Monday, September 28, 2009

No Wishing For More Wishes.

Remember the elementary school game of “Three wishes?” Someone asks you what you would do if you had three wishes. Well, I ALWAYS used my first one to very cleverly wish for “Infinity more wishes.” This unfortunately negated the purpose of the game however. With “infinity wishes” one never had to prioritize nor even be all that clever about how the wishes were spent.

As I have continued to think about my earlier post on prayer, I realized that the line between praying and wishing is sometimes blurred; which possibly means that the line between a God who answers prayers and a genie who grants wishes has become blurred as well.

I know for a fact that, depending on my situation and my perspective, my view get’s blurry. In fact, I get angry when God doesn’t behave like a genie who answers my prayers on command. If my own personal genie refused to grant my wishes, I’d tell him to get back in his darn bottle and stay there.

Come to think of it, I’ve done the same with God. “Well if you’re not going to change this situation then you can just get back in the bible and stay there. I’m not going to believe in you anymore. I don’t neeeed you anyway.” (childish sarcasm too often mine).

I thought of another crowd by the way (see “Three’s a Crowd" blog below). It’s the crowd my mother told me about a long, long time ago. The “God always answers prayers, He just answers them in three possible ways, ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ or ‘Wait.’ crowd.” I don’t know if it’s because she told me about it or if it’s because I STILL don’t like to be told “No,” especially when I am as old and wise (smirk) as I am now; but I really resist that crowd.

I also resist it because, to me, it sounds like a cop-out. I don't want to think of it that way...but it sort of allows God to "win" all arguments. If I pray for my child to get well, and she does...God said "yes." If she gets well a month later, God said "wait." If she doesn't get well at all, then God said "no." Ummm...that seems to me to be kind of convenient. I'm uncomfortable with that. So much so that it makes God's response to Job sound more reasonable.

To Job, who lost EVERYTHING but his wife and his own life, God said (and I paraphrase): "Who are you to question Me? Are you God? Do you know everything? Did you create everything the way I did?" I've always read that as rather arrogant and dismissive of Job's suffering...but I have to admit it IS a God-like response. It's even a parental response: Child says "Why" parent says "Because I said so." "Because I said so" is a time saver and a recognition that my child CAN'T understand my reasons in the same way that I can. My child doesn't have the benefit of my experience, or goals, or wisdom. If I tried to share those with them, they would be more confused, possibly misinterpret, and still they would ask, "But why..."

Hmmmmm. Brings to mind: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." 1 Cor. 1:25.

I have worked really hard on this blog. It's important to me. I want it to represent my "wisdom" to date. But when I apply my "wisdom," I come up painfully trite. I tried putting myself in God's shoes to see if I could understand and explain why some suffering occurs. Unfortunately, I can't. If I was God...I feel like I would do it differently. But I don't know what God knows. I can't understand even basic chemical reactions in the body...much less imagine how I would have created them.

I went on some sites I usually don't frequent, which are wholly designed to tear away at the argument for God. A couple in particular make VERY powerful and damaging arguments that God is an illusion...even an organized delusion which is self-perpetuating. As I read, I took pleasure that I found some cracks in those arguments...but I felt the air escape from my puffed up balloon as I also found some chasms in my own apologetics. I am reminded that my belief in God COULD be wrong. I could be, as the more harsh attackers say, a weak, scared, little man who has bought into a comforting delusion to feel stronger, safer, and larger.

That doubt kicked me in the gut today when my wife told me from the Dr's. office that Dora has both strep throat AND the flu...and her lungs are VERY congested. I had 5 minutes so I prayed....and couldn't help but pray "...if You're there...." Then I apologized for my doubt, because I didn't want to hurt my child with my doubt. And then I paced, imagining a world where there is no God looking out for my child; no God who can keep her from getting sicker; no God who can comfort me and keep me from "freaking out," and no God to receive her if she succumbs to her illness and, on a fluke, dies.

That really stunk. I was lonely....profoundly lonely....and very, very frightened.

"Oh God. You might not be there! THIS might be all there is! 60 hours of work a week, a cheap vacation once a year, weekends, my family...and then I die. I've never even been scuba diving!"

When my faith is under attack and threads start to unravel out of the careful tapestry of belief I have woven, I go back to Jesus Christ. But wait, not in the prayer/savior way. But to the fact that this one man, 2000 years ago, changed world history in 33 years. He spoke authoritatively with an intricate wisdom which rivals and bests any Plato or Confucius. He turned expectations on their head and created a movement which, though adulterated often, continues to challenge mankind, and provide hope to those who seek to understand.

And then I think of his friends. Not priests, not great speakers, just fishermen, laborers, and tax-collectors. Stay with me. Think of your friends, average people who are not looking to become religious leaders. Think of what it would take for them, or for you to abandon your work, to go on the road and spread the word about a carpenter's message and life. They lived with Jesus, watched him and learned from him. Then he was tortured and revolution (which they expected him to lead). These ordinary men then make the most extraordinary claim...that he rose from the dead after 3 days.

The Old Testament is early, primitive history of man trying to find God. The New Testament is eyewitness testimony of God trying to help man find Him. These ordinary men, who could have made it all up went on to write about his life, agreed on his message, and died for the man. Some in horrific ways. One was hung on a cross upside down, one beheaded, it goes on. None recanted, some fell into the black hole of history, but some live on in their letters. Found in the New Testament. They wrote with authority, conviction, and confidence that they had been in the presence of God himself. They risked everything to tell this "good news." And they didn't get anything in return...except persecution and painful death.

Finally, I think of the greatest argument I have heard...where the "rubber meets the road" of just who this man was. Jesus Christ existed, he was a real person, historians do not argue this point. Jesus Christ said that he was the Son of God...and died for that claim. There are three possibilities which would account for his claim:

1) He was insane.

2) He was evil.

3) He was telling the truth.

The teachings of Christ, reported by his friends, were not the ravings of an insane man. Would they ALL fall for his insanity? Would they DIE for his teachings....could an ordinary group of very uneducated men even come up with those teachings? I tend to conclude that he was sane and revolutionary. I would cite Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible.

If he were evil, would he really have died the way he did for his great hoax. About the time the cat-of-9-tails was ripping the flesh off of his body he probably would have broken down: "Guys, guys, it was a JOKE! Come on, you think I really believe I'm the son of, may I please have some band-aids?"

That only leaves one choice.

So. Tonight we knelt at Dora's bed and prayed fervently that He comfort her. We thanked Him for bodies and immune systems and doctors and medicine. (Though Dora does NOT agree that she should have gotten that "world's most painful shot!") And here I sit. Finishing this blog once and for all.

I figured out the end.

Those blogs could be correct. God could be a soothing delusion, my ancestor an amoeba, and my ultimate destination a hole in the ground.

But that must be taken on faith. Those are assumptions, not proven science. My faith is equally as valid.

Christian assertions could be correct as well. God could exist. The Bible could be the "instruction manual" and his invitation to us. He could have sent His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. And He could listen to, and answer, our prayers.

It is indisputable that He does not answer prayers, nor deal with the suffering of his creations in a way which satisfies me, or makes it easy to believe in Him. But, if I accept that He exists as God...then He is my Father. When I ask "WHY?", He can very well say, "Because I said so."

I'm still left with the “no” problem. After all that, I sound like a pretty good guy. I don’t pray to hurt people, only to help. When I pray for something which hurts no one, for an innocent for example...I should be reasonable assured that God will say, "Thanks for your attention to that matter, You bet." I don't understand why He has chosen to say "NO" to some of my most fervent prayers.

All I have is a model:

Once, there was another really good guy (actually he was perfect) who prayed a prayer and asked to be “given a pass.” God said "no" and the guy was beaten to a pulp and tortured to death. (Death by hanging on a cross from the nails in your hands makes water-boarding look like a soothing sponge bath.) God’s own Son said (and I paraphrase) “PLEASE Daddy, I don't want to die like this! Can't You fix it another way?” And God looked at His only Son, who had lived a perfect life, and He said, “No.”

How I hate them, how they infuriate me, how I suffer for them but every once in awhile, I have to thank God for His “no’s,” especially that one.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Just In Case...

I was talking with my little one briefly about my Grandma Retta today. That prompts me to give a brief nod...

I don't know if I can ever adequately express what this one human being meant to my life. I could say that I owe nearly every good quality that I possess today to her patience and unconditional love for me...but that is too wordy...for me, I believe I have found the closest I can come:

Some people believe that the streets of heaven are paved with gold. Some say we will have wings and harps. I used to think it would be cool if we would be able to play video games all day long. At the ripe old age of 42, I want to make the following offer...

If I get to choose ANYthing for my stay in heaven...I would choose to live in my Grandma Retta's house, with her, as I experienced my time with her during the summers of my youth. Just return me to the smells, the sounds, the sights, and most of all, the feeling of complete unconditional acceptance. That is enough. I don't have to fly, or play the harp, or ever see a video game again. Just let me walk through the door, sound the bells, and hear the clank of the glass as the floor vibrates with every step.

And God, I really, really disagree with you for disallowing my daughter to experience the joy of grandparents. I think that was wrong......................I know it is wrong. I know You do too. Please allow me to make up for that lack.

I pray she can get a small glimpse of the love I experienced from my Grandma through the love she experiences from me.

Maybe someday, when we are forever together, we can share my Grandma Retta.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Three's A Crowd

Tonight we as a family will say our prayers; as we have done every single night since before Dora Diane was born, Her Mommy and I will kneel by her bed, she will squirm and fidget and I will start: "Now I lay me down to sleep..."

That's how my Mom always did it. Then we would do "God bless ______, God bless _____, etc..." It's important to me that I start that way, though there are some who frown on "programmed prayer" or prayers that are the same every day. We move on from there though; praying for him or her, this or that, etc. Each of us take our turns and Dora closes it out, always signaling the time to say "In Jesus name..." in unison by making her incredibly unique and, I believe noteworthy final prayer that I hope some day will sell some books when I expound upon it so I'm not going to share it here since SO many people read this blog that it might be borrowed......


I know Dora Diane believes that I believe that God listens, hears and acts upon those prayers. Unfettered by adult skepticism born of "unanswered" prayers, humanistic indoctrination, etc...she has no doubt that if Daddy prays it, it will be done...if God decides to do it.

I do too. And therein lies the reason for so much doubt and disbelief in the world; that last little disclaimer..."If God decides to do it." Imagine if God actually answered all the prayers of the faithful. Who would dare to disbelieve?

Joe Johnson's car breaks down by the side of the road. He prays, "Dear God, please let my car start"...and it starts. Sally has a horrible headache and prays, "Dear God, please let my headache be gone." and it goes away. Fred's mother is diagnosed with H1N1 flu, ends up in the hospital and all of a sudden, someone realizes that they forgot to pray, says a quick fervent prayer and, Mom sits up, smiles, and says it's time to go home.

If it worked that way, the way most of us probably secretly believe we would run it if we were God, hospitals would not exist. There would be no need for heart transplants or chemotherapy. No cancer, no hemophilia, no blindness, no hearing problems, no tumors, no need for hospitalization for baby delivery because there would be no birth complications...

And there would be no crime. No murders, muggings, no abductions, no theft; prisons would not exist, rehab would be a thing of the past. For, if there was a crime, the victim would pray that it not happen, and it would be thwarted, then the criminal would notice the miraculous thwarting and give up a life of crime in favor of praying for a job, which he would get.

And his job would be a "good" job with a nice boss who lets him take as much vacation time as possible, which would be ok because the job would be really easy because no one would really have problems. I doubt we would really need banks, because no one would need loans because everyone would have plenty of money. In fact, everyone would win the lottery...but there would really be no lottery because no one would be attracted to it in the first place because no one would suffer from a feeling of want.

This would equalize everyone. If Steve makes $500,000 a year then I don't think, if I could pray for what I want, that I would really settle for less. We would all make $500,000 a year...unless we needed more for a big LCD HD TV...which I would. doesn't work that way. God is God, not me.

There begins the problem.

Why doesn't it work that way? Impracticality aside, why don't "good" people live easier lives than "bad" people? Is healing a person of a disease really more difficult or more impractical than creating that person in the first place? When Jesus was physically on earth, he did a lot of amazing things. Including healing and raising from the we know it is possible.

I think it is interesting to note how many different ways great thinkers have worked to reconcile the problem of believing in an all powerful, all knowing, all good God in a world with wars, poverty, famine, plague, murder, disease, and computer crashes.

1) The "If you are suffering it is because the Lord is punishing/testing/tempering you crowd.
2) The "If you pray and it doesn't happen then you don't have enough faith" crowd.
3) The "Suffering is important and necessary for growth" crowd.
4) The "Suffering is really blessing because God gives the suffering so you can avoid worse suffering down the line" crowd.
5) The "God is good, and God is all knowing, He just isn't all powerful" crowd.
6) The "Suffering is allowed so that through it God may be glorified" crowd.
7) The "Prayer is not for God anyway, it is for me...God already knows what we want - and need" crowd.
8) The "Because there the bad stuff exists in the world, there can not be a God" crowd.
9) The "The bad stuff comes from the Satan, who is prince of this world." crowd.
10) The "I don't know but let's not talk about this because it may cause some suffering" crowd.

(Forgive me if I left out a crowd.)

Now by no means do I mean any disrespect by calling people crowds...I have been and am a member of several of those crowds myself. I'd like to talk more about it in another post.

For now, I will keep praying and I will marvel at my little girls prayers. Her faith "like a child" is certainly beautiful.