Friday, October 31, 2008


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.

- Albert Einstein

Celeritas is a Latin word meaning swiftness. It is appropriately linked in science to the speed of light, and is often abbreviated with a simple "c" signaling a speed of 671 million miles per hour.

I have thought a lot about light recently. From the perspective of a scientist, the speed of light is highly unusual because it is so absolute. The speed of ordinary objects depends on the frame of reference in which the speed is measured. But light is weird. Its speed does not depend on its frame of reference which results in a really odd conclusion - two things that we often think of as constants - time and space - are actually not constants at all. What is constant is the speed of light. And if the speed of light is constant, it is not possible for either time or space to be absolute.

But perhaps even odder yet, especially to a chemist, is the idea that matter, often thought to be conserved in any change, is actually not conserved; and that energy, also often thought to be conserved in any change, is actually not conserved. Because, according to Einstein, matter is just a condensed form of energy. Matter is not absolute, energy is not absolute. But guess what? The ratio of the energy change to the mass change in a given process is equal to an absolute - yes, the speed of light squared.

How weird is that? Matter, time, space and energy, the four dimensions that literally box in our existence, are not absolutes.

But what is absolute?

Celeritas. Light.

I am fascinated by this, because as a child I could never understand why God made light on the first day of creation (Genesis 1:3). My young mind thought it would make sense to make a sun first and then make light. Who would imagine writing a creation story where the sun was made after light existed?

This would be crazy talk for a narrator of creation.

Unless that narrator of creation was the Creator God, who knew, long before we did, that light was more absolute than the sun, more absolute than the earth, more absolute than space or even time!

I certainly cannot completely search the mind of God, but I do take great pleasure in the beautiful consistencies of his ways.

(And, parenthetically, how truly awesome is it that God Himself came in human flesh as the true light that gives light to every man (John 1:9)? Interestingly, Jesus, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, is beyond time, just like light always is.)

Wanting Nothing

I think about patience most when I want something that I do not yet possess. If I lived with the fulfillment of every desire of my heart, I would never think about the virtue of patience.

But the paradoxical thing about patience is that while the need for this virtue comes from a lack of fulfillment, the presence of this virtue, even without the granting of the object of desire, yields fulfillment.

James 1:4 says, "But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

How neat is that? We realize that we need patience when life is not perfect, when life is far from complete, when we want lots of things that we don't have. And yet the point of patience is not to just "grin and bear it" until our wishes are granted, but to, by practicing patience, find the fulfillment that we crave apart from the object for which we long.

The work of true patience is to make us complete, to make us perfected, to bring wholeness. We want the object of our longing to bring us these things, but oddly enough, it seems that the work of patience itself, regardless of the fulfilment of its object, is what makes us perfect and entire.

I do not know how this can be. But what a beautiful mystery of the faith.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mid-Week Reunion

It was a reunion from this summer - Trip, Sally and Sean joined us for dinner, IBC root beers, apple pie, conversation and singing! Nothing like savoring a cold autumn day with friends.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lost and Found, Robin Mark

When the rain falls
And it some days will
And the pavement under my feet
Sparkles silver in gold
In reflective light
That I otherwise wouldn't have seen

When the storm comes
And the strong wind blows
I will bow my head to push through
And every step that I take
I will watch and pray
And be sure my foothold is true

Jesus, don't you keep me from that storm
I want to walk that sacred ground
For You are Master of it all
And I am but a lost and found

And in the dry place
In the wilderness
When Your words seem so far away
I will think of my life and I will
Bless Your name
For Your promises never have failed

And when the night falls
At the end of days
I will lift my eyes to the Heavens
And we will shine like the stars
For eternal days
In Your presence forever and ever

The story behind the song...

A young guy named David is a member of an 18-25 men’s group that I and my pastor (Paul Reid) teach in my church in Belfast. We usually begin our nights together with some discussion and sharing those things which God has impressed on our hearts the week preceding our coming together.

David, generally one of the quieter members of the group, shared one evening that as he had walked to the host’s home on that particular wet, dark and stormy night, he noticed the reflections of street lights and houses on the wet footpath. The reflections at his feet shimmered and sparkled in the rain and, in a sense, made the ordinary, mundane and un-noticed, something beautiful, striking and attractive. Belfast’s narrow and tightly packed streetscape of old terrace houses would seldom be regarded as something to wonder at under normal circumstances, but in the rain, the lustre of the reflections added a temporary beauty to an otherwise fairly dull scene.

His point, well made, was that it was only in a storm that some of the beauty and “specialness” of life was noticed. And there was the message. As much as we sometimes dread the challenges that come to us when life takes one of those unexpected and sometimes shocking detours into the storm, it is often only in the midst of that experience that we have our vision sensitized to the beauty and reality of God’s provision and blessing.

At around the same time as he shared his thoughts, I’d been musing about the phrase “Lost and Found.” We’d been looking to buy a kitten as a family pet and each night we would scour the “Pets Corner” column of our local newspaper. The columns are listed alphabetically and just before “P” for Pets, comes “L” for Lost and Found!

Lost and Found is the heading of the column that lists ads people insert detailing precious things that have been misplaced and that they hope someone will find and return. Things that are sometimes, in themselves, not special, valuable or attractive to anyone else, but absolutely precious to the one who really owned it. You know the sort of thing, “Lost, one small terrier dog, black and white with only one eye, damaged ear and missing tail due to accidents. Answers to the name of ‘Lucky’.”!

Sometimes, the seeker will offer a reward far greater than the value of the lost item, just to get it returned. Sometimes, to anyone else, the item will have little or no value at all, and yet vast sums of money will be offered for its return.

Occasionally I would glance across and read some of the messages the column contained. “That’s what we are,” I thought. We are just “Lost and Found.” Just like the stories in the ads. Lost People, who may not amount to much in the eyes of the world, but who, in the eyes of our Creator, are entirely and absolutely precious and worth paying an incredible price just to get back.

I took these thoughts and wrote the song. It’s just a celebration of these two things, the reality of who we are in Christ, lost first, but then wonderfully redeemed. And the knowledge that because of the price he paid, whatever storm may come in life, we can be sure that there is beauty, provision and learning in the midst of it.

- Robin Mark

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday Was Sunny

(Our cousins, Daniel and Joshua, visited us this weekend too!)

East of the River

Today's recommended music selection from Bentley? Robin Mark's East of the River.

Signs of Strength Loss

You won't even know it after a while, that the Spirit of the Living God has left you. Your spiritual strength won't be lost at once; it will be gone little, by little, by little. Here's how you can check your spirit this morning. These are the danger signs.

If you have no desire, this morning, to study the Word of God, to be in His Word, no hunger for the Word of God, my friends, that's a danger sign; you're losing your spiritual strength little by little; it's leaking out, and you don't even know it.

If you don't have the desire to pray, if you don't have the desire to spend time with God, my friends, that is a danger sign, I'm telling you right now, you're losing your spiritual strength.

Second, no conviction of sin. This is the second danger sign in your life; no conviction of sin. You know what? When the Lord convicts you you need to celebrate! When the word of God comes forth you need to celebrate that the Lord is convicting you... My friends, when the Spirit of God convicts you, you need to celebrate the Spirit of the Living God is still working with you.

Easily offended. My friends, you do not come to get from the church, you come to give. If you are easily offended, that is one of the danger signs. You are losing spiritual strength.

And here is the last of all: no heart for the lost. Many poeple think, "It's not my job, it's the other's job." We are so concerned for self that we have no time for the lost... My friends, if the gospel is not first, it will not be second.

- Bob A., (From the third of three sermons that our family has been listening to entitled The World is My Parish out of Barclay College)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our Own Belief

Our own belief in You, O Lord
Is only a shadow of your faith in us,
Your deep and lasting faith.

- A verse from one of our family's favorite songs, Only a Shadow (Carey Landry)

Climb Every Mountain... Forge Every Stream... At the Same Time

In true Sound of Music fashion, this very rainy weekend was celebrated with high spirits, as Ron and Trina (friends from George Fox) and I hiked at Mohonk in the Schwangunks. Though the pictures do not capture it (the camera died before we really got going), we hiked for about two hours on slippery boulder rocks in mostly down-pouring rain. We hid in a cave for a while along the journey because a bolt of lightning flashed in front of our path and we were pretty sure that we were prime targets for electrocution as we were the tallest objects in sight.

By the time we got to the two-foot wide ascent in between two huge boulder rocks that demanded we squeeze every last bit of our bodies into the tiniest configuration possible, we were literally walking through a stream and climbing up wooden ladders while a small waterfall fully bathed our bodies.

While we felt really alive and well and hugely successful upon finally squeezing through the tiny canal to ascend to the top of the mountain, we all agreed that climbing every mountain and forging every stream are ideal ways to enjoy life, but that most times, we prefer to enjoy these events independently!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Mind

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

Romans 8:5-7

Monday, October 20, 2008


Yesterday The Sunday Times carried the following article which stated that, against common belief, reusable nappies actually leave a more extensive carbon footprint than disposable nappies.

I, however, am still a fan of reusable nappies, (1) because I think that cotton is a more comfortable material than polyethylene and (2) because they are cheaper if you launder your own, especially if you hang them on a line to dry.

Most interesting, though, (and more green, as well) are the parents who use no diapers at all on their infants, and practice "elimination communication" and manage to place the infants, at the proper time, on the toilet. That takes some talent. I presume, more than I have.

Here's the article:

Blow to image of 'green' reusable nappy
Marie Woolf, Whitehall Editor

A government report that found old-fashioned reusable nappies damage the environment more than disposables has been hushed up because ministers are embarrassed by its findings.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has instructed civil servants not to publicise the conclusions of the £50,000 nappy research project and to adopt a "defensive" stance towards its conclusions.

The report found that using washable nappies, hailed by councils throughout Britain as a key way of saving the planet, have a higher carbon footprint than their disposable equivalents unless parents adopt an extreme approach to laundering them.

To reduce the impact of cloth nappies on climate change parents would have to hang wet nappies out to dry all year round, keep them for years for use on younger children, and make sure the water in their washing machines does not exceed 60C.

The conclusions will upset proponents of real nappies who have claimed they can help save the planet.

Restricted Whitehall documents, seen by The Sunday Times, show that the government is so concerned by the "negative laundry options" outlined in the report, it has told its media managers not to give its conclusions any publicity.

The report found that while disposable nappies used over 2½ years would have a global warming, impact of 550kg of CO2, reusable nappies produced 570kg of CO2 on average. But, if parents used tumble dryers and washed the reusable nappies at 90C, the impact could spiral to 993kg of CO2. A Defra spokesman said the government was shelving plans for future research on nappies.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Truth of the Matter Is This

This blog does not allow for commenting, but every once in a while I receive a response to a post that is too perfect to not share. This one is from Mr. Douglas Gresham and is in response to my post: How to Make Applesauce.

Making applesauce when half the work is already done is easy, try making one from scratch; for that you have to first create the Universe.

Yes, in gratitude to God for the gift of the universe, I concede to Mr. Gresham's insightful words and the wisdom of his stepfather, C.S. Lewis, as quoted in Christian Reflections, "The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of planting a new sun in the sky or a new primary colour in the spectrum..."

Indeed, I really did have it quite easy.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


My little cousin, Amelia, and her dad visited us this past week. It is so fun to have a little person around the house again. She loved the dog, Bentley, and the oft-neglected swing set and trampoline.

Frigid Weather!

Today's soccer game was especially cold!

Becca plays defense.

Caleb is the goalie.

I am the cheerer!

Sarah and Alena are my lap warmers!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Quintessential Autumn Day

Today was the quintessential autumn day. The sky's blue came forth to accentuate the autumnal reds, yellows and greens to paint a scene of paradise here at Bentley. Simply elegant.

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.

The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

La Vita è Bella

Monday, October 13, 2008

Columbus Day Colors

It was cloudy here at Bentley, but a quite colorful day nonetheless.

This is Our God!

The following excerpt is from Living Water by Brother Yun. He was a leader in the house church movement in China and suffered a great deal of persecution and imprisonment for his involvement. The passage below picks up during Brother Yun's elongated and very painful stay at Zhengzhou Prison.

As the weeks passed, I became more and more depressed at my situation. My wife Deling was in the women's prison, and I had no idea what had become of my two children. It seemed as if the Lord had rejected me and left me to rot in prison forever. My legs were crippled and my spirit crushed. Each night I propped my lame legs up against the wall to try to lessen the pain.

It was the lowest point of my life.

At that point, Jesus came to me and reaffirmed His covenant. He told me, "This prison is real, but I am the Truth!" This made all the difference, because Jesus promised, "The truth will set you free" (John 8:31). My Savior had not forgotten me, for it is impossible for Him to forsake one of His children! He spoke His Word to me, and commanded me to get up and walk.

Brother Yun, upon hearing the Lord's command, walked past multiple gaurds and gates, right out of Zhengzhou Prison. Praise God! The prisons in our lives are real, but Jesus is more real! This is our God!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I had my first experience with tapas tonight at the Jaleo in DC.

These are the tapas I tried:

Espinacas a la Catalana: Sautéed spinach, pine nuts, raisins and apples
Patatas bravas: Sliced, fried potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce and alioli
Sandía con tomates, caña de cabra y pistachos: Watermelon with tomatoes, goat cheese and pistachios
Tomatitos rellenos de cangrejo: Baby tomatoes stuffed with jumbo lump crabmeat
Setas al ajillo: Organic Tuscarora Farm mushrooms sautéed with garlic and herbs
Dátiles con tocino ‘como hace todo el mundo: Fried dates wrapped in bacon
Tortilla de patatas: Spanish omelet with potatoes and onions

Let's just say this: Check out the link at right for recipes from the Bentley Kitchen.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An Old-Fashioned Method of Travel

I have decided that I am a big fan of riding trains. Normally when I travel distances of over 300 miles I tend to fly, but I decided to take the Amtrak train down to DC yesterday for a weekend-long science teaching conference and I loved it!

I went to a train station that is just a ten-minute drive from my house, I got my tickets from a tiny little machine at the train station and then I walked down to the Hudson River to eat my lunch. I waited with about twenty people for the Amtrak to pull into the station; the folks were all pleasant, congenial and local.

When the train arrived, the conductors descended through all the doors, they moved the little foot stools that had been on the landing platform so we could ascend onto the train. The conductors helped us carry our bags onto the train. There was no security. I never needed my ID card. Everyone trusted that I wasn't a terrorist and that I was who my ticket said that I was. How refreshing and innocent.

The train ride itself followed the Hudson River until it reached New York City. There was an outlet so that I could work on my computer and there was cellular reception so that I could catch up with some friends. (Okay, I concede that wasn't too old-fashioned.)

The ride was smooth, comfortable and ever so much more enjoyable than a plane ride. It almost made up for the fact that I had to leave the beautiful countryside for the city on the nicest weekend of the autumn season!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Why Must the Disciple Suffer?

At times to choose the will of God over our own is excruciating. We love our flesh and it hurts to have its desires crucified! Never misunderstand pain as permission to forego the will of God.

So, what in the world makes all this worth it?

What makes it worthwhile is that, as Christ's life is resurrected in us, others might exclaim in the words of Mary Magdalene, "I have seen the Lord!" This is the highest calling of all humanity.

Living Beyond Yourself, Beth Moore

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gospel-Worthy Discipleship

In China we always teach five things that all disciples need to be ready to do at any time.

(1) We need to be ready to pray, regardless of the circumstances.
(2) We must always be ready to share the gospel.
(3) We must be ready to suffer for the name of Jesus.
(4) We also teach every disciple in China that they must be ready to die for Jesus Christ.
(5) And, finally, the disciple should be ready to escape for the gospel if the opportunity presents itself.

Living Water, Brother Yun

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Rich Gift of God!

O'er the bare woods, whose outstretched hands
Plead with the leaden heavens in vain,
I see, beyond the valley lands,
The sea's long level dim with rain.
Around me all things, stark and dumb,
Seem praying for the snows to come,
And, for the summer bloom and greenness gone,
With winter's sunset lights and dazzling morn atone.

Along the river's summer walk,
The withered tufts of asters nod;
And trembles on its arid stalk
The boar plume of the golden-rod.
And on a ground of sombre fir,
And azure-studded juniper,
The silver birch its buds of purple shows,
And scarlet berries tell where bloomed the sweet wild-rose!

With mingled sound of horns and bells,
A far-heard clang, the wild geese fly,
Storm-sent, from Arctic moors and fells,
Like a great arrow through the sky,
Two dusky lines converged in one,
Chasing the southward-flying sun;
While the brave snow-bird and the hardy jay
Call to them from the pines, as if to bid them stay.

Rich gift of God! A year of time
What pomp of rise and shut of day,
What hues wherewith our Northern clime
Makes autumn's dropping woodlands gay,
What airs outblown from ferny dells,
And clover-bloom and sweetbrier smells,
What songs of brooks and birds, what fruits and flowers,
Green woods and moonlit snows, have in its round been ours!

The Last Walk in Autumn, John Greenleaf Whittier

Sunday, October 05, 2008

How to Make Applesauce

1. Choose a beautiful autumn afternoon.
2. Locate a farm with an apple tree.
3. Find two younger siblings.
4. Take a ladder and a basket to the apple tree.
5. Tell one of the younger siblings to climb the tree and shake the branches to produce a rainstorm of apples.
6. Tell the other younger sibling to hit the tree with a branch, to bring down more apples.
7. Gather up apples in the basket - make sure you have a full basket.
8. Carry the ladder, the basket and the apples back home.
9. Core the apples.
10. Boil the apples.
11. Put the apples in a Foley Food Mill and use your arm muscles to make sauce!
12. Add sugar to the applesauce.
13. Take lots of pictures for good memories.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Early October Happenings

It was a classic autumn day in the northeast today. The family received the Lapes and the Braces with grandchildren (Luke, Adam and Sarah) here at Bentley. Meanwhile, I headed to the city with Emily & Ben, Christine and Trish for a talk at St. Vincent's by Janet E. Smith that commemorated the fortieth anniversary of Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Small Things

For who has despised the day of small things?

Zechariah 4:10

Detail and Vastness

My chemistry lessons tend to hold some of my most meaningful daily encounters with the splendor of God.

Almost every day, as I work through chemical problems with my students, we find ourselves readily converting back and forth between units using powers of ten. Hertz become megahertz and you have an FM radio frequency, but when hertz become kilohertz, you have an AM radio frequency; meters become nanometers and you have the wavelength of visible light, but when meters become angstroms, you have begun to approximate bond distances; Joules of energy can melt a small ice cube, but when joules become kilojoules, you have enough energy to bring a bucket of ambient water to boiling.

Simply stated, scale changes everything!

Sometimes, when I drive home from work, I just think about how crazy scale truly is. If I take a meter stick and divide it into ten parts, and then divide it into ten parts again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again, I have finally found the scale on which I can measure the distance between the sugar and phosphate groups in the backbone of my DNA strands. But, if I take the same meter stick and multiply it by ten and multiply it again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again, I can now view the entire earth and the orbit of the moon against the backdrop of the Milky Way. Wow!

And then I think that the life I know, incredibly complex and organized, exists on only one little portion of these scales of ten.

Who am I in the scheme of such great magnitude of detail and vastness?

And then I ponder the love that God shows to this little planet that I live on. I think about His desire for relationship with us. In fact, the whole purpose of this great vastness in the first place was that a people would understand that they had been created by an infinite God to love and worship and adore Him with all their hearts and souls and minds. This is truly humbling.

Why do I so often live my life like this is all there is?

There is so much detail and vastness in the universe, far above and beyond the approach of the imagination. And to think that vastness not only extends in space, but in time - all the way to eternity! That is truly both sobering and exciting!

We are not all that there is; there is so much more. Oh, for grace to live this life for its purpose!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Break the Unplowed Ground

Sow for yourselves righteousness,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

Hosea 10:12