Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Evangelism and the Apple Store

Alex Frankel worked several mall stores and collated his experiences in a forthcoming book, which I haven't read, its not out yet, but he has a short article at Fast Company. He was impressed with the Apple Stores and their training. They look for passion when they interview. And he was mentored on the job.
I shadowed other workers as they executed the company's three-step sales process. They explained to customers that they had some questions to understand their needs, got permission to fire away, and then kept digging to ascertain which products would be best. Position, permission, probe. All this sets the employee's on-the-job attitude. At an Apple Store, workers don't seem to be selling (or working) too hard, just hanging out and dispensing information. And that moves a ridiculous amount of goods...When employees become sharers of information, instead of sellers of products, customers respond.
Also individual interaction is the goal that sells the product.
Apple does a lot of other things well. Employees are taught how to work together because customers notice when employees don't get along. Apple floods its retail zone with staff because the bottom line suffers every minute customers wait for help. By the time I got to Apple (my last stop), I knew that dress codes (like Gap's) were bogus and uniforms that match a job (like at UPS) are critical. Apple requires staff to wear tasteful company-issued T-shirts and lanyards. Employees also hand out business cards as in high-end clothing stores, an act that calls them out as individuals in a way not typical of traditional retail.
Is there overlap in the methods of the kingdom of God for His church and missions?

Spanish Christianity and Colonialism and Native Americans

This is part of a blog-a-book series on Jake Page's In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000 Year History of the American Indians. I'm curious as to what effect did Christ and his teaching have on these explorers from a devout nation and their proselytizers. Page makes some observations about this. By God's grace, a wise theologian acknowledged Spain's lack of rights to the newly discovered land, but he was slippery too and left a gaping hole in this ethical corral. Additionally, not all explorers felt bound by the philosophy of someone so far away and unable to enforce it.

The Spanish monarch, however, was an utterly devout Catholic and earnestly wished that his country follow policies in its empire building that accorded with the dictates of the church. He asked a leading theologian, Francisco de Vitoria, to ponder what rights the Spanish could claim in these new lands. Vitoria decided that the Indians truly owned the land and, merely discovering it themselves, the Spanish could not claim ownership. Ownership by discovery, he concluded, was only legitimate if the land was already unowned. Instead, the Indians could voluntarily agree to cede land to the new arrivals – unless, of course, a just war took place, and such a war could not be simply a matter of whim. Justification for a war would arise only if the Indians did not allow the newcomers to “sojourn” there, to live there, to travel, and to trade.

This became the philosophical basis, generally accepted by the other European nations as well who were nosing around the continent at the time, for dealing with Indians of at least the Northern Hemisphere. It would, of course, often be ignored by conquistadors and others on the ground thousands of miles from the enlightened courts of Europe. But in this age of rapid European expansion into other parts of the world, this position did recognize the Indian peoples as legitimate entities that should be dealt with by means of treaties, agreements, and other mutual agreements. There were good practical reasons to abide by this, particularly in the early years, when Europeans were very few and Indians were very many, but as often as not what seemed practical reasons for starting a “just war” arose as well. Rejection of Christ’s message was often seen as a good reason for hostilities. (110)

The missionaries and conquerors believed Christianity could only look like their own culture. They believed Christ's teaching was incompatible with different dress, rites, seasons, priorties, too the detriment of the kingdom of God.
As historian Wilcomb E. Washburn summarized the matter: In the first centuries after the birth of Christ, the Christian message spoke for the weak and oppressed. Its message was one of peace and love. The New Testament message might have been understood and honored by the Indians in America had it been preached as it was on the shores of Galilee. But by the time the American Indian came face to face with the doctrine of Christ it had hardened into a mold of bigotry, intolerance, militancy and greed which made it the mortal enemy of the American Indian…The new look of Christianity reflected the changed status of the sect: from that of persecuted minority to dominant majority. (111)

Please read more of my posts in book reports, Native Americans, missions, missionaries, the church, and history.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In the Hands of the Great Spirit by Jake Page: an extended book report

After finishing Blood and Soil I grew interested in the injustice against Native Americans by Europeans. Part of that injustice is the false education I received on Indian history. The Native Americans were no more savages than the warring tribes who overtook them by disease, famine, and outright genocide. I walked down the aisle in my public library where I might find American Indian history and came across Jake Page's In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000-Year History of American Indians. Jake Page seems to have credentials as a former Smithsonian and Natural History editor who has lived among the Hopi Indians for many years in the Southwest. He's written other specific tribal Indian histories as well. He synthesizes archeology, history, and anthropology really well. His writing style is almost conversational, but not informal. In the next few posts I will share some quotes on pre-contact history then highlight some of his research on the interaction between Indians and the church with a few atrocities mixed in to keep it real.
By the way, Page writes that their is no satisfactory noun to speak of Native Americans. He mostly uses Indians despite its geographic ignorance.
Today's quote is from his introduction.
The day before Christopher Columbus sighted land in the New World, a far more complex world existed in this hemisphere than most of us have been led to believe, and it had been here longer than most people could imagine until recently. Perhaps the most lasting misperception of the American Indians is that, in their pristine, pre-Columbian state, they were mostly hunters and gatherers. Part of this picture is also that, as hunters and gatherers, they lived gently on the land in a kind of benign ecological mutuality and in relative peace, until their life-ways were skewed by the coming of the Europeans.

In fact, most people in North America were not chiefly hunters of gatherers but agriculturalists. Most of them by far lived in villages, small and large. They had made significant changes in the nature of the American landscape, clearing plots of land, diverting streams, creating irrigation channels, building huge mounds, burning large areas to encourage new vegetative growth and the presence of such animals as deer. Fire was used as well as a herding device. The Indians were, tot he degree they were capable, engineers of the landscape. Even the buffalo hunters of the Plains had long been constructing clever arrangements of the land in which to trap their prey, and some evidence suggests that they were not always above wantonly killing more than they needed. (92)
I guess things would have turned out differently if they weren't vulnerable to European diseases which killed more than the Europeans themselves.

See more book reports and posts on Native Americans.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Pequot massacre: Blood and Soil

I think this will be my last blog-a-book quote from Ben Kiernan's Blood and Soil. This massacre, the Pequot, happened not 10 miles from my home. The first person accounts below are so graphic, that even most of the Indians who allied with the English couldn't stomach their brutality and abandoned the English. The English reach for support from Joshua's bloody wars in the Old Testament, forgetting that they are not part of that covenant with God, nor in the "promised land."
The Pequots, Mason wrote, were “utterly Destroyed, to the Number of six of seven Hundred” in just one hour. “There were only seven taken captive, and about seven escaped.” Mason was triumphant: “Thus was God seen in the Mount,...burning them up in the fire of his Wrath, and dunging the Ground with their Flesh:It was the Lord's Doings, and it is marvelous in our Eyes.” God had “laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to scorn, making them as a fiery Oven...filling the Place with dead Bodies!” Underhill wrote: “It is reported by themselves [the Indians], that there were about four hundred souls in this fort, and not above five of them escaped out of our hands.” Plymouth governor William Bradford, who did not participate in the assault, gave a similar estimate of “about 400 killed.” Historian Alfred Cave considers Mason's figure of 600-700 dead “probably more accurate.” Underhill published a drawing of the fort under assault, showing 98 lodges... Some were large; an average wigwam may have sheltered six or seven people. English losses were “two Slain outright, and about twenty Wounded” and 20 allied Indians wounded.
All the Indian allies deserted except Uncas. They said the English fighting method “is too furious, and slays too many men.” Underhill, too, wrestled with the inplications of the massacre: “It may be demanded, Why should you be so furious? (as some have said). Should not Christians have more mercy and compassion?” He answered by appealing to ancient biblical precedent. “I would refer you to David's war...Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents...We had sufficient light from the Word of God for our proceedings.” Bradford added: “It was a fearful fight to see them frying in the fire, with streams of blood quenching it: the smell was horrible, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice.” (231)

If you can stomach it, I have many more posts on genocide, human rights, native Americans, history, church, and book reports.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

top 10 blog posts of the week Oct 28, 2007

I suspect my shared feeds at the top of blog are under-utilized. Half my readers don't visit anyway. So here are my favorites for this week.

1-Maryland's 2nd place finisher in the solar decathalon, as reported at Inhabitat which leads with
The second place winner of this year’s Solar Decathlon is the University of Maryland’s Leaf House, which is, as the name would imply, green, naturally inspired, and modular to boot. When designing the zero energy home, the student team drew inspiration from the simple, yet vastly complex leaf. The abode boasts every sustainable system from the obvious high-tech solar panels to a liquid desiccant waterfall to control humidity, grey water recycling, green wall, and even a plug to charge an electric car.
In my opinion, the" liquid desiccant waterfall to control humidity" is way beyond cool (bad pun, I'm sorry).

2-Ben Witherington, who reappears at the bottom of this list shares his sermon, LOST—THE PARABLES, NOT THE TV SHOW— Lk. 15.1-10. It's long, aren't all sermons (?) but the  borrowed anecdote at the end by Fred Craddock is a wonderful picture of paying it forward. How his father had given an illegitimate, outcast child a sense of purpose, God's purpose, which changed that boy's life and the life of his state.

3-Fred Sanders's short biography, at Scriptorium Daily, of R.A. Torrey, the man who filled Moody's shoes after the latter's passing is powerful.
Bonus: Another great short biography on Francis Asbury can be read at the Acton Institute Powerblog.

4-A new blog to me, by a young pastor I met at the family wedding I attended last weekend, Eli Dorman, writes at Invite ONE Evangelism, a great post on reclaiming vision in the older mainline church. His post this week is the Essential Mission.

5-Christianity Today shares results of a survey of 750 Christians who left Islam and their reasons for leaving Islam. What are they? Incarnational living by Christian neighbors, demonic deliverance, dissatisfaction with Islam, and visions and dreams from or about Jesus. These are in addition to the good news of forgiveness, the conviction of truth found in the Bible, and the life of love lived by Jesus. As always, government repression and persecution from family also turn out to be incentives. See Stand to Reason's take.

6-A few bloggers higher up the food chain than I endorsed Mike Huckabee this week. Two I read are the Evangelical Outpost and Between Two Worlds. So does the Evangelical Ecologist. I threw my hat in the ring with Huck back before the Iowa straw poll.

7-New-crete! A concrete mixture that can take a nail to hang a picture, at Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture.

8-A better world through better windows posted at Eco-geek. Unfortunately, the window's owners have an awful website.

9-Mark Galli's editorial at Christianity Today exhorts mature disciples who are bored with the pastor to stop whining and start serving.

10-Ben Witherington strikes again with a fantastic post on life in the New Covenant. Why do most Christians not worry about Sabbath keeping, eating blood pudding, circumcision or bizarre religious uncleanliness, because we are in a New Covenant that may overlap and resembles an Old Covenant but negates all those rules that were peculiar to a people before Christ. Ben explains it all briefly in Cutting a Covenant, and when Covenant People can't Cut it. By the way, Ben is a seminary professor, not an average blogger such as myself.

If you don't subscribe to the shared feeds or visit its page I hope you find time for a few of these top 10.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Modern, modular, too expensive for me, under $200/sf but they are pretty and they have green roof gardens, the pieceHome.

see more in houses and shared feeds.

the Hexayurt

The Hexayurt is more than a tent, less than a yurt, but useful for emergency shelters, festival shelters, doghouses, and fun places for the kids. The adult size can be had for a couple hundred dollars (tape and styrofoam sheets) and a couple hours.

see my other house posts and shared feeds...

audiobook report: Lincoln, a biography by P.B. Kunhardt

This biography of Lincoln was a great one to listen to with the kids on Route 80 through Pennsylvania. It's not a critical biography, but a smitten biography. Kunhardt's admiration of Lincoln is apparent in every paragraph. Apparently, the book contains abundant photographs, which we didn't partake of in the audio format. The audio version is abridged, so perhaps criticism can be found in the text. It's history is equivalent to a middle school level, where mostly mountaintops and endearing anecdotes serve the purpose of the author. Warts were excised. He did cover Mary's spiritualism and Lincoln's move toward a more orthodox faith. He doesn't mention one of Lincoln's earlier solutions to freed slaves, shipping them back to Africa. We learn a great deal about life before the presidency. This was a wonderful listen and I'm sure a wonderful read, just not one to base your college paper's on.

See other posts on Lincoln, slavery, book reports and history.

Friday, October 26, 2007

the Sjodin eco-house blog

I really like the blog of the owner builders of the Sjodin Dream Home in Texas. I found them while perusing Ownerbuilderbook. Their side bar list of an eco-home resonate with me. They also have a half-million dollar budget. I don't have that. They have a great post about the superiority of Swedish designed toilets. I can't link to it as the language is .... direct. You'll have to find it yourself. I find it a convincing argument though. There is good stuff on indoor plants to clean the air of volatile compounds from pressed wood products and the super powers of SIP construction

Other posts on houses and conservation here and on my shared feeds.

British conscience: Blood and Soil

Ben Kiernan is fair in Blood and Soil in his treatment of Christians and genocide. But the ones calling for moderation and peace and neighborly treatment, e.g. Erasmus, didn't prevail against those "sword of the Lord" types, e.g. Cromwell, in England's assault on Ireland.

A moderating influence on English policy was the European Renaissance humanist tradition of Erasmus, who had urged missionary rather than military action and “fatherly charity” even to non-Christian Turks, for “they also be men” and respond to “kindness.” The English Reformation thinker Thomas Starkey believed human nature to be essentially good and the intellect its prime agent. In 1536, he criticized Henry VIII's government for its harsh actions against opponents and urged a policy based on persuasion. However, another early Reformation tendency, exemplified by Henry's chief minster, Thomas Cromwell, laid greater stress on obedience and coercive authority. In largely Catholic Ireland, greater difficulty faced religious reform. St. Leger, lord lieutenant from 1540-51, and the bishop of Meath preferred persuasion, according to Bradshaw, but Dublin's Archbishop Browne stressed control. The archbiship from 1567, Adam Loftus, agreed, seeking conformity however people felt “inwardly in their consciences.”
A more extreme form of the coercive policy won out...In Ulster assisting Sussex in campaigns agaisnt local Scots, his brother-in-law, Sir Henry Sidney, wrote of camping with his forces on Rathlin Island “until we had spoiled the same of all mankind, corn, and cattle in it.”
Despite an expanding military presence and heightening repression, the Irish remained recalcitrant...Increasing use of scorched-earth policies only exacerbated “the failure of the state-sponsored religion to take root in any section of the indigenous population.” (188)
Famine is a frequent method of genocide because it only directly dirties ones hands with soil and not blood as if that somehow diminishes their judgment in heaven.
More posts on genocide, history, book reports, and church.

Pro-life for all ages - Huckabee

Thursday, October 25, 2007

new composite SIPs

This is another "edge of house construction" post. I've been liking the Thermasteel panel lately (and Fortress Frame and Techbuilt). but then I came across a new composite panel that might even be able to use some weeds in its plastic being developed at University of Alabama. See earlier entry on composite fiberglass construction.
I do some of my perusing at Green Building Talk.
See more in houses and at my shared feed.

Japan, Christians, Genocide 1500-1600's: Blood and Soil

The Portuguese Catholic brothers brought Christianity to Japan, and a large group had converted by the 1500's when Japan decided it needed more land and headed west to Korea. There were Christian warriors among the invasion force and their behavior was indistinguishable from non-Christian Japanese forces, as Ben Kiernan recounts it in Blood and Soil.

About 150,000 Japanese troops landed in Korea in May-June 1592, spearheaded by the Christian daimyo Konishi Yukinaga and his division of 18,000 coreligionists. They soon found the walls of Korea's three southern fortresses “so low that defenders on the top were inundated by enemy shot and arrows and had to creep around on their knees to avoid being hit.”
The Japanese tried to wipe out he Korean forces, and massacres proliferated. The Japanese took Pusan in a few hours on May 25. They took 8,000 heads, putting “every one who showed a sign of resistance to the edge of the sword.” Two days later, Konishi attacked Tongnae, defended by 20,000 Korean troops. At a cost of 100 Japanese killed, he “filled the fosse with five thousand dead.” The next day a 20,800-strong division, commanded by Buddhist daimyo Kato Kiyomasa, landed at Pusan. On May 31, Kato took Kong-ju, “putting three thousand Koreans to the sword.” On the same day a third division of 12,000, under the Christian daimyo Kuroda, attacked Kimhae, “inflicting terrific damage on the enmy” and killing thousands more at Seishiu. Pushing north in early June, Konishi's forcees killed another 3,000-8,000 Korean troops in the Choryong pass...Three Japanese divisions had killed 15,000-20,000 Korean soldiers in three weeks. (125-6)
Those buried in Hideyoshi's Mimizuka represented just a fraction of the estimated 100,000-200,000 noses cut from Korean victims and sent to Japan in 1597-98. Many went to establish local “ear-mounds,” which can still be found in northern Kyushu. A Japanses general's war memoirs testified to the burial of 185,738 Korean and 29,014 Chinese “heads.” The Nabeshima clan alone delivered 29,251 Korean noses to Japan. Japanese forces also seized over 100,000 Korean artisans and scholars and perhaps 50,000-60,000 women, and forcibly transported them to Japan or sold them as slaves abroad. (131)
The Christian troops were not rewarded for their acceptance of cultural norms, in fact they, too, were exterminated.

Korea lay in ruins, many of its people exterminated. As if bringing Hideyoshi's legacy home again, Japan now turned inward. In a civil war, his successor Tokugawa Ieyasu, destroyed Konishi's army, with the help of another Christian daimyo and of Kato Kiyomasa. The new Tokugawa shogunate launched descrimination agasint Christians in 1611 and “general persecution” in 1614. Two years later, the shogun orderd daimyo to intensify efforts to eradicate Christianity. Over 50 Christians were executed at Kyoto and Nagasaki in 1619, and 55 in 1622...In Kyushu in 1637, mostly Christian peasants lauched the Shimabara revolt, which the government crushed at a cost of 10,000 troops and 20,000 peasants killed. According to historian, Gavan McCormack, “the last stand” of a group of Christians at Hara castle ended in slaughter by sword and fire in which the army took “around fifteen to sixteen thousand heads.” A “nationwide inquisition” and purge of Japan's remaining Christian began in 1540. Some 600 executions in 1657-58 brought the toll to a total of 3,000 killed. By 1660, “there were practically no Christians left in Japan.” (132)
What lessons are their for the church today? Over and over again, and in a few more posts, we see Christians participating in human rights abuses including participation in genocide. Have they learned to love their enemies and bless them? Have they learned to love their neighbors as themselves and that there is no one who is not a neighbor? I am not advocating pacifism. I believe in the Christian's obligation to protect the weak and innocent with force if needed, but not aggression. I believe in the rules of war, where soldiers fight soldiers and not non-combatants. I think the church needs to expose our sinful hearts and exhort us to love for our neighbors and to combat lies from our spiritual enemy who wants us to destroy each other and our witness. Don't call me a "liberal." I believe in missions and bringing the good news around the world, but I also believe it's extremely important to disciple those who are converted and teach them how to love God and love their neighbor.

see other posts on church, genocide, human rights, history, and book reports.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cinema review: Whispers of Angels

We watched a great documentary on the American route north to freedom for escaped slaves, aka, the Underground Railroad. The documentary has an accompanying website, Whispers of Angels. It is a 1 hour documentary using historian perspectives, reenactors, and readings from era speeches and writings. Of course we learn of Harriet Tubman but more of Thomas Garrett, the wealthy and fierce Quaker below the Mason-Dixon line who helped slaves North and William Still, the free African-American in Philadelphia who connected escapees with friends deeper into free territory after recording their oral histories.

The movie gives much credit in its narrow scope to the Quakers, of whom they write,
Member of the Society of Friends, a religious group founded by George Fox in 17th century England. The Quakers adhere to pacifist and humanitarian principles and reject the idea of dogmatic, organized religion. Believing that God is within each human being, Quakers hold meetings during which members sit quietly or speak their own minds rather than listen to a sermon. Many Quakers on the eastern line of the Underground Railroad participated because of their Quaker value system. It is, however, a misnomer that all Quakers were abolitionists; not all Quakers were involved in the Underground Railroad. In fact, a schism occurred within the Quaker establishment during the 19th century as a result of polarized views of activism. Orthodox Quakers relied on a conservative, gradual approach toward emancipation while Hicksites (after Elias Hicks, a New York Quaker) aggressively and actively pursued freedom for slaves.

The end of the movie also notes the importance of the African-American churches in the liberation of the slaves.
August Quarterly
Peter Spencer was the father of the Independent Black Church Movement. His African Union Methodist Protestant Church, founded in September of 1813, was the first independent black church founded in the United States (Richard Allen's AME Church in Philadelphia began in 1793 as a local church, but did not separate from the Methodist Episcopal Church until 1816). Spencer's church is known today as the Mother African Union Methodist Protestant Church and is located on 9th and North Franklin Streets in Wilmington, Delaware.
Born a slave in Kent County, Maryland in 1782, Spencer was manumitted upon the death of his master and moved to Wilmington. A mechanic with some knowledge of the law, Spencer became known in his community as "Father Spencer" as his particular brand of legal advice, literacy, and religious fervor made him popular. He taught people to read and write and believed in the power of education and religion as a powerful combination.
After the founding of the church, Spencer also created the August Quarterly in 1814, a meeting held in Wilmington on the last Sunday of every August. The Quarterly provided the black communities from several surrounding states with a reunion and religious revival of sorts. Slaves and free laborers were given the day off to attend. Runaway slaves used the Quarterly as a starting point from which to escape and Spencer himself aided in the escapes of slaves along with Thomas Garrett, Wilmington's station master. Before his death, Peter Spencer founded 31 churches and several schools.

Interestingly, the movie makes a point of the oppressive Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. They write,
Law passed in 1850 to render the northern states unsafe for escaped slaves. If an escaped slave made his way to a northern state and found himself encountered there by hunters or catchers, he could legally be taken back to slavery in spite of his residence in a free state because of this overriding federal law. Free citizens of free states could also be legally conscripted to aid in a slave's return to slavery. This law galvanized the abolitionist movement in the north.
The irony of this law is its disregard for State's Rights by those states who seceded based on this very principle.

I have many more posts about American slavery, history, cinema, human rights, the church, and the African-American experience.

audio book report: The Man who Corrupted Hadleyburg by Mark Twain

The introduction commentary on this book noted this book was written late in Twain's life, when he had become more cynical. I don't find it that cynical. In fact, it agrees with the principle that the Apostle James wrote about.
My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. (James 1:2-4 NET)
Now compare this to the introduction to Twain's story.
It was many years ago. Hadleyburg was the most honest and upright town in all the region round about. It had kept that reputation unsmirched during three generations, and was prouder of it than of any other of its possessions. It was so proud of it, and so anxious to insure its perpetuation, that it began to teach the principles of honest dealing to its babies in the cradle, and made the like teachings the staple of their culture thenceforward through all the years devoted to their education. Also, throughout the formative years temptations were kept out of the way of the young people, so that their honesty could have every chance to harden and solidify, and become a part of their very bone.

Of course, the town learns that character that isn't tested is not character at all. The 19 founders of the town are severely tempted by a great haul of loot, supposedly left for an honest person who supposedly helped the benefactor in his time of need. Well all claim themselves to be the helper and all are exposed. In the end, the town learns humility. The entire short story can be read online.

See more book reports.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Audio book report: The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge

My wife and I have found audio books a great way to educate ourselves and our children on long drives. Even adult books can keep the kids minds off of teasing each other. The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge by Joe Starita is one such good book for the road. The Dull Knifes are descendants of an Lakota Oglala Sioux chief who agreed to dull his knife against the whites overrunning his land in the 1800's. The first half of the book provides much background history on the European invasion and their broken land for peace treaties. Eventually descendants served for the United States in WW1 and Vietnam. The overall tone of the book is sadness. How much injustice can a people withstand? The book ends on a note of hope as the oldest Dull Knife gets to hold his newest grandchild.

more book reports

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thanks Geoff - 1st guest-blogger

Geoff wrote some great, stimulating posts for me over the weekend. Soul awakening is challenging concept for some. I hope some were challenged, as I am. I want to go back and put some links into his posts. I always have book reports after trips and I will have a few brief ones this week.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Soul Awakening Part Two

by Geoff Gordon, guest blogger extraordinaire

Rick Richardson in his book, Evangelism Outside the Box, writes, “People need to be awakened to their need for God… to become anxious for their souls… to get more in touch with their spiritual needs and hungers and longings.” In his opinion, effective soul awakening efforts are the “greatest missing link in evangelism today.” He deals extensively with the topic in chapters 7-9 of the book. Especially helpful is his use of Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus in Acts 17 as a model for soul awakening. Paul first comes into their territory and affirms the Athenians for the things in their culture worth affirming. He also uses their language and quotes their poets in presenting his message. And finally he connects their spiritual interest with a need that he understands and can help them meet. Richardson concludes that we can awaken souls when we “Turn to shared universal truth experiences, events in our culture, movies that have become part of our story as a culture. The key hump to get over is to recognize that God’s image is reflected in this culture and that there are many cultural elements or “handles” we can use to awaken spiritual interest and connect that interest to God.”

Another model for soul awakening comes from George G. Hunter’s book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism. He uses the ministry of St. Patrick to the “barbarians” of Ireland as a template for reaching the “new barbarians” of the postmodern era. In contrast to the Roman way of evangelism, which required a conversion to Roman culture as well as to Christianity, Patrick reached the Celtic people by indigenizing the Gospel to their culture. Instead of challenging their culture, he identified with it and affirmed it, building upon the good that was already there: “their religious aspirations, their sense of divinity’s closeness, their belief in afterlife, their love of creation.” In fact, Hunter compares Patrick’s approach to Jesus’ in coming not to destroy “the law” but to fulfill their religious traditions. The Celtic culture itself was full of symbols and stories that became convenient “vessels” for Patrick to use to convey spiritual understanding and experience.

A final model for soul awakening comes from Karl Ellis’s material on Discipleship as an
Agricultural Process. Ellis says, “There is a reason we have not been able reach different cultures. We send 100 people out to reap a harvest but there has been no planting or soil prep.” In his model, after the important step of soil prep, which Ellis says is the practical application of God’s word to the felt needs and core issues of the people (aka loving them), comes cultural seeding. Cultural seeding is another way of describing soul awakening. As Ellis describes it, there are veiled truths in any culture and in nature that point people in the direction of God but stop short of revealing the full story. He calls this the “obscured schoolmaster.” Through reinterpretation, the use of the arts, and thoughtful dialogue, we can help people to “connect the dots between these veiled truths and biblical truth.”

Each of these three models share some common principles. None of these things are radically new and most of us probably operate this way intuitively, but it may be helpful to highlight them. First, it is important to know, and more importantly, to appreciate the culture you are trying to reach. Paul spent time in Athens observing and becoming fluent in their ways. Patrick had lived in Ireland (as a slave) for many years before returning as a missionary after his escape. In order to awaken souls, we must be able to move beyond disdain and judgement of culture to understanding and affirmation of it. It involves going to where the people are instead of expecting them to come to us. It involves participation in the activities of the culture, not just knowledge about them. We need to be able to identify the good in a culture so that we can use those things to point people first toward the spiritual realm and then ultimately toward Jesus.

Secondly, it is important to understand the core issues and felt needs of the people you are trying to reach. This involves paying attention to what people are talking about “around the water cooler,” and listening for opportunities to engage. In cultures that are not specifically Christian, these longings play out in ways that we can use for soul awakening conversations. One example is found in all the sloganeering associated with the Red Sox march to the World Series a few years ago. Many of the things people put on t-shirts and signs had direct associations to the spiritual realm: “Believe,” “Reverse the Curse,” Miracles Do Happen,” “There is a God,” “Now I Can Die in Peace.” These slogans resonated with thousands of unchurched people because they line up with unconscious longings in their slumbering souls. The desire to believe in things that seem impossible is a good thing. The desire to reverse a curse is a good thing. People felt those things specifically about the Red Sox, but they had the capacity to feel those things because their souls long for it in a deeper way. What would it look like to ask questions that began a conversation about the nature of belief or curses? Questions that were asked not to lead the conversation around to Jesus, but because you are genuinely interested in what they think. There is potential for great pre-evangelistic conversations when, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we engage people with the issues they care about. With good questions and genuine interest – even things like baseball have the potential to awaken souls.

Thirdly, it is important to identify with the people you are trying to reach. The reality is that people whose souls are asleep are a lot closer to us than they are far from God. Not only do we share the same core issues: among them, issues of identity, belonging, personal fulfillment, we also share the same felt needs: like issues related to loneliness, stress, and conflict. We are able to engage in conversation identifying fully with the needs and longings of our friends. We share the experience of what it is to be human in this world and so we are able to talk about these things from a place of equal footing. Another important way to identify is to recognize – and to help our friends to recognize – that we share common experiences with God. Whether or not they realize it, God is at work in their lives. Paul in his speech to the Athenians says: He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. `For in him we live and move and have our being.' There is not a living person who has not experienced some measure of God’s grace and providence. At BU this fall, Mako Nagasawa gave a great example of a soul awakening talk entitled, “The God You’ve Already Experienced.” He talked about different ways that God speaks to us through feelings, thoughts, and experiences – even when we don’t realize it’s Him. At Boston College, which is 80% Catholic, we didn’t feel like God Investigation Group accurately described what we wanted to see happen in GIGs. Nominal Catholics don’t need to “investigate” God. They need, like all of us, a deepening awareness of his work in their lives. So instead of calling them GIGs, we called them Spiritual Discussion groups, “designed to deepen our awareness of God.”

Soul Awakening is about opening people’s eyes to spiritual world in which they already participate. The goal is to serve people by getting them to ask the deeper questions related to their souls. How we do that exactly will require ample experimentation, prayer, and risk. But if soul awakening is the biggest “missing link” in our evangelistic strategy, it will be well worth the effort. Ultimately, soul awakening is not likely to be “the silver bullet” to seeing an increase in conversions. There is no “silver bullet.” But with a more holistic approach incorporating, among other things, soul awakening, GIGs, contact evangelism, and seeker and harvest events we can hopefully begin to see more and more people moving toward God at whatever leg of the journey they find themselves.

In closing, here is an ancient Chinese poem quoted in The Celtic Way of Evangelism:

Go to the people
Live among them
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Soul Awakening Part One

by guest blogger Geoff Gordon

Within InterVarsity we have spent a number of years now trying to perfect the art of reaching seekers. Evangelism has been a front burner issue in New England for almost a decade. Yet despite the countless hours given to planning and hosting seeker events, leading "gigs"(God Investigation Groups), and equipping students in personal evangelism, the number of conversions in our region has remained relatively flat. Perhaps there are some fellowships that could be more intentional about their outreach, but on the whole, our low numbers are not due to a lack of evangelistic effort. Innovation and creativity in evangelism will always be critical to the mission, but what we need is not so much a “new and improved” method for reaching seekers, but a more holistic way of thinking about our strategy. Seeker events serve people in the later stages of the conversion process. We need to think just as creatively about serving people in the earlier stages. Many of the students on our campuses – probably most – are not consciously seeking spiritual truth or experiences. They aren’t asking the questions that go with the answers we’d like to give them. More than a clever and relevant way to hear about Jesus, they first need to wake up to the fact that they have a soul.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Two Knuckleheads

First a little history. Here is John Umland, curator of the Umbl0g (check out that hair), and I, Geoff Gordon, your guest blogger, in our freshman dorm room circa 1989. Coupla dudes chillin' out. We thought we were living large with that sweet black and white tv and yard-sale fish tank. We named the fish, Dennis, and made sport of publicly berating him. Poor Dennis. John and I grew up going to church together but at this point in our spiritual development we were pretty stinking lost. A frequent - and delusional - saying between us at the time was: "Man, if we weren't Christians we'd be getting all the girls." It was a convenient excuse for our lack of romantic accumen. The Jungle, as our dorm was called, was indeed a wilderness experience for us. I'll let John fill you in on the gory details. Fortunately, God, as is his habit, did not leave us there. Eventually we dealt with our unresolved conversion issues and experienced the blessings God intended from our Christian upbringing. Since that time, John and I have given significant parts of our lives to Christian ministry. I was called to work with InterVarsity and bring the Gospel to knuckleheads like us who find themselves lost on a college campus. It is quite a mission field. I guess I'll blog about that.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Guest blogger: the experience

No, I have not been asked to guest blog, but I have asked my dear friend Geoff to cover for the Umblog readers while I drive to a wedding in middle America with the family. Geoff's previous blog efforts can be seen at Breadhammer.

Obviously, he is too busy to blog, so be kind to him when he attempts to serve up something every day for the next four days. Actually, he is such a good writer and so witty that I presume new readers will come and be lulled into staying after my return.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

how many degrees of separation...

How many degrees of separation make a prayer request invalid? As a Christian who struggles with consistent prayer, perhaps I'm only making excuses for neglecting certain prayer requests. I'm specifically thinking of those that come through the various e-mail prayer chains that I'm belong too. Prayer chains are good in that they remind us slackers to pray. But I have motivational issues with too many degrees of separation. Does the co-worker's uncle's friend even know or care that I'm praying for them? Ah, is it all about me even? But I had an epiphany at Bible study during work, AKA work-church, today as we read Mark 6.
54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went--into villages, towns or countryside--they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed. (NIV)
Jesus's healing power went out somewhat indiscriminately. Crowds and Jesus and healing. Who am I to be a gatekeeper to the throne? All appeals to God for others seem to be very mature appeals now because they are not selfish appeals. So now I'm more like the village idiot before the throne.

Other thoughts on micro-church, church, the Bible and prayer.

proof of my entomophagy

in case there was any doubt that i practiced entomophagy here are the visuals...
Dried Cicada and Grasshopper about to go down my gullet

See my previous post on land shrimp. I consider this a conservation post, more of which can be read here. Entomophagy does not appear in other blogs that I read so it probably won't show up in my shared feeds.

Effects of racist "laws" of nature

The history of World War 2 can be confounding. The tactical missteps by the Japanese and Germans towards the end of the war don't appear to have much logic to them. But upon reading in Blood and Soil the racist laws of nature that the two regimes "discovered" the concept of racial destiny helps explain poor tactical judgment. Both nations needed land, both nations had initial success against weaker nations, both encountered an immense expanse that swallowed up their materiel and logistic capabilities (Russia, China, the Pacific Ocean). Yet their destiny to overcome as advanced races led to logistical blindness, thank God. We are all of the same blood, that is the natural law they forgot.

see more at WW2, racism, book reports

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Micmac nation

At the local Native American museum I had a great conversation with a Native American artisan who was Micmac (Mi'kmaq). In light of my recent reading on genocide I asked him about the history of his people. I was struck by any lack of bitterness in his voice. He was proud of his nation and its history. The Micmac dominated the Maritimes region of Canada and had much interaction with Europeans in the 1500's with Basque fishermen and French fur traders. According to him, they were not cowed by the Europeans and held their own very well. The cause of their decline was susceptibility to European diseases, e.g. smallpox.

I found this history very interesting, including the tribe's response to Christian missionaries.
The Micmac religion believed in one supreme being but included a number of lesser gods, some of whom had human form. Best known of the Micmac legends are their stories of Glooscap, a cultural hero. Almost immediately after French Jesuits arrived in Acadia, the Micmac began to convert to the Roman Catholic faith. During the early years, the French brought relatively few of their women to North America, so intermarriage between French and Micmac became very common. These two factors bound the Micmac so closely to the French, that they found it very difficult to accept British rule after France cession of the Maritimes to Great Britain in 1713. Currently, most Micmac have French surnames, and they have remained among the most firmly converted of all Native American groups. At the same time, they have also retained much of their language and culture, and their practice of the Catholic religion has incorporated many of their traditional native beliefs.

The artisan I was chatting with noted that the tribe had a treaty with the Vatican in 1610.

history, missions, missionaries

Monday, October 15, 2007

more prefab modulars

Wieler is still out of my price range and I'm not sure if they are green in their construction methods (e.g. SIPs) but the designs rock. Check out the greenbelt and the stitch house.

see more at houses or my shared feeds.

Sand Creek: American genocide against the Native Americans

Another quote from Blood and Soil by Ben Kiernan on atrocities by European Americans against Native Americans. This is one committed by a Christian church elder.
The year 1864 was an election year in the Colorado territory, where whites were settling on Cheyenne and Arapaho land. The Rocky Mountain News sought settler support for the Colorado governor’s proposals for the territory’s statehood. The paper proclaimed in March 1863 that Indians “ought to be wiped from the face of the earth,” one of 10 occasions that year on which it urged extermination of Indians. After two soldiers fell in a clash, 25 Indians died in reprisal. The military commander predicted” “[N]ow is but the commencement of war with this tribe, which must result in exterminating them.” A Methodist Episcopal church elder, Colonel John Chivington of the 1st Colorado Cavalry, campaigned for Congress on his policy to “kill and scalp all, little and big.” On May 31, 1864, Chivington ordered Major Edward Wynkoop, commander of Fort Lyon: “The Cheyenne will have to be soundly whipped before they will be quiet. If any of them are caught in your vicinity kill them, as that is the only way.” Echoing an English officer in seventeenth-century Ireland, and more recently H. L. Hall in California, Chivington often stated his view that “Nits make lice.” (356-7) [meaning “kill the children”]

I blogged about him before. It was from another book report almost 2 years ago. The massacre at Sand Creek cost him any public good will he had up till that point. Subsequently, he led an unsuccessful and unrepentant life.

Read more on genocide, human rights, book reports, church and history.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

25 alternative homes

Something fun to look at. Maybe these are my "homeys?" That question is wrong in so many ways.

see more at houses or on my shared feeds.

heat your house in winter with summer sun

This is a site for eco-geeky people who like the concepts of green roofs, earth berms, and solar collector air pipes running under their foundation. Greener Shelter tries to be completely earth friendly and budget aware, but some projects he discusses seem to have spent some extra dough. I'm attracted to warming the earth every summer so that by the third winter the ground underneath is 70F.

I have other posts on alternative construction at houses and conservation and many links at my shared feed.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pastor as head chef

Ben Dubow is a local pastor who also cooks. He sees all the kitchen lessons he brings to pastoring. It is great stuff.
  • Great ingredients matter.
  • No one is above any task--great chefs jump in the pot sink when needed.
  • Preparation is critical.
  • You have to call the best out of people.
  • Conflict is inevitable and must be dealt with.
  • Understanding your customer is critical.
  • Excellence is in the details--at every stage!
  • You can't micro-manage a line chef. Trust them or fire them.
  • Ultimately, though, the executive chef is accountable for everything!
  • You earn credibility over the long haul and you can lose it with one bad meal or experience.
see other thoughts on ecclesiology and church

Friday, October 12, 2007

10 C's: Minnesota style

from the Point...

1. Der's only one God, ya know.

2. Don't make dat fish on yer mantle an idol.

3. Cussing ain't Minnesota nice.

4. Go to church -- even when yer up nort.

5. Honor yer folks.

6. Don't kill. Catch and release.

7. Der's only one Lena fer every Ole. No cheatin!

8. If it ain't yer Lutefisk, don't take it.

9. Don't be braggin' about how much snow ya shoveled.

10. Keep yer mind off yer neighbor's hotdish.

For more 10 C humor see 10 C's real simple. All the posts on the 10 Commandments here.

American atrocities against the Cherokee nation

As before, this is part of my blog-a-book series on Ben Kiernan's Blood and Soil. Here is an example where even Christian conversion, financial participation with the U.S. economy, and special pleas from U.S. citizen missionaries could not prevent the greed, expansionism, and racist hatred of a "Christian" nation.

However, in 1817 the 15,000 Cherokees remaining in the southeastern United States established their own bicameral legislature and an executive, judiciary, and army. The legislature outlawed further land sales to the United States and in 1827 adopted a written constitution and bill of rights modeled on that of the United States, declaring the Cherokee nation “sovereign and independent.” They set up five schools, while the 30,000 Choctaws and Chickasaws in Mississippi and Alabama ran 13 more. In 1821, Sequoyah invented the Cherokee writing syllabary, into which parts of the Bible were translated, and in 1828 the bilingual weekly Cherokee Phoenix began publication. Cherokee farmers raised large herds of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and pigs; grew corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, tobacco, and indigo; and exported cotton to New Orleans. According to Anthony F. C. Wallace, whites in Georgia came to fear that the Indian, “if left in place to govern himself in his own territory would beat the white man at his own game – raising cotton- and prevent forever the further acquisition of Indian land…It was not the ‘savagery’ of the Indians that land-hungry whites dreaded; t was their civilization.’” Yet U.S. federal courts denied Indians, until 1847, equal recognition as witnesses competent to testify.
The pressure rose. As nominee of the Democratic Party, Jackson won the 1828 presidential election. Georgia quickly passed legislation applying the state’s legal and police powers to the Cherokee territory. In his inaugural address in March 1829, ackson called for federal Indian Removal Act. He told Choctaws that United States “would be obliged to sustain the States in the exercise of their right.” In the congressional debate that followed, one speaker remarked, “What is history but the obituary of nations?”
In May 1830, Congress passed the removal bill, which Jackson signed into law. The removal was to voluntary, yet most Indians would leave only under threat and harassment. Jackson fired the superintendent of the Indian Office, who had favored voluntary removal but opposed harassment, and sacked half of his experienced field staff. The federal government began withholding its payments of existing agreed annuities for acquired Indian land until the Indians had migrated west. The sate governments of the South abolished tribal governments and laws, banned tribal assemblies, imposed taxes and other obligation on Indians, denied them the right to vote or testify in court, encouraged white land-grabs, and sold off Indian lands. Wallace writes: thousands of intruders swarmed over the Indian country in a frenzied quest for land and gold, destroying Indian farms and crops.” Missionaries attempting to defend Indian interests were arrested and jailed, but two appealed their convictions. The Supreme Court found, in their favor, that Georgia had no right to override U.S. authority over Indians and could not legally assert sovereignty over the Cherokees. But in a second case, the Supreme Court found against the Cherokees on the technicality that, as a “domestic dependent nation,” the Indians lacked the legal standing to bring a suit before it. Their “guardian,” the United States, refused to intervene to protect its “ward” nation. (331-2)

The forced migration became known as the Trail of Tears due in part to the high mortality rate during the forced march.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

acknowledging the Armenian genocide; update 2

Original post below updates...
update: post at Get Religion with good links
update 2: Israel expresses concern over Turkish-Armenian massacre dispute at Int. Herald Trib. choice quotes...
The debate in Washington over the World I massacre of Armenians has put Israel in an uncomfortable position. Turkey is a key Israeli ally and one of its few friends in the Muslim world. At the same time, Israel was built in the aftermath of the Nazi Holocaust, and genocide is an extremely sensitive topic....Israel has acknowledged that massacres were perpetrated against the Armenians and expressed sympathy for their suffering. But the government has stopped short of calling it genocide.Regev said Thursday "there is no change" in Israel's policy.Earlier this year, the parliament shelved a proposal for a discussion on the Armenian genocide at the request of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. At the time, Livni expressed concern the issue could destabilize ties with Turkey.
This makes the U.S. looking like it has the moral high ground. I can't believe Israel can waffle on genocide.

Meanwhile Turkey has recalled its ambassador from the U.S.

Original post:
Apparently the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee has approved a bill to describe the Armenian atrocities at the hands of the Young Turks government at the turn of the century as a "genocide." Here is the news piece at Yahoo Turkey blasts Armenian genocide bill.
Just last night I read Ben Kiernan's chapter on it in Blood and Soil (previous blog a book posts). It was well documented but really short compared to the earlier chapters. His documentation included the court martial report of those involved and convicted in the Turkish army as well as government insider statements. The procedure was forced relocation that was interrupted mid-move by wholesale slaughter. Some relocation was by ship interrupted by mass drowning. Apparently some young children were preserved for domestic slavery or sexual exploitation.

The Turks as well as the Kurds oppressed the Armenians. In that time Iraq was part of Turkey. In the current situation, the U.S. is conflicted because Turkey is a NATO ally and provides access to Iraq through an air base. But the U.S. rarely acts on truth when inconvenient. Interesting fact at the end of the report, "After France voted last year to make it a crime to deny the killings were genocide, the Turkish government ended its military ties with that country." France used to dominate Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century, and many Young Turk writings were in French.

Also of interest, part of the Young Turk triumvirate, Enver Pasha, was a military attaché in Germany. Kiernan believes he was aware of the German genocide in south west Africa. He was pro-German and brought in many German officers to assist in running the army.

Previous posts on the Armenian genocide, genocide (general), atrocities, human rights, history,

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Native American genocide - Blood and Soil

This is part of my blog-a-book series on Ben Kiernan's Blood and Soil. I live near the two large American Indian, Mohegan and Mashantucket, casinos. The Mashantucket Pequots suffered genocide from English colonists when they were attacked in their walled village (picture) and the colonists killed all ages and genders by steel and lead and fire (original sources) in May, 1637. This scenario repeated on larger and larger scales as the Europeans spread further west. As in German south west Africa, missionaries who had identified with the nations they tried to convert protested to no avail. Even converted tribes were not spared.
In 1779, Washington [D.C.] had also decided “to carry the war into the Heart of the Country of the six nations” of the Iroquois northwest,” to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent them planting.” That fall, General John Sullivan burned down 40 Iroquois towns and destroyed 160,000 bushels of corn. An Onondaga chief complained that American forces attacking his town had “put to death all the Women and Children, excepting some of the Yong Women, whom they carried away for the use of their soldiers and were afterwards put to death in a more shameful manner.”
During the Revolution, Pennsylvania paid $1,000 each for both male and females Indian scalps. In 1781, fearing Indian attack, the American commander Brodhead recruited 150 Pennsylvania militiamen “who considered killing Indians the same as hunting wild animals.” They marched on the Delaware capital at Coshocton, capturing 15 warriors, whom the Americans bound and then executed with tomahawks. One militia unit turned its sights on Delawares who had become Moravian Christians, but Brodhead intervened to stop the attack. Then, in February 1782, frontier Indians killed a white man, a woman, and a child. Colonel James Marshall, the military commander in Washington County of western Pennsylvania, ordered Lieutenant Colonel David Williamson and 160 militiamen to raid the Moravian Delaware community at Gnadenhutten. On March 8, as the 90 unarmed Indian captives prayed for their lives, the American militiamen beat them all to death and scalped them…The victims included 61 women and children. An observer stated that “they killed rather deliberately the Innocent with the guilty and it is liely the majority was the former.” Williamson subsequently obtained promotion, and never stood trial for his crime of murdering Indians because of their race. (325-6)
Read more on genocide, human rights, book reports, missions, missionary and history.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

German Genocide in Southwest Africa

As a follow up to an earlier post from Ben Kiernan's book Blood and Soil.
The destruction of the Herero proved to be the opening genocide of the twentieth century. Among the three main Southwest African ethnic groups, totaling 125,000 people before 1904, German repression took approximately 80,000 lives in three years, at a cost of 676 German dead, 907 wounded, and 97 missing. The toll exacted by Europe’s leading military power highlights the contrast between the German policy toward civilians and that of their Herero and Nama opponents, who made concerted efforts to spare women and children. As historians Jon Bridgman and Leslie Worley point out, “representatives of the German government” set out “to destroy a whole people with the knowledge and the tacit approval of the Kaiser and the General Staff.” (386)

It was convenient to have the American example in their dealings with indigenous people.

Read more on genocide, human rights, book reports, and history.

morning bicycle crash

Compared to my last bike crash story, which was on a "normal" bike, I find the recumbent a great bike to fall off. I suffered from the bane of all two wheelers, the car that needs to turn in front of you and can't wait for you to pass. A red Volvo wagon and I were coming down a hill which abruptly bends to the left unless one turns into the business driveway on the right. The added complication was the light rain falling that made the road really slippery but hadn't wetted my tire rims. Hence, when I applied my brakes, they gripped really well but the tire couldn't get a grip. I fish tailed and almost recovered. God made sure the commercial truck driver behind me paid attention and he slowed to a stop as he watched my fall. As I mentioned though, the drop is small because I'm already close to the ground. I scraped my right knee but landed on the left side, the side without gears and chain. So I was able to get the chain back on the front ring, determine that the bike and I had no more damage and resume my ride.

The weirdest thing about this morning, is that I left the house thinking on our mortality and how God only gives us the moment for our lives. The rest of the family is on a field trip today. I kissed them all good-bye and told each one I loved them as I do every day for that very reason. There are no guarantees that we will see each other again this side of heaven. I was still thinking on it as I prayed the Lord's Prayer, asking God for His will to be done and to give us enough bread for today. I'm glad His will preserved me this morning.
Lessons learned:
The road is slippery when wet.
Drivers don't want to wait for cyclists.
Drivers will watch cyclists have accidents.
Recumbent bikes are good for crashes.
God is good to me.

My other bicycle posts, and prayer posts.

Monday, October 08, 2007

now for modern housing - the Cube house

This house couldn't be made with sandbags or strawbales but perhaps with SIPs. The crazy thing about the Cube house , by LaMi Design, is its equivalent to the interior of my century old Victorian house, but with, in my eyes, a sweet exterior.

Learn all about my research on green home construction.

stronger but simpler housing

Anyone up for a house made of sandbags? I am.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

99 balloons

99 balloons is the blog of the parents of baby Eliot who was born with trisomy 18. Some Americans believe that a life doomed to imminent death is one not worth starting. Eliot's parents understand that every life is doomed, but every life is valuable because it's a gift from God. Please watch this 6 minute video about Eliot's life and learn why it's named 99 balloons. No child deserves abortion.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

update for feedreaders

For what it's worth, I'm adding some tags through Feedburner, to the footer of the feeds. I don't use Digg, Delicious, Facebook, or Stumble upon, but if some of you all do, perhaps you will share these posts for others at those sites and more people will benefit from
among the many topics covered here....

Friday, October 05, 2007

Interview with genocide historian Kiernan

I'm currently reading and hope to post more excerpts from Blood and Soil by Ben Kienan. The blog of Voices on Genocide Prevention points to an interview with Mr. Kiernan.

See other posts at book reports, atrocities, human rights, genocide, and history.

Old earth, young earth

I came across an interesting article by apologist Paul Copan who is a former young earth creationist, now an old earth creationist.
He takes on Biblical arguments against an old earth reading and concludes
For these and other reasons, a high view of Scripture does not require holding to 24-hour days in Gen. 1; there is greater flexibility, which leaves wide open the possibility of an old-earth view. Furthermore, other plausible approaches-such as Sailhamer's "textual creationism" ( "day" as 24 hours) or the literary framework hypothesis-allow for an ancient universe as well.

Previous posts on creation.....

Warren on his affluence

Tim Stevens is blogging from a conference where Rick Warren spoke. He took notes. These are interesting.
  • The book Purpose-Driven Life brought in tons of money and attention. I had to make several decisions about what to do with the money. We made 5 decisions...
    • I'm not going to spend any of the money on myself. I still live in the same house I've been in for 14 years and drive a 7-year old truck.
    • I stopped taking a salary from the church.
    • I added up everything I'd made for 25-years and gave it back to the church.
    • I set up some charities to give money for AIDS.
    • I became a reverse tither (living on 10% and giving away 90%).
  • I want to make a bumper sticker that says: "Tithe if you love Jesus. Any fool can honk."
  • I had to decide what to do with this influence. I found the answer in Psalm 72. Solomon prayed to have influence "so that..." he could help all the marginalized of society.
  • I learned the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.
HT: Ben Dubow
My many other thoughts on church.

Enoch and Elijah

There are two prophets in the Old Testament who seem to avoid the consequences of death for sin, Enoch and Elijah. Genesis tells us that Enoch walked with God then he was no more because God took him away (Genesis 5:24). Hebrews 11:5 confirms he didn't die and implies in the next verse that he was an example of someone who pleased God with his faith and earnest seeking of God. Elijah was witnessed by his apprentice Elisha as a fiery chariot from heaven carried him up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2). I've never heard an explanation for their exemption from the curse of death. I have heard that the two witnesses for God noted in Revelation 11 are these two who are finally killed by the beast but are resurrected 3 and a half days later and recalled to heaven.
Are there any good ideas out there as to why these guys got a pass? Were they sinless and/or unstained with original sin/Adam's guilt?

see other posts on the Bible, theology, and salvation

Thursday, October 04, 2007

History of the primacy of the Roman bishop: Early Christian Doctrines

How did Rome's bishop become number 1 in the early church. Here is JND Kelly's account in Early Church Doctrines. Previous posts on this book are here Mary, Trinity (a and b), and predestination.
The real framers and promotors of the tehory of the Roman primacy were the popes themselves. Men like Damasus (366-84), Siricius (384-99), Innocent (402-17) and their successors not only strove to advance it on the practical plane, but sketched out the theology on which it was based, viz. the doctrine that the unique position and authority assigned by Christ to St. Peter belonged equally tot he popes who followed him as bishop of Rome. Leo the Great (440-61) was responsible for gathering together and giving final shape to the various elements composing this thesis. His conception of the primacy is admirably set out in the letter which he sent to Anastasius, bishop of Thessalonica, in 446. 'Bishops indeed', he declared, 'have a common dignity, but they have not uniform rank, inasmuch as even among the blessed apostles, notwithstanding the similarity of their honourable estate, there was a certain distinction of power. While the election of all of them was equal, yet it was given to one [i.e. St. Peter] to take the lead of the rest. From this model has arisen a distinction of bishops also, and by an important ordinance it has been provided that everyone should not arrogate everything to himself, but that there should be in each province one whose opinion should have precedence among the brethren; and again that certain whose appointment is in the greater cities should should undertake a fuller responsibility, and that through them the care of the universal Church should converge towards Peter's one chair, and nothing anywhere should be separate from it head.' (419-20)

The minority report believed in authority based on merit instead of location/politics/or inheritance.
Other posts on theology, church, and book reports

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Augustine, free will and predestination: Early Christian doctrines

You think some blog debates get old real fast? Well the "predestination/no free will" debate was old in Augustine's lifetime and he was the one who made the biggest case for it. This is another quote from J.N.D. Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines. See previous posts on this book 1, 2, 3 .
...we should recall his [Augustine's] distinction between free will and freedom. Freedom is free will put to a good use, and that man is free in the full sense who is emancipated from sin and temptation; he is free to live the life God desires him to live. It's first stage, which Adam enjoyed, is the ability not to sin; its culminating stage, to be enjoyed in heaven, is the inability to sin. In this sense not only could there be no opposition between grace and freedom, but it is grace which confers freedom. Man's free will is most completely itself when it is in most complete subjection to God, for true liberty consists in Christ's service.
The problem of predestination has so far only been hinted at. Since grace takes teh initiative and apart from it all men form a massa damnata [all doomed to hell based on original sin], it for God to determine which shall receive grace and which shall not. This he has done, Augustine believes on the basis of Scripture, from all eternity. The number of teh elect is strictly limited, being neither more nor less than is required to replace the fallen angels. Hence he has to twist the text 'God will all men to be saved' (1 Tim. 2,4), making it mean that He will s the salvation of all the elect, among whom men of every race and type are represented. God's choice of those to whom grace is to be given in no way depends on His foreknowledge of ther future merits, for whatever good deeds they will do will themselves be the fruit of grace. In so far as His foreknowledge is involved, what He foreknows is what He Himself is going to do...Augustine is therefore prepared to speak of certain people as being predestined to eternal death and damnation; they may include, apparently, decent Christians who have been called and baptized, but to whom the grace of perseverance has not been given...These [the one predestined to heaven] alone have the grace of perseverance, and even before they are born they are sons of God and cannot perish. (368-9)

Just as people today have a hard time with this so did many in the church, East and West, reject this as the solution to the heresy of Pelagius, that we can be good enough to enter heaven.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Augustine, Love, and the Trinity Early Christian Doctrines

I'm blogging highlights from J.N.D. Kelly's book Early Christian Doctrines, see previous entries. Here is an excerpt on Augustine's wrassle with it.
It has often been assumed that Augustine's principal Trinitarian analogy in the De trinitae is that disclosed by his analysis of the idea of love (his starting-point is the Johannine dictum that god is love) into the lover, the object loved, and the love which unites, or strives to unite, them. Yet, while expounding this analogy, he himself reckons that it affords only an initial step towards our understanding of the Trinity, at beast a momentary glimpse of It. His discussion of it is quite brief, and forms no more than a transition to what he considers his all-important analogy, based on the inner man, viz. the mind's activity as directed upon itself or, better still, upon God. This analogy fascinated him all his life, so that in such an early work as the Confessions (397-8) we find him pondering the triad of being, knowing and willing. In the De trinitae he elaborates it at length in three successive stages, the resulting trinities being (a) the mind, its knowledge of itself, and its love of itself; (b) memory or, more properly, the mind's latent knowledge of itself, understanding' i.e. its apprehension of itself in the light of the eternal reasons, and the will, or love of itself, by which this process of self-knowledge is set in motion; and (c) the mind as remembering, knowing and loving God Himself. Each of these, in different degrees, reveals three real elements which, according to Augustine's metaphysic of personality, are coordinate and therefore equal, and at the same time essentially one; each of them throws light on the mutual relations of the divine Persons. It is the last of the three analogies, however, which Augustine deems most satisfactory. The three factors disclosed in the second 'are not lives but one life, not three minds but one mind, and consequently are not three substances but one substance'; but he reasons this it is only when the mind has focussed itself with all its powers of remembering, understanding and loving on its Creator, that the image it beasrs of Him, corrupted as it is by sin, can be fully restored. (277-8)
Now you need to re-read it a few times. I "love" the love analogy. The Lover (Father), the Loved (the Son) and the Love (the Spirit).

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