Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Last Friday night, as I was chatting with each of my sons, preparing to pray with them, I talked to them about what had happened that day. That morning my children became U.S. citizens.

“There are billions of people all over the world who wish they lived in this country,” I told each of them.

“We have plenty of food in the frig and the pantry. We have a good roof over our heads. If we are in trouble we can call the police and not worry they might want money from us or they might be as much of a problem as the reason we called. That isn’t true for a lot of people.

“If we are hurt or not feeling well, help is only a three digit phone call away. In many places the only people who can get help are those who have enough money to get special privileges, and in those countries very few are in that position.”

Each boy looked at me, unsure how to respond, unsure what I was referring to. They cannot remember what their home country, Haiti, is like.

“I think many people in this country don’t appreciate what a privilege it is to live here,” I told them.

“I lot of people talk about gas prices, and politics, and our economy, but all that means very little when we compare ourselves to most of the world. We are very lucky to live in such a wealthy country, a place where there are people to protect us, help us, let us go to whatever church we want and vote any way we want.

“Now you are a U.S. citizen and that means an awful lot.”

I went on for a little while. I think the voting thing went pretty much over their heads.

Today is Memorial Day. It is primarily a day when folks remember those who have served in the military to protect our freedoms, but it is also used for us to visit the places where we have buried all our loved ones.

We have a memorial to the veterans of the Vietnam conflict. It’s the first thing one sees entering town from the west.

That Vietnam was difficult for us. Some folks are still upset about the reasons we were there.

We treated the soldiers of that war poorly. In the current conflict the American people are trying very hard to make it clear that whatever their feelings about the war in Iraq, we honor the men and women who serve.

That is why I think the memorial on the edge of town is a good thing. It is a memorial to the veterans, not the war. There was some valor in that war, regardless of the poklitics behind it. The helicopter is a medical rescue vehicle, not a weapon. It may be military, but it is at least a symbol of rescue.

We voted in President Nixon because he told us he had a secret plan to get us out of the war (though we didn’t know the plan was: “Everybody on the roof!”).

There is a great concern in our country that the current conflict might not be the right thing to do as well.

Still, it is Memorial Day and the flags are flying. The boy scouts are putting them on the streets, the Veterans of Foreign wars are doing the same at the cemetery.

There is an American flag on every veteran’s grave. There are too many of them.

At Zion Memorial Cemetery there are representatives from nearly every war, all the way back to the Civil war 150 years ago.

Brenda and I put flowers on Willy’s grave.

I don’t believe God is an American, but I do believe I am very fortunate to live in a place where I can worship Him without fear, or regard, to what others think.

I’m unsure what is best for us to do in the rest of the world, but I believe that as a people we really want to do what is best, what helps others. Perhaps not all our leaders have been motivated by that concern, but for even them, doing the right thing is a part of it.

Death is a part of life. Some of those we honor today died for others. Some simply died (such as Willy).

As I tried to explain that to my kids, I am grateful for those who sacrificed themselves for others, for me.

Most especially my Lord who sacrificed Himself that everyone, American, Venezuelan, Portuguese, Russian, all of us, that we may live not only forever, but live well in this world as well.

Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


(A Short Tale of Nature and My home)

“Dad, could you come out into the front yard? I have something I want to show you.”

Isaac gets a formal tone, chooses his words carefully, when he really wants to connect with me. He often has trouble articulating. When his language becomes precise, I pay attention.

“There’s a bird’s nest in the plum tree.”

Sure enough, only about five feet off the ground, there was a nest in the crotch of the tree.

No bird in it. No chirping. I peeked in, there were only empty shells within.

I gently pried it out of the tree while Isaac took pictures.

Bird nests are cool. I’m not sure why, but they are.

I think it is partly because they are complex. The twigs and leaves and bits of detritus swirl around in a macramé bowl.

Oregon weather has been strange this year. We never got the real cold weather, but there was plenty of rain. The temperature swung into the 90s (F.) and back down into the 50s over just a couple of days. We had weeks of cold rain, (very unusual) and the fruit trees are confused about what they should be doing. And a pair of birds have already raised their young this year.

I took the day off today. I explained what was up to the boys when I sat on their beds last night, our nightly time together which ends in prayer.

I explained once again about their citizenship problems. I told them how we were going to the immigration office and try to get their citizenship, that we knew it wasn’t supposed to be possible for Jeremiah to get it yet, but we thought we might, so we were going to try.

I told them how fortunate we are in this country, that we have so much available to us.

We dressed up a little, the boys, myself, Brenda. We left the house at 6:30 a.m. for the half hour drive to Portland for an 8:00 appointment. We wanted to be certain we got there ahead of morning rush hour traffic.


By 9:00 we were at the post office, applying for passports for the boys and Brenda, evidence for the happy news that my children are now U.S. Citizens!

Once more...


So this post isn’t the mix of theology and science and personal angst as the previous one (other blog), but it is a mix.

Simple pleasure of an empty bird nest, a symbol of Spring, new beginnings, another generation. A tremendous victory and gift in my children gaining the benefits of U.S. citizenship, the threats of the legal status swept away by people who knew how to do what is right, show us the way out of the maze of legal red tape (sorry about the mixed metaphor).

I'm so glad not to find bureaucrats in a buraeucracy! Not what I would expect. Especially one that is now under the umbrella of Homeland Security!

How might this affect my home life?

(This paragraph deleted... unedited version in other blog.)

And so is God.

He has been faithful. I am grateful

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hi There!

I wish I had something of value to drop into this little blog.

I have been writing, but it doesn't fit this blog (so it is at the more melodramatic one).

Additionally, the school year is wrapping up and that is a little different than a lot of people seem to think.

"So... things starting to slow down for the year?"

"I bet you are glad things are drwaing to a close and you can begin to relax as summer approaches."

Things like that.

The way things are for me is that things actually get busier. As the end of the school year nears the kids become more restless, less focused, a little more rambunctious.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to squeeze in as much into this trimester as I have the previous two.

And, there tends to be more assemblies, more field trips, more year end activities which whittle away at my time with them.

Lastly, this is my last chance to instill the habits and ethics children need to be succesful students, successful citizens. It is all the more important to do all the character building stuff as it needs to hold them until the fall.

I am most concerned about the eighth graders who go on to high school next year. So many of them are so immature, so sure they are right in everything, so unready to grasp the responsibilities high school will demand of them. In middle school they are top of the heap, lords of their domain, and next year they will be lowly freshman roaming halls with upper classmen who haven't the patience for wide-eyed kids.

So... I wish I had some wonderful theological insights to share. But the lessons I have been learning lately are a little to painful to share here.

But I'll be back.


Real soon.

And I'm praying that I can start writing as little on that other blog as I have been on this one.

OK... one last parting insight... just for kicks...

I have learned a spiritual lesson that might fit here.

I am not nearly as clever as I'd like, and that it turns out that I have learned that I have a lot of reasons to be humble.

Not only am I small in the sense of one among 6.7 billion, but I am small in the sense that I spend so much time thinking about myself that I leave very little room for God... and He deserves all the room I can give him.

Alright, that doesn't sound very insightful. But like so many insights, they don't come across as important to others as they do to those who are beginning to internalize them.

So, in closing, I'll leave you with a quote that I used in my other blog which is clevver enough to spark introspection all on it own:

The destiny of mankind is not decided by material computation. When great causes are on the move, we learn that we are spirits, not animals, and that something is going on in space and time, and beyond space and time, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.
--Winston Churchill, Rochester, New York, 1941

Friday, May 02, 2008


A crisis of faith can strike anyone. My wife is having a difficult time right now with her understanding of God, or as they put it in AA, her “higher power.”

I understand her frustration. She feels God has been capricious, perhaps cruel, in the events of our lives. We longed for children, she was barren. We adopted a child, took him home the day after his birth, and he died at three and a half months. We adopted two more, hoping to grasp our dream of raising children to carry on our values, our world view. They are both mentally handicapped. They are incapable of being who we wished they might be.

My wife feels punished. She thinks God should intervene in people’s lives, especially when people are trying to do the right thing, helping others, such as adopting orphans.

Oddly enough, though I have experienced those same life frustrations, my faith seems to grow stronger every year. What makes it especially odd is that I have this scientific bent to my nature. I read as much as I can, gobble up information on physics, geology, natural history, astronomy, quantum mechanics. I'm not a scientist, I know very little, but I try to learn as much as a lay person can. And all the science I digest does not shake my faith. Instead I see God in His creation all the more clearly because of the things I read, the things I learn.

My faith doesn’t spring from seeing the wonders science reveals. My faith doesn’t spring from reading scripture either. It just is.

My life has gotten pretty screwed up.

I have no idea where it is going, what will happen next. I harbor great anxiety over my future, over decisions I need to make each day. And though my faith tells me I need not be anxious, my faith isn’t quite strong enough that I drop the concerns I carry.

But my faith does not waiver.

Why is that?

Some time ago I resolved to stop caring what people in church thought of me as I worship. I shut my eyes, told myself that it hasn’t anything to do with anyone else, and let it all fall away as I turn my mind, and my heart, to praying the words I sing, imagining my God watching me, enjoying me, as I open my heart to Him.

I think that is one reason my faith has grown.

During those moments of worship I open my heart and I sense just a little of eternity.

There have been other times when eternity drew near. Those moments are with me always, and because of them I cannot give up my faith.

I was trying to explain this to a friend today.

I asked him to imagine time as having two dimensions. It is a little strange to try, but I think I can do it. Imagine that instead of being dragged along with the passage of time, being carried by that unrelenting stream that carries us in the direction of entropy, we could step away. We could step aside and remain in a particular moment for as long as we like.

Imagine we could turn around and face away from the line of time all together, and gaze across a smooth glassy plane that has no boundaries, no edge, no end in any direction. That one could turn and walk beside the time line, gazing into any part of the existence of the universe, both in time and in space. “When” would cease to have meaning.

I suppose there was a “time” when all there was to experience was that plain, that austere prairie of eternity. The trinity was there, existing in a reality that stretched everywhere and nowhere. That the only part of it that made it something was the existence of God Themself. A trinity of thinking, loving, existing I AM... A being so much the essence of love, the tangible deification and expression of Love, and They desire(d) to expand that experience, to fill all, to fill eternity, to be eternity.

For that two dimensional plane of eternity powerful beings were created. Beautiful souls capable of sharing that love, giving that love, “moving” and “being” in eternity. Powers, and dominions, and angels, and principalities. Their existence unmarred by strife, longing, death, corruption. Their existence a steady existence bathed in the central glory and glow of their Creator. Powerful, smooth souls gleaming and reflecting, love, community.

Time did not/does not/will not pass, for there is not/was not/will be no restriction to it, all of eternity existing all at once.


Until a thread was stretched and pulled up from that surface and lain across that plain. A constriction of eternity into one dimension. One end of it tethered to eternity, to the mathematically pure two dimensions of time, the other laid out a hundred billion or more years and flattened into nothing. One end the tight, bright beginning of the universe, the Big Bang we like to call it, and the other the smooth, cool evening of entropy, billions of years ahead of us, when all things lose themselves in expansion and quiet, cooling dissipation.

Imagine the wonder of those beings, those august mighty entities of eternity as they gaze(d) upon that line laid upon the plane of their existence. They could move alongside it, see the formation of the laws of physics as the hot plasma of raw matter cooled enough, held still enough to embrace electrons, and each other... forming hydrogen, helium, and stars.

They watched the stars dance into simple round galaxies, and grow, and die, and in dying their immolition creating more complex, heavier materials, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen...

Did some of those eternal beings with souls smooth and clean, created to reflect Love and Beauty and Glory, move along that strange line upon the plain and wonder? Did they glide along it a dozen or more billion years and see how worlds settled out of star dust and marvel(ed) at life?

It must seem(ed) a miracle, a great wondrous spectacle, to behold things tied to that line, that stream of entropy. It must have seemed so different to gaze upon mortality... plants, animals, creatures and things in corners of the universe consuming and procreating and dying.

It must have been a wonder to see Them nurture gardens and set creatures in them, to see how they moved and interacted and relied upon each other in a complex web of life. The complex web of ecosystems adapting to changing environments, of the rain of meteors, of ice ages, and of volcanoes. Watching as an atmosphere of carbon-dioxide cleared to one of nitrogen and oxygen. Watching as the age of green things ruled, and oxygen spiked so high insects grew to enormous proportions. The gritty reality of a limited universe filled with things that relied upon each other in complex ways. To note how the wolf is connected to the elk, the elk to the trees, the trees to the beaver, the beaver to swamps, the swamps to meadows, the meadows to flowers, the flowers to butterflies, and to watch those butterflies knowing they rely upon the wolf.

Amazing to watch the Lord let the systems of worlds age, settle, become used to each other. To watch Him place human-like place keepers in the world, the australopithicenes, proto humans, allowing them to hold the niche in nature, letting the ecosystems settle into their rhythms, waiting for the wonder that would bring texture to eternity, the mixing of souls with living things.

Then He did a most marvelous thing. The Lord God made Man, pushing tiny slivers of eternity out of the two dimensions of time, into the hearts of living beings so they could sense it, so they could carry fragments of a greater reality within their breasts and sense the larger truth that there is more than their narrow path, that thread through eternity. He gave them souls.

From within that thread, from within the thin line of time, I'm blessed to imagine a reality of greater proportions. It seems amazing to think of powerful eternal beings gazing upon us from outside our own thin existence.

It is amazing that I have this sliver of eternity within my own living body, this soul, and that it senses there is so much more than I can ever know from my books on science.

What can I offer in return for this amazing gift? All I have. I offer the devotion of a soul that sorrows and longs and grieves and loves and has choices. I can take the mysterious gift of free will and set my love in it and carry the strange experience of living a life along a single line of time. I can take with me into eternity the gritty roughness that comes from living among a species that can be selfish and self-serving and greedy and cruel and experience pain and let that soul bring texture to eternity.

Why do I believe in God? Why has my faith stayed when it could have turned to questioning whether or not God is capricious and cruel, or steady and loving?

I think I haven’t much choice about my faith.

I experienced eternity once.

March 15th, 1993.

I was walking in Molalla River State Park, before dawn, grieving over the death of my son.

The full moon was sinking, the air had that strange hush as nature holds its breath at the approaching dawn. The stars were sparkling through a sky gathering unto itself a color impossible to describe, a rich, dark violet tinge over velvety space.

I dropped to my knees in the hurt and anguish of lost dreams and the aching void my son had left and I heard Him.

I know my ears did not receive any sound, that there was no physical movement of His words streaming through air, but all of nature, the moon, the stars, the dark shadows of trees, the large river flowing by, the grass and dirt beneath my knees, all of it thundered silently with His words: “I KNOW.”

That instant my heart leapt, that sliver within me connected to eternity, leapt. For that instant I knew eternity. That moment took no time at all, and it lasted forever and ever and ever.

I carry that moment always.

I have no choice about my faith.

I experienced God Themself and I have no choice, for all the rest of this mortal life, but to believe in Him.