Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fast Food on the African Plains

Take a look at the picture below and see if you can figure out why Impala are called "The fast food of Africa".

Note the trademark "M"?  Looks like an advert doesn't it?

Impala are small antelope, bigger than a duiker, but a big one looks to be only about 60-70 Kg.  They must be prolific because you see herds of 60+ animals regularly.

The nature of nature is that some animals eat other animals. In fact, some animals eat ONLY other animals. I can understand how an animal can be a herbivore and be healthy.  I initially couldn't understand how an animal could be a pure carnivore and be healthy.  Then I figured it out... or someone told me, I really can't recall which.

But one  day all this will come to an end.  We are told that one day, "
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them." Isa 11:6.

That will be a change from the present state.  Maranatha, Maranatha.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Creativity and Junk

In anotehr blog post, I mentioned the 4-5 Muskateers.  One day they left a toy outside and I as fascinated by it.

If you pulled the wire, the cans at the bottom that formed the wheels caused the upright cans to spin whcih in turn caused teh top two cans to spin.  It worked quite well.  It was made of discarded cans and wires, lovingly crafted into a neat toy.

I like to make things out of discards, out of junk.  That partially explains why I am reluctant to throw anything away.  I have made a lot of stuff out of trash (See Advanced Clothes washing in an earlier blog).

Another reason I like this, is that old saying, "G^d don't make no junk".  G^d created us, all of us, in His image.  G^d created us all to fellowship, to relate, to be WITH HIM!   Wow!   How can we turn down such a deal?  How can we forget?

I am not sure how, we forget these things, but we do.  Every person is valued by G^d, including Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.  We wrestle not against flesh and blood...

The first and great commandment is to Love G^d, the second is to love those around us, including those hostile to us or to the faith. 

Remember, G^d don't make no junk.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Water, water, I need water

Water is a precious commodity in Botswana.  Rain is revered so much that the name for the currency is pula (rain in Tswana).  You will see signs on occasion cautioning against wasting water.   When we get a good rain, the pastor usually mentions it on Sunday, or alternatively, when we don't get rain, he sometimes calls for prayer.

In fact, water is such a precious commodity, that I only know of two drinking water dispensers that work on the whole campus.  The drinking water dispenser in the Admin section looks like it has been dry for years.  The one in the lab, likewise.  The one in the Faculty Lounge fools me into thinking it has water, but after being fooled about 4 times, I have finally learned.

Only the water dispenser in the Office of International Exchange Programs works.  The water fountain in one of the refectories (dining halls) also works.  To be fair, the other dining hall usually has a big metal container of water free for the taking, but it is not plumbed in.

I have gotten so thirsty that I have taken to storing some water in plastic bottles in my office.  I have to lock them up because the cleaning people kept discarding them.

Water is essential to life.  If you ask a chemist, they will tell you about all the marvels of this simple combination of hydrogen and oxygen.  I tell my students that the old US space shuttle, when it launched was giving off mostly water vapor as hydrogen was combined with oxygen to create enough energy to go from 0 mph to 19,000 mph.  Likewise the aerobic energy in our bodies is that same combination which produces water, which our bodies can always use.

True enough, too much water, like too much of anything, is toxic.  It washes away too much sodium, and we lose consciousness, and can die.  Like I have noted before, sustaining human life is a tenuous business and it is remarkable that we are so healthy and functional.

All this talk of water causes me to harken back to Genesis 1.

 2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

Of course, that first verse tells us, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  So G^d spoke all that water into existence.  That marvelous water.  That water that makes up a great % of our bodies.

We all need water, and we all need G^d.  G^d made us that way.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I Envy those Birds

One of my favorite films is an old one called, Jeremiah Johnson.  In one scene Jeremiah is talking to another trapper.  They look up and see an eagle overhead.  Jeremiah remarks,"Hawk. Goin' for the Musselshell. Take me a week's ridin', and he'll be there in... hell, he's there already."

I think about that quote sometimes when I am hiking through the woods, up and down hills.  But those birds, hell, they're there already.

Birds are really neat.  They have hollow bones.  Woodpeckers have this elaborate tongue anatomy to allow them to fish out insects.  Waterfowl can endure freezing cold, in cold water, and seem oblivious to all this cold. And, the big one, most birds can fly!

One of my all time favorite verses, and that of my good friend Bobby McPherson, is Isa 40:31, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

I really want to do that, to mount up like eagles.  I guess that means I better get to waiting upon the L^rd, in the way that "waiters" wait tables.

Wow, that will be one glorious day!

Friday, April 26, 2013

The 4-5 Batswana Musketeers

In our little apartment complex of about 25 flats, there is a group of 3 to 5 little boys who play and play and play.  Often they are noisy, but if its daylight, they are usually hard at it.  I have no idea who their parents are and have never seen any parental supervision or even interest.

The boys are totally unfazed by this, and play away.  They have a broken down plastic ride toy, and dirt, rocks and sticks.  They have one pair of crocs which are left in various places around the parking area.

Sometimes there are 3, sometimes 5, of them.  I'm guessing they are 4-5 years old.

They remind me a bit of those lilies in the Sermon on the Mount.  They neither sow nor reap, yet they don't seem to be lacking in any way.

These fellows seem care-free and yet are dependent on their parents for everything.  They don't appear to worry, don't seem concerned about clothes or cars or anything.

Wow! How I look up to those kids!  I have a Heavenly Father who has promised never to leave me or forsake me, who promised to provide, who has already, before the foundation of the world, died for my sins.

Dear L^rd, let me be more like those 4-5 Musketeers.  Amen

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lizards Abound

They are remarkably hard to photograph.  Several times I have ALMOST got a good shot of one, only to have them dart away at the last minute.  Just yesterday I saw a mongoose within about 100 m of our compound.  I am guessing that lizards are a good part of their diet, given the abundance.

I have caught lizards and snakes since I was a little kid. I find them interesting.  There are several lizards here that look very much like ours back in the USA.  We have some that appear to be skinks, some geckos, some chameleons, and one above looks a bit like a pine lizard, but I am pretty sure it isn't.

Allegedly we have over 150 reptile species here in Bots.  The famous scientist JBS Haldane is quoted, "The Creator must have an inordinate fondness for beetles. He made so many of them."  (There are as many as 450,000 species of beetles.) In fact, G^d must have had an inordinate fondness for a LOT of things, because He made such a variety of mammals, marsupials, reptiles, trees, flowers and people.

G^d is clearly creative.  When we don't understand what G^d has done, how, or why, we should NOT be surprised.  Left up to me, Christianity would be Mormonism, or some other religion.  I argue that nobody could or would make up such a story as G^d became flesh, dwelt among us, then suffered, bled and die in substitutionary atonement.

But then again, G^d is a very creative G^d.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Crimson Tide in Africa

I have been shocked at the far reaching grasp of the UA mascot here in Africa.  Within sight of our flat is a water tower, and lo and behold, there’s the UA symbol.

We visited a local art center, Thapong, and there it was again, the UA symbol.  I guess the UA Advancement office knows no bounds.  Go figure.

Symbols have meaning.  G^d gave us lots of symbols, quite deliberately.  Probably the oldest symbol inteneded for mankind is the rainbow.  But we also have the symbol of Communion.  And of course we have the symbol of the cross.

Of all these, the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion has tremendous significance for me as a human physiologist.  The wonder that our body can function as it does, is nothing short of miraculous.  The blood is marvelous too, with its transport capacity and clotting/no clotting, and erythrocyte production/destruction, all in a life-giving balance.

Scripture tells us that in the blood is life, which is why the Jews avoided eating blood.  Way back in Leviticus 17:11 G^d gives some advanced physiological info: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.”  Think about it, that’s pretty advanced scientific knowledge for over 3400 years ago.
Just as the dietary restriction of Leviticus was symbolic of what was coming about 1400   years later, so the Last Supper was symbolic of what was coming in just a few hours.
So why did G^d give us all these signs, I am guessing because we are so blind.  It takes big letters for us to see.  At least it does for me.

L^rd open our eyes as you did in times past.  “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.”  Matt 20:34.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


We loved both the sunrise and sunset in Sweden.  It was a tough climb in the evening when we were tired, but living on the mountainside gave us a terrific view which we shared with some of you through many pictures.

Here in Botswana, there aren't but a few min-mountains, and where we live is pretty much flat, flat.  But, the sunsets can be pretty neat here too.  Here's a recent one:

Our family has been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Brenda and I have been to many nice art museums, including some in Stockholm and Malmo, among others.  We have seen paintings by some true Masters.  But I think G^d's free art work, freely given, is incomparable.

So, instead of talking, let's just look:

Monday, April 22, 2013

T.v. Preaching Success

I mentioned  my kidney stone incident in an earlier post.  That happened on a Sunday Morning.  I still intended to try to make it to worship, but it just wasn’t happening.

Brenda suggested catching a sermon on t.v.  I have never been a big fan of that because it is hard to know WHO you are hearing.   As a cynical skeptic, I don’t trust the exegesis of those I don’t know.

But, what did we have to lose?

So, our first preacher to see was SC.   He used the Foundational Testament story about the birth of Perez in Genesis 38.  Fair enough, I am a FT kind of guy.  My view is that the Gospel is in the FT, it’s just in a simpler, clearer form.   All the FT saints were saved by Grace, based on the COMING sacrifice (in fact Scripture explains that the Christ was crucified BEFORE the foundation of the world).  All FT saints were saved based on G^d’s grace, exactly as we are saved.  Recall G^d is independent of time and space.

So here's the sermon text:
Genesis 38:27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez (Perez means breaking out.) 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah."
The preacher used the name “breakout” to motivate the crowd to “breakout” to success, happiness, wealth, etc.  He encouraged the mob to hold their hand over their head and pronounce a “Yes” over their life.

I don’t want to pass judgment, as that preacher will stand before the L^rd, along with the rest of us; but I will go out on a limb and say, I don’t think that is the point of that story in Genesis.
Fortunately, the next guy, Angus, had a Scripturally-based message, and it was good.  The next guy was back to “positive thinking”, prosperity and success in the “Reigning as Kings”, ministry.

The pattern suggests that successful t.v. ministry may require a health and wealth approach.  I know there are still some good t.v. ministries, they just appear to be a minority.

I never knew Scripture was so interested in making us wealthy. In fact, I always thought the opposite was more the case.  "For every 10 men who can withstand poverty, only one can withstand wealth."

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.  (Matt 6:24)

That verse doesn't seem all that popular on t.v.  Go figure.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Globalization of Praise

We were a bit surprised at the music in our local congregation.  We recognized everything we sang, except for one Tswana version of one of the songs.

The same was almost true in Sweden also.  They had one or two songs in 3.5 months that were new to us, but that’s a pretty small difference really.

I read Thomas Sowell’s book, The Earth is Flat, several years back.  His argument was that the internet had essentially brought the whole earth close together.  A call to a business for assistance, is just as likely to be answered in India as in Indianan.  I guess it has the same impact on music too.

And, to be honest, it kinda comforting.  Here we are in Southern Africa singing the same hymns that our friends in Grace Church are singing back in AL, albeit 8 hours later.

G^d clearly isn’t constrained to one country, or one continent, or one set of music.  G^d transcends time and space.  Music connects the Tswana-speaking Batswana, with the southern speaking Alabamian.

And it really was that way, even before the WWW.  G^d is “no respecter of persons” we are told, and why should He.  He spoke us ALL into existence.  He is Sovereign over all, and He died for all mankind.  One day we will ALL be singing one song with one voice.

What a wedding feast of the Lamb that will be!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

It Really is Who You Know

I remember our days in the USN Squadron in Patuxent River, MD.  Several of my Navy buddies were surprised at the number and breadth of friends we had.  We live in the community, and worshiped there, and consequently knew a lot more local folks than my colleagues who lived on base.

The same was even a bit more dramatic in Sweden.  After a month there, I felt Brenda and I knew more Swedes than most of my colleagues who had lived there more than a year.  This is, of course, speculation, because I had no easy way of measuring how many folks my colleagues knew.

Because of our involvement with the EFS Swedish church there, we knew folks from many different backgrounds in several different professions.  Not surprisingly, the same thing seems to be happening here in Gabs.

It is a nice situation.  People are interesting. People are helpful.  People are fun.  Thank you L^rd for people.

But being part of the Body of the Christ, is even better.  As soon as we meet a fellow Believer, we have a lot in common.  We share a faith, a Savior, a common set of beliefs and principles and aspirations.  Friendships can move forward much more quickly among Believers.

We ought to be friends, we share so much:
  • We are all sinners.
  • G^d died for us all.
  • Living the Christian Life is a challenge.
  • We will live together forever.

  As we mentioned not many blogs ago, "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."  I Tim 1:15.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Ugly Antelope

Not all the antelope have the natural beauty of the gemsbok, the impala, or the springbok.  Yes, there is the hartebeest.  This animal has the coloring of the North American elk, with a head that looks like an amateur trying to sculpt a cow then changing to a goat.

In my view, this is the ugliest antelope in Africa.  But, everybody has an opinion.
Well, I guess a mother hartebeest thinks her kids are cute.

And, good looks aren't all they are cracked up to be.  I have often wanted to write a little essay on the advantages of being ugly.  Think about it.  You are LESS attractive to the opposite sex, which, if you are married, is a big advantage.  You are NOT likely to be confused as a movie star or music icon.  No one bugs you about modeling, or posing for magazines.  See, being ugly is an advantage.

Some of you saw this quote I used for a while From a 2005 commencement speech by writer and prof David Foster Wallace, apparently a keen observer of human nature., but I think it is worth reading once more.

"There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH ...— is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough.  It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.[...] Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings."

Pretty wise words from a prof.  I wish he had accepted Christ.

And I wish the same for all of you.