I wrote this email to Berean tonight regarding the back cover of its Summer Catalog.  When I first saw it, I didn’t even believe it was real!  I wonder how much more I would take issue with Berean if I actually looked inside the catalog!?

Howdy,

I can’t help but complain about the product advertised on the back of the Summer catalog. As a Christian, I feel I have to speak up when it seems that someone is blatantly misrepresenting Christ to a vulnerable audience. In this case, Berean is potentially distributing walking billboards that misrepresent Christ on a large scale. The t-shirts advertised on the back of the catalog clearly confuse the place of God and country. They fan the ethnocentric and jingoistic flame that threatens to burn down proper boundaries between loyalty to Christ and loyalty to America. They are fuel for the fire that already burns perilously close to Christian leaders and too many of our brothers and sisters.

I know some Christians hold the opinion that this country was founded on the Word of God, but the t-shirt that uses Isaiah 53:5 to essentially imply that America is our messiah is just disturbing. It really bothers me that Berean would feature this kind of advertisement so prominently on the catalog.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

Love,
Steve Popenoe

Write Berean your own comments if you have some ideas: customerservice@berean.com

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Family Camp

05/26/2011

Our church is holding its annual Family Camp this weekend.  We head down to The Oaks (a World Impact camp) each year for time together in a quiet place where we might connect with God in a different way, far from the noise of the city.  Every year it results in a resurgence of life, a new vitality in folks that come.  This year our focus is on the journey of life.  We hope to encourage each other to press on, despite all our struggle, to finish – even with joy in our hearts and smiles on our faces as we bear each other’s burdens.

Please pray with us that God will bless the trip.  There are always dark areas that need light.  There are always wounds that need healing.  The problems are always bigger than we can handle.  In His mercy we find our help.  Woohoo!

Another Murder

04/11/2011

In less than two months, another man murdered within sight of my front door.  Oh, Lord!  I don’t even know how to pray!  This time I almost skipped sadness and went to anger.  I’m so frustrated!  What the hell are you guys doing killing each other!  Firing bullets, spraying blood less than 100 feet from sleeping children – for what!?  I’ve felt like our neighborhood has been steadily transitioning from a relief-dominated area to more of a development mode.  With the relative peace of the last couple of years, more of us have felt encouraged to focus on the quality of life in our neighborhood, even doing more minor things like street cleaning and planning a community garden.  Maybe this effort has added another coat of rosiness to my rose-colored glasses, but I am shocked by these last two killings.  I’m dissappointed.  To have people murdering each other so close to, even right in the midst of an extraordinary density of people who, as Christ has done already, would lay down their own lives to create an alternative to the path of darkness, pain, and death they’ve chosen!

I searched for “In your mercy, Lord, hear our prayer” and found some beautiful language we can bring to the Father.

O God, who brought us to birth,
and in whose arms we die,
in our grief and shock
contain and comfort us;
embrace us with your love,
give us hope in our confusion
and faith to persevere;
through Jesus Christ.

Amen

A man from our community was beaten to death across the street from our apartment a week ago on Wednesday.  Folks around here knew him as Spooky.  I didn’t know him, but his death has really shaken me.  I’ve kinda channeled my mind into insignificant minutia as a coping mechanism, it seems.  As I walk the streets in the morning and at night getting to and from work, I sense a disturbing quietness.  It’s like none of us knows what to do; how to mourn or respond at all.  I have that elephant-in-the-room feeling even when I sit alone inside my apartment.  I pulled out one of the big 4×8 corrugated plastic political signs I harvested back in November to create some kind of public expression of mourning and maybe a statement on behalf of Jesus against violence on our streets.  I don’t know what to make, what to express.  I saw the police take my neighbor away today, though I don’t think he was “involved.”  Tomorrow we’ll meet with some brothers and sisters to pray on the street.  Maybe then we can process this together.  Lord have mercy!

What can make us whole again?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!  This is all my hope and peace!  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!  Oh, precious is the flow that makes us white as snow!

I hear shots firing right now.  Father, may your Kingdom come and your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven!

Spiritual Need

03/02/2011

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? —Jesus (Matthew 16:26)

I don’t wanna gain the whole world and lose my soul!  —Toby Mac

Got me thinking about real change, the transformation that comes with folks fully giving their hearts to Jesus.  Following Jesus means repentance, a 180 degree change in direction.  Sometimes my social justice drive gets me hyper-focused on trying to “gain the whole world” by fighting poverty and advocating for social programs.  The key issues keeping people from full life are really soul issues, maybe complicated and intensified by social issues.  I felt a bit of negative reaction to the Daily Bread (devotional reader thing) the other day because it spoke to how no matter what socioeconomic position you find yourself in, you’re either saved or not.  I felt like it neglected to mention our responsibility to fight injustice and oppose oppressive systems that trap people in poverty.  But then realized the thing was really totally right.  I found my frustration betrayed my misguided thought.  I have been placing my faith in physical remedies, rather than spiritual, which is really the central issue for most.  This doesn’t mean I’m not into promoting a better way of doing things, but my perspective needs some refocusing!

Vocation

02/20/2011

A friend of mine at work shared with me how he was recently challenged with the task of writing a mission statement for his life.  He smiled as he told me it caused a lot of trouble for him because it made him question why he was doing what he was doing.  Now he’s passed the trouble on to me.

I wrote a mission statement for my life this morning.  It goes like this:

My mission is to use my life as a conduit for Christ to bring persistent hope and holistic transformation–in me, my family, my community, my job, and the world.

Lately I’ve committed to act on what I perceive to be God’s strong tugs on my heart.  I’m taking a class that’s essentially a primer on social entrepreneurship from a Kingdom perspective.  I started a group trying to get poor folks into homeownership.  I bought an Arduino Uno to explore manufacturing and other job-creating business opportunities.  As I flounder around trying things, I get the sense that I could waste a lot of my energy if I don’t focus, set goals, make plans, and generally apply some discipline to the process of doing things.  The tricky thing for me seems to be that I have trouble balancing the high value I place on not letting structure and routine interfere with creativity and this new idea that structure and routine (discipline!) can be the key to making a creative effort successful.

I like how the Wikipedia article on vocation describes Christian vocation as “the use of one’s gifts” for the sake of the common good.  I’m convinced that putting gifts to use requires intentionality.  I plan on making some goals consistent with my mission statement for each of the different areas of life over which I have influence (mentioned above:  me, family, community, job, and world).

Aging

02/10/2011

Dear Diary,

I enjoy the feel of the sun on my face and love to see blue sky after a long winter, but sometimes that all gets overshadowed by frustration about how little my community and I take advantage of the abundant, free power pouring down on us.  Actually, pretty much my longest-running, most nagging, nearly most exciting dream has been to concentrate solar energy to do amazing, awesome things.  I recently had my 5th anniversary, my daughter and son turned 4 and 2, and I turned 30 years old.  I can’t help but reconsider what’s important to me and what I have done and plan to do with my life.  I embrace the life God has called me to, including the passions I have for so long dismissed as selfish ambition and indulgence.  I commit to buckle down and really do something rather than only dream.

I bought myself an Arduino UNO electronics prototyping board to facilitate the process of developing science/tech ideas into some real stuff.  I don’t want to get stuck on Arduino, but if you don’t know already, the Arduino is incredibly awesome – so much so that when I consider its outrageous opensourcedness and what the Arduino enables us to do it triggers a near-cataclysmic avalanche of happy/creative/hopeful neuron blasts in my brain that effectively white out my consciousness for significant periods of time.  I’m sure it’s not healthy for me to linger in that exploded-mind state for two long, so let’s get down to the first efforts toward doing something.

Below is a list of things I’ve collected recently to experiment with basic suntracking circuits and maybe doing some experiments.  Most of the stuff is commonly referred to on hobby robotics and DIY solar websites (primarily this BEAM website).  At first I hoped to save a bunch of money by buying the most basic components and assembling all my circuits from scratch.  Then I realized that my patience and spare time don’t allow me to work that hard.  Anyway, here’s what I’ve got:

  • Arduino UNO SMD
  • a breadboard
  • lots of NPN/PNP transistors (2N3904 / 2N3906)
  • CMOS 1381J Voltage Detectors
  • SN754410NE quadruple half H-bridges
  • Some 74HCT240, 74ACT240, 74ACT245
  • a bunch of resistors, capacitors, potentiometers, LEDs, etc.
  • lots of different kinds of rechargeable batteries
  • some supercapacitors and various regular capacitors
  • a 3W (24V/0.1A) solar panel
  • some little 3V solar panels
  • cadmium sulfide photocells
  • lots of DC motors from TINY to big honkin’ scooter-types
  • lots of junk electronics I can strip for parts

I struggled for a couple hours last night just trying to get my Arduino to tell the H-bridge to drive some motors.  At first I didn’t think it worked at all.  Then I realized there was a high-pitched squeal surging on and off at the frequency I told the Arduino to change the motor direction.  When I looked more closely at the motor, I noticed it was moving very slightly.  The voltage across the motor was as I had expected (around 12 V), but it drew a current of only about 45 mA.  That’s similar to what you might get from the output of an Arduino directly!  What the heck is going on?  I couldn’t figure it out.

Here’s a series of smaller goals I hope to attain along the way to the larger goal of tracking the sun in order to concentrate tons of light into a tiny spot:

  1. Learn how to protect the circuit components from crazy inductive load (motor)
  2. Get H-bridge to work w/ Arduino
  3. Set up phototropic suspended bicore (BEAM robot concept) to see what it does (test output)
  4. Try to run a motor using the H-bridge w/ bicore output – might need amplification (transistor)
  5. Try to run two motors on the one H-bridge chip, signals from pair of suspended bicores (2 on one chip?)
  6. Solder it together!
  7. Build a thing that can rotate toward the sun under the direction of the motors.