Saturday, August 27, 2011


The bald eagle. The only sea eagle endemic to North America. And, of course, the national bird of the United States of America.

Why “bald”? Looks like it has enough stuff on its head to be “hairy”!

Probably has something to do with the Celtic bal (= white patch) or the Greek phalos (= white). Nothing really to do with loss of hair, unless loss of aforementioned scalp appendage resulted in a shiny pate that kinda looked white. Anyhow, our bird of interest has plenty of tufts on its head. They are white. So “bald.” Thus Haliaeetus leucocephalus (leuco = white; and cephalus = head). Of course, it also has a white tail.

Plenty of these in Alaska. About 40,000–50,000 in that state. We saw them everywhere on our recent trip. Since 2007, this bird of prey is no longer on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

The founders of the United States employed many a Roman symbol for their patriotic metaphors and official imagery. The eagle was one such borrowed emblem, standing for strength and courage and farsightedness and even immortality—a figure of the Romans’ Jupiter and the Greeks’ Zeus. Apex predators, the bald eagle is called, for they have no superior in the wild; nothing preys on them. They are at the top, the apex. Powerful image!

In fact God compares himself with the bird several times in Scripture, drafting the eagle’s legendary care for its young, to describe his own care for his people.

“You yourselves have seen …
how I bore you on eagles' wings,
and brought you to Myself.”
Exodus 19:4

In 1782, the Continental Congress incorporated the bald eagle into the Great Seal of the United States, with the bird grasping 13 arrows and a 13-leaved olive branch in its talons: peace and war. Haliaeetus leucocephalus also shows up on a number of official seals and logos of federal agencies, including the Presidential Seal.

Much though those offices and officialdom needs respect, it won’t be President or agency or government or federation that carries us and cares for us. Nope!

For the LORD's portion is His people;
Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.
He found him in a desert land,
And in the howling waste
of a wilderness;
He encircled him, He cared for him,
He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.
Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
That hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them,
He carried them on His pinions.
Deuteronomy 32:9–11

Like the eagle, faithful to its mate for life, God cares for his own.

And so, we, browbeaten, bulldozed, and bludgeoned by a bullying world, rest confident in the knowledge of God’s care, the care of one, who like the eagle, is at the apex. Indeed, he is The APEX!
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:30

And so we bless the Lord, because now, we have become eagles!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me,
bless His holy name. …
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases; …
Who crowns you with
lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years
with good things,
So that your youth is renewed
like the eagle.
Psalm 103:1–5

Fly high!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


An amazing piece of God’s handiwork in the Tracy Arm Fjord off Juneau, in Alaska.

ice·berg (ìsbûrg´) noun from the Dutch ijsberg = ice mountain

This one is small. The tallest known piece in the North Atlantic was over 500 feet above sea level, the height of a 50-floor building! The one labeled “Iceberg B-15,” spotted by satellite in 2000, was about 200 miles × 25 miles, with a mass estimated to be 3 billion tonnes! The largest one, though, was sighted in 1956, 12,000 square miles in area, making it larger than Belgium!

The density of pure ice is about 920 kg/m³. That of sea water is about 1025 kg/m³. So the iceberg floats, with about 11% of the iceberg above water.

All of this makes it a hazard for ships, as the disaster of the Titanic proved in 1912.

Before that catastrophe, there was no official tracking of icebergs to keep navigation channels safe. In 1913, the International Conference on the Safety of Ice at Sea met in London to come up with a plan. Soon maritime nations formed the International Ice Patrol to monitor currents, ice-flow, salinity, water temperatures, etc. Aerial surveys joined the coalition in the 1930s, and radar and computers and satellites soon after.

All of this because the dangers of an unseen hazard was acknowledged.

“I cannot imagine any condition which could cause this ship to flounder.  I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to the vessel.  Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” So declared Captain E. I. Smith, the master of the Titanic, before its voyage in 1912.

Unlike aforesaid mariner, God’s children are called to be careful, watching out for those “icebergs.”

Therefore let the one who thinks he stands
take heed that he does not fall.
1 Corinthians 10:12

All kinds of icebergs lurk underwater.

Supernatural foes.

But the Spirit explicitly says that
in later times some will fall away
from the faith,
paying attention to deceitful spirits
and doctrines of demons.
1 Timothy 4:1

Ungodly teaching.

You therefore, beloved,
knowing this beforehand,
be on your guard
so that you are not carried away
by the error of unprincipled men and
fall from your own steadfastness.
2 Peter 3:17

The seduction of wealth.

But those who want to get rich
fall into temptation and a snare and
many foolish and harmful desires
which plunge people
into ruin and destruction.
1 Timothy 6:9

Or food.

All things are lawful for me,
but not all things are profitable.
All things are lawful for me,
but I will not be mastered by anything.
Food is for the stomach and
the stomach is for food,
but God will do away with both of them.
1 Corinthians 6:1213

And sex.

Flee immorality.
Every other sin that one commits
is outside the body,
but the immoral person
sins against his own body.
1 Corinthians 6:18

And on and on.

Walk as children of light, …
trying to learn
what is pleasing to the Lord.
Do not participate in the
unfruitful deeds of darkness ….
Therefore be careful how you walk,
not as unwise men but as wise.
Ephesians 5:8, 10–11, 15

Complacency and cockiness only leads to catastrophe. There is no such thing as an unsinkable ship!

… fight the good fight,
keeping faith and a good conscience,
which some have rejected
and suffered shipwreck
in regard to their faith.
1 Timothy 1:18–19

No one can stand firm on one’s own.


… be strong in the Lord and
in the strength of His might.
Ephesians 6:10

And watch out for those icebergs!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Nope, it’s been proved. No need to get annoyed, frustrated, irked, or irate. Don’t waste the adrenaline. It’s true.

Spoilers actually enhance enjoyment of movies and books.

That’s what researchers at University of California at San Diego have established in work to be published in Psychological Science. Spoilers magnify the delight! And if they are right, we knew it, in our heart of hearts. We just were in denial.

Even for those suspense-driven plot lines, on paper or on celluloid.

“I was quite surprised by the results,” researcher Nicholas Christenfeld said in an interview. “Like most people, I don't turn to the end of a book to see who dies or what happens.”

In the study, each candidate story was read by about two dozen people, in one of two formats—with the original ending or with a spoiler inserted into the story. It didn’t matter what type of story it was—ironic-twist, mystery, or literary. It didn’t matter who wrote it—John Updike, Roald Dahl, or Agatha Christie. Always, readers preferred the “spoiled” version.

Christenfeld has an explanation. Though plots are important, like a skeleton or a coat hanger, upon which to hang flesh or fabric, he asserts that “the plot itself isn’t critical.”

That explains why I can read the Harry Potter books over and over again. Or see Seinfeld for the umpteenth time. And reread Calvin and Hobbes. They are still enjoyable, even if one knows exactly what will happen. Not “spoilers.” Maybe “sprucers,” since they shape and sharpen and spruce up the story, heightening the excitement and thrill.

Here’s Christenfeld again: “As a film director, your job isn't really to come to the conclusion that the butler did it. A single line would do that.” Whodunnit ain’t the key. It’s just that the story is written well. “Plots are just excuses for great writing,” and that’s what’s appreciated.

Once you’ve discovered the ending of a book or film, you want to read it or view it again to see how everything makes sense and connects and coheres. Things that didn’t make sense without the spoiler, begin to make sense with it. And you also begin to appreciate in a greater way, the art of the writer or director.

Christenfeld and co-author Jonathan Leavitt conclude: “Perhaps birthday presents are better when wrapped in cellophane, and engagement rings are better when not concealed in chocolate mousse.”

OK, spoiler alert. We’re all part of a story the ending of which we know.

The trumpet will sound,
and the dead will be raised imperishable,
and we will be changed.
The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law;
but thanks be to God,
who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:52, 5657

Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men,
and He will dwell among them,
and they shall be His people, …
and He will wipe away
every tear from their eyes;
and there will no longer be any death;
there will no longer be any mourning,
or crying, or pain.
Revelation 21:34

There will no longer be any curse; …
and His bond-servants will serve Him;
they will see His face,
and His name will be on their foreheads.
And there will no longer be any night;
and they will not have need of
the light of a lamp nor
the light of the sun,
because the Lord God will illumine them;
and they will reign forever and ever.
Revelation 22:3

Enjoy the art and grace of the Author; the ending has been “spoiled”!

Saturday, August 06, 2011


Tracy Arm Fjord is a magnificent 30-mile long glacier-created fjord, about 60 miles southeast of Juneau. A bright green body of water between sheer, glacier-carved granite cliffs shrouded in mist, with innumerable waterfalls cascading into the fjord. An amazing sight. Naturalist John Muir, in the early 20th century, even went so far as to claim that the region was even more spectacular than the Yosemite valley.

And then those glaciers at the end of the fjord (or is it the beginning?)! What a sight! And the sea lions frolicking all around. Not to mention the “calving,” the dislodging of huge chunks of ice that plunge with a thunderous sound into the frigid waters below. And so the fjord is filled with icebergs, all bright blue, just like the parent glacier.

Technically, these masses of ice are the result of accumulation of snow and sleet at a faster rate than it can melt. Over centuries it hardens into tens and hundreds (and, occasionally thousands) of square miles of ice: glaciation. And it moves: its weight, the surface slope, gravity, water at the interface of ice and land, etc., contributing to its motion. It moves … glacially.

gla·cial (glâ¹shel) adjective 1.a. Of, relating to, or derived from a glacier. b. Suggesting the extreme slowness of a glacier.

The word has come to be a synonym for slowness (though that may be unfair to the glaciers: they’ve been known to move as fast as 100 feet a day). But all in all, “glaciality” is a typical feature of glaciers. Their movements are not apparent unless one observes them across decades or centuries.

Nothing seems to happen, but things are … at a glacial pace.

Life is often like that. Glacial. Or so we think. Simply because we can’t see things happening.

But God is working. On his own timetable. In his own scale.

For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
Psalm 90:4

Peter agreed.

But do not let this one fact
escape your notice, beloved,
that with the Lord one day
is like a thousand years,
and a thousand years like one day.
2 Peter 3:8

Isaac Watts put it well three centuries ago:

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
Isaac Watts, 1719

So even if we can’t see it, hear it, or feel it, something is happening. Because God is working. Always is. Never stops. No vacations. No breaks. No naps.

He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
Psalm 121:3–4

Glacial? Maybe. But not on God’s clock or calendar. And maybe that’s the operation of time we must adopt and follow.

Therefore be patient, brethren,
until the coming of the Lord.
The farmer waits for
the precious produce of the soil,
being patient about it ….
You too be patient; strengthen your hearts,
for the coming of the Lord is near.
James 5:7–8

And what about all the evilin us, around us, against us? God is doing something about it; it began with the victory of Jesus Christ on the cross. And it will reach its consummation soon and very soon.

Hang in there!