October 24, 2012

The Amazing Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly is one of nature’s most remarkable creatures. All of us are familiar with bird migration, but few people realize that monarchs also relocate, often traveling as much as 1,800 miles each spring and fall.  

Those who migrate north in the spring make that trip only once. Those who travel south the following fall are several generations removed from their ancestors who came up from the south the previous spring.

It’s difficult to believe, but many of the great great grandchildren will end their migration in the same place where their ancestors wintered the previous year. Some will locate on the same tree, or even the same branch their ancestors left in the spring.

While birds and butterflies have a remarkable uncanny sense that enables them to travel hundreds of miles, we need a GPS or a map when we travel in unfamiliar territory. And each of us needs a guide to help us through the maze of conflicting emotions and discouraging experiences we encounter as we travel through life.

The New Testament of the Bible tells the story of the ultimate mentor for living, Jesus Christ. Those who believe in Him are led to a life of peace that transcends understanding, a joy that is indescribable and hope to sustain us even in the face of death.
“Once again Jesus addressed the people: ‘I am the light of the world. No follower of mine shall wander in the dark; he shall have the light of life’”   John 8:12

October 17, 2012

The Weird Little Photons

Alexander Pope is credited for being the first to suggest that, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Despite my lack of expertise on the subject of photons, I find them so intriguing, I am willing to risk a walk in a perilous Louisiana swamp of alligators to examine them briefly.

Recently, French Physician Serge Haroche and American David Wineland won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics for devising methods to study the highly unusual properties of these smallest measures of light. In the weirdness of a quantum world, for example, photons can be in two places at the same time and can spin diagonally, vertically and horizontally___ all at once.

Reports suggest that even quantum physicists don’t understand, so how can we mortals? Even so, let me attempt to summarize by suggesting photons can be described as strange little pieces of light which break all the rules of classical physics.

In the first chapter of Genesis, we read, “God said, “‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” And in his book, Ripples in the Cosmos, astrophysicist Michael Rowan-Robinson suggests, "The universe was born in a blaze of light." 

We look to the Heavens and we observe infinite light, a reality that defies logic and reason. Haroche and Wineland study tiny bits of light, that also defy rational thought. Both are  creations of the Master of the Universe whose love, power and presence in our lives are also beyond our comprehension.  

Michelangelo, the greatest living artist of his time, summarized my feeble attempts to express faith in the creations of a good and gracious God with this quote:
“I live and love in God’s peculiar light.”

October 10, 2012

The Remarkable Human Brain

Most of us remember long tedious hours in libraries researching subjects for papers that were required in our high school and/or college courses.  Today, thanks to the marvel of technology, we type a few words in our favorite search engine, and we are offered more information than we can possibly use.

At a high school program in the late fifties, a scientist told a group of seniors that one day people would carry a small device which would enable them to call anyone with a telephone anywhere in the world. At the time, most students probably considered the prediction to be science fiction, and if the speaker had known what we are able to do with our phones today, he may have regarded that reality as beyond his imagination.

We live in a remarkable technological age when discoveries that stagger our senses are announced every day. Unfortunately, we often forget what it was that created the incredible products and services which we use daily. That marvel of biological engineering is a machine more complex than any smart device available today. It is the human brain. And who or what is responsible for our remarkable inventive minds? 

Deepak Chopra, one of the master teachers of Eastern philosophy in the Western world, has written a new book titled, God. In it he makes this observation:
"The human brain, so far as we know, is the most complex thing in existence. Was it really a product of random choice over the past 13 billion years? To believe in randomness as the only creative force in nature, one physicist quipped, is like saying that a hurricane blew through a junkyard and built a Boeing 777.”
We marvel at the human brain and what it can accomplish. Perhaps we should take a moment and recognize and give thanks to our Creator who conceived it. 

October 3, 2012

The Curious Mind and Retirement

When British statesman, Sir Robert Walpole, retired after many arduous years in public service, he went to the library in his home and took down a book, read for a few minutes, then returned it to the shelf.

He took down another, but only held it for a short time before replacing it and taking a third. After returning it to a shelf, he burst into tears and said, "I have led a life of business so long that I have lost my taste for reading, and now___what shall I do?”

I recently heard about an attorney who is long past retirement age, but he continues to work, because he “doesn't know what he would do with his time.”

Nancy and I are both over eighty, and most of our friends and associates are retired, but as far as we know, none is bored. Who can possibly be bored when there are so many books on so many subjects calling out to be read?  And who can be bored in this computer age when information on any subject is just a click away?

How unfortunate that someone should only experience a lifetime of work, when our Creator has surrounded us with an extravagance of natural gifts all waiting to be explored. The curious mind finds wonder in all God’s creation from the complexity of a single atom to the vastness of our universe . . . or is there more than one universe? I’ll Google that question.

Here’s an appropriate quote from Robert Louis Stevenson:
The world is so full of a number of things
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.