Cherry Tomatoes

This morning my son, Ethan, noticed a package of cherry tomatoes on the counter, his eyes lit up, he grabbed the container and turned to his mom,

Mom, may I ?!

First of all, what planet is this boy from? I couldn’t stand cherry tomatoes as a kid; it’s amazing to me how different he is than me in many ways. But second, I really appreciate that his default is to ask permission. May his heart remain teachable all his days.

Paying Attention

Elorah will turn 3 in January of 2010. She’s been talking up a storm for some time now, but not necessarily in discernible English. So I’ve become a bit accustomed to smiling at her and saying something along the lines of “Oh, really?” or “Wow”.

This Sunday morning she caught me off guard. Elorah was telling me something about a teddy bear, while I was drinking some orange juice. I smiled at her and nodded, when suddenly from 35 inches off the floor I heard a mildly indignant,

Dad, talk to me.

Who Are You Following?

As I mowed the lawn this evening a trio of children traipsed behind me in varying degrees of imitation. Ethan, our second child, with a toy lawn mower, our third child with a hockey stick—clearly an imitation weed whacker—and our youngest with a scarf around her neck—the logic of which escapes me, but must have been clear to her two-year-old mind.

At one point as they jockeyed for the position closest to me I heard someone say,

I’m the leader!

This struck me as an interesting perspective given that they were all following me up one row and down the next. I wonder if this is what we sometimes do to our Lord? There is often precisely this kind of discussion happening in blogs and blog comments, as “followers” vie for the veracity of their pet teacher.

…For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:3-11 ESV)

Personal Size Reference Edition (ESV)

I’m a fan of the English Standard Version, so when I read about the single-column, reference edition of the ESV in a personal size on Mark Bertrand’s blog I knew immediately that this would become my daily use Bible.

The major problem was that (as is typical of Crossway) there was not a high-quality binding available. Fortunately, however, the “Genuine Leather” edition comes with a sewn binding and therefore begs to be rebound.

I was so tickled about the prospects of this edition that I bought a buddy of mine a copy as well. I was having a bit of difficulty getting used to the idea of spending $70 to re-bind a brand new bible, however, so the PSRE mostly sat on my shelf for several weeks, since the Genuine Leather cover exhibited more cardboard-esque than leather-like qualities.

A few weeks ago, however, I saw my buddy’s  PRSE, which he had been using daily. The state of the cover was so disconcerting (permanently curled up, etc.) that I immediately began looking in to who I should have do this re-bind.

I had previously used Mechling Book Bindery for a black goatskin re-bind of a Classic Reference Edition ESV and was fairly pleased. The quality was excellent, but the action and handling of the bible left something to be desired, which may have been my fault for using a bible with the cheapest paper available. On the other hand, goatskin is slick in the hands and I’ve dropped the bible a couple times while reading or teaching, which involuntarily elicited a “Christian” swear-word right in front of the congregation! Can’t have that happening again (for those of you wondering, I said, “doggoneit” with particular vigor.)

I checked out the prices at Abba Bibles because the photos I’ve seen of their work looks like the richest leather I’ve seen anywhere. While their quote was half of anyone else, the cost of shipping to Mexico and back was going to be four times the cost of the re-bind! So that option was out.

deerskin ESV PSRE Leonard’s Book Restoration happens to be about two hours from my house, so the Long family went on a road trip to see what a custom book binder looks like. After considerable discussion with Eric (the proprietor) and handling all the leather they had on hand, I chose a 2 ounce, natural deerskin.

I received the deerskin bible yesterday (it took 5 weeks since Eric had around 150 bibles to do before mine). I must say that this is the best handling, best feeling bible I’ve ever experienced.

Check out the color and grain of that beauty! I told Eric that I wanted a darker but still undyed, natural skin. What he had on hand was a bit lighter than I was hoping for, but he got a new shipment in, and the result is absolutely perfect. Here’s a close-up of the grain.

deerskin grain

The critical factor behind my choice of deerskin was the way it felt. I wanted that luxurious, thick leather feel, but didn’t want the slick feel that goatskin has. Deerskin was a bit tackier to the feel than calfskin, and not as expensive, plus the natural deerskin color was exactly what I wanted.


I went for a blind stamping rather than foil stamping, and I’m really pleased with how that turned out.  Inside I went with a brown leatherette. I was concerned that the synthetic material would make the cover less “floppy” than I wanted, but Eric assured me that he thought it would work well.

inside cover

Sure enough, it is precisely the right combination, and produced the “action” in the hand that I wanted.  I chose chocolate brown for the ribbons and asked for three.

Eric and Margie are very friendly and will talk with you at length about what you’re looking to accomplish. Make sure to mention every detail that you want, and feel free to clarify whether what Eric describes is the same thing you’re looking for. Eric enjoys talking so don’t call when you’re in a hurry.

Check out the delightful result:

cover action

Leonard’s Book Restoration can be reached at (574) 652-2151; they are also very responsive to email. Their website is


In the Hand

I should point out, however, that I have large hands, so this picture could be slightly misleading.

12 Tribes Part IV

Well, it’s been two years since I posted about the 12 Tribes, but a conversation this morning caused me to realize that I need to post a follow-up!

I remain fascinated by the 12 Tribes and amazed by the biblical lifestyle nature of their communities. I have spent a total of 15 days with them, visting on several occasions and in two different communities.

There were two factors that convinced us not to join the 12 Tribes communities. The first was sitting in on a morning of their homeschooling. They did a great job of educating their children, they have well developed curriculum, and I was impressed with the nature of homeschool with a group–taught by community adults. However, since I don’t agree with all their theology and since their theology (rightfully so) is woven into the very fabric of their teaching, I could not imagine how I could subject my kids to day-to-day teaching that I could not affirm.

Secondly, a close friend of mine and I were blessed to be at a community when a participant expressed the desire to covenant with the community, so we witnessed their baptism/induction ceremony. The key factor that stood out to us was the necessity of forswearing the Christian Jesus, and swearing allegiance to “Yahshua.” It was stressed that the Christian Jesus was not truly Messiah and that the prospective member must reject all that had led her forward in faith prior to meeting the Community.

This was a MAJOR red light to my friend and I. Granted, I have never met a group of people among whom the Spirit seems so present, however, since it was the Spirit of God and the Messiah Jesus (Yeshua, Jesu, etc., whatever name He may be called in various cultural and linguistic contexts) that has led us to where we are today, there is no possible way that I could reject the very God Who brought me to Him. Nor can I in good conscience say that the only true name of God’s Son is “Yahshua.” In fact, it is a made up name and there is no historical evidence to suggest that his mother called him anything other than “Yeshua” (or a nickname thereof).

What this experience emphasized to me was the abounding grace of God. I believe that the 12 Tribes truly know Him and are pursuing Him, even in the midst of a grave misunderstanding on their part (a misunderstanding that one can sort of understand; truly mainstream Christianity has often seriously misrepresented the true character and teaching of Jesus). However, I cannot give my assent to this monumental error, not even to benefit from their prophetic lifestyle of radical Gospel living.

Finally, there were other nagging issues like a series of interviews done with two men that were a long time part of the 12 Tribes and part of the upper echelon, the strangeness of Eugene Sprigg (aka Yoneq), the founder of the 12 Tribes, etc. that make me think that in many ways the 12 Tribes do not represent a balanced, healthy environment–particularly not for raising kids.

With all that having been said, there is a lot we can stand to learn from the 12 Tribes and their radical dedication to living out God’s instructions. There is a lot we may take as examples of what not to do, but much to be admired.

Someday I hope to write about them much more in depth, as they bear significant sociological investigation as regards Christian communities throughout the ages.

Bob Pardon of the New England Institute of Religious Research has this to say in their “Conclusion” about the 12 Tribes:

Our initial reactions, when we had the privilege to visit various Communities, were only positive. We have met many, many fine people who have given up their lives to Messianic Communities. Thus, upon first exposure to the group there does appear to be a love that is demonstrated in a way not often found in Christianity. However, there is a seamier side to Communities life. The devastation in most ex-member’s lives, and the teachings of Spriggs, evidence a litany of spiritual and emotional abuse. In their zeal to “forsake all for Yahshua” it is, in reality, a forsaking all for the Communities. This is because the members commitment to Messianic Communities is their commitment to God. This is a common confusion that often occurs in high control groups.

I don’t agree with everything that Pardon concludes about the 12 Tribes, but this seems to be an accurate analysis.  (

I’m a Grown-Up, Daddyo

Tekoa turned 3 this past October. Tonight as I put training toothpaste on her and Elorah’s toothbrushes, Tekoa pulled out some Colgate that Ethan and Alethea use and said,

This is grown-up toothpaste. I’m a Grown-Up, Daddyo.

Thank goodness this is regarding toothpaste, but I was struck by the presumption that we all have. “I’m big enough now to know that I’m old enough to _________ (you fill in the blank).”

The thing I love (well one of the things) about God’s Torah, is that it continually reminds me that I cannot keep it. There is no honest pursuit of God’s commandments that does not drive one to their knees, “God, have mercy on me.” This is certainly one of the purposes of Torah, that we might have ” a broken and contrite heart”, a heart that God will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

I often send praise and thanks heavenward that God “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)

What a paradox God gives us!

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. . . . It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

May we keep a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart while we pursue godliness with confidence that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Is He Calling You?

Is the Spirit calling us, as he called St. Francis, to “rebuild my church which is in ruins,” by establishing outposts of God’s love in the abandoned places of Empire?

Wilson-Hartgrove, Jonathan. To Baghdad and Beyond: How I Got Born Again in Babylon. (Eugene, Or: Cascade Books, 2005) 108

Elorah’s Healing

This is the third time that this has happened, but on the two previous occasions I neglected to write it down.

On Saturday, December 21 Elorah came down with a cold. We took her to the doctor and they put her on an antibiotic in order to prevent the ear infection that was all ready forming. By Sunday night she was very bad, having difficulty breathing, continually coughing and often choking on what she brought up.

We were staying in a hotel in Shipshewana, IN because we had been without power since 7:00 Friday morning, due to an ice storm and the severe cold (it was -6 degrees). I put my hand on Elorah’s head and prayed earnestly for God to heal her during the night. I did not command, I petitioned, but I asked specifically that God Who is the Great Healer would take away Elorah’s congestion and return her breathing to normal. I also asked that He would send ministering angels to surround, protect and cover Elorah with their wings.

Monday morning Elorah woke up with the fever broken, and markedly improved. By Monday afternoon, she was clearly back to normal except for a residual cough every once in a while as her body continued to clear out the congestion that had built up.

Others may doubt, but as the one who was involved it is clear to me that God healed Elorah in response to my specific prayers to this end. I give Him the glory, and am enormously thankful. Given that any fever puts Elorah in grave danger of a repeat seizure (her first one was 45 minutes long), any illness is of great concern to us.

Lord of Life, I am grateful for Your intervention in our lives and particularly in Elorah’s life. Thank You for being so gracious to us; I know that Elorah is a gift from You. All glory to the Sovereign of the Universe Who lovingly cares for His creation.

Casting Away Your Sins

There’s a wonderful Jewish tradition connected with Rosh Hashanah, or the Feast of Trumpets, called Taslich. Basically it consists of emptying your pockets of leavened bread crumbs and casting them into a river or stream, and letting the water carry away your “sins” to the sea as a visualization of Micah 7:19.

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.  (Micah 7:18-19 ESV)

We’ve done this for a couple years now, and while I’ve always appreciated the physicality of this remembrance, I’m enjoying it ten-fold now watching our children participate and learn that God takes away their sins, but that there is also a part they play in casting off fleshly ways.

Elorah Tashlich-2008

Elorah throws away her 'sins'

Making a Dad’s Day

After lunch today, Ethan and I dropped off at the barber shop and then walked home after our haircuts. Here was the highlight of our conversation for me:

Daddio: So, Bud, what do you think you might want to do when you grow up?

Ethan: I don’t know. Hang out with you and watch football.

I watch 3 or 4 football games a year, but hey, I’ll plan on watching more right now!

I also had to chuckle when we were discussing how it’s polite for a man to walk closest to the road when he’s walking with a lady, but that conversation stopped abruptly when Ethan spied two dirt bikes on a trailer parked alongside the road.

Ethan: Daddio, I want one like that blue one.

Daddio: That would be pretty cool.

Ethan: Yeah, and I’ll get you one like that red one.

How can you argue with those plans? Sounds like I’m going to become a dirt bike rider.