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.


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


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.