Saturday, December 15, 2012

Work, Christ, Horrors, and the Life to Come.

As if Christ Himself lives in You. Because He does.
There is so much to do here on earth, but so much that we really cannot do.  A day's worth of living in this world is like a day's worth of watching a series of train wrecks from behind a plexiglass wall.  And then there is the struggle to wake up to the same wrecks every day, without becoming hardened.  In Psychology they call this hardening to a stimulus "habituation". We become habituated to all this, to the point that we can drink our tea or coffee and debate over which chair is more comfortable on our side of the plexiglass, all the while ignoring the series of daily crashes until the inevitable crash that will one day come through our pane of separation and crush the whole set, ourselves included.
But how can we NOT become habituated? Even in action we are so very powerless. We would quickly lose hope if our efforts were contingent upon immediate success.  After a little pounding on the glass, or for the very athletic, climbing over the pane to wave at the conductor in warning - only to have him wave back in greeting (or worse, try to wave you out of the way); almost all would retreat wearily after a few such attempts and make the best of what life they had on their side of the glass.

Where does Jesus Christ come into all this?  We talk a lot in our chairs over tea about His power, His defeat of evil, His cross.  But can we take Him with us? When we're screaming at the conductor or sifting through the wreckage, evil seems to be anything but defeated, and power seems anything but on the side of right; that is, on the side of Christ.

What do we mean when we say that Jesus has defeated evil then?  Does it mean that the train crashes are just an illusion? Is it license to sit back in our chairs and watch, perhaps shed a tear, and then say with a little bit of theatre in our voices "ahhh, yes, there is tragedy, but evil has been defeated!" and keep up this bit of amateur stagework until we ourselves get caught in the massive wheels?
What does scripture mean when it says He has defeated evil by His cross? In general it has to do with the defeat of sin, through forgiveness on the one hand, and through the injection of Christ-life on the other.  This forgiveness places us in a position to expect a future transfer to a better world in which the trains do not crash and all goes as ordered.  If this were all the Spirit of God in the apostles meant then we could really sit back in our chairs and repeat our lines with a little more conviction as we waited for that one train which would eventually plummet through the glass to take us to the better place.  But there is the injection.

And this injection is nothing other than the life of Christ Himself.  The Lord Messiah who never habituated to this earth, who was a man of grief and acquainted with sorrow.  He didn't merely shake his fist at the train crashes, but stretched out his hands to heal.  He spoke loudly against improper relating to God, and also spoke out against those who devoured widow's houses. He informed us that Love of neighbor is the echo of the Love of God.  And then He walked the road of obedience all the way to the cross - and then out the other side.  In this He showed us that the road of obedience is really a road to the cross, a "bidding to come and die".  But in the resurrection the Father shows us that the cross is not a dead end, but a doorway Jesus' "narrow door" into LIFE.  We don't get to the door or through it but by obedience born of true belief-His own life inside of us.

And with Him inside of us, it can truly be said "As is He, so are we in this world"  Will we speak? Will we act? And if we do, will we do it limply, looking around for Him to come to our aid?  He is inside of us.  We are His hands.  We need only know and believe  His word that we are in the Father as we "do His commands"- and move out.  If we are struck by oncoming trains, so be it. That will be our door. We have met His fate in death, and will meet it also in resurrection.  If His power is in us, can we not stretch out our hands in His name and watch Him heal? It would seem so, and sometimes is the case; God knows that I don't know why this so often fails. I believe we must and ought to cry out for a change in this area, which can be nothing but a deficit in His Church.  But if after our asking it does not please Him to stretch out His hand through us to heal, we cannot let that stop us from living out the life of Christ in every path of obedience which remains open. We must reach the door of the cross and go through.

Christ has conquered, through putting away of sin and its guilt, and cutting off its mastery over us.  To the degree this is not so, Christ's conquering has not yet reached where it must.

We have this power inside of us, a light to the world, and His teaching, which is its seed.  We have also another vision and promise, the promise of that world to come.  This promise that lives inside of us as Christ its Lord lives inside of us, allows us to be habituated to that perfect world, and jarred anew by this broken one with every new day, but stirred up again with the knowledge of what is (His creation, His presence in us), and what will be (that world to come).  Jarred, but not just to tears, rather to obedience.  Never forgetting that one of His commands is that we Believe in Him, believe His word, remembering also that what in the heart we call faith, in the will we call obedience.

Christ's victory is going to come with power as He comes on the clouds with all the Holy Angels in blazing fire. Yet until that day, that great Sabbath (and in anticipation of it-for us who have entered into the sabbath rest of Christ) Christ's victory over sin, Cross and Resurrection, looks like you and I stepping out into the world to do our Father's will, Loving Him with all the heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving neighbor as ourself.  And it is lawful on the sabbath to do good, not evil, to save life, not to destroy it.  To let our good works (yes, they will be work, and work requires effort) so shine before men that they will glorify the God-in-Christ who works in us, and perhaps welcome Him into their own being before He comes in Judgement and Restoration.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

We who are left.

Five months
from last December's end
I held onto the heavens
our warm and welcomed son
And we prayed and held hard
thinking maybe we had won
I'd like to fast forever
let the dry world peel away
like sunburned skin,
a lifted veil
get through
get through and stay.
But who can hold on to heavens?
And who could restrain Elijah?
Until Jerusalem descends
or I am called to rest
I shall walk as half a man
a  limping cripple left for Christ
There's power shown in weakness,
the unexpected power of God
I pray the power to come and fill
the holes that weakness brought
To hold the place of holy joys
-until those joys returning-
To keep the wounds from scabbing, scarring,
and keep the longing, yearning.
if I had the power to hold you here,
come home to see you kicking
in your little chair
arch your back to be picked up
and tell me all your soul
your small concerns, your deepest care
brightest soul I've ever known
-at work, can't cry, I'm not alone
but I'm a broken man now
because you are so much
for a man who's tasted heaven
how could the prison be enough?
God sees the pleading at the door
when like an insane dog
I scratch and scream at the trim and frame
running circles on the floor.
And He knows, he knows, all that I ask
He knows what dreams shall come
He knows the things that are and will be
He knows and makes a home.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bonhoeffer and I agree.

Bonhoeffer understands!
“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve -- even in pain -- the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Second time ever taking part in an anti-abortion demonstration outside the local "planned parenthood" (what an inaccurate name!).
The choice was between a women's tea for Brandy and going to the demonstration, and after prayer and conversation, we opted for me going to the demonstration.  There will be other teas.
40 Days for Life ( only lasts for 40 days, after all, and this was the final time that the local "Seattle Clinic Defense" ( was coming out to counter-protest.  My first night showing up for a vigil shift the organizer Helen told me they were hoping for as many people to show as possible on Saturday so they wouldn't be outnumbered by the SCD folk.

I explained to the kids why I was going to go stand in the rain and pray, and asked if any of them wanted to come with me.  Enoch immediately said yes, but I backed out of that one knowing he can't stay still for five minutes and would be out in the road getting squished before I knew what was happening.  Jaelle then volunteered, and I asked her if she was willing to stand in the cold and rain and pray with me for an hour and a half.  She said "yes".  I said "dress really warm!"

So we went, and prayed (9 out of 10 of the ppl showing up for prayer were Catholic, so they were all going through the rosary together).  The pro-abortion folks were pretty quiet & didn't really attempt to engage any of us, except for the worn-looking older woman who "booed" me and Jelly as she walked away with her sign towards the end of it all.  I told her that we loved her.  She told me she didn't love us.  They held their slogan-signs though, and got quite a few honks from the deceived motorists of Seattle.  When you don't have an argument, a slogan will serve, I suppose.

Brandy had been waiting with the boys in the van across the street, & told me how excited Josiah had been getting watching the whole thing, even making his own sign in the backseat with crayon.  Maybe next time I'll take him with me.

Maybe it's because I was so blessed by God as to have the mother I have (I think dad helped too, especially in the logic department) and to watch her reactions and actions to abortion in our extended family and the news that I had a healthy sense of shock and grief as far back as I could remember at the thought of someone actually killing their own child in the womb.

As I grew older, I was always willing to respond if asked what I thought of abortion as an issue, but began thinking of it more as just one of those evils that I would not commit but wouldn't really go out of my way to discourage others from commiting.  Even after truly being born again I was taught that it would be futile to hold a sign, because nothing was really going to change.  It's easy to be shushed and awkward-silenced into a retreat into "personal opinions".

When our baby after Enoch miscarried, that forced Brandy and I to look it all in the eye.  Look, that is, at the issue of where human life begins, and what a miscarriage is.  Most of the literature directed towards mothers seems geared to soothe them by telling them that they only lost a few cells.  After all, it would be so much easier if that were true!  A mother would not have really lost a baby...only a few cells, that's not so bad; there would be no death involved.  But we talked, and I cracked open my biology book, and before God we reaffirmed that yes, we'd really lost a baby. About this time we began to research what we might be able to do in the way of combating abortion and helping expecting mothers find other options.  Brandy looked into Crisis Pregnancy Clinics in the area.

Then I went to the Discovery Institute's Summer Seminar, where I met the passionate and innovative crew who started AHA (Abolish Human Abortion ) and had several really invigorating conversations with them.  They were the first group of Christians I'd ever met who believed that by the power of Christ abortion could really be abolished here in the U.S..  They pointed to the work of believers like William Wilberforce and the shocking parallels between attitudes and arguments and public sentiment regarding slavery back then and abortion now. 
I was also priveleged to hear Tracy Deisher talk about her pro-life biotech work here in Seattle ( regarding the use of fetal cells in vaccines and the uselessness of fetal stem cells (as opposed to adult stem cells) for medical research.

Shortly after this I encouraged Brandy to do whatever it took to start volunteering at the Carenet Crisis Pregnancy Clinic she'd been researching.
Then finally, everything that happened with our beautiful Elias really drove home to me the preciousness of God's little ones, and the unthinkableness of standing by with my private opinions and letting generations of women be deceived into having them killed.  It's not a private opinion, it's Truth, and ought to be public.  Life begins at conception.  HUMAN life. Made in the image of God and precious to Him, and therefore objectively precious.  To kill an innocent human being like the least of these, without provocation, for no crime, is murder.  And who will stand against it?   It is true that no one can do everything - but everyone can do something.

It might be said that it is not the gospel.  This is true.  But the gospel has implications, and if none of those implications are realized in the life of people to whom is preached what is generally believed to be the gospel, then perhaps what is being preached is not the gospel either.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What rewards

Went to a great concert (Josh Garrels) with some good friends tonight.  There was a lot of talk about art and creativity and the reason we were created.   It gelled some of my recent thoughts along those lines.  Is it necessary for us to be creative here on earth? Is there a reward for it?  Is it necessary to struggle, to develop here on earth?

The idea that these things are necessary for human development -that human beings need to be creative and struggle against the forces of evil and temptation here below- is not as attractive to me now as it once was.  It's an inviting thought when your basic needs are taken care of, and you become bored with the mundane day-to-day. When you're headed to and from work and are suffering from that nagging sense of repetitiveness and futility, then the idea that we're here to make some sort of cosmic difference seems like a salvation in it's own right.

But is it really the case that these are necessary experiences? If our rewards and personal development were commensurate with our success in doing that sort of battle down here, then what of all the infant souls that never had the chance to engage in that struggle?  Or what about even the lonely millions starving quietly to death in back alleys, living an animal existence from birth to death without hearing the word of Christ?

What of the stillborn? The miscarried? Will their miscarriage prove to be an eternal handicap, that robbed them irretrievably of the maturity of soul that can only be gained in the trenches here below?
And if it's not necessary to have to go through the gauntlet of a prolonged struggle against temptation and evil on a sinful earth, then why are the majority subjected to it?

In the bible, the story focuses strongly on the important people, the ones in a place to make a difference.  Even when they are of little account in the world-at-large's eyes, they are still agents of change in the present world.  Yet there are other less influential characters. There are Moses' contemporaries, those babies that did not make it into the Egyptian royal house by basket but rather were thrown to crocodiles in the nile.  There are the boys of Bethlehem, the oldest of which were likely just learning how to talk in full sentences, the youngest of which were perhaps not even granted a first drink at their mother's breast before they were killed in some terrible way by Herod's men.  What did they accomplish in their short sojourn?  What eternal reward did they accrue from their experiences of suffering on the cursed earth?  Did they leave any lasting legacy? Did they exercise their wills in obedience to God and so resist the evil one?
What of the prostitute's baby who died in the story of Solomon's wise judgement?  Or the unnamed baby boy of David and Bathsheba who was struck down in punishment for his father's sin?

If there is a universal purpose for life on earth, it must be a purpose that all can attain to - even those who wouldn't be conscious of attaining it.

Perhaps it is merely to glorify God by being what He created you to be.  In this sense even the miscarried children lived their short lives in perfect conformity to the will of God.

But what of reward?

We read of the fate of Lazarus and Dives (the rich man).  Abraham explains that "Lazarus received bad things" as the reason for why he was now receiving the reward of comfort.

But what of rewards for service?  Is suffering or deprivation in itself a service?  Romans says that if we are God's children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

But do babies suffer with Him? Epaphroditus in Phillipians 2 is lauded by Paul as being worthy of honor for having gotten sick and almost dying while in process of helping Christ's apostle. But getting sick isn't exactly a spiritual discipline, or even an act of the will.  He just got sick while doing (albeit intentionally) God's will. I suppose an infant who does God's will -even without express intention- by existing for however long on this cursed earth will be credited for the suffering that accompanies it.1 Peter 4 speaks of those who suffer according to the will of God - and isn't that how our Lord suffered?  Does it matter whether we suffer intentionally or not? As long as we suffer while carrying out God's set purpose for our life-without sin-does this count as suffering with Christ?

Personally I think it would be far worse to suffer as an infant does, without knowledge of righteousness or unrighteousness.  If I suffer, I know that my actual sins would deserve much worse than any suffering poured out on me in this life, and would be able to rejoice in my conscious knowledge of reward for suffering in the will of God.  But babies don't have this knowledge, and so suffer as innocents at the hands of a corruption brought into the world by accountable adults. Their existence for however long it lasts on earth is as the image of God, unspoiled by actual sin.

We are told that we will receive our due at the Judgement seat of Christ for "deeds done in the body, whether good or bad". Isnt' just being a baby a good deed?  It's hard to imagine that God would not judge it so, (for whatever my imagination is worth).  In this case, infants would receive the reward for this deed of being what they were allowed to be here, and then given the task of pleasing God in heaven.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I've had a lot of time to think.  I don't like talking about "how I feel" since what I am concerned about is not me, it's my beloved son Elias, and my God and Father.  But how can we express any thoughts if not from ourselves?  It's still me that's concerned, but I'm not so much concerned about my hurts and loss as I am about Who God is and how my beautiful son is.

A week ago we were at a friend's place.  I was thinking about it and couldn't stop.  How my son couldn't breathe.  I put my hand over my mouth and nose to see what it was like, and it's a terrible feeling.  It comes with panic and desperation.  I couldn't sing praise songs with my friend when he started playing them on his guitar; and he's one of the most honestly worshipful singers I know.  That's what made it worse. Normally I would love to have a chance to join him in worship of our God, but I couldn't stop thinking of what my son went through, and thinking "How could You allow it, God? How could that ever be something you would fit into your plan if You had the chance or ability to prevent it?"  I did not have the ability to praise God honestly at that moment, or for the next several days.  I would go out to pray, but my prayers were not very edifying, and were mostly venting my frustration at how God is everywhere, and Lord of all, but does not answer.  I acknowledged Him as God, and told Him this is why I don't understand why He doesn't show His power, if He has it.  Why He doesn't show His love, His compassion, if He really feels it.  Then apologizing for the "if".  But why would He let such a thing happen to a baby? My sweet baby?  What would be so hard about raising him? What would be so hard about granting a vision of him to let us see that he is well and happy?
What good man would allow what has happened if he had the power to stop it, or refused the requests if he had the power to grant them?

"Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.
He also shall be my salvation: for a hypocrite shall not come before him."

Yet I am not righteous like Job, and if Job did not receive an answer, what hope do I have?  Yet my baby is innocent. And Job did get an answer that satisfied him.  I don't deserve even that, I know, but since when does God give people only what they deserve? I appeal to His mercy and admit my sin.

Most "grief" or "death" books...well, not most, ALL so about the discipline of suffering, and all the good that can come out of it.  But what about an infant? What sin is a loving vulnerable infant being weaned from by suffering, by death?  Our Lord was an innocent, yet he was and is also a man, a full-grown man who was able to understand why he was suffering, at least understand what it would purchase.  He was able to know and surrender to His Father's will.  But a baby?  What is the point of infants' suffering?  Who would care to "learn" from their child's death, or purchase personal advancement at such a cost?  Who would stand on the body of their child to see farther?

I would cast this stone at satan with spit and hatred, but like Job said regarding another evil: "The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He [God] covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, then who is it?"  Who sits on the throne back of Satan, giving free reign to him?
If God did not allow it, how would satan have the power?  Why give helpless vulnerable innocents into his hands? Why, especially in the face of hundreds of Your saints pleading with You not to in the Name which You promised to answer to?

I read Oswald Chambers' "Utmost" the other day.  He spoke about this:
"Be merciful to God's reputation. It is easy to blacken God's character because God never answers back, He never vindicates Himself."

True enough. And what am I, that he should answer?  I do still appeal as a son.

There is so much that doesn't make sense.  And nothing comforts when THAT moment goes over and over in the mind.  

Everything points to God being at fault, being wicked, but this cannot be. If God were wicked, then He would not be God, and there would be no "good", and there would be no me or Elias or tragedy or hope or future.  God must be God, Jesus Christ must be Lord, in the face of this - else there is nothing at all.  And I know He is God.  He must love Elias, because He is God. If he did not, He wouldn't be God.  Yet there is what I have seen.

"We walk by faith and not by sight"
"The things that are seen are temporary, the things unseen are eternal"

Yet, would it be so bad to see?  So many have. It is not unlawful. I still pray to see in the here and now. I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

And I don't want to do anything. If it's possible to pray so hard, to have such strong faith, to fulfill the requirements of scripture, and still not to prevail, then what's the point in any venture? Any action? Any prayer? I feel like resorting to fatalism, to "gods will" in the most unscriptural sense.  Yet I know that would be burying the talent, like Ivan in "Brothers Karamazov" - "It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket."  The ticket to what seems like the sickest game possible-the present life.  Is it the fulfillment of the psalm "To the crooked You make Yourself seem torturous"?  Let me be pure, please! Let me see You.

If it were what it appears to be, then God would not be God, and I would not be me, and Elias would not be Elias.  And these things are impossibilities.  So it cannot be the sick game it appears to be.

Sometimes I pray: "God please let me see him! Just open up a slit into heaven, or open my eyes, so I can see him being carried, talked to, comforted! If I could just see that, I would know, and all would be well! If I know it is well with him, all will be well!"

But all is not well. How can it be well with such goings on? 

Julian of Norwich may have been a prophetess.  "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well"

Will be. But it's not yet!

And what now?  How many years am I to be forced to slog along through this wasteland? Until I'm old and distracted and forget the baby I love?  Can I forget my Jerusalem?  Can't I die with a fresh memory?  I was talking it over with Brandy (my fear of forgetting).  All humans forget.  Friends drift away, and are hardly ever thought of, their memory and associated affection fades. That is hellish.  But then I thought of how I cried uncontrollably and unexpectedly the day my dad flew back to Korea after over a decade of "out of sight out of mind" and thought, what if it's like that? If you can get to the point after years where you rarely think of someone and your memories are all stylized and hazy, yet when you're brought back together all the feelings spontaneously resurrect?

 I pray that the Lord would reunite us with our baby soon, one way or another.  Is it self-pity to want to die?  I know with me it partly is, and I don't want that.  Yet Paul said he'd rather "depart and be with Christ".  At the moment I don't feel exactly the same.  I want to depart and be with my son.  But I know that the only reason Elias is himself is because of Christ, and the only reason I exist and am capable of loving my son is because of Christ, and it is His presence in it all that makes it all worthwhile.  Yet Christ is nearer than a word, though I don't see Him I sense it-even if He doesn't answer.  My son, on the other hand, I cannot sense until I go to him, or unless the Lord graciously answers my prayer for a vision.

We'll see how long it takes. "So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him". I will have to make this my watchword.  

God MUST be Himself.  Jesus Christ MUST be the face of God, His express image. And therefore, there must be the most glorious reconciliation, something so wonderful as to wash all this away and bring us all together in such a reunion that even this will seem like a "Light and momentary trouble" not worth being compared to it.  This MUST be true, though I don't see or feel it.  I'm still praying for a glimpse, and praying for an assurance and certainty.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The other side of pain.

My heart, half-sleeping, drawn out,
warm and softly beating
Full of every good gleaned from the other side of us
You are hope rung with joy – the best of dreams
I used to hold my breath for you, as if on holy ground
Oh small Heaven! Laying out your modest space on earth!
But this sickness, this god-forsaken leech
Hateful earth
Oh God! This pit turns me hollow now and now-
It touched you with its shadow - my son!
My arms reached for you in desperate prayers
Eyes turned quick from God to son
I would have stood between
Oh God!
But that monster had no taste for me
And no answered prayers blocked its path
My soul drained like urine to the floor
life scraped whole from out my ribs
Tearing from me screams of hollow hell
As it robbed you of your precious breath
My arms hung worthless, worthless
With darkness closing in.
Now you are present on the other side of pain
Those hands of Christ from whence you came
And the weight of you pulls me harder
than all things created
With sweeter weight
Than any roots here in the tortured earth
My weakness now a hungry hope
Someday the beast will taste after me
and winning in death’s jaws
I will rush through that defleshing door
When it cracks for me I’ll drink its pain
In willing gulps
to hold you in my arms again.
My son, my son!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

A Circle and a Tangent.

"Just trust in the Character of God!"

But how are we to know His character? By nature and experience?
If Nature and experience, than which shall we choose?  the flowers? sex? sparrows? tasty dinners?
Or maggots? stubbed toes? vultures? poisons? Shall we interpret his character by babies dying of flesh eating strep?

The Westminster Confession says that the Scriptures teach "...what man is to believe concerning God..."

Scripture is supposed to help, but it feels sometimes as if it is part of the problem.

How to interpret it, that is. It seems almost as difficult as interpreting nature.

There is no principle, or set of principles, that can be applied to the scriptures universally and make them speak with a unified voice. Many books try to tell us that there are. I read a book yesterday that tried to say that Jesus often spoke in hyperbole, and this is how we are to understand his words concerning faith.  He said that when Jesus says something that sounds outlandish, he is using hyperbole. Yet this is not always the case. When he spoke to the rich young ruler, he told him to sell all he had, give the proceeds to the poor, and come follow Him.  This sounded outlandish, but everything in the story indicates that Jesus did not mean this as hyperbole.

The Catholic church of the west objected to the Reformation's position on scripture, because they contended that much of scripture was confusing and doubtful, and the people needed the Church's authority to interpret it rightly for them, or else they might start chopping off their hands and gouging their eyes, or become so uncertain and skeptical as to wander off into insanity or infidelity in droves.

The Reformation countered fairly enough that The Catholic Church's interpretations had often contradicted themselves, and were therefore obviously not infallible. Scripture could explain scripture, and even better, each individual believer has the Holy Spirit, who they can trust to lead them into all truth as far as scripture is concerned.

Long after the Reformers were dead, the Neo-Orthodox replied that no believer can guarantee at any time that he has the Holy Spirit's consent to his interpretation.

It would be an extreme understatement to say that the Reformation has brought about no greater unity of interpretation than the system it destroyed, but had fulfilled much of the prophecy of the Catholic church.

And of scripture interpreting scripture, how is this to be done? Which scriptures shall we start with? There is much disagreement here, but no one ever picks out such (gems? open sores?) as Exodus 21:20-21 (and there are many such scriptures). Why not?  Because we pick the scriptures that are favorable to explain the ones that seem unfavorable.  We interpret the scriptures that might make God seem horrible by the scriptures that make Him seem Good.

But how are we to know what is "favorable"? Do we measure what is favorable according to our individual sentiments? To the fashion and feelings of our generation?
Some do.  They say that since it would reflect too unfavorably on God to take at face value his words about an infinite conscious torture for the disobedient as punishment for infinite sins, they overrule these passages with verses about a God who is the "savior of all men..."  They feel and say that it would reflect unfavorably on God to take at face value his words about homosexual offenders being wicked and not entering the kingdom of God.  So they overrule these scriptures with ones about the overruling superiority of "love" and contend that homosexuality is simply an expression of that love which conquers all.
They do this to make God seem good, and measure what is favorable by the spirit of their age.

Is it possible though, to measure what is favorable according to what the majority of Scripture states clearly as favorable?  Then we could give these scriptures the preeminence, and use them to interpret the unthinkable.

God commands babies, infants, to be killed, not spared.  He orders his people not to show them pity.
He tells his people not to kill children for their parents sin, yet all Adam's children die, and David's baby boy was killed by God because of David's sin.  There is no getting around these. Try and read a commentary on these scriptures. If you have an honest heart, you will feel embarrassment for the writer.

There is nothing in scripture that tells us that retributive punishments such as the lake of fire are in principle bad (though we are told God loves his enemies, and that we shouldn't exact these punishments), and nothing in scripture that tells us that homosexuality is love - these ideas must be imported from the Spirit of the Age.

But God himself tells us many times in scripture that Lying is bad, killing the innocent is bad, that babies are innocent, that all men are created in His image, and that He is disturbed by these things.

So when we read His scriptures and how He seems to contradict Himself (i.e. lie), he kills innocent babies, and says that one man made in the image of God is another man's "money" and can be beaten to death so long as it takes him more than a few days to die, we are right to be horrified.

It occurs to me to ask a question, and a particular figure comes to mind.  A lonely figure, a pilgrim and sojourner.

What did Abraham do, with a situation like this?

Abraham had a series of revelations from God, a "scripture", if you will, that he would have a multitude of children, and that these children would come from his son Isaac.
Then God gives him another "scripture". God tells him to kill Isaac.
So, Abraham speculates.

As far as we know, he had no revelation from God about resurrection from the dead, especially regarding Isaac. But rather than running from God because he turned out to be a monster, or deciding that God was after all a very powerful monster who must be obeyed anyhow,
Abraham comes up with this speculation.

"Maybe God will raise Isaac from the dead..."

God has said to Him over and over again that a favorable thing, a reward, was to come from Isaac.
Then there is this abomination of a command, a monster of divine revelation telling him to kill his son.
They both came from the same "book"-the same voice- and so he couldn't pick and choose which could be divine and which were merely the products of the devil or a fevered human mind.  He could have done this, and believed in the blessings, while ignoring the command to kill his "only son".  But he didn't choose which to believe. He believed both, and speculated how they could both be true, how God could still be viewed "favorably" by God's own revealed standards.  He did not interpret all the previous promises for good, all the blessings, by the new revelation about the stabbing to death of his young boy.  If he had, he would have withered them all.  He chose to interpret the horror by the previous and persistent revelations that were given as blessings. He may have come to this principal of interpretation instantly, it took at most no more than three days. So perhaps it is not so difficult after all to interpret the revelations of God.  Maybe this is the Holy Spirit, the "faith" which justified Abraham. Abraham did swiftly what has posed problems for centuries.

And he came up with resurrection.

So do I.

And if your right hand subverts you, cut it off, cast it from you, for it is profitable for you that one of your members be lost, and not that your whole body fall into Gehenna.

I have tried to write something here three times in the last week or so, but each time what oozes out of my mind onto the keyboard ends up being horrible blasphemy. I tried to put a positive spin on a few efforts after I realized this, but then, is it really possible to put a positive spin on blasphemy?
"The things that come out of a man are what make him unclean" - and I've felt that uncleanness when I read my own words, like a black biofilm creeping swiftly over my skin.  So I haven't posted them, since I'd prefer to remain in quarantine until I'm clean; as it is written: "He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp."

And why is this?  I think (I think, I don't know) that it's because I speculate in an effort to understand. Perhaps some abysses are not open for speculation, as Nietzsche said, unless you don't mind the abyss speculating inside of you.

But the abyss has opened a hole in my living room, and I must walk around it every day.

So if I cannot speculate as to why it is there or why there are such things without being sucked into it myself, I suppose I can just walk through the kitchen to get from one side of the room to the other without resorting to walking past IT.

But the abyss is there when I open my bible, and when I get on my knees.  How can I avoid these?

I call to God, to my God, but I cannot exercise my mind towards Him, without it exercising swiftly against Him, pointing out exhibit A, exhibit B, calling me to the stand as a material witness against Him so that it can proceed quickly on to the concluding argument which I can't bear.

I look up to the judge to be excused, and who is the Judge?

So I choose to be silent, in contempt of court,
and am dragged off to remain in custody.

If the Judge is dragged off, then who will give me justice? Who will restore what has been stolen?
If the Maker were cast off into outer darkness, then from His destruction all would unravel, and every good and beautiful thing along with Him - including those things which He is accused of having used amiss, and then what of the lawsuit? The court would be dissolved, the aggrieved would have no loss, as they would never have possessed, neither would they have existed themselves.

I look to the right, a lion
I look to the left, a bear.

Yet I cannot be a sluggard, and remain in bed.
I refuse to say He's a hard man, reaping where He hasn't sowed,
and so I won't bury the talent in a handkerchief.
So I am left as always with only one option:
"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him"
And knowing that I am not noble or brave for this
but desperate, and damaged, and wrong.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Ahh, Great Master, come soon!
"In this world"
You said,
"In this world..."
we do, our master, we do have trouble
great trouble as the heathen rage in vain
as your people stumble in the darkness
children of light, when the day is gone
"Take heart"
You said
"Take heart"
And we do, master, when our hearts fail
we take heart, even as they are sorely tried
as they are sad, we dig as through mud
to find the ore of your promised hopes
"I have overcome the world"
You said
"I have overcome the world"
We do not yet see it, yet the star has risen
In our hearts, your morning star - and also
the words of your apostles, your prophets
Master, you tasted dying, and now stand crowned


Yet we still live among thorns,
and these are still our crowns
Master, keep us from stumbling
faithful, for the crowns of life.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

If I am complimented on my faith, Lord, what should I say?
You know, You see, my faith is nothing but waiting
they seem to think that it grows flowers
but it's dry, so very dry.
It's a flat dry ocean, for miles and miles
the ground is nothing but curled chips of dry clay
and that's all, that's all, just that and waiting
for a rain that will bring flowers
a rain that may come
but we've been waiting so very long,
since before I've been born
and why should you come tomorrow?
why not in a million years?
why not a trillion?
if your soon is so different
God, would you have me hope?
I do hope, inasmuch as I am alive
I hope, yes, but the widow's bones
are dry outside the judge's house
she's still waiting.
You'll find faith, sure enough
I cannot do anything else
if you do not answer, 
then there's no use going home
so let our bones dry out
at your doorstep
I will not be surprised
when you come,
but I will not be surprised
when you don't either.
we are brought very low
please excuse us
if we are only bones
these bones are faith,

Friday, June 01, 2012

What can I write for your funeral, my son?
What can I tell our friends? Our family?
Why do people go to funerals? For the "deceased"? For themselves? For the family?

I know nearly no one really knew our Baby, Elias. We kept him mostly to ourselves.  What you know of him is probably what you've seen in videos we've posted.  So I'd like to tell you a little about him, and about our story with him.

When Brandy convinced me to have another child, I was apprehensive. I kept telling her "If three is good enough for God, it's good enough for me" (referencing the trinity).  My secret fear, which I shared with her, was that something could go wrong. A journal entry from around that time reads:

"I'm always paranoid whenever she's pregnant that something will go wrong with the pregnancy/baby, so pray for me. That's part of my fear of having more children, I feel like all the ones so far have five fingers and toes, and we should quit while we're ahead. But God has spoken..." 

When she was pregnant though, I was happy, all my hesitation was gone but I still was concerned for my child who was coming. We prayed and prayed for his health, for his safety.

Elias was born. Minutes later he was diagnosed with TEF. Holding him, from that first sweet little cry we loved him to overflowing.  I can see his sweet face in my mind as I type this.
As the news spread that he would be undergoing surgery, so many people helped and loved us, joining us in prayer! As we were bringing him to the surgical area, the surgeon anesthesiologist came out and told us stories about work done in Africa. The mothers there whose babies have TEF walk for days to the hospital, their babies are starved and near death by the time they get surgery. He reassured us that Elias would be OK.

The surgery was successful.  He recovered from the surgery, but got a respiratory illness while there.  We prayed, and it went away.
When we got to take the tubes off, hold him, and see his eyes open! His sweet blue eyes - I have a video of his first bath, we were up all night holding him. I remember how he would watch the lights in the hospital, he always liked looking at lights.

When we took him home, it soon became apparent that he had some kind of liver issue. The doctors suspected it was biliary atresia, a condition requiring a liver transplant, and often fatal.  We prayed it would go away, I even entered in my journal a covenant that if God would just make it go away as though it had not been there, I would count it as a true miracle.  The following Sunday it resolved in the middle of a church service, a miracle!

He grew and grew, always well at the doctors, beautiful boy, full of talks. So expressive! He would grab at everything, watching him reach for his toys, grab them, get more and more expressive.
The kids would play with him constantly and he knew all their faces. I would look forward to coming home each morning from the night shift to greet him and kiss him, I would wash my hands and change my shirt every time hoping to prevent passing any germs on to him. He would recognize me and if I reached for him, when he was lying down, he would arch his back so I could reach around and pick him up. Everything was such a joy, he was beginning to sit himself up in his chair - he almost always wanted someone to talk to him.  If he was crying, nine times out of ten he would start smiling and talking again if we would just talk to him. I would hold him and carry him into the bedroom where the closet mirrors were, and he would watch his reflection and start talking to it.  I could tell his lungs were congested, and he was having something like asthma attacks - we told so much to the doctors but the doctors kept telling us nothing was wrong.

Brandy called me, I came, saw the paramedics.

At the hospital we prayed! Jesus' parable came to mind, the one He told to show that we ought always to pray and not lose heart: the parable of the widow and the unjust judge - give me justice against my adversary! Death is my adversary! We didn't stop praying.  Jesus' question at the end of the parable is "when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?  I could not believe that God who had seen my son through a successful surgery, healed him from the liver issue, would now let him die.

Elias was anointed with oil by several pastors, prayed for by hundreds, maybe thousands. Yet he was taken! Some people say God did it, that He took our son...yet death is the final enemy!

Can prayers be unanswered? Psalm 50 God reassures us:"Call on me in the day of trouble, and I will save you, and you will glorify me" Is this true? Many would twist this in a desperate bid to justify God and say that death is a sort of salvation.

Many prayed for "God's will to be done".  I never did. I knew that in most people's minds, "God's will" in that phrase is used as an equivalent to the death of my sweet helpless son.  But I don't believe that. God's will for infants is clear to us: "It is not the will of my Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."  Jesus said that.

Is God ever on the side of death?

As his young daughter died in his arms, Martin Luther reproached himself because God had blessed him as no bishop in 1000 years, yet he could not find it in his heart to give God thanks at the death of his daughter Magdalena. Rather he said:

"You will rise and shine like the stars and the sun. How strange it is to know that she is at peace and all is well, and yet to be so sorrowful!"

READ THE GOSPELS! - Did Jesus ever pat anyone on the back and send them away? When infants were brought to him, did He ever say "Sorry, God wants this one" and twist their necks? No! Did he agree with Martha about delaying her brother's resurrection 'til the last day?  Is it for nothing that his apostle John tells us that "The Son of Man came to destroy the works of the devil."?
When was it ever Jesus "Will" to withhold healing from someone brought to Him?

And Jesus says "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."

Luther was right not to thank God for his daughter's death.  As in the parable of the tares: "An enemy did this!" Death is an enemy. God calls it the final enemy. It is to be thrown into the lake of fire along with Satan.  God receives the souls of His own, including the souls of those little ones to whom belongs the Kingdom, but He does not wish their deaths.

I hate death! Brandy and I want to hate what God hates, and love what He loves. We would have taught Elias to do the same.

We show you the best that we can. This whole funeral -the songs, the clothing, our son's clean white casket- is not to make death (my enemy and God's) "pretty"; rather this is warpaint.
We are flaunting the gifts of life and love in the face of the enemy, passing the blade of God under his nose - preparing our feet for the day when God crushes him under our feet!  I love my son and will never stop! I will always pray for his resurrection, until the coming of Christ, if it takes that long.

So...if death is an enemy, why does God allow it?  Why does God let Himself "lose" in the losses of His saints?  Why are we allowed to cry out without answer? Like the Psalmist: 

" have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil..."

And lest Job's friends come to say that this sort of thing is ours as a payment for some secret sin, the psalmist and I continue:

"All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant."

There was no praying, no fasting, no scriptural instruction or condition not met for my son's healing.  Sometimes I believe all life of saints on earth between the Fall and Christ's second coming is a commentary and repetition of the book of Job.
God allows his servants here sometimes to be harassed and tortured by Satan without answer except those moments (Like the end of the book of Job) when he reveals Himself for a moment, and we repent in dust and ashes for any ill thoughts of Him. But it is better to have been appalled at this state of things and expect better from our God as Job did than to (like his "comforters") say that God's in His heaven, and all's right with the world.

"After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has."

Will we curse God and die? How can we? He still has the words of eternal life.
Can we still trust in His goodness in the face of this? He is all our goodness!  I think of my son, my Elias, my beautiful son, and know that all his sweetness and Goodness is an overflow of the goodness of God, a God who brought him into being and promises his resurrection.
We have been promised a regeneration of all things - even the prophets did not receive what had been promised - I will wait for the day of restoration and judgement.

There is a hole in the universe - my son!  What is this universe, a universe without Elias? It is a foreign place, and I never want to get used to it. May I never be false to my God or my Son and proclaim a false recovery from a wound that cannot be healed until the regeneration of all things at the Coming of our Lord,  Jesus Christ.

What would you do, if you were told to answer 5-2=, and if you were told that you could not answer "3", for there was no longer any "3" to put in that place?  You could only wait, and hold the place until the right answer could once again be given.

Our Son! We cannot be healed - not until the restoration, we can only be sustained in the midst of ruins, trusting in the Goodness of God and the sureness of His promises.  So that's what we do, we patch the hole with promises until the day we receive them.

We know we are not the first ones to have lost a dear baby, and we likely will not be the last.  Most have not had the love and support of friends and family as we have, most have not been given the ever-present help of Christ in the hands and help of so many as we have. We are humbled by all of you, humbled at how you have all rushed so quickly to help us, and keep us from any of the myriads of associated indignities and hassles that surround something as horrible as the death of a loved one.  We have been uniquely blessed and freed to fight in prayer for our son until his spirit left to the Father, and then freed to grieve and pray and hope.

And you, our friends, our family, who have joined us in suffering and prayer, please join us in hope!  Your suffering and prayers are not, were not, in vain.  All the promises are in Christ "Yes and Amen", even if we have to wait until His coming to be vindicated, our prayers will be brought to remembrance, and answered, and on that day it won't be us, but rather death who will be robbed and humiliated.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A son of prayers, if there ever was one. He's still wheezy more than a baby should be (the surgeon told us that infants with TEF have softer tracheas), and his herniated belly-button might be causing us more concern than it warrants (doctors don't do anything about them until kids are four years old or so) - but overall he's been gaining weight quickly and acting more and more like his brothers and sister did at his age. I can finally write about him now, since the raw agony of panic has for the most part subsided, along with the bulk of all those feelings of foreboding I had before.

Still, the valleys of the shadow formed such a regular sort of rhythm for the last several months we can't help but feel a bit of flinching expectancy. Father, please forgive our fears, and at the same time don't lead us into temptation-deliver us from evil.

Also been feeling a general cloud of malaise - probably from lack of sleep and company - these last few weeks. Brandy has had even less sleep than I have, and the older kids have suffered quite a bit of neglect in the mornings. It's a little disappointing how much our family boat can rock after a few big waves. But still, the comforting rhythms of Thanking our Father in Heaven for our breakfast, reading to the kids before bed, or going through the first ten or so questions of the Westminster Shorter Catechism have done a lot to help us find our sea-legs again. The one thing I do miss is closer fellowship with other strong believers (or even not so strong believers).
I guess we could seek it out, but it's difficult to find time or presence of mind to arrange anything that would work, and so many friendly visits with believers we don't know so well can end up being mostly small talk.

Small it the human equivalent of canine rear-sniffing? I guess it's necessary in its way, as a sort of preliminary to real conversations that might follow; but it can be very tiring.

Going through Genesis for our weekly bible-study. Brandy can't participate as much since she's doing the bulk of baby-holding, and since bible-study hours coincide with Elias' fussy hours. Ben and Rose have been our faithful attendees for the past six months or more, others have come and gone, TJ's been so busy with his extra work at the Roaster in Camano Island he hasn't shown for a while. In a lot of ways a good bible study is a lot harder to put together than a "teaching". The organizer has to come up with questions that aren't too hard for people to understand, but aren't too easy either. Just like in a class, people are hesitant to answer the first because they think they'll get it wrong and embarrass themselves, or reluctant to answer the second kind because it's boring or degrading. Thinking of good questions is like fine-tuning a dial.

But life is Good, God has blessed us, I am full of blessings and peanut butter. The only think I want right now is Light, more Light - conscious fellowship with God in Christ.
"Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof."-Ps. 137:7
(this is the verse that always pops into mind when looking at a straight razor, although the phrase was directed by nasty Edomites towards Jerusalem, I think I can reappropriate it for a different purpose.)

My first straight razor shave was without much of the blood and tears promised by Amazon reviewers to first-timers. It easily took off an amount of scruffiness that would have clogged a disposable razor after two swipes. But still, asking myself why I bought it, I guess the main reason is that I liked the idea of it. True, it's more efficient at removing beardiness than the bags of razor encrusted plastic sticks I was using before, and also true, it will cost less in the long run; but those aren't what pushed me over the edge.

I guess the romance of something less specialized is a better part of it, the attraction G.K. Chesterton wrote about in his essay "The Universal Stick".

But not quite, because if I was going to go Chestertonian, I'd be using a knife.

It could also be a sort of nostalgia, the way some people enjoy old cars, fedoras, pipes and "classic" movies.

I suppose I could ask my little brother, because I found out the day before yesterday that he beat me to the punch and has been shaving w/ a straight razor for two months now.

All reasons combined, I think it was worth it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

So anyways, I haven't written much in quite a while. Here's an article response I just wrote to the "Falcon", SPU's newspaper.

In reply to Pech's article "Give it up, churches", I would like to point out some insufficiencies I see in his reasoning. He points out that "reasonable people can disagree" on whether homosexuality is a sin and whether God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman. I don't think it's a matter of whether disagreement is possible between reasonable people, it's a matter of coming down on the correct side of the disagreement. Many people throughout history have been both reasonable and mistaken.
Next, he asks, "If the church's main concern is God's approval or disapproval of marriages, why not leave that up to God?" I hope that this isn't the church's mainconcern, the church's main concern should be obedient devotion and faithfulness to God in Christ. However, if faithfulness to God includes confessing (in the sense of "saying the same thing") then to repeat to His creation the Word of God regarding the responsibilities of states and the definition of evils is part of what constitutes faithfulness.
If we were to leave the church's obedience "up to God", and still want to call itself the church, it would be playing the part of the son in Jesus' parable who told his Father "yes, I'll go work in the field", while remaining firmly planted on his rear end. Being the Church involves both saying yes to God's proposed mission and in His power carrying though with that resolve.

Pech then cheekily asks: "If God does not count gay marriages as legitimate, won't he simply, you know, not count them?" - yes, yes he will, but God's frustration in scripture often seems to come from having to "tread the winepress alone". Should we also scold the Apostle Paul for speaking to the pagan governor Felix about "righteousness, self-control and the coming judgement" rather than leaving these things for God to sort out when the right time came? This may have been what Felix would have preferred at the time, but Christ's apostle Paul exhibits no such inclinations.

Oddly enough, Pech goes on to bluntly state: "The state shouldn't be in the marriage business at all". Putting the historical problems with this statement aside, it seems that this is a position he hopes the church and state will adopt, and it carries with it an obligation of the state regarding marriage (that they shouldn't have anything to do with it). Isn't telling the state what it should do about marriage what he's chastizing the "church" for?

After telling the church it should not dictate the responsibilities of the state, Pech...dictates the responsibilities of the state.: "...To protect and serve its people, not to legislate their morality." The cliche "you can't legislate morality" which he summons to make his point, falls apart fairly quickly. All legislation depends on moral judgements. Why do we disagree with any laws? Because we don't think they are right (i.e., "moral"). Supporters of "gay marriage" don't believe it's "right" (i.e. "moral") to deny marriage to people practicing homosexuality - this is a moral judgement. The question is not whether the state should legislate morality, the question on the table is: whose morality should it legislate? Pech's? The "church"'s? The supporters of "gay marriage"?

Shane ends with "If the only value [presumably of the church] is to degrade a group of people, what kind of witness is that?" My response would be agreement in principle. However, if it happens to be true that same sex marriage is wrong, and if the scripture is true that "Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace [i.e. degrading] to any people.", then the ones seeking to degrade a group of people are the supporters of same sex marriage. And if the church finds its value in aiding and abetting the degrading of a nation, well, what kind of a witness is that?