Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Wilderness Connection

I read an article in The Oregonian this past week entitled, “Nature in Our Nature.” (The Oregonian, 5/27/09, pg. B1) Researchers have discovered that we humans have a connection to nature that is vital to our existence. Evidently, people heal faster from surgery when exposed to the natural world than if not. Also, heart rate, mental well being, and anxiety all are affected by our exposure to nature. And, it’s not just the visual that is important, it is the experience of nature that makes all the difference. When patients were put in a room with a video presentation of a wilderness scence they did not respond as well as when they opened a window where they could see, hear and smell the outdoor environment.

What does this mean? We are interconnected with the natural world. Many tribal and indigenous cultures live very close to nature. They take names for themselves from the geography and animal world around them. Their religion celebrates and includes the natural world. They wear ceremonial dress that mimics the animals of the wilderness. In short, they see themselves as “part” of nature, not distinct from it. Genesis 1:28 tells us, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’...” People have often misused this mandate from God to abusively “lord over” creation. This passage does teach us that we are supreme in creation. We are the capstone of creation, but we are still part of it. We are told that God created us from the “ground” (Gen. 2:7), which is a fact in and of itself declaring our interconnection to nature. God put Adam and Eve in to the world to “tend” the garden, not rape it (Gensis 2:15). I applaud those who have sought to protect and preserve the garden from exploitation. Men like John Muir, David Brower, Edward Abbey and David Suzuki. These are the people that have understood the need for blank spots on the map and that, even if no man goes there, we need undeveloped wilderness. Why? God made us interconnected with the natural world. We are part of the ecosystem. It is not optional, but essential for us to experience wilderness and live as part of it. This is not my idea. I am not making it up because it sounds cool, or it’s politically correct, or it fits in to my personal desires. I am just a messenger reporting on what God has already said and what my fellow humans have found to be essential for healthy and wholesome living.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Noah Put Camelids on the Ark

When Noah gathered up the animals to put on the ark he evidently included camelids. There are Camelids all over the world today, from North Africa to South America. We all have seen the Middle Eastern Camel, but Mongolians have their own funky looking version of camel. Then there are the South American Llamas and Alpacas that originated from the Vicuna, which is in the Camelid family. It is likely that Noah put a Camelid on the ark, from which all these various Camelids find their origin. I wonder what that original pair of Camelids looked like?

I have included photos of the two new Cria (baby llamas) born to Kissy and Fancy Pants. Fancy Pants, in the first photo at the top, gave birth to Aspen. Kissy, the next photo below, is the mother of Glacier. Right now the only way I can tell the difference between the Cria is by their noses. Glacier has a slightly longer and ridged nose, whereas Aspen's nose is shorter and straight.

I intend to use them as breeders, so they will spend a lot of their years breeding, carrying, and giving birth to their own Cria. Their Sire is Quartz, who is a fine pack stud owned by Joyce O'Halloran. My own stud, Apollo, is still learning how to be a stud, but I am hoping that this year he will be able to breed with the females. Last year I had Fancy Pants and Kissy analyzed by breeding experts who graded them as Cara Llamas. Cara Llamas are bred to be workers/packers, which is the kind of llama I want to use for my own purposes. These llamas look athletic, have longer legs, and possess a "double coat" of hair. The double coat is a layer of fine insulating wool close to the skin with a layer of long guard hair on top. This characteristic double coat keeps them warm at night in the cold mountain air, but cool during the day when they are working.

Be sure to check out the video by clicking on the title of this post. They are delightful creatures.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jesse Won The 2009 NAIA National Javelin Championship Today!

I want to congratulate my son Jesse on his fine performance today at the NAIA National Track and Field Championships. Jesse rose from a 5th place season ranking to win the competition with a throw of 223'3" as a Freshman. He is now the National Champion with a 15' improvement over his personal best! A week ago Jesse got off a season best of 205'7" for a third place finish behind his team mates, Paul Roshau and Eric Whalen, at the Cascade Conference Championships. Paul was 3rd today with a throw of 220' and Eric was 5th at 210'6". Paul is a Junior and Eric is Jesse's roomate and fellow Freshman thrower. The fact is, any one of these three were capable of winning today, it was just Jesse's time. I think this means that the Javelin is alive and well at Concordia for next year! Up until today the season has been a little lack luster for Jesse, given that he threw 208' last year as a senior in high school. Many of us knew it would probably be a tough year for Jesse, since he was revamping and recrafting his technique. It's been a lot of hard training and a good bit of patience for Jesse to get to this point today. We all kept wondering when he would finally "get it". Well, today he "got it". Throughout most of the season he has had to sacrifice distance to keep working the proper technique, trusting that it would eventually get him that long throw. During several conversations with Mac Wilkins this year he would say to me, "Joe, Jesse is a 220' javelin thrower. It's just a matter of time before it all clicks." I have to hand it to his coaches, Scott Halley and Mac Wilkins, for their faith in Jesse and their willingness to do the hard work of shaping him, instead of trying to pressure him to force out a long throw before he was technically ready. Last, and most importantly, I have to hand it to Jesse for the "never give up" attitude he displayed all year. I remember many an evening where he vented his frustration to me about his training. But, he just kept pounding away at the drills day after day. He is now an example to me of the power of perseverance and belief in what is possible. Cheers to Mac, Scott and Jesse! Now it's off to Norway for more training.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jesse Is Going To Norway!

As Jesse completes his first year throwing for Concordia University he will be transitioning to train and compete in Norway for the summer. Jesse's final competition for Concordia will be at the National Championships in St. Louis, May 20-23. On June 1 he will be off to Osolo Norway until he returns the first week of August. Jesse will be staying with his new friend and throwing companion, Magnus Berntsen, who lives in a small town outside of Osolo. Magnus is so tall he had to squat to get down to Jesse's 6'1" level for the picture! They drink a lot of milk over in Norge. He was one of the top junior discus throwers last year in Europe. Magnus stayed with us for a week and went to school at a JC near Concordia so that he could be coached by Mac Wilkins at Concordia. The picture in this post shows Jesse with Magnus at a recent throwers dinner in our barn. This is an opportunity for Jesse to train with some of the best javelin throwers and coaches in the country of Norway, which is a paradise for javelin throwers. Javelin throwing is as popular in Norway as basketball is to Americans! This is a trip of a life time, so we are hoping that Jesse will get all that he can from this experience and at the same time be a blessing to our Norge brothers and sisters.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Transcendence: A New Way to Think of Selflessness

Yesterday I was at a memorial service for a young man named Bo Jacobson who went to school with my oldest son, Joseph. He died a couple of weeks ago in a tragic accident while snorkeling in Fiji. I remember Bo as a very lively and extroverted fellow, who genuinely loved people. During the memorial service a number of individuals went up to the podium to eulogize Bo, but one person in particular described Bo in a way that I have never heard anyone described before. It was his former college football coach at Puget Sound University and he described Bo as a “transcendent” person. He defined this term as, someone who selflessly rises above himself and does what is best for others in the community. Bo looked out for the best interest of the football team and not just himself. The testimonies about Bo went on for almost three hours, but that uniquely worded description of Bo as “transcendent” stood out to me among all the complimentary eulogies given about him. I so much like the term that I plan on using it in the future as a new way to think about selflessness. It is the perfect word.

In my Christian tradition “Transcendence” is a word reserved for God. God's Transcendence refers to his “otherness”, his "holiness", his standing “above” and “outside” all that he has created. No mortal being can even approximate this kind of transcendence. However, I think it is the perfect word when referring to a person who rises above himself to become conscious of a greater purpose than himself. Jesus was certainly the epitome of this kind of transcendence. The Apostle Paul said that Jesus stepped outside of his divine privileges and status in order to identify with us and sacrifice himself for us. He considered the accomplishment of our redemption a goal more important than exulting in his own divine position.

One of the ways we playfully poke fun at babies is to say that the “world revolves around them.” We expect babies to behave as though everyone around them exists to serve their interests. It’s part of their survival mechanism to be needy. But, when adults act like this we react with either disgust or pity for them. We expect adults to grow out of that immaturity and become aware of the needs of others around them. “Transcendence” is a word referring to the epitome of maturity. The mature person sees that there is interconnectedness between them and those around them. They understand that they cannot be truly happy, or fulfilled, or do their best to accomplish their life calling unless they transcend themselves and work for the interests of others, a purpose greater than themselves, and the common good. Abraham Maslow observed that it is innately human to crave fulfillment. However, isn't it ironic that to be fulfilled we cannot focus on our desire to satisfy it, but instead we come by fulfillment as a byproduct of our transcendence. This is one of those spiritual laws that can be tried and proven through experience. Don't ask, but observe anyone who is truly happy and fulfilled in life. You will see that for them fulfillment does not come from their money, power, influence, health, or satisfaction of sensual pleasures, but through their devotion to the well being of others and ideals greater than their own private desires. For me, Bo Jacobson's legacy will live on in one word, "transcendence".