Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I am getting old.  Perhaps that explains why I tire more easily than in the past.  I got up early today and went down to Hale county.  We were clearing trails on the deer property, and I walked quite a ways.

When I got home, I had two tasks and those took about 4-5 hours.  At the end of all that, I was really tired.  Part of the tiredness may be "residual".  It was a very busy week and I was tired by Friday.  Then Friday night one of my students had a soccer match and Brenda and I sat in the rain and watched.

Our own research on training recovery suggests that older athletes take longer to recover.  In fact, that is part of the answer to the research question as to why older people perform steadily worse despite training hard.

Being tired makes me want to do less, to just sit.

Sitting isn't always bad.  Some good things do come from sitting.  Meditation sometimes comes sitting, sometimes moving.

Being tired makes us appreciate rest.  And rest is good.

G^d Himself rested on the 7th day of creation.  He had "rest from all His labors." 


That's G^d who SPOKE the world into existence, and HE rested.

G^d worked and then rested.  We have that little bit in common with G^D - this working and resting.


Monday, September 29, 2014

You need Glasses, So do I

This AM, as I sit in Sunday School listening to some great teaching on 1 Peter 1, it dawns on me that we need glasses.

I was wearing my brand new glasses. I wear them most waking hours because I have an ailment that afflicts most of Christianity. I am myopic. I am near sighted.

The peril of Christianity is myopia.  We cannot see far away- in space or time.  We are oblivious to most of what goes on in the world, because it is beyond our vision. In fact, using the word "world" is wrong.  But I don't know of a better word.

We don't have sufficient vision.  We see only those things close at hand- fame, fortune, comfort; but we miss the important stuff outside our range of vision.

The only way that we can see further is by trusting in the Word.  Consider 1 Peter 2:2  only by becoming "Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk (of the WORD) so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment...".

May our vision improve, whether by glasses, by LASIK, or by G^d's healing.  AMEN.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Football Fridays> Home Games

I am NOT a great fan of football.  Typically I listen to U of AL games each Saturday, and watch their annual bowl game on t.v., but I am not a big fan.  One of the things about football that I do enjoy is the palpable excitement that accompanies a home game.

I went to tthe US Naval Academy for my undergraduate studies.   Yes, there the emphasis was much less on football and much more on studies.  The Brigade of midshipmen march to every home game and sit all together- o ate they did when I was there.  We had Saturnaday mornign classes.

Yes, you read that right.  We had classes Saturday until noon.  The pre-game hype for Navy football was pretty small.  Even the Army-Navy game, or better the Navy-Army game was really low-key compared to an Alabama game.

As I walked across part of campus this morning, the excitement is quiet high.  Even yesterday (Thursday), it was beginning to build.  The huge quad is quickly filling with tents creating an obvious circus atmosphere.  There are signs in all the parking lots warning us that our stay there is temporary on game weekends.  "This parking lot must be cleared by 5:30 PM!" they proclaim with a severity that cannot be missed, especially since they promise to tow away your vehicle.

As Friday matures,  the excitement will continue to move towards a peak, at kickoff.

It is odd what we humans find exciting- and what we find boring.

We spends billions in income and weeks of time in artificially contrived competitions of sports.  We rabidly identify with our favorite team- regardless of the acknowledgement that it is almost purely arbitrary.

BUT, we approach some other things with a yawn and a nod.

I am not going to spell it out, because the few who read this are sufficiently bright to see where this is headed.

But ask yourself, "What genuinely excites me?  Why?"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Bracelet

Brenda and I were strolling on the beach at Panama City Beach right at the end of July.  There in the sand, in the wave-wash was a most precious bracelet.  I saw what was written on it, and quickly put it on my own wrist, without so much as offering it to my dear wife.

I have continuously worn that precious bracelet since that day.  It is very valuable to me.

The value does NOT lie in the materials which comprise it.  The total materials must be less than a nickel, and doubtlessly less than a dime.  The value is in what it says.

No price can account for the valuable message inscribed, really printed, on that cheap little bracelet.

It's value is its reminder.  It reminds me that my time in this world is very limited.  It reminds me that I was made for another world, not this one.  It tells me not to put too much stock in my job, my house, my work.  It tells me I am temporary, this world is temporary, and all it contains will pass away.  There's no point getting too angry about worldly disappointments.  There's no point in expecting too much from people.  There's no point in getting too comfortable.  There's no point in accumulating a lot of possessions or money.

I need to be reminded of all this.  I forget over and over.  I am surrounded by all these things, and people and enterprises are shouting a contradictory message loudly and often.

"How can we get all that on one bracelet"? you ask.

"We can get that from a single word". I declare.

What's the magic word?

Monday, September 22, 2014

1st person, 2nd person, 3d person

  As a quick reminder,
  • First person = I, we
  • Second person = you, you
  • Third person = he/she/it, they.
Each of these has its place.  If we are speaking of opinions or "how things ought to be", we ought to be talking to ourselves.  I think I ought to ________, that is terrific, but it is a first person position, in MY (first person possessive) opinion.  Christians often talk about "legalism", they are referring mostly to people who have taken their "I" opinions and tried to lay those on others.  This was the problem Jesus spoke of in Matt 23: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger."

Notice here that Jesus says to OBEY the law, but don't do it like the Pharisees, who want everyone ELSE to do it.  Private convictions are no problem as long as they remain first person.  Don't berate a brother or sister for their obedience to the law, they aren't legalistic until they apply their convictions in a second or third person way. 

The second person, "you" is the bailiwick of my people, the teachers of the world.  We are inclined, and sometimes paid, to tell YOU what to do.  

The third person is where we decide what the world OUGHT to do.  "They" should simply do this or that.  This reminds me of the quote, "Nothing is impossible for those that don't have to do it".  Often times, we teachers of the world want to broaden our teaching to third person.

I'm thinking that there is a better use of teaching and a better person to use.  I think (first person singular) WE ought to stick with first person.  It's not YOU who needs to do this or that, it is either WE who need to do it, or perhaps it doesn't need to be done.  "What's good for the goose...".

So on matters of personal conviction and opinion, let's keep it personal.  On matters of obligation, let's keep it plural.

I think we ought to help them see the truth of our opinion!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Is Christianity Hard or Easy?

Is Christianity Hard or Easy?

That question has haunted me for a couple of weeks.

What do you think?

No less than Prof. CS. Lewis captured the struggle- “You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, “Take up your Cross”—in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute he says, "My yoke is easy and my burden light." He means both. And one can just see why both are true.” The full essay from Mere Christianity is here:  http://www.swordofthespirit.net/bulwark/march2012p4.htm .

I find this dichotomy- hard and easy – in my experience as a Follower.  I cannot agree that it is easy, on the other hand, parts of it are quite easy.  Easiest of all is to NOT follow at all.

Gilbert K. Chesterton  had this to say, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” 

That difficult/challenging part gets much attention for me.  On the other hand, I also engage in difficult things of much LESS value than this.

There is little doubt the truth of Christ in us- The Holy Spirit at work- is essential, but I still find myself in the Garden of Gethsemane at times.

I see very few US Christians “trying too hard”.  Instead we seem to mistakenly “try a little” and then try to convince everyone to do whatever we are doing. Preachers are at high risk of this mistake.

I find trusting more deeply to be tough.  It takes a LOT of effort to give a talk, travel, help others, - all of which I feel compelled to do, not by LAW but by a sense of gratitude.  If is far easier NOT to do these things, and easiest of all to do NOTHING.  “16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Rom 6:16  Servant hood is NOT free of effort, as best I can tell.

I do Not worry about keeping the LAW (Rom 8:3) , on the other hand I find working at the LAW to be an excellent way to express gratitude (Jn 14:15).

In modern Christianity we seem to think that any effort= WORKS.  But in I Tim 6:11, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

We do NOT save ourselves or sanctify ourselves by working, but pursuing Christ as Paul describes to Tim can take energy.  I can choose to work at my profession and expect a return, BUT, more importantly I can pursue righteousness, and expect a greater return, but both seem to require commitment and effort.

DO NOT think that we EARN righteous status, I am saying that IF I ERR on either side of balance, I would rather err in pursuing with too much effort as opposed to NOT enough effort.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sweat, wonderful, stinky sweat

Sweat is essential to human life.  When our body temperature elevates, our body's defense is to wet the skin and allow evaporation to take away the heat.  It is a very good system.  A few years back I attended a Physiology lecture on the sweat gland.  It was fascinating because the sweat gland is so complex.

I study, not sweat glands, but sweating, because I study work in hot conditions.  We measure sweat production, hypohydration, body temperature changes.  It is interesting how complexly the different parts of the body work together.

Our body temperature is maintained within very narrow limits.  Our normal temperature is 37C, and at 40C we are concerned that the body's processes will be disturbed enough to kill us.  Not a very wide margin for error.

Of course sweat also is our major source of body odor.  You actually have two distinctive types of sweat glands, and one of those is the stink-tive one.  Eccrine sweat is mostly water with some sodium and potassium.  We did a study one time and measured some of the constituents of sweat in different circumstances.  The second type of sweat is apocrine sweat which in addition to water also contains proteins and fatty acids.  These latter two substances are as tasty to bacteria on our skin as they are to us.

The bacteria are really the stinky culprits.  As the bacteria feast on the "food" parts of apocrine sweat, and this bacterial action is what we smell as body odor.

We go to great lengths to eliminate or cover-up body odor.  It is normal, it is healthy, but we don't like the smell so we spend billions bathing and rolling and spraying.

And I am glad we do.  Not everything about humans is appealing.  In fact, at times, given our fallen nature, very little is appealing.

Despite our literal and spiritual stink, G^d loved us so much that He gave his son for our good. 

Go figure.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Are You Ready for Some Football??

We kicked off a new football season this week.  It's neat because there is a great feel of excitement in the air.  It is amazing.

I try to understand why I feel this excitement, and why so many feel it so much more intensely than I do.

I have been to a total of 2 Alabama football games in 31 years.  I missed 3 seasons being away, but that still isn't much of a record, because I am not much of a fan.  I root for the team and listened to them over the WWW last year in Africa.  I often try to be doing something else while the game is on.  All that to say that I am not a very good fan.

I am trying to figure out the fanatical fans.  In truth even the just-very-loyal fans are a mystery.  I know some of the most highly committed fans never attended the school they so strongly support.

Here are some ideas:
  • Opportunity to be part of something bigger,
  • Opportunity to identify with success,
  • Another cause for celebration,
  • A helpful replacement for some of the hurts and disappointments in life.

Not sure that any of these are accurate, just trying to figure this fan stuff out.  maybe it is a combination of all of these and more, with different motivations speaking more strongly to different people.

In the Southeastern USA, it is often remarked that people are more excited, more enthusiastic, more dedicated to football than they are to Christianity.  Exaggeration?  Maybe, maybe not.

Take another look at that list.  If those are motivators, it would seem that we ought to be MUCH more excited about Christianity.

Why aren't we?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A new school year

A new school year has begun.  It is my 52st school year to begin.  It still has a bit of excitement coupled with a smidgen of dread.

Every school year means a lot of work.  I worked hard as a student, and hard as a teacher.  Every school year is ripe with possibilities.  I will learn new things.  I will work, but I will grow.  It will be a shared experience.

My undergraduate class has met three times.  I have learned everyone's name, all 31 of them.  Some of them should be a lot of fun; others not so much. But G^d created them, UA enrolled them, and it's my job to induce as much knowledge into them as possible.  Some of them learn willingly, others not so much.

I will tire myself in this endeavor, but it is a good tired.  It is a tired with purpose and product.  I will learn, and it is good to learn.

Some things will surprise me positively, and some things negatively.  My students will experience the same.

Sometimes I don't like some students, and sometimes some students don't like me.  It is unpleasant to be disliked, but I tell myself that I did my best, and as the old chief  said in the movie, Little Big Man, "Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't".   We do our best, and the rest is in G^d's capable hands.

Let's pray that G^d does something special this school year whatever and wherever He may.

"Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind."  Eccl 12:12-13

Monday, September 8, 2014

Suicide Isn't Painless No Matter what the MASH Theme Song Says

Suicide is a topic of considerable interest today in  view of Robin Williams demise.  I wrote a post on this issue several days back.  It is a very interesting issue.  It is an important issue.

One of my all-time favorite sermons I have given was on the topic of death for Christians. Death is an entirely different issue for Christians than for agnostics or other religions. Death is a positive for us, if we really have faith.

Right after the sermon I had two inquiries about suicide. Suicide? Yeah, I guess there is a certain logic to connecting a positive view of death with suicide, but I honestly wasn't expecting that.

Gil Chesterton had a bit to say about suicide in his book, Orthodoxy,

"Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. ...The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. ... The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront."

I have a simpler argument that I made to the inquirers after the sermon. If our life was solely ours, we would be able to take it. BUT, we have been bought with a price (I Corinth 6:20), we are NOT our own.

But keep in mind that is true for our lives as well. The poet William Henley was wrong,
"I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul".
I am neither master nor captain. And neither are you.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Kicking Something

For whatever reason, the term "kick-start", has become annoyingly popular.  for you younger or more genteel folks, let me explain.   I have a Honda 4-wheeler.  It has an electric start.  On occasion the batter is dead, or something else is wrong.  I have a little metal "l-shaped' device that I can twist and turn down such that i can put my right foot on the horizontal part of the "L".  If I "Kick" my foot down hard and fast, it will turn the motor over enough to start.  Motorcycles and ATVs have these handy back-up devices, though for some motorcycles it is the ONLY starter.

So, the idea of "kick"starting is to input enough physical energy to get something started.  So now we "kick-start" all sorts of things that, in truth, have no starter of any kind.  Here are some examples of things getting "kick-started" these days:
  • Careers
  • Your metabolism
  • Exercise programs
  • Weight loss programs
  • Ovulation (Yep- check it out on WWW)
  • Labor (as in delivering babies)
  • The Economy.

As a native English speaker (Southern accent, but English no matter what my critics say),  I wan tot go on record suggesting that some of these things might be happy to be started without all that kicking.  If you have ever tried to kick-start an engine yourself, you know that electric starters are preferable.

The one I find most irritating is "kick-starting" your metabolism.  Your metabolism is always running and needs no starting of any kind.  Metabolism is the chemical processes (i.e. the breaking down and building up for the stuff of physical life) that maintain life, so if you are alive, you have no need to start your metabolism.  If you are dead, then there is no need for your metabolism at all.  If you are temporarily dead, as after a heart attack, your metabolism is still running for a short while.  You might argue that your heart truly does need a "kick-start" but I would argue that kicking an ailing heart really does no good, and the heart should really be restarted with electricity!  Yes, your heart is best restarted by an electric starter, not a kick-starter.

Now this is NOT to say that many of us don't need a good kick in the rear, because I think I do from time to time, and so do you.  The KICK we need, applied to our spiritual lives.  We get off track, side-tracked, and derailed.  The pressures of THIS LIFE distract us from the truth of the REAL life-- that of the spirit.

We desperately need the Holy Spiirt to send someone to give us a good swift kick to get us moving, and moving in the direction towards a deep and abiding relationship with the G^d of the Universe.

Let us pray, "L^rd make me a kicker, and PROVIDE me with a kick when and where most needed.  AMEN."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Grammar Fun... A VERY Unique Blog Post

There are a few grammatical variances that really drive me batty.  Yes, that is WHY I am batty.

The most irritating error is the use of modifiers with the word "unique".  Unique= ONE of a kind.  There is no way something can be:
  • Especially unique
  • Very unique
  • Most unique
  • or any other modified uniqueness!

I read a book recently that used the term "vast majority" over and over.  In fact the majority of the time she couldn't restrict herself to "majority",  it had to be a "vast majority".  Hm, how is "vast majority" different from a "majority"?  Did she mean that "most of the time"?  Did she mean that 95% of the time something happened?  Why not simply say so?

My sweet wife, Brenda, picked up the term, "Love it, love it, love it"!  Not sure why, but this descriptor really irritated me.  After a mention, she has now restricted herself to, "Love it", which seems to convey the same idea with no real loss.

I am certain that I have irritating habits of speech, but I am the one writing, so we won' discuss that.

But that does highlight a key Christian issue.  We tend to tolerate the sins that tempt us, and be MUCH less tolerant for those we cannot visualize doing ourselves. 

So how do we deal with this?

We acknowledge and repent of our own sins first.
We realize that all we like sheep have gone astray (Is 53:7).
We are slow to criticize (even bad grammar).
We are quick to forgive.
We worry MORE about pleasing G^d than condemning others.

Once again, easier said than done.

Monday, September 1, 2014

You are Unique (Almost)

I have had the JOY of studying functioning humans for over 30 years.  We have conducted hundreds of experiments on exercising/working people at all levels of fitness.  What have I learned?

I have a learned a few things about:
Suspension trauma
Personal cooling
Recovery from Training
Clothing and micro-environment
With occasional forays into other areas.

In view of that I have learned one thing, over all others, that may very useful for all of us.  And that thing is:
We are ALL Different.

What works for one person, fails for another.  In any group of a dozen test subjects, one or two will respond differently, sometimes oppositely, from the others.  If this is true, and I believe it is, then general recommendations for exercise, diet, weight loss, medication, or anything else, only applies to the average person, and no necessarily to you personally.

So here's the take-home message.  Take all advice, including mine, with a BIG grain, maybe a shaker-full of salt.  It MAY NOT work for you.

Of course there is ONE exception to this message.  "It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment."  (Heb 9:27).  We are all in the same spiritual boat.  G^d sees us as individuals, the Christ died for us as individuals, but some of G^d's decrees are universal-- there are no exceptions.

So how's that for self-contradiction?