Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Non-Profit of the Month: July 2007 - Union Rescue Mission

One of the sad realities of life in the city is the difficulty of providing help for the homeless.

There are many organizations dedicated to helping the homeless with alcohol and drug rehab, temporary shelter, job training and other services. However, not all the homeless take the opportunity to use them.

So what do you do when you encounter a pan-handler?

I have to confess most times I just ignore them. I feel badly doing so but what can I really do for them?

I have on occasion given them money but have I just enabled that person to get more alcohol or drugs?

I have on occasion said, I'll buy you some food if the person is near a fast food place. I have to say no one has taken me up on the offer.

On occasion, if I saw the guy before I went into the fast food place or the market, when I leave I might offer them something that I had bought. More often than not this is accepted by them.

A number of years ago, I had dinner with a friend in a restaurant in San Francisco and we had left overs. We left the restaurant and we came across a panhandler and she looked at me and I looked at her and we gave him our leftovers. The other night, I was walking from a restaurant with my bag of leftovers. When I saw the homeless guy, I thought about that night in SF with my good hearted female friend, and it a blink of an eye, I offered my food to him and he accepted. He asked for some money while I handed it over to which I said, sorry, but I hope the food helps some. I prayed for him as I walked away and I prayed for people who work with people in such situations.

This incident leads to this post.

Periodically, I will give to an organization that helps the down and out of our city.

One of the most noted in the city of Los Angeles is Union Rescue Mission.

And so for this month's non-profit of the month post, I am encouraging you to consider giving to Union Rescue Mission or some other organization doing similar work in our city. I just went online and did so. Its easy and its a simple way to help.

If it were up to me (I'm a molecular biologist not a social worker) it wouldn't happen.

I thank God that there are people who have the heart and the training to help people in these difficult situations.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sports: What it feels like to be a sports fan?

It is such a strange thing to have a team to root for.

The feelings of expectation one has is often so outsized with the reality of how well the team has done historically.

A prime example for me is being a UCLA basketball fan. The Wooden years were so amazing that realistically no team will live up to those kinds of expectations ever again. Wooden coached teams won 10 national titles with the last one being in 1975 when he retired. Since then, the Bruins have only been in the national title game THREE times in the last 32 years and won once in 1995.

UCLA football has almost always been the second team in LA behind USC. Since I've been following them there has been just one stretch when UCLA was the dominant team in the rivalry. UCLA football has one national title ... from 1954. Since the invention of the BCS, I don't think UCLA has even played in a bowl game associated with the BCS. UCLA's last Rose Bowl appearance was in 1999 and I think at that time the Rose Bowl wasn't part of the BCS!

The Dodgers have a long history of loyal fans and many years of disappointment. Great teams in the 70s when I was a kid but something would always happen! Finally, in the 80s they broke through and won two championship! One against those darn Yankees and the other was the amazing magic carpet ride of 1988! 19 years later, the Dodgers have won how many playoff games?

One.

As a Dodger fan this year, it is destined for heartbreak. They bring in a high priced starter Jason Schmidt to be an ace, he is out for the season. They bring in a number 4 starter to beef up the rotation in Randy Wolf. He was doing pretty good but he gets hurt though he might be back in a couple of weeks. Derek Lowe is an innings eater. Last night, he strains a muscle running to first base and is day-to-day. Young Taiwanese pitcher Kuo with good stuff, poof, injured. Relief pitchers like closer Saito, 37, is day-to-day with shoulder stiffness. Set-up bullpen guys, Seanez, 39 and Hernandez, 43 who run hot and cold either shutting them down or serving up the big home run ball. And you got 23 year-old kids like Billingsley who might become a top starter and Broxton who is the closer of the future.

Can the Dodgers stay out in front of San Diego, Arizona and Colorado?

And even if the Dodgers make it to the playoffs again, will they be swept?

Yet, the fans keep coming back. I suppose that is what it means to be a fan. I keep coming back. I keep believing that the outcome will be different. Isn't one of the pithy sayings about insanity .... insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Life: Pleasant Surprises

In life there are moments of happiness like enjoying a simple pleasure.

Another source of happiness is the pleasant surprise.

I went to Gap to find some shorts for this broiling summer weather. I normally wear size X. Giving my size would be ... err ... TMI? 8-)

Anyway, I went to the fitting room and found that X was too large!

I wound up buying a pair that was size X-2.

Umm, nice ...

News: What is really happening in Iraq?

If you read this things seem pretty grim. Excerpt:
Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, has been the site of some of the deadliest bombings, including a double suicide attack on March 6 that killed 120 people.

The attack came a day after at least 16 people died when four car bombs rocked the center of the capital. Three of the blasts took place in one 30-minute span.
If you read this you think progress is being made. Excerpt:
As the tribes turn on al Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq, the targeted raids against al Qaeda in Iraq's network of facilitators, bomb makes and leadership cells continue. Today's raids by Coalition forces resulted in the capture of 20 al Qaeda operatives. A series of raids near Taji in Salahadin province resulted in 16 al Qaeda captured, including "a foreign terrorist suspected of involvement in the May 2007 Samarra suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack," while another four operatives were captured near Balad.
I suppose the reality is that in different parts of Iraq, the situation is different. In some places, they really are getting sick and tired of foreign fighters and local insurgents and are starting to turn against them. In other places, they still have a hold on the populace either through fear or loyalty to their cause.

How does one decide what to do next?

If you listen to the war critics, they say, it is time to leave because the trend line is going downhill and we are just going to get caught in the middle of an eventual full blown knife fight between the rival factions so might as well cut our losses now.

I suppose the most optimistic of the war critics will say that when we leave the rival factions will decide it is better to make nice to each other and peace will break out all over the country.

My fear is that the existing Iraq government actually wants a civil war. I'm under the impression that more of the power is in the Shiite bloc and I fear they secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) want to crush the Sunni and exact revenge for all the years they oppressed everyone else.

The "best case scenario" is that the government and most of the people actually do want to work together and what is needed is for foreign fighters and local insurgents to be defeated sufficiently that the average Iraqi on the street no longer fears reporting them to the authorities. They really can't operate in large numbers without either the tacit support of the locals or the locals being intimidated by their presence.

Devotional Thoughts: Bind up the brokenhearted

Recently, was with the youth group and we were reading Isaiah 61:1 and the study leader read, He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...

The students looked puzzled and they read from their Bibles, He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted.

We then had a lively discussion about the word "bind up" and "comfort" and what their reactions to the imagery those words bring up.

Anyway, being the research info hound type, I had to check it out after the study!

My Mac Sword Bible software at home says the word is "chabash" which is Strong's word number 2280 and so cutting and pasting it straight out from my software ...
2280 chabash khaw-bash' a primitive root; to wrap firmly (especially a turban, compress, or saddle); figuratively, to stop, to rule:--bind (up), gird about, govern, healer, put, saddle, wrap about.
Running the search at crosswalk.com it said the word is often translated into the King James as "saddle" with "bind up" being second most common.

Running the search over at Biblegateway.com "bind" is found in the NIV, NASB, KJV, ESV while "heal" is found in the Message and "comfort" is found in the NLT.

So it would seem many of our students have the NLT as their Bibles. Bind appears to be the more literal translation of chabash. Eugene Peterson at the Message interprets that to mean "heal the heartbroken" while the translation team at NLT thought "comfort the brokenhearted" better conveyed the idea of the passage.

The sharing around that word as well as other phrases in that one verse gave a window into the lives of our students as they reacted to the way God is at work. Definitely things to be in prayer for about their lives.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners ...

Lord, in any case, whichever word or phrase we use to describe it, Jesus was not content for us to stay in that broken place and we are to be about participating with him in doing that work in others too! Amen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: My intercessor is my friend

Continuing onward to Job 16.

Job punched back at his friends...

Then Job replied:
I have heard many things like these;
miserable comforters are you all!
Will your long-winded speeches never end?
What ails you that you keep on arguing?
I also could speak like you,
if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
and shake my head at you.

His friends didn't say anything that Job didn't know already. He felt, c'mon guys, you are no help at all! I have heard everything you have said because I've said them to myself already!

But my mouth would encourage you;
comfort from my lips would bring you relief.

Real wisdom is needed in life on what to say to people in pain. How does one encourage and comfort?

Often times words do seem awfully useless. But yet, sometimes words are all we got to give someone. Can't help but think of James 3 where the power of the tongue (words) for good and evil are directly discussed.

If there is sin there, how do we speak truth that can restore?

If there is suffering there, how do we speak truth that encourages and comforts?

Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved;
and if I refrain, it does not go away.

Ever been there?

What is there to do when there is nothing that can be done?

Tearful nights, sleepless dawns.

Can't help but think of Robert Kennedy quoting Aeschylus' Agamemnon on the night Martin Luther King was assassinated:
"In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
Job continued to bare his heart to God and his friends ...

Surely, O God, you have worn me out;
you have devastated my entire household.
You have bound me - and it has become a witness;
my gauntness rises up and testifies against me.
God assails me and tears me in his anger
and gnashes his teeth at me;
my opponent fastens on me his piercing eyes.
Men open their mouths to jeer at me;
they strike my cheek in scorn
and unite together against me.
God has turned me over to evil men
and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked.
All was well with me, but he shattered me;
he seized me by the neck and crushed me.
He has made me his target;
his archers surround me.
Without pity, he pierces my kidneys
and spills my gall on the ground.
Again and again he bursts upon me;
he rushes at me like a warrior.
I have sewed sackcloth over my skin
and buried my brow in the dust.
My face is red with weeping,
deep shadows ring my eyes;
yet my hands have been free of violence
and my prayer is pure.
O earth, do not cover my blood;
may my cry never be laid to rest!

This is the power of poetry at work: the visual words, the cadence of phrases, the deep emotions pour forth giving form to thoughts from within.

Yes, it sounds sacrilegious to be this angry at God!

As a "religious" person, I often think of myself as "a sinner in the hands of an angry God." And that picture is true! But here the tables are turned somewhat where God is in the hands of an angry sufferer.

Later on in Job, God responded and Job cowered in the presence of God and rightly so.

The choice was before him: "curse God and die" or engage God honestly and see what happens.

Indeed, Job goes on knowing he needed help ...

Even now my witness is in heaven;
my advocate is on high.
My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;
on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as a man pleads for his friend.
Only a few years will pass
before I go on the journey of no return.

Job didn't know about Jesus and what that would mean theologically. However, Job knew the human condition. He knew his condition. If he, if we, are to stand before God, we need help.

Lord, thank you that Jesus is my advocate before you. I can pour out tears to you and you will hear because Jesus has restored my relationship to you, O God. Amen.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: the premise of the question doesn't apply

Previously,
Job 1-2 Narrative Prologue
Job 3 - Job's lament
First cycle of poems
Eliphaz - Job 4-5, Job replies - Job 6-7
Bildad - Job 8, Job replies - Job 9-10
Zophar - Job 11, Job replies - Job 12-14

I was recently at the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in San Diego. One highlight of the exhibit was the videos from the UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.



One of the scrolls on display was an Aramaic translation of the Book of Job. It was kind of a strange moment to think that I had just a little bit in common with that scribe 2000 years in the past and 1/2 a world away!

What did he think about when he wrote out Job 15?

Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
Would a wise man answer with empty notions
or fill his belly with the hot east wind?
Would he argue with useless words,
with speeches that have no value?

Them is fighting words!

He goes on with more jabs.

But you even undermine piety
and hinder devotion to God.
Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty.
Your own mouth condemns you, not mine;
your own lips testify against you.

It seems that each speech by the friends of Job is getting progressively more aggressive. Eliphaz's prior speech in chapter 4 seemed downright mild in comparison!

Are you the first man ever born?
Were you brought forth before the hills?
Do you listen in on God's council?
Do you limit wisdom to yourself?
What do you know that we do not know?
What insights do you have that we do not have?
The gray-haired and the aged are on our side,
men even older than your father.

It is certainly true enough that Job probably wasn't the first man to suffer and wonder what the heck is going on. In someway, Job is "everyman" or at least every man who has tried to live rightly with faith in God. Someone who hasn't tried to live rightly would have no right to complain. And someone with no faith in God would have no God he or she would want to complain to!

Are God's consolations not enough for you,
words spoken gently to you?
Why has your heart carried you away,
and why do your eyes flash,
so that you vent your rage against God
and pour out such words from your mouth?
What is man, that he could be pure,
or one born of woman, that he could be righteous?
If God places no trust in his holy ones,
if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes,
how much less man, who is vile and corrupt,
who drinks up evil like water!

Such powerful words!

Sometimes when I'm feeling like the score is disappointment in life 5 me 0, I feel pretty low. As a person of faith, I ask myself, Are God's consolations not enough for you, words spoken gently to you? Do I really have the right to complain?

One thing I live by (I confess I often don't succeed) and I wonder if you think it is wrong of me to do this but I try to act happier than I actually am. Friends who know me will tell me I often fail at this! However, this is something I strive for. You see sometimes by acting happy you soon become happy. And even if that doesn't happen, I might still have an impact on those around me in a positive way. Do you think this is a good thing?

There is a scene in the film Cinderella Man when the character played by Rene Zellwegger is at the end of her rope with the children. When she is with them, she maintains a positive outlook. However, she then steps outside her home and breaks down and cries. She tried to act more happily than she felt because she wanted to protect her children.

The whole premise of the film Life is Beautiful is similar to this.

However, when I'm alone with God. I am at more liberty to be myself. Is this the right approach?

One last thought, from Job 1-2, we find that God has placed trust in Job in contrast to Eliphaz's point If God places no trust in his holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water!

Eliphaz continues very confidently and belligerently ...

Listen to me and I will explain to you;
let me tell you what I have seen,
what wise men have declared,
hiding nothing received from their fathers
(to whom alone the land was given
when no alien passed among them):
All his days the wicked man suffers torment,
the ruthless through all the years stored up for him.
Terrifying sounds fill his ears;
when all seems well, marauders attack him.
He despairs of escaping the darkness;
he is marked for the sword.
He wanders about - food for vultures;
he knows the day of darkness is at hand.
Distress and anguish fill him with terror;
they overwhelm him, like a king poised to attack,
because he shakes his fist at God
and vaunts himself against the Almighty,
defiantly charging against him
with a thick, strong shield.
Though his face is covered with fat
and his waist bulges with flesh,
he will inhabit ruined towns
and houses where no one lives,
houses crumbling to rubble.
He will no longer be rich and his wealth will not endure,
nor will his possessions spread over the land.
He will not escape the darkness;
a flame will wither his shoots,
and the breath of God's mouth will carry him away.
Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless,
for he will get nothing in return.
Before his time he will be paid in full,
and his branches will not flourish.
He will be like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes,
like an olive tree shedding its blossoms.
For the company of the godless will be barren,
and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes.
They conceive trouble and give birth to evil;
their womb fashions deceit.

Such vivid word pictures!

It is passages like these especially that tell me this story isn't "literal" in the sense this is a transcript of Job and his three friends sitting on the porch contemplating the mysteries of life. Do you and I talk in poetry to each other?

What probably happened was that the author of Job put into beautifully imaginative poetry the kinds of thoughts people have when they wrestle with the age old questions of justice, suffering, faithfulness, God and friendship.

Shakespeare's works aren't literally true but they are based loosely on real life events and embody real life experiences of the human condition.

So on the substance, is Eliphaz right?

9 times out of 10, people do get their comeuppance. The wheels of justice in this life sometimes do work and those who do wrong pay a price for their ways. But the difference in the story is that it is one thing to see the foibles of the rich and famous documented on the television news and then for them to wind up in jail. They are getting their just dessserts.

It is another thing to see someone suffering and assume they have some sin which we haven't seen.

Is Job suffering because he sinned?

Thus, as one may say, the premise of the question doesn't apply.

Lord, help me to take consolation in you during the difficult times. Help me to be loving to those around me who are in pain. Help me to be discerning about my sin and other's sin and slow to make judgments about others. And when I do make judgments on others, help me to do so with extreme humility and ready to give mercy and compassion with the goal of restoration and not to tear down. Amen.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Travel: Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit in San Diego



What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Dead Sea Scrolls were initially discovered by Bedouin herders and then by archaeologists between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near Khirbet Qumran, on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea in Israel. Thousands of fragments were discovered and pieced together into over 900 separate documents including biblical books, hymns, prayers, and other important writings.

quote source: http://www.sdnhm.org/scrolls/history.html

How old are they?

Within a fairly short time after their discovery, historical, paleographic, and linguistic evidence, as well as carbon-14 dating, established that the scrolls and the Qumran ruin dated from the third century B.C.E. to 68 C.E. They were indeed ancient!

quote source: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/intr.html

Who wrote them?

The word “Essene” is never distinctly mentioned in the scrolls. How, then, can we attribute either the writings or the sites of the Judaean Desert to the Essenes? The argument in favour of this ascription is supported by the tripartite division of Judaism referred to in Qumran writings (for example, in the Nahum Commentary), into Ephraim, Menasseh and Judah, corresponding to the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. As the Essenes refer to themselves in the scrolls as Judah, it is clear who they regarded themselves to be. Moreover, their religious concepts and beliefs as attested in the scrolls conform to those recorded in contemporary writings and stand in sharp contrast to those of the other known Jewish groups.

quote source: http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_Item_eng.asp?sec_id=44&subj_id=195&id=461&module_id=#as

However, there is disagreement in the scholarly community over the extent the Essenes were responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Although this evidence is accepted by the majority of scholars in identifying the Essenes with the Qumran settlement and the manuscripts found in the surrounding caves, some scholars remain unconvinced. Some propose that the site was a military garrison or even a winter villa. The scrolls are viewed as an eclectic collection, neither necessarily inscribed in the Dead Sea area nor sectarian in nature, perhaps even the remains of the library of the Temple in Jerusalem. Other scholars view the texts as the writings of forerunners or even followers of Jesus – Jewish Christians – who still observed Jewish law.

quote source: http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_Item_eng.asp?sec_id=44&subj_id=195&id=461&module_id=#as

The scholars at University of Chicago appear to be one center of thought investigating alternative views.

Their web page has several detailed articles of why they doubt the Qumran theory of authorship.

This item was their response to the exhibit of the DSS at Seattle's Pacific Science Center.

Yet in the past decade members of the reading public have become increasingly aware of a growing controversy over the nature and origin of the Scrolls. The new, opposing view, developed particularly in the wake of additional manuscript discoveries in that same Judaean Wilderness made in the 1950s and 1960s, is that the Scrolls reflect religious and social ideas of various groups within ancient Judaism, that Khirbet Qumran was not a religious site either of Essenes or others, and that the hiding of the Scrolls in the caves arose out of the need of the Jews of Jerusalem, circa 68/69 C.E., to sequester their manuscripts and other valued possessions when they became aware that the Romans intended to besiege and invade the city.

quote source: http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/is/deadseascrolls.html

Why are the Dead Sea Scrolls important?

The scrolls comprise, among other things, the oldest copies of the Bible in existence. The Qumran scrolls date from approximately 250 B.C. to about 65 A.D., and at some other locations to about 135 A.D. Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest existing manuscripts of parts of the Hebrew Bible came from about 800-1,000 A.D. The oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad Codex, dates to 1008 A.D. This means that the Dead Sea Scrolls give us texts of the Bible which were copied more than 1000 years earlier than any others now in existence!

The scrolls are also important because they have enabled scholars to gather an immense amount of information about how the Bible was written and how it was transmitted from generation to generation. In many cases the scrolls show a remarkable similarity to the text of the Hebrew Bible currently in use. In some cases differences between the scrolls and the traditional Hebrew text help explain difficulties in the present Hebrew Bible, and most modern translations of the Bible (such as the NIV) incorporate some of the new information from the scrolls.

Another crucial feature of the scrolls is the picture they portray of the Judaism of Jesus’ day. The scrolls show that Judaism in that period was more diverse than was once thought, and the literary parallels between the Gospels and the literature of Qumran demonstrate several instructive points of contact between Jesus’ teaching and the Judaism of his day.

quote source: http://www.deadseascrollsfoundation.com/about_the_scrolls.htm

Personal reflections

I do hope someday to visit Israel and the various places in the Middle East described in the Scriptures of the monotheistic religions. Until then, I have to be content with a pilgrimage to an exhibit like this.

My feelings about this exhibit grows from the fact that there is so much interest in them. The items themselves vary in their beauty. Some are in pretty decent shape and you can read the lovely script work of the scribe who wrote them. Others are quite hard to read as the wear and tear on the scrolls have made the lettering difficult to see. Some items are fairly intact while others are fragmentary. People are fascinated by them partly for what they are but mostly for what they represent.

No matter which theory of authorship you subscribe to, somebody 2000 years ago decided these things were worth making copies of and since their discovery in 1947, many scholars have painstakingly preserved them and studied them. The ideas embedded in the Hebrew Bible have stood the test of time such that today, I can sit and read an English translation of the text that is essentially the same as what the scribe worked on 2000 or so years ago!

At a personal level, I think the mystery of this connection through continuity hit home to me as I saw 11Q10 (the fifth scroll in the exhibit) which is an Aramaic translation of the Book of Job. The item is six small fragments that to be honest look like small pieces of burnt toast! But I thought about what it once was like... a whole scroll ... the delicate labor of love of a scribe. What must have been on his mind as his pen scratched those letters onto the parchment? I have been writing about Job in my "devotional thoughts" feature in this blog. I wrestle with the ideas in the book and its relationship to my life of faith. 2000 years ago, a scribe was at a table writing and probably thinking the same things.

Travel: Can you guess where I am?

Recently took a road trip!

Can you guess where I am?



Lots of beautiful flowers there.



Its an old place. In fact, founded in 1776.



When I saw these flowers there, I had to say, "Morning glory, evening grace, Hugh Hewitt!"

My journey continued and I stopped at the pier shown below.



Check out this more colorful picture. And check out this more striking picture!



I had lunch here at a restaurant reported to be a favorite of President Richard Nixon. Upon more web surfing, I am questioning the accuracy of the report as this restaurant makes the same claim on its web page.

I parked my car here to catch this below.



After a forty-five minute ride, I went to buy tickets!









All of the above was the journey which I enjoyed to get to my destination!



What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Dead Sea Scrolls were initially discovered by Bedouin herders and then by archaeologists between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near Khirbet Qumran, on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea in Israel. Thousands of fragments were discovered and pieced together into over 900 separate documents including biblical books, hymns, prayers, and other important writings.

quote source: http://www.sdnhm.org/scrolls/history.html

How old are they?

Within a fairly short time after their discovery, historical, paleographic, and linguistic evidence, as well as carbon-14 dating, established that the scrolls and the Qumran ruin dated from the third century B.C.E. to 68 C.E. They were indeed ancient!

quote source: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/intr.html

Who wrote them?

The word “Essene” is never distinctly mentioned in the scrolls. How, then, can we attribute either the writings or the sites of the Judaean Desert to the Essenes? The argument in favour of this ascription is supported by the tripartite division of Judaism referred to in Qumran writings (for example, in the Nahum Commentary), into Ephraim, Menasseh and Judah, corresponding to the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. As the Essenes refer to themselves in the scrolls as Judah, it is clear who they regarded themselves to be. Moreover, their religious concepts and beliefs as attested in the scrolls conform to those recorded in contemporary writings and stand in sharp contrast to those of the other known Jewish groups.

quote source: http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_Item_eng.asp?sec_id=44&subj_id=195&id=461&module_id=#as

However, there is disagreement in the scholarly community over the extent the Essenes were responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Although this evidence is accepted by the majority of scholars in identifying the Essenes with the Qumran settlement and the manuscripts found in the surrounding caves, some scholars remain unconvinced. Some propose that the site was a military garrison or even a winter villa. The scrolls are viewed as an eclectic collection, neither necessarily inscribed in the Dead Sea area nor sectarian in nature, perhaps even the remains of the library of the Temple in Jerusalem. Other scholars view the texts as the writings of forerunners or even followers of Jesus – Jewish Christians – who still observed Jewish law.

quote source: http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_Item_eng.asp?sec_id=44&subj_id=195&id=461&module_id=#as

The scholars at University of Chicago appear to be one center of thought investigating alternative views.

Their web page has several detailed articles of why they doubt the Qumran theory of authorship.

This item was their response to the exhibit of the DSS at Seattle's Pacific Science Center.

Yet in the past decade members of the reading public have become increasingly aware of a growing controversy over the nature and origin of the Scrolls. The new, opposing view, developed particularly in the wake of additional manuscript discoveries in that same Judaean Wilderness made in the 1950s and 1960s, is that the Scrolls reflect religious and social ideas of various groups within ancient Judaism, that Khirbet Qumran was not a religious site either of Essenes or others, and that the hiding of the Scrolls in the caves arose out of the need of the Jews of Jerusalem, circa 68/69 C.E., to sequester their manuscripts and other valued possessions when they became aware that the Romans intended to besiege and invade the city.

quote source: http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/is/deadseascrolls.html

Why are the Dead Sea Scrolls important?

The scrolls comprise, among other things, the oldest copies of the Bible in existence. The Qumran scrolls date from approximately 250 B.C. to about 65 A.D., and at some other locations to about 135 A.D. Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest existing manuscripts of parts of the Hebrew Bible came from about 800-1,000 A.D. The oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad Codex, dates to 1008 A.D. This means that the Dead Sea Scrolls give us texts of the Bible which were copied more than 1000 years earlier than any others now in existence!

The scrolls are also important because they have enabled scholars to gather an immense amount of information about how the Bible was written and how it was transmitted from generation to generation. In many cases the scrolls show a remarkable similarity to the text of the Hebrew Bible currently in use. In some cases differences between the scrolls and the traditional Hebrew text help explain difficulties in the present Hebrew Bible, and most modern translations of the Bible (such as the NIV) incorporate some of the new information from the scrolls.

Another crucial feature of the scrolls is the picture they portray of the Judaism of Jesus’ day. The scrolls show that Judaism in that period was more diverse than was once thought, and the literary parallels between the Gospels and the literature of Qumran demonstrate several instructive points of contact between Jesus’ teaching and the Judaism of his day.

quote source: http://www.deadseascrollsfoundation.com/about_the_scrolls.htm

Personal reflections

I do hope someday to visit Israel and the various places in the Middle East described in the Scriptures of the monotheistic religions. Until then, I have to be content with a pilgrimage to an exhibit like this.

My feelings about this exhibit grows from the fact that there is so much interest in them. The items themselves vary in their beauty. Some are in pretty decent shape and you can read the lovely script work of the scribe who wrote them. Others are quite hard to read as the wear and tear on the scrolls have made the lettering difficult to see. Some items are fairly intact while others are fragmentary. People are fascinated by them partly for what they are but mostly for what they represent.

No matter which theory of authorship you subscribe to, somebody 2000 years ago decided these things were worth making copies of and since their discovery in 1947, many scholars have painstakingly preserved them and studied them. The ideas embedded in the Hebrew Bible have stood the test of time such that today, I can sit and read an English translation of the text that is essentially the same as what the scribe worked on 2000 or so years ago!

At a personal level, I think the mystery of this connection through continuity hit home to me as I saw 11Q10 (the fifth scroll in the exhibit) which is an Aramaic translation of the Book of Job. The item is six small fragments that to be honest look like small pieces of burnt toast! But I thought about what it once was like... a whole scroll ... the delicate labor of love of a scribe. What must have been on his mind as his pen scratched those letters onto the parchment? I have been writing about Job in my "devotional thoughts" feature in this blog. I wrestle with the ideas in the book and its relationship to my life of faith. 2000 years ago, a scribe was at a table writing and probably thinking the same things.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Life: Simple pleasures

A ripe honeydew melon. Hmmm. 'Nuff said!


image source: http://www.bartleby.com/61/imagepages/A4honeyd.html

Monday, July 16, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: You shall desire the work of your hands

Am looking at Job 14 this morning.

Job is continuing the monologue he started back in Job 12.

Man who is born of woman
Is of few days and full of trouble.
He comes forth like a flower and fades away;
He flees like a shadow and does not continue.
And do You open Your eyes on such a one,
And bring me to judgment with Yourself?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
No one!
Since his days are determined,
The number of his months is with You;
You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass.
Look away from him that he may rest,
Till like a hired man he finishes his day.
For there is hope for a tree,
If it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And that its tender shoots will not cease.
Though its root may grow old in the earth,
And its stump may die in the ground,
Yet at the scent of water it will bud
And bring forth branches like a plant.
But man dies and is laid away;
Indeed he breathes his last
And where is he?
As water disappears from the sea,
And a river becomes parched and dries up,

Do you think about death a lot?

I don't. Certain events in life (death of someone I know, a personal health problem, some tragedy in the news) will cause me to think about death. And when I sit and think about it, I do have to say what Job is saying here: we are here and gone just like that.

Can I wake up every morning and think, I'm going to die today? I suppose it might focus my mind more on gratitude and making the most of the opportunity of life? Or would it just be depressing leading me to not even bother going out the door?

Of course, we have to allow Job this time of reflection because of his circumstances.

As one pastor shared with me, I don't have to preach too loud at funerals. At other times, pastors can get a megaphone in our face and we don't listen!

So man lies down and does not rise.
Till the heavens are no more,
They will not awake
Nor be roused from their sleep.
Oh, that You would hide me in the grave,
That You would conceal me until Your wrath is past,
That You would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
If a man dies, shall he live again?
All the days of my hard service I will wait,
Till my change comes.
You shall call, and I will answer You;
You shall desire the work of Your hands.

Do you think Job believes in an afterlife?

A lot of times, Job talks of death and it seems like he is saying, that's it, you are in the ground and there is nothing more.

This passages seem to hint that he believes there might be something more.

What do you think?

Is it the part of me that knows of Jesus and the resurrection that biases me to think that Job had at least a hint of an afterlife?

From the next passage, I can't help but feel that Job is of two minds about the afterlife. At times, it seems like he thinks there is nothing more and at other times he seems to be hinting he believes there is more.

For now You number my steps,
But do not watch over my sin.
My transgression is sealed up in a bag,
And You cover my iniquity.
But as a mountain falls and crumbles away,
And as a rock is moved from its place;
As water wears away stones,
And as torrents wash away the soil of the earth;
So You destroy the hope of man.
You prevail forever against him, and he passes on;
You change his countenance and send him away.
His sons come to honor, and he does not know it;
They are brought low, and he does not perceive it.
But his flesh will be in pain over it,
And his soul will mourn over it.

It does seem bleak doesn't it?

I think the "hint" of an afterlife is that Job seems to care about justice as he talks about sin.
For now You number my steps,
But do not watch over my sin.
My transgression is sealed up in a bag,
And You cover my iniquity.
Job believes he has sin in his life but that God has forgiven him of his sins.

The simple calculation is that he is suffering right now and so he must have sin. If there is no afterlife, where is the vindication of his standing before God?

Perhaps, that is a reach of convoluted logic.

Lord, the physical life is precious to me. You want me to do justice in this life but I know there is still lots of injustice. You want me to show mercy to people in this life but sometimes that just doesn't seem like enough to make up for has happened. You want me to walk humbly with you but it seems hard when things happen that don't make a lot of sense. Help me to be like Job to be able to say like him,
If a man dies, shall he live again?
All the days of my hard service I will wait,
Till my change comes.
You shall call, and I will answer You;
You shall desire the work of Your hands.

Amen.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sports: Dodgers in the hunt for October

It is the Wild Wild West with the Dodgers, Padres and Diamondbacks fighting for the divisional title and staying in the wild card race.

Catcher - Will Martin continue to have the amazing year? Little will probably put in the back-up a bit more frequently to keep Martin from breaking down. We definitely will need a healthy and productive Martin in a successful final stretch.

First base - Will Loney be trade bait or will he be the Dodger's future? He is hitting well and fielding well. People complain about his lack of power but the Dodgers are playing small ball these days and having a good batting average is what the Dodgers need and Loney is delievering.

Second base - Kent is still going pretty good for being the gray beard of the group. Hope he can stay healthy!

Third base - Garciaparra is making some contact as shown by his .275 ave but the number of doubles and home-runs is lower than the Dodgers would like to have from him. Hope he can stay healthy and find a little more pop in his swing! If he goes down, I hope Betemit can pick it up. He hits for power but his ave is dreadful. Betemit will get his chances as Little makes sure Garciaparra gets regular breaks to keep him healthy.

Shortstop - Furcal is a solid contributor and hopefully he can get on a hot hitting streak or two in the 2nd half.

Left field - Gonzalez is another gray beard and he has done pretty good after a very slow start and will be key for hits and a club house presence for the youngsters.

Center field - Pierre is doing okay, fans were hoping his OBP would be higher by getting more singles and drawing more walks. He is the base steal leader on the team which is a dimension the Dodgers need since they don't have power.

Right field - Kemp and Ethier are platooning with Kemp giving them more hitting and Ethier usually in for defensive purposes. They also platoon with Gonzalez to give him a break and for defensive purposes late in games.

Pitching - Will Penny be strong in the 2nd half or will he go .500 like last year? Will Lowe keep eating up innings and finally get some run support from his team mates? Will Billingsley show he is ready for prime time and live up to all the expectations? Will the surprising Hendrickson keep it up? Will Tomko bear down and give them some good #5 starter starts. If Wolf makes it back, I'm not sure which guy goes back to the bullpen. Tomko has been the weakest of the three but he maybe more suited to the starter role than the bullpen so he might be tradebait.

Bullpen - Looks good with Saito, Broxton and Beimel. However, periodically the starting staff blows up and the bullpen gets overworked. Hope they have enough gas for the end.

Forecast - The key is the starting staff, if they live up to expectations it could go down to the final weekend and I'm saying the Dodgers edge the Padres for the NL West title!

Trade rumors - Haven't heard any on sportstalk radio! Certainly, Colletti is looking to get another starter like he did last year when he pulled the Maddux deal. But right now, the number of pitchers on the market is pretty thin and the market for hitters seems even thinner. The Dodgers might have to go with what they got.

Of the youngsters on the Dodgers, (Martin, Loney, Kemp, Ethier and Billingsley), I'm not sure who they would give up. My guess is Martin is definitely off the table. Of the outfielders, they would probably keep Kemp over Ethier because of Kemp's hitting power. Loney and Billingsley would only go if they are really getting someone big. I suppose La Roche (an AAA prospect) might be tradebait. The Dodger relief corp is solid and I'm sure some teams will be asking for someone from that group but at times they have needed everyone for marathon extra inning games and when a starter falls down. Critics have said that Gagne's arm get wrecked when they parted with set-up man Guillermo Mota in 2004 resulting in Gagne having a number of 1+ inning saves in the pennant race that season. I'm guessing Colletti won't make that mistake.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Travel: Where am I?

This trip came about on rather short notice.

One of the alumni of West Coast Chinese Christian Conference past away after a long battle with cancer.

To read a little bit more about her life, check this web page out.

The time of memorial was a mixture of sadness and celebration. Sadness in that so many people felt the loss of this bright light of a life. Celebration in that she was now freed from the bonds of physical suffering and celebration in that we all had good memories and feel our lives were enriched by knowing Susan.

I was a good time of reflection on life, reconnecting with old friends and of seeing once again the town I lived in from 1997-1998.



If the flowers don't give it away certainly the photos below will give it away as does this song.



Click for a larger image.

Added another ballpark to my list of visited ball parks.



What do you think these people are doing?



If you know this town, you will know where this is!?



This one should be easy to identify.



Click for a larger image.

The bridge is familiar. But where did I take the photo from?



The flower shots were taken at the same location. Do you know where it is?

To see the answers, go here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: Though he slay me, I will hope in him

Onward to Job 13.

Job goes into a thrust and parry mode.

He takes a poke at Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar and says their arguments are not unfamiliar to him.

Behold, my eye has seen all this,
my ear has heard and understood it.
What you know, I also know;
I am not inferior to you.

What Job wants is an audience with God.

But I would speak to the Almighty,
and I desire to argue my case with God.

Job pokes his friends again!

As for you, you whitewash with lies;
worthless physicians are you all.
Oh that you would keep silent,
and it would be your wisdom!

Job switches back to wanting to make his case.

Hear now my argument
and listen to the pleadings of my lips.

He slaps at his friends again.

Will you speak falsely for God
and speak deceitfully for him?
Will you show partiality toward him?
Will you plead the case for God?
Will it be well with you when he searches you out?
Or can you deceive him, as one deceives a man?
He will surely rebuke you
if in secret you show partiality.
Will not his majesty terrify you,
and the dread of him fall upon you?
Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay.

He demands silence from his friends so he can have the floor to make the case with God.

Let me have silence, and I will speak,
and let come on me what may.
Why should I take my flesh in my teeth
and put my life in my hand?
Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
yet I will argue my ways to his face.
This will be my salvation,
that the godless shall not come before him.
Keep listening to my words,
and let my declaration be in your ears.
Behold, I have prepared my case;
I know that I shall be in the right.
Who is there who will contend with me?
For then I would be silent and die.

The phrase that really jumps out at me is Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. Whoa. Audacious. Chutzpah. Any other words you want to use to describe Job here?

Job straddles that fine line of respect for God ... he realizes he could be zapped on the ground he is standing on ... and intimacy with God ... he wants to get in God's face!

He goes on and demands two things from God ...

Only grant me two things,
then I will not hide myself from your face:
withdraw your hand far from me,
and let not dread of you terrify me.
Then call, and I will answer;
or let me speak, and you reply to me.

Paraphrasing Job by drawing from my own prayer life when sometimes I feel anguish such that all I can barely croak out in prayer is, God I'm in pain (emotional or physical), make it stop, talk to me, listen to me. HELP!

How many are my iniquities and my sins?
Make me know my transgression and my sin.
Why do you hide your face
and count me as your enemy?

Job knows he isn't a perfect man. He pleads, God, did I mess up somewhere? I know its possible, tell me!

He brings all his doubts to God's feet

Will you frighten a driven leaf
and pursue dry chaff?
For you write bitter things against me
and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth.
You put my feet in the stocks
and watch all my paths;
you set a limit for the soles of my feet.
Man wastes away like a rotten thing,
like a garment that is moth-eaten.

To be continued into Job 14 ...

Lord, Job, one of the oldest books in the Bible reads and sounds as real today as prayers anguished believers pray each night as they bring their sorrows to you. God, I have heard words from my mouth no where near as eloquent as Job's words but they come from the same heart. Lord God, grant comfort to those people in my life for whom I know sorrow is their portion at this moment. Grant me some of that blessing too as I face difficulties in day-to-day life. Amen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sports: AL 5 NL 4

What can you say?

The AL usually wins the MLB Championship, more of the inter-league games and the recent All-Star Games.

La Russa is taking heat for not sending up Pujols to hit with the game on the line.

As it was, Rowand flied out for the last out.

La Russa said he needed to hold someone for extra innings.

Let the debate begin!

My opinion is you got to roll the dice and play for the win by sending in Pujols to hit. He either doubles in two runs to win the game or he strikes out. I can't imagine that if Pujols makes contact it is going to be a dying duck single that gets only one run. The only other scenario you get a tie game is that Rodriguez totally loses it and can't find the plate.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Space: Teacher in Space Backup Barbara Morgan to Fly in Next Shuttle Flight

Barbara in 1986 with Christa McAuliffe, the Teacher in Space, who perished in the Challenger Explosion on January 28, 1986.


image source: http://www.spacetoday.org/Astronauts/BarbaraMorganTeacherAstronaut.html

She was 35 years old at the time of the photo. She stayed with the NASA program and now, 21 years later, Barbara is set to go on board STS-118 on August 7, 2007 as an educator-astronaut and mission specialist.



image source: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/morgan.html



image source: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/shuttle/sts-118/ndxpage1.html

The crew with the Space Shuttle Endeavour in the background on the launch pad.

Godspeed to the crew of STS-118 and to Barbara Morgan!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: 23 Verbs

Previously, in chapter 1-2 we got the behind the scenes look at the cosmic struggle for faith and its meaning to God.

Job's opening lament was chapter 3.

Eliphaz spoke in chapter 4-5. Job replied in chapter 6-7.

Bildad spoke in chapter 8. Job replied in chapter 9-10.

Zophar spoke in chapter 11. Now Job launches into a reply in Job 12. His reply extended into chapters 13-14.

Then Job replied:
Doubtless you are the people,
and wisdom will die with you!

A little sarcasm here, dear Job?

But I have a mind as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know all these things?

Job comes out swinging saying he has thought about all the arguments his friends have been making about his suffering.

I have become a laughingstock to my friends,
though I called upon God and he answered --
a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!

He felt as if his friends are mocking him. He feels he has not only lost his possession, his family and his health but also his dignity and the respect of others. He feels alone in his belief that as far as he could tell he was righteous and blameless before God.

Men at ease have contempt for misfortune
as the fate of those whose feet are slipping.
The tents of marauders are undisturbed,
and those who provoke God are secure --
those who carry their god in their hands.

He blasted his friends saying, it is easy for you to criticize me because you have it easy right now.

Job then launched into a tour of the grandeur of the physical world as evidence that God is the Creator.

But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish of the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?

What does the animal world tell us about the nature of life?

Ever watch a nature documentary?

You see animals killing each other! We sometimes romanticize animals because in cartoons they talk and are singing songs. But real life, in the wild, is bloody and filled with death.

Is Job saying that humans are under the same scenario as the animals?

Job sees the creation and knows God is behind it. And if God is behind it, then questions of life and death and wisdom have to come from God.

In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.
Does not the ear test words
as the tongue tastes food?
Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?

Is Job being sarcastic again saying that his buddies are old and they really "understand?"

Or is he saying, he is the one who is truly wise because of his life experience and perspective sitting on the ash heap?

Either way, he launches into an incredible poetic statement of the power of God.

To God belong wisdom and power;
counsel and understanding are his.
What he tears down cannot be rebuilt;
the man he imprisons cannot be released.
If he holds back the waters, there is drought;
if he lets them loose, they devastate the land.
To him belong strength and victory;
both deceived and deceiver are his.
He leads counselors away stripped
and makes fools of judges.
He takes off the shackles put on by kings
and ties a loincloth around their waist.
He leads priests away stripped
and overthrows men long established.
He silences the lips of trusted advisers
and takes away the discernment of elders.
He pours contempt on nobles
and disarms the mighty.
He reveals the deep things of darkness
and brings deep shadows into the light.
He makes nations great, and destroys them;
he enlarges nations, and disperses them.
He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason;
he sends them wandering through a trackless waste.
They grope in darkness with no light;
he makes them stagger like drunkards.

23 verbs. Count them. 23 times. God tears down, God holds back, God leads, God reveals ...

There is an abstract theological debate about God's relationship to time and God's balancing of human free will and divine sovereignty.

I don't have any answers. I have ideas but certainly nothing I could "prove." I think it would be the height of folly to claim I can prove my views on God.

God has to have a "strange" relationship to time because time appears to be a function of the created universe. If God exists "prior" to the universe and time only exists because their is a universe than God's relationship to time must be quite beyond our comprehension.

As for divine sovereignty, I have a somewhat nuanced view which I don't know if it lands me as a heretic or not but I'm very careful when I describe the power of God. Some might say, God is so powerful, God can do everything. I feel that is not precise. God can do everything God wants to do. Do you see the difference?

For instance, can God do something evil? I say no. So that means God can't do everything! To which I reply, I believe God can do whatever God wants to do. God doesn't want to do evil so God doesn't do evil.

So what is the relationship to human free will?

How about a trivial example?

I suppose one might ask, does God make me put on that loud green tie today?

I suppose if God really wanted to make me put on that silly tie, God could do so. I suppose if God really didn't want me to put on that goofy tie, God could stop me. However, I believe that God can do whatever God wants to do and maybe, just maybe, God says, Rene, you can put on any tie you like. Has God's sovereignty been preserved? Has my free will been preserved?

Obviously, this gets a lot more complicated with matters more significant than the color of the tie I put on in the morning.

Sorry, dear gentle readers, I've gone from the sublime poetry of Job that attempts to describe the ineffable aspects of God power to talking about ties.

But I hope you see where my meditation has been going this morning.

Lord, you are powerful and can do what you want. But in your deciding what you want, you have given us incredible freedom and the consequences of that. Dear Jesus, there are days I'm deeply saddened by what I see happening around the world. I'm hurt to the core to see loved ones suffer. And yes, in my selfishness, I often bitterly complain to you about my own hurts. But I lay them all at your altar knowing my duty is to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before you. Job tried to do that his whole life and he is sitting on an ash heap and pretty upset. And for all his faults, he knows where wisdom is found and he is wrestling with you about it. Lord, help me to do the same in my life. Amen.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Politics: And the 2008 Democratic Party Presidential Nominee is ...

... Al Gore?

I've now heard this scenario proposed by several people and am beginning to wonder if there is something to it?

The premise of an Al Gore nomination is as follows:
(1) Hillary Clinton has none of the rogue charm of Bill and all the negatives
(2) Barak Obama in the end is just too inexperienced to be the nominee for POTUS
(3) Neither candidate garners enough support to win the nomination outright
(4) Al Gore rides into the picture on the sentiment that he had won 2000 and deserves the nomination to save the party.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Culture: The Food Network - Nancie McDermott on Alton Brown's Show

Sorry have been out of blog-touch with you all. Of the 30+ blog visits this site gets daily, most are looking for something via Google or some other search engine. I do have the impression there might be a small number of regular readers. Am always curious who is out there with a bookmark for this blog or has a aggregator subscription to this site!

Anyway, will be back to blogging in full soon but for now, this little item ...
Greetings and a News Flash from Nancie McDermott:

Watch me in my prime-time-television debut on

Monday, July 9, 2007 at 8 p.m.

as The Cake Detective, serving up a little culinary history to the incomparable Alton Brown, in the season premier of his Peabody Award-winning program:

"ALTON BROWN'S GOOD EATS"

The Details:
The Food Network

Alton Brown's
"Good Eats"
Episode EA1104

AIR TIMES:

July 09, 2007 8:00 PM ET/PT
July 10, 2007 3:00 AM ET/PT
July 23, 2007 11:00 PM ET/PT
July 24, 2007 2:00 AM ET/PT

"Coconut Cake Revival"
Is it possible to make great cake with coconut from a can? Should you even try? Host Alton Brown wants to know and he's willing to crack open as many nuts as it takes to make a slice of paradise on a plate.
McDermott is the wife of one of my co-workers in one of my various stops along the way in my life in molecular biology. I have Nancie's first book, Real Thai: The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking. Pulling together Thai curry is no small task! But it was great stuff and lots of fun to do but hard work. But the taste can't be beat!