Thursday, July 31, 2008

Campmeeting Food Preparations

A flurry of blog posts today -- I think this will be the last one.

I spent yesterday preparing the curry sauce for the split pea curry and today preparing the cheese sauce for the macaroni-and-cheese. I ended up with about 1.5 gallons each. I used some of each for yesterday's and tonight's dinners, so there's a little less now.

Preparing for 75 is a little different from preparing for 4. Although there is more work, it isn't a linear multiplier (fortunately!). I found preparing a larger quantity of a single dish much easier than preparing four or five dishes for say a dozen people, even though the end quantity is probably about the same.

The main issue was that my biggest pot wasn't quite big enough. I prepared the entire quantity of curry sauce at once. The pot was just barely large enough. I had to be very careful stirring to make sure it didn't splash out.

Learning from that, I made the cheese sauce in three separate batches. It took more time and work, but it probably came out better than if I had done it all at once.

What remains then is the assembling of the dishes at camp: the split peas to be cooked and combined with the curry; rice to be cooked; and the macaroni to be cooked, combined with the sauce and some frozen broccoli and cauliflower, then baked until hot.

Last year I did all the preparation and cooking at camp, and although it ended up working, it was quite a bit of work. Hopefully it won't be quite so hectic this year.

Our rental in Oregon is just about done

About four months since fire broke out, the reconstruction is nearly done. The final inspections haven't gone smoothly. That is all that remains.

I haven't seen it but I'm told that it looks and feels like a completely new house. My in-laws who live there suggested some additional remodeling so the kitchen/bathroom/laundry areas were opened up to enlarge the space. The cabinets have been updated from the 1970's to the 2000's. All the work was done with just a couple thousand having to come out of our pockets. All the rest was covered by the insurance claim. The good news there too, is that the insurance was renewed without a large increase in the premium.

Communication is much more than words

The girls and I just returned from a showing of WALL-E. Elise is working so she couldn't make it. Tonight was the only night available for the girls since we are going to campmeeting tomorrow and the girls will be staying there next week for their camp.

Anyway, for those that haven't seen it yet (which is probably less than 1% of the American population...) much of the movie is without what could be called dialogue. Communication, both between the characters in the movie and the movie to the audience, takes place. Pixar did a great job with their animation, using visuals much more effectively than words could have expressed.

The theme of the movie (according to my view) is an exploration of a response to the question, "What does it mean to have life and live?" The movie suggests a number of related responses that might be surprising and very thoughtful.

It was well worth the price of admission. Be sure to stay and watch the closing credits. The story doesn't end with the final scene -- there's an epilogue in the credits.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Missionaries: Learning Through Practice

This post contains comments on Lesson 5, Matthew 10: Jesus and His Disciples.

The Study Guide focuses on Matthew 10. Parallel passages or passages with similar themes can be found at Mark 3:13-15; 6:7-13; Luke 6:13; 9:1-2; also Luke 10:1-12; John 13:12-17; Luke 12:2-9, 22-34, 51-53; John 15:18-16:4; 16:12-15.

The one idea that caught my attention was how Jesus sent out the disciples even though they had wrong just about all their ideas about the coming kingdom. The sending out probably occurred mid-way during Jesus' public ministry. It was before the Feeding of the Five-Thousand, which means it would have been before the Bread of Life discourse of John 6. In that light, the disciples understood even less than what I had assumed prior to looking at the chronology a bit more closely.

The message here I think is that God is able to use anyone whose goal and devotion are to Him. Does devotion have to even be primary? Could it be that the practice and experience of doing good for God helps develop devotion?

Another idea that is present is that God meets people where they are and He is able to use them as they are. The disciples were primarily Galilean Jews with all the nationalism and prejudice that came along with it. In their missionary trip Jesus accommodated their prejudices by not sending them out to the Samaritans or the Gentiles. I wonder if the "shaking the dust off" was also partly to accommodate the disciples' imperfect understandings and expectations regarding God's treatment of those who reject Him, either intentionally, or because they aren't yet ready to accept?

A third point I got is that the message of the kingdom of heaven is about healing, cleansing, and restoration. When I see the practical works mentioned twice in close proximity, I have to conclude that they are quite important. I also tend to see Matthew 10:8 describing the practical works to be an explanation of v. 7, which is the message, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (c.f., Luke 10:9 where the connection is even more explicit).

Could this account be suggesting that practical service to others is more helpful in developing a Christ-like character than sitting through more doctrinal classes? Could it be that the best way to grow closer to our heavenly Father is to go work in the vineyard (which is where I suspect He is) rather than spending more time studying the vineyard? Could it be that even our imperfect efforts in practical service are better than sitting in an ivory tower trying to perfect our knowledge of what practical service ought to look like?

The idea that salvation is somehow dependent upon knowledge has been ingrained into me, and I suspect quite a number of other Christians. Taking this week's lesson together with the parable of the final judgment of Matthew 25:31-46 begins to paint a radically different picture. The kingdom apparently is for those who are concerned about others and who do something about it, rather than those who are preoccupied with their own, individual salvation. If this is true as I strongly suspect, there are some things that I know I need to change in both my head and my hands.

I just have one observation on Matthew 10 itself. My reading leads me to conclude that this chapter is a compilation by Matthew on the theme of apostleship. The first 15 verses address the immediate situation of the disciples going out on a practical apostleship learning experience. The remainder of the chapter is probably from a later period in Jesus' ministry. Some of the subthemes appear in the other Synoptics at later points. But the bulk of it seems to share quite a bit in common with Jesus' final address (during and after the Last Supper) in John's gospel account (regarding the master/servant relationship, persecution, and the Holy Spirit). I think John himself gives strong evidence that the discussion of persecution and hardships didn't take place until the very end (c.f., John 16:4). I think, too, that the discussion of hardships wouldn't have made any sense to the disciples and would have been completely out of context since Jesus was still a very popular figure (recall this was prior to the Bread of Life discourse after which many left Jesus).

The reason I bring this up is that the lesson implies (Thursday) that the latter discussion was part of the earlier one when there is strong evidence to the contrary. By removing the direct tie between the two parts, I think it provides even more support to the idea that we do not need to know or understand everything before we go out and serve God.

The primary principle I learned from this week's study is that God has already given us enough knowledge. Our mission is to go and put that knowledge into practice. In doing so God can work with our efforts (and mistakes) to teach us what we need to learn to take the next step. What I think He wants us to learn more than anything else is His love and compassion for the world. He wants to grow in us the same kind of love and compassion. How can God teach us more about Himself if we aren't putting what we know into practice?

My Cell (Mobile) Phone Works Again

I got the replacement SIM card from T-Mobile yesterday, registered it, and now my phone works again. I felt so lost without it... :) I don't wear a watch anymore, so the phone acts as my timepiece. Anyway, my usual mobile number works again.

I was once again amazed at the responsiveness of T-Mobile support. I accidentally hung-up on the first call, so I called a second time. Both times there were no hold times in getting through to a real live person.

Preparing for SE Campmeeting

I'm feeling a tad overwhelmed with all the busy-ness of this week preparing for the Southeast Campmeeting on Vank Island this weekend.

Yesterday, I spent all day putting together a set of MIDI files for our songs: 10 contemporary praise and 11 traditional hymns. I was able to locate and modify MIDI files for about half of them, and fortunately for the most complicated and long ones. But for the remaining ones I ended up playing and recording the music. That meant bringing my MIDI keyboard and setting up the MIDI interface and sequencer software on my new notebook PC. My plan is to use the Roland VSC software synth on the notebook and pipe the audio through a couple of speakers. I don't want to take the actual MIDI keyboard over to the island. I still have some work to do on the files to switch them over to the VSC synth.

Today and tomorrow the plan is to prepare the seasonings and sauces for the Sabbath lunch dishes. One is a spiffed-up macaroni and cheese. The other is a spiced split pea dish. I think for both I can prepare the sauces and then put it together with minimal preparation at the site. The rule-of-thumb that worked well from last year is 1-1/2 pounds of food per person. We are expecting about 75 this year.

Tomorrow evening is the opening of the movie Wall-E here in town. Elise is working but I think I can take the kids to see it. From everything I've read about it, it sounds like the best movie (so far) of the year.

Finally there's the packing of all the personal stuff that's needed for camp. Due to the numbers of people, I think we'll end up pitching a tent rather than staying in one of the cabins. The weather forecast has been improving, and I'm hopeful that the heavy rains will stay away.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Few photos from Anchorage trip

Since our trip last weekend was a church business trip rather than a sightseeing trip, I don't have much to show. Most of the photos are from the air, but the weather being rather cloudy and rainy, it was pretty much all about looking down at clouds. Here are a few anyway. Click on each contact sheet image to go to the gallery pages.

Sermon: Patterns of Redemption

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today's sermon discusses John 19:28-30. In it I discuss Jesus' statement on the cross, "It is finished," and to what "it" could refer. I refer to the accounts of creation, the flood, and the Second Coming - some other stories of creation and redemption - to guide one way of understanding the statement, "It is finished."

I used PowerPoint for the sermon, so some of what is on the recording references what is on the screen. The first part of the sermon makes reference to several fractal images that can be found at the Wikipedia site. The aerial view of the Copper River delta can be found here. Towards the end of the sermon, I displayed a couple of polluted river images followed by a few clean spring/river images. (I can't post the images because some are copyrighted.)

(PowerPoint file without images HERE.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Adventist Today

If you're a Seventh-day Adventist, or are simply interested in current events and discussions within the Adventist church, you really ought to subscribe to Adventist Today. It's a great place to get perspectives that typically don't make it into the official publications of the church.

An online-only subscription is available for $8/yr.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How many paths to eternal life?

Monte Sahlin comments on a recent Pew Research Center survey where the following was asked:

As I read a pair of statements, tell me whether the first statement or the second statement comes closer to your own views even if neither is exactly right: My religion is the one true faith leading to eternal life, or Many religions can lead to eternal life.

How would you answer? What did the survey find in the American population? Read on to find out.

Make sure to go to the end of the post where Sahlin provides some of his observations and commentary regarding religion and spirituality in the postmodern context. I think Sahlin's post is quite relevant to the current set of Sabbath School studies on missionaries as agents of hope.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Missionaries: Jesus as a Missionary and a Prophet

The following is comments on Sabbath School Lesson 4, The Son of God Among Us.

This week's lesson seems a bit Deja Vu... I'm sure it wasn't intentional but it covers in one week quite a bit of what we covered over 13 weeks during the last set of studies. Looking forward, it looks like the following two weeks will be along the same topic, with perhaps a review of the Discipleship studies from a couple quarters back thrown in to the mix.

This week's lesson starts off on an interesting step (Sabbath Afternoon, last two paragraphs):

As Adventists, we work from the starting point that the Bible is the Word of God and that what it says about Jesus is the truth, period. We do not have the time to waste on all the nonsensical high-critical speculations about whether Jesus really said and did the things the Bible says that He said and did. As Adventists we believe those things because they are written in God's Word.

After all, if we cannot believe the Bible, what can we believe?

I refer you to another blogger who posted some objections in regards to the above. This week's discussion at Good Word (Walla Walla University) I think is also helpful in regards to this.

My personal position is that the Bible presents evidence that reveals the existence and the character of the Word of God, the Son of God, who was manifest to the world in the person of Jesus Christ. God neither dictated to nor controlled the authors, or the process of its compilation. The Bible contains human thoughts about God and experiences with God, but it is not the Word of God. Each writer had an agenda or a purpose in putting together the words that he did. I believe the Bible presents a true, but not necessarily a completely accurate or precise, picture of God. (We see darkly, as through a fog...)

I think the lesson would have been much more helpful if, rather than mentioning and then dismissing the so-called "high-critical speculations," it provided some engagement with it. To simply mention and then dismiss smacks of arrogance, ignorance, and/or foolishness.

Better would have been to take the approach of Darrell L. Bock and Daniel B. Wallace in their critique and analysis of Jesusanity in Dethroning Jesus. They are conservative Christian scholars who affirm and defend the divinity of Christ. But they respect and find a place for higher criticism. They acknowledge both its strengths and weaknesses as it is applied to the Bible and how the Bible informs Christianity.

The practice of higher criticism actually has quite a spectrum to it. Some people practicing it are very skeptical about sources... Others are far less skeptical, using criticism to examine the proper historical context for biblical or other passages, but being open to any claims of divine activity that the text may make. Some claim criticism should be avoided altogether, but they fail to recognize that every reader puts the story presented by the sources together, thus engaging in criticism whether one recognizes the fact or not... It is a necessary interpretive exercise for any work claiming to present history. [17]

Now with what I see as the most problematic portion of the lesson out of the way, it's time to move on to the actual topic: Jesus as a missionary and a prophet.

In one sense Jesus was all missionary. He came from outside (or above, using Apostle John's words) the world to bring the message of God's loving character to the world (or below). But in another sense Jesus was also a prophet to his people, the Jews of the time. (John also writes that "He [Jesus] came to his own.")

Since the next two weeks appear to deal with more of the missionary aspects of Jesus, I want to discuss the prophet aspect of Jesus in the rest of this post. (This would be the Wednesday and Thursday lessons.)

Like I discussed in last week's post a prophet's mission appears to have been primarily to his or her own people. A prophet comes to a people who should know better. A prophet often comes to point out areas of life where behavior is inconsistent with knowledge, beliefs, and teachings. A prophet often comes to warn people of the consequences of continuing on a bad course. A prophet often comes to wake people from their self-delusions and laziness.

Did Jesus function in any or all of these ways? According to what we read in Matthew 23, Jesus certainly did. Jesus always had the most difficult words for those who professed to know and obey God. In v. 37 I read Jesus not only speaking of the past but applying the term "prophet" to himself and looking to what is about to happen to him in just a short time.

A true prophet fulfills these difficult tasks for just one reason: because he or she loves his or her people. A true love of God always manifests as love of people. Jesus came to be with his people because he loved them. Because he loved them, he didn't want to lose any of them. That compelled him to speak and act as a prophet to his people. Finally, Jesus chose to do the one thing that would leave no question in anyone's mind about God's character, his glory: Jesus chose to die, to suffer sin's curse. On the cross, through Jesus, God's ultimate glory was revealed (John 12:23-33).

As Christians, we may not (and do not) always agree on how we view and interpret the Bible. I hope, though, that we understand and believe the basic message of God's love for us as revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I believe Jesus' prophetic message to his people was to remove all the baggage that had hidden this basic message of love.

I believe God is calling us to do the same thing today. If there are churches and professed followers of Christ that are actually obscuring and misrepresenting God's love, our prophetic call is to clear away the obstacles and level the paths. I believe we can only accomplish this when our knowledge of God and our experience of God's love are balanced. Both the head and the heart, both reason and emotion are necessary and must be balanced. One aim of discipleship with Jesus should be to develop this balance in order to be better able to reveal God's glory in each of our own lives.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Prepaid T-Mobile SIM works in Petersburg

When we went down to the Lower 48 over 90 days ago (this'll make sense in just a bit), I purchased a prepaid T-Mobile SIM card for an old T-Mobile (actually, VoiceStream) phone that I had lying around. But it wouldn't work back at home because of some roaming issue. I tried and the phone wouldn't get a signal. It was prepaid, just $25, so it was just fine as a throwaway.

This morning, just because I was curious, I plugged the prepaid SIM card into the unlocked, previous BlackBerry device (7100t) that I have lying around, taking up space and collecting dust. Surprise, surprise, it received a signal. When I went to the T-Mobile site to check on the account, I discovered that the minutes left on it had expired 2 days ago. (They're good for 90 days.)

I refilled it with $10 worth of minutes, because I still was skeptical about whether it could actually send and receive calls. (The coverage map says prepaid doesn't work here.) As soon as I purchased the refill, it received a couple of text messages. I was able to call out. So it looks like this prepaid will work as a temporary measure until I get the replacement SIM card for my primary number.

I don't know why it works. Is it because my BlackBerry 7100t is unlocked? Is it because this device supports more communication frequencies than the older Motorola? Is it because AT&T got their connection with their acquired Cingular/Celluar One/Dobson networks working more seamlessly? For whatever reason, T-Mobile prepaid appears to work in Alaska now, or at least this part of it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back in Petersburg

After a VERY long day, we are safely back home. I never did read any books while in Juneau. Rather, I listened to a couple of Sabbath School lesson discussions for this week, listened to the current Splendid Table podcast, caught up on the Tour de France news, read some articles from Wall Street Journal, and downloaded and installed a number of software patches and updates. I probably saved about 500MB of bandwidth use on our home connection by using the free airport WiFi today. It was also about twice as fast as the connection we have at home. How sad is that? I really am looking forward to what I hope will be better speeds and prices once the fibre optic link is running. The connection is supposed to be completed next month.

The flight back was uneventful except that both landings were rather hard. The weather is typical Southeast -- rain. However what isn't quite as typical are the low temperatures for July. Lows in the 40's are more autumn temperatures.

The children survived our absence, they didn't tear one another apart, the family they stayed with survived, and both cats are glad to have everyone back home.

And that concludes the news for tonight. I'm looking forward to getting some real sleep for the first time since last Wednesday.

Juneau has free WiFi

Here we are, just an hour away from Petersburg, but sitting for a 6-hour layover. Fortunately I discovered as I scanned the WiFi networks available that GCI has a free access point available. So I'm able to get online. I commandeered a seat next to a couple of AC outlets for my long wait.

It's raining and cloudy here. Not very exciting. No good reason to go out of the airport today.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Meetings and such

Today we were off to the Constituency Session at 6:45 a.m. On the way, the SIM card in my phone (probably) decided to quit. I wasn't sure what was going on, so all the way there and all through breakfast, I was fiddling with the phone, pulling out the battery and the SIM card, trying to see if it was just bad connections or something else. I know it shouldn't have, but it really annoyed, worried, and frustrated me until the time the meeting started. It took about 2 hours for me to resign myself that the phone was not going to miraculously revive.

I could have survived the whole extended weekend without a PC, if the phone hadn't quit working. As it is, I guess it was good that I did purchase a PC so that I can remain connected.

The meeting went without any surprises. All the current officers were reelected, the reports and proposals for the next four years were approved. The only "interesting" thing, and a rather minor one at that, was that a few people wanted campmeeting moved back to August. That didn't pass. Because everything went so smoothly, the entire agenda was completed well before lunch time.

We had lunch and then headed back to the hotel. Both Elise and I were feeling quite tired. Elise, because she never had been able to catch up on sleep she missed after her last night of work right before flying out. I was tired from at least two nights of non-sleep, and then last night from setting up this PC and updating the software with the latest security and other patches.

Upon returning, I spent a good deal of time with T-Mobile support trying to figure out what was going on. I have to commend T-Mobile's support and customer service staff. Each time I've called them, for whatever reason, they've been very responsive. I'm not sure, but it didn't sound like they outsource their support operations. Anyway, the culprit is probably the SIM card. It's one that I've had since 2002, when the service was still through VoiceStream (anyone remember that?). It was so old that support had no procedures for sending a replacement. Customer service ended up sending out a new one by charging and crediting the cost. I should be seeing that in about a week. Until then, I have a glorified WiFi PDA. The WiFi portion still works, so I can get e-mail and Internet as long as I'm connected to a WiFi access point.

I thought it was interesting that when I called up support and mentioned I was in Alaska, as it often happens, I was asked what in the world I was doing here. So I got another chance to explain that I quit my software engineering job to work as a pastor. I wonder what often goes through people's minds when they hear that. I just hope and pray that if nothing else, it causes people to pause and think about life's priorities.

After that little ordeal we went out to Office Depot for a few more last-minute supplies. And then to Sears where we browsed but didn't find anything we had to have. We couldn't find any restaurants we wanted to stop in on the way back to the hotel, so upon return we looked up different options. We ended going to a Japanese restaurant a few miles away.

We need to bed down early because tomorrow morning starts even earlier -- around 5:30 a.m. Our morning flight is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. out of Anchorage. Then we have a 6 hour or so layover in Juneau before reaching Petersburg right around 5 p.m. I'm taking along a couple of books to keep me occupied. Juneau has a pay WiFi service, so I suspect I'll be using that for a little while at least.

The one thing in Anchorage that most attracts me is the miles of bike paths that meander about the city, particularly the outskirts. I think I saw about as many cyclists out on the roads and paths as there are in the Beaverton, Ore. area. There is also a paved path that goes along Alaska highway 1 out of Anchorage, through Eagle River, and ends somewhere beyond -- quite a few miles through very picturesque country.

As mentioned in the previous post, I'd like to come here again when I'm not here for work so that I can enjoy some of the other things that are going on. If only the travel and lodging didn't cost so much.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Post from a new PC

I finally got my new PC setup to the point where I can connect online and post an entry. I think I'll enjoy this new unit. I think I'll be able to switch my sermon notes from the little BlackBerry (using about a 4-point font and squinting to see during my sermons) to the PC in tablet mode, looking more like a regular sheet of paper.

We spent the day at campmeeting. The sermon by Jose Rojas was dynamic and invigorating. The main message was to stop waiting for someone else to do God's work. If you think God might be calling you, go do it. The afternoon concert by the Melashenko trio (of Quiet Hour) was also wonderful to listen. The evening message was by our Conference President, Ken Crawford, who talked about how various things in the world seem to be pointing strongly to a soon end and how prayer is the one thing that we need to learn to get through any sort of troubles that might come and to be a light to the rest of the world.

The skies cleared up late this afternoon and our drive back at 9:30 p.m. was quiet stunning. The mountains looked alive in a way they simply don't in the Lower 48. The vistas were grand and saturated with color. I think I'd like to come back, maybe next year, and spend time just going around. What I'd really like to do is spend a few weeks doing self-supported cycle-touring. I don't know how practical or feasible it is in this part of the country, but I've seen quite a few cyclists out and about on the roads and highways.

Have you ever seen a quadruple rainbow? We saw one on the way back. It might even have been a quintuple one. I took some photos when it was about a triple. I don't have the means to process them right now, so they will have to wait until I get back home.

It's nearing midnight and it's finally starting to look a bit like dusk. I should get to bed and sleep (which I haven't had much of for at least two nights), because tomorrow starts down right early. We need to start back to the campgrounds at 6:45 a.m. to get breakfast there and join the constituency meeting.

Adventist affiliation in the news in a bad way

In today's Anchorage Daily News ( the front page, above the fold, headliner is about a splinter group from Florida that took out a 2-page ad spread in an Alaskan paper. You can read about it at the ADN site and look for "Religious ad fires up debate in Talkeetna."
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Saw Elise's Dad Today

I forgot to add that we saw Elise's dad today. It was rather brief. We might have a little longer time tomorrow. We'll see.

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

Errands and Campmeeting

After breakfast our first task was to go to the Japanese Consular office so I could pick up my new passport. $142 later, I had it in hand. And then something happened that was a first - the consular officer asked if we were in a hurry. We weren't so he came out, sat down and chatted with us for a few minutes. I've been to the San Francisco and Portland offices and it was always just business. This was a unique experience. We talked about how we ended up in Petersburg, our work, the town, and our kids.

Following that we headed to Office Depot just a couple of blocks away as the crow flies, but a long way around in the car. There I perused more notebook PCs. The tablet-style PC was on sale - turns out they were being closed out and the only one remaining was the floor model. I decided to purchase it. The only problem? No AC adapter. After quite a bit of searching and no adapter, a replacement was thrown in for free in addition to a floor model discount on both the unit and an extended warranty. So overall I think I got a pretty good deal.

We headed up north to the campgrounds. One of the bookstore staff flew in from Southern California. She is someone we knew while at PUC. We listened to a health talk, where both Elise and I looked at one another with some consternation with some of what was being presented. Elise went to dinner with the other pastors' wives. After she returned I learned I was being recruited to play the piano. So I did. Immediately afterwards we, together with the bookstore staff went to get some supper (Elise had hot chocolate).

By then it was already towards the end of the evening meeting and so we headed back to Anchorage. On the way back I realized that in many ways the scenery was a lot like Western Washington - between Vancouver and Olympia, and the stretch of I-5 north of Seattle to Canada: lots of evergreens, misty mountains, clouds, rivers.

Being this far north and so much farther west than Petersburg, it is still quite bright outside at 11 pm.
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In Anchorage

This is our first visit to Anchorage when the ground isn't solid white. There's a joke: Anchorage is the place from where you can drive to Alaska. In other words, Anchorage is just another big city - malls, big box stores, office buildings, McDonalds, Taco Bell, cars, and more cars.

We went to BestBuy because I saw a 1 TB external USB2 HD on sale (which it was). I also wanted to take a closer look at the current crop of notebook PCs before deciding on one to purchase or order later.

We then went to Wal-Mart (which I have near-moral qualms about shopping at, but sometimes simply have to just do it) where Elise picked up a few items and I got some razor blade refills and a couple of memory cards (which were the same price at BestBuy).

We next dropped into OfficeMax for a few more things and to look at their notebook PC selection.

After that it was time for dinner. We saw what looked like a restaurant nearby, drove by it, and saw that it was a Mexican restaurant. Good enough. We went in. I had halibut fajitas. I'm not quite sure what Elise had. The halibut fajita was perhaps the best fajitas I've had. It seemed way better than any chicken or beef versions from the past. It's definitely an Alaskan variation though. The halibut has to be fresh and tender.

The hotel we're in is adequate. But then it was about as cheap as I could find without completely ending up in a dump. It's at the north end of the city which means we are a few miles closer to Palmer and the campgrounds than we'd be had we stayed in a nicer (way more expensive) place downtown.

We have a few more business to take care of tomorrow in the city, then we'll be heading to the campmeeting. The sun sets rather late. The campground book store will be open tomorrow until 10 pm.
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cactus Offset

I was moving around a little (well, it used to be, several years ago -- now it's over a foot tall but only about an inch in diameter -- very unstable) potted cactus to check on the soil condition when a large offset that had been growing on it bumped the shelf above and fell off.

Here it is.


The offset is 1-3/4 inches in length. What I found amazing is that the only connection between it and the mother plant was that little piece sticking out from the bottom. It's no more than 1 mm in thickness, but that's all that was needed to grow into a nice, plump offset.

Last time I tried to propagate the offsets, I didn't have much success. Maybe I'll have better luck this time. I guess it's okay for them to just sit for a few days since they more or less do that in their natural habitat. After I return home next week, I'll see if I can find any cactus potting mix in town and set this one on the mix.

Missionaries: A Prophet is Not a Missionary

Another title to this post was, The Method is Not the Message.

This post is some of my comments on this week's Sabbath School lesson, Lesson 3, John the Baptist: Preparing the Way for Jesus.

How far would John the Baptist, operating and giving the message in the way he did, have gone with, oh, let's just say, 21st century Japanese people in Japan? Probably about as far as the end of his tongue, I suspect. Bluntness, directness, and boldness are very negative attributes to express in Japanese culture. To do so would get one blacklisted in a hurry.

How far would John the Baptist have gone with most of 21st century North America? Again, I suspect not very far, though perhaps a little more inroads than in Japan. Talking about sin and spirituality without first establishing a close relationship is more and more taken as hate behaviors in this culture. To do so easily causes barriers to go up and can negatively affect any future interest in even considering the message.

Why do I think so? Because John the Baptist was a prophet to his own people (primarily) at the early part of the 1st century AD. His calling wasn't to be a missionary to the Gentiles (though many apparently did seek him out, for whatever reason), nor to 21st century Japan or North America.

And that, I think, is the weakness of this week's lesson in the Study Guide. The reader can easily take away the idea that because John the Baptist had a special calling to be a prophet to his people, we too, should mimic the behaviors, the precise message, and the delivery of the message. The reader can get the impression that because the Seventh-day Adventist church was formed in response to the belief that the end was near, the church should embrace the methods of John the Baptist because Jesus spoke so highly of him.

John the Baptist didn't go into the city to preach. People came to him. There's no evidence he did any sort of advertising or marketing. It was all word-of-mouth. I might even give John the Baptist as an anti-pattern of an effective missionary.

When a person is sought out, that inherently gives that person a certain measure of privilege to speak out. When a person is part of the people group seeking him out, and in the case of John, he also came from a priestly family (held in high regard already), I believe that gave him quite a degree of credibility and authority from the start. When he spoke out against civil and religious abuses, that only added to the sense of authority granted to him. John was a prophet, sent to his own people. He was sent to break down and level obstacles that the Jewish religious regulations (mostly) had placed in the way of recognizing their Messiah.

Missionaries don't enjoy the same sort of rights, privileges and authority. They are foreigners (even if they're simply going from an inherently religious world to a secular one -- down the street, for example) where they must first earn the right to speak. Missionaries who act like prophets in today's world, I believe, more often than not create a negative impression of the gospel.

There are still parts of the world where prophet-like missionaries are still effective. But in much research I've seen, this is not going to last much longer. The whole world is quickly moving towards attitudes regarding religion and spirituality that resemble North America and Western Europe.

The Study Guide also dwells on the Three Angels' Message of Revelation 14:6-13. I spoke on this passage earlier this year. In it I observed that Revelation was written with believers as its primary audience. So the Three Angels' Message is primarily for those who claim to be Christians. As far as the "eternal gospel," I find it interesting that it specifically applies to just the first angel's message, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water" (Rev. 14:7 NIV).

In the sermon, I noted that we need to apply this message in order to render it relevant for today's people. In it I suggested that the Three Angels' Message, translated for today might look something like this:

For us (Seventh-day Adventist Christians) to...

  • Show and tell to the world that there is a loving and trustworthy God.
  • Show and tell to the world that only God offers real rest and peace.
  • Show and tell to the world that God accepts and loves us as we are, and he will accomplish our desires to change for the better.
  • Show and tell to the world that God is just and works through us to promote it.
  • Show and tell to the world that God is already with us today and wants us to be with him forever.

The church may need prophets, but the world needs missionaries. We should not confuse the two. Both should ultimately proclaim the gospel, but the methods and audiences are vastly different. We must learn our audience and employ appropriate methods to accomplish the greatest good. We must never excuse negative methods for the sake of expediency.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Photography, Philosophy

Perusing through Issue 77 of LensWork, I came across this quote by Brooks Jensen:

"Philosophically, any given thing is perfectly unknowable because we can never know it completely. Said another way, any given thing is known by its relationships with other things -- and this is the trap that thwarts creativity.

"The moment we define a thing, we limit our thinking about it. At the speed of thought, we restrict it, box it, classify it, limit it..."

Now the context of this is in making photographs and photographic art. The point being made is that photographers are usually self-limiting in the pursuit of making art. Photographers tend to make art that fits within boundaries of what already is. Brooks Jensen goes on to describe how truly creative work is created when boundaries are pushed and stepped over, when commonly accepted norms are set aside or even broken.

I find the quote above deeply significant because I think it applies to much more than just creative processes. So let's strike out the last phrase of the first paragraph -- the one that reads, "and this is the trap that thwarts creativity" -- for the moment. Now I think we have a philosophical statement that is broadly applicable to just about all of life.

Of course, being this particular blog and the nature of the work that I do, my thoughts naturally turn to the religious and spiritual applications of the above statement. I've mentioned this before, but I frequently find the most profound spiritual insights within the pages of LensWork. This is yet another example.

The history of religions, wherever and whenever, has tended to box God (or gods) in. Through stories, through teachings, through commandments, in their pursuit to define God people have erected boxes (and temples, sanctuaries, and churches). People have defined what is within the boundaries and what is outside. The longer and stronger religion gets, the more definite and certain the boundaries become.

When I look at my own religious tradition, Christianity and its sub-genre Seventh-day Adventism, I can find this trend and tendency. It's a far cry from what the founder, Jesus, taught. Jesus taught that God cannot be boxed in, God cannot be defined, and God can only be known by an experiential relationship with Him.

The application of Brook Jensen's statement is that every person's relationship with God is necessarily going to be different from everyone else's. One person's view of God, necessarily is going to be different from another's perspective of God. To rehash perhaps a tired cliche, it's like the blind men and the elephant. Every person is going to arrive at a different idea of God. And that's okay. When the best from each perspective is gathered together, we come closer to seeing God as He is. But we should never be arrogant in saying that we've actually seen or known God completely, because if we ever did, we would be claiming to be greater than God.

The statement, "We have the truth," is one of the most offensive to my ears. So also is the statement, "We are the remnant." Both smack of foolish certainty and arrogance. Both tend to lead to a mindset that closes itself off to fresh ideas and perspectives.

As for me, I know what I think I know, but what I think I know, I know may be quite wrong. I am quite certain that what I think I know will more than likely change as time goes on as I am exposed to more perspectives and experience God's workings within and around me. The one thing I hold fast to is that my God ultimately is a God of love and freedom. I am a follower of Jesus, pursuing God's love and freedom, and I pray that I'll never become so fixed and rigid as to end up as yet another box, useless on the shelf.

Overflowing Cat

I thought this week would be better for outdoor photography, but that hasn't been the case yet. Here's a photo of Stripey from this past Saturday to make up for lack of photos this week. I'm not expecting much in the way of good photos from Anchorage and Palmer either. The weather forecast says "rain."


Book Review: Choice, Desire, and the Will of God

Choice, Desire, and the Will of God: What more do you want? by David Runcorn

David Runcorn is an Anglican minister, currently serving in the Diocese of Lichfield.

This was a book from the bargain/closeout list at that I added to my cart just because the title sounded interesting. I was not disappointed with my expectations about the book.

If you want some of the traditional assumptions about God, His omnipotence and omniscience, and His reasons for Creation and the Incarnation challenged, this book will definitely do that. The major premise (at least what I got from reading it) is that the traditional views of God's omnipotence and omniscience (which are strongly influenced by Calvin's theology), are strongly at odds with God's love and and freedom of choice.

From the very start of the book, Runcorn challenges traditional thought. He suggests that God's incarnation as a human was not just to resolve the sin issue, but it was something that He had planned to do, even without sin. In chapter 1 Runcorn writes:

The incarnation is the fulfilling of God's original plan of and for creation. It is not a solution to a problem dreamed up in God's merciful imagination ('I know, I'll try this'). It is much more than God taking our humanity. In the end it is about the taking of our humanity in God. (2)

In chapter 2, Runcorn argues against the commonly held view that God being omnipotent has pre-planned everything, everywhere, across all time; and also against view that God's being omniscient means that He knows everything that will ever happen. In a number of ways, Runcorn seems to express views of God posited by the Open and Process schools of theology. Runcorn argues that nowhere in the Bible does it say that 'God is omni-" anything. Rather, he writes, "Significantly the nearest the Bible gets to a definition of God is 'God is Love' (1 John 4:8)." (13) From this point he argues that love, be definition, must limit itself, both in doing and knowing. Runcorn argues that interfering with choice (what the common held view of omnipotence would require) is not love at all.

Chapter 3 starts with another rather challenging and thought-provoking statement:


I mean, he serves no purpose. He does not need a reason to exist. Being God is not a job. No one appointed him. He is complete in himself. He just is.

And that means creation is useless too. God did not need to create the world. He was not lonely or lacking in any way. He does not need our love or worship. So we are not here to make a point... (19)

From these foundational propositions in the few opening chapters, Runcorn goes on to provide more details of how he sees the God's love and desire manifesting in creation and incarnation. The latter half of the book moves into how, being created in God's image, humans have been given the gift of love, desire, and choice. Runcorn discusses how humans might engage in a relationship with God, experiencing and employing these gifts from him.

I recommend this book as another perspective on the tension between God's omnipotence and omnipresence; and love and free-will. Maybe the universe and history aren't as fixed and predetermined as we may have been led to believe. Maybe God isn't out there just handling billions of marionettes. Maybe God really can be surprised and delighted by what we do. Maybe God really does value freedom -- freedom to destroy, or the freedom to create and restore -- so that he chooses not to interfere with our choices and their consequences, evil or good.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The sun returns and the cold goes away

The sun fought a fierce battle all day with the clouds and the rain. By this evening, it looked like the sun was winning. We are supposed to have a few days this week with at least some sun.

Just in time, I think I'm finally past the cold that I caught about 10 days ago. The headache (not sure if it was a migraine or just a bad tension headache) that I had all day yesterday finally went away this afternoon.

Elise and I are heading to Anchorage on Thursday. The weather for the weekend doesn't look very good, however. We have some business, personal and church, to conduct up in that part of the state. This means that I won't have to finish my next sermon preparation until next week. And this means that if there is a day or two that are good this week, I can afford some time to go out and see and photograph the landscape.

This evening, Amy brought back some freshly picked kale stalks from the garden. I cooked half of them with a fresh tomato sauce. I also put together a potato gratin with sauteed Vidalia sweet onions. Nearly the entire contents of the 13x9 casserole disappeared among the four of us. Finally for dessert I used more the peaches on sale for a fresh peach shortcake.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sermon: But Standing by the Cross

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today's sermon explores John 19:16b-27. This is the account of Jesus' crucifixion as found in John's gospel.

For the opening illustration on the audio I brought out an army knife (fixed blade about 6 inches long), a kitchen knife (santoku style), and a Leatherman fold-out knife.

This sermon discusses a few mentions of knives/swords in the New Testament, how it is often described as dividing things, and explores what that might mean in the context of Jesus' crucifixion and in the actions and words of the people surrounding the event.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Recipe: Lentils and Vegetable Curry

The Adventist churches in the southern part of Alaska will be getting together on Vank Island (a short distance south of our island) in a few weeks. Our church is responsible for putting together Sabbath lunch. I've been trying to come up with an interesting recipe that doesn't involve a huge amount of prep work, exotic ingredients, or complicated cooking steps. One idea that's been suggested is haystacks (taco salad using corn chips for non-Adventist readers). I think we'll still do that, but as I'm not a huge fan of haystacks, I'd like to put something together that is interesting and different from usual camp fare. And that's how I ended up with this curry recipe.

This is a basic lentil curry recipe that can be varied by changing the vegetables added to the curry. If the chili pepper isn't hot enough, cayenne powder can be added to adjust the heat to your liking.

I haven't done it yet, but I think it should be possible to use a slow-cooker with this recipe. Step 1 would have to be done in a frying pan and the contents transferred to the slow-cooker. Steps 2 through 4 would then be done as a single step and all added to the slow-cooker. The tomato paste (step 5) would be done a few minutes before serving. (Adding the tomato too early will probably prevent the lentils and possibly other vegetables from softening properly.)

Lentils and Vegetable Curry

Serves: 6 to 8

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 60 to 70 minutes


  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 hot chili pepper, seeded and chopped (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup dry lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 2 to 3 cups total of one or more of [carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, or others], cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems, divided
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste


  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, fry ginger, onion, garlic, and chili pepper until onion begins to turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add water and lentils. Bring to boil, then lower heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare vegetables.
  4. Add vegetables from step 3, cumin, coriander, garam masala, paprika, turmeric, salt, black pepper, and half of the cilantro. Stir to combine. Bring back to boil, then lower heat again, cover and simmer for another 20 to 25 minutes until vegetables are tender.
  5. Add tomato paste and stir until dissolved and well mixed. Add more salt if needed. Continue to simmer another 5 to 10 minutes until the curry takes on a thick consistency as the lentils break down.
  6. Remove from heat, add remaining cilantro, mix, and serve with (Basmati) rice or flatbread.

Recipe: Peach and Apple Cobbler

I'm not sure that "cobbler" is the right term for this. Until someone gives me a better name, "cobbler" will have to do. (The top/crust resembles cake more than anything...)

When I put in all the sugar, I thought it would end up being too sweet, but it turned out to be quite well balanced -- letting the fruit flavors come through without overpowering them.

The process of macerating and mashing, and the idea of using apples came from the July/August 2008 issue of Cook's Illustrated. What it does is pulls out more moisture from the fruit to provide more natural juices than otherwise would come out. The apples add more natural pectin to the fruit mixture, resulting in a thicker sauce.


Peach and Apple Cobbler

Makes: Fills one 13x9 baking dish

Total prep and cooking time: About 1-1/2 hours


  • 2 lbs. fresh peaches (about 6 small or 4-5 medium)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple (large)
  • 4 tbsp. + 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1-1/3 tbsp. orange juice
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1-1/2 cups Bisquick baking mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon


  1. Peel and slice each peach into 8 wedges. Set aside in bowl. Peel, core, and slice apples into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick slices. Set aside in another bowl.
  2. Take about a quarter of each of the peach and apple slices and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Add 1 tbsp. of sugar and the orange juice. Loosely cover and microwave on high for about 4 minutes until the fruit is very soft. Mash results with a potato masher until a coarse paste forms. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, sprinkle 2 tbsp. sugar on the remaining peaches and 1 tbsp. sugar on the remaining apples. Mix to distribute the sugar well. Set aside and macerate for about 30 minutes.
  4. While waiting, melt the butter and preheat oven to 400F. When butter is melted, take 1 tbsp. and coat the inside of a 13x9 baking dish with it.
  5. Mix together the peaches, apples, and peach/apple paste. Distribute evenly in baking dish. (Use a silicon spatula to make sure to get all the juices!) Cover with foil and bake for about 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, mix the Bisquick mix, remaining 3 tbsp. butter, 2/3 cup sugar, milk, and cinnamon in a bowl. The batter consistency should resemble pancake batter -- not too runny, not too stiff.
  7. Take baking dish out of oven, uncover, and pour in the batter making sure to distribute it evenly over the fruit. (Or, if you prefer a more biscuit-like appearance, drop spoonfuls of the batter onto the fruit.) Place dish back in oven, uncovered, and continue to bake another 20 minutes or until the surface is cracked and starts to turn light brown over the entire surface.
  8. Remove from oven, let cool for 10-15 minutes and serve.

Another brief update

There hasn't been much in the way of newsworthy things going on in our/my lives this week.

I've had a cold since last Thursday. It seems that it is finally starting to clear up today. I've gone through headaches; sniffles; sore throat; some mild coughs; and now, my voice seems lower than usual. I think I got it from Shelley, who had the cold early last week.

The weather has been pretty much wet through the week. Add to that the cold, and I haven't been outside much. I've taken the bike for errands, but that's about it. The back lawn needs mowing, so I just may force myself out today to do that.

Peaches are on sale this week -- at 99-cents/pound. Granny Smith apples are also on sale -- also at 99-cents/pound. Believe me, for here they are a VERY good price. I'm thinking about putting together a peach and apple cobbler (British style - more like a crisp or crumble, crust on top -- rather than the U.S. kind, crust mixed in).

I've been researching notebook PCs to replace the one that died. I like Toshiba PCs, but they don't ship to Alaska. I don't particularly like Dell notebooks, but their price and options seem to be the best around. Gateway doesn't offer the customizability nor do they offer the combinations of options I'm looking for in their configurations. HPs doesn't cost too much more than some Dells, and offers options that are more or less equivalent. HP has tablet-style notebooks, which Dell doesn't (at least not under $2,000). I don't get it... Why can HP sell a tablet PC with double the capabilities for half the price of a Dell? I guess I'll try to look around in Anchorage next week and see if I can find something there.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Summer Muskeg

These photos were taken on the last sunny day last week (July 2). (It's been cloudy and/or rainy since then.) It's quite astonishing how different the muskeg looks in a matter of weeks.

(Click on image to enter gallery.)

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Missionaries: Everlasting Gospel, Ever-Changing World (A Book Review)

This post contains comments related to lesson 2, "'All Things to All Men': Paul Preaches to the World," of Agents of Hope: God's Great Missionaries.

In this post, rather than really going into the lesson, I will review Jon Paulien's recent book, Everlasting Gospel, Ever-Changing World: Introducing Jesus to a Skeptical Generation (or from the Adventist Book Center HERE).

The majority of us as Christians will not go far from our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and churches to serve as missionaries. More and more, research shows that the secular societies of North America and Europe are becoming the largest mission fields. In other words, for many (based on visitor data of this blog) who read this, our mission field is not South America, Africa, or India, but literally right next to where we live, work, play, and worship.

The problem is that the majority of people we associate with today have little or no Christian, or even spiritual, backgrounds. To launch directly into the story of Jesus, of sin, of Creation, or anything that uses vocabulary and background based in the Bible has the potential to, at best, be ignored, and at worst, alienate.

Dr. Paulien's book is an attempt to bring Paul's "all things to all men" principle into the 21st century. The first section of the book draws pictures of how today's secular people think about and relate to the world and how that differs from even a few decades ago. Paulien discusses whether "successful" churches (primarily Adventist ones) are really succeeding in meeting today's secular people (the answer is, "No"). He goes on to discuss the evolving definition of the term truth in today's world.

This first section of the book, I see as a broad summary of many other research and works on postmodernism. As such, a reader new to the idea might want to do further reading on more extensive works.

What Paulien adds to the broader discussion is an Adventist-specific context to postmodernism. He describes how Adventism is uniquely affected by it, and how Adventism can make unique contributions towards engaging postmodernism. This forms the middle section of the book.

The last half of the book begins with general principles to keep in mind while engaging postmodernism. For me, one of the large contributions that the Paulien makes is that idea that most things in this world are not easily categorized as black and white, but as shades of gray. He begins the discussion with boundaries. In the middle of it he draws a Best/Better/Good/Fair/Poor/Bad scale (p. 117) and uses the scale to discuss the need for flexibility and resiliency. On the ends are things that are clearly right and wrong. But in the middle, context and relationships make a difference.

Another key point Paulien makes it that not everyone is called to be missionaries to secular people. I believe what he is trying to bring out is that it takes someone who is flexible and resilient, yet not swayed and moved, to successfully minister to secular people. For some, temptations in the secular world may be too great. For them, it may be best to stay within the "fortress" of the church and support those who are out in the mission field (being the "salt," p. 86). But even those within the "fortress" still need to adapt -- if not their behaviors, at the least their ways of thinking to that the support offered is sincere.

The final portion of the book gets into more practicalities of what being "salt" in the secular world around us might look like. Once again I see this section as a broad summary of many previous works, adapted to the Adventist context. As such, I believe it offers a valuable perspective.

I recommend this book to all who are seeking to understand and minister to secular people, and to reach them with the good news of Jesus Christ. The message does not change; but how we communicate it, and the portions we choose to emphasize or de-emphasize (Paul did this, too), must change if we are to become and remain effective missionaries in our backyards, front yards, side yards, school yards, work, and church yards.

An article about mission in the local neighborhood

Since this quarter's Sabbath School study topic is Missionaries as Agents of Hope, I thought I'd pass on a link to an article from the Spring 2008 issue of Leadership Journal. Its title is "Parish Without Partners?" (I don't know for how long it will be free to access.)

The article's theme is that the gospel must be holistic. It must meet both the spiritual and physical needs. Churches are usually good at meeting the spiritual, but when it comes to meeting physical, it is often wanting. On the other hand, service agencies and groups are good at meeting the physical, but they are often not equipped for moving people beyond getting their immediate needs met. Rather than one organization trying to accomplish two different things, it might make better sense to have multiple organizations separately run with their own focused goals, but are accountable to one another.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Sermon: Power Struggle

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Today's sermon goes through John 19:1-16a. It is the account of the power struggle between Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders over Jesus. Each party has their own vested interests, and tries to manipulate one another into getting their ways. Jesus' own actions and words stand in stark contrast to the actions and words of those "of the world."

Missionaries: Be Who You Are

Yes, this posting is after the fact this week. I had a rather busy week, and with the unexpected laptop breakage, all original plans sort of flew out the window.

I'll just write up a brief set of thoughts regarding today's Sabbath School study, Lesson 1, For Such a Time As This: The Apostle Paul.

I'm not a Paul, and I'm pretty sure there aren't too many people who are very similar to Paul. Peter was not like Paul, and John definitely wouldn't be mistaken for Paul. There might be a few attributes, interests, and personality traits that I might liken to Paul, but as a whole, I'm not what anyone, even with a stretch of imagination, would call outgoing, bold, quick with words kind of person.

Christians -- leaders and churches -- I think have often hyped up, intentionally or not, the super-missionaries or the super-evangelists as patterns for the rest of us. While I believe it's useful to look upon exemplary persons in Christian service as role models from which to learn, to expect myself to be just like one of them would be heading straight for failure and disappointment.

The fact is, and I think this week's study guide does bring it out, we are all unique. We each have a different set of skills, talents, interests, background, place, and time that makes us most effective in performing service for God when we are who we are; i.e., who God designed us to be. Some of us were never meant to go door to door in a strange neighborhood. Rather, we simply befriend people around our daily lives. We bring them into our lives and into our homes. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who just have the gift of starting up conversations and relationships with nearly everyone. They have the ability to draw out, in just a few minutes of acquaintance, deep needs and hurts that the rest of us might takes years to do.

Missionary service and mission work: what is it? Is it mainly about preaching? Or is it more about living? I think that when we read the missionary activities of Paul, we often get a one-sided picture where all he seems to do is preach, talk, and write. I believe it is important to balance this side of Paul with the side where he simply took up residence in a city, then lived and worked among the people. Words of hope are meaningless unless one can show a life of hope.

Even prior to his conversion, Paul was a missionary. He had a desire to serve God. It was just that prior to conversion, he had wrong ideas about God and about what He wanted, and thus his missionary efforts were rather misdirected. When Paul encountered Jesus and had a paradigm shift (as the study guide puts it), that's when his desire and efforts came into line.

Even today, the first qualification for anyone to become a missionary is simply a desire to serve God. I'm sure there are many people who go out on mission work, short-term or long, without really having experienced conversion. But the Holy Spirit has impressed upon them and given them a desire to serve. From Paul's experience, it appears that God is able to work with that. A person's desire can grow into an experience with Jesus. For some, it is in doing that Jesus is experienced. When a person really encounters Jesus, it leads to a missionary becoming a truly effective missionary.

The one thing none of us should do is to wait until we obtain perfect knowledge and understanding before we decide to work in our God-appointed mission fields. If we do wait, we will be waiting forever. And that would be like the man given the single talent in Jesus' parable.

Be who you are. That is God's plan for your life.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Too busy/tired for fireworks

But we were able to see them (that is, the fireworks sponsored by the City Chamber of Commerce and fired off at the ballfield about 1/2 mile away) anyway without going out of the house. Amy was fast asleep already, but we could see them from our bedroom window and from Shelley's. Our view was mostly filtered through some trees, but we could still see enough. From Shelley's there were less trees blocking, but it has to be viewed at an acute angle to the window. The whole show lasted about 15 minutes.

Data and applications migrated

Seven hours later...

I think I have all the key applications and critical data moved over and accessible on my desktop PC.

  • Outlook and all of its data stores, e-mail account settings, etc.
  • Internet Explorer favorites and RSS feeds
  • BlackBerry Desktop
  • MS Money and data file
  • OneNote files

In addition to SyncToy mentioned in the previous post, I had the first opportunity to use Windows Live OneCare Backup's restore function to bring over the Favorites and RSS feeds. It worked very well once I figured out how to get to them. OneCare's Backup also offered a little peace of mind at the start of all this because even if the laptop became non-functional before I could get SyncToy to move the data, at least the backup data was less than a week old.

The display hardware is definitely on the way out. When the laptop has been turned off for a while, it works for a few minutes after I turn it back on, but the problem seems to be getting worse each time. I think if I take it into one of the commercial freezers in town and run the laptop, it might continue to work for a little while longer. I think the operating heat adversely affects it. The problem with laptops is that you can't just replace failed hardware. One big plus for desktops, even today.

It was a good laptop -- 10 6-1/2 years old (I must have been thinking of another laptop). It's probably lasted about twice as long a couple years longer than it was meant to. So not too many tears shed. But I sure didn't need to work on this for half the day...

I researched some replacements, and it looks like a good one can be had for between $900 and $1200. It isn't quite how I wanted to spend the "economic stimulus" funds... I had hoped the laptop would last one more year. I'll see if I can function without a laptop, and if I can, I'll likely postpone purchasing a replacement until next year.

One reason I upgraded my BlackBerry handheld was to try to get by on short-duration travels without having to take along a full PC. It looks like I won't have much choice in the matter now.

Now I can return to my original plan for the day: to work on tomorrow's sermon.

It isn't Friday the 13th, is it?

My 10-year old (or almost 10) laptop showed signs of going kaput this morning. It looks like the display hardware is going out on me. This is the PC where I have all my sermon stuff, all my e-mails, all our finance data, etc. In other words, it's the most critical PC in the house.

This being Friday and all, it's the one day I can't afford to have it go out because I still have to put together tomorrow's sermon. I tried last night, but the thoughts didn't flow and I was feeling rather sleepy.

Anyway, I'm working on getting all of the data moved onto my desktop PC (the one I'm writing this on) using Microsoft's SyncToy utility. After that I can at least get to the sermon files and notes (they're in OneNote, which I already have installed here). As for e-mail, I'll make do with the BlackBerry and Windows Live Mail to access my e-mail accounts until I get Outlook installed.

Microsoft Money is another issue. Even if I could find the original installation disc, it's now 4 years old and Microsoft doesn't support it. I'll have to purchase and download a new version, I guess.

As for the laptop... Anyone who offers free or low cost shipping will certainly be on my list from where I purchase a replacement. Sigh...

This being Independence Day, I had planned to go out and at least watch the parade - even if it is kind of wet and rainy. But with the problems of this morning, I may not even get to do that today.

You're welcome to join my pity party today...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Southeast Alaska Photographic Society

A new photography forum went online just recently. Its goal is to be an online gathering spot for photographers from all over Southeast Alaska. Whether or not you are from this area, you're welcome to drop in, visit, and take a look at the photos that are being posted. If you are from the area, consider joining the forum and post the diverse beauty and interesting sights from your area.

Site URL --

Dancing and Deer -- or is it Prancing Deer...?

Shelley was called up to fill in as a member of the Leikkaring Dancers dancing for cruise ship passengers at the Sons of Norway Hall. She went there in the morning and in the afternoon. I stayed to photograph the dancing during the afternoon performance.

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In the late afternoon while preparing supper, Amy came rushing in to inform me that there was a doe and her fawn munching about in our backyard. So armed with camera, I dashed out. I was surprised at how calm they were. Neither appeared terribly skittish, so I got to spend quite a good amount of time snapping photos of them.

(Click on photo to enter gallery.)

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