Love

I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with the Problem of Evil.  If there is an omnipotent all-benevolent God, then why does evil, tragedy and suffering exist?  For theists (or for me, at least) the hardest part of that to understand is why God permits gratuitous natural evil–that is, seemingly pointless suffering that cannot be attributed to any apparent moral evil or sin.

This question has really challenged me, and I understand why it is so effective as an argument for atheism.  But after lots of books and articles, and a whole lot of philosophical analysis, I arrived at an answer to the philosophical puzzle that was personally satisfying.  In fact, I’ve settled on the only answer that I can accept, even though it took me places I wouldn’t have expected to go before I started the philosophical journey. 

But even as I came to an intellectual peace on the subject, I have understood that a satisfactory academic solution to the problem would likely be of little comfort to a human being suffering from the effects of gratuitious natural evil.

Tonight I have heard heartbreaking stories.  I heard about an innocent child found covered in ants and dying in a trash pile in Haiti.  I heard about a sweet 2 year old boy whose mother rejected him because she considered him “ugly” and who would leave him outside at night in the rain in the hope that he would die.  These two children were rescued by Danita’s Children.  The abandoned child ultimately died, but not before he came to know and experience love.  After being loved and cared for by the children and missionaries there, he died six months later, but in Brenda’s arms, rather than in a trashcan.  And the “ugly” 2 year old boy is Jamison, one of the beautiful, healthy, happy boys at the orphanage.

The way Jamison and the other little boy were treated are examples of moral evil.  Their mothers have the gift of free will, which sadly includes the freedom to do evil.  Of course Danita and Brenda used their gift of free will to surrender their own comforts and rescue those two boys.  Love won.

But tonight our hearts are heavy and philosophy doesn’t help much.

Stephen, the youth pastor at our church is an amazing man, whose passion for young people has blessed and saved many troubled kids, who love him like a father.  His wife Jennifer is a loving, beautiful, talented woman who ministers to the kids in the church and blesses us all with her angelic singing.  They have three adorable little girls, and they were all overjoyed to learn, almost eight months ago, that she was pregnant.  It was particularly joyous news when they learned they were going to have a boy.  Just a few days ago, on Christmas Eve, Jennifer sang beautifully for our church–gloriously pregnant.

Today she went in for a check up, and ended up being sent for an emergency Ceasarean.  Jennifer and Stephen’s son was delivered by C-section, in critical condition.  Not long afterwards, he died.  A dead baby boy.  A devastated mother.  A grieving father.  Hundreds of friends and family, shocked and heartbroken.

Why do we live in a world where unloved children are thrown away like garbage, while babies wrapped in overflowing love die a few minutes after being born?  Why does a heartless woman in Haiti have a healthy baby she hates, while a loving woman in Virginia loses the baby she loves?

I could write out a detailed philosophical explanation, but it wouldn’t comfort or soothe.

My heart aches so much for Jennifer, Stephen and their little girls tonight.  There is an ocean of love pouring out on them tonight, just as they poured love out on their son.  God is love.  The love that is flowing to them, is God himself.  It will be a source of comfort and peace to them, and already God is at work redeeming the evil.

And I know that this evil is not of God.  It is not “part of his plan.”  God does move the hearts of people like Brenda and Danita, to put them in a place where they can save a child’s life.  But he does not take the lives of  baby boys. 

Our world is broken.  God’s will is done in heaven.  God’s will is not always done on earth.  Someday, when heaven meets earth, there will be no more grieving mothers and no more abandoned unloved babies.  In the meantime, may the people of love rise.  May we bless and help those who rescue the unwanted children of the world.  May we love, comfort and pray for those who are grieving and suffering from the effects of the evil that exists in our world.  And may we all resolve to do our best to synch up with God, as redemption proceeds.

Maranatha.

Love Wins.

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Visitors and venison

Waiting for sunrise, to do the morning chores…

It’s a big day here on White Flint.  Our friends Danita and Brenda, two of the amazing missionaries at Danita’s Children are coming to visit us.  More on that later, but in the meantime check out www.danitaschildren.org.

Yesterday I managed to shoot one of the herd of deer that is seemingly a fixture here.  They have a mysterious tendency to vanish whenever I have a gun in my hand.  Normally they are impossible to miss.  During hunting season they seem impossible to find.  But I did finally bag one yesterday, and it will soon be in the freezer.  As I’ve mentioned before, we no longer buy or eat any beef.  From our farm we get pork, chicken, fish and venison–which is all we need or want.

We have some big news to announce soon.  But I’ll hold on to that till another day.

Love Wins

Hills

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
       where does my help come from?

Psalm 121:1

At the time the Psalmist wrote these words, lots of people in his culture believed their help came from the hills.  The worshippers of Ba’al build their altars on hilltops and “high places” and made their sacrifices there.  Asherah poles, which were used in worship of the goddess Asherah, were also erected on hilltops.   The sacred prostitutes of the fertility goddess Ashterath were found there as well.

When I read the first two verses of this Psalm, I hear them to music, much like people must have 3,000 years ago.  But I hear them to the music of a currently popular Christian pop song.  And I confess that listening to the song I think of the singer looking up to the hills to see God.  But in fact the Psalmist is saying  just the opposite.  He looks to the hills, sees the idols and false religions of his day, and asks where his help comes from.

 My help comes from the LORD,
       the Maker of heaven and earth.

It’s easy and natural to look to the hills for help.  And while we don’t have altars to Ba’al, Asherah and Ashterath on American hilltops, we certainly have plenty of false idols to worship.

May I remember where my help comes from.  And where it doesn’t come from.

Love Wins

Ripening

Ripening

The longer we are together
the larger death grows around us.
How many we know by now
who are dead! We, who were young,
now count the cost of having been.
And yet as we know the dead
we grow familiar with the world.
We, who were young and loved each other
ignorantly, now come to know
each other in love, married
by what we have done, as much
as by what we intend. Our hair
turns white with our ripening
as though to fly away in some
coming wind, bearing the seed
of what we know. It was bitter to learn
that we come to death as we come
to love, bitter to face
the just and solving welcome
that death prepares. But that is bitter
only to the ignorant, who pray
it will not happen. Having come
the bitter way to better prayer, we have
the sweetness of ripening. How sweet
to know you by the signs of this world!

Wendell Berry

Love Wins

Bread alone

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about social justice and specifically about the poor, the neglected and the hungry, as is obvious to readers of this blog.

But as I look around in a country where the biggest health problem among the poor is obesity, I am reminded of an important truth:  man does not live by bread alone.

We must not obsess over their righteousness and spiritual salvation, while our brothers and sisters starve.  But neither must we neglect the soul.  There is a spiritual hunger that must also be fed and there is a bread of life that every soul needs.

Thousands of people will die today of starvation and malnutrition, most of them children.  May the day soon come when that is a thing of the past.

But may we not aspire to a world filled with people who are fat and spiritually vacant.  May our future be one in which bellies are filled and so are souls.

Love Wins

White Christmas

We’re still blanketed in snow, making this morning look like one of those storybook Christmas mornings I used to wish for, but rarely get.  If the rain that’s been forecast actually shows up today, then our pretty snow will likely soon be a muddy, icy mess.  So we’ll enjoy it for now.

Bible nerd is reflecting this morning on John 1:14.  I think it’s the most profound thing in Scripture about Christmas.  It may be the most profound thing in Scripture, period.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

In the original Greek (transliterated): 

Kai o logos sarx egeneto kai eskenosen en emin.

I like breaking it down: 

 The Logos became sarx and eskenosen with us.

That is to say:

Logic/reason/expression became flesh and pitched a tent among us.

That is to say:

The supreme ineffable transcendent permanent incorruptible ultimate reality willingly transformed itself into a corruptible mortal state, subject to the influences of passion and desire, and set up a temporary residence among other such beings.

That is to say:

Immanu El.

That is to say:

God with us.

Merry Christmas y’all.

Love Wins