Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions: "Living life with no regrets."

A former hospice social worker,

"Here are ten ways to start living life with no regrets.
1. Let your loved ones know you love them.
The experience of love is one of the best things in life. When you love someone, let both your words and deeds be loving. No one is promised tomorrow, so tell your loved ones each day how much they mean to you. Not only will your relationships grow, but you will as well."

ME:  Good enough.

"2. Follow your dream.
So often, we are so busy trying to live up to the expectations of others that we do not allow ourselves to follow our own dream. Pursue the longings of your heart. When we ignore them, we miss the opportunity to reach our full potential and experience that deep fulfillment that following our dreams can offer."

ME:  Wait, wait,  what if my dream changes- what if it is really, honestly whacky?  How about this variation:  Follow G^d and His dream for YOU- remember, we were "BOUGHT with a price"!!

"3. Trust your gut instincts.
Your intuition is your best source of guidance... your gut is that "all-knowing" part of you that if paid close attention to and acted on, will never lead you astray."

ME:  What about indigestion?  What about lust?  What about our fallen nature.  NOPE!  MY gut has proven ENTIRELY untrustworthy!!! Won't trust it as far as I can throw it!!

"4. Keep your work at work.
Earning a living is important, but not to the exclusion of other things. To fully participate in all aspects of life, such as spending time with loved ones and enjoying meaningful activities, we should leave work at work. Without a proper work/life balance, we miss out on the things that are most important to us. When we reach the end of our lives, it is not our work that matters, but the people we loved."

ME:  Yes, we ought NOT to be obsessed with work!!  BUT, what if our calling by G^d involves NOT leaving work at work?? I say Go with G^d!  He is our source of significance.  Harder to live than to say.

"5. Take risks.
Staying within our comfort zone may be safe, but it is impossible to achieve greatness by living cautiously... take the risks needed to propel us forward and achieve a fuller, more gratifying life."

ME:  Follow G^d, the risks will take care of themselves and we need not endeavor to be "risky".

"6. Take life less seriously.
Life is far too short to be spent worrying about things that are beyond our control... not to take life so seriously and is a key ingredient to having a more enjoyable life."

 ME:  YES! Don't take life so seriously, we won't get out of it alive anyway!  BUT, do take G^d seriously- He loved you enough to DIE for you!

"7. Turn "failures" into stepping stones.
Don't quit when you perceive you have failed. Instead, use the experience to learn from and grow.  A failure is always a stepping stone in disguise."

ME: We can learn from our mistakes, but an easier approach is to learn from OTHER"S mistakes.  Scripture is a great guide here!

"8. Practice forgiveness.
 Some people stay stuck in bitterness their entire lives and never move beyond the pain. By choosing to forgive, we release ourselves..."

ME: Good call!

"9. Be yourself.
When we deny any part of our authentic self, we die a little death on the inside. Our uniqueness makes us who we are. By being true to ourselves, we also give everyone else permission to do the same."

ME: NO way!!  I hope everyday that I am LESS like myself... and more like The Christ.  "For me to live is Christ...".

"10. Practice kindness.
Intentional kindness is life-giving. It works wonders in ... improving relationships. A Being kind is an easy practice that enhances our own lives and the lives of others."

 ME: Absolutely!

"Our lives are meant to be lived fully and completely, without regret. We never know how long we have, so let's start living a life free of regrets today and every day."

ME: Perhaps true, but SEZ WHO?  If I am sovereign, I get to decide. If I am not...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

G^d with us...

Just having finished the Christmas season, the time of celebration of Immanuel (G^d with us), it dawns on me, that I often misunderstand what this really means.

"G^d with us" is, has been, and always will be a TRUTH of G^d.  If G^d is not with us, then we are altogether, utterly, LOST!

Indeed the birth of The Christ was the historical moment, the MOST important moment in all of history, but G^d didn't suddenly change.  Change is not a word correctly, possibly, associated with One who created time, and exists outside of time.

Indeed, there's the rub, and a topic of consternation with us who are totally imprisoned by time- for now at least.

G^d walked among us, experienced temptation just as we do, suffered, bled and died for us. That was a wonderful time in human history which G^d recorded in the Gospels.  The Gospel, the good news, was lived out in time, in history, and in the midst of mankind.  Praise be to G^d!!

But G^d was with Adam and Eve, G^d was with Noah, with Abram, with Issac, with Jacob/Israel.  G^d became Immanuel, but G^d was always present, even as He is, and always WILL BE!

Thanks be to G^d!!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Joy to YOU too!

It is Christmas!   Joy to the World, the L^rd hath come!

If you are a Believer in the L^rd Jesus the Christ, you ought to be overflowing with joy.

Think about it, regardless of how things are going around you, you have all this:
Purpose in life!
Guidance for living!
Guidance for dying!
A Guaranteed FUTURE!
No fear of anything or anyone!

There is NO basis for us to be lacking in joy.  We may be sad momentarily, but this "...light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory...".

In fact, the child whose birth we celebrate, defeated death and the grave.  He assures us of ultimate victory, and ultimately glory.

Don't you want to shout? 

I think of the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's great work, The Messiah.  I think of those words and smile.  We, of all the people on earth, have to MOST for which to be thankful and joyful.

And He shall reign forever and ever!


Monday, December 21, 2015

G^d's Commandments- what they mean to us!

As I spend time with Christians, it strikes me that we struggle with understanding the Commandments more than most other things.  Somehow we have developed a strange interpretation of the Old Testament Commands.  We got the idea somewhere that Old Testament saints were saved by keeping the commandments.  I hope I don't have to explain why that is a BAD analysis.

Well, if the commandments were never intended to save us, what good are they?


If G^d wanted to give us Christians advice on how best to navigate this earthly life, how you reckon he would do it? 

The 10 suggestions?

Most Christians take a look at Romans 7 in attempt to understand.  This might be a good time to review those 25 verses.  Realize that Paul is talking to Christians about the LAW.  A thoughtful read reveals that the LAW is what helps us recognize our NEED for a Savior.  And this is important!

Jesus spends a good bit of time doing this very thing in Matt 5, John 9, Luke 10, and Luke 18.  Jesus clearly says it.  If you do NOT need a savior, Jesus has NOTHING for you. Read those Scriptures, see what they say to you!

Without the LAW there is no sin, and without sin there is no need for a savior.  So why did G^d give us the LAW if it causes us to sin.  Wait, the LAW doesn't cause us to sin, it simply illustrates our sinful nature.  Adam and Eve sinned before the LAW was given.  And Cain slew Abel, and the world grew totally corrupt before the LAW was given (remember Noah?)  If we have free will, we have the option of sinning.  And, over and over we have demonstrated our fallen nature.

IF you don't believe in the fallen nature of mankind, you aren't paying attention.

So here's the summary.  We have free will, so we freely choose to sin.  The LAW demonstrates our need for a savior.  And we have a Savior- what a Savior!!  And, once saved, the LAW gives us an "Owner's manual" to guide us in how to live.

Pretty basic, eh?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Te Amo!

I am guessing that most people know the term, "Te Amo!, Spanish for "I love you".

I am endeavoring to use that more... no not the Spanish, but the English version.  It seems to me that:
  1. It's true, and
  2. We ought to say it more, all of us, all the time.
After all, there are a lot of loveable, and lovely people in our lives.  Sure, I grew up in a home that didn't lightly bandy this term about, but we did feel loved.  Men in the deep South of the USA just didn't say, "I love you". But I wish I had said it more to my parents and my brothers.

But that can be corrected.

I have said it more, though still not enough.  I have a couple of friends that are better about it, and I am trying to improve.  It is amazingly hard. I am a bit surprised at how hard it is.

It isn't hard to say it to my wife and kids, but going outside that small group. Again, it isn't part of my culture to say such a thing to another guy, or really to anyone outside your immediate family.

G^d loves you and so do I.

And I'll try to say it more.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Deer hunting story!! What we don't see...

Did you ever take a moment to think about what is going on around you right now?  There's hundreds of things happening in your body, and in the things around you, right now!

I have mentioned this concept in previous blogs, but most of the time I am in the environment of academia, the town where I live, and the peace of my own home.  Now let's move our thinking outside- way outside to the quiet of the forest.

In the forest, the trees are shedding their leaves right now.  G^d gave the deciduous trees this ability to develop a little shut-off that stops the formation of chlorophyll. The removal of the green chlorophyll allows the beautiful colors to shine forth in true glory.  During the growing season, G^d created a wonderful pumping system capable of moving hundreds of gallons of very heavy water many feet straight up without an external energy supply but the sun- an amazing engineering feat.  Plus these trees produce the lumber we need for homes and furniture, the pulp for paper, and the fruit to keep deer, insects, turkeys, and many other animals, and us, alive.  Trees, along with other plant life, converts our exhaled carbon dioxide into oxygen- vital for us and our animal friends.

And yet we seldom give these unseen things a thought.

Besides the trees, wild life of all types abounds around us.  The smallest creatures, the viri and bacteria, are busy doing their jobs.  Without bacteria, nothing would decay, and we'd have no means for "natural recycling" which allows us to reuse most of the chemicals of life. A bit further up the chain, insects are at work, changing our environment in positive, and negative, ways.

Further up still, the small rodents and other animals go about their business of re-population and their unintended business of feeding the snakes, raptors, and slightly larger animals that depend on them as their daily "bread".

We could go on, but perhaps the point is clear.  There is a LOT going on, whether or not we know it, appreciate it, or think about it.

G^d is at work orchestrating these things, these vital things, so that this fallen world sustains itself.

Yep, G^d is greater than we can imagine!!  Praise Him, let all the earth Praise Him. (Ps 69:34)

When you think about these details, I think the whole earth does Praise Him.  Indeeed.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Beautiful woods.

Yesterday was Nov 21, the opening day of gun season in Alabama.  I, like most every year, passed a good part of the day up in a tree, watching nature wake up. 

It has been pretty warm this fall-- global warming is to blame, maybe.  This means there are more leaves still on the trees.  This does two things- it creates a lot of motion in the woods, and it makes it harder to see.  But that's ok, it's still deer season, and that's what matters most.

I love deer season for several reasons, and I have mentioned them in this blog on several occasions.  Here's a reminder:
  1. It is quiet, very quiet.  Quietatude is rare and valuable in our culture.
  2. There are NO phones, emails, or social media (not same as #1)
  3. There are no people ( I love people, but also solitude, and solitude is as rare as quietatude.)
  4. There's lots to see:  squirrels, birds, trees, other animals - these things are among my favorites.
  5. My best opportunity of the year to read without interruptions.
  6. That organic, free-range, non-hormonal venison!
So, there's plenty to love when deer season rolls around!

I consider deer season to be one of G^d's greatest gifts.  That He created such a shy, wily creature as odocoileus virginianus, is further tribute to His creativity and greatness.  That He created such beauty in the southern fall forest is further tribute.

We serve a great G^d, and if you need a reminder... make a visit to a quiet safe wood near you-- but not too near me!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"The times they are a changin"!

The famous Bob Dylan sang it, "The times they are a changin"!


I am increasingly discovering that I must be "a changin" too, or I shall soon be irrelevant.

Or maybe it is already too late.

My University place of employment has changed, and I have been reluctant to join in.  I perceive that some of the changes are for the worse, but that is not relevant - they have changed and so must I.

All my UA departmental colleagues are younger than I.  Things here change also, and as I lay in bed in the wee hours, it dawned on me that the whole Ph.D. paradigm was shifted by a younger colleague, and that has changed our entire approach to training Ph.D.s.  "The times they are a changin"! and so must I.

Not only are "The times a changin", they are changing at a faster rate than ever in history.

In the midst of this frantic changeable environment, it is comforting to know that G^d is UNchanging!  He is the same as He has been since He created time- and thus the potential for change.

"The times they are a changin"!  But G^d is the Same.  He who SPOKE the cosmos into existence, He never changes!!

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  Hebrews 13:8.

And that, my friend, is an increasingly comforting thought!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Grammar Nazis Unight... I mean Unite!

Hey, friend, rules are rules!  How could you play sports without rules?  How could we live in civilized society without rules?  How could we build a house without rules?

How can we communicate without rules?

A few weeks back i foolishly got involved with a Facebook argument about split infinitives.  I suggested that good grammar in English requires that we NOT split infinitives.  If your Grammar is a bit rusty, here's an illustration I just found in a colleague's paper:

"It behooves a university for multiple reasons  to not overlook recruitment...".

Changed to "It behooves a university, for multiple reasons, not to overlook recruitment...".

Much to my surprise, a friend who earned a MA in English argued that the split-infinitive rule was a silly rule intended to make English sound better. 

Now, I might expect such defensiveness from a scientist colleague, but from an English major- who teaches the subject to foreigners????   Hmmm.

It seems to me, a mere scientist, that ALL English rules are arbitrary and designed only to help us communicate more clearly.  Whereas, a split infinitive doesn't make a big difference, correct spelling, commas, semicolons, and lots of other English conventions don't really contribute in a major way to communications either.  Though, sometimes they do.

Q: What is Grammar? A: The difference between knowing your crap, and knowing you're crap.


Thursday, December 3, 2015


It was around 4 AM or 0400, as military folks know it.  I had a sudden revelation, and that revelation was PERSPECTIVE!

The afternoon before I had gotten into a debate with my brand new Department Chair in the midst of a faculty meeting.  He was promoting a change in our system for giving comprehensive exams to our Ph.D. students.  He was quite insistent on his change in our long-held method of doing things, and I had all sorts of reasons the new plan would leave us worse off than our old method.  I really was unhappy at having been in opposition.  No really, I mean it... this time.

Later that afternoon I had another meeting and after that meeting I had the chance to ask an age-group contemporary - of my new Chair- what he recommended.  Obviously, he recommended a private meeting with the young boss to work things out.  Good advice most of the time.

As I said, I was lying in bed, when it finally struck me.  The new boss had a totally DIFFERENT perspective on Ph.D. training than I had- and had had for almost 30 years.  Once I recognized this foundational difference, everything suddenly fell into place.

The new boss, at the very beginning of the term, had selected 3 Ph.D. students with whom he wanted to work, and they had formed a research group.  This struck me as odd then, but this act made his other suggestions much more logical.

The boss was changing our examination procedures, and I was envisioning the problems that could cause in a group of 19 Ph.D. students!

Do you see the difference in perspective?

He was thinking about 3 students, I was thinking about 19 students.  He was thinking of how this new method would allow him more control over his 3, adn I was thinking how hard it would make handling 19!  That is a BIG difference.

The perspective also explained a previous debate, where we had also differed. The new boss was in favor of extending our Ph.D. graduate assistantships from 3 years to 4.  I was thinking about all the new incoming students who would have a 25% less chance of getting an Assistantship... what was he thinking?  He was thinking of the 3 students he had, and how valuable would be the ability to keep them on an extra year, if it was needed.  He was thinking of his 3, and I was thinking of ALL our Ph.D. students.  That's a wholly different perspective!

So what?

G^d's perspective is MUCH different, and MUCH superior to mine.  If I can see His perspective, things become clear.  BUT, even if I cannot, I must still have faith that His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts.

And, perspective matters!

Monday, November 30, 2015

War Room?

I have been told by everyone that the new Christian movie, "War Room" is terrific in every respect.  As best I can tell, it has been out a few weeks now and has attracted a lot of moviegoers.

As many of you  readers know, I am ADHD, so movies are a challenge for me.  I can last through most t.v. shows, but unless the movie is really captivating, I may NOT be able to last.  Although our cable package provides LOTS of good movies, I don't recall ever volunteering to watch one.

Apparently, the two-fold central message of "War Room" is that we are engaged in warfare, which is easy to see, and that prayer is a KEY part of the battle... which also seems easy to see- but not so fast.

Prayer as central to the battle for the hearts of mankind?  Really?

We American Christians are a people of ACTION.  We want to DO something.  And by "do something" I don't mean that we want to pray.  In our minds, I think prayer is more “inaction” than action.  “Well I guess all we can do now is pray.” is uttered as a plea of desperation.

I have quoted the late Dr. Howard Hendricks in this blog before, "Call a prayer meeting and Christians will stay away in droves!"

Of all the Christian meetings I have ever attended, hands down, prayer meetings are the least popular- again a redundancy of what I have said before.

I hear the rave reviews of the movie, but I have NOT noticed any increased interest in prayer- from my limited vista.  I asked a friend at another Uni about possibly doing a survey to see who had seen the movie, and who could report ANY increase in their commitment to prayer.

Perhaps people are praying quietly and alone, which is certainly a good way to do it.  Jesus certainly did a lot of that- but he also prayed in small groups- remember that; and he also prayed publicly - remember that?

So, I don't want to draw any conclusions prematurely, but I do request for your help.  Be on the lookout for any signs, reports, evidence that the movie is making any impact, however small, on Christians' prayer lives.

I am praying that it will!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

NOT Keeping Up!!

Way back in June of 2013, whilst we were in Botswana, I wrote a blog post about watching the show, Keeping up with the Khardashians.  It was one of the very shows we could tune in.

I now have to confess, I have NOT kept on Keeping Up!!  Oh well...

I do want to make a few observations on the KUWTK show.  I hypothesize that we eagerly watch such crazy tv shows for one main reason:

As messed up as my life might be at any moment, at least we aren't as messed up as them!!!

Yep, our fam may be dysfunctional, but compared to the Khardashes, we are terribly, boringly, functional!

Most of us, including me, do this in real life too.  We want to feel better about ourselves so we find some poor smuck to whom we can favorably compare ourselves.  There's most always SOMEONE to who we compare favorably.

G^d doesn't quite work that way.  HE sees us as we are, and He sees that we do NOT meet HIS standards.

That's why I am MOST thankful for G^d great mercy and grace.  Were it not for G^d's great mercy and grace, all would be lost!

I am THANKFUL indeed!

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Mysteries of Fatness

In my profession as an exercise physiologist, I have interest in the fatness of mankind.  In fact, my Doctoral mentor, Dr. Kirk Cureton, was an expert on measuring body composition, and I learned a good deal about measurement from him.

As you may have noticed, our US population, along with many others in the world, suffers from a pandemic of obesity.  I am loathe to even mention it, because people are very sensitive to this and I lose a lot of friends when I talk about this issue.

However, maybe this short post will be impersonal enough not to offend anyone - that is my sincere desire.

I have the privilege of traveling around the world in my work, so I get to eat a lot of different foods.  I like the foods in every country I have visited, but I often lose weight.On my last trip to Costa Rica, about which I posted several stories, I only lost one pound.  I was surprised a bit, but not much.  We ate 3 hardy meals a day, mostly rice and beans, but hardy, filling meals each time.  There was little sugar, and thus I expected to lose a few pounds.

Hmm, no.

Admittedly I did less exercise in the jungle.  Most of the time I was teaching, but though I put in a lot of energy, that doesn't compare to a workout.

As I have mentioned, I think the flora and fauna in our digestive system are impacted by travel- different foods, preservatives, and different native flora and fauna that interact with our own.

Our physiology is extremely complex, which keeps me in business.  Weight loss is still a thermodynamic equation of energy storage being relative to Energy ABSORPTION (not eaten) - Energy expenditure.

But that Energy absorption is more complex than I appreciated in the past.  Not anymore!

Now keep that in mind for Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Food and Variety

I have recounted over several posts about the 10 days I spent in beautiful Costa Rica.  I talked a bit about sleeping on the floor, bathing in the cool waters of the creek, etc.  One of the things worth noting is the food.  Costa Rica is a bit unusual in this regard.

First of all, Costa Rica is lush, which means all kinds of food grows there naturally.  Bananas and plantains are growing in many varieties all over Costa Rica and they export a lot.  There is no lack of these fruit.  Pineapples grow readily here, and I mentioned being lost in a huge pineapple plantation.  We saw truckloads of these fruit.

Papayas grown abundantly as do coconuts.  I ate both green coconuts (pipas) and mature ones.  Coffee grows here and is exported and cocoa, likewise.  Oranges and lemons prosper there. Several fruit grow here that I have eaten nowhere else, along with yucca root.

All this says that there is no need to really go hungry in this land.  On the other hand, the home wherein we stayed for 5 days had NO refrigeration.  Like much of Costa Rica, the tradition is to eat rice and beans most every meal.

It is common to start the morning with a hearty serving of the left over rice and beans from yesterday mixed together and served as gallo pinto- or painted rooster  because it is white and black blended kinda like some roosters.  Breakfast comes often with a very sweet coffee, which, despite being too sweet, I very much enjoy.  Sometimes a few bananas are fried and included with breakfast.

Lunch is rice and beans, and on a rare occasion, some fish or chicken.  Mostly it's rice and beans and fried plantains or bananas. Sometimes a fruit juice ade is provided, and typically delicious.

Supper is the same as lunch.

In some ways this is reminiscent f our time in Botswana, where the meals at University of Botswana were remarkably similar day after day.

Surprising to me was that I rather liked the rice and beans of CR.  Maybe it's because it was just 10 days of rice and beans, whereas Botswana was 10.5 months.  I am not sure, but I didn't mind the sameness of the meals, and only lost one pound in 10 days with almost NO sweets.

We did have delicious fresh-baked empanadas which were extremely tasty.

And, all this is eaten with one utensil- a spoon! 

Rice beans and spoons, some fresh fruit- what more could you want?


Monday, November 16, 2015

What I learned from My Impending Death

Over the last three blog posts i have recounted my experience on a trip on which I thought I would surely die. Anyone reading this post realizes I didn't die on THAT trip, though I point out that no one is guaranteed tomorrow.

You might wonder why there have been NO pictures from this trip.  I didn't want to lose my camera in my death, so didn't take it.

For those thoughtful people who have been reading along, I would offer that:
1) I didn't necessarily misunderstand G^d, and
2) G^d didn't necessarily deceive me.

Let me address both those issues, with illustrations, Abraham and Isaac, and the sacrifice, and Israel's king, Hezekiah.  You likely know the story of Abraham's plan to offer Isaac as sacrifice, and then G^d providing a substitute.  You may also recall that Hezekiah was about to die when G^d extended his life by 15 years.

So I don't think I made a mistake, and I know G^d didn't.  My feeling is that this was ONE of the best times in my life.  I was focused, I was alive, I was prepared to die.

We all need to be prepared to die.  Every few months I learn of one of my USNA classmates who has passed from this life to the next.  It happens, and more and more frequently to my age group.

Dieing holds no fear for those of us in Christ.  In fact, heaven is something we ought to anticipate with joy.  One day we will fly away from the sin, the corruption, the frustrations of this life.  We will be with G^d and with our Christian friends and relatives who have gone before.

So what?

Think about this, you may NOT survive until tomorrow.  I may not either.  Are you ready to meet your maker?

I rather look forward to it.

Come quickly L^rd!!


Friday, November 13, 2015

What if you thought you were going to die? Part III (The end)

In the previous two posts (Nov 9, 11) I recounted the first part of our harrowing road trip. I later learned that this was called "La Trocha" which means a small trail through the forest. It was a new "road" built by the Costa Rican police force- their "army".

At La Curena, I taught for the next 5 days.  In that five day period, including a Sunday, I taught about 43 hours.  Sunday was a rest day, so I only taught 3 hours and we all attended the services at one of my student's churches.  He preached and did a terrific job with lots of energy.

Over the 43 hours of teaching about teaching, I felt G^d's direction as a result of the prayers of many of my dear Christian friends, some of whom I had told about my likely impending death.  G^d gave direction, words, Scriptures, all at what seemed the right time.

I was happy to have again to have lived long enough to have met my commitment.  We headed back for the mid-jungle site, and we all agreed that we would try a different route.  After getting lost once, we figured it out, and made a relatively uneventful trip, only running one stop sign with a taxi honking loudly at us. Oh yes, the the truck seemed to be losing water at a rapid rate. I was a bit concerned.

In the last 2 hours of this trip our truck started protesting.  It sounded as though a key wheel bearing was giving up the ghost.  And, I suspected this would be the vehicle to get me back to civilization.

Sure enough, he only boat capable of carrying me the 1.5 hours back to civilization had gone with another one of my students, Juan, to take him to his wife and two little children.  I was going by truck- the one with the bad bearing.  Fortunately, my driver was the BEST mechanic at the farm, and as we ere leaving, a local guy, Donaldo, asked if he could ride with us.  Great to travel with these two valuable guys.

The truck noises seemed to grow a bit worse, but about 24 miles from civilization, every belt on the engine came off.  Of the next 5 cars to pass us on the gravel road, three stopped to help Donaldo.  while the two skilled mechanics worked on the belts, I dipped about 2 liters of water out of a mudhole to supply the cooling system which had overheated after the belts came off.  I had one last commitment at U of Costa Rica, and was hoping to make that commitment before I gave up the ghost.

At every step, as my trip neared its end, I realized my time was growing shorter by the mile. If the bus wrecked, I'd tr to save that little girl. On the plane, I'd try to help that family... see what I mean?

To bring this long story to a close, let me summarize:
1) Made it to the talk at UCR, and it seemed to go extremely well.
2) I survived the whole trip and made it home safely.
3) I learned a great deal from this adventure.

But more about that in the final Costa Rica post.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What if you thought you were going to die? Part II

In my last post I recounted my impending doom. I left my wife, family and the USA thinking that I would NEVER return!  If you want the detail look back at the 9 Nov. post.

I left off having arrived at the way-point on my way to the MORE remote jungle.  Here I learned the bad news.  Of the 4 boats available, none were running well enough to take us the 1.5 hours down river to our ultimate destination.  The leader made the executive decision to take the "new road" to our outpost in La Curena.

The next morning, after a few errands, we headed out.  The first hour or two were pretty uneventful.  Beautiful rural landscapes, lush with vegetation and flowers lined the road.  Finally, we came to a fork in the road, and Unlike Robert Frost, we took the road more traveled... and we wound up in 6-inch deep mud in the middle of a HUGE pineapple plantation.  Fortunately we discovered our error after only a couple of miles, so we were able to make it out with much spinning of 4-wheel-dirve tires.

We wandered about for 30-40 minutes before figuring out how to get back on our way.  Once on our way, I had regrets.  Shortly on our way we encountered a culvert across a creek that was about a foot wider than our vehicle.  Unfortunately, just on the other side of the culvert was a huge steep red-mud hill that our 4-wd could not surmount.  I almost croaked when we backed up almost to the creek to take another run.  On our fourth attempt, we made it up that hill and then several more until we came to the mud hole of doom.

Just as we started down the hill towards the mud hole of doom, a huge farm tractor pulling a trailer appeared on the far side of the mud hole.  Our trusty 4-wd had met its match, and we bogged down totally in that knee-deep mud.  The tractor pulled up to us, the driver got out, found his chain and hooked to the front of our truck. Without saying a single word, he pulled us over to the other side, unhooked us, then pulled over so we could pass. Wow, that's hospitality!

We asked the tractor whether the road improved, and he assured us that it did.  It took a bit more deep mud, but we made it to pavement without further difficulties.  From here, there was just one more challenge...

We arrived as close to our destination as we could get in the trusty 4-wd.  From here we hiked through knee-high grass, walked a foot log and climbed through two barbed-wire fences.

At last we made it alive, and with only 40 or so chigger bites.  But more about that later...

See the last of this story at Part III.

Monday, November 9, 2015

What if you thought you were going to die?

I recently had an odd, and very educational, experience.  I endeavor to stay attuned to G^d, and I strive to hear His voice.  About 3 or 4 weeks before my recent trip to Costa Rica I thought I heard G^d telling me quite clearly that my death was imminent.  I understood that I would NOT be returning from CR.

As Samuel Johnson famously said it, ""Nothing concentrates the mind like the knowledge that one will be hanged in the morning." Whereas I was not expecting to be hung, nevertheless I did feel fairly certain that my days on earth were numbered, and that number was remarkably small.

So, the first question is, what to change?  Well Brenda and I had already purchased: a burial insurance policy, a burial plot, a tombstone- suitably engraved.  I had already, a few months back written out my funeral service.  We updated our wills last summer. I updated my financial info for Brenda.  I told the kids how proud I was of them, and advised them that should something untoward happen to me, they should take care of their Ma.

I debated about taking out one of those "no physical required" term life insurance policies, but didn't think that would be fair, nor worth the trouble of investigating my death so soon after making only one payment.

After some consideration I decided NOT to change anything I was doing.  I was serving G^d as best I knew how, and couldn't see ways to change.  I recalled Paul's words, "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain."  I had NO serious thoughts of changing my trip- if my number was up, I'd rather die in Costa Rica doing something worth while than die pedaling my bike home from work.  But I did buy some trip insurance- so they'd pay to ship my body back to AL.

I kissed Brenda goodbye and told her how much I loved her.  I took and deep breath and headed out.  The trip had some risky aspects.  I would be traveling alone. I would be in planes, taxis, boats and busses.  In the jungle, I'd be a long way from modernity at times.  I wondered if I would drown, which could make my body more difficult to recover.  The rivers there have alligators!

I traveled with a certain peace and resolve.  Let's see how this death stuff will play out.  I gave my first two talks at Universidad de Costa Rica, and was happy that I had met my commitments.  I headed out for the dangers of the jungle.  There, after some waiting, and some more waiting, I hooked up with my jungle colleagues.  We headed down a long, rough, and new gravel road for 2 hours.  Then crossed the river.

And... let's save the rest for the next post.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Another look at poverty... and Riches!

I had a chance to see poverty from a different perspective recently. I was visiting in a foreign and got to travel to a remote location.  This was a neat experience, and educational.

When we walked up I noticed that it was a bit "primitive" by USA standards.  The yard was mud with a few puddles.  The house was large, but there were gaps deliberately spacing the wall boards.  As I climbed the 5 steps to see inside, I saw a large empty room with a plain wood board floor, with gaps, but not so many as the walls.

This would be my bedroom, along with 3 other people the next 5 days.  The family who owned this home, a Pastor, his wife and their 5.5 children (one on the way, and the oldest about 20 years of age) lived upstairs.  The two oldest daughters cooked, swept and mopped the floors, every day.  They also, along with their brother hauled water from the creek for washing, and from the spring for drinking.  The closest water was about 150 yards from the front door.  Everyone used the outhouse, and everyone enjoyed the electricity that had flowed the last year and a half to the two light bulbs and one outlet in the home.

I was amazed at how clean everyone's clothes were, and the courteous respect the children had for their parents. I was amazed at their contentment.  I believe this family was RICH in a lot of areas that would be the envy of most Americans, and certainly had my admiration.  Their life looked hard by American standards, but they don't seem to notice.  On Sunday there were 15 or 16 of us packed in the back of a Mitusbishi pickup truck, and everyone seemed happy to have a ride instead of walking the 3-4 miles they usually did.  It's all in what it takes to make you happy.

Scripture is clear that being WEALTHY is not a usually desirable thing, yet most every American I know seeks wealth as a high priority!  Me too.

Maybe we ought to take another look???

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

On Death and Dying...

Most of us are in big-time denial, but death is right around the corner for each of us.  Gloomy thought?  Nope, just the truth- and not necessarily gloomy at all!

Whether we live to be 100, or die in infancy, life is short and death is never far off.  As I have written, we try to move it OUT of our consciousness, but that doesn't change the facts.

One of my goals in life has been to embrace death, as I have written here before.  "O death where is thy sting?  On grave where is thy victory?"  We might ask these questions without regard for the answers.

Death has NO sting, and the grave is totally, fully, eternally, defeated.  We live in and through G^d- in Christ. Those who know Him will not really taste death. Yes we will be separated from our loved ones.  They will experience the pain of loss.  That seems like it might make me sad in heaven - but by faith I am believing that there is NO sorrow there.  perhaps there we can see that those who miss us will not suffer long-- we will soon be united with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

O Happy day!

Now we see through a glass darkly- but one day-- one day soon, we will see face to face!!

Come quickly L^rd Jesus!

Will be looking for you in heaven.


Monday, November 2, 2015

What's Really Important Reprise

A few days ago I posted about What's Really Important.  That is a key theme to me right now.  If I survive until March 10th I will be 66 years old.  A LOT more of my life is behind me than before me.  In truth, neither you nor I might make it through even today!

"Well that's a gloomy thought!" you say.

Maybe, maybe not.  Early, early this morning I awoke with the thought of Paul the Apostle's declaration, "For me to live in Christ, to die is gain." (Phil 1:21).  I have thought a lot about that verse, and as I lay half-asleep this AM, it dawned on me that Paul was really saying... "Sharing Christ with others is the major goal of my life.  That  will ONLY stop if I die.  But IF I do die, though my sharing of the Christ may stop - Lo but I am so MUCH better off that living will pale in comparison."  That "eternal weight of glory" Paul mentions in his second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 4 (vs 17) must really be something!

So, in Paul's view there seemed to be two options:  1) Share Christ, or 2) Be WITH Christ.  Paul, an educated, privileged guy, had figured out life, or at least what mattered in life.  There is that old cliche, only two things are eternal- the Word of G^d and the souls of men... and to be honest that seems a bit simplistic to me.

But maybe my version is not that much different- and maybe not one wit better.
"Either we are encouraging towards eternity or we are enjoying it".

And in my view, that's all that matters - that's all that's really important.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Is Jehovah Cruel?

One of the more sophomoric arguments against the G^d of the Old Testament is that He was cruel.  A common example is that he commands the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites.  An example, closer to home, are the death penalties for things that we would think to be minor infractions such as disrespect for parents.

How could anyone love a G^d who is so mean?

This raises a response questions.  So what is your standard for G^d and, "sez who"?

If G^d doesn't exist, you have no one to critique.  If G^d does exist, who are YOU to question Him?

But I wouldn't really LIKE a god who didn't meet MY expectations!!

What?  Hmm, your concept of god seems a bit limited if G^d must meet your requirements.

A second response relates to time.  We humans are LOCKED into time.  We cannot escape.  We cannot conceive of eternity, or of a G^d who is pre-existent, not created, and operating beyond time and space.  We just have insufficient mental capacity.

And that should be no surprise.

From G^d's perspective, possibly, who doubtlessly can see the future quite clearly, does it matter if a human dies in sin this year or next year?  In a day as a thousand years to G^d?  If you divide two years by infinity  it equals 0.  If you divide 40 years by infinity  it equals 0.  If you divide a hundred years by infinity  it still equals 0.

Well, it doesn't matter to ME, but how about to the created pots?  O yeah, G^d created mankind and each individual- as He wished and for His purposes -which purposes might NOT be to make us comfortable.

G^d isn't cruel - but He is G^d!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What's Really Important?

What's Really Important?

That's a dumb question!  All kinds of stuff!  I have bills to pay, places to go, people to see... all sorts of really, really important stuff!

As I sit here typing this, the lawn in front of our building is sprouting tents like crazy.  Across the street the quadrangle is FULL of tents and coolers and all sorts of stuff and the football game is still over 36 hours away.  People will spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on what?  a football game?

We Americans seem to have a hard time determining what is really important, and what is NOT important.  We abort babies, we take drugs, we neglect our children, we waste our time and money, but we get all excited about the Khardashians and Kanye.


Are we whack?  How do YOU explain this unusual prioritization?

Here's a hypothesis:  We are either crazy, or there is a force in this world that makes us whack.  if we are crazy, then why can we stop for a moment and recognize our own craziness?  That leaves only a force in this world.  Some might call that force Satan.

Odd hypothesis eh?  I think so too, but it's the only logical explanation I can discern.

So what's your hypothesis?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Too Good NOT to Share

I stumbled across something that is too good NOT to share.  A young parent was concerned because passersby were always complimenting his young daughter on her beauty.  As mighty be expected, after hearing this for some time, the young girl not only believed it but unabashedly let it swell her pride. 

Yes, we can do that, but even I am shocked that it can happen in a youngster under 5 years of age.  But the parent asked for some guidance on how to deal with this pride-in-her-beauty challenge.  The grandmom wrote the following.

“I am still thinking of our conversation last night.  What a wonderful little lady you have been trusted with to raise and what an excellent job you are doing.

One thing for sure, she is a beauty and G^d made her that way.  It is always important for her to know that her father thinks she is a beauty.  As she grows up, she will be drawn to guys that admire her and we would want her to be drawn to someone wonderful like you :).

G^d has given her such wonderful qualities and, like it or not, people are drawn to pretty people. They seek them out to talk with them. Folks are always going to be drawn to her so G^d can use her beauty to reflect Himself.

I think if you can get her to focus on those around her, helping, caring, serving, encouraging, sharing, etc.  she will not be thinking so much about appearance.  She is a delightful little girl and I'm not just saying that because she is my granddaughter.

There are so many things in which to encourage kids.  She is still quite young.  At this age you might write all these things down that she is saying because in a few years you will most likely be laughing about them. She is wonderful and she has two wonderful parents who love her. You are both doing a great job. I know it is hard not to be critiquing your own parenting but look at the amazing children that you have raised so far.  Don't be too hard on yourself.  You are doing far better than I did as a parent.

G^d picked out exactly the parents for the kids that could do the best job for them.”

Pretty good observations and advice, eh?  Now I need to go and apply these principles!