Monday, June 5, 2017

So Many Questions, So Few Answers

My cousin posted this video and very kindly asked me to answer it.  I appreciate the sincerity in the question and the honor in requesting my opinion, so I want to give the same sincerity and honor in my answers, but it is so packed!  Years of writings, debate, and study have been done by hundreds and thousands of Christians smarter than I, but rather than stick to their conclusions (which do not all agree), I'm going to share my own journey as I wrestled with these own questions through my faith.

So please understand, I don't share to persuade or convince (though I hope I make sense), and I will not give my sincere but short

So first, what are the claims of the video?  I'm not going to address them all, but the 3 biggest ones.

There cannot be an all-powerful and loving God when all these awful things happen in the world that kill thousands and harm thousands and particularly thousands of children.

A loving God would not let anyone suffer in hell, especially those who never even heard of Him.

Christianity is a disgusting religion that rejoices in human sacrifice--and not just any sacrifice, but sacrifice of the most perfect, holy person for others.

I won't be able to address them completely even in a blog post, and the English major in me wants to address them point by point, but the answers overlap.  So here goes.

Basic Christianity--across most denominations--are built on the premise that God is Holy, cannot abide sin, wants a relationship with us, so His son took our payment for us by death and resurrection on the cross, and through belief in that we can be reconciled with Him.

Christianity is so very simple, but it does give answers to the very complex, too.  However, many Christians (particularly Christians who have themselves lived a fairly not complex life) often sit in the simple and call it child-like faith not seeing how it isn't just "lack of faith" that make people want answers to the complex and yes, how harmful it can be to hand an anemic answer to a bleeding person.  There is amazing community available in Christian fellowship, but also nothing so lonely as to feel you are the only one struggling, doubting, and questioning "How can a loving God?"

When I was a child, I believed like a child.  But my life was not perfect.  At 15, my mom died, and while my sister chose to at that point be so angry at God as to not be a Christian for 20 years, He was the only thing that kept me moving forward.  And I said, okay.  God, if He is all powerful, He could have prevented that.  (There are variations on theology here, but that is my thought pattern.)  He did not.  Why?  My aunt said I should blame my mother not God as she was experimenting with her medication, etc.  But an all powerful God let me mom have scarlet fever as a child, let her heart be damaged, let her get pregnant with her 3rd child which damaged her heart even further, let her die.

So first partial answer-- God chooses to limit His power because He wants people that worship Him of their own free will.  That means that when bad things happen sometimes the reason is the choices we made (or in this case my mom).   I can be angry at God because He can handle it; doesn't phase Him; and in that anger and crying He comforts me.  Not just in my mother's death with some of the good things that came from that, but example after example.

BUT what about others?!? I understand, truly.  My faith cannot bring them comfort.

So then I get to college.  My sister is having a very difficult time in life, and I am loving my life debating Socrates and the Bible and words like sanctification and justification.  But I start to wonder.

How on earth can You (God) set up a system where people end up in hell?  I get the free will worship, but oh, the cruelty towards that don't choose you!  This is a 6 month process I'm going to condense to a paragraph.  I started feeling so much sorrow for my sister that at some point I told God...I want to give my place in Heaven to her.  I actually tried to not be a Christian but I didn't know how to not pray!  I could not give God the silent treatment I was trying to do.  I wept many a tear just for my sister.  And one day God whispered to my soul...

"You see those tears?  That is how I feel about every single person I created.  Every single one.  I don't want a single one to perish, but I had to give them choice.  I will do EVERYTHING to work in their life to bring them to know me, but some will still say no.  And for every tear you cry, I cry thousands.  Hell is not there to punish those who reject me.  ALL have sinned and need Christ.  I sent my son to rescue as many as I could from hell so that they will be with Me."

(There is some debate on whether hell is a lake of fire for all time or for a time and then oblivion and if Heaven is presence with God do all want to be with Him?)

Sure. but did you forget about all those people who never heard of Jesus?  Not fair.  I spent quite a bit of time on this too, let's see if I can sum it up quickly.  The Bible gives me evidence that people are responsible for what they know and that faith that leads to heaven is written on the heart.  I believe creation can write Jesus on the hearts of those who have never heard of Him and they can be worshiping in faith without knowing it.  This is a simplistic answer and dangerously close to all are saved which I'd like to believe but do not.  But I do know that God is Just. I wait to see how His justice will play out.  Once again my answer becomes faith.  

But not just my personal suffering.  What about all those large events that killed hundreds?  The theology of suffering is complex and detailed.  ALL religions attempt to answer it.  ALL religions don't understand it completely.  But here are the simplistic steps in Christianity.

Everything does happen for a reason--but those reasons vary AND often overlap AND we don't always know what reason is that specific situation.

They won't all be satisfactory answers for nonChristians.  I've never had a friend decide to follow Christ because of an answer to World suffering.  I follow Christ because of His answers to my personal suffering.  But here goes:

1) The World is NOT ruled by God at this time.  Satan is the ruler of the World.  He is not all-present or all powerful--but he is not bound.  He and his minions can and do create and cause evil.

2) People have free will.  Sometimes we are suffering the consequences of our actions...and sometimes we are suffering the consequences of other's actions.  These actions aren't always evil in and of themselves, but the impact is not measured by the intent.

3)  To bring God glory.  Sometimes what we see as suffering is a waiting time so that the eventual miracle is all that more amazing.  There is a story in the Bible where Jesus heals a blind man.  People ask Him, who sinned, his parents or he?  And Jesus' answer was, neither sinned, but this man was blind so that God may be glorified.  Even in 1 and 2, I see 3 play out.  This is the root of the inanely pat answer, "Praise God," but it is also so very true in my life.

4) To bring others to God.  One thing I have to remember is that sometimes the things that happen around me are not about me at all.  I will gladly suffer for a small period so that other's may know Jesus.  And people rarely wake up on their happy days and say, ummm, I think I'll explore religion; it is in the midst of our suffering that we seek answers.

5) To make people more like Jesus/correction. Here is where my sin, repentance, pruning, growth, etc. is. I like to seek out growth and knowledge of Jesus and how God would have me be like Jesus before 1 or 2 brings me pain so that I do so anyway.  It is a technique that works in parenting and Jesus uses it to mold me in my faith.

And that leads to the last, yet easiest question to answer.  How can a loving God require a sacrifice of His own perfect son?  At any point Jesus could have walked away.  He limited His power while here on earth, but He had the choice to not walk the path before do I.  Yet, it isn't hate or punitive justice that had Him walk forward.  It is love.  So much love.  He loves me and you and you and all those people harmed in the video.  ALL He requires from me is that I say yes to His offering.  Jesus as part of God the Father decided to come to Earth in the form of man to redeem us from our own choices.  He took the first step.  He made the biggest sacrifice.  He was the "bigger person."

This shows me how to live.  Have I failed?  Have I been a person that dismisses big suffering for my own petty wishes?  Have I tried to offer a simplistic Jesus to a hurting world?  Will I still fail?  ABSOLUTELY.

I can only pray that people look past me to the Jesus I'm trying to reflect.  A God who sacrificed everything in order to remove my own, already earned, penalty.

And not because I want to "save" you from a future fate in hell...though I have often made the mistake of sounding like that is the only thing that matters as it does...but for all the Jesus has given me on this earth, too.  Not things.  But peace, direction, comfort, joy, miracles, love, and the ability to love in a way I cannot do on my own strength.

The things that I am now noticing in the World now is hard for me to handle.  I understand even more than before why people are asking these questions and doubting.  Yet, as frightened as I am that democracy is actually going to go down, that the white American church will never divorce itself from the GOP, that people will not only refuse to deal with implicit racism but embrace overt racism, that people will die in race riots, white supremacy uprisings, etc. (this ignores our global problems), and as I question how lamely American white Christians handle almost everything--my faith remains unshaken.  It is actually stronger than ever before.  I CANNOT explain it, as I can't understand it myself.  How does this not just convince me that there is no God?  But I hear Him clearer than ever before.  My path is shining bright before me.  Everyday is an adventure of listening and obeying Jesus.  Everyday is a stretch in my ability to love and forgive and make good choices.  It is actually "freaking" amazing!  So why some may question if I have a brain tumor, I just sink into my faith and rejoice.

So the answer to all those Hows and Whys and more boil down to the most annoying of answers...Faith in Jesus.  I really don't blame anyone for not agreeing with me.  But while the Bible doesn't give a lot of answers to How and Why--it gives me a ton of answers of the WHAT to do about suffering.  And so I plod on and do.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Huckleberry and the 8th Grade

Ironic that the next post to bring me out of hiding would be Huckleberry again, but far flung family hear about the girls all the time, and Huckleberry deserves some spot light.  After all...he did just graduate from 8th grade.  Granted we are looking at houses and some of those houses are in a district that requires 9th graders to be in middle school, so it might just happen again...BUT...

After his spring robotics competition ended; they did MUCH better than before but still lost, he decided to sign up for the school talent show.  And they accepted him.  Most of the students sang or played an instrument...or both.  A few danced.  Huckleberry was the only one to tell a story.

The program said, "Huckleberry : "Not a song" By "Nobody."
He did a remarkable job delivering the story that he wrote himself about a time when he and his friends pranked the school by programming 28 little robots to shoot rubber bands through the halls of the school.  It was funny, engaging, and completely fictional!

The next week we went to his band concert in which they all did a great job.  The drum line was the best part, but we also enjoyed the bands and orchestras and Jonathan's Saxophone playing.

The week after that was his might have been a bit tired about trying to plan to be at school events.  SnapDragon also had a concert (during Jonathan's band so Oak went with SnapDragon and I with Huckleberry.)  And we had to miss Sunflower's Kindergarten song and promotion because 8th grade graduation trumps Kindergarten.  I am still a little saddened by it.

Anyway, Jonathan received 4 awards at graduation and is now all ready to be a high schooler.

Receiving his Science Award from his math and science teacher.
His humanities teacher gave him a reward for being "Author Extraordinaire" because of the extra credit novel he worked on this whole year.

Here he is tripping over the balloons his 3rd time past them on his way to accept the award for one of 5 highest GPA's.  His award said 8.38, but he is also proud of his 3.83.  He also got an award (with many more students, but fewer than you'd think) for no behavior issues during the year.

Then one by one the students were called and shook the hands of their teachers across the stage and at the end getting their diploma out of a file folder.

Waiting for his name to be called.
Shaking hands with his band teacher.
Shaking hands with his Robotics Teacher.  This teacher had the potential to make or break Middle School for Huckleberry and he made it...along with many other concerned, creative, and involved teachers.  His school may be a 1 on great schools and not a healthy place for many students, but for Huckleberry, he not only survived but he thrived and bloomed (if you can say that about a boy.)
We praise God, not only for our amazing son, but for God's knowledge of what Middle School would be the best for our child.  I never would have guessed.  What an incredible God we serve...I am so glad we let Him make the choice!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Huckleberry and the Robot

After a friend told me it annoyed them when someone would post the same thing on their page as on facebook, I got a little leary of posting the same pictures in both places.  Which was fine when I had time to post twice as many pictures.  But lately life and investing in actual people has kept me busy and several people have reminded me that they do still read my blog.

So for all those family and friends near and far all dear to us who have so far not succumbed to the evil vortex which is facebook (or yet accepted my friend request) are the pictures from Huckleberry's first robotics competition this year.

Huckleberry's Team's Robot.  They painted it green with a sharpie.
There were 14 teams at the League Competition.  Each competed 6 times with 3 other teams.  One team was their "partner" and the other two the "competition."  Their score and partner scores would be added together.  Any penalties would be given as points to the other teams.  The first part of each meet was the autonomous part.  The robot had to preform a task by following a program.  There are different tasks to do, but Huckleberry's robot was programed to drive up onto the bridge and park.  They did this 6 out of 6 times, so that was great given that some robots didn't even move.

Next step is to, with remote control drivers, move blocks for points.  Into the blue square on the carpet or into the blue crates.  Huckleberry's robot does not have the ability to lift blocks, so into the square they went.
Huckleberry is the team driving coach and leader.  The team has 1 main driver and 4 secondary drivers and a programmer and a few other people.  Huckleberry is doing a good job of organizing, designing, setting people to task, and encouraging the team.  We are very proud of him.
One last check before the next meet since in meet number 2 their "Samantha?*" stopped talking to the robot so it started going in circles.  It is the one time that their robot didn't raise the flag.
Here is the flag going up because of Huckleberry's team's robot in their first meet.  Though other teams had already gone, it was the first flag raised in the competition so everyone was pretty excited.
Including Huckleberry and one of his team mates...the one who has the controller that works the arm that turns the flag wheel so the flag goes up.

Sweet Pea thought it was all exciting...or she just likes clapping.
Here is the robot in place to raise the flag during their third meet.  (The kids, camera, and I went home after the 3rd match finished at 8 p.m.)
And up it went.  Raising the flag 5/6 six times was a great way to earn points.  It put them in second place amongst the 14 teams at the end of the night.  Most of the teams were from High Schools so we feel Huckleberry and his team has a right to be proud.

The other big point earners are parking on the bridge during the autonomous (which they did) and hanging on the bar on the bridge.  Huckleberry expects to have their hydraulic lift arm up and running by their next meet this upcoming Friday.  If they do it will put them a good ways towards earning a place at State...they have two more competitions and a league championship first to find out.
And here is their robot parked behind their "partner's" robot after raising the flag.  Apparently when you are using the remotes it isn't considered very impressive and doesn't garner any points.  But still it is fun to see the robots actually doesn't always happen that way.

* If you are actually curious about wireless and robot failures and Samantha, ask Huckleberry some day...or Oak.   Me, I thought going in circles was part of the plan.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


One special Kindergartner I know has missed the last 3 days of school.  Here is hoping she doesn't miss tomorrow; especially since it my weekly Wednesday morning in her class.  (Sweet Pea visits Daddy at work while I go spend some time in Sunflower's classroom.)

Sunflower being home has given me a chance to see how much progress she and Sweet Pea has made in their relationship.  Oh Friday morning Sweet Pea ran across the room just to hit Sunflower because Sunflower was on my lap (even though Sweet Pea was playing with her toys across the room) so we still have some ways to go, but there is less and less of that and more and more of this...
 ...cooperative play that is.  It does astound me what one supposedly sick 5 year old and a two year old girl can do to my house when they play together, but it is so much better than that first summer, I won't complain.

After all, Sweet Pea is actually really good at cleaning up.
Don't let this picture fool you.  I merely suggested that the girls pick up their brothers' Skylanders and Sweet Pea was immediately throwing them into the bucket...not at my camera as the picture may suggest.

Since I haven't really talked about how sad it made my heart that Sweet Pea was so resistant to Sunflower's overtures and saw her more as competition than family, you probably can't understand how happy it makes my heart that they are starting to be friends.

Why just today, Sweet Pea brought Sunflower her blanket when Sunflower was sitting on my lap and crying.  And the other day when Sweet Pea had climbed up on my lap at the desk when I was trying to answer e-mails, Sunflower came over an leaned on my arm.  As I tried to send at least one of them away, Sweet Pea scooted over so she was only on one of my knees and said, "Araa, Lap!" and patted my leg for Sunflower to climb up on.   So I didn't get a picture posted to facebook that day, but I had two girls on my lap and a happy heart.

So it is only fitting that on Friday we received a package from Aunt L and Uncle P to celebrate the girls' sisterhood. Okay, so technically it was to celebrate their blog isn't the only thing a tad behind...but since Aunt L almost always sends coordinating outfits, her presents always celebrate the two girls being sisters, too.
Sure enough the outfits are pretty cute which matching hairclips.

But the girls were probably a little more excited about the books.  
We do love our books.  Thank you, Aunt L and Uncle P.   Photobucket

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Scavenger Hunt Sunday -- Botanical Gardens Edition

On Friday, Sweet Pea and I visited a botanical conservatory in town.  Some friends met us later, but we had almost an hour to spend exploring before they got there.  Since it was kind of small, we spent most of that time...

WATCHING the fish in the koi pond:
But it was when we found out we could feed the fish that Sweet Pea got really excited about them.
It was a conservatory so there were lots and lots of LEAFY things to see.  I particularly enjoyed these leaves/flowers in the shape of water pictures that my friend pointed out to me.

It seems petty to complain, when I really did enjoy it, but that is, I believe, inherent in the definition of a FIRST WORLD PROBLEM.  Who advertises a "fall decor" great for pictures and mostly means skeletons, spiders, and even giant rats?  The backdrop for the pumpkin pictures was a witch.  On the flip side, Sweet Pea was fascinated by the "birds!"
And after petting it for awhile chose to fly like a bird, giving me some sweet shots.
Part of the time while Sweet Pea watched the fish I took pictures of flowers.  It was nice to have them so STILL when I am used to the wind blowing them all around.

Over all, Friday was A GOOD DAY.   

In addition to the sweet time with my daughter and eventually our friends, the day included lunch out with my husband and spending the evening with another friend while Huckleberry was at a youth event.  Now if tomorrow can just include a trip to the Pumpkin Patch we might even class this as a Great Weekend.  After all, I got to participate in Scavenger Hunt Sunday...always fun.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Scavenger Hunt Sunday - October 6th

I love Scavenger Hunt Sunday.  I have been missing it quite a bit.  Who knows how often I'll be able to do it, but this week seemed like a good time to play along.

Something Colorful
Today I went with a friend to Scott Kelby's Annual Worldwide Photowalk and made some new friends.  It was a very pleasant day.

Sunflower wanted me to go outside with her to take pictures.  I couldn't say no because the light was beautiful I love my daughter.  She wanted me to take a picture of her giving a hug.

This one is from a few months ago.  I submitted it to my photo club for self portrait because it makes me smile, but I was quite surprised when it won.  Now my husband has an 18 inch version of it hanging in his office.  I'm not sure it makes me smile that much.

In Motion
Sweet Pea still loves the swing...especially if you keep it in motion.  Now she screams high, high, high to make you push her higher.  At times I forget how fast she likes to go and think she is greeting me, "Hi, Sweet Pea!" does not make her happy.

Now because Sunflower is at school all day, the afternoon is the only chance I have to take pictures of her during the week.  I was glad she proposed the shoot on Friday.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Psalm 9

Sometimes life, no matter how good it is, just feels exhausting.  Our little...okay, medium is doing well, very well.  We are still working on finding balance on getting things done, but when we "fail" the trade off seems all the more worth it.  For instance a day at the park celebrating the Chinese Moon Festival resulted in too tall of grass...possibly too tall until Spring.  Oh well.

But when the world and politics force themselves on me; honestly it exhausts me...and makes me feel a little bit, possibly a lot bit, stupid.  Oh, I have strong feelings about a lot of it, and I especially have strong feelings about how Christians seem to be handling it, but every time I sit to write it out, I get overwhelmed.  After all, in a lot of Christians' minds (based on their facebook memes) I am too liberal...and in non-Christians I am too judgmental and conservative.  Then there is in my mind the fear that I have lost all critical thinking skills.  If you can give me a well thought out or reasoned response--or maybe one that just sounds like one--you could possibly sway me to your opinion.

So while feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and just a bit stupid, I sat down to do my Bible Study.  Because one thing holds true for me; God is where I go to get answers.

And while I still don't know which way to vote next election, this is what God said.

"Give thanks to the Lord with your whole heart;
Recount my wonderful deeds.
Be glad and exult in Me.
Sing praise to My name, the Most High. Psalm 9:1-2

For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.  Psalm 9:18

Someday, I, the Lord, will arise.
Men will not prevail.
The nations will be judged before Me!
I, the Lord, will put fear in them.
The nations will know that they are but men!"   Psalm 9:19-20

The mess the world is in; the sins we all accept and condone; will be dealt with.  Not be me or any other person, but by God.  

"He does not forget the cry of the afflicted." Psalm 9:12b "He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with uprightness."  Psalm 9:8

My poor, overtired, confused brain does not have to figure it out.  Do you know how reassuring that is?

"He has told you, O man, what is good; 
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?"  Micah 6:8

Oh sure, it is still difficult to ascertain what justice is but I do not need to seek people for the answer, whether they are a Christian or not.  I need to walk humbly with God and He will show me.  Easier said then done, but WAY easier than pleasing everyone with my opinions and spending time sucked into the quagmire of emotional, political, and religious arguments.

"Oh Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!"  
Psalm 8:1 and 9