Archive for November, 2015

Our Visit To Antarctica

We just returned from the beautiful black and white frozen world of Antarctica. We sailed from Valparaiso, Chile aboard the Holland America ship the Zaandam. Our route took us along the coast to Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern most city on earth, our last port before departing for a week in the Antarctic. The Alacalufe people who settled the area lived nude. They stayed warm by covering themselves with whale oil.

Sailing through the Straights of Magellan our route took us through Glacier Alley and past Cape Horn. It technically isn’t a cape in that a cape is a projection of a land mass and the horn is simply the end of Horn Island. Here more seamen have died that any place on earth. In 1905 there were 105 ships lost here. At this point we passed back and forth across the dividing point where the Atlantic and the Pacific meet. Each time we crossed the captain sounded the ships horn.

The next eventful six days we glided among icebergs, some more that 150 feet in height and larger than the Zaandam. Among the abundant wildlife we saw seven varieties of whales, three vanities of seals, nine kinds of albatrosses, and seven kinds of penguins.

Our first sighting of a penguin rookery was amazing with over 5,000 pairs. Soon we saw rookeries 10,000, 100,000 and the largest 125,000 pairs. Neighbors, but set apart were Magellanic, Adelie, King, Emperors, Chinstrap, Rockhoppers, and Gentoo.

A phenomenal act of nature seldom observed occurred within a hundred yards of our ship as a pod of twelve Killer whales attacked, killed , and devoured in a feeding frenzy a baby Humpback whale estimated to weigh two tons.

We were fortunate to have on board as lecturers two world renown Antarctic authorities, both of whom had spent decades visiting and working in this frozen world. As additional sources of information twelve members of the American Palmer Station came out on Zodiac to share. America has three stations in Antarctica: Palmer, McMurdo, and South Pole.

Guy Guthridge spend 35 years with the National Science Foundation and was the engineer who oversaw the 1,000 mile ice road from McMurdo to South Pole which required four years. Also lecturing was Chris Wilson, also a long time member of the NSF with years of Polar experience who was instrumental in some of the more important biological experiments at the Pole.

In conversations with them I learned they believe in global warming. Now I do also. However, I don’t’ share their belief that it is man cause. I believe it is part of a natural cycle. The Polar Peninsula has warmed 6 degrees in the last sixty years. I asked if there was a part of the Antarctic where ice was increasing. They said it is on the east coast of the continent. The reason is the melt on the west side puts more moisture in the atmosphere that produces precipitation on the east side causing the build up. That seems more like a shift.

As a chaplain for Holland America I spoke eight times and conducted my first burial at sea on this cruise. Last year on a similar assignment we went to the northern most city of Europe in the Arctic Circle. The Bible speaks of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth and I now have done it.

As a child I was enthralled by the study of such far away places as the Straights of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Cape Horn, Drake Passage and the Antarctic. Having now been there, they comprise a vivid memory. Therein are these further thoughts.

The waters at the tip of South America where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet is considered the roughest in the world. The fifteen foot waves we experienced were enough for me, but no means major for the region. This coupled with the icebergs, bergies, and growlers made for excitement. To be classified as an iceberg one has to stand a minimum of 16.5 feet above the sea. A bergie is less in height, but more than three feet above water. A growler is less than three feet.

Compounding these challenges ours was the last passenger ship of the season in these waters which were already beginning to freeze over. All this made for an exhilarating voyage.

Penguins, which abound, though in some regions they are threatened by climate change, are fascinating. Not all line up and march great distances across the ice to nesting sights like the Emperor penguins in “March of the Penguins.” Some burrow in the ground and nest in seclusion. Some build their nest out of rocks.

Insights into the South Pole defied some of my preconceptions. I had never heard of the Polar Plateau. Its summit is over 9,200 feet above sea level. The South Pole does not move, but each new year the post marking its location has to be reset in that the shifting ice moves the marker about 30 feet. To actually get to the Pole requires a flight of slightly more than two hours from Ushuaia, Argentina that costs $3,000 and only one third of the flights get to make it. There is no cancellation refund.

The National Science Foundation South Pole Station houses 150 in summer and 25 in winter. Most of the year’s supply comes in on one ship each year. The staff eats well. Weather permitting staff members have an annual race around the South Pole.

The buildings are an engineering marvel. Snow drifts build up around buildings, eventually covering them. Current facilities are built on telescopic stilts which can elevate the entire facility ten feet twice, thus extending the life of the facility to over thirty years. They have to be able to stand winds up to 160 mph. The average January temperature is minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit though it gets much colder. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica was -128.6 F at Russia’s Vostok Station, July 21, 1983.

Staff members have a gym, library, spacious dining hall, extensive kitchen, and very nice living quarters.

All waste matter is removed from Antarctica, even the rinse water from washing the dishes. Over five million tons a year come out to California to be recycled. Almost all food comes by boat. Ships entering polar waters have to use a special light weight diesel in the event there is a leak. No heavy fuels can be on board.

Thirty nations are active signatories of the Antarctic Treaty. Serving as chaplain on a Holland America cruise to Antarctica, I have had the good fortune of conversations with some of the foremost scientists conducting experiments there. Their dedication to their isolation is admirable. Many conclude that when the Lord made “heaven and earth and the sea” He did a masterful job. Our visit to Antarctica leads to the same conclusion.

Our recent visit to Antarctica provided insight into a frozen world. The beauty and distinctive character of the terrain kept our minds off the challenge of navigating the area. There were days our ship had to reverse and reroute due to ice having closed the intended channel. At other times we changed course because winds in the intended channel were to strong. It was a learning experience like few others. Some little know facts about Antarctica are:

The Ice Fish has no hemoglobin. It has antifreeze instead, thus it can live in these cold waters.
The animal with the largest brain of any on earth, the sperm whale, lives here. Its brain weighs approximately 20 pounds. It is also the deepest diving of all whales with the capacity of diving 3,300 feet.
There are sub-surface mountains, lakes and rivers in Antarctica.
Two-thirds of the ammonia in earth’s atmosphere is produced by penguins.
The shoreline of many of the islands and parts of the continent gives the appearance the water line has dropped many feet. The opposite is true. The melting on the large glaciers that once covered many areas has melted and the removal of the weight has caused the land mass to rise.
The marker noting the exact South Pole moves about thirty feet per year as a result of the shifting ice and has to be returned to the true Pole center each new year.
October 31, 1956 the first airplane landed at the South Pole.
Lockheed specially equipped C-130s and C-17s provide the primary survival links to the outside world. They are equipped with a unique landing gear and sleds instead of wheels. After parking on the ice for a while if the ice is seen to be sagging, they are relocated.
Workers stationed at the Pole have an annual race around the Pole. They celebrate all holidays and weather permitting play ice games outdoors at times.
Women constitute thirty percent of workers at the South Pole.
Antarctica once had plant and animal life. Fossils are found at scattered sights.
Cape Horn isn’t really a horn. A “horn” is defined as a projection of land and the mountain called Cape Horn is merely the end of Horn Island. Early sailors misnamed it cape.
The classic poem “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” was inspired by the waters around the Horn.
The polar plateau is 9,200 feet in height.
Antarctica constitutes 90 percent of earth’s natural ice. Less than one percent of the continent is ice free. At one point the ice is one and one-half miles thick.
At times it is so cold that if boiling water is thrown in the air it vaporizes.
A compass at the South Pole shows only north, there is no east and west.. Planes have to navigate by coordinates.
In 1978 the first human baby known to be born in Antarctica arrived.
Inability to get out of Antarctica during one hard winter resulted in the resident doctor removing his own appendix with the aid of mirrors.
Some ice is blue and some pink. Age, size, and weight filter out certain light wave links causing this phenomenon.
Antarctica displays the grandeur of the Creator’s capacity to ice sculpture.
The renowned seaman Earnest Shackelford, who sailed these seas, said Antarctica reveals the soul of man. It also displays the grandeur of the Creators capacity to ice sculpture.


Have you ever had anyone by design try to slight you, impugn your character, sully your reputation, cut you out, or ignore you when you had really done nothing to deserve it? Then they justify it by concluding you deserved it. Therefore, they feel virtuous in doing so.

In may be that in the past they tried to do something you knew wasn’t right. The operative word is “knew.” They wanting to do it and you preventing them made you villainous in their thinking. You deserve punitive treatment.

The reason I am writing this is we all have been subject to such belittlement. There have been times I have gotten the full treatment. Though it is painful the accuser doesn’t have to be successful in this duplicitous game.

Some persons profess to being thick skinned and not bothered by abuse. The rest of should be honest and admit it, it hurts.

At a time of being maliciously treated a game plan is needed.

Step one is to evaluate whether you have done anything to deserve such treatment. Learn from it.

There is a little couplet I have carried in my mind for years that helps resolve any anguish.

“Bitterness does more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to the one on which it is poured.”

Forgiveness is the only therapy for bitterness. You many never be able to excuse the abuse or forget the incident. You can forgive the person without justifying the act. A study done by Mayo Clinic regarding forgiveness shows discernable benefits such as:

Less hostility, stress, and anxiety. Lower blood pressure. Fewer symptoms of depression. A stronger immune system. Improved heart health.

There is a spiritual component involved in ridding your life of bitterness. The Mayo study indicates ridding one’s life of bitterness results in greater spiritual and psychological well-being. Forgiveness gives birth to love, joy, peace, and hope.

One of the best teachings on this travesty is contained in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus taught on forgiveness. In summary it is: “The unforgiving are unforgiven because they are unforgivable.”

The model prayer taught by Jesus contains this petition, “Forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors.” This is not a reference to finances, but conduct.

Consider these benefits of forgiveness and the blessing of avoiding bitterness.

Bitterness is a controllable emotion. You either control it or it controls you. If a person causes you to be bitter they are determining your emotion. I don’t want anyone controlling me, that is, my emotions. I want to be in charge of them.

Emblazoned in my memory it this dictum.

“Let all bitterness, wrath,, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” (Ephesians 4: 31, 31)

The rhyme quoted notes bitterness does more harm to the one in which it is stored that to the one on which it is poured. I have deep concern for a false accuser because Scripture says, “


(In the following quotation the person speaking of our government referrs to it as a “democracy.” Actually it is a “republic” form of government. The correlation between church and state as he notes is the same.)

Clayton Christensen, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, shared this experience.

“Some time ago I had a conversation with a Marxist economist from China. He was coming to the end of a Fulbright scholarship here at Harvard and I asked him if he had learned anything that was surprising or unexpected, and without any hesitation he said, ‘Yea, I had no idea how critical to democracy religion is. The reason why democracy works,’ he said, ‘ is not because the government was designed to oversee what everybody does, but rather democracy works because most people most of the time voluntarily choose to obey the law. In your past most Americans attended a church or synagogue where they were taught there by people they respected.’ My friend went on to say, ‘…most Americans followed these rules because they had come to believe that they were not just accountable to society, but that they were accountable to God … if religion loses its influence over Americans what will happen to our democracy? Where are the institutions that are going to teach the next generation of Americans that they too need to choose to voluntarily obey the laws? Because if you take away religion you can’t hire enough police .’”

This man from China has studied our Founders. In support of his thesis let’s let Thomas Jefferson and John Adams speak on behalf of the Founders. As you read these conclusions evaluate them in light of the present practices of our federal government and the behaviors of the general population of America.

In a letter to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, dated October 11, 1798, Adams wrote:

“…we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of others.” Are we now a moral and religious people?

On various occasions Jefferson said the following.

“[It is a] happy truth that man is capable of self-government, and only rendered otherwise by the moral degradation ….”

“The qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training.”

“[Without becoming] familiarized with the habits and practices of self-government,… the political vessel is all sail and no ballast.”

The self-government of which I am writing is not anarchy, but voluntary obedience to the moral and civil law as defined in our Constitution. Without teaching them the self-willed conduct now in progress will lead to anarchy and consequent in tyranny.

Churches and synagogues are so in decline they are not reaching the broad base of society. Public schools are so encumbered by unruly students they are failing in efforts to teach and insist on self-control. Homes are so fractured many youth are left without an example of moral self-government. The Federal government wants to control everything we do, even what we eat or drink, and does nothing to encourage self-governance. We have lost these things because we have lost our sense of accountability to God.

Persons involved in a church, synagogue, civic, social, or service organization would do well to evaluate what their group is doing or can to do help ameliorate the situation.

New Year

Two cartoons come to mind as we face the new year. One depicts a group of little fuzzy yellow ducklings walking through tall grass with their necks stuck out above it. The caption reads, “Go forth and conquer.” Even if the condition of the ducklings seem to represent you, courage like they depict can make you a conqueror.

The other is a poster picturing a caterpillar looking of his cocoon at a beautiful butterfly flying overhead. The caption, “You can fly, but that cocoon has got to go.”

The dawning of a new year often makes us aware of some things that have “got to go.” It is a grand time to shed some old things in our life that keep us from being our best.

This new year places at your disposal 8,756 hours. If you are average you will sleep 2,920 of them. That leaves you 5,836 hours in which achieve your best and obtain your hearts desire.

Don’t be like the goof who used this logic.
You work one third of a day, 8 hours; that totals 122 days a year.
There are 52 Sundays a year; that leaves 70 work days.
There are 52 Saturdays a year; that leaves 18 work days a year.
You get two weeks, 14 days, vacation. That leaves only 4 work days a year.
The average worker takes 3 days sick leave; that leaves 1 work day a year.
That is not a fuzzy duckling mentality.

There is so much uncertainty in our world that venturing into a new year is a precarious challenge. At a time even more daunting than this King George VI of England, facing the approaching dark hours of World War II, quoted Minnie Louise Haskins in his 1939 Christmas broadcast to the Empire.

“I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ He replied, ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than the light and safer than a known way.’”

Though often lamentably overlooked there is a spiritual dimension to life. When it is properly figured into the equation of life a new perspective is gained. It affords assurance we are not in this life alone. There is a spiritual resource as Haskins noted.

Twelve months ago another new year was set before us. It has rolled into eternity carrying with it broken hearts, shattered dreams, personal losses, and unanticipated anguish. Though it is as much history as 1776, it has also archived accomplishments, achievements, joys, successes, and dreams fulfilled. Don’t be so overcome by the former list of negatives you fail to reflect on the positive ones.

Accept the council of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who advised, “Look not mournfully into the past, it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present, it is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear and with a manly heart.”

Make that the heart of a fuzzy little yellow duckling.

With your hand on the doorknob of a new year you can enter the maze of days with boldness. The strength needed is not something, but Someone.

That can result in what I wish for you a – – – – HAPPY NEW YEAR

Jesus: Was He A Historical Person?

The attacks on Christmas has been expanded to claiming Jesus never existed. To millions He is a “real live historical personality.” Some current critics assert He was “just a folklore character.” They falsely claim there is no historical evidence outside the Bible that He lived. They discount the fact there were at least six writers who without collusion wrote of Him and their works were compiled as part of the Bible.

One evidence He really existed is that during the first seven hundred years after His life no critic said He never lived. Who would have wanted most to discredit Him? The priests and Roman governor who opposed Him. Not one of them wrote to deny His existence during the time of the emerging church.

There are extra-Biblical records of His existence. Cornelius Tacitus, (55/56 – 118 AD) is considered by most historians to have been the best historian of the time who never wrote carelessly. His last classical work entitled “Annals,” was a biography of Nero. In writing of Nero’s defense of himself against criticism that he was responsible for the burning of Rome Tacitus wrote:

“Therefore, to put down the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts — whom the crowd called ‘Christians.’ The founder of this name, Christ, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate.”

Supporting the authenticity of this statement as being authored by Tacitus is the fact it is in the distinctive style of writing for which Tacitus is known. He is also known not to report as real executions of nonexistent persons.

Josephus, a Jewish commander in Galilee, surrendered to the Romans and became a historian for them receiving patronage form three different Roman rulers. He wrote two works, “The Jewish Wars,” and “Jewish Antiquities.” As a Jew, secure in Roman imperial patronage, he wrote in such as way as to show pride in his Jewish heritage and extol Judaism.

In the”Jewish Wars,” reference is made to Jesus, but the passage is questionable, believed by many to have been added later by scribes. However, in “Jewish Antiquities” there are two accepted references to Jesus. In writing of the high priest Ananus efforts to have James executed Jospehus wrote: “Ananus … called a meeting of judges and brought into it the brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah … James by name, and some others.”

The only reason James is mentioned is to show that his death resulted in Ananus being deposed as high priest. Jesus is mentioned to help identify James from others named James. Jesus was a common name of the era so to identify which Jesus, Josephus identifies Him as the one “who-is-called-Messiah.” This passage could not have been added by Christians because in their identification of James they always called him the” brother of the Lord,” or “brother of the Savior,” never as “the brother of Jesus,” as did Josephus.

Josephus was in a position to know if at the time Jesus was a folklore character and surely would not have used such a fictitious character as proof of a known historical event.

Josephus confirms Christianity endured through the first century. Tacitus attested it continued during the second century. During these first centuries of the faith there is no record of any person who opposed Christianity denying the existence of the historical Jesus.

He lived and He lives.