An Active God


Dr. Ben Carson is a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He is known for his surgeries separating twins joined at the head.

His autobiography, Gifted Hands, is an exciting story. The surprising thing, for many readers, will be his openness in describing the role God has played in his life.  Carson is a Seventh-Day Adventist.  His story about God’s intervention in Carson’s dealing with anger is fascinating.

For those interested in science, God’s role in helping Carson pass a Chemistry course at Yale is even more incredible. Finding himself overwhelmed by the concepts and formulas in the course, Carson had let himself fall behind. Realizing he would lose his life dream of being a doctor, he started to cram the night before the exam.

When he fell into an exhausted sleep, he had a dream. In the dream, a man walked to a blackboard and started explaining various aspects of Chemistry.  On waking, Carson rapidly wrote what he remembered and did some quick research on items the man in the dream had discussed. When he started the exam that morning, he found that each question on the exam had been covered in his dream. He got a 97 on the exam and passed the course with a good grade.

My experience with God’s intervention is not that dramatic. I had reached a crisis in my life and, being somewhat overdramatic, starting quoting Hamlet’s famous “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy. The phrase “to die, perchance to dream” refers to the Christian belief that suicide is a rejection of God’s love and the suicide will spend eternity in Hell. In my frustration, I yelled to God, “You’re probably just a myth to keep us from committing suicide, but, if you’re there, do something!” Through an interesting series of events, I came to a belief in God in about six weeks.

Most of the time, we find it easy to stay in a casual religious environment. We think that regular church attendance or helping our neighbors is all we have to do. God wants to be a bigger part of our lives and wants to show us His love and interest. Do we let Him?

Sometimes, I let myself think that God intervened when I needed it but surely He doesn’t want me to keep bothering Him. Doesn’t He expect me to grow up and be able to move on by myself? But, then, I see a woman continuing to mother her children regardless of their age. I also know, as a father, that my concern for daughter doesn’t end.

Just as many mothers are saying tonight, “Call, already!” God is ready and waiting for us to walk with Him and talk with Him.  If you have never done it before, I can only say “Try it, you’ll like it!” For those of us who have experienced it, God is waiting for us to call again, and again, and …

Perfexion


It is humbling to write a blog about letting God’s love fill your life.  The obvious question is “Who do you think you are to write on a subject like this?” It’s simple – I have to think, pray and write about it because I don’t know how to do it.

I am clearly the older brother in the Prodigal parable and the busy sister Martha trying to make everything right in hosting Jesus.  I try to do it right. My career choice shows that. I spend my life writing computer programs which don’t work if I put a period in the wrong. place

The problem for the perfectionist is that no matter what I do it is never enough. I know my faults and even imagine some. It took me years to understand that in order to love others as I love myself, I have to love myself.  After all, God loves me.  If He can love me, why can’t I?

The idea is to learn to relax in God’s love and enjoy the incredible truth that He loves me even when I don’t get it rite!

Necessary Evil


The oldest dilemma in theology is the question, “If God is all good and all-powerful, how can there be evil in the world?” The formal term for this is theodicy. I certainly don’t plan to offer a definitive answer, but a couple of things happened in the last few days to give me a different take on the question.

A friend offered one possible answer.  He thought that since God is love and wants to show us his love, there have to be problems, or evil, so there is something to help us through.  In a way, this makes sense. We help our children grow the most when we are teaching them or helping them to learn.

Then, while flipping channels, I came across a Discovery Channel documentary called “Two Weeks in Hell.” It shows a testing and training environment for candidates for the U.S. Army’s Special Forces (Green Berets). It was incredible to watch these men being pushed to their physical, mental and emotional limits.

The striking thing was their attitude about the experience and understanding of the need for it. They wanted to be a part of a special organization and understood people had to be tested and pushed to see if they were worthy. Although they were not enjoying it, they were not asking that it be made easier. They knew the trainers/testers had a serious purpose in mind. The tests they endured were necessary and there was nothing pointless or casual about it.

Years ago I was in a church which taught that “the fall” was a necessary step in humanity’s growth. If that was the case, we need to experience the difficulties of this life in order to learn about certain realities.

Apparently, the question is whether we face our challenges as constant complainers or like the Special Forces candidates, recognizing them as a needed process offered by a loving Father as part of our becoming the person He knows we can be.

The Pianist and the Child


A young mother took her child to a concert by a famous pianist. Near the end of the intermission, the child walked on stage, went to the piano bench and started “playing.” The embarrassed mother started toward the child, but the pianist gently waved her back.

Sitting beside the child on the bench he let the child keep playing and played in such a way as to incorporate the child’s efforts into a beautiful piece of music.

Ever have one of those days when you think you’re just plunking?

The Nature of His Love


I appreciate the comments. The issue of “Free Will” has been raised. Why did God give us Free Will?

What would happen if I could build an android that would always love me? I wouldn’t have to do anything for it. I could ignore it for months and it would still love me when I called. It would make an eager puppy look standoffish.

I would be bored with it in no time and I would know that it has no choice. If such a creature could not satisfy my desire to share love, how could it give anything like love to God?

Real love includes being able to understand when the other is distracted or even inconsiderate. It makes us even happier when a truly loving time occurs, either a peaceful one or an exciting one.

To be a people who can give love to God, (Yes – as arrogant as that sounds, I believe that is what He wants from us) we have to be people who can decline to give Him love.  Of course, when we do, we lose more than He does.

It seems this is part of the nature of His love.  It is so big and rich that it cannot be satisfied by rote phrases from a programmed being. He gave us free will so that our yes is really ours!

How Long Can You Resist God?


I am not trying to resolve great theological debates, I hope to have people think about how they see God and what that does, or might, mean in their lives. With that in mind, let me make some proposals about the nature of God and pose some questions. I am not binding myself to any statements I make about the nature of God and there are no provable answers to the questions but I hope you will find this something interesting to consider.

Does God ever stop loving us and is there ever a time, even in eternity, when He gives up on us and will let us permanently “stew in our own stuff” in Hell?

In his novel, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis proposes that Hell is a spot between two blades of grass in Heaven. It is inhabited by small-minded, self-centered people focused on their ideas about how life has been and how they have been mistreated. The residents of Hell can choose to take a trip to heaven and are welcome to stay if they are willing to let God, and joy, be more important to them than the “baggage” they carry around in their lives. His book is a classic in showing how people in this life refuse pleasures of every sort in order to continue to be “right” about how things work.

My understanding of the Orthodox Christian view of the after-life is this – Since there is no place where God is not, Heaven and Hell are defined by our reaction to God’s Love. We will all be in His presence and be engulfed by His love. If we are willing to accept that love, eternity will be a great joy (heaven). If we continue to refuse His love, that love will be a torment to us and we will be in Hell.

When I mentioned the Orthodox view to a friend, he asked who I thought I was to think I could resist God?  I decided to post that question here for all of us. I look forward to hearing your comments.

Let me close by saying that this is not just a question about the next life. How many times today have I resisted God? Will there ever be a time in my life on Earth when I grow tired of resisting?

Life’s Mystery – It’s Awesome


The Rush of Everyday Thoughts

It is a typical Sunday night and the most routine of tasks. I move around the condo gathering all the trash for the morning pickup. I’ve done this uncounted times before. My mind is off in a whirl of thoughts.

My wife has been away helping care for her ailing mother. She is about to start the thousand-mile journey home. I am a little worried about the journey. I’m worried about her. I’m worried about her mother.

My daughter has been here for her summer visit. I took her back yesterday. I wonder about her coming school year. How will she do? She fell from a horse last year and broke her collarbone. Even with that, her love of horses is so great she is dropping other activities to have more time to ride. I’m reminded of a famous actor who was recently paralyzed in a fall from a horse. I wonder about my daighter’s safety and know she won’t stop riding.

Tomorrow starts another work week. My mind starts to race through the details and schedules of the coming days. Which meetings are the most important? How do I balance the requirements of various co-workers and activities? What surprises are waiting?

Creating a New Life Story

In counseling, I’ve found that I often fall into a very negative story about my life. It is a story of suffering and hurt and pain. There is doubt about God’s love and kindness. My counselor has suggested I create a new story about why I am on this earth. Why did I come here and what do I want to accomplish?

I remember the words of the gospel hymn that tells how Jesus shows his love by leaving the “splendor of Heaven” to save the world on a cross. It is a moving and powerful hymn.

In my down moment, I wonder: Did I leave heaven to empty trash on a Sunday night in a lonely condo? Did I give up all that glory, even temporarily, to live in uncertainty and confusion and all the unknowns of human existence?

Like a bolt of lightning, the answer hits me. Yes. It’s exactly the routine moments and a life of unknowing that I came for. It’s a chance to spend a life time in the sheer wonder of what the next moment holds.

Science Fiction is full of super races who know everything there is to know. But my boredom is temporary. Those beings can’t possibly be surprised. They know all the answers. Nothing is unknown for them to wonder about.

Have you ever watched your favorite team play on videotape? Even if you don’t know who won, it isn’t the same thing as watching it live. You know you can get the score if you wanted it, and you know that mystery has vanished.

But life constantly surprises me. I can plan and figure and analyze to my heart’s content. It makes little difference. Life will happen the way it does. The only thing I know for sure is that it will surprise me. Sometimes I’ll like the surprise. Sometimes I won’t.

The Blessings of Wonder and Trust

Yet I can do something the super races and divine beings of the universe can’t. I can wonder what the next moment holds without knowing the answer. I can wonder what the future holds for my loved ones. I can go to a game and cheer for my team and I’ll be completely surprised by the result.

There’s more. I am sure to be surprised by the answer to the most fascinating question of all. “How did my life turn out?” The answer: “I don’t know yet.”

I have the chance to learn the meaning of trust. Trust is irrelevant when you know how things turn out. How can I learn trust if there’s no possibility of disappointment? Yet what a great gift. Only by not knowing the future can I learn to trust.

Routine Becomes Awesome

Then another feeling flooded over me. It was awe. This surprised me. In the Catholic church, I learned awe in the observance of expertly and exquisitely executed ritual. I felt the splendor of God in those moments. I was filled with awe.

But I never expected to feel awe in collecting trash. Then, I understood. I was in awe of me! Somewhere, sometime, I agreed to this. It may have been before my birth. It may not have been before this moment. Still, it has happened.

I have agreed to completely put my trust in God. I’m willing to give up the right to know what the next minute holds, or even if I will have another minute.

Peter was willing to step out onto the water at Jesus’ word. In the same way, I am out on the ocean of life. I cry a lot. I holler and complain a lot, and still, there are those moments when my trust is complete.

In those moments I am in awe of everyone. That any of us have the courage to leave the “splendor of heaven” and to live in a sea of the unknown is amazing. That we all do is awesome.

Gathering the trash will never be quite the same. In the routine of day-to-day life, I encountered a moment of awe.

This article originally appeared in the April, 1996 edition of Unity Magazine