Monthly Archives: August 2014

Sermon: The Expert, the Leader, & the Assistant

I truly appreciate every opportunity to preach that I am given. It is always an honor and a blessing to me. Below is the outline of a sermon I gave last week.


Scripture: Exodus 31:1-11

Big Idea: At different times in life we will all take on the roles of expert craftsman, leader, and skilled assistant. At any given time, know which role you are called to, and within that role use your skills to share the love of Jesus with your community.


I.                   Introduction

a.       Setting – between the exodus and the exile

                                                              i.      Practically the last of God’s instructions on Mt Sinai

                                                            ii.      Exodus 32 tells of the Golden Calf

b.      Purpose – to create a throne room for God

c.       Scripture: Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of testimony, and the mercy seat upon it, and all the furniture of the tent, the table also and its utensils, and the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering also with all its utensils, and the laver and its stand, 10 the woven garments as well, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, with which to carry on their priesthood; 11 the anointing oil also, and the fragrant incense for the holy place, they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you.”

d.      In this passage are three different roles:

                                                              i.      Bezalel

1.      the expert craftsman

2.      filled by God with the spirit of God

                                                            ii.      Moses

1.      the leader

2.      Listens to God

3.      Points others in the direction God is going

                                                          iii.      Oholiab

1.      the skilled assistant

2.      Appointed by God & given skill by God

3.      But the expert responsible for completing the work

4.      A helper

5.      Just as responsible for accomplishing God’s will; but not in charge

e.       These three characters are excellent examples for us because: At different times in life we will all take on the roles of expert craftsman, leader, and skilled assistant. At any given time, know which role you are called to, and within that role use your skills to share the love of Jesus with your community.


II.                When we are Bezalel, the expert craftsman…

a.       Who was Bezalel

                                                              i.      Name

1.      “In the shadow of God”

2.      As if to say even the most skilled craftsman is a step behind God

                                                            ii.      Beginnings as a slave & training in Egypt

1.      Imagine humble beginnings first stone carvings

2.      Developing his skills making idols in Egypt

3.      Years in slavery and finally able to use his talents

                                                          iii.      Calling by Moses

1.      Spent his early life getting ready

2.      Only after being called by God through Moses was he unleashed (ch35-40)

                                                          iv.      Legendary candlesticks – particularly blessed

1.      Legend: The candlestick of the sanctuary was of so complicated a nature that Moses could not comprehend it, although God twice showed him a heavenly model; but when he described it to Bezalel, the latter understood immediately, and made it at once

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This Week on the Ashram – 1st Week of August 2014

It’s been a busy week down on the Ashram.

We cleaned out the first of the sweet corn beds and harvested part of the next bed. In total we harvested seven dozen ears of corn; eating a dozen and freezing the other six. The raccoon and opossums have not been as much of a problem as I was expecting. It may be that we have had a mild summer which has left plenty of food in the more secluded woods across the street.

I tried making pickle relish for the first time. It turned out perfectly fine. I don’t know that I am a fan of the flavor and I’m not quite sure how to fix it. I’ll give it another try or two before I give up. It seems to be a wonderful use for all of the cucumbers which I leave on the vine too long.


I harvested the first of our cantaloupe this last week. They were both the size volleyballs and tasted fantastic. In general this is shaping up to be a great year for the melon crop. We may have more watermelon and muskmelon than we know what to do with before we’re done.

I can’t say the same for the pumpkins. It appears that our early pumpkins were attacked by vine borers. The vines are almost dead. We will get about six small (almost gourd-sized) pumpkins, but I was hoping those vines would be producing for another month or two. Meanwhile our jack-o-lantern and giant pumpkins seem to have been spared the borer, but are yet to set any fruit whatsoever.


Finally, the pepper crop is just beginning to come on line. I have a nice mix of colors and flavors this year varying from red and yellow sweet lunchbox peppers to jalafuego jalapenos and red habaneros. I pickled the first batch of jalapenos and also made eight half pints of jalapeno jelly (which is delicious). My mother was always a big jelly maker, and I have only just started making my own jelly. The problem with jelly, and canning in general, is that you actually have to follow the recipe, and I would much prefer to make it up as I go along. I find jelly making to be a wonderful way to help me develop and maintain personal discipline.

Looking forward, nothing is going to get done this weekend as I will be spending my time in Chicago at my employer’s annual conference. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with a whole bunch of wonderful people. There are a number of things we need to get done next week:

  • Mow and weed the yard and gardens.
  • Plant the fall leek and broccoli starts.
  • Plant the fall flower starts.
  • Continue harvesting and processing tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, and peppers.
  • Finish threshing the winter wheat.
  • Install grape support wires on the trellis.
  • Clean the front and back porches.
  • Catchup on laundry & dishes and clean the house.

Southern Leopard Frog

On a final note, one of my goals for this year was establish habitats to attract native frogs. In particular I was hoping to attract leopard frogs. I like how leopard frogs sound and I think they are beautiful. There are three varieties of leopard frog that inhabit southeast Iowa: the plains leopard frog (most common), the northern leopard frog (common), and the southern leopard frog (rare). This last week I have seen a number of leopard frogs in our melon beds, in the cranberries, and near the lotus pond. I have yet to see the rare southern leopard frog, but I’m going to keep trying to attract them.


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This Week on the Ashram – 4th Week of July 2014

It’s been a busy week down on the Ashram.

The tomatoes are in full bloom. So far I am doing a fairly good job of keeping them harvested and processed. This was the first year where I tried a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes in the garden. I planted Brandywine, Moskvich, Pruden’s Purple, Cherokee Purple, and Japanese Black Trifele.



Japanese Black Trifele







I love the Moskvich. They are smaller round red tomatoes. They have all had an excellent flavor. The only downside to them this year is that they seem to have been the most susceptible to the septoria fungus which invaded our garden.

The Brandywine’s are solid (as usual). It’s always nice to have such a large meaty tomato in the garden. The Pruden’s Purple are similar to the Brandywine; however, I have found them to be less flavorful. A perfectly fine tomato, but I’m not sure I will be growing them again.

Cherokee Purple

Pruden’s Purple








The Cherokee Purple have been awful. Even at an early stage the plants were stunted and sickly. At this point the plants have almost completely succumbed to the septoria (despite the organic fungicides) and the flavor of the fruit has been middling at best. The coloration of the tomatoes has also been less than I had hoped for. It is possible I got a batch of bad seeds; however, I will not be growing the Cherokee Purple again.

Finally, the Japanese Black Trifele have been very good. They have been almost as disease resistant as the Brandywine and have produced an abundance of medium sized pear shaped fruit with a very dark coloration. The Japanese Black Trifele grow in clumps of five or six which make for excellent picking and ripening. Their flavor has been excellent and mixed with the Brandywine or Moskvich, the darken up tomato sauce and salsa to a very pleasant color.

This is the first year I have planted cherry tomatoes and they have been largely disappointing. I tried Black Cherry, Indigo Rose, and Yellow Pear varieties. The Indigo Rose have failed spectacularly. They have a week flavor and fail to ripen. I have enjoyed the Yellow Pear in the past, but this year’s crop does not seem to have good flavor. The Yellow Pear was also the first of my tomatoes to be infected with Septoria. The Black Cherry have been very good with an excellent flavor. They are a little slow to ripen, but are definitely worth it.

Looking forward, there are a number of things we need to get done in the next week:

  • Pick and process the first two plantings of sweet corn.
  • Make pickle relish and jelly with the cucumbers I have neglected.
  • Weed the barley field.
  • Clean out the spring leak and broccoli beds.
  • Finish threshing the winter wheat.
  • Continue harvesting and processing the tomatoes.
  • Install grape support wires on the trellis.
  • Weed and mound potatoes.
  • Clean the front and back porches.
  • Catchup on laundry and clean the corners of the house.

On a final note, this was a rough week for the blog. The site had been having difficulty loading for a month or so. I finally got around to trying to clean up the database, and in the process destroyed it. This caused me to recreate the blog from scratch. That was entirely a bad thing, as the theme I was using was no longer being supported by WordPress (which may have been what was causing the problem). Saturday and Sunday was supposed to be my monthly writing retreat, instead it turned in to a blog reconstruction weekend (that task also spilled over into a good chunk of this week).

I think I finally have all of the important bits back up and running. Happily, the site does load more quickly now and is easier to update. Unfortunately, the time spent in the mechanics of the blog meant I neglected some of my writing for the week. I hope to be back to a nearly full blogging schedule next week, even as I clean up the last few details of the new blog’s format.

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