Friday, May 31, 2013

Junk Food Junkies

I enjoy lots of junk food.  I said earlier, that food is not important.  But, of course, I wasn't talking about peanuts, and chips and candy and ice cream of all types.  My Dad liked candy, so maybe I got it from him.

The Batswana make me look like a novice once again.  When it comes to junk food, these folks are champs.  On many street corners, and just outside the gates to UB, there are vendors selling mostly junk food.  They apparently buy candy, chips and stuff retail, then sell it piece by piece.  Here's what I mean.

I can't imagine this is a very lucrative business venture, but there are plenty of folks doing it.  The overhead is low.  Judging by the HIGH number of candy wrappers on the sidewalks near these stands, business is brisk.

No one thinks that junk food is good for us.  The sugar rots our teeth.  The extra calories are undesirable for us modern sedentary folk.  There is no redeeming virtues... except it tastes good.

Unfortunately this describes a great deal of what I do.  I do those things I ought not, need not, and even want not, to do.

Paul says it clearly and simply in Rom 7:19, "For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want."

Then just a few verses later (vs 24), he laments, "Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?"

Fortunately we ALL have a good answer to that dilemma.  For Rom  7:25 solves it saying, " Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."

Thanks indeed!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Trees Again

There is something special about the terrain in trees of Botswana that complement each other.

Here is a Leadwood tree that may be over 1000 years of age.  It bears the marks of both man and beast.  Near the bottom you can see clearly what looks to be ancient axe marks carving a step so that the bushmen could climb up high enough to drink from the small pool of water collected in a hollowed place in the branches.  Our guide points to the little indentations going up the tree and explains that leopards climb the tree for security and for access to that same water.  but, the most obvious marks are the rub marks where sand-covered elephants have scratched their itches for hundreds of years.

A huge branch has fallen off the tree.  Ben, owner of Elephant Sands Lodge tells us that a local crew looking for coal and been persuaded to use their 5-ton crane to pick up the branch, estimated at a mere 3.5 tons (it isn't called leadwood for nothing).  Now the branch has a place of honor at the Lodge.

That same night we see this sunset.

And that is where this posting will end.

G^d is good, full of Grace and Mercy towards us.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Life is for the Birds

This is the third recent post I have done on birds.  Botswana seems particularly bird-rich.  We have all sorts of birds, from ostriches to a tiny little humming bird we saw on a hike in South Africa.

I mentioned earlier my love for birds and my respect for their abilities.  In this post, I just want to share a few photos.

There are several storks in this area.  I believe this is a marabou Stork.

This is a common ground bird, the sand grouse.
This is another common ground bird, the Helmented Guinea Fowl
Above is one of several white-back vultures in Chobe National Game Reserve.

These birds are quite different.  They each have their ecological niche.  Each have their strengths and weaknesses.  Maybe that is part of the appeal.  They are a lot like us.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Back in the USA, I have not written a check to pay utilities in a few years.  Before that, the water company was the only check I wrote, because they were the last to automate their billing and receive electronic funds transfers.

Oh, how I love electronic funds transfers. We in Europe and the USA don't know how good we have it.  We can bank online, pay bills online, pay credit cards with automatic drafts.  THESE are the good old days!

Few of us, including me until recently, realized that this is not universally true.  Although lots and lots of the populace here, at least in Gaborone, have WWW access, there are a lot of things you can't do here on the web.  Here are some examples:

Can't make a credit card deposit on a hotel reservation without filling out a form and scanning it back in to the computer.
Can't do online money transfers between banks and accounts.
Can't do auto bill pay or even see an account on line.

Consequently, most of the banking and bill paying are done by going somewhere and waiting in line until the clerk calls you.  But, instead of focusing on what we can't do, we ought to rejoice in what we can do.  Here we can:
  • Make a hotel reservation on line (maybe with a couple of additional telephone calls).
  • Get $$ from an abundance of ATMs
  • Email
  • Text message

In our daily lives, much of our thinking, at least for me, focuses on what we can't do, instead of what we can.  G^d has Blessed us all beyond all we can ask or think...

Eph 3: 20-21, "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."

So, as I shift my focus, perhaps it is much easier to,

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!"  (Phil 4:4) 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Missionary's Mistakes

If you do much, you can rest assured, you will make a mistake. Better said, you will make mistakeS.

I wrote earlier a bit about Dr. Livingstone.  He was quite a guy: doctor, missionary, explorer, husband father.  Today we visited his old home place just SW of Gaborone.  We had the place to ourselves, and our guide was motivated and knowledgeable.  He clearly enjoyed repeating for the hundredth time his spiel about many aspects of Dr. Livingstone, his work and his family.

The site we visited contained the remains of the rock foundation of the first School and first Church in Botswana... which happened to be the same building.  I asked why that site was chosen, and the guide quickly explained that it was defensible against attackers, it was close to a refuge site, and it was close to water.  Makes sense.

 We also visited the site of the home/medical clinic of Dr. Livingstone.  He would deliver a difficult birth, then step outside and handle an abscess.  Our guide seemed to have a very high opinion of the good Dr. and rightfully so.  He seemed exceptionally gifted, exceptionally committed to his call from G^d and exceptionally brave.  (That's the rock just outside his clinic/home where he reputedly did minor surgeries).

He did not have a lot of converts, as I mentioned earlier, but apparently he had one very strong convert, the king of a local tribe.  That's not a bad record, if you think about it.  Dr. Livingstone died in Zambia.  He was lionized there, as I mentioned before.  I discussed earlier what I thought was a mistake on the Missionary's part.

But, it was our last stop of the tour today that was most sad to me.  The Livingstones had 6 children, one of whom was buried there at the Botswana homestead.  The 5th child died at the age of 6 weeks. She is buried in Botswana.

 The oldest son died at an early age of a battle wound.  The second son was a physician who also died at age 20.  His youngest daughter felt abandoned by her father and was never close to him.  Sad to think that this great missionary and his wife suffered such sadness.

How would Dr L do things differently were he given a second chance?  I have no idea.  BUT, it does cause me to think, what will I regret when I get to the end of my days?

Our pastor, Fred, has mentioned this Scripture on several occasions, " "For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay;"  Acts 13:36.

David's life had its sad moments, just as Livingstone's undoubtedly did.  My life has had its sad moments, and Thanks  be to G^d these have been relatively few.  But it is hard to do better than David.

May we all serve the purpose of God in our own generation!   Let's pray that for each other.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

An orange by any other name...

My dear wife carefully selected a succulent orange from the monkey-protected fruit bowl.  She peeled it with anticipation enjoying the citrus fragrance.  She tasted the delicious goodness... of a lemon.

What?  "She must be nuts!" you say.  Well take a look.

 Recall that I mentioned harvesting lemons right outside my big classroom.  Well some of these lemons definitely have an orange cast, and an orange shape.  "Perhaps they are oranges" you suggest.  Well, the proof is in the tasting.

Well there is some cliche about making lemons into lemonade, so I took her orange-impersonating lemon and made some lemonade.

I really like lemonade, and recall that it is supposed to prevent kidney stones, so it was a happy task.

Some of you old timers may recall that old song,  "Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat."

Well, if you can't eat lemons...

G^d provides.  He provides in abundance.  What He provides is always good, though we may not perceive it at first.

Here's to lemonade!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Now this is camping!

On our trip to the great North country we stayed 3 nights in a tent.  Now this isn't what you are thinking.  It was a large, comfortable tent with springs and a mattress, queen size.  It had an electric light and a fan, and lots of zip-down windows. As you can see, it was elevated on a concrete slab, so the floor stayed clean.  There were two chairs on the "porch" and places to hang clothes, and flashlights inside.

The only small drawback was the 50m walk to the "ablution" block- what we call toilets and showers.  The ablution block was modern and clean, with nice showers.  We were just about the only ones there.  What's not to like?

Nearby, and for a good bit more money, you could rent a tent with an inside bathroom and a small kitchen.   I think this is a great concept for popular spots around the USA.  KOA campground could probably create a good business, even among those carrying tents.  There is no hassle in the dark or in  the rain, in setting up or taking down a tent that belongs to the campground.  They could likely make 2 or 3 times the money from these sites.  But... what do I know?

We have good ideas, but they aren't always the best.

Proverbs 16:25 warns us, "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Rhinos Galore

Our Friends, Dave and Ronel, and Wimpie (Wilhelm) and Nicoline took us on a great adventure to the Khama Rhino Reserve.  To summarize, it was WONDERFUL!

We did morning and evening game drives.  The first day we saw 25 rhino.  We saw the most in the evening when they come to the waterhole to drink.  We named on droopy for her long downward pointing horn.  Dave said that the horns were were a small fortune in the Asian medical market.  In RSA, they are poached with regularity.  This is one reason the Rhino Reserve is so important.

We feel extremely blessed to be able to live here a few months.  We have visited lots of places, but it wholly different to visit somewhere compared to living there.

Looking back over the years, it is amazing what G^d hath wrought.  The paths He has blocked, and the roads less traveled that He has opened for us.  Along the way we have met Christians from around the world, quite a few of which we still hear from on occasion.

It has become a cliche I am afraid, but it is undoubtedly true:  G^d is good, ALL the time!  No matter what befalls us, it is a great comfort to know that we are firmly in His loving embrace.  Amen.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Question for Smart People

Most people realize that the very highly educated, the doctors, lawyers, professors, of the modern world are a largely unreached people group.  There's no shortage of profs who are downright hostile to Christianity.

Too much smarts often leads to an egocentricism that is spiritually unhealthy.  As I wrote in a post many months ago, smart people can't imagine G^d being more than just a bit smarter than they.

Well here's a question for us all.

Think about all the knowledge in the world:  particle physics, chemistry, Philosophy, Linguistics, astronomy, mathematics, biology, history, geography, geology, education, philosophy, English literature, medicine, dentistry, law, Communications, and lot of other fields.

Now what percentage of that knowledge do you think you have?

We professors know a lot, but the breadth of our knowledge is necessarily constrained...

Point is, we don't know an awful lot of stuff...

If our smart friends are willing to admit that they know only a lot about a very limited material, doesn't that create the possibility that they have not exhausted all knowledge in their consideration of the possibility of the Creator G^D?

A second question is, how much do we know about the things going on within 50 m of us?  What do we know about the workings of our own bodies, about the trees, shrubs, rocks, bacteria, viri, materials, televisions, computers,  telephones, etc.?

It turns out that even the smartest among us, aren't quite so smart in the very broad scheme of things.

"...but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory..." (I Corth 2:7)

"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS..." (I Corth 3:19)

L^rd help us to share Christ with humility and compassion, but help us as, 
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. "  ((II Corth 10:5)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Ladies #1 Detective Agency

Brenda, in preparation for this trip, has read a lot of Alexander MCall Smith's books st in Botswana, The Ladies #1 Detective Agency.

One of the frequent haunts of the protagonist, Mma Ramotse, is the President's Hotel in Gaborone, where she enjoys tea and the view.

I took Brenda to the very spot, and was pleased to see the sign.  Brenda was thrilled to be "living out" the fictional adventure.  As we move around Gaborone, she point out names and places from the book.  Down on the SW corner of town is the movie set where the BBC filmed a t.v. series on the #1 Detective agency.  When we were in Sweden, our good friends, John and Louise showed us one of the episodes.

They say that "life imitates art".  I think art is, for the most part, a search for meaning.  Sadly, meaning may be found through art, but in itself is not a source of meaning.

I keep coming back to that verse,  "For what doth it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"  Mark 8:36

Now those are GOOD questions!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Looking in the Laboratory

“Truth is the secret of eloquence and of virtue, the basis of moral authority; it is the highest summit of art and life.”  Philosopher Henri-Frederic Amiel

I do NOT agree with every quote I see, but I do agree with this one, for one reason.   Can you guess?

That quote quickly brings to mind another famous quote.  Can you guess?

“I am…the Truth...”, said Jesus the Christ.

So now Mr Amiel’s quote clearly and accurately states, “Jesus the Christ is the secret of eloquence and of virtue, He is the basis of moral authority; He is the highest summit of art and life.” 
 See what I mean.  This, perhaps, is a good illustration (perhaps not so good, you decide) of a Christian worldview.  According to Dallas Willard’s brilliant essay, Jesus the Logician, Jesus is the ultimate authority on every academic subject, every issue, every theme.  Everywhere we see truth we ought to see The Christ.  Every academic, or non-academic, search for truth ought to ultimately find The Christ.  Every essay, every research paper, every novel ought to point in some way, though subtle, to The Truth. 

When we enter the lab, when we investigate human behavior, or atomic behavior, if we are looking for valid results (true results, understood and applied accurately), we ought to find The TRUTH.  Us academics are supposed to be “search for truth”, and we all ought to, in the end, find Jesus there.

Here's UB's Ex Phys Lab:

There's not a lot to work with here, so we need some creativity.  There's still plenty of research ideas, that can be done with little equipment, but there are limitations.

G^d has gifted each of us with resources and talents.  Sometimes it takes more imagination than others to figure ways to use these things for His kingdom.  But, our task is to do what we can with what we have.

James 2:18-20 tells us, "But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?"

We aren't working our way to salvation, we are called to use what we have in action, not just talk.

Jesus asked, "who neighbored him?" and this was the reply,

And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."

Monday, May 20, 2013

Looking up

It's hard not to love a giraffe.  They aren't threatening, though apparently they can kill you if they decide to kick you really hard.  They are really handsome animals, and there are some color variations when you see several together.  In my view they are one of the most photogenic animals.  They stand out, and above, the brush.
 Our South African friend, Ronel, lists giraffes as her favorite animal, and she has seen a lot of animals over the years.
The above Giraffe we named Edwin.  Not sure why the name, but the poor animal came to a waterhole to drink along with rhino, zebra, warthog, and impala.  There were some noisy tourists out of their vehicle in the parking lot (not us, this time) and it disconcerted Edwin a great deal.  He would come to the water hole, but before he could get a drink he'd lose his nerve and walk away.

One time, I thought he was going to drink.  He spread those long front legs, lowered his towering head within a meter of the water, and then got scared and walked off!  We were pulling for him, to not avail.  Fortunately night was coming swiftly and tourists have to leave at dark, so Edwin had peace in just a few more minutes.

Giraffes are a marvel of physiology.  They need strong, strong hearts to pump blood up so far.  On the other hand this high blood pressure would cause a stroke every time a giraffe bent over to drink, if it weren't for a special circulatory adaptation in their brain.

Isn't evolution a wonderful thing?  NOT.

If giraffes need a super cardiovascular system, think what a brachiosaurus needed!  Giraffes are just another ode to creation and the Creator, I guess.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Elite Eland

 If a gemsbok mated with a Brahma cow, you'd get an Eland.  We only saw eland once in Khama Rhino Reserve, but I counted myself fortunate to get to see them at all.  They never seemed comfortable at the waterhole where we found them.  They stood around, never really drinking, and eventually headed off for the thick bush.
They are said to be arid-land animals.  They can get enough moisture from their food so that they don't have to drink free water.

I wonder why G^d wasn't content making a few impala, a springbok or two, and maybe a gemsbok.  Instead G^d created eland, and duiker, and hartebeest and wildebeest, and waterbuck (we have seen 3, but no picts yet).  G^d made such a variety of plants and animals.  G^d created the cosmos with all its stars, planets, galaxies.  He made each one different.  As Vizzini said (Princess Bride), inconceivable!

It is indeed inconceivable that we think:
  1. This all happened by chance with "natural selection" to guide it.
  2. We think we are smarter than G^d.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Flowers, Flowers, Flowers

It has been a bit surprising how many flowers we have seen.  In fact, these photos are a mere sampling of what we have seen and photographed.

Around campus, on the walk home, at the Game Reserve, there are many varieties of flowers in bloom.  Keep in mind this is late, late summer here.

But with flowers come some thorns.  As ubiquitous as the flowers are, so are the thorns.
Both the number of flowers, and the different varieties are impressive.  Plus, we have bought several bouquets in the local grocery, and they are quite nice.

Scripture tells us clearly, in the Sermon on the Mount, "Behold the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they reap, yet Solomon in all his Glory was not arrayed as one of these."

But, more importantly, In Romans 1 G^d says, "20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mother Reads to Child- Not any more!

For the last month, I have admired from afar this statue on the UB Campus.

I assumed it was a tribute to mothers faithfully instilling a love of reading in their pre-school child.  Today I got to see the statue up close, and was I surprised!

Not sure what the artist intended, but the message has changed.  Books have been replaced with personal lap-top computers.  Now in many ways this statue is prescient (look it up).  Many times in Sunday School and Church I look over to see a friend with their Bible on their Ipad, Kindle, Nook, or whatever.  Even as primitive as I am, I have, on occasion read a bit on my wife's Kindle.  As an old fuddle-duddie, I don't really like reading a non-book text.  Books have weight, they have a convenience of their own.

On the other hand, whenever I need to find a particular Scripture, I go to the WWW.  Clearly G^d is not constrained in any way in how He chooses to act.  He can speak through a Kindle as well as He can through a rock.

So, it matters not how we read G^d's truth, the main issue is to read it often, and read it carefully.  Happy Bible reading.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Some Great Advice!

This morning I am scheduled to visit the Batswana National Olympic Committee office.  I wanted to keep my Department Head, Jimoh Shehu, informed, so I let him know of the visit, and asked for his advice.  This is the advice he gave,

"Advice? Listen with your ears, nose, eyes, tongue, skin and spirit."

Wow, now that's some good advice.

In the first chapter of the book of James, the Holy Spirit says it in a slightly different way, "19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry...".  The wisdom becomes more obvious when trying to learn a new culture.  You really have to listen to learn.  You have to pay attention in order to pick up the underlying messages.  That is hard to do when you are talking.

Want some good advice?  

"Listen with your ears, nose, eyes, tongue, skin and spirit."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The PE Gang

Pictured below are some of my colleagues.  This is part, because I think our department has 15 regular faculty.  Compare with our UA Kinesiology faculty which numbers only 10! I think UB PE has about the same number of undergrads as we do at UA,  except our Grad program is MUCH bigger, numbering  60+.

I have met many of our folks, with several dropping by my office to introduce themselves.  This is not as easy as it might sound as our faculty are spread among at least 5 buildings that I know of, and there are likely more.

In the USA Kinesiology faculty, we have a pretty international group.  We have 3 Brits, One Russian, and I am the only Latino.  We have had an Aussie, and a Canadian.  The UB faculty is over 25% internationals.   Walking around campus you see a large variety of nationalities.  I know Nigerians, South Africans, Austrians, Ethiopians, some Middle Easterners,  some Indians, one Irish professor, and one Bulgarian, plus some I am forgetting.

G^d calls us all, without regard to race, nationality, or ethnic group.  The Christ loved us enough to die for us, regardless of our bad ethics and worse attitudes.

G^d the Merciful.  G^d the Gracious.  G^d is love.  Sure enough!