Comfort? Or Obedience?

It was “Mission Sunday” at our church. Our pastor preached on Jonah’s call to Nineveh, and linked that story to Jesus’ last words, when He commanded us to go to the nations:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 18:18-20)

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)

Continue reading

Baking Soda and Vinegar?

How many times have I seen statements or headlines like these?

Of course, we all want a cheap, non-toxic way to clean the house, but is baking soda and vinegar the answer? I put on my science hat and dug in.

Do you recall that unit on acids and bases in your high school chemistry class? If that was a long time ago, here’s a quick and simple refresher.

You know that water is made up of hydrogen (H) atoms and oxygen (O) atoms in a 2 to 1 ratio, hence it’s abbreviated as H2O. What you may have forgotten is that mixed up in this liquid are some loose hydrogen ions (H+). They hook up with water molecules, creating H3O molecules. There are also an equal number of extra OH ions—a pair of atoms missing their extra hydrogen. Because these H+ and OH ions are in balance, the solution is neither acid nor basic. The pH is 7.

How let’s introduce a substance that sheds H+ ions. Suddenly, there are more H+ ions than OH ions, and you have an acid. Acids are solutions with a pH less than 7. The more extra H+ ions there are, the lower the pH and the stronger the acid. One example of a strong acid is hydrochloric acid, which hangs around in your stomach to help digest your meals.

If, on the other hand, you add a substance that collects those extra H+ ions, grabbing them away from the H3O molecules, there will be now be an excess of OH- ions. Now you have a base. Bases are solutions with a pH greater than 7. The more extra OH- ions there are, the higher the pH and the stronger the base. Lye is a very strong base.

Now back to the vinegar and baking soda mixture. Distilled white vinegar is an acid, with a pH around 2.4. (Most brands are diluted until there is 5% acid and 95% water.) It has extra H+ ions. Because it’s an acid, vinegar on its own is handy for cleaning things, like getting rid of hard water scum in the bathroom.

Baking soda is actually sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3. When dissolved in water, it grabs the H+ ions, creating a surplus of OH ions, so it’s a base. The pH depends on how concentrated a solution you mix up, but it’s likely somewhere between 8 and 9. Because it’s a base, baking soda is also a good cleanser. I’ve used it in place of scouring powder with satisfactory results.

Now, what happens when you combine vinegar and baking soda? The H+ ions in the vinegar react with the sodium and bicarbonate ions in the baking soda. The end result is sodium acetate (C2H3NaO2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and water (H20).

Sodium acetate has a number of uses—medically to replenish electrolytes, as a food additive, in anti-freeze, photographic supplies, and in the manufacturing of concrete, textiles, heating pads, and other industrial processes. However, it doesn’t make a good cleaning agent. In fact, it can irritate your skin, and you should avoid getting it in your eyes.

The carbon dioxide bubbles away, which looks pretty impressive, but, except for the slight scrubbing action of the bubbles, it isn’t likely to clean much of anything. (You may as well just exhale on the dirt!)

Water isn’t that bad at cleaning, even by itself, but why go to all the trouble and expense of combining vinegar and baking soda just to get water?

Mixing vinegar and baking powder may create some pretty impressive foaming action as the two solutions combine. You can use the combination in some exciting and educational home science experiments that the kiddos will love. You can even make a model volcano! (I liked the list of activities at Growing a Jeweled Rose.)

Just don’t expect the combination to be a super cleaning agent.

Political Correctness? Or Truth

Last December, I turned 65. I have a Medicare card. I can take money out of an IRA without penalty. I get senior discounts. I’m officially “old.” I’m torn between aging gracefully and fighting it with great vigor, but no matter how I look at it, I’m 65.

But wait! If a Norwegian bioethicist has his way, I could legally change my age to 50! After all, I don’t feel 65. I still work part time, I go to the Y, and I have plans—lots of plans. So why not? Joona Räsänen, at the University of Oslo, has published a paper titled “Moral Case for Legal Age Change.” The underlying logic says that since there may be a difference between one’s chronological age and their biological and/or emotional age, we should be allowed to choose our age. Anything else is ageism.

Continue reading

God Heals Refrigerators

It started so innocently. I slid open the freezer bin and pulled out the frozen bell pepper I’d been slicing for my veggie eggs every morning. (I’ve found that peppers freeze very well, as long as you’re going to cook them—they tend to be a little mushy upon defrosting.) Normally, I have to run some hot water over the pepper before I can get my knife through it, but this time, I had no problem. Yes, it was frozen, but not as rock hard as I expected.

Hmmm, I thought. Maybe the freezer is going through its defrosting cycle. No worries.

Come early afternoon. I decided to finish off my lunch with a tiny scoop of ice cream. The carton seemed a bit… squishy. And when I dug in my spoon, I realized that the remaining rocky road was soup. Then I noticed the growing puddle on the kitchen floor. The ice cubes were melting. Oh no.

Continue reading

Don’t Skip the Genealogies

As you made your New Year’s resolutions, perhaps you committed to read through the entire Bible this year. You’ll start in Genesis and finish in Revelation, and you are determined to plow straight through. No skipping the boring parts.

Yes, we start with great intentions. We zoom through Genesis and Exodus, although the detailed descriptions of the tabernacle slow us down a bit. So do all those laws. But it’s when we get to the genealogies that we really get stuck. We stoically plug along until we compromise and skim over all those names, but why not? What could we possibly learn from reading lists of people, most of whom we know nothing about? Lists are boring!

But wait. This is the book that God wrote! How can there be boring parts? As I once again found myself plodding through the begats, I thought—maybe I’m missing something.

Yes indeed I was.

Our missions pastor recently showed this video in our “Outreach” adult Sunday School class. I was astounded.

I have known for years that Biblical names have meanings. For example, Abram means “exalted father” while Abraham means “father of nations”—a fitting sobriquet for a man who literally fathered nations through his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael.  But did you realize that the meanings of the names listed in the “boring” genealogies actually tell a story? Watch and learn, and be amazed:

God With Us

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found at the very end of Matthew. It’s part of the Great Commission. We usually focus on the “doing” part of this paragraph, where Jesus tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

But there’s more to this passage. In fact, we can’t obey this command unless we also include both the verse immediately before it and the verse that follows. What comes first? Jesus announces that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go…”

Continue reading

Looking Forward

Where there is no vision, the people perish….
Proverbs 29:18a

What are your plans for the coming year? Do you have any? It may be something as concrete as already-purchased plane tickets, or as ephemeral as “find a better job,” “exercise more,” or the eternally optimistic “lose weight.” Still, it’s good to have goals. We’ve all heard the old adage, “If you aim at nothing, you’re bound to hit it.”

Continue reading