Saturday, August 16, 2014

Not Giving In...Giving Over



Science is designed to ask the questions of what and how. But when it comes to the why, it screeches to a halt. It is efficient when you ask questions like: Why do cancer cells grow? What are they?

However, science is quiet when you ask: Why is there cancer? Why is there disease at all?
Science makes conjectures about environment, DNA deficiencies, and the effect of stress on the human body as reasons for cancer. But if you asked a scientist why cancer came into the world, they’re gonna be the first to tell you that first, they don’t know and second they deal with facts and scientific discovery only. 

Those are small comforts to the families dealing with loved ones plagued by the disease.The question why is the one we are desperate to answer.

However, as usual, nature shows us the bigger picture and answers what science can’t. 


This is my pear tree this year. I have nurtured it from a stick about three and half feet tall, to this lush sapling. It will never be huge because it is a semi-dwarf—because the harvester is a semi-dwarf. 

For the last couple years it has produced pears of two varieties, red and Asian pears. The branches produced the blossoms in the spring and fruit in the summer. This year the fruit is bigger and tree branches droop, they yield to the weight of fruit. Stress on the branches is evident, but the tree is not giving up, it’s giving over…for the eventual higher gain.

2014 has been fraught with friends’ anguish over their dying parents. The comment is always, “well, we’re getting to that age…” Ugh. Once each month of this year, I’ve gone to the funeral for a dear friend’s parent and each time I share in their loss and their pain. 

My mom was a very private person. She didn’t like to talk about herself but her cancer journey spanned over twenty years. When she was 54 years old, she was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy, radiation, chemo and finally a bone marrow transplant. For four months she carried a mini trash can with her just in case she “lost her lunch” as she put it. She still had kids at home and she fought hard to live so she could usher them into adulthood. 

In the process of all the treatment, she lost part of her eyesight, part of her hearing, her stomach lining changed so that foods she enjoyed before she couldn’t eat anymore, and there was a black spot on her brain scans where her short term memory had once been. During the next twenty years after she was “cured,” she endured many different diseases because her immune system had been so severely compromised. But she never complained. She smiled, loved and kept going. She never gave up and sometimes I would tell her she must be caring around an imaginary sword to fight off the defeating feelings she most definitely was fighting.

A little more than a year ago, my mom was diagnosed with myelo-dysplasia syndrome. It’s a disease that strikes the marrow of your bones so that they can’t make blood cells the way they used to. Eventually you are left with no new platelets, red or white blood cells and your body collapses. This picture of her hand is one of the only ones she would let me take of her during her myelo dysplasia treatment (blood transfusions only). She was determined to make it to Christmas.

Doctors told her she could possibly go through another bone marrow transplant, but things were different this time. Her children were grown, she had 17 grandkids and she was now 73 years old. She had accomplished many more things. So when the docs and her family looked to her decision on a transplant, she just shook her head. The devastating emptiness swept through the cavern of my stomach and radiated out to my crushed heart. Some of us didn’t understand her decision. But her answer was, “If God is calling me home, who am I to say no?” No one could fight with that response.

Later my dad explained it differently. “She’s not giving up, she’s giving over.”

Again I am humbled by my mom’s understanding of life. She was asking herself why she would go to extremes to stay in this life when there was something better and so profound on the other side. Everlasting life makes this short time on earth seem trivial. 

My mom was a fighter. She carried her imaginary sword with her at all times. In the end, she didn’t put down her sword or kneel to defeat. She never submitted to the enemy. Never. 

She simply gave herself over to God and bravely walked through a door to another life. She showed her family how to do it. She modeled parenting to the very end.

To all my friends who must watch their parents suffer and diminish, I salute you. It’s a devastating time that hurts because we are losing the person who has loved us unconditionally our whole lives. 

And yet, even in that light we can see that they are showing us yet another gift. In their suffering and our loss, they show us that the One who has always loved us unconditionally is really Christ. That is the true fruit of the Truth.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Illusion of God




The eternal struggle has always been belief in God.

Is there a God, or isn’t there? Are we all here by happenstance? Believers call non-believers doomed and short-sighted, and non-believers call believers simpletons unable to see that science rules.

During the existence of this blog, I have tried to show that science complements faith and vice versa. I’ve tried to illuminate the beauty that each represent and influence the other. The truth is that science and faith should exist together in harmony. 

And then I found COLOR

Recently I watched a National Geographic show called Brain Games with my kids. It was the very first episode and it described color as an illusion. Here’s what the narrator, Jason Silva, had to say,

Uh…

In fact, further on Mr. Silva says that when you see a particular color, that object is EVERY OTHER color besides that one. 

What? Every other color? So what is color?

The website, Archimedes Laboratory says the following:

“Color is energy…in fact it is an electromagnetic phenomenon, which depends on the way that light is reflected on the objects. Every object absorbs a part of the light which hits it and deflects the rest towards our eyes: this reflected light is interpreted by our brain as a particular color."

Makes you want to say, “If color isn’t real, then what is?”  

 But that sentence sounds much like, “If God isn’t real, then what is?

Back to the Brain Games show and host Jason Silva who goes on to say that, “We will never know the world directly. All we can know is the representation of rendering, a cosmic dance between our brain and those signals coming in…and our brain is throwing in expectations, intentions, preconceptions and stereotypes…”

That is a loaded couple of sentences. But the take away for me is the following:


If your eyes betray you, why would you rely on your eyes to tell you if there is a God? 

I believe God is using science to tell us that we shouldn’t just believe what we see. We need to use the whole package…our mind, body and soul to understand what is beyond. It doesn’t have to be visceral to be real. 

When you make decisions do you listen to your eyes only? No. You base your decisions on your experience, your senses and something else. Your conscience. 

So it is with God. He wants you to use your whole being to see Him. Only then will He be able to reveal to you His infinite love and desire for you. He shines all the colors of His Light on us, but we need to use more than our eyes to be a part of it. 

So if you know me then you know I cannot leave well enough alone. So let me share with you the beauty of science and faith.

One of God’s attributes is that He is light. In other words, He is every color there is—or white light. It is why the brightness of his being is blinding as Saul turned Paul found out. It is why God told Abraham he could not look upon him without dying. He is all, and everything. 

If pure light holds all colors and we can absorb light, then we can absorb God. And the light that is deflected? Perhaps that is a metaphor for what we can give back to the world. It’s God’s way of saying that we are each important in our own way and that if we allow God to shine upon us as David asks in Psalm 4:7, then not only will we absorb all the goodness He has to give us, but we will be able to reflect that unique part of us that God created in us individually, we can bring light to the world. 

Jesus pretty much said all this already! John 8:12 says, “Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The light of life…hmmm. If we remember God’s trait as all color then perhaps Jesus is using the science of color to talk about the Father as well. But Jesus takes science even further. In Matt 5:14 he says, “You are the light of the world…” I encourage you to read on as Jesus makes the point that we will shine for others and that our light should not be hidden.

The moral of the story? We reflect God’s light. Each of us absorbs light in the unique DNA way God created us and we reflect His love with that same uniqueness.

That is…if we choose to believe with more than our eyes.




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What Looks Dead...



Has your winter been harsh? 

I think there are many of us in the U.S. that can agree that this last winter was pretty stinky. Whether you live in the east, south, north or west, we all saw weather conditions that just didn’t seem right.

Recently a writer friend challenged me to describe my winter here in Colorado. Words such as bitter, desolate, never-ending, bleak, dark, and stark came to mind. 

Those words seemed flat, so I tried to include more descriptive words to add some flavor. Freezing, ferocious, soaked, unyielding, gloomy, dismal and forsaken seemed about right.

“Wait,” she said, “those sound more like words of mourning than words of winter.”

“Is there a difference?” 

“You tell me,” she answered.

Little did I know how she was leading me to see how my winter season was really the winter I was feeling in my heart after losing my mom.

Life changes.

April 1st is the time to begin pruning back the dead stems of the rose bushes in Colorado. So I headed out to clean out my front garden and clip off all the brown withered stalks of my roses as well as clean out the dead foliage of my lilies and peonies. 

Snipping away I found new rose shoots appearing many places. Some were at the bottom of the bush, some along what looked like dead branches. It was a reminder to me that not everything that looks dead remains that way. 

Much like me. What a tough winter it has been. My mom died on December 21st, the first day of the season of winter and my heart entered a desolate time of its own. Since then the struggle to just move ahead has been challenging at times. But with the onset of spring, I remember that there is new life. New life for my mom and the promise of new life for me.

Over the past couple months I have been asked to talk with people about science and faith and how they intertwine. Getting to share my passion has been a good distraction for me. Then last week when I was thanking our pastor for recommending me yet again for the same topic, he said, “Well, it is your ministry.”

I was totally taken back by that statement. My ministry…

I never really thought about it like that. An interest, yes. A passion, of course. But a ministry? Huh. 

Then I started pruning those thorny bushes out front and saw those new shoots. It was a reminder that though winter this year was the roughest I’ve ever seen, new promise is revealed. Yes, I need to trim away the dead parts of me…the hurt, the pain, and the consumption of chocolate (because all the chocolate in the world won’t bring my mom back), there are still parts of me that come back anew. 

I shared so many things with my mom. And I thought the science and faith passion we shared was one of those dead branches that needed to be pruned back, lost forever. But no. What looks dead does not always remain that way. 

What an appropriate lesson for me to learn this week as we enter the holiest time of the year, the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. What looks dead WILL NOT remain dead. 

Amen. 


I am grateful to the Lord for such a visual reminder in nature…in science.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

God is Everywhere





I remember learning as child that God was everywhere. Wrapping my head around such an idea at a young age was pretty impossible, especially since children demand everything to be  tangible. I sat for hours trying to figure out how God was in the closet and if He was, why he didn’t get rid of the monsters that I just knew were lurking in there. 

Even at school we talked about it. I had one friend who went from flower to flower, bending down, squinting one eye shut and staring with the other asking, “God, are you in there?” From the playground we’d watch passing cars from behind the chain-linked fence, and once in a while someone would say, “Maybe God’s in that one.”

It was a contemplation that we just couldn’t wrap our heads around. Until one day. In December. Maybe it was because we were so cold that our brains were shivering all the ideas together, or that we were learning about the birth of Jesus, but one friend, Julie said, “The reason God is everywhere is because the whole world is in His tummy.” Aha! Finally. Something that made sense. We all took to drawing pictures of an old man with an earth smack dab in the middle of his abdomen. 

I know that I breathed easier that day. I could finally put that mystery to bed. Later I asked Julie how she had been so brilliant in her conclusion (we were so smart I’m sure I used those exact words…) and she just looked at me and said, “Well, if your mommy can carry a baby in her tummy, why can’t God carry all of us in His?” (see my footnote.)

Catechism 101. Done. 

I look at that today and think, “Wow, Julie, you weren’t that far off.” Why?

1.      Genesis 1:27 says that we are made in God’s image. If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know that I take that verse very seriously and I have many takes on it. I will be expanding on some of those very soon, but for now I’ll give you one example. Deep down in the very depths of us, in our DNA, amino acids come together in three’s called codons, and those three’s combine with each other to define our genetic makeup. Our God is Trinitarian, so at the very center of our creation—we mirror Him.
 2.    The one thing we need to survive in this world is water. Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water, and two-thirds of the human body is water. Water aids in cell division and generation as well as every aspect of our being. It hydrates us more profoundly that we realize. And a water molecule contains two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, reflecting once again the Trinity—Our God.
3.      Every living thing needs water to survive and everything in the world was formed by water. We read in Genesis 1 that water was there AT creation (vs 2). And Genesis 1:9 tells us that water receded to form land. We know from science about glaciers and even how rushing rivers formed land masses such as the Grand Canyon. Water was instrumental in God’s creating. And it still is. (Funny, but with all the talk about the differences in science and faith, we can’t seem to see they fit perfectly together as they did during creation.)
4.      God carries us each and every day, just like a pregnant woman. Sometimes we think to ask for His presence, sometimes we don’t, but just because we don’t ask doesn’t mean He’s not there.

So now in my contemplation I see that Julie was right. God is bigger than us. He is bigger than all of creation. And yet, He takes the time to be with each of us, individually, and in our own unique way. 

I go back to Julie’s image of my pregnant mom. How much more would we experience God’s love if we imagined Him caring for us as loving mother cares for her unborn child? Completely, unconditionally, and continually. Hmmm. Just take 3 seconds and picture that. Ahhh…




Footnote: It seemed my mom was always pregnant, but then again I am the oldest of eight kids. In reality she pretty much was. She told me once that if felt like it too! And to be honest, that’s how I picked her out of a crowd as a child. I looked for women, then scanned for the amazing red hair, then I looked to see if the woman was pregnant. Bingo! Worked every time.