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Posts Tagged ‘purpose in life’

Many the comment that comes from students the last few days for school. Many are gracious, wanting to end on a friendly note. It shows a measure of decency on the part of the majority of students. Others are harshly truthful and others contrived, far from truthful, out of some need to right a never done wrong. “I can’t wait until this class is over. Friends told me that I wouldn’t be able to wait to get out of here, but that I would miss you afterward. I don’t see that happening.” It seemed like a complement to me, if not from the student in front of me, then certainly from the ‘friends’. Dealing constantly with people is not easy business. It wears on the emotions, particularly if you care even a little bit. It doesn’t help that you always know that you have failed in some small way with every person you interact with, even though you know you did your best overall and intended the best for your students. It is for all of this difficulty in the midst of trying that the occasional word of genuine encouragement lifts the weary soul. At the end of the last assignment to be graded for one class there was the following statement: “Mr. __, I’m so glad you were my teacher! I learned alot from you! Science and life choices.” That is the way that I want to be remembered as a teacher- passionate about teaching Science and life. Many of my years of teaching have been stressful for reasons inside the class and out. This past year was not the worst for stress, but it did rank. At the same time it was a year of spiritual benefit in my own life and in opportunity to talk to students about eternal things. It sometimes amazes me how often students will bring up the subject of where we came from, or do I believe in God, or how do you solve life’s difficult problems, or what is the meaning of life. Some of the questions relate directly to the subject at hand and others seem random, though I am sure that the underlying thought process that brought them forward was not. I hope that I taught many students science and life this past year and that God will take what I offered for His glory and their good.

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In danger of living as mere men
Calling survival a win
We were meant for more than bear and grin
In our fight with self and sin

But the mundane creeps in day by day
And we lose sight of the way
To walk in the Spirit and to stay
In His Word and ceaselessly pray

To be bold in witness to the lost
Kind, no relational frost
Not by every wind of doctrine tossed
In holy living count the cost

Recall we’re not the vine but the limb
More than conquerors through Him
Each dead work from the vine He must trim
The source of all life is the stem

Walk by the Spirit, quit the flesh race
All of life is lived by grace
At God’s behest and at His own pace
With His help we finish the race

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Some say, “Grow up”. Others say, “Never grow old.” If both are an attempt to bring balance to people’s lives then I say, “Work hard and play hard so you can keep balance.” I was privileged to go climbing with some friends on my birthday. I wasn’t taking the pictures so the only ones I got from the cameraman were all of me. The day was sunny and warmer than expected. An indication that climbing has gone mainstream is that a county park with paved trails and parking lot, bathrooms and picnic pavilion and ranger office are set up with bolted routes at an old quarry for rock climbing and families with small children climbing made up half of the crowd. 

Leading a 5.7 with an audience

Leading a 5.7 with an audience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting in the Groove

Getting in the Groove

Beautiful Day for a Topout

Beautiful Day for a Topout

I am so thankful to God for friends to work with and play with and for work and play to do.

The key to usefulness is not to work harder, but work at what God has given you to do as unto Him and enjoy the gifts He has given with thankfulness unto Him. Oh that we would do so in this new year.

 

 

 

 

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         I enjoy viewing educational YouTube videos, particularly about Science. I recently watched several videos written and narrated by astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is extremely intelligent, articulate, and fast on his feet when replying to detractors. In our culture we listen to experts. They are informed and intelligent so we should listen to them, right? We should ask, “What is your source of truth?” Mr. Tyson claims that his only source of truth is empirical data, information acquired by observation or experimentation. In one of these videos he says1, “Does the Universe have a purpose? I’m not sure, but anyone who expresses a more definitive response to this question is claiming access to knowledge not based in empirical foundations.” He proceeds to claim that the perspective held by religions and some philosophies that the universe has purpose has failed to explain our universe. He then dismantles, or so he believers, all claims that we can know that the universe has purpose. I am among those who believe that the universe does have purpose, being created by God, and I freely admit and proclaim that this knowledge is not based on limited empirical evidence, though supported by it. Mr. Tyson’s logical fallacy, I submit, is to assume that his supposed empirical foundations are sufficient to explain the universe and why we cannot know the universe has a purpose. He overlooks his own presuppositions: we cannot know that God exists, that God in fact does not exist, and that Mr. Tyson operates purely on empirical data.

         Evidence that God exists is all around us as I have shown in past articles and which Scripture declares (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:19-20). In this article I want to present evidence that those who claim that they operate purely on empirical data do not and cannot. In another MinutePhysics video2 Mr. Tyson is discussing the sequence of events that he and many other scientists believe characterized the universe after the Big Bang. In the midst of this storyline he admits that “under these extreme conditions in what is admittedly speculative physics…” Why is it speculative? It is so because there is no way of directly observing a time with those conditions or reconstructing those conditions because they defied the presently understood laws of Physics. This scenario is supposed to be what we know of the past and yet is based on fanciful conclusions based on faith and not observation. He is nearly two minutes into his seven minute history of the universe when he says, “continuing on with what is now laboratory confirmed physics” He then explains how particles decaying and colliding settle things down to the Physics we now observe. The statement is misleading (presumably not intentionally) because it assumes that what can happen in laboratory experiments and does happen periodically in nature is what did happen in mass to set the course of the universe long ago. Such “observations” are conclusions based on hypothetical scenarios, not inevitable results of data. Another example of this type of observation was the conclusion in March of 2014 that cosmic microwave background radiation had “proved” the inflationary expansion just after the Big Bang. But in June of the same year the researchers came to a different conclusion: “Now a careful reanalysis by scientists at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, also in Princeton, has concluded that the BICEP2 B-mode pattern could be the result mostly or entirely of foreground effects without any contribution from gravitational waves.”3 So, the hypothesis concerning the moments after the Big Bang was wrong. The author of this quote explains that many scientists do not conclude that inflationary hypothesis was therefore disproved. Instead, these scientists say this hypothesis is sufficiently flexible to be “immune to experimental and observational tests.” What we are seeing is ‘empirical data’ without observation, which of course is not empirical at all. As Arthur Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes say, “ It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

 

1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pL5vzIMAhs “Does the Universe Have a Purpose?”

2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KYTJ8tBoZ8 “A Brief History of Everything”
3 http://www.nature.com/news/big-bang-blunder-bursts-the-multiverse-bubble-1.15346

4 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four, A Scandal in Bohemia

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I kept wanting to go to the mountains but people, responsibility, and other priorities kept preventing it. Seeing my repeatedly frustrated efforts my wife said that I should go tomorrow. I wasn’t going to second guess the cessation of chores and her encouragement to go. Besides, after taking a walk with her early on this August 1st I knew that it was an exceptionally clear, low humidity, and cool day. (65 degrees was enough for several people to say it felt like the first Fall day- wishful thinking with August and September ahead.) So a hasty breakfast and quicker packing job and I was gone. I like solitude but I like company, too, but the whole reason I was going alone was because I couldn’t find anyone and one had even backed out. 

I even enjoy the drive up on a very curvy rode in a small, good cornering car with a clutch and adequate power. The air was crisp, the sky totally blue, and my heart was light. Bouldering by yourself is considered to be quite risky by some, but I have observed others doing it with care. You only attempt climbs that are straight up over the pad with no barn door potential. The weather meant exceptional friction, almost unheard of in the humid South in the summer. I was climbing well, but I can’t say if I was climbing exceptionally well because I couldn’t try anything really hard because of the ground rules for climbing alone I’d set down. During rest breaks I took pictures of fern and tree leaves.

Rockcap Fern (Polypodium virginianum) I believe

Rockcap Fern (Polypodium virginianum) I believe

Frazier Magnolia

Frazier Magnolia

I set up several videos of me climbing (I just admitted to a selfie! I will not let this become a regular event and certainly not an addiction. I must keep this under control.) You may check them out by clicking on the names below. It will be immediately obvious that I’m no rockstar, but I enjoy the challenge, nonetheless:

Disc and Throw

Chainsawleft

Trillium fruiting

Trillium fruiting

American Chestnut "bush"

American Chestnut “bush”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After bouldering around until my forearms were quite tired, I walked up to the top of the ridge, sat down, took in the view, ate lunch, and read my Bible. Actually, when I first arrived up top I lay down on the bouldering pad a prayed for awhile. There was such a rest in telling my Father all my burdens about work, family, and internal stress. I have been enjoying, not just tolerating reading Leviticus and Numbers. Numbers 2 and 3 seem like lists of camp arrangement and numbers of fighting men, and numbering religious servants, but they reveal several things about God’s character. He is orderly and efficient and given to detail.  The arrangement of Levites reveals His concern for His holiness among the people and grace to not destroy them with His fierce justice. The taking of the Levites in place of the firstborn and the redemption of 273 additional Israelites by a gift of five shekels each reminds us of the depth of our sin problem and the gloriousness of God’s solution in salvation. The more I read the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy) the more I feel like Jesus is repeating Himself when He points to God’s holiness and the Law. As a man did He have “aha!” moments of learning the Word from His parents or the synagogue teachers, moments when He said, “I remember saying that.”? All of His Word speaks of His character and what is important to Him. Are we bored with it because we have little passion for knowing Him and what He cares about? Knowledge of Him is our ultimate goal here. Beautiful days in the mountains and hard days of difficulty or frustration are profitable and meaningful if we allow them to direct us to knowing Him more. Yeah, I prefer one over the other but I am slowly learning to muse, “Hmm, I wander how this situation may draw me closer to Him?”

House Fly

House Fly

 

Evergreen groundcover

Shining Clubmoss (or Shining Firmoss) Huperizia lucidula (Thanks for the ID help Sister L)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view up top increased my enjoyment of my time concentrating on God. He created all of the beauty around us to remind us of His beauty and the enjoyment we may have from these gifts from His good hand.

Left to Right: Table Rock, Hawksbill, Gingercake

Left to Right: Table Rock, Hawksbill, Gingercake

Exceptionally Beautiful August Day

Exceptionally Beautiful August Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Culture is an odd and interesting phenomenon. Though the word has now been co-opted to refer to interaction in a business office, the more traditional definition looks more like the http://www.merriam-webster.com first entry: “the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time”. Therein is the oddity and interest. That is a very broad definition trying to capture all that goes into a culture. You can mix and match the first three terms (and the “etc’s” for that matter) with any combination of the “particular” last four terms. Try for instances this combination that helps to explore a situation our tour explored in Peru: ‘art of a particular society in transition through time‘.

Pressing out the air bubbles

Pressing out the air bubbles

Painted, glazed, kiln dried, sun drying

Glazed and painted and drying in the sun in readiness for the second firing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We toured the Seminario Ceramicas in Urubamba of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The head potter, Pablo Seminario, along with his wife the head painter, Merilu Behar, developed a style of glazed and decorated pottery that has elements of ancient Peruvian cultures and modern stylistic exploration. The style was further developed by the isolation necessary for survival during the Shining Path insurgence of the 1980’s. One motif that the potter declared to me that he finds ever new is the shape of the arrowhead. As he said, “It was a tool for gathering food…is similar to the water drop or a leaf”. So Pablo continues to explore splashes of modern creativity mixed with hints of ancient continuity.

Moderno-ancient mix

Moderno-paleo creations

   I was temporarily separated from my tour    group because I was taking some pictures in this gallery of creations of the artist. When I exited the room outdoors I didn’t see anyone. I assumed a whole group could not have gone far in a minute so I went to the nearest doorway. When I entered, there was Pablo wielding a small carving tool on a large arrowhead. Realizing I had entered his private studio, I began to back out but he waved me forward, not even slowing the pace of his work. 

Pablo manifesting a new vision of the arrowhead

Pablo manifesting a new vision of the arrowhead

 

  For the next 10-12 minutes we amicably discussed the creative process. He seemed to be quite interested in talking with me because I had brought students to tour Peru and because I talked intelligently about art and science. I asked several questions about how he begins a concept and carries it out. One question involved the arrowhead, “You obviously like to make arrowheads. Why did you start with it and why do you continue with it now?” He related the request from an art exhibit many years ago that he combine modern and ancient elements of design. This request caused him to reflect on the usefulness and ubiquitousness of the arrowhead shape he noticed in nature as quoted above. He continues to see new things in the shape and strives to continue to grow and so pursues more content in the arrowhead. This discussion led to me commenting on how one should be thankful to the Creator for instilling the gift of creativity. He retorted that it was far more work than creativity. I countered that the work is necessary but without merit if the person lacks the creative ability; each of us should work to develop the gift we have. The waste of potential that he sees as an artist and I see as a science teacher consumed some of our interaction. We also interacted over the similarities in science and art, how each involves elements of the other, and how both center around the abilities to think and work hard. It was one of those moments when we both knew that we had connected in a meaningful way even though before that moment we had been total strangers from different cultures pursuing different vocations and avocations, separated by different worldviews. Our connection was musing on life, its processes, and its meaning.

His life had been one sufficiently isolated from the insanity of the violent culture around him in order to survive and thrive, and yet not isolated from creative interaction, as his collaboration with his wife and 50 potters and painters in training attests. 

Decorating the forms

Decorating the forms with Inca symbols

Main Gallery

Main Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think that in this discussion and on this trip I discovered a more complete reason for why I like to travel. It extends my musing on life through observation of diversity in nature, culture, thinking, history, distance, science, people, God’s work in the world, and a host of other providential allowances given by a good Creator. We want to see beauty and substance and understand its meaning and purpose. But many are not willing to wade through the meaning of ugliness and triviality to reach the beauty and substance that does not lend to their preconceived ideas of what it should mean. I agree with Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Don’t be afraid to examine yours and others and risk having to change what you hold dear for what is true and good and beautiful and full of substance.

Contrasts of Hues and Properties

Contrasts of Hues and Properties

Courtyard Beauty

Courtyard Beauty of Seminario

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued,” quoted my pastor of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Paul declared,But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11

As we get nearer to Christ through years of devotion and repetition of trials, we discover more His value and less the worth of all that we held so dearly without cause. The pastor’s quote drove me immediately to a quote of another Christian who had drawn close to the Savior just before his death: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot (This may actually be a quote he had memorized after reading the English nonconformist preacher, Philip Henry, though it is not possible to know.) Elliott was willing to put all of his fears and desires on hold to reach for eternal gain.

Is there a pattern here? Do we value more that which is valuable as we gain a greater glimpse of Him who is valuable? Does that relate closely to the time of our home-going (heavenward, I mean)?

“If your heart takes more pleasure in reading novels, or watching TV, or going to the movies, or talking to friends, rather than just sitting alone with God and embracing Him, sharing His cares and His burdens, weeping and rejoicing with Him, then how are you going to handle forever and ever in His presence? You’d be bored to tears in heaven, if you’re not ecstatic about God now!” Keith Green

Bonhoeffer’s and Elliot’s lives were cut short directly as a result of pursuing Gospel-centered lives and Green’s while focusing on spreading the Gospel. It seems that this pursuit of God is dangerous. But perhaps that perspective of saying that it is dangerous is still that of one afraid to totally let go and serve God. Maybe that pursuit of God is really exciting and the seemingly early demise of these believers is the reward of hot pursuit of their goal. If your appointed, that is God ordained, assignment is complete your demise is neither untimely nor problematic, though I am not ignoring the hurt and discomfort it causes loved ones.

We could also quote other saints who outlived most everyone around them while seeking God with all their heart: “If I had a thousand pounds China should have it—if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?” Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)

Still, there is some truth to the difficulty of living for Christ which Taylor, Judson, Carey, and many others would quickly attest. But so did Paul: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” II Timothy 3:12 And G.K. Chesterton confers: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

Watchman Nee was one of those exceptions of the type I am quoting here, “And it is through conflict that God induces the believer to seek and to grasp total triumph in Christ.” (1903-1972; died in prison for his faith)

What are we “normal folk”, Christians not called to foreign lands or extreme conditions, to do? There is much instruction about “ordinary living” but here are verses that show that it too is ordained by God for His glory: But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.” I Thessalonians 4:10-12 The quiet life is not the undisturbed life. If you witness to your neighbors and live in purity before God, someone will notice and be irritated enough to bother you. Recall the II Timothy 3:12 verse above. And no one is a stranger to difficulty in this fallen world. Not for the sake of “some action” in the persecution arena or difficulty district but for the purpose of knowing your Savior and enjoying Him far more than now, don’t be afraid to count what is eternally rubbish as loss to gain what is eternally priceless, knowledge and intimacy with Christ. May God enable you and me to so do, rejoicing in the process and the outcome.

 

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During the sermon this morning the pastor referenced two metaphors used by John MacArthur concerning unity in the church. Never quite willing to let a good analogy go unanalyzed and extended I began musing.

According to his reporting of MacArthur, we frequently see unity as a bag of marbles. Marbles (people in the church) are held in (unity) by a bag (programs). If the bag wears thin or tears the church loses all its marbles via the loss of the external binding force of the bag.   It occurred to me that the congregants scatter because they have potential energy (sin nature) that gives them momentum (movement) away from one another once the constraining force of the bag is reduced. The reason this occurred to me is that I have seen dead churches that still have a semblance of unity even when there are no programs to hold them together simply because there is also no life or movement in the church. Dead objects don’t move (or stop their present straight line motion (tradition)) unless acted upon.

MacArthur thought that a better analogy for unity was that of a magnet (God) acting as a central attractive force upon iron filings (the people). But the science teacher in me rebuffed that there are no mono-poles. For every north pole there is a south pole, always. So what we are being attracted to as our north pole-God- causes us to be oriented away from what is then our south pole-the world, the flesh, and the devil. Iron filings alone will be attracted to either pole but once magnetized by an attraction to one pole will orient with their “backs” to the other pole since they become mini-magnets with north and south poles. We still have sin natures which pull us the wrong way, but we now have a new pole oriented toward God and others in our church, unless we pull away.

What attracts you? What are you being oriented toward? What have you turned your back on or is this outside force deciding for you? Orient yourself toward God by His grace along with a body of believers (iron filings) and you will turn your back on evil. Try to stay neutral and you will be pulled in by the next passing attraction.

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It was what church should be: lively discussion about the truths of God’s Word, challenging preaching that conveys God’s truth, hugs and handshakes, words of encouragement, a little extra effort to reach out to the hurting among us, words to get one thinking and rethinking, offers and procedure for help, appointments to get together later in the week to further the effect. God used my brothers and sisters to bless my wife and me both in terms of ministry offered to us and ministry offered for us to do. Was it perfect? Certainly not. Was it Spirit-led? More than I’ve seen in quite a while. Was it encouraging? Very. Was it an indication of things to come? Hopefully and in the longer term, absolutely. Was it a fluke? Not if we continue praying as I know for a fact was happening this past week. It reminds me of a quote we heard in VBS this past week: “Our good is for God’s glory; God’s glory is for our good.” I give Him the glory for all that He is doing at His church in this locale and know that it will in turn be for our best. May it draw others in to hear and taste the Gospel.

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Spring has significantly sprung in our neck of the woods. We may yet have another wintery storm but the bluster is mostly out of that season. Flowers seem particularly profuse this season: carpets of red trillium, bluets, grape hyacinth, and violets. The hardier varieties of Daffodils have already shown their glory. Leaves are sprouting rapidly on the trees.

Neighbor's Redbud

Neighbor’s Redbud

Violets and Grape Hyacinth

Violets and Grape Hyacinth

Violets and Ground Ivy

Violets and Ground Ivy

Variety of Heal All?

Variety of Heal All?

 

As the transformation has occurred, when not out in the yard or woods,  I have been watching from the dining room window as I eat. One sight in the last two weeks has arrested my attention, however, and it is of my own doing. I’ve long wanted fruit trees that produce. I lived for six years across a dirt road from a pear tree that no one cared for or seemed aware of. It would produce a few pears each year that were the old style: hard and sweet- moon glow pears I think. One year just before we moved the spring and summer conspired together with a perfect combination for this old pear tree. It produced so many large pears that it bent over with some of the pears touching the ground. Even more fascinating was the almost total lack of worms or other insects. I ate pears for lunch every day and most usually with yogurt after super. I ate them with my cereal for breakfast. We froze some and I ate them relentlessly. My wife ate her share as well. The tree produced for 3 1/2 months until heavy frost. It was simply amazing. The next year the pear tree produced a few worm eaten pears just like it had in all of my previous notice of it. Soon afterward we moved to our present house. One of the things that drew us to the house we bought was the trees: oak, redbud, catalpa, pitch pine, white ash, chinese chestnut, and two apple trees. I was too busy with house repair and job to prune them the first several years, but I read up on pruning and pruned them later on. I believe that it was the season a year and a half after that they produced some decent sized and number of apples. A fair number were without worm. They are probably what is referred to as cooking apples because they lack much firmness, and much sweetness or tartness desirable in an eating apple. Since then frost has gotten the flowers and worms have rotted the fruit. I sprayed them one year with soap just after the blooms fell off, to no avail. I’m not a pesticide kind of guy and I haven’t figured out the natural ways of preventing apple worms. I have pruned them somewhat since then but finally let them go. My son pruned them heavily last year but they are so tall that you can’t reach half of the apples and those that fall are severely damaged. There is a point to all of this story. I went out to try again this spring and found that the larger tree had several rotten places in the trunk. If there was any possibility of producing apples, it seemed to me, this problem must be dealt with. I cut most of the rot out. Now I sit and look at the sad results of my decisive action.

Ouch!
Ouch!

 I was immediately reminded of two Scripture passages: John 15:1-11 and Luke 13:1-9 Hear a little of each passage:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit… he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”      John 15:1-2, 5-6                   And He began telling this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine, but if not, cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

Perhaps it is a parable for my life just now. No, by God’s grace, I do not believe I will be burned up because I belong to Him, but does cut down mean eternally separated or ‘fallen asleep’ as those who were disobedient (I Corinthians 11:30)? I have been severely pruned or cut; difficulties with career, health, loved ones. Has my life been unfruitful and full of rot so that it needed a major pruning? Am I too apt to be content, complacent when I have orders to fulfill? There are other ways to look at the reasons for these trials but I don’t want to be oblivious to the obvious. I certainly feel like this tree looks. And I don’t see it or mean it as complaining. I just want to learn the lessons that are here and serve my Lord better rather than have to recycle remediation. The flowers bloom all around; the sun shines brightly; the soil is warming and wet; the grass is greening. Am I connected and abiding in the vine (trunk and root) so that I may bloom, leaf, and bear fruit. I want to be a fruit tree that produces. I want to be pruned, not cut down.

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Perhaps the reason I don’t have a very big following for my blog is that I mostly write for my own posterity and the comfort of getting my burning thoughts down in “black and white”, or whatever other colors I choose. I thought it was humorous and somewhat gratifying the other day when a student said to me about midway through a monologue I was giving in class, “Mr. [Leon], I could listen to you rant all day!” “That’s and interesting comment,” said I, “why do you feel that way?” “You are not afraid to be honest about what you think and always do it without being profane. There is alot of truth in what you say” Wow, so perhaps others are not so honest or insightful and are profane?

So, you might well guess that we are preparing for a rant, though this one is quite mild in delivery compared to the sarcastic and cutting version the student heard about the real deficiencies of public education (Perhaps that one will serve for another day. Oh, no, not another prescriptive education rant!). No, this one is about a significant blind spot that is preventing science education and political action from moving forward and it is not being caused by the uninformed. If after all of that you are still up for it, click on  Stop Writing Us Off    I look forward to some rousing comments.

 

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Stress and strain are engineering terms. Stress is any force, pressure, torque, electrostatic potential, or thermal gradient that tries to distort an object, its surface or its components. (didn’t even look that up) Strain is the deformation of that object resulting from the stress. Motion is apt to result in both stress and strain. In elastic collisions stress does not result in permanent strain to the objects involved because the colliding objects temporarily distort and return to their original form when the deforming energy is converted to other forms, most notably heat. In other words, the strain is passed out of the system, leaving no impression on the objects. The most common example is billiard balls colliding on a pool table. Non-elastic collisions, on the other hand, permanently deform the objects involved. Tossing wet mud onto a wall where it sticks is an obvious example.

So, am I merely in the mood to convey physics concepts which are all too obvious to many who read this page? No, stress and strain have very straightforward analogy to life in the body and mind and spirit. Frequently when people say that they have so much stress in their life, they really mean both. That is, they are saying that all of the pushes and pulls that are stress are getting them down and making it hard to function, strain. I am experiencing both- changed schedule, pressures to succeed, accusations of neglect and slack-handedness, bills, desire to enjoy and play when it’s time to work and serve, and very notably, sadness at seeing someone I love degraded in her ability to serve her family as she likes to do.  You may take this for whining if you like, but it is really just the way that I have learned to deal with the stress. Somehow it’s supposed to be more noble to not talk about your troubles. Of course, there is nothing noble about self-focus and there is way too much of that in this society. Perhaps then I should keep quiet. Aaaccchh! Tangents!

So (love that word) here’s another one. My wife took about 6 hours to fix my son and me supper one day this past week. She can’t much read recipes just now, and her work is very slow and deliberate, but she so wanted to take care of her family that she worked diligently most of the day cutting up salad, baking sweet potatoes, sauteing cabbage and carrots with venison sausage, and baking cornbread so that we could eat a good meal. I about couldn’t eat for the tears. Then this morning she fixed oatmeal pancakes, a recipe that she had never done before. She laughed that it was a good thing that all of the ingredients were 1 (cup, teaspoon, etc) because she could not have made it otherwise. She still can’t say most names or understand much of what is said to her, but she can fix meals and wash dishes and she is happy to be able to do it again. I guess we’ll go grocery shopping together this afternoon.

Anyway, I have concluded that strainless stress is probably not very beneficial to this object. Afterall, if I am not changed by what pushes on me I’m apt to have to repeat that lesson until there is change. The idea of standing up to stress with dauntless courage and stone-faced lack of strain is neither where I live nor useful to my progress forward in the faith. I want to learn now so that I don’t have to repeat the lesson. Of course, the strain I am after is one that conforms me to the image of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, not a wet mud pie stuck to a wall like so much yak dung on the side of the house drying to be used for fuel to cook and heat. Though it is not particularly what I want in the sense of what is enjoyable, change for the sake of conformity to His image is good, and God is good in patiently working strain into my life through the stresses He ordains. The more pliable, that is non-resistant to strain, I am, the easier that strain will conform me without destroying the very fabric of who I am. It reminds me of Philippians 4:6-8: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” I so want that peace of and with God that so surpasses comprehension that onlookers upon spying it cannot help but attribute it to a work of God. But that will involve far more stress and considerably more strain that I’m not all too sure I’m up to. I have discovered that is not for me to determine. As per Colossians 3 I need to focus above so that I may succeed below:

God’s grace is my comfort and rest

 

My strong tower in the midst of test

 

While I trust Him I shall prevail

 

Raised from the dead without fail

 

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I break the present silence with trepidation because as always I feel compelled to be honest and that is hard when you have also been foolish in the eyes of others. So, I will start off slowly and get around to several points in a circuitous way.

At 4 AM on New Years Day, my precious wife awoke with what I now know to be “having a stroke”. She rubbed her head both front and back, complaining of it hurting and could not recognize me speaking to her. There is so much I am not saying because it is too hard to say, and there have  been many doubts and tears. We finally arrived at the hospital for a 3 night stay. Thankfully the stroke did not effect her motor skills other than a general, temporary weakness. She walked into the ER, spoke in a limited way without slurred speech, grasp numerous nurses and doctors hands and pushed against their resistance. Instead, her language center was arrested. She could not say names, mine, her own, and to her, most notably, her children. She could not understand many instructions which led one doctor to conclude she had motor skill deficiencies because she could not follow his instructions to apply pressure against his push.

I am going to post several poems that came 2 weeks after the events described above that reveal some of my reactions to all that I saw and experienced during this time as a result of seeing my wife’s debilitation and having family push me this way and that. The reflections are obviously focused around my thoughts and struggles concerning the stroke my wife had and are therefore skewed away from the events to my feelings about the events. No one is truly objective afterall though that does not mean untruthful. My first poem is a short one that deals with the immediate “why” question, to which there is no answer other than “He is good”:

I know in my heart that God is good
His Word declares it so
From His works to show
How His providence and care
The abundance He does share
Reveal that He is kind
And powerful and involved and good

If you have not yet concluded by faith that He is good you will probably ask endlessly “Why”, or perhaps, accuse Him, when it is sin in the world that is the cause of so much pain and suffering. Oh, so its sin and not Him. Why didn’t you say so? It is because all good and ill is filtered through His providential hands, otherwise He is not truly God: “I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11) Here it is, pay careful attention, those of you who want to soften God down, “who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good or evil'” (Zephaniah 1:12): “I am the Lord, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” (Isaiah45:6-7) Wow what a tangent! But it is not a false one because His goodness is based on His sovereignty- He is not fickle; He has purpose, much of which He has made known and yet is inscrutable by man. He is good and there is purpose in difficulty and harm we experience.

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In the Summer 2013 Gospel Project, Lesson 12, the following quote by Robertson McQuilkin appears:

“The more I know [Christ], the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I obey Him. The more I obey Him, the more I become like Him. The more I become like Him, the better I know Him. The better I know Him, I love Him the more. And the more I love Him, I reach a new level of likeness to Him.”

I think better in diagrams and so remember concepts better. Additionally, I need to know what it looks like when it is happening including what part I have in the process and what part is applied to me. I hope the following helps you as well. The row of “looks like” bubbles are only a few examples that need expanded. You can click on the diagram to enlarge it.

Becoming Like Christ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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He knows everything- the position and momentum of every particle (Heisenberg Principle doesn’t apply), where they have been and where they are going? He knows all thoughts and possibilities? If the idea doesn’t blow your little mind it’s just because you haven’t understood it yet.

That’s OK; David didn’t either:

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
 You understand my thought from afar.
 You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
 And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
 Even before there is a word on my tongue,
 Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
 You have enclosed me behind and before,
 And laid Your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
 It is too high, I cannot attain to it.”      Psalm 103:1-6

David points out that God knows his location, position, thoughts, intentions; direction before, during, and after moving; the words coming to his tongue. The result is entrapment, control, of which David realizes he has no comprehension beyond the fact that God does know, which was also revealed to David as a prophet in this Psalm. To state the case simply, God has intimate knowledge of us.

Do you find God’s thoughts of you, as expressed here, threatening or comforting? David was awed, acknowledging that he could not understand, but how did that make him feel? Jesus tells us the proper response to such a knowledge and power:

 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:25b-31

Do not fear; fear; do not fear. Which is it, Lord? Well, it depends on who you should fear and in what way. People can harm and even kill the body, but do not fear that because the worst it can result in is pain and the best is ushering you into the presence of God (not an excuse for humanly speaking “untimely” death by one’s own hand or someone else’s). Do fear, reverence, hold in awe God who can eternally separate you from His presence into an eternal world of hurt. But for those who know Him (not merely about Him), do not fear for His knowledge of you is intimate down to the counting of each hair and He values you.

Not only does He know us intimately, but He also knows us and all things completely:

1) in the present

“Listen to this, O Job,
 Stand and consider the wonders of God.
 “Do you know how God establishes them,
 And makes the lightning of His cloud to shine?
 Do you know about the layers of the thick clouds,
 The wonders of one perfect in knowledge…?”  Job 37:14-16 

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.  We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.  I John 3:18-20

His knowledge is our security!

2) in the past and the future 

“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’”  Isaiah 46:9-10

One outside of time can see “the end from the beginning”, but I can’t fathom lack of time, existing in the eternal present, or foreknowledge. I can praise Him as the one of a kind God He is and be secure in His plan, established and accomplished as it is by a His good pleasure which is good (James 1:17). Not only does He know everything actual- past, present, future- but He also knows all potential as seen by the call to repentance of Jesus:

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” Matthew 11:21

The application for our lives is powerful. Since God knows my good, bad, and ugly sides and still loves me and chose me apart from any good or bad, then my relationship with Him is totally secure. But did He really choose me apart from foreknowledge of me?  

“…there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”  Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.””  Romans 9:10-13

What are we to say about those who do not know Jesus? Are they simply doomed to hell because they have not been chosen? We can’t know who is and who isn’t, because we are limited in knowledge. But we do have the opportunity to plead for our salvation and we know that He hears, for “it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:21

Additionally, our security in Him is greatly increased because His plan is based on perfect knowledge so that nothing takes Him by surprise. His plan will be accomplished, period: “…You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” Isaiah 25:1

The result of these assurances of security should be to help us interpret situations that come up in our lives in a more patient, confident, purposeful, thankful, and eternal manner. Circumstances may be hard but they are not without purpose. We can add to the glory given to God by working with His plan instead of against it. He is worthy and there is great reward. 

The thoughts expressed herein are a mixture of mine and those of Kendell Easley in the Summer 2013 Gospel Project lesson “The Omni God”.

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The first poem I wrote this past week is the last one I am posting because I had to reflect on its content abit. It could so easily be seen as insensitive, or premature, but I consider it neither. I think it is just honest in a constructive kind of way. We have questions; we should voice them and find answers rather than silently or violently remaining agnostic about what is real and true. I offer this poem as a balm to many hurting loved ones who are truly asking. The eleven year old girl who died of leukemia and provoked my mind to write it has God’s best as I understand because she accepted God’s solution:

A purpose in life to glorify God
To enjoy His gifts, obey His commands
Accept hardships and the correcting rod
Challenge potential and all life’s demands

What’s the way forward when we’ve lost such life?
Then come tears and doubts and questions abound
Mind and heart struggle with internal strife
About ultimate issues, life profound

How is God good when there is so much bad?
God’s not the author of evil and wrong
Man disobeys, consequences are sad
Overtaking the ‘innocent’ and strong

God provides a way to overcome death
To have peace with Him and eternal rest
Bought by His Son, finished at His last breath
Now and forever have life and God’s best

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