Snow Days and Disappointment

Do you ever have a day when you’re tempted to stay in bed? Today would have been an excellent day to follow that plan. In my neck of the woods, last night’s much-anticipated (though not necessarily by me) snow accumulation brought a welcome day off from school or work for many … although for some, it was already the Presidents’ Day holiday.

Or how about this? When looking back on a day just past, maybe there have been those days when you’ve concluded:  I wish I had stayed in bed! That’s how I felt about today – I didn’t stay in bed, but by midday, I was thinking I should have. It was a day when, no matter what I did, I couldn’t nudge myself out of an oppressive funk!

crankyI drank coffee, I talked on the phone, I wandered aimlessly through email, blog posts and genealogy notes, I drank more coffee, and underneath, I had this disturbing sense of restlessness and inexplicable annoyance! Finally, I read a post from A Reasonable Faith in which the author relates her disappointment that the Seattle Seahawks didn’t win the recent Super Bowl. (The post opens with a delightful comic, by the way.) Continue reading “Snow Days and Disappointment”

Holding Onto Hope

With the short attention span so common in today’s culture, it’s easy to look at the life of the main character in The Book of Job, acknowledge his unfortunate (and prolonged) situation, then yawn, shrug and move along. As my four-year-old grandson occasionally exclaims:  “Boring!” We might be amused by another person’s disaster shown on a YouTube video, but the awkward moments better come quickly or our attention will be drawn elsewhere.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

Over the last several months, as I’ve been studying through Job, I’ve meditated on his suffering and composed a sonnet for each chapter. Unfortunately, arriving at the 17th chapter of Job, there’s a sense we’ve already traveled down this road. Job’s friends have chided him, he’s responded to their monologues and the entire exercise repeats itself. Just as with a prime-time episode of CSI (at whichever city), the tendency is to expect (even demand) some resolution by this point!

In this chapter and last week’s chapter/post, Job delivers another reply to his comforters’ contention that God would remove Job’s suffering if only he weren’t so stubborn about admitting his sin! Job refutes their accusations, but mostly addresses his remarks to Almighty God. Continue reading “Holding Onto Hope”

Deconstructing Fifty Shades of de Sade

Here we are … celebrating Valentine’s Day 2015. It’s a long weekend due to the so-called Presidents’ Day holiday … which was initially a celebration for George Washington’s birthday (the 22nd) … but then was expanded to include Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (the 12th) as well … and when Congress suggested honoring all US presidents with a single holiday to be known as Presidents’ Day, they never actually approved the bill! Still, Presidents’ Day became the default – though unofficial – name anyway! So, Happy Presidents’ Day / Valentine’s Day or Happy Valentine’s Day / Presidents’ Day or if you prefer … Saturday!ValPresDayThis is also a highly-anticipated (by some) blockbuster movie weekend. According to BoxOfficeMojo’s forecast headline, “‘Fifty Shades” To Dominate Valentine’s Day Box Office, the film will “set a handful of box office records” this weekend. The same website’s Friday Report employs an apt headline:  “Moviegoers Submit to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.Continue reading “Deconstructing Fifty Shades of de Sade”

Eden’s Paradise . . . Lost

The world described in the Book of Genesis was different than ours. In the Beginning, after six days of creative endeavor, God rested and judged His creation as “very good.” Put simply, the Garden of Eden was Paradise … and while the Book doesn’t elaborate in minute detail, we know Eden was radically transformed because of sin into Paradise Lost.CMB_TimelineYesterday, I posed the question:  Are We Smarter Than Our Biblical Forebears? This question actually has some currency given recent discussions dealing with big bang inflation theory (as illustrated above). Certainly, this theory is a departure from the biblical narrative of Genesis. Continue reading “Eden’s Paradise . . . Lost”

Acquainted With Grief

In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, Jesus is described with these words:

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

A man of sorrows who was also acquainted with grief … both phrases could easily be applied to Job. Continuing to compose sonnets through The Book of Job, we’ve arrived today at chapter 16. In some ways, it seems as though the narrative repeats itself. Job is suffering, his friends are superficially comforting (or attempting to comfort) Job, and all this wrangling has gotten them nowhere.

Except for the first two chapters which reveal (to the readers) events Job and his friends are not privy to, God has yet to make His thoughts known to the humans … but He will.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

In the previous chapter, Eliphaz (one of Job’s friends / comforters) has spoken a second time. This know-it-all friend blames Job’s suffering solely on his own cussedness related to the obvious sin in his life. In the opinion of Eliphaz, his observation is (to borrow a phrase) settled science … beyond dispute. Essentially, Eliphaz communicates, it’s your fault you’re suffering, Job. (Here’s a review of last week if you care to click over.) Continue reading “Acquainted With Grief”

Moral Equivalency & High Horses

Speaking before the National Prayer Breakfast this week, President Obama used the opportunity to deliver a professorial warning. Referring to ISIL/ISIS/Daesh and describing them as “a brutal, vicious death cult …,” the President condemned their “unspeakable acts of barbarism” in the name of religion. Then, he continued:  “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.national-prayer-breakfast-2015The National Prayer Breakfast (and its associated events) is an annual event that dates back to 1953. This year’s breakfast drew dignitaries from far-off places around the globe as well as many high profile Washingtonians. Overall, the event draws some 3,500 people of various religious affiliations – as well as non-religious individuals – to a ballroom at the DC-based Washington Hilton Hotel for prayer, a shared meal and the usual speechifying. Continue reading “Moral Equivalency & High Horses”

Conversation, Consolation, Condemnation

Conversations can be tricky. A friendly discussion has the potential to take a turn into unpleasantness or disputation, if and when a differing point of view is pressed. People who were cordial and overflowing with goodwill suddenly become antagonistic and difficult and full of condemnation. The friendly discussion is transformed to argument that can lead to hostility and name-calling and even fisticuffs if the parties are inclined to carry things that far!

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

This is where Job finds himself in Chapter 15 of The Book of Job. As the first round of point/counterpoint between Job and his friends has closed out (chapters 4 through 14), the tension has begun to rise. Job maintains his innocence … his suffering and pain are not the result of sin in his life, he insists.

But the friends, having come to Job’s side in order to comfort him, have a different point of view. In their separate discourses, they suggest Job must have some hidden sin, something so heinous that God is forced to rain down His wrath. Continue reading “Conversation, Consolation, Condemnation”

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Today is a day for sober reflection. No matter how often I interact with people from all walks of life who are suffering through various challenges in life, the question invariably crops up:  Why? and just as often, Why, God?

It’s an understandable question, almost as natural to our humanity as breathing. In some respects (no matter our age), we are like three-year-olds investigating a complex world we’d like to understand. Asking Why? is our common standard that (hopefully) leads us to understanding.Ask Why

Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs let their tongues hang? Why do I need cash when you have a credit card? These are the kinds of questions children tend to ask, but in our own way, we adults express an identical inquisitiveness, though we often do so with guarded sophistication … for fear of being perceived as ignorant.

Continue reading “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?”

Job: Life Is Hard . . . And Then You Die

Returning to Job today, chapter 14 brings us one-third way through the book. (To view earlier posts, they begin here and continue on successive Sundays.) With this chapter, Job continues his response … but he’s no longer addressing his friends. He has, in fact, realized they already have their minds made up (about his perceived sin), so instead, Job directly addresses God as his friends listen in to the conversation.

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

Because Job has ceased defending himself to his friends and is speaking specifically to God (i.e. prayer), the intensely personal nature of this chapter is evident. Not a thing that Job recites is unknown to God, yet Job still schools the Almighty on the realities of humanity. Even as he speaks to God, he’s reminding himself that life is hard … and then you die.
Continue reading “Job: Life Is Hard . . . And Then You Die”

Pain, Suffering and Evil, Oh My!

An interview I read this week (conducted by World magazine’s Warren Cole Smith with writer/professor Bart D. Ehrman) seemed an apt reminder of Job’s struggle chronicled in The Book of Job. With his 2014 book How Jesus Became God, the once-evangelical Ehrman (now an outspoken atheist or agnostic, depending upon which resource is consulted) explains his personal rejection of faith in a way Job might well understand.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake
FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

On page four of the interview, Erhman notes:  “What ended up leading me away from the faith was unrelated to my scholarship. It was dealing with the problem of suffering in the world and why there could be so much pain and misery if God is active in the world.

A couple interview questions later, Ehrman continues his explanation, expressing contempt for a deity who permits the deaths of starving children and tsunamis that obliterate thousands of human beings in one swoop. His perspective of evil in the world has caused him to reject the overall concept of God. The existence of pain, suffering and evil in our world are ample proofs (for Ehrman) that God does not exist. Continue reading “Pain, Suffering and Evil, Oh My!”