Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Trees have played an important role in our history, but have we considered the impact that the tree has made throughout Christianity?
A tree was the instrument of the first sin, man’s fall, original sin.
Genesis 3:3: It is only the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, “You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.”
The Old Testament refers to trees at other times as well, including the fig tree symbolizing prosperity and health, olive trees were also thought to be a sign of richness. The mention of trees spills over to the New Testament as well.
Luke 2:7: “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
The first place Jesus was placed was in a manger, a wooden structure.
Matt 13:54-54: He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son?”
Jesus spent his growing up years learning the trade of carpentry. He would learn to carve, yield, and bend wood to his will. He learned how the different types of wood and their attributes such as knots, moisture, and growth tendencies. The wood yielded to Jesus, he mastered it.
He mastered it.
Acts 5:30: The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a tree.
I’ve always wondered why crucifixion was the form of death that Jesus had to endure. Was it because it was the most humiliating form of death at that time or was there something else?
I don’t think anything is left to chance when God is involved. It was the tree that was the first instrument of sin, the death of mankind in original sin. It was a tree that became the final instrument of death and the first symbol of life since we are all redeemed through the cross.
But I don’t think it ends there. Since nature was involved with our first sin, God made sure the tree became the symbol of redemption as well. God renewed everything, including nature. He is the Master of all.
One of the things I contemplate on the most when thinking about the cross, is the position of Jesus’ arms. They were stretched out as wide as they could go. It reminds me of when a child stretches his arms out and says, “I love you this much.” I believe that’s exactly what Jesus was saying when he accepted the cross.
What I love even more is when I see a manger scene with baby Jesus holding his arms out. The infant welcomes us in the same manner. His birth as a human showed his willingness to redeem us and his forthcoming love as our Teacher, Counselor and Redeemer. He loved us that much.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Ever had one of those revelations that unexpectedly cuts to the core of who you are? You just want to crawl into the fetal position and leave the world behind. Sometimes you crawl in so deep that you don’t even trust God with your brokenness, your misery.
As I drive around town I notice the winter nakedness of the trees. Once lush with flowing green leaves, the branches are bare. All the growth that offered shade, is now revealed for what it is…twisted snarled branches exposed for all to see.
How do branches get that way? Cold snaps of weather, wind and lack of water can all damage a tree.
It’s no different with life. The cold snaps when we feel alone bend us in ways which we don’t understand. The bitter winds rush through us as harsh words seethe through us, freezing the core of our being to the bone. But the lack of water, the lack of nourishment is what damages most. Trees need water, we need love.
A few weeks back I shared my thoughts on the seasons of our lives and compared them to the seasons of nature, Weather of the Heart and Life Imitates Art.
Seeing the bare branches reminded me of the winter of our lives. What we think is so cleverly hidden beneath the lush leaves of our summer lives, at some point is revealed and lies naked for all to see. No matter how much we pack away the hurts of our hearts, eventually the truth comes out.
In order to avoid ending up a dry withered stump, we must face our knotted, distorted wounds and work through them. Sometimes it’s best to prune the dead branches of our past out.
Gardeners shape their trees for best growth and aesthetic viewing. The dead branches sit all winter while the tree sleeps. In the spring, the careful gardener cuts back a 1/3 of the new growth.
It’s no different with us. At times we must sit and stare at ourselves to determine the dead parts and how we can trim ourselves for the best growth possible. We must sit in our misery and be patient while God works on us. Then in the spring, we prune back the dead branches and cut back a third of whatever growth we’ve done over the winter recognizing that not everything we take in is useful.
Pruning is necessary and John 15:2 describes it aptly: “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”
So while the revelations we realize during the winters of our lives might be difficult and painful, they are necessary for our growth. I rest peaceful—even if I am twisted and knotted—in the knowledge that this life prepares me for the next.
The pictures of the trees in this post are pictures of some of the same trees from my post Life Imitates Art without their leaves. Life is interesting, isn’t it?
Friday, November 5, 2010
I spent a couple days this week talking to preschoolers about the love of Jesus. And of course I read my books to them. It was a great experience and I it reminded me of a post I did a long time ago, but with a twist.
Thought I’d share it with you this week.
One of the things I talk about with the kids is how much Jesus loves them. In my book, Peek-a-boo Jesus!, there is a page towards the end that asks, “Where are Jesus’ arms?” The answer is of course, “Holding you tight.” That’s how I really feel. Our Christ holds us tight; he walks with us and waits patiently while we work through our failings.
In this particular preschool, there was a crucifix in the room. A crucifix is different than a cross in that the image of the crucified Jesus hangs on the cross. I asked the kids the same question as the book, “Where are Jesus’ arms?” They all agreed Jesus arms were stretched out.
We talked about how sometimes we reach our arms out wide and say, “I love you this much!” to our parents and they do the same. I then asked if it was possible Jesus doing the same thing. Perhaps the reason why Jesus’ arms were stretched out wide is that Jesus was showing us just how much he loves us. I asked the kids to close their eyes and imagine Jesus repeating just that, “I love you this much.”
What I saw next put tears in my eyes. One little boy went right over to a little girl who was sitting by herself (I had been told was very shy). He got on his knees and simply said to her, “Kiara, I love you this much!” and stretched his arms out as far as they would go. I almost cried. He got it. This little guy transferred the love in his heart to action and that shy little girl responded by hugging him back. It was a sweet moment I won’t soon forget.
It’s a simple concept—a savior taking on the sin of the world, our sin, and making it his own. It’s the ultimate love. A man, yet the Son of God, stretched his arms out, allowed the executioners to stretch them until they were dislocated. This Prince of Peace said, “I love you this much.”
How often do we stop and consider this? For me, I know it’s not enough.
We are reaching that time of year again when we celebrate the birth of one who would love us more completely than any ever could. I hope you will go back and read my posting from 2008, called “I Love You This Much,” and I hope it reminds you of the love that only God can give.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Thursday was the perfect autumn day here in Colorado. Light white cotton candy clouds melted into the blue sky and a plethora of colors quivered on the trees. At one point, I was driving along a parkway lined with trees while a slight breeze made its way through my open windows. Leaves scattered down around my car and to the ground only to be whipped up again by other cars. The cascading colors of falling leaves was truly elegant. It was a God given moment.
It reminded me of my fourth grader recently telling me about chlorophyll and its purpose. “Chlorophyll is the green stuff inside the leaf,” she said.
I found a more scientific answer at Wikipedia, “Chlorophyll plays a crucial role in producing food for the plant by synthesizing simple sugars from Sunlight + Carbon Dioxide + Water in the process of photosynthesis. The by-product of photosynthesis is Oxygen.”
The shorter autumn days and the cooler temperatures tell the trees that it’s time to sleep for the winter. They begin shutting down their photosynthesis factories—the chlorophyll in the leaves. That green matter dissipates leaving the pigments that were present all along in the leaves, the gold and oranges. The gorgeous red pigments we see are usually present in trees that store a good deal of glucose, like Maple trees. The cooler temperature of the nights combined with the glucose left in the leaves causes the red pigment to come bursting forth.
I am reminded of our human condition. Most times we keep ourselves at a steady even keel. Our emotions are in check and we have our chlorophyll walls securely in place. But when life’s weather changes and we are thrown into the cooler times, our walls, much like the chlorophyll dissipate. Our defenses down, the pigments that are left are our own true selves. We each respond differently to the oncoming changes of our lives. Some of us turn yellow, showing our bright sunny selves, not afraid to be brash and take on the obstacles before us. Some of us have lots of sugar stored up from the good times of summer. We use this sugar to make ourselves burst forth, smiling through the rough times. But sometimes we become the dry, cracked brown color and we allow the tough times of life to wither us to our emotional and spiritual death.
Autumn is a good time for me to remember this life lesson. It is up to me to use the good times of my life, when I am full of green chlorophyll, to fill me up with the sugars of life. So when the cooler times come and turn into the cold of winter I have stored sugar to reveal the vibrant soul of who I am.
Monday, October 11, 2010
“Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.” Luke 16:26, NAB
I love this verse from Luke 16 because it so clearly reveals the concept of that we live in a multi-dimensional world and that there is an existence beyond what we can see.
In previous posts, I’ve talked about multiple dimensions and that we as humans are stuck in the third dimension. As I’ve shared in the past, I believe we are really four dimensional, with our souls and consciences longing for what’s beyond, but our bodies stuck in this third dimension.
Luke 16:19-31 tells the story of Lazarus (the only parable Jesus told that included the actual name of a character), a poor beggar who died and went to Heaven, and his rich counterpart who ended up in Hell.
What is interesting is that Jesus uses this parable to describe Heaven and Hell. Jesus always used real aspects of nature to tell his stories including a mustard seed, vineyards, and the comparison of rock and sand. He is painting a picture for us not unlike his other parables. So it’s extremely plausible that this story reveals the concepts of the afterlife.
What I find most interesting is that Jesus clearly states that though the two places are separated from each other, they can still be seen by each. Those in Hell can still see Heaven and vice versa. They are separated by a great chasm.
There is something more profound in this parable as well. Jesus clearly explains to us that we have the choice between Heaven and Hell. We have free will and that even in the latest hour of our lives, we can choose God.
I have a friend, Jean, who was recently telling me of the loss of her mother. Though it’s been a year, she still feels the pain and emptiness of that loss. However, she knows that because of the choices and faith her mother maintained that she now enjoys a life free of pain and suffering. Isn’t that what we all want for our loved ones…and for ourselves? She described how she feels as the following, “Great sorrow can exist with great joy.” She misses her mother greatly, but would not want her to come back to this life.
I think we all experience great sorrow and great joy, but our ability to experience both simultaneously is a God thing. It’s something that we can experience in our three dimensional bodies, but can pierce the chasm of this dimension and reach toward Heaven. The most amazing thing is when we reach out God also breaks through and returns those emotions with peace. As my friend also said, “When sorrow and joy are harmonious—that can only be God.” What a profound statement.
People often talk about a “final test” at the end of our lives. I recently heard a homily where the pastor gave a simple standard for that final test.
1. How did you love?
2. How did you serve others?
3. How much did you rely on God?
To me, these simple questions sum it up well.
Choice comes into play every day and I believe that through our choices we pay it forward in this dimension and the others.
Next time I’ll examine those three questions with respect to how we impact the dimensions around us. Once we scrutinized that concept, we’ll wrap it up neatly with the idea that these three questions also impact the earth we inhabit and hopefully come full circle from where we started.
In the meantime, if you like, read my earlier posts on dimensions as a primer for next week’s discussion. Feel free to pummel me with questions to keep me on track!
Monday, September 27, 2010
The majesty of the mountains and the beauty of the oceans are obvious. God’s creation is breathtaking. The gentle rains that bring peace and the torrential storms that drive fear through our very being create emotions that reach our very core.
So is there purpose in emotion? I believe there is a theme in the Bible with respect to emotion.
The Old Testament starts off showing a God banishing Adam and Eve for eating fruit from the one tree they were forbidden to eat. Throughout the Old Testament, shades of a vengeful, wrath-filled God—a punishing God—permeate the text. Only in Psalms and Song of Songs do we get an inkling of a God that shows mercy and love.
Why the change? I believe it has to do with human’s “evolution” of understanding God.
In the Old Testament, especially in the beginning of Genesis, humanity is regarded as young children, seeing only the need for discipline, as with Adam and Eve. Slowly, the human mind opened. Abraham was the first to call God, “Father,” and the Creator recognized this and made a covenant with humanity.
As the authors produced Psalms and Song of Songs, humankind grew into the age of reason. With that reason, came the realization that our God could be in relationship with us and we longed for that connection.
But we were missing something. Because of our selfishness, we couldn’t see past our teenage needs. Not until the Father sent his Son, not until we saw the Incarnation, did we see true Love. We needed to hear the words of hope and salvation, and like all teens, we then understood life had meaning. Jesus brought definition to what was deep in our hearts that we could not express.
As with the crossing of the threshold from youth to adulthood, humanity couldn’t take the next step until we experienced true sacrifice. Jesus proclaimed this sacrifice by stretching out his arms on the cross encompassing the whole world, and that action thrust us into maturity.
It’s not that God changed from a fearful God to a loving God, it’s that we grew up.
With adulthood comes responsibility. Whether we choose to fall into his crucified arms or we choose to turn away, it’s up to us. When we feel broken and damaged, it is up to us to recognize the ultimate Love and accept it.
I believe that there’s a reason that Revelations is the last book of the Bible. It takes to completion the concept of God’s saving plan for us by revealing that there is something else, something besides this life. God revealed his entire plan, His entire set of emotions, His love for us from infancy to adulthood. Now it’s up to us.
He calls us in the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians with the definition of love and He proved that love at Calvary. He is a loving parent waiting for us to fall into His arms with everything we have, all the love and all the hurts, because truly He is the only one that can love us completely.
Emotions matter and only Love can save us.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I have this application on my computer that constantly brings up a popup window urging me to upgrade a certain type of software. It’s there every time I bring up my computer. Sometimes it drives me nuts!
I believe it’s just a microcosm of what happens in real life. Things constantly bombard us, tugging at our minds, pulling at our hearts.
And we let it happen. We try to ignore the life “popups”, the ones that say something isn’t right. The ones that say complacency is fine, life is good, don’t change or that change will be too hard.
Then one day it hits us. Everything is not fine. We moan and groan that it’s too late to change, it’s going be hard, and it’s going to ruin everything in our lives. We writhe in agony at the thought we need to move, we need to change.
Autumn used to be my favorite season. I love the colors, and the cooler weather and the anticipation of the upcoming holidays. As I’ve gotten older though, autumn has also reminded me that winter is coming. Those cold, dark days when driving is a hassle, when the sunlight dwindles in the southern sky, and the snowflakes seem endless.
God is good at giving us reminders about the seasons of our heart through nature. He knows there are going to be hot summers of fun in our lives that spill over into beautiful autumns of contentment that eventually diminish into cruel winters.
Fortunately he gave us the best season of all, spring.
I know that when the relentless winter wind whips against me, draining me of my strength, there is still hope. Spring will come. It might take longer than I wish, but the bitter winds will not prevail. Snow banks will recede, tiny flowers will sprout their determined heads and birds will return in song.
It’s no different with life. The inhospitable winters of our hearts will not prevail if we do not let them. Opening our souls can dissolve anger and resentment like a melting snow bank. Tiny flowers of hope from loved ones push through the frozen ground. Encouraging words from friends sing out to us. Eventually we find that we don’t need the layers of protection that surround our hearts like the parkas of winter. We shed the tears and shed the pain, washing away the winter and helping the flowers of our lives grow.
But we have to take that first step. We have to let go and let God. And sometimes that step is scary. But He does know what is right for us.
It is only when we don’t listen to the nagging popups that we get stuck. It’s when we don’t heed the warning in our hearts and souls that we will sit in the everlasting frozen winter. Complacency says enjoy the fire and ignore the weather. But eventually you can’t.
So listen to those life popups. They’re trying to tell you something. Maybe it’s time for a change.
-And maybe I need different software that better fits my needs. ;)
Friday, August 27, 2010
God creates art through nature. We as humans try to recreate that art with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and buildings. But no matter what colors we brush across our canvas, we are simply imitating God’s creation in nature.
I believe there’s a lesson for us in nature.
Trees are just one example. These magnificent giants have a rich history embedded with human tradition. The Bible talks of the mustard seed that blossoms into a tree, Jesus mentions Nathaniel being born under a fig tree, and then there is the troubling tree which Jonas sat under which withered away.
Loreena McKennitt has written many songs with the symbolism of trees including All Soul’s Night and Ancient Pines. Tolkien included talking, feeling trees in his Lord of the Ring’s classics.
I’m beginning to see how life is reflected in trees.
Saplings reflect man’s desire to start new. There’s so much promise in a new tree. There’s hope. It’s almost as if the tree is saying, “I’m just starting, but someday I will be great. I will stand tall.”
As trees grow their tender bark turns rough and cracks to deal with the harsh realities of nature. The growing tree says, “I’ve grown accustomed to these conditions and I’ve acclimated.”
Then there are the mature trees of many shapes and varieties and they all have stories to tell.
There’s the tree who’s grown in age and wisdom. Their branches reach tall and they have sturdy trunks. “I’ve lived well,” they say.
Then there are the trees that show emotion. Looking at how their branches reach out, they embrace the trees next to them, dancing in the breezes of the day. It’s almost as if they are saying, “Ah, I have loved well!”
But not all trees are so lucky. There are some that wither and die from disease just as humans. There are some that do not receive the nutrients that help them grow. Though they fight to survive, their trunks, branches and leaves reveal their battered existence.
Then there are my heroes. These trees grow tall and strong and they experience life in all its glory and in all its pain. They feel the joy and warmth of the sun, and the harshness of the bitter winters. But they survive and they live well. These trees have made adjustments.
I hope to be counted someday among these giants. I hope that I can say, “Life showed me what it had, and I made adjustments.”
(Note: this unusual tree is the same tree as shown in the top picture, it's just a different angle. No different for people...some adjustments you can't see unless you see the person from a different angle!)
Friday, August 20, 2010
My latest harvest has been plums, juicy, sweet plums! The flesh of the fruit peels right off, leaving only the small pit which inside contains an even smaller seed.
I start out slow and taper off.
I’ve been listening to a song in church for quite a while and though I understood the words and their meaning, it didn’t hit me until yesterday how intertwined we are with nature.
The lyrics to the song I am thinking of goes as follows:
“Unless a grain of wheat shall fall upon the ground and die, it remains but a single grain with no life.” (Bernadette Farrell) It’s a paraphrase of John 12:24.
Until now, I’ve considered that I must die to self in order to live. That’s how I’ve viewed those words.
Now I realize that it’s saying much more. Now I get it!
God has provided each of us with a seed of Him. Unless we nourish that seed by dying to self, we can’t be fruitful to others. We are like a gong in the night if we only seek life only for ourselves. But if we give our lives for others, that one grain grows and produces an entire head of wheat!
I’ve always enjoyed service to others in whatever fashion it comes. And I know that sowing those seeds of joy help others understand the greatness of our Lord. But it never occurred to me that I have no life unless I engage in service, that I cannot be truly Christian until I spread the love of God to others and they in turn love Him. As a single grain, I can bear great fruit because in turn they bear great fruit and it continues to multiply.
Fruit trees are an even greater example. One little seed gives birth to a seedling, then sapling, then tree. If nurtured, that tree will produce for years! It doesn’t have to be the “one and done” concept. If we nurture our lives with the Truth of the Lord, we can produce for many years!
So don’t hide in your pit! Open up, let the seed be revealed and plant it in rich soil. Water with prayer and let it grow!
This picture is from a two-in-one plum tree I have in my yard. Yes! It’s grafted so there are two types of plums on one tree. It’s sweet!
Saturday, August 14, 2010
It's highly unusual that I post twice in one week, but I had something to share and needed your help.
The other day, I witnessed a mother screeching through a soccer field parking lot, not following the rules, but barreling through the parking spaces in an effort to get her daughter to the field on time. I could hear her screaming at her daughter and simply not paying attention to anything else around her. How did I see it? She almost rammed into the side of my van as she passed as well as almost hit a teenage girl making her way from the parking lot to the fields.
I dropped off my daughter (close to the fields) and then decided to proceed to see if I could find the “scary mom.” As I drove through the parking lot, I considered how I would address the woman once I caught up with her.
As God would have it, she had parked and scurried out of her car. I watched as she crossed the bridge out of sight.
The question still haunts me, how would I have addressed the situation? This is how I imagined the conversation might go:
Me: Did you know that you almost hit a young girl back there?
SM (Scary Mom): No. (OR) I didn’t come close to her.
Me: Why were you unable to follow the arrows and make your way through the parking lot like the rest of traffic?
SM: We were late and there weren’t that many cars. What is your problem?
I’m sure it would have spiraled from there.
Today, my husband and daughter were talking about the concept of self-esteem and how the world has twisted the idea of self-esteem. Society tells us (at least in this privileged American value system) that we are special. Psychologists have noted the increased rate of suicide and problems like anorexia, bulimia, self mutilation and drugs. They see there is a problem (as do all of us), and envision the solution as low self-esteem.
So while the world tells us that we deserve all we can get and that we are special, it has left out the most important factor of all. Why we are special.
We are special because we are created in the image of God and because He has created us to be special. Just as there are those who believe that we need to rid our monetary notes and coins of “In God We Trust,” as a separation of church and state, our societal system wants to rid our conscience by leaving God out of our self-esteem.
We water plants to nurture them to grow. But if we don’t feed them with nutrients from rich soil or fertilizer, we run the risk of not seeing a fruitful harvest.
It is no different with human beings. If we don’t feed the soul with Truth, we will not be fruitful either. We need to amend the self-esteem phrase to say, “You are special and important to God. You are made in His image.” Without the addition of God, the phrase, “You are special” rings hollow.
Why is this important? When we consider that Someone Eternal loves us, then we begin to foster the idea that others are special as well. We look outside ourselves and realize that everyone is made in God’s image and that nature itself comes from a loving Creator. We begin to treat others with respect. Of course the next step is that we consider nature as a gift from God as well. We can then make the transformation from those who care about the environment to stewards of the earth. The world then becomes an avalanche of respect instead of a cesspool of hate and disdain.
So what would I say to that mother after reflecting on this?
Me: “Did you know that you are as special to the world as the young girl you almost ran over?”
How can I improve on that statement? I would love to hear your respectful answers.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Today I picked seven gallon bags of green beans from our garden. I love the fresh summer produce!
Since we didn’t get our garden in until later this summer, we’re just receiving the first fruits. These are the best. The plants are still young and the beans are tender.
As the summer progresses however, the beans change too. They are still tasty but you have to pick them before they grow too large; otherwise they’re a little tough. Also, as the plant starts to mature, the bean size and shape change. Instead of the smooth long thin bean, most of the beans have a variety of shapes. Some bulge at the end and remain skinny at the stem, while others are formed well except for a scrawny part in the middle.
I’ve always wondered why this is and what I can do to prevent it. Then it hit me today. Once again nature mirrors our human condition.
When we are young, we are strong and lean and nothing can stop us. As we age, we tend to bulge in the middle or sag in other places. When we are young, we are idealistic about ourselves and others. Age however, changes us too. We become pessimistic, we doubt our fellow man and we typically become jaded by life experiences.
I can’t help but wonder if my bean plants are a gift from God to remind me to remain tender and strong. I can’t help but think they are a gentle reminder of what happens to us when we take life too seriously or engage in experiences that are not good for us.
So the next time you eat a green bean, know that not only has God provided you with a nutritional supplement for your body, but a spiritual reminder that life should not always be too serious and we cannot allow ourselves to become jaded by everyday events.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
There are some scientists who will do anything they can to make sure they don’t have to acknowledge that there might be a higher power at work in the universe or on our own planet. One of my favorites is that aliens came to populate the Earth.
I recently found a new “explanation” of our human history and it reminded me that scientists are constantly contradicting themselves.
This latest “theory” on how our human ancestors came to be includes the idea that:
“Shortly after Homo sapiens first evolved, the harsh climate conditions nearly extinguished our species," said Professor Curtis Marean, of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University. "Recent finds suggest the small population that gave rise to all humans alive today survived by exploiting a unique combination of resources along the southern coast of Africa."
Now that geneticists have physical evidence showing that our human ancestry is really quite limited (that we all came from one man around 60,000 years ago—see The Journey of Man), the science world has been turned upside down with regard to evolution. What to do?
Evidently the best solution is to make all the less evolved homo-sapiens conveniently disappear through the ice age and keep only a handful alive in a cave in Africa. Never mind the scores of evidence from climatology, anthropology, genetics and many other scientific disciplines who have evidence to the contrary, these scientists now say, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”
No thank you! I am of the opinion that there are many scientific disciplines for a reason and that when you only use one, you get bad data and faulty ideas. It’s only when all the evidence is put together that you can make an informed decision and it’s only those scientists who are willing to venture beyond the comfort of their subject that we will find answers to questions that concern our history as human beings.
It is necessary to put all the disciplines together to solve the human ancestry puzzle. Just like a mystery, you need all the clues to solve question at hand. When will we get it together?
Therefore, I am paying attention to the Man behind the curtain, because He is in control. And regardless to our human deficiencies of understanding science, He is the One who created science and continues to leave us clues to why we are here and why He loves us so much.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The story of the Good Samaritan came to life for me this weekend. In a book called, “Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration,” a different perspective was introduced.
First, the author explained that Jesus chose a priest and a Levite for very specific reasons; they were experts on topics of salvation and Jewish law. Because they had access to all the scrolls, they were more intimate with the reasons for the law than the rest of the Jewish population. They understood the concept of “neighbor.”
The author then explains that the priest and Levite weren’t “cold-hearted” people, they were afraid to become victims too. The road was dangerous and they would be worried about their safety. Their downfall wasn’t prejudice, non-caring or not knowing who their neighbor included, it was just they couldn’t see past themselves.
The next point the author impressed on me was to say that we’ve mistranslated the original language of the story for the introduction of the Samaritan upon seeing the beaten man. “The Gospel uses the word that in Hebrew had originally referred to the mother’s womb and maternal care.” In other words, the original meaning went beyond the normal caring and into a personal caring, like the concern a mother has for her child. The Samaritan could see himself in the battered victim.
We know the mistranslated word as compassion. For us it means that we are moved with pity to help another. However, in the story’s original wording, the idea Jesus was impressing on his listeners was that the Samaritan’s heart was “wrenched open…heedless of any question or danger.” He couldn’t resist helping the assaulted man.
So where is the science in all this? Why am I bringing it up in this blog? Junk DNA.
I recently had a discussion with a friend over the term, “Junk DNA.” Scientists use this term to describe those letters in our DNA strings that they believe are not being used. They are “left-overs” from our evolution. Scientists reason that since they don’t know what these sequences are for, they must not be used anymore. They are simply pieces of information lost in translation. I disagree.
Language, the way we move our tongue, the sounds we etch from our soul come about because of our created need to communicate. From the time we are infants, our brain translates the audible sounds of others into something we can understand. For more on this, read this article: http://www.firstscience.com/home/articles/humans/science-of-language_19050.html
This ability to use language is in our DNA. Scientists won’t necessarily argue that. What they do not understand is that our emotional, mental and spiritual well being is in our DNA too! There is no junk DNA. It’s all there for a purpose.
I believe our ability to be compassionate comes from the delicate DNA that our Creator has gently placed within each of our cells.
When we don’t communicate well, or have issues communicating, we are a lot like the Samaritan bible story. Something gets lost in the translation. Whether it is our wording for what we want to say, like the English version of compassion, or our inability to see ourselves in our neighbors, we’ve lost the idea of what Jesus is trying to teach us.
The action of compassion—whether through words or actions—defines who we are and what we are to become. Our job is to make sure that we don’t end up lost in the translation.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Sitting under an old maple tree, I’m enjoying the relief that the shade brings to the heat of summer. As I lean up against the trunk, I investigate the jagged, splintered, uneven crags of the bark. The brown and gray covering of the tree protects it much like skin protects humans.
Peeled bark reveals the inner workings of the tree. Moisture sipped from the roots, moves up the trunk, to the branches and then the leaves. Some trees grow tall and spread their branches out horizontally, while others shoot their fingers straight up towards the sun. Branches vary too. Some are smooth and reach upward, while others twist and tangle endlessly from the trunk. And once you follow the branches to their spindly fingering ends, you encounter endless varieties of leaves that blossom out providing shape and shade. Each tree is unique.
Trees are a lot like people. Each human is unique and each one needs to be cared for. Some people are short and stocky, while others are long and spindly. Life causes our branches to either reach out to others, or triggers us to keep them close to us.
The weather of life affects us just like it affects trees. We start out as small seedlings with smooth bark. As we grow, heat, cold, wind and rain shape who we become. If we live in moderate climates where life is good, our branches reach up and out and the leaves of our lives blossom. If we dwell in harsh climates, our bark, branches and leaves become tangled and splintered.
But no matter what climate we reside in, our bark changes as we grow older. We start out as smooth skinned babies and as we grow our skin cracks with age. Just like trees, exposure to life causes us to change. At times someone peels away our bark and causes us to be wounded, whether by words or actions. Sometimes we wound others causing their bark to scar.
But through the careful application of salve and bandages, our bark can heal and we can recover. If our wounds are left exposed, something about us withers. Either a branch dies, or our leaves wither, leaving us crippled emotionally or spiritually.
We as well as trees thrive on nourishment. That nourishment can take many forms. But for us, there is nothing better than kind words from others that help us grow. We can receive those kind words in many forms. Friends, family and even strangers can aid us in our development. And there is a secret place that provides words of encouragement. The Bible. Nothing takes the place of the supernatural nourishment of reading, reflecting and praying on the words we’ve received from the Word of God.
So if you’re feeling splintered, parched, and wilted from the heat of life, know there is healing. Sink your roots into the pages of the Bible and drink up the words of everlasting life. Dig deep into the comforting words of our God and find the healing your heart desires. Then turn your leaves toward the Son and soak up the healing love he has to offer.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Clay is dirt…minerals and dirt.
According to Genesis Chapter 1, we are dirt too.
So, you could say, we have a great deal in common with pottery. We’re both dirt.
Being dirt makes us special. Dirt, when used as clay is special. It is used to fashion pottery and art. The Bible talks about it distinctly in Isaiah 64:8, “we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.”
There are days when being the clay is easy. I sit back and observe life around me and allow God to show me His love in nature and in others. There are days when it’s not so easy too. There are times when every movement, every moment is a struggle. The difficult situations, tired relationships, and the general day to day activities wear me out.
I think there must be times that it’s difficult for the Creator to mold me too. Times when my brain just won’t wrap around the concept of suffering or injustice, those must be challenging moments when the clay that is me, just won’t bend.
What do potters do when the clay is tough to work with? They add water. (Anyone who reads my blog with some regularity knows how much I talk about water!) It sustains life, it heals life and it is used so many places in the Bible that we understand it to be a powerful symbol used by our God.
The very molecular makeup of water reflects the Trinity—there are two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom in one molecule of water. Water binds with every element that allows binding and it fastens itself in all directions—much like our God.
I can tell when I’ve not had enough water to drink during the day. I get cranky or move slow, sometimes I get a headache. We all wilt without water. I can also tell when I’ve not had enough God during the day too.
Adding water to clay to make it more malleable makes sense on a science level. But it also makes sense on a theological level. Whenever we allow God to permeate our being, we allow the Potter to add water and make us more flexible. We learn to bend, twist, shape and move. Whether it’s through reading the Word of God in the Bible, taking in nature, dealing with rude people in traffic or experiencing the pain of suffering, those occurrences are opportunities to be molded the way the Potter wants. Sometimes the tough work of being molded yields the best results.
My job is to stop resisting the rough parts of life, so the Potter can do His work.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Waves are a recurring theme in science. Our five senses are a perfect example.
Sound comes in waves. From our vibrating vocal chords to the vibrations of a violin string, our ears turn those incoming waves into messages that when read by the brain, help us communicate.
Light also travels in waves, which aid our eyes in determining what we are seeing. Again those waves are received by our eyes and messages are interpreted by the brain.
Life reflects science. We have good times and we have bad times, and although we might not notice, they happen with frequency as well. There are some times when we think, “If one more bad thing happens today, I’m going to lose my mind!” And when good things happen, the catch phrase is, “Just relax and ride the wave.”
Nature works much the same way. From the varying frequencies of sunlight, to the ebb and flow of the gentle water caressing the beach sand, creation happens in waves.
I would venture to say that one of the reasons humans connect with nature is because we “understand” the waves. When the trees are caught up in the breezes of the wind, so are we. When the lapping waves kiss the shore, we too are engrossed by the gentle sounds. Some say they feel God in these moments.
Maybe that’s the way He designed it. Our lives ebb and flow along with nature. And when we stop, really stop and commune with nature, we are consoled deep within our being. The gentle breeze becomes the momentary kiss and the immersion of ourselves in water becomes the all encompassing embrace we so desire. These are the moments when God says, “I love you,” and “though you suffer now, it will not always be this way.”
So the God who created the universe with a Big Bang, can also communicate in the quiet recesses of the heart using waves. I take solace in the knowledge that the most powerful God of love speaks to me in the most fragile quiet moment of nature, reminding me of the ebbs and flows of life.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Prayer does not always come easy to me. Many times, I pray and try to trust, but in the meantime, while God is “thinking” about my prayer, I act. I try to fix things. I try to figure out HOW to fix things. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve bought into the adage, “God helps those who help themselves.” However, lately I’ve run into problems that are so big that not only have I been forced to pray with constant vigor, I’ve had to trust that He knows better than me.
What I haven’t done until recently was stop asking God what His plan is, and wait in hope. While that sounds obvious, simply saying, “Jesus, I trust in You!” is much easier than letting those words permeate into my very being.
Lately, I’ve had no choice. And I now thank God for that. He’s shown me I don’t need to know the plan, but that I MUST trust in Him. Over time, I have concluded that I don’t even want to KNOW the plan; I trust whatever He wills for me and my family.
Something happened today that solidified that response. Actually three things happened. They were long awaited answers. They were tearful confirmations that it will be okay.
When these things happened, I immediately shared them to the same God with which I’ve shed so many tears. I didn’t call anyone or shout it from the mountaintops. Instead, I sat in silence and shared them with God. Only God.
Then I remembered something I recently read about Jesus. It was written by someone whose love and trust for God goes beyond my imagination. They said, “We are never alone because Jesus never leaves us. To leave us would be acting against His very nature and such a thing is impossible.”
We’ve talked so many times on this blog about human nature and sometimes, divine nature. But typically, we’ve discussed them as two separate identities, science and faith. Even in all my research for my book on how God is in our DNA—how close He is to us in every since cell we have—I’ve never considered the impact of what it means for God’s nature to be so intertwined with ours that He simply can never leave us. This certainly bears more investigation!
In a book near and dear to my heart, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock, the author says that the only thing that is ours is our misery and that is the only thing God wants from us.
Once again, I am amazed. I’m amazed that a God who made everything would want my misery—and then when I give it to Him—He turns it into joy.
Today I giggled in the fact that I don’t know God’s plan for me. I smiled at the fact that God’s nature is embedded in me, and then I chucked at the fact that it took me so long to get here.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I know I promised we’d talk more about Roe v. Wade and the science of abortion, but I’m going to first talk about physics and prayer. I’ll talk more about Roe v. Wade next week.
I recently found out about something called, “Healing the Family Tree.” It’s an interesting philosophical concept that allows people to consider praying for healing in their family and healing for the generations before them. Different huh?
Well, before you go ballistic, think about this. What would you do if you could go back in the past and explain to someone from your family tree how the hurts they caused others still hurts the family today? Would you go back?
Well, you can’t. Physics doesn’t allow it.
But…what if you could send grace to the past? What if you prayed for healing for those who were hurt and asked that they not pass it onto the future generations? Would you do it?
Sound impossible. Well, for humans it is. But, not for God. You see, we’re restricted to space and time. That’s the reality of the third dimension. But time is a creature created by God and therefore not something that restricts God. So consider that such a concept is possible. Prayer isn’t restricted to physics!
Doesn’t that open up tons of possibilities? Healing from abortion, healing from incest, healing from child abuse, healing from family hurts.
So now, imagine with me, what if you sent enough grace to the past that is healed the future. You may alter your own future. Now that’s worth dreaming about, don’t you think?
Read more about this concept here:
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The Supreme Court decision made 37 years ago this week, changed the way that Americans viewed the sanctity of life. Though maybe not at first, but thirty years later, we see the toll that this decision has taken on issues from abortion to euthanasia.
Science has been misused and abused in the name of life issues and I will cover that topic in detail for the next several postings.
However, today, I'm including a paragraph from Benedict XVI, the current Catholic pope. Though I have many thoughts on the life issue, I wanted to include these ideological thoughts as a primer before I start into the science because without philosophy, science is crippled.
"Openness to life is at the center of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fiber and makes people capable of mutual help. By cultivating openness to life, wealthy peoples can better understand the needs of poor ones, they can avoid employing huge economic and intellectual resources to satisfy the selfish desires of their own citizens, and instead, they can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and every individual."
(from Caritas in Veritate 28. www.vatican.va)
The pope talks about wealthy people understanding the plight of poor people and that an openness to life nurtures such an attitude. To underscore this philosophy, I offer the following link to a news story about a Denver nurse who helped in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.
Her story shows that even among the awful conditions and status of life lost in Haiti, the birth of one little child impacted her whole life. We can never underestimate the importance of human life no matter what the circumstance.