Feb 18

18FEB2019

Only 45 days to go to start the trail, and 42 days to depart Puyallup. Am I getting the heebie-jeebies? Yup! Will I still do it? Yup! Am I totally physically and psychologically prepared? Nope!

Snow

My greatest concern at this time is the snow levels in the mountains. Though there is a large snowpack, the water content is low, so I might be okay with a straight thru-hike. If I get close to Kennedy Meadows (the start of the high Sierra) and I hear that the snowpack is still formidable, I might do a flip-flop and jump ahead to Soda Springs, finish the hike, and then come back to complete the high Sierra after everything else has been hiked. This is not unusual to be done, though I’d prefer to not have to do this. For Betsy’s peace of mind, I wish to exercise the greatest prudence and safety possible for the hike.

Exercise

The heavy snow in early February has prevented comfortable outside exercising. My training walks have been put on hold. In order to maintain some sense of bodily activity, I’ve been going with Betsy to the YMCA and pumping iron as well as using the elliptical machine, which seems to best simulate walking with pack. Hopefully, I can get back out on the trails soon.

Preparation

I have all of my resupply boxes taken care of, and extra supplies at home organized. My pack is packed, and is still a little heavy, but am not going to fuss too much about it. The weight will come down during the first few weeks of the hike. I’ll only keep several days worth of food on me during the first few weeks, but may need 5-6 liters of water at a time on the trail. I’ve also thought about the things that I would need to keep my mind okay while hiking. I don’t like hiking with earphones, but will have adequate music and stuff to listen to on my iPhone. To keep weight down, I will not be carrying any books, including a Bible, but will have books and Bible on my iPhone. That is also true of maps, which will all be on my iPhone. I also like to go over hymns, and so I’ve compiled my top list of hymns and hiking songs, put them in pdf format, and these can be found at the bottom of this page.

Fund Raising

I wish to raise funds for Huguenot Heritage. This ministry translates Reformed theology materials into the French language. My friend Francis Foucachon runs that ministry, and lives in Moscow, Idaho. We will be instituting a campaign that suggests donations per mile per Halfmile Maps. Since the maximum mileage is 2650 miles, a penny a mile will put you out a grand total of $26.50, and 10¢/mile will put you out $265.00. Please think seriously about supporting this effort. I will be going back to Moscow, ID next week to work out a campaign plan with Francis.

Transportation to the Trailhead

I’ve now purchased my train tickets and will be heading out on 01APR. As mentioned above, I’ll stay overnight at a hostel in San Luis Obispo and arrive in Oceanside, CA in the early afternoon of 03APR. On Thursday AM at the crack of dawn, my friend Tom Braithwaite will be dumping me off at the trailhead. After that, I’m on my own.

Other Tasks

Since Betsy will be without me for a while, I’m trying to get the house completely in order. Besides yard work, I’ve had a petty nightmare trying to get my stereo system working again. We have a Synology server with 30TB that takes holds all of our movies, music, and other information, as well as our security system and this blog site. It connects to a Mac Mini which in turn connects to a Denon receiver which connects to a large LG display. The Mac Mini was over 8 years old, and I could no longer upgrade the OS, so decided to upgrade the Mac Mini. The system will no longer connect properly. Many other people have had this problem, and I’ve tried a multiplicity of solutions to remedy it. I have a few other ideas in mind but ultimately may have to call in a “professional” to resolve the matter. Also, I am very near to the completion of my Memoirs. I am trying hard to be sensitive when I need to speak honestly and frankly about others. I am working on tailoring it to read easily and smoothly, while being grammatically correct. The easy part was writing the book as it took me about a week. The hard part is in doing all of the corrections and editing and putting it into a format which could be submitted to a printer.

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Feb 14


Reading Genesis Well: Navigating History, Poetry, Science, and Truth in Genesis 1-11, by C. John Collins ★★★★

I had purchased this book from Amazon last November when it just came out, but finally have found the time to read it. I know Jack Collins, and have enjoyed the other books that he has written. Thus, my interest in reading this text.

The title strikes me as a bit offensive. Reading Genesis well? Haven’t we read it well in the past? Is this book offering us the new definitive manner of “reading” Genesis? Is there some novel hermeneutic technique that we will be discovering in the course of this book? Do we read the book of Genesis differently than we read the remainder of Scripture? Is this book a rebuttal of liberal scholarship? Is it a caving in to liberal scholarship? Has Dr. Collins discovered a new version of Joseph Smith’s Urim and Thummin, a translation stone which some angel dude gave to him? Collins answers most of my more critical questions in the text of this book.

Dr. Collins starts his text in full speed. The initial discussion centers around historical literary criticism of the text. I’ve not heard of either Jowett or the 19th century literalists, and know about James Barr but unfamiliar with his attempts at literary theory. Neither does Dr. Collins give a summary of the issues at stake, so I’m left in the dark. In the subsequent chapters, Collins takes a literary critical approach to the first 11 chapters of Genesis, discussing how different literary approaches might lead to different ends in the interpretation of Genesis. Collins avoids the strict approaches which have been taken in the past, such as defining the genre of a literary piece (is a segment of Scripture poetry, strict history, allegory, etc., etc.). As a take-off of CS Lewis, he asks questions regarding the text audience, how they would have seen the world and what they would have taken the text to mean, and how the author might have intended his text to be interpreted by the reader.

In later chapters, Collins works through the pericopes of early Genesis, offering solutions to their interpretation. He then discusses issues of competing thoughts, such as, whether the formation of man was by strict evolution, theistic evolutionism, young earth creationism, and the many variants that fall between. Helpful is Collin’s insistence on differentiating one’s world view (the overall concept of God creating the world) vs one’s world picture (the notion of how we picture the world in our mind at this time). In ancient times, the world was pictured phenomenologically, but then, don’t we still describe our world in mostly phenomenologic terms?

I end up with an ultimate question—how has Collins helped our understanding of early Genesis? Is this a radical new approach to interpretation that Collins offers in this book, or is it a new cloak for traditional means of Genesis interpretation? Several concerns come to mind. Most contemporary authors offer interpretations of early Genesis that are overly concerned with maintaining concordance with the current state of science. Perhaps this approach is brutally chronologically arrogant, offering “science” to high of place in our thinking of Scripture. Do we really think that science has given us a substantive grasp on the nature of the universe, when all of our past ancestors lived in darkness? When science changes, will our hermeneutic change? I don’t say this critical of science, because I am myself a scientist and have a respect for what we’ve learned about the world, yet I also have a cautionary approach for the certain-to-be scientific paradigm shifts that will alter our “view” of Genesis.

Collins is correct that we must not read Genesis from a scientific perspective, especially since the ancient Hebrews did not think with the scientific context that we think. He is also correct that the various pericopes of early Genesis cannot be labeled as strictly poetry or history. Even if they were labeled as history, the Hebrews would have viewed history in a different fashion from the Greeks. So, what do we do with the stories of early Genesis? Is it even necessary to provide a contemporary answer to every story in Genesis that seems to clash with “modern” science? My personal approach tends to be more VanTilian, in that our approach to Scripture must allow that God’s word provides the interpretive framework for seeing the world, rather than our own framework as forming the structure for interpreting Scripture.

I provide a simple example of where I’m left swimming, in terms of interpreting Scripture. Using the first chapter of Genesis, I agree with Collins that the primary intention of the author was to offer the reader a world view, that of God being the creator ex nihilo of all things. Yet, I can’t leave it at that. Is Genesis 1 poetry? It doesn’t read like poetry! Is it history? It doesn’t read perfectly like history! Is it allegory? Perhaps, but then I can’t explain why the author structured the creation narrative in the manner that he did, giving a deception of some sort of historical event. Other events provide very similar questions. God forming Adam out of the dust of the earth; the fall; Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden; the garden????; civilization during the time of Cain and Abel; the flood; the tower of Babel; all of these offer questions as to the nature and extent of what really took place, that only imperfect solutions are available. If readers up to the contemporary epoch had it totally wrong and we’ve just now figured that out, that seems to do discredit God as being a terrible communicator, yet He is the ultimate author of Scripture. Perhaps God messed up???? Do we need to be specialized in literary criticism and ancient languages to grasp the new principles of interpretation of Genesis? If so, then we are trashing the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. Maybe the Pope was right, that only he and a few of his closest buddies had a grasp on interpreting Scripture—except that Protestants have exchanged the pope for people in academia. I don’t know what to think here in terms of where Collins is eventually taking us. I don’t think that Collins would be willing to offer an ultimate statement on precisely what happened in space/time during the accounts delineated in Genesis 1-11. It is not that Collins has failed, it is that nobody will probably be able to generate a true final statement while we spend our time on earth.

I have enjoyed reading Jack’s book. He writes well. He is very provocative to the thought processes, and I appreciate that. Not being a literary theorist, or even a theologian, I might have missed a bit of Dr. Collins thesis, and he might read this review wondering what kind of bozo missed some of the fundamental points of his text. Oh well. I will persist in remaining somewhat of a creation agnostic, clinging mostly to the emphasis that Genesis provides a Weltanschauung. When I encounter young earthers, I acknowledge that perhaps they are correct. When I encounter old earthers (which I tend to prescribe to), I acknowledge that they might be correct. When I encounter theistic evolutionists, I pray to God that He would forgive their heresy and unbelief in Scripture.

Which brings me to a point. Perhaps more time needs to be spent at “fencing” in orthodoxy, and defining the boundaries from which a person might go “off the edge” in terms of believing Scripture. Where do we draw the line on the interpretation of Genesis where we accuse the interpreter of unbelief in the text? I’m not a theologian, and will leave that to Dr. Collins to work on.

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Feb 01

Psalm 135 is a wonderful song of praise to God, lifting up God’s name. As I come near to completing my Memoirs (adding only finishing touches), it especially draws me to the 135th psalm for several reasons. Please read Psalm 135 before reading on.

  1. The power of God is displayed. As I write this, there is a massive cold front, beating all prior records, occurring in the midwest. The intellectuals attribute this to global warming, and offer “scientific” explanations. Dummkopfe! Verses 5-7 make very clear that weather is entirely in the hands of God. He controls the clouds, the rain, and the wind. He does whatever He damn-well pleases, to say it in street jargon. There is no other power in heaven or earth (the gods—and since we have established ourselves as gods, it would mean human activity on earth included) that controls the weather and seasons, but God alone. Hopefully, he will look favorably on me as I hike the PCT!
  2. He controls the kings and rulers of earth. Nothing escapes His control, and all bent like a cooked spaghetti to His will. We see global unrest and chaos in our government, yet I sleep at night, knowing that the Lord is Lord of the universe, all presidents, kings/queens, prime ministers, emperors, CEOs and petite magistrates do not escape his controlling hand.
  3. He controls history. My memoirs are history, and sometimes I am troubled why certain things in my life have happened, why the sorrow and grief, why the frequent misadventures and sins on my part, why the toil and sweat which sometimes seemed so futile, why it all happened. Was life just a dream? Am I really for real? Was everything that happened, my personality, my physical characteristics, my likes and dis-likes all a product of the hand of a loving, caring God. In Psalm 135, I can emphatically answer YES!
  4. It will be worth it all (verses 14,15). Those who love the Lord will be vindicated in the end. It really is worth walking faithful to God, even if you had momentary, or perhaps lengthy segments, of unfaithfulness. Returning to our Lord will more than pay off. We will be vindicated, if not partially on earth, then totally in heaven. Psalm 135 is an assurance that God really does love those that he has chosen and who trust in Him.
  5. Verses 15-18 show that the tendency of all mankind is to trust in anything and everything but God. How often I feel smug that I have a reasonable pension plan, and then fret because it could so quickly disappear, or be inadequate. How often do I depend on other idols, often just idols of the mind, to get me through. Schlossberg’s book Idols for Destruction show how so many other things in life that we would never think of as idols, truly are things that we worship and cast our care on. Verse 18 poignantly notes that those who trust in their idols become just like them, blind, deaf, and dumb. Perhaps that is why we see an entire nation, even an entire world, acting as though their eyes were wide shut.
  6. What should our response be? Praise! (verses 19-21) When I took systematic theology from JI Packer, he would open every class with a singing of the Doxology “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”. Packer emphasized that all of our life, including doing theology, should result in praise. Psalm 135 ends with a command for all of the church (Israel) and all that fear God (the entire world) should bless the Lord. If you’ve read this far, please take a moment to do that right now.

Psalm 135 reflects on history to evoke praise for His goodness. I found that happening as I wrote my memoirs. I was just astonished as I documented my life story how often the Lord took me through the valley of the shadow of death, and lifted me high on the rock. His blessings are without number. I would encourage everybody, at some point in time, to take the time to write one’s life story. I do believe that you will be astonished at how often God has blessed you and directed your ways to an ultimate better end.

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Jan 26

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Jan 25
Resupply boxes

T -70 and counting.

The PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) is a 2650 mile trail that runs from the Mexican border to Canada. Over the distance, multiple deserts and dry spots are crossed, mountains are climbed, and even a pass of 13,100 feet altitude must be negotiated. Specifically, the route runs as follows…

Some of the trail in Oregon and Washington I’ve already hiked, or I am quite familiar with the trail. Other parts, like in California will be totally new to me. Although the trail starts in Southern California, and I will be starting my hike on 04APR, I will almost certainly be hitting snow within the first 100 miles, and challenging snow outside of Idyllwild/Palm Springs. So, I await eagerly the snow reports that will be forthcoming in March.

Training: I am trying to prepare my body for this feat. Already I’ve been hiking up trails and stiff peaks, holding about a 3 mph pace on average. This includes carrying a 30 lb pack, which I’ll be increasing to 40 lb soon. I don’t anticipate typically needing a 40 lb pack, but it still helps to improve the conditioning. The first day on the trail, I’ll try to get a 20 miler in, going from the border to Lake Morena. Why? There is a campground with water at Lake Morena and no guarantee of water before then. Also, there is a restaurant that serves hamburgers! I don’t want to be late for the restaurant. I also don’t want a situation where I burn myself out the first day. Most hikers will typically take most of their zeros (days where they do no hiking at all, like when in town to buy groceries and wash clothes) in the first 700 miles, which is just before the High Sierra.

Resupply: There are a lot of ways to resupply. Many will send most of their resupply packages, and depend minimally on needing stores and other resupply sources. Many will hit a town, and their purchase their resupply for the next two stops. Some will hitchhike into town at every road. I am doing a moderate higher resupply schedule than average, preparing between 20-22 boxes for the trail. I just need to go over them all one more time.

There are things that one cannot anticipate. That is how often one will need a change of clothes, or when certain equipment will break. For this, I am preparing contingency items for Betsy so that I could ask for some gizmo and she’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Other things, like shoes, I just plan on replacing every 500 or so miles. And yes, I already have 5 more pair of shoes boxed and ready to go.

The resupply boxes are all left open, so that if Betsy needs to slip in something or another before mailing the package, she may do that. They are all labeled. Since my trail name is Pilgrim, I printed many circular labels that include images of Pilgrim from Pilgrim’s Progress, that will help identify my packages. All she’ll need to do is to tape the box shut, put on an ETA (for me) at the post office, and send it off.

Sponsorship: I don’t need sponsorship. In fact, by doing this hike, my personal cost of living drops. You live simple when on the trail. Rather, I am trying to raise money for a mission project deeply of interest to me, which is the Huguenot Heritage. It is run by a good friend Francis Foucachon, who was a distinguished French chef who found Christ. As an ordained pastor, he now translates Reformed literature into the French language. It is a vital ministry, and God is working strong in French-speaking peoples of this world. I beg of you to support this ministry. I will be working with Francis to determine how you could support them on my backpack-a-thon. If you donate just 1¢/mile, you will only be out $26.50, or 10¢/mile, only $265.00, at most. That assumes that I am successful for the entire hike. I give myself about a 10% chance of making it all the way through. Please pray about this, and consider it seriously. Besides, not only does it further motivate me, it’s a great tax write-off.

Final Packing: I have my base weight down to 19 lb. In the old days, that would have been considered impossible. Now, it is still considered a touch on the heavy side. I will be vigorously scratching my head, packing, repacking and weighing everything that goes into my pack. Even fractions of an oz. matter. There are people that cut off their tooth brush handles to reduce weight. Many will not carry a stove. I’m not that valiant. Still, there are subtle ways to reduce weight, like omitting stuff sacs, re-thinking how much food you really need to carry, and picking here and there to lose weight. There are some interesting simple things. I will not be carrying paper maps. Guthooks Guides has the trail totally mapped out, with virtually every point of interest to the hiker, like campsites, water sources, obstacles on the trail, etc. This Guthook Guide goes on your cell phone. And, the map on your cell phone ties into your gps unit, so that you always know exactly where you are… so long as your cell phone doesn’t get damaged, or you accidentally burn out all of your battery supply.

Transportation to California: I’ll be taking the train down to California. A friend, Tom Braithwaite, who lives in the San Diego area will pick me up, let me stay at his house the night, and then dump me off at the trailhead. I’ll have to be purchasing train tickets soon for that.

Permits: Permits are now needed to do the trail, especially when going through the High Sierra. I have my PCT permit and California Fire Permit. All I need and am waiting for is the Canada Entry Permit. I don’t anticipate that they’ll turn me down, and if they do, I’ll reach Canada and then exit in the USA at Hart’s Pass.

Betsy and Home Arrangements: Betsy will be babysitting our 12th grandchild, starting the end of January. This will tie her up 5 days a week, up to summer, when Sarah gets off as a teacher for the school year. She will be going back in early September. This means most of my hike will be with her stuck at home. I’ll stay in touch day by day whenever I have cell phone coverage. Betsy needs to know which resupply package gets sent when, where all my camping stuff is, so that if I need something, she’ll have a clue where to find it.

Technology: I used to be on top of technology, until Technopoly took over (See Neil Postman’s book of that title). Determining how to do simple things, like posting a blog page from an iPhone will be challenging to me. Ultimately, I will figure some things out while on the trail. But, I’m making sure my camera can communicate with the iPhone, and that WordPress on the iPhone works well, as well as having FaceBook access.

Getting Psyched: I confess, I frequently look in the mirror, and wonder if I’m not blooming crazy. Yet, 10-20% of all thru-hikers (hikers that hike the whole tamale in one season) are over age 60. And, of all hikers, 30-40% are successful. Many of the unsuccessful are very unsuccessful for a reason, like not being prepared, or not thinking realistically about the endeavor ahead. So, I will do my best to be mentally prepared for this. After all, I’ve dreamed about hiking the PCT for many years, and I estimate that there are not many more years that I will be physically able to attempt such a feat. So, this will be my year, and I’ll give it my darnedest.

So, stay in touch. Pray for me, root me on, support my backpack-a-thon, and stay in touch. Pilgrim

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Jan 01

The New Year is a good time to reflect on life, including the past, present and future. This New Year brings particular note, in that it is the first year I enter as a retired person soon to be on Medicare and social security, and making the transitions in life that are ultimately an end to a long journey. It remains a mystery as to how long the ending will be. I could die as I write this piece (okay, I’ve finished this piece, and remain alive), or I could live to be past 100. If I had my choice, I’d live for a full but short life, rather than a long life.

In the past month, Betsy (my wife) and I have purchased our funeral arrangements, caskets (the cheapest wood casket on the market!) and burial plot with stone—the only absence from the headstone is the dates of our death, and that’s something that only God knows. Funeral preparations remind one how fleeting life is. As I look back on life, I cannot help but think that it is but for the grace of God that Betsy and I are still here, more madly in love than ever, and yet so different from each other. We’ve had some very difficult times in life, though the blessings have been so much greater, and it overwhelms any of the trials we may have had to bear. I know of a certain that I could not have made it without her, and I don’t think any other person in the world could have filled her shoes.

This coming year offers some exciting times for us. 1. We have to figure out how to do Medicare. We’ve already applied for social security, which will start in March. 2. I am very busy making preparations, including planning, packaging resupply mailers and doing training hikes, for my 2650 mile walk on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which runs in the mountains, through desert, and follows the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges from Mexico to Canada. I face it realistically, and realize that it may end up being nothing but a section hike, but it is a dream that I will pursue until circumstances possibly prove otherwise. 3. Betsy begins a year of babysitting our youngest grandchild Rachel, daughter of Sarah. This little Fleischklopps is cuter than cute, and a precious little kiddo. 4. Our youngest daughter Diane graduates from Nurse Practitioner school with a doctorate in nursing. We are so proud of her. I call her a “noctor” (not a doctor), but I feel comfortable that Diane is brighter than many of the doctors that I know. She will do well. 5. We celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on 20OCT. I’m not sure what we will do. Betsy and I love to go to Jamaica to vacation, but this year is something special that I will leave undecided for now. 6. Reading… I have a veritable stack of books that need to be read by me. I love reading history, and have large volumes awaiting on the founding fathers and civil war era. I really want to get back into Herman Bavinck’s magisterial four volume work in systematic theology, titled Reformed Dogmatics. Ever since I took a systematic theology class from JI Packer, I have had a love for reading through systematic theology texts. Bavinck’s is the most challenging one I’ve encountered. 7. Getting back into long-distance cycling. I’ve taken a short pause from cycling in order to be prepared for the PCT, but have an endearing love for cycle touring. 8. Refreshing my language studies. I have taken German, Russian, French, and Chinese in my life. I no longer have an interest in Russian, and Chinese is interesting but maybe a little too challenging to pick up. I’m reasonably good at German but would like to become semi-fluent. I’m passable in French, but would like to be better. Some day, I’d like to hike the Camino de Santiago with Betsy, and so would maybe want to learn passable Spanish. 9. Trying to spend a little time a day practicing my trumpet. 10. Possibly start writing a Memoirs. My father wrote a short book on the history of his life, at the behest of us children of his. It was awesome. It may be perhaps time to do the same, before my memory fails me too badly. 11. Last, but definitely the most important, I would like to have this year as more consecrated to my Lord Jesus Christ, more devoted to His word, more diligent to walk in His ways, and more eager to have entire being, thought, word, and deed centered around Scripture and obedience to Him. Soli Deo Gloria

The things that we love tend to be our motivation for doing things in life, and there are three things that I identify that seem to be my loves, and motivation for still living. They are listed in order of my priorities.

1. Scriptures —I’d offer a lengthy quote or perhaps wax eloquent here, but perhaps the best statement is to encourage the dear reader to just go over Psalm 119. May I also regard God’s word as more important than silver and gold and everything else most precious to me.

2. Family and friends. First and foremost is my wife Betsy. We have been together nearly forty years now. We’ve had our hard times and good times. We’ve had fights, but most overwhelmingly, we’ve had cherished moments of loving each other, ravishing each other, enjoying each other, and pleasing each other. I could not think of another person who could better fit me as a lover, friend, helpmate, advisor, companion, support, wife, mother, grandmother or human being. She truly has been a gift from God to me. My children, all four of them, have been the joy of my life. The grief and trials they have brought us pales in the light of all the joy they have given us. I am grateful that they all are Christian, and have been very successful in life. Plus, they have given us the most adorable grandchildren. It is now Opa’s (grandpa’s) duty to teach them to walk rightly and to help them enjoy life. I wish to have special time taking each one separately backpacking and on outings. My siblings also have been a delight. Now with retirement, I am able to make better contact with them, and it is wonderful to be able to enjoy their fellowship once again. I think long about many of my current and past friends and the change of year causes one to focus particularly on past friends. One would love to be in perpetual contact with them, yet it is humanly impossible. Sadly, I have many past friends, all of which are cherished by me, and often thought of. The words from a wonderful song “Blest be the ties that binds” come to mind “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.” My pastor has been a source of strength and encouragement, a soul coach, but also a good friend. On a slightly darker note, I also think of what I would call false-friends—those friends who were friends in appearance only, but then revealed their true self, who used you, who gained your trust, only to mislead and betray your trust. They are the Judas’s in one’s life. Even King David had such experiences, and reflects on it in Psalms 55,

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.

Memory of these false-friends sometimes bring deep grief and sleepless nights, wondering why a person would act and behave the way they did. I’m thankful that there have been few of these in my life. I truly pray that I have not been a false friend to anybody else.

3. Nature. This is my Father’s world! The heaven’s declare the glory of God, and the firmament His handiwork. God has given me the strength and capability to delight in his world, and I will do that to the fullest possible. From the seashore to the desert to the mountains, all are wonderful. My favorite spot is in the mountains. I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where my help comes. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Whether on a bicycle, on foot, or in a car, I love adventuring into wilderness. It is my best chance to reflect, meditate, and wonder over the goodness of our God. soli deo gloria! 

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Dec 15

He
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life! ESV

OK, I’ve spent the last month, reading and re-reading multiple times over Psalm 119. It seems to be one of the most neglected Psalms in Scripture, except for a few choice verses. There are hidden gems in this Psalm that misses inattentive readers.  Here is an example of progression in faith in God in the segment titled He. Note particularly…

33 “Teach me”  Faith demands knowledge, knowledge that requires active interaction of the Almighty. You can’t have faith in God without knowledge, gained by spending time in Scripture and prayer. 
34 “Give me understanding” You know the facts, you know the Bible, you know the teachings, statutes and ways of the Lord. Head knowledge must then lead to a deeper understanding. What do the statutes of the Lord really mean? Jesus Christ in the sermon on the Mount provided a wonderful example by taking various of the 10 commandments, and showing their full implications, eg, you shall not kill implies not hating your brother, neighbor, or enemy. 
35 “Lead me” So you now understand the ways of the Lord, but do you DO them? Walking in the way is much different that just knowing it. 
36 “Incline my heart” You are now doing the commands of God out of duty, but do you really delight in His commands? Do you cherish them above all things, above riches and silver and gold? 
37 “Turn my eyes from… worthless things” Maturity demands focus, and focus on the Lord and His ways need to be a total preoccupation of our hearts and lives. This takes time!
38 “Confirm …your promise”. Everybody wishes for instant confirmation, proof that the Lord is good and worth serving. The Lord confirms in His own time. It is not evil to ask the Lord to confirm Himself, but it is evil to demand a time schedule of Him
39 “Turn away the reproach” Anybody truly walking with God will come under reproach. It should be an assumption rather than an exception. But, David shows that it is not evil to ask for relief from this reproach.
40 “Behold I long for your precepts” This is the statement of a mature man of God. Do we constantly long for God in every moment in our lives? Do we see that walking in God’s ways is the most wonderful thing in the world. Sadly, we reach that phase, and then we die.

Or, we go on to reading the next section of Psalm 119, waw. Psalm 119:he is a wonderful illustration of maturity in our Lord. May be all grasp His teachings in this wonderful Psalm. 

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Dec 13

Old Lady on the Trail: Triple Crown at 76, by Mary E. Davison ★★★

This book is the story of Mary, who, starting at age 65 and retirement, began hiking the triple crown, which consists of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. The story is that of a fairly remarkable person. As Mary frequently reminds the reader, there are geriatric hikers, although long-distance geriatric backpackers are just slightly more common than that of the Dodo bird. 

Mary hiked the three long-distance trails never as a thru-hiker, but always as a section hiker. Her choice of sections seem to be somewhat random to me, a portion of the Appalachian Trail, then a portion of the PCT, then back to the AT, then to a completely disjointed segment of the PCT, so on and so forth. She did the CDT as a single entity, but even then, somewhat disjointed, though tending from south to north. 

The delights of reading this book were that it is fairly incredible (and delightful) that someone her age would do more than past the days in a rocking chair. Even more incredible is that she has had multiple orthopedic procedures—her bones were just not holding up—and yet she still persisted in hiking. Mary and I both hail from Puyallup, WA, and her spirit reminds me of an old pediatrician in town, P.G., of whom the town even has a statue to him(!), who would spend weeks backpacking in the snow or forest, well into his 80’s, long after having had multiple joints replaced. 

I don’t think I would ever consider doing what Mary has done. True, I plan on thru-hiking the PCT next year as a geriatric wanderer. I have no interest in the random break-up of the trail that she has done. In the course of doing that, she required the support of multiple friends, family and others in order for her to maintain short segments, frequent re-supplies, massive segments slack hiked, and very frequent retreats from the trail to stay in hotels or other places of comfort. I’m sure the automobile, train and plane use were for at least 2-3x the actual length of the trail—not the best way to go when people are going ape about “global warming”. I’d rather leave my more elderly years hiking the Pacific NW, doing as I can without the necessity of going to the other side on the country. But, that’s me, and Mary has her own wonderful story.

I have just a few complaints about the book. Mary claims to have used people to help her edit the book. I’m not sure they were too careful or critical, as they should have been. There were many, many typos. It was often very difficult to follow exactly where Mary started and stopped the trail, if one really wished to see what she had done. While Mary left out much needed detail about the hike itself, but other details were exceedingly annoying. I really didn’t care to know 20 or more times over that Mary washed her underclothes, and which underclothes she washed; or, her precise meals at her multiple city stops; or, the many times she decided to sing the Holden Evening prayer—she could have just told us once, and then mentioned that she often tended to sing the prayer or wash her clothes, at various times. With editing, the book could have been half the length and far more delightful to read without missing out on critical details of her adventures.

I laud Mary for her adventuresome, and willingness to journey outside of her “comfort zone” on hobbit-like adventures, chasing the rainbow and following her dreams. Mary is an encouragement to many geriatric hikers like myself, and I wish her, as Roy Rogers would say, many happy trails.

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Dec 05

Esther & Trump, by Robert Case ★★★★★

This book is the result of a series of Sunday School lessons of which I most fortunate to be a participant. I know Robert well, and would consider him a dear friend. (He might not consider me the same after reading my review!) Perhaps the reader may consider my review as heavily biased, but I have attempted to remain as objective as possible, and thus will also include criticisms of the book. Robert is a compelling speaker and writer, leaving one spell-bound when hearing or reading him. This book was a delight to read, and offered fresh perspectives on Esther. True, it is now trendy to offer fresh perspectives on biblical themes, such as the new perspectives on Paul, Genesis, Jesus, or Isaiah, just to name a few. Where I find most of these new perspectives to be dull and unoriginal if not patently heretical, the same is not true of Robert’s “new perspective” on Esther. He offers a perspective of the book of Esther which is not offensive to a mindset that holds Scripture to be the directly inspired word of God. 

The first several chapters of the book outline the historical context of Esther, mostly by detailing the lineage of Kings of Persia from the fall of Babylon through to Alexander the Great. The character and historical details of Xerxes is elaborated, which is most important in understanding the book of Esther. 

Subsequent chapters offer a textual commentary of the book of Esther. In this section, Robert manages to illuminate aspects of the text which are very clear but completely missed, as we traditionally read the book of Esther with our eyes wide shut. The character of Esther  is shown for what it really is—a person without sexual moral principles, and willing to break the laws of the Torah to achieve her own end. She is NOT a role model of virtue. But then, neither is the Jewish community living in Persia, where their sins are also laid bare. With the absence of narrative evaluative judgements as seen in all other Scripture, we miss those details that Robert Case is able to illuminate. Particularly evil was Mordecai in administrating the slaughter of all of the known enemies of the Jews, which is a story that would best be found in the book of Judges, everybody doing what was right in their own eyes. There is good reason why Esther is not portrayed as a model of faith in Hebrews, even though other quite sinful people like Samson and Gideon are mentioned. 

Toward the end of the book of Esther & Trump, Robert attempts to make a plea for the political nature of this book. He is correct that it is a book laden with politics, in that the story centers around the King (Xerxes) and his appointed officials (Mordecai and Haman, as well as other unnamed personnel). Referring to the Jews in Persia as “the church”, it is made to seem that Mordecai and Esther serve as representative agents of the church. This unfortunately is an extrapolation of the text rather than an overt claim, as we don’t really have a clue how involved Esther and Mordecai were with the Jewish community. If they were highly involved, then they show the Jewish “church” to be quite wayward. There is too much not mentioned in the book to allow strong conclusions to be made. 

Perhaps Esther really is included as a part of the canon of Scripture as a lesson in politics, as Robert claims. Yet, it is troubling that the absence of evaluative judgements leave the reader puzzled as to what amounts to proper interactions of the church and state, rather than to simply have the church infiltrating the state government. Perhaps brought to mind by me is another book I have read in the distant past, the Politics of Jesus, by John Howard Yoder. In the Politics of Jesus, Yoder effectually demonstrates the strong political nature of Jesus and his teachings. With the aspect of pacifism aside (which Yoder does a very poor job defending), there is a strong reason why even the teachings of Jesus offer the Christian or Jew a reason to interact if not participate in a political fashion with the state. Certainly, Case makes a good case from Esther for Christian involvement with state functions. 

The book has problems. There are many typographical errors, way too many sidebar distractions, and arguments on the political nature of the book of Esther which I think could have been better developed. Most distracting though was the title of the book. The book title is misfit, in that Trump is barely spoken of, except in passing toward the very end of the book. Are we to think of Trump as a form of Xerxes? If so, why was Obama not chosen as a far better choice, or Bush, or Clinton, all of which in many ways share more of Xerxes’ characteristics than Trump? If God was obscure in the Esther text, well, so is Trump, and I fail to see a connection between Trump and the politics of Persia. For such a seminal and needed text on Esther, this commentary truly deserves a more fitting title. 

In spite of problems, Esther & Trump still deserves a five star rating. There is great scholarship, brilliance in thinking, and illumination of the text in a way that is perfectly clear once one opens their eyes to what is plainly in the text. Case provides some hints as to why Esther was included in the canon of Scripture. To that end, I highly recommend Biblical scholars to give this book a fair reading.

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Dec 04

Liberalism: Find a Cure, by Mark Dice ★★★★★

This book was just published, and I read it while on vacation in Jamaica. I have found Mark to be most enjoyable to read, and so was delighted when this text came out. The book is perhaps slightly mis-named. He does not focus on many of the problems of the 21st century liberal mindset like economics, political social thinking, the environment, etc. Instead, he hones in only on those delusional aspects of their thinking, thinking that leaves conservatives most bewildered as why certain people are not being confined to an insane asylum rather than being the poster children and darlings of the now liberal press. I am specifically referring to the new liberal trends toward mentally re-designing their personal life, and expecting others to find the new design acceptable. Such things as voluntarily re-defining one’s race, sex, and even species are dealt with at length in Mark’s book. Mark also speaks at length about the new political incorrectness that is sweeping the land, how the names of things like sports teams are found to be offensive, how just about anything and everything from the American past is now considered either racist or sexist, because they reflect a time when values and behavior were differ from today. Mark has a lengthy chapter on the sickness of feminism, and ends by sadly accounting how the most important structures of society, like family, are now relegated to the dustbin of history. 

Mark spends little time in the book describing a cure, but suggests the importance of getting political and getting Jesus. Sadly, I think Mark’s cure is too little and too late. His suggestion of hope through the Republican Party deflects from the truth that both parties have betrayed the American public. Most certainly, we are seeing the death of the Republic, not because we did not stand up for Republican values, but because we have lost our moral base. Mark  hints at this truth at the end of the book.

The book is a great read, Mr. Dice is a delight to read, and I strongly recommend all, liberal and conservative, to read this book. 

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