Category Archives: Random Thought

This Ain’t Heaven

There are sure a lot of folks that have a beef with God. Some say they’re mad at Him; others steadfastly refuse to believe in Him because there’s so much suffering in the world. How can God exist when things are so clearly off the rails?

The first group is in a tight spot. They apparently believe in God, but they’re ticked off at Him. Mad at the almighty, eternal Creator of the universe—omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent; who holds the reigns of truth and justice. This is just my opinion here, but I don’t think that’s going to end well.

stairwayThe second group seems to have a point. If God is there, why doesn’t He clean this mess up? If He is good, just, kind and all that, why doesn’t He feed the starving masses; eradicate disease; put an end to war? Why is there violence? Cruelty? Why do people fall down the stairs?

Now, that last one I have some personal experience with. As some of you know, Jody fell down the stairs a few years ago and seriously broke her ankle. Thank God for soft tissue or her foot wouldn’t have been attached to her leg. It was a bad break.

During her recovery, it was interesting to hear how people rationalized the event. Some were convinced that it was the work of the Devil—an inventive demon had sent her sprawling down the stairwell so she’d be out of commission for awhile. On the other hand, many were convinced that God had arranged the whole thing so Jody would slow down and rest. Evidently, it was easier to shove her down the stairs than arrange an all expense paid trip to Fiji.

Might I suggest another possibility? Gravity. In a fallen world, people fall down the stairs and get hurt. I know it’s a bum deal, but hey, it happens.

It reminds us of an important truth: This ain’t heaven. That’s what is behind all the other bad things that come with living on this dying planet. This ain’t heaven. We know instinctively that all is not right on planet earth, which suggests that we know (or secretly hope) there is someplace where things are right; that somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly.

But, since we don’t see enough bluebirds here and now, many of us have concluded that there is no heaven. God does not exist. If He did, things would be set right. Because things are not right, now, in my lifetime, they never will be. If God is God then people should not be suffering—they shouldn’t be falling down the stairs. Moreover, since so many things are wrong, it is better to conclude there is no God; that those who suffer must have their life of pain and no promise of anything better. No relief from struggle. No recompense for injustice. Just a pitiful excuse for a life, one last labored breath and then eternal night, exactly like every saint and devil that ever lived.

I continue to wonder why that conclusion is preferable to God and the promise of heaven. Perhaps we’re missing something.

When is the right time for God to fix things? Now? Next week? Or perhaps 150 years ago. Perhaps He should have ended this cartoon before any of us now living were born.

If only we had been born in heaven. If only He had fixed this limping creation before any of us had to suffer, or to hear of those that are suffering. If only this world had been set right before any of us human creatures screwed things up . . . or before any of us were responsible to help put things right.

I suspect that setting things right is a process. I think the process has begun. I think our Father in heaven has put the power to change the world into the hands of some of the same race that has so effectively contributed to the world’s misery. Yes, there is suffering, pain, cruelty and wickedness. One day, all of that will cease. Until then, power is available to bring kindness, mercy, justice and right into this world, a glimpse of a different future. But for now…

This ain’t heaven.

This Is Not Heaven

There is enough beauty in the world to assure us there is a heaven. 

There is enough hatred to remind us it is not here. 

Remembering

Remembering is when thoughts drift together into,
Who?
What?
When?
Where?
And most important of all…How?
How did it happen?
 

I’ve searched the net to find out where this little poem came from. I know it’s not original with me. It came, if I recall, from a long-play recording of poetry by Carl Sandburg, although I don’t believe it is his. I think, rather, it was attributed to his mother — still, I wouldn’t bet on it. I wouldn’t bet on the accuracy of my recollection of it, either. So, call it a paraphrase of a poem that I once heard and committed to imperfect memory. 

I think of it now because my sister’s life is evaporating before our eyes like a puddle in the sun. Jody and I keep a sober vigil, waiting for Maxeen’s inevitable transport from this world to the next. And in the waiting, I sit with my sister and remember the ‘who,’ the ‘what,’ the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of her life and mine. We remember the all important ‘how’ it happened.

Passing the time with photographs of people and places that we both remember, I realize that it is not just one person that is dying, it is a community. Those people and places known to no one but she and I will soon be known only by me. They will be treasured in only one heart, and eventually, the remembering will cease. Who? What? When? Where? How? Will swirl away like fallen leaves.

In our home town, on the street  where I spent my first seven years and Maxeen her first 17, autumn was a mystical time. I remember it as a kind of festival. The men would rake leaves that drifted from the brooding maples that lined McKinley Avenue.  The children would push them into long ridges — imaginary walls of make-believe houses in which unfolded pretend lives — until a grown-up, with his rake, would pull the leaves over the curb into the street and set them afire. The smoke would rise silently and touch the branches where the leaves had grown and lived, and then, like a fragrant memory, drift skyward and be gone. 


Cosmology, Culture and the Multiverse

Theoretical physics has brought us the notion that our single universe is not necessarily all there is. The “multiverse” idea is a hypothetical mega-universe full of numerous smaller universes, including our own.

~Nancy Atkinson, Senior Editor, Universe Today

OK, that gives me a headache. The whole universe is made up of other, itty-bitty universes? What is Ms. Atkinson smoking?

But wait! She’s only channeling other learned ones of science. Folks like Max Tegmark, professor at MIT. And then there’s Sir Roger Penrose, English mathematical physicist and Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, and the list goes on. I know the list goes on because I was planning on mentioning some others, with all their academic credentials– but sheesh! That’s a lot of bandwidth. Just go to Wikipedia and search “multiverse.” There’s a boatload of very smart people listed there. And they all think there is good reason to believe there is more than one dimension. It is true what Scientific American said in an article summary: “Parallel universes [are] not just a staple of science fiction. Other universes are a direct implication of cosmological observations.”

Why am I posting in the rarified air of theoretical mathematics and physics? Is it because I know a lot about these things? Yeah, right. I can’t even understand what I think I know. 

But here’s the thing: Historically, most cultures (maybe all) hold to the existence of unseen realms, or cyclical patterns that transcend the reality that we live in. Humans tend to believe in a multidimensional universe. They don’t lay out complex computations, speculate on string theory, or think deeply about the influence of black holes on space-time, they just dig into their cultural consciousness and try to explain their connection to eternity.

Non-theists may propose that humans do that because of an evolved instinct for self-preservation; that our capacity to conceptualize mortality compels us to create an orderly system that accommodates our need to survive; a system that assures we can go on living.

That is a convenient, if logical, way of making a supernatural explanation seem parochial, quaint, or primitive. My retort might be that humans have always had an overdeveloped sense of their own importance, which might well make them more comfortable with an accidental universe than one in which they must be accountable to something higher than themselves, but that’s a topic for another day. 

The other option may be that we humans are born with an innate sense of the multiverse hardwired into our circuitry. As salmon know, somehow, where to return to spawn, we know that we have a reference to the eternal. It comes out in our cosmologies, our cultural memory. 

Here’s why I’ve been thinking about these things. Given that some pretty smart people (that is to say, a lot smarter than I am) are speculating about fantastic possibilities, doesn’t that leave room in the multiverse for heaven? Isn’t it at least possible that, in the smorgasbord of dimensional planes and alternative universes, there is a realm outside of time and space populated with life forms of fundamentally different stuff? Concepts like “heaven” and “angels” may sound primitive, but what if they are shortest distance—quaint and parochial—between here and the multiverse.

Just thinkin’.

Waiting for Wind

Who is this Holy Spirit? 

The restless power of God.

The giver of freedom. Not merely from bondage or enclosure, but freedom to run!

The disciples did not know what to expect as they awaited the Holy Spirit. That’s the open-ended approach Jesus prescribed. As they waited for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, they could not pre-determine the outcome of the waiting. The waiting was their business, the outcome, by the Spirit, was up to Him.

And so it remains, even for us. Do not presume rushing wind, tongues of fire or tongues of man. Rather, wait. 

Our weakness is our presumption, and our unwillingness to tarry… long, if it pleases Him. For this is how the Spirit comes: In His power; in His time.