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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sunspots 346

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Science:  Fox News, and many other entities, report on the discovery of two earth-sized planets, circling a star about 950 light-years from us.

National Public Radio reports that birds living in cities have adjusted the pitch of their songs, so as to be more easily heard by other birds.

Sports: Wired reports on how a type of swimsuit enabled swimmers to set many records.

Politics: National Public Radio reports than, in Oregon, at least, bloggers may not automatically be journalists -- a blogger was assessed a huge fine by a court, for defamation of character.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Prayers in the Bible: Mary praises God

Luke 1:35 The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God. 36 Behold, Elizabeth, your relative, also has conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For everything spoken by God is possible.”
38 Mary said, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word.”
The angel departed from her. 39 Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah, 40 and entered into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 It happened, when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, that the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 She called out with a loud voice, and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came into my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy! 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord!”
46 Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord.
47 My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked at the humble state of his handmaid.
For behold, from now on, all generations will call me blessed.
49 For he who is mighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for generations of generations on those who fear him.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He has put down princes from their thrones.
And has exalted the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things.
He has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has given help to Israel, his servant, that he might remember mercy,
55 As he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and his seed forever.”
(World English Bible, public domain)

We usually think of prayer as asking God for something, because that's what we mostly do. But prayer is talking to God, and/or listening to God, and shouldn't be only supplication, requests. Mary was engaged in Adoration, praising God for who He is, and what He does. This prayer of Mary, beginning in verse 46, is sometimes called the Magnificat, because that's the first word of the Latin version of the prayer.

This is the last of a year-long series on prayers in the Bible. The previous post is here. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Jesus, the Light of the World

Hiatus now: John 1:1-5 light and Christ

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. (World English Bible, public domain)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sunspots 345

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Humor: (or maybe not so funny) ABC News reports, with X-ray photos, on people who come to the emergency room with objects of various kinds stuck into their body openings.

Science:  Wired reports that a government study indicates that using chimpanzees in medical research is not necessary.

Politics: Demonstrators in Wisconsin may soon have to pay for the privilege, according to The Milwaukee Journal.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why did Jesus use "dry places" when He was speaking of an evil spirit?

The World English Bible renders Luke 11:24 thus: The unclean spirit, when he has gone out of the man, passes through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none, he says, ‘I will turn back to my house from which I came out.’ (All Bible quotations are from the World English Bible, which is public domain. Matthew 12:43 is similar.)

Why did Jesus use the word "dry" there? The simple answer is that I don't know. However, I'll guess.

Here's Psalm 63:1 God, you are my God.
    I will earnestly seek you.
My soul thirsts for you.
    My flesh longs for you,
    in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.

We may see here the idea that a person who does not have God's presence is like one in a dry area. It should be remembered, though, that the text also has a heading for this Psalm: "A Psalm by David, when he was in the desert of Judah." David may have literally been in the desert when he wrote this.

There's Psalm 68:6 God sets the lonely in families.
He brings out the prisoners with singing,
    but the rebellious dwell in a sun-scorched land. (Some versions use "dry," rather than "sun-scorched.")

Isaiah 44:3 says: For I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
    and streams on the dry ground.
I will pour my Spirit on your seed,
    and my blessing on your offspring:

Ezekiel 30:12 and Hosea 2:3 speak about God abandoning Israel to the desert.

The Greek word translated as "wilderness" in some versions of Matthew 4 (and Mark 1 and Luke 4) is also translated as "desert" in other places. Probably Jesus met Satan in a dry place. The Blueletter Bible gives all of these occurrences, here.

So there are positive associations, related to God's presence, with being watered, in the Bible. And there are negative associations connected with being in a dry land. Probably that's why Jesus used the words He did in this case. But that's just a maybe.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Prayers in the Bible: Solomon prays at the dedication of the Temple

1 Kings 8:22 Solomon stood before the altar of Yahweh in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; 23 and he said, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above, or on earth beneath; who keep covenant and loving kindness with your servants, who walk before you with all their heart; 24 who have kept with your servant David my father that which you promised him. Yes, you spoke with your mouth, and have fulfilled it with your hand, as it is this day. 25 Now therefore, may Yahweh, the God of Israel, keep with your servant David my father that which you have promised him, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children take heed to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’
26 “Now therefore, God of Israel, please let your word be verified, which you spoke to your servant David my father. 27 But will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens can’t contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28 Yet have respect for the prayer of your servant, and for his supplication, Yahweh my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which your servant prays before you this day; 29 that your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there;’ to listen to the prayer which your servant shall pray toward this place. 30 Listen to the supplication of your servant, and of your people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place. Yes, hear in heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive.
31 “If a man sins against his neighbor, and an oath is laid on him to cause him to swear, and he comes and swear before your altar in this house; 32 then hear in heaven, and do, and judge your servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way on his own head, and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.
33 “When your people Israel are struck down before the enemy, because they have sinned against you; if they turn again to you, and confess your name, and pray and make supplication to you in this house: 34 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of your people Israel, and bring them again to the land which you gave to their fathers.
35 “When the sky is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against you; if they pray toward this place, and confess your name, and turn from their sin, when you afflict them: 36 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of your servants, and of your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on your land, which you have given to your people for an inheritance.
37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight, mildew, locust or caterpillar; if their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there is; 38 whatever prayer and supplication is made by any man, or by all your people Israel, who shall each know the plague of his own heart, and spread out his hands toward this house: 39 then hear in heaven, your dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and render to every man according to all his ways, whose heart you know; (for you, even you only, know the hearts of all the children of men;) 40 that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land which you gave to our fathers.
41 “Moreover concerning the foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for your name’s sake 42 (for they shall hear of your great name, and of your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm); when he shall come and pray toward this house; 43 hear in heaven, your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you for; that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by your name.
44 “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to Yahweh toward the city which you have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for your name; 45 then hear in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. 46 If they sin against you (for there is no man who doesn’t sin), and you are angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; 47 yet if they shall repent in the land where they are carried captive, and turn again, and make supplication to you in the land of those who carried them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned, and have done perversely; we have dealt wickedly;’ 48 if they return to you with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city which you have chosen, and the house which I have built for your name: 49 then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven, your dwelling place, and maintain their cause; 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions in which they have transgressed against you; and give them compassion before those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are your people, and your inheritance, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron); 52 that your eyes may be open to the supplication of your servant, and to the supplication of your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they cry to you. 53 For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth, to be your inheritance, as you spoke by Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, Lord Yahweh.”
54 It was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication to Yahweh, he arose from before the altar of Yahweh, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread out toward heaven. 55 He stood, and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56 “Blessed be Yahweh, who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. There has not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by Moses his servant. 57 May Yahweh our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. Let him not leave us, nor forsake us; 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our fathers. 59 Let these my words, with which I have made supplication before Yahweh, be near to Yahweh our God day and night, that he may maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel, as every day shall require; 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that Yahweh, he is God. There is no one else.
61 “Let your heart therefore be perfect with Yahweh our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.”
62 The king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before Yahweh. 63 Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered to Yahweh, two and twenty thousand head of cattle, and one hundred twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of Yahweh. 64 The same day the king made the middle of the court holy that was before the house of Yahweh; for there he offered the burnt offering, and the meal offering, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar that was before Yahweh was too little to receive the burnt offering, and the meal offering, and the fat of the peace offerings. 65 So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of Egypt, before Yahweh our God, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days. 66 On the eighth day he sent the people away; and they blessed the king, and went to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that Yahweh had shown to David his servant, and to Israel his people. (World English Bible, public domain)

Solomon was wise, and used good judgement, at least in the beginning. This prayer is one of the most remarkable ever recorded, as Solomon acknowledges, as the spokesman of his people, the goodness and sovereignty of God.

This is one of a series of posts on prayers in the Bible. The previous post is here. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Behold, what wondrous love and grace, by William Sanders (1821)

Behold, what wondrous love and grace!
When we were wretched and undone,
To save our ruined, helpless race,
The Father gave His only Son!
Of twice ten thousand gifts divine,
No gift like this could ever shine.

Jesus, to save us from our fall,
Was made incarnate here below;
This was the greatest gift of all—
Heaven could no greater gift bestow:
On Him alone our sins were laid;
He died, and now the ransom’s paid.

O gift of love unspeakable!
O gift of mercy all divine!
We once were slaves of death and hell,
But now we in His image shine.
For other gifts our songs we raise,
But this demands our highest praise.

Praise shall employ these tongues of ours
Till we, with all the hosts above,
Extol His Name with nobler powers,
Lost in the ocean of His love:
While angel choirs with wonder gaze,
We’ll fill the heavens with shouts of praise.

This hymn is about the greatest Christmas gift of all. See here for the Cyberhymnal page, which plays a tune for these words. However, they can also be sung to the tune for "Faith of our Fathers." The tune is named "St.Catherine." Another tune, probably less familiar, is "Selena." That tune is used for "O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done," by Charles Wesley.

I would recommend changing the 5th and 6th lines of the 1st stanza to this:

Of all the gifts that might have been,
This was the best to give to men.

Thanks for reading. God's blessings at this and all seasons.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sunspots 344

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Science:  USA Today reports on geologist's findings in relation to the Japanese earthquake of early this year. Among the findings: "Fissures stretch the length of football fields and a cliff several hundred feet tall looks freshly exposed at one spot, more than 2 miles deep." 

NPR reports on experiments demonstrating that rats will work to free a rat they are familiar with from a stressful situation, even ignoring nearby chocolate chips to do so.

Christianity:  A Lutheran pastor has a Bible-based Wise Men FAQ: How many wise men were there? How old was Jesus when they visited? and other interesting questions.

A long, but excellent, and understandable, article on translating the Bible into modern English. The article claims that English has changed significantly in some respects within your lifetime, even if you are in your thirties. The main goal of the article is to evaluate the 2011 New International Version, but the article would be pertinent if there had never been such a version.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Christmas Prayer by George MacDonald


Loving looks the large-eyed cow,
Loving stares the long-eared ass
At Heaven's glory in the grass!
Child, with added human birth
Come to bring the child of earth
Glad repentance, tearful mirth,
And a seat beside the hearth
At the Father's knee—
Make us peaceful as thy cow;
Make us patient as thine ass;
Make us quiet as thou art now;
Make us strong as thou wilt be.
Make us always know and see
We are his as well as thou.

-George MacDonald, The Poetical Works of George MacDonald, volume 2, from Project Gutenberg (public domain).

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Christmas Child, by George MacDonald


"Little one, who straight hast come
Down the heavenly stair,
Tell us all about your home,
And the father there."

"He is such a one as I,
Like as like can be.
Do his will, and, by and by,
Home and him you'll see."

- George MacDonald, from Poetical Works of George MacDonald, volume 2, from Project Gutenberg (public domain).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Prayers in the Bible: Solomon prays for wisdom

1 Kings 3:5 In Gibeon Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”
6 Solomon said, “You have shown to your servant David my father great loving kindness, according as he walked before you in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with you. You have kept for him this great loving kindness, that you have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. 7 Now, Yahweh my God, you have made your servant king instead of David my father. I am but a little child. I don’t know how to go out or come in. 8 Your servant is in the midst of your people which you have chosen, a great people, that can’t be numbered nor counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this your great people?”
10 The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, neither have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice; 12 behold, I have done according to your word. Behold, I have given you a wise and an understanding heart; so that there has been no one like you before you, neither after you shall any arise like you. 13 I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there shall not be any among the kings like you, all your days. 14 If you will walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”
15 Solomon awoke; and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, and offered up burnt offerings, offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants. (World English Bible, public domain)

Solomon's prayer for wisdom shows the great humility that this young man had, and the wisdom to ask for wisdom. This was my own prayer when I was appointed to a position at a Christian university, nearly 50 years ago now. God is good. I haven't always used the wisdom that God gave me, but He has always given it.

This is one of a series on prayers in the Bible. The previous post is here. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Sunspots 343

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Science:  (or Disasters) Video of an amazing disaster, in 1980, probably caused by a 14-inch oil drilling apparatus. More in Wikipedia, here.

Fox News reports that NASA may have found an earth-like planet, a long way from here.

Sports: (Sort of) An astronaut plays baseball against himself, hitting his own pitch, from Wired. (Short video included).

Computing: Fox News reports on how Facebook has been warned, and punished, for its use of information about users, without their consent.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Prayers in the Bible: Daniel thanks God for wisdom

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 18 that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his companions should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then was the secret revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered, Blessed be the name of God forever and ever; for wisdom and might are his. 21 He changes the times and the seasons; he removes kings, and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals the deep and secret things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 I thank you, and praise you, you God of my fathers, who have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we desired of you; for you have made known to us the king’s matter. (World English Bible, public domain)

The thing referred to in verse 17 was a dream that the king had. He couldn't remember it, and he demanded that the wise men of Babylon remind him of what he dreamed, and also interpret it. The wise men, except Daniel, declared that no one could be expected to do that. But Daniel, and his friends, prayed for help, and got it. Then Daniel thanked God, as he should have, and we should, too.

This is part of a series on prayers in the Bible. The previous post is here. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thirty Days of Gratitude

I am a Facebook member, and, as such, decided to post about something I'm grateful for, each day. Here is the result, or most of it:

4. I'm thankful for Silicon atoms. They have an amazing ability to hook up with other atoms to form large entities. Without Silicon atoms, and the things they combine with, glass, most rocks, and the semiconductors needed in modern electronics would not be possible.

5. I'm thankful for the tilt of the earth's axis, that makes seasons possible.

7. I'm thankful that I exist. I guess my dad produced a billion or more sperm over his lifetime, and my mother was carrying at least a few hundred eggs when she reached reproductive age, and, presumably, if that one egg and that one sperm hadn't gotten together, I wouldn't be here.

8. I'm thankful to live in a country with a (mostly) functioning democracy. When elections are lost in some countries, the losers get out the guns, or riot. Sometimes the army steps in to remove those in power. These things have never happened here.

9. I'm thankful for a praying wife, and a God who answers her prayers. (Not always with "yes," of course!)

10. I'm thankful that air molecules (and other gases, liquids, and even solids) can be compressed, so that there can be pressure differences, propagated from a source of vibration. In other words, I'm grateful for sound, whether it be the crash of something falling on the floor, or the angels singing to the shepherds. I'm also grateful that I can hear it.

11. I'm thankful for electromagnetic radiation. (This includes light, X-rays, radio waves, and a lot of other forms of energy.) Without it, I couldn't see this screen. Without it, my laptop wouldn't be connected to the Internet right now. Without it, the earth would be a lifeless frozen ball.

12. I'm thankful for my skeleton. Without it, I'd be a blob of meat on the ground, without easy means of movement, of my whole body or my arms -- rather like a jelly fish out of water. My skeleton also protects my brain and my eyes. It makes a good place to attach my muscles. It has marrow which makes some kinds of blood cells.

13. I'm grateful for plant pigments. Most higher plants have chlorophyll, which is a green pigment. Many of them have other pigments that are exposed when the chlorophyll breaks down. The result is beauty, on a magnificent scale.

14. I’m thankful for the phenomena described by the famous equation Einstein developed, e=mc2. It tells us that mass can be changed into energy, lots of energy. This energy, released by nuclear fusion in the sun, is (very slowly) reducing the mass of the sun, and provides the energy that plants turn into food, and that keeps the earth warm enough for life.

15. I’m thankful for lawnmowers and kitchen sinks. When I taught, I was seldom sure if I had really accomplished anything. When I wash some dishes, or mow some grass, or do other routine chores, like washing clothes, mopping, and the like, it’s easy to get a feeling of accomplishment. (The yard IS mowed now. The socks ARE matched and put away. The flowers ARE watered.) I’m also thankful for such routine tasks, which allow me to pay some attention to something else, without danger of messing up the job at hand.

16. I’m thankful for circles. Circles are beautiful curves. In nature, they are produced when some phenomenon is propagated in all directions at the same rate. For example, if a pebble is dropped into still water, the result is circular ripples. Trees generally grow at an equal rate, adding tissue outward from a center in all directions. When a tree is cut cross-wise, the result is a circle. (Actually, it’s often lots of circles, as growth rings are exposed.) Some flowers have a circular shape. Sound travels outward as an expanding sphere, so that, at any one level, sound waves from a point source are circular. The moon and the sun are almost perfectly spherical, and they appear as almost perfect circles. The pupils of my eyes are circular. Many human-made objects are circular, or have a circular cross-section. Where I grew up, pies were circular in shape. Coins are circular. Ice cream cones and eggs have a circular cross-section. I like circles.

17. I'm thankful for sensory neurons. They tell me, for example, what this looks like on the page, how the keyboard sounds, and where my fingers are, so that I can type this.
We often hear that there are five senses. There are more than twice that many in humans, depending on how they are counted. The sense of touch is actually more than one sense -- we sense pressure, pain, and both heat and cold. Both the senses of smell and taste depend on more than one type of sensory neuron. There are sensory neurons in the brain, monitoring the state of the blood, hence our body's states. There is a sense of balance. There are kinesthetic sense neurons that tell us where various parts of our body are located, so, for example, we can (almost) put the tips of our index fingers together in front of our face, with our eyes closed. And then there are senses found in some animals, that we don't have, such as being able to detect heat at a distance. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

18. I’m thankful for decomposers. Mostly, they are pretty yucky organisms – fungi, bacteria, maggots, and perhaps even vultures should be included. But they carry out a necessary job, which is breaking down once-living things, or cast-off parts of living things, making the minerals and organic substances in the remains available for other organisms. If they didn’t, much of the material needed for life would be lying around in the form of dead leaves, grasses, dead animals, poop and the like, piling up over time, except when a fire burned the stuff. It is possible to circumvent some decomposition by embalming – think of mummies. But what’s the point? What’s left is not really human, but just the carcass of what used to be one.
I’ve already been decomposed a lot. My skin cells flake off, for example. Perhaps you have some atoms in you that used to be in me, and perhaps I have some that used to be in you.

19 I’m thankful for J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. I worked in the library when I was in college, and had access to the stacks. I looked around quite a bit, and found The Fellowship of the Ring, which had recently been published. Although the Christianity in Fellowship and related books is not obvious, Tolkien’s enormously popular books were written from a Christian world-view, and, largely, re-shaped the writing of fantastic literature. I have read seven of his books several times, and some others once. Tolkien strongly influenced C. S. Lewis, to become a Christian, and for years after that. Lewis became a leading author of apologetics, as well as of science fiction and fantasy works, which were, and still are, well received. I first found The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe while messing around in the University of Wisconsin library, which was my introduction to Lewis. It had nothing to do with my graduate program, but Lewis has had quite a bit to do with my life. As Puddleglum says in The Silver Chair, “There are no accidents.” As to the Christianity in their fiction, Lewis, and especially Tolkien, were writing the books they need to write, and their Christianity showed through.

20. I’m thankful for sugars. Sugars are not only tasty, but essential. Photosynthesis, the process by which atmospheric Carbon (in Carbon Dioxide) is inserted into living things, produces sugar as an end product. Plants use this sugar to make food molecules, and for structure. Some of the sugar produced by photosynthesis is used to make amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Some is used to make fats. Some is used to make carbohydrates, such as cellulose, a molecule used to enable plant structures to grow to great sizes, or to assume beautiful shapes like leaves and flowers. We, of course, get protein, carbohydrates and fats from plants, or from animals that eat plants, and we use cellulose in the manufacture of paper and of some kinds of cloth. Cellulose is also an important part of wood.
If you are hospitalized and need food energy, you are given glucose solution intravenously. Glucose is a sugar. Table sugar, derived from sugar beets or sugar cane, is a combination of glucose and another kind of sugar. There are many kinds of sugar. One of the most important is deoxyribose, which is one of the building blocks of DNA.
I know that sugar on my teeth allows tooth decay bacteria to grow, and too much sugar in my diet may help me to gain weight, or perhaps to behave abnormally, but, overall, sugars are of enormous positive importance. In Bible times, honey was a major source of sugar, apparently. Sugar beets and sugar cane were not available to the people of the Bible.

21. I’m thankful for music. It seems clear that God invented it. Although it may not be meant to be taken strictly literally, Job 38 is a lecture to Job, on the creation of the earth, and it says that the morning stars sang together then. The angels also sang at the birth of Christ. The disciples sung a hymn when they left for the Mount of Olives, where Christ would be arrested during Passion Week. Revelation (again, perhaps not to be taken literally) suggests that there will be a vast choir in heaven, perhaps singing forever, perhaps singing to mark special occasions, such as the triumph of Christ. The Bible, thus, associates the four most important events that took place in the past, or will take place in the future with music. Music is not just for these epic events. The Psalms have a number of admonitions to sing to God. 1 Corinthians 14:15 and Ephesians 5:19 do, too.

22. I’m thankful for that amazing substance, water. Water is one of the raw materials used in photosynthesis, the manufacture of food. Water is beautiful, whether in lakes, ponds, rivers, oceans, clouds, snow, dewdrops or rainbows. Water is unusual in several ways. It exists as a solid, liquid, and gas at temperatures commonly experienced. This makes the water cycle possible. It requires an unusual amount of energy to change it from one state to another, which helps to stabilize air temperature, keeps iced drinks cool, and also means that our bodies don’t succumb to exposure to cold temperatures quickly. It is transparent, which allows us to see (our eyes have fluid in them.) It dissolves many other substances, including hormones, food, waste products, neurotransmitters, enzymes and antibodies. I’m mostly water, and so are you, and all other living things.

23. I’m thankful for memory. I can remember a lot of things, some beautiful, some exciting, some inspiring, some pleasant, some rather ordinary – maybe those are the best kind. There are also, of course, some memories of failure, or tragedy. Our memories change with time, so that I’m probably not remembering a lot of stuff the way it really happened, but remembering is still important. Without quite a bit of memory, I wouldn’t be the person I am – just consider someone with Alzheimer’s, or some other form of dementia. However, I’m also thankful for forgetting. I’ve forgotten a lot of bad stuff, as well as some ordinary stuff. (I’ve also forgotten some good stuff, but, on balance, we’re probably better off to forget.) Most important, God says that He has forgotten forgiven sin!

25. I’m thankful for the Bible, the most important way God has chosen to communicate with 21st century people. It’s a great book, written so that it spoke to the culture of ancient Israel, and it still speaks to me, although through imperfect instruments, including my own prejudices, my own culture, translators who may not have gotten it all quite right, and language itself, which is inherently ambiguous. Do I understand all of the Bible? Definitely not, but I understand enough of it. In one sentence, it tells me that I have a sin problem, and that there is a sinless remedy for it, which I need, and can’t provide for myself.

26. I’m thankful for the medicine and medical care available to me. I recognize that there are many millions of people in this country who don’t have health insurance, and I know of at least two people who have died because they didn’t have it – they didn’t go for treatment until it was too late – but I have and can get, medical care. God can, and does heal, but He also chooses to work through rest, exercise, good food, medicines, therapy, surgery, and through conscientious people who provide such services, and I’m grateful for this. Healthcare isn’t the most important thing in the world, although sometimes we act like it is, but it is important, and I’m glad to get it.

27. I’m thankful for emptiness. This sentence would be difficult to understand without spaces. Thissentencewouldbedifficulttounderstandwithoutspaces. Music needs rests, speakers should pause once in a while, printed documents and books use white space, and the sky is more beautiful with gaps between the stars than if it were solid uniform light. Our lives should have gaps, when nothing is scheduled, so we can renew ourselves, or so that God can use us to do something that wasn’t on “our” schedule.
Some people say that we have a “God-shaped hole” in our souls that we try to fill, unfortunately often with pleasure, power, sex, drugs, and other inappropriate things. Jesus said that a person who had had an evil spirit expelled was in danger of having that hole filled again, with even worse spirits. I’m thankful for emptiness.

29. My underwear says that it’s made of 100% cotton. Both parts of my underwear. That’s all I’m going to say about my wardrobe. However, I’m thankful for fibers, including cotton. Why? To shamelessly quote the Wikipedia: “They are very important in the biology of both plants and animals, for holding tissues together.
Human uses for fibers are diverse. They can be spun into filaments, string, or rope, used as a component of composite materials, or matted into sheets to make products such as paper or felt. Fibers are often used in the manufacture of other materials. The strongest engineering materials are generally made as fibers, for example carbon fiber and Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene.
Synthetic fibers can often be produced very cheaply and in large amounts compared to natural fibers, but for clothing natural fibers can give some benefits, such as comfort, over their synthetic counterparts.”
So. Imagine a world without fiber. No paper, not much clothing, string, rope, fabric in autos, or trees, and, besides, we and other animals would pretty much become a blob of glup.
Fiber is also used in a moral sense, as in “moral fiber,” or “the fiber of my being.” I hope that, in the fiber of my being, I want to follow Christ. Thanks for reading. Perhaps your information equipment uses optical fibers, so you could. I know that your own information processing system uses nerve fibers.
My wife reminded me that I should have mentioned that fiber in the diet helps prevent colon cancer. She’s right.

30. I’m thankful for the blood of Christ. As 1 Peter puts it: “18 knowing that you were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from the useless way of life handed down from your fathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a faultless and pure lamb, the blood of Christ;” (World English Bible, public domain) The only way to redemption from sin’s penalty, death, is trust in the power of the sacrifice of Christ, which sacrifice was validated by His resurrection. Why blood? We don’t know for sure, of course, but blood is symbolic of life. Many crime dramas, on TV and the movies, show blood. Lots of it. Fake blood. But we understand that if we lose too much real blood, we’ll die. We also understand that if the heart, which pumps blood all over the body, stops, we’ll die.
Why is blood so essential to biological life? It carries food and Oxygen all over the body. It carries off Carbon Dioxide and other wastes. It transports the hormonal signals that tell the body to do so many different things. It carries white blood cells and antibodies, which fight off invasions. It helps regulate temperature. It connects an unborn embryo or fetus with its mother. Blood does this, and many more things. How appropriate that it was taken, by the ancient Hebrews, as a symbol of life.

You probably noticed that, for some reason, the entries kept getting longer.