Thursday, December 29, 2005


Although I do not normally blog about political issues, I recently came across two articles that seemed unusually important. The first is the most impartial evaluation I have seen published about our government's justifications for beginning the current Iraq war. The second shares some of the ways in which Radical Islam is able to be intimidating in America.

Snowmen and Snowmen

Someone collected a supposedly complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes snowmen cartoons.

Happily, there is no snow in my neighborhood this Chanukah. January might have a few days of snow at this rate; December had only a couple very icy days where we could not safely back the car down the steep driveway.

Watch Your Nose

This is cute.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

An Article in Progress

P'nei Adonai has been invited to participate in a local newspaper project, in which different religious traditions contribute 100 words or less "about how you pray and think from your spiritual beliefs and teachings when you see someone holding up a cardboard sign asking for money".

That's a short enough composition that I thought I might as well share my work draft by draft here, as an insider's view of the project.

My challenge is threefold. First, I should keep this somewhat personal since I cannot speak for all of Messianic Judaism. Second, I mentioned this project on Shabbat at services and so I need to incorporate the feedback I have received from congregants. Third, I need to reply to not only the explicitly assigned statement but also the underlying issue of how to help the homeless.

Those of you not living in Eugene need some context: Eugene, OR, is a gathering-spot for transient beggars whose friends have told them of success amidst this liberal and caring community. So the easy answer of simply sharing wealth does not work, since the more free assistance is given the more homeless arrive in town. The local resuce mission strikes a balance by asking the people it shelters to help with cleaning, and eventually aims towards job placements for those who have a work ethic and are reliable. This is sensible, but the community needs other answers as well. For example, my essay hints at how the local utility company (EWEB) is gracious about working with charities to help people struggling with electric bills; I have worked with others to "sponsor" a disabled woman who is unable to work despite a strong desire to be more productive.

My blogging about my visit to the Eugene Rescue Mission is here.

[After the first draft, the allowed article length was increased to 150 words.]

[This project vanished until the end of February, when I was again contacted and told the article length was now limited to 100 words.]

Draft One (Morning of 12/21/05)

When time permits, I buy strangers food, chat, and offer to pray. I share that I have stayed at the Rescue Mission, and for meals and shelter my family or small congregation cannot better and safely provide. So our monetary giving is mostly to needy individuals (EWEB allows anonymous payments to a name and address) and programs we know use it well. Most strangers feel valued even if given little.

Rabbinic and Christian traditions use Mark 12:41-44 to debate if charity’s value is from help to the needy or as expressions of humility and gratitude. Messianic Judaism says, "Helpful caring".

Draft Two (Morning of 12/23/05)

When time permits, I buy strangers food, chat, and offer to pray. I share that I have stayed at the Rescue Mission, and for meals and shelter my family or small congregation cannot better and safely provide. So our monetary giving is mostly to needy individuals (EWEB allows anonymous payments to a name and address) and programs we know use it well. Most strangers feel valued even if given little.

Rabbinic and Christian traditions use Mark 12:41-44 to debate if charity’s value is from help to the needy or as expressions of humility and gratitude. Messianic Judaism says, "Caring helps everyone be more human".

When praying, I prefer if they pray aloud and I agree with what they say (more spiritual authority than me praying assumptions about what they need). Sometimes I share my spiritual weaknesses and we pray together as needy people and dependent on God. Sometimes friendships start.

Draft Three (Evening of 2/26/06)

When time permits, I buy strangers food, chat, and offer to pray. I share that I have stayed at the Rescue Mission incognito, and for meals and shelter my family or small congregation cannot better and safely provide. Most strangers feel valued even if given little.

If I pray with them, I prefer that they pray aloud and I agree with what they say. This has more spiritual authority than me praying assumptions about what they need.

Caring should help all people involved be and feel more human, significant, and valued.

Draft Four (Evening of 2/27/06)

When time permits, I buy strangers food, chat, and offer to pray. I share that I have stayed at the Rescue Mission incognito, so I know that for meals and shelter for others, my family or small congregation cannot better and safely provide.

If I pray with them, I prefer they pray aloud while I agree with what they say. This has more spiritual authority than me praying assumptions about what they need.

The sages wrote, "Charity done right involves looking each other in the eyes." Caring should help all people involved be and feel more human, significant, and valued.

Why Wookies Do Not Record Holiday Song Albums

My wife said this is "a little weird but fun". I'll simply let it speak (sing? growl?) for itself.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A=1, B-2, ...

Some codes are friendly. Some lack of codes are scary.


Penguins and penguins!

And another penguin!


Final Exam week at LCC is done, and with a break from my math teaching I will try and be better about blogging.

It's cold in Eugene this week. Not really cold, but quite cold. However, being Eugene, it is only getting below freezing at night because there is no cloud cover -- which means there is no snow, since if we had clouds it would be above freezing. So the roads safe, but gloves are suddenly popular.

Lately I've been reading H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu stories, which I find delightfully corny through a combination of the out-of-date science in which anything can be attributed to "vibrations", the notably frequent use of the adjective "Cyclopean", and his writing style of hinting at some amazing and surprising horror which is finally revealed to be no more than what you expected all along. As short stories they work well on my PDA.

Currently the P'nei Adonai website does not say anything about Chanukah on its holiday page. My job today is to fix that, and also use the essay to give a talk this evening, as a guest speaker at the local Masonic lodge. They had called last week asking about how to do a Chanukah display in their decorating, since they have a Jewish member. I tried to be helpful, and was invited to talk. They seem to prefer guest speakers who talk about world travel with a religious theme, but are willing to settle for me tonight. The essay's outline is ready, and now it's time to write.

My other chore today is to wrap Chanukah presents for family, and mail them. Except for the baked goods, which we'll keep in the freezer until Chanukah is nearer.

Happy December!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Lots of Little Internet Games

Another friend recently pointed me to Lightforce Games. I have not played any of these, since I currently have a nice computer game to enjoy.

Those who have children might enjoy Orisinal more because they are so pretty, even if some are a bit simplistic.

Those looking for a specific little internet game will probably find it at Addicting Games.

Short Ads from the UK

A friend pointed out this webpage of funny ads. Enjoy!

Blitnz Wrappers

Well, my wife and I are still working on a gluten-free bread for small loaf pans. But we have made other progress! Now, besides the easy scones, pizza crusts, and apple/zucchini loaf breads, we have...

Gluten Free Blintz Wrappers

In a blender mix 4 eggs. Then add:
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 1 tbsp tapioca flour
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
(The first three ingredients in the list can be replaced by 3/4 cup of any gluten-free flour mix. We also add some of red amaranth flour just for the neat colored speckles.)

Blend for about 30 seconds, then let the batter sit for a few minutes to thicken.

(This is a good time to put together your filling. A no-prep sweet filling is cranberry sauce and cottage cheese. For a quick and easy savory filling we currently use a little cream cheese with sauteed garlic, mushrooms, and spinach.)

Heat a small frying pan (six to eight inches diameter) on mediun heat. Use either butter or oil to coat the bottom of the pan -- half a tablespoon is usually plenty.

With a spatula, stir the batter and then pour some into the pan. For our eight-inch pan we use two tablespoons (measured as 2/3 of a quarter cup measure) but we're not experts and thinner blintz wrappers are quite possible.

Shake and swirl the batter in an attempt to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Then return the pan to the stove.

When the edges of the blintz wrapper start separating from the pan the bottom will be browned -- flip it, and fry the other side for a few seconds before adding it to the pile of cooked blintz wrappers. Each cooked blintz wrapper will need a paper towel atop it to separate it from the next one.

If you cook more blintzes than you eat, the pile of cooked blintz wrappers, paper towels and all, can be put in a gallon size bag for refridgeration.

(For those who are curious, it seems that a Swedish Pancake is not cooked after the filling is added, a blintz is fried afterward, and a crepe is baked.)

How we are like Nazareth

Today I read a nice though from one of Jonathan Cahn's sermons. I'll paraphrase:
In John 1:46, Nathanael asks Phillip, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"

But Yeshua came from heaven -- he only came through Nazareth. Nathanael asks the wrong question.

And each of us is similarly like Nazareth. It does not matter how small or unimportant we are, or what we are capable of by our own strengths and history. Yeshua acts through us. The Spirit of God acts through us.

What is from heaven comes through us.
The December/Kislev issue of Moment magazine has an opinion piece by Dennis Prager in which he explains his answers to the question of why so many American Jews are irreligious and/or anti-religious.

After describing two historical factors (incompatability with Orthodoxy's goal of separation from society, and a distrust of organized religion stemming from historical, organized, religious anti-Semitism) and one cultural factor (high attendance rates at anti-religious universities) he says:
Fourth, the only Jewish denomination consistently offering a real values alternative to the secular/Left vision is Orthodoxy...Most Jews therefore have few religious models with which to challenge secular/Left values.
Then his article continues...

His fourth point seems significant for Messianic Judaism. Its values are more conservative than Reform or Reconstructionist Judaism. This can make it simulatenously strange and helpful to American Jews who are searching for truth.

As an example, later in the magazine is an Ask The Rabbis piece with responses from different branches of Judaism to the question "Should Jewish children sing Christmas Carols?" The common Messianic Jewish response would match those of the Orthodox, Conservative, and Lubavitch answers: it wrongs Christianity to treat the clearly religious carols as if they are not religious, it wrongs America's pluralism to participate in a commercial effort to remove religion from Christmas, and it wrongs Judaism to claim that participating in an activity that is at its root Christian evangelism is an appropriate interfaith activity. Thus in any individual case it may be okay (because people and friendships matter, and caroling is not innately dangerous to an individual person) but in general it should not be encouraged.

Messianic Judaism would add that scripture already explains how Sukkot is the approrpiate time to celebrate Yeshua's birth. Doing so on December 25th is therefore not only a religious activity (it doesn't hurt to celebrate that someone, no matter what day is chosen) but an activity innately specific to Christian culture (the historical and cultural reasons for the choice of which day). Since Messianic Judaism hesitates to adopt Christian culture that is not scripturally based, it normally avoids Christmas.

As those values that Prager calls "secular/Left" are becoming more visibly unworkable (for example, just because an individual can participate in the activities of other faiths without harm to his or her religious identity does not mean entire religious cultures can cooperate in this way) perhaps Messianic Judaism will become both more "oddball" and more attractive for maintaining a distinctively Jewish yet non-Orthodox set of alternate values.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Petition of Goodness or Spam?

Does anyone know if this petition (urgning the U.S. to take a strong stand against Iran's nuclear ambitions) is worthwhile or simply an invitation to e-mail spam?

I doubt the petition itself will actually do much. Petitions seldom do, and at this level of diplomacy too little is actually about what normal people know. But the number of people willing to sign petitions probably has domestic political consequences, so I am happy to take a moment to sign a worthy one.

Back to Blogging

Greetings again after a while! For a couple weeks I was in a not-blogging mood, and then my computer broke.

And I think I'll start this new round of blogging with a gripe, a disappointment: Eugene "lost" the Civil War Blood Drive.

Each year, during the week when the football teams from the University of Oregon and Oregon State University play (the "Civil War game"), the entire city is a bit fanatic. The county blood bank joins into the spirit of the occasion with their amusingly named Civil War Blood Drive. For those of us do not become emotionally consumed by the football event and its frenzy, the blood drive seems more significant.

The University of Oregon always "loses" the contest: 2152 to 2720 (in 2002), 2835 to 3705 (in 2003), 3095 to 4059 (in 2004), and this year 2220 to 2673. This could have been our year!

I called the county blood bank and confirmed that their number of regular donors is increasing each year. From this I'll conjecture that the overall drop in Civil War Blood Drive participants is not meaningful. Given that an individual cannot donate at whim but must wait 56 days between donations, if this annual event is actually successful in inspiring people to become regular donors then an increasing subset of the potentially donating population will be unavailable during the event itself!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Airport Status, NW USA

Another useful website.

How and Why

This is fun, about Escher stuff in real life. This is fun too, about why we say things.

A break from recipes

Those of you not so interested in the gluten-free recipes might enjoy sites I stumbled across: a review of ramen, and tips for fluffly waffles.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

An Apology

Blogging has been non-existent for a while. Sorry!

My wife and I went on a vacation for the week of September 18th. Vacationing for a week with someone who is gluten intolerant requires a bit of preparation, so time was limited before we left, too.

The week of September 25th classes started at LCC, where I teach math.

And this week starts the High Holy Days, so my ministry work is extra busy.

Enjoy the links I've collected in the past three weeks (below). Sorry I don't have time for more blog content than that.

Various Links

I have no yearning to own most gadgets that are sold these days. But this would be quite cool to have, in a way I don't think I can explain.

A good joke is hard to find, even in a page supposedly having ten of them.

Remember that old "Powers of Ten" video? Now it is a website animation.

My wife and I have been working on more gluten-free recipes. We have macaroni and cheese almost ready, and are experimenting with power bars. But we don't play with our food nearly as much as some people.

Has anyone heard of HeyMath!?

If you want to print your own graph paper, this site has many varieties.

How many famous people you already know of were Jewish and believed in Yeshua?

And visit New York City with someone's Kermit the Frog doll.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Google Maps and Katrina

Google Maps now offers a comparison of New Orleans before and after Katrina's damage. Zoom in a little, and then you can scroll around and use the buttons labeled "Satellite" and "Katrina" to see the flooding in detail.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Pizza Dough

Gluten-free pizza? No big deal.

This recipe makes one batch of dough for a typically-sized large home pizza pan, or two batches of a very thin crust for those with the patience to pat it out very flat. (Or sometimes we split a double batch into three parts, for an intermediate thickness.)

It refrigerates well for a few days, so you can prepare the dough before you want to actually make a pizza.

In a large mixing bowl combine:
  • 1 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups gluten-free four mix
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp vinegar
Mix well, first with a wooden spoon and then by kneading. Depending upon humidity and your flour mix, you may need to add a few teaspoons more warm water or flour mix: the dough should have a consistency that is "rubbery", not "dry" or "sticky".

This dough tastes better the more it rises. Let it rise for at least 4 hours. You can let some of the rising happen after you pat the dough flat onto the pizza pan (and you'll have to pat it, it can't be rolled).

Worshipping Grief

Last week's sermon was about the difference between forgiveness and pardon. It discussed why Yeshua had to suffer so much.

This discussion going around the blogosphere puts similar issues in a very different context. Do people who have suffered have higher moral authority? That sounds quite un-American and un-democratic. Rephrased: does suffering produce moral wisdom?

Sadly, it doesn't. Occasionally suffering prompts people to stop and think more. But just as often it prompts people to mindless vengeance.

God's plan is not that we need to suffer to grow wise, but that we can identify with him and his suffering, to avoid the need for our own suffering.

The novel The Bridge to Terabithia ends with a character inspired to live in the way a virtuous friend would have lived. He will put into the world what the friend would have, because the world needs it. The same plot is how we are supposed to think of suffering and Yeshua.

Bike Commute Challenge

If you live in Eugene and bike to work, try this.

Being Abled

I have some deaf friends in Rochester who will love this video.


I have been a part of a few conversations in which someone Jewish wondered if the damage done by Hurricane Katrina was related to the U.S. supporting expelling Israelis from their coastal homes.

The best answer I have relates to a bumper sticker I saw last November: "If God wanted us to vote he would have given us candidates". (The saying has been attributed elsewhere to Jay Leno.)

Exactly how were those who lost there homes supposed to have done anything different politically? Most of the damaged counties voted for the more pro-Israel candidate. It wasn't the high-population counties that did otherwise that bore the brunt of a natural disaster.

For news about Katrina you might other miss, check Terry Teachout's page.

Truth in Advertising

Those of us not super refined might find this bit of truth in advertising amusing. But truth still does not mean "meaningful information".

The Problem with Miracles

This is a cool video about why God is not a D.J.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Orange Flags, Green Flags

Today I'm getting contacted by people wanting to know more about the Israeli withdrawals.

Here are some pictures. Here are others (click "next" by the picture to see more). Here are more and more.

Today also had more coverage of a two-day old report that U.N. money financed the new PA propoganda. The articles mention but do not include any actual picture of the banners that said "Today Gaza and Tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem" beside a U.N. logo. Another article states that Hamas has also received U.N. money.

If you want a map of Israel, this one is interactive.

Remember that Israel retains ownership of land it allows the PA to administer. People are speaking sloppily when they speak of Israel "giving land" to the PA now or in the past. There is still no Palestinian State. Perhaps the withdrawal is proceeding without being opposed by an expected miracle because legally this is about government, not land, and God's covenants are legal agreements that contain no assurance of good government.

Two very different kinds creativity

If you are bored with a traditional globe or bicycle, be bored no longer.

As for myself, I think I'll merely ride my three-speed around town. I'm happy enough knowing a nifty way to fold a t-shirt.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Sermon's Links

The sermon I am preparing for Saturday is about the tension between scripture's view that obedience to God allows us to best "get on with life" and the human need to do more to make life holy and complete, and thus to make obedience to God an end rather than a beginning.

The sermon will be added to the P'nei Adonai website FAQ page as "How does Messianic Judaism teach me to sanctify life?".

At one point I write a paragraph that could include two hyperlinks to give credit to sources that caused me to ponder. But such linking would be inappropriate from the P'nei website. Since I do not cite anything from those other webpages it is not necessary to cite them to avoid plagarism, and linking would be a distraction to the reader of the essay.
So here, in this more appropriate place, is the paragraph with the links.
We naturally prefer activity that allows us to feel in control. Today we can see political protesters who do activity that makes their cause less popular because it feels "good for their soul", and we see abused children who convince themselves that they are at fault since deserving the abuse means they can also stop the abuse. Similarly, we desire spiritual activity in which we do something that is good for our soul, so that we can do more when we want more improvement, and do what comes easily to allow easy improvement. It is uncomfortable when God's Spirit asks us to remove a firmly established bad habit we would rather not deal with and then rest as God's Spirit replaces it with virtue.
Update: During the sermon I also mentioned a link to an essay conjecturing that each of the Narnia books focuses on a different one of Gregory's "Seven Deadly Sins".

Better than Bubble Wrap

My brother and I used to like popping bubble wrap so much we would get each other sheets of it as birthday presents.

But we were clearly in the small league compared to these guys.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Preying on a Predator

I'm not a fan of RealOne player. It has unwanted options that lack obvious ways to turn off. But I needed to install it because of the ORT website with audio Torah reading, which some of my congregants use to help them prepare for reading from the Torah.

But now I'm glad it is on my computer, so I could watch this video from the Seattle Aquarium in which a giant octopus grabs and kills a large shark.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Telephone Game

What happens if you translate Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith into Chinese and then back into English?

Star War: The Backstroke of the West

(Some profanity, strangely enough. Very much silliness.)

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Ah, the joys of a photoshop contest.

Or, at least, the select picks from one.

A cube?

My Clie is all the MP3 player I need.

But I see this, and wonder why no company manufactures an MP3 player shaped like hearing aids? It seems so logical. At least the car stereo idea is finally realized.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Name a nail?

This post at Protein Wisdom did side-step one significant issue.

I've read more than one interview with a terrorist in which the terrorist claims that the US lacks the moral high ground to complain about terrorism, since the US has been responsible for the largest single attack against civilians designed to achieve a political outcome (ending WWII by dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

(Apparently Osama taught his followers to make this claim.)

An American who understands history might immediately respond with, "Yes we did that, but that's different!". And we'd be right.

But America has not recently provided the international community with a well-reasoned and careful explanation as to why we'd be right. And the US needs to make a timely reply to Osama and his followers.

Part of the answer should be that America's killing of innocents was to stop aggression. This is unlike Radical Islam which seeks to be the aggressor to spread its social order.

Part of the answer should be that the number of innocents killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was so small compared to the death toll of WWII. This is unlike the Al-Queda attack on 9/11 which was an atypically large incident in the battle between America and Radical Islam, or the terrorism against Israel which is commeasurate with Israel's military reprisals.

And part of the answer should be that much of America regrets what happened, especially with the better perspective that time provides. This is unlike the social climate of Radical Islam, in which terrorists exalt in the killing they do.

Update: Much more information here.

The Apostolic Writings in Hebrew

Every now and then people send me an e-mail asking me to translate a certain New Testment verse into Biblical Hebrew.

Well, I finally found the website you were really looking for. :-)

Two more Flash games

Remember my old comment that some games need no instructions and some games really, really do...

(For the second game, remember that timing is everything. After placing all eight items, check which need more time to grow, then try again.)


With all the comic books being made into movies... it's about time.

So, is the Watchmen next?

After Astro City, those two are my favorite comics ever.

As a kid I liked Spider-Man, whose motto was "With great power comes great responsibility." Almost as entertaining (lacking the quality of supporting cast) was Batman, whose motto became "When the world does not make sense you must force it to." The Watchmen took a different approach, and while being more serious then either its motto is "When the world does not make sense, the solutions will not make sense either."


Every now and then I think about playing one of those big online games. Then I think, nah.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Not That Nerdy

My wife's sister and her sister's husband will be visiting us later this week. We'll probably play games because we're nerdy. But we're not as nerdy as some people.


Ah, another classic game transferred to a java file.

I've only known one friend who played this game in it's older, plastic incarnation. But that was a special friend, so now it seems a special game.

On the other hand, some silly internet games are most entertaining the first time you meet them -- even without understandable instructions.

And this news story really should inspire someone to make a java/flash game, from the point of view of the parachuting teddy bears.

Like a Bable Fish

Trillian is cool.

While traveling to a conference and visiting old friends, I found out that some of my friends are doing IM (instant messaging) with software I didn't have. I tried AIM, which they were using, and it was nice once I installed the AIM Ad Hack. But having two different IM programs running seemed bothersome.

Trillian does all the IM variations. The free version is for text messaging. If you pay for the full version you can do webcam video as well. (However, Trillian only supports video in AIM and MSN Messenger when both people have webcams. The real version of those messengers are needed to provide video to someone who cannot reciprocate.)

It works really great -- the windows can even be set to have adjustable transparency if you alternate-click on the bar at the top of the window. And now I only need one IM program.

If you do instant messaging, you can reach me at:
AIM - David at Penei
MSN - penei (at)
Yahoo - dvsjunkmail (at)
with the @ symbol in the appropriate places for those e-mail addresses.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Moses's Hand and Lightning Rod

For a time of spiritual training, scripture tells us so much that we can proceed ahead unless as we are used to, listening for if God tells us to do something differently than last time. We know both "milk" and "meat" teachings to pass on.

For a time of spiritual warfare, we must be guided directly by God's Spirit. We should not move forward unless God has told us to do so.

For training, a person can have an effective ministry. It is okay to say "my ministry". It is okay to plan, "What can I do next?" It is important to meet people's intellectual needs. When we receive new revelation we can define it: categorize it and plan how to continue to use it to train others.

For spiritual warfare, no person can be effective. It is only God's ministry. We must pray, "What will you do next?" We cannot meet people's spiritual needs, but must aid God meeting these needs. We must allow God alone to define what he gives us.

In spiritual warfare, we are like Moshe's hand, or a lightning rod -- a target for God's Spirit as it descends. Often the biggest challenge is to simply get out of the way and not interfere with what God is doing.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Looming Crisis

At the conference I have learned of something to pray about, for Messianic Judaism globally. A new "hot issue" will come to the forefront within the next few months that threatens our unity in the Body of Messiah.

The issue is not about Gentile followers of Yeshua becoming circumcised. Scripture is clear that this is not necessary, and in general, not wise. The book of Galatians is especially emphatic that we should not allow the local rabbinical community define what is "Jewish" for believers.

The issue is not about people who have Jewish lineage but were not raised in a very Jewish home. Scripture is clear that in God's eyes no one can be 1/2 or 1/16 Jewish because only one parent or one great-grandparent was Jewish: either you are Jewish or you are not; you are a participant in the Sinai Covenant or you are not. And at a Messianic Jewish congregation, one role of B'nei Mitzvah training is to help people who feel 1/16 Jewish to feel 100% Jewish.

The issue is about the children of an intermarried couple. For legal reasons, especially relating to making Aliyah to Israel, it has been suggested that the Messianic Jewish movement develop a ceremony to allow the Gentile in a mixed marriage to formally convert to Judaism for the sake of the couple's children having a legally clear Jewish identity. Naturally, this would only apply when the Gentile spouse felt called to formally participate in the Sinai Covenant, rather than enjoying the better freedom to keep which parts he or she wanted as voluntary expressions of love and dedication to God. But this Gentile spouse would still be entering an eternal covenant for no needed personal reason (instead for the sake of his or her children) and scripture seems to lack obvious guidance about if this would please God.

On one had, intermarriage was for the ancient Israelites a way for upcoming generations to be considered part of Israel. On the other hand, in that setting the Gentile spouse did not become Jewish. Ruth was still considered a Moabitess even after marrying (sequentially) two Jewish men. The laws back then were different, and this is at its core a legal issue.

Eugene a Swamp

It "just happened" that my randomly assigned roommate at the MJAA international conference was Philip Bean, who is now a traveling architect but a four decades ago was central in the establishment of Messianic Jewish ministry in Eugene.

We've been talking and praying about Eugene.

Before Eugene Skinner began the town, there was swampland between the two rivers. The south end of the valley was a place of growth but disease. And spiritual activity has since then come in waves over the area: dramatic if small-scale revivals washed over the early town, as a revival also happened in the late sixties.

And spiritual activity has been like swamp plant life. Few things endure long. In Eugene's history, God has seldom if ever sent his Spirit to reinforce or re-establish an existing work. Instead, his Spirit establishes something new among the praying people already there. And any ministry which stops growing with God will quickly move to decay.

For P'nei Adonai, this may mean that we should not hope the local rabbinical synagogue community becomes healthier before the many infants in our congregation are old enough to want a Jewish day school. Instead, perhaps we should be praying that God will establish a new, healthy, vibrant, and Spirit-filled Jewish community.

Update: more swampy analogies, after more prayer and discussion:

  • In a swamp there are no petrified plants. Either you are growing or decaying.
  • In a swamp, decay is ever-present in the background but has little power to stop growth.
  • In a swamp, what is young is usually the fastest growing.
  • In a swamp there is no fight over sunlight as in the forest. Plants do not need to compete with more than a few other plants. Energy would be wasted to fight needless battles.
  • In a swamp history loses its distinctness. Decay produces nutrients from what used to be, but this foundation has lost much of its original character and distinctiveness.
  • In a swamp, a high place would be very distinct from the lower, wetter ground, with more permanent growth.

Culture and Programs

While talking with other leaders of Messianic Jewish congregations a nifty issues has been clarified in my mind.

In Eugene, programs are seen as bad. Programs are impersonal. Programs are "stiff religion" instead of life and spirituality. And culture is seen as good. Culture values people. Culture is about life and spirituality.

Yet culture, subtly, works like many programs.

At P'nei Adonai we've been doing this without realizing it. We don't have a Membership Program, we have B'nei Mitzvah preparation. We don't have a Dance Program, we do a picnic and dancing in the park to help celebrate Shabbat. We don't have elaborate holiday programs, but a simple service and the scriptural freedom for households to use tithes to eat together throughout the holiday.

There's more we could do along these lines.

We would not want an Alef Club. But we should develop ways to make a group Erev Shabbat dinner into an evening where the focus stays on God to promote worthwhile discussion and spiritual growth.

We would not want an out-of-context prayer weekly or monthly service, but we should have one at Rosh Chodesh to pray that God provide guidance, protection, blessing, and growth in the upcoming month.

We would not want a kid's program for the kids old enough to sit through a Shabbat service. But we should have sermons with more props and stories now, for the sake of those elementary school age kids that are occasional visitors.

The issue is not that culture secretly contains programs. It is that when a program is done in ways that value people and has life and genuine spiritual health, and done this way long enough, it becomes habitual and no longer seems like a program. Culture can raise programs to a higher level. And Jewish culture is full of examples.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Gotham Violence

I saw the new Batman movie on Sunday.

The movie was quite abusive towards physics and human stamina. It irked me slightly that a microwave machine didn't affect people, that Bruce Wayne seemed to heal from wounds as if he was Wolverine, that the fear poison didn't affect children or Arkham inmates, and that the antidote to the fear poison worked perfectly for Bruce and Gordon but only partly for Rachel.

But it was a comic book movie, so that was okay. Strange techno-gizmos and unexplained bouts of health and weakness are part of how the genre works.

What irked me more was the low-quality nature of most fight scenes. As Scott Kurtz wrote, "The fight scenes in the second half are awful and are so jumpy you don't really see anything. The movie shines most between the action. I kept waiting for the action to end so that I could get back to the movie. Which is strange for a Super-hero flick."

It's not that I wanted better action. The issue was simply that the "non-fight scene" at the docks worked very well, and the people who made the movie clearly knew this, and then it seemed like they forgot.

The film's theme was fear. Our role as the audience was to watch people be afraid and either conquer or succumb to fear. Bruce conquered his fears. The thugs at the docks didn't. The fight scene at the docks worked because its basic message was that the fight was over before it ever really began.

The terrible fight scenes were a complete contrast. So what if Batman moves fast and punches hard and the camera can't keep up? Why was Bruce fighting Ducard in the monorail anyway, once he jammed the control? Did Batman ever use his gloves with whippy fingers? Who cares? Most of the fight scenes only distracted us from the drama that was the core of the movie.

Rachel was a great character. She was naive and idealistic and no match for the evil and violence of Gotham. Bruce as Batman could not relate to her, and at the end they both realized this. It was the perfect setup for a strong female character in a sequel, to pose for Bruce the dilemna of a accepting a woman to which Batman could relate or remaining patiently faithful to Rachel -- the choice of stepping more permanently and completely into the dark and cynical role of Batman or retaining his humanity.

Gordon was a great character. He had a family; he was vulnerable and wimpy; his only virtue was recognizing Batman as a worthy ally. He was constantly in over his head, not knowing what to say or do, but able to do the best he could, which was good enough.

Bruce not only conquered his own fear but helped Rachel and Gordon conquer their fears. To make this blatant he did so chemically as well as emotionally.

The Scarecrow used fear poison to create images of a person's personal fear so they would fear more. Batman used the image of his own personal fear to help others conquer fear (if they were "good guys") or overpower them without much fighting (if they were "bad guys"). This parallelism should have been supported by every scene with violence: the docks and huge stairwell were too few and isolated.

Ducard tried to end Gotham's decadence, of which Earle was the token representative. Bathman tried to raise Gotham's sense of self-control, of which Lucius and Gordon were the token representatives. In the end Earle lost and Lucius won because Gordon won, and Gordon won because Batman helped him conquer fears.

And Rachel lost, but was brave about it, because a Gotham with self-control meant more to her then a romance with Bruce. That was our expected reaction too, as the audience: we should want a living symbol that helps us conquer fear, and a place where people have courage and self-determination, more than we want a romantic ending.


The website mentioned in the President's speech is a great idea. A simple message of encouragement is meaningful to our troops on the day America celebrates freedom. Accumulating thousands of messages shows that people appreciate the individuals whose courage and sweat advances freedom (irregardless of approving of the anything bigger than an individual's bravery and toil).

But the website seems oddly primitive. It is counting total messages, not the number of messages from distinct IP addresses. And I would expect it's welcome page to show a random message and response from a soldier instead of merely a single chosen token response from a soldier. And the lapel pin ordering is cheesy: why add a marketing gimmick to a site otherwise aimed at reminding soldiers that they are appreciated?

Ice Cream Mix

Last night my wife thought I was crazy because I had as dessert a bowl of Oreo-cookie ice cream topped with dark chocolate shavings and in root beer as a float. It was great. Perhaps some day people's vanilla-for-floats prejudices will be overcome by peaceful demonstrations. Hm. More demonstrations are needed!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Wierd Dreams

I often have really wierd dreams. Last night had two good examples.

The first involved a new hobby: suburan boar hunting. Two groups of friends participated. One designed a treasure hunt, which ended at a certain house in which a wild boar was dangerously loose. The other followed the clues while carrying various sizes of boar spears (the first group accompanied them as spectators), and the event ended when the hunters found the boar, lured it outside (no boar blood in the house!), killed it, and cooked it in the backyard for both groups of friends to eat.

As a kid I enjoyed reading The Once and Future King, which includes a boar hunt young Kay and the Wart went on. But I have no idea what prompted this dream.

The second dream was obviously prompted by two stresses of yesterday: the sewing machine needed oil before I could get some sewing done, and I was thinking about some upcoming air travel that involves switching airlines mid-day.

The result: a new T.V. game show in which participants are given a sum of money and a suitcase full of airport-legal but awkward items (such as a battery-powered, running sewing machine) and must visit four specified cities as quickly as possible. The participants start in the early morning at the first city when the airport opens, and must plan a route to the remaining cities, purchase tickets, and do the traveling.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Some things are supposed to be hard to find, but are not if you know where to look.

Other things are surprisingly not well known, such as free software and computer games.


I've been meaning to try this for a while, with the squirrels in our back yard. But not this.

Simply Clean

Today I did a lot of house cleaning. Some family is coming to visit on Wednesday. They are passing through Oregon on the way to and from a wedding in Ephrata, WA.

I like Simple Green. One of my cleaning chores was to clean the guest bathroom. No icky fumes, no bleach stains on clothes, no dried out hands -- and now the bathroom is spotless, and excessively disinfected.


Over the weekend I found out that Spaceward Ho! is available for the Palm OS.

I played that game quite a bit in my undergraduate years. It's still as good as ever.

Well, almost. The Palm OS version does not have sound effects. I have to imagine the spaceship pilots yelling, "Yahh!" like cowboys when they set off on voyages.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Firefox: subtle aroma, robust, faintly fruity, pleasant aftertaste

I have not yet waxed complimentary about Firefox. But I really should.

It has a feature that removes most advertisements from web browsing, which is really nice. It has a feature that checks links and color-codes them by validity, which I use now and then when looking at It's easy to enable pipelining, which speeds up browsing on a fast internet connection. And Firefox is not vulnerable to Active-X problems.

Except for doing Windows Updates, it does everything I need and does it better.

A few days ago I found out that Mozilla also producing a free FTP Client. It also works much better and faster than my old FTP software. Hooray!

(I'm also using Thunderbird for e-mail because it is more secure than Outlook, but it does not do everything Outlook does for e-mail. Outlook can be set to automatically file a sent reply in the same folder as the message you replied to; with Thunderbird I have to spend a few moments each day sorting the contents of my "Sent" folder into other folders. Outlook can change an outgoing e-mail from plain text to HTML on-the-fly; with Thunderbird if I want to break my normal habits and send an HTML message I have to change an account setting before composing the e-mail, and put the setting back afterwards. But to be fair, Outlook cannot bounce mail.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Today I did a lot of drilling.

Whomever built our house only used nails to attach the metal support-pillars in the middle of the garage to the big wooden beams above them! Even though this has been sufficient for 50 years it needs fixing! In some cases the four holes in at the top of each pillar were positioned and I could simply replace the nails with 3/8" screws. But when new holes were needed I did some drilling. Slow...

I also installed our new fire safe. Something seem odd, when the first instruction for using a new safe is to drill holes through it. And that was surprisingly easy. Moreover, thanks to a super-drill-thing I borrowed from a friend, drilling the holes in the cement to mount the safe was only a matter of seconds.

Too bad I don't have more concrete that needs holes drilled into it. Faster than a hot knife through butter...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Nerd Test

I'm only 62% nerd these days, according to this test.

The times change... I would have had at least one question about if you ever used a hole punch to double the storage capacity of a floppy disk.

The other day I overheard a father notice his young son playing with a Transformer toy and ask, "Is that an Autobot or a Decipticon?" Words I wouldn't have remembered until I heard them again, even after watching the recent Citron commercial or the Singapore Navy recruitment ad.

Tricky Theology Essays - Done!

A big "back burner" project was to write some essays for the P'nei Adonai FAQ page about whether Jews and Gentiles fit differently into the Kingdom of God. This is a tricky issue that many people get emotional about. Did I do a good job? (The essays are the group in the middle, under the section "About the Household of Faith".)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Only One Thing?

Today's bit from My Utmost for His Highest had an interesting statement:
"We have the idea that we can dedicate our gifts to God. However, you cannot dedicate what is not yours. There is actually only one thing you can dedicate to God, and that is your right to yourself."
This statement could be dismissed as an example of "practical exaggeration", except that other statements that Oswald Chambers writes make it quite clear he means this statement literally. In his view, all of a person's possessions and abilities are merely on-loan from God.

Taken literally, the statement is terrifying in its simplicity. It is much more pleasantly manageable to give a small portion of our right to ourself to God. "I can give up leavened food for Passover." "I can not do this fun activity to get important work done." Etc. But making bargains with ourselves is a part of dieting, not spiritual maturity.

Sunny Monday

Today is sunny, and seems to have fewer allergens in the air than the latter half of last week, so I got to ride my bike around town when I did some of my errands. But I did use the car to pick up the lawnmower from the shop that sharpened its blades.

Mondays usually have a prayer meeting, but today that was canceled. So since I was near Westmoreland Park I did disc golf with a friend. I'm terrible at disc golf -- he did as well as I did using an absurdly light frisbee that was in terrible condition.

Monday afternoon: time for some ministry-related phone calls. No time for games.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Superb Chocoalatey Ice Cream

Did I say ice cream? A family with three little kids is coming over for dessert tonight. So I had little choice today but to make ice cream. Really.

In a medium saucepan combine:
  • 1 cup sugar (use a 1-cup measuring cup)
  • 1 1/2 cup skim milk (use a 1/2-cup measuring cup)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch (use a 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
While these are heating on medium-high, beat in the 1-cup measuring cup
  • 1 egg
Whisk the mixture as it simmers 1 minute. Then very slowly add some to the egg, whisking as you go so you do not get egg drop soup. Once the egg has successfully heated, dump that measuring cup back into the rest of the mixture.

Cook the mixture for 2 more minutes, until it thickens slightly. Meanwhile, microwave at 60% power for 2 minutes:
  • 5 oz of dark chocolate (we use 5 squares of Trader Joe's 70% Dark Pound Plus)
Add the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat. Add:
  • 1/2 can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp alcohol-free vanilla
Whisk again until smooth. Let cool on the counter for a few minutes. Put in the freezer for a couple hours, to make life easy for the ice cream maker.

(This recipe, as with all my recipes, may be freely distributed if credit is given.)

Some Random Links

I had a few minutes today to go through old bookmarks, while waiting for my ice cream to cool. (When making home-made ice cream, you cook it first before transferring it to the ice cream machine. In between it needs to cool.) Enjoy!

- - - - -

Periodic Tables: one and two.

I can see how Photshopping the words to Little Golden Books might become an Olympic Sport.

Waste a little time, a medium amount of time, or a lot of time.

Monday, June 06, 2005



Warm Chores

Today I get a treat. Not only do I have time to bake cookies, but I get to re-read my first novel and do some work towards (God willing) getting it published. Such work has been on the back burner for too long.

It was with some trepidation that I re-read the first few chapters last night before bed. It had been over a year since I had looked at the story. How would it seem, especially following some recent free-time novel reading by famous and worthy authors?

I notice a few typos. I notice one paragraph that needs rewording. But mostly I am astounded. I typed that? I remember well that year of novel writing, being guided by God and usually unsure in my mind what to write but I pray and start typing and...the novel came forth. It was amazing then, and is amazing today.

I also have other ministry work and housework to do, so no nap today.

Healthy Brown Spice Cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. The cookies will bake for 15 minutes on a greased baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl combine:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup brown sugar
Mix well, then add:
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, scant
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, scant
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves, scant
Mix well, then let sit for ten minutes so all the cookies will have the same consistency.

The cookies do not spread much when baking, so this recipe is good for making fun shapes.

These cookies are only 16% calories from fat and they have almost as much fiber as whole wheat bread, so you can eat as many as you want with no reason to feel guilty.

(This recipe, as with all my recipes, may be freely distributed if credit is given.)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Swing Dance Parallelism

The other night at a swing dance lesson, the instructor mentioned three relationships a lead must have while dancing:
  • with the floor - without this foundation the person you dance with will not be able to follow
  • with your partner - even dancing with few steps is fun if you have "connection"
  • with the music - musicality and styling make a dance interesting and unique (as well as fun)
I thought about how the same is true with my spiritual walk:
  • the written Word - the foundation that enables me to have genuine and secure communication with God
  • the living Word - having the God's Spirit in and with me makes life fun
  • the work to do - each week is different because God asks me to do different things; life is interesting (as well as meaningful from having connectedness with God's Spirit)
Moreover, the difficulties are also parallel:
  • it is tiring to be constantly using a deep foundation -- laziness and weariness are problematic
  • when doing a new step it is easy to panic and lose focus -- this destroyes connectedness
  • when in a new situation we fear change and new styling -- the fear of looking foolish has us be bland and ignore the differences in opportunities

Sweet Scones

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scones will bake 16 minutes on a greased baking sheet.
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
The recipe either makes four "drop scones" (balls of dough) or one large ball cut into quarters. If you do the latter you get traditional wedge-shaped scones, but be sure to spread them apart before baking or the interior corners will not bake well.

The sugar and oat bran make the scones tasty enough to eat plain. If you plan on putting jam or lemon curd on the scones then you will not need as much sugar.

(This recipe, as with all my recipes, is my and Ceri's own and may be freely distributed if credit is given.)

A Night at the Rescue Mission

Thursday night I stayed at the Eugene Rescue Mission. Someday, someone will approach the congregation looking for help for whom the Rescue Mission will be an appropriate resource.

The other ministers I network with tend to think the Rescue Mission is the best thing since sliced bread. People I know who consider staying there all claim it is dreadful. Obviously, the truth is somewhere in between, and now I know the details first-hand.

What does it offer? A clean and safe place to sleep. Good food, and as much as you can eat. A staff that is friendly towards first-time guests.

The building is meticulously clean, but ugly. That makes sense. Sickness is bad, but this building is not supposed to be a cozy place people want to stay at forever. For the same reason, the furniture is comfortable but really ugly.

The food for dinner was heavily bread-based: pasta with chicken, steamed vegetables, bread, soda, pie. Someone who is gluten-intolerant would be in trouble. I wonder if the Rescue Mission can prepare alternative meals for people who need them if they receive sufficient notice?

I had left my wallet and cell phone at home, but this was needless. One guest even had a laptop with him. The place is safe if you are careful to never leave items unattended.

At dinner I poured soda for the people next to me, and got surprised looks of thanks. All the guests were friendly but defensive. I had to start every conversation. Extending my hand when I introduced myself was an oddity: I was willing to risk their germs? People took care of themselves; there were few opportunities for a "please" or "thank you". If politeness is the oil that makes the gears of society run smoothly, these gears had long ago worn down to toothlessness and thus vaguely remembered oil but no longer needed it.

Advice to potential guests: bring tea and ramen and a cup and spoon since there is an instant hot-water spout in the main room; bring a flat pillow if you prefer it since the pillows are big and firm; walk or bike there since the bike racks are fenced and locked but the parking lot is not; bring flip-flops to wear when showering.

What can local ministers do to help? Donate some towels; towards the end of the showering they had run out of adult towels and only had child-sized towels. Call local dentists to get donations of toothbrushes and toothpaste for first-time guests.

And I had only one thought of advice for the Rescue Mission: assign bunks so people share only when necessary -- why risk a potential argument among guests ("You're noisy! Stop wiggling!") for no reason?

As Charity Navigator points out in the above link, the Rescue Mission spends more on fundraising than helping people. But as a guest I was not sure what else the Rescue Mission should have spent money on to care for me. I got clean sheets, clean pajamas, abundant food, a shower, and comfortable shelter. Given the economic realities of Lane County, I'm willing to believe until I see evidence otherwise that the Rescue Mission must spend so much on fundraising to meet its expenses.

Finally, a note about the bunk's mattress. It was plastic and imminently washable. Clearly that is the proper priority, but this mattress was soft yet offered no support. Lying on my back I felt like I was in a hammock, and so I fell asleep to the snores around me with the tune from the Pirates of the Carribean ride running through my head, imagining I was on a pirate ship. If there are better washable mattresses being made, the Resuce Mission could use those! But I'm guessing it's not a market to which modern mattress technology has any interest in offering perfection.

Peace and Freedom in Episode Three

I recently saw Revenge of the Sith. It was fun. I appreciated how well the plots of Episode II and Episode IV were connected. I was slightly annoyed at how many times "rules of that setting" were broken, especially regarding a Jedi's speed, stamina, and danger sense. I smiled that the awkward dialog between Anakin and Padme now seemed reasonable since those two were supposed to be ill at ease with each other.

Most interesting to me was the contrast in that setting between two mindsets.

Some people (the Emperor, the Senate majority, and most importantly Anakin) valued peace as the primary virtue. Stopping the warfare was of ultimate importance. Sacrificing some freedoms was acceptable. With peace there would be more advances in society and quality of life, especially in prolonging life.

Other people (Padme, the jedi, and their allies in the Senate) valued freedom as the primary virtue. They recognized that if you gave people freedom there would inevitably be disagreements and conflict, and sometimes war. Stopping the war was important, but not so important as to warrant loss of freedoms. With freedom there would be more meaning to society, especially since only freedom allows loss and tragedy to be meaningful.

The Emporer was clearly evil, yet he did not lie and betray more than was minimally necessary to accomplish his noble ends. The Rebels were less clearly good, since they sought to preserve a stability that no longer existed. Killing a general would put an unquestionably end to a war. Absolutes are dangerous, even though only the good guys believe they exist.

And, as a whole, the six episodes no longer focus on Rebel vs. Empire or Jedi vs. Evil. The tale is now Anakin's Story, and the end of Episode VI is substantially different when the party on Endor's Moon is visited by a small group of happily paternal ghosts from which Padme is conspicuously absent. Sorry, dear, but you didn't have enough mitochloreans.

(p.s. - According to the Ultimate Star Wars Personality Test I'm Wicket the Ewock.)

A Switch from Everyone Letters?

For many years I've been sending out "Everyone Letters" by e-mail to family and friends a few times a year.

Who has time to keep in touch personally with all the friends they have met? The "Everyone Letters" were a reminder and a welcome: I'm here; I'm doing this and that; if you reply to this we'll chat, and otherwise accept my well-wishes and we'll correspond later on...

I'm long overdue for an "Everyone Letter". So I set aside time today to get back in touch with the friends and family who have not heard from me or my wife in a while. And I thought, "Why not try Blogger?"

Why not? A constant problem with writing the "Everyone Letters" is that my life as a minister and teacher is (thankfully) not terribly exciting, but has interesting things to write about happening at least weekly. I'm busy, and there is the tendency to think, "If I wait a few days then I can also write about this..." But of course, in a few days the same situation remains. The letter never gets written.

Maybe short bits of news and quick thoughts about life will be a welcome change of pace.