To Preserve and Not Diminish

We have a new neighbor, who in an attempt to protect their new home, put up an unsightly red sign in the front yard stating they have installed Xfinity’s home security system.  The owners next door have an equally unsightly sign saying they are protected by ADT.  We have another neighbor who put up a sign advising dog walkers to curb their dog.  I find myself wondering why someone would spend decades of their life’s earnings for the lovely home of their dreams and then deliberately uglify it.  I do believe if I were an educated burglar the security signs would be for me a dare, a challenge, sport.  As for the dog sign, it was many, many times larger than what a dog would leave behind.
It seems that we humans often approach a problem with solutions that diminish what we are trying to preserve.  After 9/11 in an endeavor to preserve ourselves we voted away some basic freedoms.  We might have been safer but our precious values, earned by the blood of our forefathers, were diminished.
Fortunately for us God chose to preserve His values rather than diminishing them.  Freedom of choice, the hallmark of His government, could have been sacrificed.  He is all powerful.  He could have established a world that “would not” because they “could not” rebel.  What He would have been left with was a planet filled with beings without love, for love is only love when it is freely given and freely received.  Instead He preserved.  He gave us His Son that He might solve the sin problem by elevating Jesus on a cross. 
The beauty of a home, the nature of a nation, the love of God’s children must be preserved without diminishment.

So Much Yet to Learn

The longest held scientific theory ever was that of a geocentric universe.  It worked.  Sailors used it for centuries to move about the earth.  The idea that the stars and sun rotated about us had to be right.  Everyone saw the sun come up in the morning and go down at night.  Then came Copernicus and Galileo.  And science changed.  True science is not about absolutes.  True science is having the best understanding of current data.
Albert Einstein in an endeavor to understand the nature of the universe declared there was a cosmological constant.  Years later he called it his “greatest mistake.” What if we approached religion with the same openness?  What if instead of declaring we are right and others are wrong, we said, what I believe is the best understanding of what I yet know about God?  
Proverbs 4:18 says, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”  I have met those who say that means I have truth and more truth will be added.  But what if it meant some of what I thought was truth needs to be revised in the new light?  This can be a bit frightening.  We need a psychological and spiritual anchor for mental health.  However, might it be more mentally healthy to live with some ambiguity than to live being positively in error? 
I don’t want to sound like everything is up for grabs.  There are absolutes.  God is love.  Jesus died for us.  We are saved by grace.  That grace enables us to begin living for eternity right now.  These are key, but they are dimly lit understandings of deeper intellectual and spiritual treasures yet to be grasped.  There is so much to learn.  There is so much joy ahead.

Photon Puzzle Solved

Yesterday I wondered why some photons go through glass and some bounce back giving us a reflection. It is wonderful to have smart friends. I have a scientist friend who has explained to me that if the glass were perfect all the photons would pass through but the imperfections in the glass, when struck by photons, cause some photons to bounce back into the room.  Thus I see myself.
And so it is that all of God’s light cannot pass into us because we are also not perfect.  Our sinful nature, our selfishness, our lewd desires render us impotent to understand all that God wants us to know.  He holds nothing back.  He floods us with love, mercy and knowledge but we just don’t get it.  Lest we start hating ourselves for this it is not all our fault.  So much of what we are we inherited.  Adam and Eve, after sin, did not have perfection to pass on to Cain.  That didn’t work out so well.  How quickly sin changed us.  Much of what we are is the product of thousands of generations of imperfect, selfish people. 
Now I do not want to get overly Freudian here and place all the blame for my problems on grandpa and grandma.  God understands our plight and thus makes external power available to us.  “Now unto Him who is able to keep us from falling” is a magnificent promise.  (Jude)  (Since there isn’t a Jude 2 I didn’t bother with the reference.)  
The good news is in I Corinthians 15 we are told this imperfection will put on perfection.  Which I think means we will be totally open to God’s light and will learn an incredible amount of new things forever and ever.  Oh how smart we will be!

On Photons and Light

I’m puzzled.  It is night and when I go outside I can look in a window and see what is happening inside. This means photons are passing through the glass.  When I come back inside and look out the window I can not only see outside but I see a reflection of myself indicating that not all of the inside light is going out.  Some of the photons are bouncing back into the room.  I am wondering why?  Is it random or is there a difference in the photons that pass through glass from the photons that bounce back.  Not being a physicist I don’t know.  I was just wondering. 
But it did make me reflect (pun intended) on some of my students who seem to let little light pass through their foreheads.  I lot of it seems to bounce back.   Lest I sound overly negative I happily say most of the light goes into most of my students and if it doesn’t I try again and again.   Good pedagogical process tells us students need to hear something three times for them to remember it.  So I often repeat myself.
All which brings us to God striving to get us to understand how much He loves us, how much He wants us to rejoice in His immense mercy, how much He wants us to allow His Spirit to move inside to motivate and strengthen us to be like Jesus, how much He wants to use us to further the cause of a better world, how much He wants to return to being sin to its ultimate end.
My high school English teacher would think little light went through my forehead because of the above “run-on sentence.”  Diagram that one!

Advantages of Telling the Truth

About a month ago someone told me they heard me say “…” about a year ago. I told them I had not said that.  This past week someone asked me what I preached about two weeks ago.  I could not remember.  If that is the case, and it is, then how would I know I had not said something a year ago?  The answer is what they said I said I do not believe and never have.  Therefore I know I didn’t say it.   This makes life amazingly simple. I’m sure you remember the adage, “If we practice to deceive, what a tangled web we weave.”  When you make up stuff you have to labor to remember what you said as to not contradict yourself and eventually get caught in the web of your own prevarications.  No such problem exists if you always say what you believe because while you will not remember what you said you will remember what you believe.
Now let me add this does not mean you should always say everything you believe.  Being kind and courteous means that you must in certain circumstances hold your tongue.  Only a fool says everything they believe.  Most often when we say someone “tells it like it is” means that person was rude, unkind.  When I read a letter of recommendation for someone I am careful to look for what was not said, which can be much more important than what was said.
It is fascinating that the ninth commandment says, “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”  It does not say, “Thou shall not bear false witness for thy neighbor.”  Hence the Christians heroes who did not always tell the truth that they might save the lives of their Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust.

I Was – I Am – I Will

While listening to some old codgers sharing “Fish” stories, I was impressed by the number of times they used the word “was.”  I was a teacher.  I was a contractor.  I was a carpenter.  On and on they used the “was” word.  I didn’t hear many “will be”s.   Apparently their ambitions for things yet to come were quite limited.  I suddenly wanted to know about conversations in heaven.  Surely after we are a few thousand years old we will have a host of “was” stories.   We can lead off with “I was a sinner and Jesus saved me.”  That’s an amazing “was.”  We can follow up with a list of places we had visited. “I was on Planet Fantastic in the Gamma Group of galaxies.”   We will have lots of “I am”s.  I am an organist.  I am a chess champion.  Those can go on and on.  No need to use “was” since our brains will be excellent retainers of skills and information.  What is truly grand about this is all the “I will”s.  With an infinite amount of time always in front of us we can create a very ambitious list of “I will”s.  
One of the first “I will”s I have on my list is to attend the wedding feast of the Lamb mentioned in Revelation 19.  I’ve been to many weddings and have been to a lot of receptions but nothing I have ever seen will come close to, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’”
That is a great “I will.”

Our Singing Bush

We don’t have a burning bush in our neighborhood but we do have a singing bush.  We have a large very thickly branched bush that even without foliage can provide shelter for birds.  A large family of sparrows has decided to winter inside its mass of large twigs.  One can walk past it and not see the birds inside, but they chatter up a cacophonous chorus.  I love it but I must admit sometimes I wish it were a burning bush. 
When Moses was eighty years old, when most people aren’t thinking so much about the future as remembering the past, suddenly while watching a bush burn he got a whole new set of marching orders.   His best and most incredible years were yet to come. 
Some people are fortunate in life and know right from the beginning what they are here for.  Others find their purpose later on and some very unfortunate souls never find it.  However, find it or not, every person has a heaven ordained plan for their part in God’s Kingdom.  In Ephesians 2 Paul speaks of God having something special for each of us.  Since we do not have burning bushes to tell us where to go and what to do when we get there, the secret of success is to surrender each morning with the prayer. “Today Lord, I am yours. Open your doors and shove me through and I will do my best for you.”  He will be so happy to guide and shove. The real joy is, although we might never realize what we were to do, one day He personally will tell us what it was and what we did and He will say those marvelous words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

One’s Direction Is Every Thing

The weather app on my phone said it was 17 degrees with strong gusty winds from the northwest.  I must have been crazy thinking myself rugged and hardy.  So out the door we went, my dog and I.  The first half mile wasn’t bad at all.  The wind was at my back and my scarf had my neck and ears well protected.  Then I rounded two corners to head home.  Now the wind was fiercely in my face.  Oh what a difference one’s direction makes.  I should have known better.  A few years ago I was flying over the Tehachapi Mountains going north out of the Mohave Desert, when I looked down and I saw cars and semis were passing me.  Even though my airspeed indicator read 135mph I wasn’t going anywhere.  One’s direction is everything.
I have a friend who lives on an island west of Alaska where it snows sideways.  He, upon reading this, will think I am a wuss for even talking about what would be a pleasant afternoon stroll for him, but for me it was brutal getting home.  Even my dog picked up her pace. 
But one’s direction IS everything.  Sometimes our walk in life is a breeze with the wind at our back.  But other times life hits us fiercely in the face and honestly it threatens to be defeating.  It is then that the promise of Jesus means everything.  He said, “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end.”  We never have to make it on our own.  He will get us safely home.  He never said it wouldn’t be difficult.  He did say take up our cross and follow Him.  But as tough as it can get He is tougher.  Home is a promise.

“I Can’t Stop Eating This Stuff”

I mentioned last week that we stopped at a Dollar Store and I bought a box of peanut brittle.  If it had cost more than a dollar I most likely would not have purchased it.  I hadn’t eaten peanut brittle in decades.  Since then I have been back to the Dollar Store three more times and have emptied their supply of that “I can’t stop eating this stuff.”  The mistake I make is eating the first tiny piece.  It throws a switch in my brain and I am drawn back like a moth to a candle.  I refuse to stop at the Dollar Store lest they get some more because I don’t want any more.
I grew up singing a marvelous hymn entitled, “Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah.”  It contains the words, “Bread of heaven feed me till I want no more.”  Is that even possible?”  There was a day mentioned in all four of the Gospels when the masses just would not go home.  They were listening to Jesus and they forgot to eat they were so enthralled.  Finally He fed bread and fish.  I’m sure it was the best they had ever had but it was nothing compared to the bread of heaven He had been feeding them all day long. 
I want some of that bread.  Can you imagine hearing words from the Creator Himself?  I know we have the Gospels.  But those are Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s and John’s words.  And not even that.  Most of us read them translated.   Can you imagine the first Sabbath morning sermon in heaven?  Surely the Pastor will be Jesus.  He will not have to stop at noon or one or two or at all.  Bread of Heaven feed me till I want no more.  That will most likely be never!

Darwin and Birds

It was a beautiful and disturbing sight.  There was a layer of snow decorating our patio and rhododendrons. Giant soft fluffy flakes were gently falling.  A gorgeous male cardinal was accenting the scene. One would have to be blind not to be stunned by him.  Then out of seeming nowhere a sharp shinned hawk swept across the patio about a foot off the ground.  It was an “aha moment” for me. I realized a great flaw in Darwin’s theory.   If there had been a snow bunting or some other less conspicuous bird it most likely would not have been dinner for the hawk unlike the bright red cardinal.
If the theory of adaptation for safety and survival was true cardinals would not be sitting in a blaze of glory in snow.   Like gold finches which change colors with the seasons most birds should be green in the summer and white and brown in the winter.  Evolutions say the red color scares off the predators.  This might be true if there were poisonous red birds but there are not. 
I am not denying micro adaptation.  The finches in the Galapagos are a prime example of limited adaptation.  But they are all finches and did not adapt into eagles.  Birds are an amazing gift to us from a loving Creator.  Not the end of a line from dinosaurs.  I realize some will think me ignorant for this.  However, I am open for a logical explanation as to why after thousands of years cardinals have not adapted by toning down. 
“In six days the Lord created heaven and earth and all that is in them.”  It is a bold declaration in the heart of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by the Creator Himself.