Thursday, December 28, 2017

Facebook Religion

Social media, plus the nature of American culture, has given rise to a new brand of religion. Now we have the church of Oprah, and the doctrine of Facebook. don't have to put on nice clothes and trek two or three miles to worship.

Now we worship the gods of happiness and self-fulfillment.  Instead of following Jesus the Christ, we follow our heart and self-realization. We want happiness and fulfillment, and we want it on our terms. The "archaic" 10 commandments and Biblical principles of service and selflessness, have been left behind.

Personal autonomy has replaced obedience.  Now our "god" is most likely ourselves, and Jehovah is ignored. And, we think or ourselves as "progressives", but there is little new about all this.  Only our modern means of communication and dissemination has progressed.  The biblical record, and history, remind us that there is "nothing new under the sun".

Yep, we have "progressed" back to about 100 BC.  Congrats!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Life Review: Christmas Traditions

I grew up in a rural N GA family of 5 boys plus mom and pop.  My father was a self-employed barber who made around $13k annually whilst the kids were home.  Which is to say, we were lower, lower middle class, but didn't know it.  We knew our family didn't have much money, but didn't give it much thought.

Christmas involved a trip to the woods to find a scraggly white pine, which was then laden with lights and decoration, almost to the point of collapse.  I don't recall too many other decorations, though special Christmas food and candy was prevalent.

Our tradition was to get up very, very early to see what Santa had brought, then, when everyone was up, we would tear through all the wrapped presents without any order or delay.  We got plenty of loot, but it could not have been expensive loot, because we had so little money.

We were a pretty close family and everyone wanted to be together.  The food and fun abounded, so no one paid that much attention to the gifts, though they were a central part of Christmas mornings. We centered Christmas in the Living Room, and it had a fireplace, so every Christmas we built a fire and burned a good bit of wrapping paper, but fortunately never had a chimney fire.

Christmas was pretty much the KEY holiday of the year, and was much anticipated. There wasn't much stress, at least from our perspective. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and the weather varied, but our family pleasures seemed pretty independent of all that.

We probably have preserved a lot more of the tradition than I realize.  Our own artificial tree still bears ornaments from our old family decorations.  But much of family is the pleasant memories that arise from times past.  And, though I don't recall many specifics, I do clearly recall Christmas being a fun, family, loving time.

And that's enough.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Things You Can't Blog About

As this crazy year draws to an end, I think of all the things I CANNOT write about.  Well, in truth, I guess I could, but I am NOT prepared to endure the fall-out that likely could arise.

It is odd to me, that as history moves forward, there becomes more and more stuff that we can no longer discuss. If I bring up sexism, or sexual harassment, or lots of other things, there is NO position one can take without attracting hostility.

And, I assume that most thoughtful people have questions, thoughts, ideas, that they, like me, cannot discuss, because surely someone will be offended.

In fact, I am guessing I could attract some rough comments just by mentioning these, without even commenting particularly on any of them!

Strange world eh?

Oh, no offense meant by that last question.

Monday, December 18, 2017

I Never Thought of Butterflies (and moths)

On the radio a few days back, someone was talking about how much food caterpillars eat in their short phase of life.  I don't recall exactly, but it was many times their body weight.  And then, miracle of miracle, at the end of the caterpillar phase, they instinctively hang upside down, somehow encase themselves, and then metamorphose into a beautiful, (or sometimes humdrum) butterfly or moth.

Most middle-school kids are familiar with this process, and I have known about it since about that time in my own life (though we didn't divide up into middle-schools in those days). But, I never really gave it much thought until I heard it recently.

How would my neo-Darwinian evolutionist friends explain this odd process of maturation?  How could natural processes find any possible advantage in hanging from a branch and changing the animal's total form and system.

As an aside, think about ALL the needs to sustain flight capabilities.  The animal, whether bat (mammal), bird, or insect (think bumble bee), must have a light enough body to be lifted, big enough wings to generate that lift, and energy systems to support wing motion.

Darwin famously explained that evolution requires small step-by-step progression into a new creature.  What intermediates would a butterfly have?  How would this huge metamorphosis occur?

Doubtlessly my evolutionist friends have some explanation, but in the end, it is a faith commitment on their part.  As for me, I can't summon enough faith to buy some contrived just-so story.  Not saying it didn't happen, I am merely reflecting my own small faith.

As the man with the mute son plead to Jesus, "... help thou my unbelief!" (Mk 9:24)  But of course, I, like that man, my plea is that I trust in Jesus more, not in evolution, because, it doesn't matter to me whether or not evolution is correct.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Oddities of Bloggitying

I started this blog back in Feb. of 2012, when Brenda and I moved to Ostersund, Sweden to live for a semester.  We decided I should write about the events around us, chiefly so we could be reminded of our experiences- hence the name of the blog and the url.

This particular blog allows me to see how many folks have visited the blog each day, and offers a graphic of from where it was viewed.  This is interesting.

I am writing because the viewership has fallen of late.  Back a month ago, over 30 views a day was common giving monthly views of over 1000. The viewers were mostly from USA, but included China, Western Europe including Sweden, Mongolia and Russia, with occasional views from South America. We have friends all those places, and more, so this was not that strange, except maybe for Russia.

On some strange days the viewership would spike up over 100.  Strange. And those spikes have now stopped.

It is amazing how I lose sight of the prize.  I write for us to remember, so why does it matter how many folks view the blog daily.  Rationally it doesn't matter, egotistically it does.

So, if you are a regular reader, thanks muchly.  I appreciate you, and your occasional comments.  Pls be patient.

But I am amazed at how I become competitive with myself.  Why?  What's the point?  There is NO reason, yet I do it again and again.

Thanks be to G^d for His grace and mercy.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Day in the Woods

Last week (Week before Thanksgiving) I did something I had not done in over 25 years. I was deer hunting with a friend, who agreed we should hunt all day long... daylight to dark!

This is a long time in the deer stand, but in my old age, it is not has long as it used to be. Indeed the day went by surprisingly fast. First the pre-sunrise beauty of the sky lit by the coming sun.  then, the glory of the sunrise, seen almost exclusively with those whose work requires them to be early to work and work in a place that can see the sun.  Get up early over the next few weeks and see what I saw.

The area was rich with squirrels and chipmunks.  In deer hunting, you must be alert for the flick of a deer's tail, or the twitch of an ear. So, every squirrel hop, every shake of the tail, draws my attention. The gray squirrels are relatively big and bold.  The tiny chipmunks are maybe a tenth the size, and are very shy.  Squirrels may hop casually here and there, but the chippys run at full speed most of the time.  One chipper had a burrow in front of my stand. Late in the day, he made several trips along a log that led from the scattered acorns to his burrow just beyond the roots of the log.

Surprisingly there weren't that many birds, one here or there.  But there were two birds that I loved to see.  Frist was a small hawk.  It may have been a Ssharpshin, or maybe a Cooper's, but my woods were part of his hunting area, so I saw him a couple of times. Near dark a young turkey gobbler decided to roost in a tall oak in front of my stand. He flew up, moved up the limb a bit and scouted out his surroundings. I was afraid to have a turkey in clear site of me.  If I saw a deer, and moved to get my rifle on it, the turkey would surely spook. So I didn't want to turkey sitting so close.  Fortunately, he was equally unhappy with me, so he flew east and left me alone.  to the east, was his flock mates, and I saw several of them fly up and pick their roost.  I am not sure why, maybe this is typical, but several of the big birds changed roosts a couple of times.

I saw several deer from that stand, and I LOVE seeing deer in the woods, which is why I would spend a day afield.  But there is so much more to see, in a day in the woods.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

On the Road Again

By the time you read this, I will have been to, and returned from, a business trip in Washington DC.  The last time I was here was last June, when I ran into that family from our church.

I am not sure why, but I am not thrilled to be making this trip.  It pays well, and it is challenging, but it is also stressful. My flight will be at 1018 Monday, which means I have to be at the airport a bit early to avoid the morning rush hour.

I will stay in the same hotel as last trip, and my two meetings will be in places I have previously worked. My job will be about one-third as long. It will be stressful anyway, but it is part of the job.

This particular job has been much more stressful than most. It is a contentious job, and my colleague on the other side has been difficult. But it pays well.

I have solicited prayer.  I am praying that G^d will use me to be salt and light for Him. And, that is always true- whether working or vacationing.  L^rd keep us in the center of your will, and use us for Your kingdom.  Amen.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Life Review: School and Sacrifice

My four brothers and I did NOT attend the elementary school for which we were zoned.  We went to Canton Elementary instead.

So what?

Well, my mother did NOT drive.  The School bus for Canton Elementary did NOT service our home, because we weren't in the school district.  This meant that our parents had to figure a way to get us to and from school every day.  And, this was more trouble than it might sound.

Regardless, why would our parents do such a thing?  In those days there was NO HOME SCHOOLING, and in our town, there were NO private schools.  So, because our parents wanted us to get the best foundation for education, they did what they could to get us in the best school available, Canton Elementary.

It paid off, I think.  My older brother got a four-year scholarship to the US Naval Academy, as did I. My next brother got a scholarship to a fine private college, Berry College.  My next brother didn't go to college, and my youngest brother went to a couple of colleges before graduating with a teacher's degree.  And that was all from a poor family before student loans were available.

Most of us have graduate degrees, some of us more than one.

Education, is a dangerous thing, as I have written before, but it can also be a very useful thing.

Thanks mom and Dad for making the sacrifice that gave us the foundation of education we needed.  And, thanks to all those teachers a Canton Elem.

If you can read this, thank a teacher, and your parents.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bishop's Law of Minimums

I recently had met up with a colleague, Dr. Wes Fondren, who I dearly love, but had not seen in a long time. He mentioned "Bishop's Law of Minimums", so I thought I should preserve it here.  It is a bit long, but some may find it worth the read.

Everyone follows the Law of Minimums out of necessity.  We cannot put all our energy and effort into low-value mundane tasks, or else there is nothing left for important demanding work.
As a prof, I intentionally follow the Law of Minimums.  I figure every class has at least three major groups:
1)      Those who will learn despite what I might do.
2)      Those who will NOT learn despite what I might do.
3)      Those who do NOT know whether they are in group 1 or 2, and that is where we have to focus most of our efforts.

Group #1 deserves more than minimum attention by merit.  Group 2 gets minimum by their own preference.  Group #3 gets the most attention, because they offer the biggest potential payoff.

University freshmen have figured this out, whether they realize it or not.

When students convince themselves something is WORTH the effort, we get more than minimum effort.

Ways I convince myself of the worth of some material:
Interesting presentations:  novelty, excitement, changing stimuli.  This can be done by:  a) small group tasks perceived as enjoyable, worthy, exciting; b) peer teachers; c) rotating teachers; d) using strategic videos (there are some good ones now).
Maxim:  Maximal learning requires Maximal Engagement.  Students have to be engaged.

But this must be founded upon topics of interest: 
·       Sex
·       Alcohol
·       Wealth
·       Social issues including social media.
(Dr. Fondren has a long student-generated list.)

There must be incentives including:
Rewards (e.g. perfect attendance and a B or better= no Final exam.  That works for me to get students in class).
I have a talk about how to raise your GPA 1.0 requiring NO nights or weekends working.  I can send if interested.
Crucial role of Relationship
As Dr. Fondren can tell you, building RELATIONSHIP with students is crucial to getting them to do what they need to do.  He is an expert at this and can give a lot of good direction.

To Be honest, I don’t know how to resolve this.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

An Exegetical Question on Evangelism

I was recently in a discussion with a dear Christian friend about evangelism.  I do NOT have the gift of evangelism.I FULLY understand its importance, its necessity, its preeminence in Christianity.  But that last bit, why is evangelism preeminent in the American Christian Church?

In my conversation, I related two passages of Scripture near and dear to my heart.  The first is Luke 10:25-37, and the second is the familiar story in Mark 10 and Luke 18, that we know as "The Rich Young Ruler" story.

The common point in BOTH stories is that the two key players (behind Jesus of course) come to Jesus and ask him pointedly, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Any trained evangelical in the USA would respond to such a question by sharing, "The Four Spiritual Laws (now called KGP - Knowing G^d Personally)", or "The Bridge Illustration", or, "The Roman Road to Salvation". But, take notice, Jesus did NOTHING remotely similar to these.  Instead he asked the lawyer, "What does the Law say?" and when the Lawyer responded with, "Love the L^rd your G^d with all your heart, soul mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself", Jesus did NOT correct him, but merely responded, "Do this and you will live!".  Odd answer??  No, Jesus is saying that IF you could keep the law, you would inherit eternal life... but an honest and accurate response is, "L^rd keeping the Law is impossible, what's another option?"

When the Rich Young Ruler asked the same question, Jesus said, "Keep the Commandments!".  "All these I have kept from my youth up!", the young man replied.  One more thing you lack, said Jesus, sell all you have and give it to the poor, and come follow me...".  And the young man went away sad, for he had much wealth!

I gave those two stories as evidence that Jesus came to heal the spiritually sick, but those who were "perfect" already had NO need for a Savior.

My Christian buddy responded by summarizing three parables: one about a shepherd who left the 99 sheep to seek the lost sheep, one about the woman who lost 1 of her 10 coins and searched for it, and the last one, The Prodigal Son, where a man had two sons, and lost one temporarily.  My friend's point was that these parables ALL underscore the need for evangelism.  I know those stories, but have a wholly different interpretation.

In my view, the sheep refer to those following Jesus already, the lost coin, could be the same, but the Prodigal Son was a son!!  So, I think these parables all MIGHT speak to our diligence is seeking to rescue someone who is a Believer, but who has wandered from the fold.  Each of these parables seems more closely related to restoration of Christians into fellowship, not evangelism.

So what's your view??

Thursday, November 23, 2017

More Reflections on Luke 15

In the last post, I shared my struggles with the tensions between Evangelicalism and Discipleship. This may be our collective mistakes in attributing more value to those with the gift of evangelism, and less value on people who are gifted differently.  I am pretty confident this is a mistake and contrary to several clear Scriptures.

But looking at the three parables here, the Shepherd's lost sheep, the widow's lost coin, and the Father's prodigal son.  This last parable, it occurred to me many years ago, is badly titled, and this matters because the title takes us in the wrong direction.

So, the context is king, and what is the context that led Jesus to share these three parallel stories.  The Jewish leaders (Pharisees), were criticizing Jesus for eating with, fellow-shipping with sinners. A LOGICAL response would be stories explaining, not the sheep, the coin, the son, but Jesus, the Christ!  That is, Jesus probably would NOT be talking about evangelism, but his own heart.

Sooooo, let's re-read the story, and focus on:  1) The Shepherd, 2) The widow, and 3) The Prodigal's father.  What do we see?  NOT the lost sheep, coin, son, which may be Believers, but on Jesus.  Jesus who seeks the lost, Jesus who was "about His father's business", day and night, and Jesus who "killed the fatted calf" over one sinner who repents.  That sinner may be a Believer who repents, or a Poor Lost Soul, who repents of his sin, and accepts the Christ for the FIRST time.

So, in my view, the KEY story of Luke 15 is The Christ, his love and forgiveness for ALL- the Christian and the non-Christian alike.

What say ye?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Life Review- My Mother's Last Days

My Mom died, as she wished, peacefully and at home.

Mom, like Dad, suffered from multiple forms of cancer.  She fought a good fight, but in the end, cancer took her. But, I want to review how she arrived at the end.

In her last days, she lived in the only home the youngest 4 boys ever knew.  She had hired care-takers during the week days and nights, but weekends the boys would stay with her.  It was my opportunity to stay with her the weekend before she died.

I clearly recalled Mom calling out in the night wanting water.  I am sure among us 5 surviving boys, that she had brought us water in the night on many occasions.

When she called, I heard her clearly, and scrambled to carry her a glass of cold water.  after a few sips she thanked me and went to sleep.

Thank you L^rd that: 1) I heard her call out, and 2) That I had the Blessed opportunity to return this very small favor to my Mom who had served so much over her 84 years.

Thanks be to G^d for this Blessing, and for blessing us all with a terrific mother!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Life Review- My Father's Last Days Write

My dad was a barber, and one of the most popular guys in our home town. I worked in his barber shop most every Saturday from about age 8 until I think I was 15.  A big earnings day for me was $5, but those were 1960 dollars!

My dad was a "morning person" who woke up early most days.  He started work at 0630 I think.  On most days, he worked until 6 PM. Wednesdays he closed at noon and often went trout fishing that afternoon.  He worked a lot of hours, but Sunday afternoons, when the weather was decent, we often went over to the family farm bordering the Etowah River and walked from the NE end of the farm to the SW end.  On these excursions he taught us the names of the trees and bushes, and occasionally showed us where rabbits had made a little home in the road bank. We picked muscadines and sugar berries, and black berries in season.

My Dad's most memorable trait was telling jokes.  As a barber he had a steadily-changing audience. What amazed me most on Saturdays was hearing him tell the same joke 10-12 times, with my Dad laughing just as heartily on the 12th time as he did on the first telling.  His customers, knowing his penchant for jokes, kept his supply pretty fresh, and Dad only retold the best ones.

Dad's personality was always upbeat.  He was a positive, cheerful person. His first bout with cancer was prostate cancer, and he weathered that storm with hardly a waiver. He eventually contracted bone cancer and was bed-ridden for about three years.  His usual jovial attitude perished and he was pleasant, but not near his old jovial self.  That is until... the last 3 months of his life.  During this period the old happy Dad returned. He seemed to have more energy and recounted to us for the 75th time some of his old favorite jokes. It was a bit strange, but we all were thrilled to see our "old dad" back again.

At the end of the 3-month happy period, our father passed to his eternal home. He went peacefully, and his funeral was a good time to recount our own favorite  recollection of dad jokes.  And many people did just that.

That unusual 3-month period at the end of Dad's life was a real gift from G^d.  Thanks be to Him!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Our Job Description

I just read a blog post about Jesus' job description for his Followers.  Before I share her analysis, let's take a minute to imagine what it might say.

Maybe Jesus wants "A capable man or woman to win many souls to Christ."

How about, "Jesus seeks man/woman to study the Bible for hours, pray for hours, and spend the rest of their waking hours preaching."

What do YOU think it might say?

Here's what this Christian lady decided:

"Jesus is seeking surrendered person to rest in Him and enjoy Him. Position requires cooperation with the Holy Spirit to do the work for the day. Must love Bible. Singing on key not required."  Heather Holleman

I like that!  Cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  Don't initiate, simply watch the Spirit and help as we can.  Doesn't sound so tough now, does it.  

Now let's live by that a while and see how it goes...

Thursday, November 9, 2017

What could Possibly Go Wrong??

What could Possibly.Go.Wrong?

When we ask that, we are usually thinking the answer is..."nothing".

But we seldom think this through.  Invariably there is something that can go wrong, and often does.

A Scripture verse this morning reminded me of a story from Lexington Park Baptist Church, MD, where we were members from 1974-77.

Dear sweet Brenda was helping teach a children's Sunday School class. The children's activity for that Sunday, involved "fishing" for Bible verses.  In this activity, to create interest, the child would use a small fishing rod with a clothespin attached to the line.  The child would "cast" their line behind a little screen where an adult would clip a little Bible verse for the child to retrieve and take home.

Innocent, right?  Nothing could possibly go wrong, right.  Think about it. See if you can imagine ANYTHING that could possibly go wrong with this simple, innocent activity.

No really, use your imagination.

Come up with anything?

Now, here's the rest of the story.

A little girl was visiting the Sunday School with her family for the very first time.

The innocent lass dangles her "hook" over the screen and retrieves her simple little Bible verse, which is randomly picked and attached to her line.

And the random Bible verse that she takes home to her visiting family:

Bring an offering!"  Which could have been taken from Ps 96:8  or  I Chronicles 16:29.

So, keep that in mind the next time you ask that question.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Many Hands Make Light Fun

Early this Saturday morning, a small team of almost 30 folks assembled to move 10 yards (each yard =27 cubic feet) of mulch from the trailer we hauled it in on, to the playground behind our Congregation, Grace Church.

The day before, I had gone with Ted S to pick it up from the largest sawmill I have ever seen.  What an operation!

I was really impressed at how many 18-wheelers were coming and going in just the few minutes we were there.

270 cubic feet of mulch is a LOT!  I had no idea how long it would take us to unload it and spread it on the playground, but was prepared for a sweaty day.  In fact, I went ahead and ran for 30 minutes before we began at 0700 sharp, since I'd be getting nasty anyway!

Well, by the time everyone got there, we had about 30 folks, counting kids, participating.  Everyone was enthusiastic, and as fast as we could get it unloaded, someone else had it spread, and another wheelbarrow was on its way.  We got it all unloaded and spread at under an hour!

Many hands make light work, and many hands make fun work; therefore, many hands make light fun.  No one was exhausted, though all worked hard!

And, that's WHY, or part of why, G^d put us together in a Body- His Church.

Thanks be to G^d!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

No job, No holidays, No days off

This is an adjustment.  And I wasn't totally aware it was coming.  for the first time in about 60 years, I have NO externally-fixed schedule in August.  I retired in June, but the summer didn't require any adjustment, since I haven't taught summer school but a couple of times in the last 12 years. So setting my own schedule is typical... until mid-August when universities go back to classes.

To be precise, I didn't teach in 1991, when we were living in a suburb of Houston, Clear Lake, and I was working at Johnson Space Center.  I was busy enough there, and I certainly had a schedule to keep.  It was a pretty productive, and certainly educational, time.

But this August, I had NO schedule.  Now Brenda and I had several things we had to do.  We are still unpacking boxes from our move down from VA. We are helping Campus Crusade Student ministry with logistics for a retreat and for a cookout. I have been meeting with folks about ministry in different locales, and still helping a few students navigate graduate school.

I am team-teaching Sunday School, with two other profs, and I enjoy that.  About three times this summer I gave talks to the International Navigators summer meeting, and I gave one, and have two more scheduled, talks at the academic-year "lunch and learn" meetings of the Navigators.

But, as I write this, it is Labor Day, traditionally a big holiday falling right after the first couple of exhausting weeks of class.  I ran 40+ minutes this AM, mowed the grass, and hoisted some stuff into the attic. I pulled a few weeds, and helped Brenda sort and stow some stuff in one of our guest bedrooms. So, a pretty typical holiday schedule, it just doesn't feel like a day off- off from what?  Retirement?  Nah.

So those of you laboring away, 20, 30, 40 or more hours a week, I hope you enjoyed the holiday.  I know you will look forward to the weekend, but, for me, everyday is a Saturday. It's kinda neat, but still takes a bit of adjustment.

So, whilst you continue to work, enjoy yourself and enjoy your days off!  Blessings,

Monday, October 30, 2017

A NEW Adventure

I am... newly retired. I think, hope, pray... the timing is correct.  G^d certainly seems to have orchestrated this change.  This will be my first Fall, since 1991, when I worked at NASA, that I have not taught students in Higher Ed. somewhere.

I think I will do fine... we shall see.  Since I was about 7 years old, I have lived a pretty hurried, pretty scheduled life.  The summers, the last few years, have been more relaxed and less scheduled, but they always ended with a full, busy highly-scheduled life.  I have typically risen early and worked hard.

Fortunately, Brenda and I retired TO Campus Crusade, now simply  known as Cru. We are excited about the possibilities and have already invested a good bit of time in people!  This Monday we are helping with a student Retreat nearby.  We think it will be a great time... not to mention the big solar eclipse in the middle.

It certainly will be a new adventure.  Only the L^rd knows how this one will work out.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ahhhh, coolness, how I have missed thee!

This AM I went to the 21-days of Prayer at Church of the Highlands.  During the individual prayer time, I decided to step out of the cold, cold air conditioning.  To my surprise, it was NICE and quite cool.  In my shorts and tee shirt, I was chilly!  Oh joy of joy!  Somehow I had traveled from home to the building without appreciating the nice coolness of the early, early AM.

And, I note that we take so much for granted.  So many blessings go largely unnoticed.  I had missed what should have stood out.  But, thanks be to G^d, I finally recognized the Blessing of the cool.

When I got home I mentioned to Brenda that we ought to step outside for our morning coffee.  We have a lovely side porch that sees nothing but trees, but the summer has been so hot that we have scarcely used it.  But, this morning I cut off the ceiling fan out there; otherwise it was too cold!  And, this is August 24th!

The summers here are hot, hot, hot, and I should mention also they are humid, humid, humid. Ah yes, but the springs and falls are long and extremely pleasant. Couple those with a short and mild winter, and you have a climate which is quite appealing to us old folk.

In another 4 weeks the fall season will come and the heat will flee.  The leaves will turn and the geese will head north (at least most of them).  Praise the L^rd for the seasons, and for His faithfulness. I hope I don't take it for granted.

How about you?  What Blessings are you missing?

Monday, October 23, 2017

An Eclipse... Double

On Monday evening while eating supper with our friends, Bob and Ester G., in Gaborone, Botswana, we looked up from our braai  to see this great eclipse (picture by Ester G):

We were totally unprepared for this beautiful site!  There had been no announcements or news coverage to our knowledge-- just there it was!  What a treat!

Now, we contrast that with the solar eclipse today.  Who hadn't heard, over and over and over, about the eclipse traversing the USA.  I made 5 pinhole viewing boxes.  We started viewing early in the 3-hour eclipse, and looked off and on to the end.  here is a photo courtesy of D Asmussen.

These "natural" events point us to the G^d of the Universe.  We are created in His image, and I think that is WHY we see these things as beautiful!

All praise to Him!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Univ BW- Reprise

As I mentioned last post, I got to visit my old Dept. at Univ. of Botswana.  When I was last there in Dec., 2013, the NEW Indoor Arena which was to house the Dept.

Now, in 2017, the Dept is in the process of moving into the new digs.  It is truly a VERY NICE facility.

By all estimates, the Dept has tremendous potential.  Several Botswana Institutions want to partner with the Dept and external funding for research and service is a real possibility.

Ahhhh, potential.  G^d created each of us with enormous potential- potential for different things, but great potential.  Will this UB dept live up to it's potential?

Will you?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Another visit to ... Africa!

I just this week got back from a short visit to Botswana.  It was a 39-hour trip over, and a bit over 35 hours to get back. I flew from BHM to DFW, then to London and then to Johannesburg, before missing my flight to Gaborone, Botswana.

When I got to Planet Lodge, my accommodations when we moved to BW in Jan., 2013, and I was one room closer to the www server this trip.  I recalled that first week in BW, and how scared I was of being robbed and how scared I was to be bringing my sweet wife into such a situation.

As usual my fears were totally unfounded, and this time I had no fear of note. Even more happy was meeting up with a new Christian friend from U of Western Mich, Steve C.  There aren't many Christians in public Higher ed, so it was especially nice to share a week with Dr. Steve.

Both of us worked extremely hard in reviewing the different programs of the Univ. of Botswana.  We both had numerous suggestions as to how the respective programs might be improved.  We shall see what comes of all of this.

My greatest pleasure from this trip, was visiting with many of our friends from Gabs.  The second greatest was going back "home" to Gabs Game Reserve.  Brenda and I made so many visits that, 4 years later, I still recalled the roads and what animals we were likely to spot where.

It struck me a bit odd, that I found the Game Reserve to be the most comfortable and familiar spot in Gabs.  What a Blessing it is, and yet so few locals ever go there.  We only saw ONE other vehicle all Saturday AM!  

Just goes to show... we take SO MUCH, SO Many BLESSINGS, for granted.  What are you taking for granted right now?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Zion Park Desert Bighorn Sheep

We LOVE seeing wildlife.  We particularly enjoy seeing bigger animals NOT inhabiting our normal environments.  We LOVED seeing the African game, and we LOVE seeing the Elk, antelope, and mule deer of the US West.  As we were coming out of Zion National Park, Andrew shouted, “Sheep” and there they were, a small herd clearly exposed on a huge grey rock.  We had NO trouble deciding to pull off and see if we could get some pictures.

After only a very short hike, here is what we saw these Desert Bighorn sheep-

Later, Brenda and I in Rocky Mountain National Park, saw another smaller herd, this time of Rocky Mountain bighorn.

The beauty and wonder of these creations of G^d add so much to life.  Go out and enjoy some nature this week.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A good deal- for a change

When Brenda and I lived within 30 min or so of the Appomattox Court House, we each bought a “senior Pass” which grants our car, and all occupants, admission to any National Park.  Before we left VA, the Appomattox Court House National Park was changed from fee to “no fee”.  Oh well.

But we are just returning from a “Western Tour” of 5 different National Parks, to which we got free admission because of our passes.  The first 4 were $30 each, and the last one was $20.  Plus, we got $9 off our night of camping in the Grand Canyon.

So, we exempted a grand total of $149 for the price of two passes at $10 each plus $10 each shipping and handling.

And… we ain’t dead yet.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Arches National Park

Arches NP was the northern-most of the Utah parks.  It was a considerable drive from Bryce up to Arches, but for us Easterners, every vista was new and delightful.  The scenery is indeed something to behold.  We had a hotel reservation near the park entrance in Moab- or so we thought.  When we got to the hotel, for the only time the whole trip, we found that the reservation we had made…was NOT to be found by the hotel.  Out of 7 nights in hotels and one night of camping, that is really pretty good.  It turned out that the messed-up reservation worked to our benefit, as it allowed us to leave the park on go straight to Grand Junction, saving some time and money.  Thank you, L^rd for a failed reservation.

Arches is a very interesting place.  The composition of the rocks there,  combined with the wind, rain, and ice results in many beautiful rock arches, hence the name.

It was amazing to us the beauty and variety resulting from weather and rocks.  The colors varied from red, to almost white to brown.  The rock formations were likewise different, and with a little imagination, you could see all sorts of animals and even people in the rock shapes.

Andrew and I made a pretty long, hot, dusty hike to the Landscape Arch, then on to the Perspective Arch with its huge “window”.  We visited another arch, up near there, which was smaller, but till with its own beauty.

So, what did we learn in Arches NP?  Well those things that eat away at us, those things which wear us down, may well be producing in us a beauty that we do NOT see right away. The arches didn’t come into being overnight, and neither do we.  Those things bugging you, tiring you, trying your patience, can be destroying you or making you beautiful.

Think about it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bryce Canyon National Park

Of all the parks we visited, Bryce probably offered the least variety.  But, that is NOT to say that we found it boring, not in the least! The chief entry into Bryce is a long road winding upward from maybe 5000 feet up to 9000+ feet.  Along the way, you can see different views of the long winding Bryce Canyon, there are plenty of places to pull off, and take in, G^d’s creation.

At the far end of the park is a very gentle trail, unlike those of Zion NP, and we enjoyed a very pleasant walk.  The trail was lined not only with Douglass Fir and White Fir, but also with ground squirrels.

Bryce Canyon itself is beautiful… but it doesn’t change all that much from the start to the finish. And life is a lot that way. We have the initial thrill of a new wife (I don’t mean changing wives…), a new job, a new child, a new home. But, after that, things aren’t nearly so exciting.

But we made the long climb to the top, and it was nice to get there and feel the cool air and see the Alpine vegetation and air clarity. Perseverance pays off, in Bryce Canyon Park, and in many aspects of live.

“Let us NOT grow weary in well doing, for we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.”  Gal 6:9.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Great Gatorade Adventure…

Sometimes we can turn simple tasks into great adventures…  And that is not always a bad thing.  Let’s take the simple task of buying a beverage to drink on our trip from Grand junction to Denver Airport.

Using our cell phone app, we easily found a nearby Safeway Grocery.  So far, so easy.  The three of us, Brenda, our son Andrew, and I trooped into the store on the quest for whatever Andrew might need for the arduous 3-hour trip to AL.  Can’t risk starvation on such a venture, understand.
After a good 10 minutes of debating what might be the BEST possible beverage for the expedition, Andrew hastily reached up and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade.  Amazingly decisive, he was.  As we are heading for checkout, someone in our party decided she needed some more Vaseline.  This entailed a trek to the other end of the store, almost requiring the Gatorade we had discovered in our initial quest.

After snagging the Vaseline, no easy task, we then discussed the best way to finance our $5 purchase. This resulted in several minutes of debating the pros and cons of cash vs. credit cards.

SOOO, just what is the point of this blog post, the astute reader (you) might ask?  Well, the point is, that the Bishops can make even the most mundane task an interesting adventure involving a quest, high-level mathematics, leadership, and cooperation.

Think about THAT the next time you had out to buy more oatmeal!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Zion- The Narrows

Zion National Park is one the prettiest natural beauties we have ever seen.  The Park has numerous trails, the most famous of which is probably “The Narrows”. Andrew, Brenda, and I hiked up the approach trail to The Narrows.  As we approached it, I noticed lots of folks with, what appeared to be, wading shoes.  Hmmm.  Yes, The Narrows is a trail that requires several miles of wading.  That may deter some folks, but not me.  What DID deter me was the hordes of people hiking that trail.  I like solitude in nature.  I avoid large crowds as far as possible.

I love nature as much as anyone I know.  My favorite childhood memories are being in the woods.  My Dad taught us the names of most of the North Georgia trees, and a good many shrubs. Probably because of his encouragement I have enjoyed learning about nature to this day.

I have spent a LOT of hours in the woods over the last 40+ years. Most of that time has been deer hunting.  And, deer hunting is a solitary activity. Some of my happiest memories are of those quiet days alone, alone all day.

I am an extrovert, and I thoroughly enjoy people… just NOT in the woods.

G^d made a beautiful world indeed, but some things are best savored alone.
Now, try taking a walk.. alone.  Blessings,

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Our Hike into the Grand Canyon

One of the great thrills of the Grand Canyon is hiking to the bottom… and hopefully back! Our son, Andrew, has made this trek, along with millions of others.  Here are some photos from our hike into the Grand Canyon.

The astute observer may notice that we did NOT go very FAR into the Canyon.  True.  We hiked a few hundred yards in, with NO intention of going to the bottom.  We hiked in a way similar to the way many of us practice Christianity.  We invest a little into Christianity, and then don’t find it all that satisfying. We commit, just not “all-the-way”.

We laughed about telling our friends about our big hike into the Canyon.  We had lots of “reasons” for not hiking in.  Our time was limited.  But, time is always limited, so it becomes a convenient excuse for not praying, reading, studying serving or hiking.

We had been on the road already for several days before we got to the Canyon.  We were physically tired, plus we had Cru Staff Training ahead of us- plus miles of travel.  We can usually come up with excuses as to why we should NOT spend too much energy on our Christian activities.
But, our chief reason for NOT hiking far, far into the beautiful Canyon, was that we had lots of other things on our agenda.  We had Zion, Bryce, and Arches National Parks on our schedule. And hmmm, yes we see Christianity the same way.

Now, here’s the difference, hiking into the Grand Canyon may be nice, but it has NO major consequences one way or another.  Our life as a Christian, our actions, our relationships, our decisions, do have ETERNAL consequences, not only for ourselves but for others as well.

Enjoy the hike!  We sure did… ;).

Monday, September 18, 2017

Alternatives to Christianity...

Christianity takes a LOT of criticism these days.  Apparently Christians supported Pres. Trump over Ms. Clinton, and in so doing... attracted a LOT of criticism.  Of course this is NOTHING NEW!

I choose NOT to enter the presidential debates, but I do choose to address the criticisms.  For many years, critics of Christianity have pointed to the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Salem witch trials, as evidence that Christianity is a bankrupt philosophy.

Of course to do that, they MUST IGNORE all the positive contributions of Christianity.  They must forget the hospitals, orphanages, the feeding stations, the emergency services provided by Christian organizations.  They must also ignore the negatives of the KEY alternative, atheism.

Think of all those Atheist hospitals, orphanages... yeah, I can't think of any either.  In fact, if the Christians must accept blame for the Crusades and the Inquisition, then my ardent atheist friends must accept blame for the literally MILLIONS of deaths by famed atheists: Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao, and others.

With Christianity there is HOPE, and there is a FIXED moral standard.  Admittedly, I, and other Christians, fail to live up to Christianity's standard, but our atheist friends, have only relativism to guide them.

So, you get to choose.  Choose wisely!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Grand Canyon elk

Grand Canyon Elk

I have spent many hours of my life pursuing trophy cervides (deer family).  In 2010, I got to go out and kill  a very nice bull elk in New Mexico, an event etched in my memory.  Boy was that meat good!

Coming out of the Grand Canyon National park, we saw a group of people huddled roadside with cameras, which typically means there is something unusual to photograph.  Naturally we pulled over.

There, lying on the pine needles were two HUGE trophy elk.  They were close, probably on a little more than 50 yards from roadside.  I took more pictures of those elk than my youngest child, but they were truly impressive.  The spread on the biggest one was 50 inches or better. Because the antlers were still in velvet, they looked even larger than normal. Coming out of the park, we see one more, right at the edge of the road.

Having hiked many, many miles through the mountains looking for elk, I would like to think I had a bit more appreciation than many of the onlookers.

The Grand Canyon is grand indeed, but not nearly as impressive as those elk.  Thanks be to G^d for allowing us to see such wondrous creatures.

It was hard to get a clear picture of that elk in the top photo- the spread of his antlers was over 50”.  The elk in the middle photo was a good one, just not so huge. The last picture is of the one right by the road.  These elk are accustomed to humans, apparently.

Monday, September 11, 2017

G^d's Creation

This part of VA, and the USA is truly beautiful.  Fall was extremely pretty with great colors, and the mountains made it easier to see the beauty.  Spring is even better.  Take a look:

G^d made SUCH variety, and so much of that variety is beautiful.  If this old world can be so beautiful, I can't even imagine the beauty of heaven.

Come quickly L^rd!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Words with Friends

I (Phil) am part of a small group of men who meet each Thursday at 0645 to spend just over an hour discussing Scripture on discipleship.  Our leader, Dick B, invited us to his home on Smith Mtn Lake on Sunday PM.

It was a beautiful day, but it was also a beautiful group.  We had a nice mix of us old timers and undergraduate and graduate students.  What was most enjoyable for me was the words we shared. We discussed all sorts of issues from philosophy to times to never accept a challenge.

In my view, friends are one of G^d's greatest creations and gifts to us.  I treasure these dear friends, and hope to see them again here on earth.  But, we can have confidence we will see each other in heaven.

Blessings, friends!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Religulous by Bill Maher

Flying from Teguchigalpa to Miami, I had a little time when I couldn’t be on the laptop, so I watched comedian Bill Maher’s movie, Religulous.
In this movie, Mr. Maher goes to great lengths to make all religions, look ridiculous, hence the title.
Sadly, it wasn’t even a very good attempt.
Maher starts by interviewing a bunch of truck drivers who are obviously Christian.  Way to go Bill, what a great place to start.  Maher then goes on to make a series of claims about Christianity that are totally baseless.  He attacks the historicity of Jesus, but of course fails to interview ANYONE with any real knowledge of the Biblical archaeology, of the hundreds of ancient non-Biblical manuscripts, of even the illogic of people being willing to die for a myth. Bill intentionally finds the bizarre, the cash-hungry, the crazies and portrays these strange folk as being illustrative of religion.  Whereas there is NO doubt that lots of crazy, and cunning, folk, cash in on religion, they are hardly representative.
Although Bill goes to great lengths to imply that religion will lead to the downfall of mankind, his omission of the positive contributions of Christianity is striking.  He clearly avoids any acknowledgement that Christian hospitals, schools, and orphanages have done tremendous good, not just in the wealthy west, but in the poorest parts of the world, world-wide.
But, then again, why would anyone want to take serious philosophical advice from a man whose only qualification involves being a comedian.

Oh, wait!  Maybe that was the real gag.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Too Late Smart!

There is an old saying, "Too soon old and too late smart!"

It is often easy to see where we went awry in our past, and the older we are the longer our past, and the more opportunities to make mistakes. I had a long and very blessed work career in Higher Education.  The last 10 years or so of my career, I taught a course called, Measurement and Evaluation.  That course starts off with an introduction to very basic statistics.

I was chatting a year or so ago with a very young prof who was also teaching that class.  He remarked to me that he was going to give up teaching most of the stuff in the textbook and instead teach ONLY a popular statistical analysis package.  Now understand, that this course, at his university, was taught ONLY to undergraduates!

Why does that matter?

Because only 3 grads out of 10 will EVER in their lives USE that statistical package.  Do YOU use statistical packages?

When the young fellow said that, I thought to myself, WHO will ever use this information?  What good will it be to them over their lifetime?  I knew the answer was very small, though I wasn't sure how small.

Then, it dawned on me. I had insisted that MY students, in the stats part of the course, learn a stats procedure called the Bland-Altman analysis.  If you can perform a Bland-Altman, and explain the basics you know a LOT of useful statistics!! I had made knowledge of the B-A essential to my course- making the same mistake as the young guy.  WHO of you, dear readers, have ever used a Bland-Altman analysis?

That old saying, "Too soon old and too late smart!" caught ME!!  But now that I am smarter, I am retired- which is why I share this key lesson with you!

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Little Windy

Brenda and I are on vacay at one of our favorite spots- Laguna Beach Christian Retreat at PCB, FL. We love the simplicity of the place, and the life.  We love the very quiet, nearly-deserted beach here.

Today, similar to a couple of days back, the wind has HOWLED most of the day.  today it blew even harder- setting a NEW record for us.  The weather man said it was 30 mph- and I believe it.

If you look carefully you can see the sand blowing across the beach.
These are the largest waives we have EVER seen here.  This is what happens when the wind blows hard and long.  Also, as you can see below the worst water conditions are indicated with the dreaded double red flag!
You see the wind, and "Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?"
We know not where we have come from, and we sure don't know where we are going- just like the wind.  But we trust in G^d!