Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: We are family

Was reading Matthew 12:46-50 this morning. Here it is:
While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
There truly is a family in the faith.

When I went to my first job after graduate school, I moved across the USA to the East Coast. The first few weekends were pretty quiet because I didn't know anybody. But eventually, I found a church to be a part of and they became my new family.

If you ask anyone who is familiar with youth work or participate in it yourself, you will know of stories of young people who come from difficult home situations. These young men and women are looking for a sense of family. And guess what? They can find that if that youth group is putting Christ at the center and trying to live out what the Bible talks about.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Relief: How to Help

Fox News has a page up with contact information of Red Cross, FEMA and various local government agencies.

CNN.com has a list of NGOs that will be helping in the area hit hard by the storms.

Americares is sending in a team with supplies.

Be sure to click over to Instapundit as he plans to have many links up by Thursday.

UPDATE: KRLA-870AM in Los Angeles are asking listeners to support, Feed the Children. KRLA-870AM is the LA radio home to Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager.

UPDATE: The various Disney owned television and radio in Los Angeles are promoting the drive-by-drop-off donation fundraisers for the Red Cross at Dodger's Stadium and Arrowhead Pond.

What ever works!

Call a relief agency and donate, click to one with a web page and type in your contribution or swing by the drop off described and kick in whatever you can.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: I want to see a sign!

In Matthew 12:38, the religious leaders of the day came to Jesus and said, "We want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove that you are God."

Jesus takes them to task in verses 39 to 45.

Check it out in your Bible, he didn't mince words with them. You can also check it out in an on-line Bible.

Why did Jesus unload on them?

The incident prior to this is about Jesus casting out demons. Some poor guy who was blind and couldn't speak got better because Jesus healed him. And what did the religious leaders of the day say upon hearing this happy report?

They said, "No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan."

Can you believe it? See Matthew 12:24!

Go back to the story before that when the religious leaders tried to trap him regarding the Sabbath. Jesus heals a guy with an injured hand and the religious leaders decided to call a meeting to kill Jesus (see Matthew 12:14).

Hmmm ... maybe Jesus had some reason to be upset with them.

They have seen signs already and they simply don't want to believe!

They were more concerned with their own standing as religious authorities that they couldn't respond to Jesus.

Jesus does tell them about a sign nonetheless, in Matthew 12:39-41, the sign of Jonah.

Jesus forecasts his own death and resurrection by saying, "As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and nights, so I, the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights."

The empty tomb is a huge sign.

How do we explain it away?

The disciples stole the body?

Those guys all scattered when Jesus got arrested. Think they would have the guts to go fetch Jesus' body from the tomb and then run around saying, He rose from the dead?

Jesus really didn't die?

Um, the Romans were very, very, very good at killing people.

Jesus died and his twin claimed he was the resurrected Jesus?

One of my good friends told me that some scholars who don't believe in Christianity use this explanation.

This twin of Jesus would be lying. And so all the disciples would have to be in on the conspiracy. And lastly, the twin eventually would have died and opponents of Christianity would point to the body of the twin as well as the body of Jesus.

The disciples hallucinated that Jesus rose from the dead?

Every single one of them hallucinated the same thing, eh? And of course, if they only hallucinated the resurrection, all the religious-political leaders of the day would have to do is show the body and say those guys-gals are nuts.

What "sign" would "prove" to you and me that God is out there?

Or has there already been enough? Or would there never be enough?

Dodgers win three in a row!

I can't remember when the Dodgers won three straight?

But tonight, they notched their third win by out slugging the Cubbies 9-6.

Meanwhile down in San Diego, the Dbacks are taking to the Pods, leading 6-1 in the bottom of the sixth.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Ah-oh, Oswalt

Having gone to Dodger games the last few years, if there is a bad first inning, it had always been the Dodgers at the receiving end. But tonight it was the Dodgers administering a beating in the first inning. Oswalt got hit hard and then later couldn't find the strike zone. Seven batters came up before he got an out.

Meanwhile, down south, the Pods got beat by the Roxs.

Therefore, the Dodgers are down 5 1/2. They go against the Rocket tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

At the movies: Exorcism of Emily Rose

Just got back from a pre-release screening of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It is late now but I have to get some thoughts out of my system or I'll not be able to sleep tonight!

In brief, I'm recommending the film because it is a great discussion starter, has solid performances and is a well-paced if somewhat predictable story.

The trailer makes the movie out to be in the horror film genre. However, with a PG-13 rating, you know they won't go too far.

Tom Wilkinson in Screen Gems' The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The premise of the film is that Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) is placed on trial for the negligent homicide of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). Rose was receiving medical treatment for epilepsy but wasn't responding. With the agreement of the family, Rose and the Catholic church, Father Moore attempts an exorcism to relieve Rose's condition. Erin Bruenner (Laura Linney) is assigned to defend him.

Laura Linney in Screen Gems' The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The film is mostly a court-room drama with flashbacks to the terrifying deteriorating condition of Emily Rose. In those scenes and in a few others, the conventions of horror/suspense film-making takes over. So you can be assured if you a looking for a few good frights, you'll get them. I must say, I don't think I'll ever look at the digital clock late at night quite the same!

In the court room drama, the prosecutor (selected by the DA because he is a church goer) presents the evidence that Emily Rose was probably suffering from mental illnesses that were treatable and the discontinuance of that treatment in favor of the exorcism led to her death. The defense attorney (a self-professed agnostic) counters that some of Rose's symptoms went beyond the usual mental illness categories. She also called to the witness stand an academic expert on the role of spiritual experiences upon physiology and brain function.

As the story unfolded, I'm sure some people who were expecting more of a slasher/horror movie might have felt it wasn't scary enough. For them, the film is just the audio-visual equivalent of a roller-coaster ride and they will miss the significance of the questions the film raises. The film-makers did reach into the well of that horror-suspense-psychological thriller style but with restraint to retain a PG-13 rating and thus a potentially wider audience.

Some in the audience will try to be dispassionate and be like the jurors of the film weighing the arguments.

Some will be already convinced of the reality of such things as demon possession like the priest played by Wilkinson and will be hearted by the character's steadfastness and honesty.

And still some others will be drawn to Linney's portrayal of the skeptical defense attorney forced to re-examine her beliefs and her own life choices as the trial unfolds.

The story line does take a somewhat predictable trajectory. However, I wonder if the horror genre has ever been blended with a courtroom drama before? Director-screenwriter Scott Derrickson has effectively used the conventions of both styles and has drawn out strong performances from Linney and Wilkinson.

As for theology, we have to remember, films are not works of theology. Movies tend to paint in broad strokes and raise questions. And indeed, because at the beginning and the end of the film, they make a big point of stressing that the film was based on true life events, I will be curious to see if news features will be produced to recount the true story the film is based on. And I suppose when the DVD of the film comes, it would contain bonus features where some of the back-story will be provided.

From my brief web searching, I found this item from a Canadian online movie page. I also found this this German web page about Anneliese Michel. Alas, I do not read German. A search of Amazon.com shows there was a book with the title, The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel.

I think people who see the film will have lots to talk about afterward. In the closing argument by Linney, she raises various points to the jury and these would be questions moviegoers can discuss and reflect on.

I don't want to spoil the movie but another question I pondered was the role of suffering in Christian faith. The film offers a very "Catholic" answer. As a Protestant Christian, I don't know if I buy that answer. This tension is something that left me unsettled as I left the film.

I have not read much on evil spiritual forces from a Christian perspective. I have read these two books: Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson.

Anderson's books and works are controversial.

Between the two books, my views are that spiritual forces do in fact operate in the world and that their mode of operation are mostly in the realm described in the Screwtape Letters: deception and temptation.

Deception is thinking something is true when it isn't.

Temptation is trying to meet a proper need by the wrong means.

If evil spiritual forces do exist then they will want to accomplish their goal (turning people away from God and goodness) without making themselves known to the very people they are deceiving and tempting.

Discussions about how evil is propagated in these subtle ways would also be fruitful after watching a film like this.

###

Disclosure: I saw this film as a guest of Grace Hill Media.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: Are Demons Real?

Was looking at Matthew 12:22, "Then a demon-possessed man, who was both blind and unable to talk, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see."

Skeptics of the spiritual world view would discount demon-possessions as purely psychological phenomena.

This debate might be ignited in the popular culture with the upcoming release of the film, The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

The film is based on the real-life case of Anneliese Michel in Germany in the 1970s when a college-aged woman began to exhibit bizarre behavior and died while an exorcism was attempted by a Catholic priest. That priest and her parents were then put on trial for her death.

The film will follow the trail of the priest and the tale is told in flashbacks during court testimony.

In the "faith/science" tab of the movie web page, there are audio clips from the film where explanations of epilepsy, seizures and hallucinations are offered regarding Emily Rose.

Being trained in molecular biology, I do tend toward skepticism about claims of demon-possession. However, a couple of decades ago, M. Scott Peck a practicing psychologist and initially a skeptic began to explore the possibility. Because of this, I had to sit up and take notice. I have not read any of his books but friends have and I've read some of the reviews.

As a Christian, I have no personal experiences to relate about people who are demon-possessed. However, I have friends who have shared such stories.

What do I believe?

What would you believe if a friend told you such stories?

Why would my friends fabricate such stories? Friends don't lie as a matter of routine.

Also, my friends are remarkably level-headed people and not prone to flights of fancy.

When people tell fantastical stories, they are either lying (telling a fabrication with the intent to deceive), crazy (telling a fabrication and think it is real), confused (telling the story incorrectly), pulling your leg (telling a story to entertain you) or ... telling the truth?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Weaver does it all!

Went to my tenth Dodger game of the season.

The Dodgers win 8-3 over the hapless Rockies. Weaver worked 8 innings and went 3-4 with 3 RBI. Robles got 4 RBI. And it was just great to see the Dodgers swipe a couple of bases (Werth stole 2) after seeing others robbing them blind.

Clearly, tonight's game ball goes to Weaver who at the start of the season was at best the number three starter behind Penny and Lowe. As it stands, Weaver is the tireless horse grinding out the most innings on the team, garnering the most wins and getting the most strikeouts. He is a free-agent at the end of the year and if he finishes strong will be in a position to ask for more dough.

Thus, tonight was a great night for the Dodgers on the field and the fans in the stands.

Unfortunately, the Padres beat Clemens 2-0! Thus, the Dodgers remain 5 games back still on the edge of in the hunt.

Alas, the news off the field is not good.

Perez is back on the DL and so Tracy is going to have to decide whether to put DJ Houlton as the number four starter (he has been the number five) or Edwin Jackson who was called up from AA-Jacksonville.

And then there is the other off-the-field troubles in the ongoing Kent-Bradley feud and the whispering about about Derek Lowe that has gone public.

Devotional Thoughts: the Patience of Jesus

Was looking at Matthew 12:15-21 this morning.

When Jesus came to the Earth, why didn't he just crack the whip and take charge?

In some instances, he did. The way he went after hypocrites who claim to know God but really didn't. He also took on the moneychangers at the Temple.

But many other times there was a "divine shyness" (Philip Yancey introduced me to this idea in his book "Disappointment with God") to Jesus.

In verse 15, it says Jesus knew what they were planning (referring back to verse 14 where it says opponents wanted to kill Him) and it says, he simply left the area.

Jesus, the one who could call down an army of angels to smite them, just left.

Take a look at verses 19-21, I'm boldfacing the words that strike me this morning:
He will not fight or shout
he will not raise his voice in public
he will not crush those who are weak or quench the smallest hope
until he brings full justice with his final victory.
And his name will be the hope of all the world.
This reminds me of 2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Until Jesus brings full justice and final victory, we as his children need to fight for justice, give hope to the weak and speak on behalf of those without a voice. And most of the time it will be in the same way Jesus did it ... one person at a time. Yes, there is a place for political action. God bless those Christians who sense a call to that realm. But for most of us, the call is to our neighbor next door, the family member, the friend, the coworker in the office and any other people God brings into our lives.

We do all this *knowing* the delay of Jesus is because this time is the time for people to repent - to turn 180 from the wrong direction - and come back to God and Jesus wants us to be tools to help that happen.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Devotional Thoughts: The Sabbath in the 21st Century

One measure of "religiousity" is the classic poll question: Do you believe in God?

In the USA, around 90% + do. That number is much lower in Europe. I've never seen stats on other continents.

But of course, we all know, it is one thing to SAY one believes in God and another thing to have that actually change the way we live.

I pray most every day. Sometimes it feels rote but other times, I do sense I'm in communion with God. It isn't something I could "scientifically" prove and skeptics will always say that and say that it is some psychological/emotional phenomena that can be attained by non-religious means.

I also try to read the Bible - Hebrew (Old Testament) and Christian (New Testament) Scriptures - on a daily basis. I confess I don't always read every day but I try.

Was recently meditating on Matthew 12:1-14.

Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees for "breaking the Sabbath."

We usually think of the Sabbath as taking a break from work.

In the agrarian days of the Scriptures, keeping the Sabbath at least entailed resting from the daily labor of working on the farm. But how does that apply today in the 21st Century?

Hmmm ... if one works in health care or law enforcement and some other professions, I'm sure you occasionally have to work on the Saturday (if you are Jewish) or Sunday (if you are Christian). I think that would be fine as Jesus cited the example of priests on duty in the Temple and of rescuing the sheep that was injured and doing work to get food when you are hungry.

So how many 21st Century professions fall into this category where it would be okay to work on the Sabbath occasionally?

But for the vast rest of us, how do we practice Sabbath keeping?

As I see it, work life should: (1) glorify God - our lives should bring glory to God and work is part of our life (2) help provide for our material needs and the needs of others and (3) in some cases provide personal satisfaction.

I realize item #3 is really unique to modern Western culture. After all, a century ago, you had fairly little choice in professions. If you dad did something, you were likely to do the same whether you liked it or not. And in many parts of the world today, if you don't work (whatever you can find) you don't eat! So work to meet the material needs of yourself and your family is fully honorable!

So then what ideas should I be holding in my mind on the Sabbath day of rest?

I think gratitude is one key thing to consciously cultivate on the Sabbath day. God rested on the Seventh Day after six (literal or figurative) days of labor in creating. Much like an artist standing back to look and enjoy the work, God did the same. And so as people in the artist's workshop, we should join God in doing the same. So if you like to tinker with your lawn and your flower beds, enjoy! If you want to toss the frisbee and shoot some hoops with your kids, knock yourself out. Partake with gratitude what God gives.

I think also there should be gratitude for how God meets our needs through the work of the other days of the week. Yes, it is our hands and minds doing work but who gave us minds and hands? And so we need to cultivate a thankful heart. Thus, some time of reflection beyond the corporate time of worship I think is going to be beneficial to us.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Box 3 - [JGR/Appointee Clearances – 02/25/1984-04/17/1984]

This box of documents can be found here.

Background
These documents are from John Roberts' service in the White House Counsel's Office. From what I've heard, pretty much any matter that enters the White House that requires legal analysis goes to that office. In this box, the documents relate to the various nominations and appointments made by the President.

Summary of documents
The documents in this box fall into these broad categories:
Withdrawal sheets - these are document requests that were denied on the basis of exemption number six, "Release would constitute a clearly unwarrented invasion of personal privacy."
Clearances memo - JGR was cc'd in these perfunctory memos indicating that reviews of nominees and appointments were completed.
Press releases - JGR received copies of press releases regarding the nominations and appointments.
Memos written by JGR - In this box, there were five memos written by JGR, see pages 6-7, 8, 9, 32-33 and 38.
Other documents - JGR received copies of documents relating to the appointment of Weston to be Ambassador to Malawi, see pages 21-28.

Documents that might draw interest
None. The documents that were released are uncontroversial. Most of the documents were not prepared by JGR and were probably kept on file for his reference.

It will be interesting to see if any lobby groups, media or senators will expend political capital to get the release in whole or redacted, the memos mentioned in the "withdrawal sheets."

Summary of the 5 memos prepared by JGR

The pp. 6-7 memo was in regards to reappointments to the National Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention. There were some statutory requirements for membership on the committee and JGR indicated that the individuals reappointed remain qualified.

The p. 8 memo was in regards to the nomination of D. Gene Rickenbaker to the US Court of Military Appeals. There were some statutory criteria for this judgeship. JGR indicated that Rickenbaker was qualified.

The p. 9 memo was in regards to the nomination of Joel Gerber to the United States Tax Court. JGR cited Gerber's qualifications for the judgeship. He noted that a controversy over religously based Bob Jones University (they lost tax-exempt status due to racially discrimatory practices) occured while Gerber was Deputy Chief Counsel at the IRS but since his role was small he didn't expect it to be a problem. Undoubtedly, JGR will be asked about First Amendment and religion issues but this memo itself is uncomplicated.

The pp. 32-33 memo was in regards to appointments to the National Cancer Advisory Board. As in other memos in this box, JGR discussed the statutory requirements for members of the Board. Because the requirements were more complex, the memo was longer addressing how the appointees qualified in particular whether the appointees fufilled the carcinogenesist requirement. He also advised that some members might have to recuse themselves if conflicts of interests arise while reviewing grants.

The p. 38 memo was in regards to the appointment of Charleton Heston to the JFK Center for the Performing Arts Board of Trustees. JGR indicated that Heston met the statutory requirement for the position. Heston mentioned that he had been involved in disputes within the Screen Actors Guild and opposed the Nuclear Freeze movement. JGR did not believe those issues would be a problem.

Summary of other documents

The pp. 21-28 documents were various letters mostly written by Weston Adams in regards to his appointment to the Ambassadorship of Malawi probably kept by JGR in his files. Adams wanted to be in compliance with governmental ethics rules while retaining his name at his law firm during his service as ambassador and clarification of compensation issues for past work at his firm.

Brief description of each page
p. 1 - cover sheet
pp. 2-3 - withdrawal sheet, 10 documents not released due to personal privacy
p. 4 - withdrawal sheet, 1 document not released due to personal privacy
p. 5 - clearances have been accomplished memo regarding Moore and Smith reappointment
pp. 6-7 - memo from JGR regarding reappointment of Smith, Moore, Rouse and Koppenhoefer
p. 8 - memo from JGR regarding Rickenbaker appointment
p. 9 - memo from JGR regarding Gerber appointment
p. 10 - withdrawal sheet, 1 document not released due to personal privacy
p. 11 - withdrawal sheet, 1 document not released due to personal privacy
p. 12 - clearances have been accomplished memo regarding Nitze appointment
p. 13 - clearances have been accomplished memo regarding Carmen appointment
p. 14 - clearances have been accomplished memo regarding King nomination
p. 15 - clearances have been accomplished memo regarding Miller appointment
p. 16 - press release regarding Fairbanks nomination
p. 17 - press release regarding Nitze nomination
p. 18 - press release regarding various nominations and reappointments
p. 19 - press release regarding Loeb appointment
p. 20 - withdrawal sheet, 1 document not released due to personal privacy
pp. 21-28 - various letters and documents pertaining to Adams appointment
p. 29 - withdrawal sheet, 1 document not released due to personal privacy
p. 30 - withdrawal sheet, 1 document not released due to personal privacy
p. 31 - withdrawal sheet, 1 document not released due to personal privacy
pp. 32-33 - memo regarding appointments to National Cancer Advisory Board prepared by JGR for FF
p. 34 - correspondence tracking worksheet
p. 35 - withdrawal sheet, 1 document not released due to personal privacy
p. 36 - withdrawal sheet, 1 document not released due to personal privacy
p. 37 - withdrawal sheet, 1 document not released due to personal privacy
p. 38 - memo by JGR regarding Heston appointment
p. 39 - clearances have been accomplished memo regarding Heston appointment
p. 40 - clearances have been accomplished memo regarding Bosworth nomination

John Roberts Documents Analysis Project

Hugh Hewitt is attempting to harness the power of the blogosphere by calling for bloggers to adopt a box of documents and post summaries and analysis.

To see what boxes are left go here and sign up if you are interested in helping out!

I've adopted the following item: Box 3-JGR/Appointee Clearances 10/01/1983-11/30/1983.

I've downloaded the pdf from this web page. I hope to have a summary with analysis by Monday. The pdf is 40 pages.

UPDATE: Looks like I'll be checking out Box 3-JGR/Appointee Clearances 02/25/1984-04/17/1984 instead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Glacier NP Trip, Part III, a Kalispell postscript

Monday August 8 - We left the park and arrived at the Motel 6 in Kalispell and took it easy for the afternoon. We drove around Kalispelll and Whitefish to see what was around in the two neighboring towns.

Eventually, we returned to the part of town near the Motel 6 where about 2 blocks away was the Bulldog Pub. Dinner there was prime rib and BBQ pork.

Tuesday August 9 - My buddy's flight was in the morning so I went to the airport and dropped him off. Since my flight wasn't until the afternoon, I explored Kalispell for a few hours.

I had a huckleberry shake at Norm's News.



This photo below is of the mirror on the back bar which reflects the mural on the opposite wall.



While at Norm's News, I read in the menu that the building shared by Norm's News and the Western Outdoor shop was once the Opera House. I asked about it and the young woman behind the counter who made my shake and the lady waiting for a burger at the counter told me that indeed it was a rather famous place in the distant past. However, now, the upstairs was only used to store things and it hasn't been a meeting hall in some time.



The McIntosh Opera House building dates back to 1896.



Going south on the main road through town, you get to a traffic circle where the Flathead Valley county courthouse can be found. On the lawn, in front of the courthouse, was a display with the title, "Evolution of the Law." Replicas of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Northwest Ordinance, the Mayflower Compact and the text of Ten Commandments comprise the exhibit. It also is clearly noted that the items were all gifts to the county from a community organization. I take it that is how the display passes Constitutional tests regarding the showing of the Ten Commandments on government property as it was a gift and is in a historical context.



I stopped by the Hockaday Museum of Art. The building was made possible due to the Andrew Carnegie library projects. His library philanthropic funds built libraries all across the USA. The library was eventually converted to an art institute. When Hugh Hockaday, a local artist who was an advocate of arts education in the Flathead Valley, died, the art museum was named in his honor.



I did some knick-nack shopping at the Kalispell Center Mall.

My final stop was to Montana Coffee Traders. They have several stores and the one below is located here.
Montana Coffee Traders
(406) 756-2326
328 W Center St
Kalispell, MT 59901



I saddled up to the bar to order a iced coffee. The young barista asked me where I was from and when I said, California, she said, I went to college in California. However, she explained that the lure of the vast beauty of Montana where she grew up was too much to resist.

Coffee apparently is big in Kalispell as I saw many coffee shops with people sitting and relaxing. I also saw many drive up coffee shacks. After the trip, I was relating this observation to one of my friends who thought about it and then said, its cold up there most of the time so people don't want to get out of their cars to get coffee. Makes sense to me!

Also surprising was the number of casinos in the small town. It seemed like such a clash of cultures.

In any case, Montana is truly big skies and wide open spaces. It amazed me how many people we met have their second homes in Montana because they fell in love with the park and come back summer after summer. I can see why. The beauty of the place is breathtaking. And it is a large place with so many trails to hike and lakes to see so there is always something new to explore and even familar routes will look a little different from year to year.

And, for now, because of its remote location, not overly crowded.

But the sense of crowdedness is a relative term. One time we were chatting with some fellow hikers and they commented that the trail seemed especially crowded that day. I smiled thinking back to my recent Yosemite trip and mentioned this to our fellow hikers and they laughed and said, I guess crowds are relative, eh?

Indeed, when we were at Cracker Lake, there were 5 people at the lake that evening. The nearest people were probably 6 miles away back at the Many Glacier Hotel. On many occasions, while hiking, we would not see anyone. It was magnificent solitude. Sometimes an hour or more would pass before we saw anyone. All around us, as far as the eye could see, the grandeur of nature and at that spot there was often only our two pair of eyes.

And that sound ... can you hear it?

Not quite no sound ...

It is really faint ... in the distance ... water falling ... a chirp of a bird ... and occasionally ... maybe ... just a little of the whisper of the wind rustling some trees or plants ...

And this near silence testifies of the Creator of the universe.

Part I
Part II
Part III

Monday, August 15, 2005

Glacier National Park Visit, Part II



Wednesday August 3 - After arriving at the Glacier Park International Airport, we got a rental car and drove to the park. In retrospect, we should have swung into town to find a market to get some fruits and other food items. As it was, we had the items in our baggage which included instant oatmeal from Trader Joes and some dinner items also from Trader Joe (see here) and a couple of freezed-dried food packets. In the end, we only ate one of these items as they were less than appetizing. I suppose if we were really hungry we would have eaten the other one too but we weren't *that* hungry! 8-)

We arrived in the westside of the park at Lake McDonald and dropped off our stuff at the Apgar Village Lodge. We an early dinner at Eddie's right next door. We had rainbow trout and salads. We were introduced to the ever-present huckleberry. In this case, huckleberry vinagrette salad dressing.

We talked to the ranger and she recommended we do the Avalanche Lake trail which was 2 miles one-way with 500 foot gain. She thought we might get some nice views with the setting sun lighting up the falls that feed the lake.

On the trail to Avalanche Lake, we half expected the Ewoks to march out or to hear Elvish singing ...



Avalanche Lake!



We came back in time to get ice-cream at Eddie's before it closed for the night.

Thursday August 4 - The park is famous for its "Going-to-the Sun" road that connects the west and east sides of the park with Logan Pass being the highest point on the road. We stopped here and there and took some pictures but the late morning haziness had set in and the views though spectacular weren't very photogenic.

We drove to the St. Mary's Ranger Station in the east-side of the park where we picked up our backcountry permit for Cracker Lake which we would stay at for Friday. We also watched the required backcountry video giving information about bears, mountain lions and other dangers of the backcountry. While doing this, we met a young couple who were also going to the backcountry in the Many Glacier part of the park.

We then set out to buy liquid fuel for our stove. Unfortunately, the store only sold 1/2 gallon containers. While at this store we met the male half of that couple we met previously while watching the video. He was in the store trying to buy fuel also. He decided to head back to the ranger station figuring he could figure out the fuel situation up at Many Glacier as he didn't want to miss the shuttle bus.

We went down the street to find that other market the clerk at the first market thought might sell smaller sizes. Of course, they only had 1/2 gallon lots of the fuel also. We bought it and headed back up to St. Mary's Ranger Station wondering if the couple were still waiting for the bus. Indeed they were. We filled their 22 oz. MSR fuel bottle and wished them a good trip.

We set up our tents at St. Mary's campground. My friend, Leonard, had a Talus 23 while I had a Rock 22 which are both from North Face.

Hiked part of the way up to Siyah Pass from Sunrift Gorge which, if we completed it, would have been 5.6 miles one-way with a 3440 feet gain. As it was, we went out about 3 1/2 hours and decided to turn back.

While hiking, was always in awe of the mountains and waterfalls and open spaces. But sometimes, I would look down to see the beauty of what lives amidst the big things.



After getting beaten by the Siyah Pass trail, we took an easy trail to see the Barring Falls, a mere 0.6 round-trip with a 250 foot drop. The water is really cold!



Friday August 5 - We drove to the Many Glacier Hotel trailhead. From there we hiked 6.1 miles (1400 foot gain) to the backcountry campsite at Cracker Lake. One can take a day-trip on horseback for $115 to Cracker Lake.

While at the trailhead, we saw two rangers gearing up to go. Jessica and Jack were setting off to check on an ailing backcountry camper at Cracker Lake. One member of that party hiked out in the morning to get help.

The trail to Cracker Lake takes you through lots of stuff: switchbacks, creeks, areas with broken up rocks, wild flowers, lush greenery, trees, berries, a little bit of everything. Well, 4 hours of slow but steady hiking, we were there! None too soon as I was getting quite tired in the last hour and with the heat, I had consumed my 2 liters of water.

We met the 2 rangers and 3 campers just as we arrived at Cracker Lake. The ailing member of the party looked tired but was on her feet hiking slowly. Glad the situation seemed in hand.

We set up our tents. There are 3 spots for pitching tents. The two tents on the left were for 3 guys, two from Wisconsin and one from Sacramento. Our two tents were a bit farther away and closer to the lake.



We then went to our first order of business which was to filter some water. We filled up 4 one-liter bottles and a two-liter Camelback with this MSR pump. The cholorine drops did give the water the aroma of swimming pool water but it adds a measure of safety to the water purification process.

We cooked up our dinner and re-hydrated. We went back down to the lake to pump some more water so we would not have to in the morning.

We explored the rocky mountainside of the lake a bit before we headed back to our tents. I wanted to stay up to see the stars so I started reading The Magician's Nephew, book I of the Chronicles of Narnia. I'm looking forward to the movie coming out later this year.

The sun sets a lot later up in Montana and by 10 pm it was still dusky looking with no stars. I was tired and called it a night.

Saturday August 6 - We took down all our stuff, packed them away, had our oatmeal breakfasts and started hiking back out of Cracker Lake.

Here is a photo of me with the backpack and Cracker Lake in the background as the sun began to directly light up the canyon where the lake is. The lake has that striking blue coloration because of the minerals in the glacier-melt that feeds the lake. In the lake are bull trout which are endangered and as such there is no fishing allowed at the lake.



We made the return trip in a little over three hours. We drove to the Many Glaciers Campground which fills up fast in the summer! We probably got the last available campsite. It was probably the least favorite site as there is a man-hole cover on the edge of it! But we were happy to take it because the other option would have been to go back to St. Mary's which was a 45 minute drive. We set up camp and lounged around as my body was beat up by the backpacking. It was so nice to get a showers at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn! Tokens are sold at the gift shop for the public showers behind the store. $1.28 gets you one token for 8.5 minutes of shower! By the way, the other location we heard showers could be obtained was at the Rising Sun campground between Logan Pass and St. Mary's campground.

Refreshed, we drove to the Candian side to visit Waterton Lakes National Park.

The Waterton Lake is huge and I couldn't fit it into my wide angle lens!



And overlooking the lake is the Prince of Wales Hotel.



We drove to Cameron Lake and then we drove to Red Rock Canyon. Along the motor route were many trailheads leading off to various other lakes and hiking destinations.

Upon returning to Many Glacier, we had dinner at the Italian Gardens restaurant next to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

Sunday August 7 - While dining the previous night, we saw a placard for a Sunday morning non-denominational worship service. Thus, after a quick breakfast at our campsite, we attended a worship service hosted by A Christian Ministry in the National Parks at the Many Glacier Campground. Five young people who are seasonal workers at the park and volunteers with ACMNP hosted the service. A young woman played guitar, one of the guys led the liturgy which included a reading of the Apostle's Creed and Psalm 121. One of the waiters from the previous night's dinner gave the message. He shared about how Jesus took time to get away from the crowds. He also quoted from Henri Nouwen. In particular, he dwelt on Nouwen points out that success and activity is not necessarily equal to usefulness in God's sight.

It was a nice way to start the morning.

We went on a hike to Iceberg Lake, 9.8 miles round-trip 1200 feet gain.

It is called Iceberg Lake ... because the glacier that feeds it occasionally breaks off and small icebergs float around on the lake ... obviously, eh?



As you can see the water was so crystal clear!

We decided to hike to this lake because we heard about it from the other backpackers back at Cracker Lake. The guy who makes a living being a chef gave such a positive description of it! Thus, we had to try it even though by that Sunday morning, I had two blisters on my left foot (one on the side of the big toe and the other on the bottom of my feet). But I put some Moleskin on it and figured, I'm here in Glacier National Park and I don't know when I'll be back again, just keep going. To reduce the pressure on my blisters, I abandoned my hiking boots and wore my Columbia sandals instead!

Dinner was once again at Italian Gardens. We caught a Ranger talk at Many Glacier Hotel about glaciers and mountains. What were the three forces at work to make Glacier NP? Sedimentation, uplift and glaciation!

The ranger giving the talk was a seasonal ranger who teaches science in the other months of the year. He did touch on the topic of global warming. He mentioned that in the history of the earth there were warming and cooling trends. Indeed, at one time, the Glacier NP area was an inland sea in a very warm phase a very long time ago. And, of course, the way it looks now is largely due to the last ice-age when glaciers covered much of North America. During the ice-age, the entire park with the exception of the tallest mountains would have been covered in 3000 feet deep glacial ice. The valleys and the lake are formed by the glacial carving and recession. He mentioned that if the current warming trend continues, the last of the glaciers in the park may be gone by 2030. And of course, somewhere farther in the future, a cooling trend could occur again and an ice-age could once again cover the area under glacial ice.

A human lifetime is truly just a vapor!

Monday August 8 - As we packed up our stuff, a couple pulled up in their SUV asking if we were leaving. Indeed, we saw many vehicles circling around the campground looking for a prized spot.

These two were from Georgia. They have a second home in Montana and make the trip to Glacier every summer.

As they were setting up their tent, I asked them if they used liquid fuel for their stove. They said they did and so our fuel container found a home. The guy said, thanks and we will be sure to pass it along when we don't use up the whole thing too!

We drove back to Kalispell with a stop at Logan Pass to visit Hidden Lake Overlook for a leisurely 3 mile round-trip 460 feet gain hike.

Lots of wildflowers ...



Some wildlife ... in this case, a mountain goat!



We also saw a marmot and two big horn sheep but they were too small or too far away for me to capture on film.

We arrived at the overlook and saw the Hidden Lake.



Stay tuned for part III, a Kalispell postscript.

Part I
Part II
Part III

UPDATE: Click on the image below for a larger version of this image of Cracker Lake!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Dodger baseball live radioblogging

2:57 pm The Dodgers have been no-hit for 7 innings. Their one base runner was a walk. The Met pitcher Pedro Martinez is that close to a perfect game and now is 6 outs away from his first no-hitter and the first no-hitter in Met history.

The Dodgers are down 1-0 so bunting to break the no-hitter would not be a violations of "the rules" because the Dodgers want to try to get a baserunner who would be the tying run.

Ricky Ledee is at bat for the Dodgers in the bottom of the 8th.

3:01 pm K, 1 out.

Antonio Perez at bat.

3:02 pm Perez gets a triple!!!!!!!!!!!! The crowd goes wild!!!!!! No hitter is gone.

3:04 pm Jayson Werth homers!!!!!!!!! Dodgers lead 2-1!!! The crowd really goes wild! Shutout is gone and Dodgers lead.

3:05 pm Navarro grounds out. 6-3, 2 outs.

Penny grounds out. 6-3, 3 outs.

3:10 pm top of the ninth.

Piazza, K, 1 out.

Anderson, double.

Anderson steals third and passed ball.

3-1 to Diaz.

Fouled off 3-2.

3:15 pm 4-2 fielder's choice, 2 outs! Check swing dribbler. Perez went home and Navarro blocks plate and gets Anderson at the plate.

3:17 pm Matsui pinch-hitting for Williams.

1-2, the crowd is screaming and on their feet!

Low, 2-2.

Fouled off.

Swing and a miss! K, 3 outs.

Dodgers win!!

Box score at Yahoo! Sports.

Dodgers are 5 games out! Can they string together a few wins?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Camp Food Blogging

You might wonder, what did we eat while camping?

Well, the report is up over at LA.foodblogging!

We also nibbled on oatmeal bought at Trader Joes and dried fruit ... bought at Trader Joes. We were a walking endorsement of TJ products!

A Visit to Glacier National Park, Part I

Just got back from Glacier National Park.

Amazing place!

The itinerary in brief:

Flew on Delta from LAX to Salt Lake City, Utah and changed planes to fly into Glacier National Park International Airport just north of Kalispell, Montana.

Day 1 - arrived in the westside of the park at Lake McDonald, had dinner at Eddie's right next to our motel stay at Apgar Lodge, hiked 4 miles round-trip (500 feet gain) on the Avalanche Lake trail and got back in time for ice cream!

Day 2 - drove Going-to-the Sun road that traverses the park. Set up tents at St. Mary's Lake campground on the eastside of the park. Hiked part of the way up to Siyah Pass from Sunrift Gorge which if we completed it would have been 5.6 miles one-way with a 3440 feet gain. As it was, we went out about 3 1/2 hours and decided to turn back. We took a break by visiting Barring Falls which was a mere 0.6 round-trip with a 250 foot drop.

Day 3 - drove to Many Glacier Hotel trailhead to hike 6.1 miles (1400 foot gain) to the backcountry campsite at Cracker Lake.

Day 4 - hiked back out of Cracker Lake and luckily found a campsite at Many Glacier campground which fills up fast in the summer! After setting up camp and lounging around and getting showers at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (buy tokens at the gift shop for the public showers!), we drove to the Candian side to visit Waterton Lakes National Park. Had dinner at the Italian Gardens restaurant next to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

Day 5 - attended a worship service hosted by A Christian Ministry in the National Parks at the Many Glacier Campground. Then went on a hike to Iceberg Lake, 9.8 miles round-trip 1200 feet gain. Dinner was once again at Italian Gardens. We caught a Ranger talk at Many Glacier Hotel about glaciers and mountains. What were the three forces at work to make Glacier NP? Sedimentation, uplift and glaciation!

Day 6 - drove back to the Kalispell with a stop at Logan Pass to visit Hidden Lake Overlook, 3 miles round-trip 460 feet gain. Arrived at the Motel 6 in Kalispell and took it easy. Dinner was at the Bulldog Pub.

Day 7 - dropped off my buddy at the airport and I explored Kalispell for a spell (I couldn't resist!) before my flight. Flew home to Los Angeles via Salt Lake City.

Enough words, now for a few pictures ...

The creek that runs from Avalanche Lake.



The view along Siyah Pass Trail.



Cracker Lake!



Grizzly bears along the trail to Iceberg Lake. There were two but the only good photo I got of the bears was this one where you only see one.



Iceberg Lake!



Swiftcurrent Lake from the Many Glaciers Hotel.



More to come!

Part I
Part II
Part III

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Rambler Ambles off on Holiday

Going here!

In 1997, I drove across the USA from East to West. One stop was in Yellowstone NP. I saw Glacier NP on the map but knew it was too far away for our itinerary at that time.

I hoped that someday I'd get to go there!

And that day is almost here! Woo hoo!



Image source: http://www.nps.gov/glac/images/052404a.jpg

Os Guiness: "The Third Mission to the West"

The other week I had the chance to hear Dr. Os Guinness speak.

I haven't read any of his books. However, I have heard that he is one of the notible voices for evangelical Christianity.

He talks pretty fast, intelligently and passionately. My note taking could barely keep up and on many occasions didn't. What follows is my attempt to make heads and tails out my quickly scribbled notes.

The first part of his talk went by the title, "The Third Mission to the West."

Guinness began some opening remarks about where we are today with Christianity in the West.

He mentioned some Christians view themselves as a remnant and disengage from the culture at large.

Some see this new century as the Third Mission to the West. The First was the conversion to Christianity by the Roman Empire. The Second was the conversion of the barbarian empires that had defeated the Roman Empire. The Third will be the effort reach the West once again with Christianity in the Twenty-First century. As it is now, in Europe on Poland and Ireland retain strong Catholic faith while everywhere else Protestants are in decline.

In any case, Christians do face some anti-Christian prejudice and in some cases outright persecution. Why is that?

First, the Crusades and other folly done in the name of Christianity resulted in this bias among people. Second, some Christians repudiated the Enlightenment and the rise of scientific reasoning. Ironically, of course, without a Christian worldview, science probably wouldn’t have arisen. Third, the separation of public and private has marginalized Christian faith into a private matter leading some parts of Christianity to become extremist.

What shall we do in the face of this anti-Christian prejudice?

First, we simply have to expect it and bear it.

Second, we need to recognize some of the distortions within Christianity due to Modern thinking.

Modern thinking has shifted the balance to individualism over community.

It has diluted authority in the name of preferences, disconnected behavior from belief. As such the church has lost authority to influence behavior.

And finally, modern thinking has resulted in syncretism over exclusiveness in faith matters. Many people hold to a "cafeteria spirituality" mixing and matching elements form different religious traditions.

Third, modern communications has made things both easier and harder.

Inattention is a big problem today in that everybody is speaking and nobody is listening. It is as if the whole of the USA has ADD.

Technology has caused an inflation of sources of information and ideas. Who should we listen to? Can we trust what they are saying.

And finally, with a torrent of information, there is greater inertia. We can reflexively react to lots of information but it is hard to take time to truly reflect on things.

Fourth, we need to realize why some ideas are more powerful than others.

Ideas of leaders tend to be more powerful than ideas of followers. There is a tension between elitism and populism. But we should try to influence leaders.

Ideas at the "center" tend to be more powerful than the periphery. Influencing a cultural center like Paris, a political center like Washington DC or a financial center like New York has lots of impact. In the USA, Jews represent 2% of the population but they are in the big cities and have influence far beyond 2%. Are there centers of Christian thought? Doesn’t seem to be such a thing?

Ideas fed into networks are more influential than institutions and individuals.

Fifth, we must examine our options in the public square.

Some religious extremists will opt for "progressive universalism" where they will try to impose their beliefs on others by force. This is not the way of Christianity. Christians must be noted for their humility and sacrifice.

What the world has is "radical relativism" where the feeling of "Let’s do whatever" reigns.

Instead, Christians should push for and "examined pluralism."

Sixth, despite the anti-Christian prejudice, there are still openings. Admittedly, the academy is largely still closed. Also, activists against Christianity are obvioiusly closed to influence.

However, the West still has a lot of Christianity in its history. These things are still a part of society today and we need to use them as openings for discussions on faith.

Whenever people face a crisis, there is an opening. This era is no different than any other era.

Finally, people have a personal yearning and needs for family and these are openings for the Gospel.

Seventh and final point: what do we need to transform our society?

We need affirmation. We must say, yes to life. We must say yes to what is good and right.

We will need confrontation. We need to be able to say, no, that is wrong.

Finally, we need demonstration through our life behavior.