Monday, June 29, 2015

Six Days or One Instant?


I have a children’s book in mind about the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the age of the earth. I have studied scientific explanations of these concepts, and believe that God did not give us measurable phenomena in order to, as Daddy quoted from II Thessalonians, make us “believe a lie.”
I believe:
 
The heavens declare the glory of God;
            the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
        Day after day they pour forth speech;
            night after night they reveal knowledge.
        They have no speech, they use no words;
            no sound is heard from them.
        Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
            their words to the ends of the world.”
 
The intent of my book is to gently move children (and adults) away from the misconception that the description of creation in Genesis is in any way intended to be scientific. I equate the creation story with the poetry of Job or Psalms. It speaks truth in ways that move our hearts and resonate in our souls, but it is not scientifically accurate. Every word is supernaturally true, but written to a people who had no physics, biology, geology, or astronomy.
My concern is that many children are told by the world, by their parents, and by religious leaders that they must either believe the Bible or science, that they cannot believe both. I have seen home school curriculums in which the so-called science is more Bible lesson. Homeschool curriculum writers cater to parents who believe teaching their children that the earth was created in 6 literal days will somehow save them from hell.
Arguing about how long it took God to create the world is irrelevant—the pure fact of the matter is that God created every atom of matter, every law of science, every moment of time, every joule of energy, and every bit of information now in existence in an instant so short that it cannot be measured. (Some people leave out the God part, but some people are fools.)
I have contacted a Christian a friend of mine who is a poet, a physicist, and a Christian. He and my husband/theologian have promised to help. Now, where to begin??
 
 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

To Tell theTruth?


Prevaricate: to avoid telling the truth by not directly answering a question.
   
     I filled out an online application for America’s Thrift Store in September or October, and they called me in November for an interview. Meanwhile, I had begun working as a cashier at Wal-Mart.
     At the Thrift Store interview, I told the assistant manager that I would consider taking the job, even though the pay was lower, if I could get a set schedule—be off the days Bruce is off and only work a few hours/day. They promised me 4 hours/per day, 5 days/week, and I took the offer. “One more thing,” they said, and handed me a pre-employment questionnaire asking about my health. There were yes and no questions about every possible ailment with space to explain any yeses. I had numerous explanations. (At my age you have a variety of petty ailments, or you are dead.)
     They called and told me I would have to undergo a pre-employment physical. I went back to the store and was handed three sheets of paper stating that the physical should address the stated concerns, that it must be completed in 5 days, be on official letterhead, and signed by an MD, not a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. Since my doctor’s office was just down the street, I went directly there and made an appointment for the next Monday, which was exactly 5 working days from that date. I gave Wal-Mart my two week notice.
     On that Monday, my doctor went over the form with me, asked about each of the concerns, and then signed a note on letterhead stating that I was able to do the job. I went directly to the store and turned it in. I did not hear from them for several days, so I called and was told by the assistant manager that the manager had rejected the letter because “it was not on official looking letterhead” and “the signature did not indicate that the signer was a physician.” When I asked her why I had not been notified, I was told that she had just learned of the problem. In the course of the conversation, I asked to speak with the manager and told him why I wanted the job. He informed me that whoever had promised me a set schedule did not have the authority to do so, and that my schedule would be determined by the vicissitudes of the retail business.
     At this point, I was speechless, but determined that any breach of contract would not be on my part, so I contacted my doctor who signed a boilerplate letter stating that I could “return to work.” Of course, this too was rejected. At that point I took the three pages I had been given by America’s Thrift back to the doctor’s office. The nursing assistant took them into the office and came back with a rubber stamped signature on the page outlining my ailments. I took this back to American Thrift and told the assistant manager, “My doctor is done, and if you do not accept this, I am done, too.”
     I went to management at Wal-Mart. They were happy to have me stay, and was given a semi-regular schedule--off on the days Bruce is off. I learned yesterday that Wal-Mart will be raising minimum wage to $9/hour in April, and by then I will have a 10% discount. So, it’s all for the best, EXCEPT, my insurance will not pay for the $149 office visit.
     So, ladies and gentlemen, here is the take away: If you are asked to fill out a pre-employment health statement, prevaricate like a dog! On second thought, my honesty saved me from having to work for a rather dishonest bunch, so I will stick to the truth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hell?


I’m reading Leviticus with its complicated rules regarding worship, sacrifices, and the tabernacle, and I’m thinking, “Just give me the Gentile version.” But somewhere in the middle of the “priestly linen undergarments,” it hits me: No unholy thing can abide in the presence of God; without all of that ritual, any human being approaching God would die. Yet I, a once unholy being, am invited into God’s Holy presence and filled with His Holy Spirit. How? The blood of Christ—the eternal sacrifice—cleans me and makes me fit to be with God!
I am His. I am holy. I will live with God for eternity, and worship with my Christian brothers and sisters for all time. I will see the new heavens and the new earth and live forever where there is no sin or pain or fear or sorrow or death. Praise God!
If I do not allow Christ to wash me in His blood continually, I remain unholy, and the unholy cannot be with God. Which leads me to the question, is there a place of eternal punishment, and if so, what is its nature and who ends up there?
I witnessed a debate in the ‘70s between a Christian minister and the British Scholar and then-atheist, Antony Flew. Dr. Flew cited the Holocaust in his argument against the popular concept of Hell, saying something like this: According to some Christians, anyone who does not accept Christ as savior is damned. Jews, by definition, do not accept Christ and will, according to those Christians, spend eternity being burned alive. So God used the ovens of Hitler to usher millions of Jews into the ovens of Hell. Is this a loving God?
I am in no position to judge a good and perfect God, but God made me in His image and able to know good from evil. I do not believe that simple existence and sin, though abhorrent, justifies eternal, excruciating torture for anyone. (Punishment, yes. Death, yes. Eternal torture, no.)
If not eternal torture, what? What ultimately happens to persons who do not follow Jesus?  The Bible tells us that all sinners are doomed to “destruction."

 
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Galatians 6:8
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Meaning God)
Matthew 10:28
 

These two scriptures imply that the bodies and souls of sinners are not eternal, that they can and will be destroyed "eternally."
So, what about “The fire that never goes out?”  or the “unquenchable fire”? I don’t know. I know Hell was prepared for the Devil and his angels, eternal beings who currently war against God, persecute His saints, and attempt to rob us of our holiness. Perhaps for eternal beings, Hell is eternal torture?

 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Religious Ecstasy


Religious Ecstasy
 
As I type, my heart is thumping and my hands are shaking. I am, metaphorically speaking, handling fire. I am treading on territory usually reserved for academics and sceptics, but I am simply a life-long Christian trying to determine the legitimacy of my own experience. I am not questioning the reality; I have seen and felt whereof I speak. I am questioning the provenance.
 
Every human being, given an effective stimulus, can and will experience transcendence. The reality of the experience is not determined by its being right or wrong, good or evil, holy or unholy. For example: electrical stimulation of different areas of the brain can produce physical pleasure, religious euphoria, or an emotional “high.” The stimulus is artificial, but, to the subject, the result, whether physical, spiritual, or emotional, is real.
 
In certain situations, I have been overcome by emotion. Feelings can cause me pain, pleasure, extreme empathy, or physical collapse. I can lapse into incoherence.
 
It would be very easy for me to decide that my overwhelming desires and emotions are God given and holy. But when is that true?
 
God, give me wisdom. Take my weak and weary heart and make it strong and pure.
 
Psalm 37:4-6
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Israel vs. God's People


Many of my Christian brothers and sisters are somehow convinced that the modern state of Israel is the equivalent of the children of Israel in the Old Testament and thus uniquely authorized by God to demand and receive military and political aid, privileges, and concessions. They also believe God will, at the return of Christ, reestablish the theocracy that was Israel 2000 years ago, complete with temple worship and animal sacrifices. To those brothers and sisters I say with the prophet Isaiah, “Come let us reason together.”
Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that God has a vested interest in the physical existence of the essentially atheistic, militaristic, geopolitical state of modern day Israel. Let us assume that God is therefore on their side politically and militarily. My question is this. If God is intent on establishing an earthly kingdom with headquarters in Jerusalem, does the Ruler of the universe need special concessions , military aid and financial help?
And, if the state of Israel is “God’s People” to whom all of Biblical prophecy applies,  what am I, chopped liver?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Dating" the Universe


In my single days, I “sort of” dated a number of odd characters. I say “sort of” because I only remember being actually asked out two or maybe three times. In all other cases, the young man in question and I found ourselves in deep philosophical discussions or other compromising situations without our having formalized the event with an invitation. Case in point: a gentleman who stood out on our otherwise homogenous, Christian college campus. 
“Clark” was a bit older than the majority of students, and tall enough to impress. He furthered his gravitas by wearing tweed suits, dress shirts, and ties to class. In addition, anyone in his wake was treated to a sweet, earthy smell that my friends convinced me was marijuana. (I still don’t know if they were pulling my leg, but I remember the smell distinctly and have suspected many a soul since, guilty or otherwise, of smoking weed.)
Our liaisons typically began after our shared Theatre Lit class in which discussions could devolve into taunts. After a heated debate over Shaw’s “Man and Super Man,” I told him his conclusions smelled of sulfur. He responded by bringing a book of matches to our next class, striking them and blowing the smoke my way. Thus began our theological debates.
I learned that he believed in a creator because he had “proven it mathematically.” I had never considered mathematics as a basis for belief, but have since come to understand that such proofs are possible, especially given scientists’ current ability to date the beginning of the universe.
“Clark” claimed he did not believe in a personal God because a “good, omnipotent God” would not allow suffering. To prove his point, he showed me a picture of his bed-ridden grandmother, wasting away in discomfort, and virtually unaware of her surroundings. “What do you have to say to her?” he asked.
I did not come up with a definitive answer to the problem of pain, but after considerable thought I had two responses:
1.       If I ever find myself in such a situation, I pray that God will give me grace to remain faithful and thankful.
2.       If she is a believer, I would tell her, “It won’t be long now. Your suffering will end, and heaven is worth it all.”
I do not know if our discussions ever led him to belief. Things came to an abrupt halt when he issued a matter-of-fact proposal that went something like this, “I am a genius, and you are a genius. We should get married and have perfect children.”
A couple of years later, my discussions with “Clark” did bear fruit when I found myself in debate with another weirdo, the militant atheist who is now a Christian and my husband.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

My Writing Process


I’m plugging away at the next Grit and Grace Mystery, "Murder Abominable," and thought I might give any would-be authors out there some insight into my process. The first passage below is a rough draft, the second is an edit, possibly the final edit. In any case, notice the &&& marking that I place in my rough draft to mark spots that need to be “fixed.” Sometimes I leave notes to myself to help me remember what I want to do. In this case the &&& is followed by the note (Make this more immediate.) In other words, bring the scene closer to the reader. Bring the reader into the scene. I believe I have achieved that goal. Read both passages to see if you agree.

ROUGH DRAFT
“But I’m telling you, Franklin, it’s illegal.” Rake Cradoc, Jr. of Cradoc and Cradoc Attorneys at Law, clung to his phone with white knuckles. “You can’t charge that kind of interest in this state.”
Franklin Stewart answered evenly, “You set it up yourself, Rake. We’re off shore. State laws can’t touch me.”
“But the Feds are sniffing around. They are going to trace the money back to Golden Goose and from Golden Goose to you. I don’t know how much longer that ruse in the Bahamas is going to hold up.”
“It will hold up as long as I remain mindful. I’m controlling my own destiny. I can’t stop living my destiny because I might be breaking a few tax laws.”
“What if your destiny is prison, Franklin?”
“What a negative way of thinking, Rake. You aren’t living in the moment. You aren’t being mindful of your present state of being.”
“Listen, Franklin.” Rake raised his voice and resorted to biting humor. “Exorbitant interest is illegal in your present state of being.”
“Rake, Rake.” Franklin clucked. “Have you even started to read that book I gave you?”

&&&(make this more immediate)

Rake had tried. Science of Mind, advocated, as far as Rake could make out, plain old positive thinking. But there was a side order of access to the Infinite—access obtained with “no system of sin and punishment, no rule of conduct, no profession of faith.” Rake was intrigued; he was not a religious man. On the other hand, if, as he suspected, there really was an “Infinite Intelligence,” he was pretty sure he was not, as the book seemed to claim, it. Nor did he believe that his inmost being harbored that Intelligence. But the chapter that claimed every human on the planet “shares unlimited access to the infinite curative power of the universe,” caused him to throw the book across the room. “That power,” he had read, “is obedient to our expectations, it manifests exactly as we think and believe.” In other words, Science of Mind stated that anyone could, with the proper thought processes, control the universe. "Disease is not a truth,” the author claimed. “The truths within Infinite Intelligence include health, abundance, security, love, peace, and happiness - all of which make up our natural state. Anyone, by claiming those truths and acting confidently on them, can bring them into manifestation.” Anyone, Rake knew, did not include the author, Earnest Holmes, whose natural state at the moment was, dead.

 
REVISED VERSION
“But I’m telling you, Franklin, it’s illegal.” Rake Cradoc, Jr. of Cradoc and Cradoc Attorneys at Law, clung to his phone with white knuckles. “You can’t charge that kind of interest in this state.”
Franklin Stewart answered evenly, “You set it up yourself, Rake. We’re off shore. State laws can’t touch me.”
“But the Feds are sniffing around. They are going to trace the money back to Golden Goose and from Golden Goose to you. I don’t know how much longer that ruse in the Bahamas is going to hold up.”
“It will hold up as long as I remain mindful. I’m controlling my own destiny. I can’t stop living my destiny because I might be breaking a few tax laws.”
“What if your destiny is prison, Franklin?”
“What a negative way of thinking, Rake. You aren’t living in the moment. You aren’t being mindful of your present state of being.”
“Listen, Franklin.” Rake raised his voice and resorted to biting humor. “Exorbitant interest is illegal in your present state of being.”
“Rake, Rake.” Franklin clucked. “Have you even started to read that book I gave you by Earnest Holmes?”
Rake had tried. Science of Mind, as far as he could make out, advocated plain old positive thinking with a tantalizing side order of Divinity—Divinity obtained with “no system of sin and punishment, no rule of conduct, no profession of faith.” He was not a religious man, but he had been intrigued. There might very well be an “Infinite Intelligence,” but Rake was pretty sure he was not, as the book seemed to claim, It. Nor did he believe the book’s claim that “The truths within Infinite Intelligence include health, abundance, security, love, peace, and happiness—all of which make up our natural state. Anyone, by claiming those truths can bring them into manifestation.”
Rake closed down his Kindle app and Googled “Earnest Holmes.” The current natural state of Earnest Holmes was, Rake learned, “dead.” He reopened Science of Mind and punched “delete.”