Monday, August 31, 2015

It All Fades!

Once upon a time, years ago, I was a highly competitive, and slightly successful, loooooong distance runner.  I must necessarily put the emphasis on the looooong, because I was slow.  My all-time best marathon was a 2:34 which I ran a couple of times.  I won maybe three marathons in my career.  I won two 50-mile (80km) races at a much better time, typically 6:14:+.  One of the 50-mile wins was labeled by "Runner's World" as a "National Championship" but really wasn't in my view; the other win, not labeled such was very close to a genuine championship was the JFK 50-Miler.

Whenever I speak to coaches, I give a one-sentence statement about my running success, then I complain that, had I had a better coach, I could have done much better...whereupon I show a picture of my coach - me.  I really did pursue a bad training strategy and basically succeeded only because of the gifts G^d provided, plus a lot of long slow running.

It is hard for me to get excited about competing any more, because my race time is now slower than my per-mile running pace for 50 miles in my heyday.  I can likely win my age-group in some races these days, but what's the point?

I tell this sad tale thinking of my many young friends who have fallen in love with running or weight lifting, or some such.

"This too shall pass."

Yes, enjoy the strength of your youth, because it will fade away.  Some of my young friends seem to be putting a LOT of their eggs in this exercise basket.  Exercise is good, I highly recommend it, and have made my living in Exercise Science for many years. But exercise capacity passes, and all too soon.  You young folks with running success- this too will pass.  One day, in not very many years, your training capacity will fade and your times will slow.

I think G^d does this on purpose.  Our aging is a gentle, persistent, and constant reminder that we are NOT permanent.  We will be, one day, dead.  Not trying to be morbid here, just a warning to all.

This too shall pass.  One day, and it comes quickly, too quickly... so shall we.

Friday, August 28, 2015


I hate neck ties.  I rejoice very often that I do NOT have to wear a tie to work.  I recall as a kid that everyone wore neck ties a lot more often. Even on airplanes people dressed up pretty snazzily.  And... people dressed up to attend worship services.

I am about to rile up some folks here, but I kinda think we had something right in those old days. Dressing up a bit accomplished a few things:
Reminded us that worship was something special.
Reminded others that we were doing something serious.
Acknowledged that we were on "Holy Ground" coming corporately into the special presence of The G^d of the Universe.

Now, before you go crazy on me, I do know that we have G^d, the Holy Spirit, indwelling us, regardless of what we are wearing. I do know that we ought to worship G^d 24-7 regardless of what we wear. I know that "tradition" often gets us into trouble. And I do know that the level of dress is somewhat arbitrary - people living in the jungles of Borneo may have different dress standards than the fine Christians in Manhattan.

But I do think we can become a bit to casual about corporate worship.  We can be lax in our hearts as well as our flip-flops. I guess the real issue is, What is Corporate Worship all about?  Who are the performers and who is the audience.  I guess if I am the audience and you want me to be there, you better tailor everything to me - see above- no ties!

But if G^d is the audience for Christian corporate worship,  then maybe we ought to re-think things. 

Not telling you how to dress, just thinking.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fraud... in Science

The BIG news in Science, at least from where I sit, is Science Fraud.  A behavioral science Ph.D. student at UCLA teamed up with a distinguished prof at Columbia University to publish a paper last December in one of the most prestigious Journals in science, called Science.  When some other Ph.D. students questioned his numbers, it came to light that he had fabricated most of the data for the paper, and, not surprisingly, had also fabricated several aspects of his academic resume.

A perhaps more important instance of science fraud that didn't get much attention was the case of a Duke Uni cancer researcher named Anil Potti.  Potti apparently faked a large body of important cancer research that misled many other researchers and resulted in numerous paper withdrawals and Duke's firing of Dr. Potti who now practices oncology in North Dakota.  North Dakotans beware!

I don't want to give the impression that these are two isolated cases, one Japanese anesthesiologist, Dr. Yoshitaka Fujii, currently holds the current record for scientific retractions. Dr.  Fujii, was found to have made up data in 172 studies. He now has, in the past four years, 183 retractions when you combine his science fraud with his failure to obtain ethical approvals to perform his research.

These frauds are scary, but sadly this is the tip of the iceberg.  We scientists are tempted to:
1) Collect tons of real data, then discard most of it in order to pick out the findings that support our hypotheses.
2) Ignore negative findings in order to report only positive results- part of this is a result of pressure from reviewers who tend to reject papers that found NO results of a treatment.  I call it the, "We knew it all along" syndrome. 
3) Eliminate participants or data that keep us from obtaining "statistical significance". 
4) Find things that support our hypotheses so that we can keep that grant money coming our way!

This last one is the foundation for the whole science fraud enterprise I think. There is tremendous pressure on scientists to:
a) Publish a LOT of papers in prestigious journals, b) get grant funding and c) keep grant funding.

Science is a tricky business.  It is hard to foresee everything that should be foreseen- so why not "foresee it" after the fact.  After all, a science paper is a historical document of something that happened one time in the past.  Who's to know?

"But science is self-correcting!  We replicate studies and ultimately find the truth!"  Yeah right.  One of my own students was just bemoaning to me yesterday the almost impossibility of publishing a study which merely replicates a previous study.  "Why publish that reviewers say, we already know that!"  I do not recall ever seeing a paper published which was an exact replication of a previous paper.  Doesn't happen because it won't be published.

So, in the end, it turns out, surprise of surprises, that scientists are NO MORE trustworthy than anyone else in society. Scientists lie and cheat, and that's just the nature of mankind.  I am a cynic and skeptic, true enough, but I come by it honestly (maybe).

So, want to put all your faith in scientists compared to those huckster religious types??

Think again.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Little Words, Big Meaning

I end up writing a good bit.  A lot of my writing is intended for friends, though I write science, and sell some magazine articles.  I write this blog, because I want to remember things, and if you read it, maybe you can help me remember things.

Because I write to friends a lot, I use a lot of little words that carry Big Meaning for me.  Here's what I mean:

If you are a Christian male, I may well call you "brother" which is intended as 1) a term of endearment, and 2) a recognition of our brotherhood in Christ.  Same for "sister".

In some cases, I may say, "my sister".  The possessive isn't really necessary, BUT, somehow it makes it even a bit more personal - at least from my perspective.

In all honesty, I have no idea if those who read my words feel any of the emotion I feel in writing.  And, that is the nature of this medium.  As I have shared before, I have no idea who reads, and what anyone thinks about anything.

With that thought in mind, let me say, thanks for journeying along with me, my sister, my brother.

Feel anything?

Friday, August 21, 2015

There’s gold in them thar hills!

We just spent two nights in the mountains just north of Ellijay, GA.  The cabin we rented was nice, nothing lavish, but nice.  As we walked around the nearby town of Blue Ridge, GA, I took note of the real estate listings.  A few were modest but there was no shortage of million-dollar-plus homes there too.

I looked around the mountains and the same was true.  There are some modest homes, but no shortage of “mountain estates”.  I marvel that some folks have enough excess income to have very nice “summer home”.  I wonder about this.

I do have a hypothesis - as usual. I think most of us are looking for a special spot.  We want a spot with associations of pleasure, relaxation, beauty. We think if we can just buy that perfect mountain get-away, then we will escape the cares of this world and gain a “little bit of heaven”.  The draw is real and real strong. People will take out a pretty large mortgage to buy the get-away with thoughts that they’ll pay it off by renting it out – or maybe not.

What are they after?  For what do they yearn?   My hypothesis is that we all have a hidden yearning for a heavenly home.  Really.  We know down deep inside that there must be a special place, a care-free, perfect spot.  We are not people of faith, no we are too sophisticated.  Plus we are Americans, we want it NOW!

But, let me assure you, we will never find that special place here on terra firma, well not on this version of terra firma.  This earth, despite its many beautiful places is corrupted irrevocably.  G^d will one day replace it, then those who are in relationship with G^d through Jesus the Christ, will live in that special place, where beauty is abundant and never ending, and where the streets are… GOLD!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Life’s a Beach

We enjoy the beach and try to go pretty often.  We went last spring break and we are returning from a week there with our young friends Daniel and Paula and their little 1.5 year old Emma. We have a long beach history originating from our days in southeaster Houston and our many, many happy hours at Pirate’s beach on Galveston Island.

Of course we are not alone, as was obvious on our last trip.  The condos we stayed in were packed.  Moving in was hampered by the thousands of others also moving in.  The elevators were packed. The beach itself was about full of folks.  This particular beach seemed mostly populated by pensioners and families with little children.  There were a few teens and very young adults, but they were few and far between. Most of the families seemed to be blue collar, but I have no way of knowing that, and those are more “our kind of people” anyway.

Brenda and I logged quite a few hours on the beach itself.  We like the relaxed atmosphere with little scheduled and lots of options.  One of our favorite things is long walks down the beach.  The people seemed especially friendly, which may be the source of my speculation on their economics.

We saw fewer shells and gulls than typical.  We saw several osprey and one carrying what looked to be about a 14inch long shark in his talons. We ran into our optometrist one afternoon, which took pressure off me, since I hope to run into someone I know on each of these beach trips.

So what?

Well, the Gulf Coast beaches east of the Mississippi are among the most beautiful in the entire world. The sand is pure white and fine of texture.  The sand is deep, and the beach is mostly gently sloped and wide- which was necessary given the popularity of the spot.  The beach stretches for miles and miles along this coast, and that makes for a LOT of sand.

Which reminds me, of course, of G^d’s promise to Abraham, that He would make Abe’s descendants as numerous as the sand. Wow! G^d doesn’t think small, does He?  I am not sure why I doubt, why we doubt.  I, we, think I/we have a better plan than the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

Wow, am I stupid or what?

Monday, August 17, 2015

43 years of Bliss

A few weeks back, whilst at the beach, Brenda and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary. It was a very nice day, and days at the beahc are always nice. But 43 years is a loooong time, and there is no way to adequately celebrate such an occasion.  I posted a favorite photo from our wedding day, and many of our friends made nice comments.

It’s not easy living with someone 43 years.  As my sweetheart has rightly noted, we act our worst around those we love because we know they will love us anyway. Plus add in the stresses of life and I guess it is no wonder that so many marriages don’t survive. I feel extremely blessed to have a wife who is:

  • Thoughtful,
  • Service-oriented,
  • Patient,
  • Kind,
  • A fiscal conservative
  • A devoted parent,
  • Content,
  • Loving,
  • Understanding,
  • A Proverbs 31 wife,
  • A committed and devoted wife.

Thanks be to the L^rd, G^d, Almightly, Maker of heaven and earth and creator of my sweet wife.

I am Blessed indeed.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Great Profs I have known or Known of

It is a great job being a prof.  I know that you may be getting a bit weary of hearing me say that over and over, but it is true.  Recently I wrote about C.S. Lewis’s home near Oxford, England.  Lewis has impacted millions, and certainly has impacted me.  But other profs have also made some major contributions to Christianity and to me.

The first name that leaps to mind is the late Professor Howard Hendricks, known to most students simply as “Prof”.  I only heard Hendricks speak a few times, but I quote him constantly, and he has had a huge impact on some of my decisions – such as the one not to retire.

The late Dr. Joe Smith, a professor of Exercise Physiology at UA, was instrumental in hiring me at UA and patiently showed me the ropes early on.

Dr. Archie Wade was the first black faculty member at UA.  I taught with Archie for many years, and had lunch with him just over a year ago. Archie’s many stories, and stories about Archie told by others, have impacted many people.

Of course the very course of history has been impacted by profs like Plato, Aristotle, Newton, Pascal, and many others.  But of course the greatest, most influential professor of all times was Rabbi Jesus. As I have pointed out before, Jesus’s profession was NOT a carpenter, but rather a rabbi, a professor.  His impact goes without saying.

I would pray that all Christian Professors, me included, would do two things:  Pray like Jesus, teach like Jesus. We would do pretty well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


I love my GPS.  It is a bare bones replacement for our first barebones GPS. It does the job.  I am not sure exactly HOW we got by before the advent of the affordable (i.e. cheap) GPS.
When we were living in Botswana, we borrowed a GPS from our good friend Bob G.  We used it to go north, but there’s really only one road, so it was more of a convenience than a necessity.  On the other hand, when we went to Cape Town, it was a necessity. I don’t know how we could have navigated there, without the help of that little, out-of-date, computer.

Recently we were with a CRU staff couple in a rental car in England.  We had their GPS, which they called Gypsy, and it was again invaluable.  The roads there are a bit tricky for us foreigners, and even with Gypsy, we got off track a couple of times.

Of course GPS’s are NOT infallible.  Occasionally the GPS gets lost, or leads you astray.  Recall that famous episode of the TV show, The Office, where Michael’s new GPS tells him to drive into the lake, which Michael obediently does.  Recently our GPS seemed to get totally lost and told us we were someplace we weren’t, then seemed to change its mind and told us to go further- towards our actual destination.  How this could happen seems to defy computer logic.

GPS’s are very handy but NOT infallible.  They are a convenience to keep us on track. It is quite easy, virtually natural, to think the Bible in exactly the same terms. In fact, it seems that American Christianity mostly views the Bible just like a GPS- useful but not infallible.

“No way! “ You say.
“Way!” says I.  We would NEVER vocalize that thought, but we harbor it.
We doubt mostly, the infallibility of the following parts of the Bible:

  • Biblical dietary laws,
  • Sabbath keeping,
  • Forgiving others,
  • Loving our enemies,
  • Keeping our thoughts pure,
  • Praying,
  • Studying Scripture,
  • And… I think you get the point.

We want to pick and choose.  It works with GPS’s, but not so well with Scripture.