Thursday, July 31, 2014

That OTHER Problem

In my view, the toughest challenge an atheist can raise against Christianity is the "problem of pain".  To refresh your recollection, the problem of pain is, "Why would a good, loving G^d, a G^d willing to die on the cross for all of mankind, be so cruel to let a 6 year old little girl die of cancer?"  In more general terms, the problem is, why would a good G^d create pain and suffering?

Lots of philosophers have tried to resolve the problem of pain, but no one has really nailed it.  In my view, C.S. Lewis' worst book was his book on this very topic.  In the end, the best I can say is, we are limited in our human understanding and we should NOT be surprised there are aspects of G^d that we mere mortals cannot explain.  His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His foolishness greater than our best wisdom.

Not very satisfying eh?

But think about the second problem that our atheist friends must answer, and that is the Problem of Pleasure.  In an atheistic world, how do atheists explain the problem of pleasure, the problem of why there is good things, love, acts of kindness, joy, pleasure in this world.  Why do people do selfless things? Why does someone jump on top of a grenade sacrificing himself for the sake of his buddies?  Why do people give up their own comfort to serve those less fortunate?  Why are fireworks and flowers, sunsets and snowfall, colored leaves and chocolate, so beautiful?

I do NOT understand why humans do not self-destruct.  If I believed what my atheist friends believe, I would not be nearly as nice, kind, considerate as they appear to be.

So, my atheist friends, how do you explain the Problem of Pleasure?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Problem with Statistics

Dear Book Author:
I read your book.  Thanks.  It was interesting.

I work with numbers a lot.  That said, I have discovered that there are many ways to go wrong with numbers.  I know, having gone wrong, and seen others go wrong, a lot.

I know you spent over 8 years on this issue, and I have spent the last month trying to figure out the nuances of the US divorce statistics.  As you acknowledge, this is not as straight-forward as it might seem.  Every married couple has potential for divorce as long as both of them are alive.  I agree that the common divorce statistic or 50% of all marriages end in divorce, is mostly speculation.  

I understand that a much lower divorce rate would be great news about marriage. I have also published a book, and as soon as it came out, I began to worry about mistakes I might have made.  I have marked one of my copies with numerous things I will change in the next edition.  Likewise, I understand that you have a vested interest in defending your findings against all arguments.

 In short, I wish you were right, but it sure doesn't look that way to me.  You claim, understandably, that the Census Bureau shows that 72% of married folk are still married to the same spouse, suggesting a divorce rate of less than 28%.  You claim it must be considerably less than 28% due to the marriages ended in death of a spouse, and this sounds good to me, if I could believe it.

I know that in the back of the book you address some obvious complications.  But for some of these, you ignore their ramifications.  Here are some things you did NOT seem to take into account on marriage-divorce calculations:
  1. Cohabitation.  People who co-habitate never divorce, because they never had a legal marriage, and in most cases didn't marry for that very reason-- no marriage= no divorce.  You argue that co-habitants eventually get married.  Perhaps they do marry, but they don't necessarily marry the person with whom they cohabited.  What is your basis for ignoring these?
  2. Annulments.  Whereas, again these technically aren't divorces, they are the equivalent.  The numbers aren't large, but deserve to be counted.
  3. Multiple marriages.  A person marrying 3 times has at least two divorces (unless they are Mormon- joke).  Yes but it's one person.  Remember, we are counting divorces, not people.
  4. Separations (long term ones).  Again, these aren't divorces, but they aren't exactly "good news" for marriages.
So, is the divorce rate 50%?  No, I don't think so, but it is likely to be closer to 50% than to 25%.  Does anyone know the real number?  Not as far as I can tell.  

Again, as an author, I don’t expect you to do anything but defend your stats.  As a Christian I feel I need to let you know of my objections, and ask you to perhaps caveat your views a bit.

I have seen one principle that we Christians ought to remember.  Countering bad information with good information is useful; countering bad information with equally bad information is worse than leaving it alone.

Divorce is a terrible thing.  Christians ought to do all we can to counter it, first inside the Church, but also outside it.  "I hate divorce."  G^d tells us (Mal 2:16).  We ought to do likewise.


Monday, July 28, 2014

And a child will lead them

On 4th of July we got free tickets to the Tuscaloosa concert and fireworks at the outdoor pavilion.  It was a beautiful night, unusually cool for July in Alabama.  We took Michael and Kelly and Parker (7 y.o.) and Issac (5 (y.o.) along.

The symphony did a good job of mixing classical oldies and more recent pop works.  The Director was personable and well-spoken.  They gave an apropos recognition to each branch of the military.

After a good concert and very nice fireworks display.  Brenda looked over and Parker had his head in his hands and his eyes closed.  Brenda was afraid he was upset about something.

"Parker, are you okay?  Is something wrong?"  Brenda asked sweetly.

"I'm just thanking G^d that I get to see real fireworks.  This is the best day of my life!" Parker responded.

"And he said: 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'" Jesus said in Matt 18:3.

Friday, July 25, 2014

One old church, on top of an older Church, on top of...

One of the interesting things we got to see in Rome was one old church, on top of an older Church, on top of a pagan temple dating to the first century.  It reminds me of Guatemala, where much younger (than Roman) Christian churches were deliberately built on top of pagan worship sites.

The top Roman church, The Church of San Clemente, was beautiful, and like most Italian churches had some beautiful art.

 Here is some of the old tile floor.  We couldn't take picts of the art.
 This is some graffitti on the wall in an old first-centruy apartment.  I didn't do it!

There is an interesting parallel with the human condition.  All Christians are building G^d's temple on top of pagan ruins.  For those who came into relationship with the Christ at an early age, the pagan temple is small and humble.  For those coming to Christ in their late 20's, that pagan temple may well be elaborate, as well developed as the one under San Clemente.

Another parallel exists.  The Christian Church, San Clemente, is impressive, extensive, holy.  You would NEVER know of that old temple under the Church.  For most of us, that old temple crops up from time to time.

As the contemporary song goes,  " The old is gone, the new is come.  What You (Christ) complete, is completely done."

Thanks be to G^d, that the old is gone, that it is completely done, regardless of what we may think.

Enjoy G^d's forgiveness and love today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Electrifying Experience

My family was recently at a local, unnamed, swimming complex.  As we lazily floated around the lazy river, I looked up and noticed...
an electric pump positioned about 3 feet from the edge of the water.

"So what?" you ask.

Electricity and water do NOT mix well, especially with 100 or more humans in said water.  Should some child accidentally pull on the suction hose and pull the wheel-mounted electric pump into the water, it could kill a lot of folks.

I contacted the pool supervisor, who didn't seem to understand my concern in the least.  I asked that she notify her supervisor of my safety concern for the lives of their patrons.

When NOTHING happened for over an hour, I went back to the supervisor.  Her boss had no concerns re killing patrons.

I asked if I could call the BIG supervisor, a long-time friend.  He said he would check, and sure enough the plug was finally pulled... until I left the pool.

I called big boss again, to no avail.

I was so worked up that it was hard to calm down and sleep that night.

I contacted via email a safety expert friend to make sure I wasn't crazy.

Nope, not crazy - at least about this particular issue.

Ultimately I contacted a safety expert who has jurisdiction over this facility, and he shut down the problem pending investigation.

The problem is still unresolved, but it did illuminate one glaring flaw (of many) in my own character.

I was MUCH more concerned about the temporal lives of strangers, than I was about the spiritual eternal death of these same folk.

Did you get that?  How can it be that I care more for this short 75-85 years than for their eternal life?

How about you?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Growing Old Isn't so Bad

For most Americans, youth is where it's at.  We idolize the young.  We try to look youthful.  I understand all that, but consider that being "elderly" has some benefits too.  Consider these:

1) As an old-timer, I am MUCH less concerned about what others think of me.  You think I "am a religious nut", Doesn't faze me.  You think I am a "trouble maker", okay, maybe you're right.  Hey, I am just happy that you are thinking about me, even if it's negative.

2) I worry MUCH less about my long-term health.  I figure I have only another 20-25 years anyway, so why worry?

3) Our kids are out on their own, doing very well for their families.  So, no more:
  • braces
  • babysitters
  • health insurance
  • tuition
  • school books
  • gas
  • autos
  • auto insurance.
 4) More stories to tell.  After 64 years, I have LOTS of stories.  Almost any topic can elicit a story.  Not saying these stories are interesting, just saying they exist.

5) Made most of the mistakes already.  Not saying we have learned to avoid mistakes, just saying that we have experienced most of them, and OUGHT to know better.

6) Worse memory.  The good news is that we can tell the stories in #4 over and over, and enjoy them just as much on the 40th telling (not so much for the audience though).

So take heart.  If you live long enough, you too can enjoy... being old.

31 The hoary head is a crown of glory; It shall be found in the way of righteousness.  Prov 16:31

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Part of a Team

If the Lego Movie teaches us nothing else,
"Everything is awesomeeeeeee; everything is cool, when you're part of a team."

There is a lot of truth there.

I have been fortunate to be part of some memorable teams:
7th grade Canton (GA) "Greenie" football,
8th grade  "Greenie" basektball,
9th-12th grade Cherokee High "Warrior" Wrestling team,
The USNA Brigade of Midshipmen,
 Crew 13 of Tacamo of the USN,
Exercise Science Faculty member (at least for part of my tenure at UA),
CRU Faculty Commons Writing team (last week).

This latter group was one of the most interesting.  four of us, plus a wife who was a retired English teacher labored hard for 2.5 days.  To my immense surprise we completed the writing of all 34 needed essays, and triple-editing of over 20 of these.

Which is to say we wrote about 17k words total, and 4250 each, in 2.5 days. 

If you are a writer you think, "that's not so remarkable".

To which I reply, "You have never tried to write in a group with 4 different opinions, 4 different philosophies, and 4 different styles, have you?".

We prayed for unity... and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving when the task was finished.

You may not be at all impressed, but I feel as though a miracle was performed right before our eyes.

Thank you L^rd for your grace and provision demonstrated once again.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I may have mentioned on last year's blog about Italy that every rendition of the Crucified Christ, whether painting or statue depicts the Christ with a wound in his right side.

I noticed this again this year, and mentioned it to several folks.  It didn't seem to bother them nearly so much as it bothered me.


Well I studied the crucifixion some several years ago when we published a scientific paper describing the physiology of crucifixion.  I read quite a bit about it, and visualized the "coup de grace" spear wound on the left side, the side where the major part of the heart is located.

If you look carefully at a real mammal heart, you notice that the heart is really a small right chamber, which only pumps to the lungs (Which are close by) partly enclosed by a left heart which is substantially bigger because it pumps blood to every part of the body, even the toes.

The Romans crucified large groups.  Most everybody seeks the easiest means for doing a job, and killing a suffering suspended victim is most easily done by a simple spear thrust to the heart.  The ruptured heart rapidly results in the demise of the victim, to everyone's relief.

The ribcage and especially the sternum protect the heart, but not from a spear thrust on the left side that enters from beneath the lowest rib- especially easily done for a suspended victim up on a cross.

So, these artistic depictions of the crucified Christ bother a physiologist.  I noted it on every art piece, except one.  Finally,
 in the Vatican, I spot the one "correct" depiction.

I like the painting, in that it shows a muscular, fit, lean Jesus.  I like it because it is uniquely showing the "correct" left-side stab.

Does it matter?  Not really, but as I have said before, this is the most important event in all of history, so it is worth thinking about, a least a bit.

Right side stab or left?

That's not the key issue.  The key issue is, The Christ died for us.  What are we doing to say "thank you"?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Life's Simple Pleasures

On this recent trip to Italy, all tolled, we slept in 5 different beds in 3 weeks.  We made picts of 4 of the five, and here is #1:

The beds were pretty good.  Or maybe we were too tired to notice, but we slept pretty well.
Thank you L^rd for good beds and for sleep.

Ever think about sleep?  We pass one-third of our lives asleep.  Hmm.   I have written about this before.

Sleep is a simple pleasure, but for the sleepy it is of great value and irreplaceable.

For the thirsty, something to drink is of great value and irreplaceable.

For the hungry something to eat is of great value and irreplaceable.

G^d gives us all simple pleasures.

Do we express appreciation for the simple?

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Most Famous Site in Italy

Italy is a tremendous country for history buffs.  Most everything there has historic significance, since the city was founded around 750 BC.  Of course many significant sites were destroyed in the famous fire, much more was "re-cycled" into newer structures.

Florence is one of the most famous cities in Italy, with many wonderful sights that will be shared in future posts.  Florence has the statue of David in the Academia Museum, plus one of the most beautiful buildings in the world in Il Duomo.

But, the most famous site in Italy is this one:

Recognize it?

Of course you do, it's the most famous site in all of Italy!!

This is the Michelangelo Piazza in Firenze (Florence). Now you know?

It is... 

The site of Kim Khardashian and Kanye West's wedding!!    Geez, please try to stay current.

To be honest, we didn't know this until after we had left the city.  Bummer.  Brenda and I doubtlessly would have done something to try to capture the magic of Kimye's moment.  We would have renewed our vows or something at least.

Yes, Kimye represents every couple's dream.  They are in love, committed deeply to each other.

I give them one year.  But I hope I am wrong.

Kimye are looking for significance in all the wrong places.  I don't think I need to elaborate.

Significance is not in who you are... but who you know!  No kidding!

Until a person has a deep, growing relationship with the G^d of the Universe, everything else, includiung "true love or tu blave", is but a pale substitute.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Universal Soldier- Universal Toys

For one reason or another, we saw a lot of toys on this trip to Italy.  Here's a sampling.

These above are antique toys displayed in the Bologna library. I was surprised at how similar they were to modern toys.  And by toys I do NOT mean video games.

The best toys stimulate the imagination, then depend on the user to add information.  The creativity required is part of the play. Old toys have stood the test of time, as have old people.

The best teachers stimulate the imagination and then depend on the user to keep thinking about the issue.  That is really WHY Jesus taught in parables, NOT because they are "memorable stories".

You read a parable, then the more you reflect on it, the more you see.

Give it a try.  Far from simple stories indeed.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hobbling Across Italy on One Foot…reprise

My trips recently have been plagued with illness.  In Africa, our first trip up north to Vic Falls and the great Chobe Park was delayed by a severe kidney stone.  Our third trip up that way was preceded by only one day by a severe attach of gout.

So, I was thrilled to launch on this 3-week trip, healthy, fit and feeling great.  I made it through the CRU Summer Project briefing in Dallas just fine.  So far, so good.

I made the trip over and landed in Rome and felt just fine.  Our first morning in Italy for this trip, we had a great visit ahead.  One of the descendents of Rome, a family who dated themselves among the founders of the city, had volunteered to give us a private guided tour of the Colosseo (Coliseum- and NO not Coleman Coliseum).  He was delayed, so we killed time with a visit to a near by three-layer church whose lowest parts dated to the first century.

We were waling along on the uneven cobblestones that are common.  To our left was the Indoor Practice Facility used by the gladiators for training (dating a few years before they became popular for football).  As I took in the sights, I failed to see the pothole, and rolled my left ankle inwards.

I mentioned this earlier in the blog on T.R.I.C.E., but it was long enough and painful enough to mention again.

Ouch that hurt MORE than usual.  In severe cases i would have Rested/Iced/Compressed/and Elevated my injury, but this was ROME, baby.  No rest, no ice, no compression for me... just miles of walking to see the sights.

My ankle swelled and on about the third day I had a gout attack.  I didn't notice the gout at first because the swelling was pronounced as was the pain.  Remember this picture?
Pretty bad eh?  That's about as bad as it got.  But for the next few days, besides traipsing around Rome, we went to Pisa, to Cinque Terra, and to Florence.

When we finally got to Bologna, my good friend Jesse offered me the use of some crutches, which I happily accepted.  At last my ankle got some relief.  The swelling quickly receded, and the ankle felt better.

We returned to Rome and left the cruthces behind.  Perhaps not the best idea I have had, but that's what I did.

The price i pay, still is that after almost 3 weeks I still have some swelling and pain.

Dumb, you think (yes).  Yes.  But sadly I do dumber things all the time.  I fail at many things, I mess up many things, and I use bad judgement on issues other than health.

And, my friends, that is why I STILL need a SAVIOUR.   Thanks be to G^d!

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Many of our friends are coffee aficionados, big time.  They would all do well in Italy, because this is the "coffeeist" place I have been.  They take coffee very seriously any time of day or night.  Coffee shops are common and expresso is available almost everywhere.  To prove the point, we had an espresso machine in our apartment in Bologna.  It took us quite a few minutes to figure out how to make it work, but persistence again pays off.

I enjoy a coffee, but this is a whole NEW level for me.  Coffee is one of lifes little pleasures, not a major one.  I enjoy caffeine, but too much makes my bladder fill very quickly.  A little is good, a lot is tough.

I am guessing that coffee is a lot like money for me.  A little is great, too much is poison.  In fact, I'd say that reflects much of Scripture.
"The LOVE of money is the root of all sorts of evil."
"It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

There's plenty more.  Why do we not check out the Scriptures on money before we spend so much effort in pursuing wealth?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I was Robbed (almost)

Mark, A Cru summer project team member, and I were chatting as we walked down the sidewalk headed for the closest gelato stand.  Brenda had met with each of the women team members, and I had met with the men, in order to chat about their experiences on the project, their lives, and their aspirations.  This was just that chat, and we were intent in conversation.

Italy has more than its share of beggars, so seeing the lady coming towards us mumbling with her left hand covered in a small blanket wasn't particularly noteworthy.  I moved to the side to avoid a collision, but she moved with me.  Odd.

The she grabbed my pectoralis and twisted HARD!   Odd.

What's happening? This had never happened in my 64 years.   Odd.

Mark stepped up and somewhat rudely I thought grabbed the lady's covered hand and... pulled it out of my pocket.  She was a pickpocket and the pinch was her way of distracting me from her pulling my wallet.

Mark saved my wallet by his mindfulness and quick action.

Mark was paying attention; I was distracted.

Such is life.  I am so often distracted by so many things...

So distracted that I fail to see Satan waylaying me much more seriously than a few dollars in a wallet.

How about you?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Italy is THE place for art.  I guess then, it is no surprise that graffiti here is taken to a whole new level.  The second photo here is on the side of a building in Bologna.  But, it can be anywhere and everywhere.  Some of the metro trains are covered in graffiti.   I have been told that some of the Universities offer classes in graffiti.

Of course the real art is out-of-this-world.  The buildings are artful.  The streets are artful.  The fountains are artful, as are the bridges, the parks, the streets.  If you are an art fan, Italy has to be highest on your bucket list of destinations.

I am astounded by the talent of the Italian artists, and admittedly I know NOTHING of art.  I do recognize beauty when I see it, which is why I married Brenda.

All talent is G^d given.  It may be developed through training and practice, but it is a gift from G^d.

You may not be a gifted graffiti artist, but G^d has given you something. 

What is it?

What are you doing with it?