Monday, December 31, 2012

Sad II

Well, it is now officially the low point of the holidays.  Christmas is over, and the decorations now have to be put away, a job in itself.  Daniel, Shannon and Evie left this afternoon for the loooong drive to Maryland.

It is inevitable, it is annual.  There is always a sad point during the Christmas break.  I guess it is good that we have high anticipation  and so much enjoyment that we hate to see it end.

I teared up a bit when I walked into our baby daughter's hospital room right after she had delivered her own first baby.  That time it was tears of joy, that our youngest had just delivered, safely and healthily, our youngest grandchild.

G^d gave us these emotions to be used, for His glory.  All of them are good at times.  Joy, sadness, excitement, all have their place.  Sadness makes our joy more intense by contrast.

Now I am sad, but not for long.  Our hope never ought to be grounded in this world and its circumstances.  There is no true, enduring, hope or joy apart from our hope and joy in the G^D of the Universe.

Proverbs 10:28 The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, indeed.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I'm dying

I'm dying.

Don't get excited, you are too.

It dawned on me again today... We are not long for this earthly realm.  All of us are on our way out.  Some of us may live a great many years, others, just a few, but "it is appointed unto man, once to die and something, something."

Does that matter, since death is inevitable?   Because it is inevitable, it should matter a GREAT deal.  There are NO contingency plans for death, because death is not a contingent.   Nobody gets out of here alive.

Tell me something new, you say.

We are fascinated with the new, and yet ignore the absolute truth of the old.  That we are all dying has enormous ramifications.  Because most of us believe that there is LIFE after death, and because of death's inevitability, I find it amazing that we don't plan for, or even think about, this time after death, which we believe to be eternal.  It's as if, we are baptized so we don't HAVE to think about it.

"Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth...".  I have quoted that verse (Matt 6:20) before.  Yet, despite my best intentions, I find myself laying up treasures on earth, nonetheless.

" not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."  (Matt 6:1-4).

“One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  Mk 10:21

I am unsure what this talk of treasure in Heaven is all about.  And, it doesn't matter.  I think I am stupid to focus on money, and honors, and papers, and possessions and happiness, meanwhile neglecting G^d's interests and intents for me.

What am I thinking to be so foolish?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thre Pretty Good Divorce

One of C.S. Lewis's most popular books is The Great Divorce.  I just read it.  It is a short book, really more of a long essay.  His point is interesting and clear, even if the title is not.

The Great Divorce is a story set in heaven.  Heaven, in Lewis's fictional account, is not much like we might expect.  It is not the portrayal of after-life that is the interesting part of the book, it is the concept of present-life that is presented.

Lewis seems to be answering an unspoken question, just as Jesus does in Matt 11:25.  The question seems to be, "What is life about?"  Why did G^d put us here on this terrestrial shore?  What does life on this small blue planet have to do with life eternal?  If G^d knows how it will all come out in the end (who wins), as He surely does, why bother to contest the game at all?

Lewis wrote another book, called The Problem of Pain.  I read that book a while back, and was largely disappointed.  In my mind,  The Great Divorce better solves the dilemma of the problem of pain and suffering than his book dedicated to that task.

But, then again, maybe I am totally wrong on all this, once again.

What do you think?  How do you handle these conundrums?  Let me know, as I still seek answers, though not with the fervency I once had.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Trip Planning

Getting ready for this trip to Africa has been pretty involved.  We are trying to anticipate, and forestall, problems there.  Choosing what to take, preparing the house for our guest tenants, plus shots, forms and other stuff, all mixed in with final exams, Christmas, and family coming home for the holidays.

We know that preparing can make a trip go a lot better.

One of my favorite stories is about a court jester and a king.  The king called in the jester, who was a personal friend, and sent him on a quest.  The jester's task, assigned by the king, was to find the biggest fool in all the kingdom, and present that person with a special scepter.

The jester took the task seriously, to honor the king.  He systematically searched the kingdom, carry the scepter all around.  After several weeks of searching, the jester received word that his friend, the king, was deathly ill.  Hurrying back to the palace, he was immediately escorted in to see the king.

"Jester, I am dying!  I have but a few days to live.  I am about to go on a long journey." gasped the king.

"And what preparations have you made for this journey?" asked the jester.

"Why I haven't made any preparations." replied the king.

"Then this scepter is for you." said the jester, sadly.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tempus fugit

I have written before about that crucial issue, time.  Time haunts me.  And, like many others I have noticed that the older I get, the faster time goes by.

I recently gained a new insight into time, and it's rate of passage.  I have come to beleive that G^d intended for us to perceive time's passage more sensitively as we age.

It's a simple warning.

When we are young, life stretches out before us, seemingly endlessly.  In middle age, there is still plenty of time.  But with maturity (began at 40 for me, I think), we recognize that the toilet paper roll goes much faster when it has been well used.  Weeks fly by, and weekends are mere blur.

It's a simple warning.

G^d is gently, kindly, thoughtfully, giving us a warning.  This life will soon be past.  If you don't think so, think back to your youth.  Think of when your kids were very young.

It is a simple warning.

I think it is the warning of the 10 virgins, the 5 talents, the wars and rumors of wars, the two men in the field, the two women grinding, the cruel slave-in-charge, all in Matthew 24-25.  Two chapters devoted to warning us.

"Indeed, just as people are destined to die once and after that to be judged..."  Heb 9:27.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why we Live the Outdoor Life

I got up at 0400 this AM to go out into the windy cold to sit in the woods by myself for about 3.5 hours.  I have done this every day for the last 4 days.  Please note that I do have a college degree.

Why do I do this?  Why travel two days up to Lake Nipigon (Ontario) and two days back and spend about $700 to catch and clean about $50 worth of fish?

I, along with abut 11 million colleagues, live the outdoor life because of what we see, hear and experience.

Here's a few things we enjoy:
  • We see the sunrise.
  • We see buck fight.
  • We see bucks chasing does.
  • We see bluebirds, pileated woodpeckers, ruby-crowned kinglets, and lots more.
  • We see fox, coyotes, bobcats and flocks of wild turkeys in their NATURAL environment.
  • We hear turkeys call, owls hoot, hawks scream.
  • We hear the wind blow.
  • We hear the quiet of the woods without cell phones, faxes, or computers.
  • We feel the warm sun massaging our cold bodies.
  • We feel the joy of solitude.
  • We taste the freshest possible sugar berry, the muscadine, the smilax tips, the venison, trout, pike.
  • We feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • We sense a brotherhood with the hunter-gatherers who formed our history.
  • We feel the camaraderie of our hunting companions and the kinship of fellow outdoorsmen.

There's more, but you may be getting tired of this, if you don't share these with us.  But what's stopping you?

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."  Romans 1:20.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Blessings vs Curses

In my many years of observation, it appears that what we often think are blessings are really curses, and vice-versa.  For example:

  • Being Smart
  • Being Beautiful/Handsome
  • Beign Famous.

Most people eagerly desire these qualities and others.  Some folks will study long and hard, and sacrifice things that they shouldn't, in order to be smart.

People will even undergo surgery or surgeries in order to be beautiful/handsome.  And who doesn't want to be famous?

But consider the curse-side of these "blessings".  If you look at university professors, and physicians, you find that the percentage of Christians is much lower than in the general population. I have met a lot of folks who were "too smart for their own good."  There's a reason for this, but that's another post.

Being beautiful/handsome sounds good.  But is it?  Sexual temptation is a problem for lots of people.  How do I know?  I just pay attention.  Does being beautiful raise the odds of problems?  I think so, because I pay attention.  In fact, the uglier you are, the less you may tempt others.  And the uglier they are, the less you will be tempted.  Cosmetic surgery?  I don't think I want to spend money for bigger problems.

Being famous sounds like fun.  I wouldn't know.  I strongly suspect that fame is more of a curse than a blessing.  But is it?  I think so, because I pay attention.

Ja 5: 1-3, "1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver have rusted ; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!"  

Remember it is harder for a rich man to do something...

Ja 4:6, "“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you..."

I just wish I paid more attention to my own faults and weaknesses.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Miracle of Life

When most people see that title, they think, the miracle of BIRTH.  Whereas birth is miraculous, life is also miraculous.  Most of us never give a thought to our body, and how many things MUST function for us to survive a day.

We wake up, and our bodies have to do a lot.  First, we have to adjust our blood pressure, which has been the lowest of the day already.  If we fail to raise the pressure, when we stand up, we'll have insufficient pressure to push blood all the way up to our brain, and it won't be long before we lose consciousness.  Our body temp isn't very low, but throughout the day, as activity increases, we will need to lose more heat.  As activity falls, we must retain more heat to keep our biochemistry moving along at it's needed rate.

As we move our heart speeds and slows, to match the muscle's demand for oxygen carried by our red blood cells.  Speaking of which, these red cells are constantly recycled.  About every 120 days our entire supply of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin has been totally re-packaged.  The inventory must be kept in check to make sure we don't die from too many or too few red cells.

Our bodies are assaulted by bacteria and viri.  Our blood must clot to avoid us bleeding to death, yet if it clots at the wrong place, the clot can kill us or give us a stroke.

Our vestibular system enables us to balance on two legs, our liver is de-toxifying our blood, and our kidneys are regulating our body fluids.  Our stomach and intestines are extracting nutrients and energy from our cornflakes and milk.

To keep us alive, a LOT of stuff must function, and we are largely unaware of most of these vital functions.

In Ps 139, God tells us, "For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. (vv 13-14).

For my friends who believe that our complex bodies were created by chance (evolution), I must confess, I wish I had that much faith!!  I'd be a terrific Christian, if I had your faith.

Let's go run a few miles. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What goes around...

We have a saying in the USA, "What goes around comes around."

I just read a short article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how FACULTY misbehave in faculty meetings.  Because this is the beginning of the academic year in the US, such meetings are rampant during this season.

The article noted that the things of which faculty complain about students in class:
  • Sleeping,
  • Checking email and FaceBook, 
  • Working on other stuff, and
  • Generally seeming disinterested,
                                                                                ...was also true of faculty in faculty meetings.

Sadly, I must say this hypocrisy is indisputably true, though perhaps to a smaller degree, only because we don't spend as much time in meetings as students do in class.

Which of course, brings us to the subject of sin.  I read recently that we are quick to condemn those sins that we think are not tempting to us.  Turns out that we even condemn those sins of which we ourselves are guilty.

Paul, the apostle, said something of extreme value to faculty and others,  "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15 KJV).

Paul must have been thinking of me...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Turtle Rock

The most famous rock formation in Terelj National Park, Mongolia, is Turtle rock.  This is a huge rock formation that lends itself to climbing around.  


We climbed around.

It was a beautiful day, with beautiful views in several directions.

At one point, the passage narrows down to an opening only large enough for a small person.  We all squeezed through, but it was a squeeze.

Earlier in the day, I picked up a plastic bag and a bottle off the otherwise pristine ground.  I was gratified when the guide and driver collected an armful of trash at Turtle Rock.

In my story, “Picking up the Trash”, I note that my verbal efforts to engage others in keeping the UA campus clean were futile.  However, I had found that those who ran along with me, and saw me do it, would often begin on their own, without a word from me.

I think that is one way that Jesus impacted the disciples and others.  Jesus simply set the example and some of those watching joined in with what he was doing.  Jesus prayed, so the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray (Lk 11).  Henry Brandt said that was the same today.  We see what G^d is doing and then get in on it.

People have been marveling at Turtle Rock for a long time.  It’ll be there for a long time.  The little bit of trash that my friends picked up won’t be noticed in a few days.  But that doesn’t matter.  We are obedient to G^d because G^d died for us, we do it out of gratitude to him, not because we expect to have a big impact.  G^d could clean up the trash on His own without our help.  G^d doesn’t need our help at all.  That HE let’s us be involved in what He is doing, that is the marvelous thing!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012


When we were in Sweden, I took some pictures of the statuary art around town.  There were plenty of statues in Mongolia, even the small part I saw.  The one below is a memorial to WWII, and for some reason, was my favorite.

This was my second favorite, a statue of Lenin.  From what I have heard, there probably aren’t many of these left standing.

Here is Marco Polo, famed Venetian explorer, who pretty much put Mongolia on the map - literally.

This statue is also a favorite, and is a restoration of a famous female hero of Mongolia.  It was located at the back of Terelj National Park.

Here is another statue of a Russian General. I am not sure who is was, and locals couldn't tell me right off, but i thought it was neat.

Here is an archer.  I am an archer, so I felt a certain kinship.

We erect monuments to keep famous people and events in mind.  But, it never works.  Yes, we remember Lenin, but that may not be a good thing.  But a person is never immortalized by a statue.  People are immortal whether they have a statue somewhere or not.  People will go on forever, even after death.  Anything we can do to move people to eternal life in heaven, is effort well spent.

We may forget the statue, or what this or that person did, but let us not forget the immortality of every person, great or small.  And, let us do all we can to make that eternity with G^d.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

USA Elections Reflections

“A horse is a vain thing for safety in battle.”

When we Christians are more worried about the USA, more worried about Social Security, more worried about who is President, than we are worried about our service to the ONE True G^D,  the we are in trouble indeed.

As Fran Schaeffer said many years back, when personal peace and affluence is the highest goal, we are doomed.

I’d love to see the USA reform, maybe I start smaller: I’d love to see my state reform, maybe I start smaller: I’d love to see my country reform, maybe I start smaller:  I’d love to see my city reform, maybe I start smaller:  I’d love my family reform, maybe I start smaller:  I think I ought to work on MYSELF!!!

“Create in ME a clean heart O G^d, and renew a RIGHT spirit within me!”