Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nuclear Physics And God's Sense Of Humor

A friend and former Sunday School teacher of mine, Jeff, posted on the J93.3 Face Book page and used the phrase, "He held me together when I felt torn apart."  That got me thinking about a topic that's been rattling around in my brain since grammar school science, one that occasionally works its way back to the front of the line of stuff I wonder about when I really ought to be doing something more productive.

Actual X-Ray of the files in my head

It was fourth or fifth grade.  The teacher handed out a bunch of magnets marked with "N" and "S".  She had us hold the north sides together and then the south.  The magnets exerted a force strong enough to push one magnet away from the other.  Then she told us to hold the north side to the south side and the magnets snapped together.  Wonderful way of visually demonstrating the law that states that opposite forces attract and like forces repel. 

Like forces repel, opposite forces attract
A month or so later we had moved on to the atom.  We learned the basic structure and parts of the atom, negatively charged electrons orbiting around the nucleus which is made up of positively charged protons and neutral neutrons.  "Wait a minute," I thought to myself.  "Something doesn't jibe here," remembering our magnet experiment.  I raised my hand.

"So all the protons are positive?"  I asked
"Yes, that 's correct."  The teacher answered
"And they're all in a tight little ball in the middle of the atom in the whatchamacallit..."
"The nucleus, yes that's right." She said.  You could almost feel the excitement welling up inside of her as she thought she had finally gotten through to one of us.
"And like forces repel?" I asked.
"Umm.  Yes, they uh, well what I mean to say is..."  She could feel it coming and she knew she was going to have to pull off some fancy intellectual footwork to dance her way around this one.
"So why don't the protons repel each other and go shooting all over the place?  And if opposite forces attract, then why don't those electrons get attracted to the protons?" I asked.
"Hey yeah.  How come atoms aren't blowing themselves apart all over the place?"  A couple of other kids chimed in.

The oxymoronic atom
She swallowed hard enough that it could be heard out in the hallway.  Then all of the color drained from her face.  She was stymied.  She closed her eyes and, in direct violation of then recent court rulings and school policies, she said a silent prayer, asking the Lord for some escape.  He heard her.  The bell rang and we didn't return to the subject of the atom for the rest of the semester.

Quick disclaimer here:  I am not a nuclear physicist.  I have not studied nuclear physics.

I have done a little research on the subject (the operative term here being "little") and discovered how scientists have attempted to explain what holds the atom together.  The force of the protons is pretty strong, so the force that holds them together must be even stronger.  So they call it "the strong force" or "the strong nuclear force" or "the residual strong force".

Apparently the "strong force" is generated by something called quarks.  There are other particles in the nucleus of the atom, smaller than protons and neutrons.  These include some that exist for about a billionth of a second.  There are leptons, mesons, croutons and bacon bits (which have about the same shelf life at my house).  One scientist, in an attempt to differentiate between atoms with varying degrees of stability came up with the idea of "magic numbers".  Those atoms with the "magic number" of protons are the most stable.

Hmmm.  Now I see why my fifth grade teacher was so shaken up.  

Let me go way out on a limb here.  I know I risk the ridicule of the scientific community, armed with their magical quarks and periodic tables, but here I go.  Do you suppose that the "strong force" may be related to what Paul was talking about when he wrote, "He (Jesus) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."?

I'm really not one of those either/or type guys.  I'm perfectly happy to allow the scientists their quarks.  But I also believe that the quarks or croutons or whatever you want to call them could very well be God's way of making all things hold together.  And I suspect that He may have done it that way just to confound us.

I imagine the scene in Heaven at the dawn of creation something like this.  The angels are looking over the plans, double checking them against the various laws of nature that God has ordained.  One of them sees the apparent contradiction I discovered in the fifth grade and takes it to the Lord.

"Umm, Lord?  We may have a small problem here."
"What is it Benny?" the Lord answers.
"Well, uh, we have this like forces repel rule, " Benny starts to explain.
"Yes, that's right." the Lord says.
"But this plan for the atom has all of these positively charged protons crowded together in the nucleus."  Benny goes on.
"And the problem is..." the Lord replies.
"How do we keep all of these atoms from exploding all over the place?" Benny blurts out.
"Don't worry Benny, I'll hold it together." The Lord tells him.
"But Lord, won't that cause mankind all kinds of confusion once they discover these rules and the makeup of the atom?" Benny asks.
"Yes, Benny.  Yes it will."  the Lord says with a smile.

The angels working on the atom get God's joke about the nucleus

To some, the thought that God holds the nucleus of atoms together is foolishness.  They neglect another principle though.  That God uses the foolish things to confound the wise.

And if He made and holds together all things, then we can trust Him to hold us together when we feel like we're being torn apart.  Thanks Jeff, for reminding me of that.  Now I really do need to get back to doing something a little more productive.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What I've Learned In 33 Years Of Marriage

Thirty-three years ago today my wife Teri and I said "I do."  I have spent more than 60% of my life as a married man.  Married to the same woman.  This monogamy business can be hard work.  It has been easy at times, though not often and never for very long.

Thirty-three years ago today.  Happy anniversary darlin'.  I love you.
You do anything for 33 years and you're bound to learn something about it.  I don't know if I qualify as a marriage expert, but I have learned a thing or two.  I share some of what I've managed to learn here.  Ladies, hopefully you'll find a gem or two in here, but this is really targeted at the guys.  (Feel free to print this and leave it on your husband's pillow if it'll help.)  It's for the men for two reasons.  First, I'm a guy and view life and marriage from that masculine perspective.  Second, one of the things I've learned is that I still have a lot to learn about women in general.

This is not an exhaustive list.  (If I shared everything here then you wouldn't buy the book when/if I ever get around to writing it.)  Just 10 nuggets.  Tips if you will, on marriage based on my own experience and observation of other marriages, some not as successful as others.

10 Tips For A Happy Marriage 
  1. Emotions can't be trusted.  I'm not saying that emotions are bad.  Just that they are not subject to the law of rational thought.  Emotion is an important part of love and marriage.  That whole falling in love thing is largely emotional.  But emotions can be affected by many things.  And they tend to swing.  Don't base any big decisions on your own emotions.  Or, for that matter, on any emotional display, good or bad, from your spouse.
  2. Emotions Follow Actions.  If you've been married for longer than 18 months then you know that the initial head-over-heels in love feeling will eventually fade.  That doesn't mean you no longer love your spouse.  It doesn't even mean that you're no longer in love.  It's just proof of rule #1.  You can regain some semblance of that feeling, or any feeling or emotion.  Just do the things you used to do when you felt that way.  If you want to rekindle the old flames of romance then DO something romantic.  Bring your wife flowers in the middle of the week for no reason.  Send her a card in the mail (yes, with a stamp and envelope and everything) that says "I love you" when it's not your anniversary or her birthday or you haven't done something incredibly stupid that you need to make up for.  You get the idea.  If you want to feel a certain way then DO the things that people who feel that way just seem to naturally do.
  3. No, You Could Not Have Done Better.  On occasion I've heard people wonder "what if..."  What if I'd married my high school sweetheart or a super model or that cute check out girl at the supermarket.  I've known people who have looked for old flames on Face Book.  That never ends well.  The grass may look greener over there, but it still needs cut and is probably hiding all types of weeds.  No, you could not have don better in the spouse department.
  4. Consider Yourself Blessed.  Love and marriage are wonderful gifts from God.  If you've managed to find someone that you love and who loves you in return, someone who can put up with you when you're not at your best, who will tolerate your morning breathe, morning hair and various bodily noises, then cherish that person and that relationship as a gift from God.
  5. Time And Gravity Can Be Cruel.  It's an unhappy truth but chances are neither you or your spouse are ever going to look any better than you do right now.  Your hair will recede.  Parts will begin to sag.  That dashing young man you used to be...he's gone, never to return.  The physical, like the emotional, is subject to influences outside of our control.  But this isn't a problem if you've based your relationship on more than just the physical and emotional.
  6. Remember Who You Are.  If you claim to be a Christian then you are a man of God.  Two operative terms there.  "Man," so grow up, man up, quit whining and be one.  Protect your relationship, cherish your wife, take care of your family.  Suck it up, take out the trash and stop thinking about your own needs once in a while.  And "God," so honor Him in the way you treat your spouse and your marriage.
  7. Have A Plan.  This is easier if you sit down with your spouse before you get married.  But even if you've been married for years you can still develop a plan.  Decide who's going to be responsible for what in the relationship.  Who pays the bills every month.  Who does what share of the housework.  Who picks the movie or restaurant. 
  8. Share A Passion.  When you first fall in love it seems like all you want to do is bask in each other's presence.  That's not going to last.  And your kids are going to grow up and move out too.  You're going to need something to talk about, to do together.  Find something that you both enjoy and do it together.  Maybe it's something that one of you already likes and you can teach the other.  Maybe it's something brand new that you both learn about together.  Teri and I took up motorcycling about four years ago and it's become something we love to share.
  9. Never Go To Bed Angry.  The Bible tells us to never let the sun go down on our anger.  Anger (another one of those pesky emotions) is not bad, it's not wrong.  But like any emotion, you can't let it control you or your relationship.  So go ahead and get angry, express that anger in a controlled and rational way.  And then resolve it, BEFORE you call it a day.  Unresolved anger will fester and left unresolved it can kill a relationship.
  10. Love Is An Act Of The Will.  You may have gotten married because you "fell" in love.  But now that you're in the midst of it you have to make up your mind to actually love your spouse, every day, every moment.  Love, the kind God intended when He cooked up this whole husband and wife cleaving together thing, requires a conscious effort and sacrifice.  The willingness to sacrifice isn't enough, you actually have to sacrifice.
  11. BONUS TIP:  LAUGH.  You have to have fun.  Laugh together.  Do something silly once in a while.  Marriage, love and God's presence in our lives is meant to be joyful.  So have some fun.
I hope there's something in there you can use.  You can leave a comment below if you'd like.  Once again, I have to tell Teri "happy anniversary" and thanks for putting up with more so long.  I can't wait to see where we are after the next 33 years.

I've included a little video below.  It's one of my favorite versions of "Happy Anniversary" and an example of Tip #11.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pizza, Fishing, A Donkey & Mysterious Ways

Sometimes I think that I should never be surprised by the ways God works and the things He chooses to use to accomplish His purpose.  After all, if He could open the mouth of a donkey to reprimand a wayward prophet (see the story of Balaam in Numbers chapter 22) then I shouldn't be amazed (or so I tell myself) when He uses a pizza or a fishing trip to work in someone's life.

Balaam, his donkey and the angel of the Lord.
About 10 years ago we did a contest called "The Street of the Day."  Every day we'd announce the name of a particular street somewhere in our listening area.  If you happened to live on that street you could get a free pizza.  That was pretty much the extent of the contest.  You didn't have to register or perform any kind of zany stunt.  You just had to live on the street we picked that day and you could get a free pizza.  Of course you had to listen to us on the radio to hear the name of the street.  Not the biggest prize we've ever given away.  I admit I wasn't crazy about this contest.  It wasn't terrible, but it really wasn't the type of flashy big ticket kind of thing we were so fond of doing back then.
Then the amazing happened.  I took a phone call in the studio from a lady who was on the verge of tears, but the good kind, happy, joyful, thankful tears.  She had been in the car worrying how she was going to feed her kids that day.  Times had been rather tough for her, the money was about gone and she was nearing the end of her rope.  She happened to be listening to us when we called out the "Street of the Day."  Yeah.  She lived on that street. 

Now if you have an ounce of cynic in you, I know what you're thinking--cause I have about a pound of it in me.  How much difference could one pizza possibly make?  Well, to this lady, quite a bit.  For her it was much more than a pizza and something much closer to the miraculous than to happenstance that her street happened to be chosen that day.  For her it was an answer to prayer and a reason to hang on to hope.  By the time she was done talking we were both crying.  As I retold her story to other staff members later in the day there were more tears and a sense of awe at how God had taken something we believed to be so trivial and used it to accomplish His will and demonstrate His love.
Right now we're doing another contest.  This one is "The Summer To Remember."  We have a couple of different prize packages we're giving away.  All listeners need to do is go to our website (shameless plug here--j933.com--) and register.  Every couple of weeks we do a random drawing and then start registering people for the next prize package.  Pretty simple.  Our first prize package was a fishing trip for a dad and his kid with a B.A.S.S. fishing pro.  Nice prize package if you fish.
We drew the winning entry and then tracked him down on the phone.  The winner was a 12-year-old young man named Colt.  His mom and dad had divorced about three years ago.  So now Colt usually only sees his dad on the weekend.  Oh, Colt has three younger sisters and all four them spend the weekend with their dad together.  That leaves precious little opportunity for Colt and his dad, Steve, to have any one-on-one guy time.  I've talked with Colt once or twice and had the good fortune to get to meet him in person.  He's a fine young man.  But if you know anything about 12-year-old boys, even the fine ones like Colt, then you know they need, on occasion, the undivided attention of their father.

When we told Colt that he'd won he said, "I've been asking my dad to take me fishing for weeks, and now this...this is amazing.  Thank you so much."

Colt and his dad and his sisters were at the studio with me this morning, helping announce the winner of the latest prize package in "The Summer To Remember."  Both Colt and his dad had a great time on the fishing trip.  Colt caught over a dozen fish and had a day alone with his dad that he'll always remember.

Steve and Colt Dooley

And once again, there's that sense of awe.  You'd think I'd expect this kind of thing by now.  But maybe it's good that I can still be amazed by God's mysterious ways, so much higher than our own ways.  This kind of thing is what makes ministry so rewarding.  Hearing the quiver of in a voice about to break from sheer joy.  Seeing the smiles on the faces of a father and son who love one another.  And what awes me the most is that God is so merciful that He allows us to play a part in how He accomplishes these things.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The More Things Change...

We've been doing a lot of reminiscing this summer.  At J93.3 we're promoting it as "The Summer To Remember," with some great prize packages targeted at helping listeners make memories.  A few weeks ago on the morning show we did a "Flashback Friday," playing a boatload of old songs that triggered memories of a more innocent time (we'll be doing another Flashback Friday this week, 7/8).

All of this memory lane stuff has me thinking about my Grandma Williams.  Grandma was born at the turn of the last century and went home to be with the Lord just a month shy of her 94th birthday.  Grandma saw a lot of things change during her lifetime.  She lived through two World Wars, multiple conflicts in southeast Asia and the Middle East, the Great Depression, Cold War, energy crisis and 18 U.S. presidents; McKinley was president when she was born and Clinton was in the White House when she died.

Grandma witnessed the beginning of air travel, radio, television, mass production of the automobile, the space program and man's first steps on the moon.  She claimed the weather was never the same after Neil Armstrong took that "one giant leap for mankind."  Not all the changes she lived through were good.  And whenever some new fangled technology would fail to live up to its promise she would say, "Well, that's progress for ya."

The one change that Grandma always welcomed though was the change wrought in someone's heart through the grace of God in Jesus.  She couldn't get enough of that, especially when it happened to family members.  Through all the "progress" of the 20th century, through all the change and innovation, Grandma was secure in her faith.  Because she based it on the promise found in Hebrews 13:8, that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.  And that fact, Grandma always taught us, was worth always remembering.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Money Saving Tips Have A Limit

I broke down and turned on the AC at home on Sunday, 7/3.  We managed to get through over 21 straight days of 90 degree plus weather, but on Sunday the humidity coupled with the heat was too much for some in my household to bear.

Now some may not think running the AC isn't such a big deal, and others can't bear to live without it.  For me it was a budgetary thing.  We had made it through all of the summer of 2010 without it, and I was shooting for the same low utility bills this year.  But we do have young children living with us now, so I bit the bullet and flipped the thermostat to "cool." 

There are other ways we're trying to be thrifty at my house.  We're making a real effort to consolidate our trips to save a little money on gas.  We've cut back on the premium package on our cable TV service and we're looking at dropping the land line home phone all together, since we all have cell phones.

 Here's me, saving money on gas and having a great time doing it.

My favorite money saving move is the motorcycle.  Granted, that's not the main reason I bought it.  It's not even the main reason I ride it still.  But it is nice to get 58 miles per gallon while having a great time.

I guess I'll have to find somewhere else to cut back to make up for running the AC this summer.  But I do have to admit it's nice to be able eat dinner without working up a sweat.