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What You're Used To

Part of my wing of the chemistry building is undergoing a much needed renovation. This week however, they have to shut off ALL chilling water to my wing, which includes the air conditioning, to replace a pump or valve or something that services the part being renovated and my part of the wing. That’s fine, but we are having a heat wave with temperatures in the upper 90’s. Going through the door from the next wing into mine is like stepping into a rain forest. It makes me wonder—before central air, how did my predecessors do it?


Today I started listening to Arabian Nights in the car. It’s about a Persian king who marries a new girl every night and beheads her in the morning because his first wife cheated on him and so he prevents any future wife from getting the chance. This is bad for the morale of the realm. Then the vizier’s daughter, Scheherazade, volunteers to marry the king.

The Loser Celebrates

The Prodigal Son, by Rembrandt van Rijn, circa 1668,The Hermitage Muesum, St. Petersburg Russia,
I have spent several recent posts discussing the justice and judgment aspects of God’s personality because they are there and all too real. But if it ended there, we miss the climax to the story. God IS just, and His moral character leaves no room for our selfishness. However, for some bizarre reason, He still loves us with a reckless, crazy abandon and therefore He is unable to just leave us to our fate, but pursues and searches for us, wooing us back to Himself. And when we have reconciliation, God celebrates.

The Many and the Few

The Bible is a wonderful book that contains many inspiring, beautiful and uplifting things. It also contains some very difficult statements and passages. If we are going to take the former, then we must take the latter. The Book is meant for us. As Paul states in his second letter to Timothy, “all Scripture is breathed by God and useful for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness.”

Therefore, we are required to deal with passages such as Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Paying for Others' Mistakes

As I prepare for the first summer term of classes, I will be reflecting over policy changes in the syllabus that might be needed due to new loopholes students may have found. Life would be so much simpler if folks would just do what is expected of them. But that is one of the problems with humanity. We are anything but simple.

Large Nobility

On my mother’s desk is the following quote by Abraham Lincoln, “We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.

Today's post comes from observing how a major incident costing many people their jobs escalated from an unwise but relatively minor comment made in a meeting. How many troubles would be avoided if we would ignore offensive things said by others and sought to minimize the opportunities for others to take offense at our words. In today’s culture, the burden for avoiding conflict lies almost exclusively with the speaker and the hearers are rarely expected to let things slide by. In fact, much of the “politically correct” mentality seeks to hunt for any potential opportunity to infer offense in someone’s words. Author intent and gracious forgiveness are not options. To me, what is even more diabolical is when a hearer is offended on behalf of some hypothetical person not even present who might be offended had they heard the comment.

Qualified Ignorance

{Note: Blogger was having technical issues yesterday preventing a post yesterday. My apologies.}

Have you ever noticed how many great discoveries are made by people who don’t know enough to realize their ideas are ‘impossible?’ They just plow ahead while experts shake their heads saying it can’t be done, especially by an amateur.

Do More With Less?

“Doing more with less” seems to be the motto of this time. Administrators and managers everywhere are urging folks to pitch in more to get through these difficult times. And certainly there is wisdom in that general principle.

Well, What Now?

Why not? Every once in a while, it’s fun to jump on the bandwagon. It’s “Rapture +1” and all those ‘camping’ out on “Biblical” numerology are coming into the rain of disillusionment and chagrin.

Abba, Father

A couple of days ago, I discussed Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God. His picture of God’s wrath, while unpopular with our modern view of things, is in fact in agreement with what Scripture says on the topic. But if Scripture ended there, we really would be lost.

Speaking, Swimming, Striding: Saviour sans Self

Tonight, I saw “The King’s Speech” for the first time. Without spoilers, it’s about Prince Albert, (current Queen Elizabeth II’s father) who had a severe speech impediment, and his speech therapist. Like many speech impediments, it was not due to mechanical deformities in his body, but a psychosomatic disability due to early childhood (emotional) trauma. When he sang, was empassioned, or couldn’t hear himself, he was able to speak without stammering. In short, when he was too busy mentally to think about how he sounded, he sounded fine.


We have a problem. The Bible hasn’t changed in nearly two millennia, but how we view God changes regularly and certain aspects of His character rise and fall in trendy popularity. In short, regardless of how His Word describes Him, we still “create” God in our image.

During pretty much my whole lifetime, our culture focuses on the aspects of God that deal with love—‘Our Father in heaven,’ ‘God is love,’ and so on, with just enough of His justice so that we can get back to mercy, grace, love, peace, blessings, and so on with some sort of ‘context.’

There is also a kick of flavor added in by Lewis (in Narnia), Young (in The Shack) and others, including me who talk about God’s unpredictability, that He is wild and doesn’t conform to our image of him, but we still tend to think of things more on the softer side of wild, as a whole.

It was not like that 200+ years ago.

What's Missing?

Tonight on the way home, I put in a CD of ‘the greatest sermon ever preached on American soil,’ Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He really says it like it is. When I finish it, I will likely listen to it again. I just finished “Pilgrim’s Progress” by Bunyan, and it was a strange mixture of profundity and triteness, yet, it also, like Edwards, calls us to a higher level of commitment.

Why are you a follower of Christ? What have you sacrificed as rubbish before the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord? What are you really willing to sacrifice? For myself, I’ve sacrificed precious little, and would like to think I’d sacrifice it all, but find myself trying to find ways to have my cake and eat it too.

Interdepartmental Mail

As I was contemplating possibilities for tonight’s topic (translation: racking my brain frantically and prayerfully for something profound about which to write), my eyes fell on one of those large yellow envelopes labeled, “Interdepartmental Mail” with all of the address blocks on it so it can be reused a gazillion times and you cross out the previous “To:” and “From:” blocks before using the next to send your document package within.

This old thing had most of the blocks on the front side filled out, and I began to wonder—what offices had it been to? What important or trivial information had it carried? Had any of those documents been life changing, either for the recipient or the person(s) about whom they were written?

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make It Read the Syllabus

Today’s thought comes from a friend’s Facebook comment:  “help...students not reading the syllabus then getting burned at the end of the semester, it is so sad to see..”

One of her friends commented,: "Yeah...I give my (esl) students a syllabus activity on the first day and a syllabus quiz the next day during the first week of class. It helps a little, but not as much as you'd think.”

Scholar's Prayer

This nugget is from the president of the C. S. Lewis Foundation, Dr. Stan Mattson, inspired by Choristers’ Prayer of the Royal College of Church Music:

Bless us O Lord, your servants who are called to scholarly vocations.
Grant that what we understand with our minds and profess through our words
may be grounded in truth and reflected in our lives,
to the greater good and well-being of our students,
our colleagues, our academic communities and the world at large,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

While God is the hearer of our prayers, I find encouragement from Lewis’ reflection:

"I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me."


Breaking Stereotypes

{Note:  This is the manuscript of my essay for “The Truth That Makes Them Free" Anthology, described in this post. Thus it is longer than most posts.}

 “Always share your faith. If necessary, use words.”
      St. Francis of Assisi
"Ooh", said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he...quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion!"
"That you will deary and no mistake", said Mrs. Beaver. "If there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?", said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn't safe.....but he's good. He's the King I tell you."
C. S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

I grew up in a normal American family—my parents and a younger sister. We were Americans, so that meant we were Christians. Then, when I was around the second grade, my dad was urged by his father, “Kevin, you get those kids into church!” So, we started attending a Methodist church. My sister and I didn’t find the services terribly interesting, but I seemed to absorb the Bible stories in Sunday School. Several years passed, and Dad’s Sunday School teacher began to challenge him to take the Bible’s claims about truth seriously. Thus began a bittersweet time for my sister and I—we went from listening to music in the car to all of these radio preachers, hardly an enticement for young kids to be interested in spiritual things. 

Holy Grammar

{Note: I apologize for the break for the last two days. Blogspot was having some maintenance issues and I was unable to log in—you could read the posts, but I couldn’t get into the backside to upload or anything. In truth, I am grateful-it was a good vacation while I wrapped up the semester. But we’re back up now!}

A friend in the English department was reviewing a draft of my submission for “The Truth That Makes Them Free” anthology about which colleague Dr. Don Davis posted last month. In his comments, my friend quoted a Puritan proverb, “God loveth adverbs.”

He Moved Through the Fair

There is a classic Celtic tune, “S/He Moved Through the Fair” which has been recorded by many artists who changed the gender as appropriate or desired. It’s a little strange, but a memorable semi-haunting tune. The lyrics of the version by Sinead O’Connor are listed below:

Intellectual Property

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
                                                                                                                                                Matthew 10:16

Occasionally I have the opportunity to teach students about the value of protecting one’s intellectual property. Today I handled two cases of academic integrity issues where one lab partner cut their partner’s work from wholesale cloth.

Knowing When to Quit

On the side, I sometimes tutor high school students, usually in chemistry, but have done most subjects. I usually get a call a day or two before a test and the student needs to review the whole unit, so it turns into a marathon session.

It is amazing to watch the moment when the student shuts down from overload. They are unable to figure out each next step of a problem without coaching, even on problems they know how to solve. They make dumb mistakes. Their eyes are glazed. When you hit this point, it is time to stop, mid-problem even, tell them to go to bed, get rested and tackle that problem from scratch in the morning.

Perspective During Times of Stress

I have commented on how many folks have said what a crazy or busier than normal semester this has been. The following passage from Psalm 127 has long brought me peace and a reminder to keep a balance even when busy—that while I need to be diligent, I also need to be dependent—that God has a necessary role in every success, and having rest, a break from work, is part of the diligent blessing from God to those who depend on Him.

“Unless the LORD builds the house,
                Those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
                The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
                Eating the bread of anxious toil;
For He gives to His beloved sleep.”


Prayer for Finals

May the God of all knowledge give you peace and recall through your finals.

(Enough procrastination by surfing! Now, back to work!)


Seeing the End From the Beginning

It never fails. The last week of class, I am hit with a surge of students who all of a sudden are “concerned about their grade in the course.” All of a sudden they realize graduation is jeopardized because they blew off a lab report in January for a one credit hour course. Realize that I give them a chance to do one extra experiment at the end of the semester to replace a low report, so that lab report in January shouldn’t be a problem,


Who Helped You?

Today while walking to class, I passed a student sitting outside. As I walked by, he was looking over a paper that had been graded and returned to him. In red ink, it said, “95   Who helped you?”

As I was in a hurry, I didn’t stop or turn around to see his face, so my musings are just speculation. However, this was a profound situation. The grader’s comment can be taken at least two ways.

1)      The positive way—who has helped you to improve? Who inspired you? Who helped obtain the information? The grader is saying “way to go!” “Good job!” and so on.

2)      The negative way—From whom did you cheat? Who did this for you? With whom did you commit collusion? The grader is saying, “you aren’t good enough to do this well.” “Not only are you a bad student, but you’re a dishonest one.”

Either interpretation tells a significant story. What story does your feedback tell your students?