Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Say it isn't so!

I'm in mourning.  Apparently it's been proven once and for all that time travel isn't possible.  A team of researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology claims to have measured the speed of a single photon (the smallest unit of light) and found that it can't travel faster than constant c (which represents the speed of light in a vacuum).  This confirms Einstein's views that "nothing can travel faster than light" and therefore, "an effect cannot occur before its cause."

I guess I can still hope for the discovery of wormholes that might allow me to travel quickly to far parts of the universe.  But that just isn't the same.L

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


In one of the many letters he wrote to his son in the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield gave the following advice: “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” To Chesterfield, focusing on just one thing at a time was not only practical but a mark of intelligence. “This steady and undissipated attention to one object, is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.”

So what are you doing right now besides reading this blog post?  Watching TV?  Baking something in the oven?  Texting/Chatting?  Working on a project at work?  I hope you're not driving! 

Unfortunately, thanks to the ever converging computer and human world of technology, multi-tasking has become the norm today.  And don't think only younger people are doing it.  Experts say that while it might be slightly more prevalent among them, it's by no means limited to them.  We are all multi-tasking at rates that are significantly higher than previous generations.

Not only that, we're all bad at it.  There's a tendency to believe that the younger generations can multi-task better.  But according to Psychologist David Meyer of the University of Michigan, younger workers are no better at multi-tasking than older workers — both make more mistakes and take longer to complete tasks.  This is because our brains can't fully focus when we try to do too much at one time.  In fact, Meyer claims that because “the brain is compelled to restart and refocus” between each task, it often takes us double the time or more to get jobs done when we multi-task than if we do them sequentially. 

It seems that more and more employers are finding this to be true, too.  In fact, many companies have concluded that multi-taskers are the worst employees, that their constant task-switching affects their quality of output.  According to Pierre Khawand, founder and CEO of a Silicon Valley-based consultancy company, "When we're working two minutes here and two minutes there, it's really hard to get deep into anything. We lose the ability to think strategically and solve deep issues."  Khawand goes on to say, "These are short spurts of low production, and we're only achieving a small five to 10% of the results we could be getting if we stayed focused."  Because of this, many companies are now looking for people who can mono-task and not freak out when they have to concentrate because they've gotten into the habit of not thinking hard.

I have to confess that when I've tried to do too many things at once, things haven't always turned out well.

Case in point.  One typical Sunday morning about ten years ago, I was running around trying to make sure everything got done before going to church.  First I let the dog out, back in, and then feed and watered her and the cat.  Next I called down the hall to my daughters, "Are you up and moving?  We don't want to be late."  As they dragged themselves out of bed to the kitchen to eat cereal for breakfast, I put eggs on to boil for next week's breakfasts, took a quick shower, dressed, brushed and fixed our youngest daughter's hair, made sure both girls had their lessons and Bibles, and then we all rushed out the door to the car. Whew, we made it!

Several hours later we came home to a funny-smelling house, and our dog, who normally greeted us at the door, was nowhere to be found.  I had forgotten the eggs!  Upstairs in the the kitchen the stove was still on and the pan of eggs was black and completely empty except for a few pieces of scorched shell.  The rest of the eggs were stuck to the kitchen ceiling.  We found our dog cowering in the basement; she had made a large mess in the middle of the floor. Later, trying to piece together what must have happened while we were gone, we figured the pan of eggs had caught fire at one point. The fact that our dog whined at any flame for months afterwards rather confirmed this. :) 

So much for multi-tasking.  The house could have burned to the ground!  Thankfully, nothing quite that dramatic has happened since, though I still often forget things. I would love to tell you I gave up multi-tasking after "the egg episode," but I didn't.  My excuse was that there was always so much to do and only a certain amount of time to get it all done.  Besides, when I looked around, others seemed to be keeping many balls in the air quite effortlessly.  Now I suspect they were just keeping their "egg episodes" a secret. 

All this multi-tasking has got me wondering, too — just how much is it affecting the way we approach the Bible?  Are we digging deeply, taking the time to systematically think things through and applying what we learn to our lives?  Or, has our culture trained us to quickly skim the surface and move on to something else, not letting it impact the way we live?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Beautiful

How beautiful the hands that served
the wine and the bread
and the sons of the earth.

How beautiful the feet that walked
the long dusty roads
and the hill to the cross.

How beautiful
how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.

How beautiful the heart that bled
that took all my sin
and bore it instead.

How beautiful the tender eyes
that chose to forgive
and never despise.

How beautiful
how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.

And as He laid down His life
we offer this sacrifice
that we will live just as he died:
willing to pay the price
willing to pay the price.

How beautiful the radiant Bride
who waits for her Groom
with His light in her eyes.

How beautiful when humble hearts give
the fruit of pure lives
so that others may live.

How beautiful the feet that bring
the sound of good news
and the love of the King.

How beautiful the hands that serve
the wine and the bread
and the sons of the earth.

How beautiful!

How beautiful
how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Sixteen

I've been doing some rummaging around looking for information on the The Sixteen.  When a friend first mentioned this world-renowned choral group, I assumed there must be 4 basses, 4 tenors, 4 altos and 4 sopranos.  But that's not true.  Of course there are these four basic parts, but there is also a countertenor, a voice that is always rather surprising.  (A countertenor is a male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of a contralto, mezzo-soprano, or, less often, a soprano.)  Not only that, apparently there aren't even 16 members in The Sixteen, at least not consistently.  Many times exactly 16 members do sing.  However, at this link I counted 18 members, and here, only 11.  Because of this, some on the internet say it's a mystery why Harry Christophers — the founder and conductor — decided to name the group The Sixteen in the first place. 

According to Harry Christophers himself, however, he started The Sixteen about 32 years ago.  It was only a choir back then — made up of 16 singers — that sang 16-century Tudor music.  (So there's the number 16 — twice!)  Since it is Harry Christophers' goal to promote music not much heard anymore, The Sixteen (comprising both a choir and a period-instrument orchestra now) still sings music from the past, as well as modern day music.

In 2000, Harry Christophers began the "Choral Pilgrimage", a tour of English cathedrals, in a sense bringing the music of the pre-Reformation era back to the places for which it was originally written.  It was The Sixteen’s contribution to the millennium celebrations. Because the first Choral Pilgrimage was a success, subsequent annual pilgrimages were arranged, each with a specific theme.  The 2011 Choral Pilgrimage is entitled "Hail, Mother of the Redeemer" and focuses on the music of Tom├ís Luis de Victoria (1548-1611).

But, The Sixteen also tours throughout Europe, Japan, Australia and the Americas.  I would love to know when they're coming here!

One interesting bit of news I came across is The Sixteen Photo Contest, where the group calls out for photo submissions of anything 16.  In fact, it seems there's a contest going on right now, if you care to submit a photo or two for consideration.  All pictures must be received by November 7, 2011.  The two photos below are examples being displayed, to prime the pump, so to speak.

It must be truly wonderful being part of such a group.  (BTW, auditions are being held next in January/February 2012.)  Here they are singing Verbum caro factum est.  Just listen to the sopranos soar and then come back to earth.  Beautiful!  Hear all the parts move singly and yet together, swelling and diminishing, pressing in against each other and then backing out, but always sliding perfectly into place.  I love singing in groups where all the parts are so closely intertwined, so wholly tuned in to each other, so perfectly in pitch.  I think heaven must be like that, plus oh so much more.

Friday, July 8, 2011

When things get better

Last November, just one week before Thanksgiving, a 36x36 inch hole was cut into our kitchen ceiling.  A water stain had formed on it, prompting us to call someone in to find the cause — again. We thought we had fixed this leak several times before, and for months there had been no sign of it, but when a stain started to appear on the ceiling again, we knew it was still there.

For some reason the leak isn't constant, which makes it hard to determine where it's coming from.  So far we’ve had in two plumbers, a tile guy, a carpenter and now a handyman to try to find and fix it, but nobody has yet.

The first plumber we called in several years ago told us the seal around the upstairs toilet needed replacing. Okay. That made sense. We had the toilet seal replaced. But the leak continued, albeit not right away, but months later. Thinking that maybe the water was coming through the upstairs shower walls, we called in a tile guy next. He told us the tiles and grout looked fine but that the backing behind the tiles was only drywall and that it should be some kind of water-proof board instead. Still, he didn't think the backing or the tiles or the grout were the cause of the leak. So next we called in a carpenter, who brought a plumber buddy with him.  The carpenter had cut the hole in our kitchen ceiling last fall.  He thought if he could see between the floors, he and the plumber might be able to figure out where the leak was coming from. After a lot of climbing up and down ladders and peering into the ceiling hole, the plumber decided the shower dials had gone bad in both showers upstairs. Okay. That made sense. Of course the dials had to be special-ordered because our dials were a little odd and the exact type was needed due to the layout of the pipes...or something like that. So both dials were replaced after waiting several weeks for them to come in. But the leak continued. We called the plumber back who said, "Well then it's got to be the spouts in both showers upstairs."  Okay. That made sense. And both spouts were replaced. But the leak continued. So the carpenter recommended another friend — a handyman friend — who could fix anything! He came out, looked at the situation, and told us the tiles, grout, and backboard needed replacing. "But," he assured us, "just to be sure I'll also check all the piping behind both showers once I've gotten everything torn away." Okay. That made sense, I guess. So, starting next week, he's replacing the tiles, grout, and backboard in both showers. And so it continues…

We've been living with a hole in the kitchen ceiling for some 8 months now. During that time we've had a large party at our house for people from work — with a gaping hole in our kitchen ceiling. We've hosted Thanksgiving dinner for my husband's side of the family — with a gaping hole in our kitchen ceiling. We've had Bible studies in our home — with a gaping hole in our kitchen ceiling. Not to mention the times we've had friends over to watch movies, or have dinner, or just hang out — with a gaping hole in our kitchen ceiling. And this Sunday afternoon, we're having a 5-hour open house to celebrate our youngest daughter's graduation from high school and 18th birthday — with a gaping hole in our kitchen ceiling.

But that's not the extent of things gone bad over the past months. We've also put several thousand dollars into our cars. (The one needed a new transmission, don't you know.) The sliding glass door that opens (well, not at the moment) out onto the deck seems to be sinking into the basement. Apparently the wood underneath it has rotted and needs replacing. Thankfully, the handyman is taking care of this "little problem," too. And then there's all the smaller things gone wrong that make life exciting, like computers and satellite boxes getting fried by an electrical storm, refrigerators with broken ice shoots, and mice in the crawl space.

So last week when I read this, I laughed out loud. I could definitely relate!

Of course there's also that last bit. Even if things do get temporarily better around here, I’ll still have to contend with me. This world, including everything and everybody in it, has been corrupted by sin.  But thankfully, this life is not all there is. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a time is coming when things will get better — permanently — when I will live in a perfect place, in a perfect body. So why would I ever want to "live" in frozen suspension here?  Instead, I will strive to "consider it all joy...when I [you] encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of my [your] faith produces endurance" (James 1:2-3), and "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in me [us]" (Rom 8:18).

And regarding that gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling?  It really hasn’t been all that bad.  I’ve gotten rather used to it. Besides, it's a great conversation piece because people inevitably ask, "So, what's with the hole in the ceiling?" To which we usually reply, "Well...we wanted to put a skylight in the kitchen but forgot we had a second floor." Some of the looks we've gotten back have been priceless! :)

Monday, July 4, 2011


Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a mighty man” (Joel 3:10).

CONTRADICTION?  And He will judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken (Micah 4:3-4).

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtor (Matt 6:12).

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matt 6:14).

CONTRADICTION?  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Eph 4:32).

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness’” (Jer 23: 5-6).

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt 5:5).

CONTRADICTION?  ...because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel (Col 1:5).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph 1:3).

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away (Acts 1:10-12).

CONTRADICTION? Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thes 4:17).

It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us (Deut 6:25).

“But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live? “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right? When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and dies because of it, for his iniquity which he has committed he will die. Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die (Ezek 18:21-28).

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (James 2:21-25).

CONTRADICTION?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom 4:2-5).

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.  For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Rom 3:19-28).

But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter (Rom 7:6).

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).

"Distinguish the ages and the Scriptures harmonize."