Thursday, September 27, 2012

Faith and Faithlessness

I have been reading in Matthew lately, because I am co-teaching that gospel in our Sunday School.  Matthew mentions faith, or the lack thereof, quite a bit.  There seems to be a pattern in this Gospel.  The Centurion and the Canaanite are commended for their faith, as are the friends who lowered their buddy and got him healed.  The disciples were often rebuked for their little faith.

One of my questions for the class will be, “How does one increase their faith?”

I am not very strong in faith.  I worry, I design, I figure.  In the end though, worrying, designing, figuring are never enough.  One cannot plan for every contingency or steer clear of every pothole.

Faith is important in every aspect of life.  The greatest faith I have seen has not been exercised by Christians, but by my biologist friends, who, mostly on faith, accept neo-Darwinism.  If I just had a mustard seed of their faith I could move mountains.

But, faithless as I am, I still have come a ways.  I have a little faith.  My little faith has come to be typically because I was willing to act on what I believed to be true.  I took a “chance” and acted.  I made the trip, made the commitment, filed the lawsuit, or did something that wasn’t necessarily cleverly calculated for optimal logical outcomes.  James said it this way, “But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."  In the roll-call of faith in Hebrews 11, the Holy Spirit tells mostly of what folks did. 

In Luke 17:5 The disciples beg, “Lord increase our faith.”  We can do no better. 

So, what am I doing by faith now?  What are you doing by faith?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Feeling of Sadness

This has been a time of change.

I (Phil) am seldom sad, but I have been a bit sad these last two weeks.  A lot has happened.  I had a kidney stone.  We have been helping a new visiting Egyptian prof and his wife who is about 37 weeks pregnant.  Our son Daniel and his wife Shannon, had their first child and our first granddaughter.  Work has been especially busy.   I have been preparing for a long trip to Asia.  Back in early August, our son Andrew was the last of the fledglings to leave the nest.

Change is sometimes happy, and sometimes sad, but one thing is for sure... change is inevitable.  We can embrace it, we can fight it, but change will surely come.

So, how will we handle it?  Nice things end, new things begin.  Our best strategy is to recognize that conditions, good or bad, are ephemeral.  Life is ephemeral.

If you generally LIKE change, be encouraged, a HUGE change is coming when this life ends.  If you generally don't like change, be encouraged, when this life ends, so does change.

Jesus once said,  "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  (Jn 16:33)

I really miss the old days; but, I am looking forward to the life to come.

Bring on the change!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


This is a Hoosier Cabinet.  The name derives from the fact that these were mostly manufactured in Indiana, the Hooiser state.  These were built in the first few decades of the 20th century when few kitchens in the US had cabinets.

Brenda and I bought this one in the late 1970s in Lexington, VA at an auction.  We used it primarily as a baby changing table.  We painted it blue when our oldest son, Daniel was born in 1982, and it was very handy.  It stored diapers, creams, powders, clothes, washing materials, and the pull-out portion was covered with a pad and Daniel was laid there for changing.  With everything handy, we could keep a hand on the baby with everything ready for the chore.

After Daniel, we used it with David, Andrew, and Anna Grace.

Today we took it over to Anna's house, cleaned it up and repainted it.  Late in December, Anna and Ben will begin to use it with their new baby.  And the cycle continues.

It's neat to pass along this useful, historical kitchen/baby changing cabinet.  It's even neater to pass along the useful, historical faith we have in Christ.  We attempt to pass it along, not only to our own children, but to everyone we meet.

Antiques are interesting, and sometimes useful.  Christianity is interesting, but is MUCH MORE than useful.  Christianity is falling in love with the G^d of the Universe.  It is has great value, not only for this life, but for the life to come (I Tim 4:8).

Thursday, September 13, 2012


This time of year I am tired.  The school year has just begun and I have lots of demands to prepare for this and that and to do guest lectures here and there.

The last few years I have been struck by how much more quickly I tire.  Cycle a few miles, work a while, run a few miles, lift a few weights, teach for 3 hours, write a few hundred words, read a few thousand, review a paper and I am whipped!  Being tired is not so unusual, but I am tired to the extreme.  A couple of nights I have slept 9 hours straight.

I blame my early and profound fatigue on my advanced age. I am not complaining.  I get around well, and typically pain free.  I can cycle and run and lift weights.  Most people would be tired. I understand and am grateful for good health.

But aging is new to me.  I have never been this old before ;).  Early fatigue is a price I pay for living to old age.  But old age has its rewards too.  Wisdom comes with age, but as the Chinese remind us, "sometimes age comes alone."  Our finances have never been so good.  Our children are grown and we have no known felony convictions for any of them.

Life in old age is enjoyable for us.  We wouldn't trade it if we could.  But the big reward is this, No matter how long I may live, I am closer to heaven than ever before.

And won't that be nice?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Another New School Year

I am one of a small percentage of people who are fortunate in loving our jobs.  On 22 Aug the Fall semester began.  I have a few students I have taught before and a bunch I have never met.  This will be a busy fall. I have a book chapter to finish, a major grant proposal to submit in early October, lots of forms to file, one or two students finishing dissertations, and two or three beginning dissertations.
Ahhh, but (American) football season begins, and the weather turns cool.  Everyone will be excited and full of energy.  Some new students will begin with trepidation, and some veterans will be counting down to graduation.
One of the things I like best about teaching in the University is that I get to start each semester brand new.  I may be teaching the same course I have taught many times, but I get to take a new approach, or use a new technique, or add or subtract some material.  No matter how badly I blew it last term, I get a fresh start each term.
I think my favorite thing is meeting new students.  Every person is a creation of the G^d of the universe.  He made them different, He made them special, and He loves them so much that He was willing to come to earth, suffer and die for them.  And, if I can exert even  a small influence on them, that influence will be multiplied many times over in their lives of influence.

Luke 6:46 says,” Everyone when he is fully trained, will be just like his teacher.”    Ohhh, scary thought.

What do I want them to learn?  I tell each class at the end of the term, “People don’t jump off a bridge because they don’t understand ________ (course subject matter, other than Physics).  I hope you have learned a lot in this class, but as you are going through school think about and learn about what really matters.”  
Matters of the intellect pale into comparison to matters of the spirit and heart.  As Jim Elliot once said so well, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Now there’s a thought of value.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Life at the Beach

We are not quite sure why the beach has such appeal.  It’s hot, sandy, windy.  You only feel clean for a few minutes at a time.  There’s only so much you can do.

We have developed our “beach routine”.  We  get up after a full night’s sleep and Phil goes for a run.  After that a simple breakfast, a look at the WWW, and then our morning beach trip.  After setting up our umbrella and chairs for the day, we take a long walk on the beach, always starting off heading east.

After a long walk, we settle in to read and chat until about 1230, whereupon we have lunch.  After a couple of hours it’s back to the beach for another walk and more time reading and solving the world’s problems.  At about 5, we go in for supper in time to make it back for sunset, taking in our umbrella.  We start our sunset session around 7 and with no reading have taken our sunset photos and off the beach by about 8 PM.

This year we saw our friends from last year, the missionaries with 16 adopted kids from all over the world.  The YWAM folks were here near the end of our stay, and we chatted with Andreas, who we remembered was a Swede.  We met some new friends from Knoxville, TN, who exactly like us, have 5 children, a girl on each end, and three boys in the middle, only a few years younger than ours.  We met a gang of energetic and friendly young college students from LA Tech.

Every day is about the same, but somehow after two weeks, we aren’t bored, though we probably should be.  Every day is different somehow, different wind, different clouds, different sand arrangements, different sand castles on the beach, friends arriving, friends departing.

We still can’t explain our love for the beach. I guess we can’t necessarily explain very much of what we enjoy and what we do.  G^d created the beach, and G^d created us.  Maybe that explains enough.