Friday, July 21, 2017

Bike Trail to a National Treasure

This room is real, Ben. And that means the treasure is real. We're in the company of some of the most brilliant minds in history because you found what they left behind for us to find, and understood the meaning of it. You did it, Ben, for all of us - your grandfather, and all of us. And I've never been so happy to be proven wrong.  -- Patrick Henry Gates, in National Treasure

Scene from the movie, National Treasure (2004)

Patrick Henry Gates, fictitious treasure-hunter, played by Jon Voight, congratulates his son, Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage), in a climactic scene of the 2004 movie, National Treasure.  The pursuit of the “national treasure” requires decoding of a series of clues, including one written on the back of the Declaration of Independence.  Maybe you saw this movie and remember the scene.

Patrick Gates’ exclamation to Ben was an invitation to movie viewers to imagine their excitement upon finding such a treasure.  But, notice that the excitement was not focused entirely on the monetary value of the treasure.  Instead, Patrick wants Ben (and the viewers) to “treasure” the experience of being there…in the company of some of the most brilliant minds in history because you found what they left behind for us to find, and understood the meaning of it.  The exciting moment, framed by Patrick’s passionate words captures for me the excitement and interest you and l ought to have when we visit a historic place, or handle an artifact and try to understand the meaning of it.

In this blog article, my aim is to interest you in joining three co-leaders and me on another kind of “national treasure” hunt.  If you decide to join us, bring your bicycle and plan to meet at the Prairie Grass Trailhead, 280 W. High St., London, Ohio, at 8:00 am, Saturday, July 29, 2017.  This annual Prairie Appreciation Bike Ride is sponsored by the Friends of Madison Co. Parks and Trails, and the Madison Soil and Water Conservation District.  You can ride at your preferred pace and distance, and we will stop along the way to observe what I will call “national botanical treasures”—prairie wildflowers and grasses that are descendants of historic plant populations that once covered large tracts of SW Ohio, the Midwest, and Great Plains.
Prairie Coneflower in a SW Ohio prairie remnant.
Bring your imaginations and be ready to ride back into history.  Get ready to imagine while you stand along the Prairie Grass Trail Bikeway in the quiet freshness of a summer morning that this was once part of an expansive Tallgrass Prairie.  Then, after the railroad tracks were laid two centuries ago, this remaining, narrow stretch of rails, ties, slag, and prairie became a protected haven from the plow, agricultural weeds, and pesticides.  But, they were not protected from regular fires ignited by either lightning or sparks from the trains that whistled by.  Fires were just what the prairie plants needed since they were well adapted to survive fire, unlike many of the woody shrubs and trees that have now invaded these “remnant prairies” now that the railroad is gone.
Royal Catchfly, a rare prairie wildflower is restricted to only
a few locations along the narrow Prairie Grass Trail
So, bring your observation skills, your imagination, and your questions. Invite friends and neighbors, and bring your children—junior age and older often ask the best questions. You will observe some of our attempts to manage these “national treasures” like Royal Catchfly and Prairie Coneflower.  Learn how you can grow and incorporate these or other nectar-rich plants like the Milkweeds into your own flower gardens.  And, learn how local organizations and industry partners are expanding their commitment to land stewardship around our country.

Hope to see you next Saturday, July 29.  If you live too far from SW Ohio to attend, you may want to “visit” several of the websites below.  Or better yet, maybe you can locate and join a conservation or land stewardship group in your area.  Chances are you will find new friends who have become interested in “national botanical treasures” located in “natural areas” as refuges for native plant and animal species.
Wayne Roberts, Exec Dir., FMCPT with co-leaders
Julie Cumming, Matt Silveira, and Karen Stombaugh
And, for all of us, may our interest in the historical and biological heritage of our neighborhoods and of our nation increase.  May we and our children be able to say, we have found what they left behind for us to find, and [we are willing to learn] the meaning of it--and to value it enough to be good stewards or “keepers” of it as we are commanded to do in the Dominion-Stewardship Mandate in the Book of Genesis:

Then the LORD God took the man
and put him into the garden of Eden
to cultivate
(serve) it and keep (preserve) it.
                                              – Genesis 2: 15

RELATED SOURCES:
Botany Along the Prairie Grass Trail
Fundamentals of Conservation, Part 2 "Serving with" Creation
Fundamentals of Conservation, Part 3 "Serving with Our Neighbor"

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Celebrate July 4th! Learn from History!

This weekend, Americans pause to celebrate the Fourth of July, or Independence Day.  Many patriotic Americans associate “the 4th” with the beginning of the great American experiment in constitutional, democratic government—an experiment the likes of which the world had never seen.

Fittingly, in celebration of our great nation at this time of year, Abby and I have just finished reading The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic, by Michael Medved.   In it, Medved argues along the lines of the famous thesis of one of the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin.  You may recall some of Franklin’s words when, in 1787, he challenged a deadlocked Constitutional Convention to consider having a session of prayer.  Here is part of Franklin’s call to humility, prayer, and dependence upon Divine Providence (emphasis mine):

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments be Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

Michael Medved’s book details several major turning points in America’s history from Washington to Lincoln in which  the fate of America hung in the balance but was allowed to move forward with no seeming explanation other than the hand of Divine Providence.  Medved makes a strong case for “American exceptionalism,” a term that is heavily debated these days.  He writes,

For nearly four hundred years, Americans nourished the notion that God maintained an intimate, protective connection to their singular nation.  Only recently, with the emphasis on guilt over gratitude in our teaching of American history, has the public grown uncomfortable with the idea that fate favors American endeavors.

On the other hand, many Americans argue that America is not exceptional and are quick to point out America’s “dark side.”  Our history classes rightly include the deplorable treatment of Native Americans, American support for the institution of slavery, and other injustices of the past.  Medved admits that these actions were inexcusable, but counters with the following argument:

The idea of America’s higher purpose didn’t produce the instances of obvious injustice in the Republic’s past, nor did it excuse them, but it has inevitably motivated efforts to correct those crimes and to mitigate their negative and unjust impacts.   Medved adds:  Every nation on Earth flagrantly mistreated indigenous peoples and participated at some point in ruthless systems of slavery.  But the American desire to deserve God’s special blessing inspired movements to do better than the rest of the world and to overcome the cruelty—however halting and imperfect those attempts might have been.

On this Fourth of July, America is once again divided over many issues from health care to immigration.  Most of the disagreements stem from a basic disagreement about who is ultimately responsible for the affairs of mankind and of our nation.  About half of Americans seem to believe that we are the masters of our fate and therefore responsible to engineer a more perfect society.  And, roughly the other half of Americans believe we must turn to God “from Whom all blessings flow” for wisdom to bring guidance necessary for healing of a divided America.

Fortunately, our nation is still blessed with men and women of integrity and who are committed to serve their constituents in the true sense of being “public servants.”  To this human resource we can add another blessed benefit of the Founding Fathers.  Not long after Benjamin Franklin’s reminder of the importance of acknowledging the Providence of God, the Constitutional Convention successfully resolved their impasse regarding the balance of power between the federal government and the individual states.  As a result of the birth of “The United States,” we now have the benefit of fifty “laboratories” in which the American genius of government can continue to adjust to our changing times and the demands of our people.  The citizens of each state can elect a governor and legislators who then lead by crafting policies that work best for that state.
Two states take markedly different fiscal paths.  Lesson?
Sometimes, one state's successes can provide a model or a lesson for the other states to follow.  For example, consider the current fiscal situation in the two neighboring states, Illinois and Wisconsin.  What might current Illinois residents and the residents of many other states learn from the “experiment” currently running in Wisconsin?  And, more importantly, what could all Americans, particularly the generation now populating social studies classes in our schools and colleges learn?  Let’s visit the “laboratories” housed within the borders of Illinois and Wisconsin.

In 2010, both Illinois and Wisconsin were suffering under a huge debt burden after many years of liberal political leadership. But that year, the two states took dramatically different paths. Illinois continued with pretty much the status quo which has led to its current debt to the tune of $14 billion dollars.  This week, Illinois has been reported to be on the verge of bankruptcy.  Years of financial irresponsibility under liberal, progressive policies at the state level and particularly in the City of Chicago have apparently led to a day of reckoning. 
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

On the other hand, a majority of Wisconsin voters wisely chose to do something about their state’s mounting debt following years of irresponsible liberal policies.  Badger state voters elected a Republican legislature and a conservative governor, Scott Walker.  Governor Walker immediately instituted conservative fiscal policies and was excoriated by the liberal establishment through state house demonstrations bolstered by bused-in demonstrators that made national news.  Walker overcame an attempt to oust him as governor by winning re-election and his policies are working.  Unemployment rate has dropped from 9.2 percent in 2009 to the current 6.1 percent; and Wisconsin can boast a projected $977 million surplus which Governor Walker proposes using to assist technical colleges and reduce income taxes by $98 million.  According to The Blaze, “The end result would be a $131 reduction a median home’s tax bill this December and $46 in annual income tax savings for the average worker.”

Since the successes of Wisconsin have become nationally publicized, voters in other states have elected conservative governors and legislators.  Unfortunately, Illinois has not learned a lesson from its neighbor to the north, and now its fiscal status hangs in the balance.  Similarly, our nation has suffered many  setbacks in the past because we failed to learn our history lessons.  Today, many Americans are ignorant of our history.  Public schools and colleges often deemphasize American history and government.  In many cases, history is ignored or “revised” because true American history is so rich with “His-story”—God’s story.

On this Fourth of July, I am concerned that more and more Americans are suffering from historical amnesia.  At a time when access to historical information has never been greater, parents in our homes and teachers in our schools have every opportunity to enrich the next generation by exposing young people to American history in creative ways.  As already mentioned above, Michael Medved makes a strong case for the powerful hand of God in the rise of our nation.  Another great resource is Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Learn Our History Series on DVD.   Or, simply take time to read and discuss our founding documents and recommit to your faith in God as our Creator and the Source of our “inalienable rights” as outlined in the Declaration of Independence.  As the Declaration states,

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….
Abraham Lincoln reunited America in reliance on God's mercy.

When we study American history, our need for great heroes can be satisfied.  At the same time, our lives are enriched by great heroes of faith like George Washington, John Adams, Harriet Tubman, and Abraham Lincoln.  Each of these Americans were flawed human beings who served in a divided, tumultuous culture of their time.  But, they succeeded because they exercised faith in God and cultivated a personal relationship with the greatest Christian Hero of all time, Jesus Christ. 

May the faith commitment of these great Americans remind us and our divided nation today that the God Who used these heroes to raise up a great nation is the God Who can unite Americans once again and heal our land.  As in the great American revivals of the past, we must humble ourselves before God, repent of our pervasive sinfulness, pray for our president and other public servants, and follow Christ’s example of firmness in His convictions seasoned with humility and selfless service toward others.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Paris Accord: Wrong Climate for Creation Care

They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."  -- Genesis 11: 4

Ratification of the Paris Agreement
In 2015, President Obama and leaders of nearly 200 other nations met near Paris, France to constitute the World Climate Change Conference (WCCC).  Their mission was to establish goals to reduce global carbon emissions in favor of renewable energy sources.  The conference drafted the Paris Agreement which was entered into force in November, 2016.

The Paris Agreement, or Paris Accord, calls for each nation to submit its own climate-action plan for reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG’s) in favor of adopting clean energy policies (e.g. solar- and wind-powered energy generation).  The Obama proposal committed the USA to reduce emissions by 26-28% by 2025 as referenced to 2005 levels when the US emitted 6,132 million metric tons of CO2.

By an executive order, President Obama included the United States in the agreement in 2015, but did not submit his proposal to Congress for ratification.  Absence of congressional ratification would leave the door open for any future president to “cancel” any responsibilities of the US to the agreement.  On June 1, President Trump stepped through that open door. 

The president announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement. He summarized his decision for the US to exit the agreement with these words:

As president, I have one obligation and that obligation is to the American people. The Paris Accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risk and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world.  It is time to exit the Paris Accord. And time to pursue a new deal that protects the environment, our companies, our citizens and our country.

President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the US from the Paris Accord unleashed yet another sea of controversy among the many surrounding the policies of his administration.  Like many issues facing the world today, global climate science is layered with complexities.  The politics and economics surrounding the climate science add to the complexity.  Therefore, I do not pretend to be an expert on this multidisciplinary topic.  Nor will I try to offer the last word.

For purposes of this article, I will affirm four claims that advocates use to justify taking action to address global warming, or climate change:
(1) Global concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and other GHG’s have generally increased during the last century.
(2)  Human-generated (anthropogenic) GHG’s contribute to the increase in atmospheric GHG’s 
(3)  A correlation exists between the increase in GHG’s and increasing average global temperatures.
(4) Increased atmospheric GHG’s from both natural and human sources are partly responsible for the increase in average global temperature. 

Although I affirm the above claims, it is not clear to me that human efforts to address climate change are headed in the right direction.  Therefore, what follows is a brief sketch of my concerns.  Although these concerns are all interrelated, I will present them under three categories, scientific, geopolitical, and biblical.

SCIENCE CONSIDERATIONS

From the scientific perspective, I do not believe the four claims above are so strongly supported as to be called “settled science” as many climate alarmists have asserted.  Therefore, I will offer the several points, each accompanied with some additional sources to read and consider.

Steady increase in CO2 (decreases in summer) 
(a)  Multiple Contributing Factors:  There are valid reasons for questioning how much human activities actually contribute to the total annual increases in GHG’s.  A report by G. Wang (2017) suggests that sun spot activity and planetary motion with possible connection to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation cycle may also contribute significantly to climate change. Changes in cloud forcing, atmospheric components such as water vapor, and regional land use changes should be considered in addition to anthropogenic GHG’s.

(b)  Climate Models:  Some respected climate scientists question the predictive accuracy of climate models and hence the degree of urgency of our response to climate change.  Dr. Richard Lindzen, respected atmospheric physicist, has criticized climate models. But, he has also contributed excellent research in efforts to improve climate models.  Dr. Lindzen submitted a public letter to President Trump with hundreds of scientists as signatories, urging the president to revoke “the U.S. signature under the 1992 treaty signed in Rio which became a cornerstone for the subsequent Kyoto and Paris treaties.” 

According to Cal Beisner, founder and spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, writing in the Washington Times, scientific evidence is mounting that climate models are overstating carbon dioxide’s warming effect. Beisner cites University of Alabama climatologist John Christy who testified in Congress on March 29 saying “the models call for warming of 0.389 oF per decade.  But weather balloon measurements find only 0.2 oF, satellite measurements 0.211 oF and re-analyses of data from major weather centers around the world 0.221 oF. Observed warming is about one-half to three-fifths what the models predict.”

(c)  Ethics Under Pressure: Climate scientists are under considerable peer pressure as well as pressure from research funding sources and from those in the environmental movement, thus making the climate science community vulnerable to breaches in ethics.  Richard Lindzen whom I cited above has testified in the U.S. Senate that he “personally witnessed coauthors forced to assert their 'green' credentials in defense of their statements."  For a more recent review of ethical concerns in science, see “The Conscience of Science: Part 1 Ethics and Accountability.”

GEOPOLITICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Besides my scientific concerns, I have geopolitical concerns about the complex web of interrelationships among international leaders, scientists, lobbyists, politicians, industries, NGO’s, and climate activists.  The environmental concerns, motivations, and intentions of each party rest upon the belief that there is a credible scientific case for climate change.  But, as I have stated, climate science is not “settled science.”  Furthermore, we ought to ask whether nearly 200 nations would gather at the table and sign onto an agreement to limit their use of fossil fuels simply because they are concerned about climate warming.  Could most of the gathered leaders have come with an open purse waiting to be filled?

(a)  Paris Agreement Goal
is to limit global temperature increase to 1.5o above pre-industrial levels.  This goal is to be achieved by encouraging the 195 nations that have signed the agreement to pledge to reduce fossil fuel usage in favor of renewable energy—largely solar and wind power.  However, a study published in Nature, in 2016, claimed that the combined national pledges will be insufficient to meet the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise "well below 2 °C." The Washington Times has published computations by Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus think tank.  Lomborg estimated the impact of the Paris Agreement using the assumptions of climate change advocates about how much warming comes from CO2, and assuming all provisions of all signers were implemented.  He concluded that the Paris Agreement would “prevent only 0.306 °F of global warming by 2100.”  This fraction of 1°F is hardly a statistically significant measure of the “good” that would presumably come at a cost estimated at $739-$757 billion per year!  Lomborg summarizes the estimated cost:  All told, $924-$946 billion.  Per year. Every year from 2030 to the end of the century…
So, for $65-$132 trillion, we might — if the alarmists are right — reduce global average temperature by a third of one degree by 2100.  That’s $212-$431 billion per thousandth of a degree of cooling.”  Next question:  Who will come up with this kind of money?

United States takes the leadership in financial commitment.
(b)  Financing through the Green Fund:  Under the assumption that developed nations are more financially equipped than developing nations, the Paris Agreement calls for developed nations to mobilize $100 billion per year to assist developing nations in mitigating and adapting to climate change.  Based on the fact that the US funds a disproportionate amount of the annual budget in the United Nations and of NATO, both of which have treaty-binding status, it is not hard to guess who would be stuck with the lion’s share of funding for the Green Fund.  It is not clear exactly what specific programs this would fund.  Nor is it clear who would administer the programs.

Other major producers of  CO2 must reduce emissions, too.
(c)  Commitment to Paris Agreement is based not on a signed, binding treaty, but on an unbinding agreement ratified in 2016.  Therefore, it seems important that we assess the level of commitment of individual signatory nations to achieve their goals in the future within the Paris Agreement.  According to a report by the Institute for Energy Research, “the United States had the greatest share of wind and solar electricity (5.4 percent) among the 3 countries in 2015—the year of the most recent data available. China had a 3.9 percent share and India had a 3.7 percent share of wind and solar power to total electricity generation.”  On the other hand, of the three largest producers of CO2, only the United States has made significant progress in reducing emissions.  Shouldn’t Americans consider that our president might be right in withdrawing from the Paris Agreement?  After all, America has demonstrated a proven commitment to and success in reducing carbon emissions and adopting alternative energies in addition to showing good faith in contributing a generous amount up front to fund the program.  Shouldn’t we consider that the US might accomplish Paris goals on its own while saving billions that we could otherwise invest in areas of clearly demonstrated urgency in developing countries—e.g. soil conservation, sanitation, and nutrition?

(d )  Paris Agreement:  Good or Bad for the Poor? 
With billions of dollars being transferred to foreign leaders, agencies, and administrators it is clear that the Agreement will be “good” for at least some, perhaps many people, and perhaps the Earth.  But, will the millions in poverty see opportunity to better their lives?  I urge readers to research the question of whether the Paris Agreement would actually promote better access for the poor to affordable energy and opportunity. 

As one who has studied and tried to apply biblical environmental stewardship principles, I would suggest two resources that address how individual Christians and the Evangelical church ought to respond to the issue of climate change.  In 2011, the National Association of Evangelicals published “Loving the Least of These: Addressing a Changing Environment” as a clear and forceful application of biblical environmental stewardship principles, particularly as they relate to the poor (Matthew 25: 36-44).  The author, Dorothy Boorse, explains that climate change will disproportionately affect the poor.  However, returning to our discussion of the Paris Agreement’s transfer of billions to developing countries, we must ask whether our tax dollars are being used most effectively when the target is to reduce a hypothetical fraction of degree of global temperature based on questionable climate model projections. 

The Cornwall Alliance offers an alternative view of how climate change policies such as the Paris Agreement may affect the poor, in an article entitled “Protect the Poor: Ten Reasons to Oppose Harmful Climate Change Policies.”  The authors argue that proposals for shifting to alternative energy sources will increase energy costs and disproportionately affect the poor who spend a higher percentage of their income on energy.  The result will be, in effect, a regressive tax—“taxing the poor at higher rates than the rich.”  Furthermore, funding for climate change programs will divert financial commitment from projects where it “could do far more good by providing pure drinking water, sewage sanitation, electrification, nutrition supplements, infectious disease control, health care, and other benefits to the world’s poor.” Beisner sees the Green Fund as yet another wrong-headed effort to help the poor.  
Placing billions of dollars in the hands of a few powerful money lenders who then pick and choose winners has historically not solved poverty, either at the national level (Think “War on Poverty.”), or international level (Think World Bank.).  Instead, the best policy for the world’s poor, the policy that will most help them rise out of poverty, is for governments to get out of the business of picking winners and losers in the energy field (as in all others) and let free-market competition decide.

BIBLICAL CONSIDERATIONS:

Since the confusion of one human language at the Tower of Babal; and, the geographic, ethnic, and cultural divergence that followed, mankind has been unable to reunite around one cause for the benefit of either humanity or the planet.  Our efforts through human reason, philosophy, the sciences, and religion have all failed, many times with the bloody defeat of a tyrannical ideologue or the collapse of a mighty empire or civilization.  Likewise, well meaning humanistic efforts to bring peace have failed.  For example, in spite of its name, billions spent, and the sincere toil of many dedicated people, the United Nations has had very limited success in bring peace and prosperity to Earth.  Therefore, I am not optimistic that trillions of dollars amassed and distributed through the Green Fund will bring “good” either to God’s creation or to the many who are forgotten either in Detroit or in Dhaka. 

However, the inspired revelation of Scripture reveals that throughout human history, God was at work to redeem us, speaking long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1: 1-2).  And He…upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high
…(Heb. 1: 3b) …Who also intercedes for us (Romans 8: 34b), having chosen us to be His body, set apart (sanctified), holy and acceptable to God as a beacon of His Truth to a lost and spiritually dying world.  For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4: 12).

As evangelicals, members of Christ’s body by faith in His atoning death and resurrection, consider how to respond to environmental issues like climate change, we should not question the importance of either caring for God’s creation, or assisting the poor with an opportunity to fulfill their God-given purposes.  Rather, we ought to consider the validity of climate science claims and projections, and carefully evaluate where funds are most needed in order to do the most good for the most lives in today’s world.  In addition, we must remember that, as members of Christ’s body, the church, we are called to do “good deeds” as a means for the poor to earn their daily bread, but also to provide the “good news,” the Gospel, of the Bread of Eternal Life.  If the Christian voice within the climate change community is not spoken in loving word and deed, we are salt that is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men (Matthew 5:13).

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.  
– Isaiah 61:11

Additional Reading:
1.  If you are a Christ-follower who is confused about how to "integrate" the call of God to "preach the Gospel in word and deed" with His call to stewardship of His creation, consider reading "Creation Care and Christian Character" which provides a helpful list of additional readings.

2.  Fundamentals of Conservation, Part 1 "Serving With" Our Creator -- Article #1 Biblical Foundation

3. Calling forStewardship Without a Master

Friday, June 2, 2017

God Heals Divided Hearts--then Nations

Ethnic minority rights, immigration, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights—the list of challenging issues of our day is long and troubling.  Moral and social issues that divide our nation today are issues that we are powerless to resolve without individual and corporate repentance and a calling upon God to forgive and empower us to follow His principles.  Our differences are too deeply rooted within our "heart" or "mindset." Hatred, suspicion, and misunderstandings are entrenched so deeply in our thinking that only God’s truth, mercy, and love can bring healing.  

Deeply rooted opinions about the value of human life, treatment of ethnic minorities, or our notion of what marriage and family ought to be are already being formed during pre-school years.  At the same young age, children and adolescents undergo a spiritual formation in which they succeed or fail in developing at least some understanding of a Higher Being.

Many American children and adolescents have not experienced a stable home life in which to develop a spiritually healthy foundation and faith in God.  Those who doubt or deny God’s existence also deny the authority of His inspired revelation of moral absolutes handed down in “The Bible.”  Doubters and deniers of the authority of the Bible miss out on the message of a holy God Who invites us to love and honor Him above all else and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22: 37-40). 

Without a spiritual foundation of objective Truth, many Americans are left to form opinions based on the loudest voices or the catchiest tweets.  Those who have not had a personal encounter with God as encouraged by genuine Christ-following people of faith have not experienced the love of God that pursues all people regardless of age, wealth, ethnic group, political affiliation, or sexual preference. 


LeBron James: hurt by racial epithet
One example of how a culture that largely dismisses God’s truth becomes locked in perpetual division and disrespect is the ongoing racial divide.  Many of us felt a small twinge of the deep hurt expressed by LeBron James when he saw the racial epithet spray-painted on his home in Los Angeles.  The hate and the hurts are still there in spite of decades of attempts to heal the racial divide following Martin L. King’s challenge not to judge “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” As the Apostle John writes, in 1 John 4:7-9,  God calls us to love one another with His love which is unconditional and all-inclusive (emphasis mine):

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

When the Jewish leaders asked Jesus to justify their lax policies on marriage and divorce, Jesus referred them to the Genesis 2 account of the creation of Adam and Eve and the first marriage which God Himself performed.  Jesus said (uppercase from Genesis 2: 20-25),

Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,  and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'?

The objective truth of God’s supernatural creation of the first man and woman provides an indispensable foundation for understanding God’s purpose for intimate sexual relationship within marriage as taught in Scripture.  When these truths are set aside, morality becomes subjective, inconsistent, and open to increasingly depraved, frustrating, and violent behavior.  One need only remember the steady growth of the Lesbian-Gay (L-G) movement to include Bisexual, Transexual, and Questioning (together, LGBTQ) to realize the increasingly slippery slope toward “anything goes.” This moral decline is clearly described in Romans 1: 20-24 where we read that God will judge those who refuse to follow the patterns that are evident in both creation (the “natural world”) and in His Word (emphasis mine):

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.

Without God, the best our society can do is call for “tolerance.”  But, “tolerance” often comes to us with a subjective, one-sided definition; something like, “your beliefs must make room for mine; and by the way, get ready to give up your rights in favor of mine.”

Can Christ-followers show God's love to LGBTQ community?
The advent of June brings us to what is known by the LGBTQ movement as Pride Month.  Two out of our three previous presidents, Presidents Clinton and Obama, acknowledged LGBTQ Pride Month.  President Bush’s faith in God’s plan and pattern for heterosexual marriage kept him from supporting Pride Month during his administration.   The LGBTQ online news source, ThinkProgress, has criticized President Trump for his apparent unwillingness to recognize LGBTQ Pride Month.

Christ-followers must make clear that God’s love as shown through Christ and His atoning death on a Roman cross extends to all of His creation including to those who choose to deny His authority and benevolent plan for their lives.  As God loves all of our “neighbors” so Christ-followers are called to love their neighbor regardless of ethnic group, gender, political, or other preference.  But, in a free-speech society such as we are blessed with in America, those identifying with the LGBTQ movement have the right to express their views, but not the right to prohibit those who disagree from expressing theirs as well. 

Country Mill Farms--not so near East Lansing, Michigan
When Christ-followers refuse to engage in policies or behaviors that compromise their biblical faith, the one-sided nature of “tolerance” becomes evident.  Case in point—East Lansing, Michigan where Steve Tennes and his family, owners of Country Mill Farms, sell fruit and vegetables to all customers.  Steve also employs people who identify as part of the "LGBT community."   But Steve also has written on his Facebook page his faith position on marriage as between one man and one woman, and has refused to allow same-sex unions to be performed on his farm.

When city officials learned of Steve’s position on marriage, Country Mill Farms was immediately considered in violation of East Lansing's Human Relations Ordinance which makes "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" protected classes.  So, even though Steve’s farm is clearly outside of city limits, according to LifeSiteNews , “officials created a new policy that all vendors must comply with East Lansing’s nondiscrimination laws not just while they are at the Farmer’s Market but in all of their general business practices.” 

Clearly, “tolerance” appears to have a one-sided application between the LGBTQ community and a Catholic family business that will sell produce to all customers without discrimination.  It is also clear to Steve and his family that their First Amendment right to express and act upon their personal beliefs is being infringed upon.  Thankfully, on May 4, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at protecting religious liberty. At the signing ceremony, the president said, No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenants of their faith.  The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is currently defending the Tennes family.

Religious freedom has been such an important part of our nation’s fabric, having been established and defended by the lives and deaths of many thousands both before and after the establishment of the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment.  Still, in spite of numerous efforts to protect religious freedom in America, no president, no court decision, and no legislation,  no matter how clear and consistent with God’s moral and social standards, can heal our divided nation.  For example, the recent election of President Trump, while resulting already in many actions that are consistent with biblical morality, has not brought unity because the moral and social differences run deep into our hearts.  Yet, Christ-followers are praying with optimism, and hopefully living lives consistent with God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7: 14:

And My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

How About You?  Are you old enough to remember 9-11 and the first Middle East war, or even the First World War?  If so, you may remember how America responded by going to God in prayer.  Let us not be deceived now.  The threats to America both within and from without are just as great. If you have not made peace with God, please open a Bible, find a Christ-following friend that you trust, and consider the claims of Christ Who offers you forgiveness of sin and freedom from the judgment that will come to us all (Romans 3: 23; 6: 23; 8: 1; and 10: 9-17).  Then, find a Christ-centered, Bible teaching church to join so that you can grow spiritually and prepare yourself to “enjoy God forever” by following His simple command to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6: 8).

Related Articles:
Steps to Peace with God
– Your responsibility to God, and how to make peace through Christ
Life as It Ought to Be - Part 3: Set Free…to Lift Up Our Neighbor

Faith, Virtue, and Freedom—When Government Can No Longer Govern
Censoring Vocabulary, But Not Virtue
No Gun Control Without Self-Control
Individual Accountability and Spiritual Awakening

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Taking Time to Thank Teachers

The first full week of the month of May each year is set aside as TeacherAppreciation Week.  So this year, I’ve decided to pause and remember some of my former teachers.  I want to honor them by writing a brief account of how each has influenced the path I have chosen and am still choosing in life.  By doing this, I hope to thank and honor God Who brought them into my life.

Mrs. Olive Johnson
When I began my formal schooling at Dundee (Ohio) Elementary School, I was like a rough board that had been sawn with a dull blade.  As the elder sibling, I enjoyed most of my preschool years without any interference from my sister who arrived when I was four years old.  Having had mostly my own way as a preschooler, I had developed few social skills with other children.  My first grade teacher, Mrs. Olive Johnson, was God’s tool for trimming this crude board into shape and sanding off the splintery surface.  Fittingly, she sent me to the principal’s office several times so that he could literally “use the board” on me.  “The board” was a fearsome tool that most of my peers only heard about but never saw.  I explained to them that it even had little holes in it which I later learned in physics were designed to reduce air resistance during swings to the backside.

After a few weeks, Mrs. Johnson had left no doubt in my mind that she was in for the long haul when it came to shaping my behavior.  By the end of the school year, I began to realize that her goals for me and her other students were aimed much deeper than simply sanding off our splinters and rough edges necessary for us to sit, listen, and learn.  She performed many acts that demonstrated her desire to build up our inner character.  For example, I remember the fun of coming to the door of our classroom each morning during the last few weeks of school in May, 1954 to see the tally of how many of days of school remained.  Greeting us each morning was a small poster she had made to report the number of school days remaining, along with a short proverb or another quote for the day to challenge each of us to finish the year well.

Received on my birthday, 1987
Mrs. Johnson’s challenges and example to me did not stop on the last day of school.  For many years afterwards, she greeted me each Sunday at Dundee Methodist Church where my family attended.  There, she demonstrated her love for God by her involvement in the educational and music ministries.  Indeed, Mrs. Johnson’s supportive love, prayers, and example continued for several decades after I graduated from her first grade classroom.  Each year during these decades, I received a birthday card, often with an encouraging or challenging poem she had personally written.  I understand she performed this ministry to many or all of her hundreds of students.  One of her last cards to me was a congratulatory card upon my completion of a graduate degree.

On the last day of school, Mrs. Johnson gave us each the gift of a book, Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, which contains many character-building short stories.  I recalled many wonderful hours as a boy reading my favorite stories from the book.  Later, when I became a father, I used Uncle Arthur’s to teach our children; and, more recently I have read from the book to our grandchildren.

With Mrs. Gardner-Weber, at age 100.
Next, I want to thank Mrs. Kathryn Gardner-Weber, my second and third grade teacher, for taking up the challenge of teaching me where Mrs. Johnson had left off in first grade.  Mrs. Gardner’s approach toward me included the choice of a finer sand paper, and thankfully without the need of the principal and his “board.” I have thanked her for her way of challenging me to do my best, and also making me believe that I could do better than just mediocre work.  Like Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Gardner was also active in both the teaching and music ministry of our church.  My regular Sunday encounters with Mrs. Gardner and her husband, Lloyd during the next ten years as I was going through adolescence and becoming a young man helped me to believe in God, “believe in myself,” and as a result, believe that I could accomplish something with my life.

It is an unexpected blessing to me that Mrs. Gardner, now Mrs. Gardner-Weber, twice a widow at age 102, remains a good friend and encourager.  She is a friendly encourager to fellow residents of her assisted living facility and still plays the piano which Abby and I enjoy when we visit her.

God blessed me with many fine teachers from my elementary years through high school.  During my freshman year at Malone College as a history major, I enrolled in General Biology to complete my “life science requirement.”  This choice brought me under the teaching of Dr. Charles C. King, known affectionately as “Charlie” by his faculty peers.  I could tell that Dr. King cared about us and loved biology, particularly botany and ecology.  I enjoyed learning the common and scientific names of local tree and shrub species.  When I returned to my farm home for the summer, my elementary knowledge of plant identification caused me to view the family farm in an entirely different light.  Until then, my “simple taxonomy” of plants on the farm had consisted of five categories--trees, shrubs/vines, wildflowers, mosses/ferns, and fungi.  But now my taxonomy allowed me to view plants in a systematic fashion based on the concept of genera and families of plants. 

Dr. Charles C. King, Prof. of Biology
Subsequent courses in botany and zoology at Malone, including opportunities to learn on field trips to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, allowed me to advance from the level of plant identification to an elementary understanding of how environmental factors such as topography and soil properties influenced plant distribution.   Under Dr. King’s leadership, I completed an undergraduate research project aimed at determining the affect of urban impacts on the distribution of tree species in Canton, Ohio.  Abby Moser, my wife to be following graduation, assisted me in the field research phase, and we presented our findings at the Annual Meeting of the Ohio Academy of Science, in 1969.

After graduation from Malone and a June, 1969 wedding, Abby and I were both hired as English and biology teachers respectively, at nearby Dover High School.  By God’s good grace, we lived close enough to Canton, Ohio to make it possible for Dr. King to continue as a mentor to me.  “Charlie” encouraged me to enter graduate school and introduced me to the plant biology program at The Ohio State University, his alma mater, and to West Virginia University where we attended a “Geobotany Conference” organized by another “Charlie,” Dr. Charles H. Baer. 

We were blessed to receive a doctoral fellowship through the West Virginia University Foundation which allowed Abby and I along with our little, 1-year-old son, Bradley to establish our home in Morgantown with Abby as a stay-at-home mom.   God honored our decision to make church attendance a priority, and through a visit and presentation of the claims of the Gospel of Christ by lay leaders at the local Christian Missionary Alliance Church, I was led to an assurance of my salvation by grace as God’s gift through Christ’s death and resurrection.  This visit to our home by Leroy Haenze and Pearl Langdon launched me into a period of spiritual growth and transformation that included valuing the importance of pursuing the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, study, memorization, and meditation so that I could teach and entrust these to faithful men and women who would be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).


Dr. Alan W. Haney, professor, author, land steward, and friend.
Upon completion of my doctoral degree in plant physiology at WVU in 1974, I was awarded a postdoctoral position at University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.  My role as “Lecturer in Botany” was to assist Dr. Alan W. Haney whose chief responsibility in the Department of Botany was to teach Introduction to Botany, a course that served not only departmental majors but also students in programs such as agronomy and horticulture.  Each semester, 500 students enrolled in the course and attended lectures presented by Dr. Haney.  He gave me several opportunities to present lectures as well, but I was largely responsible for assisting with the weekly prepping sessions for our graduate teaching assistants (TA’s) who then assisted Dr. Haney and I in  the teaching of approximately 40 weekly, small-group discussion sections and approximately 20 weekly, laboratory sections. 

It soon became clear to me that Dr. Haney loved the students and was very enthusiastic about both botany and botany teaching.  He emphasized the importance of learning the names of each student at the start of each semester, and to be well prepared to engage with students in a personable and enthusiastic manner.  As a young lecturer who was still finding his confidence as a science educator, I was timid but teachable.  To the extent that I was willing to risk failure, Dr. Haney was available to move me forward with a gentle, caring spirit; and for that, I regard him as a great mentor and friend.
Alan W. Haney’s love for students, his enthusiasm for botany and science education, and his use of inquiry laboratories and an emphasis on concept learning to teaching science were all influential in shaping my own approach to college science teaching.  Fittingly, Dr. Haney’s recommendation was an important part of my successful application to teach at Cedarville College several years later.

Ruth and Merlin Ager
During my 32 years as professor of biology at Cedarville College/University, I was privileged to teach in the presence of many fine educators, administrators, students, and friends.  Therefore, it would be impossible to name so many that I love and appreciate.  However, there is one Cedarville colleague and friend who has earned the title of “My Weekly Bible Teacher.” His name is Dr. Merlin Ager, Professor of Education, who faithfully taught the Philadelphia Sunday School Class during the 33 years we attended Grace Baptist Church in Cedarville.  Merlin and his faithful wife, Ruth, have had a very influential part in our lives and in the lives of our children, Brad and Melinda.  I am sure that readers of this blog will agree that the Ager’s deserve much love, honor, and respect for their Christ-like example and servant spirit.  Thank you, Merlin and Ruth for teaching me so much from the Scriptures and by the way in which you live out the truths of the Word.

Thanks for reading (or skimming) my expressions of thanks to five former teachers on this Teacher Appreciation Week.  However, I must confess my regret of not expressing my thanks and appreciation to them more often, particularly to the first four teachers who invested so much in me during the years when I had not yet learned how fitting and encouraging it is to thank and honor ones teachers.  Thankfully, the last four teachers of the five I have featured are still alive, and I hope to thank and honor them again in the days ahead.  Who among your teachers can you honor with a heart-felt thanks?

Monday, May 8, 2017

President Trump Delivers! Or Does He?

Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’  So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Jesus did not come into the world to be another prophet; nor an earthly, political king; nor a faith healer; nor a champion of “social justice;” nor a celebrity.  In answer to the false charge before the Roman governor, Pilate, that Jesus had intended to oppose Caesar, He answered, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18: 36a).  Instead, Jesus had openly taught that even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10: 45).  Yet, the masses greeted Jesus, riding on a  young colt of a donkey on that first “Palm Sunday” crying out for a political leader who would deliver the nation Israel from the tyranny of the Romans (See “Palm Sunday:  Don’t Miss Jesus Today”).

Like those in the first century who saw Jesus as just another popular figure who might have the power to lead them to a better life, so today we are quick to follow the person who is powerful, or popular, and promises deliverance.  Election 2016 has given America a new president.  Like him or not, Donald J. Trump is the victor and he has quickly set about fulfilling his campaign promise to “Make America Great Again.”  Trump’s promise to appoint a conservative justice to the U.S. Supreme Court has been accomplished, his promise to get the economy going is being met with favorable jobs reports, and American standing in the world seems to be strengthening by a show of force and resolve against those who disrespect human life and liberty. 
President Trump signs EO protecting religious freedom.

Related to his efforts to protect human life and religious freedom, on May 4, the National Day of Prayer, President Trump, in a Rose Garden ceremony, signed an executive order “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.” Thus, in keeping his promise to bring to an end the persecution of Christians, Jews, and other well meaning faith-based groups, Trump told those in attendance,

We're a nation of believers.  Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country... No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith.

Some like Liberty University President, Jerry Falwell Jr., praised President Trump for his wisdom in crafting the executive order so as to roll back the Johnson Amendment which had been used to threaten religious leaders from speaking out on issues of politics and morality in houses of worship for fear of losing tax-exempt status.  Dr. Falwell supports Trump’s balanced approach of protecting free religious expression while not allowing religious groups to become political action groups that collect donations to support favored candidates. 

Other religious conservatives fear the executive order doesn’t go far enough.  Gregory S. Baylor of the Alliance Defending Freedom sees little protection for people "threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government."  Furthermore, regarding bullying of conservative and religious groups by the IRS during the Obama Administration, Baylor is concerned that "Americans cannot rely on the discretion of IRS agents, some of whom have abused that discretion for years to silence pastors and intrude into America’s pulpits."

Meanwhile, civil rights groups are threatening legal challenge against any action that would deny benefits or services to those they oppose on moral grounds, such as same-sex spouses.  Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign stated, “We are watching and we will challenge any effort by [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions or other agencies of Trump’s administration to license discrimination.”

Like many “religious conservatives,” I am thankful that Donald Trump is our president.  I am very encouraged by his efforts to strengthen American institutions that defend moral and religious beliefs and practices.  Trump’s Rose Garden speech on May 4 before and during his signing of the executive order portrays what seems to be his heart-felt support and valuing of religious freedom and commitment to people of faith.  I urge readers to listen and observe the president’s carefully planned presentation to religious leaders of many faiths.  You should also examine the wording of Trump’s executive order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.  It is our responsibility to be informed of the momentous decisions and actions being taken by our leaders by following reliable sources of news that broadcast what our leaders say and write, and not simply political commentary.

As blessed and  thankful as I was to observe President Trump’s smiling face and words of conviction about religious freedom, I realize that this executive order will not bring healing to America’s deep moral and political divide.  Healing of that divide must begin in human hearts like mine.  If Donald Trump has given us as people of faith anything of value it is an invitation to rededicate ourselves to a lifestyle of repentance and revival of the spirit of holy living that Jesus died and rose again to provide.  President Trump has the power, politics, and celebrity that gives many of us hope that he might deliver America from its divisions, but only Jesus Christ can truly deliver us.  Jesus calls us to repentance and faith so that He through His Spirit can empower us to live by what He called “A New Commandment:” He said to his disciples (John 13: 34-35),


A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another,
even as I have loved you,
that you also love one another.
By this all men will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.

President Trump has responded to requests from the faith community by signing an executive order which he believes will be a step toward defending religious expression.  Now it is the responsibility of all of us who value the Christian faith to live by the Great Commandments to love God above all other things and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This means being sure God is preeminent in our priorities and that we respect the opinions, possessions, and priorities of our neighbor regardless of his or her political stance, ethnic group, wealth, or gender.  It is ultimately God's everlasting love for us, in us, and flowing from us to others that will heal broken lives and heal our land.  A.W. Tozer, in The Knowledge of the Holy (Harper), wrote,

The love of God is one of the great realities of the universe, a pillar upon which the hope of the world rests. But it is a personal, intimate thing, too. God does not love populations, He loves people. He loves not masses, but men. He loves us all with a mighty love that has no beginning and can have no end.  In Christian experience there is a highly satisfying love content that distinguishes it from all other religions and elevates it to heights far beyond even the purest and noblest philosophy. This love content is more than a thing; it is God Himself in the midst of His Church singing over His people. True Christian joy is the heart’s harmonious response to the Lord’s song of love.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Treasured Moments between Father and Son

One of my great blessings in life was to fall in love with Alvadell “Abby” Moser 50 years ago this year.  We were blessed to begin our married life together 48 years ago (June 14, 1967), and then to become parents of two children, Bradley and Melinda (Mindy).  Alvadell and I enjoyed many happy years with our children, and this enjoyment has continued since they married and established homes of their own.

Brad and Mindy inherited Grandma's athleticism.
While they were children, it was not unusual for each of us to spend time with either Brad or Mindy separately, one-on-one, in addition to regular family activities.  We played softball, football, Takraw, and other games in the back yard and worked together in the garden.   Because we lived in different parts of the Midwest and eastern seaboard, we were able to visit many scenic wonders and historical sites, but for Brad and Mindy, there was nothing quite as special as visiting their grandparents and cousins.

As Brad and Mindy advanced into adolescence and young adulthood, graduated from college, and matured into their own social relationships leading to career and marriage, our times with them were mostly afforded through family and peer group activities.   One-on-one occasions between son or daughter and parent became fewer for good reasons.  Happily, the relative rarity of our one-on-one’s ended up being even more special.
Some one-on-one's were not as fun
as others; here, potato digging.
Today, I was reminded of a notable one-on-one activity that Brad invited me to share with him one year ago this month.  He invited me to accompany him on a road trip to Cortland, NY and the 2016 Blackbird Film Festival where his “short-short” film, Pride & Poo, had been selected for screening at the festival.

The road trip to and from Cortland afforded us time for extended conversation on a variety of topics of mutual interest.  We talked about Brad’s goals for the upcoming years and how dad was getting along in his retirement years.  We agreed that our views of life have been converging somewhat as the relative difference in our ages continues to narrow.

I especially appreciated Brad’s challenges to me as an older man to stay committed to the spiritual disciplines and values that have sustained me during years past.  As Brad knows, I sometimes display a tendency to look back in time and to “second guess” certain decisions I have made in the past.  He also knows that I have needed wisdom to discern my limits when I try to come alongside family members and friends who are experiencing difficulties in their lives.  It is a great blessing and gift to me as a father from his son to receive from Brad a well balanced measure of respect and challenge to apply godly wisdom in areas where there is risk of my becoming sidelined.

The Blackbird Film Festival itself was an enjoyable experience for me.  The overall program was structured so that film makers and other attendees could choose which film categories and concurrent screening sessions they would attend.  I was quite at home with this format because of its similarity to the many scientific conferences I had attended, except there seemed to never be a dull moment at this festival.   It also became clear to us that the festival had drawn some very good quality short films, documentary shorts, and international shorts. 
Bradley in a Q & A after screening of Pride & Poo
It was a unique highlight for me to share in the elation of the moments during which Brad’s film, Pride & Poo, was shown at the festival.  I knew, mostly from a distance but also from Brad’s invitation to assist in a small amount of the filming, how much time and sweat he had invested to develop expertise as a film maker and then to apply his skill and creativity to bring Pride & Poo to the screen.  The result is an enjoyable four and one-half minutes of viewing that humorously conveys the age-old biblical message that Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

As with most screening sessions, the session in which Pride & Poo was featured allowed time afterwards for the respective film makers to field questions.  Again, it was a blessing for me as a dad to observe his son interacting with other film makers, encouraging them, sharing techniques he had learned, and learning some new approaches from them.
A memorable road trip, April, 2016
In all, we were both quite elated and pleased with the Blackbird Film Festival and the opportunity to meet festival organizer Sam Avery and his hard working staff as well as many other film makers.   The trip home seemed to go by in a breeze while we reflected on the experience, remembered many of the films shown, and the privilege of interacting with many of the film makers we were blessed to meet. 

And so, I congratulate you once again, Brad, on your success with Pride & Poo and thank you again for allowing me to share in a film festival experience with you.   I would also thank you, Brad, for the sentiments you shared in your Facebook posting after the trip (April, 2016), as follows:

"Having your film selected as one of 100 selections out of 1538 entries at a great festival:  Very Cool.
Attending the festival and meeting tons of great people:  Awesome.
Having your film nominated for Best Narrative Short:   Exhilarating.
Finding out that your film won the Special Jury Award:  Unbelievable.
Road trip to New York with your Dad:  PRICELESS."