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Yes, yes, I know you’ve all been tormented by my week-long absence. I apologize for depriving you. To make up for it, a batch of interesting (to me, at least), links:

–At last, the answer to the question that’s been nagging at you: Can a Jedi lightsaber cut through Superman?

Reality check: nearly 25 percent of Brits think Winston Churchill was a myth, while 58 percent think Sherlock Holmes was real. Um, yeah, ok.

–This will warm the heart of any true Kentucky basketball fan: about a week ago, Duke’s entire starting lineup fouled out of a game. Nicely done.

–The Top 10 Smartest TV Shows of All Time, as chosen by Mensa. Number one was M.A.S.H. I’ve seen large parts of about four of the top ten series. You?

–Narnia beats out Harry Potter. Surprised?

–I kinda like France’s new president. From the Dallas Morning News:

PARIS – President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped an intellectual bombshell this week: Beginning next fall, he said, every fifth-grader will have to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis.

“Nothing is more moving, for a child, than the story of a child his own age, who has the same games, the same joys and the same hopes as he, but who, in the dawn of the 1940s, had the bad fortune to be defined as a Jew,” Mr. Sarkozy said Wednesday.

Mr. Sarkozy wrapped his plan in the cloak of religion, placing blame for the wars and violence of the last century on an “absence of God.”

The Holocaust is already taught in French schools, but some psychiatrists and educators predicted that requiring students to identify with a specific victim could traumatize them.

Secularists accused Mr. Sarkozy, who is already under fire for his frequent praise of God and religion, of subverting the country’s iron-clad separation of church and state.

–As a biology major, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point this out from today’s Writer’s Almanac. It’s a good story — you can see it in a movie called Race for the Double Helix. It stars Brad Blakeman (aka Jeff Goldblum).

It was on this day in 1953 that James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of the DNA molecule, which became the key to understanding how all organisms pass genetic information on to their offspring. James Watson was only 23 years old at the time. Crick was older, but he hadn’t even finished his Ph.D. They were working in a lab in Cambridge, England, where they didn’t even have the right equipment to examine DNA. That equipment was located at King’s College in London. Watson tried to get a job there by setting his sister up with one of the King’s College scientists, but it didn’t work out.

They were devastated when the world-renowned scientist Linus Pauling published a paper proposing a structure for DNA. But they immediately realized that his structure was wrong, and they vowed to beat him in the race to the answer. They learned that a woman named Rosalind Franklin was taking X-Ray pictures of DNA, and they decided that the only way to discover the structure was to look at those pictures.

Watson got to know Rosalind Franklin’s lab partner, Maurice Wilkins, and one night he persuaded Wilkins to show him one of the X-ray pictures that Franklin had taken of a DNA molecule. On the train ride back to Cambridge, Watson sketched the picture on a newspaper. When he got back to his lab, he and Crick spent several days building theoretical models of the molecule. They hit on the correct structure on this day in 1953. Once they realized what they had accomplished, they went to the local bar to celebrate. Toasting their discovery, Watson shouted, “We have discovered the secret of life!” They would go on to win the Nobel Prize for their discovery. Rosalind Franklin would also have gotten credit, but she had died of cancer by the time the prize was awarded.

–And finally (as if this post isn’t long enough), since spring training is now in full swing, a collection of photographs of old baseballs. It looks much cooler than it sounds, trust me:

baseball.jpg  

Photograph by Don Hamerman, “Rawlings,” 2005

Carter’s Latest Wisdom

Gave Carter some medicine the other night. He likes the taste of children’s tylenol, but this was Dimetapp I think, and he did not like it one bit. His face was all screwed up and after he took it, he came up with this short but descriptive classic:

“Not delicious!”

The boy says what he thinks.

The Semicolon

Cool article in yesterday’s New York Times about the semicolon. Seems a New York City Transit employee used one in an advertisement placard he wrote for the subway. Here’s the sentence asking riders to put their newspapers in the trash:  “Please put it in a trash can; that’s good news for everyone.”

Seems simple, but it’s attracting attention. Proper use of the semicolon has gone by the wayside. And what is the proper use of a semicolon, you ask? According to the article, a semicolon is

that distinct division between statements that are closely related but require a separation more prolonged than a conjunction and more emphatic than a comma.

And lest you think the semicolon is unimportant except to writerly geeks such as me, consider this:

People have lost fortunes and even been put to death because of imprecise punctuation involving semicolons in legal papers. In 2004, a court in San Francisco rejected a conservative group’s challenge to a statute allowing gay marriage because the operative phrases were separated incorrectly by a semicolon instead of by the proper conjunction.

It’s a fun article. Read it. Enjoy it. Learn to use a semicolon; you’ll be glad you did.

And then there’s this hilarious correction at the end of the article:

An article in some editions on Monday about a New York City Transit employee’s deft use of the semicolon in a public service placard was less deft in its punctuation of the title of a book by Lynne Truss, who called the placard a “lovely example” of proper punctuation. The title of the book is “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” — not “Eats Shoots & Leaves.” (The subtitle of Ms. Truss’s book is “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.”)

Jesus and Human History

“God could have poured out judgment on mankind in the Garden, therefore the only reason there is any history is because God has purposed to send his Son into the world, to pour out judgment on him and thereby bring salvation. Jesus is the only reason there is human history, and therefore he is the goal of human history. Thus everything God says and does in history explains and prepares for the salvation of his Son.”

– Timothy Keller, “Preaching the Gospel in a Post-Modern World,” 34.

(HT: Of First Importance)

More on Tim Keller later.

Two Things

And they’re both political:

1. Kentucky elected a new governor in November. One of the main planks of his platform was casino gambling. Yesterday, he released his plan for how to make it happen. He wants 12 casinos throughout the state  (one of them would be in Owensboro/Daviess County). For casino gambling to be legal, an amendment to the state constitution has to clear the Kentucky House and Senate and then be voted on by the people. Citizens in each separate locality will then vote on whether or not to allow a casino in that particular city or county. I think there’s too much opposition for it to clear all those levels, but I could be wrong.

Here’s the thing: Gov. Beshear wants casino gambling because of all the revenue it will bring in. And yes, it probably will make money. But where does that money come from? A lot of it will be from people who can’t afford to lose it. Aside from any moral problems people may have with gambling, it’s absolutely terrible public policy to base your revenue stream on the citizens of your state losing money. Hopefully, Kentucky’s citizens will wake up to that fact.

2. Looks like John McCain will be the Republican nominee for president. He wouldn’t have been my first choice or the first choice of many conservatives. But I do not understand — at all — those people who say they will sit the election out or vote for Obama/Hillary rather than vote for McCain.

As Hugh Hewitt notes, when we’re at war, we want a commander-in-chief who understands the magnitude of what we’re up against, not someone who thinks we can just talk things out with people who want to annihilate us. When there could be as many as six Supreme Court vacancies in the next few years, we want a president who at least will consider nominating conservative judges rather than a president we know will put as many liberals in place as possible. Sure, McCain’s more liberal than we’d like on immigration, the environment and other things, but those two issues are enough to make the case for me.

Ouch

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(AP Photo/John Russell)

Wow, just wow. Kentucky got hammered last night, losing at Vanderbilt 93-52. Worst loss since 1989. Lost by 41 points. Only scored 11 in the first half. Sheesh. And just when the season was looking up. Ah well, it’s one bad night. Billy Clyde better convince the guys to just forget about this one.

At least we didn’t cheat to get a better record. Sorry, Andy. Not sure what Indiana expected when they hired a new coach who was already under sanctions for breaking recruiting rules at his former school. (I know, I know, Kentucky has had its own scandals. But that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.)

Given UK and IU’s respective fan bases, we might both be looking for a new coach sooner rather than later.

Sledding

sled1024.gif 

Today, Carter went sledding for the first time. He loved it. The icy crust that formed from all the rain/sleet/freezing rain that fell on top of the snow last night makes for pretty good sledding, as the neighborhood kids found out this morning. Turns out the best spot around is in our backyard — it’s a long, gradual, open slope that lets you pick up speed until you coast into the field next door or slam into the shed. Your choice. I had never thought of it as a good sledding spot before, but the icy top on the snow made it perfect.

So Carter and I were out just goofing around (I went into work late) and three boys started sledding back there. We went back to join them, borrowed an extra plastic sled and took off. At first, I rode behind Carter, holding the rope. We went fast and far (Shea, a boy next door, informed us that we “broke the world record”) and Carter thoroughly enjoyed it, so I pulled him back up to do it again. A couple of runs later, I thought I’d see if he wanted to go by himself. I was a little surprised when he said he did.

So I gathered the rope into his 3-year old hands, and let him take off from the top of the hill. I ran beside him as he picked up speed. He didn’t seem the least bit nervous or afraid. Then I realized he was going a lot faster and I needed to stop him before he went far, far away. I grabbed the sled and he tumbled out the front and popped up unharmed, a big grin on his face. He’s all boy, that one. (And I was relieved he wasn’t hurt.)

So we went up to do it again. Same thing, only this time he went even faster (and gave me a big, cheesy grin while he was doing it) before the sled left me in the dust and ran into the field, where he tumbled out again, only this time flipping over backwards. Once again, he loved it.

What I didn’t know was that his mother was watching from the window. She was a little freaked out by the falling. But hey, with yet another boy in the house now, she better get used to it.

Carter also tried to pull me up the hill in the sled (went pretty much as you’d expect) and we lost to the other kids in a race. The girls, of course, thought Carter was cute. We ended up wet and happy.

(By the way, for any of you who are uniformed, the image above is from Calvin and Hobbes. Someday, I’ll do a post explaining why it was the best comic strip in the known universe. Until then, you can borrow one of my books or do yourself a favor and Google it.)

Tribute to Donna Miller

  • In memory of Donna Joyce Miller, who entered the presence of her Lord on February 3, 2008.  
  • For Ron, Joel and Balaea, Megan and Josh, Bethan and J.D., Caitlin and Nate, the grandkids

 DYING WITH GRACE

 Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
 

She went in for a checkup and came out devastated with the news: her body was racked with cancer. They consulted doctors, scheduled chemo, prayed desperately, but their deepest fear – that the cancer had already spread too far – was rapidly becoming a reality. Despite all hope to the contrary, the shadows marking the end of her life were advancing.

Doctors and medicine failed, the comfort of her body fled, but she clung to her Lord and God, who was her constant help even in the dark hours of the night when she was supposed to be asleep, but lay awake, frightened. It was true. He did abide with her, whispering comfort, providing hope, holding out eternity before her.

 Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
 

The end came with shocking swiftness. Only a few months after the initial diagnosis, she was gone. She didn’t make it through all of the scheduled chemo treatments. Instead of shrinking, her tumors grew. Side effects attacked her mercilessly. Fluid built up and was drained. Her body began to shut down, function after function overtaken by vicious, aggressive cancer cells bent on destroying their host. Just days after the doctors said they couldn’t do any more, she went home for good.

 Through all the change, she kept her gaze squarely on the One who does not change, the Holy One who will never undergo decay. Earth’s glories held no fascination for her, but Scripture did. She took comfort in verses like Psalm 149:4: “For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation,” and Psalm 116:7-9:Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, O Lord have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

She knew that to walk in the eternal land of the living would be glorious. 

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me
.

God’s presence sustained her. She could feel it in her constant communion with him and in her fellowship with the beloved family and friends He had given her. She visited with her friends when she could, and she drank in every precious moment with her husband, her perfectly suited companion for the last 30 years. He was there constantly, hurting tremendously inside, but displaying a cheerful, unfailing trust in the One who was their guide and stay.

When he would report on her condition to the church body, he somehow always managed to leave an impression of God’s goodness and faithfulness. The smile on his face – how could he be so cheerful in the face of his wife’s death, we wondered? – spoke volumes about their relationship with their Savior and how his grace was helping them ward off the temptation to abandon their faith. Not for an instant did we think they would do so.

She had sweet times with her four children and their spouses. They knew the end was near, so they spent all the time they could with her, talking, sharing, crying. They drank deeply of her godly example, remembering her incredible servant’s heart, her happiness, her faithfulness, her love for them and for her God. She basked in the attention of her grandchildren as well, singing songs like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” with them. They cheered her and her husband immensely, as only small children can do. Her older grandchildren exhibited an amazing, childlike faith, believing that Jesus would take care of her, that there is no better place than heaven, that God does what is best.

 I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
 

She wasn’t afraid of death. Well, she was – that’s only human. But in the ultimate sense, she knew she was going to see her Maker in a far, far better place. She was a citizen of heaven, even though she had never set foot there. She wanted her journey home to equal that of Hopeful in Pilgrim’s Progress – full of faith, looking only to Christ – rather than that of Christian, who faced a deeper river because he focused on his circumstances.

Her tears with Ron and her family were bittersweet. Sure, there were questions, moments of doubt. How could there not be? How could it be good for all those grandchildren to grow up without this incredibly godly example to follow? How could her daughters be deprived of the mother’s love and advice they would always need? We didn’t think it was possible, but how could her son handle even more affliction? How could her husband be left to face life alone?

There’s no earthly answer to those questions yet. From the Millers’ perspective it makes less than no sense. But as the Millers have testified repeatedly, this trial is not just about their own perspective. It’s about the wise providence of a loving Father who traces out his purposes in the lives of his people. It’s about trusting God because we know his character. It’s about displaying God’s glory in the midst of man’s suffering.

And because of that, because of the cross where Christ gathered all our sins and sorrows on himself, the final sting of her passing is taken away. Yes, it hurts now, hurts beyond belief. But death’s victory is hollow. It’s temporary. Donna Miller, now in glory, has triumphed through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
 

It was that cross that was her ultimate comfort. When she couldn’t talk anymore and was asked where her hope lay, she mouthed the words, “In Jesus Christ, my faithful Savior.” The Gospel had long been her hope for body and soul, in life and now in death. God had saved her from her sins, exchanged them for the righteousness of Christ, who bled and died on a wooden cross and then rose again. He gave her a new heart. He gave her a new life and a new family. And now, He has broken through the gloom and shadows of death and given her the eternal morning of heaven. She is with her Savior, worshiping him, wrapped in his everlasting embrace.

Her family and friends are left behind, still grieving and rejoicing all at the same time. It’s a strange mixture. You can’t understand it unless you’re a child of God. And Donna Joyce Miller was most certainly a child of God. Because of that, we haven’t seen the last of her – and we never will, to the praise of His glorious grace.

The Gospel in Psalm 5

Psalm 5:4,7

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
   evil may not dwell with you . . .
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
   will enter your house.

Cleaning Out the Links Folder

–Ever wanted to live in a treehouse? Check out this article about the top treehouses in the world. Very cool. One sample:

treehouse

–The secret to winning at rock, paper, scissors: lead with scissors.

This guy has some serious revenge issues — he dug 50 holes measuring about one foot by two feet in a bike trail because he was nearly run down by a cyclist.

–Edmund Hilary, the first man to climb Mount Everest (along with Tenzing Norgay) died a couple of weeks ago. He was 88.

–Kids, don’t try this at home. Although I can understand why you would want to glue yourself to your bed to avoid school after three or four anticipated snow days in a row fizzled out.

Big fish.

–How to clean like a maid. (HT: Joe Carter)

–Looking for a time-wasting game? Try Mass Attack. It’s fun. (HT: Joe Carter)

–Yep. This is America:

jimmy-dean-pancake-sausage-chocolate-chip-736804

–And one final video. Three guys reshot the Omaha Beach scene from World War II, similar to scenes inSaving Private Ryan. Instead of using 1,000 extras, though, they did it in four days with just the three of them, some props, a video camera, a few special effects and some software. Incredibly interesting to watch.