Friday, May 28, 2010

More on the Cub Cadet

Well, the belt didn't fit—at first. We put it on and it was too loose. My neighbor is more familiar with older Cubs, so at first he didn't know where to adjust the tension. But, we figured it out (some of you probably already knew and were wondering at my ignorance!); it is a pair of bolts on the front of the tractor that moves the whole deck forward and backward. So, I could theoretically use any belt between 59.5" and 61".

We got it running, and it was going along fine; it looked like I would get the lawn mowed before dark. But, suddenly there was a heartbreaking "CLUNK!" and the deck stopped. I quickly shut off the mower and looked underneath, expecting to see a broken belt. Nope, the belts were fine (sigh of relief). Oops! (groan!), the pulley assembly seems to have come apart. I took the deck off—I'm getting pretty good at that!—and saw that the pulley support shaft bolt had stripped out and the bearings were destroyed; there were little ball bearings all over the top of the deck.

My neighbor graciously allowed me to borrow his lawn tractor to finish the yard. When I returned it, we talked for about 45 minutes. So, your prayers were answered, just not in a way that I expected! Now, what to do about the mower...the replacement part is over $100! I don't think the tractor is worth the expense. Maybe I should just give it to my neighbor to play and tinker with, after all, he loves playing with them.

Get the facts straight, would you?

This one is making the rounds today. Apparently the hate-monger of the year, Mr. Glenn Beck, has opened his mouth about the Dead Sea Scrolls. You can see the video here; maybe not, though. I don't think I embedded it correctly. If not, you can see it here or here. You can also read the transcript here and here, and probably some other places.

<idle musing>
I really can't add anything to what the others have said. But, I will affirm that all of their criticisms of his misuse of the facts are correct. Please, people, check the facts. Don't fall for the hype of the talking heads—on either side of the aisle! And, especially don't believe what they say about the ancient world without checking it. Once you check it, you will usually find that it is incorrect. Now, what does that say about their use of facts in the present? You draw the conclusions...

But, even though I find the playing free and loose with the facts a problem, what bothers me even more is the hate that spews forth. The only thing sacred to the talking heads is their own ego. Facts? If they don't fit, modify them! Love? That's for sissies! Peace? Sure, on their terms! Jesus? Sure, he can come along—as long as I can make him fit my agenda!
</idle musing>

It's a matter of perspective

“Postcolonial approaches to Joshua and to other narratives of the Old Testament have helpfully drawn attention to the terrible ways in which some biblical narratives might be misused, such as by Puritan emigrants to America, and have helpfully forced interpreters to reengage with the texts and the frames of reference in which they are read and appropriated. But postcolonial readings in themselves often fail to be good readings of biblical texts such as Joshua inasmuch as they encourage the adoption of a readerly stance that is not fitting for the text—Joshua exists to shape and challenge identity from the perspective and context of one who is inside the community for whom the text is valued, and not for those outside. In other words, for the perspective of the insider, Joshua provides a searching challenge to attitudes towards outsiders such as Rahab, thus in fact encouraging openness and embrace of ‘the other’, as well as a searching challenge to the behaviour and attitudes of insiders (Achan). Postcolonial readings in which Joshua is read from a Canaanite perspective only seem to find in the story of Rahab the story of a colluder with imperialism, or a traitor...But, as we have seen, this is to misconstrue Joshua.”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, pages 234-235

<idle musing>
A valid critique of post-colonial readings, but also an important reminder that the Bible has been misused for nationalistic purposes far too often.
</idle musing>

Eat this book?

As a bookseller, there are many sites I follow. Sometimes, I see something that really strikes me as odd. Today was one of those days. I believe in ingesting and digesting knowledge, but this is going a bit too far...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lawn tractor woes

When we first bought the place we are at now, about 2.5 years ago, I didn't own a lawnmower. That could be a problem with 2 acres to mow :) But, a friend of ours loaned me an International Harvester Lo-boy tractor with a 60 inch belly mower. I used that most of the first summer until some other friends let us know about a 1991 Cub Cadet 1320 tractor for sale. I have been using it ever since.

There were a few problems with it, however. I found out after buying it that the generator didn't work. No problem! I'll just charge it every now and then...until I forgot. But, it worked. I finally had to buy a new battery this week, though. We did find out what the problem is: the magnets had broken free from the flywheel and stuck to the windings. No wonder it didn't work! I'm looking for a used flywheel now.

Late last summer, the two mower drive belts broke. The mower deck belt is no problem, once you find out the size of the belt! For the record, it is a 63" belt for a Cub Cadet 1320; that information wasn't easy to find. However, the primary drive (at least I think that is what they call it...) wasn't as easy to figure out. I tried a 60 inch belt—too big; the blades cut poorly and the belt flopped around. I tried a 59 inch belt—too small; the blades wouldn't disengage. I settled on the 59 inch belt, which worked until this week. I put another 59 inch belt on last night, thinking it would last another couple months. It didn't. It lasted 5 minutes. So, I did some digging on line. Turns out that Cub used an odd-sized belt, 59 1/2! That information isn't easy to find, either; it was stuck as a footnote on some website that I can't recall. Anyway, I ended up going to the Cub dealer in town today and paying a lot more than a standard belt would cost...I hope it works and lasts. We'll see...

On the bright side, this whole thing has been from God. We have been praying that we would be able to get to know our neighbors better. Guess what? They know lawn tractors—well! They have been extremely helpful. I've been over there a few times now; I feel like I'm finally getting to know them. And, they make a point of coming over to see how I'm doing. We'll see what God directs, but it is encouraging.

I try the "official" Cub belt tonight, and my neighbor specifically asked if he could help! I think that more than makes up for my minor inconveniences...please pray for God to be glorified—whatever happens!

Rahab and salvation

Continuing on his look at Rahab and salvation in Joshua, Earl comments:

It is worth developing this concept of ‘salvation’ here, for as Charry noted, it has become an increasingly ‘thin’ concept in much of the Christian tradition, with the focus of salvation being on the forgiveness of sins, rather than on participation, in some sense, in the divine life. However, if salvation is construed rather more broadly and ‘holistically’ as conquering death and entering into life in its fullness, sharing in the life of God, then Rahab’s and the Gibeonites’ ‘salvation’ is intelligible in these terms—Rahab ‘conquers’ the death that awaits the other inhabitants of Jericho, and enters into the fullness of life with Israel, and hence YHWH, whereas the Gibeonites, whilst ‘conquering death’, enter into a life of servitude, albeit ‘with YHWH’ in some sense. The difficulties that might be raised regarding the forgiveness of the sins of Rahab’s former way of life, something that the narrative does not address, are then relativized because forgiveness is not the primary focus of salvation; rather life with God is the focus. Indeed, Charry notes that for Augustine ‘salvation is dwelling in the fullness of God’, and that one enjoys God by participating in the good—‘Augustine pressed Christians … to taste and enjoy God. And since the “essence” of God is justice, wisdom, love and goodness, participation in these qualities is eternal life with God.’ In other words, perhaps one can construe salvation in terms of participation in these qualities, qualities that are, in some sense, demonstrated in Rahab.Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, pages 227-228

<idle musing>
I like that definition of salvation; it is much "thicker" and fuller than the simple "forgive-me-for-my-sins, but-let-me-go-on-sinning" version that seems all too common.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

That division between justification and sanctification again

“We also see a wedge driven between justification and sanctification, something that is alien to the theologians we have considered prior to Calvin, as well as a loss of the sense of salvation as participation in the life of the Godhead.
“Indeed, in the intellectual climate of modernity generally, there is a rise in concern with the cognitive dimensions of faith as belief and as a mental act, and a corresponding erosion of an epistemology based upon participation in the Godhead.”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, page 224

<idle musing>
I just read the foreword to the new Bonhoeffer biography from Thomas Nelson; Timothy Keller wrote the foreword, but unfortunately, it is Flash™, so I can't paste an excerpt (go there to read it—you really should; it is preview pages 14-15). Keller highlighted the dichotomy in German theology at the time between justification and sanctification; he sees the same tendencies here. The result is cheap grace, which really isn't grace at all...
</idle musing>

How does the garden grow?

We put drip irrigation in the greenhouse late last week. It sure beats using the watering can every night! Now that it has gotten warmer, I was emptying a 2-gallon watering can 3 times just to try to keep things somewhat wet. I ended up losing 8 Roma tomato plants to the dessication the heat caused. I replanted the seeds, but that puts us behind about 3-4 weeks. Oh well, that's what a greenhouse is for at the end of the season :)

Over the weekend, it got into the mid to upper-80s F, and it looks to be that way all this week. So, I took the ends off the greenhouse for the summer. I figure I'll take the top off in about mid-June. (By the way, for those of you who follow this via RSS, I changed my profile picture to show the greenhouse and some of the garden.)

I ate the last of the cold frame radishes the other day; Debbie, Jim and Shannon aren't radish lovers, so more for me :) The ones I had planted outside the cold frame aren't ready to eat yet. I'm going to have to work on the timing of that next year. The spinach is doing nicely—I've been picking it for nearly 3 weeks now—and the romaine will be ready in about a week or so. The peas are in bloom now, and the onions that I started in the cold frames have huge tops; I just hope the bulbs are growing, too...

Next spring I am going to put row cover over all the beds until the maple trees are done sending down their helicopters. I think I have pulled a couple hundred maple saplings 1-2 inches tall out of the beds—ok, maybe only 100, but they are everywhere.

Speaking of row cover, I bought some 10-foot long 1/2 inch PVC piping to use for low tunnels. I thought I might try them over the tomatoes this fall, but the angle is too tight. Oh well, I'll cut them in half and make true low tunnels for some of the beds. The potatoes are doing very well under their row cover...

Talk about a bunch of
<idle musing>

Monday, May 24, 2010


“...In a Christian theological sense then, read through neo-structuralist categories, Joshua may be seen as a ‘preparation for the gospel’ in that it pushes the structure and categories of Israelite identity away from a genealogical identity (or at least identity based on an established ‘in-group’) in favour of a more open identity that is constituted by character and responsiveness to God. This implies the possibility of transformation from outsider to insider, or vice versa. The Old Testament tended to deny the possibility of such transformation but this is something that is central to the New Testament and the Christian gospel. Indeed, in the Old Testament חרם, certainly in its Deuteronomic sense, is perhaps the paradigmatic expression of the denial of mediation and transformation, whereas in the New Testament ‘faith’ is perhaps the paradigmatic category for expressing mediation and transformation...”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, pages 212-213

<idle musing>
I always like it when the OT/NT supposedly rigid divisions are shown to be a lie :)
</idle musing>

Friday, May 21, 2010


“Land is granted to Achsah, and to Zelophehad’s daughters. Like Rahab, Achsah, for example, responds well to YHWH, showing initiative and boldness, thus exhibiting core Israelite qualities. It should be noted that these character traits need not be opposed to humility, for they are not autonomous qualities exercised in a vacuum. Rather, they express action based on trust in YHWH’s promises and gift. These character traits display what is required to appropriate the gift. The exercise of these qualities and characteristics is shown to lead to blessing and ‘rest’ in the land, whereas the exercise of covetousness, stealing, lying, disobedience and lack of trust in YHWH’s promise and gift is shown to lead to expulsion and death, and to the ‘contamination’ of the community, highlighting the corporate effects of such sin...”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, page 202

<idle musing>
I like the idea that boldness based on trust in YHWH is notopposed to humility. Why do we tend to put humility in the category of wimpy? Not a rhetorical question, by the way...
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rahab and Achan

“Rahab, when confronted with the threat of חרם, confessed the power of YHWH and that he was ‘with Israel’, and thus that she would need ‘rescuing’ from the חרם. Rahab demonstrated through her ‘speeches’ an awareness of who YHWH was in a ‘confession’ that matched that of Moses (Deut 4:39) and Solomon (1 Kgs 8:23). Moreover, she demonstrated in her actions of חסד that she is characterized by the very qualities that are at the heart of the covenant between YHWH and Israel (2:10-12), despite being a Canaanite prostitute. Achan is Rahab’s foil. He is the model ethnic Israelite, but when confronted with חרם he coveted (חמד) it, and when asked to give glory to YHWH, whilst ‘confessing his sin’, he failed to glorify YHWH (7:19-21). Despite appearances, in Rahab’s case the confrontation with חרם ‘draws out’ her nature as ‘Israel’, whilst in Achan’s case the confrontation with חרם ‘draws out’ his nature as ‘non-Israel’.”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, page 198

<idle musing>
The reality is inward, in the heart and attitude, but we often look on the outward and judge by that. We look at a person's jobs, education, family, etc., thinking that is the "real" person, but frequently it isn't. How does the person respond to God? Only that reveals the true nature of a person.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Joshua 24

“Josh 24 forms a fitting conclusion to Joshua. It shows that it is a book addressed to Israel concerned with the way that she is to relate to YHWH. It demonstrates the need for a positive choice to serve YHWH to be made, and to put away idols and foreign gods. What this means in practice has been spelled out in Josh 23 in homily, and developed in story in the rest of the book. Achan is one who fails to ‘choose YHWH’ whilst Rahab is one who chooses YHWH, with both stories indicating, in different ways, the demanding nature of this choice. ‘True Israel’ is constituted by those who gladly choose to worship and serve YHWH, expressed in living by torah and avoiding various competing, idolatrous allegiances.”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, page 196

<idle musing>
Sounds like a good summary. "[A]voiding various competing, idolatrous allegiances" is still at the hear of loving God today. Maybe the difference is that then the idols were usually visible; now they tend to be less so—but, I'm not so sure. I think we just tend to be less aware of them because we are so used to them...
</idle musing>

This is NOT Cicero

There has been an abundance of places on the Internet quoting something supposedly written by Cicero, but not. Here's the quote:

Antonius heartily agreed with him [sc. Cicero] that the budget should be balanced, that the Treasury should be refilled, that the public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of the generals should be tempered and controlled, that assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt, that the mobs should be forced to work and not depend on government for subsistence, and that prudence and frugality should be put into practice as soon as possible.

It is actually from A Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell; it can be found on page 483 of the 1965 edition published by Doubleday (Garden City, NY.)

Help stamp out the misattribution by posting this, or linking to it, or something. The whole concept expressed in the quote is not a classical idea, especially not a Ciceronian one! If enough people link to the correct attribution, Google will become our friend and the world will have peace—ok, not really, but I mean it about eliminating the bogus Cicero attribution

Monday, May 17, 2010

Doing and undoing

“By commencing the speech in [Joshua] 24:2-13 with the story of Abraham who worshipped other gods, but whom YHWH led out from the land beyond the river, and concluding the speech with Israel’s safe possession of the promised land, all at YHWH’s initiative, it shows YHWH’s favour and gracious calling of Israel; she owes her existence entirely to him. But, rhetorically speaking, precisely because of this ‘grace’, the possibility of a reversal is implied; this sequence of events can be ‘undone’ by YHWH too. Choosing YHWH and serving him (24:14ff) is the response that will be sought, a response that will lead to continued enjoyment of and blessing in the land, whereas choosing to worship idols and other gods will lead to an ‘undoing’, a return to the worship of other gods ‘beyond the river’, outside the land, where Abraham started. Indeed, Abraham is described as living ‘beyond the river’ (בטבר המהר) (24:2), i.e., ‘on the other side’, a notion that has key symbolic significance in Joshua, as we have seen. Those ‘on the other side’ are the ‘outsiders’, whilst those living in the land symbolize the insiders, that is, those who belong to true Israel. Joshua suggests that what makes people ‘outsiders’ here is serving other gods, which is precisely what Joshua has warned Israel against previously (23:16). Thus in 24:2-13, YHWH brings Abraham into Canaan, in other words he bestows upon him the status of an ‘insider’, whilst the description of the Amorites as living ‘on the other side of the Jordan’ (24:8) links them with those who lived ‘on the other side of the river’ as outsiders.226 Thus the characteristics of the insider and outsider are displayed; Abraham is the paradigmatic (or symbolic) ‘insider’, who chose to follow God’s call, whilst the Amorites are the paradigmatic outsiders. By knowing something of the characteristics of Abraham and the Amorites one discovers what insiders and outsiders are like, and thus, positively and negatively, what Israelites ought to be like.

“...what is stressed here is YHWH’s gracious unilateral action on behalf of Israel. For accompanying this is the implication that YHWH can simply ‘undo’ what he has established and return Israel to a pre-Abrahamic existence. This is powerful rhetoric that calls for Israel’s response in what follows. Whatever Israel has done or failed to do before, here, now is the point where response and mutual commitment enters. For if Israel does not respond appropriately now then ‘I’ (YHWH) will return you to a ‘pre-Abrahamic’ existence. So perhaps Israel is to see herself ‘as Abraham’ here; Israel is to respond to God as Abraham did. Moreover, with the book of Joshua set in a scenario of conquest then perhaps there is a sense in which the narrative evokes a picture in which the kind of things that happened in the conquest will happen in reverse to Israel if they forsake YHWH.”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, pages 193-194

<idle musing>
I don't know about you, but I want to be on the right side of the Jordan! And, all it takes is responding to the free grace of God in Jesus! Too easy!
</idle musing>


For those of you who don't know Greek, that means the fear of foreigners—a fear that seems to be rampant right now. But, it seems for all the fear mongering, the net affect of illegal immigrants is actually positive! Jim West quotes from a Newsweek article that crunches the numbers. Now, last time I checked, Newsweek wasn't listed among those "evil, liberal media rags" like Time, but this might have it make the list :)

Oh, by the way, have you recently checked to see who the largest media mogul is? I'll give you a hint, it isn't a liberal, or even a middle-of-the-road billionaire; it is the ultra-conservative owner of Fox and company, Rupert Murdoch. So much for the liberal media brainwashing conspiracy.

On that note, I think maybe it would be nice to read a bit of Isaiah:
  “Do not call conspiracy
everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.
The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread. —Isaiah 8:12-13

<idle musing>
Would that all people would fear YHWH instead of being afraid of their own shadow!

It would be good to bear in mind that every non-Native American was once an immigrant on these shores...
</idle musing>

Friday, May 14, 2010

Appearance versus reality

“Hence this story [building of the altar in Joshua 22] is similar to those of Rahab and Achan. Despite appearances, and conventional understanding, Rahab reflects the true Israelite, unlike Achan; despite appearances and conventional understanding, it is the Cisjordanian action that threatens God’s wrath, not the Transjordanian action. Moreover, whilst Rahab and Achan’s stories indicate that issues of ethnicity are not finally determinative for Israelite identity, so Josh 22 indicates that geography and land are not finally determinative either. The story of Josh 22 indicates the priority of doxalogical response to YHWH, and Israel’s unity.” —Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, page 182

<idle musing>
I like this insight! "Doxalogical response to YHWH" is exactly how we should respond as Christians.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Boldness in Joshua and the NT

“Such characteristics of boldness and initiative taking are echoed in the Christian context, but in a different key. In Heb 4:16 Christians are encouraged to ‘approach the throne of grace with boldness’, and bold initiative taking is exemplified in the Canaanite woman who greatly impresses Jesus with her faith (Matt 15:21-28). In other words, the New Testament and the Christian perspective of ‘faith’ offers an important lens through which to interpret Joshua in a new context, a context in which the symbolic connotations of the land, and its possession as inheritance are developed yet further.” —Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, page 175

<idle musing>
I'm not totally comfortable with this, and I'm not sure why. Can somebody else chime in here?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Another sale

Yep, another sale to add to the May sale. This one is on selected Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project books. Here's the skinny:

For the next 10 days, Eisenbrauns offers you a chance to
save 20% on selected titles from the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus
Project. Specifically, titles in the Melammu Symposium and
Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire series, plus two others.

To go directly to the weekly sale, click on this link:
"Assyria 1995: Proceedings of the 10th Anniversary Symposium
of the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, Helsinki,
September 7 - 11, 1995"
Edited by Simo Parpola and Robert M. Whiting
Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project - NATCP, 1997. Paper. English.
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"The Mechanics of Empire: The Northern Frontier of Assyria
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by Bradley J. Parker
Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project - NATCP, 2001. Paper. English.
ISBN: 951459052X
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"The Heirs of Assyria: Proceedings of the Opening Symposium of
the Assyrian and Bablyonian Intellectual Heritage Project Held
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Melammu Symposia - MS 1
Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project - NATCP, 2000. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9514590430
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"Mythology and Mythologies: Methodological Approaches to Inter-
cultural Influences: Proceedings of the Second Annual Symposium
of the Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project Held
in Paris, France, October 4-7, 1999"
Edited by Robert M. Whiting
Melammu Symposia - MS 2
Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project - NATCP, 2001. Paper. English.
ISBN: 951459049X
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"The Prosopography Neo-Assyrian Empire, volume 1, part 1: A
(Names Beginning with A)"
Edited by Karen Radner
Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire - PNA 1/1
Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project - NATCP, 1998. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9514581636
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"The Prosopography Neo-Assyrian Empire, volume 1, part 2: B - G"
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Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire - PNA 1/2
Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project - NATCP, 1999. Paper. English.
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"The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Volume 2, Part 1: H - K"
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Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project - NATCP, 2000. Paper. English.
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"The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Volume 2, Part 2: L - N"
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"The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Volume 3, Part 1: P - S
Edited by Heather D. Baker
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Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project - NATCP, 2002. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9514590562
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Initiative in Joshua

After a hiatus of about a week, I am resuming my excerpts from Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture again:

“...when the people of Joseph complain about their lack of land (17:14), Joshua’s response is to suggest that they boldly take more land. But it is land that is, they complain, associated with Rephaim, and with Canaanites with iron chariots. Their complaint here contrasts them with Caleb (possibly reflecting Num 13); Caleb went up against the Anakim and the large cities, whereas the Josephites are afraid to go up against the Rephaim and iron chariots. They lack the boldness and courage that should be exercised in the light of YHWH’s promise to possess the land. The story ends on a rather ambiguous note; Joshua gives them reassurance that they can do it—but will they?”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, page 174

<idle musing>
They have the promise in their hand, but they are afraid to step out of their comfort zone. Sounds only too familiar, doesn't it? God promise, we doubt. But, not Caleb, he took the promises and went after the reward—and obtained it. Would that we would all do the same with the promises we have been given...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thoughts from afar

A collection of interesting posts from the last few days or so...

Robin Parry with a quote from Barth about the creations of humanity, including technology:

In simplifying and easing his life, they also complicate it and make it more difficult. They take away his little anxieties but create new and bigger ones. They seem to promise courage and a greater zest for life, but increased worry about life is the fulfillment of their promise. (CL, 228)

Ted Gossard reviews Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?:

Karen has strong words of her own to say in a few places in the book. Against the prosperity gospel which flies in the face of not only reality, but the pages of Scripture and of Jesus’ life. Against the American sense of entitlement, seeing this in contrast to so many in the world who barely (or not) have enough to live on. This book does not make one think being wealthy is sinful, or being poor is a virtue. Nor does one finish the book thinking they’ve been taken on a political ride. It neither came across as left or right (nor center, for that matter), but kingdom of God in Jesus in its orientation. Even with the strong words, there really is a graciousness to the book, not the harshness we’re all too accustomed to nowadays.

Ben Myers with a "sermon" from Kim Fabricus about the western way of death:

The world is in denial and confusion about death, dying, and the afterlife. The Christian Church should not be. Our teaching is clear: in the words of the Nicene Creed: “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” The church is not a public service industry. We are not here to meet people’s felt needs, to give their Jack or Jill a “good send-off”. We are here to proclaim the gospel that “Christ has died! Christ is risen! In Christ shall all be made alive!” – to show the world the way out of its fear and muddle and into the truth. The truth is often hard and always odd, but only the truth will set people free.

And, an excellent rant/sermon on national war memorial days:

So no, I will not disrespect soldiers, or be inordinately shocked by unscrupulous politicians, or even by the international dealers in destruction who operate on the cynical principle that “War is good business: invest your son”. For how should these people know any better when they have been baptised into churches that have colluded in chiselling that chilling inscription – Pro Deo et Patria – on war memorials all over the world, which is engraved in most people’s minds, too, like stone? No, it is to the church, and the church’s leadership, which this morning I represent, that I will say, “For shame!” For we have failed you by not radically problematising war – all war – and by not firmly fixing your faith on Jesus of Nazareth, the man who stalks the pages of the gospels, unmistakably and indefectibly preaching and practicing the way of non-violence, and who, as Risen Lord, continues to call, “Follow me!”

<idle musing>
Take the time to read the whole post on each of them; I certainly haven't done them justice with these short snippets.
</idle musing>

Monday, May 10, 2010


I came outside Saturday after a very windy Friday night and looked around, expecting to see some tree limbs down. There was only one, relatively small one in our yard, but our neighbor lost a 2-3 inch in diameter sapling; it was sheared off about a foot above the base. Yikes! We didn't get off without damaged, though—look at this:

Yikes! My hoop house bit the dust. It wasn't as bad as it looked, though. The only thing I lost were some small pepper plants; I am restarting those from seed, but it will put the harvest behind a bit :( When we built the hoop house, the instructions said that if you are subject to high winds, you should glue the joints. A trip to the hardware store, a bit of dismantling, and 4 hours later, better than new:

Another, maybe better, view:

While I was playing around, I expanded the asparagus bed and added a few plants:

I also planted 4 blueberry bushes and 25 strawberry plants. You can see the strawberries in the foreground of the second picture.

What else can you see? The white row cover is over the potatoes, which have started putting out leaves. It froze last night, so the row cover was nice to have, plus it keeps the straw on in high winds, which we have had quite a few of lately. The plants you see in the collapsed green house are bush beans; they are doing well for only being 2 weeks old! The hoop house makes a big difference. On Saturday, it was only 50 F, but inside the hoop house (once I rebuilt it!), it was about 80 F. Nice and cozy :)

On other fronts, the brick cheese seems to have turned out. It is 2 weeks old and finally, on Friday, developed the red bacteria linens that they talked about. It also started smelling like brick cheese. Tonight I will wax it and let it age in the refrigerator for a bit. I think I will take a break from cheese making for the summer; I have more than enough to keep me busy without it!

Cheese making tip of the week: When they say that the starter only keeps a month in the freezer once you have started it, they mean it...

Friday, May 07, 2010

National day of prayer

Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer here in the US. I know there were lots of rallies, conferences, and meetings in general, but I fear there was precious little prayer.

One of the favorite verses on days like this is 2 Chronicles 7:14:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Let's assume for the sake of argument, that this applies to the US. How are we doing?
1. If my people, who are called by my name... Check
2. Will humble themselves... Do we really have to?
3. and pray... Don't meetings and rallies count?
4. and seek my face... Come on now! Can't we just seek the blessings instead?
5. and turn from their wicked ways... But, we aren't as evil as those other guys! Surely God will make an exception for us!
6. Then I will hear from heaven... Yes! Sign me up for this one!
7. And I will forgive their sin... What sin? We're doing fine, thank you! It's those other guys that are the problem!
7. And will heal their land... Of course! I'll take that one, too.

See! We qualify because we meet the first standard and want the results of 6 & 8!

Sorry. It doesn't work that way...and take note, the people who are supposed to do the humbling, seeking, and turning are the ones who are called by his name—not "those other guys."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

May sale at Eisenbrauns

It's that time of the year again:

Stock up on summer reading at a great price! As the school year winds down, we'd like to offer you a chance to pick up some heavy summer reading at a light price. We are offering over 50 Eisenbrauns titles at discounts from 50-80% off retail price. We are also offering our international customers half-price shipping on your sale order.

You can view all the sale items here:

<idle musing>:
This is one of my favorite sales. It's fun watching the stuff fly off the shelves.
</idle musing>:

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Acts of aggression, or defensive action?

“The portrayal of the Canaanite response to Israel throughout Josh 1-11 demonstrates a progressively increasing resolve and desire to fight (5:1; 9:1; 10:1-5; 11:1-5), with 11:1-5 forming the ‘literary climax’ of this progression. Moreover, every military campaign since Ai is portrayed as a defensive reaction to Canaanite aggression, with such aggression reaching a climax in Josh 11, in which Canaanite aggression is depicted with the use of ‘fearful fighting machinery’ (11:4). Again, the Gibeonites are contrasted with other locals (11:19) and perhaps it is significant that it is the inhabitants of Gibeon that are contrasted with other local kings (cf. 9:1 and 3-4a). Indeed, the cities that were fought against are depicted as royal cities, and Creach suggests that Josh 10-11 narrates ‘a repudiation and defeat of royal power. The problem is ... a form of monarchy based on oppression.’ He goes on to suggest that this idea is the key to the meaning of YHWH’s instruction to burn chariots and hamstring horses (11:6); ‘These two parts of the military machine symbolized the application of royal hegemony, gained often through brutality and abuse.’ Furthermore, Hawk notes that there are no details of the battles given, and that Hazor is singled out because it is the head of the kingdoms, ‘exemplifying Canaanite threat’, with the Anakim serving as symbols of Canaanite power. So despite the wider frame of reference of the commands to take the land, Josh 11 portrays Israel’s campaign of conquest of Canaan as an essentially defensive reaction against centres of aggressive military power.”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, pages 166-167

<idle musing>
While I'm not usually a fan of post-colonial interpretations, this one appeals to me as essentially correct. Of course, in the modern world, every war is a war of defense, not aggression, right? We don't have a Department of War anymore, now it is the Department of Defense. But that was not true in the ancient world; war was frequent and normal. Indeed, even in Samuel and Kings we see the expectation that there would be a season of war every year. I guess that is why this interpretation appeals to me so much; it is counter to the “normal” ancient thinking. Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, May 03, 2010

To obey is better than...

“The stories of Jericho and Ai indicate the need to obey YHWH through the covenant. It is this, rather than military tactics, that grants Israel success. If Israel obeys YHWH then impregnable walls and obstacles will fall (Jericho) and Israel will not have to worry about her enemies. But if Israel disobeys, then the simplest battle in which a ruin is attacked (Ai) will be lost. Israel does not have to worry about how to possess the land or how to ‘dispose’ of her enemies, for YHWH will take care of this. Rather, Israel must worry about obeying YHWH, an obedience that will lead to blessing and rest. The stories of Rahab and Achan, refracted through the battles at Jericho and Ai, demonstrate the significance of Josh 5:13-15. YHWH is not ‘for’ ethnic Israel on her own ‘national’ terms, something rather unexpected in view of ideas of the favour and the election of Israel, rather, YHWH is ‘for’ those who confess his power and glory, who ‘do חסד [hesed]’ and obey him, made concrete in obedience to the covenant.”—Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture, p. 153

<idle musing>
And it is still true today. God is not “for” the U.S.; he never was. He is “for” those who do חסד. More conferences and laws and petitions and protests and hand-wringing aren't doing חסד.

The early church lived in a far more amoral society than the U.S., but we have no record of them being concerned about who was the emperor, or local ruler, or the rampant immorality of society. No, they simply went about loving their neighbor and living a life that drew attention to God and his love for people. They didn't downplay sin, but they didn't expect non-Christians to act any differently than they were. When Paul went to Corinth, he didn't try to close the brothels or shut down the pagan sacrifices; he preached Jesus as crucified and risen from the dead! And, just as important, he preached a gospel of transformation. Christians were transformed by the power of God, not by “trying to live a moral life” under their own power.

New Testament Christianity is uncomfortable; it demands that you live dead to self. That doesn't preach well in a suburban church. It doesn't fill the offering plates; it doesn't pay the mortgage. I don't see Paul or Peter being concerned about that, though!
</idle musing>