Thursday, February 07, 2008

Miracles -- What (and Where) Are They?

1 Chron. 16:12: "Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles..."

Neh. 9:17: "They ... failed to remember the miracles you performed among them."

Psalm 77:11 "I will remember the deeds of the Lord, ... your miracles of long ago."

Psalm 77:14: "You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the people."

This is a blog not a book, in order to understand to what purpose God uses miracles. You might scratch the surface with a book. Even an enclylopedia of thought on miracles may or may not answer this question because it flows from the heart.

While I cringe at your abuse of English grammar, I fully agree with your sentiment. We aren't going to answer this millennia-old question here and now.

With passages like those, we are reminded over and over again throughout the Bible, that God is a performer of miracles. We are told to think about the miracles, to wonder at them, to remember them in times of trial or temptation, and to ask for them. Jesus is seen performing miracles often in the Gospels. When the apostles come on the scene, they continue the pattern.

This shows God's purpose for the use of miracles. To remind us what a mighty God we call friend, or show us what a mighty God we call friend.

Yes, yes, but what kind of a "reminder" is a story of a miracle that happened 2000 or more years ago, when all we have to remind us today are American Idol contestants and an occasional good parking space?

1 Cor. 12:28 lists "workers of miracles" as a special appointment given by God to the Church, right under apostles, prophets and teachers. Gal. 3:5 just assumes that miracles are a common occurence in the Church, asking "does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the Law, or because you believe what you heard?"

The start of the church was a very tumultious time. Romans were inviting christians to a dinner where the early christians were the main course! There was religious opposition as well, the Jewish leaders fought hard againt what they thought was heresy, and would only aggreviate the Romans further. It seems to me God's blessings were increased to meet the fierocity of the anti- Christian onslaught.

You don't think there's an onslaught today? I'm in the middle of one! What about the God who cares about me? But anyway, your whole argument is spurious. Jesus never said "You people are under such a load of trial and persecution! Here, let me heal a few sick folks to cheer you up." No, he made it clear that miracles were being done to provide evidence for his ministry. They were to help people BELIEVE.

We do not have that necessity, we enjoy the blessings of provision instead. America's abundance is profound. God blesses America. As a nation or a people we do not have the extra blessings of astounding miracles, I think, because we do not need it. In the times you are mentioning here the children of God needed the miracles because they were being deprived the plenty of life.

I'm sorry, but I don't see that in the Bible. Yes, there were miracles given to provide for the poor and downtrodden. But most of the miracles of the Bible were done to relieve problems which are still very prevalent today: incurable disease, death of children, blindness, deafness, etc., etc.

Over and over and over in the Gospels, it says Jesus healed "all that touched him", "all that came to him", "all their sick", all, all, all. Then he turns around and says "believe on the evidence of the miracles" or in Acts: "Jesus was a man accredited to you by miracles".

You can't deny it, it's in the Bible from beginning to end. From Elijah calling fire down on the soaked wood to prove that his God was real (as opposed to Baal, who couldn't light a dry twig), to the apostles saying "God testified [the preaching of the Gospel] to you by signs and miracles".

But what happened to God's testimony? What's God testifying to these days?

Miracles are frequently, especially in the New Testament, put forward as proof of the miracle worker's claims. More specifically, since only God can really perform them, miracles are seen throughout the Bible as God's personal seal of approval on someone's life or ministry. This is the case with Jesus. This is made plain over and over in statements like:

Acts 2:22: "Jesus... was a man accredited to you by God by miracles"

Hebrews 2:4: "God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles."

Jesus himself made an explicit connection between miracles and people's ability to believe in him on a number of occasions:

John 10:38: "Even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."

John 14:11: "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves."

John 4:48: "'Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,' Jesus told him, 'you will never believe.'"

Reading through the Bible, one is presented with a steady stream of stories involving miracles. From the creation itself, the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the sun standing still for Joshua (and going backward for Hezekiah), and on through a myriad of miraculous births, healings, resurrections, etc.

In the Bible, we are rarely, if ever, presented with the modern-day sort of miracle. We are told of a woman who wasted all of her money on doctors before coming to Jesus for healing, but we are never -- i repeat NEVER -- given to think that anyone's cure at the hands of a doctor is any sort of miracle or divine healing. Everyday occurances, such as the natural birth of a child, an advantageous business deal, a financial windfall, or that sort of thing are not presented in the Bible as miracles. They might be said to come from God, in the sense that all good things come from him, but miracles are a special kind of thing. A pleasant breeze, a sunny day or a particularly good parking space at Costco are not the kind of miracles that attest to the truth-claims of Gospel, or serve as God's seal of a approval upon a man's life or ministry.

When I was a young man, I used to thrill when missionaries and the like would tell of miracles they'd witnessed in far away lands. I remember a story of a man who prayed in a public place for a child with a deformed leg, and the leg was instantly healed. In some cases, but by no means all, I later came to find out that those stories were either outright lies, or at best exaggerations of something far more mundane that really happened.

In a previous post, Jerry was about to tell of a miracle in his own life. I may be wrong (Jerry will undoubtedly correct me), but I think he was about to tell of how doctors were able to help with his heart problems. At one time he had a pacemaker (a device which would certainly have appeared miraculous 2000 years ago!), and I guess they were able to remove it after some time, though I think he may have it again. Don't get me wrong, I am overjoyed that Jerry is still with us. I am awed by what doctors are able to do sometimes. But it's not miraculous. Doctors carefully study the human body -- they have been doing so for hundreds of years, each building on existing knowlege -- and their understanding of how it works has grown and grown until today they can do some pretty amazing things.

I was 35 years old when I had and arrythmia (unconsistant beating of my heart). In this case a tachycardia (fast rhythm) over 300 beats per minute. This was life threatening. Bless God, I was in a hospital. And they were able to get that under control, and as I slept they noted my heart slowed to 19 beats (bradycardia) per minute, So they put a pacemaker to allow the heart to have an even pace, and they gave me pills to control the fast rhthym.

And I'm happy they did. But none of this is miraculous. I'm sorry but it isn't. It was a happy coincidence that you were in a hospital when your heart problems manifested. If we credit this to God -- if we say that God arranged this -- what about the thousands of people, both believers and unbelievers alike, that suffer all kinds of heart problems while at home, or on the road, or at a restaraunt? Why is God so haphazard in his ability to provide for people? It doesn't seem like the work of an all-powerful, all-knowing God. More like Loki up there rolling the dice, doing things on a whim now and then.

Now fastforward I am 46 years old, my third pacemaker had just run out of battery, I thought "here we go again, another surgery":( (I think there out to be a puncuation indication sadness :( is what I think is good) (uhhh, yeah Jerry, it's called an emoticon. All the kids are using them nowadays) I was depressed and in my prayer to God I said "This is all very sad, the desire of my heart is to not have to deal with this now, please relieve me of this burden like you said you would, I am sure this is a desire of my heart."

"Like you said you would"??? Now you're striking at the heart of my difficulty. He said he would! HE SAID HE WOULD!

No, I'm not asking for a free ride. I'm not asking for God to pave my path with rose petals at every step. But there were some promises made! To be specific: he said if we ask him for things, he'd provide them. And I don't just mean material things that I want for my own consumption. How about peace of mind, soundness of mind, joy, wisdom? "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it will be given him." But just in case some of us who need wisdom the most should take a little hope in that verse, the next one tells us (to paraphrase), "but if he has any doubts, tell him he can forget it. A person who's faith is wavering can expect to receive nothing from God."

In my relationship with God I am not timid about asking for what he has promised, or challenging him to show me what is.

So again you admit that there were some things promised. I'd like to talk more about that. Just what has God promised?

"Test me and try me and know that I am God."

He asked me to.

I most heartily agree.

I made an appointment with the doctor to have him schedule another surgery. On the day of the appointment the doctor said "If we knew then what we know now we would not have put a pacemaker in you, you do not need it. I don't want to put one back in you." So he didn't. My prayer was not for no pacemaker, just for relief from the burden of worry. But wait there's more: The fast rhthym was always controlled by medication taken throughout the day, this too was a burden because the medication was always losing its effectiveness, and then I would get the fast rhthym and go to the hospital for a session with the shock paddles. One time as I was getting out of the car (with the arrythmia going full tilt) the movement of hauling myself out of the car caused by back to crack. The fast pace dissappeared, just stopped. This is when I learned I could just crack my back to stop the arrythmia. A few days later after I found out that I was not getting my pacemaker replaced I was talking to an arrythmia specialist he said " I am not going to prescribe any pills for you, just crack your back when the symptoms occur!!" Funny! God's answer was complete. Both of the heart problems were no longer such an overwhelming burden to me.

In the interest of fairplay I am now 51 years old, and my doctor told me that I should, and in fact presently do, have a pacemaker. The doctor simply said "well, you got older, now you need one." Also in the interest of fairplay, my deceased father was the third person in the state of Idaho to have heart bypass, my sister died at the age of 38 because of heart problems, my other brothers (3 of them) are all reporting heart problems now.

My miracle was relief from the grief. My good friend Jesus did that. Even today, because he knew it was a desire of my heart.

I'm glad you've been able to see God's hand in all this. I'm glad you're reasonably healthy and all. Really, really I am. But I'm just not seeing the kind of miracle that confirms faith and attests to the Gospel.

So what does all this come to? I must say I'm disappointed. The Bible seems to portray God as an able miracle-worker, but in my life I have yet to witness anything like a miracle in the Biblical sense. Why is that? Some of my former teachers would tell me (indeed they did tell me) that it's because I haven't believed, or have believed the wrong things, or haven't asked in faith or have asked with impure motives, etc., etc. It seems there are so many ways for God to get out of working a miracle for someone, it's a miracle that any miracles ever happened!

So many lessons so little time. Miracles do not build a friendship, they build dependency. Even though God's chosen people were given miracle after miracle, every time there seemed to be a problem. They whined, "God has brought us out here to die, oh woe is me!!!" So God would provide a miracle and they would move forward only to encounter another problem, and they would whine. Problem, whine, miracle, problem, whine, miracle.

What a disastrous relationship that was. It is a wonder God does miracles for anyone!

Oh brother. How many times I've heard this as a reason for no miracles. And of course, the old stand-by "it's a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign." What about the miracle-as-sign success stories? Elijah's fire-falling contest? Gideon's fleece? Jesus' birth in Bethlehem and many miracles and the clear statements that they were signs attesting to the truth of his claims and ministry? There are many examples in the Bible of people that looked for a sign, and were given it, and God said nothing about them being evil or adulterous! Signs are given to help people BELIEVE. I want to know: does God still do things to help people believe?

The Bible writers admonish us to remember God's mighty works, but how can you remember something that happened 2000 or more years before you were born? If Jesus thought the Jews of his own time couldn't believe without the help of a sign or a wonder, how am I supposed to believe?

Remember Doubting Thomas? He said "Unless I stick my finger into the holes in his hands and thrust my arm through his side, I will not believe." What did Jesus do with Thomas? Did he hide from Thomas and tell the other apostles he was no good because he had doubts? No, he appeared to him and said "stick your hands here, and your arm here and don't doubt any more, but believe!"

Jesus then told Thomas, "Because you have seen you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed."

I really don't get that. Let's consider all the things that the apostles -- Thomas, along with Peter, James, John, and the rest -- had seen prior to this: Jesus walking on the water, healing lepers and multitudes of other sick, making blind people see, raising the dead, calming storms, and on and on and on! Not to mention predicting his own death and resurrection just a few days before this!

I need a little of that "not seeing" to believe! Yes, a little of the sort of "not seeing" that the apostles were able to "not see" would go a long way with me.

"It is a evil and adulterous generation that seeks a sign." this is what Jesus said about people who insisted that thier afirmation of God's existence had to be visual instead of internal. Didn't you read that whole thing about Thomas? Jesus SOMETIMES said that it was wrong to seek a sign. Plenty of other times he gave the people what he himself affirmed that they needed: a sign! And such signs! The dead raised, the sick healed (and not just after years of being worked on by doctors -- we're talking EVERYONE WHO CAME TO HIM). I want to know what happened to that? Apparently at one time it was so important to Jesus that people believed in him, he was willing to do some really amazing, wonderful things, even if he did them reluctantly, to help them believe. It alarms me when people are insisting on a sign from God to prove that he is interested in them. Especially in this day and age when Christ is to be living in us. Seems to me that you can get no closer evidence that God exists than to have him live within you. That being said, and being human, I will say seeing a miracle would be cool. Not because I think it would affirm the God that lives in me. Just because a miracle is unusual and amazing.

Let's talk about invisible dragons. What's the better evidence that my invisible dragon exists: my claims that he "lives in my heart" or a sudden spout of fire out of mid-air?

Even after Christ was living in the peoples' hearts, we are told in Acts and in the epistles about miracles happening with great frequency, and for the purpose of giving confirmation of the truth of the apostles teaching. You should not be alarmed.

I hope Jesus will hear my complaint: I'm not feeling the blessedness here. After a lifetime of grasping at straws to hang on to belief, it really feels more like being ignored and abandoned. If one sees nothing, how is one to believe at all? How is one to distinguish the truth from the many other things one has never seen? I've never seen Zeus -- am I blessed if I believe in him? I've never seen vampires or ghosts or Santa Claus -- am I blessed if I believe in them?

The absence of miracles, in the face of what the Bible claims happened in the past, is to me a great yawning chasm opening at my feet, seperating me from faith. It seems to me that my plight is the same as those Jews in Jesus' time about whom he said "unless they see signs and wonders, they will not believe." Yes, he said it disparagingly, but he said it because it was true, and he proceeded to give them what they needed!

Will God do that for me? If so, when? And if not, why not?

Like Fox Mulder (one of my favorite fictional characters, whatever Jerry may say about it), I want to believe. No, I long to believe. I'm desperate to believe! Throw me a bone here, God! I'm crying out for help!

Timothy is not as old as I am, so I will write this off as youthful lack of wisdom. (heh, heh...) I would have you to look to God and say "Hey, how do you want this to go? Would you want me to see a spectacular display of your awesome power in the sky, or in my heart?"

Timothy is 44 years old. Jerry is-- what?-- fifty-something? Youth has little to do with this. Youthful idealism and lack of wisdom has certainly played a part in my life, though. I'll give you that.

This discussion is so incomplete.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

To Hillary, Mitt, Barack, John and Mike, with love,

Surely these luminaries are all going to hurry to this website to read what we have to say.

If they were to come and visit this site.....truth is they would ignore what is said like they do to everyone else. Yep.

The political season is full upon us, a little early for my taste, but still the choices have narrowed considerably. In the Democratic camp we have a socialist and an extreme socialist. In the Republican camp we a Socialist and a Socialist sympathizer. Conservatives have no real choice except Huckabee who’s tax plan has so many variables no one can back it with confidence; besides he’s not exactly knocking them dead in the primaries.

I'm not sure I can really confidently agree or disagree with your characterizations of the candidates as socialists or socialist sympathizers. Probably that's a bit of an exaggeration. I do agree about Huckabee's tax plan though. So far in my experience with presidential elections, candidates who make massive tax reform part of their campaign do not get elected.

So, now here is my whining dissertation:

Hillary, you really think we need a stronger government? Like the one that forced itself into the camp at Waco --you know, David Koresh? That was so wonderful how the stronger government handled that! I will not vote for you, your ideas are the ideas of a bully. I do not let non-issues decide who to vote for, the fact you are a woman tells me nothing of any importance to my vote. I probably would like you; you seem to be a nice person.

So, the only thing you can think of to criticize Hillary about is how her husband's political policies might have influenced the catastrophe at Waco? That's a bit of a stretch. Nothing about Whitewater? State-run heathcare? Illegal immigration? What about the fact that her husband (co-president?) has already had 8 years in the Whitehouse? Before I can even think about the issues, that's my problem with her. Her whole candidacy is an end-run around the constitution! I don't WANT Bill Clinton anywhere near the Whitehouse, or the Oval Office!

I chose the one topic for each that bothered me the most. I am willing to accept your diatribe as good. I think however you missed my point, let me try again: Hillary wants a stronger government, yuck. I'm with you there.

Mitt, whew, where to start! Socialized Medicine in the state of Massachusetts, which is working out so wonderfully isn’t it, only millions of dollars of debt. For you I will allow a personal and maybe offensive observation. Your religion is based on a story about how a lost tribe of Joseph came to America and became the American Indians. You believe this to be true in spite of the fact that there is no definitive evidence that this is true. Even your own Mormon geneticists have discovered the American Indians came from an area in China.
I cannot vote for someone who believes what I feel is the equivalent of believing Santa is the magic elf who supplies billions of children with gifts once a year.

Jerry, we Christians believe some pretty preposterous stuff too, for which there is very little, if any, evidence outside our own sacred texts. I agree that Mormonism is a bunch of hooey, but for a Christian to criticize a Mormon for believing things which are highly unlikely, and for which there is little evidence -- well, isn't it a bit like the pot calling the kettle black? Faith -- by definition (see Hebrews 11:1 for the definition) -- is not about believing things based on the evidence. For those who have faith, faith IS the evidence.

As for Christians (which all of the candidates claim to be), don't they all believe that we're headed for an inevitable world war, and that Jesus will fly down out of the sky on a white horse just in the nick of time to rescue them from the bad guys (Rev. 19:14)? Or maybe they're "pre-trib" and they believe that they'll be whisked away to meet with Jesus up in the clouds before the crap hits the fan (I Thess. 4:17)? But at least they don't believe that the American Indians were descendents of a lost tribe of Isreal! Now that is just silly!

Here again a missed point. I offer the thought that their history is false-- a story made up by a self-agrandizing monster. There is no historical difinitive proof that these events exist. You cannot say that about Christianity. True faith does not require ignorance of us, when there is reasonable evidence to the contrary. Future events can happen any way any one wants to predict. I really want to discuss faith, perhaps the next blog. (tag your it) I'll see what I can do.

Barack, please, socialized medicine? --see how well that is working out for Mitt? Re-work some ideas here, think things through a bit more. I like my money to stay in my pocket, work on that one please.

Wow, you really don't have much to say about Barack. Nothing about his Muslim education? Is he a Manchurian candidate?

Of all the democrats, I like Barack the best. He appeals to my "support the underdog" instinct. He's the poorest of all the candidates, yet he's on the verge of beating the Clinton Political Machine. That's something! Also, the poor guy has to fight against his own names! Hussein Obama -- who would have thought a person with that name could be a major contender for the American presidency?

This is getting a little scary. I agree with you. Barrack is the best the democrats have to offer, in fact between him and John McCain I may just vote for him, at least I feel I can trust him more.

John, You puzzle me a bit. I am the most afraid of you. Your compliance with the democrats has me scared. I am not even sure why you stay in the Republican Party. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. I am sure that you have had plenty of people tell you thank-you for your service to our country during the Vietnam War, but you have never had a thank-you from me. I admire your courage sir, Thank-you for standing up for our beloved country. Your service in the war has a part in a decision to make you president, but not enough for me.

So John McCain is "double-minded" because he's neither an extreme liberal, nor an extreme conservative? Nevermind his age and vast experience and successes in life -- he's "unstable" because he's not as closed-minded as you?

No, it is because he calls himself a republican when he votes more for democratic causes. I believe a wolf in sheeps clothing may be the best description.

The great thing about John McCain is -- he's the only republican that has a snowball's chance of actually being elected this year. Let's face it. Whatever you and I might think of ol' Dub'ya, he's left a bitter taste in the collective American mouth. I really hope I'm wrong about this, but I really don't think it's going to be possible for a republican to win this time. Even if one of the candidates could get 100% of republican voters behind him, there will just be more democrats at the polls this time. I heard on the radio from a reporter who visited both caucuses in his state. This was on conservative talk-radio, and after going on for a few minutes about whether or not this or that republican would win the nomination, he had to admit that it didn't really matter, because there were about 100 times as many warm bodies at the democratic caucus.

I am reading in the book of Second Kings right now. The truth is we deserve the president we get. George Bush's reluctance to do what was needed has caused a political backlash. So we will elect another "king" who will cause of more grief. I have noticed over the years that in the political arena "it ain't over until it is over". I am not jumping on any band wagon until... in this case probably never.

Mike, I initially liked your tax plan. A stronger government scares me (see Hillary) so anything that diminishes the strength of that government works for me. I did say initially I liked your plan but because I find it hard to be comfortable with so many variables in play I am having trouble appreciating it. It appears to be just as convoluted as the present system. Sorry, I as a conservative really like you.

Why is it that with Mitt Romney, all you could think to talk about was his religious beliefs, but with Mike Huckabee (a Baptist), we don't spend a moment to talk about his (I assume here that he agrees with his fellow Baptists) beliefs? The soon return of Jesus on a white horse coming out of the clouds? The immenent "rapture" of believers up into the clouds to meet him there? The inevitable Apocalypse (a.k.a. World War III)? Do you think it possible that these beliefs might influence a president's foreign affairs policies? Is it really a good idea to elect a man president who believes that he'll be "raptured" out of the world before any of the negative results of his own foreign policy decisions can hurt him?

You probably should have thought this one through a bit more. What a person thinks may happen in the future becomes an issue?

Of course!!! What a man believes will happen in the future not only affects his actions today, it is the very basis for everything he does! If you think Microsoft stock is likely to rise in the future, you'll buy more of their stock. If you believe there's going to be a war, you prepare for war. If we're talking about me or you, who cares? One more person selling or buying stock, one more person builds a bomb shelter or whatever. However, if we're talking about the leader of the most powerful nation in the world -- then yes, it does become a big issue. Especially if the man's beliefs about the future have a direct bearing on decisions he must make as part of his job.

I really want to play with this more. The socialists (most of them) believe that if they can pass some sort of universal healthcare that all the people in the world will be kept healthy, mecicine will be easy to get, and lollipops will grow on trees in a beautiful land flowing with happy days and sugar-coated dreams. Bah! At least Mike gets his prediction of future events from someone who gets it right every time.

I don't know what to say to this. I guess you mean God when you say "someone who gets it right every time." However, I have not found that people "get it right every time", or even get it right MOST times, or even get it right FREQUENTLY when they act based on their interpretation of murky Biblical passages.

Here is the conclusion to the whole matter so far…


That’s a raspberry for those who are not into comic books.

Comic books. Now THERE'S a topic. This summer at the movies we'll have Batman and Iron Man. These are DC and Marvel's respective takes on the concept of a troubled, but extremely wealthy and inventive man who uses his wealth and intelligence to fight evildoers in a super-hero-like fashion. Which one will be better? Who'd win if they were forced to battle each other? Which one is a democrat and which a republican? These are the real issues!

(p.s. The Lego® versions of Batman® and Iron Man® pictured here were found at, and I hope they won't mind my using them. Batman and Iron Man are the property of DC Comics and Marvel Enterprises, respectively, and Iron Man would kick Batman's butt.)

Yes, the votes have been cast: Iron man 2 and Batman 0. A much less acidifying topic than politics!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Spamming God's Mighty Works to the Masses

I got a spam email today that got me thinking. Or I should say, it brought thoughts back to my mind which have been bobbing there for years. These are not really pleasant thoughts, but I feel like blogging about them, just to "hear myself talk", as Carole might say.

What??? You opened spam mail, oh oh nothing good could happen here.

The email was actually forwarded to me by a close friend. We had recently been talking about miracles -- or the lack thereof, as compared with what is described in the Bible -- and he was sort of jokingly saying "look, here's what you've been looking for!"

Here's how it went: The message told the story of how a girl walking through a darkened alley at night was protected by angels from a terrible rapist, who after being captured for another crime sometime later, confessed to being hindered from raping this girl by two large men that walked with her. There was no one with her that night, but she told of a deep feeling of peace and safety and a "presence" with her.

Along with this awe-inspiring story, the email contained a cheesy little animated GIF of a flickering candle. It encouraged me in boldface type to "Please keep this candle of hope alive" by forwarding this message to as many people as possible.

Classic spam

The email contained several iterations of forwarding headers, so that I could see that this email had been received and forwarded on by many people before arriving in my inbox.

I tried to imagine myself pressing the "Forward" button, and clicking on all my friends and relatives, eager to "keep the candle alive" and pass on this inspiring story of God's protection.

I could not even imagine it.

All of the people on your e-mail list is sighing a hugh sigh of relief.

I must say, I do not believe this story. I do not even believe that the forwarding headers shown in the message are really from people forwarding the message. I think the whole thing was made up. That's how jaded I am.

SPAM: the things only idiots are wanting to believe. I have a free DVD player for you pal.

I'm not sure why it was made up. One possible motivation is that by sending a message to thousands, or millions, of random email addresses, a person can acquire a list of valid ones simply by eliminating the ones that come back undeliverable. Valid email address lists are worth money.

A more positively-spun explanation might be that the story contains a nugget of truth (maybe a girl did walk unharmed through a dark alley), and some well-meaning, starry-eyed believer envisioned the story this way hoping to inspire faith in great masses of people by starting this email chain letter.

This email did inspire me to think. What I thought was this: Why doesn't God do miracles anymore? Why must we learn of God's "mighty works" through cheesy spam emails with hokey animated GIF candles?

Someone will of course say "but he does do miracles everyday!" You know, like the "miracle of birth" or a "miraculous" sunset, or miraculously providing a parking space near the front when you've got sore feet. I heard a commercial on the radio touting a certain energy pill as "miraculous".

When you read the Gospels, Jesus is doing real biblical miracles all the time. Over and over it says "he healed everyone that came to him." He's walking on water, raising the dead, moving through walls, disappearing from a crowd. In Acts, the early church seems to continue this pattern.

In Galatians 3:5, the Apostle Paul asks his readers this question: "Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?"

Reading this passage today, I had to stop and ask "what miracles?" Whom is God working miracles among?

AHEM, Oh, oh pick me, pick me.

Well Jerry, there's only the two of us here...

In years past, when I was young and naive, I would have quickly responded that the problem lies with us, not with God. We are not believing enough, or we are not believing the right things. After all, I continually heard then, as I still do, about great and mighty miracles happening far away, to people whom it is impossible for me to contact. If God's not doing anything where I happen to be at, it must be because I'm not believing.

But I have believed. With all my heart and soul I've believed. I've believed and believed and believed.

Don't tell me I didn't believe! In spite of all that's happened, I still believe!

On the list of things that are important to God, miracles are as necessary as gold in heaven.

What does that mean? If miracles are unimportant, why did Jesus perform so many? Why did he say "unless you see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe"?

He performed miracles because he knew they were important to the people! He might not have approved of their reliance on "signs and wonders", as he called them, but he recognized it and acted upon it.

But increasingly I'm finding belief difficult in the face of this appalling inactivity on God's part.

Maybe the trouble lies in our our understanding of what is important to God, after all it is by him and in his name the miracles happen.

I'm not sure what to do with this statement. You were arguing in a previous post that God helped Taylor Hicks win American Idol just to help you be a little happier.

Am I not important to God? I thought I was. He is very important to me. If I am struggling with faith, is that important to God? I thought faith was all-important to God. "Without faith it is impossible to please him".

On several occasions in the Gospels, Jesus said things which linked his working of miracles with people's ability to believe in him. For example, at one point he said that if the miracles he was doing had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have believed and repented. In another place he tells people that if they cannot believe in him just based on the things he says, they should believe in him because of the miracles he does.

In one place Jesus said this: "Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe." Now, this appears to be a kind of rebuke, yet he does proceed to do the miraculous signs and wonders. What about me? If I'm having trouble believing, will Jesus care enough to give me a miraculous-sign-and-wonder push in the right direction?

Jesus famously said to Thomas, "because you have seen, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

He said this in a room full of people who had seen him heal the sick and raise the dead. People who had heard him predict his own death and resurrection. People who had seen him do all kinds of miracles. Are these the people who had "not seen, and yet believed"? A little of that "not seeing" could go a long way with me, I think!

I'll be honest: I can't really point to even one event in my life and say with certainty "that was a miracle". I've never seen God to anything out of the ordinary. I've lived my whole life grasping at straws. Looking for "little miracles". Like once I prayed and was able to drive several miles while our gas gauge was on "E". That was a happy moment, I'll admit, and at the time (being an inexperienced driver), I thought of that as a miracle, but now I've seen that happen many times. My new PT Cruiser can go 20 miles or so with the gauge reading "E". Conversely, I've prayed a few times and run out of gas anyway. Again, I'm grasping at straws with stuff like that. Where are the biblical-style miracles? I've never seen even one.

There is a song we sing in church that really irks me. It has these lyrics:

You dance over me
While I am unaware
You sing all around
But I never hear the sound.

Lord, I'm amazed by you, etc., etc.

Excuse me, but... what's so amazing about singing that you can't hear or dancing that you are unaware of? What good does it do anyone? What does it even mean to say that God is singing and dancing, but I cannot hear or see it? How does this show his great love for me, as the song goes on to say? I just don't get it.

Where is the God who stopped the sun in the sky and even made it move backward once? Where is the God of Elijah who sent fire down from heaven to light the soaked altar and prove himself to the priests of Baal? Where is the Jesus who "healed every one that came to him"?

I get it! You are looking for Cadillac miracles! Miracles like walking on water, no one else had that kind of miracles. What a joy that would be to have Cadillac miracles. I want Cadillac miracles. I know there used to be Cadillac miracles, I want my Cadillac miracles, and if I don’t get my Cadillac miracles I will not be happy. Big flashy miracles with shiny chrome lighting, reflecting God’s love for me. If I don’t get my Cadillac miracles… God is going to get a lot of whining. Loud continuous, annoying whining. No more of this peaceful communication and encouragement to personal growth. That is for an average sinner. I am much bigger than that. If it is important to me it had better be important to God.

Uhh, why do you say "no one else had that kind of miracles"? Peter did. He walked on water. Paul did. So did everyone else apparently, because Paul just assumes them when he asks "Why does God do miracles among you...?"

Apparently, they had not heard this "Cadillac miracles" reasoning that you have learned, and just thought they were for everyone!

But I don't want "Cadillac miracles". As I said more than once in this post, a little would go a long way. I do want ones that reflect God's love for me. You nailed it there.

I don't want to hear about "miracles" which are really just statistical improbabilities. Like people's cancer going into remission, or a tornado leaving someone's house alone. I mean, I like to hear about those things, but I am increasingly hesitant to call them miracles.

Maybe I'm whining. If so, it's because I'm a child, and children are expected to whine.

When a child whose parent has deserted him cries out, it's not called whining. A parent who loves his child will not hold those cries against him when he returns from long absence.

Really and truly, just a little of that would go a long way with me. After all, as Mulder would say, I want to believe.

Quoting Mulder, hmmm I wonder what Freud would say.

I don't know. What would he say? I liked the show, and I especially liked the character of Mulder. You say that God helped Taylor to win A.I., and you're going to criticize me for quoting the X-Files?

I used to have a pacemaker, for my heart. I used to have an life threatening irrythymia. Ask me about them if you need to hear of a Cadillac miracle.

I had a huge miracle in my life, I used to have a pacemaker for my heart,

Looks like you had more to say here. Go ahead!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Memories:Sanity in dream form

I have revisited an old memory.
Funny, but it is a song called Memories, by Mac Davis. Here are the words to Memories:

Pressed between the pages of my mind
Sweetened thru the ages just like wine
Quiet thoughts come floating down
And settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touched them and they burst apart with Sweet memories
Sweet memories
Of lollypops and red bouquets,
and twilight trimmed in purple haze
and laughing eyes and simple ways
and quiet nights and gentle days with you.
I cling to them and tremble til the dawn
My memories are all that I have left now that you’re gone
Oh what would I do without my sweet memories?
Sweet memories
Of lollypops and red bouquets and twilight trimmed in purple haze.
And laughing eyes and simple ways
And quiet nights and gentle days with you
Sadly fragrant flowers turning brown
Soft and distant showers coming down
Coming down
Sweet memories
Sweet memories

Remarkably eloquent no?

For some reason, I am reminded of the Schwarzenegger movie "Total Recall". I've never actually seen the movie, but I know it's about a company that sells "virtual vacations", where you can pay a fee and have the memories of a great vacation in some exotic place implanted in your mind. The thing is, after a vacation is over, all you have are the memories of it anyway, so this way you can get the memories without any of the risk or cost of actually doing the thing. You can't tell the difference once it's over. You think you did it. You remember doing it.

I've always been intrigued by that idea. That all we really have -- in fact, maybe all we really are is memories.

When I was a child I played baseball with Satler’s Auto Electric. I was the catcher by default. No one else would catch for Craig Blood, his pitches hurt. My father encouraged me to take the task even though my chubby little hands could not close the thick heavy catchers glove, so I used just a standard base glove. My hand was swollen with the punishment. This may seem like a bad memory, but it gave me my only claim to sports fame. Satler’s Auto Electric won first place with an undefeated season. I was part of a bigger thing though, and I learned a value: sometimes the value of the experience is worth the pain.

True, but sometimes it seems like it's not.

Like the time when Idaho froze up to 23 below. The pipes in our house froze. When I woke up in the middle of the night thirsty I was desperate for a drink of water so barefooted I jumped out into the frozen snowy landscape scooped up some of the white refreshment brought it inside and put it on the stove to thaw. I remember how long it took for the flames to thaw that snow. I remember the water I drank was still very cold and refreshing. I went back to bed not learning a thing, just contented at my slaked thirst. Memories seem to be good for contentment at a later date also.

Sometimes good memories can make you sad though. Good memories of a loved-one that's passed on, for example. Sometimes dwelling on memories makes me feel sorta sad and pathetic, like my best times are already past, and I don't have anything to look forward to.

Of the first time my adorable wife looked at me with the soft eyes of love. It is burned into my skull and will surface to the forefront of my mind when she is less than cordial. (An understandable side effect of knowing a clod like me). Memories are good for peace in life.

I think I understand. When your wife is not happy with you, you just imagine a time when she was and respond to that. I'll have to try it:

Molly: "Tim, you lazy, shiftless bum, get off your butt and help me with the housework!"
Tim (with eyes glazed over and a wistful smile): "I love you too, honey. Will you marry me?"

They can be used like clubs, with memories an individual can pummel the soul of another person into the fetal position. There is a cliché type of illustration of this: When a son wishes to do something that a controlling mother wishes him not to do, the mother may something like “I was in labor with you for 28 hours and you are going to treat me like that?” I think this is just wrong, it is the antithesis to the pain–experience value lesson mentioned above.

I've never known a mother to actually say that, except in sit-coms on TV. I hope they never do.

Of friends who have strayed away from a sane life to find a tawdry adventure somewhere else where you could not follow. Memories are the ground on which an upright person stands.

Like your memories of me, perhaps? Heh heh heh

Memories have a way of making a life solid. Stiffens your backbone. Helps you appreciate those around you. Blows away the anxiety and warms the corners of your heart.

Live in the past on occasion.

Sounds like advice one might expect to recieve from the Guardian of Forever.

Memories: sanity in dream form.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Filled with hope?

Today I have hope. I don't usually have hopes, because I am easily distracted and/or made busy by other peoples needs. Hope seems to be a long-term thing and for me they are easily lost in the jumble that is my life. But today I have hope.

A while back I had a hope and it was made real by the fact that
Taylor Hicks won American Idol.
yah! I couldn't believe it!

" I couldn't believe it!" Hmm, Maybe this is a insight into your comments to follow.

Hope is born of a desire for something to happen that is beyond your control. I have a goal to finish this bloc today; it is not a hope because I am capable of doing it myself. Tailor's victory was completely beyond my control. You may say it was partially in my control, however I could not see that American Idol needed my dollar enough to make me vote so they did not get either my vote or my dollar.

What's this about your "dollar"? Voting is free -- it's a toll-free call. Molly and I voted about 20 times each week! Slacker!

"Let us be clear on this: I am an unintentional slacker!" And even though I am not a fan of exclamation marks, I have used one here to explain my distress.

However, they may have gotten a benefit from my hope to see Taylor win, you see God likes me, and wishes to make me happy so maybe:

Whoa! Talk about your delusions of grandeur! You think God helped Taylor win to make you happy? I might suggest to you that your feelings might not be so important in the great scheme of things.

A small amount maybe is what I think I am, a small spit in the ocean of reasons God allows to decide a big event. Maybe.

I admit, I still wonder what God thinks about a television show that bills itself as idolatry right from the get-go. Can't you almost hear the Old Testament prophets crying out about this?

It's amazing to me how much the Christian church has changed over the years. Back in the days of my youth, when just about everything on TV was evil and theaters were dens of iniquity, a show calling itself "American Idol" would have been denounced from every evangelical Christian pulpit from coast to coast! The idea that a Christian would go on the show and sing a worship song in order to win the title of "American Idol" would have been preposterous! (by the way, I loved Mandisa, and think she got voted off way too soon.)

Nowadays, everyone goes to the movies, and watches AI. How long will it be before God rains down fire and brimstone on us all?

I think God is more into torrential winds and obscene volumes of water nowadays.

To be sure you'll have to ask Him. (An activity I endorse.)

I hope God responds that way anyway.

Once upon a time I was working at a company who made garden lattice. They produced this
lattice in an open air shed i.e. it had no walls. For weeks the weather was dismal. Rain, darkening clouds, and cold made my life a misery. So I said God, please, just a few minutes of sunshine and I will feel better. God seeing that I needed such a blessing, parted the clouds for a few minutes and for the rest of the day I was cheered up. Not so much because the sun came out, but because God saw the deep need in my heart acquiesced to my request.

I had a similar experience once. I was in college, and was very depressed one cloudy night. Sitting on my porch and looking up, I asked God to prove his love and care for me by parting the clouds and letting me see one star. The clouds looked very thick, but shortly after I prayed I was very happy to see the clouds part for a moment just where I was looking and a single star peek through. It was a wonderful moment. As you said, the delight came not so much from the fleeting glimpse at the star, as from the thought that God would hear my prayer and take action like that.

many times. I admit that just about every time I pray for God to act on my behalf, I think of that night. The results over the years have confused me. Why would God respond so quickly to such a trivial request, and then seem to do nothing at times when a much smaller (by my reckoning) miracle could change everything?

Does God only want to do things for me that have no lasting impact on anything?

I must say, I've seen far more prayers go unanswered than I've seen answered. This troubles me. I feel silly talking about God moving heaven and earth to make me feel a little happier while others are praying for things they desperately need and getting nothing (in many cases).

This is an affliction born of a poor understanding of the nature and character of God. When preachers say form the pulpit "God answers prayer three ways: yes, no and wait." they do a disservice to the people listening. God answers all prayers the same way: "I will do what is best for you." What seems like a no is really "that is not good for you right now." What seems as a yes is really "This will bless you more if I you get it now." What seems like wait may just be "you will never get this, it will only hurt you".

You may say I am foolish to think that God cares so much so that He would change the weather for me but here is what I think about that: There are so many people who have that attitude they never ask Him for hardly anything. So He then doesn't mind occasional "just a few minutes of sunshine" requests. Besides God is large with broad shoulder and an infinite amount of compassion, and all the time in the world to bless. You have not because you ask not, yah know.

I"m sorry if I"m coming off as a cynic here, but with millions of children starving around the world, and the world so full of sorrow and suffering, and depression and suicide and painful death all over, how does God's parting the clouds to give you a moment of sunshine show God's "infinite compassion"?

Don't get me wrong. I love to think about God painting rainbows and sunsets in the sky. I would like to believe that God personally acted on my behalf whenever some trivial blessing comes my way.

But I find all that increasingly difficult as the reality of life sets in. Or maybe it's just that I'm becoming more cynical as I get older. It almost seems blasphemous to imagine God doing something trivial for me when others who are in desperate need suffer and die. You might say it's because they "ask not", but doesn't that make God really petty? He'll move the clouds aside in the sky at my request, while millions of children starve to death because they didn't "ask"? Does that really show God's goodness?

Today I have the hope that if you read this you will leave me a message that will include a hope that you have. I will return the favor by asking God to bless you. Will He bless you? I hope so.

Sorry if I've seemed to rain on your parade here. It's not been my intent. I admit that I hope for blessings still, and still pray for them. Like Abraham maybe, I "hope against hope".

And sometimes (also like Abraham was known to do now and then) I get downright mad at God, and the way he runs things. He seems more like
, the Norse god of mischief, than the orderly God that I seem to see in the Bible.

It's probably just me seeing through a glass darkly. At least I hope so, and will continue to do so.

I have decided hope is cool.

It's better than the alternative!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Jerry’s Philosophy 101

My morning paper in review:

Hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, evil, illness, arrogance, and divorce. Dictators, terrorists, meanness and unkindness. Racism, lawbreakers, gossips, lawmakers and war.

If for every action there is and equal opposite reaction.

Fear, sadness, emotional injury, Treblinka, empathy, snubbing, family dissolution. Subservience, improvised explosive devices, cowering, sorrow. Cross burnings, incarceration, ill will, hopelessness, and desolation.

People like to read about bad things happening to other people. It makes them feel better. How would you like to read a story like "Bill Gates' private fortune increases by 10%!" All that would do is remind you of how little you have compared to him. Much better to read about poor people, so that you can feel like your well off.

Good is not the reaction to the action of evil; good is the cure for evil. Some may say God and Satan are both necessary for a human being to reach his or her full potential.

Jerry, here's a news flash: God created Satan. God had and has a purpose for Satan. God's will is being fulfilled. Satan, and his influence, is a necessary part of the plan, or God would never have created him.

I say “no thank you”. I would rather Satan would spend his time flying a kite than paying any attention to me and mine.

Satan doesn't give a hoot about your wishes or your kites. Neither does God apparently. I doubt God is going to single you out as the one person who has no problems with evil. Maybe you'll get lucky though.

If this really is a war between God and Satan, we are all the victims. I don’t think it is a war however, indeed I think God allows things to happen for our benefit. To build us to be stronger, wiser and more resilient. We do not need Satan for this; we are competent enough at screwing up our lives. Satan is just opportunistic at taking advantage of the opportunity of our poor decisions.

I have a sneaking suspicion about Satan. The book of Genesis says that "the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals that the Lord had made." Now, snakes aren't particulary crafty. They may be more crafty that SOME of the wild animals, but they are after all, just wild animals themselves. What, or more accurately WHO, is more crafty than any wild animal?

I think maybe Satan is like the Internet. You can't point at the Internet and say: "There it is", but it would certainly be wrong to say that the Internet doesn't exist. The Internet is real, and it is practical and influential. What is it? The Internet is something that grew out of a bunch of individual computers communicating. If you were to turn all those computers off, all over the world, the Internet would truly no longer exist.

There is a war. It is God versus me. I am the petulant child, pressing my feet against the ground, stiff-legged and stiff-necked. I may seem that way to God. At least this is what I think.

God loves all of his petulant children.

O.K. enough of that.

No one has infuriated me this week. (I know, I have issues, do you? {
Rhetorical question})

I have lots of issues. Issues of "The Amazing Spiderman", issues of "Marvel Two-In-One", issues of "Captain America"... is that what you're talking about?

I am therefore going to change my philosophy from “those people are evil” to “those people were injured by an evil person.” See the loss, not the evil. Too much evil, too much loss.

"Though I lay dying I am content in the knowledge that I will finally meet someone worthy of my wit. Oh, and either those curtains go, or I do."
- Oscar Wilde on God

I hope I am this clever when I pass through the valley of the shadow of death.

Life: it isn’t just Yin and Yang.

It's Yin, Yang and Yahoo!

Friday, April 28, 2006

What's that creeping up on me?

Remember when the good old days were the days that my grandparents had trouble remembering?

Now that I am reaching the grand old age of 50 I am thinking of the good old days, or at least trying to think of the good old days. (I used the word "old" three times in a sentence what so do you think that means?)

It means you're obsessed with your age. If you want to really wallow in it, click here find out how lame you are compared with other people your age.

I know there really is only doing or not doing and no such thing as trying, but work with me here I am becoming an old fart. Speaking of farting, "What's that honey?" Well maybe I shouldn't speak of farting.... Anyway, I find myself chasing more than my fair share of figurative rabbits. I love spell check because it can spell figurative right. Causing me not to have to think about it. Now where was I? Oh yeah, my grandparents, no... oh, yes becoming an old fart. "What? No dear I am not writing about farting." How does she do that? Why is it her brain is getting better and mine is getting worse? I'm sending that girl back to school. She could be a physicist no psychic or something anyway.

But then again, your blogging! Do old farts blog?

Come to think of it, America's getting older. According to this, the average age in North America is 65.7! So don't sweat it, Jerry. It's hip to be square, and old is gold, baby. Age is the rage!

Now for a more lucid moment.

O.K. never mind. I will go back to rambling it is what I do best.

Lucidity is out! Senility is the new intelligentsia!

Zack baby just keeps showing us his true nature, agreeing with the prosecutors that he will kill in prison, because of his vow to kill all Americans. Boo Hiss. Someone should do a preemptive strike in his case.

The jury has spoken. Let it go.

Brangelina took out an ad in the New York Times decrying the events that are unfolding in Namibia. "Can't we help them" was her cry. Meaning the only country in the world with the heart to do so: us, the United States of America. Even though we have our hands full in another country or two or three and we have kooky despots calling for our annihilation. We will help I am sure. We always help. Always.

While America as a whole is a great force throughout the world, our charitable works on a per capita basis are some of the lowest in the world. Read this to learn what a bunch of penny-pinchers we are.

Did you not read the whole report? We are not misers, this was a lame attempt to denigrate the great American people. They know the that mosthard working American people only read the first few paragraphs and this left thim without the whoole truth. The truth is that we do not trust our Government with our charitable giving, we find the Red Cross and the Salvation Army to be more responsible with our charitable giving. The United States of America is #1 in giving.

This is O.K. though they help us back. They sent to us hallucinogenic poppy flower derivative, malicious religions, and gas no wait, skip that last one. Well we don't do these things for what we can get out of them (nothing) we do them because it is the right thing to do. The right thing to do... hmm...

"Malicious religions"? How politically incorrect! Islam is all about peace, brother, peace! Haven't you got that yet?

I do not consider Islam a malicious religion. Just certain sects of Islam.

House and God tied. On the T.V. series Dr. Gregory House played by Hugh Laurie is caught in a whirlwind of pomposity in his attempt to diagnose a child with the gift of healing. House is an arrogant self-determined miserable intellectual who cannot understand the issue of faith. Dr. James Wilson was keeping score, mostly to irritate House, and House and God tied. I think however I would not want Dr. James Wilson to officiate at a game I was playing in, he misses a lot of plays.


I thought about this some more, and I think most of us miss most of God's blessings.

I wonder how good Canada and Mexico would be doing if they were not adjacent to and friend of the United States of America?

What's that supposed to mean? I don't know about Canada, but Mexico might be doing better without it's enablers to the north. Maybe they'd have been forced to work out their problems.

Do anal-retentive people spend more time in the bathroom than non anal-retentive people? Timothy, do you have any insights on that one?

I do spend a heckuva lot of time in the bathroom...

The prickly barbs of a humor-infected relative make life sweet.