Thursday, May 17, 2007


Here's another interesting quote that seems to relate to the pictured prayer card in "Loss"

Richard Rohr writes

Walter Brueggemann, my favorite Scripture teacher, points out that about one third of the Psalms are psalms of “lament”, but they have been the least used by Catholic and Protestant liturgies. We think, perhaps, they express sinful anger or negativity, when grief and loss are actually something quite different. We think they make us appear weak, helpless, and vulnerable, and most of us don’t want to go there. We think, perhaps, they show a lack of faith, whereas they are probably the summit of faith. So we quickly resort to praise and thanksgiving, even when it is often dishonest emotion. We forget that Jesus called weeping a “blessed” state (Matthew 5:5). We forget that only one book of the Bible is named after an emotion: Jeremiah’s book of “Lamentation”.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


My father passed away last month. I wrote some thoughts down to remind myself how I was feeling:

I feel that my father's death on March 18, 2007 has cheated him, me, my mother, my siblings, my child, and my siblings' children of a man who absolutely adored his grandchildren. I did not know where my relationship with my father stood when I told him he was going to be a grandparent, and I wanted my daughter to have him as a loving grandpa. Even though he had made several invitations to my wife and me that we had often accepted, I was completely unprepared for the avalanche of support he immediately sent to me when I told him we were having a child. He was smoking several turkeys for Thanksgiving to give to the many people with whom he shared his generosity, and he announced on the phone to me that he was going to send me a turkey that day! The delicious turkey arrived by express mail in a styrofoam cooler.

When my daughter was born by an unplanned caesarean section delivery, he left Wichita Falls for Austin immediately to see his first grandchild and also Amanda and me.

I do still feel that life's events have cheated us, but I believe that God works through those who surrender their will to God's to love one another as my larger family has done abundantly since my father's death. The edges around this sudden hole in my life are made softer by the love I have been able to give and receive over the last five days since his death. Our faith tells us to comfort one another and know that we are safe in our love and God's love despite the uncertainty of life to which we are acutely aware. Knowing how much love constantly is here for us overrides the uncertainties that are simply a matter of fact.

I had been trying to express my feelings of being cheated, not by God, but by the event of my father's death when I looked up and saw a card that had been taped to his desk clearly for some time. On it was a beautiful summation of what I was feeling: "Trials are not enemies of faith but are opportunities to prove God's faithfulness."

There is still so much for me to be thankful for and sad about. I feel as if my dad's life was taken from all of us too soon. We had recently reconciled after a decade of some estrangement, and I was so happy for the role he took upon himself to reconcile us, and I feel like someone showed me a beautiful thing only yank it from my grasp as soon as I held it. I am thankful for our reconciliation, but sad and angry that simple things such as finishing my deck he helped me build will now have to be done without him, and I'm still immeasurably thankful that he did get to come help me build the deck.
My dad's oldest brother found and bought several copies of the inspirational card pictured and gave one to me on Easter that I now keep in my wallet.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Statement of Faith

On Saturday morning, I was out mowing the lawn as I usally do as it is one of the things that give me a sense of self actualization, though that may be a bit silly. Actually, I was trimming around the house and flower garden when I saw a group of nicely dressed folk walking my way on either side of the street. Nicely dressed Jehovah's witnesses I surmised, and I walked into the house to let Amanda know that they were coming, though she told me to handle them on my own.

I don't know that I had ever talked to any calling Jehovah's Witnesses before. I may have pretended not to be home, and our last residence was a gated community, so maybe they never could get in. I do recall a tipsy conversation in college of some guy relating some Mormons calling and conversing about "true" religion or whatnot. Anyway, since I'd never talked to the Jehovah's Witnesses, and I've been getting a healthy dose of my own kind of religion and spirituality from reading American Gospel by Jon Meacham and listening to lectures from the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, I figured I could talk to some roving JW's. Plus, I was in a fine mood as I would be sleeping on a fancy new bed that night (mmm, individually wrapped coils with memory foam and convoluted foam on top in a king sized mattress), so I took off my sun hat when they greeted me, and I went to talk to the two older men from the group who approached.

They were quite friendly as I expected them to be, and I was happy to be friendly, too. They let me know that they were Jehovah's Witnesses, and I nodded, since I figured as much. It's not often that a half dozen or so sharply dressed people go house to house on a Saturday, even a relatively cool Saturday when the temperature is not expected to reach ninety degrees Fahrenheit. They asked whether I read the bible, and I answered affirmatively, even though I don't read or know it as well as I think I should, nor likely as much or well as they do.

Then they asked whether I believed in a Creator. I answered that I did. It's not every day that one is asked for a statement of religious faith, but I was feeling up to the task at least that day. The man talking continued that there were many who believe in Darwinism, but that there were several problems with the Darwinist arguments for evolution. After that my mind started racing as if the pump of rhetoric had just been primed by hearing "Darwin" and "evolution". I'm not sure exactly what he said after that since my own thoughts were loudly competing for my attention, and I didn't want simply to alienate them. Afterall, I assumed they were most likely just wanting to spread their good news of Christian salvation. I responded, smiling still, that I was aware of many arguments against evolution, but that I believed the evidence favors evolution over anything else offered, and any attempts to change my mind would be futile.

"How can you believe in a Creator and in evolution?" came the question after a few more statements and, I think, a bible verse citation. (Jehovah's Witnesses seem to me to be as agile at quoting the bible as Baptists, and that actually helped us later in the conversation.) I mentioned something about the grass growing but not requiring God to pull up each blade but rather let the grass grow by it's biological processes, and then I mentioned that the sun rises each day though God doesn't have to push the earth to make it spin each day, but rather the mechanism of gravity does that for us. There was some verse mentioned about God causing the sun to shine, etc., but I forget which it was unfortunately. I said that my faith was sufficient for me even though I do not know the true nature of God. I don't have to believe that God sticks his fingers in every physical, chemical, or biological process in order for me to believe in a Creator. Relegating God to such chores would essentially make God into something we could scientifically test, but my faith is about things metaphysical, about primary causes that could never be proven or disproven by science. After all, we are not expected to put our God to the test, and scientifically testing for God would require a "God of the Gaps" theology that I do not find fulfilling.

I said I believe in these things because I choose to believe in them, not because I can prove them or disprove them. Now we reached the point where I was biblically bolstered by my new acquaintances because the man to whom I was talking offerred a verse in Paul's letter to the Hebrews that addresses the point I just made. Chapter eleven, verses one and three state,

"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen."

"By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible."

I can believe this just as I can believe that all people are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights," and for me, though not for everyone including perhaps even the nation's Founders, the Creator in this quote of the Declaration of Independence is the God whom I chose. Thomas Jefferson wrote "Nature's God" in the Declaration, which for most Christians and myself is the one God of the Trinity. Aligning my understanding of God to encompass the Nature's God or Creator of the Declaration of Independence with the God of the bible and a God who can use any means including biological evolution does not result in contradiction at least for me.

At some point after talking about the levels of mechanism that I would allow God to use, the man to whom I was talking remarked that he was surprised by how much we agreed. I'm sure there were points of mine that he did not accept, but our exchange was amicable. Then he started talking about how bad television is, and I scarcely held back an, "Amen, brother!" So they went on their way, and I finished tending my lawn.

My God is one who seeks to allow us to transform ourselves by grace. By using suffering or hardship to find our souls when our selves cannot find a way to win. That way we can aspire to find happiness and peace hopefully on earth as in heaven.

I took a little while to read some of the notes given to me about the Jehovah's Witnesses take on biological evolution. They do state that they are not politically involved in trying to require any particular teaching in public schools. The article I read pointed out many technological things humans can learn from nature such as the wing design of a whale's flippers, etc., but then the article quoted Michael Behe, a major proponent of Intelligent Design, on why the "trial and error over millions of years" *seems* unlikely to produce the amazing features of the biological world, and thus it is more sensible that these things were created just as they are by an omnipotent creator.

Such characterizations seem to lack imagination to me. For example, genetic algorithms in computer science are also based on what we learn from nature, but instead of simply making a copy of an artifact of nature such as an eye or a whale flipper, genetic algorithms copy the *mechanisms* of nature, specifically biological evolution, as a promising technique of artificial intelligence. Thus, not only can we learn from nature about how things may be created via the mechanism of biological evolution, such a mechanism itself exhibits properties of intelligence.

Perhaps there is a way to view biological evolution itself as "intelligent" design, or maybe just "artificially intelligent" as far as we can scientifically show.

Labels: ,