Saturday, February 28, 2009

Clay for Soul

It keeps happening: people keep trying to substitute physical objects or interpretations for spiritual realities.  Three events stick out in my mind: watching Van Helsing with my cousins, discussing the Da Vinci code with a labmate, and listening to a Christian singer on the radio discuss her song. 
    Van Helsing is a movie chock full of werewolves and vampires.  Van Helsing is the member of a secretive group of ecumenicals who have fought the forces of darkness for generations.  Of course, their strategy isn't to bring tortured souls to repentance, but to kill them before they can kill someone else.  But what can I say?  Living by Scripture is too narrow: the Buddhists in this group of commandoes would mutiny if they tried that!
    After rapidly dispatching Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde and other homicidal maniacs, Van Helsing is called upon to face a new monster.  He takes with him a promiscuous Friar with a promising bag of untried inventions.  As Van Helsing fights flying vampwomen, I was amazed by the tunnel vision of the movie.  Van Helsing never even prays.  He never needs outside spiritual help: all of his solutions are purely physical.  Sure, the vampires and the werewolves might seem unearthly.  But never fear.  Their demise can be brought about by purely physical means.  If dousing them with holy water doesn't do the trick and crossing yourself doesn't restore your frame of mind, try using a specially-dipped arrow, a silver bullet, or a good solid flash of light.
    It really was disappointing.  But I should've known better.  Hadn't I realized since the days of computer games on the Apple II that you could chase off vampires with nothing more than garlic?
    There is a spiritual dimension to life, and it cannot be dispelled by the mere waft of garlic.

    About two weeks ago a labmate asked what I thought about the Da Vinci code.  I didn't go into a lot of detail, but I told her that I see it as a complete distraction from who Jesus is and why He was on earth.  After all, Jesus' mission was to come and die and rise again so that we could have life.  The Da Vinci code misses this completely.  After our conversation was over, I thought over what I knew about the book.  I thought about my initial disbelief over the stupidity of the book's premise: that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a daughter, and that daughter had started a line of initiated people who preserved the "truth" about Jesus.  Comparing the actual story of Jesus' life to this kind of slop exposes the Da Vinci code for the soap opera/romance novel that it is.  I'm dumbfounded by people's refusal to believe that Jesus remained a virgin throughout His life.  And I'm amazed by people's attempt to reduce Christ's legacy to cloak-and-dagger protection of stupid secrets.  Christ's movement on earth is occuring through the power of the Holy Spirit, not just by the will of man.
    The second instance of trying to reduce the spiritual realm into the physical realm came tonight.  A gospel singer who'd had a hit was describing her song.  She said that she hoped it summed up what a lot of people felt, but might never have heard put into words.  She wanted to express what Jesus left us on earth.  So far, so good.  I'm thinking about Jesus leaving us the Holy Spirit.  But that's not where she's going.  She started listing the things Jesus left on earth.  And they were all physical.  She said that he left food for the 5,000 ("and could they ever be the same after eating that food?")  Uh, yeah.  They were.  They digested that food.  It was gone.  That's why they came back the next day for Jesus-style Buffet.  Jesus tried directing them to spiritual truth, but by-and-large they rejected that tripe and asked for the stuff they'd had the day before.  So by the time that Jesus was taken up to heaven, the bread and fish he'd passed out had long been returned to the only circle of life I believe in: the cycling of atoms between different molecules in different locations. 
She singer went on with her list as I processed her claims.  Jesus left His clothes for a Roman soldier ("and could He ever be the same after touching those clothes?").  Well, this is the first time in recorded history that "leaving someone clothes" meant that the clothes stripped off your back and won by the jail warden that turned up the ace and the king were bequeathed by you to the jail warden.  I'd just call that malicious theft, heartless haggling, and merciless opportunism.  I really doubt that the warden felt some magical tingle when he touched Jesus' clothes.  The only magical tingle he felt was when he turned up the ace and the king.  Sure, the woman with pernicious anemia got healed when touched Jesus' clothes, but that's because He was wearing them.  Sorry to dissapoint y'all, but it was Jesus that did the healing: not his dirt-covered tunic!  Of the two Romans as being at the foot of the cross, it's the one that didn't get anything from Jesus that "got" it all.  He's the one that said "Surely this was the Son of God."
I'm sure there's other examples that she went into, but I didn't wait to listen.  I was concerned about the conclusions she had drawn, and disturbed by her disregard for Jesus' spiritual gifts.  Jesus' enduring legacy is not in the bread and fish that people gobbled down, or in the clothes that some greasy Roman got.  Jesus' legacy is His church: us, His followers.

This disturbing emphasis on the physical aspects of a spiritual event or person is what leads Catholics to collect relics (who gets Peter's right hand?  We've got dibs on his left hand!  Anybody know how we ended up with three feet?), and can distract both non-believers and believers from a true understanding of reality.  Sure, the physical may be what we consider to be more familiar, more comfortable.  We might feel empowered by the idea that freaky spiritual beings can be held at bay by a bottle of water from the Jordan River, the vertical and horizontal movements of our hand over our breast, or a specially treated bullet applied to their breast.  We might like to speculate about whether or not Jesus got married and had a kid.  We might get sentimental about the physical leftovers a great spiritual leader leaves behind.  But are we trying to substitute our druthers for reality?  Are we afraid to consider spiritual truth?
      What's beautiful is that Christ unites the physical and the spiritual aspects of reality.  He himself was instanteously human and God: the first and last time that will ever happen!  And He created us as physical and spiritual beings.  (That's what cracks me up when someone says "Oh, he's spiritual.  I want to laugh and say "So are you!")  And He leaves us a physical and a spiritual commission. 
"Therefore go (physical) and make disciples (spiritual) of all nations (nations made up of men who are instantaneously physical & spiritual), baptizing them (physical & spiritual) in the name of the Father (spiritual) and of the Son (physical and spiritual) and of the Holy Spirit (spiritual), and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always (spiritual), to the very end of the age (physical)."  (Matthew 28:19-20).
    In short, Jesus knows what He's doing.  He knew how much his belongings would have been fought over if He'd left them in a time capsule in His mom's backyard.  So He didn't leave them in a time capsule in His mom's backyard.  He knew how many pieces the Catholics would chop His body up into if He left that behind.  So He didn't leave it behind.  (Besides, there was the whole "conquering death" and "fulfilling prophecy" thing!).  There's so many people that would love to have a physical bit of Jesus' belongings that there just wouldn't be enough to go around.  And anyway, if we did have a bit of the toy sheep that he played with when He was two, it'd probably do nothing more than distract us from the fact that He was the Lamb of God.
So don't feel bad if your family didn't bequeath a Shroud of Turin to you.  But praise God if they told you about the spiritual inheritance you can claim in Christ!
   You see, Jesus gave us everything that was His.  For starters, He gave us this world that He created.  After we bungled that setup, He gave Himself in our place, to redeem us and restore our relationship with His father.  He freely offers us His body: "And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' (Luke 22:19)
    We can't reduce the spooky spritual dimension to a physical dimension we think we can manage.  It isn't, and we can't.  Jesus didn't need physical descendants to carry on His work.  He has spiritual descendants (us!).  Jesus didn't bequeath merely physical, moth-eaten souveniors to satisfy childish desires.  He gave us salvation, hope, an inheritance, and His Holy Spirit.  His supply will never run dry, and He offers these gifts freely to everyone.

"I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.  I am the bread of life.  Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."  Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'  Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.'  He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.  On hearing it, many of his disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?'  Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, 'Does this offend you?  What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before!  The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.'" (John 6:47-63).

Friday, February 27, 2009

Research verses

Here's some verses that have really encouraged me about research:

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy." (Psalm 126:5)

"Then he continued, 'Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.'" (Daniel 10:12)

"One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore.  Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.  When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, 'Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.'
"Simon answered, 'Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything.  But because you saw so, I will let down the nets.'
"When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.  When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'  For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.  Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men.'  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him." (Luke 5:1-11)

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7)

"I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men!"  (Ecclesiastes 1:13)

"Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.  You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you." (Psalm 86:2)

"...the gracious hand of his God was on him.  For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel." (Ezra 7:9b-10)

"Artaxerxes, king of kings, To Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven: Greetings." (Ezra 7:12)

"Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again." (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

"...Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body." (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

"Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers righteousness on you." (Hosea 10:12)

"Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!" (Deuteronomy 5:29)

"David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might" (2 Samuel 6:14)

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

"So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.  When Arioch, the commander of the king's guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact.  He asked the king's officer, "Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?" Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel.  At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.  Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His.  He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.  I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king."

"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2)

"Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?" (Job 37:16)

"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things." (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." (Proverb 27:1)

No... the OTHER Robert Crichton

I was at an educational conference (uggh!) last semester.  I'd been zoning out as the English prof rambled on, but then a name caught my ear.  "Robert Crichton."  The speaker was saying "...sad about losing Robert Crichton..." and I couldn't believe my ears.  How did someone in English know about Robert Crichton?  C'mon: I'd just found out about one corner of his research into iron metabolism.  And he's dead?  And this prof knew about it?
     So that was last semester.  This semster (yesterday to be exact) I was looking for Robert Crichton's faculty page.  When I googled "Robert Crichton," I discovered that there was more than one Robert Crichton in the world.  All the hits were for a fiction author named Robert Crichton.  So the mystery was explained...!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Federal god

Well, whatever your worldview, you'd probably agree that this is a crucial time in America's history.  I get emails from a student activist group, and it was interesting to hear how they expressed their concern and their goals:

Right now is a critical turning point for our country. We have the opportunity to remake America, but it will be up to us to ensure that Obama and our leaders in DC work to restore our civil and human rights, address a national healthcare crisis and work towards ending global poverty.

Hmmm.... my goal is less to "remake" and more to "restore" America.  I wasn't aware that "civil and human rights" had been eroded under Bush's watch -- but I suppose this could be a reference to Guantanamo Bay or even Bush's perrenniel refusal to fund the expansion of stem cell research or abortion-on-demand.  (And by the way, what is a "civil" right?  Zooming out even more, what is a "right"?  From Whom are rights derived?  If there is no God, is there such a thing as a right?).  Crisis?  This is the favorite word of social engineers, because it's not until something has been labeled a crisis that they can insert their hands into the nation's abdominal cavity and get to real work.  As I see it, there's not a national healthcare crisis until people are turned away from hospitals.  That's not happening in this country, but it very well could if Obama & Co. get their hands on the system.  So, if they have their way, I expect a national healthcare crisis to ensue.  Though, of course, it won't be called that if it happens.  If we sell out to socialism, healthcare will get worse in our country.  The newspapers and nationalized media will preach a revisionist brand of history that talks about the evils of helathcare under demoniacs like Bush.  If things get worse, conditions can more easily be endured if a constant barrage of information about "how bad it was before" is unleashed.  And who will dare remember that it wasn't as bad as all that?
    Oh, and it's also comforting to know that Obama will not only trade our God-given inalienable rights (such as the right-to-life, liberty, property, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly) for fictionalized "rights" that are worth about as much as a fistful of Monopoly money.  He not only has this ability, but the ability to start a healthcare crisis under the guise of addressing one, and the power to erradicate poverty -- something no ruler has ever been able to do.
    Ah, here's a strategy.  Change the definition of the word "poverty."  Define "poverty" as living in an economy governed by a free market.  Then offer the solution: a totalitarian regime.  Or change the definition of the word poverty to "living without hope of receiving federal assistance."  Then increase taxes to the point that everyone starts taking federal dollars and the GDP decreases until we're all wallowing in poverty.  At that point there'll be no striking contrast between ordinary citizens, just between the citizen and the bureaucrat.  But, of course, the bureaucrats are the anointed.  Who are we to compare ourselves with those anointed by our Leader?  We got this one nailed!
    I'm struck by the blank check that this student activist organization is writing for Obama.  The three areas they list are incredibly vague and open-ended.  If I was Obama, I would be delighted to hear the unquestioning allegiance this student group was giving.  There's no queasiness about the executive branch developing elephantitis.  There's no underlying questioning of the constitutionality of the federal government increasing its strangle-hold on healthcare, or striving to become a God-like omnipotent who waves his staff and dismisses all wrongs. 
    Just as a reminder, Barack Hussein Obama is a man.  No more, no less.  The men and women serving on his cabinet are men and women.  No more, no less.  The senators and representatives sitting in session or buying subs in the Capital are men and women, no more, no less.  The nine men and women comprising the Supreme Court are men and women.  We who elect these men and women (or elect the the one who appoints Supreme Court justices) are men and women: no more, no less.  Yes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  But that does not mean that adding together a group men and women magically makes God.  It only makes a god.  And if you thought that the gods of Greek and Roman mythology were capricious, driven by appetites, or factional and petty, you ain't seen nothing like the federal god.  Do not question: it is the word of god.  Do not hold back: the god requires it.  Do not think subversive thoughts: the god is watching you.
    And you thought the God of the Bible was restrictive?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Focusing on Fuzziness

Just as the eye was designed to focus on an object, so the mind was designed to focus on thoughts.  There's factors that can keep you from focusing with your eyes: fatigue, being too close to an object, or trying to focus on a rippling or otherwise rapidly moving object.  It's kind of surprising how the same factors can keep the mind from focusing on a thought.  If you're tired, your brain can refuse to focus.  If you're emotionally connected with a question you're discussing in a group, others would say you're too close to be objective.  Finally, if the circumstances around an issue are rapidly changing, it can be hard to make up your mind about it.
    But the most important thing about the similarity between the eye's ability to focus on an object an the mind's ability to focus on a thought is that they were designed for this purpose.  There's a good deal of fuzzy thinking out there, and there's not much shame attached to it.  Regardless of the spirit in which you try to correct faulty thinking, the very act of pointing out fuzzy logic can get you labeled intolerant.  After all, it's easier to manipulate a person who can only see the fuzzy outline of a threatening object, or the fuzzy outline of a bankrupt idea.  For those who specialize in manipulation, they can see the idea clearly and accept it in all its ugliness, it's paramount that their followers would never be taught to appreciate or practice clear sight or clear thinking.  Horrors, they might reject the object once they saw it, or reject the idea once they knew what it was!  It's easier to get universal acceptance if there's a haze of uncertainty surrounding something.  That way, if someone took issue with the idea you only dimly understood, you could always tell them they'd completely misunderstood.  The fuzziness surrounding The Idea can be an invitation to exert your creativity: to mold the idea into what you want it to be, and stifle your interest in ever knowing what it actually is.
    While I've contributed my dues to the Fuzzy Thinking Club, it's time that I begin to think clearly, reject faulty logic, recognize and then accept truth.  After all, that's what God created my mind to do.
    Talking about fuzzy thinking, abortion is a timely example of manipulators in action.  It's true that some abortion activists know the ugliness of abortion firsthand.  The abortionist, the nurses: how can they help but see the death that is their product?  Somehow they're able to rationalize their actions.  But are these the activists that are holding signs or lobbying for increased funding of abortions?  By and large, no.  The activists are often those swept up in a fog of fuzzy thinking, who have taken the fuzzy ideas shown to them, and recreated them to be what they please.  They do not even have the clear images of the act of abortion to rationalize away.  Moving out from the center of the killing fields, the target whose bull's eye is an unborn baby, there are many people who are content with the fuzzy ideas their brains are free to interpret.  The words "safe" and "legal" can mean whatever they want them to mean: the vast majority will never see the girl dying of an infection resulting from nonsterile conditions in an unregulated clinic, the guilt that envelops the one-time mother who winces at the sound of a vacuum, the money raked in by an establishment rooted in exploitation and misinformation, the crimes "taken care of" by a forced operation, or the end product of the "right" they proclaim -- the dead, lifeless body that is somebody's daughter, somebody's son.
    I realize that shock talk isn't palatable to a lot of people.  And it is important to see the bright side of this discussion.  Look at a father with his son perched up on his shoulder.  Look at a mother kissing her baby on her head.  See the plan that God had for love among family members.  See it clearly: focus on it.  The more clearly you see the love of God demonstrated in the family, the more horrific -- I guarantee you -- the wanton murders of abortion will appear to you.
    Or, take Satan's way.  Allow him to convince you to only half look at the wonder of familial love, to never focus on the atrocity of murder before birth.  If you never focus on God's beautiful plan for family, and the perverse twist that Satan is enacting, you might not be struck by the contrast between them.  But focus, and then you will see.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cog. James Cog.

On the back of Schaefer's book Escape from Reason there's a summary.  It talks about the modern view of man as a cog in a machine, and how when nature swallows up grace, all a man can rationally do is to despair.
I had heard about this idea of a "cog in a machine" in books, but it wasn't until last weekend that I actually heard it come from a man.  The man was the author of the opera "Rapaccini's Daughter."  From what I gathered on the NPR program I was listening to, the man being interviewed used elements from Hawthorne's short story as well as a play that had already been written about this story.  The general plot follows the tragic love story of a girl and a guy.  The girl's old man has fed her poisonous plants from Day #1 which (good news) makes her immune to their poison, but (bad news) makes her poisonous to everyone else.  (Something tells me that some people should limit their research to white rats).  Anyway, the host of the radio show had a series of questions and answers with the operatic author.  (Hawthorne was unavailable for comment).  He asked whether the author thought anyone in the story was guilty.  The author hemmed and hawed, then said that he couldn't assign culpability.  After all, we're all cogs in a machine.  Really, if anyone was to blame, it was the young man because he doubted the father's ability to unite himself and his love.  Others might look at the father as a villian for what he did, but the simple fact is that someone is going against the laws of a certain time if there's going to be progress.  If that person succeeds, he's lauded as a hero.  If he fails, he's vilifed.  Really, he was pushing the world forward.
    This was the clearest example of dialectical thinking I've ever heard.  And he believes that an individual is not really responsible for his actions, but is simply a replaceable cog in the machine that churns regardless of individual decisions.  But can't even the smallest cog clog even the largest machine?  Isn't history the story of individuals?

Escape into Reason

I once had a dream where the physical laws of my universe were continually changing.  A water bottle might change shape or location even if no force was acting on it.  I got so fed up with the stupidity of it all that I remember asking "Is this a rational or an irrational universe" right before I woke up.
In short, I like things to make sense.  I like to understand the reasons behind what happens.  Irrationality irritates me.  I like to look at a piece of artwork and understand why/what an artist did what he did.  When I'm told that art doesn't have to have a meaning, something inside me rebels.
In so much of life, I never stop to ask "Is this a rational or an irrational universe?"  I just take it for granted that it's rational.  Because it is.  But why is it?  I think it's time for people to start asking themselves: 1) Is this universe rational or irrational  and 2) Why is it the way that it is? 
So much of the time people go through life benefitting from the fact that the universe is rational but never appreciating it.  Can you imagine CSI in an irrational world?  Just the thought of it is absurd: "How do you know that this is the murderer?"  "That's a good question.  I don't actually know that she is.  I'm just thinking that at the time of the murder, cotton had different properties than it has now."  "Different properties like what?"  "Well, I think it was a toxic gas instead of an inert solid, and that the perpetrator opened a cannister of cotton underneath the victim's nose.  At that time it diffused into her nasal passages and killed her.  But by the time the coroner did his job, cotton had different properties.  It was back to the inert solid that you buy at the drugstore."  "Which explains the anomalous residual cotton strands in the nasal passages."  "Wehtjakwety."  "Thwewtaywuekt."  (The conversation cannot continue, either because sound waves are no longer able to pass through air because of a change in the physical laws of the universe, or our two conversants simultaneously morphed into a calico cat and a denim dog and their mouths are sewn short).
We can only solve crimes because there are some fixed characteristics of this universe.  And because, more often than not, people exhibit some degree of rational behavior.
If someone set out to make a movie that was irrational, would it do well?  There could be no plot, because in an irrational world there is no such thing as cause and effect.  There could only be a series of events, of experiences.  Some might be related, but no ultimate meaning could be derived from them.  A dad might be pushing his daughter in a swing, but the swing might drift into space, and then the movie might become a Western, then a film about Samurai.  Or it might simply be a black screen, or a staticky frame that continued for 45 minutes.  It wouldn't matter.  It'd be absurd.
Because the vast majority of people recognize the rationality of the universe, the occassional seemingly irrational event jars on them.  That's when questions like "How could a good God allow something this horrific to happen" begin to surface.  They're assuming that the universe is rational and that God, if He existed, would be rational.  Why the presupposition?  It's valid, but why?
Why the stasis?  Paradoxical, isn't it?  A researcher feels such pride in their publication, but at the same time talks about the constant flux of the universe, the constant adaptation occurring around them.  What hope do they have that the system they described, the data they collected, the conclusions they drew, will be valid tomorrow? 
Why are there energetic valleys in this universe?  How is it that even biological systems with all their ability to adapt universally play with the same set of biological LEGOs?  Should I believe the researcher who recently said on campus that "there's nothing special" about the nucleosides in DNA?  Is it possible that he underestimates the system he poo-poos?  Why do we assume that the sun will rise tomorrow?  Why did it rise yesterday, and then again today?  How is it that so many of the same physical processes occur without fail from ancient times to present times?  Why are there constants in this universe?  Is there a unifying Person or force holding it all together?  Oh yeah!  There is such a Person... this Jesus who holds all things together, and provides us with a dynamic equilibrium: a peace in the midst of storm.
Is the universe rational?  Oh yes, because it was created by a rational God.  Disagree?  You say that yes, the universe is rational, but not because of God?  Why then is the universe rational?  Oh, you there say that rationality is simply a construct, and that it is simply irrational man's attempt to fit a rigid structure over an amorphous blob.  But the only way you could convince me of this is by reasoning with me.  And that would require that we both were rational.
Truly, I believe that if people could be transported to an irrational universe for just two seconds, they could see and appreciate the rationality of our universe.

My son, give it

I asked God what kind of sacrifice it was to give Him my heart when no one else wanted it.  And then I remembered that Satan wanted it: not because of its inherent value, but out of spite.  If giving my heart to God brings Him glory and supplants Satan's designs, then here, God, here it is.
     I am full of wonder that God would care about someone so insignificant, needy, well-intentioned, and undeserving as me.  Great is your mercy, O Lord.  Great is your mercy.
     Mark Twain once talked about a person needing no humility if they had no actual accomplishments.  But I've found out two things about this: 1) that you don't have to have accomplishments to have pride, and 2) that praying "God, please humble me" works.
     I bow to You, O Lord.  I want You to be the Master of my soul.  Please rule me and use me for Your glory.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Much ado about nuttin'

Growing up, one of my friends loved the song "Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more."  At the time I didn't care for it, but recently I've found myself singing what snatches I could remember 'most every day!  So, I had to look up the lyrics so I wouldn't drive myself nuts with the line I could remember!  Here they are:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh nor more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into. Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no mo,
Or dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into. Hey, nonny, nonny.
Even better, here's the original in the film Much Ado About Nothing.

Meet Screwtape

I'll never forget my first introduction to Screwtape.  My own brother was on the stage at Highland Park Church talking in a rasping, sputtering voice.  I was terrified: what had happened to him?  I didn't know what this was all about.  All I knew was that it was scaring the dickens out of me. 
   As with so many other good things (Solzhenitsyn, Escher, and Tolkein among them) it took an informal introduction from my brother (usually less startling than the intro to Screwtape) to point me to something worth knowing.
   The Screwtape Letters was one of those things.  As a speaker has said, "We learn by contrasts."  Lewis showed me the goodness and love of God by contrasting it with the insatiable, engulfing appetite of Satan.  Lewis showed me the limitless creativity of God by contrasting it with the panicked, twisted imitations that Satan churns out.
    I hear that Screwtape (well, a Christian playing Screwtape) is taking to the stage in Chicago this season.  And I think that's great.  The more people that can hear Lewis' message, the better.
    I don't think I'll be going to see it, though.  I'd prefer to hear my brother reading it again.

Mystery explained!

Oh...!!!! That's why it's kooky!!! It all makes sense now!!!!

The church building we've been meeting in for an on-campus Bible study isn't a Wesleyan church: it's United Methodist. I had seen a sign for the "Wesley Foundation" and assumed that meant it was a Wesleyan church. <Buzzer sound>. Nope. The Wesley Foundation is the student campus ministry; the full title of the congregation is "Wesley United Methodist Church at the University of Illinois."
The congregation's official website is at The student website says "The Wesley Foundation at the U of I seeks to be a place where all persons feel welcome. We encourage everyone to shine for Christ in their own unique way" and "We are a part of the United Methodist Student Movement, but we welcome you here, no matter how you find menaing [sic] in Christ, or how your Christian or non-Christian spiritual beliefs work for you."

Talk about being salt and light in the world! Wow! What an effective statement to a dying world!
There's a website that lists local organizations and their attitude towards homosexuals. Here's the Wesley Foundation's rating:
"Wesley Foundation --- Religious Organizations, Publications, Resources
1203 W. Green
Urbana, IL 61801 (See map)
Notes: Wesley hosts the Rainbow Coffeehouse and advertises in the Praire Flame, however it is NOT an affirming congregation
Gay Owned: unknown"

The site isn't self-consistent, though. At another place on their website, this church made it onto the "affirming religious organizations" group. The full list is:
This church does have soulforce brochures available in beautiful wooden racks inside at least one of their lounges. They also have a sign up displaying representatives for the LGBT Alliance group on campus.

LGBTs must feel ok there, since there's a Rainbow Coffeehouse that hosts there every Tuesday from 6-9:30. The Wesley Foundation website describes this ministry as the "Inclusive LGBT Coffehouse Hosted by the UIUC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Office."

Still, though their official pronouncement is generally weak and inhibited (I picture the committee writing it wincing as they put down anything definite), the official policy of the Methodist denomination suprisingly gets past the statements about the need for sex education and the unquestionable fact that "[h]omosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth." It does clearly state that "sexual relations are only clearly affirmed in the marriage bond" and "[t]he United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching." (From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House.)

How this local church can flaunt the official policy of its denomination I don't know.


BTW when I found this information, I also found the following interchange in a LGBT newsletter from back in 2007:
The "Ally" section is sponsored by SODA (Sexual Orientation Diversity Allies) Committee of Counseling Center, UIllinois Ally Network, and the Office of LGBT Resources. Contact to submit questions or content.

Every month we will choose and publicly recognize an Ally from our network each month. We will include a brief interview with each ally of the month honoree. On behalf of the SODA Committee of the Counseling Center, the LGBT Ally Network, and the Office of LGBT Resources, we would like to congratulate Nora Few as our very first Ally of the Month!

Nora, we thank you publicly for your contributions, wisdom, knowledge, and experiences, and we value and appreciate all the work you do in and around the LGBTQ community at the University of Illinois.

We interviewed Nora to see what she had to share with her fellow allies:
1. What department(s) do you work out of on campus, and who do you primarily work with (students, faculty, staff)?
I was an assistant dean in the Graduate College for the last seven years. Recently I accepted a new position as executive assistant dean in the College of Medicine. Both in my former position and my present position I work primarily with students, but also with faculty and staff.
2. How long have you identified as an LGBTQ ally?
I have been an LGBTQ ally for almost thirty years.
3. What are the everyday ways you practice being an ally?
I try to make sure people I encounter know that I am an LGBTQ ally. Some of the ways are very simple such as displaying my ALLY poster in my office. Others take a little more effort. I try to incorporate acceptance, advocacy, and support of LGBTQ people into everything I do; into conversations, actions, decisions, language. I do this with particular care and attention when I encounter someone who seems in need of education, possibly because they have not had the opportunity to learn about LGBTQ concerns. Being an ally is an important part of my life.
4. Why did you become an ally?
My younger brother is gay. We are very close. My initial support of my brother grew into being a LGBTQ ally in all aspects of my life.
5. What advice would you give to newly identified LGBTQ allies?
A good way to begin is by doing lots of listening.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Sometimes revelation beats empiricism.

Will the real question please stand up?

It is always interesting when the question someone's asking you isn't really the question they want to know.  This leaves you wondering "What is it they're really asking me?"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eyes on you

One thing I've been learning in racquetball: whenever you make a mistake, you've got at least two options.  You can rag on yourself for being an idiot, or you can compliment the person playing with you on their great play.  Hint: one of the options makes the game a lot more fun than the other one.
     When I first started playing with my friend, I always took the first course.  I guess I felt duty-bound to explain why I'd missed that ball.  I never tried convincing myself she cared.  I just felt better afterwards, because I'd at least found out why I was a loser.
     But I quickly realized that she didn't have the same after-flub-pickup.  If she missed the ball, she didn't smack her head with her hand and say "You idiot!  How come you can't get this right?"  She just looked out for the next ball.
     She was also very generous with her compliments.  If I made a good play, she didn't get all tense and visibly go on the defensive.  She'd yell "nice!" over her shoulder as she went for the next hit.
     Hmmm... she seemed more focused on the next hit than she was on the current flub or smash.  Hmmm... maybe I can learn from that.  Hmmm... this IS more fun!
     I also found that not thinking of my racquetball game as an allegory of my life in grad school made it more enjoyable.  Originally, I liked to compare the two.  But I found over time that it was more fun to just think of it as a game, and not compare my sometime intellectual laziness with my sometimes physical laziness too often.  Just sometimes.
     All I know is that shifting my focus after a flub from my idiocy to my friend's great play has revolutionized my approach to racquetball.  I'm not saying that I do it every time, or that I don't often struggle to remember this different thought pattern, but I am saying that it's a great way to have fun.
     In the same way, when I sin, I have two options: focusing on the sin over and over, explaining to God why I sinned, thinking that my rehashing it repeatedly will stave off future sins but really despairing inside, and blah, blah, blah.  Or identifying why I gave in, confessing it, asking for forgiveness, and then focusing on Christ again.  Keeping my eyes looking into His (yes, He is looking at me with eyes of love), and telling Him how great He is, and how glad I am that He's already mastered the game called life.

Names for pets

If you're looking for some nifty names for those special, furry friends in your life (not counting the age-old asparagus in your fridge), try these on for size: pico, femto, zepto, and yocto.  (Atto is reserved for that husky puppy that loves chewing up your frisbee; next time he's good just say "atto boy!")

You've maxed out my vocabulary

Ever heard a speaker max out?  Y'know, get so loud that you can't hear any contrast between the loud tones anymore?  You just hear a loud buzzing as the speaker tries its hardest to oscillate faster, but it just plain can't?  Well, that's what my vocabulary does every day without fail.

I'll see something so, so, so... I can't even express how wonderful and awesome and amazing and, and, and... fabulous and COOL! it is.  But I've already used up all the words I can think of, and they just can't capture this new, uh, splendid, unexpected, marvelous, gorgeous, awe-inspiring, breathtaking... thing I'm seeing or knowing or hearing!

My vocabulary's maxed out!  (And nobody 'cept me even uses the words "awesome" or "cool" anymore!)  Maybe it's time to be struck dumb and leave it at that.  God, you are beyond the reach of my vocabulary's reach.  You are so... so...  <Pause>.  <Breath>.  You are.

God gives the exclamation points

It's not until we've come up with a few question marks that we appreciate the exclamation points -- the revelations -- of God:

And there was light!
And it was good!
This is my Son Whom I love!
Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
Well done, thou good and faithful servant!

God, your exclamation points are AWESOME!!!

Truly, He is the One

Someday my prince will come.  And if he don't, well, the King's already spoken for me.

(I gotta be careful about this whole "desire of the heart" thing.  I thought I deeply desired a digital camera, but now that I've got one, I'm almost afraid to touch it!  God save me from what I think I want!  LORD, you are the One I want to trust completely, the One I want to be in love with, the One I want to think about at all times and in all places.  Please rule my heart.  Please direct my course.  I'm so afraid that my desire to be loved is just another one of those things that I'm prioritizing now, but that I'll quickly shelve any guy who gives me his affection because I'm that fickle and self-interested.  Please redeem my will.  Today I spent a good chunk of the day working on a silly poster for an event.  I thought I wanted to do that, but I realize that it was just my effort to be busy and block out what I should have been doing.  God, save me.  I am so lost without You.  I am so empty and pointless and meaningless without You.  Please be my treasure!  I know that where my treasure is, there my heart will be also.  Lord, I see my reflection so often.  I pray that I would see Your reflection more often.  Please, Lord, shine into my life.  Please reflect Your glory off of me and into the lives of everyone around me.  You are the Mighty One, the One who is, and hte One who is able.  I worship You, for You are the God who knows.  Lord, you are the victorious One, the only One who has ever faced sin and conquered it!  You are the Light of Life, the ever-present One, the Prince of Peace.  You have defeated Satan.  You reign in glory.  Please reign over me.  You are the blessed Giver, the transformer, the Holy One.  Your Name is higher than any other Name.  Your mercy extends into all dimensions.  You are the only One who is good, the only One who is worthy.  I praise You for You have overcome).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Understanding God is Like Playing Mastermind...

...except God generously helps us by flipping back the cover and showing us the pegs.  It's just that we're playing two billion, three hundred ninety two million, six hundred seventy four thousand, one hundred and eighty five games at once.  Hold it: did I just quote a finite number?  Oops -- wrong page.  I was quoting the number for a finite god.  Hmm... let me see here...

The following letter is to a friend who had led a Bible study and was asking if I thought he was too biased in what he said.

No, it wasn't too biased at all!  Though of course it was biased, if bias is "a bent, a tendency, an inclination of temperament or outlook" (Merriam-Webster)!  Everyone has bias, and everyone's going to communicate it unless they talk nonsense or are deceitful!  But then I guess we'll have to say that God is biased, too, since He inflexibly believes in His own existence!
    You pointed all of us to Scripture, and had a very sensitive approach, not a "watch me hammer you over the head with my interpretation" approach!  Thanks for leading!  I learned a whole bunch, and I think all of us did.  It kind of cracks me up when people say "I'm going to open a can of worms."  I mean, life is a can of worms, and anything can be agreed or disagreed on.  I'm just praising God that the folks in the study are willing to listen and think about Scripture and the interpretations of other people in the study.  I think we're all interested in pursuing Truth, not just doing the cop-out and saying "Well, your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth."  Of course, that does make tension, because whenever folks disagree but are convinced that there is a correct interpretation, the question is "Who's wrong, and who's right?"  It's a good question to ask and answer, and God is the One who can answer this.  By studying the Word with other people, God can work through our conversations to challenge us and help us to understand His Truth better.  (John 16:13 "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. ")  It's only because each of us believes something about salvation that we can discuss it in depth.  I don't see this process as a dialectic, where one of us has some portion of truth, another person has the opposite, and we have to fuse them together.  The ultimate reality isn't our brains: it's God.  We trust empiricism as far as it goes, but revelation is the trump card.  (Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God's own choosing...).  We're all trying to search Him out, and understand Him better.  It's like we've seen glimpses of a perfect Being, and we're all trying to describe Him, but our descriptions are always falling short.  We only understand in part, and we're often wrong, but sometimes right (so our trying to understand God is like playing Mastermind).  Awesomely, God's given us a whole book to guide us, and while we all agree that this the most important book, at different points, we often interpret it differently.  It's not just a matter of comparing all of our interpretations and in our own strength deciding which one is best.  'Cause we might get that wrong too.  There's so much to learn from the searches of other people, especially those who have written books about what they've learned about Scripture, because the Holy Spirit has given many, many of them insight into the meaning of Scripture.  We can also seek out teaching from the Holy Spirit directly.  We've got to submit to the Holy Spirit, and say "H.S., please help me to understand."  And as each of us grows in Christ, we're going to grow in our capacity to understand.  And then in Heaven... WOW!
     Yeah, and you're right about Newton, too!  Henry Schaefer has a paragraph on him, too.  I didn't copy any of his quotes over, but he definitely was a Christian.  I didn't realize he spent more time studying Scripture than physics, but that's awesome!!  Hmmm... "no one knows about that day or hour," but maybe we have an idea of the year... I mean, Newton was pretty good at math, right?!
     Have an awesome weekend...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wondering about Love

Sometimes I wonder. I wonder what God's plan for my life is, and if I please Him. I wonder if I'm growing any grapes of love, any figs of joy, any kiwi of peace, any pomengranates of patience. I wonder if I'll ever marry, or if I even have a Godly view of marriage. Tomorrow being Valentine's Day, I've been thinking a lot about relationships lately. I've started realizing how much I worship myself, and how that's stunted my friendships with other people. Just for fun, I was thinking about the kind of person I'd probably be interested in marrying. And -- ugh -- I thought of myself. Isn't that sick? I don't see how you can get much more self-centered than that! I mean, I started going down the list: must be interested in science, must like to sing, must like eating nuts, must like staying up late, must be a procrastinator, etc. Pretty soon I was creating a boyfriend in my own image. Maybe this is why I'm not allowed to create God in my own image, either! Otherwise God would be a nut-eating, singing procrastinator!
There are times when I wonder what's wrong with me. Why haven't I ever had a boyfriend? Am I over-estimating my own personal attractiveness? Why haven't I ever been out on a date? Is there some horrifying part of my personality or physical makeup that's completely obvious to others, but that I'm completely unaware of? But I could ask the questions from a different perspective. I could ask "Why have I been spared the emotional stress of committment and break-up?" "Is God trying to teach me something here?" "Is God making me less attractive to the opposite sex so that I'll be spared temptation because He knows I can't handle it?" (Yikes: that's a little frightening!) "What's the purpose of the friendships I'm in right now: getting something for myself, serving my friend, glorifying Christ?" "Should I be thankful that my guyfriends aren't flippant with their compliments and thus make it easier for me to keep my focus on God?" "How can I learn to identify myself totally in Christ, and not in self-perceptions or feedback from other people?" "Do I define myself on the basis of what I look like, how I think, what I own, what I do, what I intend to do, what others say about me, how many houseplants I've killed, or in the person and work of Jesus Christ?" "Shouldn't I be thankful that God is giving me a chance to learn what a brother- and a sister-in-Christ is really like?" "How else could I learn to look to God and turn my heart to Him, except to learn to submit the biggest questions of my life to Him?" "How can my heart be turned toward God?" "Do I trust God?"
This got me thinking about the whole self-sacrifice thing. Jesus said that the sign of His disciples was love. And what is love? Greater love has no man than this, but that He lay down His life for His friend. A friend and I were talking about this yesterday, and I told her how I've always tried to skirt around this verse by interpreting it as "If I am ever called upon to die for my friend, I must do it." Since most my friends aren't called up in front of firing squads very often, I haven't needed to live up this verse quite yet. But as my friend said, it may be easier to die for a friend than to live for a friend.
Jo in Little Women talked about her desire to do something really big for her family to show them how much she loved them. But the big opportunity never came, and she kept passing up the little opportunities to show them that. I feel like that, too. I think about the little ways a person can show their concern for another person: making eye contact while asking a co-worker "How are you doing?", handing someone their silverware and plate when they're in line together, keeping an eye on someone's water cup and refilling it when it's low, keeping track of presentations and other assignments and asking how they went, etc., etc., etc.
So there's lots of opportunities for self-sacrifice. Assignment 1: Recognize them. Assignment 2: Glorify God through them.
Of course that sounds stuffy and formalistic. But it's not self-sacrifice for the sake of self-sacrifice. It's self-sacrifice for the sake of the Lover of my soul. All I know is that when I'm around people who really sacrifice themselves through Christ, the last words I would ever use to describe them would be "stuffy" or "formalistic." Love innovates. It's lightyears ahead of law. It's not breaking law; it's already rushed into an area law wouldn't reach for millennia. When I'm living by the Spirit, I'm free to love. Life isn't then "dodging laws," but "innovating sacrifices." It's saying "God, You are the most important Person there is. It's only when I'm following You that I'm free. Here: here's my life. It's Yours. Please direct me. Please help me to express my love for You by serving others, submitting to You by submitting to others. I don't care if the world looks at me and sees a failure as long as You look at me and say 'Well done.' I'm yours!"
Learning to trust God means realizing He knows my doubts. He knows I doubt Him often. But He is able to deliver me from my doubts, and to conquer the sin in my life. He is the victor, and through Him I can know victory. This goes way beyond boyfriends and valentines. It goes down to the heart itself, that deceitful organ that spews lies with every beat. He knows I don't really even know what I want, and that my prayers are half-baked confessions, half-baked covets, half-baked concerns for others. But He can take my heart and through a constant process of my submitting to Him, and allowing His Spirit to work, transform it into an organ that reflects His own heart. Do it, Lord, for Your sake, for my sake, and for the sake of everyone.

Mixed feelings

I was talking to a friend about how stupid emotions were.  They seem to overreact at little things, and then completely ignore the big stuff.  All in all, they're completely unreliable and alternate between ultrasensitivity and absolute unresponsiveness.  So, my hope in Christ is built on more than emotion.  That's why I can be sure each day that He lives.  I don't have to take a poll of my stupid emotions first. 
    So what is my hope in Christ built on?  His answer to my questions.  I know how corrupt I am: Jesus Christ provides healing and forgiveness.  I know how indecisive I am: Jesus Christ gives me purpose and direction.  I know how self-centered I am: Jesus Christ shows me how and helps me to live for others.
     Details about Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection were proclaimed thousands of years before He was born, and each of those prophecies were fulfilled.  Christianity was born in a hostile environment, and yet the Jews and Gentiles of that day could not disprove Christians' claims that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead.  There is archaeological corroboration of passages in Scripture, including the details of Hezekiah's Tunnel, and the ruins of Jericho.  There are no contradictions between the books of the Bible: they are a harmonized unit.  The Gospels were written within the lifetimes of many eyewitnesses, so if Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John had included convenient but false claims, there would have been many people available to fact-check them.  The Scriptures can stand the scrutiny of those evaluating its historicity.  The Gospels contain the tell-tell marks of eyewitnesses.  For example, their accounts often include incidental facts that are not necessary to drive the plot forward, but are commonly recalled by eyewitnesses trying to describe everything they can remember about the events they saw.  The New Testament was rapidly disseminated throughout the Roman Empire as it was written, which did not allow any single Christian sect to distort it by changing Christs' words or acts to agree with their interpretations.  The Scriptures contain no anachronisms.  For example, Jesus' underclothes were described as being woven in one piece.  And weavers had developed the ability to weave cloth in this way just at the time that Jesus lived.  The narrative style in which the Scriptures were written is astonishing, and unique.
     Why are the Scriptures astonishing and unique?  Because they were written by an astonishing and unique God.

Scientists and their gods

A friend just directed me to an article by chemist Henry Schaefer.  I've only read part of it, but here's a sampling:

I continued, "Let me tell you what my Sunday School teacher said yesterday." That raised their interest even more. "I was hoping the group at church would give me some support, moral, spiritual, or whatever for dealing with this large class, but I received none. In fact, the Sunday School teacher asked the class, in honor of me:

    What was the difference between a dead dog lying in the middle of the street and a dead chemistry professor lying in the middle of the street?

The class was excited about this and I hadn't even gotten to the punch line. They roared with laughter. The very concept of a dead chemistry professor lying in the middle of the street was hilarious to them. I'm sure some of them began to think, "If this guy were to become a dead chemistry professor very close to the final exam, we probably wouldn't have to take the final exam. They'd probably give us all passing grades and this would be wonderful."

I told them my Sunday school teacher had said that the difference between the dead dog lying in the middle of the road and the dead chemistry professor lying in the middle of the road is that there are skid marks in front of the dead dog.

The class thought this was wonderful! Just as they settled down, I pressed the button and around came Lonny with the moles. It was a wonderful beginning to my career as a freshman chemistry lecturer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Two Things (Psalm 62:11-12)

I am excessively proud of this, so I'm posting it here. It's an email I just sent out to some of the young people from my church:

______ and I were talking on Sunday, and it seemed good (Luke 1:3) to mention two things:

1) Family Talent Night -- it's coming up March 7th (Joshua 6:4-5), and it's one of those rare chances (Jeremiah 46:17) to get up and show off that ability you keep stowed deep inside (1 Timothy 4:14-15). 

Here's some ideas:
A) A musical piece
(done solo or with friends (Psalm 104:33))

B) A dramatic reading
(Scripture, Peretti, Lewis, or your own work! (Joshua 8:35))

C) A dance routine
(I hear some of you dance? (Ecclesiastes 3:4))

D) A stand-up comedy routine
(There is a Scriptural precedent: 1 Samuel 21:14-15)

E) An art piece or other handmade object
(Don't some of you knit? (Psalm 139:13))

F) A skit
(Idea1: make a commercial about the before/after effects of the "How to Share Christ without Freaking Out" Sunday School class.  We could include hypothetical testimonials from people in the class who were once completely freaked out at the mere sight of a tract, but who now confidently witness to telemarketers and vacuum salesmen (2 Timothy 4:2))

(Idea2: retell a Bible story in modern times.  For example, tell the story of Evelyn and her husband, who buy an over-priced forbidden kiwi at Walmart and change the world forever (you can trust the ads with geckos, but you can't trust the ones with anacondas); Ruth, the migrant worker who marries the head of Green Giant, Inc.; Noe, the pool maintenance guy who builds an ocean liner with live animal entertainment; Danny the graduate student working for an excitable boss who makes extreme threats by email before his morning mug of coffee (fortunately, he also writes good reference letters); Saw, the first identity-theft victim ("I go out to shoot one deer for Pop, leave my billfold on the dresser, and this is what I get.") who's ganged up by his costume-designer mother (Becky) and soap opera actor/amateur-chef-brother (Jake); Esther the second-generation Israeli 2009 Miss America winner who marries the personality judge; Joe who's framed, becomes the workforce psychologist in prison, and is eventually released to become the Vice President; Dave, the pianotuner who marries the daughter of the richest family in town and becomes the head of the clan; Iz, the rap-star singer who gets into hot water when he starts telling people the way things are (Isaiah); Debbie the 6-foot, five-star general in the U.S. Army who becomes a weak president's only hope; Moe the adopted son of a drug lord who saves his actual family from growing cannabis; Zach and Matt the IRS agents who start a scholarship for the kids of the people they ripped off, then become Salvation Army bellringers (Zacchaeus and Matthew); Mary, the woman delivered from seven extreme mental illnesses and goes on to work a steady job at Bath and Body Works (she digs those spices!); Rod, who sues his dad for half of his money, lives the high life in Vegas while his funds hold out, but gives his heart to God while he's on a forklift hauling swine leftovers, calls his dad collect and rides the Greyhound home (pRODigal son); Lazar who has a near-, during-, and after-death experience that involves more than bright lights; Roman, a death-row guard who realizes that one orange jump-suited criminal he's processed is different from any other man he's ever met.  Sounds melodramatic?  I assure you: it's all based on a true story!)

Let me know if you'd like to be involved a skit, and if these or other skits appeal to you (Ezekiel 37:17)).

When you know what you'd like to do at the talent night, email Christen to secure your spot in the program!  (Revelation 3:5).

2) Sunday Dressed to the Tens -- (Exodus 29:8).  There's got to be some hat or scarf that periodically tugs on your pant leg and asks you to wear it.  Well, now's the time.  There are some in our group who know how to organize such events, and I leave it to them to decide on the place, time, and guidelines.  But I have it on good authority from an elder lady in the church that hats put on diagonally look most chic (Isaiah 61:3)!

Have a blessed evening (Numbers 6:24-26)!

BTW1 -- I don't have _____ or ______'s email addresses, but if you do or if you know others who might be interested, feel free to forward this on! (Genesis 18:3)

BTW2 -- The Scripture references are to clarify or enhance the meaning of the sentence in which they appear.  For example, Jeremiah 46:17 says "There they will exclaim, 'Pharaoh king of Egypt is only a loud noise; he has missed his opportunity.'"  Don't let this become your life verse!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Debbie vs. Hillary

Is anyone else struck by the similarity of the Biblical account of Barak and Barack's own selection of a cabinet?

I mean, the only way the parallel could be more obvious was if Hillary was the Secretary of Defense instead of the Secretary of State.

(Okay, and if Hillary was a woman of God instead of a woman of the world).

But it strikes me that the Biblical Barak and the American Barack would both have a decisive, strategic woman as their right-hand picks.

It's not that I expect anything good out of Hillary: I just find it interesting that in both cases a weak man had a strong woman in a position of leadership.  (See Judges 4-5).

Friday, February 06, 2009

For You, I give thanks

Your name is mighty and exalted.  You are the great King, the loving Lord, the gracious lover, the lawgiver, the merciful One.
Thank you for being my Father.  Thank you for giving Your Son Jesus for my sins.  Thank you for giving Him the strength to be a sacrifice for my sins, and for redeeming this world through Him.  Thank you for raising Him up again.  Lord, I am so glad that You did not forsake Your Son, but You sustained Him throughout His time on earth.  I know that You are sustaining me too.  I know that You are here with me now.  Please help me to become more sensitive and obedient to Your commands.  Please help my heart to respond to you.  Please bend my will to Yours, and help me to do the work You've planned out for me.  So often I feel lost and helpless, poised over a sea of nothingness.  But that's when I stop focusing you, and I start looking down between my feet at the swirling water You're leading me across.  Please help me to keep my eyes focused on You.  You are Life.  You know everything.  You are the One.  Thank you for what you're doing in the lives of my labmates, and I pray that you would use me to witness to them. Please manifest Yourself in my life. Please let me decrease, and please increase in my life, Lord, until I'm just the shell, and you're the Light burning inside of me.  Holy Father, please glorify Yourself.  I love you, Father.  Amen.