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.