December 28, 2006

And a Merry Christmas to You!

Hello everyone! It is always easier to write a blog after something big or fun has happened, and being Christmas, something fun has happened :)

David and I went to his families for Christmas this year, since we were to Canada last year, as well as in July. It was a good Christmas. I was a little worried it would feel busy with all the places we were going in a short time, but it didn’t, it felt festive. :)

We had a Christmas party with the Hjelle side of the family. Two years ago we also had one, but being the first Christmas with David’s family, it was a bit awkward for me. This year was a lot of fun. I did get to know a few people a bit better, and hope to get to know them better yet as time goes on :)

We also had Christmas with the Simonson side of the family, which gets more enjoyable to me every time we get together! I love getting to know Grandma, Dale and Pat, and the boys of course :D

So, even though I was in Canada and wasn’t able to join in the great gift giving time I heard my family had, I did have a wonderful Christmas and it is fun to get to know more of David’s family.

Something else that is exciting for me is, David is Norwegian, I am not :) I have always loved different cultures and back grounds etc, but have never had an excuse to learn more about any in depth. Now I do :) and I enjoy it very much :) Thank you Mom and Dad Hjelle for the start of a touch of Norwegian in our household and not just Dutch .(Besides the gift of David of course ;))

And just so you all know, I did put up pictures from Christmas already :) Feel free to check it out.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas too!

Love in Christ Rita

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December 10, 2006

No Laws==Better People?

In an interesting turn of events, apparently several European cities have removed traffic signs—and report “good results.”

It’s an interesting concept. And, on a personal level, I like the idea. It reminds my of switching from a public middle school to a Christian high school. The high school, though technically more strict, actually seemed to have fewer rules—probably because they were smaller and hadn’t yet needed to outlaw every single possible behavior that would lead to an infraction. I like it when laws can be constructed according to common sense and decency, rather than on worst-case scenarios. I like the idea of promoting responsibility rather than staunch legalism.

But, somehow, there is a niggling philosophical problem that bothers me with the idea. What are we really assuming when we remove traffic signs and promote responsibility? What are the philosophical presuppositions? That’s right: we’re assuming that people are basically good. And that’s in strict contradiction to the Christian idea of original sin. So what are we to do?

Let’s step back a moment.

The justice system of the United States is based on the idea that one is “innocent until proven guilty.” It’s fundamental to our system, and many other systems around the world (think Stalinist Russia, for instance) quickly show how much evil can happen when the government is allowed to assume that it’s citizens are guilty.

Conversely, Christian philosophy says that everyone is guilty, from our birth. We are all desperately in need of a Savior. To presume that we are ever innocent is simply pride and a rejection of God Himself. (This is probably the fundamental problem facing Western Christianity—noone is willing to admit their guilt.) It’s a system where the verdict is known long before the trial even starts: guilty.

So ought we start taking down traffic signs? I’d love to see how long these sign-less cities last. (Very possibly, it’ll last until the first guy who gets up on the wrong side of the bed.) But maybe, just maybe, emphasizing personal responsibility is the way to go. It seems to me that a Christian is not only supposed to believe in original sin—but is also supposed to assume the best about the next guy. Perhaps our approach ought to be this: know that the next guy is steeped in sin—but, then again, so are we, and we fervently hope that he (or she) isn’t nearly as much as we are.

And, then, maybe we can get rid of our traffic signs after all.

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New Comments Feature

I just created a new page that displays the five or so most recent comments. Thought you commenters out there might appreciate it.

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About War

No, not that war. There is far too much that I don’t know about that war to be able to speak authoritatively, though I certainly have my thoughts. But that is another discussion.

I’m thinking more in particular about war in general. Can war be right? Is war ever right? What is a proper Christian perspective? What are Christians to do with all the God-commanded wars in the Old Testament?

I happen to know that there are several points of view amongst the readers of my blog, and I’m looking for your thoughts. And, to spark this discussion some more, I’d like to refer you all to a eloquent letter to a license plate over at Contratimes.

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December 04, 2006

New Design (Finally!)

Well, as you can see, the new design is finally up and running. I hope you like it! Please feel free to report bugs, critique, and praise (hopefully!) in the comments. I suspect there are still some bugs that need squashing, so we’ll see.

In other news, we had our Friday night Bible Study Christmas party Friday night, complete with a rubber duck theme! It was a blast—as you can see from the photos! And, no, before you ask—it was not an incredible natural coincidence that nearly everyone’s name was three letters long and began with a “J.” I changed them to protect the guilty—ah, innocent.

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November 17, 2006

Fun new camera!

Well, I’m still having fun taking pictures with our new camera. They are not that exciting, but I thought I’d post a few more anyway.

Now I have to finish getting ready for bible study. Mmmmmm, that roast smells good!! Lucky bible study people! ;)

In Christ, Rita

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November 13, 2006

Ups and Downs of life.

So, it’s been a while since I’ve updated everyone on the goings and comings of David and Rita Hjelle :)

I don’t even remember the last time I updated, I should check it out…nice that I can just check it out fast on the web page, just check under “All Rita’s Entries” and there it is! Oh look, the last one was just after we got back from New Brunswick. Well, at least I know where to start now :)

Well, an update on the grad school idea. David has written his GRE two weeks ago. So far we know he did pretty well, but we are still waiting for his grade on his essay. I am pretty sure he did well. He was really excited about the topic and was excited about what he wrote. So we wait…

David’s parents took us on a trip to San Francisco for Shaklee’s 50th Anniversary convention. I have pictures up from that trip as well as the New Brunswick trip under photo’s. Look under Life in 2006, both sections ;) It was a good trip. Fun to be somewhere I’ve never been before. Fun to take a vacation with David’s parents. And we experienced a lot of things we’ve never experienced before either. It was a good trip.

My sugars have been getting better!! So much so that we have “permission” to expand our family! :) God blessed us quickly and we were pregnant the next month, for a week. We had a miscarriage just a week after we found out we were pregnant. I guess that is why they tell people to wait a few months before telling others that we are pregnant. Now I understand it a bit more.

God is good. David and I are doing well with it. Surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to be “okay” with it all. I think a big part of that is because we barely had time to let it sink in. I have to remind myself some times that yes I was really pregnant and it wasn’t just an irregular period. The doctor confirmed it himself, and my body knew it too. Both before and after. But I believe that God also had prepared me for it in other ways. Teaching me early that miscarriages can be a blessing, and that God has each pregnancy in His hands. I am able to say that God is good, and I praise Him for His gifts, both those He gives and those He takes away.

Because of the miscarriage we are not sure if we are in a hurry yet to start a family, we will keep praying and seeing what God has in store. Especially since we are still looking at this grad school idea too. So, please, keep us in your prayers and we will let you know what is happening!

The same week we had the miscarriage, David’s great uncle died. He was sort of a grandfather figure in his and Jon’s life. The three of us took a trip north for the funeral. That meant taking Monday off work for the boys. It was a good trip for me. It was good for me to get away from the apartment and to think about other people other than myself. It was a bit harder for David. His uncle was not a Christian, that we know of, and we are not sure how many people in his family are. It was a little bit difficult to be in a church, at a funeral, to hear so much truth and know that there were things missing. Baptism isn’t the route to heaven, but how many of them knew that??

My sister came to visit at the end of that week (it was a busy few weeks!). I had such a wonderful time with her! It was so much fun to have a sister to talk to about so many different things. It was fun to have a family member to go shopping with! She was really here for meetings, but we had a lot of time together too. I loved it. It was refreshing for me. like a breath of fresh air! :)

And, now, about 3 weeks or so later, my birthday is coming up soon! Silly David was so excited to give me my birthday present that I got it two days ago! :) He got me a digital camera :) We had been talking about it when we were sure we might be expanding our family, but when we had the miscarriage it became less important to me. David decided to get it anyway, and I love it! There are so many features to it , it will be a month before I figure it out! But there are a few photo’s already on the photo section, so feel free to check it out. :) David doesn’t care for me putting the picture up of him, but I like it ;) (obviously since I put it up twice ;))

David is busy and stressed at work again, you can pray for him. They are in the middle of a big project and it hasn’t been going well. He will probably have to do a lot of extra work to get it done on time. He and a number of other people working on it too. Please pray for them that it gets done smoothly. Thanks.

I am doing well, and signing off. Going to play with my camera more!

In Christ, Rita

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The Dead Sea Water Project

A close friend of mine (Don, you need to get a blog so I can link to you!) recently emailed me a link to Ezekiel’s Water Project. As I understand it, this is a proposal to built a channel or tunnel from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. Gravity would bring the fresh-er water from the Red Sea to replace water that is currently evaporating our of the Dead Sea itself. Don writes:

The World Bank is right now considering two competing proposals for filling the Dead Sea, providing hydroelectric power, and desalinating water for Israel, Jordan, and Palestine.

According to this article at the World Bank, they launched a 2-year study in July of 2005. That means they should be about half done now. Apparently, Ezekiel’s Water Project is one of the proposals under consideration.

I thought you’d all be interested. There is far more information available than I’ve had time to sift through…let me know what you think!

And, Don, feel free to correct all the mistakes I made by adding some comments. :-)

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Wonderful Miscellany

First, take a look at some new photos that Rita has put up in the Photos section.

Then, when you are done with that, here’s a teaser picture of what the new site design I’m working on will look like:

New Site Design Preview

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October 17, 2006

A Discussion of the Beginning of Genesis

I’ve been meaning to blog many different things over the past weeks, including a site redesign, but I simply haven’t had time. But, I found an extremely interesting discussion on the beginning of Genesis. I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but I was very impressed by the attempt to be fair to both a reading of Genesis and to modern science, without name-calling.

Some of the interesting parts of the discussion (my favorite entry is entitled Nature Red in Tooth and Claw include:

  • Evolution implies death, and a literal six-day creation typically implies no death before the fall.
  • Yet, did not plants die before the fall? How are they different than animals and humans? Are they classified differently?
  • Some argue that death was a natural occurance before the fall.
  • God used animal skins; that meant that God killed animals to clothe Adam and Eve after the fall.

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts!

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October 12, 2006

The Opposite of Faith

It seems like such an easy question, doesn’t it? What is the opposite of faith or belief? “Unbelief,” you think. I suppose you are right. I mean, “un” means “not,” and not believing is certainly the opposite of believing. Fine. But I think there is another word that describes what un-belief or un-faith really is.


It is as simple as that. We put our trust either in God or ourself; one is faith, the other is pride.

I’m beginning to understand why pride is the cardinal sin: there is no other sin that hides itself so utterly from a person. Pride often strikes us when we think we are most humble. Perhaps worse, we call those who are truly humble arrogant and stuck up—who are they to put their trust in God and put claim to an exclusive greater authority?

One might think that the great evil in the world is shown in people like Stalin and David Koresh. I would argue that the greatest evil is actually found in the masking of millions to the truth of their pride, hiding it behind the nominal spirituality of kindly little old ladies and the smiles of jolly gentlemen. Good people, sure—but completely oblivious of their lack of faith.

Dearest Jesus—teach us true humility. Show us our pride. Transform us by Your grace. Rescue us by the power of Your Spirit!

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September 24, 2006

Why I Like the Electoral College

Unsurprisingly, there is apparently a move to negate the electoral college in American elections. I’m not surprised, but (so far) I’m quite against the idea.

First, I’m rather against this particular proposal because it is using loopholes in our laws. That’s just silly. If we need to change the Constitution, there are specified avenues for doing that—and they should be used for such. We’ll only find ourselves in a horrible mess if we keep trying to live in loopholes. (On a sidenote—I love loopholes, but as a tool to do unexpected good, rather than just get around laws that don’t like.)

Second, and more importantly, I would argue that it is undermining a key principle of our Constitution: compromise. Admittedly, the original compromise is perhaps a bit archaic: the Founders did not trust average Joe’s to choose the President, but they didn’t trust the elite, either. So they formed a system where average Joe’s would elect representatives from the Elite, who would then choose a president. That’s been slightly modified since, with political parties and removing the actual people in the Electoral College. But there is still a principle of compromise that is important, and it is evidenced in the design of Congress.

Congress is formed of a House of Representatives and a Senate. The Senate has two representatives from each state, and the House has representatives proportional to the population of the state it represents. Why? Once upon a time, small states were concerned that they would lose a voice if all decisions where made purely by popular vote: their opinions would be drowned out by the populous states. So, the two-house scheme was invented. In the House, the small states might not ever get a chance to speak their piece—but they would have a chance in the Senate. No, they’d never have the same “power” as a large state—but they wouldn’t be forgotten, either.

Nowadays, the relationships between the states are markedly less important. But, the Electoral College still provides a compromising balancing effect: rural areas are still allowed to have their say. If the nation went simply to a popular vote, the cities would often drown out the voice of the country. It isn’t that the country-folk are more important or wiser (though that can certainly be the case), but they deserve a say, just as the small states did once upon a time. The electoral college gives them a chance to sway the electoral votes in their state, which would then influence the national election. It isn’t always a huge say, sure, but it is enough to make sure that candidates listen to all sections of the populace and not just the majority—which is incredibly important in a democracy.

Finally, a little treat for the geeks out there. I read an article in Discover magazine when I was in high school, explaining how the electoral college often gave individual voters more power than a raw popular vote. It’s worth a read for further evidence of why I think the electoral college is important.

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September 18, 2006

How Islam Will Conquer the World

  1. Make sure that the primary belief in the world is that the greatest sin is to offend one’s neighbor. (Done.)
  2. Be easily—and rather violently—offended. (Done—at least by enough vocal folks.)
  3. Watch while the rest of the world trips over itself to avoid offending you. (Currently in progress…)
  4. Glory in your new-found power. (Wait and see…)

Though I am terribly tempted to point out the irony in the recent events surrounding the Pope’s recent speech, I don’t think it is simply a sign of how silly the Muslim clerics are. Rather, I wonder if many of us are simply blind to how successful they are being in gaining worldly power.

Or, perhaps, it is simply Muslim leaders using the problems in the Islamic world to gain power over their own people. It would, in as much as I understand Islam, would make a lot of sense to hear economic and political frustrations of a Muslim phrased in terms of his or her religion. Islam doesn’t try separate life into sacred and secular as we in the West try to do.

Ah, well. Back to watching the events here in bizarro-land.

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September 17, 2006

The Catholic Church, Muslims, and Jews

There has been a ton of hubbub about the Pope’s recent address at Regensburg, including a response from the Vatican, from the Pope himself, and plenty of general comments. (As pointed out, however, most of the reaction to the Pope’s speech was based on choice quotations, since it had only been available in German until just recently, and I still don’t see it available in any languages other than English, German, and Italian—certainly not Arabic.

Ironically, though, I’m not particularly interested in the Muslim reaction nor the dynamics between the Muslim and Roman Catholic worlds. (The quantity of links above notwithstanding.) I am most interested in the Nostra Aetate, a document referenced by the Vatican’s offical response.

Not being Catholic (though I have great respect for many Catholic thinkers), I am unfamiliar with the impact and purpose of this document. (Maybe many Catholics are, too, for all I know.) But I was surprised—and a little concerned—to read the part that was quoted in the official response:

The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Looking at the rest of the document, it appears that the document is largely trying to point out that there are substantial agreements between Christianity and other religions, particularly Islam and Judaism. Fair enough: Muslims and Jews are some of Christianity’s staunchest allies when it comes to issues of culture and morality. And, I can understand, though mostly disagree with, someone who says that the Jews worship the same God that Christians do. (Though make sure you read John 14:7…it’s why I would disagree.)

But how can the official Catholic position be that Muslims “…adore the one God”?

I’ve often deeply respected Catholic thinkers…but I am completely stymied how they think this makes any sense. If Muslims worship the same God, then Jesus is His Son—but, if you admit that, you are no longer Muslim. And, even more importantly, it is a core Christian teaching that the only way to deal properly with our wrong-doing is to look to Christ. Muslims, however, teach that you must try to be as good and moral as possible, and maybe Allah will be merciful. (Please correct me if I am wrong.) Arabic Christians may use the name Allah to refer to God—but that doesn’t make him the true God any more than the fact that you and I each have a friend named Bob makes him the same person.

Or am I reading this document completely out of context?

Does anyone have any insights?

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From Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth:

The very concept of being “professional” has come to have connotations of being secular. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, explains Christian Smith, there was a drive to professionalize all fields—which meant in practice throwing off a Christian worldview and cultivating a secular approach that was touted as scientific and value-free. The process was nothing less than a “secular revolution,” Smith says. In higher education, colleges that used to promote “a general Protestant worldview and morality” were transformed into universities “where religious concerns wre marginalized in favor of the ‘objective,’ a-religions and irreligious pursuit and transmission of knowledge.”

Has any one else experienced this? I know I have: to bring up one’s personal life in almost any meaningful way at work—especially in areas of faith and public policy—is frowned upon. How sad. I suspect that such a public/private, secular/religious split has almost single-handedly made the Body of Christ nearly irrelevant in today’s culture—and we have bought into it hook, linker, and sinker.

Oh, and if you haven’t read it, I recommend Pearcey’s book, even though I’m only a couple chapters in. It is excellent.

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The Surveillance Camera that Could…Talk

Does a closed-circuit television public surveillance camera that talks concern anyone else? Well, I guess it doesn’t concern me any more than the cameras would in the first place. The analogy to 1984 is quite appropriate, I should think.

Now, some clarification:

  • The cameras are only (I think) in public areas, not in private as they were in Orwell’s book.
  • I’m actually rather for the idea of using shame to help deter crime—shame is a proper response to sin and wrong-doing that, God willing, may even be turned into true repentance. (See 2 Corinthians 7:9-10.)
  • I have much less of a problem if private business owners decided to employ this kind of tactic individually. It’s part of their right to protect their business—and is probably an extension of every citizen’s responsibility to uphold peace and order.

But will a centralized “control room” monitoring the public at large really improve our society? Or will it simply make us calloused to the real Voice from Heaven?

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September 01, 2006

First Came Antimatter

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good geeky post, so I thought I’d finally resume all geekiness with an article about “negative databases.” Few things are quite as good for a solid geeky-laugh as reading the following:

In the 1940s a philosopher called Carl Hempel showed that by manipulating the logical statement “all ravens are black”, you could derive the equivalent .all non-black objects are non-ravens…A number of computer scientists, led by Fernando Esponda of Yale University, are taking Hempel’s notion as the germ of an eminently practical scheme…The idea is to create a negative database. Instead of containing the information of interest, such a database would contain everything except that information.

It’s one of those ideas that is such a ridiculously backwards way of thinking that…it just might work.

Admittedly, though, I have a few doubts. The article goes on to suggest that such a database might be “safer” by preventing a hacker from gaining all the Social Security numbers of people living on one street. That makes sense enough, given that we are storing what their addresses are not. But, if we can actually associate Social Security numbers, one-by-one, with the correct address, what’s to prevent a hacker from gaining the information he wants by brute force? And wouldn’t whatever selection of information he gets be enough to steal an identity?

I’ll admit, I haven’t read the research. But I certainly appreciate folks who are willing to try do things the way that no-one else thinks would ever work.

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August 28, 2006

Embryonic Stem Cell Saga

My friend John has posted an article on some of the recent news on embryonic stem cell research. You may find his thoughts and the ensuing discussion interesting—and may even want to join in!

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August 24, 2006

Total Depravity and the Crux of Our Democracy

I’ve wondered for quite a while what our society would look like if we could no longer make the implicit assumption that most folks would generally obey the law. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a rallying-cry of American (and most Western) democracies—but is by no means a universally-held human right. (A novel I recently read, Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle, shows quite clearly how Stalin’s Russia assumed everyone was guilty, and used it to his advantage.) So far, our culture has done surprisingly well with this assumption. Total depravity has not done us in legally, although one could easily make the argument that our culture has long ago been done in morally and spiritually. But will it last?

A somewhat disturbing article about defeating standard locks make me think about this again today. Security—from front doors to airports—has never been about stopping every evil-doer. Rather, it’s been about stopping as many as possible: the low-hanging fruit, the uncommitted, the simple and careless ones. But is that needing to change? And what will truly prevent our society from entering Russia’s free-fall in the process?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And, please, don’t go burgle.

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August 08, 2006

“Lots of changes Old Max, lots of changes”

I know David doesn’t like it when I quote from movies that we don’t really recommend for watching, but this quote has been in my head for a week now I just had to get it out! ;) Ok, I didn’t HAVE to, but it does fit our thoughts of the past week and a half. (Quote from Dirty Dancing)

David and I were just in Canada visiting my family and going to a family reunion. It was a WONDERFUL time! We didn’t get to spend much time with my immediate family, but we were able to get to know a quite a bit of my Dad’s siblings and my cousins. That was wonderful! I also got to spend a quite a bit of time making sure my niece and nephews will remember me ;)

Funny how being with people you haven’t seen for a long time will make you think. After answering the questions “What are you doing?”, “Where are you living?”, “Do you like it?” “Why are you there?” etc, really made David and I think harder about why we are still in Sioux Center when neither of us feel like we really want to be here and David doesn’t really LOVE his job. It would be one thing to be in Sioux Center if David was excited about his job, it is a very different thing to stay here when he doesn’t and we don’t care about living in Sioux Center.

So, for the first time in almost 2 years, we are thinking about leaving Sioux Center for real. We have thought about it before too, but each time said no. Now we are thinking about it for real, and it’s an exciting thought!

We know we need a change of some sort, either to be come more involved in Sioux Center so we come to love it, or a different job or something. We are praying hard about what it is that God wants us to do.

David is looking into grad schools and even as we pray we don’t feel God saying no. We don’t know where we will be in a years time, probably getting ready to move somewhere but it’s an exciting thought. And it is exciting for David and I to work together on a goal.

Please pray for us as we want to follow God first and for most, even if that means staying here.

God has been teaching me that “Unless the Lord builds a house, it’s builders labour in vain.” Psalm 127:1. We do want to follow where he is leading, or else stay where we are until he leads. God is good, he will show us what to do next~! And we are excited!

Also, we added another file of photo’s titled: Book about us. It’s a scrapbooking book I am working on. About David and I of course! And there are two new pages under Rita’s pages you can check out too! :)

We hope you are doing well ! Love in Christ with You! Rita

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August 06, 2006

God’s Justice

So my friend Adam had a discussion with a Muslim recently, and he blogged a bit about it.

One of Adam’s comments in his final post:

Namely, isn’t it illogical that God needs to kill himself, to have Jesus be sacrificed, for our sins to be forgiven? How can punishing one person cause the sins of another to be forgiven?

Adam does a good job of showing that how justification at least isn’t illogical. But there is something that struck me as I was reading his post that I wanted to talk about: justice.

It’s probably one of the biggest questions I would have about Christianity if I wasn’t a Christian. Why couldn’t God simply say, “Hey, bud, I’ll forgive you! I’m God—I can do anything I want!” Why the need for all the, well, blood? Herds of cattle—dead—in the Old Testament, and the blood of a truly good Man in the New Testament. It’s a gory mess. Why can’t we just be like the other religions and hope that Allah will be merciful or that I will return a better person or that there really isn’t such a thing as “sin” or “wrongdoing?”

I think it is because Christianity has a very unique understanding of “sin.” Sin as in not meeting the expectations and standards that God has for us—the same standards that He has for himself.

Now, think for a moment. If you don’t happen to meet the standards of a guy who you met on the bus—maybe he doesn’t like your haircut—you probably aren’t going to care too much. And that’s probably just as well. If it was your parent or your spouse or a close friend (depending on your status), you might care more—even a lot more. If your boss decided he didn’t like your work, you might care quite a bit. If the president of your multi-national organization singled you out of thousands of similarly-placed workers, and said that you didn’t meet his standards, you might care a lot more. And, if the God of the universe, the One in charge of all things, your Maker, Designer, and Standards-Setter, said that you did not meet His standards, should you not care that much more? And, to top it all off, should not the consequences be that much more dire?

It is called justice.

Only by associating wrong-doing with an appropriate punishment do we really realize it’s magnitude. If there was no punishment, than did we really do wrong in the first place?

God wants us to realized the magnitude of what we—you and I—do wrong. He doesn’t want us to take His forgiveness for granted. He doesn’t want us to just accept “cheap grace,” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it. Sin is a ugly thing, attractive, but devastatingly deadly—and to pretend that it isn’t is to laugh in the face of the God who put the standards in place.

The forgiveness that we get cost a great deal. If it didn’t, I suspect God wouldn’t have even bothered calling it sin.

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July 04, 2006

Photos and Update!!

Well, we haven’t written much lately, but I was able to get some photos scanned to ready to post this lovely 4th of July!

In the past couple of weeks we have been going to weddings as well as a surprise trip to Arizona for David’s work.

David attended a conference and I decided to go along. We have been debating if I should ever join him on a work trip sometime because it’s not fun being apart. We thought this trip would be a good time to try it out. We knew that he would have most evenings free so we would be able to spend time together a bit too. Also, it was at a resort so we figured that I might be able to find SOMETHING to do while he was busy with classes and such.

I did find somethings to do and it turned out to be a great week. God really taught me a lot about trusting in him and following his leadings. It would have been so easy to just sit in the hotel room and get bored and restless, but I knew that God would take better care of me then that if I trusted him, and he did! I met a number of fun people that were also there with their spouses. I was able to spend an afternoon with a spouse and her 3 month old son. That was a lot of fun and it helped us both from being too bored. It was also fun seeing a new mother loving her son so much :) I loved it!

I also spent some time scrapbooking. Just a month or so ago our church had a scrapbooking evening and I thought I would go with a few friends. Well, I got a little hooked. I made a book of our friends and then started a book about us. I hope to put up the book about us in the near future, so be looking for it. I have a quite a bit done, I just have to get it scanned and then get it on to the web page. I’ll add another note when I finally get that started.

A special note for Nate, as he will most likely be reading this post even though it’s not David writing. Congratulations to you and you had a beautiful wedding! David and I very much loved what your grandfather had to say during the service. We were really glad to be able to witness it. Thanks for the invite!! :)

Less than three weeks until we go to New Brunswick for the big family reunion!!!! I am super excited!!!!

In Christ, Rita

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June 04, 2006

The Crux of the Gospel

I just read Contratimes’ latest, and I am thoroughly impressed. Though his topic is the problem of evil, Mr. Gnade made an excellent summary of what Christianity is about. As the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2,

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

That’s the Gospel. Christ and Him crucified. Now go and read Mr. Gnade’s excellent essay—it is well worth your time!

(And, for those of you folks out there that have issue with the idea of Christ going to Hell, ponder this: what if Hell is not the absence of God, as often posited, but rather His divine punishment? Would not Christ taking that punishment be entirely appropriate, rather than the contradiction some see it?)

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May 27, 2006

On Friendships

As some have astutely noted, it’s been a while since I (or Rita) have update our blog. Well, the wait is over. :-)

We’ve spent some time in recent weeks with friends that we’d not seen in quite some time. It was really a wonderful time, and prompted me to write a story on friendships. Let me know what you think.

Also, I realized (finally, perhaps) that many of my good friends—spread out almost around the globe—have blogs. I thought it would be fun to pull headlines from all their blogs into one place. If I missed someone—let me know! I’d love to add you on!

(Of course, I hereby reserve all control over who gets on and who doesn’t. It’s primarily an experiment to help old friends stay connected—and I’ll make the judgment as to which blogs fit. Give a holler if you don’t agree. :-) )

And, as if that wasn’t enough, we also have new photos online!


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March 08, 2006

If You Ever Wondered…

…if Chuck Norris really exists, I found the proof to end all proofs.

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On The State of American Christianity

I read an article today entitled, “Why I am a Christian (Sort of…).” It started off in a rather unusual way:

I don’t believe in God.

I don’t believe Jesus Christ was the son of a God that I don’t believe in, nor do I believe Jesus rose from the dead to ascend to a heaven that I don’t believe exists.

Given these positions, this year I did the only thing that seemed sensible: I formally joined a Christian church.

Why? The author contends that he joined a church for the social, moral, and even political value. Perhaps (but only perhaps) it is a compliment to the church that even an atheist saw something worthwhile about the people in the church. It is sad—even disturbing—that someone would join what purports to be a fellowship of God’s children without acknowledging that very God. But was deeply disturbs me is this revelation:

The pastor and most of the congregation at St. Andrew’s understand my reasons for joining, realizing that I didn’t convert in a theological sense but joined a moral and political community.

I’m appalled. Has the body of Christ truly sunk this low? Have we entirely forgotten who we are? Do we any longer bear any right to be called Christians? I’m appalled—though, frankly, not that surprised.

Followers of Christ have entirely forgotten who we are. We are pushed and compelled by the forces of the world around us to become more tolerant and loving and accepting, less arrogant and proud. All roads lead to a good God. God would only judge the obviously bad people—and then only if He’s having a bad day. Even those of us that claim Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—all others excepted—forget the very basis of that Way. We try to live good lives, be nice people, and look very pious and spiritual and friendly. We may (or may not) insist as Christ being the only way—but we treat Him as simply some sort of password to open the pearly gates. And, no, now that you mention it, I can’t think of any real differences between Christianity and Islam…or Hinduism…or Wicca…or even a good atheist. We’re all trying to be good people, right? I mean, I still think this Jesus guy makes the most sense, but who am I to really say that someone else is wrong?

And, before we know it, we’ve lost who we are. Christianity—or, rather, the empty shell that’s left—has gotten sucked into a vast web of generic spirituality. We simply call ourselves “Christian” because that’s the local word for “nice guy”—and who doesn’t think of themselves as a very “nice guy”?

Christianity—that is, following Jesus Christ—has one distinctive that separates it from every other religion. (Feel free to push me on this—I’d love to hear your comments.) It is grace.

This isn’t the “cheap grace” that you find when someone decides to pardon you when you tell them you took a pencil from their desk ten years ago, a pardon that costs them (and you) nothing. It isn’t a grace that drops the bar so low that no one, no matter how evil they may appear, really has done anything wrong. It isn’t a grace of a half-drunk judge who forgets to look at the evidence before sending you out of the courtroom with instructions to the nearest tavern, scot-free.

No, rather it is a grace that first tells us that we don’t measure up. We don’t measure up to the standards we hold others to, we don’t measure up to the standards we hold for ourselves, we don’t measure up to the standards of a holy God. Only He does that. And, since He has declared from the beginning of time that there are consequences when we fall short—just like the consequences your boss gives you when you “accidentally” loose several millions of company revenues—He must keep His word. We’ll get what we deserve—everyone will.

But that is why Christ came. He measured up—and got what we deserve in His death on the Cross. He was willing to take our place and our punishment, though He had done nothing wrong, if we are but willing to follow Him with our whole lives, as our Lord and Master and God.

That’s real freedom—a freedom knowing that we don’t have to be weighed down by our “falling short”—because Christ took the punishment for us.

That is our distinctive; that is what separates Christianity from all else. Christianity isn’t cultural, it isn’t social, it isn’t political. It is the following of a God who became man in order to not only be with us—but to rescue us…from ourselves.

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Rita’s Scrapbooking Pages

We had a request in the comments for directions to get to Rita’s scrapbooking pages—thanks Mrs. Mahan!—so I though I would (at long last) give directions for those who might be confused.

You should see a menu near the top or left of the page, with titles like “Home,” “About Us,” etc. Eventually, you’ll find one called “Photos.” When you mouse of each of these, you should see a pop-up menu that displays sub-items. You’ll find “Rita’s Pages” under the “Photos” item I mentioned earlier?

Make sense?

I also thought I’d let you know a few other features of the site while I’m at it.

First, as many of you have discovered, you can leave comments by clicking the text containing the word “Comments” under each post.

You may not realize that you can “filter” the posts that you see using the links next to the “Category:” label. All of our posts are arranged in a hierarchical fashion, meaning that there are topics within sub-topics. Rita and I both have our own topics, and I have several sub-topics within mine. This post, for instance, is in the “Web Site” category, which you can see at the bottom of this post. If you just want to see the items in the “Web Site” category, you can click on that text and it will automatically filter the posts. To get back to normal, just click “Home.”

To get around to older posts, you can use the calender, usually on the upper right.

Also, on the right hand side, you will find a list of the “most recently updated pages.” This list does not include blog postings, but does include all other files on the site—genealogical information, Rita’s scrapbooking, and my Sunday School class notes.

Rita probably pointed you to the different “Colors” that you can switch to, also by using the menu.

Finally, if you find a post that you really like, you may find it difficult to link to, since new content is always being added. (Well, at least when I remember that I have a blog and ought to add to it…) The “~permanent link~” is used for that purpose. If you click on the link and copy the URL that it points to, you will have a link that will work no matter how much more content is added to this site—at least until I decide to try and redesign the entire site. Again. :-)

Hope that was helpful! Leave a comment if you have questions!

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February 24, 2006


…To use an expression from my brother in law, although not in the way he usually uses it! ;)

About three weeks ago I sent out a few mass e-mails to let people know what has been happening to us as of late. Mostly they were about the immigration appointment we had as well as my first visit with the endocrinologist in the states.

Well, during my visit with the endocrinologist I got signed up for the insulin pump. This is just an announcement to let everyone know that in just two short weeks I was hooked up and all!! I’ve been using it for over a week now!! And to use Kevin’s expression in the proper way, We’re Pumped!!!

It is taking some getting used to for sure, but it will be great when we get it all straightened out!

I hope to take pictures eventually and post them, than you can see what it looks like.

In Christ Rita

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February 07, 2006

More On Rita’s Pages!!!

It’s been a while, but I finally finished two more scrapbook pages that I started MONTHS ago! Feel free to check them out ;) I’m pretty excited about them. TWO more for my ABC Album!

In Christ, Rita

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January 28, 2006

Pictures Posted!

Just so you know, I got a few more pictures up to conclude our “life in 2005 Aug-Dec” Enjoy!

Rita :)

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January 26, 2006

Immigration update!!!

This is the last blog of the set of three, be sure to read the other two to hear about our break/vacation!

So, since we have been back we have been adjusting to living in Sioux Center again. Wondering how well we should really settle here or are we just going to be moving in a few years.

I’ve been spending time with my few great friend Robin (an old college neighbour that I am loving getting to know all over again!), and walking often with my friend Ruth. It’s been great to have so much time with friends to keep me occupied.

David has been readjusting to work, also with more responsibilities as one of his coworkers is out on maternity leave. It’s a bit of a struggle but he is pressing on! And doing well too!!

Our Biggest news of the week! I finally have my permanent resident status full with green card!

That was supper exciting After 2 and a half years of paper work and waiting, it is just about all done. They have yet to send me the official card and we have to change my name on my SSN card, but I think that should be all! Exciting eh?!?

We celebrated together by going out for lunch while we were in Omaha. That was fun too. As well as doing a bit of shopping at a few stores we discovered last time we were there (august vacation).

The other exciting news for us is that I finally was able to visit with an endocrinologist (internal medicine specialist- for my diabetes) It was an encouraging visit and we have the paper work underway to get a pump for me! That is super exciting! There were also a few changes we made to my insulin intake now to get my sugars under better control now too. That is exciting!

Anyway, that is the update, thank you so much for reading a pray! I hope to have pictures up soon!

Love you all! In Christ Rita

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New Years Break!

After visiting with my family for almost a week and a half, we had a chance to visit David’s family too. That was great, Just what I/we needed.

I was worried that after being with my family for so long and being busy all the time that I would completely crash when I got to David’s parents place but God was good and I didn’t. It was just perfect.

We still celebrated Christmas with gift giving and receiving together, which made the holidays feel longer :) I thoroughly enjoyed that! Especially all the beads I got!!! :) Thanks everyone!!! Just ask David how much I am enjoying them, he can tell you! :)

Being with David’s family was good too. Quieter and relaxing too.

Also with New Years in there we went to a new years party which was fun. And the after Christmas sales were perfect to lift any after Christmas blues that might have come.

I think if we went straight from my family’s to our quiet apartment with David at work, I would have crashed hard and fell into depression, it was so great to visit with David’s family again.

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Christmas Vacation!

Hi All! It’s been a long time since I’ve updated, and I don’t want to over whelm you with a HUGE long blog, so I thought I’d break it up into a few shorter ones for easier reading! :)

David and I took our first “real” vacation together at Christmas. We did take a great vacation together in August which was great, but when we are used to a month breaks with school and summer vacations, this was the first real long and relaxing vacation for us.

We went to NB to visit my family for almost a week and a half. We tried to make it as relaxing as possible and just focus on spending time with family. We had a lot of games with mom and dad and got to play with Jack and Jacob LOTS!!! It was a wonderful break!!

We spent the first part of break with Mom Dad and Rich and Jen and boy mostly. Half way through Julia and Debbie arrived, then shortly after that Liz and Kev came with their kids.

It was so nice to be away from the mid west for awhile. See family, including Grammie, and a few friends. To relax and help out a bit.

Ok, that isn’t a really good summary, and I hope to put a few pictures on the photo’s page, then you can see it better.

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January 15, 2006

“Christians should not talk nonsense to unbelievers.”

As I was reading some comments to a post over at Christdot, I found this tidbit in the very first entry. It is apparently from a work written by St. Augustine (354-430):

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

It was quoted in a discussion about the creationism-intelligent design-evolution controversy. But, I think it has some great insight into our culture—and is a great failing of Western Christianity at large. No, we don’t have to be experts in every field. But, I think we can learn to bear witness to Christianity’s Truth in all things.

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January 08, 2006

We’re Back!

Well, Rita and I very much enjoyed our holidays visiting our respective families (hers in New Brunswick for about a week and a half and mine for a weekend), and now we have returned. We had a really good time, but are happy to be back home (even if it takes a bit of getting used to).

You’ll probably notice that I, all of a sudden, have several new posts up, dated over the past couple of weeks. Yes, I’m trying to be a bit sneaky—but the dates are pretty close to the date I actually wrote them, with the possible exception of the Christmas/New Year’s letter. So enjoy!

And, if you get bored, you can check out the nicest factory that I’ve ever seen, folks who think that religion is evil, or what is or isn’t marriage.

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January 01, 2006

A Christmas Letter—January 2006

Just over fourteen months ago, the first fallen leaf of the year waltzed timidly out of the sky, as if unsure if it was stepping out of turn. The sailor1 looked up just in time to see the leaf glance off his wife’s2 rosy cheek. They smiled at each other, and then grunted with effort as they lofted the last wooden crate of their belongings onto the ship.3 They had been waiting anxiously at port4 for five long months—far too long for a sailor to be out of work and away from the sea. A brand new ship (to them) and orders from the government5 were about to change that, however. Together, they would set sail in the morning.

The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon when the sailor began to steer his ship away from the dock. His wife’s parents were waving on the edge of the pier, swathed in the cold mist of their warm breath. The mouth of the harbor beckoned as the gateway to the wide world beyond. It looked like it would be a beautiful day to sail.

Surprisingly, the inspection before entering the open sea went quickly and without controversy. Their cargo had been scrupulously inventoried, but it turns out that the effort was all for naught. A simple examination of papers satisfied the official curiosity. The ocean breeze beckoned, and they began to sail.

Their final destination was unknown. Family, however, beckoned at two harbors several day’s journey away; the sailor hoped to visit the first6 briefly and settle temporary at the second7 while he searched for a more permanent avenue of employment.

Sailing was beautifully smooth; the nippy fall breeze blew faithfully westward. The air, though cold with ocean spray, rarely chilled them beyond comfort, the sun shone steadily on their faces during the day, and a circular moon brightened the nighttimes. They arrived at the first port nearly half a day earlier than expected, and were readily received by anxious family and friends. Celebrations began—it seemed that the end of their five-month truancy was finally near. The sailor even heard rumors of employment in the midst of the festivities. He made contact, but soon decided to press on to the second port, the home of his family, to settle while trying to find the best available line of work.

Sailing to the second harbor was uneventful and passed without difficulty. The sailor and his wife agreed that they would burden family for as little time as possible; it was time to finally and truly be on their own. The sailor wagered that he’d find work in a matter of several weeks, and spent the better part of those weeks searching and contacting to a wide variety of companies interested in men to perform his services. Many seemed interested, but few were willing to hire a sailor with as few years on the sea as he. He spoke at length with a party that was headquartered in a large city several leagues away,8 and continued negotiations with he group he’d met the previous week. It was a time of busy work, cramped quarters, and impatient waiting.

Finally, it was decided to return to the previous port and to the employment offered there.9 It was a rather uncertain decision in many ways. The sailor and his wife had both been looking forward to learning the new customs of those in strange lands, but they were returning to the romping grounds of their youth in the first harbor they’d visited on their return voyage. They did not know if it would be exciting or not; nonetheless, they looked forward to returning to old friends, familiar territory, and a community of believers in Jesus Christ10 with whom they had enjoyed sweet fellowship. With great anticipation, they loaded their long-packed belongings (with many additions given to them during their travels) and sailed once again, this time for a place to call “Home.”

The sailor was satisfied with his new employment. It was a fishing job11 for the local pet food supplier; his hours were reasonable and regular, and the work was well within his sailor’s skill set. It wasn’t the world-conquering seafaring that he dreamed of, perhaps, but they treated him well and his fellow workers were friendly and pleasant.

It wasn’t long before the sailor’s wife wished for a pet to accompany her while her husband was away during the day. The sailor soon found what they thought would be the perfect pets: two dolphins12 that the King had used to have for his own entertainment13 but no longer had any use for. Just behind their house was an inlet which would give them a perfect home—not to mention free food. How exciting a new (and inexpensive!) pet would be! Unfortunately, the challenge was greater than expected. The first dolphin saw a tin-plated chicken in the living-room window of the sailor’s house, and died, stuck on the shore for lack of water.14 The remaining dolphin appeared to be lonely, and the King happened to be trying to get rid of an extra dolphin.15 They added him to their collection. The first dolphin happened to think that the algae was greener on the other side of the beach, but unfortunately (and unknown to him) had been inflicted with nearsightedness since birth, and mistook an Astro-turf supply salesman for aquatic plant life. He, too, passed away for lack of his native element.16 Fortunately for the sailor, however, it was just in time for acquiring the latest reject from the King’s entertainment troupe. This dolphin, however, was rather inquisitive, and choked while attempting to eat some of the plastic flora that the sailor used to decorate the cove.17 Finally, the sailor and his wife acquired the King’s final two dolphins, which they have retained to this very day. Their intent to spend as little as possible to rescue the life of the first dolphins (and gain pleasant pets) had rather gone by the wayside, but they were happy nonetheless.

The community of believers previously mentioned was a great source of joy and involvement for the sailor and his wife. The sailor enjoyed singing and playing music as a part of the weekly gatherings, and his wife soon found herself helping with some of the musical paperwork each week. They also found themselves offering a weekly time of food, fellowship, music, prayer, and study of the sacred writings at their abode with friends at the end of the week18 (led by a husband and wife close to them and attended by other close friends), and even training fellow believers near their station in life on how to bring the Truth that they believed into the wide world in a way that was understood to every people they encountered.

The sailor also had found a hobby in tinkering with Gütenberg’s19 famous invention20; he finally published his first pamphlet in their first year there. He continues to read, ponder, philosophize, and write.21

The sailor’s wife found herself generally quite occupied in housekeeping, husband keeping, hospitality, and doing unpaid work for several community organizations. She spent much of her time in preparing their home for the weekly gatherings there. She has been glad for the friends that she has found in their new town (even some from the local sailing school22), though living in a harbor23 town means many folks often come and go on a whim. She has sometimes found herself rather restless in the confines of the rather small settlement, and so spent two separate weeks on voyages of her own with close friends. The sailor missed her dearly while she was gone—and tried to make up for it by working hard on his hobbies and keeping up with both of their duties.

Near the end of the year, while approaching Christmastime, the sailor’s wife was excited to find that one of her childhood24 friends was returning to the hamlet with her new family.

Sometimes, on quiet evenings during the setting sun, the sailor’s wife sees him gazing out their window, over the sea, to the horizon. She can see the far-away look in his eyes, and knows that he often yearns for adventures in lands as yet unexplored. But they aim to be faithful to their True King, and He has brought them exactly where He wants them to be and is training them (if sometimes in a way that seems slow!) in His ways. They trust Him fully to take care of them.

And with that, they wish you, their dear friends and family, God’s richest blessings in the New Year to come!

  1. David.

  2. Rita.

  3. A 1995 red Ford Escort station wagon, purchased in New Brunswick only a couple of weeks before they left since the U.S. wouldn’t allow their old Mazda to be brought across the border.

  4. Rita’s parents’ yard in a fifth-wheel RV trailer.

  5. We were waiting quite a while for official immigration permission for Rita to come into the States after our wedding.

  6. Sioux Center, Iowa—home of Dordt College, where we both attended, and where David’s brother, Jon, is currently attending.

  7. Fergus Falls, Minnesota—David’s parents’ home, which we used as home base while job hunting.

  8. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  9. Interstates Control Systems, Inc. (ICSI is on the web at

  10. Christ Community Church, in Sioux Center.

  11. Computer programming at Interstates. ICSI does programming for both the industrial computers that control factories (called PLCs) and for the regular computers that operators use to control the PLCs (called human-machine interfaces, or HMI). My job is doing maintenance programming (fixing bugs and adding new equipment and other improvements) for the HMI computers that we program for the IAMS pet food company.

  12. Goldfish.

  13. Actually, decorations at the Dordt Spring Fling banquet.

  14. He jumped out of our fishtank.

  15. We got the rest at a nearby pet store

  16. He jumped out of the tank, too.

  17. He got a plastic planted shoved in his gill.

  18. Friday nights.

  19. Or Tim Berners-Lee, if you prefer the modern version. He invented the World Wide Web.

  20. He invented the printing press, if you are curious.

  21. Check out for more.

  22. Otherwise known as Dordt College.

  23. College, i.e. Dordt College.

  24. College-time.

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© 2005-2007 David and Rita Hjelle