Saturday, October 17, 2009

why I need a graduate degree in theology ...

... to answer my children's profound questions!

After watching the 'balloon incident' on the internet, where a 6-year old boy was thought to be trapped in a homemade weather balloon sailing across the Colorado sky, Eliana and I were talking. The whole matter must have touched a deep chord in her because the questions started pouring out one after another:

-Is there something beyond space?
-How will we go from here to heaven? Will we just drive out into space until we get there?
-When someone dies, isn't it really God's fault because He didn't stop it?
-I think there will be some sorrow in heaven because we'll look back on our life and say, 'Uh, why did I do that?!'

We were thankful to hear a few hours later that the boy had been found safe, and hadn't been in the balloon after all. But I was also glad for the glimpse into the mind of my 8-year old. I didn't expect "the problem of evil" would be part of our conversation at this stage in her life, but it's truly a joy to engage such profound theological questions right here at home!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

a million mistakes

Easton, who will be 16 months old next week, is an avid climber. Neither of the girls did much climbing, but Easton climbs everything in sight- couches, chairs, bikes, strollers, curbs, beds, bathtubs, ladders, you name it. One day he made it to the top bunk all by himself! Unfortunately, his legs are not quite long enough to handle the predicaments he gets himself into, and his head circumference is off the charts (think: topheavy!). This is not a good combo. Case in point: he can climb halfway into or out of the bathtub, and then he is quite stuck and has to resort to diving ...clunk! His poor head gets quite the beating every day!

His climbing adventures parallel mine with biblical languages, I'm afraid. Our professor was warning us last week that we know enough Hebrew at this point to be dangerous. The word looks familiar. We think we can guess at what it means. Perhaps we remember the passage in English well enough to fill in the blanks. We're pretty sure at some point we remember learning a grammatical rule that would explain what we're seeing in this verse. But, quite honestly, we're stumbling around in the dark. The rule turns out not to be a rule at all. The English verse we remember was a bad translation in the first place. Our guess is off the mark. It's not a word we've learned. The important thing, I suppose, at this stage is to remind ourselves constantly that we have a long way to go before our hunches can be trusted and we can speak confidently about Hebrew.

But we watch our professor skim a page of Hebrew script to find the particular verb he knows is there in order to illustrate his point. We hear the way he rattles off Scriptures verses which he has memorized ... in Hebrew. And we determine to keep chipping away so that someday we too will know God's Word as deeply as he does.

They say you have to make a million mistakes in order to learn a language. And if mistakes are a measure of learning, then I must be well on my way! Does a child need to fall a million times in order to learn how to walk? If so, then Easton's bruises tell me I'm in good company!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

hearing God

Tonight we had a great talk in our family meeting about prayer, how it's not just talking, but listening, too. Danny and I shared stories about times we've sensed God speaking to us. Eliana was totally absorbed in the conversation. Then we opened the book we're using for family devotions (Right Choices by Kenneth Taylor), and were all shocked to see that today's lesson was about the importance of prayer (could God be saying something ...?). Eliana supposed that if we really stopped to pray about our meeting and allow God to be in charge then we would likely start "spilling out confessions". Indeed!

Emma was very interested to hear how God answers prayer. She's been praying for a Filipino friend who is battling cancer. Emma has never met this woman, but prays almost daily "that You would come down and give Aunt Connie a miracle." We just heard a story this weekend about a 4-year-old boy with terminal cancer who was completely healed, so we know God is still in the miracle business! After our prayer Eliana reported that just then she sensed God speaking gently to her about something. Confessions followed shortly thereafter (as predicted!). There is nothing more precious than to see your own children open their hearts to the Lord!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

what I'm reading in the carpool line ...

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

It's official! I'm a student member of the ETS. And the book reviews in their journal are just about the right length for the carpool line. :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

to do justly

For my Old Testament Prophets class I am reading selections from Abraham Heschel's classic work entitled "The Prophets". He explores the role of the prophet in ancient Israel and seeks to understand their experience of God. Here is some food for thought:

"The purpose of prophecy is to conquer callousness," Heschel says (1:17).

"The prophet is prepared for pain. One of the effects of his presence is to intensify the people's capacity for suffering, to rend the veil that lies between life and pain." (1:179) Later he explains, "Through suffering lies the way to restoration and to the implanting of His will in the hearts of regenerated people." (1:187)

"It is an act of evil to accept the state of evil as either inevitable or final. Others may be satisfied with improvement, the prophets insist upon redemption." (1:181) This reminds me of Walter Brueggeman's book, "The Prophetic Imagination" (another great read), which speaks of the prophet as articulating an alternative way of viewing reality, giving a God's-eye view of history to the masses who are blinded by the dominant worldview which says that things are just fine the way they are.

At the end of the first volume Heschel devotes an entire chapter to the concept of JUSTICE in the prophets, and his penetrating insights bear repeating. Heschel argues that justice is not simply the absense of oppression, it is preference for those who cannot defend themselves (1:201). Justice is to be sought and pursued (1:207). Justice is so important that we cannot really know God without practicing it (see Jer 9:23-24; 22:15-16. Heschel, 1:210-211).

But here's the thing that really grabbed me. Heschel argues that "justice is not important for its own sake" (1:216). It is not as if there is a principle entitled "JUSTICE" upon which the world is founded and which must be maintained. No, "there are no ultimate laws, no eternal ideas. The Lord alone is ultimate and eternal. The laws are His creation, and the moral ideas are not entities apart from Him; they are His concern." (1:217)

According to the prophets, Heschel says, justice is primarily relational. "An act of injustice is condemned, not because the law was broken, but because a person has been hurt" (1:216). Ultimately, the relationship affected is that between people and God.

Gone is the idea of justice for its own sake. We "do justly" (Micah 6:8) not because it's the "right" thing to do in an abstract sense, but because God requires it of us, and we desire to be in "right" relationship with Him.