Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Eastin's 9th birthday (by eastin)

Hi! It's my birthday today I'm writing this blog and I wanted to tell you guys all about it! I'm in Virginia with the Redekers, and we went to James Town to look around at colonial things but after that we went to a pool and Leslie and Amanda threw me nine times in the pool for my birthday and one for good luck. Then we went to the Golden Corral a restraunt I like and they had two surprises for me. One was a tiara a beautiful tiara with what looks like diamonds and number two is that some of the restraunt sang happy birthday to me and then we went back to the pool where we met up with a family and we told the family's mom it was my birthday and she said happy birthday to me. Then I came back to our room and then I wrote this blog and soon I will be watching American Idol at nine o clock. It was my best birthday ever!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thoughts While Driving the Garden State Parkway to the Tappan Zee

- Holy crap!!! This is a ten-lane highway!!!! Why did nobody tell me this is a ten-lane highway???

- There's a toll booth ahead. Didn't think about that. Scrounging through my billfold for quarters . . . one, two, three, four . . . in the basket, down the chute . . . and, nothing. Isn't the screen there supposed to tell me to go? Oh, well.

"What do you do at those tolls if you run out of change?" Leslie asks.

Hmmm . . . I'm . . not . . sure . .

- Listening to the High School Musical 3 CD: "Sixteen . . sixteen . . sixteen more minutes gotta get it done . . "

- Speed limit is 55. I check my speedometer -- I'm somewhere between 65 and 70, and cars are all passing me by. If I drove the speed limit, I would probably cause a wreck. Just what would a cop do if he were here? He can't stop them all. Instead of setting up a situation that obligates every NJ driver to break the law to spare their own lives, why don't they just change the speed limit?

- The GPS is recalculating for the 10th time, and I'm trying hard to ignore it. Reviewing my travel route last night, the Ellises talked me into altering it. "I promise you, you do not want to take the George Washington Bridge. OR the Holland Tunnel," Andy said. "Take the Garden State Parkway to the Tappan Zee." Debi nodded soberly.

I trust my friends more than the GPS. I think. There just better be a big, clear sign on this road saying, "This way to the Tappan Zee."

- "Can I have this da-a-ance . . can I have this dance?" (This is my new favorite song.)

- Another toll. The red sign says, "Cash -- Receipts -- EZPass". Is that where I go when I'm out of change? It's like calling the cable company: somebody PLEASE tell me how to find a human being!!!

- Tappan Zee . . Tappan Zee . . there had better be a sign . . .

- "I want it all!!! . . I want it . . I want it . . I want it . . " Go, girl. I love this song.

- Flashback: I think I drove a ten-lane highway driving into St. Louis once when we lived there. I remember sweaty palms and short, panicky breaths. Well, maybe New Jersey driving has made me more confident behind the wheel, at least. Or maybe just more stupid.

- Another toll?!? Good grief!! You'd think they could fix the stupid bumps on 73 by Shoprite with all this dough they're raking in.

- Where in the world did the name "Tappan Zee" come from? And of course, I can't say "the Tappan Zee Bridge" -- just "the Tappan Zee". Otherwise, people will stare at me like I'm from Iowa or something.

- "Walk - walk - walk away . . walk-away, walk-away, YEAH" . . .

- Stop for gas. I don't know which side of the rental car the gas tank is on. And of course, I guess wrong. Stop for lunch, too, and nobody will voice an opinion on where to eat. "Well, girls, you can't get Nathan's in Sioux City I don't think -- let's do that."

- I just remembered getting a ticket in the mail from the state of Delaware. They said I ran a tollbooth there, traced my tag, and mailed me a ticket. (I know I didn't run a tollbooth -- I had a friend in the car who confirmed that. But what do you do?) Does NJ do that? Are they going to mail me a ticket because my change didn't register in that first tollbooth? Where do they send the ticket when you're in a rental car? I think it may have been worth it to get the EZPass just for this trip.

- "I want my own dream . . so bad I wanna scream!" I feel your pain, Zac . . .

- There's a sign! The Tappan Zee! Whew. Wait . . another toll?? Five bucks?!?!?

Yeesh. I gotta find a cash machine.

Monday Morning

Just a quick catch-up on things while the girls are getting dressed . . .

We had a WONDERFUL weekend in Voorhees! I got to go to a surprise wedding shower for my friend Karen on Saturday -- SO great!!! We stayed the last two nights with our friends the Ellises (better known to some of you, probably, as Megan, Drew and Julianna's family). Eastin's been dying to see Drew. At home, she has a prayer journal from her Sunday School class with him at Hope last year. Between the pages of scriptures and prayers that her teacher had them write, she wrote little notes to Drew in class. Once in a while now, she gets that journal out, sits on her bed, and just turns through the pages, crying. "I miss Drew! He was my first friend!" It's rather heart-breaking.

We soaked in every moment we could at Hope Church yesterday morning. Then I had a bite of lunch with friends Lauree and Randy and had the privilege of sitting and picking Randy's brain for a while after that. I miss Randy -- my personal mentor. I feel sometimes like I should be paying him for all the information, insight and encouragement he gives me (he'd probably appreciate that!). Maybe he should become a Personal Coach . . . HA! Sorry -- if he reads that, he may just run for the hills. :)

Last night, Debi and I took the girls to see the Hannah Montana movie. It was . . . okay. I don't know why they can't make movies like that with more plausible plots. Yes, I realize the entire Hannah Montana premise is less than believable . . . and I know that the goal here was mass marketing, not great art . . . but still. Throw us mommies a bone, huh? If I don't get that "Hoedown Throwdown" song out of my head, I may shoot myself. But I still love "The Climb". And she sang a sweet little song with her dad, too.

We're leaving here in a few minutes for Boston. Well, technically for Plymouth -- that's where we're staying. I'm NOT looking forward to the drive. Maneuvering around the NYC area is not a good time. So, if you read this on Monday, say a quick prayer for me. Or, if you read it later, pray anyway -- I have to drive back on Friday, too!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Home, Sweet Voorhees

The girls and I arrived in the Philly airport at about noon today. Then we rented a car and braved the traffic for the drive in to Voorhees. I've been wondering for a few days what it was going to be like to be back here in our old stomping grounds, if it would feel great or feel miserable.

The verdict? It was downright spooky. For a while there, I started wondering if I'd dreamed the last six months we spent in Sioux City. It felt like I'd been driving these streets just yesterday . . getting Taco Bell . . cashing a check at the Commerce Bank drive-thru . . it couldn't POSSIBLY have been six months!

But then we passed our house -- well, the house that was formerly known as ours. We're spending the next two nights with our former next-door neighbors, so we had to drive by our old place to get there. I almost turned into our old driveway, but then I saw them -- the new owners, father and daughter out working on the lawn. It was surreal.

The new owners are very nice people. We met them before we left and kind of gave them the lowdown on everything in the house. They sympathized with our girls having to leave behind the swings that their grandfather built for them (they're attached to trees in the backyard -- no trees in our new yard for them even if we took them with us). They even told the girls that they would always think of those as "Leslie and Eastin's swings". Very, very nice people.

I'm trying to decide if I want to see the house. I'm sure she wouldn't mind letting us look around. Actually, I'm not trying to decide -- I know that I want to see the house. For me, I think it would close some doors. This is someone else's home now. See? They even painted the walls.

But I don't know how the girls would take it. That was the only home they knew until last October. It's likely to freak them out a little bit to have that piece of their past so quickly desecrated, already only a memory.

Well . . a visit hasn't even been suggested or offered yet, so I won't bring it up. We'll see what happens.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Travel Plans

The girls and I leave Wednesday and will be gone for two and a half . . almost three weeks. We promised this trip to the girls last fall to ease the pain of leaving New Jersey. Plus, it's the pits that we moved away from the east coast the year we got to colonial times and the Revolutionary War in history.

So, this week we're visiting sites in Philadelphia (Independence Hall, Franklin Court, Betsy Ross House, maybe the Constitution Center) and staying with two different friends. The next week we're driving up to Massachusetts (Boston, Plymouth Plantation, and Old Sturbridge Village), then back to Jersey to stay with another friend. Then two friends join us to drive down to Virginia (Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown). We'll pick up a friend in Delaware on the way back for birthday parties (the girls will turn 9 and 13 while we're gone) and a couple more nights with another friend before we leave on Monday, the 4th.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it all.

And excited. Don't get me wrong -- it will be great to see everyone again. I've been excited for a few weeks now (the girls have been excited since we left New Jersey in October). But this weekend, I got hit in the face with all the little details and it's a bit overwhelming. Plus, I'm not sleeping well again, and after a weekend of Keith's family here . . . I'm a vegetable. Just sitting on the couch, surfing the web, writing a blog, occasionally getting up to get sheets out of the dryer. I feel like I'm braindead.

But three days from now, I'll be driving to Voorhees from Philly in all that traffic -- and I darn well better wake up then!

I don't know how much I'll blog while we're gone . . . I'm hoping to write once in a while, but if you don't hear from me until May, you'll know why. I shall return . . .

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Comments to Ona, final words

Back on Ash Wednesday, I was wondering what I should do for Lent, to prepare myself for the celebration of Easter. It seems that my Lenten activity fell into my lap; these commentaries have served that purpose well. Noting the lack of any comments from readers, perhaps they have been all for my own benefit. If so, that's fine. They've served their purpose well.

I spent a lot of time in my last Ona-comment explaining why I believe the resurrection actually happened. Factually. Literally. But my greater concern is explaining why it is necessary that the account be factual. I have been reminded that there is truth in stories that are not factual, and I've been asked to consider what is the truth in this story, factual or not?

My struggle is that, deep in my heart, I believe that if this particular account is not factual, there really is no meaningful truth in it. It does matter if it really happened. It matters a lot.

When Hope did Godspell a couple years ago, I read with fascination the notes in the script from the show's creator, who wasn't a believer. In the original production, the show ends with the "disciples" carrying off the dead body of Jesus singing "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" joyfully -- because, the writer said, they realize that even with the death of their master and teacher, this new way of life that he has taught them can live on through them (or something to that effect).

I thought, what new way of life? If Jesus didn't rise from the dead ... if he didn't offer us salvation through faith, and a chance to be a new creation ... then what exactly did Jesus give us that should lead to such joy and hope?

He gave some insight into God and our relationship with him (although if Jesus was just a man, I'm not sure why we should believe what he had to say on this subject). He taught us that we should love in a radical way. To love and forgive the outcast and even your enemies, because God loves and forgives us. He taught us that we should live righteously to a radical extreme -- not just in our behaviors but in our thoughts and our attitudes.

All this is well and good. The problem is, I can't do any of it. I'm a sinner. Deep down and to the core. Maybe none of the rest of you are, but I know I am (and I think the rest of you are, too).

I know this from my personal experience--and from my reasoning applied to my experience. I've tried to do the right thing all my life--I have been "a Pharisee of Pharisees", just like Paul. And I've consistently failed. The longer I live, the more I see how everyone is screwed up somehow. The most "together" people I know--the most "good", the most righteous-living--are the ones who are most keenly aware of their own sinfulness.

I know it in my gut. I feel like a sinner. Ever wonder why "self-esteem" is so hard to achieve? Here's a theory: it's because God didn't create us to have "self-esteem", at least not in the way the world defines it. The reason we so often feel guilty, like we're not measuring up somehow, like we do the wrong thing all the time, is because IT'S TRUE. That's what sin means: missing the mark. And God desperately needs us to realize that we will always miss the mark so we give up and turn to him. He wants to fix what he knows we can't fix! Once again, the most "together" people I know -- genuinely joyful, not self-loathing or even self-absorbed -- are the ones who are most keenly aware of their own sinfulness.

But most importantly, I know it by revelation -- the Bible confirms my experience, reasoning and instincts on this. We all know the verses: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." The whole purpose of giving the law was to show Israel (and us) how far we all are from the standard of God's holiness. The law is a mirror; it's not there to clean us up, it's there to show us we're dirty.

More than that, the Bible tells us there are consequences for our sins, in this life and in eternity. And, again, this revelation just confirms what I know already. I see the effect of my sin in my life every day. It messes up my kids, messes up my husband, messes up my work, messes up everything. As much as I'd like to convince myself that God would look at my screw-ups and say, "Oh, you! Silly girl! There you go again!" and wave it all off, I know that's not the reaction of a loving God. A loving God doesn't want me to have to suffer from my sins. A loving God would want to take care of the problem.

As much as I would like to convince myself that God will just let the little things I do wrong slide, I know that if God is God at all, he is also just, and justice requires consequences for wrongdoing. Suffering in this life (not because he is punishing us, but because we're choosing to live life differently than he set it up for us) and eternal separation from God after this life (because we chose ourselves for gods, not him). (Like in the earlier post about Keller's book . . . we in our Western society think a great God should be merciful more than just, or he's not that great. Other societies would find such mercy to be unworthy of a great God -- God should show absolute justice more than mercy, or he's not that great. The truth is, he found a way to do both. He transcends our limited cultural perspectives.)

I don't need the Bible to convince me that all of us are screwed up and need to be saved from ourselves. No genuine student of humanity could believe otherwise. The Bible just gives us a name for the disease. SIN. We are sinners. The world is full of sinners. Lord knows, I am a sinner! If Jesus' death on the cross did nothing to save me from my sinful self, then all he accomplished in his ministry on earth is to picture a life for me that I can never have. Tell me how that's good news.

I don't need another teacher. I don't need another role model. I don't need another prophet. I need a SAVIOR. And if Jesus isn't that, he is of no more use or significance to my life than Aristotle or Martin Luther or Mother Theresa. Everything Jesus taught means nothing if he doesn't also give me the capability to live it out. The good news is ... that's exactly what he did, on the cross. The Old Testament sacrifices all point to the cross. The prophets' promises of a coming Messiah all point to the cross. The testimony of my heart points to a need for justification, for the cross. This Biblical picture of a suffering savior, dying for my sins and rising again, all fits with what my soul already tells me.

I'm sure I sound arrogant--ridiculously sure of myself. Please understand that I never rule out the possibility that I'm wrong about something. I know there are times when I'm so steeped in my own worldview, I can't step outside of it to see others. And I most certainly don't have the lock on all spiritual truth--there are many teachings in the Bible I still struggle with. But the Resurrection is not one of them.

Not only am I convinced that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, I praise God Almighty that he did. "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile." (1 Cor 15). Hallelujah! Christ is RISEN! And risen for me.

A glorious and blessed Easter to you all!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Confrontation and Conviction

I witnessed a thought-provoking event today. Yesterday, while the girls were testing, I hung out in a lounge in the building with some other parents. One woman in particular was a rather loud, outspoken type. She had a lot to say to the people she was sitting with about politics, religion, the health care system, etc -- I didn't pay much attention to it all. There was also a Hispanic man at another table, friendly guy, but not talking to anyone in particular.

Today, I just dropped the girls off at nine and didn't make it into the lounge until 11:30 to wait for them to finish. When I got there, this woman and this man were sitting at a table finishing up an obviously emotional and powerful conversation. From the bits and pieces I heard, apparently the man yesterday overheard the woman talking (who could avoid that) and heard something that bothered him, something that he felt showed a bitter, sinful attitude in her. And he was eaten up for the rest of the day by the conviction that he should confront her about it. So, he prayed all night, and he spoke to her today. And predictably, she was quite offended -- at first. But she heard him out and eventually humbled herself and saw he was right. By the time I got there, she was thanking him for having the courage to confront her and they had a group prayer there in the lounge.

It was quite a sight to see. And I found these two people to be very impressive.

This gentleman has guts. I don't know that I would have the courage to confront a stranger like that about anything, much less about a spiritual issue. But clearly, that was exactly what God wanted him to do, and he did it. That's what I call being Spirit-led.

And this loudmouth lady who annoyed me so much yesterday -- I'm probably even more impressed with her. She heard the truth, and she listened. She allowed her conscience to be pricked and recognized her wrong. And not only that, but she thanked this complete stranger for loving her enough to speak the word of God to her. Amazing.

All this happened on the day I'm reading a chapter in a book about peacemaking in families -- specifically, about giving and accepting criticism. I've already decided that this is something that we all need to work on in our family. Would that we could learn from this example.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Comments to Ona, part 7

This is a big one now. (Big in terms of long -- sorry -- and big in terms of importance -- no apologies.) I previously mentioned my spiritual crash I experienced, right before becoming a mommy. As I rebuilt my faith, one of the big questions I had to deal with was, did this Jesus really die and come back to life again? I mean, how radical a belief is that?

As I indicated before, I'm a pretty thorough scholar, when I have time and motivation (which I had then -- this was pre-mommy, remember). I won't go into all the details of my study right now. But there was ample historical evidence that a man named Jesus lived, preached in the area, and was killed by the Romans. And that his followers soon after started proclaiming that he had risen from the dead and began a movement that became a religion that swept the Western world in the centuries to follow. Now, how to account for all those historical facts? Namely, if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, what did happen (Alternate Belief "B")?

Well, there's the wrong tomb theory -- Lots of problems with that one. For one, who comes up missing a corpse and just assumes it came back to life? Also, in the very unlikely event that the disciples forgot where the grave was, there were most certainly OTHER people who knew where the body was buried. There were guards posted there, in fact, to prevent the body being stolen. (A side-note: the only reason the guards were there was because the temple priests heard that Jesus had said he would be killed and rise again -- scratch any nonsense about Jesus never making such claims.) When this resurrected Christ movement started getting out of hand, all the powers-that-be had to do was display the body. End of movement. They didn't do that, because they couldn't. There was no body. So, is this theory possible? Well, I suppose . . . but is it likely? No.

Then there's the stolen body theory -- A few historical facts render this one quite implausible. For one, there was a huge boulder in front of the tomb that took several men to roll away. For another, recall that the tomb was being watched all night by a Roman guard -- which is not a single man, but a 12-man group taking shifts staying up, each of whom is under penalty of death if they fail to succeed at their mission. But even if you don't know or refuse to accept the historical reliability of these obstacles to such a feat: you're saying that these men who ran away like wimps the night Jesus was arrested . . all but one of whom were too afraid to even show up for the actual crucifixion . . they stole the body (and stopped in the process to take off the graveclothes that were found in the tomb later) . . . hid it somewhere that nobody found . . . and then suddenly found the chutzpah to tell the world he was alive again . . . and preached that message consistently and faithfully in the face of violent persecution, never one of them cracking and giving up the truth? And with NOTHING for any of them to gain personally? Who dies a violent death promoting a belief he knows is a lie? Is it possible? Yes. But is it likely? No. Not at all.

And then there's the "swoon" theory -- Jesus didn't actually die. He just passed out or something, fooling the Romans guards -- who, you recall, were professional killers and who stabbed him in the side with their sword to prove he was dead (the mixture of blood and water coming out being the proof of that). Then, after lying in a cold, sealed tomb, with little oxygen and no food or water for three days, he suddenly revives himself to the point that he is able to move the aforementioned monster stone, beat off the 12-man Roman guard, and then appear to his followers as a glorious resurrected Lord for whom they are willing to suffer tremendous persecution and violent death. Is it possible? I suppose. But is it likely? NO.

And then there are those who think the "rising from the dead" business was all just legendary or symbolic -- made up years after the fact, or misinterpreted by later believers. But the gospel accounts (and the earlier written letters which discuss details of Christ's death and resurrection) were written too soon after the events to allow for mythologizing about the event. The writers make it clear that their purpose in writing is to communicate historical facts, facts that they (and many of their contemporary readers) were witness to. They include specific names, places, and so forth that can be readily verified by the 1st century skeptic. (I have more I'll be saying about this point of view later . . .)

I won't go through all the theories people have put up trying to account for the historical evidence of the event. Some of them are truly bizarre (Jesus had a twin brother? Puh-leeze). Suffice it to say that I couldn't see any reason for an intelligent person to give serious consideration to these theories except that they simply refused to accept the possibility of a bodily resurrection. They insisted on a natural explanation. By this point in my spiritual search, I had to acknowledge the existence of a God and of the supernatural, so I was willing to accept a bodily resurrection of Jesus as a legitimate possibility.

And when I lay that option out next to the others, considering them all as equally viable, the supernatural option was by far the most likely. Again, the only possible reason to reject it is if you simply refuse to accept the idea that the supernatural may have occurred. And if you're coming to the table with that pre-conceived notion about it, I don't think you're coming to the table with any real intellectual honesty. You're just looking for a certain kind of answer to fit your preferred worldview.

Like the scientists who insist life evolved by random chance.

Like me believing education has to happen in a school building.

The resurrection may sound like the flying elephant theory, but the Bible indicates there were 500 witnesses to a risen Jesus (and why would Paul mention them if they weren't available to his readers to verify it all?), witnesses who stood by their story through intense persecution and ultimately changed the world.

In the end, when I considered all this . . combined with the prophecies about the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled . . combined with the fact that the gospels say Jesus TOLD them he would be killed and rise again . . combined with the evidence of the changes in the disciples . . combined with the evidence I'd seen in people around me that there is something to this Christianity business . . . I decided that it made much more sense to believe the story than to disbelieve.

I serve a RISEN savior!

But I have more I need to say to my dear friend Ona . . .

Little Tidbits

- Yesterday was Palm Sunday. We left church amid blowing snow. The weatherman had predicted 10 to 12 inches possible, but by the time we were done with lunch, the skies were clearing. Still, it was weird to have snow on the first Sunday in April.

- The girls had their first of three mornings of ITBS tests today. They were both a little anxious because they'd never had to do this kind of thing before. I briefed them on the way over about the little "bubbles" you fill in on these kinds of tests, which Eastin in particular found fascinating. I didn't want them to look (and feel) like idiots because they didn't know how to fill out their answer sheets. Interesting, the life experiences that our society decides make up a "normal" childhood -- walking quietly in straight lines, filling in "bubbles" on a computerized answer sheet, responding like one of Pavlov's dogs to a buzzer indicating recess time.

- We finally got ALL the boxes out of the Murphy bed bedroom. Keith did a marathon dump session on Saturday. Yay for Keith! We now have ten or more boxes of paper trash sitting in the garage, waiting to be picked up with the recyclables on Friday. We also have several boxes of garage sale items in the garage waiting for June. And about seven boxes full of books to take to the Library for their book sale. And two boxes of homeschool curriculum to take to a friends' house for her to sell for me at the local used curriculum sale going on while we're out of town (also three boxes full of empty binders for her to give away there). And there is still the occasional box or two stashed away somewhere that we're going to get to later. (Yeah right -- they'll probably stay there until we move again!)

- Keith's family is coming this weekend for Easter (this is what prompted us to finally get the Murphy bed bedroom cleared out -- we need access to the bed). Mom, Dad, sister Vicki, sister Sandy, brother-in-law Deston, and cousins Hannah and Ashlyn. Oh, and dog Auggie. Not only have I not hosted Easter with the family before (I don't think), but we haven't even been with the family for Easter for years. Here's hoping all goes well . . .

- Our "trial" small group from church decided we like each other well enough to continue meeting. And now I'm the group leader. Because no one else volunteered. Story of my life.

- Keith was in Minneapolis for a business trip weekend before last and got a new car while he was there. An '08 Infiniti, grayish-silver. None of the rest of us have even ridden in it yet. But it looks pretty, and now I don't have to worry about his other car breaking down on the way to or from work.

- The girls and I are leaving the Thursday after Easter for two and a half weeks on the east coast. I'm a bundle of mixed feelings about the matter: stressed about all the little details involved, thrilled to see my friends again, excited about all the historical sites we'll be going to, anxious that the goodbyes will be as awful as they were in October. The girls are so excited!!! Our friends, the Redekers, just welcomed their first grandbaby and we'll get to see it.

- I saw "The Producers" at the community theater over the weekend. Can't believe I never saw this show before. Wish I could see it with a stronger cast than this one was.

- Keith just emailed me and told me he's in a meeting, watching a video about the influence of mommy bloggers--like me! Can't wait to hear about that.

- Did you know that the name Wendy was made up for the book Peter Pan? There was never a recorded Wendy before that. Now you can go back to your drab lives having been enlightened with that little tidbit! :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Comments to Ona, part 6

I read a book last summer by Timothy Keller called The Reason for God. Great apologetics book. I would recommend it to anyone. I want to bring out a couple of things he says that seem -- in my wandering mind -- to be pertinent to these musings. The first half of his book, he bases on this particular premise:

". . if you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts ... are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from [others] for theirs--you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared."

In other words, if you don't believe "A", then there is an alternate belief "B" that you must necessarily believe. If my dog has babies which disproves my original belief "A" that my dog was a male, I don't just float around in the nothingness of obscurity about the sex of my dog. If he's not a male anymore, then he's a female: alternate belief "B". Even in the world of the abstract, there are beliefs that are necessarily exclusive.

Keller suggests that, when addressing their religious doubts, many people have not even thought about alternate belief "B", much less truly examined it thoroughly enough to determine its validity. They simply don't want to believe "A".

At one point in my life, when I went through something of a spiritual "crash" and had to start all over again with what I believed, my first question was, is there really a God? Basically, this reasoning of Keller's is what got me there. If there isn't a God, how do you account for the existence of everything? How do you account for a natural evolution toward increasing complexity and order when the second law of thermodynamics shows us that everything naturally progresses toward increasing entropy or chaos? How do you account for any kind of moral code? For love? For any kind of good at all? I ultimately decided there had to be some "force of good" external to this natural world, because alternate belief "B" was too hard to believe. (Now it took me a little while to get to the point where I was convinced that that "force of good" was the God of the Bible . . . but that's a story for another day.)

Moving on to a different quote from Keller. He describes a conversation he had with a woman who found the very idea of a judging God to be offensive.

"I went on to point out that secular Westerners get upset by the Christian doctrines of hell, but they find Biblical teaching about turning the other cheek and forgiving enemies appealing. I then asked her to consider how someone from a very different culture sees Christianity. In traditional societies the teaching about 'turning the other cheek' makes absolutely no sense. It offends people's deepest instincts about what is right. For them the doctrine of a God of judgment, however, is no problem at all. That society is repulsed by aspects of Christianity that Western people enjoy, and is attracted by the aspects that secular Westerners can't stand."

He goes on to say, "If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place." If everything I read in the Bible made sense, if it all agreed with my inner reasonings, if I found nothing in it to be troubling or convicting, it would be harder for me to believe it to be the Word of God. It would sound like something made up by men to tickle their ears and soothe their conscience.

I remember a "Tough Questions" Sunday School class Keith and I took. A class member at one point said, "Well, I wouldn't want to believe in a God that . . . " yada yada. Keith and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing. I don't think the Almighty gives a hoot what kind of God you want to believe in. God is who He is -- take Him or leave Him. But don't try to recreate Him in the image that pleases you. Then you're not worshipping God -- you're worshipping an idol of your own making.

That thought sends me back to grad school and part of a definition of mental health that we discussed . . . a dedication to reality, as opposed to creating one of your own choosing . . .

Friday, April 3, 2009

A GREAT Article

OK, I know I just blogged . . but I just read an article that I thought was really powerful and wanted to share it:

"The Church of the Practical Atheist". About what wimps we Christians are anymore. I love World Magazine. I hope this convicts someone else like it did me.

Oh, the Cleverness of Me!

My current sort-through box: all my notes and papers from my undergraduate degree. ALL of them. Even the syllabi. What was I thinking? Did I really think I would EVER later in life need to refer back to my Pre-Calculus assignments?

So, I'm piling up the paper recyclables again. But I've saved a few things. I want to read through my Biblical Literature notes one more time -- and I may decide to keep them. And my Western Civ notes. And my journal from student teaching. And I'm saving a few papers just because I decided they were pretty darn good, and I like what I had to say.

One paper, though, jumped out at me. Written for my Intro to American Ed class, on January 19th, 1987, it is simply titled "Home-schooling" -- and it begins, "Home-schooling has many disadvantages . . ." A one-and-a-half page paper I wrote my first year of college dissing homeschooling. I read through this and thought, "This is about the time Donna Webster was homeschooling her boys -- when the idea was radical -- when people were being taken to court for doing it . . . " Fascinating how the times change. And how we change.

I also found a little exercise I did in some writing class apparently. We had to take a short saying and rewrite it in as many words as possible. Here's my take on "Look before you leap":

"Whenever a person comes to find himself in a particular situation where it might be necessary or proper for this said person to make a decision to proceed with a certain strategy or action, it would be exceptionally wise and prudent for this said person to seriously consider within himself what might possibly turn out to be the consequent results of the particular decision or action which he may be leaning toward -- or most seriously giving consideration to -- at that particular point in the decision-making process."

From a four-word proverb to an 86-word massacre. How good am I? In fact, the instructor wrote at the bottom of the page, "By the way, you were the clear winner of the wordiness contest!" I'm the master!

Which lends some light to my husband's recent comments about my Ona posts . . . something to do with his eyes glazing over and resorting to skimming . . . perhaps the more things change, the more they stay the same?