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!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Whew- What a year!

I am writing this in late May, 2017.  Brenda and I have been reflecting back a bit in what G^d has done, seemingly in a whirlwind, since last January 2016.  Since that time the following events ahve occurred:

In Jan 2016, we sold our Bellwood home of 31 years,

In Feb, we bought a new garden home,

In April, I filed retirement and we closed on our Bellwood Home,

In April we moved from a 2600+ sq foot house to a 1400 sq Ft house,

At the end of April I interviewed at Liberty U,

In May I officially retired  (28 May) and took a Professor slot at Liberty U (30 May),

In May we bought a town home in Lynchburg, VA,

In June we closed on the Lynchburg home and in July, we moved most of our stuff.

At the end of July we went on a mission trip to Taiwan, and then visited our son and his family in Japan,

In August, straight from the trip to Japan we drove directly to Lynchburg where I started the new gig,

In Jan 2017, I (Phil) attended CRU Fac Commons Winter Staff Conference in Dallas,

In Feb., I Spoke at  Fac Commons Common Call Conference in Orlando,

In Feb we listed and sold our Lynchburg garden home,

In May we closed on our Lynchburg home, and moved back to AL, as I Blogged about earlier.


Thanks be to G^d that we survived!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sometimes you can spot a star

Brenda and I were at Laguna Beach Christian Retreat Center in May.  We were on the west end of the beach, where the tourist density is much lower and the the crowd decidedly more Christian in approach. As is our habit, we watched what was going on around the white sand and waves.

We noticed one young man with his little 6 year-old son. The son was obviously athletic even at that young age. He ran fast and dived into the waves like someone several years older. His dad was clearly fit and perhaps an athlete as well. His mom had the posture of a former gymnast, and those who have spent much time around gymnastics know the look.

We observed them for a couple of days and smiled and nodded when we walked past. Finally, I asked him, you are obviously physically fit, how do you stay in shape?"  He laughed and said, "I work for my wife and do what she says!"

"Keep it up!" I replied, "Whatever she is telling you is working!"

The next day, Brenda and I again smiled and waved at the two young boys.  The man now posed the question to me, "what do you do?" he asked.

"I teach Exercise Physiology."


Well for 32 years I taught at U of AL."

"Yeah, I went there to school." he said proudly.

"What field of study?" I inquired.

"Consumer Science, but mostly football."

"Oh yeah?"  "Did you play?"

"Yeah, I played 2002-2005."  "He was quarterback." his wife added.

"Yeah, my name is Brodie Croyle." he finally admitted.

If that name means nothing, google him.  He was an outstanding quarterback for UA, and his dad John was an All-American player under Bear Bryant.  His dad went on to start Big Oak Childrens's Ranch up near Gadsden, and Brodie, his wife, and Brodie's sister are now the operators of this famous and successful mission to homeless kids.

Sometimes you can spot a star, not just a star in sports, but a star in life.  And, we did.

Monday, August 14, 2017

THANKS be to G^d!!

A couple of months back, G^d BLESSED Brenda and I in an amazing way.  Our LAST week in Virginia was a killer.  On Monday we loaded a 6x12 foot UHaul trailer, and THEN drove 11 hours to our home in Alabama.  We unloaded Tuesday morning, and loaded up the furniture that we had replace to give it to our son Daniel and his family.

Wednesday we got up early and left to drive up to Huntsville, to Daniel's house.  Once we found it, we unloaded and spent a little time with Daniel, Shannon and Evie and Peter.  We then drove from Huntsville all the way to Bedford, VA where we spent the night.  Thursday morning, it was pouring rain, and we had to load up our last bit of stuff over at Legacy Oaks.  But, by the time we got to Legacy, it had stopped raining.  We loaded up another FULL trailer load by ourselves.  Brenda swept the garage, and we were ready to meet the buyer for his walk-through.

Friday AM, we closed on the sale of our wonderful Lynchburg home, and that went swift and well. Friday Afternoon I had to be at Liberty's Parents' reception, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The fact that I ate 5 free ice creams made it even better. Later that evening, at the worship service I sat next to an organic Chemistry Prof, who was German and seemed a highly committed Christian.

Saturday Dr. Andy B and I got up VERY early to be at Liberty by a bit after 0600. President Trump would be speaking, and everyone predicted a zoo with regard to traffic and parking. It was nice and quiet when we arrived, and graduation went well.  At 3:30 that afternoon, we had our individual college graduation. Unexpectedly I was invited to the stage to give out two awards to two of my favorite grad students. I was thrilled.

As soon as graduation was over, Brenda and I picked up the truck and headed south!  We over-nighted in Bristol, VA.  We made it home a bit before 4 PM.  We got the truck quickly unloaded, with a little help from Daniel P.

I had feared so much and yet it had all gone soooo smoothly. We end up fearing so much and we also so often fail to fear G^d.  We get Scripture exactly backwards-- or at least I do.

Thanks be to G^d that he preserves us, and thanks be to G^d for His mercy and grace.

THANKS be to G^d!!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Joys of Rest

This is the last day of our Spring Break.  I consider myself extremely fortunate to get a Spring Break.  It comes after 11 weeks of class, and the busiest 11 weeks I can recall.

It was a nice break.  I got to spend a little time with 3 of my 4 brothers, plus Brenda got to see her brother and sister.  We ended the week at Ben's (son -in-law) grandparents house in Otto, NC.  It was nice, without too much driving, plus we weren't anywhere too long to wear people out (I hope).

We tooks some pictures from Africa, and talked about it a bit, but tried to avoid wearing people out (I hope).

Everything went well, we made all our stops and only had one flat tire.  Thanks to our GPS we didn't get lost more than a few yards.  Thanks to our family and friends, we had a great time of fellowship and conversation.

But the best part was the rest.  Work is great, but rest is essential.  Get that?  Rest is essential.  I am not sure why, but G^d, after creating the earth, rested.  Sleep takes up about a third of our lives, but is essential.

Our laboratory has led the world in the study of recovery (i.e. rest) after bouts of exercise.  It turns out that few athletes can recover from a very hard workout in less than 48 hours.  Who knew?

Rest is a vital aspect of life, that seems to be under-appreciated, but when you are really tired...

Thanks be to G^d for the rest he gives us.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Take Heed Lest You Also Fall

"12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."  1 Corinths 10:12-13

I, like many, depend on myself WAY too much.  "I can do this".  Yeah, maybe for trivial things, I can.  But, I am learning that I seldom stand, at least if there is any pressure.

I marvel at my own unbelief. I know a lot of Scripture, I obey a little.  So MUCH G^d has done for me, and I have such little gratitude.  I fall to temptation, even when a way of escape is so very obvious.

Humanity is fallen, there can be NO doubt.  I am fallen, without a doubt.  Thanks be to G^d that He is merciful and He extends Grace to us all.

Take he, lest you also fall!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

That's not Fair! Thank Goodness!

"That's not Fair!"  Is a comment that used to be mostly relegated to kids under 15 or so years of age.

Now, it is common across the age span in the USA.

That's not Fair! Is applied to:
  • Taxes
  • White male privilege
  • Airlines doing many things
  • Police doing many things.

Whereas I will not argue the "fairness" of any of these issues, I do want to say that I am very HAPPY that many things are UNFAIR!!  Yes!  I do NOT want fairness for most of my life events, I want GRACE and MERCY!!

Many of the things I enjoy about life, are really unfair.  I was born in the USA where my opportunities were almost unlimited.  I was born into a stable, Christian home, where my parents loved each other and each of their 5 surviving boys.  I grew up in a small town which did NOT have legal alcohol sales- reducing my temptation.  I grew up without cable t.v., cell phones, the www, and all the associated bills. I was awarded a "free" education at USNA, which meant I never had serious debt until I bought a house. I met my wonderful wife at the local library and we married 12 days after I graduated from the USNA.  I could go on and on.

More importantly, I came to understand the TRUTH of the Gospel of Jesus Christ at an early age.  I understood then, and even better now, that I had a clear chance to hear the Good News in a culture that welcomed it.  I was UNfairly forgiven of the sins I had deliberately committed- how unfair!  I got to grow in my faith as a Follower of Jesus the Christ from my youth upwards, and have worshiped in many solid Christian Churches.

Yes, life has been UNfair to me- Thanks be to G^d!!!

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Nice Way to End

Last Thursday a historic event happened.  At the initiation of some of my UNDERgrad students, 6 of us got together socially for an end-of-the-semester event.  Brenda and I have entertained at least ONE group of my students every semester for as long as I can remember.  Due to our move, we had decided to skip this term, until one of my students suggested we get together.

We met at a local coffee shop and for two hours we chatted about whatever came to mind.  Brenda and I were both deeply honored, and the students expressed their delight that we would spend time with them.

The group was from two different classes, but the initiator was from my Measurement and Evaluation class, which brings up another point.  This may have been my BEST or top 2-3 M&E classes of my entire career.  This is the toughest class in our curriculum and this is the class for which I wrote a text book, so it has special meaning.  Unlike most M&E classes, only one person dropped the class after I explained that it was tough, and that I ONLY give ESSAY exams.  I am the ONLY person I know who gives these... and for good reason.  Grading them is tough!

Soooo, I feel that G^d is giving me a great send-off as I prepare to enter the wonderful world of retirement.  As most of you know, we will still be working for Cru Faculty Ministry, but not having to get up and go to work every day of the term.

Thanks be to G^d for a great career and a great adieu!

Look OUT! The Bridge has Washed Away!

Lots of people do NOT want to be confronted by Christians "pushing their beliefs on other people".  I find that just a little strange, in that most people seem very accepting of actors, singers, and other not-especially-qualified people "pushing their beliefs" about politics, abortion or whatever, "...on other people".

But let's give a little sympathy to the protesters against the gospel.  But consider this practical question.  If the bridge down the road around that blind curve had washed away in the recent flood, would you prefer I told you, or would you truly prefer to be "left alone", not bothered by that bit of worrisome information?

Really now, truly?

So, when someone shares the Good News of the Savior with a lost soul, a person with no hope in heaven isn't that pretty much the same thing?  In fact, maybe it is MORE important.  If I save you from running into the river and drowning, but 25 years later you end up in hell, then that is a small accomplishment.  If someone who cares enough about you to share the Good News of Christ with you, and you believe, and consequently live 6 months BUT spend eternity with G^d, that MUST be infinitely more valuable.

So, let us NOT grow weary in sharing Christ. People may object that we are "pushing our beliefs on them", but wouldn't they want to know about the bridge being washed out?  And, isn't this MORE important news than that?

Just askin'.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Profiting on Christianity?? WRITE

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Legalism- a Persistent Problem

I have written before about legalism.  How the Pharisees and Scribes of Jesus' day had taken legalism to its pinnacle.  Remember the cliff illustration?  "Helping G^d, by building high walls to keep us from falling into sin narrows the path so much we inevitably fall into legalism.

What is legalism?  It is reliance on our obedience to the law to earn our place with G^d.  It is futile and ends up with Christians criticizing other Christians for not falling into the trap of reliance on the Law as a means to reach G^d.  It also irritates our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As our Sunday School class discussed Romans 7 this morning, it dawned on me.  Legalism does NOT elevate the Law so much as it Diminishes it.  That is the Law was given to mankind to illustrate clearly how MUCH WE NEED A SAVIOR!!  Did you hear that?  As I seek my justification in the LAW I fail to see that I can NEVER succeed.  The LAW is too hard.

On the other hand, keeping the LAW, to the extent I can, is how I express gratitude to G^d for saving me by the BLOOD of the Christ.  PLUS, the LAW tells me the best possible way to live.  BUT the LAW is to show my sin, not save me.  I need the CHRIST for that.

I endeavor to keep the Law for gratitude and for optimal living, but NOT for salvation.  And if I see you struggling I may inquire if I can be of help, but I won't be forcing my view of the LAW on you. It is INDEED DUMB to ignore G^d's Law, but that's generally between you and G^d, unless you allow/request me to help.

So, let us NOT diminish the Law!!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

End of an Era

I am FINALLY, and, at the moment, HAPPILY retired from a career in Higher Education.  Above you can see my LAST three classes.

In retrospect, I had a truly BLESSED career.  I loved the people with whom I worked, the students (at least MOST of them), the research, the travel, the prestige (no, seriously).

I THANK G^D for this great career.  I cannot imagine a better career, or a better environment.

Thanks be to the L^rd!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Devil's in the Details

I am NOT a detail guy.  Most of my friends have probably picked up on that.  I have published about 188 scientific papers, one book, and a bunch of magazine articles.  I can write very quickly, but I have great difficulty in conforming to the detailed requirements.  Typically I try to do the Big PICT stuff and get my collaborators to deal with the details.

I was recently listening to two different sermons on the SAME passage of Scripture, and the same thought came to mind.  I really identified with the BIG PICT sermon, but really struggled to find meaning and application with the detail-oriented sermon.

That is NOT a criticism of the detailed sermon it is a REMINDER that G^d made each of us unique.  I am NOT detailed, but I appreciate, probably more than most, the gift of those friends who are detail-oriented.  Likewise, I appreciate those detailed friends who can appreciate my inclinations towards the BIG picture.

Some of you dear readers, will recognize this is merely another re-statement of the obvious truth that G^d created each part of the body with different gifts and different functions.  Sadly we so often try to convert everyone to be JUST LIKE US!!

NO!!!!!  G^d knows what HE is doing.

Romans 12, I Corinth 12, and other places G^d makes it clear that we are NOT meant to all be alike. Just as clearly, we NEED each other, no matter what we think about our own gifts and how indispensable these gifts are (but just to us)!!

So, thanks be to G^d that he did NOT make everybody a Big-Pict person.  We need each other.

Thanks for being YOU!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

IF NOTHING is Prohibited, so WHY does Everyone Feel Gulity?

For the history of mankind, everyone has hoped that they could make their OWN rules, and live by those.  Then, of course, when we try to do just that we find our own rules a bit too confining, so we loosen those.

But, regardless of our ability to Rationalize most any behavior, we still MUST deal, inexplicably, with...guilt!

Odd that.

We feel guilty about:
  • Our carbon footprint,
  • Our failure to eliminate Racism,
  • Our failure to elect the right person to some office or the other,
  • US military interventions,
  • US military non-interventions,
  • Our failureS as parents, children, neighbors, spouses, etc.

A few years ago there was a popular female Christian singer, Julie Miller, who recorded a popular song titled, "My Psychiatrist".  The words in the song went something like this,
"They said when I felt guilty, my mother was the cause,
Now I know the reason is, only that I was."

That's pretty clear, pretty honest, and pretty useful.

And, surprisingly our abandonment of religion, particularly Christianity, has done little to assuage our guilt.  We are vaguely aware, even as ardent atheists, that we DO indeed bear guilt and we do INDEED need to be FORGIVEN.
In Julie Miller's song, she talks about her NEW psychiatrist, Jesus the Christ.  She speaks of his "experience" and his low (free) fees.
Maybe Ms. Miller was onto something.

Monday, July 10, 2017

How can I NOT forgive Others when G^d has forgiven me

One of my neighbors is a veteran pastor with over 50 years in ministry.  I asked him, last Saturday, as we stood in my driveway, about his favorite sermon.  Once he understood what I was asking, he quickly said that Luke 7 was his favorite passage to preach on.

If you don't know what that passage is about, it is the story of Jesus dining with a Pharisee.  A prostitute comes in and immediately begins, with her long hair,  wiping the feet of Jesus which have been wetted with her tears.  I am giving the very short version, so go to Luke 7:36-50 and read the story.

The punch line is the KEY here.  Jesus is called out by his host who thinks it improper to let a "sinful woman" touch him.  Instead Jesus blesses the woman and forgives her sin!!


Here is a career prostitute and Jesus forgives her!  When asked about it, Jesus replies, as usual, with a question, "41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[c] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

So, my problem, so often, is I FAIL to recognize the extent to which I have been forgiven and fall into the same trap as the Pharisee.  How can I condemn anyone, regardless of their life style, when I have been forgiven of so much?

"48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Thanks be to G^d for His abundant grace!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Why AIA Honduras?

Why would a rational person: 1) Raise money to travel on a foreign mission, 2) Leave the comforts of home and culture, 3) Travel with a bunch of strangers, 4) Give up a week of vacation, and 5) Lose sleep and 6) Risk parasites or worse?  Tourism?  Not even close!  There are only a couple of hours scheduled for even buying souvenirs.
Image may contain: 13 people, people smiling, outdoor
So Why do this?  There are several reasons: 1) Because we can, 2) Because we see the value, and 3)Because we choose to spend our “treasures on earth” to gain “treasures in heaven”! (Matt 6 :19-21).  So far, we have been able to: pray for our brothers and sisters, by name, in Honduras, provide educational service to the National University, the Technical University, and the Honduras Olympic Committee, give numerous testimonies to the participants in each venue, pray and support one another, and, most importantly, see many, many students, and some faculty, express interest in learning more about, and serving, Christ through the local ministry team.
Sure, we need a few treasures on earth - food, shelter, clothing-, but these things will soon pass away.  But… when we invest in heaven, the benefits are eternal.  That Bible passage concludes by telling us that, “Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.”  We struggle, like most people, with where our treasure is. 
Some of us older team members know by experience, and the younger team members know by faith, that mission trips, with their demands, and rewards, help us greatly in transferring our desires from earthly to heavenly ones. And that is WHY.  We have been changed by each other, by our colleagues in Honduras, and by some of the people we attempted to serve.  We will not be the same going back home as we were coming here.  We have laid up a small bit of treasure in heaven.  We will forget some of what we learned, but our heart has been changed a small bit, for eternity.  And that is REALLY WHY!

Monday, July 3, 2017

What Price Freedom? Lessons from the Great Civil Civil War

There is still disagreement among historians on the essential cause of the US Civil War.  There is NO disagreement that it was the bloodiest Conflict in the US military history, costing more lives than any other.

Regardless of the side on which a soldier fought, the soldiers on both sides suffered enormous hardship with over 600,000 soldiers dying in the conflict.  think about it!

In deep disagreement on slavery, states rights, and whatever else, over 600,000 died to fight for a cause.  Would you?

So many of us are reluctant to give up even our convenience and comfort for the cause we know to be true- The Cause of the Christ.  How about you?

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?  Or what will a man give for a soul?  (Lk 16:26).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Chat with General Hiram Ulysses Grant

I had a great conversation with the man enacting General Grant at the Appomattox Court House surrender reenactment. He looked a LOT like the pictures I have seen of the General.  General Grant talked a lot about this youth.  His father, who, from the General's viewpoint was pretty tough guy, called him, "Lyss", which I found endearing.

I asked the General about how he ended up at the US Military Academy, which also prompted the story of how his name got messed up.  Ulysses' Dad got in his mind that his son was very well suited to military life and command and decided he needed to go to West Point.  Unfortunately Mr. Grant was NOT on good terms with his local Congressman, and a Congressional appointment was, and is, still required for admission to the academies. But, somehow the senior Mr. Grant swallowed his pride and requested an appointment to USMA for his son.  The Congressman obliged, but NOT knowing Hiram U Grant's full name, assumed the son was Ulysses Simpson (his mother's maiden name) Grant- which of course gave his the appealing initials of "U.S." Grant.

Well, as soon as the appointment was set, that night at the dinner table, Lyss' father informed his son that he was headed to West Point for his education.  the young Grant took umbrage at this idea and informed his father that indeed he WOULD NOT go the USMA.  But... upon further reflection, the young Ulysses, whose name had been change unbeknownst to him, decided that perhaps he should indeed honor his father.

So,  on 1 July (the day and month I write) 1843 U.S. Grant graduated 21st in his class from USMA (out of 39 graduates). I might guess that this inauspicious beginning might have led me to predict that little would come of the military career of this "mid-pack" graduate, but once again, I would be bad wrong. Though he was perhaps NOT one of our greatest U.S. Presidents, he certainly distinguished himself in leading a war which preserved the Union. But even MORE REMARKABLY, General Grant was WISE enough to Treat the surrendered Confederate Army with extreme dignity.  This may have been his GREATEST achievement.

Think about it- showing grace and mercy could also be one of OUR OWN "greatest achievements".  May it be so! 

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Second Conversation with General Robert E Lee

In my last post I told about Brenda and me visiting the Appomattox Courthouse where the end of the US Civil war occurred.  It was a beautiful Saturday PM at Appomattox Courthouse and we absolutely loved seeing the reenactments and chatting with the re-enactors.  We could have stayed MUCH longer, but we had a dinner appointment back in Lynchburg.

I knew our time was growing short, and I wanted to get another chat with Gen. R.E. Lee. He had a free moment, but I knew it wouldn't last long.  So, I picked my #1 question.  "General Lee, why did you go to USMA?"
"Well," said the good General, my family was too poor for me to go anywhere else."

In case you might not know, the US academies are tuition free, plus room and board is free, as are clothes and books.  A pretty good deal, especially when you have no money.  In fact, the General's reason was exactly the same as the reason I went to the US Naval Academy.  My brother had discovered the academy, and my Dad's peak earnings were about $13k, with a wife and 5 kids.  Sooooo, that was my ONLY option.

In retrospect it was TERRIFIC!  They wore us out our plebe (freshman) year, but I got a terrific EDUCATION!!  I was essentially trained as an engineer, but the academic rigors were good for me and I loved learning.  Every night I left the chow hall (we all ate all meals together), and without sitting down in my room gathered my books and went to the library from about 6:30 PM to about 9:30 PM, came back to my room and went to sleep.

It was pretty spartan, but it fit me and my personality.  General Lee was, I believe, first in his class there.  I didn't do nearly that well, but did graduate with honors- which surprised me more than anyone.

General Lee is revered as one of the greatest Americans of his generation.  I think maybe what he learned at USMA had something to do with that.  I am glad I got to teach there in 1997-98.  As a non-historian, I have to admit, I love history.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Chat with General R. E. Lee

This past Saturday was 8 April.  This was the 152nd anniversary of the Weekend of the US Civil war surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  We live about 30 min from there, and LOVE historical things.
We didn't find out about it until the Friday before, but we had thought about going over anyway, so it was an easy decision.

It was fantastic... so fantastic I can't tell you about the whole day in just one blog post, so I'll make it a two-parter (or maybe 3).

This particular anniversary aligned exactly with the original event in terms of days of the week and proximity to Easter.  Though the original would be impossible to replicate, they did a marvelous job of setting things up.  All the BIG players were there:

  • General R.E. Lee
  • General H. U. Grant (more about his name next post)
  • General Joshua Chamberlain (a Professor)
  • General Rawlins
  • Major Spears
  • General Seth Williams
  • And lots more.
As you might imagine, if you know me, General R.E. Lee was the man I most wanted to meet.  Each actor was dressed appropriately right down to General Grant's mud-covered boots.

I had two conversations with General Lee.  The first one I asked my most burning question.  An U of AL, American Studies professor had once remarked, "People so admire General Robert E. Lee and his expertise, but never consider that his military skill resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths."

Think about that.  A legitimate point?  Not really. I am certain the man making that bogus point had NEVER been even close to being a part of any military unit.

The US military does NOT make policy, pass laws, or decide who to battle- that is done by the politicians.  However, once it is decided, every military leaders goal is crystal clear:  keep your men alive and kill or capture the enemy.  The better you achieve those two simple goals, the better you have done your job.  My American Studies prof would never grasp that so I never bothered to explain it to him.

But, Saturday I posed this to General Lee.  He looked solemn and gave a similar reply.  His view was that the US Government was taking illegal action in dictating what states could/could not do.  The violation of what, to him, was clear legal US principles, gave him no choice but to resign his commission with the US Army and take up arms to defend what he felt to be Constitutional principles.  Every Officer of the US military swears to support and defend the Constitution of the USA, and General Lee was, without doubt, a man of honor.  He was fighting for what he believed in, and he was going to keep as many of his men alive as he could.

Enough said.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Los Benediciones (Blessings)

We are Blessed by G^d in many ways, many times, but quite often we fail to recognize what G^d is doing and HOW he Blesses us.  One of the great aspects of mission trips, especially those outside the USA, is that G^d’s Blessings are much more obvious.

Indulge us for a few minutes, whilst we list some of G^d’s Blessings that we have already seen:
·       Getting 8 people together from British Columbia, Oregon, California, Ohio, New York, Virginia, and Alabama, is no easy task.  With the airline’s outbreak of fights over seats, cancelled flights, diverted flights, and people disrupting flights, getting to your destination is NOT something to be taken for granted.  Thanks be to G^d for Blessing us with safe travels… all the way to Tegucigalpa.

·       Forming a working team from a bunch of strangers is also something NOT to be taken for granted. Our team, with an age span of almost 50 years, with different areas of expertise, and 8 unique personalities has melded extremely well. We enjoy each other, support each other, and work well together.  Thanks be to G^d!  The stressors can be high, so getting along well is a super Blessing!

·       The ministry has gone very well indeed.  The two Universities and the Olympic Training Center have been very enthusiastic in receiving our team.  We have given our testimonies to over 300, and many of those hearers have heard more than one testimony.  Many, many audience members have expressed an interest in learning more about Christianity and Athletes in Action.  What a BLESSING!

·       Our Cru AIA hosts have been extremely helpful and grateful. One of our goals is to build good will for the local missionaries, the Joya’s, who have worked here over 20 years and will be here long after we leave.  What a Blessing this family is to Teguchigalpa, to Honduras, to the Body of the Christ, and to us.  What a Blessing!

Thanks for praying!  G^d has Blessed us richly, and we pray he will Bless you, and you will clearly see those Blessings!  Bless you!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

End of an Episode

I am finally there- the end of my career of teaching in Higher Education.  It feels a bit funny.  For all of my life, since my teen years, I have worked, and typically worked quite hard.

G^d directed my path into University teaching, and it has been a GREAT career.  I have met wonderful people in my classes, worked with terrific people, and visited some great places.  The pay has been excellent, the travel top notch, and the career has given me lots of opportunity to TRY to influence the present and future leaders of the world.  Who could ask for more.

My emotions are obviously and expectedly mixed.  I am sorrow to be leaving this role, but happy to get a bit of a break.  My wife and others have asked whether I would miss teaching.  I don't think I will, because I will still get these opportunities.  I have offered to teach in several venues, and expect one of these will pan out.  I expect to teach Sunday School and give an occasional sermon.

I have lots of projects in mind.  Besides working with Cru Faculty Commons, I have some book ideas, a couple of inventions to perfect, and several other things I hope to finish.  The thought of finishing my Professor career is displaced by the thoughts of finishing several OTHER things that have been awaiting their time.

So, maybe it is NOT so much the end of an episode as it is a slight shift in theme.  Ultimately, the thing that matters is that I LISTEN to G^d and do whatever He directs.  Still looking forward to hearing,

"Well done thou good and faithful SERVANT"!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rejoice with me, for I have FOUND that which I had lost!

In the Parable of the Lost Coin (Jn 15), Jesus says this,
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Brenda and I have a WHOLE new appreciation for that parable now.  I am JUST back from a mission trip to Honduras with Cru. I'll say more about that later, but first the Lost Coin... or better the Lost Passport.

It is the last day of April 2017 and it dawns on me that I do NOT know where my passport is located.  When we got back from Japan last August, I took it out of its usual spot in my traveler backpack, so as NOT to lose it on a U.S. trip.  Well, 3 June I was scheduled to leave for Honduras.  The BIG CATCH was, we had packed up MOST of our VA clothes, household goods, books, and files. And, we had packed our passports somewhere in all those boxes!!

Well, we systematically opened and inspected EVERY single box! No luck.  So, a second time,
we systematically opened and inspected EVERY STINKING box!  No luck.  

Now, passports get LOST often, so the State Dept has procedures for reporting them lost, and for issuing replacements... but at a VERY steep charge and not all that fast.  I was leaving the USA on 3 June, and 3 May was rapidly approaching- a key deadline.  I was worried, very worried, and missed some sleep that night.

So, I came home from work early the next day and it was raining off and on.   Brenda had suggested we PULL OUT all the boxes from the garage into the driveway to facilitate our THIRD search, but the rain killed that idea. So, we looked in all our suitcases first (about a dozen of them). Then we started searching boxes. It was about the 3rd box when we found Brenda's jewelry box, where I recalled I had stashed them. We were OVERjoyed!! But when I opened it, not a trace of anyone's passport!! Joy diminishes somewhat- but at least we know where it isn't.

Hmm, well, I must have accidentally packed the passports when I packed my clothes, since the passports were in a clothes drawer. Well, about 5 bags of clothes later- NO luck. I went back into the garage seeking another clothes bag... and there was a little blue NAVY bag, and as soon as I opened it I saw Brenda's Passport holder!! I knew next to hers, was mine!


I know how the angels feel now!  "
"'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin (means PASSPORT in Aramaic) that I had lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

We spent the next couple of hours rejoicing!  Rejoice now with us.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Hmm, Why haven't I ever Thought of That Before??

We are in our local Men's Bible study at 0645 in Chik-Fil-A, and we are talking about the Transfiguration of the Christ.  As I am looking at the Scriptural texts that deal with this wonderful event it occurs to me that in Jesus ALL the spiritual gifts are fully, perfectly, incorporated.

Which gifts?  In Romans 12 we get this list:

  • Prophecy 
  • Serving
  • Teaching
  • Exhortation 
  • Giving 
  • Leading
  • Mercy.

In I Corinthians, we see these other ones:

  • Healing
  • Miracles
  • Word of wisdom
  • Word of knowledge
  • Faith
  • Distinguishing of spirits
  • Tongues
  • Interpretation of tongues.

In us, we may have one or even two or three gifts.  We tend to feel superior to others without those particular gifts, but "God has allotted to each a measure of faith."  It is not ours, but G^d's gift to us.  He, and He alone, determines our gifting, and all of our gifts OUGHT to work together.

But The Christ exemplifies ALL of these.  What a Savior!!  Let's endeavor to be MORE like Him!!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Graduation Speakers- A few Thoughts

President D. Trump spoke at the LU graduation on 13 May.  I just looked at a long list of famous people speaking at Universities around the country.  The U of AL was NOT on this list.

I know who spoke at UA the weekend before, without asking.  NO one!

YES! In one of the smartest moves in the hsitory of Hihger Education, the U of AL decided many years back to invite NO ONE to speak at commencement.  Great call.


Why do people GO to graduation?  They do NOT go to hear a great speech by a great speaker.  They go to receive a diploma or cheer on someone receiving said diploma. NOT rocket science here.

Several years back the U of A president, Dr. Bob Whitt, invited some famous person who happened to hold quite liberal political views.  The speaker was standing up in front a very large crowd, enjoying the attentinon. Feeling a bit full of himself, I guess, he decided to tell folks what THEY should tink about some polictial issue.  This is the deep South, mind you.

The audience booed, and booed loudly.  This is bad for the speaker, for Pres. Whitt, for the graduates and even for the booing crowd.  But is is resolved fairly easy in the future- NO SPEAKERS.

Again, no one, interested in graduation, comes for the speaker- so WHY have one?

See, some problems are not so hard to solve!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

So What's the Point?

Ever find yourself asking that question, "So what's the point"?

I ask it a lot, though typically it's a question I ask myself. I am fortunate to hear Bible teaching and Spiritual lessons very often. And those sometimes provoke that question.

I see speakers, athletes, musicians, even magicians giving sermons, lectures, testimonies, and I often ask that question. I prefer NOT asking it.  I prefer when the point is loud, clear, and relevant.

I get, on occasion, to move to the other side- to be the one giving the talk. I ask myself, "So what's the point?"  I always HAVE a point, though sadly it may be much more clear to me than to the listener. I do endeavor to make the point, make it multiple times and multiple ways. But, I am pretty sure that I FAIL at this effort, far too often.

And, perhaps more important, when I have a point to make, is it WORTH making? I teach, and I THINK that what I teach will matter, much, to these students. There isn't enough time to teach the stuff that likely won't matter. And, in the end, it is strictly up to me, and my judgement is flawed.

I ask myself, in 100 years what will matter? If not, then maybe the point isn't worth too much. But, the souls of man DO endure, for eternity. So some points DO matter.

So what's your point?

Monday, May 29, 2017

That Squirrel Story

In a previous post, I alluded to "the Squirrel Story.  A foreign friend requested to hear it.  So, at risk of repeating the story to those who have heard it over and over, here it is.

A Sunday School teacher was teaching his group of 5th graders, and asked this question,

"What's grey, eats nuts, lives in trees, and has a bushy tail?"

No one answers, so the teacher repeats the question.

"What's grey, eats nuts, lives in trees, and has a bushy tail?"

No one answers, so the teacher repeats the question.

"What's grey, eats nuts, lives in trees, and has a bushy tail?"
One little boy timidly raises his hand, and the teacher happily calls on him.

Ok Johnny, tell us, "What's grey, eats nuts, lives in trees, and has a bushy tail?"

"I know the answer must be 'Jesus', but it sounds like a squirrel to me." replies Johnny.

Just like these youngsters, we sometimes learn the "correct" answer, and fail to see the true answer.

And that, my friends, can be a grave mistake!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What do you know now that you wish you had known at age 20? Part 2

A few days back you read my advice to myself at age 20.  Here is Brenda's take on it.

Things I would tell myself about life if I could speak with my 20 year old self.....

Don't spend so much time thinking about what other people will think of the way you look, in actuality.....folks aren't looking at you. :)

Show more hospitality and don't be afraid that my "things" (home, cooking, etc.)  don't measure up to theirs......the things that folks remember is how you showed love to them.

You just can't please some folks, no matter what  you say or do.....just love them anyway.

When things, relationships, don't go as I think that they should, don't stress so much over them.  In looking back God has used those hard people/times to knock rough edges off of me in my own life.

When things don't go as I think that they should, it's because God has a far better plan for me, that I most likely won't realize for several years.

Marriage won't always be holding hands and love letters.  Decide that you are committed to make it work, and love unconditionally, forgive quickly, and laugh together a whole lot. :)

If your spouse has a crazy idea of where he wants you to go, say yes!  Make tons of wonderful memories and go on great adventures when you can.

Accept forgiveness and restore relationships as quickly as you can.  Don't give time for bitterness to grow.

Let things get dusty in your home, spend more time playing with your kids, than trying to show that I can keep things in order.

Seek God's plan for your particular life, live your life using what gifts that God has given to you and stop beating yourself up that you can't do what others can do.

Show love and acceptance to others, even those that are difficult to be around.

As an introvert, it is OK for you to get the rest that you need.

It is OK to say "No" to things that you aren't called to do.  You don't have to feel guilty about saying no.  

Say "Yes", and serve when you are asked to do things that you are called to do.

Pray for your kids, it's the best thing that you can do for them.  Show unconditional love for each one.  Don't try to run their lives but let them know that you are there for them and can be counted on for love and support no matter what.

Call your Mom and Dad more as they age, and let them know how much you love them.

 Pray that God would give you ears to hear His voice and a heart that desires to be obedient to Him as He guides your life.

Show God's love at every opportunity.

I could go on and on.  These are the things that come to mind off the top of my head.   It was fun to think about this.  

So what's YOUR advice?

Monday, May 22, 2017

It Ain't the Letters that are Blurry!!

Our preacher this Sunday morning made a brilliant observation.  When you are sitting in that chair in the Optometrist's office, and she asks you to read the line of random letters, it ain't the letters that are blurry.

This impresses me.  We all too often think that the letters ARE indeed blurry, whereas we think our vision is perfect.  But, it ain't the letters that are blurry.

We are so quick to find fault with others.   They are too hasty, too slow, too smart, too dumb, too conservative, too liberal.

On the other hand, we are near perfect!   If EVERYONE ELSE simply saw the world like we do... with OUR clear insight, I mean sight.

But,  it ain't the letters that are blurry.

Think about it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

When is Spring Break- not a Break? Bishop Style!

Just last week we were on my final Spring Break.  It went something like this:

Saturday- Drive to Natural Bridge, spend several hours looking around, and catching an early queen snake.  Then to lunch in a place we ate over 37 years ago.  Then to Natural Bridge Caverns for a great tour underground.
Sunday- SS, Church, dinner with neighbors.  Rest.
Monday- drive to Jamestown, VA and tour the OLDEST continuously occupied English settlement in the USA.  Then to the Yorktown Revolutionary War Battlefield.
Tues- Historic Williamsburg visit until they closed it down.
Wed.-  Half a day at the Newport News Maritime Museum, then a tour of the Yorktown Battlefield until it closed.  Then drive back to Lynchburg.
Thurs.-  Visit the Highlands, home of President James Monroe, then to Monticello, home of President Jefferson.
Fri- Visit Lexington, VA, tour home of TJ Jackson, an outstanding Christian, tour VMI Museum and then the General George C Marshall Museum.
Saturday- catch up on what we hadn't done before- fixed smoke detectors, changed furnace filters, etc.
Sunday- SS, Church, shepherding group.  Rest.

Yep, we need a BREAK from Spring Break. Thank you L^rd for rest!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Why We Need Emoticons in Scripture

I have written before about some of the missed/misunderstood humorous gags in The Bible.  I was reminded again about this after this mornings sermon.  Our preacher is a very well educated man who doubtlessly used many good, competent Commentaries in putting together the morning sermon.

His chosen text, part of a series from the Sermon on the Mount, was Matt. 5:38-48.  The final verse, 48, is one of my favorites in Scripture.  It reads, "Therefore be ye perfect, even as your father in Heaven is perfect."

Well, is seems that many well-studied commentators are perplexed by this verse.  Our pastor did verbal gymnastics to try to suggest that Jesus was telling his Jewish audience, numbering 5k men, plus women and children, that we ought to see our relationship with G^d as "whole and complete" the intended meaning of "perfect".

Whereas, the pastor, and all his commentators may WELL BE CORRECT, I have strong doubts.  The audience is listening to the GREAT Rabbi, Jesus.  He is preaching in Aramaic, recorded by Matthew in Greek.  Back a bit over 20 verses earlier, Rabbi Jesus had said, "Unless your RIGHTEOUSNESS exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no wise enter heaven."

What?  Yes, we ought to scratch our heads over both these admonitions of Exceeding the righteousness most religious people of their religion and being Perfect as is G^d.

But a simpler explanation would seem to fit the approach and philosophy of the Son of Man.  Jesus, G^d became man, is telling us that His listeners- the Jews there and us today- are in BIG trouble.

And I repeat, we, and the Jews, are in BIG Trouble.  And,- this is crucial- there is ONLY one solution for our big trouble.  And that solution is...

The RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ himself, imputed to us by G^d's Grace and Mercy.  Yes, read this literally.  Our righteousness must be perfect- better than the MOST religious folks we know to enter into heaven.  AND, we ONLY attain this level of RIGHTEOUSNESS if it is imputed to us by the shed blood of the ONLY PERFECT sacrifice, Jesus our Savior.

We need emoticons!