Monday, September 29, 2008

It's Primetime in Iran | Christianity Today

It's Primetime in Iran | Christianity Today:
"The TV studio hums just a few feet from his church office in northern California, but pastor Hormoz Shariat is still a last-minute arrival to his own show. Behind the scenes are teams of phone counselors and hip young producers.

Waiting behind an Islamic veil 7,000 miles away is an exploding house-church movement in Iran, whose compatriots eavesdrop on the illegal satellite programs produced daily by Pastor Shariat's Iranian Christian Church (ICC).

If there is a budding missional community of Muslim-background believers in America, it is the Iranians. These believers' passion is to reach Muslims worldwide, and they are being energized not by the now-grown children of the Islamic Revolution, but by their bicultural kids longing to discover their Persian roots. ..."
I hadn't really thought about what happened to the Iranians that found it necessary to become expatriates following the bloody revolution of the late 1970s.

This article is about a subset of those expatriates -- Christians -- and how they cope with maintaining their identity in a culture that is quite different than that in which they grew up. Along with that, this community is dealing with their children who are drawn to churches other than the ones their parents attend.

The Iranian Christians are also using video technology to help maintain ties with the congregations they left behind in Iran, which often need to operate clandestinely.

There is much in this story to ponder.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Royals End the Season With Dignity

Well, the 2008 baseball season is over for the Royals. They won their last series 2-1 and ended the season with a respectable .680 percentage for the month of September. They spoiled the division-leading Minnesota Twins' plans for a celebration, forcing them to await the White Sox make-up game that now holds the key to the AL Central.

The Royals' percentage for the season was .463, which is nothing to crow about, but considering the September record, demonstrates the rather poor performance over the summer. I sure hope we see some better playing in 2009. It has been a long time since the 1980s when the Royals were easy to cheer for.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Missionary Myths | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Missionary Myths | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction:
"A team from two churches and one parachurch ministry has caught a vision for missions. Members travel regularly to Bangladesh to train pastors, minister to orphaned girls, and plant churches. The needs and opportunities in the South Asian nation of 153 million people, 99 percent of whom are Muslim or Hindu, are seemingly endless. According to the Operation World prayer guide, Christians there face discrimination from extremist Muslim groups. Compounding their difficulties is that despite the country's rapid economic growth, per-capita GDP stands at an anemic $1,300—or $3.56 a day.

When team members share their passion for Bangladesh with American Christians, they hear an all-too-typical response: 'We have enough poor people in our nation to take care of without you going to some other country.' In fact, many Westerners wonder whether we still need to send missionaries at all. ..."
Stan Guthrie does a good job of countering the various myths and misconceptions of carrying out mission in the world today. He makes the case that the Great Commission remains as compelling in the 21st century as it was to the original missionaries of the first century.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 First Congregational Church calls 20th minister in 295 years First Congregational Church calls 20th minister in 295 years:
"The First Congregational Church of Ridgefield has called the Rev. Dr. Charles Hambrick-Stowe as its new senior minister. Dr. Hambrick-Stowe will serve as only the 20th senior minister of Ridgefield’s oldest church.

The First Congregational Church was established in 1713, meeting in a small public house on the Green at the head of Branchville Road. ..."
It's interesting to contemplate all the history that this congregation passed through on its way to the 21st century.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's a Little Late, Royals

I've noted with mixed feelings the fact that the Kansas City Royals have been doing much better than they did, in say, August when they were 7 for 27 or .259.

Thus far, in September, they are 13 for 20 or .650. Their last 10 games show 8 wins.

If they had played in May, June, July and August the way they're playing now, they'd be heading for the playoffs. (yes, I know the season began on March 31, but they actually did reasonably well leading off this season -- .444 for March and April)

Come on Royals -- we know you can do it!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Arrrrrrr -- I almost missed it!

Today is "Talk Like Pirate Day" and I nearly missed it...

It seems that the Cap'n told us we had to move from the promenade deck to the bilge for reasons that hardly make sense, but since when has that been a constraining factor at my place of employment? Actually the Cap'n was told by people above that the move had to take place today. We have been expecting it for a while, but as we looked at the progress of the renovations in the bilge -- errr -- basement, we didn't see it coming this week.

So given the choice between moving and walking the plank, I lost my cubicle with a real window (which I enjoyed for the last four years) and am now in a windowless basement room with a cubicle, no cell service, and my favorite classical radio station can't break through the concrete foundation. I am thankful for streaming audio and gigabit ethernet.

Well, I did a lot today, but not much in the way of fulfilling my job description....

Well, enough bellyaching. Time to belay the talk of mutiny and settle into the new crew quarters.

This is "bilge rat" signing off.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Congress's copyright fight puts open access science in peril: Page 1

Congress's copyright fight puts open access science in peril: Page 1:
"In recent years, scientific publishing has changed profoundly as the Internet simplified access to the scientific journals that once required a trip to a university library. That ease of access has caused many to question why commercial publishers are able to dictate the terms by which publicly funded research is made available to the public that paid for it.

Open access proponents won a big victory when Congress voted to compel the National Institutes of Health to set a policy of hosting copies of the text of all publications produced by research it funds, a policy that has taken effect this year. Now, it appears that the publishing industry may be trying to get Congress to introduce legislation that will reverse its earlier decision under the guise of strengthening copyright protections. ..."
As this article points out, the taxpayer pays not only for the research, but the publication costs -- yet is charged once again for reprints.

A researcher who publish the results of his or her research is often required to sign over the copyright to the publisher, thus losing the right to make copies of the paper for a class without paying a fee for offprints. The cost to a library for a journal subscription is pretty high as well. No wonder the publishers are fighting this new law (about a year old), and are trying to get it overturned or modified heavily in their financial favor.

The existing law was meant to make the results of research more available to the public and this would be a major step backward.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Weather Stuff

My sister texted me last evening and told me that my parents in Houston had their power back following the storm surge from Hurricane Ike. I had been able to talk with them the day before on their cell phone, but they were pretty much in the dark and without air conditioning.

Someone needs to remind me -- how did we live before cell phones came on the scene?

We have not been without our hurricane-related issues in Columbia. This past week we dealt with a Pacific storm system working its way east, and then the remnants of Ike curled their way up through Missouri. Saturday we had (depending on who's counting) up to 8 inches of rain, and over the past two days, we have soaked up the average yearly rainfall for our area.

We ended up with water in the basement, and when we went to get the portable sump pump, we found that squirrels had gnawed through the wire about two feet from the plug. So with a Walmart replacement plug we picked up late in the evening, we got it going on the sunken patio where several inches of water had accumulated. A couple hours later (early Sunday), the Ike remnants veered to the east and left Columbia dealing with the aftermath. And we are dealing with the odor from the the downstairs carpets. All-in-all, a trivial annoyance compared with what people in the direct path of the hurricanes have to deal with.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Barring Yahweh | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Barring Yahweh | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction:
"Observant Jews have traditionally not used the name Yahweh, refusing to pronounce the so-called proper name of God out of respect, or to be sure they do not misuse it. Now neither will Roman Catholics, at least in their worship services.

'In recent years the practice has crept in of pronouncing the God of Israel's proper name,' said a June letter from the Vatican. 'As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: Adonai, which means 'Lord.'' In August, U.S. bishops were directed to remove Yahweh from songs and prayers.

Protestants should be following their lead, said Carol Bechtel, professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. 'It's always left me baffled and perplexed and embarrassed that we sprinkle our hymns with that name,' she said. 'Whether or not there are Jewish brothers and sisters in earshot, the most obvious reason to avoid using the proper and more personal name of God in the Old Testament is simply respect for God.' ..."
An interesting theological dilemma...

Do we go with the familiarity that goes along with knowing God in the flesh, or do we keep our distance?

I have to admit that I have never been comfortable using "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" in conversation or prayer. But I haven't gone so far as some who abbreviate God as "G-d". I tend to use "Lord" (which is how the NIV generally denotes the Hebrew consonants YHWH), and I tend to use "Jesus" instead of "Christ."

Why -- Jesus became one of us, and it somehow somehow seems right to call him by his given name rather than his title. I am conflicted about how to refer to the Lord, though. Jesus called him "Abba" or "Daddy", but it is hard to imagine being on a first-name basis with the Creator. I admit it isn't quite rational, but it is the way I feel.

In any case, the reasons given by Carol Bechtel regarding causing offense to our Jewish brothers and sisters is reason ehough to exercise a little sensitivity to others.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001

In my capacity as lead roundtable commissioner for our Boy Scout district I wrote this as an opening for today's monthly meeting of adult leaders:

Good evening, and welcome to Roundtable.

It has been seven years to the day since the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was our regularly scheduled Roundtable at St. Andrews Lutheran Church, and the anniversary of those horrifying events falls once again on the day of Roundtable.

I think we were all in a state of shock, sadness, and anger that day and in the following days, but those of us who were Scout leaders soon remembered the importance of what we were called to do. We redoubled our efforts to be effective leaders as we provided a program that helped boys make the transition to manhood. This Scouting program has aims in three areas: character development, citizenship training, and physical and mental fitness.

The boys who were 11-17 years old in 2001 are now men ranging from 18-24. They are in college or beginning a career, or they may be starting a family. And some have taken the lessons they learned as Scouts and enlisted in the military.

Why would a young man choose such a path? We do not have a draft. They could stay in school, work at their jobs, or remain with their families – all valid choices – and the lessons they learned in Scouting would still serve them well.

But there are other lessons they learn as Scouts, and among them is that their freedom was purchased at a price paid by their forebears, and that to remain free also has its cost. Accordingly, some chose a path that is neither easy nor safe. They have helped provide humanitarian relief in natural disasters. They have provided logistical support for such scouting events as jamborees. They have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And some have paid the ultimate price in service to freedom and their country.

Regardless of how we may feel as individuals about our country’s war on terrorism, we can all be united in our gratitude, respect, and admiration for the boys we saw grow into men over the past decade. And we can feel confident that whatever the circumstances that life dishes out to us, the boys who were in Boy Scouts are well-prepared to meet those challenges.

Scouting makes a difference!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Scientists start world's biggest physics experiment | Science | Reuters

Scientists start world's biggest physics experiment | Science | Reuters:
"GENEVA (Reuters) - International scientists celebrated the successful start of a huge particle-smashing machine on Wednesday aiming to recreate the conditions of the 'Big Bang' that created the universe.

Experiments using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the biggest and most complex machine ever made, could revamp modern physics and unlock secrets about the universe and its origins. ..."
Well, we're still around. Unless the view from inside a black hole is the same as the real world...

Of course, this was just a one-way acceleration of protons. The fun stuff will take place in the weeks and months to come when they will actually "cross the beams."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Caesar's Sectarians | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Caesar's Sectarians | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction:
"The state of Colorado wants to encourage religious people to get an education and participate fully in democracy. For example, it provides scholarships even to residents who want to attend a private religious college in the state. You can use them at the Jesuits' Regis University or the Methodists' University of Denver.

Then again, you can't use them at the Buddhists' Naropa University or at Colorado Christian University (CCU), a nondenominational evangelical school."
"In short, as Judge Michael McConnell wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel, "the Colorado exclusion expressly discriminates among religions, allowing aid to 'sectarian' but not 'pervasively sectarian' institutions, and it does so on the basis of criteria that entail intrusive governmental judgments regarding matters of religious belief and practice." ..."
Hmmm. It sounds like the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals is looking at not only the First Amendment Establishment Clause, but the Free Exercise Clause as well:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The Colorado Legislature, reacting to a Supreme Court ruling, and set up six tests from distinguishing "sectarian" from "pervasively sectarian", and it was these tests that seemed to encroach on belief and practice.

I can think of at least one Presbyterian College in central Kansas that would have been denied scholarship money on the basis of this overturned law, and another Presbyterian College in central Missouri that would have been OK.
According to this Christianity Today editorial, the state of Colorado is not going to appeal.

Microsoft patents 'Page Up' and 'Page Down' -

Microsoft patents 'Page Up' and 'Page Down' -
"Microsoft has been granted a patent on 'Page Up' and 'Page Down' keystrokes.

The software giant applied for the patent in 2005, and was granted it on 19 August. US patent number 7,415,666 describes 'a method and system in a document viewer for scrolling a substantially exact increment in a document, such as one page, regardless of whether the zoom is such that some, all or one page is currently being viewed'. ..."
This can be placed in the "you've gotta be kidding" file. ZDNET thoughtfully provided a link in their article to the actual patent (see above).

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Fun Weekend...

Every year the Boy Scout troop at my church goes on a campout called "Aqua Bumming". We stay for two days in cabins down at the Lake of the Ozarks, and run 50-60 boys through a variety of waterfront skills, including canoeing, sailing, rowing, swimming, fishing, and fly fishing.

A fellow scout leader and I taught seven boys who learned knots, how to tie flies, casting, and a variety of other skills that go into fishing with artificial flies. Then we went down to the lake shore and turned the boys loose with rods and reels graciously supplied by the Mid-Missouri Chapter of Trout Unlimited (both of us are also members of these organizations).

Starting off with the flies they tied themselves, the boys cast off the shore and some of them waded up to their waists. It was a good day for novice casters -- no wind to speak of and no one got into major difficulties with snags or knotted leaders. The major problems were the wakes from the powerboats that went by on regular intervals as well as the fact that we really weren't fishing in good habitat.

In spite of all that, four of the boys caught bluegill on the flies they tied themselves. Most of the boys had caught fish before on bait and spincast rods, but catching a fish with a fly rod was definitely a thrill for them, and doubly so because it was on a fly they tied themselves.

We'll be taking the boys to a farm pond near Columbia to finish the merit badge. The fish there don't get a lot of angling pressure, so they should get a chance to catch both bluegill and bass on a fly rod.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Busted! By My Own Mother....

Mea culpa.

I got a call on my cell phone today from my mother in Houston wanting to know if I was OK. It seems like she noticed a drop-off in blogging over the past week and she was concerned that I was feeling under the weather.

I assured her that I was feeling just fine, and that I really didn't have much to say.

Her response: "That doesn't seem to stop other bloggers from blogging..."

Actually, I started a posting a few days ago and deleted it before I hit the "publish" button. It concerned a 17 year old girl who was, in turn, accused of having a child 4 months ago and having her mother claim it as her own. When that was shown to be demonstrably false, it then turned out that she was, indeed, 5 months pregnant, and the press had a field day. A 17 year old girl who had been facing the consequences of her choices in the context of a loving family and small community was now a nationwide object of scorn and ridicule. This speaks most eloquently regarding the character of those in the media and political realm who feel a young girl is expendable when there is an election to be won. And people wonder why I dread years evenly divisible by 4....

OK. I got that off my chest.

And I hope this is the last time I stick my nose into the stench of politics.