February 2012

Bridge over the River Why

Little kids ask why and big kids ask why too. Typically little kids ask why for two reasons. They are either genuinely inquisitive because they have a hunger to learn or they are deceptively inquisitive because they don’t like what they are hearing. With the latter, they are looking for a good reason, or convincing argument as to why they should or shouldn’t do something. Their parents hesitate to answer because they may not want to discuss it, may not have the time to explain it or engage in a conversation about it. Parents know when their children’s why question is simply a ploy to delay obedience and slow down what they consider an inevitable process. It’s time to go, the car is running, we have an appointment to keep and your reluctance to cooperate, and put your shoes and jacket on, is holding us up. No discussion, except maybe an insistent “because” and the kid with an unzipped jacket and untied shoes is tucked under the arm and carried out the door.

It is much more complicated for big kids. Although some why questioning may still be foot dragging, big kids begin to wrestle with bigger issues that carry bigger consequences and beg for new levels of understanding. But what happens when the answer to a critical why question is not forthcoming?

That juncture in a person’s life, when cosmic whys no longer have answers that flow from an ordered universe is part of the rite of passage into adulthood. Having jettisoned beyond the orbit of parental influence into the vastness of space a person has to face for the first time the realization of truly being on their own. It is a lonely and confusing time, having slipped the protective bounds of predictable and reasoned explanations from parents, teachers, pastors and other wise counselors. The silence is unfamiliar, it is haunting and it only deepens in stark contrast to sporadic cries for understanding.

My first encounter with cosmic silence was near the end of my freshman year in college. Late one night, under a starry sky, I found myself alone in the middle of the football practice field, pacing and staring heavenward, tormented by unanswered whys. Why are humans on this planet? If there is a God why isn’t He more concerned about the mess we are in down here? Is there any rhyme or reason to my life? Why am I here? It was a defining moment for me, although no answers came. And yes the silence was deafening and frustrating. I can still remember walking back to the dorm with an eerie sense of peace and feeling embraced by the warmth of the light in the lobby as I came through the front door. That’s all I remember. No revelations. No understanding. Not a clue.

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What is your theology doing for you?

Theology does strange things to people. Isn’t it curious how it can liberate some people while incarcerating others? Or attract some while alienating others?

Theology literally means the “study of God” and in the vernacular refers to ones systematic view of God. How a person views God is like someone looking at the stars at night. To the casual observer it inspires a moment’s thought to the vastness and beauty of the universe. To the romantic it arouses a sustained infatuation for the mystery of both the Creator and His creation. To the astronomer it stirs a commitment to a lifelong study of its celestial secrets and its origin.

How we view God then can run the gamut from either tickling our fancy to gripping the very core of our being.

Dr. Ralph Neighbour, in his book Where Do We Go From Here, did everyone who feels theologically challenged a great service. He took the epistemological nuances of theology and simplified its understanding to a rubber-meets-the-road application when he said “theology breeds methodology.” In other words what you believe about God will dictate how you live your life. Tell me what you are believing and it will be self evident how you should be living.

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6 Questions for Lenten Reflection

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

The season of Lent, the forty days of spiritual preparation leading up to Easter, began last week with the observance of Ash Wednesday. In the Christian tradition, Lent is a time for the believer to commemorate the great price Jesus Christ paid for humankind’s redemption through His passion, death, burial and resurrection. Typically the observance of Lent is expressed by individual believers through prayer and repentance, fasting and other acts of self-denial, and almsgiving.

No matter what denominational or liturgical background, Lent is a season in which every believer is called to reflect upon the meaning and depth of one’s own faith relationship with God. It is a time as the apostle Paul says to “examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

This examination process, as one can imagine, can take a myriad of forms. Discoveries of new approaches to spiritual self assessment are particularly helpful because they can enable the believer to probe here unto uncharted depths of the soul. This Lent I have been blessed to make such a find.

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Do blessings fall from cloudless skies?

Have you noticed that “blessings” from God are not always clothed like blessings? Sometimes when they knock on our door we do not recognize them. Like peddlers, mendicants, little girls with cookies or young men and women with glossy literature we want to turn them away, give them a scrap of our time, be polite but hesitate to open the door more than necessary to converse briefly with them and then hopefully send them on their way to our neighbors. We don’t see them as blessings, but as nuisances and interruptions in our busy day of pursuing blessings by another more familiar name. We are too caught up in crossing things off our to-do lists so we can at least feel blessed, even though we really may not be blessed.
When blessings come, they are not only unrecognizable but they are also sometimes late, out of sequence and just not what we would affix as giving value to our lives. We are much more prone to bemoan the absence of blessings in our lives in the frustration of dealing with their delays and in so doing prove ourselves more ungodly than godly and anything but deserving. It is a catch 22 as they say, a paradoxical conundrum in which the very act of seeking a blessing has a way of dredging up the ungodly side of our nature that would threaten to disqualify us from the very thing we yearn.

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