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!