Saturday, September 19, 2009


While discussing whether or not coincidences exist, my wife used the word "incident," in saydescribing what God crafts in our world. She recently experienced an incident which appeared so out of the ordinary that she felt it was a small miracle. I am blessed by experiencing these all the time. This matter is related to two different Wills of God: what is His Will (what would He prefer), and that all things are within His Will (power and control). God-incidents versus coincidence is obviously a difficult concept for the finite human brain. To believe that God organizes events before the beginning of time such that, for instance, we miss being in a car crash by 2 seconds, may be more easily dealt with by attributing this to the laws of nature and good fortune. However, for those who believe in a God who is good, omnipotent, active and present, the small leap of faith yields great rewards. I do not say small because it is easy...the faith of a child generally becomes more and more difficult for adults to enjoy, and it is even harder for a rich man, since this entails depending solely on the power and desier of God to take better care of us, at all times, than we would of ourselves at any time. One portion of the reward is a glance into the realm of the Real, for our struggle is not bound by this physical world, but against spiritual powers and principalities (Ephesians 6:12).

Most sane individuals desire to know what is real: a desire ranging throughout history from Plato's cave to the movie The Matrix. However one's sanity may be called into question anyhow when making such statements as "God knows the number of hairs on every human head on earth" (Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7). Or consider this:

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
(Matthew 6:26 ff)

If God is also personal and desires to have a relationship with us, why would He not want to design small and great events in our lives, before the beginning of time, to draw us closer to Him? What is difficult for us to conceive is a snap of the Almighty's fingers. While discussing this matter with another friend, I suggested the challenge of thinking that God is in control of all things, and nothing we do can ultimately change His Will (which one?) Andy replied that our response is one of responsibility. We are responsible to the extent that we are capable, and God uses our efforts to make us grow.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. James 4:8

Friday, September 11, 2009

Have you forgotton

From the NY Post today:

Instead of proudly and promptly rebuilding on the site of the Twin Towers, we've committed ourselves to the hopeless, useless task of rebuilding Afghanistan. (Perhaps we should have built a mosque at Ground Zero -- the Saudis would've funded it.)
Instead of taking a firm stand against Islamist fanaticism, we've made a cult of negotiations -- as our enemies pursue nuclear weapons; sponsor terrorism; torture, imprison, rape and murder their own citizens -- and laugh at us.
Instead of insisting that Islam must become a religion of responsibility, our leaders in both parties continue to bleat that "Islam's a religion of peace," ignoring the curious absence of Baptist suicide bombers.
Instead of requiring new immigrants to integrate into our society and conform to its public values, we encourage and subsidize anti-American, woman-hating, freedom-denying bigotry in the name of toleration.
Instead of pursuing our enemies to the ends of the earth, we help them sue us.
We've dishonored our dead and whitewashed our enemies. A distinctly unholy alliance between fanatical Islamists abroad and a politically correct "elite" in the US has reduced 9/11 to the status of a non-event, a day for politicians to preen about how little they've done.
We've forgotten the shock and the patriotic fury Americans felt on that bright September morning eight years ago. We've forgotten our identification with fellow citizens leaping from doomed skyscrapers. We've forgotten the courage of airline passengers who would not surrender to terror.
We've forgotten the men and women who burned to death or suffocated in the Pentagon. We've forgotten our promises, our vows, our commitments.
We've forgotten what we owe our dead and what we owe our children. We've even forgotten who attacked us.
We have betrayed the memory of our dead. In doing so, we betrayed ourselves and our country. Our troops continue to fight -- when they're allowed to do so -- but our politicians have surrendered.

read the rest of novelist Ralph Peter's article here:
and hattip to Michael Bane.

Although it's based on a different subject, the words of a hymn prompted my predominant feelings of this day: "Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Ohhhh, sometimes it causes me to tremble..."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Poor in spirit

Imagine a time you set aside for earnest reflection or prayer. Thoughts seemed focused for a short while, then the concerns of the day sprang up, and you were again hooked by normal habits of thinking. You realized this, then tried again, with more or less earnest focus, and again your prayer was foiled. At this point, it is natural to give in to the day's concerns...perhaps leaving the scene at least grateful for having made the attempt, or guilty at not having less likely to try again. For these reasons I often am thankful to have at least made the attempt in the morning, before anyone else in the house is astir, admiring the sunrise, and as of yet not focused on phone calls. This first fruit of my time is a good start, anyhow.

So what do we make of this inability to break away from the world's cares even for a few minutes? Christian reformers described the depravity of the soul, that humans are by nature caught in sin's quicksand. I suggest Attitude is key, here. When, at the point of giving up on prayer, we are moved to return to it, feeling guilty, we have a few predictable choices: (a) continue in guilt, (b) leave prayer behind and proceed with the work-day, (c) acknowledge our situation and ask for peace. Since (a) is untenable for long, it must give way to something else. Choice (b) is the natural human default position. Yet Grace is found in (c): admitting we are indeed poor in spirit--as evidenced by our week attempt even to pray for a few minutes--to recognize we are unable on our own to break away from these earthly chains, and to plead with the Almighty for forgiveness and love and an abundance of blessings to be showered upon our existence. This is what God wishes for us, if we simply ask, with a correct attitude, and have faith. Prayer is not a one-way conversation, and God uses even our natural propensities--easy to be distracted, prone to fee guilty--to call us back away from ourselves. This, too, reveals a facet of why we were created as finite, so that our own weakness points us to our Creator. When our spirit is poor, we are ready to inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fluttering Contemplation

Caught up as usual in the business of the day, two butterflies chased across my window view: chaotic flight. Fluttering contemplation is not an oxymoron. Contemplation is understood as "going deeper" than standard operating procedures, not reflecting shallowly, nor flitting from thought to thought. We contemplate when a truth alights our consciousness and interrupts our mental routine. This is not simply chasing butterflies.

Some may say contemplation does not require external stimulus: they conceive that their spirit contains longings which of their own accord draw them into contemplation. This may be, and yet it may also involve the oneness of the universe, such that there is nothing external: all material things touching each other, interconnecting, such that (for example) our subconcious and the need of our gardens for water interact and intersect. Certainly our internal longings cannot logically be completely dissasociated from the rest of the material universe ("nature"), since we are made of it and cannot remove ourselves from it--yet the difference between these two modes is useful for discussion. Since we are inextricably caught up in our "habit and skin" (Bruce Cockburn), contemplation is so important as a tool to "know ourselves," and why we should accept the invitation to contemplate, even if it comes on the wings of the temporary butterfly.

Another explanation for the original cause of contemplation is that there is something or someone beyond the realm of our material confines, of this mortal coil. Let's imagine God calls us out of ourselves, away from our prideful existence which, left to its own accord, operates like a child's Slinky toy: a spring falling through time, reacting within its physical shape and within physical law, not unlike any other material substance, awaiting the bottom of the stair. So, contemplation may be seen as (a) within one's own self, (b) connection with the rest of nature, or (c) God calling us out of (a) and (b). If this last is so, it would lend evidence that everday miracles do occur:

The defensive measure or contrary use of the contemplative exercise is a glance out of the corner of your eye.* All animals' senses are heightened when they perceive danger. You may have noticed, when you are concerned with crossing a very busy street, that your peripheral vision reflexively kicks into turbo. However, this is the opposite of contemplation, for it directs us outwardly towards that which opposes us. This is one example of (a) and (b) above, and it is an exercise we share with non-human animals, a more reasoned (perhaps) approach to the fight-or-flight instinct. Thus we may consider contemplation to be NOT this defensive response, but rather a momentary countermeasure. We may then entertain that the ability to contemplate is one faculty which makes us different from the rest of nature.

If that is so, logic requires we consider that humanity is not alone in this structure or capacity, but rather there exists another who is that much different from us than we are from the rest of nature. This is just another way of describing one historical argument for the existence of God, and one thing we have in common with our Creator, which is separate from the rest of nature.

*Postnote: I have just read about "stress induced tunnel vision." This contrasts the example in an analogy discussed above. We will contemplate this further.