Emotional Precision

I want to not focus on the latest tragedies, at any given time. I don't want to be manipulated by events and media coming from other places and people. Part off that is probably a resistance to the out-of-control feeling of grieving. Grieving for those we knew, or had some substantive connection to, is legitimate and appropriate. But I have a harder time allowing myself to be drawn into the flood of emotion, the helpless feeling of drowning, swept away and around by the currents of events and of evil, for people I only have a tenuous, distant connection (if any) to.

Instead I make efforts to resist this wearying overwhelming, while not cynically denying the humanity of the grieving, or the legitimacy of their pain. One way I do this is to look for the bigger picture. If someone was killed, and injustice in that instance sprang forth, however painful and real the event was, was it an anomaly or part of a pattern? Is it part of an improving pattern, or are things worsening? Is it possible that this event was bad, but the overall pattern is one of improvement? Can we acknowledge and support the legitimacy of mourning and passion for an event, but see a measure of hope in positive movement in a larger pattern?

What I don't want is for an evil instance to overshadow a better pattern, for the unjust anomaly to become an excuse for politicians to grab power to solve a problem that already is moving in a positive direction. And of course if there really is a pattern of festering, unaddressed injustice, and the nature of the problem is truly responsive to governmental action, then I absolutely would support action to address that.

But in my understanding and observation and experience, the problem most often is not that new principles and laws need to be created and put into practice. Creating effective law is hard, and fraught with the gravity towards unintended consequences. Much more often the requisite principles are already embodied in existing laws and structures; they are just not being implemented in good faith, with a full effort.

Black Boxes of Mystery in Our Heads

We have all put together in our head the way we think the world works. If x goes into process A, then y will come out of it. But if we all have a different understanding of how the black box of mystery that is Process A actually works, we will come to very different conclusions. So if one person's life experiences and the explanation for the world that they received growing up said that guns are powerful but necessary tools that help keep safe the people we love, then it's natural to say that people at a mass shooting would be safer if a few responsible people with guns were there.

But if you were raised only seeing guns in the movies, only as tools of violence and destruction, if you've never seen a need for one in your own direct experience, and no one has explained to you the legitimate uses for guns and how they can be a natural, even reassuring and comforting thing, then the idea that a chaotic scene of carnage would be limited or even stopped by private citizens with guns would seem ludicrous. You're likely instead to think that more guns would have only led to more chaos, more madness and death.

We all have ideas in our heads about how the world really works.

This is a Cup

I remember the old game where people sit in a circle and pass around simple items (like a cup), saying "This is a cup. A what? A cup. A what? A cup. Oh, a cup." And then they would pass the item, receive a different item, and continue the game.

I'm reminded of this game during communion today. Every week we do basically the same things, over and over again. It's similar to this game. "This is a cup." Then the presider often gives a meditation that answers some part of the question "A what?" We go through this weekly, repeatedly, like the game. And we need the repetition. Eventually we hopefully "get it," saying "Oh, a cup."

Weekly communion doesn't at all have to devolve into trite, rote, meaningless repetition. Sometimes the repetition is more like the hammering of a nail. Every hit of the hammer was necessary to get the nail where it was meant to go. We need every iteration of the Table to allow God to work on us.

Can Science Ask Why?

The title question occurred to me when on the show Wild Kratz they asked the question, "Why do monkeys have these particular features etc.?" Upon hearing this, I wondered if "why?" was the right thing for them to be asking. My understanding of the word Why is that deals in meaning. And science, by definition, cannot deal with meaning. It can discuss mechanisms, causes and effects, and consequences, but strictly speaking, it's only talking about what mechanically happens, not why something happens in the first place. Meaning, per se, is outside the legitimate bounds of scientific inquiry. 

God Pours

A kind of vision:

God does not just pour into each individual, like one jar, isolated and alone. Instead, He is pouring into everyone, and when we are together, the overflow pools together into an overflowing stream. God's goodness and grace and mercy flows also through Creation. We uniquely bear account of His deeds throughout history. Creation outside of humanity doesn't need that memory. It is our responsibility to remember, but we don't do so to tell the plants and animals about God's amazing goodness and mercy. We need that memory carried forward. Our offspring, the generations to come, need that memory carried forth to them.

All of these accounts and praises merge together to be one spring, one united source.

Mary the Mother

“The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:30-34‬ ‭NASB‬‬

http://bible.com/100/luk.1.30-34.nasb


Gabriel tells Mary a list of amazing aspects of the announcement. They include divine power, the fulfillment of prophecies centuries in the telling, the amazing intervention of the God of Israel in the affairs of the entire world. And, seemingly not even hearing the rest of the announcement, Mary gets hung up on the very first point. “Did you say, pregnant? Me? How on earth could that happen?“ Her bafflement is understandable. But at the moment it just strikes me as a bit humorous that she doesn’t get stars in her eyes or delusions of grandeur at the idea that she will be the mother of a king on David’s throne, let alone the mother of God. She is completely blown away by the mere thought of her becoming a mother at all in her current situation.

Revealing the Roots of Shame

Does knowing the root of your own shame help you overcome the ongoing experience of shame? Is it possible that knowing the root could be actually counterproductive to reducing or eliminating the ongoing shame?

It occurs to me this morning that, perhaps, God will not reveal to me the source and/or the root of my shame, if my intention is in any way to seek vengeance on whomever was responsible for that cause. But maybe, if my goal is solely healing, purely gaining greater health in my heart, mind, and soul, then maybe that increases the odds God will reveal to me the parties responsible for my ongoing shame.

Perhaps the responsible party is myself, in some way that I have not previously discerned.

In any case, I need to keep remembering that God‘s guidance is good. I need to remember that He has my best interest, and the best interest of everyone, in mind as He acts or allows others to act.

Shallow vs. Deep

There's a difference in the depth of our response to a situation between being conditioned by social conventions versus having given serious thought and deep consideration to the pros and cons and nuances of how we respond to that situation. If pressure is applied to a person, convictions shaped by social conventions are more likely to be swept away by circumstances than convictions arrived at by thought and care that anticipates common counterarguments.

Cruciform Victory

Jesus achieved His victory through completely giving Himself over to the Father's power and plan. Christ retained no power or ability by which He could have a "Plan B" to save Himself. His faith was complete as He laid Himself down, with no options, no alternatives to do otherwise.

We should similarly expect every victory worth having to be achieved through completely losing ourselves, giving ourselves no alternatives, no options to be saved by our own power.

In Him We Think and Pray

Every thought you think emerges in the presence of God. From the holiest, wisest, most profound ideas that have ever been thought, those that you would expect to have come from someone living in the presence of God, down to the most vile, perverse, reprehensible thoughts ever imagined, all thoughts have come into being on the deep ground of God's preexistence, His keeping the universe, visible and invisible, in existence.

The only difference between thought and prayer is an awareness and acknowledgement of the presence of God there.

Remembering Martyrs

https://churchleaders.com/podcast/311352-n-t-wright-church-missed-crucifixion-jesus.html

Around 23:00 of the interview is this statement: "The victory of the cross comes through the means of the cross."

If we had people from our congregation, whom we knew well, who were martyred, who were unquestionably killed because they were believers in Christ, how would we remember them? Would we remember them as participating in the sufferings of Christ? Would we celebrate their deaths as a powerful witness to the power of God? Or would we remember them in the same way as "those who are without hope"?

An Opportunity for Testimony

"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭21:12-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬
http://bible.com/100/luk.21.12-13.nasb

When you are brought in front of the authorities, it is because you have done something that displeases them, or is something they believe goes against the order described in the law, or some similar reason. Generally speaking, you don’t get brought in front of the legal authorities because you have lived a quiet life, and made everybody happy.

So, what occurred to me this morning as I listened to the reading of this text is that if we are people pleasers, if we just live to make everybody happy, to not stir up trouble, to not ruffle any feathers, then we will miss the opportunities for testimony that are described in this passage.

I have to think that Paul was aware of this passage as he ascended the Roman hierarchy of appeals. If he had led a quiet life, he would not have been brought before those authorities. He would not have had their attention, had the opportunity to testify, to tell them something they wouldn't have heard without someone like Paul talking to them. The system of appealing up the chain “to Caesar”, combined with the initial charges against Paul, led to his opportunity to testify them about Jesus.