Monday, June 30, 2008

Last Day of June

The year 2008 is half over. That's seems almost unbelievable. It seems only a few days ago that we were still covered in snow and ice.

A few photos of Cedar Waxwings and some sunset photos today.

The birds were taken through the upstairs window at a rather acute angle to it, so the sharpness is pretty poor. The birds are pretty small, so even with a 400mm lens, I had to crop rather severely to get what you see.

Yesterday's sunset was very good. As I was watching the skies last night, I didn't think the sunset would be that great. But it was. This evening, I was watching the skies and I thought it might be at least as good as yesterday. It wasn't. It was pretty poor. For the future, I think I should flip my sunset predictions around.

The most interesting (in my estimation) image I got this evening is the last one with the spider. The others are all ho-hum, mediocre, not very interesting.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sermon: Truth Possession

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today's sermon explored John 18:28-40 (ESV) and 1 Corinthians 13:1-14:1 (TMSG).

I'm sure many of us are familiar with the phrase, "We have the truth," or some variant of it. But is that statement really biblical in the way it is frequently used to mean? Or is it better to turn the phrase around and say that "the Truth possesses those" who choose to belong to Him? Today's sermon argues against the former and argues for the latter using Jesus' words to Pilate as recorded by John, and also by taking into account Paul's famous words on the primacy of love.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stormy

The day started out dry but cloudy. The grass was again looking somewhat tall so I went out to mow the lawn. After showering and recovering from the workout I went out to return a video and pick up a couple more from the library. I also picked up this week's newspaper and a few groceries.

The rain began on my way back. Amy spends a large part of Fridays in town. When she came home some time later, the rain had turned into a downpour.

Later in the afternoon I attached the bike trailer for a trip to get the mail. The wind had picked up and it was now blowing rain. It was somewhat hard pushing against the wind, but the trailer seemed to handle well and the drysack kept the mail dry.

It's been quite some time since we last had rain and wind like this. As I tap this out, I'm listening to the rain pour down onto the roof.

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jesus: His Return

These are comments on this week's Sabbath School study, Lesson 13, His Return as King and Friend.

The lesson for Sabbath Afternoon has the following:

Though there are unpleasant elements associated with the Second Coming (as we will see), it is not the fear factor that will cause people to turn their eyes toward heaven. Fear is important, and we do not proclaim the whole truth about the Advent without including it.

Is this a tacit acknowledgment that the way some of the Adventist doctrines have been put together and taught by some have indeed resulted in a fear-based gospel? Yet at the same time is it difficult to completely dismiss the idea that God originates fear because the Bible seems to teach that God does? We can't have it both ways. The gospel of love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

The best way I've found to settle this dilemma is to believe that God acts, and this singular act is interpreted by the recipients, the people, in different ways according to how they view themselves and how they view God. Some turn away in fear; others are drawn to God. The mistake Christians have made through history is that because it appears that God allows fear and God even seems to bring good out of fear, that we should originate and motivate through fear. I cannot believe God does that, and if God doesn't, his disciples shouldn't either.

Half of this week's lesson deals with this issue of fear and the Second Coming. Are we as Adventists that mistaken about what is going to happen? Are that many of us without assurance of acceptance and salvation by God? Have we, perhaps, grossly misunderstood and misapplied what it means "to be ready" and "to be prepared" for Jesus' return? Are we still holding onto a rather distorted portrait of God?

In my rather simple and big-picture way of seeing things, I believe that the only requirement to be ready is to want to be with God forever. It's not my job to struggle to grow my faith or to be a better person. It is the faithfulness of Christ that will accomplish all those things for me. (Many modern theologians and commentators interpret "faith in Christ" as "faithfulness of Christ" as the more correct rendering of the intent of New Testament writers.) The only thing I need to do is to make a choice to be with God.

The second half of the week deals with predictions and timings surrounding the Second Coming. Is God limited to bringing about the close of the world's history exactly in the way we think God has told us it will happen? Or does God have an infinite number of ways to accomplish his ultimate purposes? Could it be that the predictions recorded in the Bible are just a few of the ways in which things could transpire? That if and when they do occur, they are recorded so that we won't be surprised?

As I look at the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah, deliverance, and a new earth, it didn't necessarily have to happen the way it did. I believe it was people's response to God through history that caused God to work in history the way he did. I believe the prophecies were left open for multiple means of fulfillment. The post-exilic Jews latched onto a singular fulfillment which turned out to be wrong.

I believe the same can be said for prophecies and predictions surrounding the Second Coming. We should be very careful about making detailed pronouncements about what is supposedly going to happen, how they might occur, and particularly the when (and the order) of events.

I really resonated with the recorded discussion that took place over at the Good Word. I was particularly taken with the idea that we should wait for the Second Coming, "living life as usual." The idea is to live our lives as Jesus taught his disciples how to live: by selfless, loving service to others; in order to reveal more fully and more accurately the truth of God's character -- his love and mercy for all people.

The first definition of the word advent is defined as "a coming into place, view, or being; arrival." As Seventh-day Advent-ists, perhaps even more important than our doctrine of the Second Coming is how we bring God into view into the world today. As necessary as they are the doctrines of Judgment, Heaven, and others tied to an eschatological end of the world; more important is is simply "living life as usual" to reveal God's glorious love to the world. The advent begins in the here and now. The Second Coming, whenever and however it happens, will simply be a climax and a continuation of the advent of which we are already a part.

Honestly, I don't have the foggiest idea how history is going to be closed. Oh, I know about the different charts and such that supposedly detail the time of trouble, persecution, laws, and all the rest. But I no longer give it much weight, because I believe they are the wrong foci. The focus simply needs to be on Jesus and the mission He's given us -- to be witnesses of His love. All the rest will take care of themselves. God is faithful to bring me through and bring everyone else through who trusts in Him. There is absolutely nothing to fear.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Recipe: Asparagus and Portabella Enchiladas

I wanted to break out of stereotypical Mexican dishes. While perusing Cook's Illustrated I saw a recipe for Chicken Enchiladas with Verde Sauce. It sounded interesting, but for vegetarians what else could I put in the enchiladas other than beans? Asparagus is in season, and I found portabella mushrooms selling for a little less than a few months ago. I decided to try putting the two together for the filling.

The Cook's Illustrated recipe was mainly about the sauce. I wasn't about to go there since I don't think I can find tomatillos here. Perhaps canned. But the main thing for me was to try to figure out the filling.

I used store purchased, canned, green enchilada sauce for the bulk of the sauce. I also got some canned verde salsa that actually did use tomatillos which I used to top off the enchiladas. Also, even though enchiladas are supposed to use corn tortillas, I didn't have any at home so I made do with flour (soft taco size) tortillas. So I guess these were more like baked burritos.

I should also add that because our kids don't like mushrooms, I had to cook the mushrooms and asparagus separately in two pans and make part of the enchiladas with just the asparagus filling.

Asparagus and Portabella Enchiladas

Serves about 6
Total prep and cook time about 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch (about 2 lb.) fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2 inch lengths
  • 2 portabella mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp. Canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced medium
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (there is usually enough salt in commercial broth that additional salt isn't necessary)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups grated pepper jack cheese, divided
  • 3 cups green enchilada sauce or verde sauce (see discussion above)
  • 15 to 20 corn tortillas
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Boil water in a large pot. Blanch prepared asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Set aside.
  2. Wipe portabellas with paper towel, remove stems, and slice into about 2 x 1/4 inch strips. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 450F.
  4. In a large saute pan heat oil over medium heat. When hot, fry the onions, stirring frequently until golden, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cumin, stir to mix and fry for 30 seconds. Carefully add broth. Add mushroom slices and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. If there is too much liquid in the pan, increase heat and boil off excess liquid until just a little remains. Reduce heat to low. Add asparagus and continue to stir and cook another minute. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. (If using homemade or low-sodium broth, you may need additional salt in the filling.)
  5. Add 1-1/2 cups cheese and the chopped cilantro to the bowl. Mix well.
  6. Prepare 13x19 baking dish by pouring 1 cup of sauce in bottom of dish.
  7. Heat frying pan (large enough to heat tortillas) over medium-low heat. When hot, heat each tortilla for a few seconds as you work with them to make them easier to roll.
  8. Place 1/4 to 1/3 cup asparagus-mushroom filling on tortilla. Roll tightly and place in baking dish, seam down. Repeat until dish is full.
  9. Pour in remaining sauce and spread evenly over enchiladas. Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over the enchiladas.
  10. Bake, covered with foil, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle green onions on top. Serve immediately.

Monday, June 23, 2008

An 8-Point Buck

This evening Elise noticed a nice big (for a Sitka deer around here) 8-point buck nonchalantly grazing and chewing its cud on our back lawn about 30 feet from the back door. Since no hunting is allowed within city limits, he just sat there while I changed the lens on the camera, got the flash, and shot away. The big problem was that he was always staring directly at me, so other head angles weren't really available. Another problem was the noseeums buzzing about attacking me.

Sermon: Trumpet of Salvation

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

This past Sabbath's sermon discusses John 18:12-27. This is the passage where Jesus is questioned by Annas while Peter is questioned by servants and guards. How does each respond? What do their responses teach us about witness? What does the story tell us about mercy and judgment?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sun and Rain out front

This evening, while doing something on the computer (I can't recall what it was now), I noticed that even though there was sunshine through the clouds blinding me, it was raining quite a bit. The backlight made for rather picturesque scene outside the window. As the scene kept changing into new and interesting forms, I quickly grabbed one camera (zoom or fixed 20mm... I chose the 20mm) and dashed outside. (What I could really use is a remotely controlled camera atop a 50' pole that I can raise above the house...)

The scene that prompted me to dash outside was gone by the time I got past the guardrail. It seemed that maybe the most interesting scenes had all passed by. But then I saw the light change to stream over Sasby island, filtered by the clouds and backlighting the falling rain. Then I heard and saw the skiff coming through. Would the light hold long enough...? And with the speed of the skiff, there was just one chance at a good composition. Would my previsualizing match what the camera captured? I think this image made my mad dash in the rain (and standing about with noseeums attacking me) worthwhile.

Here's one other image that made the cut for keeping in my files.

Sunset photos

The sunset yesterday was absolutely spectacular. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera. Well, I did, on the BlackBerry. The problem was that it was too dark and the couple images that I got were quite blurry.

There are a couple of mountain peaks, which with the far north sunset angles during the summer, when the light and clouds cooperate just right, glow red like red-hot steel. I've seen it a few times, but never when I had a camera handy.

Tonight the sunset wasn't developing as nicely as it did yesterday. But I hoped that it would be worthwhile. It was at least somewhat promising about an hour prior. I drove out to the Scow Bay area, about 3 miles from home. But as sunset approached, it quickly became a rather drab, disappointing one.

Even so, there were a few (six) images that, with a little bit of Photoshop post-processing, turned out decent, if not spectacular.

Click on photo to access gallery page.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Narrows photos

Here are a few photos from yesterday's Thursday's walk down the shoulder of North Nordic Drive.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

I saved $2 today!

The BOB Ibex bicycle trailer I ordered on Sunday was delivered this morning. It took about an hour to assemble, and then I hooked it up to the bicycle for a test ride on the street out front. I was surprised at how easily it handled. I thought that it might take a little practice and time to get used to it, but it was really quite natural and effortless. I've never used the 2-wheel trailers so I don't know how the BOB compares to them. But what I know is that the BOB trailer, because it's a single wheel, leans and tilts and turns like a natural extension of the bike.

Connecting and disconnecting the trailer, too, was not as difficult as I had imagined. As long as the bicycle is able to sit up straight, there's very little effort in the connect and disconnect operations.

I went out with it to get groceries and the mail this afternoon. Maneuvering it into a parking location, I found, could be a little troublesome. It adds nearly a full bike length, so think about having to park something that long... And backing it up to try to get it into position is a trick I haven't quite figured out yet. The trailer seems to want to go its own way.

From the downtown grocery store to the Post Office and the other grocery store is an uphill trek. I had purchased probably 10-15 lbs. of groceries at the first one. Going up the hill I could definitely feel the weight. Once up there, the return trip was all level or downhill so that was quite easy, even with another 10 lbs. or so of groceries. I may need to consider my routes based on what I'm planning to purchase where.

Some of the roads were dirt and gravel. The trailer handled them with ease. The Ibex has a suspension to help ease some of the bumps. Again, since I've never had any other trailer, I don't have a comparison point.

I think I've found the way for me to haul my camera gear when I go out for a photo expedition. Since I usually stick to roads, both paved and dirt, it shouldn't be a problem. I don't know how well the trailer would handle true singletrack. The trailer is fairly narrow, so with care and practice, I think it is possible.

I saved about $2 in gasoline today!

Recipe: Split-Pea and Spiced Apple Curry

Following a recipe from one of my Indian cookbooks, I made my own garam masala yesterday. It is Punjabi style and has a large amount of cinnamon and cloves, giving it a very sweet aroma and flavor. I had placed it into a Ziploc bag because the spice bottle I wanted to use was still a little damp inside. This morning the bottle was dry and I poured the garam masala into it. While doing so, the aroma just enticed me to do something with it. I had some Pink Lady apples about and I put the two together for a different interpretation of the common spiced and simmered apple.

After I had tasted the result, my thought turned to how this could be the basis of an interesting curry. I looked in my Indian cookbooks, but could not locate the sort of curry I had in mind. I decided to try combining a basic split-pea type curry with the spiced apples. I attempted the combination this afternoon and had the result this evening for supper with some Basmati rice. It is a sweet-tart curry. I think it would go well with a salty, savory, spicy hot vegetable or meat dish as the sweetness of the curry tends to moderate the heat from chilies. To moderate it even more, instead of water in the curry recipe, you might use milk, cream, or coconut milk. (I tried adding a bit of cream in a little of today's curry result, and it seemed to work well. However, I don't know how the milk or the coconut milk will alter the curry.)

I'm presenting the two parts of the recipes separately as the spiced apple is quite good all by itself. The garam masala that is used needs to be heavy with cinnamon and cloves. Check the ingredients of any store-purchased bottle and make sure the two key ingredients are at or near the top.

These recipes may appear quite involved, but in reality they are quite simple. I completed the whole thing in about an hour. I think it helps that the different parts of the cooking process can be multitasked.

Recipe: Garam Masala Spiced Apples

Ingredients

  • 1 Pink Lady, Braeburn, or other sweet-tart and firm apple
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. Garam Masala (see discussion notes above)
  • 1 tbsp. finely grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp. dried currants
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

  1. Peel, core, and slice apple. In a small saucepan, heat butter over medium heat.
  2. When butter has melted, add the apples, garam masala, ginger, currants, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and water.
  3. Bring to a low boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Recipe: Split-Pea and Spiced Apple Curry

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry yellow split peas
  • Full recipe, Garam Masala spiced apples (above)
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp. finely grated ginger
  • 1 serrano chile, with or without seeds, minced (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper powder
  • 1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • Up to 1/2 cup water (or optionally, milk, cream, or coconut milk -- see notes in discussion above)

Directions

  1. Sort and wash split peas. In a medium pot, cook peas in 3 cups of water. Cook until desired tenderness is reached, then drain (see also step 4 below).
  2. While the peas are simmering, prepare spiced apple.
  3. While the apple is simmering, heat oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, drop in the cumin and fennel seeds, stir and fry until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately add ginger and if using, the chile. Stir and fry for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Drop in the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir once or twice and then immediately (but carefully) add the crushed tomatoes. Add salt and pepper. Stir to blend.
  4. At this point the peas are probably at about the right tenderness. If still a little crunchy, let simmer until desired tenderness is reached. Drain and add peas to the tomato and spice mixture.
  5. In a food processor, process the spiced apples until they are finely chopped (but don't let it get to a puree). Add the chopped apples to the tomato, peas, and spice mixture. Stir and mix well.
  6. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer another 15-20 minutes to blend the flavors.
  7. If the curry seems too thick, add water until desired consistency is achieved. Add cilantro. Bring back to a simmer and continue to cook another 5 minutes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jesus: The True High Priest

Here are some thoughts on this week's lesson, The Efficacy of His Priestly Ministry (Lesson 12).

Once again the topic for this week is one that is controversial and at times divisive. The founding of the Seventh-day Adventist church and the doctrine of the pre-Advent (or Investigative) judgment are closely tied to the topic of the heavenly sanctuary and Jesus' ministry as High Priest.

Again, I want to ask the question, "Why does any of this matter?" What difference does it make, particularly as it pertains to daily living in the real world?

The Study Guide asks this same question and proposes an answer (Thursday),

"It probably has something to do with loyalty and faithfulness...

"The way has been made for us, through Jesus, to approach God in the heavenly sanctuary. And to follow Jesus by faith into the sanctuary is not only to have one's soul cleansed by His marvelous grace but also to experience a new appreciation for His immutable law... This transaction... defines the difference the sanctuary teaching makes for us. By faith we enter with full assurance into that sacred place where Jesus ministers. And there, against all possible odds, we cling to the One... Thus anchored, we do not drift -- not into a view of the law that leads to the abandonment of God's holy Sabbath and not into evolutionary conceptions of origins that seek to dethrone the living God from His own universe. The doctrine of the sanctuary thus becomes a protection for us against rebellion and secures for God a faithful remnant in a revolted world."

Before I continue to develop how I've come to look at the topic of the heavenly sanctuary and Jesus as High Priest, I have to digress and point out what I see as a serious error in the Teacher's comments on p. 147 under Step 4. The whole section reads (bold emphasis supplied):

"For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time." (1 Tim. 2:5,6 NASB)

During the second century Irenaeus of Lyons taught that Jesus was offered as a ransom to the devil to free peoples' souls. The devil, however, was defeated because he did not know that Jesus was God Himself!

For hundreds of years this theory was adopted by the Christian world, until Anselm of Canterbury pointed out that Irenaeus's theory assumed that the devil had far too much power. Instead, Anselm said that Jesus' life was paid to God and not to the devil!

What a more poignant picture that makes -- Jesus' life given as a ransom to God in exchange for my eternal life!

It may be "poignant" for some, but for most I believe this is the very picture of God that turns them off. It pictures a god that requires appeasement. It pictures a god who is never truly satisfied. It pictures a god who reluctantly saves because Jesus makes him do it. It is a picture that is completely at odds with what the book of Hebrews (and the rest of the New Testament) is trying to show.

George R. Knight in The Cross of Christ (pp. 69-70) explains how the text in 1 Timothy (above) is a metaphor. He explains that the ransom described does not need a specific recipient. The concept of a ransom helps explain an aspect of Christ's work of salvation, namely that of freeing people from slavery to sin itself.

[End digression.]

I believe that this week's study and the book of Hebrews can be summarized by its first four verses --

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV)

In my processing the topic this week, I've come to the realization that in the big picture, the Hebrew sanctuary, the temple, and all its services were meant to reveal God more fully. The earthly high priest was seen as the representative of God, and as such was to reflect God's character and also bring people to God. The offerings and sacrifices were meant to remove obstacles that the people themselves had put up between themselves and God. The sins of the people made them afraid to approach God, and so they needed tangible means of obtaining assurance that they could be purified before they came close to God.

All these, however, being human failed to accomplish their intended purposes. Oftentimes they ended up driving people away from God rather than bringing them to Him. It was for this reason that Jesus came as the true High Priest, the only One (because He was also God) who could represent and accurately portray God to people. Through His actions and through the cross, Jesus demonstrated that there is no obstacle big enough that could keep God and people apart. Jesus took care of the sin problem. No obstacle, other than a person's own choice, stands between him or her and God. Throughout His life, Jesus' mission was to bring people to God.

In John's gospel account, we encounter themes of replacement (see Jon Paulien's commentary on John). One of these is the replacement of the earthly temple with Jesus Himself. Thus I tend to understand the High Priest, Sanctuary, and the work of mediating (or more accurately, reconciling or bringing together) the new covenant in the book of Hebrews as all coming together in Jesus Christ. I see it as both a completed work (as revealed in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection) but also an ongoing one through the Holy Spirit as Christ's disciples today bring people the gospel message.

Jesus continues His work of representing God via the Holy Spirit working through us. Jesus continues His work of drawing people to the Father via the Holy Spirit working through us. Jesus continues His work of removing obstacles, both real and perceived, via the Holy Spirit working through us. (See John 13-17.)

Perhaps why any of this matters to me is the assurance that God continues to be with me today, and that I have nothing to fear from God. I know this because Jesus has represented God completely faithfully and accurately. Because I am certain of this, in turn I can be an instrument in God's hands of spreading the message of God's true character to the world. This, I believe, is the central message of Hebrews.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Landscapes along the beach

The unexpected dry weather continued through this morning. I went out with my cameras in the late morning to see if the flowers from last week were still in good condition. About half of them were, as I discovered.

Today I took along my EOS-10D outfitted with the usual EF 20/2.8 and my Rebel XTi outfitted with the EF 135/2.0L. It's been perhaps two years since I used the 135. It was great getting reacquainted with an old friend. The only problem with it is that it won't auto-focus closer than 1.6m. I recall having this problem the last time I used this lens, so it's not a new problem. I ended up manually focusing most of the time. That was probably just as well since the breeze would have caused the auto-focus severe problems.

After I had just gotten out and set up my first shot, a person living across Nordic Drive from where I was came by to chat about photography. It turns out he is interested in getting back into still photography after quite a number of years' absence. I gave him a little of what I know about the Canon digital SLR system. Since we're basically neighbors (just a short block down the road), we might be seeing more of one another in the upcoming months.

For close-up floral images with the 135mm, after reviewing the frames, I saw that f/4 to about f/5.6 works really well and fits my tastes and vision. Anything less than f/2.8 just doesn't have enough depth of field unless I'm going for an artistic (almost Impressionistic) effect. Above f/5.6, the background clutter begins to become noticeable. I did use smaller f-stops for a few frames where the background was basically the sky.

I spent most of the rest of the day working the images in Photoshop. I took some artistic liberties with a few of them.

Here's the gallery (click on image to go to the site):

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Unexpectedly sunny

I thought the whole week was going to be clouds and rain, but nearly all clouds disappeared today and the day ended up quite sunny and warm. Unfortunately, as it frequently seems to be the case, I didn't actually get to enjoy much of it other than from the inside.

The city is looking at some capital improvements in the area where our church is located. And it would like to charge the property owners for that through special assessments. Anyway, in the morning the neighbors got together to discuss the matter and how the city was proceeding with trying to get funding for it. I bicycled over and back, so I was outside for a bit.

After returning home, I mowed the lawn. I was indeed outside, but not necessarily enjoying it. As I know I've mentioned before, no matter how warm it might be, in order to keep bugs from eating me alive, I have to be covered head to toe while mowing. It was quite warm today, and especially so with a manual reel mower.

While I was mowing, Shelley was outside on a blanket, covered with Off!, working on a math assignment.

In the afternoon I went to run my usual daily errand of Post Office and grocery shopping. I would have preferred to bicycle to do these, but there is only so much (and not much) that I can fit into a backpack. I will have this problem resolved, hopefully by the end of the week, when I take delivery of a new bicycle trailer. With the cost of fuel at $4.30+/gallon now, each trip costs $1 to $2. The cost of the bike trailer will be made up in less than a year. And the bike trailer is a lot cheaper than an electric vehicle, however nice that may be. The point of all this is that I was driving around when I would have rather been out walking or on the bike.

In the evening, it was off to the City Council meeting. It turns out this next year's city budget included funds for the capital improvements mentioned earlier. The key was to make sure that it there was no reference to "Local Improvement District" in the line item. One of the councilors tried to remove it altogether, but there was no support for that. In any case, at least the initial planning and engineering work will come directly out of the city's regular tax collections rather than through a special assessment. I rode the bicycle to and from the meeting.

What I had really wanted to do today was go out to the beach area and re-photograph some of the wildflowers with a good camera and tripod. That will have to wait for another day, but not too long because some of the flowers may fade if I wait too long.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

New Pasta Cooker and Steamer

It's Father's Day and what did I get? A new pasta cooker and steamer. I'll be the first to acknowledge that this isn't at all a typical Father's Day gift. But I bet I'll make more use of this than say a tie. Or a hunting knife. Or a fishing pole.

It wasn't exactly a surprise, since last week, after I off-handedly made mention of it and how I'd been eyeing it since last year, Elise went out to the store. Today, she told me that when I mentioned it, she couldn't understand why I'd be longing for yet another "pot" for the kitchen. But after she saw it, she fully understood why it looked so wonderfully useful.

Here's how it looks with all the pieces in its storage position.

IMG_1503

And here are all the individual pieces.

IMG_1504

It comes with a stockpot base, a large pasta insert, a smaller steamer insert, and a vented lid.

The pasta cooker fits inside but its bottom doesn't touch the pan bottom. That means that even if the cook isn't terribly conscientious about stirring the pasta, it won't stick and burn onto the bottom. Not only that, but the bottom layer gets the circulating water so that the pasta should cook more evenly. Once the pasta is done, just the insert needs to be lifted out, and all the draining happens within the pot. No lifting heavy pots from the burner over to the sink, tilting it into another colander to drain. And it also means that I don't have to remember to reserve cooking liquid for pasta sauce recipes that call for it. It seems that half (or more) of the time I forget to reserve and end up using plain water.

The steamer insert fits at the top of the pot. It's got handles that allow the insert to be conveniently lifted up and out of the pot. This will be particularly useful for a mashed potato recipe that includes a step of rinsing the potatoes midway through steaming (this step removes more of the stuff that causes "gumminess" in mashed potatoes). This insert is definitely more sturdy than the little folding one that is commonly available. Elise thinks it will be more convenient than the electric steamers (of which we have a fairly deluxe model), particularly when it comes to washing and cleaning.

As a related aside in case you don't know, when using stainless steel pots and pans, you should add salt only to boiling water. Otherwise salt can etch the pan surface.

No sermon from yesterday

Pastor Brown spoke yesterday and I didn't have the recorder handy. So there is no recorded sermon from yesterday. Just letting you know in case you were wondering.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Going to Anchorage mid-July

There is a church Conference meeting held every few years that is coming up this July. Elise and I will be heading there. Not that we particularly want to go, but I guess we're supposed to. It isn't cheap and the church (i.e., the few of us in the church) have to foot the travel costs. It's been a few years since we've stayed at a place other than one of our WorldMark resorts, and I forgot how expensive accommodations are! :(

Pyrex is not broiler-safe

I didn't know this, did you? Maybe it said so somewhere in the original packaging, but who stops and reads the instructions for a casserole dish?

I found this out while reading about vegetable gratins in the current issue (Jul/Aug 2008) of Cook's Illustrated. This also might explain an explosion our friends experienced last week with a Pyrex dish in the oven...

Now I'm going to need to search out a clay or porcelain casserole dish for use with the broiler. And I suggest you do the same too, if you've been using Pyrex with the broiler.

Wildflowers along the beach

I had a few things to run over to town this morning. While there I found seven years' worth of Cook's Illustrated in hard-bound volumes at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. At 50-cents each, I couldn't pass it up.

Anyway, on the return trip I came by way of Nordic Ave. and walked along the top of the beach, right next to the road. I wanted to see how the wildflowers were coming along this year. I found that they were just beginning to bloom, with a few plants here and there in full bloom.

I didn't have a decent camera with me; however, I did have my BlackBerry device with a built-in (arguably) 1.9 megapixel camera. In a pinch, you make do with what you have. Mainly I wanted to record the locations for some of the interesting flora so that on the next good day I could take my real cameras for better photos.

The BlackBerry photos are not great, but they are usable. They do seem to require quite a bit of color, brightness, shadow, contrast correction, and noise reduction. They also look a whole lot better when the resolution is reduced to about 800x800 (or less). I reduced the ones posted here to 450x600.

Wild Iris buds Different view of iris buds Columbine Columbine, different color Three colors of Colombines Fern Hackweed Pink Columbine White wild Iris? IMG00018

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A couple of scanned film galleries

I own a Cosina-Voigtlander rangefinder film camera that I use from time to time. I recently finished off the roll that I had in there since last summer, got it developed, and scanned the negatives to digital format. I think I've mentioned this before but film can be fun in its own way -- there's no immediate feedback so I'm more methodical about composing and releasing the shutter -- in other words, I take more time. Because I don't always finish off a roll, it means there are photos sitting around from who knows how long ago. There's the anticipation of not knowing quite what to expect when getting back the negatives (or in my case, seeing the small digital proofs at MPix.com).

I put up two galleries: one from 2007 and one from just recently. Click the links or photos below to open gallery pages.

2007 Summer

2008 Frederick Point area

Jesus: Proof of the Power of the Passion

This week's Sabbath School lesson subject is The Power of His Resurrection (Lesson 11).

The big question of the week is, "Why does Jesus' resurrection matter?" The Study Guide asks the same question on Monday, "What is so important about the Resurrection to our faith?" The Study Guide makes the statement on Sunday, "It [the Resurrection] is the central doctrine of the Christian faith." Do you agree with it? Do I? If we do, then do we truly believe it and live it? Monday's lesson contains a quote by Alan Richardson from A Dictionary of Christian Theology, "All other Christian doctrines are dependent upon the proclamation of the resurrection..."

(An aside: I think that Seventh-day Adventists are considerably handicapped when it comes to the resurrection because of our historical/traditional aversion to anything that remotely touches Sunday. I think we need to get past the unreasonable fear of Sunday because I believe this fear limits our proclamation of the full gospel message.)

I think there are other ways of approaching the question, "Why does Jesus' resurrection matter?"

For instance, we might ask, "If Jesus wasn't resurrected, does His life and death make any difference to the world and to you?" Or we could ask, "If there is no substantial evidence and hope for a future resurrection, would you live your life any differently?"

In many ways, if Jesus was not resurrected -- if He is not alive today -- then Christianity wouldn't be much different from any of the other religions and philosophies that teach people to do good and live a life that contributes a net positive to the world. In that case, we are on our own. We may have substantial evidence of some divine being's love and compassion upon us, but we would be left with this being succumbing to the even stronger power of death. Ultimately, if we want to do any good, if we want to be remembered beyond our short lives, if we want to leave the world a better place, if we want to leave a legacy -- we have to do whatever it takes using our own efforts to accomplish that. Because without the resurrection, this world really is all there is.

It's really a pretty hopeless picture. The environment is deteriorating rapidly. Violence, crime, and chaos of all sorts are on the rise. Peace and security are found less and less. It seems that the world is beyond fixing. Even if a significant number of individuals come together to work towards a vision and goal of improving the world, it seems that would only serve to slow down the inevitable collapse and implosion of the world.

My response to, "Why does the resurrection matter?" is that I believe that the resurrection is the proof of the power of the passion of Jesus. The resurrection is proof that love is the greatest power in the universe. God's love cannot die. God's love brings life. God's love transforms. God's love offers new motivations for living.

Whereas people might live good, moral, upstanding, positive, contributing lives without God and without the resurrection; I believe that it would be essentially for selfish reasons. I think that the motivations generally will come down to self-preservation and self-perpetuation -- perhaps not the individual, but for the human race as a group.

But for the Christian who believe in a risen Christ, the motivation for living a good, moral, upstanding, positive, contributing life is because all of life and all that he or she touches is to bring honor and glory to God -- to make every part of life a means of revealing God's love of the world, to the world. Leaving a legacy, forestalling the collapse of the world, and other such motivations become secondary.

Christians try to leave a positive legacy so that those who follow can be encouraged in their journey with God. Christians try to leave the world a better place because that is how we believe we show God's love and care for the world. Christians care for one another, not for quid pro quo, but because the resurrection is proof and promise of an infinite abundance in supplying all our needs for eternity.

The cross of Christ was the exhibit of the depth of God's love and the power of sin. The resurrection is proof of God's love and His victory over sin and even death.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Cats and Trees

Cats often climb trees. This post has nothing to do with that. Today, I simply have both photos of our cats and photos of some trees and such from yet another walk to get the mail. (How's that for a run-on sentence?) The humane association in town puts together a fund-raising calendar each year and for $10, a photo can be submitted for inclusion in the calendar. I'm thinking of submitting the middle photo of the top row.

Here is the gallery link for the cats:

Here is the gallery link for the trees and muskeg:

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sermon: When Your World is In Chaos

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Yesterday's sermon was based on John 18:1-14. This is the account of Jesus' betrayal and arrest.

The first half or so of the sermon is a hypothetical, first-person account that John might have given as he was in the midst of the betrayal and arrest scenes. My intent was to try to capture the confusion and chaos, and betrayal and destruction of hopes that the disciples likely experienced and contrast that with what John wrote about the same scene decades later as his message to second- and subsequent generations of Christians regarding confusion and chaos in the world.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A 2-Hour Walk to the Post Office

I thought most of this week was going to be rainy, but today turned out to be quite dry and with quite a bit of sun. I took the opportunity to mow the lawn. It seems the warmth and the sun are accelerating the grass growth. Later in the afternoon, I chose to walk to the Post Office and back. I took along both of my Canon EOS cameras. The first one was outfitted with a standard 28-135 zoom. I put a 20mm (32mm on a standard 35mm frame, after the 1.6x APS-C sensor conversion factor) on the other.

The walk to the Post Office and back is normally around 40 minutes. Since this turned out to be such a picturesque day, I took my time, took a few detours, and ended up returning home 2 hours after I left. I also returned carrying two packages back.

I found that having two camera bodies with different focal lengths on each is much more convenient than having to swap lenses back and forth. Not only is it more convenient, but I think there is reduced risk of dropping the lens, the lens caps, and getting dust and such inside the camera. Now if I could figure out a convenient way to transport two camera bodies, two or three lenses, and a tripod while riding a bicycle, I'd have it made...

Anyway, here is the gallery from today. I haven't yet adjusted the contrast, brightness, colors, etc. to improve their appearance. (Click on gallery image.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jesus: He Died Because...

This post are some comments on this week's Sabbath School lesson, Lesson 10, The Meaning of His Death.

How would you complete the sentence, "Jesus died because...?" That's the question this week's lesson attempts to answer. This is a question people spend entire lifetimes trying to figure out, and the Christian church has been trying to come up with the definitive answer for nearly 2,000 years now. So I doubt spending a week on it is going to make much of a difference one way or another. In fact, I think we all have some pretty strong opinions about what Jesus' death means, what it accomplished, and how. Going through it again probably isn't going to change things much, if any.

The lesson emphasizes the importance of the substitutionary aspect of the atonement. Tuesday and Wednesday lessons briefly touch upon three other ways of looking at the atonement: ransom, satisfaction (of "God's wrath"), and reconciliation. Throughout this week's lesson, though never directly mentioned but alluded to, almost in a dismissive and derogatory way, is the moral influence theory of the atonement. There is another fairly recent (okay, it's almost a century old now) theory called Christus Victor (founded upon both the ransom and recapitulation theories) which is not mentioned at all.

There was an article, "A Multifaceted Gospel," in Christianity Today a short while back that proposed that Christians ought to look at the different theories of the atonement as different facets contributing a little bit to the understanding of the whole. In other words, there is no "best" or no single "right" way of understanding the atonement; rather all the pieces must be taken together if we are to better understand what Jesus' death means. (But also see this article and this other article where CT defends the penal/substitution theories as being at the center of the gospel.)

In one of my recent posts reviewing George Knight's book on the atonement, I noted that I am somewhat uncomfortable with the penal/substitution theory of the atonement. I don't dismiss it completely away, because there are a number of scriptural passages that seem to provide a strong basis for the theory. Perhaps I am uncomfortable with the emphasis historically and traditionally placed upon this particular theory of the atonement.

At this particular segment of my spiritual and Christian journey, I find that the Christus Victor (also examine this lengthy discussion comparing C.V. to Satisfaction/Substitution linked to from the previous C.V. page) theory best represents the God that I've come to know. This may or may not help you in your understanding.

Here are several other discussions specifically on this week's lesson:

I provide all the links in this blog entry to show that there is more than one way to consider Christ's atonement work. I think that it is important to become acquainted with different ways of approaching the "diamond" that is Christ's atoning work for us. I believe that by seeing the atonement from multiple perspectives, it can enrich and deepen our understanding and appreciation of God's love for us.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Watching some boats go by

Last week when Amy had her birthday party, I moved my office/study area from the kitchen table (where it's been in both the apartment and in our house) to our bedroom right next to the front window.

Now that I've had some time up there, I think I'm going to leave my office/study there. It's just so nice to be able to view the eagles, gulls, ravens, and yes, even crows flying about. It's nice to watch the tides come in and out. And I can watch the boats come and go.

The following is about a 1-minute video clip (there is no audio) of the comings and goings of some of the boats that I saw today. I originally wanted to catch some eagles in action, but as soon as I got a camera, they all disappeared. So all you get are boats. You do get a variety, though.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The rain returns on day 10

Most of the day was overcast, though during part of the afternoon there was some sun coming through. By this evening though, the rain started to drizzle down.

Earlier in the day, I went out into the muskeg one more time to get a little better image of a Sundew (carnivorous plant). While there I also noticed that the Labrador Tea blossoms were starting to open up, so I came back with one photo of that. This time of year, what can be seen in the muskeg changes quite rapidly. Here's the gallery from today:

I finished working on photos from a couple of days ago. I didn't work on all of them. The ones that are different from the original are noted as such in the description text. Click on the cottongrass image to open the gallery::

Click HERE to open gallery

I received back today the Canon EOS-10D that I had left in Oregon for repairs. I held down the shutter for repeated shots and the shutter works fine now. The total repair bill, including adjustments to the mirror assembly and a new shutter was just under $200. If it lasts me another few years, it will have been money well spent. Now I can have two bodies with me so that I don't have to keep changing lenses.

Finally, this town has no rice. Well, that's not exactly true, but all that's left are 1, 2, and 5 lb. bags of various types of rice. I don't know if the rest of the country is experiencing rice shortage, but the last large bags of rice disappeared nearly a month ago (just a couple of days after we came back). It looks like I'm going to have to change my menus to include a whole lot more pasta and potatoes and use rice very sparingly.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Muskeg photos from 29-May updated

I just finished working on all the muskeg photos from 29-May. You can view the completed images HERE.

Now on to the images from yesterday...

Sermon: The Holy Spirit in John - Part 2

(Click HERE to listen to MP3 sermon audio.)

Today sermon looks at John 16:8-11.

This sermon continues the discussion from last week regarding the Holy Spirit's work as described by the apostle John. Specifically, the subject of the Holy Spirit "convicting" the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment is discussed.