Shepherds

In late November, 2007 I took these photos of shepherds and their flocks on a hillside a few miles from Bethlehem.  The scene probably hasn’t changed much in the last 2,000 years.

Shepherds

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Here’s an interesting article regarding life in Bethlehem these days.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/23/bethlehem-christians-feel-squeeze-settlements

Love Wins

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Chicken Life

There are billions of chickens in our country.  Almost all of them live like this:

Ours have a better life than that.

They sometimes get to enjoy the leftovers from our community supper.

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Or cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts leaves from the garden.

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And they can go for long strolls whenever the mood strikes them.

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Love Wins

Stuff that really matters

I was pleased to see the news this week that Asbury Seminary has received a grant dedicated to creating community gardens and teaching and promoting creation care.  I’ve seen similar steps and programs going into place at churches, divinity schools at seminaries all over the country.

Among other things the announcement said:

Slated to begin in spring 2013, the raised bed community garden will feature 10-15 large common plots surrounded by 25 smaller individual plots that will be tended by members of the seminary community, including students, faculty and staff.
Through the community garden, the Office of Global Community Formation and the Creation Care Community will teach gardening, composting, recycling, and bee handling as practical ways to steward God’s creation. Additionally, the community garden will serve as a living laboratory to teach spiritual principles of personal devotion, discipleship and multicultural community building.

Now that warms my heart.

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Dividing Things Up

Render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s and to God the things that are God’s.   Jesus

Of all the enigmatic words of Jesus, these are among those which have been debated the most.  The conventional consensus seems to be that Jesus is saying, at a minimum, that folks should pay their taxes.   Taken further, this saying became the foundation for the “two kingdoms” doctrine, which has had some horrific consequences.  For more on that, see my post HERE.

This morning I’m thinking about those words and the context in which they were spoken.  I’m not going to elaborate on my views on all this, but I do have a few thoughts I’d like to share, in the form of some questions.

Are there things on this earth that belong to Ceasar?

Are there things on this earth that belong to God?

Put differently,

Are there things on this earth that do not belong to Ceasar?

Are there things on this earth that do not belong to God?

If Ceasar’s claim is legitimate only as to those things that don’t already belong to God, what are those things?

If we first render to God those things that are God’s, what is left to render to Ceasar?

Just pondering…

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Questioning

I’ve spent a lot of time studying theodicy and the philosophical Problem of Evil.  At this point I could probably teach a course on them.

How can evil and an omnipotent all-benevolent God exist at the same time?

That question has tormented theologians, philosophers and ordinary folks for a long time.  It has tormented me for a long time.

Over time I came to be at peace with the issue.  I accepted the Free Will Defense.  I even eventually sorted out to my satisfaction how to explain natural evil, to which the Free Will Defense was no defense.  I was finally satisfied that it could all be explained, without giving up on God.

But the massacre of all those little children in Connecticut has rattled me.  I can’t shake from my head the image of those innocent children, huddled together crying and terrified, being brutally murdered one at a time.  It is horrible.  It is sickening.  No amount of theology and philosophy can overcome the horror of that scene.

So where does that leave me?  What do I believe?

I’m not sure.  But I do know what I don’t believe.

I don’t believe that God allowed, permitted or caused those children to be murdered because he’s angry at us for “taking him out of the schools,” or for tolerating homosexuality, or for permitting abortion, or for any other reason.  Those arguments nauseate me.  I cannot understand how anyone could worship a god they believe to be that cruel, that vindictive and that petty.

Neither do I believe that the massacre of those little children was somehow part of “God’s plan,” that “God is in control,” that “his ways are not our ways,” that God “has a reason for everything,” that “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away,” or any other such notion that would attribute this horror to God, while suggesting that if we only had his perspective we’d see that this tragedy was actually good, in some mysterious way known only to God.

So if there is a God, and if he is loving and good, why didn’t he prevent the murder of these little children?  For that matter, why doesn’t he save the lives of the thousands of children who will starve to death today?

I don’t know for sure.   Questions like that gnaw at me.  If there is an answer that isn’t despairing, I think it must be something like the one Bart Campolo gives HERE.  For now at least, that’s where I am, although I have my doubts about that too.

I do not have answers to all my questions.  Almost certainly I never will.

But if there is meaning to our existence, if what we perceive as beauty, joy and peace isn’t just a fantasy, it seems to me it must be because there is an ultimate source of meaning, beauty, joy and peace.

I believe that love wins.  I believe that we are on a trajectory toward a complete redemption, renewal and restoration of all creation.  I believe that.

Yesterday evening I was sitting outside, waiting for sunset.  All day I had felt a great distance between me and God.  I was consumed with doubt, thinking constantly of the deaths of those children.

I was listening to music and a song shuffled up.  In the glow of dusk, in that music, in those lyrics, in my melancholy, I felt a familiar warmth.  I sensed the mystery of God’s presence.  “I am here.  I am with you all.  I love you all.”

A peace settled over me.

We take our questions with us, but we go on.

Love Wins

Beavers Again

Beavers are in our pond again.  (Insert growling sound here).

I went down the pond to do a little fishing a couple of days ago and discovered that the exit pipe had been blocked and that the pond was out of the banks.

These creatures are very aggravating.  Their instincts tell them to stop any water flow.  In our case they don’t need to block the exit pipe in order to dam the creek.  It’s already dammed.  The pipe just prevents the pond from overflowing the dam.  There is a huge pond already built that they can build their lodge in.  But evidently they just can’t resist the sound of running water.

So I had to get in a little boat, paddle out to the pipe and (using a pitchfork) try to unblock the pipe.  They’ve build a huge pile of sticks, logs and mud almost 10 feet high and about 6 feet wide.  I got the water flowing again, but it takes them very little time to stop it up again.

Not only do they threaten to break the dam, but they’re mowing down the young pines we’re growing.  They drag them into the pond to use as building materials.

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Yesterday a neighbor who enjoys trapping came over and set traps for them.  As soon as I finish my coffee I’ll head down to the pond and see the results.

Ah, the simple life.

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