Tag Archives: suffering

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?

The Nest, part 2

Spinning House (adapted from photo by John & Brenda Bendinsky)

Perhaps every parent tries to give their child something they craved as a child. For me, it’s stability. Emotional safely. A place that is a refuge from the plagues and tumult of the world, rather than another component to the madness.

I noticed someone’s garden bird house this spring. It hung from a cord and was in constant motion. It spun clockwise, and then counter-clockwise. And it got me to thinking…do the young birds think the world spins? When they leave the nest, does normal stability feel abnormal? I realized I grew up in a spinning bird house. Love will always feel unstable, even when it stands firm.

I want something for my children: I want to anchor our house to the tree.

Qualities of a good nest:

1. Cozy

2. Safe

3. Warm

4. Comforting

5. Place of learning/preparatory

6. Seasonal/temporary

7. Place of nurture

7. Place where you get good eats

8. Sufficient shelter

What else?

What have you (or would you want to) give to your children that wasn’t in the “nest” you grew up in?

"Safe Neighborhood?" (creative commons photo by Josve05a Flickr)

A Picture of Survival

Yesterday, we took this photo on a cell phone at Duff Park in Murrysville, PA. [I apologize for the low quality.]

I really wanted to share this because the image is a fantastic visual example of survival. Look carefully. The red square shows where the tree started. Perhaps some rocks gave way underneath it. Has that ever happened to you?

It seems that for some time the tree was pointed down, away from live-giving sunlight.

But what happened after years of struggle and persistence?

Growth. Survival. Resilience. Vigor. A Healthy (though precariously placed) Tree.

How can you survive when the bottom drops out? Grow up. 🙂

"I will survive," said the tree.

My prayer of thanksgiving: God, thank you for this example and inspiration from your created world.

What are your reflections, thoughts, or comments?

The WHY questions…

It’s quite possible that my parents inadvertently trained my brain to be more philosophical then it might have been ordinarily.

I remember countless times after doing something naughty or foolish, my parents would ask me a daunting question “Why, did you do that?”

I’m not sure what kind of answers they were expecting. I would wonder why they would ask that.

Those answers were far beyond what my child brain could tackle.

Inwardly I would think, “HUH? Well, that’s a good question, I guess. I probably should have asked why to myself before I did it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. How should I know why I did it? Do they know why? If so, why don’t they just tell me? Will there be some kind of quiz later, or something? If they do know why, why did they looked so puzzled? And basically pissed off. Am I supposed to figure it out for them? …..ugh. But, now that I’m thinking of it, I do wonder why.”

I would usually answer, “I don’t know.” Deep inside I would wish and hope the scrutiny would not last too long. (It probably would lead to a “spanking” a.k.a. whoop the daylights out of me.) But, I also thought, if I did know, wouldn’t truthful answers incriminate me? What could I really come up with in all honesty, “because I wanted to,”?

Mainly through the sheer number of inquiries, I developed the feeling that the answer to “why” had importance. I started on a path toward “hack philosopher”…

“Why would people wish to put meat into ball shapes?”

“Why would chewing gum before supper truly ruin supper itself?”

“Why was, ‘because I said so’ considered an acceptable reason for adults to give me, but never good at all for me to reply to them?”

When troubles or suffering would come, I would instinctively ask “why”?

Maybe learning a lot of things would give me these sought for questions. I tried that a bit. (I still love roving around libraries on a quest of discovery.) After a good deal of learning, one day it came to me:

“Almost all the really crucial questions that ask ‘why’ have quite unsatisfactory answers.”

Or, the answers get debated widely, and are rarely agreed on. Or, the “answers” have the kind of complexities that don’t make one feel better about things. At all.

All this preparatory ‘why’ work…for what? Zip. More or less.

Instead of those sorts of questions, I moved on. “What does asking why tell us about us, and why we should want to know in the first place?” That seems like a much bigger question, with the kind of answer that will make a difference.

We want things to make sense. We want purpose and something to believe in that won’t let us down. We want to count on something. Will a concrete answer provide this? It seems most concrete answers only produce more questions. Of course, I was only satiated with pat answers for a short time.  (I do believe I was also trained to understand that challenging  answers was either a lack of faith, or a flaw in character.)

It’s been a new path for me to have a certain serenity that understanding may begin when the intricacies that the why questions remain in creative tension with discovery and mystery.

And so “why mystery?”

For me, it’s about knowing things in terms of relationship, not facts. The facts can be manipulated, massaged, or up for grabs. But, true trust, based on an ongoing and lavish love, surmounts what facts never satisfy.

God is why.

Leave a comment…

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?

Why the Body of Christ (people) is Inhospitable to the Disabled

Excerpt from my Book Review Paper of – “Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality”  -by Thomas E. Reynolds

copyright Lisa Colón DeLay © 2010

Caring Stops at Fear

To put it bluntly, the problem lies in the fact that what we hate and fear is personified in a disable person. What we grieve and pity on a grander scale about human existence can be seen in the disabled. What we dread about ourselves, or how the broken world can be, takes on fleshly form, right in front of us, in the acute helplessness of the disabled one.

On a gut level, we realize at some point we too may be helpless and dependent. It seems frightening. We feel weak, inferior, and can be dreadfully aware of our imperfections. We resent being reminded of it. We also fear that grace will not abound for us in these cases. Consequently, we hope the subject does not come up, or that the disabled stay a bit out of view. Disabilities are variations of the vulnerable life that God has given us. They are too, the life he lived out, in human form. It seems a most basic dilemma of human existence is whether there is welcome when it is most needed. Can we can find a safe place to abide, and be with others who recognize us, value us, and empower us to become our best selves. We remain insecure.

Interdependence

Reynolds asserts that the Christian story is, and has been, one of strength coming from weakness, of wholeness emerging from brokenness, and of growth budding from vulnerability. This comes by the grace and almighty power of God. As able-bodied people, we underestimate our need. We admire, idolize, and pursue independence, on all levels.

In contrast, the common good is not achieved unilaterally (individually), or selfishly. The disabled understand experientially what the able-bodied can only know partially, and, by in large, theoretically: we need relationships in order to exist. As we embrace our vulnerability and mature to depend on other, we become more fully human. Weakness, in the interdependence played out as servant host and guest, gives us the privilege of reliance, vulnerability, and the opportunity to pursue abundant life together. It is part of how we develop in trust and faith.

Reynolds delves into theological issues, related to Trinitarian theology. They are discussed in terms of God and his creation, Jesus’ redemption and interaction with humanity, and the Spirit in the context of the Spirit-filled church living as a vulnerable inclusive communion in the redemptive kingdom of God.

Your comments and ideas are encouraged. Please post them.