Rosh Hashanah and My New Year's Resolutions

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

On this December 14th, and just one day shy of my birthday, I’m looking back at my 2021 New Year’s resolutions and the goals I set out in January, and which I hope to recalibrate for the year ahead. For starters, twelve months ago I resolved to reduce the amount of stuff that encumbered me. There I’ve had partial success. I did empty out one storage shed, though I had hoped to complete a second one. A visitor might not notice the improvements in my garage and office, but I do. Health-wise, I had hoped to drop 30 pounds in 2021, in preparation to lose another 30 in 2022. For this year, I only have 25 of the 30 to go, but I will keep trying. I intended to get out and walk more. After previous annual averages of 1.6, 1.5 and 1.4 daily miles, I’m at 2.0 for 2021. It helped that I discovered podcasts and a headset, but I had hoped for closer to five. I will keep working at it. I had hoped to finish my novel. Oh, well. I will pursue that in 2022, if the Lord tarries. My most successful efforts came in my reading and Bible study. I wanted to read once through the entire Bible and then spend extra time in Jonah. On that, I am on track for success. I’ve been on-and-off in Jonah throughout the year, and in the daily readings from The One Year Bible, Jonah shows up, well…for today, December 14. Jonah interests me because I think that those of us who have God’s Word—and who can see the signs of coming judgment—are called to carry the warning while there is time for the world (and individuals in it) to seek God’s mercy. Jonah understood the task, but tried to flee. God, however, would not let him get away. There are powerful lessons to be learned in that. My study of Jonah was helped by the mid-year discovery of the Bible Project Podcast, and their weekly teaching. They spent one whole month on how to read the Bible, and used Jonah as their sample text. I don’t believe I have missed any of their programs since March or April. Over the summer, I put several of their episodes on repeat, listening to individual programs four and five times while I worked in my yard. I hope to continue that in the next year, and recommend them to my readers. Forty-nine Octobers ago, I discovered that the greatest victory in life came from surrendering one’s life to Christ. During these 49 years, I have managed complete reads through the Bible five times. One summer I used the vacation to go straight through, Genesis to Revelation. Other years I’ve used various reading plans, including The One Year Bible. Last year I was about 60% successful. This year, I’m on track to finish the 365 fifteen-minute portions on December 31. Each day comes with a couple of chapters from the laws, histories, and prophets of the Hebrew authors; a chapter or so from the New Testament; a section from Psalms; and two or three verses from Proverbs.

I find great value in juxtaposing passages that may have been written a thousand years or more apart. The Bible deals with the biggest of all possible pictures, and needs to be seen in its continuity. Themes, conflicts, and puzzles introduced in Genesis find climax, answers and denouement in Revelation. Although a cursory understanding of Jesus—sufficient even for someone to find faith—can come from just a few New Testament verses, a deeper appreciation comes from long and careful study that includes the early writings from Hebrew. Conversely, the multiple mysteries presented in the Old Testament find their solutions in the New. We see God set up a standard to which no generation nor any single individual can manage to achieve, and yet God promises forgiveness, acceptance, and that there will be a group who enjoy unlimited and unending fellowship with Him. As well, God identifies the Hebrew people as His choice among all the peoples of the world, and yet He promises to bless all those other peoples through the Hebrews. Readers follow the developing promise of a coming someone special, but that someone looks sometimes human and sometimes divine. He is sometimes presented as gentle and self-sacrificing, even unto death; but then, in passages that seem to be chronologically later, he is revealed as the ultimate conquering king. Without Jesus, so many of the stories in the Hebrew histories seem random and contradictory. What’s with Abraham sacrificing Isaac? How do we explain Joseph tossed into the pit by the brothers who are later held up as Patriarchs? How do we interpret the bronze serpent in the desert? We’re given strange dreams, recorded with the idea that someday they would make sense, and given festivals for which God exacts very precise details. We plod through failure after failure by the supposed heroes of the story. We see prophetic voices announcing the most horrendous judgments, and yet those prophets end their individual writings on optimistic looks into the future. All this comes within a pattern of God accomplishing seemingly contradictory goals in ways that could not have been humanly imagined, yet each makes perfect sense after it is completed. God is master over the mutually exclusive. Common to both sections of scripture are the promises of separation and restoration. The Hebrew people, true to promises in Deuteronomy 28, have spent much of their history blown around like dust in the wind, spread among every other nation on earth. One year before my birth they again became a nation with a physical homeland under their own government. The Messiah also went away with the promise to come back. When His disciples asked Him when that would be, He gave them a parable about a fig tree. They had, in fact, seen Him curse a fig tree, just a day or two before His crucifixion, and the tree had died. In the Bible, the fig tree is often used as a symbol of the Hebrew nation in physical possession of the land, as opposed to grape vines and olive trees, which held reference to spiritual and religious aspects for the Jews. Jesus tells His disciples, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: as soon as its branch has become tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near; so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matthew 24:32-34, see also Mark 13 and Luke 12). The children who in 1948 watched news reels of the Israeli flag hoisted for the first time over Jerusalem are all older than me, and I will be 72 tomorrow. The clock is ticking on the cohort just ahead of me. Jesus warns us that “about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matt. 24:36) Then He draws a parallel with the generation lost in the flood during Noah’s time, and follows with two stories of people who were not paying attention, nor were they ready at the arrival of a calamity or an important person that they should have expected. He finishes with a command, “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” (Matt. 24:42) Throughout history, various ones who have tried to calculate the day and the time of Christ’s return have ended up sadly embarrassed. In 1843 and 1844, in the heat of the Second Great Awakening, followers of William Miller went through a succession of anticipated dates. They gave away properties, dressed in white, sat on rooftops waiting, and ultimately were let down by the Great Disappointment. In the 1950s and ‘60s, as Mao Zedong’s Communists murdered perhaps one million believers, or about one out of every three Chinese Christians, we can perhaps forgive those Christ followers for expecting that Jesus would soon return. The same might be expected among Christians in Afghanistan today, or in Nigeria, or North Korea. Yet Christ absolutely tells us to be watching and alert. We are to be cognizant of famines, earthquakes, and events in the weather, ‘wars and rumors of wars,’ and events in the heavens. His return would come after the Good News (Gospel) had been preached to the whole world, a process that I was privileged to observe in a small part during my time in Colombia. One after another, Bible translation teams delivered that prerequisite into remote languages that had never previously had it. The Bible also gives us patterns to internalize as New Testament events fulfill Old Testament prototypes. Jesus—whom John the Baptist calls ‘The Lamb of God’ (i.e., the Passover sacrifice, John 1:29)—at the Last Supper interpreted His broken body and shed blood as the bread and wine of the traditional Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. His death on the cross, at the very moment that priests in the nearby Temple were sacrificing lambs for the nation, and on the same mountainside where Abraham had been prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac—fulfilled such passages as Genesis 22:8, Isaiah 53, and Exodus 12. Even as the Jewish leaders tried to avoid crucifying Jesus during the feast, Jesus exerted control, assuring that His sacrifice would occur at the correct prophetic moment. Fifty days later, on the Feast of Pentecost (Weeks, or First Fruits), the Holy Spirit fell on the crowd of worshippers, giving birth to the church, the ‘first fruits’ of Christ’s harvest. The next prophetic event, corresponding as well to the next feast on the Jewish calendar—the one I will be watching for this year, and the next, and the next, until it happens—is Christ’s return, or Second Coming. The feast is called variously Yom Teruah, Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets (or shouting), or sometimes, ‘the feast of which no man knows the day or the hour.’ This last is because on the first day of the seventh month, the announcing shofar is blown only when those watching the heavens actually see the first sliver of the new moon. That could be delayed by cloudy weather. Observant Jews set aside all work and spend the day in quiet and prayer. The Apostle Paul describes the event I am waiting for this way, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who remain, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) This year, one of my resolutions is to be watching the heavens during Rosh Hashanah (September 25-27, 2022). If necessary, I will do the same in 2023 (Sept 15-17), and 2024 (Oct. 2-4). It’s possible that in this coming year, I will be joined by many who have no interest in Jesus. Those observers will be captivated by NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). In this first attempt at kinetic impactor technology, NASA hopes to ram an asteroid out of its set path. Their target is Didymos B, a smaller asteroid, or moonlet, that orbits a larger asteroid, Didymos A. Launched November 23, 2021 from California, DART is set to intercept the Didymos duo 6.8 million miles away from Earth, on September 26, 2022. We will all be watching on the same time September days. ‘Didymus’ means ‘twin,’ and with a slightly different spelling, it was a nickname for Thomas, the disciple who was not present when Christ first appeared to the other disciples. Upon hearing their report, he said, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, when Christ again appeared to them, He turned to Thomas and said, “Place your finger here, and see My hands; and take your hand and put it into My side; and do not continue in disbelief, but be a believer.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you now believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:27-29) My 2022 New Year’s resolutions will include more attention to losing some weight and getting out to walk more. I will work on my novel, the garage, and that last shed. I intend to read again through the whole Bible, but this time, maybe I will set a schedule to finish before Rosh Hashanah. And now, I need to go read Jonah, and passages from Revelation 5, Psalm 133, and Proverbs 29.

Of Recounts and Forensic Audits

Friday, October 01, 2021

I didn’t expect the 2020 election recount in Arizona to show much, but in Texas, I have skin in the game. I hold a fair expectation that I could pick up more votes than any other candidate.

In Maricopa County, Arizona, the County Government’s elected leaders (four out of five of them Republicans) and the county elections official (also a Republican), stood behind the accuracy of their election results. They even survived an attempted recall election, instigated because of their stand. Against them, the Republican majority in the State Senate paid $150,000 of the Senate’s money and another $5.7 million in donations for an audit, beginning with a company—Cyber Ninjas—that had no experience in doing similar work. Then when Cyber Ninjas could not finish the job by the contractual deadline, additional groups were hired in. For their money and efforts, out of over two million ballots, the Trumpistas got a report that showed that Democrat Joe Biden still won, but with 99 votes more than had been credited by the official count, and Republican Donald Trump still lost, but with 261 votes less. In the California gubernatorial recall election, the Democrats had to work very hard for their schadenfreude, but in Arizona, Republicans served them the opportunity as a gift.
For the record, I was not a candidate in Arizona. We completed 99% of our paperwork to be registered as a write-in candidate by the deadline, but failed to qualify by the margin of that other 1%. Nationwide, we received an average of 0.018% of the vote in states where we qualified as write-ins, so perhaps that shortfall cost us 600 votes.
In Texas I did qualify as a write-in, one of nine candidates to do so. Our American Solidarity Party ticket took 73% of all Texas write-in votes: officially 3,207. We finished in 5th place over-all, behind Trump, Biden, Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen, and Green candidate Howie Hawkins. Ironically, Donald Trump won all 38 Texas Electoral Votes (by a margin of 5.5%), which means that the Texas ‘forensic audit’ announced recently would serve primarily to massage the former President’s ego. While Arizona only audited one county, which had gone for Biden, the audit that Texas plans will count three large counties which Trump lost, and one he carried. When asked why more counties weren’t included, a GOP state representative asked, “To what purpose?”

For my campaign, Harris County holds the most interest. The 2020 election brought Harris County a new elections officer, but only after the report submitted to the state by the outgoing official had shorted us by 422 votes. By that time, the incoming official could send us a letter confirming our votes, but it was too late to change the statewide count, which had already been signed by Gov. Greg Abbott. All by itself, those 422 votes could make me the biggest gainer in the audit of these four counties.
Considering that nationwide, over 150,000,000 ballots were cast and individually counted in the 2020 election, and that those results have now been challenged and re-examined more closely than after any election in our nation’s history, I can only conclude that we have a remarkably reliable count. No election was stolen. Gov. Abbott argues that the Texas audit is primarily designed to make sure that counts in future elections will be more reliable still.
Taking Gov. Abbott at his word, this should always be our goal. To that end, one suggestion I would make is that states should report every vote. In several states, we qualified as certified write-in candidates, but these states only report the total number of write-in votes, uncredited to specific candidates. We estimate that this neglect cost us over 800 votes each in New Jersey and Virginia, 700 in Washington, 400 each in Oregon and Alabama, 300 in Iowa, and another 600 split between Alaska, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. We got 762 votes in Tennessee with only some of the counties accepting the write-ins. Two counties in New York failed to submit our 86 votes to the state in time to be listed in the official tallies. In some jurisdictions, the scanning machines were not set up to even read the write-in line. We received over 42,000 votes in states with full reporting, and suspect that we got an additional four to six thousand in states that don't report write-ins.

Yet even more important to election integrity would be expansion of Ranked Choice Voting and a lowering of the barriers against third party participation. We must end the practice of gerrymandering, and we must consider a system of districts with multiple representatives and proportional representation. Until we do these things, even an endless repetition of post-election audits will fail to give us a certifiable democracy.

Celebrating International Daughters' Day

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Today has been International Daughters' Day. Fortunately, I have two very international daughters (and three international daughters-in-law)! Yet, one international achievement brings me a special level of satisfaction. My daughter Aileen served eight years in Brazil with the Mennonite Central Committee. She began at a pre-school, and then branched out to help mothers, all of them who were struggling economically, and many of them stuck in abusive situations.

Aileen feeling at home in Recife, PN, Brazil, 2005.

Visiting mothers and daughters.

Towards the end of her stay, she wrote Até Quando?: O cuidado pastoral em contexto de violência contra a mulher praticada por parceiro íntimo (Until When?: Pastoral care in the context of violence against women by an intimate partner, 128p. ISBN 978-85-7779-037-1). Published in 2010, it won the Counseling Book of the Year award from the Brazilian Association of Evangelical Booksellers. I am a very proud dad.

In researching the history of Daughters' Day, it began in India, intended to help combat the enormous loss of little girls to sex-selective abortions and infanticide. The 2011 Census showed that among children aged 0-6 years old, India had only 914 girls for every 1000 boys.  In Maharashtra state, the figure was 883.  Some villages in India report no girls born in an entire year. Although it is a world-wide problem, it is especially serious in India and China. While I was in China in 2004, the government was waking up to the problem of having 119 marriageable men for every 100 women. For any such society, a wide variety of problems present themselves. For example, more crime is committed by unmarried males than by any other demographic. A country could draft its extra males into the military, but then the neighbors get nervous. Today, in the Uighur areas of China, husbands are often placed in labor and reeducation camps, while Han Chinese 'uncles' are assigned to live in those homes. Are these situations connected? What does a society do once it gets so out of balance?

I am so thankful for all my sons and my daughters, and all my grandkids. There are so many reasons to be #ProScience #ProLife #ProWoman @AmSolidarity

Girls--daughters--are critically important for any society. We must take care and nurture them.
Today we recognize them.

Posted by Brian at 9:07 PM 0 comments