Category Archives: stress

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?

Wacky Wednesday. No coffee? (This could be you) Caption Please.

Wacky Wednesday is the alternative to Jon Acuff’s Serious Wednesday. It’s meant to be the opposite of Jon’s SCL posts, because some of us need that humor boost, midweek.

I don’t know the story here. There is a distinct possibility that this man, in a deparate attempt to get his monring brew, threw on his sister’s clothes and made a mad dash to Starbucks. Maybe the long line did him in. I don’t see anybody helping him, but I think he needs a caffeine IV drip. Stat!

What’s your take? What happened just before this photo was taken?
Give us a good caption for this scene.

HAVE A GREAT WEDNESDAY.

What happened? Give this a CAPTION!

 

 

Need one more humor boost? Warning for parents. This one is PG 13, but imagine getting your teen this for Christmas, and forcing them to wear it to school? (What were they thinking?) ahhhhh!

X-<

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.

Man Cave: Of sanctuaries and retreats

(A Room Decoration and Demarcation)

It’s been said that the adult male human regularly needs some “down time” after a work day (a.k.a. Cave Time) to rejuvenate, find refreshment, recharge, gain clarity, and so on.

BUT-I doubt–a LOT–that “cave time” is truly a need reserved for the masculine of the species.

As many men will attest, females also enjoy and feel the need to retreat, and find refreshment. For some women it looks like taking a walk alone, reading a book while soaking in a bubble bath, or even not being alone–such as, sharing emotions with a trusted friend or ally.

Whatever this time looks like, it is a demarcated boundary of sanctuary, and vitally important to good mental health, and a balanced life–notwithstanding the spiritual benefits.

My husband doesn’t feel he needs a “den” or a man gym set up in the basement to get his man cave time in. He most enjoys a vigorous bike ride through the beautiful countryside on his road bike. I most like a variety of sanctuaries and refreshing conduits–both with others and without.

It’s not a weakness or a shame to realize you need space, and find your own space routinely (be it physical space, quite down time, mental respite, or beneficial time of social interaction). It is part of how we [all] live out our humanity fully, and how we are better able to best rejoin to loved ones, and others in our work or social lives in the most healthy way. If you don’t alreadly, encourage your loved ones to carve out demarcated time for this human need, as well as maintain your own. Seriously. Put in on the calendar or in your planner. It’s really that important. Be systematic so you stick with it, and keep your appointments with yourself. You will be surprised how much everyone will benefit.

Do you get the “cave time” you feel you need?

What does cave time look, or sound like for you?

Any body know Scripture that encourages ‘cave time’?

I look forward to your responses. Thanks.

5 Things Readers Wish Bloggers Knew

wifi, coffee, donuts: A bloggers paradise

If you want to have a devoted readership, these 5 ideas will eliminate some common mistakes bloggers make. That means more readership, and more reader loyalty.

1. Be original. Even if you get sparked to write because of someone else, put your own creative twist on it.

2. Use good images. In a recent static that just came to me… more than 90% of regular internet users are visual people. The other 10% squint. A good image attracts attention, and makes your post more memorable. [Double points if it’s funny.]

NOTE: Be ethical. Always use your own photography, or ask permission and credit your photo sources. Link to the original image. Photos belong to the creator, not to you. Swiping them for your uses is what we called stealing.

3. Remember, you’re probably not that interesting. Rarely do people enjoy a personal journal type blog, unless you’re Lady Gaga, David Hasselhoff,Lance Armstrong, Snooki, or someone who is both famous and intriguing–No one cares that you made Mac and cheese, went shopping, took a nap, ate something, or some other stupid thing that chronicles your life. No. One. Cares.

(If that’s all you have to post about, read an interesting book, and blog about it, or skip the postings until you become infamous.)

4. Know when to post. Don’t write and post when you’re tired, quite ill, hungry, or up late because of insomnia. These posts you may live to regret. They won’t be your best work, and if you write during these circumstances often your posts will get very annoying.

5. Don’t linger. If possible keep your word count to 200-500 words. A reader should be able to get through your post in 3-7 minutes. Blogging is a different writing medium than books, or magazines. Don’t get confused and believe that even with good content you can get readers to stay for more than 3-7 minutes on one post. It just doesn’t work that way, my friend.

Sometimes I break this “rule,” but I know my blog suffers for it.

What things bug you about blogs?

Any questions?

UPDATE: In the comments, I post a reply to a reader who defends “swiping images”. Find out what is legal to take from the web, by clicking the Comments button. Thanks for reading and participating!

Piñata Syndrome

Smash him for candy?

Arizona isn’t the only place struggling with immigration issues. My county in Pennsylvania is too.

Some drunk teens, in a nearby town, beat a Mexican man to death, and their (mind you, local-and NOT exactly urbane) peers on the jury fully exonerated them all. Whether the man was an illegal immigrant is not the main issue. (Many have said, “If he was in his own country it wouldn’t have happened. He got what was coming to him.”) His life was taken by thugs, a proper punishment is important.

The Feds have stepped in, and a different outcome for the teens may occur. There is lots of corruption tied to authorities in that region as well. (The latest of that news here.)

This problem of groups and individuals taking out their aggressions on weaker or less powerful people is actually a spiritual problem. It takes many forms, most typically some sort of bullying, but also an attempt at degradation is a classic symptoms. I think, in some ways, we all can do it. Yelling at the kids, railing on other drivers, malicious talk, and of course beating someone up with your karate moves.

I call it Piñata Syndrome: It is s when one person (or group) takes it upon himself (or themselves) to mistreat or abuse another, hoping to get some candy in the end (so to speak).

Who are other famous piñatas in history?

The most amazing human piñata of all?

I’d say Jesus Christ. He took our beating (and death sentence), by those hoping to “get candy” (or some sweet deal) from doing so.

Here’s the twist, you may not like as much: Jesus asks his followers to do the same as he did. Self-sacrifice. “Take up your (piñata) cross, and follow me”.

Are we treating people (or groups) like piñatas, or are we being a piñata, in some way, for the sake of Christ?

What are some other examples of piñata syndrome?