Category Archives: grief

Thoughtful Thursday: An Almighty, Good God Allows an Evil World?

Human Brutality, one of the World's worst evils.

Here is a response to a difficult subject: Evil and human suffering. Your comments are valuable here. Thanks for reading.

The following are comments from a former classmate Marty Schoffstall as placed within the comment section on blog site of Theology Professor Ken Miller.

From Marty:

Dr. Dorsey [professor of Old Testament Studies] says that the story of the prophets (a rather large portion of the canon) looks like this:

(1) God Is Allowing Wickedness…
For a season…. and the wicked to succeed in their opposition to Him to temporarily triumph over Him (and over those loyal to Him). He may allow them to spurn Him, mock Him, humiliate him, or persecute those who remain loyal to Him.

(2) God is redirecting their evil….
to accomplish his own good purposes. The deeds of the wicked play into God’s hands and are used by God to further his own semi-secret agenda. [During this time when evil appears to prevail], God’s children are encouraged to: (a) Trust God, (b) Wait patiently for the time when God will intervene and right all wrongs, (c) Remain loyal and obedient to him.

(3) Finally, God dramatically intervenes…
to defeat his enemies. God is vindicated the wicked are punished; and those loyal to God are rewarded.

Now as my old friend friend Dr. Cunningham from UVA who was a very competent Roman Catholic Theologian on the side used to say:

“…mercy and justice are always in tension. We want mercy for ourselves, and justice for the other…”

Eventually we grow a little wiser and want some mercy for the other as well; however, we can never give up the concept of justice completely. Some decisions are so revolting (like genocide) that they must rigorously opposed, some people are so broken (like serial killers, serial kidnappers, etc) that we invest enormous time and money in the criminal justice system to stop them, they are horribly corrosive to society, they must be stopped.

How do you respond?

Can a Person Absolve your Sins? Drum roll please…

A penitent confessing his sins in the former L...

Image via Wikipedia (confessing to another)

About 500 years ago there was this spat. At the time, having your sins forgiven was a sort of pay as you go thing. It was a bit like a toll road.

The toll booth worker was the Priest. If you bought “indulgences” the Priest could better settle up your debt with God.

Handy little business model, especially when folks hope to avoid damnation, right?

This became rather upsetting. So these Reformer types started protesting. It was not so much to split from the Church, but to transform it–at first.

Of course, men can get pretty riled up about their new fantastic ideas (ever seen that?), and before anyone realized it, a huge split…others might say a heresy or rebellion… was cemented into place in history–forever changing the landscape of Christianity.

Spiritually speaking, some good was gained (and Catholics adjusted to these grievances by the 1960s with Vatican II), but as more and more people are beginning to realizing now, some very good and important things were lost because of going this route.

So, what is the real purpose of a priest, or priest-like figure? Is it necessary? Can absolution of sin come from a man in a white collar? What about a teenager in a crew neck? Or a lady with a scarf?

Drum roll, please…..

Oh!  Wait! Before, you start gathering firewood and a sturdy stake for my conflagration, please hear me out the entire way. (Then have at it; I’d like to hear from you.)

The I Timothy 2:5 “one mediator” verse is often used to underscore that Christ alone can forgive sins and be our mediator to God. It’s true. This was the mission of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.

But Protestants have, by the over-reactive trailblazing of the Reformers, missed quite a bit of the spiritual benefits of what Jesus’ brother James talks about:

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

What is James saying…that confession and other believers’ prayers are powerful and effective against sin? Yes.

GASP.
Okay, not a total gasp. But how does this play out? You may wonder…

This confessing to each other is not the same as be able to actually take Jesus’ place (obviously). James shows us that confession to each other works. It does something important. God wants it to be done this way.

It absolves us (because God absolves us). So, it is true that we personally experience the relief of our guilt being removed. We experience, in real terms, the agency of God’s forgiveness of our guilt. Someone is there beside us, standing in the gap for us, so we can be reconciled more thoroughly, more completely than we can experience it otherwise. It is God’s work; and we are agents of his ministry.

These confessors  to whom we confess become a flesh and blood representation of God’s love that promotes gracious forgiveness and offers wholeness. It offers us freedom from guilt (felt guilt, and feeling or thinking as if Christ‘s work is not complete). It puts flesh on our spiritual justification.

It seems we can’t handle our sin on our own too well, at all.

We are sinful, and it’s not a private matter.

Just confessing to God, and keeping our mistakes and sin to ourselves, is not the recommendation and requirement of Christ’s disciples.

The Community of God (i.e. the Church; our brothers and sisters in the Lord) plays a vital role in our spiritual growth and growth in grace. Confession ushers in that felt healing of the sin and guilt which weigh us down, and disables us.

Our sin is a rejection of community (aka The Bride of Christ) and an act of selfishness.

Our sin is a destructive thing. Socially and spiritually destructive.

Confession and absolution, (the kind you might say/declare out loud to another person) restore us at a core level. To ourselves, to God, and to community (aka The Bride of Christ).

In this way, we act not as God, but on God’s behalf. We minister.

It is simply true that he forgives us. We concur and offer social restoration, and remind the confessing one of God’s gracious work and love for us.

We minister to each other, on equal footing, and we may offer God’s grace to a brother or sister who cannot yet properly apprehend it. We can accept their confession and offer forgiveness, so we speak the Truth of God’s Kingdom into their life. We help set the captives free. (Not because God can’t do it without us, but because he wishes to use us this way.)

YES. We may say, “You have confessed, and you are forgiven. God absolves you. I, too, forgive you. Go in peace, and rest in his love.”

Please offer this to others. Ask for it on your behalf, too.

Will you comment on this topic, please? Your input is vital on this one. Thank you.

Thursday’s 5 Minute Retreat (4 of 5)

Lay down your stones

Ed Cyzewski invited me to carrying on with his 5 minute Retreat series this week. Today is day 4 of 5. I hope you find this brief exercise a way to create a bit of time and space in your day to refocus and reenergize. May God bless you.

This retreat would be best to do if you have a stone or brick handy. If it’s not easy to search for one outside, find something else, that feels weighty in your hand, like a paper weight, book, full water bottle, etc. Yes, I realize that sounds weird. Indulge me for a few minutes, k?

Before we start, please take a few steps to
prepare yourself to take a short rejuvenating break to refreshen your day and your spirit. Together we will gain new perspective. So, please eliminate potential distractions nearby. (Silence your phone, computer, shut your door, etc.)

Ready?
Here we go!

Hold your stone or object in your hand.

Close your eyes and take a few deep, slow breaths. (Be aware of where you are. “Be where you are.” That is, push the chatter of your mind aside, purposefully, for this short and set amount of time.)

Now as you gain awareness of yourself in the spot where you are, be very aware of the weight of the object in your hand. Concentrate on that sensation for a bit. With your eyes closed, notice its bulk, size, “weightiness”, and stay with that for about 60 seconds. (That will feel like a LONG time. But, please do hang in there, friends!)

Now think of the things weighing you down in your day this week. Everybody has something. Do you have conflict in a relationship, too much to do, deadlines, struggles, car trouble, illness, loneliness, frustration? What is bothering you RIGHT NOW?

Think about how those things in your life really do feel like a weight resting on top of you. They are pushing you down. They feel heavy.

Now, feel the weight of the stone or object in your hand, and make the conscious association, of what weights you down with this weighted symbol of it that you are holding.

Feel their weight, and recognize that you want to be free of it. You want new strength and relief. You want to claim that release.

Talk to God briefly about your particular struggle/s, all while clutching your stone or object.

If you can say this next bit out loud, I recommend it. If that will be too awkward because of your surroundings, try to repeat this a few times in your mind:

God, I am laying my weight down. Take it from me. I willingly lay it down for you to pick up.

(Repeating this for your ownership of this act will help you a lot.)

Now set down your weight. Release it. Lay it down, with purpose. (If you are outside, you may want to throw it down, or put it in a trash can. Or, maybe that’s just me. OH! And watch out for glass. It can sneak up on you, just as you let your stone fly.)

NOW–Feel the weight lift. It’s GONE.

Breathe deeply.

Now walk away.

And thank God.

Thanks for coming along today, and daring to experience life a bit differently. I hope this is helpful to you in a special way. I’d love to hear about your experience, if you’d like to share it here.

Innocence and Purity

 

My diagram for a "System" of Purity

 

Our freedom allows us to make choices that determine our purity and our innocence. So, freedom always includes responsibility, and purity can be regained. It is innocence that is untried.

In the cases were guilt may plague us, we may seek healing in the spiritual discipline of life confession, and then find it our acceptance of love and forgiveness. This happens best in Community, with the support of siblings in Christ.

This is also an act of worship.

Please share you thoughts on this, or a related theme.

Or you may tackle one of the following. Thanks.

• What have been your influencers with regards to purity?

• How has the media impacted your view of purity?

• What is the biggest struggle regarding your faith and your purity?

Resource used: Pages 126-8. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us (Adele Ahlberg Calhoun -IVP Books ©2005)
For further reading: “Real Sex” -Lauren Winner

Shadowlands: This Real Life illustration pictures ‘Divine Love’

old spice guy

Old Spice gives us a great take on manliness; über coup for Isaiah Mustafa today!
link

Is God manly?

We live in the shadowlands. The goodness and love we find is a shadow of perfection, of the Eternal Mind. God, the Divine. The source of pure love and goodness, or mercy and grace.

God is not the father you had, God is the Father (or mother) you wish you had, and still need.

At the moment, I don’t think it can be better shown than in this clip of precious love that sees us through. (Olympian, Derek Redmond and his dad. It’s great stuff.)
Friends, let us love each other this way.
VIDEO LINK

too Hottt to think

WARNING: A HEAT ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT FOR THIS ENTIRE POST. DEHYDRATION AND RELATED HIGH TEMPERATURE ISSUES HAVE LIKELY COMPROMISED THE QUALITY AND COMPREHENSIBILITY OF THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL.

It’s been over 90º indoors all week. It’s hard to come up with coherent sentences, let alone enough rational thought to put together a decent post. (That’s the caveat, to aid you in lowering your expectations for what I might say in this post. I admit, it may be a total waste of your time.)

Unrelated, but on my mind:
We dropped off my daughter at (overnight) camp. It’s strange to arrive at this stage. Some camps have gotten techno-savvy. With a password, you can view photos from the day taken at camp. This was the cutest one of Ellie and her friends.

Ellie chillin' at camp

What was I talking about originally, heat?
So, did I mention it was incredibly hot? When you read 107º F on the outdoor thermometer, you start feeling grateful for the 92º F it is indoors. At 7:30 a.m. it was a comparably chilly 76º …. I audibly gasped. (However I didn’t run for my jacket, despite my shock. I wanted to feel it-really feel it.)

I tried climbing into the fridge, but several jars fell out. Only one leg would fit in. I’m building up my courage to get in the chest freezer next. It’ll be much cooler, but will feel degrading to be hanging out with the meat. Especially if I end up hearing disco music. I’m thinking I’ll feel dirty and cheap about it all, like a window mannequin in a swim suit. (They feel that way, right?)

Do you think more crime happens when it’s quite hot because people get crazed? Or, maybe less crime because moving while thinking is so much harder? Or maybe, crime happens, but it’s accomplished far more stupidly, for reasons already identified?

I don’t need central air conditioning…. this torment is too character building. (Do I sound like a martyr? I’m trying to be serious.)

I’m praying for rain too. It’s starting to look like desert around here, not just feel like it.

Around these parts, the elderly order (hot) soup when the extreme heat comes. Is it senility, or are they older and wiser about diet and body temperature?

Any comments, thoughts? Without air conditioning…how you do beat the heat?

People are Shambolic

This sign is kind enough to give us an accurate bio and caution statement.

Like this sign, we all have sharp edges, but we seldom advertise as well.

Here the main fact: People are shambolic. You are, I am, and anybody else you can of think is too, at least in some way.

I like that “shambolic” is a word. I really do. Words sometimes excite me like a day trip to Atlantic City might enthuse a slots player. When I find a word that’s a good fit, or a new word I’ve never come across, I feel I’m part of a small but effective coup that has just taken back a fortress in Mediocre Illocution Land. I believe that’s somewhere between Middle Earth, Krypton, and the Death Star, but I’m not positive.

Shambolic basically means something or someone that is emblematic of being in shambles.

The cold hard truth is that people are either in the middle of being shambolic, just coming out of being shambolic–in the same manner as a person whose ferocious fever has just broken (quite ill, but just a bit better), or worst of all: one can be a person who is headed right for a shambolic state–whether he knows it or not. Actually, I’m sugar-coating it. Each particular circumstance is just half of it, our inherent weaknesses are most are the other half.

I’m sorry I don’t have better news, but this isn’t sunday morning church… I’m not asking for your tithe, so I have no need to butter you up, or put a little pep rally together. I can just tell it to you straight.

I’m not afraid to say, I don’t think there is a cure for being shambolic, despite how we seem to seek one.

Have you ever known, or have been a perfectionist?

Is this classic denial for a shambolic person? Bingo. Darn, kind of an Atlantic City reference/call back….um, not bingo, um…I mean, yes indeed! It is. Denial is what happens when we haven’t figured out what’s really going on fully, or haven’t had the courage to accept it, and move onward–grow.

But this bit of new is our reality. We are mortal and flawed. (Now don’t act liked you are shocked, you’ve known it all along…)

Be this as it may–We don’t have to just muddle through. Yet, being realistic helps us to grow personally and spiritually.

Here are some ideas for struggling through the human condition:

1. Full awareness/Humility.

2. Regularly reminding ourselves of #1 (afore mentioned).

3. Dependence on God (Higher Power, The Great Spirit, The Supreme Being, or whatever word for The Highest One, you prefer that happens to not be you).

4. Prayer. Meditation. Rest. (They’re all closely linked, so I plopped them in #4 together. It’s efficient, okay?)

5. Unaccounted generosity to others.

Many more ideas remain.

What are some others you can think of?

The Precious Rest

early twilight

I was allured by this Flickr picture the second I saw it. It seemed beautiful, yet also strange. A genuine napping red fox in a field of tall clovers? Curious.

The image info told that it was indeed this fox’s last rest. Possibly rabies did him in. What a mournful occasion, but what a comely little beast.

(I apologize that I haven’t been able to find the image again, to properly link to the artist. If anyone can help me with that, I’d appreciate it.)

Come to Rest

From madness to rest

You’ve wandered too far and then too close

You’ve grown weary

You find yourself in the soft clover

Feeling the pull of death’s slumber

There is some precious beauty about you

In this early twilight

In your last breaths

In your grassy bed

So fragile, mortal, yielding

What was wild and fierce, unpredictable

Now laid down, quieted, helpless

Will you awake in another field with new rabbits?

Will you suffer no more?

Lay your head down

Come to Rest

Your thoughts or comments are welcome.

(Nancy Eiesland) ‘The Disabled God’ -How do we define “normal”?

In reality, all of us “healthy” or “normal” people can more aptly call ourselves, “the temporarily able-bodied.”

Theologian, sociologist, and author Nancy Eiesland was wheelchair bound since childhood. She surprised many when she said she hoped to be disabled in heaven. She died at age 44 of congenital lung cancer, but not before she made huge inroads for the Rights and Dignity of the Disabled, and penned a groundbreaking book about understanding disability, and suffering, in light of God, and his nature.

Nancy Eiesland 1965-2009

Article excerpt on Eiesland from the “Scotsman” publication:

By the time of her death, Eiesland had come to believe God was disabled, a view she articulated in her influential 1994 book, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability. She pointed to the scene described in Luke 24:36-39 in which the risen Jesus invites his disciples to touch his wounds.

“In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God,” she wrote. God remains a God the disabled can identify with, she argued – he is not cured and made whole; his injury is part of him, neither a divine punishment nor an opportunity for healing. FULL ARTICLE HERE

Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability

God and Disability

Nathan, like many who experience Autism, often doesn't like having his picture taken. (Later, he saw this photo, and thought it was funny.)

Currently I am taking a rather fascinating class delving into the topic of God and Suffering, called “The Theology of Suffering.” For my final project, I am taking on a specific topic under that category–Disability.

I’m endeavoring to uncover questions like, “Why does God allow children, and adults, to suffer with disabilities?” “Is disability part of God’s plan, or part of what’s broken and wrong in the world?” “What place do the “disabled” have in “God’s Story”?” “How can care-givers of those with disabilities view this type of suffering in light of what God has done, what he is doing, and what he will do?” And some other questions.

In 2001, when my son started to struggle with a rather severe case of regressive autism, I wondered not just what was going on with him, but why? What was the point? I have to say, it all seemed like a mistake. My faith was shaken; not because I thought I should be able to have the child of my dreams, (this was a sad part of it too,) but because seeing my child suffer so badly made me question what God was really like. After a period of grieving, I had to find out more.

Nathan made a paper Nativity set at Christmas

Our son went from meeting all his developmental milestones ahead of time (rolling over, sitting, walking, talking), to not even answering to his own name for days on end, not reacting to pain in any normal way, not speaking to us, and not even calling us “Mommy” and “Daddy” any longer. I didn’t know where to turn, on many levels, and I wondered why God would want to kill me by breaking my heart, day-by-day, as my son sank into frustration, fear, pain, and despair. At times I felt hopeless.

We don’t live near family, and I’d like to say our church, and other Christians, were helpful, but almost no one reached out in any way that was truly or consistently supportive, or meaningful. Experiencing disability and struggle has a way of isolating us, and creating more hopelessness to wade through.

Instead, the opposite can be true. The disabled have much to teach us about hospitality, a characteristic of God, both individually and as a community.

The primary text I’m reading for my research is Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality by Thomas E. Reynolds. What an interesting book!

Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality -Thomas E. Reynolds

Here are a few nuggets I’ve gathered:

• The “disabled” are a picture of human weakness and vulnerability, from which we can learn about the human condition, and God himself. They teach us about the goal of Reliance, versus our misguided and typical goal of “independence.”

• These people are at the center of God’s love, and made in God’s image, they display attributes of God. They help us to see the true nature of God–One who made himself weaker and vulnerable, and still is vulnerable to us. (This vulnerability is epitomized in the historical event, and saving action of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary.)

• The “disabled” give us the opportunity to learn, practice, and experience hospitality, and “do for God” (Matt: 25:40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”)

This is a topic close to my heart. Uncovering more about it has helped me to not just understand my son, and his struggles better, but to understand God, his character, and his intentions.

Now I’m wondering, “Is it time to write a book on this?”

Please leave your thoughts on this topic, or comment in any way.

May God bless your heart,

Lisa