Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Everything in Its Place

Earlier this month my family and I were in a Goodwill store shopping for costumes that my wife could wear for an upcoming play production.  Although the performing arts building has a decent enough wardrobe from which the cast may choose, she felt that a visit to the store for some quick and inexpensive costume updates was warranted.  The theatre has been a great joy to my family, especially my daughter.  It is a chance to dress up and become someone completely different for a few hours.  And what better way to celebrate that fact than a trip to buy new clothes?  Both of them were in the play; there was much shopping to do.

It didn't take long as we were looking through the racks of clothes before my wife came across something familiar.  It appears that some of her grandmother's dresses were hanging up for sale.  Shannon's grandmother had passed away a few years back, and some of her Sunday church clothes had made it to this particular second hand store.  What a strange and wonderful feeling to see these dresses again.  Her grandmother had adored going to church and dressing up.  How neat to know that others would now have the chance to wear what she once cherished, maybe even wear them to church again.

Truth be told, it also made us a little sad.  It was such a clear reminder that everything we have, everything we own, will someday stay behind as we slip away into eternity.  But why should this make us sad?  Shouldn't this be a testament to remind us that we are to stay focused on the eternal and not just the temporal?  

1 Timothy 6:6-7 says this, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."  The apostle Paul's words ring true even 2,000 years later.  No matter how much you have or how large your bank account - it is not destined to make its way with you after death.  No, I'm afraid the most you can hope for is to have that much more of a lavish funeral perhaps, or to extend your life a bit longer by way of being able to afford better medical care.  Save that, we are all in the same boat.  Wealth only takes you so far, and then you must face God the same as anyone else.  We are all ultimately made equal.

So why do we run after wealth with so much vigor?  Doesn't Jesus tell us in the Gospel of Matthew that we ought not worry so much about what we will eat, drink, or wear?  Is not life itself much more important than these things? (Matt 6:25-34).  If we are being honest, I think much of the time - at least for Americans - we seek after riches because we are surrounded by excess.  Black Friday after Thanksgiving yields irresistible bargains, and anything we've ever wanted is only a few clicks away on the Internet.  The world contains mountains, so climbers must climb them.  Stores contain goods, so shoppers must shop.  It is our favorite distraction.  It is keeping up with the Jones'.  

And so life goes on. We find ourselves sometimes shopping at the local Goodwill store, coming face to face with the concept of mortality.  So what is the solution to this problem of leaving what we own behind?  Is it really a problem at all?  As it turns out, Paul has some additional advice on the matter.  2 Corinthians 4:18 says, "while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."  What is unseen?  I believe this to be God, and those eternal things which act to reflect His glory.  It has to do with where we place our hope.  It is helping a small child who is lost, or cheering on a runner who is in last place when everyone else has gone home.

What then do we do with all our wealth in the meantime?  I suppose we should give it away to those who need it more than we do.  Slowly perhaps, but also carefully.  A neighbor in need or someone in the church who has been praying in earnest for financial help.  I must be careful, however, not to give the impression that I am any better at this than others.  I love having a new smart phone or piece of electronics just as much as the next guy.  No, I would rather talk about what it's like to realize that we cannot take it with us, and money just happens to be the vehicle by which we see this most clearly.

One last story, if patience permits.  My mother also passed away not long ago.  She was a gracious and caring person, and I enjoyed her ability to see the world for what it is.  I was with her toward the end, sitting in the Hospice room and watching the nurses go in and out.  At one point as she lay down quietly in her simple little bed next to the window, she opened her wallet and handed my sister and I all the cash she had.  She told us that she had no use for it anymore.  You could hear a pin drop in the room at that moment.  What else was there to say?  After all, you can't take it with you.  Everything in its place, and that place equates to where you focus your hope.  It can (and should) be a place of eternal joy and peace with the Father I think.  And it doesn't matter if you have to give away money or dresses that grandmother used to wear, in order to realize it.  


Wednesday, September 30, 2015


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A Grandmother's Story

Well the day I had dreaded finally arrived.  At almost 100 years old, my grandmother Kathleen passed away in her bed at an assisted living facility.  We knew it was coming, but it's funny how that never seems to help.  She was a hearty soul and a lovely person; everyone called her Kay.  She was also good natured, had a deep concern for others, and a steady faith in God - and now she was gone.  I miss her, and will continue to miss her, in ways that I cannot yet even calculate.  Driving home from the funeral service, my wife and I had an intimate conversation about death.  The kind of conversation you can only have with someone who knows enough about you to tell when you are truly vulnerable.  She knew it was time for me to talk about things.  

One part of the discussion centered around a game that many of you have heard of I'm sure, which involves stacking little wooden blocks on top of each other.  In fact, my kids and I used to play Jenga quite a bit when they were younger.  The level of excitement would build so high during this game that I thought surely they would burst at the seams.  For those of you who may not know this game, the strategy involves building a tall tower one block at a time, but in doing so, you must move the blocks at the bottom around precariously until you find an opening at the top.  At any time the whole thing may come plummeting down.  On many occasions, one of us would be forced to pull out one of the foundational blocks from the very bottom of the structure in order to progress the game.  Usually the tower would stay standing, but missing the foundational girder definitely made things more intense.  I had thought about this game  quite a bit during the car ride home.  A silly kids' game with a profound metaphor attached to it.  Grandma Kay was definitely a foundational block in my life, and now that block had been removed.  Carefully, but at the same time with the sort of dread that only an impending death could conjure up, she had been taken from us.  Our steel foundational girder had been removed from the bottom of the pile.  Would the tower still hold up?  

The priest who officiated at the service earlier that day had mentioned how human beings can build their life from early foundations of love and trust.  How important it is for the rest of us to go on living by remembering all of these things that the departed had left for us.  How certain people can put in motion for us the framework of love that we still depend on today.  The funeral didn't last more than an hour or so, and then back to daily living we all went.  How are we to manage this?  Don't the people at our jobs and out in traffic and at the grocery store realize what has happened?  Doesn't the outside world realize what has been lost?  Apparently not, it is business as usual.

It reminds me of the story of the wise and foolish builder that Jesus recounts for us in the Gospel of Matthew.  Many of us know this story, we remember hearing it in church services or at Sunday School as children.  How different it seems to me now as an adult.  Matt 7:24-27 says this:

 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."  

Jesus spoke these words as part of a section of Scripture often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount.  The fact is, when Jesus saw that there were so many people gathered in one place, he took the time to lay out these foundational teachings.  In other words, we ought to listen especially close to this pedagogy.  

He was speaking here of the importance of putting God's teaching into action, not just listening to His commandments ... but actually following them.  He was speaking of building a firm foundation, one that the world could not wash away when things get tough.  He was speaking of girders and foundational blocks.  

Grandma Kay would often speak about the Bible and of the importance of faith.  As a group of young and impressionable kids sitting around her living room on the sofa, my cousins and I would be privy to a multitude of anecdotal life lessons about the love of Christ.  It was good medicine; it was helping to gird up our towers. I believe that in this way, Kay reflected the light of Jesus most ardently.  John 3:16 abided in her daily walk with God, and through her we absorbed His goodness by example.  But now here we are, all grieving.  But grief should really be a reflection, shouldn't it?  A vignette of how much we miss someone and the things they represented - not simply a feeling of hopelessness or loss.  No, it is more than that.  Grief should point to something greater than ourselves.  Like a signpost that clearly states for all to see: "Grandmother was here, and she mattered."  But have enough people seen the signpost?  I don't know, I want more of the world to see it.  If they saw it and understood who she was, it wouldn't be business as usual.

We should allow time for this part of life I think - for the grieving.   Heading back to work and juggling kids will try to push it's way back in soon enough.  But I think it is important to spend just a bit of time in that uncomfortable place of sadness.  It is necessary to read, and re-read the signpost - Grandmother was here, and she mattered.  There will be a time to move on in the near future.  For now it is okay to reflect and remember.  It is okay to be sad.

How do we live with a tower that is missing a foundational block?  True enough that it is still standing, but how do we steady the tower when the rain comes down and the streams rise?  We do so by looking for that piece inside of someone that reflects the Light of Christ I think.  By remembering what was contained inside of those blocks, put there by a loving God, in order to uphold and uplift us while we live out the rest of our lives.  We must build our house on the rock.

I actually interviewed Kay about 4 years ago.  I was compiling notes for a book about searching for faith.  In a chapter entitled 'The Prayer Engine', I recorded her giving the following quote: "I pray that God gives the gift of Faith to all of my children and grandchildren, and I am grateful every day because I know He will."  

You see, she partnered with God to help us build towers.  Small ones when we were young, during those days when we gathered around her sofa in the large front room.  Then larger, taller towers when we became adults.  Printed in robust signage at the top of the tower are written the words 'You are here grandson, and you matter.'  I am grateful for this memory, I will treasure it for a long time to come.

We all do the best that we can when someone we care about passes on.  We work to hold on to all of those cherished memories.  We resurrect old signposts and create new ones so that we won't forget.  I remember running around her old house back in the small town where she lived when Grandfather was still alive.  I was very young, 8 or 9 maybe.  Running through bushes and around trees, then under the clothesline next to the garage.  Always when I had finished and it was time to come in, there would be a large meal waiting.  Not microwave pizza or McDonald's mind you - but meat and potatoes.  A grandmother's dinner fit for a king, and I was always ready to eat.  And always she would serve it with a smile and a hug.  Her's was a home built on a rock, steady and indestructible.  And I am certain - though I could never quite see them - that under the basement near the outer walls, lay sections of solid foundational girders and blocks.  The kind that would keep a tower standing firm forever.  The kind that remind us that we are only here for a short while.  But while we are here, it counts.  We matter.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Faith vs. Science: Are They Really at Odds?

I will grant you, the title of this article seems to make an assumption that at least a portion of us do think that science and faith cannot co-exist together.  It assumes that it must be either one or the other.  And in that regard, perhaps I am guilty in phrasing it in such a manner as to create controversy where this is none.  But I believe if we look at certain areas of our culture today, as well as what is sometimes reflected in the media - there is in fact room for a frank discussion on the matter.  

If I am being honest, all of this may have started from playing in the creek where I grew up as a child, looking for tadpoles.  I loved the symmetry of the half frog / half tadpole body.  This helped to start my fascination with science in general.  I mean afterall, wasnt this evolution in action?  Didn't this reflect what we were learning in the classroom?  Later, when I was a bit older, my appreciation of nature manifested itself in the form of an 11-year old miniature DNR officer.  I would catch game fish at the lake and bring them home for release in my small backyard swimming pool.  The above ground kind of pool you buy at Walmart by the way, nothing extravagant.  This then gave way to me digging a 4x 5hole in my mothers garden one warm summer's day, in the hopes of creating my own makeshift farm pond.  Such was my appreciation of the local ecosystem that I had to build a miniature one for myself!  My parents were patient thats for sure, but not that patient.  I managed to get in some trouble for that one, so naturally I blamed it on my uncle (who was a real-life DNR officer).  More on this later.

But what happens when we grow up?  What happens to this imaginative self-expression as we become adults?   Well, I think a lot of the time we start asking big questions such as how much in this world is science and how much is faith?” … or what is really responsible for creating those fish that I used to catch and release into that little swimming pool?  Did God start everything or not quite?  I think as we become young adults especially, we are thrust into certain academic environments (at high school or college), where we are subjected to curriculum and teachers who have no room for God (at least as it pertains to biology or cosmology in the classroom).  And there is sometimes no room whatsoever for theology.  It may often beg the question:  Is faith at war with science?  Or can they actually co-exist?  

Well it didnt take long for my interest to switch from what nature and science were
doing down on Earth, to what was going on up above in space.  Some of you may
remember a television personality named Carl Sagan.   I remember fondly as a child,
when my father and I would sit on the sofa together and watch the show Cosmos on public television, and Sagan would talk about how vast the universe was.  There are “billions and billions of stars out there" he would say.  The idea of the Big Bang was of particular interest to me as well: the notion that everything just shot into existence from a small, dense ball of matter called a singularity.   It wasnt until later in my life that I began to ponder questions that many of my teachers could not (or would not) necessarily answer.  Questions such as what caused the singularity?  What came before everything else?  Is there even a need to ask such questions?

Now I am no expert on cosmology or astronomy, but there is a man named William Lane
Craig - a Christian philosopher, PhD, and author - who ardently defends a theory known
as the Kalam argument.   Dr. Craig often travels the globe expounding upon, and defending this theory at major universities, as it brings together both the science of the big bang and the theology of a creator.  The argument is exquisite in its' simplicity, and it contains the following three steps:
1.) Nothing currently exists without being caused
2.) The Universe currently exists
3.) Therefore, the Universe has a cause

Why is this argument so important?  Because it flies in the face of a popular counter argument that has come about recently, namely that everything came from nothing that we are all total accidents.  Life has no real meaning, and the universe simply popped into being one day on its own.  Because you see friends, if we can accept the three premises of the Kalam argument - and that nothing can exist without a first cause - then even the Big Bang and the universe had a cause.  It didnt just happen” accidentally.  So then, what was this first cause?  Is it okay to discuss this?  Since no one alive today was around to witness it, does the question even matter?  I think that it does.

We can find some concepts about this first cause in the book of Genesis from the Bible. What does God say about the beginning of everything?   Genesis 1:1 says this, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."  Read closely, as I believe this verse tells us two important things:
1.)  Before there was anything at all, there was something

2.)  God himself was the first cause that did the creating (and not chance or accident)

This may seem like common sense to those who were raised in the church, but let me tell you, Genesis 1 isnt held in the same high esteem by everyone, or in the same way as we do in the church.  Take Lawrence Krauss for example.  He is a high profile scientist and proponent of the idea that things can spring into being from nothing.  He says that particles can simply jump into being from a vacuum state (vacuum here meaning nothing).

The problem with this idea (and others like it) is that this vacuum state of nothing he is referring to is actually a whole lot of something.  Its a sea of fluctuating energy and violent activity, that has a rich physical structure, and is even governed by physical laws.  But many people dont want us to know that.  They dont want us to understand that these vacuums consist of observable materials and laws.  And when this was brought to light, Krauss had to acknowledge this truth publicly (at a live debate in Brisbane titled Life, the Universe and Nothing).  But the idea still sometimes persists, the damage was done.  The media spotlight turned toward this notion of a creator-less universe and went with it.  Genesis 1 it would seem, was lost in the shuffle, at least temporarily.

I promised we would return again to the account of building a make-shift farm pond in my mothers backyard.  There was actually some research that went on prior to me talking my poor friend into destroying the garden.  His name was Brian by the way, and he was a good sport.  He kept asking me, is it really okay to dig up this garden?  I assured him it was.  

You see, when all of this was still just an idea (and my pond was still a garden) - I talked at length with my uncle about how to create a farm pond (remember he was an actual DNR person).  All the while, I knew in the back of my mind that it probably wasnt a good idea to tear up the soil, but I pushed forward anyway.  I was selecting what I wanted to listen to, and since I didnt want to listen to the notion that little kids shouldn't dig up their parents backyard, I ignored it.   In this same way, I think many adults seek after only the particular type of knowledge that they select to listen to ahead of time.  They hear what they want to hear, and ignore the rest.

Ravi  Zecharius is another prolific defender of Christian foundational thought.  He is fond of the saying “intent precedes content."  This is a fancy way of saying that if someone has made up their mind already, it is extremely tough to change it.  I believe this to be true: if someone has decided that there is no God and that faith is indeed at war with science, then no amount of Kalam arguments or big bang discussions will change that.  They have locked themselves into an intellectual prison allowing only one way of thinking, and thrown out the key to the cell door.  The mind shuts firmly closed, and often only God can crack it ajar again. 

Now, what are we to do with this?  Do we throw our hands up in the air and give up?  Do we sink back into the notion that it isnt any good discussing our faith with other mindsets?  Will faith and science always be hot topics that we should leave alone, just like politics and religion?  I want you to consider one thing first.  What does Scripture say about how people are to look for evidence of God?  We know that the apostle Paul tells us in the book of Romans that “… since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”   But given this, how is it specifically that we are to come to this realization of God without excuse?

I love the statement from the book of Acts - chapter 17:27.  It says, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”  Or also in Jeremiah, when we read, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

You see, I dont think it is enough to take someone else's word for it.  Its not enough just to believe what I am telling you in this article. We must look and grope around for God with our whole heart and with our entire intellect.  We must look for ourselves, without selecting or filtering out the things we dont like or dont want to hear. For you and I, the hunt for God is ultimately a solo proposition.  It is our choice to seek Him, and our choice alone to accept Him.  And I think He wants it that way.  I dont think He wants it to be so black and white that we dont have a choice but to know Him.  He wants us to choose freely.

Evidence, science, the Big Bang, and even Christian apologetic books are simply
collections of statements and sayings.  They can be interpreted differently by different
people.  It is up to you and I to choose God or not.  No cheating allowed and no shortcuts  we have to make up our own mind.  So then, can faith co-exist with science?  Of course it can, there is no war.  But that isnt the real issue most of the time.  The real question is can you and I co-exist with a good and holy God?  Or are we at war with Him?  I suspect this has always been the real question.  It will always be possible to decide to filter out the truth of His existence with abstract arguments and alternate philosophies.  We may decide to believe that something can come from nothing - uncaused, or that evolution explains even the Universe and other galaxies.  But we must be careful doing so, because we may very well be using the wonderful intellect that God has given each of us, in order to crucify Him a second time by failing to really seek Him with our whole heart.

I love the story of Eben Alexander.  Do you remember him?  He authored the famous book Proof of Heaven: a Neurosurgeons Journey into the Afterlife.  This is the story of a doctor who was so entrenched in the idea that science explained everything, he abandoned God early on in his youth.

After he contracted meningitis and ended up in a coma however, he had a near death experience.  In this book he describes visiting heaven, seeing angels, and living beyond his earthly life.  There is great beauty and love awaiting us, he says.  Did he take some criticism from his colleagues, other doctors, and some scientists?  You bet!  By the way not all scientists share this unbelief.  Google Francis Collins from the genome project or Dr. Steven C. Meyer in the field of physics and molecular biology.  Or maybe Dr. Guillermo Gonzales in the field of astronomy and physics.  These are only a few prominent scientists who are also believers.  I would love to hear their perspective on Alexander's account.  In fact, this experience transformed Eben Alexander forever.  It prompted him to write a book, go on talk shows (including Oprah), and begin attending church regularly.  His filter had been removed, he was now open to think about and ponder the things of God.  

There is a verse in Colossians 1:17 that I think provides a decent enough summation for us by saying this:  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  This includes faith, and this includes science.  And it would certainly include little boys that turn their parents' garden into swimming pools.  May all of us have the courage to search for God, and find Him.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

24,000 Page Views!

Thank you to everyone who has visited A Logical Faith blog.  As of right now, we have accumulated almost 24,000 page views!  May God continue to bless everyone who graces this website with your presence, you are much appreciated.


A Peculiar Kind of Grace

What does a twelve-year-old girl, a bag of Oreo cookies, and an iPod Touch have to do with God's grace?  I pondered that very question this weekend while driving back from one of my children's soccer games.  It isn't uncommon for us to travel to surrounding towns as part of a regional soccer league for 8-year-olds.  At the conclusion of one such game, my wife and I loaded our family into the vehicle and began to make the 30 minute drive home.  A nice reprieve after an intense morning of watching the kids play their hearts out on the field.  After stopping for lunch at a pizza place, we noticed that my daughter (yep the twelve-year-old) had misplaced her $100 iPod Touch device.  A moderate panic began to set in as all of us searched coat pockets and bags.  The first time this happened we had to purchase a replacement device.  The replacement had now gone missing.

At some point that afternoon, after arriving home and performing one last thorough search in the back seat of the car, I made the decision to re-trace our steps, which involved making  the drive back to the soccer field.  I figured this would be a small price to pay if things worked out, so I took my daughter with me and off we went.  It was a quiet 30 minute car ride back.  After all, I had all the leverage as the parent - right?  She had lost her gadget, I was helping to find it.  Well, we visited both the soccer field and the restaurant where we had stopped for lunch; no iPod.

Gloom and doom had set in.  I made a quick stop at a local convenience store to pick up some snacks for the second ride home, and returned to the car with a bevy of sugar-laden confections.  I handed her a bag of mini Oreo cookies (is there anything better?).  Upon tearing open the top of the bag, she looked at me and uttered, "I don't deserve this."  It was one of those Hallmark moments where I was supposed to grab her close - with soft music playing in the background - and deliver a public service announcement type of soliloquy about the impossibility of earning grace on our own accord.  Instead I was struck speechless by her reply.  What a wonderful heart she has.  What a neat thing for her to say.  "Of course you deserve this," I thought to myself ... you are my daughter, and that's enough.

As fate would have it, the lesson at Sunday School the following day centered around God's grace.  Less coincidence and more sanctification I'm sure.  The small group discussed how we cannot earn grace through hard work or hanging around the right people.  How God's grace differs from human grace.  And it does differ, doesn't it?  I think when it comes to an understanding of grace, a good analogy is gift giving and receiving.  It is an overused metaphor I'll grant you that, but an apt one.  And when it comes to gift giving and receiving (at least as it pertains to the population at large) we must consider the truism that we often give gifts to other people with "strings attached."  In fact, there are often many conditions applied to the gifts that we give each other.  

If we take a simple example, a gift card let's say.  Maybe we give someone a gift card worth $50 to their favorite store for their birthday or graduation.  Or more often than not, maybe we give them a gift card to a store that we wish they would go to!  This in turn creates two conditionals: the first is the fact that as gift-giver, we are trying to control where and how the recipient spends our money.  Second, the receiver often feels the need to reciprocate the gift.  When it becomes time for me to graduate or have a birthday for example, then do I then expect a gift in return?  Am I angry if I don't receive one?  After all, doesn't so and so remember that $50 gift card I gave to them?  Couldn't they at least take time to write me a thank you card?  At this point, the line between grace freely given and conditional giving becomes blurred.  More difficult to determine where altruistic intentions end and selfish reciprocity begins. I suspect that many of us don't take time to contemplate this idea at all - if for no other reason than it is so ingrained within us.   

But perhaps I am over thinking things.  I have been guilty of this before.  If I am not careful, the reader may begin to assume that maybe it would be best if I should receive no gift at all. Check mate.  But consider one further example first.  The example of how God uses grace.  Because God's version of grace does not include feeling guilty or the need to reciprocate.  Not if we really understand it.  In fact, I think if we really understood it, God's version of grace would equate to an enormous feeling of freedom and peace.  Let me explain further.

Recently I visited my 97-year-old grandmother in the hospital.  She had gone through quite a rough spell.  It began with her falling and injuring her leg in the assisted living facility.  This resulted in a round of physical therapy and a period of time for healing.  After being largely sedentary for a number of days due to the limited mobility in her leg however, pneumonia set in.  She now found herself being moved from the assisted living building over to a the hospital.  And for those of you that don't know, pneumonia at age 97 is a really big deal.  She is a strong and independent woman, but things did not look good.  

The reason for my visit was to attend the priest's last rites ritual at her bedside.  You see, my grandmother is a lifelong Catholic.  After he arrived, those of us in the room all prayed along side him and received a blessing as well.  Of particular interest to me during this meeting was the way in which Fr. Mike talked about God's list of priorities.  After years and years of performing similar rituals and prayers over sick people, he explained it in the following manner.  First and foremost, he noted that God cares about people's level of spiritual peace.  And in fact, after the majority of his bedside prayers, there is a marked decrease the person's sense of anxiety.  He then said that God seems to place a secondary value on the person's psychological well being.  This sounded strange to me at first, but if we think about it for a minute ... doesn't spiritual peace really outrank intellectual contentedness?  Finally, he said that God seemed to place a person's physical well being (or the possibility of a healing for example) on the very bottom rung.  If they are to be healed then He heals them, if not, then so be it.  

This is an interesting hierarchy.  How odd this would seem to the outside, secular world.  Don't most Americans value physical health above all else?  I knew as soon as Fr. Mike had recounted this list that it would stick in my mind.  Catholic or not, this was good stuff.  This was a godly man telling a room full of downtrodden people what he had witnessed God doing spiritually throughout his life.  We were ready to listen.

The reason I am telling this story now is because to truly understand what God has done for us on the cross through the sacrifice of His son via perfect grace, is to know and be a part of this type of spiritual peace.  It surpasses the need to be either psychologically content or physically healthy.  It swallows up those other two things in fact, and stands boldly at the top of the pyramid proclaiming itself as king.  I believe my grandmother possessed this feeling of peace in the room that day.  It was a grace given to her freely from the Father.  When the priest informed her that we were about to pray over her just in case she passed away, she turned and said to him, "oh, that's a really good idea."  Her response struck me funny, but I think I was too caught up in the moment to laugh.  Would I have responded with that much calmness and presence of mind?  Would you?

What is it like to receive a gift with no strings attached?  To be given something that we can never hope to repay?  To accept something without any conditions attached?  How different Christianity would be if Jesus' great commission included a fine print clause which mentioned that his adherents must try really, really hard to repay what he had done for them.  Instead we are asked only to repent and believe in him - and by so doing, also the one who sent him.  If we really understood this, I imagine we would also look upon God as children with a half-open bag of mini Oreo cookies in our lap ... thinking to ourselves, "I don't deserve this."

After our unsuccessful search for her iPod, my daughter and I pulled into the driveway of our home around late afternoon.  We went back into the house to break the news to my wife.  As it turns out, one last look in the very back seat between the cushions revealed the missing item.  My wife's last attempt to search it out proved successful.  It was in the car the entire time!  I loved my daughter anyway of course, fathers always should - regardless of whether or not we find what we are looking for.  She hasn't earned my love, she doesn't have to.  She simply receives it.  It is no accident that the Bible equates God's love for us to that of a Father and child.  It is most similar to that relationship, but better.  The same way that it is better to have peace than whatever it is we think we need instead.  It is a peculiar kind of grace, but it is ours, and it is given freely.  We need only accept it.

My grandmother did bounce back by the way.  A day or so after we prayed for her, she improved enough to move back to a skilled nursing facility.  She has told me countless times throughout my life that God is good.  I have no reason not to believe her, no matter what the future holds.  Oreo cookies anyone?


Sunday, April 12, 2015


"You create a world, [a reader wrote to Tolkien] in which some sort of faith seems to be everywhere without a visible source, like light from an invisible lamp."

                                                                          - The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien