Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reflections on Another School year Ended

In a previous post I talked about one of the great pleasures of teaching:  Terms have beginnings and endings.  It's corollary is that we generally get NEW students each term, so we get a chance to start over with new ideas and approaches.

This has been a tough term.  It has been extremely busy, but fortunately I taught my last class of the term last Thursday.  I still have a final exam to give, but that is small potatoes so to speak.

I had a tough group of undergrads this term.  I suspect that the majority of them were introverts.  They were NOT prone to speaking in class, with only a couple of exceptions.  I want an ENGAGED, interactive group of students, because otherwise I can't tell what is going on.  The lack of enthusiasm for speaking out was tough on them and me.

On the graduate front, it was a good bit better, but the volume was overwhelming.  We lost a faculty member, and I inherited several of his students. But that's not all bad.

In fact, I am thankful to be where I am and doing what I am doing.  I could quit with little repercussions, but I still enjoy it, despite the challenges.  I know many, many people endure their jobs because they have no alternative.

I rejoice to spend time with young people, and trying to solve interesting and complex physiological problems.  It is rewarding at times.  I have one of the few jobs where you can justify getting exercise on the job.  Many of the people at the University are interesting, even if I disagree with most of their views.  There are new challenges most weeks.  Not much is humdrum about this.

As I have said on many occasions.  I thank G^d for the great job I have.  I hope to keep at it a few years more.

But it's still nice to have some time off.

Thanks be to G^d.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Worst Soda Pop of ALL time!

Sometime in the last 4 months since our return from Africa, I bought some generic soda pop to take to work.  I have a mini-fridge in my office and like to hydrate from time to time.  I am not too picky, so I ignore famous brands and buy the cheapest think I can find.

Hmm, not always the best idea.

Here is a "bargain" soda I found:
Do NOT buy this soda.  I opened the first bottle (Yeah, I bought about 3) after chilling it.  I took a big swig and thought, This is the worse soda I have ever tasted anywhere.  It tasted like DIET soda, which I hate.  I looked at the label.  No mention of the word "diet" anywhere.  I looked at the list of ingredients- yep sugar was pretty high on the list, but down near the end was that dreaded word, "aspartame".  Wow does that taste bad!!

I don't offer a lot of advice, but hear this:  "Do NOT buy that pop!"  It is awful.

There is no shame in making a mistake... unless you fail to learn.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Our longest standing (not oldest) friends

When we were just young pups, before children, ...  in Lexington Park Baptist Church we met two of our longest-standing friends, Martha and Bill.  Bill was a USN Supply Officer who ran the commisary where we bought most of our food.

Martha and Bill were a few years ahead of us in the marriage and family game.  We were a long way from home, and all alone.  We needed mentors, and they were ideal for the job.  The year was about 1974, and we were childless.  In 1977 Kelly was born, and we needed some serious mentoring.  Martha and Bill rose to the occasion.

About 6 months after Kelly was born, we moved away... but we didn't lose touch.  When they retired from the USN and lived in Virginia Beach, VA, we made several visits.  After Bill retired from his second career, they moved... to Lineville, AL.

Most years, on New Year's Eve we traditionally call Martha and Bill.  We used to call just before midnight.  Now days, we call closer to 9 PM than midnight.

On our way back from Atlanta last Sunday, we swung by Lineville.  We hadn't seen our longest standing friends in a few years, though we had spoken on the phone several times.  Brenda recalled the time she helped give them a 50th anniversary party, and we remembered the night we spent with them when we were driving to ATL to fly to Japan.

We thought about our visits with them in Virginia Beach, and the time one of our kids accidentally broke the head off their Japanese statuary.  Our best memories are the help and advice they gave us back when we were newlyweds.  Seems like yesterday.

Tempus fugit!  But time seems much more pleasant when you can share it with friends.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Investment Advice

Return on investment, or ROI, is a popular term in the business world, and now is much more broadly applied.  We take some resource, most often money, and put it into some enterprise with the hope that at some future date we will have MORE than our initial investment.  The "rate of return" is a measure of the increase.

If we do think of it more broadly, we realize this is NOT an optional undertaking.  ROI impacts us all, whether in finance or not.  We invest our time and energy as well as our cash.  If we total up all our time and energy we have accounted for our entire lives, and indeed we do invest our lives in something.

A quick glance around tells us that Americans invest themselves in some interesting things:
  • Jobs
  • Hobbies
  • Possessions
  • Politics
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Fame

That is to say, we put major amounts of our time, energy, our very lives into these investments.

But what is the ROI of these things?  And what is the true cost?  If we invest major portions of our lives in work the ROI may be a good retirement, a good bank account, a nice collection of stuff.

IF we invest in Hobbies, our ROI may be some pleasant memories, interesting friends, unusual stories.

But what if we invested in something eternal, with an eternal ROI, hmmm.   Eternal=infinite, an infinite ROI.

An Infinite ROI... sounds interesting...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Award Acceptance Speeches

We had a terrific College of Education Awards banquet last night.  the  food was very nice and very quickly served.  The seating was assigned and thoughtfully so.  The venue was excellent with lots of parking.  It was a joyous occasion with many scholarships given along with much recognition.

I had the pleasure of giving a Prize to a colleague who I had nominated for a service award.  I had prepared a 5-9 min speech recognizing her accomplishments in service.  Upion entering the venue I sought out the very compentent young administrator who had arranged everything and asked her about my presentioan.

"Phil, I know you can talk, but we need to keep it short tonight, because we have a lot of awards to make." she told me definitively.  I understood.

I quickly cut my speech to 3 minutes in deference to her advice.

The award I was presenting was the first in the faculty-staff section.  The transition to these awards didn't go very smoothly, and at first, I was left out of the program altogether.  No problem.  But, at the last moment I was called up to the stage.

I quickly delivered my congratulatory speech and then quit.  My awardee wasn't told she would speak at all, but gamely went to the microphone and said "Thank you." and quit.  Hers was the best speech of the night.

Every award after us was accompanied by a 5-10 minute talk of how great the awardee was.  Most every acceptance speech was a much longer version of Hershel Walker's remarks upon winning the American football Heisman Trophy, "I want to thank all the people who made me the great person I am".

Don't get me wrong, the people who received awards are all fine people.  Some of them may even be "great".  But, I am not sure truly great people see themselves and talk about themselves as being "great".

Scripture tells us that we ought not to think of ourselves as more worthy than we are.  Romans 12:3, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you."

Even though I received no awards, I need to keep this Scripture in mind at all times. "... Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment...".   Plus, that makes for a short speech indeed.  

Almost never can anyone give a speech that is too SHORT!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Getting Old

I am now older than I have ever been; though there is no guarantee that I will get any older.

I have recently been thinking about being old.  I can understand how a younger person can avoid the realities of death.  A 21-year-old never expects to die of anything.  I realized early in my teaching career that a fear of death meant little to young college students.

What is now a mystery is how people MY AGE can avoid contemplating their own demise.  I'm at an age wherein NO LIFE INSURANCE company is interested in me, unless I am willing to pay most of the policy value in premiums.  Which is to say, the risk of me dying goes up minute by minute.

So how do people my age ignore that?  How do they give NO thought to what comes after we die.  It's coming folks!  Give it some thought.

The Apostle Paul wrote, "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain."

If you truly believe that, it kinda takes all the "sting" out of death.  For those of us in the Christ, young or old, we have our HOPE in the Christ. 

Which raises a second mystery.   Why do we invest so heavily in this short life.  Yes, life is short though you live to be 110.  If you haven't yet noticed that, I assure you that you will, if you live long enough, you surely will.

So, in my old age I have reached three conclusions:
  • Life is short
  • Prepare for eternity
  • Invest in the life to come, rather than this short life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Making Judgements

In my work I have to make a LOT of judgement calls.  I mentioned in a recent post that I make appraisals of:
  • Research papers
  • Grant proposals
  • Proposals for ethics approval for research
  • Applications for admission
  • Applications for scholarships.

I am not surprised to discover that people make these judgements with vastly different criteria. In one of these situations, we discussed what was our basis for scoring.  My criteria are quite different from some of my colleagues.

So what does this tell us?   It tells us that when we write papers or proposals, how we get judged is more of function of WHO is doing the judging than how we write.

One day there will be a BIG judgement, one that really, really counts.  It is pretty clear in that one, WHO will be the Judge, and it is likewise pretty clear that NO ONE can meet the criteria, except the Christ alone.

Fortunately, for the most important judgement, the outcome is already known.  The Blood of Jesus is our qualification, and He supplies it with love and GRACE.

Thanks be to G^d, indeed.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

4, 3, 2, 1, 1

Brenda and I, this last weekend, attended a briefing for a CRU Summer Project to Rome, IT.  We will be going with and supporting a team of 10 College Students.  One of the students had suggested that we get to know each other by sharing:

4 people that have affected your life (& why).

3 events that have changed your life. 

2 beliefs that you have (not necessarily theological).

1 wound (current struggle).

1 goal (summer/future).
It was effective!   It was fascinating to hear people's stories.   I learned a lot about our group.  A few patterns emerged, even in such a small group.  I'll mention a few of these in a future post, but for now, if someone asked you about your 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, what would you say?

Friday, April 11, 2014

What exactly do you do?

For most people, my occupation is mostly mystery.

I do three things:
  • teaching
  • reserach
  • service.

It's easy to understand the teaching part.   The service part is sitting on committees that review applications for scholarships, or applications for tenure and promotion, or reviewing applications for research ethics approval.  I have done all of those.

The tricky part is the research part. Since I am in exercise science, most assume i study things like push-ups.  In truth we did some contract research for a company that made a product called, "The Perfect Push-up", but I prefer not to talk about that study.

In my younger days I did most of my research on protective clothing, as worn in the US Military, industry, and fire-fighting.  Those studies paid the bills, and got me promotions.  We still do a lot of these studies.  Here's an example:


After a few years, I realized that some of my grad students had little interest in protective clothing, so I started studying recovery from training.  That has been a fruitful reserach line for many years, and our lab has published more of these studies than any other lab.  I don't have a photo handy, but it looks a lot like running, lifting weights, swimming, soccer, and gymnastics.

Keppler said that "Science is thinking G^d's thoughts after him."

What a great enterprise!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Those who have gone before...

Spending 30 years in a job means that lots of folks will come and go.  Whereas I don't have every name plate for those who have moved on, I have many of them.  One former colleague, when she married and moved away, said specifically, "Make sure Bishop doesn't get my name plate!"  Not sure form whence this sentiment arose, but my reputation was already made, I guess.

You'll notice my own name among those of my colleagues.  I have left the group for several bouts of a few months at a time.  One of great aspects of my job is that you can move to Houston, or Highland Falls, or Sweden, or even Botswana and never miss a pay check.  I don't understand it, but I ain't asking any questions.

Most of the names on the list above are good friends.  I won't tell stories on specific individuals, but these people represent some good ones.  A lot of them, I know where they are today.  All those with whom I worked directly I know where they presently reside.  A few are retired.

Lately I have been reflecting on the values of being older.  One of those advantages is that you have a long, long list of friends.  I count myself fortunate to know people around the world.

G^d gave us the gift of friendship.  I count it as one of my richest blessings!

Most of you reading this are friends.  Please accept my sincerest thanks.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Unexpected Museum

My family has been extremely Blessed to have to opportunity to visit some GREAT museums all over the world.  Here are a few that come to mind without prodding:
Field Museum in Chicago
British Museum of Natural History in London
Aviation Museum, Pensacola
American Museum of Natural History, NYC
American Museum of Art, NYC
Cairo Museum
The Terra Cotta Warrior museum in Xian
The Country of Israel

Well, you get the picture...
Our friends wanted to take us to the Safari Museum in... Franklin, TN.  To be honest, it isn't really in Franklin, but about 4 or 5 miles outside Franklin on HWY 64 headed east towards Highlands, NC.

It was astounding!  Go see it if you ever get the chance.  It is essentially the display room of the head of the taxidermy shop, Bill F and his wife.  Here's what you can see:

Mr Bill F greeted us at the door and was obviously a people person.  In all our museum visits, I have discovered that a knowledgeable guide makes all the difference...
Just like in daily life.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Tongue

Today's Sunday School class is on the Discipline of the tongue.  There are a ton of Scripture written about the power of the spoken word.  Likewise, because of its power, there is likewise a lot of stuff on the harm that words can do.

      Ja 1:26 If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth not his tongue but deceiveth his heart, this man's religion is vain.
      Ja 3:1-5- Tongue is powerful
      Proverbs 12:18 “Careless words stab like a sword, but wise words lead to healing.”
      Ps 52:2 "Thy tongue deviseth very wickedness, Like a sharp razor..."

      Prov 10:20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver…
      Prov 21:23 Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue Keepeth his soul from troubles.
      Prov 31:26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; And the law of kindness is on her tongue.

 working deceitfully.
If I asked you to recall some positive things people have said to you, I hope you can readily come up with a few bon mots.  If I asked you to recall some crushing things people have said to you, I fear you, like most, can readily come up with quite a few things.

And that's a good principle to keep in mind.