Monday, March 17, 2008

Stopping to Smell the Roses

I see a lot of folks continue to drop by this little blog of mine, even though I have not been respectful enough of their visits to post more often.

I am grateful.

As some of you may know, some time ago I found that I needed to spend some time writing about topics that are too personal for this space.

I believe there will be a time, perhaps soon, that I will have the time and energy to devote proper attention to the topics I have chewed on here.

So, out of a slight case of guilt, I thought I would drop a note here about a few thoughts that seem fine to write about.

The central issue of faith is the existence of God.

Some folks point to the suffering in the world and mark that as proof that either there is no God, or He is apathetic. I don't agree.

Other folks point to the evidence in the world, and the universe, which seems to show that scripture is wrong, and claim that is proof there is no God. I don't agree with that either.

Now, please don't get me wrong. I love science, and I believe the indusptible evidence that are offered, and even most of the theories that spring from such sleuthing.
But there are curious things about the world that science cannot solve.

For example, there has never been any definitive proof that God doesn't exist. I know, I know. How can one prove something doesn't exist when there isn't any concrete evidence it does?

Well, we can set aside all the anecdotal evidence, since science basis itself on the premise that all things are measureable and repeatable, and therefore, available for experimentation.

But... there is the odd fact that every leap forward that science takes, and some of them have been on leaps which have squared, and cubed previous knowledge, there is always a gap that just falls short of explanation. Always.

OK. Perhaps that is sophistry. That I am still arguing from a negative, not a positive. Though I believe that the gaps are intentional, thereby requiring a leap of faith and not the mancales provided by chains of logic.

How about this...

Why is there beauty?

Perhaps we can argue that beauty flows from perfect design, you know, the old adage that form follows function and perfect funtions is by nature beautiful.

But even saying that the grace found in the run of a cheetah, or the stately movement of whales and flocks of birds, does not address the fact that we appreciate beauty.

There does not seem to be any evolutionary advantage for appreciating beauty.

Now, I'm not trying to argue that there isn't evidence for evolution. I am saying that the lift we feel when we see a rainbow, the awe we experience in the presence of a might water fall, the joy that steals over use when we pluck a rose, smell its fragrance, and note its unfolding patterns of color, provides no advantage to propagating our species. In fact the reverse is true.

Might not the pauses we take in appreciating beauty have put us at risk in times past?

So... I just thinking...

Faith and logic are two different things. They need not be exclusive of each other. But that does not mean we can dismiss each other either.

I've never seen a dog enthralled at the sight of a sunset.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wood Working

This post is heavily edited from the original.

Today we had our church’s monthly 24 hours of prayer. We get to sign up for one hour sessions.

I managed to get four sessions. I wanted the peace that usually comes from prayer.

Usually comes. Today I left feeling as heavy as when I started.

Worked on a picture on the wall there. Jesus as an ordinary guy... a carpenter. He’s using a chisel to notch out a large beam. I’ve drawn him slightly larger than life. His eyes down, looking at His work, making clear, sharp edges so it will fit another beam. He is wearing a sort of apron, nothing authentic, I just made it up, but it has a couple of pockets. in one pocket the handle of another chisel is barely seen. In another, four large nails.

I’m doing my usual thing, creating the image out of writing prayers and scripture. Slightly new technique though. I'm overlapping the writing where I want it to create darker areas instead of simply writing smaller. The effect has a little more control for color, but less detail. I think it's better.

I wrote stuff I do not wish to discuss here... but I know no one will be able to read it as it is written and rewritten and even I can't make out what is there once it gets covered a couple of times.

So, it will be our secret, OK? The picture is a little nicer than usual, and more personal. This time I know that when a year rolls 'round and it gets repainted, I will feel a greater sense of relief in covering it over. And hopefully it will be at a time when all this current mess is behind me and it will indeed be a new beginning.

Folks will wonder why I would want to paint it over, try to convince me I shouldn't. I will smile inside, knowing intimate prayers have been offered, received, and wiped clean again.

This is a tough time in my life. I believe that when that picture is painted over this coming year, this this challenge will be behind me. One way or another.

I’d like to sit and watch the Carpenter work. I’d like to be in that casual space of His workspace, the time before He began His ministry.

Right now, that is the Jesus I seek in my prayers. The guy who shaped things out of wood. I’m willing to let Him shape me now.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Doofus For Christ

(For unedited version see "The Journey")

Regular visitors to my blogs know I’m a rather strange guy. I write a lot of stuff about all sorts of topics, blending science and faith and technology and personal history with bizarre connections.

I’ve always been a little odd. I wasn’t the sort of teen my father thought I should be, I wasn’t the sort of student my instructors expected, and I’m not the usual sort of member of the congregation in my church.

I’m a doofus.

Just as I tripped over my suddenly too large feet as a teen I still trip over my words, my interactions with people, with ideas that don’t seem to fit in with how others see the world.

The best way to handle my social awkwardness is to keep my mouth shut. If I don’t say anything, if I smile and nod, then folks assume I agree with them and I don’t find myself attempting to defend the unorthodox views I hold.

For example, I embrace science and faith and have little difficulty in seeing how they blend smoothly together. But... many who share my faith bristle at notions of evolution, the Big Bang, quantum mechanics and the age of the universe. Likewise, my favorite magazine, Scientific American, occasionally prints opinion pieces about how foolish faith is in the light of scientific reason.

Parties from both camps will sometimes bait me, try to get me engaged in some silly debate, attempting to force me to defend one side or the other.

I do my best to slide away from such topics except with those I trust enough to share the real me.

I was in a little gathering today, a group discussing the book The Shack by William P. Young. It was suggested that one should approach the book in two ways. One should read it as a novel, just enjoy the plot, the spinning of a tale, and not take it too literally. Meanwhile, to compliment the first, do not accept all the ideas it presents without engaging the mind, comparing it to what our book of faith, The Bible, has to say. I added that there is a third way to approach the book as well, by reading it with the heart.

What I meant by that is the book attempts to describe the indescribable, and it may not hold up to our biblical scrutiny or our own visions and interpretations of God. But, the heart of what is being described, the feelings and emotions, the spiritual responses we might feel, should also be a component in our examination of the novel.

Some around the room smiled at that. Some looked confused. A few had that knowing look, the one that says, “Greenleaf is one strange guy.”

But that piece of literary advice I offered got me thinking.

I know I am a foolish man with foolish ideas. I know that in attempting to wrap my mind around truths as esoteric as the nature of the Creator and how the random workings of the quantum universe results in the apparent order in Newtonian Mechanics, I am playing with concepts and fantasies that I really know very little about. It’s a little like taking the kindergarten class finger-painting virtuoso and asking her to expound on the fine points of Jackson Pollack. Well... perhaps that is a bad example... maybe Salvador Dali... oh... er... Rembrandt, yeah, Rembrandt.

Sometimes I am embarrassed by how goofy I am. I regret that sometimes I make those around me feel awkward.

For example, in church today, I felt like being demonstrative in my worship. I usually don’t let anything hinder me, but today, I knew that my wife would feel awkward if I raised my hands too high, if I shed a tear, or bowed low. So, twice I slipped off to the back of the sanctuary and worshiped where no one was watching. Just because I am a doofus doesn’t mean others need to see it.

But sometimes it is OK to be a doofus.

King David was sometimes a doofus...

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.
2 Samuel 6:14-16

(If this is a little confusing, an ephod was a type of apron, and the implication here is that King David was wearing ONLY that.)

He was acting a little bit like a doofus.

But, he was acting that way because he didn’t care what anyone else thought, he wanted to dance and sing and love God with abandon.

I think the apostle Peter might have been a doofus at times.

He lept out of a boat to meet Jesus walking on the water... Of course, miracle though it was, he grew afraid and began to sink. Matthew 14:29-31

His heart was bigger than his abilities.

He once said that Jesus would not, should not, die and rise again. He really put his foot in his mouth there. I think he was trying to say, from his own inferior perspective, that Jesus would never die. But he got slapped down pretty hard for telling the Son of God what He would or should do.

He also had other times he put his foot in his mouth. He said he would die for and with Jesus. Jesus told him otherwise.

Later he opposed Paul, and subsequently realized he was wrong.

Peter was a big guy, with a big heart, and often a big mouth. A kind of doofus for God.

I have a lot of failings. I’ve often made a mess of my life. I’ve made mistakes in my marriage, in my parenting, in my employment, in just about everything I have tried.

I am full of strange ideas, and sometimes I open my mouth and tickle my tonsils with my toes.

I recognize many of the wondrous gifts God has given me, but too often I take false pride in them. Silly man who feels special because of a few talents he did not create on his own. Sort of like running around and shouting to the world that the Lord God has given me an... ARM! Uh, yeah.

I try to balance pride with self-knowledge, false modesty with humility, but I fail at it constantly.

And I am realizing this: I’m a silly man, suddenly older than he thought he was, and unable to control what he thought he could, and thinks about things that are almost certainly completely in error... but... I love God with all of my heart. I screw up in following Him properly all the time. But, I am unashamed of my faith, and I think that though I am such a screw up in so many ways, I think that God is pleased with my heart.

So... I may stumble over my own feet, over my own tongue, but that is OK.

I’m a doofus for Christ.