Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Higher And Higher

When I was attending grade school during the 1960’s I had two passions that consumed me. I loved baseball. I chewed lots of really bad gum to collect baseball cards. As much as I loved baseball, what really intrigued me was space exploration.

My heroes were the astronauts in NASA’s space program. I read everything about them that I could get my hands on. In 1969 my interest in space was at a fever pitch. Everyone was talking about the race to land on the moon. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, the entire world was captivated. Every newspaper covered the story. I soaked it all in. I couldn’t believe what a marvelous world I was living in. The moonwalk was a part of pop culture. After watching the moonwalk on TV, the Moody Blues drummer, Graham Edge, penned the poem "Higher and Higher", which was used to open their next album.

"Blasting, billowing, bursting forth
with the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes.
Man, with his flaming pyre
has conquered the wayward breezes.

Climbing to tranquility,
far above the clouds,
conceiving the heavens,
clear of misty shroud.

Vast vision must improve our sight.
Perhaps at last we'll see an end
to our own endless blight,
and the beginning of the free.

Climb to tranquility,
finding its real worth,
conceiving the heavens,
flourishing on earth".

As I listened to these words I realized even as a boy that this optimism that space exploration would make the world a better place wasn’t the way things would be. I read in my Bible in Obadiah 1:4, “Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the Lord”.

As a Christian I had always looked at space exploration as a way to learn more about the awesome things God had made. I was excited by the new discoveries and what they could show me about how awesome God is. As I studied science and read about space I always kept God in the picture.

While I went through High School I stayed interested in space, but there were many other things to interest me and take up my time. I realized that as interesting as space exploration was it wasn’t changing things here on earth. By now there had been 6 moon landings and moon walks. In just a few years astronauts on the moon had gone from the most exciting and talked about thing on the planet to ho hum, so you can drive a vehicle on the moon. The space race was over and pop culture had found other interests.

NASA didn’t recapture the interest of most Americans until 1981, when the Space Shuttle Columbia made the first flight of a space vehicle that returned to earth and was reusable. Once again man seemed on the verge of conquering the heavens. One of the exciting new directions in space exploration was the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1979 work was started on this new project. After many delays it was finally launched in 1990. Nothing NASA had done since landing on the moon captured the interest of the American public as much as the Hubble Telescope.

The images that the Hubble produced were breathtaking. When I first saw the images I thought of the words of David found in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork”.

One Hubble photo in particular fascinates me. It is called The Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Astronomers picked a seemingly empty spot in the sky. Staring at the spot in the sky for ten days, Hubble kept taking pictures one after another for the entire exposure time, accumulating data. Astronomers put the exposures together into one final picture. Each time they added an exposure, the view got deeper, revealing fainter objects. When they were done they had the deepest picture ever taken of the heavens.

The image is of a small region in the constellation Ursa Major. It covers an area 2.5 arcminutes across, one part in a million of the whole sky. The image contains an estimated 10,000 galaxies. That would mean that the whole universe contains a million times 10,000 galaxies. Astronomers estimate that our home galaxy, the Milky Way, contains between 200 and 400 billion stars. How many stars are in the universe? I will let you do the math.

Isaiah 40:26 tells us “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out one after another, calling each by its name. And He counts them to see that none are lost or have strayed away”.

The universe staggers our imagination. It is humbling to realize that our planet earth is simply a speck of cosmic dust in the great universe that God has created. David was amazed by God’s love for us. In Psalms 8:3,4 he wrote, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him And the son of man that You visit him?

Go outside tonight, take a look at the sky and know that there is a Creator who cares for you, who died for you and wants to bring you home to live with him.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

X Is For Xtreme Close-up


Here is my entry for this weeks ABC Wednesday. This week the letter is X. X is difficult, and for me called for creative spelling. X is for xtreme close-up.

Over the 4th of July holiday a couple of years ago, Gina and I traveled to Columbia, Missouri to visit my sister and her family. We really enjoyed our time with family.

We decided to go to the St. Louis Zoo even though the weather forecast was 80 to 90 percent chance of rain every hour. The weather cooperated, and we had only one short rain shower while we were at the zoo. It was cloudy and cool, just wonderful weather for walking around the zoo in the summertime.

The St. Louis Zoo is a great zoo, and admission is free. In 1910 the City of St. Louis set aside 77 acres in Forest Park for a zoo. State legislation provided that "the zoo shall be forever free," which has made the Zoo accessible to millions of visitors ever since.

I was excited about visiting the zoo and being able to take lots of pictures. Shortly after we arrived we were going through the "Flight Cage", a giant elliptical bird cage that dates back to the 1904 World's Fair held in St. Louis. As we were walking through looking at the birds I took this picture.

Flight Cage Swamp

As soon as I took this photo, I accidentally dropped my camera. When I picked it up, the focus no longer worked. As I played with the camera, trying to get it working, I noticed that the camera came into focus if held extremely close to something. I stuck my camera close to a flower and took this photo.


Even though I was disturbed about breaking my camera, I wasn't going to let that keep me from taking photos. I would just have to "focus" on extreme close-ups. As I walked through the zoo I looked for close-up opportunities.


Berry Drop


The thing that I found interesting was that my camera would not focus that close before I dropped it. I really liked my camera, but the one thing that I wasn't satisfied with was close ups. Now I have a close up only camera.

Tiny Flower



Because the focus was broken, I had to focus by physically moving the camera. The camera lens had to be almost touching the subject. Many of the photos I took were not quite in focus, but I enjoyed trying to get in focus shots.


I enjoyed my time taking photos at the St. Louis Zoo, even though they were not the photos that I set out to get. I missed those shots of the tigers who were so frisky in the cool weather, the cute penguins, and the sea lions; but I was forced to look at a world that I wouldn't have otherwise. Breaking my camera forced me to look at the world from a different perspective.

Monday, June 20, 2011

W Is For Wisdom Teeth

Here is my entry for this weeks ABC Wednesday. This week the letter is W. W is for wisdom teeth.

"The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil." That quote has been attributed to Cicero, a Roman statesman and philosopher. Cicero is widely considered to be one of Rome's greatest orators. A while back I had an experience that made me start thinking about wisdom.

I had been having a very painful toothache, so I went to the dentist. After taking x-rays, he told me that second molar on the lower left was in bad shape. One of the reasons that it had deteriorated was because it was up against my "wisdom tooth". He recommended that I have both teeth pulled.

Having the teeth pulled was quite an ordeal. The wisdom tooth was laying sideways, and the root had a hook that was in the bone. The procedure wasn't that painful, but the pulling, pushing, cutting, tugging and prying made it very uncomfortable. When the anesthetic wore off I was in a lot of pain.

While I was at home nursing a very sore mouth I started wondering why the third molars are called wisdom teeth, and why we have them. I found out that they are called wisdom teeth because usually they come in when a person is between age 17 and 21 or older; old enough to have supposedly gained some "wisdom". Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars. Sometimes these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned, but more often they are misaligned and cause trouble.

I found the explanation of the term "wisdom teeth" to be somewhat amusing. 17 to 21 year olds aren't the first age group that I think of when I think of wisdom. Wisdom comes with experience. The dictionary definition of wisdom is "the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; discernment, or insight.

We too often aren't sure of the difference between wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. There is some overlapping of the definitions. Wisdom is knowledge with understanding. Anyone can get knowledge, but understanding is another thing. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 3:13, "Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding".

I crave knowledge. I am curious about so many different things, and want to learn about them. It is interesting to me to see all the different "facts" that you can find on a given topic. Sorting through the "facts" can make understanding an almost impossible task.

1 Corinthians 1:19-20 tells us "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world"?

I want to make sure that in my quest for knowledge that I look to God for understanding.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 15 - A Special Day


Today, June 15th is a special day. 36 years ago I said "I Do" to my very best friend. The best decision I ever made was to marry the girl who stole my heart when she walked into Mr Brost's History class the beginning of my senior year of high school. I know that high school romances are not supposed to be forever and that when kids get married when they are in their teens the marriages aren't supposed to last, but we have proven those things wrong. It is still awesome to go through each day with my best friend.

A Senior in High School

This is the girl that took my breath away when she walked into class that morning. I was too shy to talk to girls, so it was almost a year before she had any idea that I was interested. I think that the good Lord knew that I needed all of the help I could get so he made it so that our paths crossed in a number of ways that year. Mr. Brost selected five students to work together each week producing learning packets for History class. Gina and I were both in the group. We both worked at the Harris Pine furniture factory. I worked on the dresser jig, and she made drawers. I would spend my breaks back with the drawer makers, but she still didn't catch on.

It came time for our High School graduation and I still had never gotten up the nerve to ask her out. Finally I mustered up every ounce of courage I could find and asked her if she would march with me when we graduated. She told me that she would like to but she had already told Russell she would march with him. If I would talk to Russell she would march with me. Once again summoning up every bit of courage I had I talked to Russell. He was very gracious and bowed out. I was on cloud nine.

The rest is history. After a year of a long distance relationship, five hundred miles, we were finally in the same place at the same time. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this girl. On June 15, 1975 we were married in the Denver First Seventh-day Adventist Church. The last 36 years have been an interesting and very fulfilling time. I'm looking forward to the next 36 years together.

Here We Are

Here in Arkansas June 15th is a special day for another reason. Although most Arkansans celebrate the day as our anniversary, some remember that June 15 is the birthday of Arkansas. Arkansas was declared the 25th state of the United Stated on June 15th, 1836.

Arkansas became United States territory in 1803 when President Jefferson purchased over 800,000 square miles of land from Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of France. After the Louisiana Purchase a few Americans slowly began arriving to settle Arkansas. They did not officially own the land, because the land was neither surveyed nor offered for sale until after 1815.

The survey of the Louisiana purchase was ordered by President James Monroe. It began after the end of the War of 1812, as a means for the federal government to pay its veterans with land. The nation's greatest asset was land west of the Mississippi River, and it was necessary to survey that land so that it might be apportioned fairly to veterans and sold to settlers and other investors who were already moving into the area. The official land survey began in October 1815. The survey opened up the territory to settlement.

The area we now know as Arkansas was first a part of the Louisiana Territory and then of the Missouri Territory before it became a separate territory in 1819. Arkansas Post, established by the French in 1686, was the first permanent white settlement in Arkansas. When the Arkansas Territory was organized, Arkansas Post became the capital.

When the Territory of Arkansas was created in 1819, almost immediately land speculators began claiming land of the south bank of the Arkansas River that would become Little Rock. In 1821, the legislature chose Little Rock to become the territorial capital and the city was founded that same year. By the late 1820s, the city consisted of about 400 residents and 60 buildings, mostly built of logs.

The first state Capitol in Little Rock was begun by Governor John Pope in 1833. At that time nine out of ten Arkansans were farmers, growing mostly cotton and corn. The population came largely from Kentucky and Tennessee, a part of the westward movement of Scottish, Irish, and English stock from Virginia and the Carolinas since early colonial times.

In the early 1830's the issue of statehood for Arkansas was first discussed. Part of the appeal of statehood for many citizens in the territory was that statehood would ensure that Arkansas would avoid the United States government's appropriation of public land for use as Indian reservations.

An important milestone which helped Arkansas secure statehood was the results of the 1836 census. The Arkansas territory surpassed the required minimum statehood population of forty thousand. According to the census, more than fifty-two thousand people lived in the territory, which meant Arkansas met the population requirement for being one of the new states. The Arkansas Territory was larger than the state of Arkansas. After statehood the leftover area to the west had post offices that continued for some years to use Arkansas postmarks although they were actually in territory known as Indian Country. After voting on a State Constitution, Arkansas was declared the 25th state of the United Stated on June 15th, 1836.

Monday, June 13, 2011

V Is For Vicksburg

Vicksburg National Military Park 15

It's time again for ABC Wednesday. If you aren't participating in ABC Wednesday, you are missing out on a lot of fun.

This week the letter is V. V is for Vicksburg. Last year Gina and I spent some time in Vicksburg, Mississippi on our way home from the Relay For Life Summit in Jackson, Mississippi. While we were there we visited the Vicksburg National Military Park.

The park commemorates the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg. The city's surrender on July 4, 1863 split the South, giving control of the Mississippi River to the Union. There are over 1,340 monuments, a restored Union gunboat, and National Cemetery on the 16-mile tour road.

Cannon 3

There is so much history in the park. The U.S. Government established the battlefield as a National Military Park in 1899.

The battles of the Vicksburg campaign were some of the fiercest and long lasting of the war. General Grant attacked the Confederates on May 19, 1863 and again on May 22. The Confederate positions were too strong, and the Union casualties were high. On May 25 General Grant decided on a siege of the city as he had it surrounded and had naval bombardment from the Mississippi. He stated in his memoirs, "I now determined upon a regular siege—to 'out-camp the enemy,' as it were, and to incur no more losses."

By the end of June, half of the Rebel soldiers were sick or hospitalized. Scurvy, malaria, dysentery, diarrhea, and other diseases cut their ranks. Food was almost non-existent, with soldiers resorting to eating dogs, mules and shoe leather. On July 3 General Pemberton rode out of the city with white flags to meet General Grant to discuss terms of surrender.


The most important thing for the Union army was that they now controlled all of the Mississippi River. The side that controlled that waterway controlled a direct route through the Confederacy and would eventually dominate the war. The full campaign claimed 10,142 Union and 9,091 Confederate killed and wounded.

As we toured the park and looked at all of the monuments it was sobering to think of the loss of life and the hardship that occurred in this beautiful countryside.

Vicksburg National Military Park 9


Vicksburg National Military Park 7

Vicksburg National Military Park 10

Vicksburg National Military Park 6

Vicksburg National Military Park 2

Monday, June 6, 2011

U Is For Unicorn

It's time again for ABC Wednesday. If you aren't participating in ABC Wednesday, you are missing out on a lot of fun.

This week U is for Unicorn. While driving through the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose, Texas we came across this guy with a broken horn. He reminded me of a unicorn. Some scholars believe that the sightings of one horned animals like this produced the myth of the unicorn.

The Unicorn

Greek writers of natural history were convinced of the reality of the unicorn, which they believed lived in India, a distant and fabulous realm for them. During the Middle Ages the people of Europe did not consider the unicorn a myth. The King James Version of the Bible uses the word unicorn 8 times. Unicorn horns were often found in cabinets of curiosities in Medieval and Renaissance Europe.

They were most often examples of the distinctive straight spiral single tusk of the narwhal whale They were brought into Europe as a very valuable trade item, and sold as horns from the legendary unicorn; being of ivory, they passed the various tests intended to spot fake unicorn horns. As these 'horns' were considered to have magic powers, Vikings and other northern traders were able to sell them for many times their weight in gold. Elizabeth I of England kept a "unicorn horn" in her cabinet of curiosities.

In 1967 when I was just starting to pay attention to the radio, The Irish Rovers had a top 40 hit with "The Unicorn". It sold 8 million copies worldwide and reached #7 on the US charts. Here is a copy I found on YouTube.

Here are the lyrics to The Unicorn

A long time ago, when the Earth was green
There was more kinds of animals than you've ever seen
They'd run around free while the Earth was being born
And the loveliest of all was the unicorn

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you're born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn

The Lord seen some sinning and it gave Him pain
And He says, "Stand back, I'm going to make it rain"
He says, "Hey Noah, I'll tell you what to do
Build me a floating zoo,
and take some of those...

Green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you're born
Don't you forget My unicorns

Old Noah was there to answer the call
He finished up making the ark just as the rain started to fall
He marched the animals two by two
And he called out as they came through
Hey Lord,

I've got green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but Lord, I'm so forlorn
I just can't find no unicorns"

And Noah looked out through the driving rain
Them unicorns were hiding, playing silly games
Kicking and splashing while the rain was falling
Oh, them silly unicorns

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Noah cried, "Close the door because the rain is falling
And we just can't wait for no unicorns"

The ark started moving, it drifted with the tide
The unicorns looked up from the rocks and they cried
And the waters came down and sort of floated them away
That's why you never see unicorns to this very day

You'll see green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you're born
You're never gonna see no unicorns