Tag Archives: church

What Is On My Mind Today: Intelligent Design? The Bible, Science and Scientists

I have decided to write a series of blog posts on Christianity and Jesus:

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses


                                                       Intelligent Design?
                                              The Bible, Science and Scientists

J. Richard Gott, born in 1947, is a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University. He developed two cosmological theories: time travel and the doomsday argument.  Once when Professor Gott was asked if he believed in God, he answered, “I’m a Presbyterian. I believe in God; I always thought that was the humble position to take. I like what Einstein said: “God is subtle but not malicious.” I think if you want to know how the universe started, that’s a legitimate question for physics. But if you want to know why it’s here, then you may have to know—to borrow Stephen Hawking’s phrase—the mind of God.”

Few topics today are more misunderstood and controversial than the relationship between religion and science.  Religion and science are not mutually exclusive. They are merely different due to their very nature.  Science seeks knowledge about the world and its behavior.  Religion is about morality, God and the afterlife. Science studies the natural world, not the supernatural. Science is about how. Religion is about why. As the highly respected physicist Albert Einstein once said,”Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

Surprisingly, the early church encouraged the quest for scientific knowledge. In fact, it was the early church that promoted and financed initial interest in studying science.  According to James Hannam, PhD, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge,

“Christians believed that God created the universe and ordained the laws of nature. To study the natural world was to admire the work of God. This could be a religious duty and inspire science when there were few other reasons to bother with it. It was faith that led Copernicus to reject the ugly Ptolemaic universe; that drove Johannes Kepler to discover the constitution of the solar system; and that convinced James Clerk Maxwell he could reduce electromagnetism to a set of equations so elegant they take the breathe away.”

There is much false information about the church and science.  For example, the church did not teach that the earth was flat.  Nor, did Christopher Columbus believe it to be so.  Flat earth theory is not found in the bible, the exact opposite is true.

The prophet Isaiah, whose writings are dated to between 740-680 B.C., clearly declared the earth to be a circle over 300 years before Aristotle.

Isaiah 40:22

“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:”

Early scientists found scientific clues within the pages of their Bibles.  Job, the oldest book in the Bible, was written around the 6th century B.C.  Several of its verses relate directly to major scientific discoveries that did not occur for thousands of years.   Such as:

– Light can be parted and transmit sound.

Job 38: 24 and 35

24 By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?

35 Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are?

– At a time when people in cultures all over the world believed that the earth was supported in the heavens by being carried on the back of elephants who were standing on top of a turtle, or that the heavens were being supported on the back of a Greek fellow named Atlas, the Bible states,”


Job 26:7

He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.

– The writer of the book of Job, most likely lived in a desert and did not have much deep-sea diving experience. Yet, his writings tell us that there are springs on the bottom of the oceans, a fact that was not discovered until the 20th century.

Job 38:16

16 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?

– Isaiah an Old Testament prophet includes a reference to the infinite expansion of the universe, which also was not discovered by science until the 20th Century.

Isaiah 40:22

“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:”

There have been some famous clashes between the church and science.  The story of Galileo springs to mind.  Galileo Galilei lived from 1564-1642.   He was a devout Catholic all of his life and remained devoutly Christian even after he was accused of being a heretic, because he agreed with Copernicus that the earth was not the center of our solar system.   To the end of his days Galileo believed, “that the glory and greatness of Almighty God are marvelously discerned in all His works and divinely read in the open book of Heaven.”

Galileo’s disagreement with the church was never over faith-based messages, but the Church’s attempts to restrict freedom of thought and scientific inquiry.  The church eventually changed its tune regarding scientific inquiry. During the middle ages, the church paid monks, friars and priests to attend university and required them to study math and science.
By the 17th century Jesuit monks led the world in the fields of scientific discovery and publication.  In fact, some of the great cathedrals were designed to act as observatories to study the night skies.  And, the field of modern genetics began in a monastic garden by a monk growing peas.  Until the 18th Century (1700s)  the leading sponsor of scientific research was the Catholic Church.
Many of England’s oldest universities were established by the church. One of the first was a college founded by the Celtic cleric StIlltyd in about AD 500Oxford University was established by the church and in the year 1209, so was Cambridge University.  The University of Edinburgh was founded by the Presbyterians.

Of the first 108 colleges to be established in America, 106 were started by religious organizations.  There were 246 colleges at the beginning Civil War in 1861. Of these, 17 were state-funded institutions. The rest were all founded by religious organizations or individuals.  Eighty percent of the colleges in the United States were church-related by 1881. By 2001 higher education schools acknowledging religious association dropped to 20 percent (approximately 980 institutions).  Of the nearly 1,000 religiously affiliated colleges and universities, 65 are associated with the Jewish faith.

Many of our nation’s most well-known colleges were founded by the church.

Harvard College was named after the minister John Harvard and was founded in 1636 to educate Congregation and Unitarian clergy.   An original rule of the school was, “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, (John 17:3), and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”

The college of William and Mary was founded in 1691 by Reverend James Blair.

Yale University was founded in 1701 by Congregational ministers.

Princeton was founded in 1746 by Presbyterians.  The college’s first president, Reverend Jonathan Dickinson declared, “cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”

The “Digest of Educational Statistics, 2000,” records that there are over 1.5 million students enrolled in religion-affiliated colleges and universities which are sponsored by over sixty-six different religious groups.  Many of these campuses are liberal arts colleges. However there are medical colleges, professional schools, two-year colleges, theological seminaries, and Bible colleges. Their ranks include major research universities such as Notre Dame.

So who are these scientists that believe in God?

Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873), called the “the pathfinder of seas,” is considered the father of modern oceanography.  Maury proved that the ocean actually contained paths where ocean currents and winds helped ships move faster.

Maury was born in 1806 in Spotslyvania County, Virginia, and moved with his family to Franklin, Tennessee when he was five. Maury’s interest in the ocean was the result of his hero-worship of his older brother, a Flag Lieutenant in the United States Navy.  Unfortunately, the much idolized older brother contracted yellow fever during his military service and died.  After his brother’s death, Maury’s father forbid him joining the Navy.  That did not stop the young Maury.

The famous Sam Houston, the only man to be elected governor of two states, Tennessee and Texas; serve in the U. S. Senate;  elected as the first and third President of the Republic of Texas and the only governor within a future Confederate state to oppose secession, was a friend of the Maury family.  Houston used his considerable influence to get Maury, age 19, an appointment to the Navy.

Maury entered the Navy as a midshipman. He instantly began to learn methods of navigation and to study the seas. The warship he was assigned to, the USS Vincennnes, was the first U. S. warship to circle the world.
Maury’s ocean going days ended when he was 33 years-old and severely broke his leg in a stagecoach accident.  It was after this accident that Maury’s research into the ways of the oceans really began.
The story about Maury and his quest to find the Bibilical “paths of the seas.” Is found in, “A Brief Sketch of the Work of Matthew Fontaine Maury”, authored by his son, Richard Launcelot Maury.

 

“At one time, when Commodore Maury was very sick, he asked one of his daughters to get the Bible and read to him. She chose Psalm 8, the eighth verse of which speaks of “whatsoever walketh through the paths of the sea.” He repeated, “The paths of the sea, the paths of the sea. If God says the paths of the sea, they are there, and if I ever get out of this bed I will find them.”

And so, the ancient Biblical text from Psalm 8:8, written thousands of years ago inspired the future father of oceanography.  From that point on, Maury focused his research on studying navigation, meteorology, winds, and currents.  He pored over thousands of ships logs and charts.  He found “the paths of the sea.”

In his publication, “Wind and Current Chart of the North Atlantic”  (1847), Maury showed that by using ocean currents and winds, “The paths of the sea“, travel times for ocean voyages would be greatly reduced, and they were.  Some voyages were reduced by weeks. “The paths in the sea” Maury discovered and charted are still used today and have become major trade routes.

In Maury’s comprehensive work on oceanography published in 1855, “Physical Geography of the Sea” he wrote,

“I have always found in my scientific studies, that, when I could get the Bible to say anything on the subject it afforded me a firm platform to stand upon, and a round in the ladder by which I could safely ascend.”

 

When participating in laying the cornerstone for East Tennessee University on November 30, 1860 Maury said,

“I have been blamed by men of science, both in this country and in England, for quoting the Bible in confirmation of the doctrines of physical geography. The Bible, they say, was not written for scientific purposes, and is therefore of no authority in matters of science. I beg pardon! The Bible is authority for everything it touches.

What would you think of the historian who should refuse to consult the historical records of the Bible, because the Bible was not written for the purposes of history?

The Bible is true and science is true, and therefore each, if truly read, but proves the truth of the other. The agents in the physical economy of our planet are ministers of Him who made both it and the Bible.”

 

Many other famous scientists from history were believers in an almighty God. Their ranks include:

  1. Leonardo Da Vinci  (1452-1519)Leonardo Da Vinci, raised Catholic, is probably the most talented and celebrated genius in human history.  He was a powerful two-brainer.  Both the artistic and analytical sides of his brain were highly developed and used.  While, modern popular portrayals of Da Vinci often show him as anti-God, he was always a Catholic.  At the end of his life, as he faced death, Da Vinci sought to strengthen his relationship with God.
  2. Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)
    Polish astronomer Copernicus was the first to discover that earth’s system of planets circle the sun.  A strong believer in God, he was made a canon in the Catholic church in 1497, and presented his theory of our planetary system to Pope Clement VII in the Vatican gardens in 1533.
  3. Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1627) Famous philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon life’s goals were to discover truth, render service to his country and church. He is credited with discovering and establishing scientific method.  Scientific method, the basis for the study of science today, studies the natural world through experimentation and reason.  Bacon believed in God and rejected atheism.  He wrote,“It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion; for while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate, and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity.”
  4. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
    Kepler, a brilliant mathematician and astronomer, studied light and the laws of planetary motion.  Well before Sir Isaac Newton was born, Kepler came very close to solving the concept of universal gravity.  He was a committed christian and a pious Lutheran.
  5. Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
    Descartes known as the father of modern philosophy was also a mathematician and scientist. He is famous for his conclusion, “I think therefore I am”. A Roman Catholic, Descartes had a strong lifelong faith in God.  God was central to his philosophy.  Like Sir Francis Bacon, Descartes used scientific method.  He used it to try an establish the near certainty of God’s existence.  He believed that, “only if God both exists and would not want us to be deceived by our experiences – can we trust our senses and logical thought processes.”   Even today science cannot explain human consciousness and perception, although scientists in the field of quantum mechanics are trying.
  6. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
    Roman Catholic Blaise Pascal a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, and writer is known for discovering the theory of projective geometry.  He also established the foundation for probability theory, the principles for vacuums and air pressure.  In 1654 a religious vision changed the course of his studies from science to theology.  Pascal’s influential defense of Christianity, “Pascals Wager” was published after his death. His last words were, “May God never abandon me.”
  7. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
    Sir Isaac Newton the discoverer of gravity also studied optics, mechanics and math. He is regarded as an undisputed genius.  Newton was also devoutly religious.  God was central to his systems of physics, nature and the absoluteness of space.  In the words of Newton, “The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”
  8. Robert Boyle (1791-1867)
    Robert Boyle studied chemistry and discovered “Boyle’s Law” for gases.  He was a devout Christian protestant  His theological view, that the study of nature is a religious duty, was published in 1690 in his work, “The Christian Virtuoso”.   In his day he defended his faith against atheists.
  9. Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
    Michael Faraday was one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century.  He revolutionized the study of physics with his research on electricity and magnetism. Faraday was devoutly Christian and a member of the Sandemanians, a Christian sect that originated within the Presbyterian church.
  10. Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
    Mendel was a monk who laid the mathematical foundations for genetics by conducting experiments in the monastery’s garden.
  11. William Thomson Kelvin (1824-1907)
    Kelvin is regarded by most modern physicists as the scientist of the 19th Century who had the greatest influence on modern physics.  He is ranked with Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Kelvin, along with his fellow physicists George Gabriel Stokes and James Clerk Maxwell were were committed Christians in a time when anti-Christian sentiments were on the rise.
  12. Max Planck (1858-1947)
    Planck is best known for quantum theory.  His work in quantum mechanics revolutionized the understanding of the the atom. In a 1937 lecture titled “Religion and Naturwissenschaft,” he stated that God is present everywhere.  He felt that atheists attached too much importance to symbols. Planck, like Einstein, was most likely a Deist, believing in an almighty, all-knowing and loving God, but, not necessarily a personal one.  He believed that science and religion wage a, “tireless battle against skepticism and dogmatism, against unbelief and superstition” with the goal “toward God!”
  13. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
    Einstein is probably the most famous and highly respected scientist of the 20th century.  Eisenstein did not express a belief in a personal God, he did however recognize the impossibility that the universe was not the result of a divine intelligence.  Einstein’s view of God was that God reveals himself within the harmony of nature.  He once told a young physicist, “I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.”

Many famous and current scientists believe in God.

“According to 100 Years of Nobel Prizes a review of Nobel prizes award between 1901 and 2000 reveals that (65.4%) of Nobel Prizes Laureates, have identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference. Overall, Christians have won a total of 72.5% of all the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, 65.3% in Physics, 62% in Medicine, 54% in Economics.

The notion that scientists are or must be atheists and that atheism is a modern invention is a myth.  Atheists have existed since man first discovered God. Whether it is about atheists or anything else, there really is nothing new under the sun. As King Solomon, the son of Kind David, wrote, thousands of years ago in the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes,

Ecclesiastes 1:9

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Great scientific minds, whose work spans centuries found their faith strengthened by what they discovered as they studied natural law and phenomena. They discovered order.  Einstein’s famous comment about the”uncertainty principle” probably says it best, “God does not play dice”.

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Letters From Grandma Pat: Cat Warfare and The Battle of the Black Death

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Dear Kids,

I am glad that you had a safe and Happy Halloween.   Please know that your parents’  idea of a “Daddy” or “Mommy” tax on candy collected on Halloween or Easter did not  originate with myself or your grandpa.  We would never have expected or accepted anything from our children more than what they were graciously willing to share.  At any rate, don’t eat all of the candy in one day….you, your stomach and teeth will regret it.

So, when you got home did you dump out all of your candy out for an inspection?  I bet your cats thoroughly checked out each and every piece.  They always remind me of the poor souls who had to taste all of a king’s food, to make sure it wasn’t poisoned.  I bet those folks wished they had nine lives like a cat and I bet you don’t know about the time cats saved all of humankind by winning the “Battle of the Black Death.”

Seriously,  we all know that cats do not have more than one life on this earth, so how did this myth about the nine lives get started? An Old English proverb says that, “A cat has nine lives.  For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.”  However, the nine lives myth is much older than this proverb and even merry old England itself.

The myth that cats have nine lives has been around for centuries. Even the famous English playwright William Shakespeare referred to it in his play, “Romeo And Juliet.” He wrote, “Tybalt: What wouldst thou have with me? Mercutio: Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives.”

Actually, no one knows for sure when this myth got started, but historians believe it may have begun in ancient Egypt where cats were sacred. In fact, their goddess Bastet was pictured as being half cat and half woman.  Ha! The first cat woman!

Cats in Egypt were revered in life and greatly mourned after they died. They were mummified, just like people, and had their own tombs.  Interestingly, a cat tomb with over 80,000 mummified cats was discovered at Beni Hassan in Egypt in 1888.  That’s a lot of cat mummies.

The ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Greeks thought that number nine was special…even magical. Ancient Egyptians believed that their god Atum or Atum-Ra took on the form of a cat whenever he visited the underworld or as we call it today….hell.  During one of his visits to the land of the dead, Atum gave birth to eight other gods.  Therefore one life, became nine.

The Egyptians were not alone in thinking there was something special about the number nine. Tradition and religion made the Greeks think that the number nine had power for it was the trinity of all trinities. Not every culture credits a cat with nine lives. Spain has a tradition that cats only have seven lives, and in Arabia and Turkey the feline only gets six

It was the Romans who brought cats to Europe.  During their occupation of Egypt, the Romans learned to appreciate the pet felines for their mouse catching skills.  It didn’t take long before cats became popular European pets…that is….until the middle ages.  Poor cats!  Within a few centuries they went from being worshiped in ancient Egypt to medieval Europeans thinking they were a death delivering soldier of the devil.

Being born a cat, especially a black cat, in medieval Europe was just plain bad luck.  It is the only unlucky thing about a black cat.  Cats at that time were so terribly misunderstood.  Their nose-in-the-air attitudes and ability to survive falls that would have killed any other animal got them labeled as being other worldly and evil.

One guy, named Baldwin III, Count of Ypres, was so fascinated by a cats amazing ability to land on its feet that he decided to test the extent of this cat talent.  So, in the year 962 A. D.  he threw several cats off of a very high tower.  Well, the cats survived and ran away.  The experiment, with the poor unfortunate cats, was so entertaining, that the Belgian town made it an annual event and festival. Each year after a procession celebrating cat history, felines were thrown from an almost 230 foot tower.  Live cats were used until 1817, when the folks in Belgian decided that maybe, just maybe, this tradition was unkind and began using toy cats instead.

At that time, being thrown off a tower was the least of a cat’s problem.  During the middles ages, from about 1300 until the 1700, every few generations, a terrible disease called the Bubonic Plague would savage the cities and countrysides of Europe.  This disease killed up to 50 percent of the total population in some parts of England.  France lost up to 90 percent of its people in some areas.

The  Bubonic Plague otherwise known as the “Black Death” came to Europe in October of 1347 when twelve Asian trading ships docked in Messina, Sicily.  Crowds had gathered on the piers to welcome the ships when to their horror most of the sailors on the ships were  found dead and the remainder were terribly ill.

Before the ships of death had even reached Sicily’s shores, many Europeans were already frightened by the rumors that a “Great Pestilence” had ravaged the Near and Far East.  As early as the 1340’s China, India, Syria, Egypt and Persia had experienced the plague’s effects.  To protect the public from being infected by this horrible contagion, the death ships were immediately ordered to return to sea.

However, it was already too late. This disease, spread by flea-infested rats, had already jumped ship.  The plague had begun. Before it was over more than 25 million people in Europe, almost a third of its population would be dead.  Not only did this disease kill people, it also killed animals, including farm animals such as cows, goats, sheep, pigs and chickens.  So many animals perished that food and wool shortages occurred.

The plague is an ugly disease.  It causes its victims to run a high fever, vomit uncontrollably and experience an incredible amount of pain. Worst yet were the horrible black bleeding and oozing sores that covered the victim’s entire body.  These black sores are what gave the disease the name, “The Black Death.”   Its victims looked like rotting puss covered zombies.

Death from this disease came so quickly that a person could be healthy when they went to bed at night and dead before morning.  The nursery rhyme “Ring around the Rosy”  is believed to have been written about the symptoms of the Black Death.

Unlike today, in those days there were no doctors or medicines that could help the victims.  Panic ensued. People turned on each other, families abandoned their own sick family members, doctors refused help the sick, and priests refused administering last rites to the dying.

As in most cases of historical public panic, a scapegoat was needed. In this case it was….Jewish people and cats.

At the time the plague struck very little was known about how disease spread. So, people who under normal circumstances seemed to have perfectly well-functioning brains,  threw open all the doors and windows of their mental facilities to let reason and common sense escape and welcome in ridiculously stupid ideas to explain the illness.  Such as, that the plague of the Black Death was a punishment from a loving God.

While I would never speak for God or suggest he never has used a catastrophe or two to get our attention.  I don’t believe that disease is ever a punishment from God for sin, because Jesus paid the full price for all of our sins on the cross. Nor, do I believe that God tests the sick.  I think it is highly more likely that if a loving God is testing anyone, it is the people close to the stricken to see if they practice what they preach and meet the needs of the suffering with compassion, kindness and love.

No, I do not believe that the plague was a divine punishment. However, people during the middle ages were told differently.

In those days the most powerful authority in the land was the Catholic church.  Church leaders believed that the Black Death was God’s punishment. To end the plague, the church taught that communities needed to be cleansed of non-believers and perpetual troublemakers.  During the years of 1348 and 1349, violent panic-stricken mobs massacred thousands of Jewish people.  Many Jews were forced to flee to Eastern Europe to be safe.

In addition to the genocide of the Jews, cats were also targeted by the church.  A century before the plague, the church had taught that cats were evil. It was believed that devil worshipers and witches used cats to cast their spells…especially black cats.   This is where and when the superstition about black cats began.

Well, it didn’t take long before cats were feared and killed off by the thousands.  In some areas cat ownership was actually outlawed.  At one point during the middle ages cats had been almost entirely eradicated in England.

Humans often make poor choices and the attempt to rid Europe of cats was just that…a bad idea.  Cats kill rats. Rats had the fleas that caused the Black Death.  Therefore, when there weren’t a lot of cats, there were a lot of rats and a disease outbreak occurred.

Some humans ignored the law and kept their pet cats.  Other folks soon noticed that cat owners seemed to not get the plague as often.  It does amaze me that these cat owners weren’t immediately labeled as witches and burned at the stake.  Boy, did folks back then like burning witches at the stake, but that is another story.

For once, however, calmer heads prevailed.  It was decided that cats somehow protected their owners from the plague.  Primitive scientific research and thinking took place and it was determined that rats not cats spread the plague.

Of course with this discovery everyone wanted cats. Unfortunately,  there were not very many left.  It took awhile to re-populate the cat population. However, Tom Cats were up to the challenge and made every effort to impregnate every female cat they could find. (If you don’t know what impregnate means, ask your dad.) 

Due to the commitment to duty and impregnating excellence of the Tom Cats, it wasn’t long before cats were back at the job killing rats and controlling the spread of this horrible disease. Some say that without the rat killing skills of those medieval cats, humankind could have been wiped-out by the plague.  After all of the abuse from humans, isn’t it odd that cats helped save them.  Funny how life works out sometimes.

While cats helped humans land back on their feet after the plague, people still did not know why cats almost always landed on their feet.  It took until 1894 before science could explain a cat’s amazing talent for surviving a fall by landing on its feet.

French physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey conducted experiments with cats.  Unlike the Belgians, he dropped them from short-safe distances.  With the help of a camera that took multiple images very quickly, Mr. Marey demonstrated the secret to a cat’s amazing gymnastic agility.

As a cat falls, it instinctively begins a twisting action beginning with its head and ending with the tail called an aerial righting reflex. It takes only one second for a cat to complete this reflex action. Kittens as young as three weeks show signs of this ability, which the kitten masters when they are about seven weeks old.  However, a cat cannot land on its feet if the distance is too low for the cat to make its twist or if the fall is so high that it becomes a cat pancake.

Here is how a cat can almost always land on its feet:

1. First the cat’s head begins to rotate.

2  Next, the cat will arch and twist its spine so that its front and back legs are rotating in opposite directions.

3.  As the cat begins the roll, it pulls in its front legs and extends its back ones, making the front half of its body to spin more quickly than the back half.  Then, the process is reversed.  As the cat’s back legs swing around, they are tucked up into the body and the front legs extended to prevent over-spinning.

4.  The result of all this motion allows the cat to land on all four paws cushioning the impact of the landing.

I better never hear of anybody throwing a cat around and claim its a science experiment.  Cats can and do get hurt easily.  And, like all of God’s creatures, cats were put on this earth to be treated kindly and cared for with gentleness and love.

I guess cats have earned the right to ignore the concept of humility and strut their stuff like a Lion King.  After all, if it wasn’t for their ancestors killing a lot of rats none of us humans might be here.

Have a great week and I love you all very, very much.

Love

Grandma Pat

What Is On My Mind Today? Enjoying this beautiful Minnesota Day and a Good Laugh!

 

squirrel

Squirrels vs. The Church

The Presbyterian church called a meeting to decide what to do about their squirrels. After much prayer and consideration, they concluded the squirrels were predestined to be there and they shouldn’t interfere with God’s divine will.

At the Baptist church the squirrels had taken an interest in the baptistery.. The deacons met and decided to put a water slide on the baptistery and let the squirrels drown themselves. The squirrels liked the slide and, unfortunately, knew instinctively how to swim so twice as many squirrels showed up the following week.

The Methodist church decided that they were not in a position to harm any of God’s creatures. So, they humanely trapped their squirrels and set them free near the Baptist Church. Two weeks later the squirrels were back when the Baptists took down the water slide.

But the Catholic Church came up with a very creative strategy. They baptized all the squirrels and consecrated them as members of the church. Now they only see them on Christmas and Easter.

Not much was heard from the Jewish synagogue; they took the first squirrel and circumcised him. They haven’t seen a squirrel since.

What Is On My Mind Today? What Kind of a Wondrous Love is that? Happy Easter!

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While I have taught Christian Education and read the scriptures for most of my life.  I had never actually read the entire Bible cover to cover. I decided last winter that if anyone asked me, if I had read the entire Bible, I wanted to answer in the affirmative. For the past several months, I have been reading the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter and verse by verse.

The New Testament went fast, but the Old Testament is a much slower read.  At least for me.  I am over half way through and am now about midway through the chapter of Psalms.

I have been a very good reader of the New Testament, but whenever I read the Old Testament, I get overwhelmed and a bit freaked out. Parts of the Old Testament truly test me.   One of the stories that has always troubled me was the story of Abraham and Isaac.
That story is about God asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering to test Abraham’s faith.

The very idea of sacrificing a child is repulsive and terrifying.  As the scriptures tell us, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.”  My treasures are my children and I cannot imagine how horrible it would be to lose a child, let alone be party to their death.

That is now thinking, not then thinking.

For much of ancient human history child sacrifice was considered the ultimate offering to appease or please an angry God.  At the time that the Old Testament was written many cultures practiced child sacrifice both in the old and new worlds.

The Bible sites many examples of this practice.

2 Kings 17:31 

the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelek and Anammelek, the gods of Sepharvaim.

Psalm 106: 38 

They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.

Personally, I will never forget a trip to the Papago Indian Reservation, with a member of that tribe, to visit a site where four small children had lost their lives during a ritual human sacrifice.  As the legend was told, there had been an big badger who had dug a hole so deep that it had tapped into a natural spring.  Water was gushing out of the spring into the dry desert.  Fearful of their world being flooded, it was decided to sacrifice four small children to save the tribe.  The children’s small bodies were shoved into the hole, the water stopped, and the tribe saved and therefore, the sacrifice had worked.

Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice Isaac would not have been considered unusual. What is unusual is the strength of Abraham’s faith.  Abraham had been promised by God that he would be the leader of a great nation, have more descendants than there were stars in the heavens and that these descendants would be the result of his union with his very elderly wife Sarah who was past menopause.  Isaac’s birth and life was a promise fulfilled by God.

Genesis 17:19

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

Genesis 17:21

But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”

Genesis 21: 12 

But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.

Genesis 22: 2  

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

After reading this Biblical passage more than once, it occurred to me, that Abraham told his servants that “we will come back to you”.  Regardless, of what Abraham had been asked by God to do on that mountain, he believed that both he and Isaac would be returning.  His faith in the promise made to him by God was so strong, that even if Isaac had been sacrificed, he believed that the boy would be returning with him.  God would not break his promise that through Isaac there would be an everlasting covenant, even if it meant raising Isaac from the dead.

God providing the ram for a sacrifice instead of Isaac, certainly symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ.  However, while God was making an example of the unfailing faith of Abraham, God was also setting an example of ending human child sacrifice. In fact, God abhorred child sacrifice and has a history of destroying  nations who practiced it.

2 Kings 17:17 

They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.


2 Kings 16:3

He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.


2 Kings 17:31 

the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelek and Anammelek, the gods of Sepharvaim.


2 Kings 21: 6

He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritualists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.


Ezekiel 23:37

for they have committed adultery and blood is on their hands. They committed adultery with their idols; they even sacrificed their children, whom they bore to me, as food for them.

Not only did God abhor child sacrifice, he preferred obedience to sacrifice period.


1 Samuel 15:22 

But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Isaiah 1:11

“The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

Psalm 40:6
 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
  but my ears you have opened
  burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.

 

Psalm 51:16

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hebrews 10:8
First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with
the law.
Mark 12:23

To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Even after being raised in a Christian faith that believes in the trinity of God….Father, Son and Holy Ghost…in my mind God the Father was a much tougher guy and quite different in temperament than God the Son.  Christ’s description of his heavenly Father, I must admit had fallen on deaf ears.

John 8:19 

Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

Luke 10:22 

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

John 14: 7 

If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

These past few months as I have read through the Old Testament, it has become very apparent to me that the God of the Old Testament, is not nearly as angry and blood thirsty as I had believed.  He is, in fact, just as loving and tender as his son Jesus.
The violence of the Old Testament was never the wish or will of a just and loving God, but the result of humankind’s transgressions.  We are the angry, blood thirsty, immoral and vengeful.  Not God. Never God.

The Old Testament clearly demonstrates time and time again that having free-will and the ability to defy God and commit acts of rebellion (sin) has consequences.  As the very first couple learned in the Garden of Eden.

Isaiah 50: 1 

This is what the Lord says: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away.

So, it seems to me that Isaac on that mountain is us asking,  “Father?”

“Yes, my child?” 

“The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

“God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my child.”

God did provide a sacrificial lamb for Abraham.  Just like he provided the sacrificial lamb who gave up his life on the top of another hill, shaped like a skull-cap, called Golgotha. There, God kept his covenant with humankind when he provided his own son as the sacrifice to wipe away the sins of the world. Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice.

Jesus always knew that his destiny was to die on that cross.

John 10:15 

just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was the greatest expression of love.

John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

When I think about the Trinity, Jesus was not the only one on that cross at Calvary.  God the Father was right there with him.  It was a combination of child sacrifice and self-sacrifice.

John 3:16 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It is awe inspiring to know that God, who abhorred child sacrifice, sacrificed his only son, because of his great love for me, to forgive my transgressions and rebellion.  Really, what kind of a wondrous love is that?

Hymn: “What Wondrous Love Is This” 

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

2 When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.

3 To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM –
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

4 And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.

Tomorrow morning is Easter.  A day to celebrate the risen Lord, and his victory over death and the grave.  He has risen!  He has risen indeed!

Happy Easter!

Recipe: Good Enough for the Church Ladies…Coffeecake

 

coffee cake

We all have those favorite recipes that we take to special occasions, because they’re the best and we know it. My daughter once accused me of never giving her the exact recipe, so my baking surpasses hers.  This of course could not be further from the truth…she just needed more practice.

When I was a recipe editor for a local paper I shared this recipe with my readers. A week or so after the issue was released, a parent of one of my confirmation student’s exclaimed it was the best coffee cake she had ever made, “Why this cake is good enough for the church ladies!”

It is very moist and easy to make.   I like making it for my family as a breakfast treat on weekend mornings or special occasions. So here is this recipe, exactly as I make it.  Enjoy!

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs

Topping:

½ cup butter
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

 In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and blend with an electric mixer until smooth.  Grease a 9 X 13 cake pan and pour ½ of the batter into the pan.  Open a can of blueberry or cherry pie filling and pour evenly over the batter, top with remaining batter.

In medium-sized mixing bowl mix the topping ingredients together until crumbs form.  Sprinkle topping over cake.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Also, is good without fruit filling and just the crumb topping on top.

 

 

Recipe: Children’s Christmas Program and Popcorn Balls

christmas church

For well over thirty years I taught christian education.  I have been a Sunday School Teacher, Confirmation Teacher, Vacation Bible School Coordinator, Youth Leader and Preschool teacher.  I enjoyed every minute of it.

Of all of my Christian education tasks, one that always brought me great joy was to create, coach and  watch children’s Christmas programs. Those programs always captured the magic of the season for me. Somehow, children always seem to tell the story of the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, better than anyone else.

Then, too, as a child I participated in many Christmas programs. All of the children in my school class attended a Christmas program at their church. In those days, not attending church was the exception, attending regularly the rule.

When I was young, the Christmas church program became the highlight of my social season, for it came with perks.  There was the annual new velvet Christmas dress accompanied by lacy white tights and shiny new black shoes. The excitement of the evening was escalated by the expectation of the after-the-program-you-did-a-good-job-gifts of a manger scene tree ornament and tasty treats such as salty peanuts in the shell, hard colorful fruity ribbon candy, a spicy candy cane and chewy popcorn balls.

I can still remember my first memory verse from my very first Christmas program as a three-year-old.  It was the first Bible verse I ever committed to memory, and remains my favorite.

Mark 10: 14-16.  “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  ‘Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them.”

Mark 1016This old stained glass church window of my favorite Bible verse
hangs in our living room above the piano. 

I know that many people no longer associate this time of year with the birth of the Messiah. It seems almost daily in the media there is either point of contention about religious rights in the political arena or a story about the the profit margins for commercialization of this holiday. Sometimes, it feels like the real meaning of Christmas has not only been hijacked but lost completely.

Then, I remember the children in all of those many years of Christmas programs.   I can still see the joy and excitement on those precious faces whose parents took the time and considered it important to teach the next generation that Christmas is a Christian religious observance.   To believer’s it is a sacred occasion to acknowledge the birth of God’s Son Jesus Christ.

I believe that the pure joy of a loving God’s gift of eternal life through his son transcends the politics and commercialization of our modern world. The Christmas message from God is rather short and oh, so sweet:

“For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son,  that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”  John 3 16:-17.

I hope everyone will find a place to take their children to worship this Christmas.  After all, it is the responsibility of parents to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.”Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. Always remember that least expensive, but the most important Christmas gift a parent can give a child is the gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus the Lord.

popcorn balls

Christmas Program Popcorn Balls

1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 sugar
1/2 of a three ounce package of jello.  (I would use strawberry or lime to get green and red popcorn balls.)
5 cups of popped popcorn. (If you pop your own, you will need to pick out any unpopped kernels. You can just buy a bag of popped corn)

Bring sugar and syrup to boil.  Stir in jello until dissolved. Pour over popcorn.  Stir well but carefully with large spoon.  When cooled enough to handle, but still quite warm, shape into balls.  Cool and wrap in plastic wrap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Lemon-Blueberry Tea Muffins

Originally there were three Lutheran churches in my hometown of Grove City, Minnesota, a town of just over 500 people.  There was-First Lutheran (Swedes) , Emmanuel Lutheran (Norwegians)  and Arndahl Lutheran (South of towners).

As a rule our church did not associate with the other two Lutheran Churches.  Emmanual because they were Norwegians and Arndahl because they were south of towners and may have been Norwegian. According to my dad, no one from north of town knew what to expect from folks who lived south of town or Norwegians so it was best just to leave them be.  Therefore, we were to take an example from the animals in Noah’s ark and stick with our own kind. In all seriousness, this was all done in good fun as should any family need assistance all of us neighbors showed up regardless of church or any other affiliation. The care of neighbors was the strength of our small town.

First Lutheran, my home church, was the biggest congregation with the most beautiful church building.  The structure was red brick with a huge steeple and bell tower. The very large stained glass windows  were imported from Germany.  The Biblical scenes depicted in those windows are vivid sapphire blue, emerald green, ruby red and royal purple.  When the sun was rising or setting, its light filtered through those windows and as a child I always felt that they illuminated the sanctuary with God’s colorful and mysterious presence. On Sunday mornings the chimes from our church could be heard throughout the town.

Both of my great grandfathers, Ole Kronbeck and Ole Larson, were on the original board that founded First Lutheran Church well over century ago. Yes, I am so very Swedish and I have  many great memories of growing up in that church that my ancestors founded.

I remember all the fun of playing “Hide and Go Seek”; “Red, Red, Rover”; “Captain May I”; “Simon Says”; “Duck, Duck Grey Duck” and “Any, Any over” in the cemetery during Vacation Bible School. Getting yelled at by the “old ladies” for stepping on the graves.  I can still vividly picture the ice cream socials and church picnics with their extensive potluck buffets complete with homemade ice cream churned at our town’s creamery. Easter breakfast traditions such as “fruit soup” to keep everyone “regular” and the caramel rolls made by the lady that ran the corner cafe.

Then, too, there were all of the Christmas programs with assigned memory verses. Those programs always ended with the congregation singing “Joy to the World” and us children being gifted with bags of peanuts and hard candies for treats.

I can still picture the carved wooded altar with Christ in the center with his outstretched welcoming hands. I also remember the Sunday I got caught playing cards in the balcony and the pastor, from the pulpit during his sermon, told me to hold my cards lower.  Or the time I had my acolyte wick too long and it broke off and started the carpet on fire.  I just stomped it out, but not before my uncle saw what had happened.

As with many small towns in America, our town began to shrink several decades ago and the churches found that their pews were no longer being filled on Sunday mornings.  So the three Lutheran Churches merged into one and it was named Trinity Lutheran. This consolidated flock meets in the First Lutheran Church, my home church.

Once united, the women of this new congregation published a cookbook.  This cookbook is the premiere collection of my hometown’s best recipes.

This recipe comes from the home of Lucille Sundahl.  Her husband Palmer owned the grain elevator right across the road from the church.  Lucille’s Lemon–Blueberry Muffins are the lightest muffin I have ever tasted and definitely one of the best.  Enjoy!

 

Lemon–Blueberry  Tea Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease muffin tins or line muffin tins with paper cupcake cups.

In a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir dry ingredients together.
2 cups unsifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

In a large mixing bowl beat together until fluffy:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar

Add:
4 egg yolks and beat until light   (Save the egg whites for later)

Gradually stir in alternately with dry ingredients:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
Do not over mix.

In a medium-sized glass or metal mixing bowl:
beat four egg whites until stiff and hold a peak

Fold in:
1/3 of  egg whites into lemon mixture, then fold in remaining egg whites.

Gently fold in:
1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle tops of muffins with granulated sugar.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

Yield: Makes 18 muffins