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Many the comment that comes from students the last few days for school. Many are gracious, wanting to end on a friendly note. It shows a measure of decency on the part of the majority of students. Others are harshly truthful and others contrived, far from truthful, out of some need to right a never done wrong. “I can’t wait until this class is over. Friends told me that I wouldn’t be able to wait to get out of here, but that I would miss you afterward. I don’t see that happening.” It seemed like a complement to me, if not from the student in front of me, then certainly from the ‘friends’. Dealing constantly with people is not easy business. It wears on the emotions, particularly if you care even a little bit. It doesn’t help that you always know that you have failed in some small way with every person you interact with, even though you know you did your best overall and intended the best for your students. It is for all of this difficulty in the midst of trying that the occasional word of genuine encouragement lifts the weary soul. At the end of the last assignment to be graded for one class there was the following statement: “Mr. __, I’m so glad you were my teacher! I learned alot from you! Science and life choices.” That is the way that I want to be remembered as a teacher- passionate about teaching Science and life. Many of my years of teaching have been stressful for reasons inside the class and out. This past year was not the worst for stress, but it did rank. At the same time it was a year of spiritual benefit in my own life and in opportunity to talk to students about eternal things. It sometimes amazes me how often students will bring up the subject of where we came from, or do I believe in God, or how do you solve life’s difficult problems, or what is the meaning of life. Some of the questions relate directly to the subject at hand and others seem random, though I am sure that the underlying thought process that brought them forward was not. I hope that I taught many students science and life this past year and that God will take what I offered for His glory and their good.

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Grammar is fascinating and frustrating. A wordsmith must surely play with it sometimes to see what change in perspective it gives a sentence or idea or story. All people who try to thoughtfully put ideas down on paper or screen must surely have faltered in how to follow the rules while conveying the thought and feeling. As a teacher and sometime writer, I deal in a fair amount of grammar though I am by no means a wordsmith.

So it was today that I warmed to the prayer of my pastor as he requested of God that He make our indicatives into our imperatives. I believe I knew what he meant, that we should take those statements of fact that God declares about who we are and what we have in Him and make them bold statements of faith by acting on them as though commanded by the very statement of them. I lost most of the rest of his prayer as I requested that God would indeed do that in my life in areas that I knew were not fully under His Lordship.

It was only later in the day that I again reflected on the thought, this time to consider if I had really understood it. Then my mind went all bonkers on details. For instance, what is the term for different types of statements? Oh yeah, mood? When he made that request, being a man who frequently studies the Scriptures, was he thinking English or Greek verb moods? What are the English and Greek verb moods, what do they mean, and how are they expressed? How might I use conscious awareness of them to benefit my writing and deepen the content of what I convey?

It feels good after so many months of tight schedule and stressful deadlines to be sufficiently unencumbered of the mind to have random thoughts and have a few minutes to put them down. Here is an attempt at sharing a good mood:

I desire while still living who I am in Christ shall command me to obey.

That is a mood worth having!

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Evidently, last night a spider had laid three lines of silk down the windshield of my truck squarely in the line of my vision for driving. The Sun shining in from just south of my predominantly easterly direction on the way to church down the interstate produced little repeating rainbows in the silk. From bottom to top they gleamed: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and the last two just looked like black gaps before the next red. The colors were brilliant and made the silk appear much wider than it did when the Sun was obscured once or twice by tree branches. I noticed that when I moved my head left or right the colors changed. When I moved to the right the color transitioned to longer red beads up and down the silk. When I moved my head left the color transitioned toward blue. Just before I exited the interstate the roadbed trends slightly more North and I finally began seeing violet when I leaned left.** I was thankful for light traffic on the interstate since I was focusing on 5 lines, one solid white, one dashed, and three multicolored. I thought of lunar eclipses, when the Moon is blood red or orange. Light from the Sun is refracted by the atmosphere onto the surface of the Moon which is moving through the shadow of the Earth. The shorter wavelength colors bend more evidently, careening off into space between Moon and Earth. I also reflected on the refraction that occurs in a droplet of water on a leaf producing and fisheye view of flowers or landscapes behind. The Sun was also pleasantly warm on me. I praised God for beauty He instilled into Creation which points to His superior beauty and His goodness that allows me to be aware of and see it and experience warm Sun and have a truck to travel in, and so on. I went to a corporate worship service later, which I would always recommend, but I got started early with three lines of evidence for God’s beauty and love of beauty.

**I don’t think that I ever see indigo, or is it violet I don’t see? That is, I don’t discern two colors, indigo and violet. I had the thought for the first time today that perhaps I don’t see violet. When I get in discussions with my family about a transition color between green and blue, they always say it looks blue and I most usually say it looks green. Does that mean that I see colors differently than most people, seeing what normal (whatever that means in this situation) eyes discern as blue as green or that I just name them differently? If it is the former, then perhaps I also see indigo as blue and violet as indigo and don’t see a separate violet color. If this is true it in no way changes reality, but only casts a shadow of doubt on my perception of reality. Afterall, certain people certainly hear more or most frequently less than 20 to 20,000 Hz frequency of sound.

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     In my Earth Science class we are learning about Meteorology. Today I was discussing cumulonimbus clouds, how they form, and the results of their violent action. Maybe you can guess where this is going. Given my particular Southern accent, there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the pronunciation of hail and hell. (And yes, I can pronounce them differently and correctly, and yes, there is a difference in Southern accents. (That was for my Northern brothers and more British speaking acquaintances.)) So, a student immediately seizes upon the opportunity to ask which one I meant. I replied, as the snickers increased, that we could talk about either one. I then proceeded to compare and contrast the two by way of modeling proper separation of homonyms (as they appeared), prefacing my comments by saying that I take both seriously, since I believe both are real. Encouraged on by several students, I re-pronounced the words, “hale” (long a) and “hel” (short e) and said one is cold and one is hot. One is a thing and the other is a place. 

     Had I had more time to think, I believe that after re-pronouncing them that I would have said something more along the lines of, “One is a thing; one is a place. Both are real and dangerous. One is hot and one is cold. One can ruin your day and one can ruin your eternity. One can injure your head and one can injure your soul. Both are avoidable if you retreat to an ‘umbrella’ of protection from the wrath they entail.” Hopefully the little I did actually say communicated much of what I would intend to say if it were not a spur of the moment reaction.

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If you hold to objects close together with a small gap between them and peer through toward a bright light you can see the bending of the light around the two edges as an interference pattern. The result makes the two object appear to grow together if they are at the correct distance apart. You may find an example at the following link: https://www.meteoros.de/blog/pics/blackdrop2.jpg The parallel lines of dark and light are called a diffraction pattern even though the sight of them results from light interference. Seeing Venetian blinds lit up by sunshine today with blurry edges reminded me of this pattern. If you ever see the old movie “Sergeant York” you may remember him moistening the front sights of his rifle. This disturbs the diffraction pattern making for clearer sights. As I stood taking in this familiar sight on the blinds the thought of a metaphor for moral ambiguity came into focus.

At the edge of light and shadow
Is where the challenge of life is
Ambiguous scenario
Time to have a real life pop quiz

Diffraction pattern blurs the line
Blinds by alternate light and dark
Fuzzy scheme in the contrast cline
Right and wrong seem no longer stark

Are there exceptions to the rule?
Dismiss the law and moral code?
Sparse view, the way of the fool
To quit the way for your own road

There is good and bad in the gray
Right and wrong all mixed together
God has not left us with no way
To discern, know, and do better

When life does not seem black and white
Then pray to God and search His Word
Don't give up on doing the right
Don't give in or follow the herd

 

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I was so regular about blogging until this Autumn when it all fell apart. Taking a class at the local community college after about 24 years away from the classroom has been a fun challenge. I believe time studying how students study has caused me to be a wiser student, but an old brain is simply slower, or at least this one is. With the immense amount of time pressure and brain strain I just cannot feel justified in blogging, but I just could not pass up the following short interaction in class yesterday:

My students and I were discussing one of my warm-up questions at the beginning of class. The question asked why Earth was considered to be in the life zone of our solar system. In order to contrast our privileged position I contrasted it with Mars. One student mused that “they” were talking about sending people there.
Another one said, “I wouldn’t want to go”.
“Why not,” I replied.
“There’s no wifi up there.”
I reasoned, “If you went to Mars, NASA would send you, therefore, you would have wifi,
the best wifi in the solar system. They have wifi on the International Space station. They e-mail home.”
The student replied, “You really could live on Mars, then.”
“So you think that you have to have wifi to live?” I queried.
“Yes, I would.”
“I went many years without wifi and had no problem.”
Several students chimed in together, “But you didn’t need wifi back then.”
Another student added, “Yeah, you need food, air, water, and wifi.”
One would like to assume that there was some tongue in cheek here, but the first response, “You really could live on Mars,” was intoned as one of those aha moments when the student understood that spaceflight was not just science fiction, all because NASA provides wifi there. This one should go in that book that all teachers say they will write one day about student reactions.

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The ability to remember and associate smells is one of the most powerful forms of memory, enhancing a sense of time and place and visual cues. The Olfactory Glands are located in the sinuses very close to a part of the brain that processes and retrieves memories and emotions, the amygdala. Scientists have isolated a thousand different enzymes that bond to odiferous chemicals in the  identification of smells in humans.

 I’m originally from East Tennessee where the clay is nearly as orange as this print and hard enough so that you are not be able to stick a mattock into it more than 2 to 3 inches no matter how hard you hit it. There is abundant clay where I live now but it is most usually infused with muscovite mica (the silvery sheet mineral that you can see through) which makes it much easier to dig in.  My number three son and I are building a deck for a colleague of mine. Where the deck is located there is no mica in the clay (odd) so it digs like East Tennessee clay.  On the way home the other day I inadvertently put my hand on to my face and smelled the clay/dry grass mixture on my fingers. Memories began to flood in from so many times and places that I couldn’t ruminate before the next set of life experiences were upon me. Being dirty is repulsive to many but when it reminds me of things I have enjoyed doing it becomes a perfume. I immediately thought of helping friends and strangers put up hay on a hot or balmy June  or September day. I thought of setting fence posts for a horse training ring and the one hole where the Sassafras root filled our noses. Or the many fences I have built or repaired over lawn and woods when the scent of clay on the posthole diggers is matched with leather warming up on the wooden handles.  I thought of collecting spiders for research and digging in the back yard where I grew up to make a hide-out with my brother. I remember tilling in the garden in The Horseshoe and caving in a number of East Tennessee sinkholes or repairing pipes or foundations for many evenings and nights until a dropped into bed. All of these thoughts flooded my mind in less than a minute. Odors can be very subtle and yet bring back some of the most vivid memories. I was surprised by the sudden onset and pleased by the thoughts of life lived to the fullest.

When I was a youth, I once prayed that the Lord would let me experience life to the fullest. They say you should be careful what you pray for but I believe you should be bold in what you pray for when your heart is right. God is wise and kind enough to sort out how He should answer. God has abundantly answered that prayer, but of course, not in ways I would have ever expected or wanted. With the many good and significantly pleasant memories are the hard and mundane and heartbreaking ones. You can’t really experience all of life without difficulty. I’ve never been afraid to work hard, so many of my good memories are high energy, even difficult experiences, that only later mellow into good memories. I am thankful to God for allowing me to experience so many varied activities and interactions with people over the years. He is good to me far beyond the necessities of physical and spiritual life. I have truly enjoyed life and want to share my love of the outdoors and science and beauty and solid thinking with others. Though read by few, that is the reason I write this blog, to point to the One who creates, saves and sustains so abundantly.

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