Janice Boekhoff

Fecal Samples

Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy

© Elisa Locci | Dreamstime Stock Photos

My previous job was in the field of hydrogeology. One project I helped with involved the collection of fecal samples. Yes, I said fecal, also known as poop. It wasn’t the most glamorous part of the job, but it had a purpose. We wanted to compare the bacteria in the fecal samples to bacteria we found in water. In natural waters, it’s common to find fecal bacteria, especially in the Midwest. I used a swab, the kind you might see on CSI, to collect samples of poop from cows, deer, pigs and geese. Until I started this project, I didn’t know that when a cow first stands up it will usually poop right away. So I spent quite a bit of time prodding cows to their feet. Knowing all this may not enrich your life, nor did it mine, but I was fascinated by the goal of the project.

We analyzed the DNA from the bacteria in the fecal samples and compared it with the DNA of the bacteria we found in the water to see if we could identify the source of the bacteria. Sometimes the source came up cow, often geese, and sometimes pig, depending on the watershed. The different DNA wouldn’t match up exactly, but it would fall into rough groups according to the source of the bacteria. Why would this happen? Because different kinds of bacteria inhabit the guts of different kinds of animals, and their DNA (of the bacteria) gives them away, just like the color of my hair, the slope of my nose and the shape of my eyes gives me away.

My DNA is quite literally the instructions on how to make me. Similar to a recipe, only instead of making brownies, my DNA makes Janice Boekhoff. Where does all this information come from? Well, simply put, intelligence organizes information. We don’t find flour, oil, eggs, water, sugar and cocoa organizing into brownies on their own (only in my most favorite dreams where I’m swimming in a pool of brownie batter). Some sort of intelligence is needed for that. Why would we think the building blocks to make a human being would organize on their own?

God, the ultimate source of information, gave DNA to everything that needed instructions, even bacteria. More information is stored in DNA than can be found in a thousand books. Could a thousand books write themselves (and actually make sense as instruction manuals) through random processes?

Where all this information came from is an issue everyone has to address in some way, because the information is here. We exist.


Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2


What is wrong with this word? Nothing, unless you know that I meant to type Holy. Only a difference of two letters and yet the meaning is completely changed.

Our lives can be the same way. We might be doing pretty well in our spiritual walk, only hiding a few things from God. But those small things will make a huge difference, affecting every facet of our life, including our witness for Him. If you haven’t completely surrendered all parts of your life to Him, I urge you to do so. Why would you want to settle for less than the great plans He has for you? Plans that can only be fulfilled if you and He work together.

Dear Lord, search my life, help me to confess anything that does not conform to Your will. Please use me for Your eternal glory. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Fun Science Fact

ID 23471496 © Ryan Faas | Dreamstime.com      ID 28394049 © Ryan Faas | Dreamstime.com

Okay, so this isn’t so much a fun science fact. It’s more of an amazing human activity. Recently, a friend clued me in to the very new extreme sport of volcano boarding. I couldn’t find any non-copyright-infringing photos of this, so try to imagine the girl above sliding down the Cerro Negro volcano in Nicaragua (picture on left) using only that sled/surfboard looking thing. Amazing, right?

The goggles and full body jumpsuit are necessary because that’s crushed up volcanic rock they’re surfing on. Volcanic rock is composed of quite a lot of silica (also known as glass). Like snowboarding on glass. I’m guessing it’s not too much fun if you wipeout, but it looks like a fun ride!

For more on the sport, including much better pictures, see this site: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2013/06/27/seriously-hot-sport-volcano-boarding/

Field Camp


Photo by Janice Boekhoff, taken on field camp in Wyoming (notice the tiny people on the road)

Every prospective geologist must go to field camp before they graduate. If you graduate from a large school, then you go to field camp with your fellow geology students whom you have known for years. But if you go to a smaller school, like me, which doesn’t have their own camp, then you end up going to a larger school’s field camp. So basically I went to field camp with four of my classmates and somewhere around thirty strangers.

That may not sound so bad unless you know what field camp is all about. I showered in group showers with the girls (including my professor’s wife). I climbed mountains with the guys and had to hide behind tiny scrub bushes when I had to go to the bathroom (no restrooms on the side of a mountain). We froze together in the beginning of the season, we got heat stroke together near the end, and suffered through rashes, spider bites, and rattlesnakes. We hung off the side of unstable cliffs two hundred feet up from the highway (well, I didn’t, but I bit my nails twenty feet back from the edge). We worried over one of our professors, some 70 plus years old, who would waver and sway on the trails. He almost fell to his death at least five times. Thankfully, he survived field camp, as did the rest of us.

I came to know those thirty strangers quite well, but what pulled me through the struggles of field camp wasn’t my companions. It was my love of rocks, especially fossils. I came back with fossils of cyanobacteria (called stromatolites), gastroliths (stones used by some dinosaurs to grind up food in their bellies), nautiloids and more brachiopods (ancient clam shells) than I could count. Like most fossils, these are grouped together in deposits of different rocks and don’t usually overlap, with the exception of nautiloids and brachiopods.

At the time, I didn’t question anything my professors said at camp. I believed them when they said the fossilized animals lived hundreds of millions of years apart. And I never asked why they believed this. Later, I discovered the reason. Because the fossils are found in such discrete groups and because my professors believed the rocks were laid down slowly with burial occurring during local floods. However, I came to realize the discrete groups of fossils could just as easily be explained by the burial of animals living in different habitats, as the water rose during a global flood.

One global flood or many local ones? I look to the Bible for my answer and what I see in the rock record gives me no reason to doubt it. Fossils are the remnants of amazing creatures, many now extinct, that our creator left for us to appreciate. Even the rocks declare His majesty.


This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

After a particularly bad fight with my son, I went up to his room and sat next to his bed. I could tell from the rhythmic breathing that he’d already fallen asleep. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I thought about the difficult year we’d had, how things seemed to be coming to a head. I wondered if we might come to a turning point, a point after which everything changes.

And then, in the glow of the nightlight, I had an epiphany. They are all turning points. Every moment of every day I make choices: good, bad and ugly. In each of those moments I get to choose. I can constantly re-invent my life just by making a different choice.

But sometimes feelings get in the way. Feelings are like the Iowa weather: wait five minutes and they will change. When I base my day on how I feel, I take away the choice to decide on my attitude and my actions.

I don’t know yet whether my son will choose to make his first moment tomorrow a turning point, but I will. I pray that each of us sees the power in the choices we have for just this moment.

Dear Lord, thank you for the freedom that comes with free will. Give us Your wisdom to control our emotions and make every day a turning point, a point when we turn toward You. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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