Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cordwood: more poems from the forgotten war

Ralph Jacobs, the author of CORDWOOD, A COLLECTION OF KOREAN WAR POEMS, is a treasured friend and a Harvard educated medical doctor. He served in Dog Medical Company, First Marine Division, in the Korean War.

I served in the Marines from July 1950, through June 1951. . . I hope the poems will offer a personal lens for you to see and feel my experiences in Korea. Many of the events, situations, and dilemmas in these poems mirror what others have seen and felt in other wars."
Ralph Jacobs, from his Introduction
April, 2004

The three poems that follow are from Ralph’s second “chapter”: Chosin Reservoir Campaign. (More poems from this chapter of Cordwood and succeeding chapters will be posted in the future.)


Physician Casualty

(Our Marine tent hospital grasps
an escarpment in North Korea)

The only other doc details to me with odd gusto
his cases with shrapnel wounds, his battle fatigued,
his dysentery cases on IV’s, He shows
the tibial stump on a five-year-old,
the uninvited nine-month mamasan
waiting to deliver in the corner of our surgery.

We crunch snow, step into the docs’ cave.
On a rock ledge he curls into a down sleeping bag.
For the next two days he 2on’t move.
I make rounds, check him often, talk hours with him—
he stares at faces ripped by shell fragments—
narrates his triumphs over Mt. Hood, Mr. Rainier.
He won’t eat, he won’t drink
His piss turns mahogany brown.
I plead—You’ll be angry with yourself.

His debility deepens—his thoughts erode.
I must evacuate him.
For minutes I stare at snowy mountains. . .
shells explode in the distance, planes roar overhead.

Chosin Reservoir

Siberian winds snarl,
stab the Marine tent hospital,
trapped fifty miles from the sea,
beside the shell pocked evac airstrip,
dotted with frozen corpses.

Chinese hurl own snowy mountains,
howl like banshees, bugles blare.
Marines defend the airstrip savagely.

An airdrop supply crate—blood, saline,
Condoms, Dinty Moore stew,
one-oh-five ammo
thunders through the tent—
three corpsmen crushed.

My friend Jim is dead. Blood
warmed by a hot water bottle,
revives George, his splintered leg
in a cast—he’ll make it.

Tex’s ruptured spleen removed,
his guts sutured. He and surgeons
survive the risk of open-drop ether
next to the roaring stove.

The next morning, icicle-bearded Marines
load bundled stretchers board Air Evac C47’s.
I drink muddy coffee,
prepare for another day.

Privileged Communication

(In memoriam: General Lewis “Chesty” Puller)

In our docs’ hospital tent
our commander visits in the quiet evenings.
Knocks back remorse
With GI issue gullet scorching brandy.

He slumps forward—still seeing his men
assaulting caves in the pale moonlight
years ago on Guadalcanal,
the path strewn with bodies.

He recalls the unexpected eclipse of the moon
that suffocated high tide—
assault barges bashed into sand bars
spewing men far from shore off Tarawa.
He weeps as he remembers
his staggering troops in the waves,
with machine-gun fire and artillery
burying hundreds in surf and sand.

“I must never lose so many again.”

But now at the Chosin Reservoir
our Marine division is surrounded.
The Chinese have cut off all routes.

Poems from Jacobs first “chapter of poems: Trip to Korea, Inchon and Seoul Campaigns, can be read on this blog. (Spectrum blog has previously posted a piece I submitted in which Jacobs’ poem, Cordwood, is featured.)

“Cordwood” can be purchased from Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Bl., Corte Madera (415-927-9016) or Ralph Jacobs, 55 La Costa Ct, Novato, CA 94947 (415-898-6064)

Famous at Last!

My picture is now hanging in the SDA Caricatures Hall of Fame! Check it out!

The Price of Fitting In

Comic modified from Brevity, by Guy & Rodd
(click to enlarge)

Jan, somehow your name came to mind.

Comic from Brevity, by Guy & Rodd
(click to enlarge)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

July 17, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 20

This is an above average issue. I have only two Bouquets to award; no article deserves a Black Eye. Editors, thanks for publishing my letter. Now work harder with your authors. The overall writing quality is uneven.

Women’s Empowerment Key to Church Culture Shift
Reported by Ansel Oliver
Women are now serving as church elders in Southern Mexico, and the Adventist Church is coming alive! This report is a MUST READ.

Fishing in a Global "ChurchPond"
reported by D. Dwayne Adams
This story is a testament to what lay members can accomplish without official church support. If I were spending General Conference funds, I’d provide grants to assist lay men and women in realizing their humanitarian and evangelistic dreams.

Today, with out official sponsorship, ChurchPond has its own Web site, which streams live and prerecorded programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Letters, e-mails, and phone calls come in 
from around the world—Australia, China, India, Trinidad, Jamaica, the African continent, Korea, Europe, and across the United States.

Even though only two pieces have earned a Bouquet for their uplifting message and special interest, I do have a few pats on the back.

Howard Was Here
a story by Michelle Sabo Kendall
Neighbors like Howard and Betty set the standard.

The Church Has Left the Building
by Fredrick A. Russell
According to Russell, “most churches have ‘cocooned’ themselves behind closed doors, while the greater world outside see those on the ‘inside’ as having nothing to do with their lives”. He has also become “increasingly skeptical about the value of putting huge dollars into church structures”. For him, what happens outside the building determines whether or not a local church is a light “set on a hill that cannot be hidden”.

Young Adventists Offer Church Hope
by Mark Kellner
Walla Walla students Becca Parshall and Mensink and Janelle Walkonis raised $37,000 for an orphanage in Zimbabwe. Their story is an affirmation of faith in the future of the Adventist Church.

by Stephen Chavez
This comment is memorable. “Too many Adventists sing, ‘Is my name written there?’ instead of, ‘Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!’”

Reviewing the Adventist Review

July 10, 2008
Vol. 285, No. 19

This issue will be a comfortable read for just about every SDA, liberal or conservative. The quality of the writing is generally good. Bouquets and Black Eyes will not be awarded.

Consequently, I’m going to this space to demonstrate how important it is to carefully check the references used to support an assertion, fact, or idea. Deryl R. Corbit’s article in this issue has provided that opportunity.

From Marvels All Around
“For many years, Darwinists have pointed out “flaws” in human anatomy to support their arguments for evolution through mutations and natural selection, and the eye has long been one of their favorite targets. Brown University professor Kenneth Miller claims that the vertebrate eye is poorly designed, because any light entering the eye must pass through the nerve layers before reaching the light receptors of the retina.

“Miller maintains that an intelligent designer would never have placed the neural wiring of the retina on the side of incoming light, since this arrangement scatters the light, making our vision less detailed than it would otherwise be, and even causes a blind spot where the wiring is pulled through the retina via the optic nerve that carries visual messages to the brain. Other evolutionists have chimed in over the years with their indictments, decrying the ‘functionally stupid, backward construction.’ To the evolutionists, this stands as clear evidence that no designer exists.”

Corbit cites Bergman and Clakins to support his claim that evolutionists, including Kenneth Miller, assert “no designer exists”.* (1) This citation is not from an unbiased source.** In fact Bergman is the authority he sites to support his own claim to be an authority on both the human eye and the views of evolutionists.*** (2) I offer the following excerpt from the final chapter of Miller’s book, “Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution”,**** as evidence that evolutionists are not necessarily atheists or even agnostics.

From Finding Darwin’s God
“Evolution is neither more nor less than the result of respecting the reality and consistency of the physical world over time. To fashion material beings with an independent physical existence, any Creator would have had to produce an independent material universe in which our evolution over time was a contingent possibility. A believer in the divine accepts that God's love and gift of freedom are genuine - so genuine that they include the power to choose evil and, if we wish, to freely send ourselves to Hell. Not all believers will accept the stark conditions of that bargain, but our freedom to act has to have a physical and biological basis. Evolution and its sister sciences of genetics and molecular biology provide that basis. In biological terms, evolution is the only way a Creator could have made us the creatures we are - free beings in a world of authentic and meaningful moral and spiritual choices.

“Those who ask from science a final argument, an ultimate proof, an unassailable position from which the issue of God may be decided will always be disappointed. As a scientist I claim no new proofs, no revolutionary data, no stunning insight into nature that can tip the balance in one direction or another. But I do claim that to a believer. Even in the most traditional sense, evolutionary biology is not at all the obstacle we often believe it to be. In many respects, evolution is the key to understanding our relationship with God.

“When I have the privilege of giving a series of lectures on evolutionary biology to my freshman students, I usually conclude those lectures with a few remarks about the impact of evolutionary theory on other fields, from economics to politics to religion. I find a way to make clear that I do not regard evolution, properly understood, as either antireligious or antispiritual. Most students seem to appreciate those sentiments. They probably figure that Professor Miller, trying to be a nice guy and doubtlessly an agnostic, is trying to find a way to be unequivocal about evolution without offending the University chaplain.

“There are always a few who find me after class and want to pin me down. They ask me point-blank: "Do you believe in God?"

“And I tell each of them, "Yes."
Puzzled, they ask: "What kind of God?"

“Over the years I have struggled to come up with a simple but precise answer to that question. And, eventually I found it. I believe in Darwin's God.”


* Jerry Bergman, PhD., and Joseph Calkins, M.D., “Is the Backwards Human Retina Evidence of Poor Design” from The Institute for Creation Research articles / 2476, 2007
** The Institute for Creation Research
*** Bergman, Jerry. 2000. "Is the Inverted Human Eye a Poor Design?" Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation. 52(1):18-30, March.
**** Miller, Kenneth R. 1999. Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. New York: Cliff Street Books.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Reviewing Adventist Today

July-August 2008

Great issue, and the new website “” is easy to navigate and includes the personal blogs of fascinating people. Reader, if you’re not a subscriber, you’re missing out on the cutting edge of SDA theology and journalism.

The website has many new content additions: online-only feature articles, music and film reviews, exclusive interviews, regular Adventist news updates, blogs, and more. All paid subscribers to Adventist Today magazine get full access.

One suggestion: standardize the size and typeface for easy reading on a computer screen. One comment: The cover is spooky! My first thought was, “Santeria? on AT”?

The Adventist Church's Peculiar Institution: Why Race-Based Conferences Should Be Abolished
by Fredrick A. Russell

This is a MUST READ. Russell’s argument is devastating and timely. A radical reorganization of SDA church structure in North America is long overdue, and Fredrick’s suggestion, “gently proposed”, makes sense.

“Even as the wider, secular culture has moved to dismantle any and all organizational structures that reflected government-sanctioned racial division in American history, the Seventh-day Adventist Church [is] keeping a racially segregated infrastructure in place. . . The vast majority of the 58 conferences in the North American Division are racially segregated at their core.

So I gently propose that NAD conferences, specifically in the United States, be reorganized into a series of regional units across the country, but not as large as most union territories presently cover. These regional units would be responsible for all “work” in their assigned territory.

Some have suggested that the West Coast model, where there are no black conferences, is the best way to go. Not so. The West Coast model has inherent flaws, one of which is that the white membership is “mainstreamed” and . . .there still exists a mentality that is more comfortable when whites are at the helm. It’s this mentality that has to be challenged and changed.”

When Oakwood and Southern [FINALLY] Got Together, [GOOD THINGS HAPPENED!]
Two Adventist university presidents, Delbert Baker of Oakwood University and Gordon Bietz of Southern Adventist University, have been encouraging more interaction between the two schools through a program called DEEPER. Oakwood, a historically black college in Huntsville, Ala., is 120 miles southwest of Southern, whose student body is primarily white. Recently the journalism and communication faculty from both schools got together for an afternoon of dialogue. Independent of each other, Rachel Williams of Oakwood and Andy Nash of Southern each wrote a brief reflection on the experience.

Shining In The Silicon: Adventist Church Invites Silicon Leaders Into the Mix
by Sam McKee
Some amazing things happened when the local pastor began inviting Silicon Valley leaders to speak at the Sunnyvale Adventist church!

“You have the CEO of the Sharks recommending the Adventist church to the future president of Intel! . . . A year and a half after we started the Business & Spirituality series, our attendance is 25 percent higher, and our church is clearly on the radar of the local culture. The mayor of our city showed up at our Christmas outreach along with more than 500 others.”

No Junk Evangelism: the Good News Demands a Good "How"
by Nathan Brown
Brown is amazing! I continue to be impressed by his writing, his breath of interests, his uncanny ability to intuit the truth, and his ability to prove what he already “knows”. This article is a MUST READ.

“In Evangelism After Christendom, Bryan Stone describes this challenge to contemporary Christianity: “Those who think theologically rarely think about evangelism, and those who think about evangelism rarely take the discipline of theology very seriously. . . Those who produce the literature on evangelism are particularly reluctant to think critically about the theology presupposed in their practice.”

“In his intriguing recent book UnChristian, David Kinnaman reflects on what this means for evangelism: ‘In our research with some of the leading ‘mass evangelism’ efforts, we found that often these measures create three to ten times as much negative response as positive. In other words, imagine your church is considering mailing Bibles or videos or other Christian materials to homes in your community. Our research shows that the ‘collateral damage’ of doing so—those whose impressions of your church and of Christianity would be more negative as a result—is significantly greater than the positive impact on those who will respond favorably to these efforts.’”

We Must Center of the Mission of Christ
Minister, community organizer and social analyst Monte Sahlin talks with Marcel Schwantes about the latest research findings on the church, surprising facts about evangelism campaigns, and the future of a graying denomination.

This subhead introduces this MUST READ article. The following question and answer supply only the first course of a five star meal of research and reality. This is a MUST READ.

“What do you think are the top three challenges facing the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the coming decade?”

“(1) Diversity. The Adventist denomination is the most diverse denomination in the United States today! Diversity is more than ethnicity, more than its global span; we encompass a great range of worship styles, socioeconomic niches, and viewpoints.

(2) The “graying of Adventism” and the need to engage new generations. I am working on a new demographic survey right now, and it appears that the median age for the Adventist Church in North America has inched up to 62. That means half of our members are over 62 years of age! We are not doing a good job of passing on the church to new generations. We must improve on that front.

(3) The need to encourage more innovation and creativity. If we do not release the energies and gifts of the younger pastors, teachers, and lay leaders, we will sink under the weight of aging, diversity, and all of the institutions and programs that we can’t let go of. If we want new generations to carry on the mission of the church, we have to trust them to learn how to relate to their contemporaries.”

Blogger Lineup
The blog section allows readers to interact with Adventist Today bloggers, who represent a wide range of Adventist perspectives.

David Person is an editorial writer and columnist at The Huntsville Times; the host of “WEUP Talk,” a daily call-in talk show on WEUP-AM; and an occasional opinion writer for USA Today. David graduated from Oakwood University, where he majored in communication and minored in theology. David’s blog addresses current events and social issues from a Christian perspective, including looking at the two greatest commandments and social-justice applications of our faith.

Heather Quintana has a master of divinity degree from Andrews University and a bachelor’s in English from Southwestern Adventist University. She has previously worked as a chaplain and an assistant radio producer and currently writes for Kids’ Ministry Ideas and Lead. Heather blogs for Adventist Today on trends in pop culture.

Alex Bryan is pastoral director of mission and ministry at Collegedale Church on the campus of Southern Adventist University. Alex is currently in the midst of a doctor of ministry program at George Fox University, where he is studying “Leadership in the Emerging Culture.” Alex blogs on the missional church, emerging cultures, and discipleship from a postmodern perspective.

Shayna Bailey, 25, has become a leading young adult voice for Christian dating and relationships in several venues, including print magazines, blogs, and Christian seminars— which she frequently hosts. Shayna just co-authored her first book, The GODencounters Devotional, which will be released in the fall. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Johns Hopkins University and will start medical school in 2009.

Ervin Taylor, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, and executive publisher of Adventist Today. Dr. Taylor blogs on the creation/ evolution divide, science and religion, ethics, and Adventist history/theology.

Clifford Goldstein, a top selling author and leading conservative voice, has written 20 books and hundreds of magazine articles. He is editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide and also edited Liberty and Shabbat Shalom. Clifford blogs on current issues and traditional Adventist teachings—and will take reader questions.

Angels Distribute Radios to Villagers? AWR President Says Yes
by Noreen Malcolm
Adventist World Radio president says he believes it really happened.
reported by the Adventist World Radio (AWR) president, Benjamin Schoun.

“Call it a miracle in the 21st century: Angels reportedly visited villagers in a restricted area, distributed radios to the people, and taught them how to tune into the Adventist World Radio programs.

Your Questions
by Andy Nash
Why is the new website paid only?
The website is a bonus feature for those who subscribe to Adventist Today magazine. You can probably understand our dilemma—and the dilemma of many publications right now. When the website was free, many people were filling up with free content (mostly news and news feeds)—and not seeing the magazine material and special features that we’ve put the most time into. Further, they were judging Adventist Today only by the free stuff they saw on the site.

In this new model, everything is on one tier. Everyone pays for our product, rather than some people subsidizing the rest. This puts pressure on us to provide quality content, but that’s the kind of pressure we want. We’re up substantially in subscriptions this year, and we believe this will continue the momentum.

Do you offer an online-only subscription?
Yes. We’re now offering an $8.00/year online-only subscription, which gives full access to the website, including the current issue (and back issues) of Adventist Today magazine. We know this option will be welcomed by those outside of North America, those on tight budgets, and those who prefer to read online.

Alden Thompson: The Prayer of Jabez Strikes Again
by Alden Thompson
The Prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9 & 10) is indeed slim pickin’s for readers of the Chronicles. It certainly doesn’t “haunt me” or inform me about much of anything.

Alden, what does “haunt” me is your desire to make “the whole Bible safe to read”. The Bible is not a “safe” book. It’s dangerous. It defies sectarian interpretations, Uncle Arthur theology, and official Sabbath School lessons in its conflicting chronologies, morality, historical events, and sayings. It begins with two different stories of creation and ends with monsters, fire, martyrs complaining under the throne of God, and a New Jerusalem descending from heaven.

Its words are mysterious and clear, savage and compassionate, inspirational and reasoned. It’s a history of slaughter and kindness, foolish acts and principled behavior, miraculous events and undeserved tragedies, good prostitutes and evil kings. Its words have excused genocide and inspired saints.

Readers need to fasten their seatbelts and pray. It’s an exciting ride, a brilliant adventure, a love letter from the people who wrote it and the God that inspired their efforts. (We already have the really “safe” Clear Word.)

Editor’s note: There is an extra “named” in the paragraph beginning “The prayer of Jabez. . .” This confused me on my first reading.

7 Questions for . . . Naturally 7
July 1, 2008 - 11:00pm - Marcel Schwantes
Whether you’re into Christian contemporary or secular pop music, these talented “7” have arrived with an explosive bang. Since 2007, they have performed for more than 1.2 million people and have just completed touring the United States, Australia, and Canada as the opening act for pop superstar Michael BublĂ©. They are now beginning the European leg of their world tour, including solo performances at the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, where they’ll share the stage with the likes of Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, and Al Jarreau. On May 13, Naturally 7 made their national television debut on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. DeGeneres called them “unbelievable.”

Decaf in Starbucks, Creating Lucifer, Raising Hands/Hell
by Adventist Man
Not up to your last effort, AM, but not bad.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

July, 2008
Vol. 4, No. 1

Adventist World has a gorgeous website. Navigation is instantaneous; the contents page is even easier to read than the hard copy; and typeface, layout, and graphics are computer friendly.

Consequently, since Adventist World, the Magazine, is sent to most of you without charge, and can be read without subscription online, I’ve decided, at least for the next few issues, to award only Bouquets and Black Eyes. (Bouquets for well-written, uplifting pieces of unusual interest; black eyes for reasons explicit with each award.)


This issue is full of mission stories that make me proud to be an Adventist. Don’t miss Adventist Missionaries—Do They Still Go? By Laurie Falvo; God's Spirit at Work in Africa By Jean Thomas; Making Friends and Influencing People by Marti Schneider; and Praying for Your Pastor by Matupit Darius, director of communication for Papua New Guinea.

A Daniel in Moscow by Andrew McChesney
This is a fascinating read. David, the Adventist “Daniel” of the piece, started out as a part-time English teacher and has become a financial advisor and religious teacher to Russian billionaires.

Freedom to Care by Jan Paulsen
Editor’s note: This piece is so beautifully written, thoughtfully argued, and carefully crafted, that I couldn’t just introduce it a MUST READ. Here is a concluding paragraph.

“I see a certain circle in this. Seventh-day Adventists have always preached a spiritual message of freedom—freedom from the power of sin, freedom from fear, freedom of conscience and religious expression. Even our work of healing, educating, and providing humanitarian care is driven by a desire to free people from poverty, ignorance, pain, and injustice. And so that same concern for freedom takes us into care for the world in which we live. Being mindful of what I drink, eat, wear, use, how I travel and spend my time—these all yield certain consequences for the environment and, in turn, for each one of God’s children and His created beings. It’s not about living a somber, colorless existence. On the contrary, pulling free from relentless consumerism, focusing more on people and less on acquisitions, building a life that is focused on Christ’s priorities, not the world’s priorities—these are choices that deliver a wonderful sense of freedom, an indescribable feeling of liberation! And these are choices that yield a quality of life that is second to none.”

Is Fish Safe to Eat? by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless
Editor’s note: This quote alone makes the article a MUST READ.

“Our basis for vegetarianism is the quest for optimal health.”


The Greatest Miracle by David Marshall
The following quote is from this otherwise excellent essay, referring to the woman caught in adultery: “’Neither do I condemn you. Go …’ To say those words Jesus had to go to Calvary to buy her pardon.”

Editor’s note: The idea that it is necessary for Jesus to “buy” salvation for this woman and others is ridiculous on at least two counts: first, the author is a Trinitarian, i.e. Jesus is God. Second, the statement makes God into a shopkeeper.

It’s as if Marshall had never thoughtfully considered Jesus’ words: "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am NOT saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” John 16: 25-27

The End of Sin and Sinners by Angel Manuel RodrĂ­guez
The final paragraphs of Rodriguez’ answer to the following question confuses rather than elucidates.

"I hear different opinions concerning the final destruction of the wicked. Is it true that God will not destroy them, but that they will self-destruct?"

“ It was necessary for Jesus to die as the Sin-bearer. He accepted the righteous and just will of the Father for Him. On the cross, He suffered up to the moment He voluntarily gave up His life to the Father. Since His death was part of the saving plan, He endured suffering for a particular period of time and at the appropriate moment gave up His life while shouting, “It is finished!”

"In the case of the wicked, their destruction is preceded by their own recognition that they deserve to die. They will bow down and proclaim that indeed Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10, 11). Yet, the wicked will struggle to voluntarily give up their lives to the Creator. Let me suggest that the intensity of their suffering may be directly related to their unwillingness to give up their lives, which is in turn related to their selfishness. That attitude may lengthen their suffering and allow each one to experience judgment according to their works.

Did that help? (Oops, I ended with a question!)."

Editor’s note: Angel argues as an Arian not a Trinitarian. He goes on to suggest that Christ experienced a unique “second death”, the final death that awaits all unrepentant sinners.

Rodriquez speculates that at the second death, “the wicked will struggle to voluntarily give up their lives to the Creator”. He suggests “that the intensity of their suffering may be directly related to their unwillingness to give up their lives, which is in turn related to their selfishness. That attitude may lengthen their suffering and allow each one to experience judgment according to their works”.

Consequently, Jesus had to be tortured (since He was dying the “second death”) “for a particular period of time” before “the appropriate moment” when he could choose to die. His suffering couldn’t stop until He “voluntarily” gave up his life and “God’s justice” was “vindicated”.

If God’s universal “law” required that Jesus be tortured and killed along with every other created being who somehow violated that law, Heaven was the place to take care of this whole miserable sin business. Why get humans involved? God could have tortured and killed Jesus (or Himself in some mysterious way), and then got rid of Lucifer and the bad angels who would have ended up mutilating themselves before they finally died.

Angel, your tortured logic and byzantine reasoning didn’t help! And how could anyone “love” the God you portray in this essay?

Celebrating the Sabbath by Mark A. Finley
“Although it is possible to receive God’s blessing any day we worship, we can receive His Sabbath blessing only if we worship on His Sabbath.”

Editor’s note: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.” Romans 14:5,6

Ignoring Reality?

From Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click image to enlarge)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cordwood: poems from the forgotten war

Ralph Jacobs, the author of CORDWOOD, A COLLECTION OF KOREAN WAR POEMS, is a treasured friend and a Harvard educated medical doctor. He served in Dog Medical Company, First Marine Division, in the Korean War.

"We clambered over the ship's side on rope ladders and chugged on a landing barge into Inchon. With another medical company we set up the major collecting and clearing hospital at the Korean Kimpo Air Field, just captured, to treat the casualties from the assault on Seoul. . . I served in the Marines from July 1950, through June 1951. . . I hope the poems will offer a personal lens for you to see and feel my experiences in Korea. Many of the events, situations, and dilemmas in these poems mirror what others have seen and felt in other wars."
Ralph Jacobs, from his Introduction
April, 2004

The three poems that follow are from Ralph’s first “chapter” of poems: Trip to Korea, Inchon and Seoul Campaigns. “Cordwood” can be purchased from Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Bl., Corte Madera (415-927-9016) or Ralph Jacobs, 55 La Costa Ct, Novato, CA 94947 (415-898-6064)

I will post his poems from the three following chapters periodically in the weeks leading up to the presidential election. (Spectrum blog has previously posted a piece I submitted in which Jacobs’ poem, Cordwood, is featured.)


Telegrams summon the active reservists.
"Report within twenty-four hours."
Six of us docs at Pendleton examine them all day,
still a line a block long at 2 A.M.

Our commanding medical officer—
"Nobody fails this fitness exam—
they're active paid reservists."

One naked Marine—Please speed this up, doc—
my girlfriends waiting in a Carlsbad motel.

Another: My wife's eight months pregnant.
"Hurray, you'll have a son or daughter waiting."

And another: My store will go bankrupt!
Please let me out to sign those loan papers.
"Sorry son, c'est la guerre."

And another: I joined the reserves for the money.
"A real patriot. A corpsman, you lucky dog—
you're going on a luxury cruise."

"Total arrhythmia, grade IV rheumatic murmurs
in all hard areas in one-man.
What a mystery—a human heart."
This man fails.

A new war. Truman mobilizes.
The First Marines sail from San Diego to Korea.

Smallpox is endemic in Korea
"physician protect thyself
No-take vaccinations in your past
leave you on immunized"
Before sailing I tell my corpsman
Prick deeply—get the blood
under the cowpox vaccine on my arm.
Three days later he blurts:
You look like hell doc!
"An immense canker on my lip,
a papule on my arm—I rejoice."

Six months later—in our hospital tent—
two Marines frighten me.
Profoundly listless, hemorrhagic pustules
on their faces, arms and legs.
By the next morning—both are dead.

The Chinese Army; not immunized—
loses tens of thousands
to smallpox, typhus, cholera.

The Chinese people are appalled—
so many recruits called up.
The Chinese government denounces us:
U.S. Planes are dropping germs.

U.S. Fleet Task Force
Army Marines—Amphibious landing
Inchon, Korea, September 1950

All ships engulfed
by a brutal typhoon—
A howling black-cloud dragon spews
walls of water.
Our radios are dead.
Through a deck hatch I watch
whipped foam;
waves five times higher than the top
of the rigging
fling our troopship like cork.

On deck a two inch steel cable
linking three sailors snaps.
The three, swallowed by the sea.

Seasick pills are gone in thirty minutes.
Treatment—keep eating.
Four-inch sides fence the mess tables.
As the ship pitches, Dinty Moore stew bowls
slide up and down, up and down.
Stew three times a day for three days.
Grab that bowl as it goes by.

The reek of vomitus
from gray-green Marines,
bunks in five layers,
the deck, bulkheads—pervades.

The Marines want to get the hell out
of that stinking hold
onto landing barges,
scale shoreline clips,
Way to harbor mud,
attack North Koreans.

Hell on Wheels

Why do Christians laugh when cartoonists portray hell as a humorous prop and the devil as a kind of bumbling idiot? Is it simply sick humor, or a declaration that the idea is ludicrous, an atheistic sneer, a more “enlightened” religious perspective, a kind of cynical “whistling in the dark”, the loss of respect for traditional Christian teachings, a theologically “soft” copout, a collapse of morality, and/or a sign of the Second Coming? Once upon a time, a fortified town would open its gates to invaders if a priest threatened to excommunicate its inhabitants. What has changed?

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Reviewing the Pacific Union Recorder

July, 2008
Vol. 108, No 6

In general this issue is newsy and of general interest. However, I'm not crazy about the cover. I'll bet Davina Woods isn't either. The angle of the photograph reveals that she's missing four front teeth. The editorials of Ricardo Graham and Jim Peterson are more personal than usual. I hope the trend continues.

Since the Recorder sent without charge to nearly 75,000 Adventist homes in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah, and it can be read for free in its entirety online. I will not review every news item, editorial, and essay.

Therefore, I’ve decided, at least for the next few issues, to award only Bouquets and Black Eyes. (Bouquets for well-written, uplifting pieces of unusual interest; black eyes for reasons explicit with each award.)

Martha Havens’ Northern California report, Former Librarian Helps Children Develop a Love of Reading

Betty Coony’s account of the life of an Adventist Major League baseball scout

Black Eyes
Donna Tungesvik’s quote in Lodi-Fairmont’s An Afternoon in Asia community outreach piece: "A lot of our guests were non-Adventists, in one case, atheist. . . A number of guests, including the atheist, have asked to be invited again."

Larry Unterseher, as the new president of the Nevada-Utah Conference, it would have been refreshing if you had introduced yourself simply as the new guy with a lot to learn.

Let’s Talk About Depression by Dynnette Hart and Bonnie Meyer is well written, objective, and informative.

Zoei Toh became a worldwide Adventist singing celebrity at sixteen months. Over 5,500,000 people, including my wife and me, have listened to her sing The Lord's Prayer. It's a You Tube treat!

Black Eyes
Alan J. Reinach, Esq. argues that same-sex marriage challenges religious liberty. What he really objects to are laws that forbid "religious people" from discriminating against homosexuals and unmarried couples.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reviewing Spectrum

Spring, 2008
Volume 36, Issue 2

This is an excellent issue. The Ages of Adventism by Bull and Lockhart and The Point of the Spear by Benjamin McArthur are MUST READS. The film, The Power of Forgiveness is a MUST SEE. How Birding Became Almost Cool by Hayward and McClelland is beautifully written and magnificently illustrated. Even if you’re not a member of the birding community, this article is a rare treat.

Naming Names
by Bonnie Dwyer
Bonnie delivers the goods this time. This issue does indeed tell "the story of Adventism". Historians, musicians, birders, artists, poets, bloggers, and editorial writers all make a contribution.

Manifesto for a Prophetic Adventism
by Charles Scriven
In this passionate editorial, Scriven asserts that "for members of alert and open mind, hand-me-down Adventism is now, in substantial part, discredited. . . When poverty and mental breakdown are more of a threat than jewelry and dancing, the latter obsessions seem like the equivalent of buggy whips."

Referring to Spectrum, Adventist Today, loosely affiliated institutions, peace groups, lay ministries, Adventist service organizations, and bloggers, Scriven issues the following challenge. "So let's shake our fists at the naysayers and dream-slayers, and rise up in one accord to declare, as trumpets do, that we are here. And let's say further, and say unmistakably, that we will cause something to happen; we will make a difference. . .Prophetic Adventism will remain but a little flame—except as we who see the vision link arms and do all we can make the circle wider."

Old Testament Sexual Laws
by Jim Miller
This letter is enlightening and knowledgeable. As usual, dispassionate scholarship trumps bigotry.

A Young Conductor Makes Waves
Shi-Yeon Sung Joins the Boston Symphony Orchestra
An Interview by Alita Byrd
It is thrilling to discover that Adventism has not stifled the career of such a marvelous talent. (I’m referring to the "the dispensation rule" that allows, even requires, the employees of Adventist institutions to work on Sabbath, while employees, working the same hours for a secular employer, are "officially" committing a mortal sin.)

A Discussion of Postmodernism from the Spectrum Web Site
Responses to David Larsen’s review of Everlasting Gospel / Ever Changing World
by Jon Paulien, Pacific Press
As far as I'm concerned, “postmodern” literature is full of fuzzy language and unhelpful generalizations about individual religious beliefs. Consequently, I'll leave a critique of the book and a commentary to someone less biased than myself.

SANCTUARY a prose poem sermon
by Kendra Haloviak
I agree with Kendra. A Christian sanctuary should be a safe place, physically and psychologically, "from which to launch a mission, , , a place to welcome the world".

by Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart
The full text of their remarks at the 2007 Adventist Forum Conference in Santa Rosa, California
The subtitle says it all, Adventism in the Present Tense: Pondering Our Pasts, Plotting Our Futures. It’s seventeen pages of fascinating SDA history and future prognostication. It is a MUST READ.

THE POINT OF THE SPEAR: Adventist Liberalism and the Study of Ellen White in the 1970’s
by Benjamin McArthur
This article is also a MUST READ. The following quote is the last paragraph.
"The North American Adventist Church in 2008 is far from the world it knew in 1970. The sense of confidence the Church shared with the nation forty years ago has largely evaporated. Growth is no longer assumed; simply holding our own is now the challenge. This suggests that a new "Adventist Project" must be generated. Once again, Adventist scholars must take it upon themselves to help reshape the Adventism that might carry meaning for contemporary America. The stakes are high, and resistance is certain. But we owe the church no less."

A review of Scott Weidensaul’s, Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding
by James L. Hayward, paintings by James McClelland
This article is to be avoided if you don't have some ready cash. It's a fascinating introduction to birding. (I’m only buying Of a Feather for my wife or allowing her to read this article because she is already a novice birder and has previously purchased the "required" expensive binoculars!)

Check out the book and film club selections through April of next year. They set the stage for fascinating Internet conversations.

Prayer: Does It Make a Difference? a book by Philip Yancy
Reviewed by Daneen Akers
The following quote is the one that stuck with me. "In the end, one of the best reasons we have for praying is Jesus. Surely if anyone was privy to God's will it was Him, but he still prayed-- even angrily and tearfully at times. That's probably a good example for us all."

The Power of Forgiveness, a film by Martin Doblmeier
Reviewed by Shasta Nelson
This film is a life changer, a definite MUST SEE.

GOD IS NOT a poem
by John McDowell
John, The Science of Santa Claus portrait that accompanies your poem is just plain goofy! And even though I have trouble with visualizing God "as a cold wind blowing through emptiness", no one deserves that illustration.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

June 26, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 18

Editors, writers need your help in producing final copy. Less than acceptable writing mars a number of what should have been excellent pieces in this issue. The cover story is the most egregious example; but On Temporary Assignment, Ask the Doctors, Not a Spectator Sport and the adaptation of the story in KidsView, Every Last Drop, needed final editing before they appeared in print.

MUST READS: Running from Death by Wilona Karimabadi, With the Times by Kimberly Luste Maran, and Control Freak by Clifford Goldstein

Running from Death by Wilona Karimabadi
This is a MUST READ. “In a time when standing up for justice could have meant the loss of your own life, one man did what was right, despite the consequences. He was a man whose moral principles and courage were guided by his love for God and humanity. His English name was John Henry Weidner [Johan Hendrik Weidner].”

The Dutch-Paris underground he helped to establish saved about 800 Jews, 100 Allied aviators, and many others who were escaping the tyranny and murder of Nazi oppression.

“Weidner's wartime rescue efforts did not go unrecognized. For his courage he was awarded the United States Medal of Freedom, made a member of the Order of the British Empire, the Dutch Order of Orange Nassau, and given the Dutch Medal of Resistance. The French government awarded him the Croix de guerre and Medaille de la Resistance, and the Legion d¹honneur. The government of Belgium also made him an officer of the Order of King Leopold.

“In addition, the government of Israel honored him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations at the country's national Holocaust Memorial in Yad Vashem. Weidner has a tree planted in his name there. He also participated in the opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1993 as one of seven persons selected to light candles recognizing rescuers.”

‘During our lives, each of us faces a choice: to think only about yourself, to get as much as you can for yourself, or to think about others, to serve, to be helpful to those who are in need. I believe that it is very important to develop your brains, your knowledge, but it is more important to develop your heart, to have a heart open to the suffering of others. As for myself, I am just an ordinary person, just someone who wants to help his neighbor.

'That is the aim of God for me: to think about others, to be unselfish. I am nothing exceptional. If I have one hero, it is God who has helped me to fulfill my mission, to fulfill my duties, to do what I have to do. But for myself, I am just a simple person. During the war, I did what I think everyone should have done.’ John Weidner died in Southern California in 1994.

Editor's note: If you haven't read the story of this Adventist hero, read it! Used copies of the following books documenting his wartime exploits are available from for pennies: Flee the Captor by Herbert Ford, The Hand of Compassion by Kristen Renwick Monroe, and The Courage to Care by Sondra Myers.

On Temporary Assignment by Dick Rentfro
“In God's eyes, the greatest heroes and heroines of faith are not those with the biggest bank account or those holding political power. Rather it's those who serve faithfully, who regard themselves as on temporary assignment.”

Getting Your Vitamin D? by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless
Get your Vitamin D levels measured! “It may play a role in up to 16 different cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.”

Kids View, edited by Wilona Karimabadi and Limberly Luste Maran
I would have put the clever “Pathfinder badge” title on a white background. The black background makes it sort of disappear into the gloom. Other than that, and the minor problem noted in General Comments, well done!

Not a Spectator Sport by Candy Clark
“On April 19, 2008, 45 participating Pathfinder teams representing eight unions in the North American Division met at Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, for the 2008 Invitational/Division Level Pathfinder Bible Achieve-ment. A record 40 teams earned a first-place certificate, with the remaining five receiving second-place certificates."

A New Direction by Frank J. Perez
“At that Adventist boarding school [Colegio de las Antillas in Cuba] we shared a love for learning and a passion for Jesus that caused me to change the direction of my life. The course I've chosen continues to this day. The difference in my life wasn¹t because of the books in the library, or the Ph.D.s behind my teachers' names. It wasn't the high-tech classrooms; our classrooms were rudimentary and well behind the times. What made the difference was learning to know Jesus and accepting His gift for me.”

Three of the letters to the editor left me wondering about the Review's letter policy. Barb Marsh was abrupt and sarcastic; Alen Forquer debated "foreknowledge" with himself for four paragraphs; and Bevin Brett reviewed an “online exclusive article”.

Control Freak by Clifford Goldstein
In a fascinating scientific and logical tour de force, Goldstein demonstrates “How grateful we need to be . . . for the sovereignty of God” It’s a MUST READ.

World News & Perspectives
General Conference President, Jan Paulsen calls diversity both a challenge and an opportunity in a live conference with pastors across Europe; Newbold College in the UK reports that Jane Sabes, a political science professor at Andrews University, will be the new Principal; Adventist Artist, James David Chase’s 22,719 word portrait of Arnold Palmer, made entirely of quotes from and about him, is a “centerpiece” in the United States Golf Association’ museum; and an historic SDA church business meeting was held in North Korea.

Lessons Learned
The Best Gift by Valerie N. Phillips
“So what if our gifts are less sophisticated or less expensive than someone else's? (Remember how Jesus valued the widow with the two mites?) Many of us are tempted to offer a gift in order to impress instead of to express. But when something is given with genuine love, the giver becomes the gift.”

Perfect Surrender by Maria Lombart
“’Perfect surrender’ means giving up all claims on what I personally believe I have a right to have. It means saying, I am willing, Lord, to accept Your best for my life and to trust that Your best is better than I can imagine. . . Perfect surrender is not an immediate achievement. Neither does it come as a result of my having worked enough and learned enough and tried hard enough to become perfect. It comes, rather, as a gift from a Father who truly cares about me.”

She Hung Up on Me by Roy Adams
Roy, I am one of your greatest admirers. That said, your editorial was a disappointment. In addition, the illustration that accompanied your words, the profiles of two cut out black figures, hat in hand, bowing toward each other, reinforced an unfortunate vaudevillian racial stereotype.

Now to your editorial. Regarding your example of Paul’s “courteous behavior”. You assume the following statement to be an apology. "Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: 'Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people'". You also assume that Paul didn't know the man who hit him in the mouth. That seems unlikely. Given the context of Paul's first response, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall", I believe Paul was being sarcastic.

When you returned the call of the discourteous woman, you could have had your assistant on another line. You could have identified yourself and stated that you had two reasons for returning her call. First, to give the woman the opportunity to apologize for her behavior. Second, to clear up a misunderstanding regarding something you had written in a Sabbath school lesson.

Christians aren’t required to "walk on egg shells" and "use our softest voices" when we confront discourteous behavior.

I am fond of the story of two men in an elevator. Both get on together every day. One man gets off at the seventh floor and the other at the 11th. Before the man gets off at the seventh floor, he whacks the other man on the back. This happens every day, and finally the bellhop that operates the elevator works up enough courage to question the man as he rides to the 11th floor. "What is going on? Why does that man hit you every day before he gets off the elevator?" Before the man gets off at the 11th floor he answers, "I don't know. Ask the other guy; it's his problem."

So she hung up on you; big deal.

With the Times by Kimberly Luste Maran
This editorial is a MUST READ. The illustrations that support her conclusion are entertaining and “with it”. "Those who lead our youth need to really know what is going on in their kids’ lives and figure out how to make the best, positive impact in the short time they have with them."

Friday, July 4, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

June 19, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 17

Two essays are MUST READS: Stephen Chavez’ editorial, Going Against the Flow, and Rick Labate’s, What Is a Church Congregation?

Still “People of the Book”? by Mark A. Kellner
In this important journalistic piece, Kellner quotes the broadcaster Woodrow Kroll: "the Bible is struggling to survive the neglect of its friends." He goes on to quote Albert Mohler: "Fewer than half of all adults can name the four Gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. . . 60 percent of Americans can't name even five of the Ten Commandments."

The Bible is replete with conflicting historical accounts of what actually happened. Consequently, it's a good idea to follow Kellner’s advice and stay "engaged" with the biblical text if we wish to consider ourselves "People of the Book”. Unfortunately, in this issue, Frederick Russell writes (See Hunger for God.): "Had Moses seen the face of God, he would have been fully consumed by His glory."

Many Adventist writers, like Russell, seem unaware of Exodus 24: 9-11. "Moses and Aaron, Nadab and a Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank."

Reconnecting by Mike Jones
Jones, who has been in and out and back in the Adventist Church, has the following suggestions for reconnecting with former Adventists. Leave the former member on your church mailing list. Watch for in active members on Sabbath mornings when they visit. Pray for but don't nag your family member who has dropped out. Consider anointing a former member who becomes ill. Apologize for the church when a former member feels wounded. Keep former members in your prayers. Remember to claim God's promises on behalf of the inactive or former member. Listen, listen, listen. And finally, never give up.

Sometimes We Feel Lost in Total Darkness
Kenneyetta Fields-Williams’ devotional piece reminds us that without a spiritual roadmap, we can lose our way in the darkness of despair.

Measuring Greatness by Leonard Brand
Even though Leonard’s father would not be considered a great man “as modern society measures greatness”, he was a man who “was never satisfied with doing something just ‘good enough. He put out extra energy to do is very best". He was also a marvelous Christian and adored by his family. No father could wish for a more loving tribute.

Pastor Chester Hitchcock's letter was a cry for help, and he speaks for many other small church pastors across North America. My son and his family attend a tiny church in the Midwest. The pastor, a retired hospital chaplain, will be allowed to retire this summer. The church has no phone and on any Sabbath in which my son, daughter-in-law, and their children do not attend, the local congregation will be made up of five "mature" members.

My son is a medical doctor who pays a faithful tithe. Consequently, this tiny church has become a cash cow for the local conference. My son is first elder and his wife is the church treasurer. There are three small churches within thirty miles of each other, but the conference leadership seems unwilling to consolidate these churches and/or provide the ministerial leadership that would allow these churches to become viable again.

These small-town churches are the canaries in the “mines” of the Adventist Church. I have been told that Grace Connection, the Adventist fellowship I attend in Chico, has a larger membership than the median Adventist congregation in North America.

Tools of the Trade by Monte Sahlin
Sahlin is chair of a team that is developing a comprehensive discipleship curriculum. You can recommend resources to him at “” or (800) 272-4664. In this issue he recommends four books designed to "Tool” Adventists for ministry. How to Lead Your Church Department Successfully; Deacon & Deaconess; Wanted: Relationships Where Love is in Place are available from AdventSource. Hooked on Unhappiness is published by Pacific Press.

World News and Perspectives
Kenneth Wood, 90, Longtime Review Editor and Chairman of the White Estate Board, has died; Russell Standish, 74, was killed in an Australian car crash; Cindy Tutsch is the author of Ellen White on Leadership (I hope the disjointed language and syntax of Tutsch’s quotations are not an indication of what her readers can expect.); and finally a mission story from Nepal.

When Bhaju Ram Shrestha was seventeen, he was kicked out of his house for becoming a Protestant Christian in Nepal. In the last 40 years he has cofounded the Adventist Church in Nepal, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, translated several editions of the church’s Adult Bible Study Guide, and is the recognized leader of Nepal’s 5,400 church members.

Kingdom Business
In has essay, Hunger for God, Fredrick A. Russell writes some memorable words. "If you're interested only in God's blessings, then that's what you'll settle for. If you want only to know the ways of God, you'll be content with that. But you'll never have all He wants to give."

W. Clarence Schilt recommends Sometimes I Don’t Feel Like Praying published by the Pacific Press. According to Schilt, it “should be a helpful book for those who want to take their spiritual experience to a higher level".

What Is a Church Congregation? This short essay by Rick Labate is a MUST READ definition of what a Christian congregation should be.

Going Against the Flow by Stephen Chavez
This editorial is a MUST READ. Stephen Chavez is a brilliant essayist, and his words reflect the very finest aspirations of Christian Adventists everywhere. The following quotation is his final paragraph.

"Christ surely calls us to flee worldly influences such as pride, greed, gluttony, hatred, violence, and promiscuity. And when we do, we will certainly create a counterculture. But unfortunately, it takes more than a change of clothes or a behavior modification to influence our cynical society; it takes an encounter with Christ, 'who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light'." (1 Peter 2:9)

Take a Load Off and Rest by Wilona Karimabadi
Karimabadi makes the point that the Sabbath was made for human beings to "take the time to breathe". It might even mean "taking a break from services". I couldn't agree more.