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Crag Snakes

Two weeks ago my climbing partner and I were making a short approach to a crag. I chose to come to the top of the cliff and set up a toprope. He went down through the crack to the base of the outcrop. When I was ready to rappel down, he said, “Watch the snake below you about ten feet above the ground.” I asked for further explanation. A moment later my partner said, “He fell.” I looked down just in time to see the snake smack the ground. This snake was climbing perhaps a 5.9 section of a 5.11 climb. We climbed a few pitches, watching this 5 foot Black Snake search for holds. After a while it gave up on the direct approach and moved up a slanted ledge toward the top of the cliff. While I was climbing, my partner commented that it had climbed into a bush high up on the ledge. We took no more notice for a while.

A little later while I was belaying my partner, I saw the snake 30′ up on a branch, reaching out to the cliff. It was at nearly full extension with just the last 6″ wrapped around the branch. I could discern the possible path that the snake had crawled out of the bush onto a far branch of the tree, to the trunk, and out to the end of the branch to the cliff. After much searching on the cliff for a hold, it slowly released hold on the branch, and soon afterward fell 30′ to a boulder below. I thought surely this killed the snake. However, I did observe the center of the snake strike the rock and the head flopped onto the leaf mulched ground beside it. It lay still. After my partner came down, I went over and poked it with a stick. It coiled up to strike. A few minutes later it crawled into a crack low on the ledge, and then back out followed by a shorter Black Snake. The shorter one tried climbing the wall several times, searching different holds to go up. It was more cautious that its climbing partner backing down instead of falling.

At one point I took a long stick and removed the shorter snake from a climb that I wanted to try. It got back on the climb shortly after I ascended. As I descended the climb I ask my belayer to stop at a small crack/ledge filled with miniature rhododendron bushes. The crack was no more than 4″ wide. There under one of the bushes was a fairly new bird’s nest without a bird or eggs. I suspected that this nest was the goal.

We moved to the right of the crag only glancing back occasionally to see the progress of the snakes. Now, nearly 2 hours since we had arrived, the larger snake was coming down from the top of the cliff and succeeded at getting into the crack where the nest was without falling. It must have been a disappointment to find no eggs for breakfast (late evening though it were). I would guess that they had visited the nest previously and consumed the eggs but had no idea that there would not be more eggs when they returned. So much effort with no return. Well, we certainly enjoyed the show!

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“Shorty” about 10′ up

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Check out the tail hold, full body contact, tense core, use of multiple holds, and hold searching

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Ledge Traverse

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Another “try hard”

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Climbing Partners in matching outfits

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Creation Museum

I have been a Six Day Creationist for as long as I was read to from the first several chapters of the Bible. I became a much more informed one with the reading of “Scientific Creationism” by Henry Morris in 1977 when I was 17 years old. The more evolution I heard, by the grace of God, the more I rejected it as I got a Biology degree in college. I have made a lifelong study of the subject, finding nothing that evolution explains better than the Bible. On questions I could not answer I have always assumed that the Bible is true and the answer will be revealed, either in the Bible or by observational evidence. So far I have not been disappointed. I’ve been called foolish, ignorant, and blinded for believing the Bible over “science”. But Big Bang Theory, Origin of Life Scenarios, and Evolution by natural selection are worldview interpretations of evidence, not science. “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Romans 3:4)

All that having been said, I have been encouraged by numerous people to see the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY. I thought it might be nice to see but didn’t feel any compulsion or need to see it since I know where I stand and have a full range of evidence and had no opportunity until recently. One of my sons was going to a wedding near Louisville and wanted a traveling companion. He suggested that we go see the Ark Encounter and then go to the wedding. I convinced him to see the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter while we were in the neighborhood. I knew Answers in Genesis’ take on presenting the controversy and feared that I might be disappointed in the level of science presented. It certainly was a popularized version for the general public, but it was well done with serious attention to the science that was communicated. The presentation was aligned around the AIG’s 7 C’s of Creation: creation, corruption, catastrophe, confusion, Christ, cross, and consummation. I wondered at the outset how the salvation message would be presented. I was very impressed with the Gospel presentation.

I saw most everything that I wanted to see and read most things in a somewhat rushed fashion because of our time constraints, even taking a quick walk through the outside gardens and seeing the short movie, “In Six Days”. On the bottom floor was an amazing insect collection. There is much evidence based science at the museum, but I hope as they expand, the designers will delve even deeper. Enjoy a few pictures I took while there.

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Swinging Bridge in the Gardens

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Extensive, well kept gardens lead to the museum

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These are very diverse interpretations of the same facts. They cannot both be right. The horizontal lines about 1/3 of the way up on the “orchard” represent the Flood.

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“In Adam’s Fall, We sinned all” New England Primer

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“Christ crucify’d, For sinners dy’d” New England Primer

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In the Garden

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“Ebenezer”, Allosaurus fragilis, one of the best preserved skulls extant; approximately 30% of the skeleton is actual fossilized bones with the rest reconstructions from other specimen

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Very rapid burial!

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Models

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Noah and Son: They weren’t ignorant primitives (Genesis 4:17,20-22)

Numbers make sense out of our world. They quantify otherwise incoherent information. On occasions they reveal interesting patterns of symmetry. They may prevent us from taking flights of qualitative fancy should we happen to heed their steadying implications.

I was silly enough to pull over a few nights ago to take a picture of my odometer because of some symmetry I saw. It is in no way magical and not even uncommon to observe symmetry in numbers. It isn’t even a palindrome, for example, when expanding (x + y)^2  the coefficients of the resulting polynomial are 1,3,3,1.

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Then there was the one I ask my son to take a picture of in his car while I was driving (more about that when I get the pictures downloaded from the phone).

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I had posted a time for my one mile some time back. I have struggled with increasing my distance. I seem always tired or something not quite right. Finally, I made three miles recently. It was not pretty. It is amazing how much slower I am than a year and a half ago. Chock it up to old I guess, even though it seems more like some type of induced physiological inefficiency (I ought to name some syndrome after that- IPIS (pronounced eye-pis)- Induced Physiological Inefficiency Syndrome. It makes a good excuse.)

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Another trip on the road to pick up my wife who was visiting our daughter while I was away for the weekend with one of our sons (not a sentence yet), caused me to reflect on white lines. Strictly speaking, since they were white and it was daytime, they were reflecting on(to) me, but you get the idea. Have you ever wondered how many dashed center lines there are per mile on the interstate, and if the number is consistent? The first time I considered this seriously was on a trip to Oshkosh with a Scouting Outward group. A discussion came up about ways of thinking and perspectives. I made the point that people need to try to find several ways of solving a problem to see if the answers match. Then I proceeded to say I knew of three ways to estimate the length between the beginning of one stripe and the beginning of the next. Challenged that I could not, I pulled the van (driving again) over onto the shoulder, hopped out and paced off between the beginning of one stripe and the next (parallel on the shoulder). Then I got back in and counted the number of stripes in several measured miles (little green mile markers help) for repeatability, which I then explained as precision. Next I traveled at 60 mph, that is, a mile a minute, and had several people count how many stripes passed (relatively speaking (frame of reference)) every 10 seconds and then had them multiply by 6. Finally, as a bonus, I noticed a semi-trailer labeled 53′, as they frequently are, and estimated what fraction of that length the distance between beginning of stripes was. Well, I’m here to tell you that in NC, the distance between stripes is fairly consistent, with approximately 120 stripes per mile, at about 44 feet between the beginning of one stripe and the next. Now I imagine that there is a spec somewhere that delineates this distance and that the instructions for the stripe painting driver go something like “traveling at 40 mph, set the frequency of stripe painting at one stripe every 0.75 seconds for duration of 0.2 seconds (Can you figure out how long I am estimating the stripes to be?) All of that historical background was for the purpose of clearing my mind of the first time I seriously estimated the distance to refer to what I discovered about counting them today.

Actually, looking at and identifying sight of each stripe in order to count it is hard to do. After messing up several times, I opted for a simpler and more primitive method. Instead of looking directly at the stripes, I looked directly ahead (good idea when you are driving, eh?) and caught sight of the flash of contrast as each stripe disappeared at the bottom corner of my windshield. It felt almost like an involuntary response that I was counting rather than stripes. I got more interested in the process and why it is more efficient and more accurate than the result I was obtaining, though that result came out the same after several tries. Catching the peripheral vision flash method excluded the fully intentional recognition of individual stripes for the simpler counting of flashes. I understand that certain infrared missile guidance systems look for changes in heat signature rather than positive IR ID of targets. As an after note, I found out on that trip to Wisconsin those years ago that the stripes are closer together there, especially on WS toll roads. Is it a random change of the dials for the paint truck or a different spec for some legitimate reason like fog or snow? After allowing my brain to go with what comes to it in a paragraph like this one, I always wonder how many people who started this article read this paragraph and how many rolled their eyes as they did read it. I attribute readership of such wonderings to staunch friends and deep seated geeks.

Speaking of geeks and numbers, I just watched an informative YouTube video on rocket engine comparison. The main take away from the video for me was the number and complexity of considerations to engineer anything. Such a video can open your mind to the breadth of design considerations. If you like, you may check it out at “Is SpaceX’s Raptor engine the king of rocket engines?”

I like numbers and symmetry and beauty because they point to God. Galileo Galilei said, “[The universe] cannot be read until we have learnt the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language…” And concerning his astronomy, Johannes Kepler said, “I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” It has long been realized that math is the language of science, leading to an understanding, albeit at times ever so dim, of how God organized the universe. Math and Science and Art should be our means of giving glory to God, not detracting from it.

 

Time to graduate some students. It is a time for smiles and celebration and happy tears. The education we give our young is too focussed on knowledge and understanding devoid of moral evaluation, too lacking in wisdom for living and discernment for awareness of various dangers. I hope that I may be a mentor in thoughtful and careful living.

Knowledge leads to understanding
This path will serve you very well
To your mind and heart rewarding
In interactions it will tell

Acquire wisdom in your youth
Always prudent to do what’s right
Acting kindly along with truth
With wisdom overcoming might

Many deceived by false knowledge
Seek that you may discernment find
That at home or work or college
By truth delivered, sharp of mind

D-day Poem

Storm the beaches
Drop from the sky
Normandy’s far reaches
Every angle try

Rain of bullets
Take cover or die
Blood is freedom’s droplets
Shed in full supply

Wrench from tyrants
All sorts of slaves
All that conscience supplants
Against reason raves

Surge forward now
Pill boxes defeat
Start liberation now
Rescue not complete

Push over fields
Free every town
Freedom to no man yields
Made them renown

Always has been
Good and evil fight
Freedom will at last win
Wrong bow to right

 

 

For my thoughts on D-Day, see “D-Day Remembrance of Freedom”

A few months ago I heard about a student at my school who will be speaking at the 75th anniversary remembrance of D-Day in Normandy, France. I began to wander, what level of perspective he could possibly have on the subject? He doesn’t even remember 9/11, let alone D-Day. But how silly of me to think that, since I don’t have a contemporary or first hand knowledge of the event either. Instead, I think that the young man and I may add two generations of perspective to what we may learn from and remember about the events on the those beaches. In some ways I have already (see “Memory Lapse” and “Allegiance” and “Has the World Really Changed?”) So, I consider, given the opportunity, what would I say on such an occasion?

I think that the wider issue concerning such a remembrance runs deeper than the extent of sacrifices made on that day, significant though they be. Such events, with their terrible tragedy and selfless sacrifice point to the reason such events have happened and must continue to happen. Freedom has always and must always be fought for.

Perhaps the nature of war has changed in 75 years and such all out attacks may not need to occur again, but there do continue to be individuals, groups, and nations that want to destroy freedom and those who have it and love it. Why is this so? All honest people must admit that the vices of hatred, envy, and murder reside in the heart of us all and we are all capable of evil acts given the opportunity and circumstances. Apart from God’s grace I am capable of heinous sins and persistent failings. But in reality, many people refuse to admit to total depravity, an internal sin nature inherited from our father, Adam. But it exists and thrives, nonetheless, being clearly taught in Scripture (Romans 5:12-14, I Corinthians 15:21-22, Romans 3:23, Romans 7:14-25, Ephesians 3:5-9).

And so, were I to give a speech on that occasion, I believe I would speak in some part similar to the following:

On this occasion of the 75th anniversary of the combat operation called D-Day, we come to remember the bravery and sacrifice of men who fought for the freedom of others and for the grand concept of Freedom. The depth of depravity lodged against the French people and the world at that time demanded an all out battle to preserve our freedoms. The soldiers who labored here helped to secure those freedoms in their generation.

It is not as though this battle was the only time our nations have fought together for freedom. The French formed a decisive shield for the fledgling nation of the United States at Yorktown. We are grateful.

But I think that it is reasonable to ask, why do we value Freedom so much? Afterall, men do not run into a rain of bullets to preserve their own freedom. They fulfill their duty for the sake of the freedom of others and for freedom in the world. Those others for whom they purchase freedom include people for whom they care: family, friends, comrades, community, and freedom-loving people of all nations. Freedom in the world is a concept, an ideal, as well as a way of living. What motivates an individual to die for a concept?

I believe this motivation is lodged in what it means to be a person. Without freedom one comes to realize that he/she is less than a person. Personhood does not necessitate autonomy, but it does require some ability to act in accord with one’s own conscience. Those who love freedom preserve it with their watchfulness and sacrifice. But those who hate freedom have given it up to serve some lesser fear or pleasure.

Indeed, the sacrifices exhibited here are a testimony to the greater freedom which we are in danger of losing. As modern men and women we seek for what several writers* have called “negative freedom”, which is being free from interference or constraint. But this type of freedom is a dim shadow of the greater “positive freedom”, which is the state of reaching full potential as a person. We may reach that state in the midst of great constraint and even threat of death. Therefore, people fighting for freedom both to preserve it and to be free in the act of gaining it, are free. Their sacrifice is reasonable, purposeful, and laudable.

We stand here in appreciation of those who bought and preserved our freedom. Thankfulness must needs do more than say thanks. True thankfulness will honor the wishes of those who sacrificed here. What then would those freedom fighters want from us but to preserve and rightly utilize freedom.

In order to fulfill this duty, we need to know the source and way of freedom. The Scripture says that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” (James 1:17) Freedom is such a gift to be utilized in giving glory to the Giver and help to all within reach of us. And the deepest and truest freedom is internal. If we have peace with God, peaceful intention toward our neighbor, and peace within, we are truly free. And the source of freedom is given to those who “have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) So how should we now live? “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil” (I Peter 2:16) And “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galations 5:1)

So then, fellow freedom lovers, seek the true everlasting freedom so that you may also extend freedom to all those for whom you care and even to those enemies of freedom who do not yet know how good freedom is. Remember those who have cherished freedom more than life and sacrificed to purchase and preserve it for you. Fulfill your duty to procure and promote freedom for all who will own it, fighting against all who will try to destroy it. With the keeping of these duties those who fought here would be pleased and their sacrifices are valued.

*https://www.productiveflourishing.com/two-concepts-of-freedom/

[Also check out the following passages: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36) “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin.” (Acts 13:39) “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:28)]

 

Jesus Helps Me

During prayer time this morning I was convicted about the extent of my failure in relationships over the years. Rather than mope I asked God to heal relationships and continue to change me. After a short season my prayer was interrupted by the words of the first verse of the following poem. Over the next hour, as I began planning for my students, I came back to the poem until two more verses appeared.

I am not who I will become
Or who I should be

But I am not who I once was
Jesus changes me

Each day I choose for right or wrong
Reaping what you see
By His grace I can do what’s right
Jesus sets me free

Today I’m here, tomorrow there
God knows where I’ll be
Best not fret or scheme or worry
Jesus directs me