Sunday, August 31, 2008

Caught a cold

Shelley's been suffering from a miserable cold for over a week now. I'm now starting to feel the first symptoms coming on -- headache, sore throat -- not at all pleasant. I even ended up taking a brief nap this afternoon. Part of it must have had to do with waking up at 4:30.

In the light of a new day and with somewhat clearer mind, I took a closer look at the damage to the pickup canopy door and discovered that it might not be as disastrous as it first appeared. All of us thought that the hinge was part of the frame riveted onto the canopy itself. But when I handled the hinge this morning I noticed it was in two section and slid out the sides. So even though the door had torn apart the hinges, it looks like the frame itself is intact and possibly a repair will be as simple as purchasing (I hope I don't have to try to convince the factory that there are no dealers within a thousand miles...) and getting shipped (okay, that may not be so simple) a new door assembly. One of the mounts (on the frame) for the gas shock appears to have been bent quite a bit. I'm not sure which one though, because I don't recall what the mount looked like originally.

I purchased some heavy duty plastic to cover up the hole in the back of the pickup, cut it to fit the opening, and used some all-weather duct tape to secure it. I hope it holds.

The fog cleared up, but the sun never really came through today. That's just as fine, because I'm feeling more miserable by the hour. You know I'm not feeling well when I resort to pre-packaged box of dry, scalloped potatoes and canned, baked beans for supper. I did cook up a sweet-and-sour chili sauce to mix in with the baked beans, though, hoping that some hot peppers, garlic, and vinegar might blow away the cold...

Way too early to be awake on a Sunday

It's 5:40 a.m. now, but I was rudely awakened at 4:30 when the oil heater came on for the first time in probably 5 months. I didn't know what it was at the time. All I heard was this awful, high-pitched screeching noise. I get up, walk down, and figure out that it's the heater. But now in addition to troubles from yesterday (okay, so maybe this is the "third?") there's this heater making awful noises. I get back in bed, try to go back to sleep, but it's no use.

After finally getting out of bed, resigned that my Sunday is going to start way earlier than I had planned, I bumped up the thermostat on the heater to see if the noise will return. The good news is that there was less noise the second go-around. So maybe after more use it will get itself back into quiet operation. At least I hope so.

The fog is quite thick this morning. I can see across the block but cannot see the water. If the fog burns off, the day is supposed to be quite nice. The weather was quite nice yesterday also. But after today it looks like more rain is on the way.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sermon: We Have Seen the Lord, Part 1 - Eyes of Faith

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio. Click HERE for PowerPoint slides. Click HERE for PowerPoint Viewer.)

Today is the first of three or four sermons on John chapter 20. The connecting theme for the series is the title, "We Have Seen the Lord," taken from John 20:25.

Today's sermon looks at the overall structure of chapter 20, how John uses literary devices to draw attention to his main message (John 20:31): to draw people's sights to Jesus as the Christ and Son of God so that by believing in Him, people can have life. I discuss aspects of sight and how it relates to faith and belief.

Not a good day

Returning home from church, entering our garage, Shelley was in the back and flipped open the canopy glass door. I didn't realize it, kept going in, the handles on the glass door caught the garage frame, and with a thundering crash it tore right off of the canopy, popping out the rivets holding it to the hinges and tearing the hinges themselves. The frame holding the glass is completely warped out of shape.

Shelley, other than probably a huge scare, is okay.

There are no Glasstite dealers in Alaska.

I'm annoyed and really annoyed that this is Labor Day weekend.

Why is it that whenever extra money comes around (or is about to -- in the form of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend) that stuff (or insert some other word here) happens?

I don't know if someone here can repair it, or if it has to be sent back to the factory. But it all has to wait until Tuesday. And meanwhile, I'm frustrated because there is a problem and only ambiguity for solutions. I'll also need to buy some clear plastic and find a way to cover the hole and keep it sealed while still leaving the bed accessible.

Oh, and another minor annoyance to compound the big annoyance: the crock pot lid detached from the hinge. The plastic holding two nuts for the screws holding the lid had cracked around the nuts and the lid came crashing down. Other than one very startled guest and everyone else just startled, there didn't seem to be any harm done. I tried to make a repair on that one with some Gorilla Glue. I'm not yet sure how successful the attempt is. I guess I'll have to contact the manufacturer and see if they can ship out a new hinge assembly...

I'm not sure where the third accident is going to be... After all, troubles come in threes. Or maybe it already happened. There was a spring and rope adding counterweight to the dishwasher door. The rope rubbed and frayed and broke a month or two ago. Other than having to be careful about lowering the door, there was no other functional damage. I'm hoping that this completes the "three."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Even Buddhist temples are hurting

I just came across a news article on the BBC site, Hard Times for Japan's Temples. The migration of population from rural to urban areas, and increasing secularization of society are resulting in smaller temples experiencing shortages in funding.

The news correspondent ends the piece with some interesting questions, and responses from the monk featured:

If running a temple was a business, did not he need to adopt the newest sales techniques that others were using to build their brand?

He looked at me, smiled and then explained that in his view Buddhism should not have to be like that...

But what about innovation, I asked him. Isn't there more you could be doing to get people to use the temple?

He turned around and pointed at two benches sitting on the tatami mats in front of the icons and the candles.

"Look," he said, "in my grandfather's day those would never have been allowed, but I'm innovating. People here are getting older, too old to kneel, but now I've put these in so some can sit while they pray."

Here in Southeast Alaska, it's not Buddhist temples, but churches of all denominations that are experiencing similar problems. As crass as it may sound, the drive for more church members and attendance is driven at least in part (if not largely in part) by the need to fund the churches. More members and more attendance usually brings in more money. That's not very different from the temples featured in the article above.

So I have questions: Are churches a business? How proper and necessary is it for churches to adopt business methods? To what extent is the survival of a physical church necessary? How can churches innovate without becoming crass?

Perhaps a better question is this: How can churches operate their missions without becoming slaves to money?

A brief respite from wet

The clouds broke up a bit and the rain stopped for a bit during the middle part of the day today. That was a signal for me to go and mow the grass, now more than six weeks overgrown. I'd have rather been doing something else, but I had vowed to myself that the next time it stopped raining and I didn't have other, more pressing tasks on hand, I would mow the lawn. And so I did. I wouldn't categorize the job in the "fun" category. Especially since the grass was now really long, the reel mower had a tough time with it. There were portions on the yard where I had to make three passes over at different mowing heights. The lengths I go to in order to not use gasoline... It got all done, and even if it wasn't fun, I was pleased that it finally got done. Not fun, but I suppose pleasurable in a way...

I ended up with just four or five insect bites, which is also good news. I was just getting over all the bites from camp. Now I have brand new ones to scratch during the night.

Everyone -- I really mean everyone -- is commenting how fall-like the weather is. In fact, most would say that nearly the entire summer was missing. It was as if we went straight from spring to fall and no one really knows where the change was.

A few days ago I spoke with the pastor over in Juneau, and he commented how some people there, long-time residents even, are getting fed up with the weather. There are some people already starting in on the winter blues.

One of the pastors here commented that we could be seeing a lot more people decide to pack up and leave permanently after the last few summers (or rather, the lack of summer). He also says that the climatologists are predicting another 20 years of weather like this.

If you must have sun and warm temps, this is probably not the place where you want to live.

Missionaries: Continue Learning and Growing

This is commentary on Sabbath School Lesson 9, A Pillar of Mission: The Apostle Peter.

Perhaps one of the biggest dangers for Christians (who are all missionaries) is that we stop learning and we stop growing spiritually. The temptation is great to rest on knowledge already acquired, on understandings and interpretations that have served us so well, on methods and programs that have been successful, and on past successes themselves. The temptation is great to settle into a comfort zone after spending so many years "working for the Lord."

This week's study on the apostle Peter appears to illustrate how God works to keep His people moving forward. I've heard it said that to remain in one place is really to go backwards; or in biology, to stop growing is to start dying. When Jesus commissioned his disciples (whether in Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, or Acts 1:8), he said, "Go."

The study for the week begins with one of the more controversial passages in the gospels, Matthew 16:18 which reads,

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (ESV)

The traditional Adventist interpretation is that the "this rock" does not refer to Peter but to Christ. And certainly there is some biblical support for it. But after going through a number of Bible commentaries and listening to a couple other Sabbath School lesson discussions for this week, to me the natural reading seems to be the best interpretation; that is, "this rock" does refer primarily to Peter, and perhaps more precisely, to Peter's confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16 ESV).

Adventists have preferred the former interpretation probably because we don't subscribe to the concept of apostolic succession, and the above passage has been abused (in our view) to support the idea. On the other hand, could we be abusing this same passage from the other side by continuing to encourage rejection of the natural reading? More than one commentary notes that the Greek wordplay between "Peter" and "rock" often used to support our position would not have been in Aramaic, what Jesus' would have spoken. Perhaps we still have things to learn and unlearn...

When Jesus said, "And on this rock I will build my church," was He appointing Peter as the foremost apostle or was He simply stating what would happen in the early church? My view is that it was the latter. Jesus foresaw how future events would unfold and stated what would happen. Peter, probably because of his personality, became the de facto leader of the sprouting movement. Later on it appears that James (brother of Jesus) would end up leading in Jerusalem while Paul became a leader to the Gentiles.

Even though the church was growing among the Jewish people, that was only a small part of Jesus' intended mission. Peter is again called upon to expand God's work -- this time among the Gentiles. This required a shattering of some of the bedrock and foundations upon which Peter's entire worldview and identity were built. The requirements of ritual purity, the chosen-ness and the setting apart of Israel from all other nations were directly from God. They were commandments and covenants directly from God. How could someone violate them?

Yet God was the One who came to Peter and gave him a new command. How could God seemingly rescind earlier commands of His? The way I see it, and I think how Peter saw it, was that the commands are not the foundations themselves. Commands are tools that point to the foundation. Commands are God's concessions to limited human thought to (re)direct our vision towards Him. The foundation is God Himself, His love, and His desire to redeem and restore all people to Himself.

After going through some change, human tendency is to think enough has been done -- that it is okay to rest and take a break -- let someone else carry on the torch of change. Perhaps that is what happened with Peter when Paul came around as recorded in Galatians. As change studies have noted, change does not stick once pressure for change is relaxed. Things probably won't revert all the way back to how they were, but the pendulum will swing away from the edge of change.

The mission given by Jesus to Christians is that of change. We proclaim that the kingdom of God is both at hand and is here. We proclaim a power of change for human nature. We can proclaim all we want, but if we don't exhibit change in our own lives and in our own spheres within this world, the kingdom and power we proclaim is of little effect. We must continue to learn and grow. We must always be critical (in the good sense of the word) of what we know, challenging our beliefs, to see if they still reflect and lead to the foundation that is found in God and His love for the world. We must always be on the lookout for improved ways of knowing and doing that better represent God and His power in this world.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rental house photos

Today, from the restoration company, I received a CD containing some before and after photos of our rental house in Oregon. Here are the most interesting and informative ones.

Before - hole in roof

All fixed

Damaged vent

All fixed

Charred beams

Charred beams

Family room - note the fireplace and wood paneling

No more fireplace or wood paneling

Old kitchen - note dark cabinets, obstructed view from island, general smallness

Cooktop and oven in the island

Notice very little in the way of counter space

New kitchen - lighter cabinets, no more obstruction

Oven moved, microwave now built-in - also note wall behind oven and refrigerator moved back

More counter space made by moving the right wall (where the oven now is)

Island is functional as an island - more counter space


There's more floor space for the dining area

Living room - new carpet

Part of the bathroom - to the right is where laundry room used to be - now contains a bath

Water heater, furnace, and laundry area (to the left and back) - looks like the electric panel was also moved

Laundry area

What it looked like with the framing done - in the family room, looking towards kitchen, bathroom, and a bedroom - living room and garage/laundry to the right

Bedroom A

Bedroom A

Bedroom B

Bedroom B

Entry hallway closets

Garage - new closet - laundry/utility behind the wall on right

Garage closet - exit door to left - utility to right


Some thoughts on "evangelism"

What is "evangelism?" Is it preaching the gospel, disseminating knowledge about the gospel, convincing people to believe in the gospel, or demonstrating the gospel in action?

This brings up another question: What is the "gospel?" Is it Christian teachings, a set of Christian facts and knowledge, a Christian worldview, or God's ultimate desire restore all things to perfection and how we can become partner and friends (i.e., disciples...?) with God's in his desire for the world?

For some ten to fifteen years now, I've become increasingly uncomfortable with the definitions for both "evangelism" and "gospel" that I've too frequently heard. Evangelism is too often limited to "preaching the gospel." The gospel is nearly always defined to be something like "a set of doctrines." In other words, we evangelize because we believe that if people don't know and believe a set of doctrines, they will be lost and doomed to punishment. After all, isn't this what Matthew 28:19-20 says?

If indeed the ultimate goal is to make sure people listen to and accept doctrines, then any means used to maximize the ends are acceptable, right? It doesn't matter if the means employ some "white lie" deceptions, or a bit of bribing, or coercion, or manipulation -- as long as people can be placed in a position to hear (because the message content is primary), then we've done our part in evangelism, right? No, because I believe the means is the message. How we live and how we relate to others says more about what we really believe than any seminar or sermon will.

I refer you to two external blog entries. Both reflect my reservations and strong discomfort with evangelism as frequently practiced. Both are authored by Seventh-day Adventist pastors and raise issues regarding the current state of evangelism within the church. The second (as the title suggests) proposes some solutions to the crisis.

This is why I am rather uncomfortable with evangelism initiatives coming from "up high" in the church hierarchy. Most of these administrative initiatives assume the only really valid form of evangelism is meetings and preaching, or that any personal evangelism must eventually lead to mass evangelism. It puts unnecessary pressure on local churches and their leaders to outwardly do something and to employ godless measures to make their reports look good.

I intend to do what I can to resist both the pressures and temptations to employ any means other than genuine love and honesty in genuine evangelism. To do otherwise would be to give into, employ, and support the methods of the devil (c.f., Desire of Ages, pp. 22, 678, 759).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Recipe: White or Yellow Beans in Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

Even with grocery prices shooting up, dry beans and other legumes are still relatively inexpensive. Indian cooking does wonders to create varieties of dishes out of lentils and split peas (and other beans, too). Kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans seem to be more the domain of Latin America with chilis, refried beans, and such. Then there are different types of legume soups. Although all these are good, I wanted to try something different.

A few weeks ago I purchased a bottle of balsamic vinegar. I can't recall now what it was for, but I was struck by how good it is -- I could almost drink it straight... Anyway the idea that came to me this past Friday was a bean dish seasoned with the balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar often is paired with olive oil, and that immediately brings to mind Italian seasoning: garlic, sweet basil, and oregano.

With the basic idea in mind, it was a matter of coming up with the right combination. I had about a handful of dry navy beans, so I decided to use that for my initial experiment. I proceeded with a quick soak.

While the beans were soaking I sauteed the garlic in some Canola oil, added some diced yellow bell peppers, a bit of white wine, then some chopped green onions, salt, pepper, basil, and oregano. To finish off the sauce I added the balsamic vinegar and some extra-virgin olive oil.

After soaking I cooked the beans until they were al dente, then combined the drained beans with the sauce. The result was quite good. I refrigerated the left overs and had them sometime later. I was somewhat disappointed with it. The beans were now quite dry and tough. I would have to try this again with the beans fully cooked.

I had a bag of mayocoba beans so that was my next target. I let is soak and then fully cooked it. This evening I put together the sauce and added the drained beans to it. The softer beans and the remaining liquid, combined with the cooked sauce made the results much more saucy and pleasant. I think it is a little bit reminiscent of a bean salad, though much more mild and buttery in texture.

Elise, who does not like bean salad, says this dish is good. Shelley had multiple helpings. I really like the "bite" that the vinegar contributes to the dish. I could see adding some red pepper flakes to give it an extra pungency and bite.

White or Yellow Beans in Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

Serves: About 6 as a side dish

Prep and Cooking time (excluding soak and cook of beans): 15-20 minutes


  • 1-1/2 cups dry beans - white (e.g., navy) or yellow (mayocoba) - though I think other types would work just as well (canned beans can also work, too)
  • 1 tsp. salt for the beans
  • 1 tbsp. Canola or vegetable oil
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 to 2 red, yellow, and/or orange bell peppers, 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tbsp. white wine or water
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. dry basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. dry oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 stalks green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • More kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 to 5 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade (optional)


  1. Soak and cook beans according to package directions. Near the end of cooking, salt the beans. Set aside. (Do not drain at this time.)
  2. In a large (12") frying pan over medium-high heat, heat the Canola oil. When hot, add the garlic and quickly saute for 5-10 seconds. Immediately add the peppers and continue to saute for another 1-2 minutes until the peppers start to soften. Add the wine or water and the soy sauce. Add the seasonings (basil, oregano, salt, pepper). Continue to fry until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add green onions and fry for another minute.
  3. Remove from heat and add vinegar and olive oil. Stir to mix.
  4. If beans are no longer hot, place beans in microwave safe container and reheat. Drain beans, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water. Add beans to sauce. Mix well. If the beans seem too dry, add a little of the reserved water and mix until there is some thick sauce at the bottom of the pan. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the fresh basil leaves, if using.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sermon: Power to Force, Power to Free

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio. Click HERE for PowerPoint slides. Click HERE for PowerPoint Viewer.)

Today's sermon is an adapted version of the materials for Abuse Prevention and Emphasis Day for 2008. The Seventh-day Adventist General Conference sets aside each fourth Sabbath in August to bring awareness and education to the topic of abuse.

The topic today this year is the use and abuse of power. It addresses questions such as: what is power, how is power abused, and how is power to be rightly used? What is the right purpose of power? What are some principles that should govern us so that we do not abuse power?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Missionaries: Danger and Value of Intuition

The following are some comments on Lesson 8, From Folly to Faith: The Apostle Peter.

Peter being one of the most prominent characters of the gospels, there are many places that this discussion could be taken. I'd like to focus on the role of intuition in God's followers.

Intuitive reasoning, I think, is frequently thought of as having less value than concrete reasoning - reasoning based upon what can be seen, observed, measured, and recorded. Decisions made based on intuition, I think, are often considered suspect. If it turns out okay, the result is often attributed to blind luck. According to the Myers-Briggs type indicators, perhaps a quarter of the U.S. population tends to the intuitive style of gathering information ( Would God have created people this way if it didn't have value?

Peter, to me, looks like a person who made his decisions primarily based on intuition. Whether it was the decision to make a full-time commitment to follow Jesus, the request to walk on water, identifying Jesus as the Son of God, the action of fighting back with a sword -- if the decisions were made in light of what could be observed, measured, and evaluated, they wouldn't have made sense. But to Peter, there was something bigger than what could be immediately observed. He didn't fully realize the bigness of Jesus, but in the light of Jesus' bigness, Peter's decisions and actions made sense.

The problem is that Peter's intuition was skewed by his own misunderstandings about the Messiah and his own desires about what the kingdom of heaven might mean to him. Peter might have based some of his initial decision to follow Jesus on the material rewards he thought would be at the end. Peter intuited that if Jesus could walk on water, Jesus could allow him to do so, too. Immediately after declaring Jesus to be the Son of God, Peter tries to dissuade Jesus from a negative-sounding path. Jesus' future didn't fit in with Peter's intuitive sense. Finally, in Gethsemane, Peter intuited that a climactic battle was about to occur. The problem again is that his assumptions skewed his intuition and he thought that the battle was physical when it turned out to be spiritual in nature.

On the other hand, in Acts, we see the same intuitive Peter, but now his intuition is spot on. He intuits an opening for the gospel message, so he preaches. He intuits faith in the crippled beggar and so calls him to healing. Peter intuits something amiss with Ananias and Sapphira and exposes their deceit.

The difference between the two Peters, before and after Jesus' death and resurrection, I think is one of focus. Formerly Peter was most concerned about what he could get out of Jesus. Afterwards, Peter's concern and focus was how to be a conduit for God's message of hope and salvation. Peter's story seems to provide some evidence that one of the ways the Holy Spirit communicates to us is through intuition. Could it be that when a person's focus is on self, the Holy Spirit cannot use intuition (or that messages are garbled and corrupted)? But when the focus is on God, intuition becomes a powerful means through which God is able to communicate things that cannot be directly seen or observed?

As missionaries, as agents bearing hope from and of the unseen world, perhaps we should be more open to intuition in how we interpret what we see, observe, make decisions, and engage the world and its people around us.

For more on this topic, the Summer 2008 issue of Leadership contains an article by Gordon MacDonald, "I Have This Feeling..."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Finding chords and transcribing music

I came across a brand new song, released just a few days ago, on Rhapsody. The song is "Hold On (To Love)" by Angie Ewing.

Now what happens with me is that when I hear a new song, I first judge it by the music style and the chords and harmonies. If the melodies and harmonies are interesting, the chords are creative, and the style fits my tastes, it's only then that I take a closer look at say, the words. This one immediately caught my attention.

The easy part was listening to it several more times to transcribe the words. (No, I can't reproduce them here.) The theme is about holding on to Love (Jesus/God, though never explicitly mentioned in the song) and Faith through life's storms, and that Love will hold on to you. It was written in remembrance of Hurricane Katrina, now almost three years ago.

The next task was to transcribe the chords. That's always been the time-consuming part. I'm not an auditory learner. I'm much more of a visual learner. So listening and transcribing is the reverse of what I believe my skills are.

I spent a good deal of Sunday afternoon searching the web for any automated method for extracting chords (and even individual parts) from a recording. I did find several pieces of software that claimed to do just that. All of them were available as demo copies, either limited in song duration or in total use. Full versions for purchase ranged from $39.99 to $129.99.

I downloaded each one and ran some tunes (MP3, WMA) through each. Let's just say I was impressed that they were even able to get some of the chords correct, but I was not impressed enough to think they were going to save me any time. Maybe they would work on simpler tunes with more clearly defined parts and chords. For the tunes I used, they missed and got wrong more chords than they got right.

It turned out time and my own ears were much better at extracting the chords and the melody than any software solution. Perhaps in a few years the software will catch up, but I'm not holding my breath... yet.

Triple-digit fill-up

It's a good thing we are on a small island and have to fill-up our pickup truck about once a month. Elise got it filled up yesterday: $105.22. We are well over $4/gallon. This past month also included three trips out towards the end of the road (20 miles each way). Without those trips, I think we could have gone a couple more weeks without refueling. The Alaska legislature voted to give $1,200 per resident for fuel assistance (heating, cars, boats, etc.). That is going to be welcome relief. It's also time to walk and bicycle even more. If we get a second vehicle (since Shelley can drive if she wants to), electric vehicles will definitely be high on the list (less then 10-cents/mile vs. $1/mile).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Changed a flat

This afternoon/evening as I went out to our pickup to try to go get Shelley's purse and phone that she had left in another car, I noticed that the right-rear tire was looking a bit flat. Upon getting my head closer to the tire to get a closer look, I heard a definite "psssssss..." sound. Well, there went any hopes of catching the owners of the car before they flew out for three weeks in Hawaii. (Hope to catch them on the phone within the next few days to see where Shelley's belongings might be.)

This being Petersburg, there are no AAA services. We let our membership lapse over a year ago since there's no point in it. That also means that when there's a flat, we have to change the tire ourselves (or pay some exorbitant price). In all my years of driving, I have NEVER changed tires on my own. That certainly changed today.

First I had to figure out where the jack and wrench were located, then I had to figure out how to get them out of where they were stored. That was accomplished with just a couple of injuries. (Whenever I work on mechanical things or constructions, I inevitably end up with several injuries. I have no talent -- or interest -- when it comes to these things.) Elise lowered the spare to the ground. Meanwhile I was raising the jack to get it placed under the axle, as instructed. Then came the work. The lug wrench used to turn the jack had a plastic thing on the end. It worked fine for a while but as it became more difficult to turn, the plastic began to strip off. The wrench didn't fit all the way into the slot because of the plastic. Elise and I worked with it and worked with it until the car was raised enough for the wheel to be able to come off. But the spare had perhaps an inch more tread on it. Which meant that the car had to be raised more. But it wouldn't. I finally took some pliers and began to rip off the plastic, which by now was coming apart. Finally the wrench fit all the way into the slot and it would turn, except that it was still really difficult and not getting any easier.

Elise had to go to work, so Shelley came out to help. Shelley held the wrench in place while I used both arms to muscle the turns. The car finally was raised up high enough for the spare to be able to slip onto the bolts. From there the rest was easy and it was all completed in a few more minutes.

Shelley and I went out to see if we could find the car and her belongings, but we weren't able to locate them.

I'm happy that I was able to change the tire, but I still would rather have someone else who does this more often do it for me.

Update: In going to the front door just now to lock it, I found Shelley's purse. I wonder if it was there all this time.

Sermon: Operation Freedom

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

(Click HERE for PowerPoint slides. Click HERE for viewer.)

Today's sermon covered the passage in John 19:31-42 where John testifies to Jesus' death and burial. This passage speaks of a kind of love that offers freedom to all. There are those who see this love and welcome it. Then there are those who see the same love and feel threatened by it, seeking to destroy it. Followers of Christ are commissioned to continue the work of spreading and bringing freedom through love to the whole world.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Autumn here already?

We, here in Southeast Alaska, had about two weeks of summer this year -- the first one in May and another one just last week. But for much of this week, the weather has been a combination of rain, sometimes heavy, and some breezy winds.

So as the rest of the country seems to bake in high heat (I'm looking at today's excessive heat warnings in the Portland area...) we seem to be heading into autumn already.

The rains have eased up, and the sun even came through a bit yesterday. The lawn in back was over a week overdue for mowing. It was quite a bit of work. Overgrown grass and manual reel mowers don't go together too well. It's much easier to maintain at the right length, but with the week away at camp and the week prior being quite busy with getting ready for campmeeting, I simply didn't have the time to go out and mow. And so I paid for it today. There were several pounds of fresh, deer droppings...

That about sums up life this week.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Missionaries: Power of Self-Sacrificing Love

The following are some comments related to this week's Sabbath School lesson, Lesson 7: The Apostle John.

Early on in this week's study, the Study Guide brings up the point that John and his brother James were nicknamed Sons of Thunder for some very good reasons. It appears that prior to Jesus' crucifixion, they were some of the most prominent of the Twelve in seeking power for themselves, and were most desirous in seeking to employ power (force) to get their way or to punish those who didn't see things their way.

What is interesting is that John's pre-conversion characteristics are noted by the other gospel writers. John himself makes very little mention of himself (and only very cryptically when he does) in his own gospel account. Is it because he wanted to hide his past, or was it because the love of Jesus was so much greater? I think it is the latter. I think that for John, his story was inconsequential when compared to Jesus' story.

When I look at the gospel account of John, the epistles, and (yes, even) Revelation, it is the self-sacrificing love of God that is at the center of all of them. The heart of the gospel account seems to be the Last Supper to the Crucifixion. Both are demonstrations of God's self-sacrificing love. In between the two events contain John's theology of God's love which explain the two events. The heart of the epistles appears to be (because God is love and He first loved us) the call for Christ's followers to reproduce God's self-sacrificing love in their own lives. The book of Revelation might be seen as the story of the victory of self-sacrificing love -- to choose the way of love is to choose life. According to John, the opposite of love is not hate, but force and coercion.

As I wrote in the previous blog post I spent a week at camp with kids ranging in age from 8 to 15. (There were no 16-year olds.) It was fascinating to observe some of them, particularly the boys (though there were some girls, also), trying to establish a pecking order. There is something about human nature that demands acquiring as much power as we are able. Are all the systems of the world basically a variant of this desire and process? Jesus' disciples certainly weren't immune to this.

The desire of the campers to wield power over one another, and even over counselors and staff, inevitably lead to trouble. In order to manage a large group and to keep discipline, the usual consequences were push-ups, extra chores, loss of privileges, or repeating what was required.

I spent the week trying to communicate to them, mostly with words, God's love and care. I don't know if it got through or not. I suspect the disciples at the beginning of the Last Supper were like many of the campers -- still only concerned about themselves and their place in the world.

It took demonstrations of self-sacrificing love for Jesus' words to sprout meaning to the disciples. I suspect the same is true of all of us. I think that as John stood at the foot of the cross, he finally began to understand what God's kind of power is about. The power of love is far stronger than power based on force because the power of love comes from free choice. Threats, fear, and force all lose their power when their opposite is freely chosen. John, as the sole witness to all the events surrounding the trial and crucifixion, must have seen this demonstrated.

The camp staff can force, to some extent, campers to obey. But force cannot change attitudes and hearts. It can even turn some campers more rebellious. Words may feed the intellect, but the principles may often remain dormant. What is needed is a demonstration. The challenge is to find ways to demonstrate self-sacrificing love. Jesus took 3-1/2 years with his disciples. Our camp was just a week long. I just hope that some of the campers saw or experienced something that made the way of love a bit more attractive than the way of force.

I think this is why the Apostle John, in all of his writings, emphasizes love. "God is love," he writes (1 John 4:8). "God is light and there is no darkness in him at all," he also writes (1 John 1:5). God's way is love -- to offer each person the freedom to choose between the way of love and the way of force. God will not and cannot threaten, force, or use fear to tilt the choice towards him. As disciples and as missionaries, Christians should only employ self-sacrificing love to demonstrate God's love to the world.

Love, seemingly without any power, when freely chosen becomes the most powerful force in the universe.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Week at Camp

"I survived!" is about as succinct as a summary could be of last week. We had close to 40 campers from Petersburg, making a grand total of about 70 at camp. Five of those from Petersburg went home on Friday due to some kind of flu-like illness.

Of the 70, around 10 were from Adventist families. I'd guess another 20 to 30 were from actively Christian families. So that left probably half the campers with no real experience of God.

I was given the task of giving a 15-20 minute talk each day to four separate groups through the day in a class called Life Skills. The overall theme was "Royalty," as in each person is a child of God. Each day emphasized a particular attribute. Based on the composition of the campers, my goal was to simply communicate this basic theme: God loves you. God cares for you. By choosing to belong to God's family, you can have hope for the future.

Monday's theme was Courage. My talk was based on the story of Gideon and how he developed courage by getting to know God.

Tuesday's theme was Mistakes and Recovery. My talk on this day was based on the story of the Prodigal and the Father: recognizing mistakes and choosing to return to God.

Wednesday's theme was Communication and Relationships. My talk was a highly condensed overview of the Great Controversy theme: God wants to communicate the truth about him so that we will choose to belong to his family.

Thursday's theme was Attitudes. My talk was based on the story of Paul and Silas in the jail at Philippi. I read some of the attitudes God would like us to have as found in Philippians and how only God can develop those attitudes in us.

Friday's theme was Strengths and Weaknesses. Since the Olympics began on this day, I used the team relay as one illustration of strengths and weaknesses. I also talked about the parable of the talents and of God's family as a body to show how when we work together, strengths can cover and compensate for weaknesses.

On Saturday morning the generator failed to turn on. That caused some changes in plans. I was asked to give another short talk. This was the shortest notice I've ever had in preparing a sermon. I decided to talk about what I know most about -- my own journey. I worked my story around 1 John 2:15-17, John 6:28-29, Hebrews 12:1-2, and 1 John 5:13-15, 20-21. The theme and appeal once again was for the campers to choose to belong to God's family above all else.

Even though the weather forecast seemed to call for rain towards the end of the week, we only experienced a few sprinkles on just one of the days. Three of the days was brilliant sunshine and things even got quite hot.

The other classes included water skiing, canoeing and kayaking, drawing and painting, string art, fire building, archery, dough and plaster art, native art, puppetry, physical education, and probably some others that I forgot. Quite a few of the campers completed requirements to receive Pathfinder honors.

A traditional hike over the mountain to the other side of the island occurred Saturday afternoon. It was a moderate hike (for me) through the rainforest, full of trees, biting insects, and devil's club. I was able to carry the camera in one hand throughout the hike, so it wasn't that difficult. But for some of the younger kids, I'm sure it wasn't easy. There was one place where I slipped and brushed my hand against some devil's club. By the time I returned to camp a couple hours later, my finger was starting to swell and itch. Fortunately I didn't get any of the thorns embedded into my fingers. An application of Benadryl cream fixed the swelling. Some others weren't so lucky. They had to pick out the thorns. I was happy to know that I could keep up with, and was even faster than the kids. Even though I'm getting closer to 40 all the time, I can still keep up.

Most of the kids were pretty good to work with. There were a few though, that seemed intent on causing trouble. Someone plugged up the sewer on the boys' side with foreign objects. One of the toilets never did flush quite right after that, even after taking apart the pipes. There were a few that seemed to just be angry at the world through much of the week.

This was the first time I'd ever spent a week on the staff side of summer camp. I have a huge amount of respect for the staff, but especially for the counselors. I think there is a special gift of patience that counselors have. One counselor observed that if a person wants to really experience mission work, do a stint at a summer camp -- it can make building a church or preaching an evangelistic series seem like a piece of cake.

During the week, a couple of staff went home early (already planned). But a couple others fell sick to the point where they couldn't work. The staff was already stretched beyond what was reasonable and this last little bit seemed to be the breaking point. The last few days seemed particularly stressful and tense, both among the staff and with the campers.

Would I do this again? I'd have to answer yes.

(Click on image to enter gallery.)

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Out of town at camp for a week

This is a note to let anyone visiting the blog over the next nine days that I will be out of town at campmeeting this weekend followed by a week of assisting at junior camp.

That means there won't be any sermons from tomorrow or next Sabbath. Nor will there be a Sabbath School lesson commentary.

We're expecting 35 or so Petersburg children to attend camp next week. It is, by far, the largest attendance from PSG probably in all of camp history. The weather forecast is still looking pretty good for next week. Pray that it holds! :)

Cell phone coverage at camp is minimal at best. From last year I recall the BlackBerry being able to receive voice and data if I was standing at just the right place facing just the right angle.

Anyway, hope everyone has a good week, and I hope that I survive the week!