Monthly Archives: April 2011

Promises Not Explanations

We live in a world full of unanswered, “Whys?”  For most Christians, we have a stock of answers to help us reconcile the existence of evil with the goodness of God.  We know that we live in a fallen world where people make sinful and hurtful choices.  We know that the earth itself is cursed because of our sin.  The thorns and thistles God promised Adam in the Garden have grown into hurricanes, tsunamis and epidemics.  And we know that death, which came into the world with sin, is no respecter of persons.  It takes wealthy and poor, young and old, the good and the malicious.
None of this knowledge prevents us from questioning the justness of God when tragedy and injustice strike us personally.  Perhaps, it isn’t even the sudden calamity.  Maybe it’s just that gnawing, persistent problem that won’t go away – the relationship that never heals, the loved one who never repents, the financial problems that are never resolved, the big break that never comes our way.  God seems to favor others over us.  He seems to bless them more than He blesses us.  We cry out like Esau, “Have you but one blessing, my father?  Bless me, even me also, O my father!” (Gen. 27:38).
I’ve been reading Warren Wiersbe’s book on Ecclesiastes – Be Satisfied.  Wiersbe notes that wisdom, human understanding, cannot solve every problem because there are always some things that cannot be explained.  He states, “God has ordained that His people live by promises and not by explanations, by faith and not by sight” (35).  It is normal to want explanations for the things that are happening around us, especially when we hear unbelievers mocking our faith because we don’t have those explanations to give them.
Having thought about Wiersbe’s statement, though, it seems easy to understand why God insists on faith and not sight.  The desire for explanations keeps us looking backward, fixated on the past and things we could not change even if we understood them.  Faith looks forward to the future, and faith always involves expectation.  There is undoubtedly value in learning lessons from our past experiences, but only insofar as those lessons push us forward to the things God has for us in the future.  Let us not be like Lot’s wife who missed her deliverance because she could not keep herself from turning back to the things she was leaving behind.
Instead, the pursuit of God’s promises offers two things that are desperately wanting in the world:  happiness and holiness.  The word that is translated “blessed” in Scripture also means “happy.”  The world knows the secret to good advertising:  it doesn’t offer what we really want, but rather makes us want what it has to offer.  God operates differently.  He made us and knows us inside out.  As our Creator, He knows what will truly satisfy us – not just as human beings, but as individuals made to fill a specific purpose in His plan for history.
So the pursuit of God is the choice to take expectation over explanation, and this takes us on a truly transforming journey of faith.  The apostle states, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him  who called us to  his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become  partakers of the divine nature,  having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4, ESV)  The pursuit of God’s promises leads to holiness because in the process we learn to desire the things of God rather than the things of the world.  We partake of the divine nature rather than the corrupt and sinful desires of the world.  We long for the kingdom of God, which His promises are always part of, rather than the empty culture around us.
This does not mean that our “whys” have no value.  Rather, they are symptoms of a necessary discontent.  To ask if life must be a certain way is also to ask why it can’t be better.  And if it can be better, how would that work?  These are the questions that God answers in the pages of Scripture.  The “why” leads us to the “how,” and the “how” is always based on God’s promises.
In Hebrews 11:16, it says of the Old Testament heroes that they “desired a better country,” and for this reason, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”  It was not their good works God applauded, so much as their good taste.  They desired better things — godly things — and pursued them with expectation and became godly themselves in the process.  What, then, would God have me desire?  Let me find His promises and live in them.

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Happy Easter!

I always love when Easter comes late in April.  By that time, the mountains are awake for Spring.  Mother Nature, ever the stately old lady, needs proper time to dress herself.  She never has her best things out in March.

Everyone I know in Appalachia has to deal emotionally with the advent of autumn.  Some who suffer from chronic depression especially struggle when the leaves fall, and they face months of barren trees.  Because the Appalachian Mountains are one large deciduous forest, the leaves are the glory of the hills. When they fall, the place feels like it has become “ichabod” – the glory has departed (1 Sam 4:21).

A glimpse of Fall near the Tennessee/North Carolina state line:

A somewhat bleaker landscape.

Mother copes with the dinginess of winter by pointing out that cold weather is peak time for stargazing, and that you can see more stars when the leaves aren’t blocking the view.  She doesn’t use binoculars or a telescope; she just likes to stand outside and look at them.

My take is a little different.  Our mountain roads come with a hundred and one lovely vistas.  These too are sometimes obstructed by the leaves of the trees closest to the road.  Literally, you can’t see the mountains for the leaves!  When the leaves fall, it’s worth driving the mountains in winter to see the unexpected views.

Even so, I find winter a little dreary in the hills.  The mountains, stripped of foliage, are grand, but not always beautiful.  What finally reconciled me to winter was reading about that season as a “rest” period for the trees.  They are massive factories – recycling air, producing food, and constantly processing the chemical changes necessary to keep such a large plant alive.  Photosynthesis can really take it out of you.  It isn’t just that the cold weather denies the tree the opportunity to flourish; the tree needs several months of inactivity in order to thrive during the rest of the year.

Our own seasons are much like this.  We look upon death as a ghastly specter haunting our futures.  I don’t know anyone who joyfully anticipates old age and demise.  And yet our own Last Fall is a necessary transition – so necessary that Jesus Himself did not shrink from death, but bore out His humanity to a bitter end.  “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (John 10:17 ESV).  He died deliberately, intentionally to fulfill a purpose.  For our salvation, He set aside life and then took it up again.

AND THEN TOOK IT UP AGAIN!  Not for us the empty sorrow of those who see this life as all we have. “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19, ESV).  It is fitting for many reasons that we should have Easter in the Spring, but largely that we should not forget the purpose of Spring itself.  The whole season bears witness to a truth that every culture on earth has recognized.  Death does not overcome life.  There is something immortal in every man or woman that the grave is not strong enough to swallow up.  As Christians, we know that the true hope of this is found in Christ whose death paid for our sins, and whose resurrection conquered the curse of death that sin brought into the world:  “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22, ESV)

If our faith is in Christ, Who is the resurrection and life, our own rebirth is as sure as the Spring.  This was enough to make even the serious and scholarly apostle break forth into song:

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Cor 15:55-57 (ESV)

Happy Easter!

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The Baby of the Family

That last post was heavy.  I remember one time in high school when I gave a report in my American History class about Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism, and the presentation ran a little long.  One of my classmates came up to me afterwards and said, “If you ever give a dissertation like that again, I will put my head on my desk and snore!”  Since the person who said that was the class valedictorian, I took the criticism seriously.  In that spirit, I have decided to post something a little more lighthearted today.

This is my cat:

Her name is Pookie, and as you can see, she is not fond of flash photography.  Also, as you can see, she considers herself a member of the family and has no trouble perching herself in front of whatever you’re looking at in order to get attention.  Pookie is the one member of the family who did not enjoy our vacation because we didn’t take her.  Someone came and fed her daily, but she was otherwise alone for the entire week.  The result is that she has been exceptionally clingy since we came home.  This behavior includes excessive purring, arching her back to indicate that she would like to be picked up, wallowing all over us when we sit down, and occasionally just sitting in front of us and gazing at us lovingly.  As I’ve pointed out to mother, who’s tired of picking up the cat, isn’t it nice to be appreciated?  The other night, while I was watching television with my laptop in my lap, she hopped up onto the arm of the recliner and put her head on my shoulder.

So in honor of my furry baby, here is my Top Ten List of reasons I love my cat:

10.  She’s quieter than a dog.

9.  She likes to play tag, which she initiates by swatting my ankle with her paw and running off in the other direction.

8.  She enjoys the Food Channel.  For Pookie, this consists of sitting in a window and licking her lips at the birds that flutter by in our yard.

7.  She is an indoor cat.  We do not let her outdoors, partly because of the birds that flutter by in our yard.

6.  She shares my love of green olives.  We don’t know why, but she will take an olive over a kitty treat any day.  When you open a jar, she can smell it from the other end of the house and comes running.  But she doesn’t eat the pimentos.

5.  She’s mushy.  We got her when she was only two months old, and apparently she thinks we’re all mama.

4.  When Mother is doing her Bible reading in the mornings, Pookie will climb onto the Bible and sit on it until Mother hugs her.  Mother finds this annoying; I call it standing on the Word.

3.  She’s cute.

2.  After seven years, she’s still playful.  She’s especially fond of the little plastic strips that you pull off the milk gallon lid.  She twirls them on her paw and bats them around the kitchen.

1.  Number one reason I love my cat is pure selfishness.  It’s hard not to love something that is so obviously partial to me.

There, now you know that I can occasionally be sentimental, after all.  Just don’t expect me to do it often.

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Autonomy

I was browsing PBS’ website last night for an old video to watch.  (Yes, I know.  Some people prefer YouTube.)  Anyway, I came across on old episode of the The Open Mind that appeared to be from the ’90s.   The program featured psychiatrist Willard Gaylin discussing the book he had just written, The Perversion of Autonomy.  Gaylin argues in the interview that American society has taken the autonomy of the individual to self-destructive extremes.   He makes the argument passionately, but cautiously, since he fears that his liberal friends and colleagues will perceive his argument as a rejection of individual liberty, or at least the top of a slippery slope in that direction.  There are a couple of things about his argument that intrigued me.

First, Gaylin argues that the “individual” does not exist outside a community.  We need relationships and interactions with others to make us fully human.  Mastery of language, the ability to express ourselves, the opportunity to emote, and to understand our place in the world around us all depend on the interactions we have with others.  The idea of autonomy, therefore, is deceptive.  Every person is certainly an individual, but the individual can only exist in the context of a community.  Gaylin compares the individual to a knot in a net; you cannot unravel the net without unraveling the knots as well.  Therefore, no community means no individual.

Further, Gaylin argues that there can be no individuality without a sense of personal responsibility and obligation to others.  The notion that we can demand personal rights without fulfilling obligations to the community in return is absurd and untenable.  Moreover, we have responsibilities toward the well-being of others.  Gaylin’s illustration of this is the problem of homelessness.  He asserts that most of the homeless are mentally ill, either with conditions like schizophrenia or else they are addicted to drugs or alcohol.  Gaylin, a psychiatrist, argues that society should not allow the mentally ill to refuse treatment on the grounds of personal freedom, since those under the effects of a psychiatric condition or an addiction are not really free in the first place.  Freedom to get high on heroin or to live with delusions is no kind of freedom at all.

In what was, perhaps, the most alarming moment of the interview, Gaylin challenges the idea that our culture is narcissistic, not because he denies the narcissism, but because he sees another trend emerging.  He contends (keep in mind that this is an old interview) that our culture is moving beyond narcissism to paranoia.  What began as a growing sense of entitlement has moved on to resentment as individuals who didn’t get what they expected from life look for someone to blame.   Whereas “rights” were once taken to mean the absence of government interference (the government staying out of your church or lifting the laws that enforced segregation), now they are interpreted as the right to have the government intervene or act on your behalf. Therefore, an individual may now feel entitled to resent a system that didn’t provide him or her with all the opportunities which the person thinks he or she deserves.

I admit that I am conflicted about Gaylin’s arguments.  I am compelled to agree with him that our society emphasizes rights at the expense of relationships, and we would be foolish to underestimate the dangers of narcissism.  Where Gaylin seems to stumble is in defining the boundaries of community intervention.  He fervently rejects the kind of control over the individual that is exercised by fascist or communist states – any reasonable person would.  The problem is that even he seems troubled by the possibility that community constraint can so easily turn into that kind of oppression.  Perhaps, I am misunderstanding him.  I certainly plan to get and read his book.  I think, though, that he stumbles on what really is a problem of moral absolutes.  We cannot uphold the right of the community to reign in personal freedoms that are destructive without agreeing on the moral principles that would underlie such an action.

One example he offers is from his own experience as a former board member of Planned Parenthood.  Gaylin admits that he sees serious problems with the idea of late term abortions, but that he couldn’t say so to others involved in the organization because Planned Parenthood is the staunchest supporter of a woman’s right to an abortion.  To argue that the destruction of a viable baby in the last stage of pregnancy is murder is  to make a moral assertion; it means telling a woman that something she wants to do, maybe even thinks she needs to do, is morally wrong and then denying her the opportunity to do it.  On what basis do we do that?  Here, I think Gaylin, as a doctor, can safely give a medical opinion that a viable baby is a living human being, but what about issues where science cannot provide us with truth?  What about gay marriage or just war or the death penalty or the involuntary commitment and care of the mentally ill?  Where do we find a shared morality that will allow the state to act in such cases without overstepping the boundary between nurturing the community and destroying individual liberty?

I think that deserves another post, but Gaylin highlights for us what is at stake in this debate.  I will say first and foremost that I believe evangelical Christians have allowed our positions to be diluted by accepting labels like “Values Voters” (as if we were shopping for candidates at Wal-Mart!).  “Values” is too relative and slippery a term to be used in public debates about morality.  I value life; I value choice; I value sunny days and the color blue and vacations at the beach and chocolate chip ice cream.  I value all sorts of things, but how important they are to me and to my understanding of myself is another thing altogether.  When we are debating issues of right and wrong, we are talking about something of central importance.  When I say the right of a baby to live supersedes what would otherwise be my right as a woman to control my own body, I am making a statement about moral priorities, and the word for that is “principles.”  If you look up that word in the dictionary, you will find that it comes from a Latin word used to describe first things.  When I talk about my principles, I am talking about the things of first importance to me.  I value my freedom as an American woman to make choices about my own life and health, but the sanctity of life is more important to me, partly because I know that I cannot devalue any other life without diminishing myself as a woman and a human being.  Think about countries like India where ultrasound technology has led to the increased abortion of unwanted girls so that families can have the boys they prefer.  They are fine with devaluing the lives of unborn girls because girls and women have always had less value than males in that culture.  Abortion hasn’t meant freedom for women there; it has only become another tool of oppression.  When the discussion is about capital punishment, another principle comes into the equation.  I believe in the sanctity of life, but I also believe in justice, without which no one’s life is sacred.  When we execute those guilty of willful murder, we affirm the sanctity of the victim’s life, which was so precious that only the murderer’s life taken in turn will suffice to answer for it.  In this case, the community is best served by giving justice priority over the life of one who has been convicted in a fair trial.

So what do you think?  Is there a way our society can set boundaries that will restore our communities while still respecting personal freedom?

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Last Day

Hello, readers.  I know that I have already posted today, but I probably won’t have time to write you tomorrow.  Heaven forbid you should miss a day of my vacation!  You wonder in exasperation, “Isn’t she home, yet?!”  By this time tomorrow, I will be close to home.  Needless to say, we will miss the ocean.  Needless to say, I have taken enough pictures to last us for the rest of the year.  Believe me, you have only seen the tip of the iceberg, my friends.  And we’ll keep it that way, since I would like for you to stay my friends.

Today, we returned to Manteo, which we simply love.  Here is one reason why:

How is that for a prospect?  And, of course, there is a lighthouse.

That is the Roanoke Marshes lighthouse, small and lovely.

We also made sure to go back to Fort Raleigh National Park.  It’s not a large place, but it is historically significant because it marks the site of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, those mysterious first English settlers in the New World whose colony disappeared leaving only the word Croatoan carved into a tree.  It’s next to the Elizabethan Gardens, but we didn’t go earlier this week because it appeared to be closed.  In fact, they are renovating the place, so there is only the gift shop in a trailer near the visitor center.  The trails are still accessible, though, and I love to walk the trails.

The woods are appropriately silent given the significance of this place.  It is a memorial for a group of unknown people who walked quietly into the pages of history, and then disappeared from those pages just as quietly into a destination just as unknown as their origins.  We know little enough about those settlers, and we have nothing but theories about how their story ended.  In Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony, Lee Miller, an anthropologist, argues that the Lost Colonists were absorbed by one group of Native Americans, which was later conquered and enslaved by another.  Miller’s argument is compelling (though not entirely convincing), but she offers one suggestion which I find intriguing.  Based entirely on circumstantial evidence, Miller suggests that the Lost Colonists may have been Separatists seeking to escape religious persecution 30 years before the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth.

This suggestion is based on two historical facts.  The first is that this was a dangerous and hare-brained enterprise even at the time.  Financial backing was precarious, and England was too absorbed with the impending threat of a Spanish invasion to spare resources for an American expansion.  Based on this, Miller believes that anyone who immigrated to America must have been motivated by desperation.  Further, this was a period of intensified persecution for Separatists, who are distinct from Puritans in that they wanted to leave the Church of England rather than reform it.  This called into question their patriotism and loyalty to the crown at a time when Protestant England was in dire peril from threats abroad.  Miller figures that religious persecution may well have driven the Lost Colonists to the desperate act of resettling in the New World.

This is a tenuous line of reasoning because Walter Ralegh impresses me as the kind of man who could convince ordinary people to take on this kind of adventure whether they were desperate or not.  Further, the fact that it was a bad time to be an English Separatist doesn’t mean that these people were Separatists, or that they were on the run.  Finally, Miller makes Sir Francis Walsingham the villain of the story, as a deliberate saboteur who wanted the colony to fail.  Unfortunately for Miller, her characterization of Walsingham doesn’t match the historical record; she leaves out several pertinent facts about his character and ignores that, as Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, he had his hands full with the Spanish threat and would have had little attention to spare to a small group of colonists who were exiling themselves to the ends of the earth.

For all this, I find Miller’s suggestion intriguing because there is always the chance that she might be right about the colonists’ religious affiliation.  The New World offered economic opportunity to Englishmen who came from a country where there was little land available, and where most of the land and political power was in the hands of the aristocracy, which took for granted that God assigned our stations in life and that the working class should know its place and stay in it.  This included accepting religious practices proscribed by the monarch and enforced by priests and magistrates.  Elizabeth was enlightened for her time, but even she took for granted her right to be obeyed in matters doctrinal as well as political.  The New World was both the opportunity to improve one’s economic condition and a chance to breathe free air.  We simply don’t know fully what motivated the Roanoke settlers, but surely the opportunity for a new kind of community had not escaped them.

Someday, of course, there will be no more unsolved mysteries.  The great books will be opened at the Last Judgment, and every deed will be brought to light.  In the meantime, the stillness of the woods is an opportunity to reflect on the astonishing courage of a few people willing to face the unknown with fortitude.

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An Epic Journey

I started to write you last night and gave up.  We took a day-trip to Hatteras and Ocracoke yesterday, and I was weary afterwards to say the least.  The thing about a journey to Ocracoke, at least for us, is that it is not about anything we want to see in Ocracoke – at least not this time.  There are sights to see there, and some people like it very much.  For us, however, the point of going is the journey down Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  Let me show you.

Hatteras Light may be the most famous lighthouse in America.  You may remember that this was the lighthouse that was moved a decade ago because erosion threatened to pull it into the sea.  According to Wikipedia, Hatteras Light is over 200 feet high and contains over a million bricks.  So, Hatteras Light is doubly famous, both as a historical landmark and as one of the engineering marvels of our age.

Hatteras Village features one attraction that I had not yet seen because it has never been open when I’ve been there.  The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum features items recovered from shipwrecks in the area, and there have been a lot of shipwrecks in the Outer Banks.

As a friend of mine says, that is some “fierce” water.  The U.S.S. Monitor sank off Hatteras, and  Blackbeard ran his ship aground not far from here.  The museum actually has items recovered from The Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s ship, including pieces of gold dust.  Did I take pictures of these things?  Why no, my camera batteries died while we were going through the exhibits and the gift shop didn’t carry extras.  Didn’t I have extras?  Yes, they were in my suitcase back in the hotel.  Where else would they be?

After the museum, we got in line for the ferry to Ocracoke.  Unfortunately for us, the traffic was heavier than they were expecting for this time of year, so we ended up waiting for two hours.  We seriously considered going back, but the ferry ride to Ocracoke is a thing not to be missed.  It is an attraction in its own right.  Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the trip TO Ocracoke because I still had no camera batteries.

I did get this picture in the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.  The sign above doesn’t say what happened to this guy, but I think he was stuck too long at the ferry:

We didn’t get to Ocracoke until around 5:00, and guess what I did.  I bought batteries.  And then we started back because we needed to get home for dinner.  Yes, I know.  I went all the way there, and I didn’t even look around.  But, you see, I’ve been to the Ocracoke sights, and if I had wanted to spend the day shopping, I could have done that in Nags Head.  The point was the trip itself, and the incredibly beautiful scenery of the Hatteras coastline.  We did stop to see the famous Ocracoke ponies, on our way back to the ferry.  They are from a wild herd of mustangs that are, best guess, the survivors of some early shipwreck during the age of exploration.  The ponies survived on the island and bred, and here is one of their descendents:

On the ferry, coming back:

The pelicans absolutely love the ferry because passengers feed them, both at the landing and on the boat.  One of the seabirds seemed to consider himself a kind of mascot:

Move over bald eagle!

Aside from our traveling companions, the sea and sky were late afternoon gorgeous:

We passed another ferry going the other way:

As I said, the point was the journey, not the destination, and it is worth remembering that life works the same way.  Of course, we all want to go to heaven, and I plan to stay there a lot longer than I stayed at Ocracoke.  Sometimes, though, we place so much emphasis on eternity that we forget that the journey itself has value and meaning.  This is why the idea that all roads lead to God is so terribly wrong.  God is above all else concerned with HOW we get to him.  Isaiah 53:6 defines sin as all we like sheep going astray – going our own way.  If that is how we got lost from God in the first place, how in the world will doing the same thing save us?

The Outer Banks are a narrow string of islands, and there is only room for one highway.   There is one road from Nags Head to Hatteras, and turning off to the side will only get you stuck in some deep sand.  Likewise, Jesus said that the road to salvation is a narrow one and straight.  It leaves us no room to invent some new method of reaching heaven.  The journey to God through Christ is itself the thing that matters.

“. . .Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Romans 10:9-11 (ESV)

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Concerning Geese and Monuments

There is nothing I love better than a sunny day and a rainy night, and that is what we have been having here in Kill Devil Hills, NC.  It was beautifully warm today at around 77 (how’s that for beach weather?), and now that the sun has gone down, there are some light scattered showers.

We spent part of today at the Wright Brothers’ National Memorial at Kitty Hawk. You can actually see the monument from one side of our hotel room.  This was the sunset last night:

The monument is on the far left.  It’s actually quite imposing, though you can’t tell from this distance.  The last time we were here, I took this picture from the top.

This should give you an idea of the height of the monument.  Those two wooden structures are replicas of the Wright Brothers’ camp, and the path and stone markers show where the first flights took place in 1903.  Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk are spread out beyond that.

So why the imposing monument?  I’ve seen some impressive memorials, but our nation really doesn’t have many that surpass this one, and the ones that do are for great presidents or entire wars.

In fact, no one better illustrates the importance of individual achievement than the Wright Brothers.  Of course, they accomplished motor-powered flight through teamwork, but one may still marvel at the way the world changed because of two brothers from Ohio.  And it changed in Kitty Hawk, which at the time really was the end of the earth.  Their perseverance and ingenuity transformed the way the rest of us live, even if we don’t fly much ourselves.  We live in a world that is incredibly smaller than it used to be because of them.

On the other hand, here are some of our fellow visitors to the park today.  As for the birthplace of aviation, they seem unimpressed by such a mundane human achievement.

The video at the museum center describes how the Wright Brothers learned about wing design partly from studying birds, since “nature is the best engineer.”  Correction:  The God who created nature is the best Engineer. After all, He created the air as well as the birds that fly in it.

I’m glad we celebrate and commemorate the achievement of innovators like the Wrights, but perhaps its best that God puts something in our path every now and then to remind us of just how unremarkable our greatest human accomplishments truly are.  All that work and study and experimentation to master flight only to find that science has merely matched “the sense God gave a goose.”

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The Lilies of the Field

Greetings, my friends.  I have been thinking of you today, but I’ve just had time to sit down and write.  We are on vacation this week, and my wi-fi access has been a little spotty.  This is a little early for a vacation, but traveling in April has its compensations:

We passed a number of these on the way up.

In addition to walking on the beach, we paid a visit to the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo – one of our favorite places in the world.  I thought you might like to see some of the things I’ve been meditating on today.

“Look at the birds of the air:  they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them. . .

Are you not of more value than they?  . . . And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field . . .

They neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. . . .

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive . . .

And tomorrow is thrown into the oven . . .

Will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”  (see Mt. 6:25-33).

Of all the things I don’t want God to say to me, “O you of little faith” is pretty close to the top, though there have been plenty of times that I’ve deserved to hear it.  Yet the arrival of Spring is itself a testimony to the faithfulness of God.  “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” Gen 8:22 (ESV).

Let’s give thanks today that the God who faithfully tends the earth as a garden does not fail to remember and care for His children.

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For Today

Abba

Lord of my soul,

I call You “Father”

But which insults You more –

To be or not to be –

I do not know.

 

Since you desire to be,

Father of Me,

Reclaimer of the refuse of my life,

So I will speak.

I feel Your hands on mine,

Prying open my clenched fists,

Hushing the throbbing silence,

Holding me inexorably

From the inevitability of my humanness.

 

I do not know what You are,

But Who,

And that is sufficient,

For You know all of me.

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A Glorious Throne

I have to say that I’ve heard an inordinate amount of doom and gloom lately, mostly related to the economic prospects of an America that is over its head in debt.  Of course, we’ve known that we were for decades, but the waking up that has at last begun seems to come with a great deal of uncertainty and dread about the future of the American dollar.  I’ve been reading scenarios that sound like something out of the Book of Revelation.

The truth is that no one knows what the future holds for any nation on earth.  What I do know is that we had better stop giving lip service to the idea of trusting God and start actually doing it.  I can put up any number of verses to argue that  our future is in the Lord’s hands, but we believers have gotten rather glib about that.  I know we’ve gotten glib and insincere because of all the head-shaking and murmuring (and outright complaining) that goes on when an election doesn’t go the way we want or we don’t like a policy or law that has been put in place.

Faith is not passive.  Faith is fierce.  Faith refuses to be dismayed or intimidated by any dilemma or calamity that is hanging over our heads.  Faith scorns to fear the unknown because Faith knows that God does not abandon His people.  Period.  And regardless of who holds office on any given year.  I’ve heard people quote the verse in Psalm 11 that says, “If the foundations are destroyed, what will the righteous do?”  This verse is usually used in the context of how we must fight for our “foundations” (moral, spiritual, political, whatever) because what will the righteous do if they’re gone?

THEY’LL TRUST A GOD WHO IS MIGHTY TO SAVE, THAT’S WHAT THEY’LL DO!

Would you like to read the context of that verse?

“I trust in the Lord for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety! The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right.  The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?”
But the Lord is in his holy Temple; the Lord still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth.  The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.   He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds.  For the righteous Lord loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.”

Psalms 11:1-7 (NLT)

Enough moping, enough fearing, enough sighing and groaning over the occasional incompetence of our (very) human political leaders.  Is God on His throne or not?  According to Jeremiah 17:12, “A glorious throne, set on high from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary.” (ESV)

By all means, let us vote wisely and hold our leaders accountable after we elect them, but let’s also get our chins out of the mud.  God appoints our times and seasons, and our years are in His hands.   God is good to us, and let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

 

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Scripture