Thursday, June 30, 2005

Another Bike Stunt

In a previous post, I told about My Evel Knievel Bike Stunt. I didn't do this stunt, but like mine, it was done accidentally. It was when my boys were pre-teens.

Some of my boys, and a neighbor boy were playing in front of the house, and I was working in the back yard. One of the boys came to the back yard and asked me if it would be all right to borrow some of the bricks laying at the edge of the yard. They had been there since we bought the house, and we hadn't found any use for them. They explained why they needed them, and I said "Yes", but I went to the front yard to see for myself exactly what they were doing with them.

They wanted to make a ramp to do a small bike jump. They had already found a plank about five or six feet long. And they needed the bricks to support one end of the plank to make the ramp. The neighbor boy wanted to ride his bike up the plank and be airborne for a second or two. It was the sort of thing I'd done with a sled when I was a kid. They had only enough bricks to raise the plank about 6 to 8 inches at one end, so it didn't seem too dangerous a thing to try. He had practiced riding the length of the plank when it was flat on the ground, and it was clear that he had no problem going straight down the middle of the plank for its short length.

The plank was now in place. propped on a double-wide stack of bricks. He rode up the street, turned around, and came back in a straight line toward the ramp. As his front wheel hit the front edge of the plank, the plank trembled, even jumped a little off the pile of bricks, and the brick pile fell down, leaving the plank now flat on the ground. His bike rolled squarely down the center of the plank, but at the end, it hit the pile of bricks.

What we saw next was brief, but amazing. As his front wheel hit the brick pile, it refused to go any further. The bike and rider now did a perfect somersault together and landed right-side up on the other side of the brick pile, and continued rolling forward for a few feet until the stunned rider hit the brakes and stopped quickly.

He had gone perfectly straight, and had prepared himself to be airborne briefly. That much was planned and done with skill. But hitting the brick pile and doing a somersault was accidental. Fortunately, his speed was exactly right to turn just 360 degrees in the air -- no more, and no less. Else, he could have landed on his head.

We were all relieved that he was OK, and it was obvious that the ramp would not be used again. But I couldn't resist teasing him. "Well done! Would you please do it again after I get my camera?"

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Faith and Sin, continued

In a previous post, I explained how faith and sin are opposites. Faith is trusting God, and sin is driven by distrusting God. I said that this explains why so many people don't have faith in God -- they don't trust God because they want to be in control of their own lives. It also explains why so many people don't realize that they are sinners -- they think living up to their own standards is good enough, and ignoring God is OK, but that's trusting themselves, not God, and that's really what sin is all about.

But I think that this understanding of faith and sin as opposites also explains the relationship between faith and works. 'Works' means doing good things, especially the sorts of things that most people would consider the opposite of sin.

I won't be quoting the Bible to support everything I say here, but if you doubt anything, just read the Bible and see for yourself. The epistle to the Romans and the epistle of James will be especially relevant.

The Bible makes it clear that works -- doing good things -- doesn't square our accounts with God, because it doesn't cancel or make up for our sins. Would you like it if I kicked you and then made up for it by giving you a car? Perhaps, but not if you already owned a fleet of thousands of cars. In any case, God, who created everything and owns everything and makes the rules, says good works can't pay for sins.

So how can we pay, and clear our debt? Well, we can't -- we're bankrupt -- it's as simple as that. But God figured out how to rescue us without cheating on his own rules. In his mercy, he sent Jesus -- Himself in human form -- the only man who was not in such debt, to pay the debt for all of us. He died in our place on the cross. But the debt is paid only to those that acknowledge and accept this free gift, not to those that ignore it and try to play by their own rules.

Accepting God's provision as sufficient is the first true step in trusting God, and it immediately makes you a Christian, an adopted son or daughter of God. This is what is called salvation, being saved, being born again. There's no turning back now.

But the next steps are often confusing for the new Christian, because of old habits. The new Christian knows he ought to please God, and generally wants to, being grateful that God forgave his sins, but being a creature of habit, finds himself sinning again. He may even doubt his salvation. He just needs to be reminded that Jesus paid for ALL his sins, even those after the event of salvation. He just needs to confess (admit) the recent sin, reconfirm that it's been paid for, and move on. It is faith (trust) continued.

But doesn't he have a 'free ticket' to sin, since it is all pre-paid? (I told you it get's confusing.) Well, if somebody said "I believe Jesus died for me" like they were magic words for getting into heaven, without really believing those words, he might think he's got a free ticket to sin, but he's just a phoney, and he's fooling himself. But if he knew he was a sinner, bankrupt on God's record-books, and accepted Jesus' death as the only sufficient and complete payment for his sins, he has true faith -- and true faith grows, expecially if nourished.

True faitb -- trusting God, not just believing he exists -- naturally causes one to not want to sin. So even if there were a 'free ticket' to sin, he doesn't want it, so it doesn't matter if he has a 'free ticket' to sin, or not. Faith causes one to not want to sin, because faith is the opposite of sin. If we trust God, we are willing to do things his way.

Love for God is a catalyst that works with faith to keep us from sin. Because God loved us so much to pay for our sins, we naturally feel like loving him back -- and that love compels us to please him. It takes a while to establish a new lifestyle, but gradually, faith and love work together, and grow together, and the believer grows closer to God.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Stupid Stunt I Did When I Was Young

In a previous post, I mentioned a stunt that I did "when I was stupider and younger". Well, here's the story..

When four boys were added to the family in the space of four years, our home began to be crowded, and when Dad added an extension to the kitchen, he also added a staircase up to the attic that would later become a dormitory for us boys. Until then, this stairway that went nowhere except the beginnings of a bathroom became one more place where we could play.

One day we came into the possession of a cardboard box, about the size that would hold a TV set, but of course it didn't, because TV's weren't invented yet. Well, it was big enough to hold two small boys if they squeezed together. And with a little imagination it could entertain us boys until it was finally destroyed. Or perhaps until one of us was destroyed.

It wasn't big enough to be an imaginary house; just big enough for one or two to sit in, but it didn't go anywhere -- it needed some kind of locomotion. My inventive mind soon found a solution to that problem. All that was needed was to carry the box to the top of the stairs; then one of us would get in, and the others would push it off the landing and down the stairs.

It would be fun, and we would take turns, I explained to my younger brothers. But none of them wanted to go first. (Maybe they were smarter?) I offered to ride with one of them the first time, but still no takers. The sissies wanted to watch how the first ride went first. So I got in, to show them what a thrill it would be.

The stairs went all the way from the attic level to the kitchen level in one flight -- no intermediate landing. At the bottom, you could turn left to go toward the basement or the back yard, or turn right into the kitchen. Straight ahead was a wall, and on the other side of that was the driveway.

"I'm ready", I announced, and they pushed. The box inched forward, remaining level for a while, then tilted downward, and in a instant I zipped down the stairs. As I reached the bottom, the box levelled out again for an instant, and then I crashed into the wall in front of me.

I had no idea how quickly I would descend the stairs, but I found out quickly, and it was too late to change my mind. I instinctively put my arms out in front of me as I hit the wall, and as soon as I saw the body-sized crater in front of me, I knew that I was in BIG trouble.

Walls were made of plaster on lath in those days, not gypsum board. Fortunately, I had hit the wall between studs, else I could have broken some bones. I had pushed the plaster and lath in until it struck the outer, shingled layer of the wall. For a moment, I stared at the crater in front of me and wondered what would have happened if I had hit the wall hard enough to go completely through it. I would have dropped onto the driveway outside.

When Mom came to investigate the loud thud that she heard, she was clearly more relieved to find me alive and well than angry with me. But she sternly warned me that I would get my punishment when Dad got home, so the rest of the day I was in a very sober mood. Dad was not the kind to spare the rod.

What could I do? I would repair the damage to the wall, but I had no idea how to do that. I knew Dad would be glad to know that I was OK (even though he might not show it), but I'd probably get a licking anyway. Maybe I could plead for sympathy. When Dad got home, I said I now realized that I could have killed myself, I learned my lesson, and I would never think of doing that again. And, to my surprise, I didn't get a spanking. Just a complaint about needing to fix the wall.

Monday, June 27, 2005

How I Know That God Wanted Me to be an Engineer

When I was a child, I wondered what I would be when I grew up. As a young Christian, it seemed that being a pastor would be the highest aspiration a boy could have, and for a while I assumed that was the right choice. But I was always trying to invent things, and sometimes managed to complete something that actually worked. I spent many hours making drawings of things, and when Dad got home, I often knelt on the floor alongside his chair explaining my drawings to him. My most ambitious project was a mechanical calendar that would be attached below a wall clock. Once a day, at midnight, it would highlight the next day, and at the end of the month, it would automatically move the numbers to new appropriate positions. I designed machinery for most of the functions, but the design was never completed.

So when I got to high school, my parents encouraged me to plan on a college education with an engineering emphasis. I had three brothers, 1, 3, and 4 years younger, who I knew would also be straining the family budget for college funds, so I felt responsible for getting summer jobs to earn as much money myself as I could. Every summer I found a different job, sometimes more than one if the job didn't last all summer long.

When I graduated from high school, I was set to enroll in the Engineering School of NYU, and I started searching for a summer job again. I would pack a lunch, get on my bike and go from one business to another asking for a job -- any job -- I was willing to do anything. I did this eight hours a day, and after a week of this, I became very discouraged, and it finally dawned on me that I should have been praying about it. I also began to doubt whether I had made the right career choice. Perhaps I was being selfish to pursue what I loved rather than what I used to think was God's best choice -- being a pastor or a missionary.

I began by apologizing to God for not praying earlier. And I explained that I was worried that the longer it took to find a job, less of the summer would be left for working the job. Then I began to agonize about the career choice. Was this failure to find a job God's way of telling me that I was heading down the wrong path?

God, I thought you wanted me to be an engineer. Why else would you give me these creative urges, and this curiosity about math and physics? Somebody needs to support the pastors and missionaries with more lucrative jobs, don't they?

I felt that I needed an answer SOON, and I didn't want to waver -- I wanted to be CERTAIN that I was doing what God wanted, and would bless. I thought about Gideon and his fleece (Judges 6:36-40). God made the fleece wet with dew and the ground dry to indicate his will, and the next night made the fleece dry and the ground wet to indicate his will again. Could I DARE do something like that with God? But who was I to give God an ultimatum? Yet Gideon did it TWICE, just to confirm an answer that he had ALREADY gotten twice (v. 14-16) with a previous sign from God (v. 17-21). And Gideon was not scolded for his boldness. God had answered my prayers before -- why not now, for this important decision?

So, apologizing for my boldness, I told God that having spent a week in my own strength, without prayer and without success, I would give Him one week more to find me a job. I would go looking as before, and if I got a job in a week or less, I would know that he wanted me to go to NYU and learn to be an engineer. If not, I would know that it was the wrong choice, and I would need to find out what else God had in mind.

One week. To be absolutely sure, one week exactly. I opened my eyes and looked at my watch. It was 6:00 pm on Saturday. On the dot. And I didn't tell anyone about my deal with God. It was just between me and God.

I packed a lunch and went out on my bike every day as before. Strangely, after that tense and agonizing prayer, by the end of the week I had nearly forgotten about the prayer -- at least it wasn't always on my mind.

The next Saturday, I got home a little before supper. Dad said it would be nice to have fresh corn on the cob, and asked me to come with him to the roadside stand across the state line where we often went for fresh-from-the-farm produce. I said "Yes", and soon we were there. After we bought our corn, Dad explained that I was looking for a job, and asked if they needed help on the farm. The man took one look at me, and said "Yes, I could use him." And to me, he added "Come here Monday morning at eight."

That completely took me by surprise. Oh, yes, the prayer! I looked at my watch. It was 6:00 pm on Saturday. On the dot.

God answered my prayer! Not only that, he answered it at the last minute to assure me that He was in absolute TOTAL CONTROL. Not only that, he provided the job with absolutely no reliance on any of my effort. I didn't speak a word. My Dad did all the talking.

This was the miracle job that I mentioned in my post "My Evel Knievel Bike Stunt."

That prayer -- that deal with God -- was such a strong anchor during the tough times at NYU. It was a tough grind. I was told that a third of the students didn't make it through the freshmen year, and another third dropped out before graduation. It's one thing to have an interest in engineering, and quite another to have talent. I had some talent, but I wasn't a genius. There were times when it seemed that I was in over my head, but whenever I wondered if I would get though it, I would remember my deal with God, and His amazing answer, and I just KNEW that He would get me through it.

And He did. I got a job with ITT within a month of graduating, and worked there for 43 years. I tried to work "as unto the Lord" and share my faith with others. I prayed for help with my engineering challenges, and He blessed my work. I was credited with 45 patents, but I give the credit to God. Most of the work was for military communications and security, and I prayed that God would use these things to keep our country safe from its enemies.

I never felt guilty for having a secular job, and I knew that my job was to help support the pastors and missionaries. Of my three brothers and I, two of us became engineers and two became pastors. One of them later became a missionary.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Lady Who Caught a Bird

I grew up with three older sisters and three younger brothers. Two of the sisters were 10 and 13 years older, but the other sister was 1 and 1/2 years older, and the brothers were 1, 2, and 1 years apart. When the two older sisters had left the family nest, my Dad started taking the rest of us lake fishing, and we needed two rowboats for the six or seven of us. Our family record for one day of fishing was 102 fish, and one time Dad and the boys caught 32 catfish in less than half an hour. We sometimes teased Mom for her unorthodox methods -- she insisted on putting worms on lures -- but she caught more fish than any of us. There were a few unusual things that happened in those many fishing trips, but the one that beat all was the time that Mom caught a BIRD.

We were fishing in two boats on a lake at night. It was spooky dark and foggy, and we would have been lost if we didn't know the lake well. My mom and one brother were with me in one boat. Mom was using one of those lures with three treble hooks, and she put worms on all nine hooks. (We told her that the worms were not needed, that lures were designed to attract fish by the motion and noise they made, but she insisted that they needed to "have flavor".) She cast it toward a dam that we could barely see, and instead of hearing it plop into the water, we heard nothing, so we guessed that it had landed on the dam, which we knew had grass on top.

She reeled it in quickly, but we didn't hear it fall off the dam into the water, nor gurgle along the surface as expected. About when we expected the lure to reach our boat, I felt water splashing down on my face and heard a flapping sound from the top of her pole.

We discussed these clues and figured that the lure must have snagged a bird or bat, which carried it above the water until the line was short enough that it could pull free. We then figured it probably was not a bat, because it's 'radar' would detect the lure in the dark, and it would be agile enough to duck. So we voted for bird.

We must have been talking quite excitedly between the two boats, and voices carry very well over open water (actually, sound travels better through water than air). The next morning, we chuckled when we overheard some other fishermen saying "Did you hear about the lady who caught a BIRD?"

Saturday, June 25, 2005

My Evel Knievel Bike Stunt

Before I get into the hair-raising part of this story, I have to provide a little background, which also provides a safety lesson.

When I was a teenager, I rode all over the county on a bike that I assembled from a frame I got for free plus all the other parts from a Sears Roebuck catalogue. One summer, I had a job at a truck farm in New Jersey, and I commuted on my bike from my home in Nanuet, NY (Rockland County).

(Some other time I'll tell about the miracle that got me that job, and more.)

One day there was a round stick on the road, and as my bike tires rolled over the stick on an angle, the stick rolled sideways, suddenly shifting the track of the bike sideways, and shifting the center of gravity. I had to swerve quickly to get the bike centered under me again, and the surprise unnerved me a bit.

As I thought about the physical principles that caused this near-mishap, I realized that if I were smarter, I would have known to avoid going over the stick. As I rode along, I thought further about what I would or should do if the bike ever fell over sideways, such as by skidding. I realized that if I kept one leg on each side of the bike, the leg on the bottom side would be scraped on the pavement (ouch!) -- I should get both legs on the top side if that happened.

One of the bike skills that my brothers and I learned was to start riding a bike by first holding the handlebars and running alongside the bike. If the bike was at your right, you would then hop onto the left pedal with your left foot, then swing your right leg over the back of the bike and get yourself seated while the bike was still rolling.

We also learned to dismount by a reversal of this technique: While the bike is still rolling, stand up on the left pedal, and swing your right leg over the back of the bike to the left side. Then hop off, running alongside the bike -- then slow to a walk and stop, holding the handlebars and steering the bike all the while.

So I figured if the bike ever slipped and fell over before I could stop, I could use the same leg swing to get myself on the side of the bike that becomes the top of a kind of sled sliding down the road. If I could somehow sit on the bike frame without slipping through the openings of the frame, the bike would take all the abrasion and I wouldn't lose any skin. (I was familiar with that -- when much younger, I always had skinned knees all summer long.)

This started a lifelong habit of studying potential accident situations and getting mentally prepared beforehand to handle them. After more than 40 years of driving, I have never been even scratched, even though I have slid down the steepest part of the Bradford hill sideways one winter, slid backwards on Route 3 once when another driver sideswiped me, and once did a 360-degree rotation while sliding down a slippery road.

OK -- back to the NJ-NY commute by bike. There were a number of routes of nearly equal length, and I chose one route for going to work and another for returning. The reason for dual routes was that my bike was the old-fashioned one-speed kind -- no shifting. So an ideal route in hilly country would have maybe one short, steep uphill segment (walk up, pushing the bike, and gain altitude in a short time) and many long, slightly downhill segments (just coast, cashing in that uphill work).

One day while returning from work, I must have been day-dreaming, because I took the wrong route. I arrived at a short but very steep hill that I normally walked up in the morning and bypassed returning home; but now I needed to descend this hill with my bike, which I had never done before.

For a moment I thought about walking down the hill with my bike. Then I thought I could start on the bike, going slow, and if it seemed too steep, I would stop, get off the bike, and walk it the rest of the way down the hill.

In those days, when they repaved roads, they first put down just gravel, then just tar, and then rolled both together on the road. To avoid leaving the road too sticky, they preferred a little more gravel rather than too much tar; so for months afterward, there would be piles of extra gravel along the edges of the road that was kicked there by passing cars. This hill had the usual gravel along the edges, but I would stay away from the edges.

I started downhill slowly and cautiously as planned, but as the hill got steeper, I had to stand hard on the brake to go slow. Then the brake locked, which means that the wheels don't turn, which means that I couldn't steer, which means I had no way to control the balance of the bike. The only resort I had was to briefly let up on the brake so that the wheels could roll, so I could quickly rebalance the bike, then stomp the brake again. Well, that just got the bike going faster, which made things worse.

Soon the bike was skidding -- I lost control, and the bike began tipping over. I quickly did the maneuver that I had practiced in my mind. I kept my hands on the bike frame as it fell to the road, and got myself seated on the frame bars that connect the seat to the pedal area, and braced my feet on the part of the frame where the front wheel pivots. My bike was now a sled.

As the bike slid, metal grinding against asphalt, sparks showered behind me like a welder's torch. The bike plummeted faster in spite of all that grinding friction because the hill was so steep. The direction of the bike-sled was angled slightly toward the side of the road, so soon gravel was spraying all over, mixed with the sparks. I hoped the gravel would slow the bike, but it didn't. As the bike veered further off the road, the bike frame started ploughing through the grass, throwing up divots. This slowed the bike so quickly that I was tossed headlong off the bike.

I had learned how to run across the lawn, dive, turn half a somersault in the air, and land on the back of my shoulders, and complete the next half of the somersault on the ground. If I ran hard enough, I would have enough momentum to do three or four somersaults in a row. Or, by crossing my ankles, I could use the extra momentum to pop back up to my feet. So when I found myself diving off the bike, I instinctively started doing somersaults -- and I had so much momentum that I had to do about five or six somersaults before I had slowed down enough to get up on my feet. As I rose to my feet, I was still going so fast that I had to run before slowing to a stop.

I turned to look, and my bike was 50 to 60 feet up the hill from where I had dived off the bike. I walked back up to the bike, and the brake was so hot I could only touch it very briefly. The pedal that had ploughed into the ground was twisted badly, but I managed to get the bike the rest of the way home, about a mile.

Several months later, I met a fellow that I knew but rarely saw. When he first saw me, from a distance, he had a strange look on his face like he had seen a ghost. He shouted over to me, "Jim Clark! Is that you?" When I assured him that I was, he continued, "Wow! I thought you were dead!" I looked at him, puzzled, and then he described the day that he saw me plummeting down the hill, sparks and gravel flying, then flying off the bike and rolling several yards to a stop.

I wondered afterward why he hadn't come over to check on me. Maybe he went to fetch an ambulance, and when they came, I was gone.

Maybe some day I'll tell you about the stunt I did on purpose when I was younger and stupider.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Faith and Sin are Opposites!

Why is it that so many people don't have faith in God? Why is it that so many people don't think that they are sinners? This is how I discovered the answers to these questions.

After more than 60 years of trusting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, it finally dawned on me that faith and sin are opposites. If you had asked me "What is the opposite of faith?", I would have said "doubt". And if you had asked me "What is the opposite of sin?", I would have said "righteousness", or "obedience". But although those answers are correct, there really is a way that faith and sin are opposites. Now that I understand how faith and sin are opposites, I think I understand why so many people don't have faith in God, and why so many people don't realize that they are sinners.

It began when I pondered the question "What is the essence of sin?" Disobedience? But why do I disobey God? (Sin may often harm other people, but it's always against God.) It's because I want my own way. It's because I want to be in control. Why is that? It's because I know for sure that I want what is best for me, but I'm not so sure that others want what is best for me. Don't you feel the same way?

If I don't know God, then I may think that not even God may want what is best for me. God might want me to do things I don't like. Have you ever felt that way? What are we feeling? We are not trusting God, isn't that what it is? So the essence of sin, the thing that makes us sin, is distrusting God.

Now let's consider the question "What is the essence of faith?" First of all, faith needs an object, just like love needs an object, doesn't it? If you love, it must be that you love somebody or something. And if you have faith, it must be that you have faith in somebody or something, even if only you are having faith in yourself. So, to be perfectly clear, the faith that I'm talking about is faith in God.

So, what is the essence of faith in God? It seems that some people think that faith in God is the same as believing in God, that is, believing that God exists. If that is so, then it must be that having faith in yourself is the same as believing that you exist. But that's silly; when people say that they have faith in themselves, they mean that they trust themselves. So the essence of faith in God is trusting God. When the Bible talks about the kind of faith that satisfies God, it explains that the Devil believes in God (he knows that God exists), but he is nevertheless doomed, because he doesn't trust God.

So, the essence of faith (in God) is trusting God, and the essence of sin (against God) is distrusting God. And just as distrusting God leads us to disobey Him, so does trusting God lead us to obey Him.

This agrees with the Bible. For example, Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). And "whatever is not of faith is sin." (Romans 14:23)

For some one accustomed to distrusting God, it must seem to be a huge step to begin trusting God. But Psalms 34:8 says "Taste and see that the Lord is good." And Jesus spoke of having "faith as a mustard-seed". By trusting God a little bit and finding Him trustworthy, your faith can grow. The critical point is when you stop running away from God and start seeking to know Him more. As you know Him more, you will trust Him more. And as you trust Him more, it will be natural to obey Him more.

And loving God more -- that comes naturally along the way. I know that when I was a young Christian, I heard people talking about loving God, but I realized that it was just words to me. I wondered about the reality of those words. Now, many years later, I realize that I have grown to love God -- and so intensely that I have no words to describe it.

For more on this, click here.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Theory of Everything

In the article Inconstant Constants in the June 2005 of Scientific American, authors John D. Barrow and John K. Webb discuss the constants of nature. These are quantities such as the velocity of light, Newton's constant of gravitation, and the mass of the electron. They observe:
".. remarkably, no one has ever successfully predicted or explained any of the constants. Physicists have no idea why they take the special numerical values that they do.. [They] follow no discernible pattern. The only thread running through the values is that if many of them were even slightly different, complex atomic structures such as living beings would not be possible. The desire to explain the constants has been one of the driving forces behind efforts to develop a complete unified description of nature, or 'theory of everything.' Physicists have hoped that such a theory would show that each of the constants of nature could have only one logically possible value. It would reveal an underlying order to the seeming arbitrariness of nature."
This amazes me that "physicists have no idea why" when the answer is right in front of them. They nearly answered their own question when they said that "if many of them [constants] were even slightly different, complex atomic structures such as living beings would not be possible"! It's quite simple -- since God wanted to create a world that included living beings, He chose values for the constants of His laws of physics accordingly. Yes, the answer is right in front of them, but their eyes are closed, because they don't want God to be involved.

They want a 'theory of everything', and "such a theory would show that each of the constants of nature could have only one logically possible value." And this theory should "reveal an underlying order to the seeming arbitrariness of nature." Well, such a 'theory of everything' was elucidated by the Apostle John many years ago:
"All things were made by him [the Word that was God]; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3)
[Words in square brackets are inferred from the context.]
In our modern understanding of the world, matter and energy are inextricably entwined; likewise time and space; and more recent theories hold that space cannot exist without matter. Thus, all of these are included in the 'everything' or 'all things' that God made -- even time was created. (See this blog.) And this 'theory' of creation is just what the scientists say is needed -- it reveals "an underlying order to the seeming arbitrariness of nature."

The Apostle Paul claims that this is how we can discover that God is real:
"The invisible things of him [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.. so that they [Gentiles -- those without a Bible] are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)
Shortly afterward, the Apostle Paul warns that when one leaves God out of one's understanding of the world, it leads to deviant thinking, and abandonment by God:
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.." (Romans 1:28)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Automatic Birdbath

In my retirement, I enjoy gardening and birdwatching, among other interests.

To make the gardening less work, I have installed two automatic watering systems. One, using 'soaker' hoses, waters all of the garden areas in the front yard and on the left side of the house. Another, a 'drip' system, waters the potted herb garden on the right side of the house and nearby potted flowers, and the flower boxes on the railings of the rear deck. These two systems use separate timers because they work so differently. For more info, see my Gardening Page (link in sidebar).

To make the birdwatching less work, I use bird feeders that hold a lot of seed, so they don't need refilling so often. And after a couple of years, I finally figured out how to fend off the squirrels and pigeons.

I also provide a birdbath, which the birds use for drinking and bathing -- and some species also use it to wash certain food items. The birdbath tends to collect drowned worms, loose feathers, bird poop, and stuff that falls from the trees. And the water level goes down, not so much from evaporation (it's in the shade), but from the birds splashing when they bathe. So the birdbath has needed cleaning and refilling every day -- that is, until I invented the Automatic Birdbath.

It started with an attempt to add a dripper to the birdbath. You can hang a container of water over the birdbath that drips, making a sound that attracts the birds. It also refills the birdbath when birds splash the water out. But it's another thing to refill, can get clogged, and doesn't usually drip all day.

I tried refilling the dripper by an extension from my herb garden drip system, but it just didn't work well. Then, following a suggestion from a fellow member of the GardenWeb Birdwatching Forum, I ran an independant drip line from an outside faucet to the birdbath.

Then, I thought, why not run another line (garden hose) off a timer to flush the birdbath automatically once a day? I previously used the garden hose to clean and refill the birdbath, and I found that a fan-shaped stream of water at just the right angle would sweep the birdbath clean, even emptying it. By setting the timer to 10 pm, I avoid scaring a bird to death by suddenly sweeping it off the birdbath! And leaving the birdbath nearly empty isn't a problem, because the dripper refills the birdbath by the next morning. For more details, click here.

The most frequent bird bather is the catbird. (Actually I have a pair, but I can't tell the male and female apart.) When I was makiing adjustments to the flush hose, the catbird watched eagerly nearby, scolding me for taking so long. As soon as I was done, the catbird hopped in, took a bath, then hopped down to the ground, and looked back up at the birdbath. I figured he was thinking "Wow! That felt good!" Sure enough, he flew back up and took another bath!

The catbirds think the birdbath is theirs, I'm sure. I estimate that they take at least half-a-dozen baths a day. One day, a blue jay took a bath and left. Then a robin takes his turn and leaves. Shortly afterward, Mama Cardinal shows up, but having a timid personality, she perches above the birdbath on the shepherd's crook, contemplating the situation first. Then both catbirds come at the same time, landing on opposite sides of the birdbath, ignoring the cardinal. They dance tentatively around -- "You first, dear." "No, you go first" "No, ladies first".. The cardinal gets nervous and leaves. One of the catbirds settles the issue by flying down to the ground. The other catbird starts bathing on the right side of the birdbath. Just then a house sparrow lands on the left edge and drinks a few sips, not flustered by the splashing on the right side. Then the catbird moves over to the left side and splashes water right in the sparrow's face! Needless to say, the sparrow didn't stay around for any more abuse. After that catbird left, the robin came back for another bath. But the catbird on the ground flew up and hovered a moment at the side of the birdbath, startling the robin, which flew away.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Getting Started

I have a web site, but this blog is brand-new. This first post is just to try it out.