Monday, March 31, 2014


For those of you who eschew hunting of any kind, this blog is not for you.

It is hard for non-hunters to understand hunting, and equally hard for hunters to explain it.  I wrote an article for Deer & Deer Hunting magazine while I was in Africa titled, "I am a Whitetail Snob."

Before I went to Africa, I had visions of hunting.  I had 10.5 months and connections with a top-notch professional hunter in northern South Africa.  When I got there and started seeing a lot of animals most of the appeal was gone.

A few years back, Bobby made arrangements for us to hunt elk in NM.  We drove out and in a couple of days Bobby killed an elk.  The next day I killed one.  It wasn't my idea of hunting.  The guides did the majority of the work, and all I had to do was stay calm and make a good shot at 256 yards.  I made the shot and greatly enjoyed the elk meat.

In Africa, hunting is similar to that elk hunt.  The guide finds the game, and says, "Shoot that one!"  It takes some shooting skill, and it must be thrilling for the moment, but I veiw that as mostly shooitng with a little hunting.

With the Whitetailed deer, Odocoileus Virginianus, it is a LOT of hunting with just a bit of shooting.  This past season was cut short due to late return from Africa combined with some terrible weather.  I had some great thrills nevertheless.

Over the years I have given away quite a few horns to friends.  One of our friends just started an antler-art business, and I found out about it today.  Consequently I gathered up a few horns to trade to her in exchange for a bit of antler art.  Here is what I had.
This collection is missing a few of my favorites which I don't want to give away.  Each set of horns represents a great memory of a hunt gone by.  A few of these, like the one on the center right, I recall very clearly.  Many of these I cannot recall, but I can think back to many a hunt including the majority of hunts where the only thing harvested is another pleasant memory, and that is more than enough.

Yep, hunting is hard to explain.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A lot of life is like that...

One of my most vivid memories is from 1968.  I had graduated High School that year, and a few weeks later was off to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis to begin Plebe summer.

Plebe summer at any of the academies used to have several purposes:
  • Teach young high schoolers how to be midshipmen (or cadets),
  • Get them in the "spirit" of the military warfighter,
  • Test their mettle,
  • Run off those who weren't committed to the program.

Or I could summarize this way:
It was one of the toughest 10 weeks of my life.

That said, in the late 1960's, the Naval Academy ended Plebe Summer with "Parent's weekend".  Parents of Plebes were invited to come up, see a parade and learn what the Naval Academy was all about.

My older brother Doug had graduated 3 years earlier, so the Naval Academy was not exactly new to my folks, but in a show of genuine sacrificial love, they drove a bit over 700 miles to see me and celebrate the end of Plebe Summer.

Parent's Weekend ended on Sunday evening with "evening meal formation" in which every midshipman at USNA lined up by companies to march in to the Dining Hall.  I was walking alongside my Dad on that brick, two-lane walkway that stretches like a aircraft runway between the Library and the Bancroft Hall couryard where we formed up.  We were near the famous Tecumseh statue when I remarked to my Dad,  in despair, "  It's just so tough, the same thing day after day!"

"Son", he said, "you'll find that a lot of life is like that."

That wasn't exactly the sympathy I was hoping for in that moment, but you know what?  He was absolutely correct.

Much of life is routine... and that's not always so bad.  What makes life satisfying is NOT the variety.  Variety may be the spice of life, but G^d is the source of meaning, even in the midst of monotony.

And that's the truth!

Thanks Dad.

Monday, March 24, 2014


We had a very enjoyable Sunday School class this AM.  The topic was "The Discipline of Worship".   Take a minute and think about how YOU define worship.

If you are like MOST Americans you define it strictly in terms of CORPORATE worship.  In fact, that is the way the author did, in the book that is guiding us.  And there is NO doubt that corporate worship is extremely important.  But take a look at Romans 12:1.

Offering our bodies as living sacrifices, as a spiritual service, or spiritual service of worship-- it's the same either way.  But the point is that worship is a 24/7 opportunity and the day of worship isn't just Sunday, but Monday- Sunday, repeat.

If worship is restricted to corporate worship, then there won't be much genuine worship.  BUT, if worship corporately follows a week of personal worship-- now that will be a great time!

One thing we didn't get to discuss was the important role of music, in personal, as well as corporate, worship.  You don't need a pipe organ, a piano, or a skilled musician to engage in musical worship.  No matter how bad your voice, you can sing to the L^rd a song of worship, and the ONE who made your voice will recieve glory in your offering.

After class was over it dawned on me how circular worship is.  True worship originates with the Holy Spirit who stirs us to worship G^D the Father, which is only possible because of the the Shed blood of the Son of G^d.  Jesus himself told us, that,

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks."  Jn 4:23

So enjoy a WEEK of worship instead of a day of worship.

Friday, March 21, 2014


CS Lewis wrote an entire book on miracles.  What could I possibly add?  Maybe not much, but I never let that stop me.

What are miracles?  Any thing that appears to violate the laws of science (i.e. nature) would be miracles.  Consider things such as:
  • Virgin birth
  • Water walking
  • Sudden healing of lifelong illnesses on command.

Not all miracles are this way.  Some miracles are merely natural phenomena sped up greatly.  Consider things such as:
Turning water into wine (wine always comes from water plus grapes, which also are mostly water)
Multiplying food (fish come from other fish, and bread from unground flour).

Miracles should NOT be confused with statistical anomalies or low-probability occurrences.  The odds that YOU will win the lottery are small, but the odds that someone will win it (eventually) are close to 100%.   It's not a miracle when someone wins, it is only a miracle if someone predicts it in advance.  If that happens we quickly become suspicious that:
  • The game was rigged.
  • Some trick occurred just as in "magic trick" where we were fooled.

So, is there evidence for miracles?   Yes, there is.  Keeping in mind the above caveats,  miracles do occur and they are often stark enough to make the news.

Why would miracles occur?  Maybe they don't occur argues the hardened skeptic, perhaps all miracles, even those that make the news have a scientific explanation.

What explanation?

We scientists don't yet know, but we can figure it out.  Have FAITH in science.  We'll figure it out in time.

Why would miracles occur?  I think there are several reasons:
  1. Miracles demonstrate that the world has outside influences,
  2. That faith in science is simply faith in something compared to faith in something else,
  3. To raise questions about nature:  Is nature all there is?  Apparently not.
  4. To cause some people to look beyond the reality of matter, time and space as we perceive it.

There are lots of miracles in the world.
  • It is a miracle that we live on this tiny blue dot in this vast cosmos.
  • It is a small miracle that any of us survive the onslaught of microbes that assault us daily.
  • It is a miracle that some folks would be their faith in science, when science has betrayed us so often.

Do I believe in miracles?


But what about science.  Yep that exists too, and I have FAITH that both have their uses.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Faith vs Faith

The world in which I abide most of the time, is a skeptical world where science rules supreme.  For those who really believe that science should rule, I strongly recommend, that like making sausage, they avoid ever seeing "science being made".

As part of my job, I "make science" or "do Science" most every day.  In doing this it strikes me that there are a LOT of parallels between science and religion.  Both are faith commitments.

Both religion and science are notoriously messy, chancy, enterprises with many a mistake, and much misinformation.  When someone is temeritous enough to point out the many, many scientific mistakes that get made, my scientific colleagues quickly defend us by saying,

"Yes but WE correct our mistakes!  If a scientific mistake is made other scientists will quickly correct it and the ship of science will steam on to victory!"

Really?  Doesn't that sound like a faith statement to you?  How could anyone possibly KNOW that all science errors are corrected?  How are we so sure, using the same methods that made the original mistake, that the new information is not likewise flawed?

I used to give a talk called "Science vs. Faith".  Recently I retitled it to, "Faith vs. Faith".  As I have reflected on science and the scientific process, and scientific results, it has become obvious that reliance on Science requires the same foundational faith as reliance on ancient Hebrew Scriptures combined with not-quite-as-ancient Christian Scriptures combined with personal experience (less reliable but quite powerful).

Not to say that we look around and don't see great advances representing the contributions of science.   Sometimes our lives are made better by science, and sometimes our lives are made a bit worse.  By the same token, religion sometimes makes our lives better, and sometimes our lives a bit worse.

I can hear my science colleagues protesting, "Yes but science applied correctly makes us always better, it is only mis-applied science that causes problems!"

Hmm, there are more parallels between faith in science and faith in G^d, than I first thought.

Monday, March 17, 2014


As I listened to NPR last week, they were discussing the Jordan River and the geography of the area.  In referring to the west bank of the Jordan, they didn't call it Israel, but rather, "The land occupied by Israel".  Hmmmm, would have never thought to call it that,and would prefer NPR not call it that either.

If you are a Christian, and if you travel, you really need to go to Israel.  Sure, it's a bit risky, and indeed there are 18 y.o.s with automatic weapons roaming the streets... in Israeli Defense Force uniforms.  One of my friends pointed out that tourists are seldom injured in the area because all contending forces count on tourists for their economies.

I am NOT spiritually sensitive, but as I mentioned once before, Old Jerusalem spooked me a bit.  The city is neat.  The walls are old, thick and pock-marked by modern weapons from the '67 (6-day) war.  There is lots to see inside, including the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, and now the tunnel that is supposed to be down low enough to represent Jerusalem at the time of the Christ.  Inside is also the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  This is the traditional site of Golgotha, but I have serious doubts.  Inside the City is, of course the Via Dolorosa (Way of Pain, or Way of Sorrows).  There's plenty to see inside, but outside is one of our favorite places called "The Garden Tomb".  Right outside it is a hill that looks remarkably like a skull (Golgotha?).

Due East of the Western Wall is Mount Olivet, and from it there is a great view of the two Muslim mosques on the Temple Mount, plus the Eastern Gate to Jerusalem, which, if I remember right is blocked by a Muslim cemetery.  If you keep going East you will pass just south of the famous city of Jericho, and then if you turn south, parallel to the Jordan you will find Masada, another great tour.  And also, if things are going well, you can take a very interesting dip in the Dead Sea.

Our favorite place in all of Israel is back up the Jordan, many miles to the North.  The Lake at the upper end of the Jordan is the famous Sea of Galilee.  At the NW corner is Capernaum and this is the area of those two famous adventures at sea with the 12 disciples (Walk on water, sleeping through the storm).  Here too was Peter's fish that paid the poll tax, and the Sermon on the mount.  A little south is Magdala, where the Mary of Magdala (i.e. -ene) lived.  Across the sea almost due east is where those pigs committed suicide.

There's more to tell you, but enough for now.

What a thrill to walk where Jesus walked,  to see the stones that reminded all Jews of the possibility of death at any moment.  When the Bible talks about wilderness, now you know what that means.

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing."

Thank you L^rd for your mercy towards Jerusalem, towards us.

Friday, March 14, 2014


When people ask me about my favorite foreign country, where I most like revisiting, I tell them without hesitation- Alaska.

I first went to Alaska with my Pop when I was a graduate student, about 1981 or 82.  He had always wanted to go up there and fish, but getting there is a bit complex.  He offered to pay, and I offered to be his guide.

We met up there with a friend of mine who taught at UA-Fairbanks.  We didn't catch as many fish as we had hoped, but we very much enjoyed the trip.  The scenery is absolutely gorgeous and there is a new thrill around every bend.  It was exceptionally special because it was an extended time with my Pa, and man to man.  I still recall some of the details of that trip of over 30 years back.

I was so smitten, that a few years later I insisted that Brenda go back with me.  Our kids were still young, so an adventurous young couple from our church volunteered.  Afterwards they swore off having kids altogether.  Just kidding,  They went on to have 4 kids of their own.  Again, in the pre Exxon-Valdez days, Prince William Sound and the Alaskan pipeline were very interesting.  I terrified Brenda by walking out on a glacier, and falling through to my waist.

When Andrew graduated from UA, I took him on a celebratory trip.   I asked where he wanted, he said "Alaska", and I was thrilled.

Brenda found us a good deal on a motorized camper, and that worked out super.  We drove all over southern Alaska, and saw some great sites which Andrew photographed. We went deeper into Denali Park than I had ever been and saw lots of wildlife.  One of our most exciting wildlife encounters occurred in Anchorage, the only real city in Alaska (Anchorage has a current population of about 300k, with ALL of Alaska only totaling a bit over 700k).

We got to the Botanical Gardens in the evening.  It was deserted.  We strolled around seeing the sights.  As we rounded a bend there was a large sow Black Bear at about 11-12 yards, with two cubs.  I whispered "Get a picture, get a picture!"

Andrew in contrast did what you are supposed to do.  He made himself look large and backed away and fortunately drug me with him!

If you have the opportunity ask Brenda about the 139 mile drive between Denali and Paxton, AK.

And if you have the opportunity-- visit Alaska!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dean's Pine Cone

In my last post I was recounting the story of Brenda and I taking 5 kids across the middle USA.  We left Mount Rushmore headed for Sturgis, SD where we planned to find a place to spend the night.  Unfortunately, our visit conflicted with the motorcycle convention they have there each summer. 

No problem, Spearfish, SD is right up the road.

Unfortunately, our visit conflicted with the corvette convention they have there each summer. 

Problem.  What is beyond Spearfish?

Well, it turns out that Dean's Pine Tree Inn was between Spearfish and Devil's tower national monument in WY.

Dean's Pine Tree Inn was a WELCOME sight, chiefly because... There was room at the inn.  And what a room it was!

Dean's Pine Tree Inn consisted of house trailers cut in two, with each half serving as a "room at the Inn".

When we walked in, Brenda promptly turned the "velvet painting of the spooky woman" around to face the wall.  The two girls got one double bed, Brenda and I got the other, and the three boys were given the floor.  Daniel opted for the bathtub.

We made it through the night, with gratitude... and it turns out with great memories, except now it was of Dean's Pine Cone Inn.

We saw lots of great stuff on this trip.  Why is it that this is one of our most vivid and fun memories?

Go Figure.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Memories on the Road

Recall that this blog started to chronicle our visit to Sweden in the Spring of 2012.  My dear, sweet wife Brenda thought that it might be good to share some of our memories of being on the road before that trip.  This, she said, will serve as a record of our memories.  The great thing about memories is that we often remember things that never even happened.

With that thought in mind, this is the first in a series recounting some of our past road trips.

One of our fondest family memories is that summer we loaded up all five kids into our old chevy van and headed for Campus Crusade summer Staff training in Ft. Collins, CO.  Except of course, we went via Yellowstone.

We left early so we could catch the sites along the way.  We headed up the Mississippi River and one of our first, really memorable stops was at the place where Jesse James, the outlaw, met his demise whilst hanging a picture on the wall.  We had lots of questions for the guide and, despite it wasn't that great of a story, we spent quite a bit of time learning about that fateful day and the characters involved.

We headed North form there into South Dakota and began to encounter signs for famous Wall Drug.  Before Wall Drug, we had the slightly less famous Corn Palace.  Sure enough, it is a huge building dedicated to corn and corn art.  As we signed the guest book we noticed that the same day, a bit earlier, a physician and his family from our hometown of Tuscaloosa, AL had also visited.

As our friend Bob Genheimer says it, "It's a small world... but I wouldn't want to have to paint it."

From the Corn Palace we were drawn westward to Wall Drug, which is really just that, a drug store located on the "Wall" geological formation of wester SD.  I don't recall too much of great interest there, except some teepees that were part of the set for the famous movie, "Dances with Wolves".

Next stop was Mount Rushmore, which we thoroughly enjoyed.  We stayed until almost full dark and then headed out for the most memorable stop on a trip filled with great stops.  But more about that next blog.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Sayings of Anec Bishop

My father was James Anderson Bishop, but his younger brother, Frank, called him "Anec" as his speech corrupted "Anderson".  So to my mother he was "Anderson" but to most folks he was Anec.

And Anec Bishop was well known in our small town, as his five sons would discover as we navigated the ups and downs of life in our small town of less than 4k people.

Anec only finished 11th grade but managed to play college basketball, known then as "Pot" Bishop, not for any affinity for marijuana, which was totally unheard of, having apparently not yet been invented.  The "Pot" came, according to his telling, from his pot shot ability to sink long baskets.

He became a barber at an early age, and cut sailors hair in North Africa in WW II.  I became a shoeshine boy in my dad's barber shop when I was 7 or 8 years old and passed about 12 hours each Saturday until I was 15 or 16 and got a day job as a lifeguard at the local country club.  Consequently I heard his jokes and stories over and over.  I also read every major magazine between about 1958 and 1965, because he filled his shop with Life and Look, and Reader's Digest, and a few other magazines and those were, in truth, fairly literary in those days.

Here are a few gems I picked up along the way:
  • It takes a big hog to weigh a ton.
  • I can't go because it's " too far and snaky.  (Never said seriously, always with a  big grin).
  • “Shoulda twisted him out!”  (Refers to a method for extracting an animal from a hole).
  •  "I think I'll go to the woods and go to bed." (Referred to going to the bathroom before bed in the old days).
  • "Have you had your a$$ whipped today?" (About as crude as my Dad ever got, was always said in a joking voice but as if it were a serious query).
  • "I could sleep in a hollow log."  (Refers to bears who do this sometimes- indicated how sleepy he was).

From my brother Patrick (who must be close to 50 yoa now),

"In elementary school, I came home mad one day because of something someone had said about me. Dad asked if it were true. I said ,'No.' "
"He said, 'A lie can't hurt you. Only the truth can hurt you.'  I thought that was interesting enough to have stayed with me!"

Probably the most important thing I learned from my father was his respectful treatment of everyone, but especially older people.  My pop died at the age of 84, but as a man in his 70's I recall his respect towards the few he encountered who were older.

Because he was a barber with a constant turnover of customers, he could tell the same joke to a new audience over 12 times per day for almost 2 weeks ... and he did.  What was most impressive was that he seemed to enjoy the 150th telling as the first.  In his last 10-12 years of barbering, he created a barber shop on the front corner of our childhood home.  My mom commented on being awoken each morning with the sound of laughter coming from his shop.  Perhaps a bit irritating, but there are worse awakening sounds.

Well, as Pop-Pop used to say,
"It's time all honest folks were in bed."