a difference and it matters, but why? I don't know about you, but I stumble and hesitate in coming up with reasoned responses of my own (rather than just stock answers), primarily because I don't think I've really ever thought about it that much. I've just always assumed it was important and so hadn't given it much thought. Perhaps the studies this quarter will help bring some clarity and focus so that I can provide my responses to the questions.

The Jews had and knew their scriptures. The disciples spent 3-1/2 years with Jesus. Yet they all got the answer to, "Who Was Jesus?" wrong. Even Peter who replied, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God," had wrong ideas about the Messiah. Even after the resurrection and at Jesus' ascension, the disciples had misconceptions about Jesus. After the apostles, the church became more and more confused until the Reformation. And even after all of that and into the present, I doubt anyone has even a remotely close conception of Jesus Christ. Rather, I think that the images of Jesus are spread out through all those who truly desire to follow him.

So how can we say and be confident that we have the right picture and ideas about Jesus? Maybe the better thing to do is to admit that even after nearly 2,000 years, we still have a pretty fuzzy picture of Jesus and what his life and mission were really about. Maybe it is better to admit that none of us have "the truth" but rather all of us are slowly growing towards it -- sometimes taking steps back so that we can find better steps forward.

This week's study also touches on the tension between faith and reason. Faith without any reason is blind. It tends towards rigidity and dogmatism, and ultimately a fragile faith. Reason without faith leads towards a different kind of rigidity and dogmatism, and ultimately rejection of anything that cannot be seen or touched.

If God left no room for doubt, there would be no room for faith. And without room for faith, there ultimately would be no room for individual freedom to choose. Without freedom, there is no love. Without love, there is no God -- at least not the kind of God I believe was made man in Jesus.

I believe that while Christians are right to reject the conclusions of the skeptics when it comes to who Jesus was (c.f., Jesusanity vs. Christanity) we need to work through the questions and issues that they have raised, and come to a new understanding of what it means to interpret and understand scripture and to believe in Jesus Christ. To simply dismiss the skeptics is to head towards blind faith -- a ditch just as bad as faithless reason.

I believe this week's lesson describes the world today: people are still confused about who Jesus was. Many simply cannot reconcile the God that the Old Testament seems to describe with the God that Jesus says he showed. And so for many their reason demands that they reject Jesus' divine claims as something made up by later Christianity. After all, that is what the evidence appears to show.

Scholar and author Bart Ehrman, an evangelical turned agnostic, probably speaks for many such people.

Mr. Ehrman, 52 years old, writes that he could "quote entire books of the New Testament, verse by verse, from memory." But he then had a crisis of faith. How was it possible that a loving, all-knowing God could allow so many to suffer? In the Bible, he writes, the prophets attributed suffering to the consequences of God's wrath. He also explores the idea that "salvation could emerge from suffering," and uses the story of Job to explain the apparent randomness of suffering. He also rejects the apocalyptic view that suffering is part of a larger plan that will end when God eliminates the wicked and embraces his true followers...

[Mr. Ehrman] "Suffering is random and chaotic and capricious, and the difficulty in the Christian tradition is that God is supposed to be sovereign over the world. So in theory there shouldn't be capricious suffering. If God is actively involved and loves his people and can resolve their problems, why doesn't he? People think God answers prayer, but that seems strange to me... What God would create massive suffering so that we'll turn to him?"

-- from Wall Street Journal, "On God's Problem," March 7, 2008

Rather than simply telling people represented by views such as these to "just believe" and ignore evidence, we need to guide them through a better understanding of God. And that will likely mean taking certain elements of biblical criticism and putting it to our use as we explain how God's love never changes, but how he works with people and how people saw and understood God has changed through biblical history. It means that we must first come to realize that the Bible was written over a long period by fallible people: people (like us) who saw God in incomplete and inadequate ways, people (like us) who were influenced by the culture and religions around them, and people (like us) who were trying to make sense out of a confused world around them. In other words, it means rejecting an inerrant and infallible, verbal dictation view of inspiration of the Bible.

When we take the Bible seriously and apply appropriate methods of interpretation and understanding, I believe we can find that Jesus does show what the true God is really like, because Jesus himself was God.

The Prankster

Amy is such a prankster! Yesterday, she was fully in the spirit and mode of April Fool's Day. First, Elise discovered crayons coming out of the box of cereal when she went to pour herself some cereal. Last night, Shelley discovered her bed short-sheeted. And then when I finally crawled into bed, I discovered a bag of beads at the foot of the bed.

All three of us were "had" yesterday.