Thursday, July 31, 2008

drought affects churches

With reports of flooding in the Midwest we often forget that there are parts of the country that are desperately in need of rain. This report is from GCFL.net:

Severe drought affects churches in northern Alabama, Tennessee, and northwest Georgia.

Did you know that because of the drought in these areas, church budgets are greatly affected?

Baptist churches are having to sprinkle for baptisms, the Methodists are using wet wipes for their baptisms, and the Catholics are praying that God will turn the wine back into water.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

the best defense is often . . . .

A young mother takes her sick baby to the emergency room. The ER physician quickly looks at the infant, thinks no big deal, dismissing the mother as an overreacting new mom. That evening the young woman takes the baby to her mother to be cared for while she goes to work. During the night the baby dies in his crib.

Whoa. That is tough, double tough.

I know both the mother and grandmother. I am pretty close to the grandmother and we often talk about the things of God and other personal matters. She knows intellectually that there was nothing she could have done, that the death wasn’t her fault.

This happened years ago. At the time I offered a suggestion that I knew she would not misunderstand since we knew each other well enough. I told her to ask forgiveness of God for anything she might have done, or neglected to do, that she didn’t even know about. This was not because she had done or not done something. It was because those thoughts would come to her that maybe if she wouldn’t have done this, or that maybe she should have done that, and her grandbaby would still be alive.

The Enemy will send the if-I-wouldn’t-have’s or the I-should-have’s at times when she is vulnerable. Sooner or later, he always does. It is not a matter of if, but when. When they do come she can have the assurance that she is without guilt. She can thank God for the forgiveness if there is any need (and even if there isn't any need). She can recognize, thank, and praise God for His sovereignty.

We often tell people to prepare for the attack and how to protect themselves from the attack. This suggestion goes a step further. You anticipate the attack and then go on the offensive to take away the ground from which the enemy can launch the attack. You take preventative measures by destroying the platform from where he can ambush you, from where he can fire off his accusations. It is good to be able to defend against the fiery darts of the enemy. It is better to also take away the position that affords a good shot at you.

Just a suggestion....

Be blessed.
RB

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

isa al-masiah in china.

This is from a newsletter from a family in China who minister to the Hui (Chinese Muslims).

It took 10 years to go from zero to 50 (average five real believers per year), then five years to go from 50 to 200, so at this rate of multiplication, how long to see all of the 50 million Hui to Christ?

They had no answer. So I pulled out my financial calculator. 50 to 200 in five years is a compounded annual growth rate of 31.95%

To get to from 200 to 50,000,000 at that rate (compounded) would take about 39 years and six months.

That is really not very long now is it?

Also from the same newsletter:
This past week, one of our Christian Egyptian brothers living here said, "I am very upset, I saw a bumper sticker in Arabic on a car today here in China...I would never see in Egypt,...it said, "Fight and slay the Infidel"...then later another Chinese brother said, "The Hui are posting on the internet that they are upset that so many of the Hui are becoming Christians."

Might it be time for believers to become intercessors?

BTW: Isa Al-Masiah is Arabic for Jesus the Messiah.

Monday, July 28, 2008

doesn't take much to thrill me....

We have a new voicemail system at work with software that will notify me by email when someone has left a new message. So if I am working elsewhere (e.g., the library, home) I can check my voicemail whenever I check my email. Also, if I don't want to be bothered by an interruption by email or phone, I don't have to be. This is cool.

Since I now have a cell phone of my own, I can call back wherever I am.**

What do I need an office for?

Be blessed!
RB

** If you know my cell number, don't EVER send me a text message. I not only don't know how to use it, I don't want to know how to use it. The cell phone comes with its own voicemail service if you want to give me a message. It is faster, easier, and cheaper than sending a text message. There is such a thing as inappropriate technology. Sometimes we have to take a stand against evil.

Monday, July 21, 2008

don't track

The limerick is a follow-up to this.

21 Jul 08 11:21 AM - Shipment delivered, Canton, NY

Three days from Kentucky to Watertown N-Y,
Three days from Watertown to Canton N-Y,
Package was delivered on the estimated date,
But it feels like two days late.
And I'm still left wondering why.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

dr. horrible

No, that's not what my students call me. (Or do they?)

Offspring #3
recommended a wonderfully well-made video series. It really is quite good: a comedy, a musical, a romance, and with superheros: a real joy. Each of three parts is 13 to 15 minutes long.

Please check it out NOW. It will disappear tomorrow, Sunday July 20th, at midnight.



Be blessed!
RB

P.S. Be sure to also click on the button READ THE MASTER PLAN.

Friday, July 18, 2008

to track or not to track

I have an order from Amazon that is being shipped by DHL with an expected delivery date of July 21-23. Like many parcel delivery services, DHL allows you to track the progress of the package with email updates:

July 15 2008 4:40 PM
- Shipment received by carrier - Campbellsville, KY. (Hmmm...shipped out fast. Maybe I'll get it early?)
July 16 2008 9:19 AM
- Processed at DHL Location - DHL Wilmington Airpark, OH.
July 16 2008 4:45 PM - Depart Facility - DHL Wilmington Airpark, OH. (So far so good.)
July 17 2008 7:03 AM - Arrived at DHL facility - East Syracuse, NY. (Hey, I might get it tomorrow, Friday....)
July 17 2008 9:30 PM - Processed at DHL Location - East Syracuse, NY.
July 17 2008 10:13 PM - Depart Facility - East Syracuse, NY.
(Great news...I probably will get it on Friday.)
July 18 2008 1:04 AM - Arrived at DHL facility - Allentown Hub, PA. (NO! NO! Wrong way! Come on, you're owned by Germans: Yo, ahtung? Vee vill nicht tolerate zuch sloppiness! Ist Sie a bunch of sissie dumkophs?)
July 18 2008 8:59 AM - Arrived at DHL facility - East Syracuse, NY. (Ok, ok. Pretty quick correction there. Maybe Monday?)
July 18 2008 9:49 AM - With delivery courier - East Syracuse, NY. (Is this going to Watertown or, dare I say, even Canton? Be still my heart.)
July 18 2008 1:06 PM - Delivery arranged, no details expected. (I bet they took it to a post office so USPS can do the last leg. But is it at the Watertown or Syracuse PO? ...I just checked Amazon.com and they have it in Watertown. But is it with DHL or USPS? Oh, the suspense! ...I did some more detective work; checked out DHL.com; they handed off to USPS. It has got to be here Saturday morning.)

Offspring #3 informed me that this is exactly why one should not track packages. I guess so. If it comes early then it would be a pleasant surprise. Instead, I'll be disappointed if it is on time.

However, maybe this is more a sign that I have been spending this week in the library reading scholarly economics articles, therefore needing to be heavily caffeinated in order to be able to continue reading. Tracking this package is the most thrilling part of my day.

That is to say, maybe I need to get a life?

Be blessed.
RB

Thursday, July 17, 2008

new vista: button button, where is the button?

At work I have a new computer with the Vista operating system. I have heard a lot of complaints about it but I have found it to be very much like XP whenever I want to do something. Vista looks much nicer and has a few new things that are nifty.

One reason for fewer issues, however, may be that my machine also came with My Documents from my old computer as well as a number of programs already installed and set up. Most importantly, my web browser (Firefox) and email client (Thunderbird) were set up and ready to go as if they were on my old desktop with XP (i.e., bookmarks, add-ons, contacts, previously customized toolbars, preferences and options transferred).

As you can see, it is much, much prettier than XP. A good background pic for the wallpaper helps. (Mine was a shot taken by this young beauty's grandmother.)

The problems I have had have been minor. However, trying to solve them proved to be almost comical. Each had to do with the inadequacy of Vista's Help and Support program.

On my initial logon I was asked if I wanted an on-screen keyboard. I didn't know what it was so I clicked yes, thinking it would be no big deal to turn it off. Baaaaddd assumption. Every time I logged on, a keyboard would pop up on the screen that could be used by the mouse. I could close it but then with each new login, it would pop up again.

I searched Help and Support. Nothing on how to get rid of the unwanted item. I search through the various folders on Control Panel. The various icons were similar but renamed, but no luck. I called and emailed the campus IT helpdesk. No one knew.

Finally, into my office came two IT people, very bright students that I know. They did more sophisticated searches, tried all sorts of things. They found the offending file (osk.exe) but were afraid to delete it since it may just give annoying error messages.

After a good long while, after exhausting all options, one finally said, "Let's try googling it." Googled it we did and found a very simple solution on some discussion board in India.

All we had to do was click a button after choosing an option in a folder in Control Panel. Vista put it under Ease of Access Center. Selecting the correct option, we found a button there to choose the on-screen keyboard and we just unclicked it.

The funny thing is that Vista's Help and Support doesn't give this option as a way of enabling the keyboard. It leads you to another place that has no way of turning the keyboard off.

Even funnier we had been in the Ease of Access Center before. At the top of the page, in a large font, is "Start On-Screen Keyboard" but clicking that doesn't let you turn it off. You have to scroll down and chose among the small-print options buried in the page.

The option had to do with using the computer without a mouse.

Ease of Access. Right.

The next day I had another problem and spent a good long while trying to solve it. Again, Help and Support was no help and no support.

Then I remembered: Google it!

Problem solved in seconds.

Earlier, I heard one of the students from IT, a young man from Kenya, muttering to himself as he left my office, "How did he ever get so rich?" Only in America could a Bill Gates get rich by knowingly putting out a flawed product that would be fixed later, after users suffer the consequences. The thing is, this has been true of all versions of Windows.

Be blessed.
RB

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

yeah but did he really mean that?

I was reading the Sermon on the Mount this morning when I read Jesus saying, "Give to everyone who begs from you..."(Luke 6:30). I used the English Standard Version (ESV) and had not seen the term begs before; it caught my attention. Now the NKJV, NASB, and NIV instead use asks (AV, asketh). However, the NRSV and RSV also use begs.

I looked up the original word in Strongs and then realized that the different translations do not matter. If someone asks, then give. If someone begs, then give. That is what it says. No big mystery here. Nothing subtle.

I don't know anyone who really does this. We often want to check out people's motives or whether they deserve it. In short, we judge people. We don't want to be played for suckers or be taken advantage of. This is a good thing isn't it?

When faced with beggars I usually don't know what to do. Most often in less developed countries the needs are real, but not always. In New Delhi, India I saw professional beggars overseen by the equivalent of pimps who controlled territories and who grab large shares of the take. The beggars were essentially exploited employees (or worse).

Did Jesus really mean to give to everyone? I read this and I get the yeah buts. Yeah but aren't we to use some discretion? Yeah but don't we need to be wise as serpents? Yeah but don't we need balance? Yeah but he'll probably spend it on drugs. Yeah but we need to put this in context.

In context? Interestingly, just a few verses later Jesus commands, “Judge not, and you will not be judged..."(v.37). All my "yeah buts..." are merely different ways of judging.

I want to argue, I want to rationalize why this doesn't really mean what it says.

I'm not having too much success so far.

Be blessed.
RB

P.S. A good rule of thumb is that when someone says "Yeah but..." it really means "No because...."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

hyperinflation's path

As a follow-up to the previous post, here is some recent history of Zimbabwe's inflation rate:

April 2006 = 1,000%
April 2007 = 4,000%
November 2007 = 26,000%
February 2008 = 66,000%
June 2008 = +1,000,000%

what can $25 billion buy (as of tuesday)?

What could you do with 25 billion dollars? Buy a loaf of bread if you use the local currency in Zimbabwe.

They have an inflation rate of over one million percent. Last week you needed 200 million Zimbabwean dollars (ZWD) to trade for one U.S. dollar (USD). On July 1st, you needed 25 billion ZWD to get one USD. In six days Zimbabwean money was worth 100 times less. Here, it would be like turning each of your dollars into a penny.

» Full Story in Newsweek

The German firm that has provided Zimbabwe the paper for currency since before independence has cut them off. It should be interesting to see what will happen if there is no paper to print money.

» Full Story in Wall Street Journal

Look on the bright side: Zimbabwe is a nation of billionaires.

Be blessed.
RB

Note: Last year, on July 1st, I had another post about Zimbabwe's monetary problems. Then the inflation rate was under 4,000 percent and one USD exchanged for only 1.5 million ZWD.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

multiple blessings for offspring #2

Offspring #2 had some wonderful things happen today:
(1) His 3rd wedding anniversary.
(2) His promotion to captain.
(3) His lovely wife took part in the promotion ceremony by pinning the captain's bars (a.k.a. railroad tracks) on his uniform.
(4) Dinner with his bride of three years at the famous Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.

Yes, our LT is now our CPT.

He has one more month as executive officer (XO) of the 3-61st Cavalry Regiment's Apache Troop before he heads off to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for the Armor Captains Course.

Our CPT also earned the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) and now has that. However, he can not wear the EIB on his uniform because he is an armor officer and not an infantry officer. (As he often tells me, "It doesn't have to make sense; it's the Army.")

Be blessed!
RB

can't compete? relabel!

U.S. Shrimpers are having trouble competing with the flood of shrimp coming into the market, much of which is raised on shrimp farms.

Q: What to do?
A: Market their catch as being free-range and organic shrimp.

Some folks are willing to pay more for stuff labeled organic and free-range. Don't you think shrimp must be happier roaming the ocean far and wide? Don't fence in shrimp! Maybe Disney can bring out a sequel to Finding Nemo, starring our friend above, titled Free Jacques. Michael Jackson could do the theme song.

» see full story in Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

more work

Something I did put in a lot of hours for last month was preparing my department's new website. While I did not design the look, or theme, I did organize the content (i.e., the organization of pages). In short, I did most of the words but not the look. So I can't take credit for how nice it looks.

We are using a content management system (cms) called Drupal. It is sort of like what people do with Wordpress or on other blog sites, only much more flexible. It is very easy for people to update or change the content without having to know any programming.

Be blessed.
RB

Note: There was no financial compensation for this work.