Friday, December 28, 2007

Expecting a Baby!

Hello again!

My wife and I will be having a baby next April!

It's a boy. The second ultrasound was clear about that.

Ultrasound sessions are odd. The first thing the nurse photographed was a series of cross-sections of the skull and brain. Probably the only time my wife and I every clearly see what is happening in our son's head. But not normally how I first meet someone. I felt like I should have shaken hands first, or something.

It is traditional in Jewish culture to use the names from recently deceased relatives. My wife and I both like names from our grandfathers: Simon, Herbert, Oakley Earl. We are currently favoring one of these but won't tell you which until the baby's naming day. Please pray that God tells us what he wants this baby to be named!

The official due day is Tax Day, April 15th. However in both our families the births tend to run a couple weeks early. Early would be nice: having Tax Day as your birthday would be sad later on in life.

My wife is not only feeling him kick but has seen him kick a few times. I have not yet been in the right place at the right time to feel him kick. He does kick regularly (but softly) in between swing dances and after she eats chocolate. I suppose he is making his likes known early on.

That's the quick report of the big news. Now for a longer explanation of what the past few weeks has been like.

One of the effects of gluten-intolerance is that gluten reactions cause miscarriages during the first trimester. (Just like how living in an famine without enough food causes a certain "don't stay pregnant" metabolic effect, so does a Celiac reaction. Although the pantry may be full the chemical changes do not know this.) So we have been putting off announcing the pregnancy until it was past this risky time.

Being gluten-intolerant also is a setup for a miserable first trimester (actually four months in my wife's case). My wife is so sensitive that she can get a small gluten reaction even from invisible crumbs transferred from the refrigerator door handle at work or from a package of food contaminated when handled by a grocery store shelf-stocker. These small gluten reactions make her tired and slightly nauseous. They do not combine well with how the first four months of pregnancy made her quite tired and nauseous during the mornings and evenings.

The result was that my entire life changed for four months as we dealt with the pregnancy.
  • Fortunately, her employer allows her to work from 10am to 6pm if she does a "working lunch". This fit well with her many slow and queasy mornings. But I needed to be at work earlier than 10am, so I arranged on the days I taught to carpool with a friendly co-worker in the math department. How I did errands had to change since I never had the car during the work week.
  • The new congregation, Sar Shalom, has many small children. Small children are covered with gluten crumbs. It was too risky for my wife to attend Shabbat services. I usually did, but it was difficult to worship while my wife was stuck at home.
  • Normally my wife and I share housework chores, but that stopped. I had to take care of the house by myself.
  • That housework included cooking. Have you tried cooking for a nauseous person who does not eat gluten or meat, is currently not digesting potatoes well (an uncommon but not too rare pregnancy symptom), and whose nausea is especially triggered by the smell of tomato products? I'm not a good cook, even if I've learned to bake cookies well. Cooking for us, and trying to do so with variety, was quite a task.
  • I was waking up at about 6am and at work until 4:30pm. Because of the weight lifting class I was also exercising more than usual, in a way I was not used to. This meant I was often exhausted. My productivity at home dropped, even on days I was not teaching. It was very opportune that Providence had arranged for my ministry responsibilities to be almost nothing for a few months as the new congregation grew.
  • My ministry roles in the new congregation are quite similar to what they were when I led everything: presenting sermons, giving other teaching, doing pastoral counseling, and worshiping. But none of these roles need to be responsibilities since there are two other "Messianic Rabbis" to also fill these roles. I did what I had time and strength to do, but was blessed to be able to step back as much as I needed to be able to care for my wife.
  • My wife was so tired and nauseous in the evenings that she could not be as good company as she wanted. Often, the best she could do was be in the same room with me as we read different books or did different things on the computers. She would also frequently need me to do quick things for her: get her more tea, deal with the lovebirds, get her a new magazine from the mail pile, etc. My evening relaxation and recreation time had to change to try to be with her as much as I could, and be available to help her. Prompted by my brother, I tried World of Warcraft and found that it was a great fit: I could hang out with a bunch of friends while in the living room, and take short breaks whenever necessary.
  • The book I was writing for Math 25 turned out to be a huge project compared to what I anticipated. I had planned to simply reformat the established activities to provide what Vigotsky called "scaffolding". However, the more I talked with the other Math 25 instructors the more we all realized drastic change was needed. My plans to use Tuesdays and Thursdays for ministry work (that had no immediate demand) were replaced by the need to work on this math book (which will be used Winter term).
  • My wife could not attend our normal weekly social fun time: swing dancing on Wednesday nights with friends. I decided to learn how to grill fish on days I was not teaching, and invited friends over to the house to help me experiment. This new habit, along with my new World of Warcraft friends, meant that I was spending time with a different set of friends than usual.
All of these things--especially their affect on me in ways that would be interesting to blog about--were directly related to the pregnancy. Since I was not allowed to talk about the pregnancy I simply didn't blog much in September or October, and not at all in November. Now you know why!

For icing on the cake, one of my math co-workers caught mono at the end of Fall term and I needed to substitute teach for her, for three weeks. That was more to fill my plate, and although not related to the pregnancy not really exciting to blog about.

The Fall term ended in mid-December. I took one week off to relax. Then I caught the very bad cold that has been going around Oregon. Today I am feeling better, and Erev Shabbat seems a fitting time to get back in touch with my family and friends.

During the past three weeks my wife has finally regained a lot of her strength, and the nausea has finally left. She is doing most of the cooking again. We are going swing dancing on Wednesday nights again. We are again doing things together when relaxing after work.

Her craving for Ethiopian food has forced us to learn to cook it ourselves, since there are no Ethiopian restaurants in town. Working together during the past three weeks, we've gotten pretty good at it! We've also recently cooked celerac latkes and mushroom-filled tamales, and baked biscotti and chocolate layer bars.

We've investigated the world of cloth diapers, researched our families' prevalent infancy health conditions, and shopped for nursery furniture.

My wife and I spent a lot of this week cleaning up the house. We went through the garage, which was messy primarily because as growing season ended my wife was unable to put all of her gardening equipment away properly and since I did not know how to do so it just got set on the garage floor in piles. We went through the nursery, changing it from a babysitting room to an actual nursery-to-be. And we went through the spare bedroom we use as a library and project room, which routinely accumulates piles of stuff that was begging to be set down somewhere out of the way and dealt with later.

How will life be different during the second half of the pregnancy?

P'nei Adonai was waiting since September for a certain church to finalize plans to work together, but they finally gave up two days before Thanksgiving and told us we should find other churches to work with, let them know what happens, and not give them any priority in scheduling and planning or expect much participation.

My main to-do item next week, now that local pastors have made it through Christmas, is to call the ones I know are interested in the first-century roots of their faith to find which are interested in working with P'nei Adonai in 2008. The current plan is for a weekly discussion study, an hour or two long, either Sunday or Monday evenings (or possibly both) about the first-century vocabulary concepts through which Yeshua saw the world and explained his teaching, with application to how these concepts today effect our relationships with God and with other people. An hour of first-century sharing-style worship would precede the discussion, with perhaps a few people attending one or the other but not both.

Thus, for the foreseeable future, P'nei Adonai will not be a "Messianic Jewish" ministry (Sar Shalom will do that job in town) but will be a "First Century" worship and teaching ministry working with local churches and anyone else interested in attending.

The first official "P'nei Adonai" activity since the Jewish New Year that is distinct from Sar Shalom will happen at the end of this month. Each Gregorian New Year's Eve we visit a church in Cottage Grove and do worship dance with them.

During Winter term I'll be teaching three math classes. This will make me quite busy on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. However, I will no longer be writing a math book on Tuesday and Thursdays. (Hooray!) I will still carpool on the days I teach so my wife has the car.

I will continue weight lifting on campus but during the weight room's open hours instead of as a formal class; after eight weeks it finally became something that energized me instead of adding to my fatigue.

Since I am teaching three classes next term I can either take Spring term off completely or teach one class, depending upon family needs. (My wife can cut down to slightly fewer hours while remaining full time for health benefits, and if she does that we can schedule our weeks so one of us is always home even if I teach a single class.)

During the summer we had our sewing machine repaired, in anticipation of sewing baby clothes. I'll have to warm up to sewing by making my wife a few more shirts. Sewing shirts for her is fun but not economical; baby outfits can actually be sewn at home to save money.

I'll keep grilling fish and playing World of Warcraft, but not as much. I have been working on the pencil-and-paper role-playing game a bit since Fall term ended, so my wife and I can play that together in the evenings. It is ready now!

I'll also blog more. Notice that even in this long post I never got around to discussing how all these items have affected me. I have learned a great deal from having ministry responsibilities fade away while the roles remain, changing the setting of my weekly corporate worship, spending time with different friends in different ways, and from caring for a spouse who was not infirm but was similarly needing constant care and attention while being unable to reciprocate and dote on me as she desired. I have a lot to write about!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tomato Cheese Dip

It has been a while since I've added any recipes. This one will start a new trend: recipes not specifically highlighting gluten-free flour. But it goes well with our gluten-free bread or crackers, so it fits right in.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Into a small 8" by 8" glass baking dish add:
  • 5 large tomatoes, diced
In a small food processor blend:
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed and torn up by hand
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
In a small mixing bowl combine:
  • 1 3/4 cups grated cheese (we use a four-cheese blend from Trader Joe's)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper, ground
  • the blended basil-olive mixture
Put the cheese mixture on top of the diced tomatoes. Bake until the top browns.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weight Lifting in October

My brother has enjoyed doing weight lifting at the gym for most of his life.

Here's a record of my current routine in the P.E. class I am taking. Now my brother can smile at how much stronger he is than me. :-)

For those who have not done weight lifting, know that the order of exercises depends upon your training goals and philosophy. The order I use is perhaps the most common in this country for the goal of endurance. To summarize:
  • each workout do upper body and lower body exercises, but categorize these separately
  • within the upper/lower body group of exercises work the large muscle-groups first
  • for the upper body, do pushing movements first and then pulling movements second
With only 50 minutes, I try to do the upper body exercises once, the lower body exercises once, and then the upper body exercises a second time. Ideally I would do three sets of each exercise, but I am not that dedicated to the weight training. There is also an "ab workout" the instructor leads each class with difference exercises done on a mat; I won't list this below.

Also, after about nine times the exercises become less efficient as your muscles adapt. Since my class meets three days per week, this means that every three weeks I adjust which exercises I do. This can be a small change, for example using a wider or narrower grip on a barbell. Or it can be a larger change, for example switching from a machine to a barbell or dumbbells.

Anyway, Friday's routine, as unimpressive as it was, was to do:
This is not a very impressive list as far as weight. The fact my bicycling and skateboarding keep my lower body in better shape than my upper body is readily apparent if you are familiar with these exercises.

The weight I use on the bench press and "total hip machine" is lower than it should be for ideal exercise because I am new to these exercises. I need to use a lesser bench press weight to be able to train my muscle memory for proper bench press technique. The "total hip machine" makes my leg muscles sore as I push against its roller, so I stop my reps before muscle fatigue requires.

To build endurance well I should be doing 10-20 repetitions for each exercise. Next week I need to up the weight for my dumbbell arnolds and the exercises of which I am did 20 repetitions. The exception are hip abductor and adductor exercises, which most people do many repetitions of lighter weight to avoid getting huge thighs, and the wrist roller.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Don't be scared, you will get your quilt!

A friend sent me these jokes as an e-mail.

How to let Pets stay in Oregon State Park yurts and cabins?

I wrote earlier about how nice (and affordable) the accommodations at Oregon State Parks can be.

The State Park system is now creating policy to allow pets to stay with their owners in yurts and cabins. Before policies are actually made the organization wants feedback. If you visit Oregon State Parks and have a pet, click here to share your two cents.

UPDATE: For those who were curious, my two cents were that "low profile" pets that are non-allergenic and do not track in mud might as well be welcome in yurts and cabins. I could imagine why dogs and cats would cause problems, but there is no reason to keep a family from camping because they cannot find someone to babysit the kid's garter snake.

Discussion for douleuo, latreuo, diakoneo

Shalom! After three weeks of delay I have finally finished a new vocabulary essay for the P'nei Adonai website. Three of them actually.

The Greek words douleuo, latreuo, and diakoneo describe three different kinds of serving. Together they help us understand how scripture wants us to serve God and serve people.

As per the new routine, comments are enabled here since the P'nei Adonai website lacks that functionality. Please share any helpful feedback!

New Software: PSPad

Just because I have not published any new P'nei Adonai essays in a month does not mean I have not tried. I am in the middle of three that I hope to finish today.

I had a little time in the morning before my wife woke up in which I wanted to stay interruptible for when she awoke and wanted breakfast. So I did not want to resume that writing, but wanted to be productive. I decided to investigate an alternative to Wordpad for writing my HTML files.

I found PSPad, which is so far delightful. To make it little more than a syntax highlighter I had to do a little bit of customization:
  • Switch the "Control Panel" to be a file tree, and hide it with Ctrl-F2 until I need it
  • Hide the Project, Control, HTML, and Macro tool bars
  • Hide the ruler
  • Set the color for the right edge mark to the background color, to hide it
  • Lighten the color of the current line indicator, so it's barely noticeable
  • Turn on "auto hide left gutter" (options: program look)
  • Turn off "auto open new file after start" (options: program behavior)
  • Turn off "wrap (soft) with right edge" (options: editor behavior)
  • Turn off "completion of chars ({[<"'" (options: editor behavior)
All of that took only a few minutes. The help files are thorough and easy to search.

Now I have the simple syntax highlighter I want. The program does additional nice things I'll use someday.
  • Instant HTML preview, with buttons to switch between all three common window sizes
  • Change all HTML code to lowercase (I prefer this, it can also change to uppercase)
  • Check HTML code validity
  • Compare text differences between two files
  • Spell check that ignores HTML code
  • Color selector pop-up, not as robust as this website but quicker
Of course it also does a vast number of things I'll never have use for. It's very nice that someone wrote this free program in a way that allows me to "shrink it" down to what I desire both visually and functionally.

I always pay my shareware fees. This is freeware, but I'll donate something if I'm still using it after a month. So far, so good, so I assume that will be true.

This blog post not only shares my delightful find with friends, but is my way of keeping track of those user preference changes for when I install the software on my computer at work at sell. Ha ha!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sermon on Romans 10: Innocence and Victory

Today I am giving the sermon at Sar Shalom. Here is what I plan to say. The Holy Spirit will always change parts as I preach, but it's my responsibility to have a sound draft.

This is a sermon about innocence and victory. As we study Romans 10 please realize that two Greek words are normally not translated well. The word dikaiosune, usually translated "righteousness", actually means "innocence". The word soteria, usually translated "salvation", actually means "victory".

Our focal verse will eventually be Romans 10:10, but first we need to build up several background concepts.

To begin our study of Romans 10 we must consider three pieces of context for the chapter.

First, the covenant God made with the Israelites included the use of animal sacrifices to bring atonement after unintentional sins. In other words, as an overall structure the covenant assumes that people will sin but then will also receive atonement, and such people who sin and receive atonement count as successfully participating in the covenant. However, by the time Paul wrote Romans the Second Temple was destroyed and atonement through animal sacrifices had ended. Now faith in Yeshua is the only source of "ritual" atonement that brings someone who has sinned back to innocence before God.

Second, Paul wrote earlier in Romans that people (including Paul himself) who do know Yeshua will sometimes act sinfully even if they desire to act properly. There is an external influence acting on us that keeps the commandments out of our hearts even if they are as close as our mouths. This influence is what Judaism calls the evil inclination and what Christianity calls the sin nature.

Third, Paul wrote earlier in Romans that condemnation falls on everyone who lives under that evil inclination even if they are trying their best to obey God's commandments and even if they promptly receive atonement for their sins. This condemnation is not because people sin (when they are overpowered by the evil inclination their sinning is not their fault) but because everyone, eventually and in some ways, gives themselves up to the evil inclination and allows it to affect their thoughts and degenerate their conscience. As Oswald Chambers paraphrases,
"The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man's sin, but that the nature of sin, namely, my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race through one man... The nature of sin is not immorality and wrongdoing, but the nature of self-realization which leads us to say, 'I am my own god.' This nature may exhibit itself in proper morality or in improper immorality, but it always has a common basis--my claim to my right to myself. When our Lord faced either people with all the forces of evil in them, or people who were clean-living, moral, and upright, He paid no attention to the moral degradation of one, nor any attention to the moral attainment of the other."
These three pieces of context come together when Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 30:11-14, a passage that uses the phrases "this commandment" and "the word" to refer to God's entire covenant with Israel:
For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?" But the word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.
When read in isolation, this text says that it is quite possible, and indeed expected by God, for the Jewish people to fully and perfectly obey all of God's commandments to them. This hardly seems the passage Paul would pick to explain why Yeshua is necessary for innocence.

However, Paul has in mind those three elements of context. We know this because innocence was foremost on Paul's mind. Paul even begins Romans 10:6 by saying that when Deuteronomy 30:11-14 speaks of "this commandment" and "the word" the root issue is innocence (obtained through faith in Yeshua).

Paul knows that, apart from Yeshua, the situation is doomed. To keep the covenant would now require living completely without sin because innocence no longer can be regained through atonement provided by animal sacrifices.

Paul also has explained how the evil inclination ruins our "hearts". Scriptural language uses the "heart" to describe where people make decisions. Because of the evil inclination, having God's commandments well known (near and in our mouths) does not result in our decision-makers naturally choosing obedience.

Finally, even if we could live completely without sin and could successfully resist the evil inclination in every decision we make, we would still face condemnation because there would be ways we gave into the evil inclination. Even if we kept its influence from our actions, our thoughts and consciences would be corrupted by it because it is stronger than we are.

So Deuteronomy 30:11-14 paints an unrealistically optimistic picture. It is not enough that God's commandments are near if the evil inclination keeps them from abiding in our hearts. It is not enough to have God's commandments abide in our hearts if there is no source of atonement when we make unintentional mistakes. And it is not enough to have innocence in action when we still are corrupted by an evil inclination that is stronger than us.

The solution to these problems is found in Yeshua. We must identify with Yeshua in three ways. Identifying with Yeshua's sacrifice allows our repentance to bring us atonement, so we can regain innocence after sinning. Identifying with Yeshua's heart allows us the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts, so we can escape our slavery to the evil inclination and begin to naturally live in full harmony with God's ways. Identifying with Yeshua's resurrection life allows our lives to be empowered by the Holy Spirit so we can experience complete victory over the evil inclination, and avoid all of its corrupting influence on our thoughts and conscience.

To Paul, this is what really counts as innocence ("righteousness"): receiving atonement, having the Holy Spirit abide in our decision-maker, and living in total victory over the evil inclination.

Note four things Paul contrasts with innocence in Romans 10.

First, Paul contrasts with innocence being "hot" for God. The Greek word zelos we might translate as "zeal" or "being on fire" in this context. In America people say as a compliment, "He is on fire for God!" However, zeal is not much of a virtue. Paul does value it in himself in Philippians 3:6, but more often the word is translated as "envy" or "jealousy" and it appears often when Paul lists vices. If we have innocence through identification with Yeshua then the Holy Spirit can prompt us to occasionally act with appropriate zeal (as when Yeshua acted "hotly" in John 2:17), but otherwise zelos only produces strife. Usually we should not be "hot" but "be of sound mind, self-controlled, and sober in prayer" (First Peter 4:7).

Second, Paul contrasts with innocence trying to create innocence by our own efforts. Such an effort is doomed. Our own efforts cannot provide atonement when we make mistakes, nor bring the Holy Spirit into our heart, nor provide victory over the evil inclination. As with zeal, personal efforts can be beneficial (Paul elsewhere encourages us to work out our victory in fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12) but only after we have innocence through identification with Yeshua.

Third, Paul contrasts with innocence shame. Paul appears to mistranslate Isaiah 28:16, saying "be ashamed" instead of "make haste". This legitimate stretch of the possible uses of the Hebrew word root choosh is commentary not from Paul but from the Septuagint. What the Septuagint seems to be saying is that if we wait for God to build the foundation then it will be sturdy and secure; on the other hand, if we try to create our own foundation our efforts will not suffice and our attempt will eventually cause the shameful collapse of what is built on that weak foundation. As with zeal and personal effort, we should try to build on a foundation (Luke 6:48-49), but the foundation must be innocence through identification with Yeshua.

Fourth, Paul contrasts with innocence rebellion. Paul quotes from Isaiah 65:1-5, in which God calls it rebellion when we "walk in a way that is not good, after our own thoughts." As before, we do have our own thoughts, but these should build on the foundation of innocence God gives us through our identification with Yeshua. Paul had warned us earlier that vain thoughts/discussions can darken the heart (Romans 1:21).

Finally, Paul contrasts with innocence victory over the evil inclination. Yes, Paul contrasts innocence and victory in Romans 10:10.
For with the heart, one believes unto innocence; and with the mouth attestation is made unto victory.
Having innocence is a heart issue, while living in victory over the evil inclination is a spoken issue. Consider carefully what this means, and then recall how we have seen it in our lives.

The innocence we can gain through identification with Yeshua, empowered by God's Spirit, is an amazing gift. But this innocence loses its potency if we do not talk about it. Temptations grow stronger if we never speak about what God has done for us. (The Greek word is homologeō, literally "same word", meaning to attest to, profess, or confess a truth.) Part of identifying with Yeshua's resurrection life is speaking to others about his resurrection life and its affect on us.

To keep our innocence potent we need to talk to people about how identifying with Yeshua helps us obey God and experience his resurrection life. We need to pray for each other. We need to hold each other accountable. We need to pray for God to fill us more with the Holy Spirit. We need to tell people about what innocence is and how it is made available by identifying with Yeshua.

We probably all can think of times when we spoke less about Yeshua and in that times also struggled more against temptations.

Our discussion of Romans 10 points out characteristics of speech that helps make innocence fruitful as victory over the evil inclination:
  • We must speak confessions of repentance when we need atonement.
  • We must welcome to the Holy Spirit to abide in our heart
  • We must speak words that reckon our old nature dead and our new nature empowered by the Holy Spirit
  • We must speak about how we are identifying with Yeshua's sacrifice, heart, and resurrection life
  • We must speak in a "sound mind" rather than "hotly"
  • We must speak reminders that our own efforts and thoughts must build on the foundation of innocence given by God through our identification with Yeshua
Please note that there are plenty examples of worthwhile and godly speech and discussion that are very different from this kind of speech that makes innocence fruitful as victory over the evil inclination. This sermon is one example! A lot of the speech involved in prayer, praise, edification, and discipleship is different categories of speech. As we enter our time of congregational discussion let us keep the discussion focused on the speech that makes innocence fruitful as victory over the evil inclination.

Before our congregational discussion begins we should pray for people in our congregation who need to better use their mouths to attest to the Good News, and thus better experience the total victory over the evil inclination that God desires. May God guide and guard us as we praise him for putting innocence in our hearts, and as we try to speak so that innocence is fruitful as complete victory over the evil inclination.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall Term Exercise

Lane Community College has a deal with the local bus service that allows students to ride the bus for free. Faculty do not get this benefit, unless they register for a class and thus are also students. Since the college reimburses faculty most of the cost of one class each term this is a popular option. Most of the faculty take a P.E. class since they then get exercise as well as a nearly free bus rides.

Last school year I took a Tai Chi class in Fall and Winter. Fall term it was the 18-move Chen short style. Winter term it was the 55-move Yang sword style. (Spring term my schedule was not compatible with any P.E. class I wanted to take.)

This school year I am starting out with two P.E. classes. Unfortunately, my schedule is again not compatible with Tai Chi. So I am trying yoga and strength training.

The yoga class could have been problematic in two ways.

The first potential problem was that yoga is really much more than a system of exercises based on breathing and postures. In the U.S. people normally only focus on the exercise aspect of yoga, especially in an exercise class. This is also true in the P.E. class I am taking, so I do not have to worry; I'm following instructions about physical exercise, not spiritual activity. (In a similar way, Taoism in the U.S. is usually limited to the philosophical aspect and ignores the religion involving ancestor worship that has attached itself to the philosophy in Asia. I would not be doing a translation of the Tao Te Ching in my free time otherwise!)

The second potential problem was staying "above reproach", as Paul writes to Timothy. To be professional I must not only behave properly but avoid situations in which people might even suspect I am not behaving properly. If the yoga class had no other men, or if the women were dressed for aerobic activity, I would not be able to take the class. However, neither is the case. Fortunately that room in the recreation center has the air conditioner set to "arctic" and so the attire worn is sweat pants and fully cut shirts (and some people even wear a sweat shirt).

The strength training class will be my first real exposure to free weights. I've used weight machines plenty of times over the years but never had proper training in barbells and dumbbells. My cycling and skateboarding keep my lower body in reasonable shape, but my upper body is currently not exercising much. It will be nice (and hopefully good for posture and general relaxation) to have a better balance of muscle tone.

Both the yoga and strength training classes have their own ideas about what makes a "complete" workout. These ideas are quite complimentary: yoga emphasizes mixing relaxation and stretching along with muscle work, and the strength training emphasizes learning a variety of exercises for each muscle group since any given exercise begins to lose efficiency after about three weeks.

Perhaps by the end of the term I can invent a "Tai Chi Dumbbell" form that can be done in the living room and blends the best of all three worlds, including subtle ways to modify the movements every three weeks to maintain efficiency in strength building.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 53

53
With only the tiniest grain of knowledge of the great Way I can follow it.
My only fear is straying from it.
The great Way is straight and smooth.
But people prefer twisted paths.
When leaders trust in superstition
then even when the fields are full of weeds and the granaries are empty
the leaders wear ornaments and fancy clothes,
gird themselves with sharp swords,
eat their fill of food,
and seek excess wealth.
I call this robbing and bragging.
What do they know about the Way?

Even those who barely know Yeshua can follow him.
His way is clear to his disciples.
Those who do not follow him also make themselves clear.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Comments!

I've enabled comments on my blog post that shares my paper about first-century Judaism and its relationship to Paul's assemblies.

This is the start of a new trend.

The P'nei Adonai website does not have any appropriate place for discussions. Most of the pages I will be adding to that website in upcoming months are good sources of discussion: word studies in the vocabulary section and more Matthew studies put online.

Recently I have set up some new internet infrastructure. This blog has a new format and can better handle having comments enabled. The P'nei Adonai website has an RSS feed. Together this will allow not only P'nei Adonai folk but others who have visited the ministry (or meet in new online) to participate in a discussion about new web pages.

Almost all of these new web pages have already had their material processed in group discussion. The word studies are nearly all taken from old sermons to which I added notes during the congregation's discussion about the sermon (from the years when P'nei Adonai was a Messianic Jewish congregation that met on Shabbat, rather than its current identity as a discipleship ministry that meets during the week). The Matthew pages are all the result of group discussions about those certain chapters of scripture.

Yet more discussion with a broader range of participants will be nice as an extra layer of digesting spiritual truths and applying them to daily life.

So if you are interested in these online discussions, bookmark the RSS feed and when a new page is added also visit this blog's Ministry Work posts because at or near the top of that category will be the discussion corresponding to the new web page.

Because I teach Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I will try (God willing) to make a new P'nei Adonai web page every Tuesday and Thursday. But some days, such as yesterday, will undoubtedly become full of helping people rather than typing at the computer. That makes my life more interesting and full of blessing, but due to the obvious confidentiality issues I do not get to blog much, if anything, about those days.

New Math Website

Many years ago, when I left preschool teaching and started adjunct college teaching, I registered the domain name precalc.net.

For a year, while teaching at the University of Oregon, I used it. Then it was stagnant, since Lane Community College offers some nice website options to its instructors.

I've finally revived precalc.net. In part this is because I have found enough of a routine at LCC, and in part this is because I've thoroughly explored the other college website options and decided that I might as well use my own format instead.

Last week I spent hours and hours getting my class set up. If you visit the website, you will see I have everything prepared through the end of October. The rest of the term will not be much work, for I have for the remaining weeks lecture slides and tests from past terms which I am quite happy with. The material for the beginning of the term required much more revision.

Ta da! Between this math work and the essay about first-century Israel you now know what I have been up to for all of September.

First Century Judaism and Paul's Assemblies

At the end of August and beginning of September I was busy writing a scholarly paper about first-century life in Israel. It is a history paper, not a theology paper. Those who are interested can download it here.

The paper's abstract reads:
This paper is an introduction to the social contexts in which Paul traveled and established assemblies of followers of Yeshua. Specifically, it investigates the degree to which Paul deliberately invented the concept of a local "church" for followers of Yeshua.

To begin, Jewish synagogues and Paul's assemblies are described within their mutual context of first-century Roman voluntary associations. Then an overview of the Nazarene movement in which Paul operated and a discussion of Paul's use of Stoic philosophy will complete the picture of Paul's contexts and innovations. Overall, this paper will present a large number of facts and then beginning weaving them together into a coherent whole.

The main references used in this paper (the books repeatedly used and listed in the bibliography as well as the footnotes) are mostly "summary of current research" texts. Using this kind of book as a reference will allow readers wanting to learn more about an issue to jump directly into a well-informed discussion about the agreement and disagreement among scholars on that issue.

The communities that Paul established and/or wrote to called themselves an "assembly" (ekklesia), a word with no inherently religious meaning also used to refer to general assemblies of people . These assemblies were clearly not Jewish synagogues, pagan temples, nor typical Roman voluntary associations, for they were never called such or described as such by outsiders or their own members.

The word "church" is very anachronistic but still used by many scholars of first-century religion simply because Paul purposefully established the identity of these assemblies in a dramatically novel and effective blending of the roles of Jewish synagogue, pagan temple, and voluntary association. One scholar writes,

In a remarkable statement, Elias Bickerman declares that the Roman general Titus, by destroying the Temple and, in effect, putting an end to the sacrificial system, was the greatest religious reformer in history.

Paul, by carefully trying to create the institution we know today as the local church, also deserves consideration for being the "greatest religious reformer in history".

It is unfortunate that of all the apostles, Paul alone made an attempt to bring Nazarene practices into Gentile communities. By the end of the second century much of what Paul established had become increasingly neglected in Gentile communities. Since then few local churches have recovered all the roles Paul intended for that assembly.
Enjoy!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Happy High Holy Days!

L'shanah tovah tikatev(i) v'taihatem(i)!

This traditional Hebrew greeting for the High Holy Days means "For a good year may you be inscribed as sealed." The alternate (i) endings are the grammatical form used when addressing women.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Very Readable Bible Online

Normally when I want to read the Bible using a computer I use the software e-sword.

But sometimes I am not at my own computer. In that case, this website is the most readable Bible I've found, and thus the one I visit most. It does not have all of the fancy search or language features that other online Bibles do, but once I use my web browser's menus to adjust the text size it is very easy on the eyes.

New Blog Template

I finally switched to one of the new Blogger templates. I wonder how this will work?

There are two new features I plan to use once I have more free time. The first is the automatic sorting of "labels" for each post instead of relying on the blog search keying to an introduction category phrase for each post. The second is putting updates to the P'nei Adonai website into an RSS feed which will then be added to the sidebar.

UPDATE: Changing all of the "category: ..." tags did not take very long. There were a surprising number of old posts I decided to put more than one label on, which is new functionality.

I am rethinking the RSS feed. I could also use this blog to announce when I add new pages to the P'nei Adonai website and enable comments for those posts. That might be more interesting and helpful than an RSS feed.

UPDATE: Well, it turns out creating an RSS feed is quite trivial. It's worth doing that whether or now I use this blog as a place with comments for discussing new P'nei Adonai pages.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Wowio

Wowio is a fun source of e-books. Their apparent business plan is interesting.

You register for an account to download e-books. So far so good.

As part of registration you are asked to fill out an optional survey of interests and reading habits. Each e-book you download is a PDF file with a few extra pages at the beginning and end. Before the e-book are pages of ads by sponsors according to your interests. After the e-book are pages from Wowio advertising similar e-books to the one you just finished reading in case you do not know what to read next.

The result is that you hit "page down" a few times to skip some ads and then have a nicely formatted e-book. The extra pages at the end are even less obtrusive since you almost instinctively close your PDF reader when you get to the end of the story.

I'm caught up, but I cheated

Last night I stayed up until 2:30am working on the P'nei Adonai website. I'm not done with it, of course. I still have to catch up with old Matthew studies, and then go through all my old sermons to build both vocabulary essays and revised Parashot commentary pages. But after a month of changes in the community the website is at least "done" in that it represents what P'nei Adonai is doing.

I've also done my best during the past two weeks to catch up on e-mail. Two weeks ago I had almost 150 non-spam e-mails in my inbox. I just now finished catching up with them. Yea!

Of course, everyone I just wrote to is about to write back. Having a shiny clean empty inbox will not last long, nor would I want it to!

In writing three of the many e-mails to friends tonight I cheated, and messed up. One problem with blogging is that if I put all my personal news in the blog then I don't have anything to write about in a letter. So I brainstormed as best I could, and wrote something to a friend. Then I used that e-mail as a template for writing to two other friends. In each case I put in new stuff -- I dislike form letters, which is why I started blogging. But in turning that first letter into a template I forgot to remove this sentence:
I think Granite Falls might be even more isolated than Canaan sounds like, but I'm not sure yet.
Amusingly, it appears in the middle of a paragraph in a manner that makes perfect sense to friend #1, but will be completely meaningless to friends #2 and #3. If anything, it sounds like I am comparing a small town in Minnesota to an ancient territory often mentioned in the Bible (which was on a major trade route, not at all isolated!).

Oh well.

Sesame Street Songs

Groovy.

Three More Squirrels Exiled

Our squirrel count increased by three this past week. Our yard still has two, including one huge gray one. But my wife's garden is slightly safer.

We're still 6 behind Iran, but ours are not the same kind. Ours are warm and fuzzy. They just like burying the peanuts some neighbors are giving them in our newly planted seedlings, which is a no-no.

P'nei Adonai website major update

As part of the current congregational merging that I've been writing about, P'nei Adonai is shedding the label of "congregation" and instead focusing on its calling to be an organization helping any and all congregations have a lifestyle more like Yeshua's first-century followers.

So the P'nei Adonai website is quite different now. I am pleased with how it is a "tighter package" and hope what I wrote effectively communicates what God is doing with and through us.

The Messianic Jewish "congregation" in town is now just Sar Shalom, and my ministerial responsibilities of a congregational nature are shifting to that organization. I'm still doing discipling, teaching, community organization, etc. Since Sar Shalom is so new it has not yet set up any congregational government my roles there are a bit vague and I do not yet have any official title, but such things are not really website material anyway.

I feel a little bit like I did when, as a college student, I moved from a studio apartment to a one-bedroom. Now there are two distinct places to place the same stuff I had before, but it's also pretty obvious which items go in which place so unpacking is not confusing or difficult.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Puffy Pancakes

This recipe makes a puffier and more traditional-tasting pancake than the variable pancake recipe.

Turn on the stove to medium-low heat, and get a frying pan that heats evenly.

In a mixing bowl or blender combine:
  • 1 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mix
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • if desired, some nutmeg or cinnamon
  • if desired, 1 Tbsp sugar
Omitting the sugar creates a pancake that does not burn as easily. If you are using syrup or a sweet topping, this is recommended.

Stir or shake well. This dry mix can be prepared in advance for camping.

Next add the wet ingredients:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp citrus juice (we use lemon or orange)
Stir well, then make pancakes!

The batter is not very greasy, so the frying pan will need to be sprayed with oil before each pancake.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hamsters Make Music by MIDI

Here's a one-of-a-kind computer peripheral.

And I thought some things on my to-do list were strange...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Big Future Disasters

If you want to be more worried about earthquakes, read this.

Celiac in the Register-Guard

In March the local newspaper, the Register-Guard, had an article about celiac.

Grain Species Tree

Here is a pictorial representation of a family tree of different types of grain.

First, notice the group triticeae that consists of wheat, barley, and rye. Spelt is not on this picture but is also in this group (as far as genetics goes, spelt a kind of wheat). These are the gains that contain gluten. They are also the grains that all rabbis agree have hametz.

Oats are almost as closely related (group pooideae). Some people with celiac also cannot eat oats. Most rabbis consider oats to have hametz.

(In the U.S. almost all oats are shipped in the same train cars as wheat.  So almost all oats, oatmeal, and food that contains these have gluten contamination even if listed as "no gluten ingredients".  A few companies do sell genuinely gluten-free oats or oatmeal shipped specially and tested for gluten after processing.)

Not closely related to wheat are rice, corn, millet, and sorghum. These grains are not a problem for people with celiac. Nearly all rabbis consider these grains to not have hametz. Amaranth and quinoa are not pictured but also also in this final category of grains distant from wheat.

Two Different Internal Struggles

Twice this week I have shared a bit of practical theological application. I should probably blog about it as well. :-)

Paul writes (in Romans 7 and 8) about one kind of internal struggle: when our conscience is healthy enough to know what is the right thing to do but our inclination is to do otherwise.

As disciples of Yeshua we can still face this first kind of struggle, but we should not. If we were devoted to God properly (what Paul calls living empowered by God's Spirit rather than our flesh) our inclination would also be purified to match God's ways.

A second kind of internal struggle is not mentioned as explicitly in scripture: when both our conscience and inclination are righteous but we are not sure what to do next. There is still a small struggle because after finishing a task we still need to pause, focus on God, and seek to be with him and doing his will. In this case the old saying is appropriate: "the good can be the enemy of the perfect." It is simpler to create things to do for God, and call that devotion, than to take the time to listen to God so to join what he is doing and be set apart for him and with him as he himself desires.

This second kind of struggle should be part of normal life as disciples of Yeshua. This dynamic of fellowship and surrender is what Paul calls "giving our lives as a living sacrifice".

Heschel wrote that the fundamental Jewish act was pausing and focusing on God throughout the day. May we be following Yeshua properly, so that when we pause our struggle is only to listen to which good thing to do next with God, not to resist an evil inclination.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Barbarian and Bard

Hee hee.

(Actually, not-too-bright fighters that sing is an old troupe.
Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally // Golly, what a day.)

E-mail Address Image Generator, WebBot Simulator

If you're sad because having your e-mail online attracts spam, this tool can help.

If website ads require you to pretend to be a WebBot, this tool can help.

Efficiency versus Effectiveness

Washing machines now also have issues.

The Standard Model and College Physics

Frank Tipler writes about the lack of the Standard Model in college physics. It's a short yet interesting read if you've studied physics.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Hulk Goes on a Date

I apparently completely missed the comic book phenomenon of "Mini Marvels". Oh well.

Someone said the best issue was Hulk Goes On Date.

Red Shirt Statistics

How dangerous is wearing a red shirt when near Captain Kirk?

This article answers the question in great detail. The final graph is delightful.

UPDATE: The article is now here.

Past Hurts

Forgiveness and grace are important parts of living in a Messianic Jewish community, with conflicts resolved according to Matthew 18:15-17 when people have problems.

One question that a community needs to answer is "Once a conflict has been resolved, when is it appropriate in the future to mention those past hurts?"

A nearly identical question is "When is it necessary to explain yourself during a conflict?" Although defending your perspective and actions is the natural response, the more helpful and scriptural attitude is to seek reconciliation by asking the other people involved "What need I do?" Tallying who is wrong at what times is pointless, as we are all sinners saved by grace. But sometimes issues cannot be resolved without people explaining themselves or bringing up past hurts.

This question was an issue a couple months ago at P'nei Adonai. Your thoughts and answers are welcome.

To me, the answer seems to be twofold.

First, it is appropriate to tell even a newcomer of a past hurt when this is part of clarifying how to avoid repeated rudeness and thus build peace.

Here is an example. Person A is not comfortable with physical contact. Person B likes hugs. Person B tried to hug Person A hello but was rebuffed. For a time there was a conflict in which Person A felt like his/her personal space was not respected and Person B felt like his/her action of affection was rudely refused. Now those two understand the situation. It is valid to tell a third person, "Person A does not like hugs. Please do not try to show affection to him/her in that way. The last time someone offered Person A an unwanted hug it caused needlessly hurt feelings to both people."

Second, it is appropriate to remind someone who hurt you of a past hurt if this is relevant to confirming that both people really do care about each other's feelings.

Sometimes hurts cause doubts even after forgiveness has been offered and accepted. If Person A acted inconsiderately towards Person B, then even after that issue was resolved Person B retains the right to check on their friendship with a question such as, "If our past conflict is really resolved and you really do value my feelings then why are you now doing such-and-such?"

What do you think?

Teaching Roles

Here are four definitions from a sermon I heard. I have no idea who the original author is, so I apologize for the lack of proper referencing.
Discipling - student and teacher work together
Mentoring - student follows as teacher works
Motivating - student works after teacher helps
Monitoring - student works as teacher supports

Four Aspects of Discipleship

My ministry work is changing to allow me to do more discipleship. I should be more specific about what "more discipleship" means.

In the first century the master-disciple relationship was well established. The goal of discipleship was for the disciples to become like the master. Our goal, as followers of Yeshua, is to become like him.

Currently God is doing many things among American believers in Yeshua to emphasize the foundational importance of discipleship and being set apart for God. Within American Messianic Judaism, God has been highlighting four aspects of discipleship.

The first is the need to pray as Yeshua and his early disciples did. This is a bit different from how traditional Jews or Christians pray. God has taught the Messianic Jewish movement quite a bit about this during the past two years (although there is no sense of having learned enough).

The second is the need to understand the world as Yeshua and his early disciples did. This is why I work on sharing the scriptural understanding of concepts through which Yeshua understood the world. In this aspect, also, there has been a lot of progress, although no sense of satisfaction or completeness in quantity.

The third is the need to have a lifestyle of repentance as Yeshua and his early disciples did. Focusing on God instead of ourselves and our desires is tricky. From what I have seen, the Messianic Jewish movement has not learned as much about this aspect of discipleship as the previous two, although some notable progress has definitely been made.

The fourth is the need to read and interpret scripture as Yeshua and his early disciples did. Once I have put it online (hopefully next week), the congregation's Matthew study notes for chapter 12 (in which some Pharisees confront Yeshua in a grain field and both parties cite and expound of scripture) are a good example of how Yeshua uses the written Word of God in a manner quite different from how Jews and Christians have been taught. From what I have seen this is the this aspect of discipleship in which the least progress has been made: in general, Messianic Jews still approach scripture through Rabbinic or Christian perceptions and methods of analysis quite different from Yeshua's own.

P'nei Adonai, along with many other Messianic Jewish groups, is prayerfully learning more about these four aspects of discipleship. Please pray that our eyes and ears are open to learn from God!

I expect that six months or a year from now, were I to get a phone call from a local pastor asking me if my congregation wanted to exchange with theirs what God has been teaching us about discipleship and holiness, that I would have a more coherent picture to share. Currently that phone call would be a bit much for P'nei Adonai; we are not yet ready. But we will be.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bye Bye Bazillion

I've been told the Bazillion comic is very short and I didn't miss anything.

Now I just need a friend to check these free computer games to find the best. :-)

A Nice Day

Yesterday was a nice day at home. I got to go running, complete a lot of congregational work, drink peach smoothies, do dishes and two loads of laundry, and even finish a pleasure-reading book.

I even had time in the evening, while my wife was finishing a book, to read silly things on the internet. The best was fun ways to tie shoelaces, which is nifty but no use to me since I usually wear Keens (my back prefers their aid to proper posture).

It's strange how similar today will be, except with almost nothing the same.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Matthew Study: Parables of Chapter 13

I'm slowly getting caught up with work after being out of town.

Today I was able to prepare for the Thursday evening Matthew discussion and even put my notes online. This page will be updated with what other people contribute during the discussion.

A Very Short Bill

This makes me smile.

H. R. 1897 is a very short bill currently being proposed. The proposal itself (Section 3) is one sentence:
No Federal regulation shall restrict any individual from possessing or carrying a firearm if that restriction is based in whole or in part upon the fact that the individual is in a unit of the National Park System.
which is apparently needed because Federal laws about National Parks are confusing and potentially conflicting.

Notice that rather than changing poorly written laws, Congressmen Ron Paul and Virgil Goode, Jr. are adding a new one-sentence "trump" statement. As someone fond of proper organization I find this dreadful. But as someone who struggles with tax forms each year I find the idea of a one-sentence law quite refreshing.

Do old laws rendered obsolete by newer "trump" laws ever get removed from the books? I would not be surprised if that requires time and effort no one is willing to expend, so obsolete laws stay around forever, hovering in the background...

Regarding this proposal itself I cannot offer any informed opinion. There may be certain locations that are "units" of the National Park System that are so un-park-like that it would not make sense to allow armed self-defense there (coastline near a sensitive government building, etc.) in the same way a concealed carry permit does not allow carrying into a courthouse. I have no idea, nor any idea if this proposal could lead without much fuss or delay to such locations being reclassified more appropriately.

UPDATE: Besides the link above, here are two other useful resources for finding the text of proposed Federal or Oregon legislation.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wacky

Someone showed me this comic, which I don't have time to read. I only looked at the first few pages: enough to show me that an adventure entitled "William Bazillion and the Race for Santa's Nazi Gold" was either going to be utterly terrible or very entertaining.

That's even more far-fetched than the idea "American Robot Air Attack Squadron Bound for Iraq".

(Is something remote controlled really a robot? Don't robots need to be self-guided through their programming? Apparently an external power source counts.)

If anyone reads William Bazillion, please let me know if they liked it. Some day I'll once again have time to read fun stuff on the internet. (Orwell is next on my list. I did have time to read the highly amusing A Study in Emerald last month.)

The Chicago Tribune asks if Messianic Jews are Jewish

Here's a comment section with a sense of foreboding. So far the comments have been polite even though they often express disagreement.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Preparing and Giving Sermons

This is a nice article.

Squirrel Count

Among my other blogging neglects, I have been remiss in reporting this summer's number of captured and relocated squirrels. Since I have not recorded it I may have lost track, but think this year's squirrel count is only at 5. Last year's efforts are apparently continuing to be somewhat effective.

This means we are 9 squirrels behind Iran.

Strange Maps

Strange Maps is a fun blog.

It was recently popularized in others blogs for this entry, but I was too busy and happily married to be part of that meme.

Running

I almost got to go running this morning.

I was planning on doing so, but something came up with a congregation-related crisis.

A few days ago I wrote some thoughts about three continuums of running:
First, the more you are in shape the more you run while "out for a walk". When just starting you will walk most if not all the time. When in better shape, you will alternate between running and walking (your body will tell you when to swap). When you are "in shape" you'll only walk at the end of uphills (or be "running" even then but at a walking pace).

Second, the more you are in shape the more your exercise will give you energy. Initially, you'll come home exhausted and ready to collapse. Eventually, at the end of your run you'll feel awake and refreshed. This is also a area of slow but noticeable progress.

Third, the more you are used to running the less you need to stretch before or after. As your body learns what to do, walking the first bit and then running gently (and at the end of the run running gently and then walking the last bit) will be able to take the place of stretching.
I'm not an expert runner, unlike one of my fellow math teachers who runs marathons regularly.

I do enjoy being fit enough to gain energy from a morning run. I wish I could do this more often.

The Arrival of Sar Shalom

So, why have I been away from blogging for so long? The short version of the story is a very good one.

A Messianic Jewish congregation that used to exist in Springfield, the next town over, restarted at Shavuot time. It's new name is Sar Shalom. P'nei Adonai and Sar Shalom have been working on cooperating together and eventually merging.

This other congregation was not what it should have been when I first arrived in the area in 2003. Among other things, when I met with the people who were then leading it they saw my calling as different enough from theirs that I should start a second congregation even though it was so nearby. In retrospect, I think one reason God arranged that was so that P'nei Adonai could carry on the visible and community-based work of Messianic Judaism as that other congregation faded away and vanished.

The current plans for an eventual merge are encouraging to me because, in an important sense, they are a second attempt at what should have happened four years ago.

My calling and gifting focus on discipling others and teshuvah (repentance) that leads people to experience more of God's presence. Four years ago, if that other congregation had been healthier, and I had known what I now do about my calling and gifting, it would have made a lot of sense for me to join that congregation and assist it by helping run how it did discipleship and teshuvah.

The leader of Sar Shalom is much more focused on the morning Shabbat service. This is what he feels his calling and gifting focus on. A few months ago, if he had come to P'nei Adonai instead of pursuing restarting the Springfield congregation, it would have made a lot of sense for him to join my congregation and assist it by helping run our Shabbat and holiday services.

The plans for the eventual merged congregation seem largely a third restatement of these previous two opportunities, but with the added benefit of healing some old wounds left in the community. (This healing is happening through the process of that other congregation reviving and spending time as its own healthy entity before merging.) The community will eventually come to a place where myself and the other leader share in leading, with my energy focused on discipleship and teshuvah and his energy focused on running services.

I am very much enjoying how the other leader and I encourage, support, and teach each other.

That's the short version of the story, which as I said is a good report.

The longer version is why I have not had time or attentiveness to blog yet this summer. There have been countless phone calls, e-mails, meetings, and prayer times about the congregational cooperation and merging just to allow the process to be happening well. Many people are involved, almost all of which have important insights and skills they bring to the drawing board. There have also been countless other phone calls, e-mails, meetings, and prayer times when miscommunication or pride were obstructing what God wanted to do.

Moreover, none of these were appropriate material for a public blog. This blog is often a useful place for me to write in an effort to help process my thoughts more fully. But for the past two months I could not blog about the issues I was dealing with, for doing so would either violate people's privacy, be very inappropriate and rude, or both.

In any case, the third part of my summer has started. (The first part is the short time after the community college term ends and before the MJAA Messiah Conference. The second part is the month between the conference and my anniversary vacation. The third part lasts from after my vacation until I restart college teaching.) I returned from vacation to 99 unread non-spam e-mails, a slew of phone messages, and my embarrassingly large to-do pile on my desk. I would love to take off another two days from work so I could call and write to friends and family who have not heard from me in months. But there is too much to do. So I am restarting my blogging so people can at least know what is going on in my life this way.

May God also be accomplishing his will in your life, and in your community through you!

May you have more of a summer vacation than I do!

Back from Humbug

Hi again.

Sorry I have been away from the blog for so long. It was not planned or desired.

I spent the last few days celebrating my 11th anniversary, camping at Humbug Mountain state park. I did not realize it until she told me at the summit, but Friday was the first time my wife and I had ever hiked to the top of a mountain together. The beach was nice too.

The vacation was a good one. I got to rest, to exercise, to learn even more about my wife, and to reflect about a number of things.

More blogging forthcoming.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Camping Comfortably in Oregon and Washington

I grew up as a Boy Scout of Troop 787 in Orange County, California. This troop did a lot of camping. I had spent about a year's nights under the stars before my thirteenth birthday. In my mind, the word "camping" is forever linked to the type of outing where everything you need for several days is packed into a backpack you can carry for ten miles.

My wife grew up "car camping". She enjoys hiking if all we take on the hike is a camera, water, and snacks (and especially if I carry them). Also, she shares her gender's preferences for restroom facilities that include at the very least flush toilets, and preferably regularly cleaned flush toilets.

Needless to say, it took us a while to find out how to go camping together in a manner we both enjoy. But we have done so, and this blog post shares this collected wisdom.



First, Oregon State Parks has many campgrounds with cabins and yurts. These are ideal, as they are inexpensive, are comfortable enough sleeping arrangements to help my wife recover after a hike strenuous enough to "push" her, and always very near regularly cleaned flush toilets.

The only drawback is that for most locations you must make your reservations 8-9 months in advance. Careful planning is rewarded. The yurts at Champoeg are less popular and make an affordable alternative to a hotel in Portland.

My wife and I want to next visit Oswald West and Fort Stevens, and plan to make reservations for next June in September.

The equipment in cabins and yurts varies from park to park, so check at each park for what "rustic" and "deluxe" means. Many have heaters, which can be important in the winter. Those with heaters have thermostats: it is not always labeled, but you can turn the on/off knob more or less to adjust the temperature.

To make reservations for Oregon State Parks, call (800) 452-5687 or visit this website. For information, call (800) 551-6949 or (503) 986-070.



Washington State Parks also have some yurts and cabins. Here are links to the southwest and south coast regions.

Nearest to Oregon, southwest region parks with yurts include Cape Disappointment (tidepools, hiking, beach, lighthouses), Seaquest (on Silver Lake, visit Mt. St. Helens visitor center, good cycling), Grayland Beach (hiking, beach), and Paradise Point (hiking).

In our minds the most interesting Washington State camping experience would be at Deception Pass State Park, where there is a cabin only accessible by boat. We would have to borrow a canoe from a friend for that camping trip.



Comfortable camping also happens on county campgrounds. The Hood River County county campgrounds are 60 miles from Portland. Both Tollbridge Park and Tucker Park have showers and toilets. The former requires a reservation three weeks ahead, by calling (541) 352-5522. The latter is "first come, first serve". For more information, call (541) 387-6888.

Some Josephine County campgrounds have yurts. These are near Grants Pass on a river in comparatively dry land. Use the same website used to make Oregon State Park reservations.

Lane County has some county parks with campgrounds, with flush toilets and coin-op showers but no yurts or cabins. Harbor Vista is the only one we have seen; the sites are small but have decent privacy, and the location very close to the beach could be a fun alternative to a motel in Florence.



Moving on to Federal land, the National Forest Service does also has cabin rentals in Oregon (map), just not so close to Eugene.

Somewhat nearby, the Siuslaw National Forest is the Federal land near Florence. A pair of adjacent campgrounds with flush toilets are Sandbeach and Derek Road. For information, call (503) 392-3161.

Be aware that the reservations website for National Forest Service is quite lacking in descriptions for Oregon and Washington campgrounds. Of the Washington campgrounds managed by Northwest Land Management (contact phone at the bottom of the page is (509) 427-7746) the only campground with flush toilets is Beaver Campground. All other Oregon and Washington campgrounds are managed by the National Forest Service itself, and more campground information can be found at the websites for the specific forests.

For example, with Mount Hood National Forest look for a sidebar link to its campgrounds and see that none of them have flush toilets. In general, on Federal land rent a cabin to have a flush toilet.



For day hikes or a one night trip near Eugene, the Willamette National Forest (the Federal land east of Eugene) might work. None of these campsites have flush toilets, but sometimes my wife will put up with a lack of those for one evening in exchange for a shorter drive to and from the campground.

If nothing else, that national forest has a great website. Notice the "map" and "list" tables towards the top of their page. For information, call (541) 225-6300.

The Middle Fork region is typically the best for hiking or camping because it is "first come, first serve" and not as busy as McKenzie region. Recommended campgrounds include Islet ($14, on Waldo Lake, be prepared for mosquitos in Summer), Blue Pool ($12, hike to hot springs), Broken Bowl ($14, nearby), and Sand Prairie ($12).

The most recommended campgrounds in the McKenzie region are Big Lake (near Sisters, cold lake, reservation required), Mona (in Blue River, warmer, "first come, first serve"), and Olallie (reservation required).



Three quick notes, in closing...

The Public Lands Information Center is an convenient website for quickly comparing State and Federal campgrounds, but its information may be inaccurate.

The Oregon State Parks have large signs summarizing the state laws for park visitors. A detail left off these summaries that may be relevant is that it is legal in Oregon State Parks to pick edible fruit for immediate consumption. Many Oregon State Parks abound with edible berries.

Also, these summary signs do not say that it is legal to carry a loaded firearm at an Oregon State Park if you have an appropriate concealed handgun license. I have a few friends who might care about that detail. However, sightings of coyote, bobcat, and black bear are rare and I cannot find record of any incident in which looking large and making a lot of noise was not sufficient to deter such an animal.

UPDATE: Heh. Troop 787 now has a website. I should not be surprised. They still seem to do frequent camping trips. I do not recognize any names, of course, unless I go to their PDF file of Eagle scouts.

UPDATE: I should also put a link to the website for Oregon's BLM land here too, even though it is not really relevant.

Monday, July 09, 2007

July

Happy July!

I am almost done with the two weeks of travel I do at the end of June and start of July. The MJAA Messiah Conference was wonderful.

Expect more news soon. First I have to deal with an e-mail inbox that is at 208 non-spam messages.

Sorry I've been absent.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Busy!

Sorry I have not been blogging much lately.

Last week I was very tired. Not only was it the annual high-grass-pollen week, but I also was due for a set of allergy shots. The combination wore me out. Fortunately, a sleepy week is a vast improvement over a miserably sneezy week like I had my previous years in Eugene.

I am also extremely busy with with end of term stuff at LCC. I've written my practice final exam, final exam, and the step-by-step answer key to the practice final to help my students.

The class I taught this term, Math 25, uses a workbook that really needs to be improved. So I'm doing that, since no one else at LCC has time and the relevant experience. I've written math textbooks twice before, and enjoy both the actual writing and the working cooperatively with others to do the best possible job. But this has taken a lot of work, and will probably keep me pretty busy through the rest of June.

My bookmarks of items to blog about are getting numerous! And I am three weeks behind typing in the essays produced by the congregation's weekly Matthew studies (the notes are great and you're missing out!) let alone other congregational website updates. I should have time to start being "sociable" online starting late next week, after my math class grading is completed.

The heroes in all this are God for helping make my allergies improve, and my Math 25 students for putting up with an inferior workbook this term, in a class that currently is stuffed with so much material it really should be worth one more credit (you can see the practice final here: what a lot of topics!).

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tiny Weasel

Another animal trend continues while doing a Google image search for my previous post: a baby weasel in someone's hand.

UPDATE: A rabbit too!

Robots are Less Funny than Cats

I had written earlier about funny narrated pictures of cats.

Some people are trying the same with robots. Success is rare. Robots aren't as funny or cute as cats, especially when speaking English with a toddler's lack of proper pronunciation. Unless they are wanting snacks even though they cannot eat.

As David Barry once observed, the most innately humorous word in the English language is weasel. This word can even be said without any context at all in intonations that make people laugh. I expect a site named "LOL Weasel" to be next, except that people are not that logical.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 52

52
All-under-heaven have a common beginning.
This beginning may be regarded as the mother of All-under-heaven.
Knowing the mother, we may understand how we as should be as children.
Knowing we are children, we should cleave to the mother.
Then we will be protected from danger, even if we lose our lives.
Close the mouth and live simply at home, and until the end of your body it will not fail.
Open your mouth and travel widely, and until the end of your body nothing will avail.
Valuing what appears insignificant requires enlightenment.
Embracing your weaknesses produces strength.
Using your vision only to walk in the light avoids calamities.
This is called "practicing the eternal".

Our primary role as children of Adonai
is to cleave to Adonai.
If we rely on God's presence, strength, and guidance
we will be following God's will for our lives,
and thus we will be protected.
Pray before speaking or making plans;
stay centered in the will of God.

Michael Brown's Latest Two Essays

The noted Messianic Jewish scholar Michael Brown has two new essays on his website.

The first explains why Messianic Judaism must retain the belief that Jewish people following Rabbinic Judaism do need to let Yeshua have authority over their lives (switching from giving Rabbinic tradition and leaders authority over their lives). Cooperating with people in Rabbinic Jewish communities is a worthwhile goal only if we may retain allowing our own lives to be Yeshua's light shining into the darkness of authoritative tradtions of men.

The second essay is a nice introduction to Jewish apologetics.

Oregon Census Facts

With my math classes I often use census data. Here is the most current page for Oregon statistics.

Alignment Test

I thought this might be fun. Would whomever created this quiz think I am Lawful Good or Neutral Good?

All I learned is that I am Impatient With Quizzes Good. I finished the first page, saw at the top of page two how many questions remained, and stopped. Humorously, the test called me Chaotic Good from my answers filled in at that point.

Soft People at the Mall

This article seems to go with this picture.

I am not so sure that soon America will have no option to remain soft. I hope our enemies are not soon successful in nuking an American, Iraqi, or Israeli city.

Minefields 2 Puzzle Game

This is an interesting puzzle game. But I'm tired, so I got to level 8 (password CGXX) and stopped.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cute Cats

Admittedly, cute in very different ways...

(The first is Ayla, the cat of cran_apple. The second has no attributed author.)

UPDATE: Another, for X-men fans.

Lane County CHL Statistics

The Lane County sheriff's office got back to me about CHL statistics for the county.

Lane County has roughly 10,400 CHL holders, of whom only 57 have ever been revoked.

A CHL is revoked for any misdemeanor or felony. So half a percent of CHL holders have committed a misdemeanor or worse since obtaining their CHL.

The FBI website reports 76,538 criminals they have profiled in Oregon for their National DNA Index System. The state has about 3,700,800 people. So my rough estimate for what percent of the general population has committed a misdemeanor or worse is about 2%.

Knowing that CHL holders are roughly four times less likely to commit a crime is probably less positive news than the pro-carry folk want to hear, but of course much more positive than the anti-gun folk depict.

Countdown from 159

I try to keep my e-mail inbox under twenty messages.

The past two weeks have been very busy with LCC stuff. I've managed to keep up with my LCC e-mail, but my other e-mail account started today with 159 messages, most of which were unread. It's been 12 days since I dealt with any but the most high-priority e-mail on that account.

This afternoon I finally have time to start catching up.

This morning I cleaned the house to be ready for Shabbat. We'll see if I can do as nice a job with my inbox!

UPDATE: I got down to 65 messages. Not too bad...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 51

51
The Way gives them life.
Virtue nurtures them.
Their family gives them their form.
Environment refines them.
Therefore all things, without exception, honor the Way and value Virtue.
They have not been commanded to honor the Way and value Virtue but do so spontaneously.
The Way gives life, Virtue nurtures: these care for, raise, prosper, lead, support, and shelter.
These produce but do not claim the product.
These work but do not rely on the result.
These lead but do not control.
This is called hidden Virtue.

Yeshua is our creator.
The Spirit of God causes our growth.
But neither will coerce us. Both act quietly
Although their work in us can be difficult for others to see,
it causes us to want to worship and praise!

Networking the Financially Needy

In August I wrote about two people I talk to often who beg for money on street corners. The woman I'll call Ann I knew pretty well; The man I'll call James I had just met.

In the months since then, Ann has pretty much given up on her corner, and gotten a bit dipressed. Her corner is a rotten one. It has a lot of traffic, but there is nowhere for her to be beside a driver's window. People driving alone who might want to help her would have to get out of their car, either during a red light or by pulling off into a grocery store parking lot. Moreover, some people habitually drunk decided they liked that corner and began causing problems.

James had a pretty ideal corner. His was along a major one-way street, so he could stand on the driver's side of the road and from the left lane be an easy person to hand something to. This corner is also beside a grocery store, which allows him to get a soda on a hot day. (Drinking soda has the added benefit of convincing motorists he does drink things that lack alcohol.)

In the last few months, James had developed a partnership with another fellow named John. They would stand on diagonally opposite corners of their intersection, trading off now and then. This kept them from competing for donations, but allowed them to look out for each other if someone drunk and troublesome came along.

A little while ago James got drunk, agreed to help a friend burglarize a building, and got arrested. He'll be in jail a while. When I heard about this last week I visited John and asked him if he is looking for a new partner. When he said he was interested, I told him about Ann and her situation.

I offered to pay John a little if he would help introduce her to his good corner, and look out for her at least until she figures out the subtleties of maneuvering her electric wheelchair on the that corner's sidewalks. John was very happy. Even aside from my offer of pay, he was worried some drunks would claim the now vacant diagonally opposite corner and cause problems.

Then I called Ann, and ran the idea by her. She was also happy with the plan.

So tomorrow morning I have a breakfast appointment with Ann at that second grocery store. We'll invite John too, and I'll introduce them.

Ann is still avoiding my offer of going together to visit the local social services office to make sure she is getting all of the kinds of help for which she qualifies. Maybe if things go well tomorrow that potentially more significant appointment will be closer to happening.