Thursday, May 28, 2009

Deaths at the homestead

Since moving to suburbia we have enlarged our managerie from dog and cat to ducks and bunny. We lost a cat this winter, probably to traffic. We got another cat. She was moved outside and has disappeared this last week. Last night we forgot to lock our ducks up. This morning one of the females was missing. My son found her chewed up in the woods. I think we have a fisher cat feasting on our animals. That's a bummer. I fear the knowledge of food in the duck pen will bring the thing back and it will not be stopped by my cinder blocks. The kids are so sad.

update July 1: it came back.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Preach the good news as well as live it

It's time for some true history on Francis of Assissi. Thank you Mark Galli.

Francis of Assisi is said to have said, "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."

This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough—that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it.

The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age.

I highly commend the rest of this article.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

read through the Bible

Kevin (Brian Baumgartner)Image by matt [sucka MC] via Flickr

This Gutenberg Bible is displayed by the Unite...Image via Wikipedia

Came across a great resource to read through the Bible or portions of it in a daily fashion with portions sent to you by email,
They also link to other reading plans. They offer many versions and languages as well. As Kevin would say, "Nice."
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

response to Obama's Notre Dame speech

Why be the first to comment on these things when there is nothing new to say? He thinks abortion is a choice, I think it's a killing. So is the label "killer" unfair or just a grammatical transition from verb to noun? All my reasons can be found here. However, what's my opinion worth? Not much. How about the opinion of a father of a severely disabled child? He has some questions for President Obama.
When do we get to talk about how the behavior of men on virtually every measurable level has gotten worse since abortion was made legal across the United States? Men are more likely to leave women today, more likely to be abusive, less likely to care for the children they father, and less likely to consider the consequences of their sexual behavior. Up to 75% of marriages that have a disabled child end in divorce, and most of the time it is the man who walks away from his family. When do we get to talk about men being encouraged to act like men rather than petulant, irresponsible, selfish little boys?

When do we get to talk about the cultural expectation that a mother is expected to abort her baby with an identified disability in the womb? Doctors, nurses, social workers assume a diagnosis of downs syndrome or spina bifida means a woman should terminate the pregnancy. What do you call a 90% abortion rate, Mr. President? If it were babies of any ethnicity, you would rightly call it genocide. What do you believe about families in this situation, Mr. President?

Finally, Mr. President, you said yourself that "the strong too often dominate the weak." Please explain to me, Mr. President, who is more weak and thus more worthy of your protection as the leader of the free world than a baby in his or her mother's womb?
But, of course, I'm just part of that opposition not really worthy of your attention or of 'Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.' How did you put it?

"You'll hear talking heads scream on cable, and you'll read blogs that claim definitive knowledge, and you will watch politicians pretend they know what they're talking about."

In a subsequent post he sharpens the point of all this, that all humans are valuable because they are created by God.

I am even more concerned that he creates a false dilemma in his speeches rather than addressing the core problem. His policy decisions are anything but nuanced or seeking a middle ground, but he seems to want us to believe he has found common ground.

For example, from his speech on Sunday:

"And yet, one of the vexing things for those of us interested in promoting greater understanding and cooperation among people is the discovery that even bringing together persons of good will, bringing together men and women of principle and purpose -- even accomplishing that can be difficult. . .

. . . Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved."

We should not be drawn into such a spurious argument as not wanting to relieve the suffering of a child with a disease like diabetes. Of course we want that - the difference is that it should not come at the expense of another person's life. (And, by the way, we are against embryonic stem cell research - nobody is against stem cell research that does not involve the destruction of a human being. Another example of not dealing with the issue fairly on the President's part). This does not make it "an admirable conviction." It makes it a core principle of protecting the weakest among us from those who are more powerful and would do them harm.
Or, more graphically, my son's autism, blindness and mental retardation will not allow him to be an economically productive member of society. Does that mean we should harvest his kidneys, liver, heart and lungs for other, more worthy children?

If that thought turns your stomach, you must answer the core question of why - is it simply because his mother allowed him to be born, thus securing his rights to his own organs? Or is it something more fundamental.

The greatest guide and comfort comes from knowing that God is sovereign over all his creation...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Forgive 70 times 7, Matthew 18:22

After a church discipline series, I thought it appropriate to write some about forgiveness. In Matthew 18, Peter tries to show off his graciousness to Jesus. 
18:21Then Peter came to him and said, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times?” 18:22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times! 
The textual note in the NET says, Or “seventy times seven,” i.e., an unlimited number of times. See L&N 60.74 and 60.77 for the two possible translations of the phrase.
When my family discussed this over the dinner table a few weeks ago, one member said, "OK, I'll keep count." Even though we discuss the Bible over dinner sin still abounds in the Umland home. Apparently, the offenses are legion between the children. They might legitimately reach 490 or 77 offenses in a day. I told the smart child that, literally understanding the Bible is good. I also told the child that Jesus was using numbers that indicate holiness and not accuracy. However, I think taking Jesus' challenge seriously would be good for whomever has a tough time with forgiveness. By the 485th occasion of granting forgiveness, I would think the heart and the attitude of the forgiver would be much different from the 10th time.
Jesus calls us to an attitude of forgiveness, the same attitude he has. If one has a hard time forgiving, take Jesus' challenge. Only forgive 77 times, or 490 times, a day. Number 78, or 491, is all yours... if you want it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

G12 churches - abusive shepherding movement all over again?

I was contacted by a reader of my church discipline series who was disciplined by a G12 church. I had not heard of G12 churches before. The wiki article was helpful but the entry at the Apologetics Index was very helpful, especially the comments. It seems humans have a hard time not sliding from discipleship into control. Perhaps, God has blessed those who get kicked out of a G12 church.

new poll shows majority of Americans now pro-life

This is good news, but it needs to be turned into legal protection for the unborn. Here is the bottom line from Gallup. 
With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation's policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans -- and, in particular, Republicans -- seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position. However, the retreat is evident among political moderates as well as conservatives.

It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be "pro-choice" slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

to Obama from: Piper re American honor killing

John Piper's words to Obama set to animation, titled "No, Mr. President. Killing Is Killing No Matter What We Call It.". Full text here.

It's my contention that abortion is the American version of honor killing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

bike review: Electra Townie Original 7D

Since I bought this bike I've ridden at least 500 miles on it and I love it. See my pictures from when I bought it here. I haven't ridden my recumbent since December and it is for sale. The townie is my regular commuter bike. It's heavy and it only has 7 gears, but I don't need that much for 6.5 miles each way with many hills. I only miss the gears on the pedals when I'm barreling down hills. I like being upright. I like riding without hands. I did notice one drawback this morning though while I was riding hands-free. The front wheel started to shimmy. I couldn't reproduce it each time this morning, but it was crazy when it did happen. I think this is the risk of the cool feature that enables the comfort on this bike. It's not a true diamond frame. At the juncture of the downward frame components, Electra welded in a 6 inch extension, which pushes the seat further back from the pedals. Like a recumbent of sorts, I am pedaling slightly forward of my seat, which is really comfortable. But it provides an opportunity for the frame to wiggle since the bendy quadrilateral frame is not as rigid as a triangle. I do not feel unsafe on it, but I wouldn't enjoy a long ride of shimmying. 

With the handlebars so high, it's not uncomfortable to ride with my hands holding on. The high handlebars were part of the attraction for me with tendonitis in my wrists. I can still ride my Trek 7200, but not for very long, as leaning over on the handlebars puts too much strain on my writst. In fact, I took my son out for some mountain biking on that ride. It has shocks on the front fork and the seatpost. It felt very awkward for me to be so far forward compared to the Townie. I could never take the Townie on the crazy trails we were on. I shouldn't have had the Trek on some of them. There's a time for knobby tires, I was in that time, and I didn't have them, but my son did. I admit, shocks are nice, but the balloon tires and fat seat on the Townie absorb a good deal without the weight penalty. It's already heavy. I made it heavier with extra large cage baskets on the back and tire inserts for all the broken glass on my route. Those shards shredded the skinny, high-pressure, road tires on the recumbent. 

I love riding this bike every morning and afternoon. It won't win any races, but I'm an old man with a short commute, so having a bike half the weight would not save me half the time. Despite the negative review I linked to on the Cruzbike, I think I still might like that ride some day. Then again, the reason I have the Townie is because it cost less than $500. 

My commute to work is on the map below.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Blogs I commented on this week 1st week of May 09

Sarah Flashing writes a great post affirming women's spiritual gifts. I need to quote two paragraphs from her post.
Some women, I am learning, are uncomfortable discussing their spiritual gifts if they are not identical to how they function in their roles, because for them these gifts might overshadow what they perceive to be the true functions of a woman, wife, or mom.

Yet Paul had no problem with any member of the church desiring spiritual gifts; therefore, giftedness and function/role ought never to be pitted against each other, especially in this way. How a woman is a wife and a mom and how she serves within the body of Christ will both be impacted by her personality, her interests, her talents, and her gifts. Enabling a false distinction between the two creates a dualism God never intended.

The post is partly inspired by a book review at her personal blog.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

book report: Dred Scott's Revenge (2009) by Andrew Napolitano

This book, Dred Scott's Revenge, might have been interesting if Napolitano did not stray from facts and history and try to argue for state's rights and secession in the Civil War. I thought I was reading a debate book by two authors talking past each other, but it was only one who would defeat himself over and over again trying to be a state's right advocate and an anti-slavery, natural law advocate. The problem with natural law pleas is that what's natural to one advocate is unnatural to the other. In response to "All men are created equal," slavery advocates with popular science at their aid could say different races are almost different species and those whom they consider barely homo sapiens are not equal to themselves. Hence, when Lincoln was elected, slave states knew he would admit more free soil states and upend the balance of slave and abolitionist representation making his view of Natural Law likely to prevail.

Napolitano's defense of state secession ignores the example of West Virginia, which seceded from Virginia, and northern Alabama counties which unsuccessfully tried to secede. He also fails to mention voting fraud in many Confederate states that seceded even when the will of the voters was contrary. I highly recommend Bitterly Divided, which I blogged on, by David Williams.

The latter half of the book was good as it recounted the never ending depredations African-Americans endure, and sets Jeremiah Wright's famous jeremiad in context.

What is Dred Scott's revenge? I think it is the election of Barak Obama to the presidency. The author doesn't actually say, but he is hopeful that Obama signals a post-racial America. I doubt it but I do think it's a healthy step away from our racist heritage.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

cinema review: Battle for Terra (2009)

I have a weakness for science fiction. Cool cartoons with alternative engineering and physics defying planets from directors enable me to ignore lame plots, shallow characters, and black and white themes. Hence, I took my kids to see the Battle for Terra and I liked it. It's rated PG for animated sci-fi violence. I liked the tadpole/amoeba people on Terra, who are kept in ignorance of their self-destructive past by their priests, who, in secret, maintain all the war jets in hangars belwo the clouds, just in case. I liked the crazy space station the Earthlings live on as they travel through the galaxy looking for a home to replace Earth, which their ancestors blew up in a Civil War. It's more serious than Wall-E. I liked the hero who died to save his enemies. That's a nice theme.

However, why is the war-hawk earthling a white guy but his peace seeking opponents are a black president and a female advisor? Why did the amoeba people learn from their war years but the earthlings didn't?

A child might only see the conflict between nature lovers and greedy, land hungry invaders. I saw the white invasion of the americas. Unfortunately, the American Indians did not have an answer for gunpowder, steel, or germs. Someone should write a book about that. Someone did. But one could read anything into the movie. Perhaps a Dutch citizen would perceive the Muslim immigration to their country in this movie. The solution in the movie for co-existence is an earthling ghetto, where they can have their oxygen. But they have their little space ships to cruise the planet with the amoeba people. The movie ends with a pan over the Terran horizon showing clusters of treetops where the amoeba people live and the dome where the humans live. Is this the realist view? Is coexistence only possible by segregation?


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

How to get kicked out of church: Divisiveness

Near the end of his letter to Titus Paul says, Titus 3:10 Reject a divisive person after one or two warnings. 3:11 You know that such a person is twisted by sin and is conscious of it himself. I think this is an example of not applying Jesus' process as outlined in Matthew 18. Perhaps the very divisive person gets one warning, but lesser dividers get two. It probably depends on the scope of their influence. Nevertheless, everyone gets warned, at most twice. The issues of division in Crete, where Titus led, seemed to be over genealogies, quarrels about the law, and need of circumcision in the Christian's life. Paul wants to keep the Gospel the main thing. How does Paul boil down the good news for Titus? Titus 3
3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. 3:2 They must not slander anyone, but be peaceable, gentle, showing complete courtesy to all people. 3:3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another. 3:4 But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, 3:5 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 3:6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 3:7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”
The good news is Jesus saved us from the consequences of our sins, hell, and to a life of good. Paul has little tolerance for those who want to destroy the fellowship within a church by quarreling over stupid stuff. We can't earn our salvation, so circumcision won't help. We aren't saved based on our heritage, so genealogies don't matter. As I've heard well said, God has no grandchildren. However, our behavior proves our words true or false. Earlier in the letter Paul writes, Titus 1:16 They profess to know God but with their deeds they deny him, since they are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good deed. When our deeds deny our Savior, we need to repent.

Is there ever an occasion to divide in the church? Yes. If the leader is leading people away from Jesus and the simplicity of the good news, then get away. If you are going to warn others, make sure you are right, because you deserve ejection otherwise.

Monday, May 04, 2009

bike review: Actionbent JS2-US, for sale

Update 2011: Sold to the LBS in trade for something new. Pictures soon.

Update May 2009. This baby needs a tuneup, cables and tires, and I bought something new. If you are interested in buying this from me for $350 and are willing to pick it up in New London County Connecticut, contact me by email or facebook. Both contact methods can be found to the right below the "about me" section. Click on "contact the Umblogger."

Here is my new bike review from April 2007, 2 years ago. I still think the Huffy Star-Spangler would be my ideal bike.

I bought a recumbent bike last month from Actionbent and have been using it for my commute. here is a picture of the Jet Stream 2, understeering.

i've been a bicycle commuter for years but last summer i developed at work a bad case of tendinitis in both wrists which made riding painful. one day i longed for my old Huffy Star Spangler with the banana seat and the hot rod handle bars and pined for the good old days. then i remembered seeing kids on bikes that look like choppers. soon i was on the internet learning about bent bikes. there are many varieties on the theme out there. unfortunately, all my research was online because there were no shops around here selling them. i figured though, this style of bike was my only opportunity to resume riding. i read many bike forums. i read many websites. this website, the Bicycle Man, by a Christian bike shop owner is very helpful. turns out that bents are expensive. they are a niche product for people who aren't conventional. the kind of people who run barefoot, for example. that led me to ebay. when you search for bent bikes there you end up with alot of exercise machines. but finally i tuned my search to just road bents. i understood that understeering made the learning curve a little steeper to the bent experience. but i also thought it would be the least stressing on my wrists. understeering is indeed very comfortable now.
even on ebay the bents were pricey except for some old bikes and some like the actionbents. this is what i ended up with. i didn't even try to put it together. i'm not up to sizing chain and running brake cable. my local bike shop owner was very helpful. it seems that my legs are shorter than the average actionbent buyer. so the tube needed a few inches cut off. but now i'm riding regularly.
it has taken some getting used to. i'm still slow up the hills. i'm still slower to work. my knees did hurt in the beginning. with the pedals out front and a hard back to provide resistance it is easy to pedal harder than standing on the pedals. i still have some difficulty starting off balance. it is still a little wobbly. and one thing that i realized on the ride this morning. i wish i had extra money to get the bike with a suspension. my ride is bumpy. it's full of storm drains, potholes, frost heaves, etc. and although the seat is cushy, with the warmer weather and fewer layers i feel all those bumps in my back. it's kind of like a massage, but one you aren't ready for. i realized on my conventional bikes, i can stand on my pedals to go over the bumps and let my knees absorb the bumps, which isn't an option now.
therefore, i like my ride, but next time i get a bike i'll get a bent with suspension.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

blogs i commented on end of April 2009

My friend Justin McRoberts came over once and ate peanut butter and jelly at my house with my family. We are tight. We disagree alot over political things, but he is my brother in Jesus and tells great stories and sings great songs. He has a great story on his blog about sitting next to an autistic guy on a flight to Chicago and what that guy taught him about community.

I have another friend who is also a musician. Justin has an acoustical folk sound but Ryan AKA Serious Griggs raps for Jesus. He partnered with a great brass rock band and added his talents which has a great video.

Joe's Jottings has a great post on the difference between religion and gospel.

Friday, May 01, 2009

How to get kicked out of church: idleness

Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica in his second letter to them,
2 Thess. 3:6-15 3:6 But we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition they received from us. 3:7 For you know yourselves how you must imitate us, because we did not behave without discipline among you, 3:8 and we did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead, in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you. 3:9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate. 3:10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this command: “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.” 3:11 For we hear that some among you are living an undisciplined life, not doing their own work but meddling in the work of others. 3:123:13 But you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing what is right. 3:14 But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed. 3:15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Now such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and so provide their own food to eat.
The undisciplined or unruly life gets you distanced from the family. I'm not sure Paul is saying, "kick the idle brother out," and he's not saying, "treat him like a tax collector," instead he says, "treat him like a brother, BUT give him wide berth and warn him." There is some other things going on in that church. They caught "end times fever." Some of them reasoned that Jesus' imminent return negated any reason for keeping a job. Instead they should go around telling other people to get ready, but they ended up being busy bodies, not evangelists. They were leading lives without discipline, a topic that started this series on church discipline, like small children. Immaturity is not too far removed from lack of self-discipline. Paul points to his own example of working while evangelizing. He's a little frustrated that he explicitly taught them that feeding and labor go hand in hand. He even instructed them about this in his previous letter. He told them to warn the idle, 1 Thess. 5:14, as well as to mind their own business and work with their hands as a witness to their neighbors, 1 Thess. 4:11-12. But some bozos in the church neglected all that. Paul wants to bring them to shame, not to alienate them, but to shock them back into productivity.

Titus received a similar instruction from Paul for the church in Crete. In Titus 1 he writes, 1:12 A certain one of them, in fact, one of their own prophets, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 1:13 Such testimony is true. For this reason rebuke them sharply that they may be healthy in the faith. Their problems aren't exclusively laziness, but it was still worthy of a sharp rebuke.

In summary, if you are a slacker who belongs to a church, your church is obliged to warn you to get on the stick. If you won't, then they are to distance themselves from you in order to shame you into repentance. Jesus' return is not an excuse to get lazy. Having a church family that could support you is not a reason to take advantage of that. The church's resources are for people in need such as widows and orphans. He instructs Timothy on this in 1 Tim. 5:3-16. If you are able to work, you should be working. If you are idle, you weaken the church and it needs to keep you at arm's length. Sorry, but you need to grow up, get a job, and act like an adult.