Archive for the ‘Meditations’ Category
Good news saints. Physicists say they found the “God particle.”
Yes, that is right. In what will no doubt bring some nerdy scientist a Nobel Prize, scientists said that after a 50 year search they are confident that they have found a Higgs boson, the elusive subatomic aspect sometimes called the God particle.
And you thought God created the world in 7 days out of nothing. Silly you.
Not so you weary saints! Sagacious scientists tell us that they finally have discovered the definitive, ontological ground zero: the God particle. They suggest that the particle acts like molasses or snow. When other tiny basic building blocks pass through it, they stick together, slow down and form atoms.
Well that makes sense. Silly me—I thought God “spoke” matter into existence. What was I thinking?!?
A scientist states, “The discovery [of the God particle] explains what once seemed unexplainable and still is a big hard for the average person to comprehend.” You think???
Apparently this little God particle gathers a bunch of little baby atoms together, at random, by chance into an atom of oxygen, that sticks to some hydrogen, like my granddaughter’s Tootsie Roll Pop left by mistake on Christmas, next to the dry sink (don’t tell Karen—it has been my job to clean behind the darn thing), has gathered sundry lady bugs, stink bugs, dust particles, and a dime I dropped on President’s day.
This God particle gathers up stuff and shazzam—before you know it–life! Man I wondered how that happened—I am relieved that California Institute of Technology has unlocked the mysteries of the universe.
But wait? Pardon me, I am just a poor liberal arts major, but do I not remember from 7th grade earth science class that the best theory, the most plausible theory, is the simplest, most direct, commonsense theory? Right now I am having a really hard time understanding, much less believing the God particle Tootsie Roll theory. What do you think? The Word of God makes a lot more sense to me. But again I do not have the advantage of a Cal Tech degree . . .
First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared (Genesis 1:1-3 The Message).
Shazzam! Makes sense to me . . .
My adopted, six week old African-American daughter Rachel clung to her new mother as she suspiciously surveyed her new father. I was uncomfortably Caucasian.
While my wife Karen has several adopted siblings of sundry nationalities and racial mixtures, I had never know anyone who was adopted–of any race. Now I was the father of a child who looked very much like a group of people whom I had been taught to hate.
I grew up in the segregated South. Racism was an old acquaintance of mine. A sepulcher from whose shadow I could not escape, whose curse even a love for my new daughter could not seem to extinguish.
As surely as all people have been affected by racism, racial reconciliation is a task for all people. No one in American can escape the consequences of racism. It is about people with hopes and dreams and visions that are never realized. Racial reconciliation also is a dream and vision that we must all cast.
My friend Thomas was a victim of racism. He was told that black boys do not go to white colleges. My friend Dwight dropped his head in shame when an elder blocked his path and told him n—– were not welcome at our church. My friend, Craig, however, was also a victim of racism. He threatened to castrate a young black man who vacated the balcony in the Malco Theater and sought a better seat in the back of the white only lower section. Craig and I were perpetrators and victims, however, Dwight and Thomas were only victims.
But I knew the first time I met Rachel, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, that it was time that part of my history was changed. It was time that racism in my life died.
Rachel was my promised land. She was my new time, my new land, my new chance. She was more than my daughter: she was God’s invitation to me to experience wholeness and new life.
Theologian Walter Brueggemann in his commentary on Genesis argues that Abraham, when he accepted God’s call, entered a new history. Racial reconciliation calls us all to a new history. The new history is without link to the old. The new history begins with a call for all of us to repent and a summons to leave old comfort zones and to go somewhere we are not to become someone who I once was not. In my life this new call was a second call. A new birth.
Homeschooling is like that. A call to a new life. A new history. An alternative track.
Through Rachel God called me to an alternative life, a life that is the antithesis to the cold, barren one based on hatred and mistrust. My first destination was the wilderness. The wilderness is a place of diminished resources and manna but it offers greater possibilities than the comforts and the garlic of Egypt. We who live Ur and seek the Promised Land will–as I have found–experience some obstacles. We too will have our faith tested, our memory of God’s deeds questioned.
In my case, Rachel was engrafted into my genus, into my family line. My great-great-great Uncle Howeard was a slaveowning Confederate soldier. His great-great-granddaughter is an ancestor of slaves. Progress.
When I grasped Rachel in my arms I rewrote history. I ended a curse too. From that time, to forever, my family has an African-American in its history.
When I look at my youngest son, a Stobaugh with all his Caucasian tint, I see a better version of myself. Peter, my son, has three older African-American siblings. He was homeschooled with, he lived his life with, his siblings are, African-Americans. There is not a hint of racism in my white boy. The curse is ended. Progress.
Perhaps, saints, that is the best we can do in our home schooling—write a new history for our children. End those curses. Give them a new history of hope.
Last week I was reading the New York Times and, being somewhat bored, I visited the “dining” section. I love to compare the culinary offerings in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to New York City, New York. Of course, we don’t have the Red Rooster Harlem, serving gourmet Southern cuisine — what an oxymoron! — but we do have Hong Kong Buffet that lovingly serves amuse-bouche fried cheese sticks, a Johnstown favorite.
I remember attending my son’s wedding reception, so wonderfully hosted by his Indianapolis in-laws. There was a nice man with white gloves standing next to me. Not sure why he was there, I tried to shake his hand which he politely did but kept standing there. I was handed a warm cloth by a man wearing white gloves. I wasn’t sure what he wanted me to do with it — I am embarrassed to tell you what I do with small white clothes—but I saw that most folks were wiping their hands, and some pioneering souls were even wiping their faces. I, being a real trailblazer, went further. I wiped my hands, my face, nose, and when I was moving on to my ears my wife Karen stopped me with a glaring frown. I guess those things are not for ears.
Next, the nice man with a towel on his arm offered me one little bread roll that he parsimoniously placed on a plate that swallowed the pathetic thing. The nice man, no doubt discerning my disappointment, asked me if I wanted a couple more rolls, but my sweet wife, who occasionally helps me out this way, with somewhat too much enthusiasm replied, “No.” Next the waiter — what was he really? — gave me something that looked a lot like a salad except that it had all kinds of red stuff, allegedly lettuce. It looked nothing like my personal favorite — an iceberg wedge smothered in real blue cheese dressing. I gratuitously gave my salad to my wife, hoping she would reciprocate by giving me her pigs in a blanket and rigatoni that every Johnstown wedding sports — but do you know what? Apparently these poor Indiana people have not yet discovered these foods of the gods. There were no pigs in a blanket and rigatoni at this Indianapolis wedding. I suppose nobody told these poor folks that wedding cuisine always includes these two items. In fact, if food has two motifs, if life is full of motifs, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, one fills one’s wedding reception and life with simple, tasty metaphors.
I am an inveterate Johnstown cuisine lover. My love affair, my wife Karen would say, has put 80 pounds on me in the last 21 years, but she is being ungenerous since I mostly eat her wonderful cooking. And what fine cooking it is! I remember the first meal Karen cooked for me in 1977. It was broiled chicken seasoned with salad dressing and boiled broccoli seasoned with lemon pepper. Until then, I had never eaten broiled chicken — my chicken was always fried — unless Big Momma served her famous chicken and dumplings. After that inaugural advent, I never had fried chicken again! Broccoli, southern style, was cooked longer than it took General Grant to capture Vicksburg, and I had heard of pepper (and used it liberally after I coated everything with salt) and lemons (which I put in my sweetened ice tea) — but never both together. Actually, my first meal was pretty good as were the next 33,000 or so she has cooked for me — my expanding waistline is a testament to my thorough conversion to Nouveau Yankee cuisine. Yummy good!
Well, anyway, the New York Times article argues that finally — finally — there is a vegetarian burger that rivals the most delicious Whopper or Quarter Pounder. Apparently, while the rest of us languish in the throes of the new Angus Quarter Pounder, inventive New York chefs have been working tirelessly to create the penultimate veggie burger. Food reviewer Jeff Gordinier is veritably overcome with joy when he writes “Veggie burgers . . . have explored into countless variations of good, and in doing so they’ve begun to look like a bellwether for the American appetite.”
Bellwether for the American appetite? Excuse me, but I doubt it. Can you imagine cruising through the MacDonald’s drive through and asking for a veggie burger with fries and milk shake? Hmm. . . .
But excuse me. I respect vegetarians. More power to you. But why do you want to copy my food? Do I try to copy yours? Respectfully, I doubt, even in NYC, that one can find broccoli and asparagus that will match the effervescence of a Quarter Pounder with cheese. Nonetheless, “There is something very satisfying about holding one’s dinner in one’s hand.” Indeed. But it can’t be done. Not really. A meatless burger is an oxymoron and it can never be a dinner.
And here is another oxymoron — and this is where I am taking this — our society is desperate to emulate the Christian life. The Christian life, like the hamburger, is genuine, real, juicy, and full of protein. Lived in the right way, it can bring great life to a person and to his world. And it cannot be replaced by good feelings, good intentions, or other existential offerings. As Tolstoy writes in War and Peace, “Let us be persuaded that the less we let our feeble human minds roam, the better we shall please God, who rejects all knowledge that does not come from Him; and the less we seek to fathom what He has been pleased to conceal from us, the sooner will he vouchsafe its revelation to us through His divine Spirit.”
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” ~ John 14:6
“I weep because I see what you will do to Israel . . .”
–2 Kings 8
2 Kings 8:7-29
At times we are called on to deliver messages we do not want to deliver. When Elisha was sent to Syria By God, he met Hazael. As he looked into the face of this future rule of Syria, Elisha saw how much Israel would suffer at Hazael’s hand in the future. No wonder the prophet, who loved his people, wept. It is always good news to hear that a sick man will be well . . . unless the man who gets well will kill your children.
Elisha wept . . .
After September 11, 2001, we in America are especially somber. I am not in anyway mitigating the horrendous crime that was committed on September 11, 2001. It was a great disaster. However, may I suggest, that we have looked into the face of Hazael. We are both the perpetrators and the victim in our present situation.
In our own country, at the beginning of the millennium, in spite of unprecedented prosperity, we see the seeds of our destruction everywhere. Increased crime, poverty, and unemployment. Hopelessness and domestic violence. Some of us wonder whether our American covenant is being recklessly compromised by some leaders who are choosing to condone practices that we see as immoral. We see Hazael. He will survive . . . but will we? Will the American dream survive?
Edward Gibbon in his seminal work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire says that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end. First, a mounting love of affluence. Second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor. Third, an obsession with sex. Fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity. Fifth, an increased desire to live on welfare. Sound familiar? Are we looking at Hazael?
That must have been the way the disciples felt. Only three years with Him. Three short years. And while his work seemed to fall on deaf ears, the evil Romans prospered. Caiphas prospered. Herod prospered. Evil would win after all . . . and Elisha wept.
Jesus wept too. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus spent the last night of His life. Alone. He had to die. He knew it. And He was so afraid that He wept blood. Sometimes I think we make the cross into something less than it was. It was a horrible death. To wear a cross, for instance, in Jesus’ day, around one’s neck was like wearing an electric chair around our neck today. No, Hazael will live. Jesus will die. And Elisha wept. . .
Elisha began his ministry during the last half of the ninth century B.C. Leaving his parents’ farm in the upper Jordan valley, he trained under Elijah for several years, then served in the northern kingdom for over fifty years.
Elisha was not isolated and unpredictable as Elijah often was. Instead, he spent time with people, sharing meals and staying in their homes. He traveled throughout the kingdom on a donkey, visiting villages and the communities. Elisha’s miracles among these people reflected a deep compassion for the poor and needy.
Despite his loyalty to Israel, Elisha relentlessly fought against the idol worship of her kings. Obedience to God’s instructions took him as far north as Damascus, where he appointed the Syrian king who would eventually oppress Israel. A similar mission in Israel brought the downfall of her evil kings and a massacre of the prophets.
But, Elisha knew all too well, that Hazael would live and someday he would destroy his nation. The rich and the poor alike would suffer. They would suffer because the nation was evil. . . was unfaithful to God. And Elisha wept . . .
I keep one special book under the bed: my dad’s Bible. It is an old leather black Bible, expensive leather, worn now, with the edges exhibiting light brown cow leather intruding out of the faded black. The cover has “Holy Bible” and “Billy Stobaugh” written in gold letters.
Inside the Bible in my Mammaw’s handwriting is “1939. To Billy from Mother and Daddy, 8 years.” My dad was born in 1932 and apparently this was his 8th birthday present. When my dad died on Father’s Day in 1982, when he was only 49, my mom gave me this Bible.
I imagine Dad got other things for his birthday. Toy soldiers? A pop gun? I will never know. But I know he got this Bible. If you found your deceased dad’s Bible what would you do? I immediately looked for evidence that he read it. I looked for a mark, any mark, that would evidence that he read it, studied it, applied it to his life. Nothing.
Nothing. Nothing in the family register. Nothing next to John 3:16. I know my dad knew God loved him. I heard him say it a few hours before he died. But no marks in his Bible.
I know I have lots of marks in my Bible. I can’t keep up with Karen though. She is the “master marker.” Her Bible is full of underlines. Her Bible underlines are straight and neat. I can’t do it. My lines inevitably invade other verses. I gave up drawing straight lines under verses—I now put squiggly lines. I once asked Karen to show me how she made straight lines under her Bible verses—sometimes without even a straight edge. She ignored my question.
I don’t have my dad anymore but I have his Bible. And there is nothing written in it.
I wish my dad wrote in his Bible, the Bible I keep under my bed. I would like something—anything—that reminds me of him. I am 56 now and it is 28 years since he died. I can hardly remember what he looks like now.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2: 3-5—“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of recommendation to you or from you as some other people do, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.” My dad’s life is written on my heart. It gives me pleasure still to read his Bible.
But, parents, write in your Bible! Even if you use squiggly lines. Your kids will thank you someday! But more important, write your lives on their hearts. That someday, perhaps one cold night, as they wait to go asleep, they will read your Bible, see your marks, and, more importantly, remember that day, long ago, when you wrote your life on their lives.
O’Neill is by far the most famous and most people think the best American playwright. His combination of character analysis, emotional power, and artistic versatility commend themselves to the reader.
The Emperor Jones is a powerful story about the consequences of unforgiveness. The expatriate African American, Emperor Jones is escaping from his rebellious West Indian subjects. Jones’ heart is full of guile, evil, and, most of all, unforgiveness. As his pursuers draw closer Jones nervously imagines that he is still a slave. “What you all doin’, white folks? What’s all dis? What you all lookin’ at me fo’? What you doin’ wid me, anyhow?” Jones suddenly convulsed with raging fear and hatred. “Is dis a auction? Is you sellin’ me like dey uster befo’ de war?” Jones drew his revolver and fired at the imaginary white person. “I shows you I’se a free nigger, damn yo’ souls!” As the play progresses, O’Neill shows the Emperor Jones self-destructing.