Modern-Day Slavery?

30 06 2011

(Original date was Jan. 21, 2009)

On Monday we celebrated the birthday of a great American. Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged us to live better, socially, ethically, and spiritually. Tuesday, we witnessed the swearing in of our first African-American as President of the United States. As I contemplate these things, I can’t help but think about the battle that was raging in the middle of the 19th century. It was a time in which these men would not have even been allowed a public forum. In many ways, we have come so far as a country. Yet in many ways, we remain the same.

The aforementioned battle, the issue of slavery, was fought with muskets and with gavels. At the heart of this issue was the “perception” of people with different colored skin. Those who wished to abolish slavery understood that these men and women were humans created by the same God. Others, who wished to continue the practice, saw these people quite differently. They understood them to be property. To view them as humans meant that they too were “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights.” To view them as property meant that they had no rights.

In America today, as we celebrate the accomplishments of people like Rev. King and Pres. Obama, let us also recognize that there is still a group of people who do not have the chance to experience “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Again, it is essentially a “perception” issue. The unborn child is either seen as a human with rights or as property with no rights. My prayer is that one day our nation will awaken to this great tragedy and that this form of slavery will also be abolished.


The Question That Devours

24 06 2011

Nearly 5 months later and there are times that I am still bitter.

I was taking Systematic Theology in the fall semester of 2010. Part of the coursework included a research paper on a specified theological matter. From the provided list, I chose “God and the Problem of Evil.” (Seminarians refer to this as theodicy – not to be confused with a work by Homer.) I don’t claim to be an expert on this issue, but I certainly have gained more knowledge on the subject. To begin with, I read through scripture about people like Paul and John the Baptist, who were the victims of evils and pains of this world. I searched the Old and New Testaments. I read C.S. Lewis, Frederick Buechner, and Brennan Manning. I read articles from many other scholars and theologians. I put together a suitable paper on the subject. My professor gave me 100%, so I’m not really sure if he read it. At any rate, I still feel pretty good about the content therein.

But God was showing me something on a much deeper level. You see, all the knowledge in the world does little to help with a fundamentally emotional or spiritual problem. In Spanish, there are two words that can be translated as “to know”: saber and conocer. The first means to know a fact. We would use it as in “Do you know when The Declaration of Independence was signed?” But conocer means to know something by way of experience. “Do you know your neighbor?” Another way to phrase this is to consider the difference in comprehension and apprehension. I can comprehend how to throw a curve ball that will strike out a Major League batter, but I have yet to apprehend it. (Yes, I said, “yet.” It could happen.)

God was leading me on a path in which I would be able to exercise my newfound knowledge on the subject. He was leading me to apprehend what I had recently attempted to comprehend. While I am grateful for the deeper understanding, I absolutely despise, abhor the journey. It’s not really over, because I still don’t feel like I’ve arrived anywhere yet and I don’t see an end in the near future. It is a painful journey in which I have one burning question. The question eats at me because I can’t see God’s plan. I am an optimist. I always try to look at the “bright side.” It helps me and, for me, beats the alternative. (Pet peeve alert: I don’t like pessimists. I just want to say, “Chill out!”) But, if I’m honest, I don’t see the bright side is this situation. I don’t even see a shimmer of light.

I have gained a better understanding of Robert Robinson’s Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, particularly the following verse:

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love.

I’ve been prone to wander. I’ve even felt prone to leave the very God that I love. How could God allow this to happen? I don’t understand. He was a good man. He was my best friend. I miss him and all the theodicy studying in the world doesn’t make this any better. Yeah, I know God is soveriegn. I know that what I want isn’t always what I get. But I have a really hard time thinking, much less actually believing, that this is what God wanted. So, why didn’t He do anything about it?

And I guess that is the question that eats me.

My God, why didn’t You do something? We prayed. Thousands prayed. We believed. There was more than mustard seed faith. There was an entire mountain of faith in Marshall alone…

And He replies, “Do you trust Me?” I swallow hard, take a deep breath. “I’m not sure, Lord…Yes. Yes, of course I trust You, but help my distrust.”

Take my heart, Lord. Take and seal it.
Seal it for thy courts above.

Wall Ball

22 06 2011

I haven’t played wall ball in about 30 minutes, but before that it had been about 16 or 17 years. It was fun, and this old man dominated the 3rd,  4th and 5th graders this afternoon. And the game hasn’t changed much since I last played at Fitzgerald Junior High School. For one thing, apparently you can make up rules as you go. I’m pretty sure that happened back when I was a 12 year old, too. The second thing is that girls cannot win. Period. Even if you have to abide by the aforementioned notion of rule changes.

It is always ammusing to me the games that kids will come up with. Whether it’s a twist on hide-n-seek or a spin on wall ball, the guys find a way to have fun. They’re creative. Something dark inside us happens as we grow up. Creativity is often squelched because we find the need to blend in, to become conformist. When I look at Christ, I see anything but conformity. Sure, He studied the scriptures, but he challenged the status quo. And He did things that astonished the people around Him.

He walked on water, turned water into wine, defended an adulterer, challenged the religious, worked on the Sabbath, spoke to demons, healed the blind and raised the dead. Talk about a creative ministry! Basically, He did anything that needed to be done in order to glorify His Father, even if it meant breaking the rules.

Now, I’m not an anarchist, but I think it becomes important for us to evaluate the rules that we have. It’s important to ask why we do things. Why do we take our hats off inside a building? Why do we have Sunday School? Why is playing cards wrong? Why is this song ok, but this song, that says basically the same thing, not ok? Why do we close our eyes when we pray? Why do we do the things we do?

Do we just do things because that’s what’s expected? Or do we seek to allow God to lead us, even if it means that we risk being creative? If someone has a new rule that makes wall ball more exciting, then let’s go for it!

Divided love…What’s that?

21 06 2011

The “official” dedication of our daughter was this past Sunday morning, Father’s Day 2011. I say “official” because as soon as I knew we were expecting, I thanked God for blessing this child. I know that children are a gift from God. God has given me and Lindsey 3 wonderful children. They do not belong to us, but they are our responsibility. We made a public proclamation on Sunday, in front of our parents and friends, that we would do our best to teach and model the Christian life to Hannah Grace. We’d done the same for Micah and for Joshua.

I remember when Lindsey told me that we were expecting for the second time. obviously, I had no idea if I would have a daughter or another son, and either would have been wonderful, but I had already enjoyed a son and so I knew what to expect. (ASIDE: No two children are the same. So, I really did NOT know what to expect.) Soon enough, Joshua Jackson was named and a few months later he appeared. But during this second pregnancy, I kept having a terrifying thought. Can I love Joshua as much as I love Micah? How will I divide my love? I don’t want to love any child more or less than the other.

Becoming a father has been an eye-opening and learning experience. It has helped me understand my earthly parents and my God, my Father, a little bit better. Through this process, I’ve learned that I don’t have to divide my love. Somehow, in God’s greatness, He has given me the ability to love more than I thought I could. With each child, I find that love comes up from somewhere inside me that I knew nothing about. I can only attribute this to the Spirit of God living in me.

Though personalities are already beginning to show…Micah has to be so precise and is cautious about everything. With Joshua it’s a party all the time…I know that they are in God’s hands. And it’s my prayer that all three will “taste and see that the Lord is good.” God loves each of them completely, unconditionally, and eternally. To the degree that I am able, I want them to know this kind of love from their daddy as well.