Saturday, February 28, 2009

Morning entertainment

Interesting if true:
  • More Yeti footprints, at 19,000'. One man is convinced of their existence.
  • A Kurdish shepherd discovered what other people think to be the site of Eden.
True and interesting:
  • Pictures of wave interiors may be viewed in a much safer locale than the photographer's.
  • Doodling while listening to something may improve recall. Taking notes may too.
  • Check out this fish with a mother's ability!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday II

Last night's readings were Joel 2:12-19 and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21. The sermon text was John 3:1-21, 19:39.

Nicodemus doubted, then believed. How is this connected to the Lenten season? He brought spices for Jesus' body after the Crucifixion. We normally associate Thomas with doubting. Yet Nicodemus, too, has a remarkable turnaround.

Nicodemus came at night - in John's gospel, signifying ignorance of God the Christ. When Judas left to betray Jesus, "it was night." In Nicodemus's case, he wasn't ignoranct of the Scriptures at all. Yet, although he doesn't really get it and is incredulous, he still comes to ask.

The word Christ used, "born again," can also be expressed "born from above." Jesus means the latter (Nicodemus misunderstands) and explains: water and the Spirit (the washing of Baptism, separate from the endless Pharisaical ablutions). Nicodemus could only understand tangible, physical things. But he needed also to see the spiritual depth of His words. Faith, living faith, is the key to this. And you can't obtain or sustain it yourself.

A certain part of Christ's message stuck and sticks today: John 3:16. During the trial, Nicodemus wanted to give Jesus a fair, public hearing. But he remained otherwise silent, like so many of us. Later came the last scene: Jesus was dead. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Nicodemus came with Joseph of Arimathea to embalm the body. Was this the moment of faith replacing doubt and unbelief? Probably. God's Word of love embodied had taken root.

May we not be silent when God opens the door for us to speak about Him.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dust to dust

Today in chapel I received the cross of Christ on my forehead and His forgiveness. So begins Lent.

*******

Muslims take their religious identity very seriously. It's a pity that most Christians don't.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Seeing and science

In five years we will never have to worry about flu again...so says the headline.

You know those 3-D sidewalk pictures? Don't walk on these two!

Carbon dioxide is being more severely regulated. Never mind that water vapor (which, coincidentally, we can't control) both has a wider IR spectrum absorption range and accounts for about 90% of the greenhouse effect (in contrast with CO2's 7% or so).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Transfiguration 2009

Today's readings: 2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6, and Mark 9:2-9 (sermon text).

It's good to be here in God's presence! - even if it's only on account of habit. Think about the event of the Transfiguration... Peter, James, and John were sleeping, having reached the summit. The glorified, glowing Jesus Christ roused them suddenly. He now manifested the Father's glory, and these three disciples saw it. What a rare privilege! Moses and Elijah (representative of the Law and the Prophets, respectively) added to the wonder and grandeur. So it's a wonder that Peter was even able to say anything.

In the parallel Gospel accounts, we learn that the disciples were next terrified by God's voice, and rightly so. It's the same with us - alternate exultation and terror. Sin - our sin - terrifies. Spiritual experiences will, because of this, fall flat if they're based on our feelings. Subjectivity fails us.

But Jesus came, touched, and told them not to fear. This leads to another insight: look to Jesus, especially in "down" moments, rather than to your emotions. Spiritual highs are inconsistent and usually undependable. So look only to Jesus Christ, holding on only to Him. That's the message of the entire Word. God is present here, forgiving you your sins. Hold Him in your everyday life, as the disciples did. Follow Him wherever He leads you.

And so Lent begins.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Public speaking

Japanese students and adults are using Obama's speeches as models of exemplary English. Now if we could only adjust the content...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Genes and proteins

This material fits in nicely with my current coursework...
  • Since there is no such thing as "the" human genome, everyone varies slightly in their DNA's nucleotide (A, G, T, C) sequence, and therefore in their amino acid sequence. Since one different nucleotide can mean a different amino acid, and from there a potentially different protein shape, this also affects dosages of various drugs. Here is a case in point.
  • Alzheimer's disease has been elsewhere connected with prions (misfolded proteins); here is suggested a prenatal link. The investigation continues.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This and that

Check out what's new in the wonderful world of medicine:
  • Chelation wipes - if you're exposed to lead, all you have to do is pay $7 for 20 of these high-tech tissues.
  • "Flash in the pan" takes on an entirely new meaning. Take off your nicotine patch before entering an MRI (technically NMRI, but noooooo..."nuclear" must mean radioactive!).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Epiphany 6

Today's readings: 2 Kings 5:1-14 (sermon text), 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1, and Mark 1:40-45.

Naaman was successful, respected, mighty - but he had leprosy. Like him, none of us is perfect. Yet we're still startled by sin and its effects. No one is holy; all are affected. We feel it when faced with perfection (human and divine both). The brighter His light, the darker our sin. It's always worse than we expected.

But when we're stunned by sin, a greater surprise comes: God's grace. It's a daily greeting - do we have ears and eyes to hear and see this marvelous medicine? Each time sin wounds, Christ heals, completely. According to Luther, God's grace is "exceedingly rich." Yet we doubt - can my wounds be healed? We are weak. But this is the appointed time for forgiveness.

Naaman's healing was unexpected. That made it all the better. God willingly healed an enemy of Israel, even though, he was too proud to accept it for free. Another surprise: no mystic rituals - only a common washing of water. Like he did, let God's surprises flow over you - look at His promises, listen to His voice, believe in Him because He is more than worthy of your belief and trust. See Him in the visible, physical elements - water, bread, wine - be surprised, and do not doubt. Through these and His promises, we may draw near.

Amen.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The price of love

A perhaps-formerly Muslim young woman is now suffering for the faith. Britain is, to put it lightly, foolish. What a way to celebrate the Feast of St. Valentine.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oops

The volume of newspapers, scientific journals, etc. could be reduced drastically by following this simple dictum: if something goes wrong, give the name, rank, serial number, and "Oops." See?

In science: two satellites (out of about 12,000 orbiting our lovely, isolated planet) collided.

In faces: a woman undergoes a change from blonde to brown hair; her son doesn't recognize her.

2/19/09: The SEC could say it too. Quit blaming Bush for everything already.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How many times must we say this?

More Darwin-related editorial. Though I haven't learned enough about Evolution to comment fully on the entire article, one paragraph caught my eye (emphasis added):

Although many aspects of the human body are well engineered, others, like the human spine (which supports 70% of our body weight on a single slender pole) are quite poorly organized. The vast majority of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives largely because of evolution's lack of foresight. An intelligent engineer could have foreseen the problem, and braced that single column spine with two or three more. But evolution can't look ahead, and is thus often forced to make do.

Is that ribbing of ID necessary? Evolution may be upward or downward. The creation model predicts that organisms will tend downward, hence a progressively weaker spine or disappearing wisdom teeth, for example. What does the evolution model predict?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wet and healthy

Quoth the AP: Get a humidifier or go out when it's raining. Flu viruses don't like this.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Epiphany 5

Today's readings: Isaiah 40:21-31, 1 Corinthians 9:16-27 (sermon text), and Mark 1:29-39.

Changes in life can be devastating, causing even illness and injury. Humans generally don't like this type of change - but what about Paul? He relishes change in order that he may be "all things to all people." Why does he do this? To bring some to Christ. The most drastic, vital change in Paul's (Saul's) life was his conversion near Damascus. From an enemy of God to a friend, by Jesus Christ's power, in an instant.

We're God's enemies naturally too. Left alone, we're blind and stupid. But faith in Baptism, Christ's light, changes and enlightens us forever. We go from sinner to saint. How marvelous! But look now how Paul willingly undergoes major changes - avoiding cultural taboos, for example - to become closer to people to become a better witness to them. Keep in mind that he never disobeys Jesus' teachings, though.

Today we also have missionaries who imitate Paul. They endure sometimes-painful, always-necessary changes for the sake of the Gospel. We as His ambassadors, remember that God gives us opportunities to do so - be judicious, but go along as far as able to become a more effective witness. Become like your witnessees, but DO NOT change the fact or the message that Jesus Christ is Lord. Not under any circumstances! Keep Him as Lord in your life that He may become the Lord of others' lives.

During this past week, each student attending chapel received an Ablaze! card. While I and many others don't agree with its goals and methods, the point is the same: share Christ's light with others by whatever means you have.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Of finches and fact

Remember the book review? Now, five days before Darwin's 200th anniversary, come five more reviews. My comments on each one:

  • The Tree of Life - a children's book painted as an excellent way to "escape the mindless polemics (and hero worship)" sure to come on Thursday. It's definitely right about the hero worship - Darwin, while being an excellent synthesizer of all the evolutionary ideas proposed before his time, was by no means the 'creator,' so to speak, of Evolution. It goes back to at least 600 B.C. Look it up.
  • The Beak of the Finch - apparently an explanation of the premise that microevolution + time + mutations = macroevolution. And no, creationists didn't make up the distinction. Robert Leavitt did. Have creationists misused it? Perhaps. But we didn't fabricate it.
  • The Politics of Evolution - examines what might have happened had Darwin published Origin immediately upon arrival in London in the 1830s.
  • Charles Darwin - a two-volume biography that curiously resembles the work of Jane Austen. I'll avoid it then.
  • Darwin Loves You - attempts to combat the assertion (backed up by a good quantity of evidence, I must say) that his theory, requiring no God but instead only secondary - natural (paragraph 6) - causes, "strip[s] the world of meaning." But does the fact that Darwin took interest in small things and wrote with aesthetic language really prove the author's point?
Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Spectra

Don't you just love learning about IR, MS, and NMR? Kidding.

The good: Our race, at least in this country, may perpetuate itself after all instead of killing future taxpayers. Biology vs. careers: biology always wins.

The bad: Certain clinics are reusing needles. This transmits diseases such as hepatitis more easily.

The ugly: A certain country is going down the drain. Nota bene: bad economy, juvenile thugs, possibly-incapacitated public servants, incapacitated public service, and more juvenile thugs.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ho!

My loyal - or not so loyal - readers, please go over to Ian's and read this poem. Count the allusions.

Epiphany 4

Today's readings were Deuteronomy 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, and Mark 1:21-28 (sermon text).

In the text, Satan is in God's house (!) and not intimidated by Jesus (!). Christ resists this and all of Satan's temptations, even as He preaches the Gospel to many. This Word is powerful - before the demoniac's entrance, He was teaching with authority, giving spiritual life. Perhaps we're too used to the Word, not being astonished at the display of its raw power. But this same power brought us to Him.

Baptism used to be accompanied by an explicit exorcism - Satan must leave as God enters. It's just as real a miracle as the one in our text. Satan still distracts when we're in God's house - sometimes he's even right beside us. Become aware of this and resist him.

Before Lucifer and his angels fell from heaven, they met Christ at God's right hand. Christ came to defeat them - not a first encounter. Remember that God must empty us, too, before He fills us. Be possessed by Him. Be amazed that He triumphs over evil!

Have a blessed Sunday.