Archive for August, 2007


Radiance GuardedSome of my favorite verses in the Bible are found in Hebrews 1:1-4 [link]. And as a person interested in Science the word radiance [link] continues to catch my attention every time I read it. Another word for radiance is effulgence [link] which simmers with outcasting of energy in the very pronunciation of the word. We don’t see material; we see light. So we see radiation from the sun, not the sun. As John 1:18 [link] tells us we don’t see God the Father but God the Son. The picture is of Christ shining forth the glory of God which we would not see without His intervention. There are two sides to God’s glory- one harsh and one kind-both equally true. The more I thought about it the more it grew in my mind until I wrote a poem called “Radiance”. You can read that poem by clicking on Radiance

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“Ooooh, layers!” exclaims the donkey to the ogre. But he still didn’t understand and I’m not talking par-fey or onions but polystrate fossils. It’s neither a personality thing nor a cause of hardening of the arteries. I guess you’ll just have to read by clicking on God’s Gift to Creationists (6th in a series) to see what creationists were so happy about when it happened.

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Having trouble seeing the connection? I went climbing for three days at the Obed National Scenic River cliffs just northwest of Wartburg, TN. Below is a picture of me flashing a 5.11a on toprope.Pet Semetary 5.11a at the Stephen King Library of the Obed River

As I have improved as a climber my climbing mentors (Keith belaying me and Adrian  taking the picture) have emphasized key elements to climbing. I have also discovered some on my own.

So I was thinking about important considerations for improving climbing and life.

1) Balance is crucial. Whether leaning out for an awkward move or resting, being over one’s center of gravity or moving toward a new position of balance are the only way to stay on the rock for long. Ephesians 5:15-17 says “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is”. Making the most of my time? How do I do that Lord? I’m pulled in every direction not only by responsibilities but by desires and needs as well. Oh, but You are good and give us no more than what you are asking of us. The rest is superfluous and needs to be shed (climbing? Well that depends.)

2) Core body strength is necessary. Frequently climbing feels like all hands and forearms, but that is just as frequently because the core is not being used to make oppositional use of the hands and feet to spread the strain. Many hard moves are not possible without side pulling or pulling up (under-clinging). The thoracic core of the body is necessary to attempt and hold such moves and continue with endurance. Romans 12:2 “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Transformation in the inner man so that we are in tune to God’s direction results in a strength from Him at your core that can overcome temptation and reduce wasted motion.

3) Focus trumphs skill and strength. If you are not focused on how you are going to use your body parts and what the immediate and subsequent moves require you’re not likely to top out. You’ll either miss your move sequence or tear off of a handhold or get into a position from which you can’t recover. The ultimate in focus is called flow. You are so focused that you remain relaxed, move almost without conscious planning, and amaze yourself at how smoothly it went. Some want to consign a spiritual component to flow (and I do not deny that all things are spiritual) but this is just confidence and intensity balanced to make best use of machinery (body and mind). Joshua 1:7-8 says “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” Succeeding at what ever your hand finds to do that God has set for you involves remembering constantly (focusing) on His way of doing it. Since we forget so quickly even “like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like,” we must be like “the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it- he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23-25) The world, the flesh, and the devil want us to focus on anything but God and His will: entertainment, health, success, prestige, survival, responsibility. All of these are good and have a place but only under God’s direction and for us. He is the object of focus then results success.

4) Reach is nice, but technique is better. The two people that I climb the most with are vertically challenged. I’m not tall at 5’8″ but I have reach that frustrates both of them at times. They are better climbers and inevitably do some technically harder move to overcome their height deficiency, making me look silly in the process (Here they are moving through a segment of the climb that I can’t do even though I can reach easier holds.) Mark 12:41-44 says “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of penny. Calling the disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.” But, Jesus, counldn’t their superior financial reach help Your kingdom more than her humble technique of giving from the heart and sacrificially? Jesus’ math doesn’t work like ours because He blesses what He sees is done from the heart. He can leverage the financial market to improve the liquidity of your mite.

5) Double Excessively check safety hardware and communication. Of the climbing deaths I have heard of in the five years that I’ve climbed the most frequent seems to be overconfidence in improperly use equipment. To state it more simply, most falls are rappelling falls where the knowledgeable person assumes the equipment will support them. I have seen my climbing partners and I have also frequently jerked on a line hooked in two feet in front of me numerous times checking 3 or 4 times that all connections are “bomb proof”, as we say. The consequences of not being sure can be death. We give permission to be irritated for not communicating: “On belay?”, “Belay on.”, “Climbing.”, “Climb on.”, etc. I Samuel 30:6 reports David’s reaction to a bad situation, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.” I’m sure David was no less discourage than everyone else and more. The village he and his followers lived in had been burned. All of the women and children had been taken along with anything of value: sheep, donkeys, gold, tools, … And now the men were so frustrated that they were going to stone David. David in effect checked what his security before God was, what His options were. It is the reason we review the salvation story and process in so many of our songs and sermons. We forget; life drags us down; we must be reminded, constantly. This is our safety net not only for eternity but in how to proceed with confidence in this life: His mercy, His grace.

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Cools the body, mind, and soul

Day before yesterday I went with my two youngest sons and a friend of theirs to the waterfall pictured below. I was about 100 degrees F in the lowlands that day. The rock was so hot that it burned dry feet. The water was low from drought and not as cool as usual from being low and from a week of high temperatures. (I hope you’ve already figured out that this picture comes from an entirely different time when the creek was in fact nearly in flood condition.) But it was plenty cool enough, and clear. Harper Creek FallsWe saw more creek wildlife than one usually does. After sitting at water’s edge to eat a snack, I may have discovered why. Crawdads (crayfish for the rest of the country) were moving around. Usually they stay close to one eddy or rock, but they were moving across the large pool and over the cascade and through rapids. Why? mating season? Perhaps, but I considered a more immediate and likely reason. When it’s hot the water dissolves less oxygen, making it hard on these little gilled crustaceans. Perhaps they were looking for more oxygen rich water. Another evidence for this explanation was the large number of lethargic, upturned, and dead crawdads. Possibly there was a kill off from disease or pollution, but the later seems unlikely since the source water is the side of Grandfather Mtn. And too, the others seemed fine. The final evidence comes from the ones fairing well. On the cascade at almost exactly geometric center of the picture is a kettle (a pothole formed by the combination of continuously swirling, pounding water). This kettle is about 5′ x 3.5′ x 3′ deep. It is an exceptionally exciting experience to submerge into the kettle, underneath the foam and look up at the sunlit, white foam. The bottom is lined with rounded stones ranging from Foosball to tennis ball size. The rock carrying the water into the kettle overhangs the kettle by about a foot and allows one to come up for air in a small pocket underneath the falling water with just enough room to breath and not be seen by those outside the kettle. As my younger cohorts and myself took turns submerging into the kettle we began to see one then two then five crawdads moving around on the bottom, quite lively. The foam must provide a continuous supply of oxygen, aerating the water nonstop despite the high temperatures. Later Sam saw and caught a water snake that was about 16 to 18″ long. I ferried it across the large lower pool to show it to a mom and her 6 children. In conversation I learned that she had freshly returned from Poland and a missionary there. Later we saw a 2.5′ water snake of the same variety. Sam caught a small fish rolling down the cascade. Later still I talked to two college students who were former students of mine. As we sat in the shallow water at the edge of the upper pool a bright orange crawdad crawled close to the guy. I caught it and showed it around. I’d never seen an orange one before! Sam and Phil and Michael climbed part way up on the falls and jumped off numerous times. Sam wanted to climb to the top and jump off the falls. He watched me do it and followed. He did it five more times. I explored the bottom of the pools, watched the boys play and played with them and sat pondering the water, rock, trees, and sky. Clean foam entering the kettle, starkly blue summer skies (odd for here), sun heated basalt rock with with black and quartzite dikes running straight across, small fish and crawdads and water insect nymphs scurrying and clinging, transitions from dry land to water’s edge to submerged plants, boulders to silt, my body both hot in the sun and cool in the creek, and more arrested my attention with more force than usual. My Creator’s works can fascinate and inspire the spirit and mind for a thousand life times, how much more His person.

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As it says in “About”, I like climbing. Rock climbing, bouldering, sport and trad climbing, and top roping all qualify. It’s a jargon thing. The woods are peaceful, the challenge is intense, and the exercise is one of a kind. I’m so thankful to God to be healthy enough at 40 something to do this. I’m not great, but… well you decide at

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1. What is the difference between something incredible and something wonderful?
___ 2. Evolution a. Wonderful
___ 3. Creation b. Incredible
. c. Both

See my discussion by clicking on Incredible or Wonderful (4th in a series)

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On Display

The evidence cries out, fully on display! On Display is a poem that I wrote about two years ago as my heart filled with the mind boggling array of how God represents Himself in nature.

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Everyone loves symmetry. As I was reminded as I am participating in a curriculum workshop at William and Mary College this week, “Physicists love symmetry”. Observers of beauty, whether of your beloved’s form or “peak flower” bloom or architecture or tree bole or interior decoration, love symmetry. Music and poetry have popular appeal when there is symmetry. Mathematician’s even do proofs (ugh!) to have symmetry (1≡1). You don’t have to be OCD to appreciate or seek or manage for symmetry. God has made you with a built in desire for it. When a musical chord is not resolved (all notes simple multiples that resonate rather than produce dissonance) you cringe because of the interference of the sound waves that is displeasing. The “off key” sound is purposeful to produce tension in your spirit but is resolved in good music (judgment call I know, but it is also the very argument of this post). God has even put symmetry into the seemingly asymmetrical. For example, leaves do not always appear symmetrical. But informed geometers know that deep within their structures are molecules attaching in symmetrical structures that build upon each other in what the mathematician calls a fractal (a repeating mathematical progression; clear example: the shape of a nautilus seashell). And the physicist loves the symmetry because it points to simplicity and structure, the evidence of truth and therefore of satisfaction to the physicist. So how about the most asymmetrical object or idea you can think of. Does it have a hidden symmetry we have yet to find or evidence of a degradation from its original or intended form? I suspect that if God is the author of it there is symmetry to be found. It matches His nature and points to Him.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18


Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains