Thursday, September 28, 2017

Theology Thursday, Part Two. God: Architect or Pipe Bomb

Part Two, God is like...

In the first Theology Thursday (August 17) I argued that God might be like a shepherd, a scout master, or a bread baker. Here are two new-to-me analogies. Songwriter (24 Frames) John Isbell wrote:

"You thought God was an architect, now you know 
He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow"

It seems the narrator wants God to be in control of all, and that life-bombs are unjust. The lyricist and the theologian would differ in whether God plays both roles. 

Gaudi's "Holy Family" in Barcelona,

I can relate to God as architect. Especially if He creates places I like. On the other hand,  I've blamed Him for events that instantaneously wrecked my happy world.

Sometimes our bad choices and habits are self-destructive.  Skewed brain and body chemistry wreck both the addict and her loved ones.

It gets more complicated when the IED is a combination of natural events like hurricanes, others' poor decisions, and failing bodies. 

But wreckage has causes other than God.  Just as the London terrorist left a bomb on the tube, often chaos and pain are result of others' actions. 

 Logically, it's not fair to blame God for the fallout humans cause.

Every person who believes that God is, has a theology.  So some of us Christians-as-theologians would say that God created mankind but does not mandate every person's actions. Thus He's not responsible for life's disasters. Does God-the-architect create cancer? I don't think so. But if God is all powerful, we would like Him to be all-powerfully good  in a way that we recognize.

An account from St. John about illustrates this tension. Lazarus' family wanted Jesus to come heal Lazarus. Although He knew Lazarus and loved him, Jesus intentionally stayed away until Lazarus died. 

He confounded his disciples when He said "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." (This sounds like an architect, there's a plan.) Two days later He said to them "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Whoa, the detonator on the pipe bomb went off and Jesus said "I am glad for your sake." 

He went to Lazarus' sisters, made the point that He had the power of resurrection, and called Lazarus to rise up and come out of the tomb. Lazarus did.  People recognized His divine power and put their faith in Him thus Jesus was glorified. 

The next time rockets, missiles and projectiles explode in my life, I want the Architect at my side. Even if He chooses not to interrupt the explosion,  He can rebuild the rubble into something useful, maybe even beautiful.  

How do you see God? Is He both architect and bomber, or one or the other? Does that tension matter to you?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Travel Tuesday: Private Dirt in Croatia

The Croatian people share a common trait with every other culture we've visited--even in the absence of "private dirt" they want to see something grow. 

Old cities always grew from the center out, with narrow cobblestone alleys.  Houses built next to common walls, like friends walking shoulder to shoulder. And it was cheaper to build up than to clear ground so that even buildings hundreds of years old have two, three, four stories. 

Can you see the small flower pots on the balcony?

Even though farming took place within reach of ancient city walls, some folks just crave their own little bit of dirt. As we looked down on the confines of the walled city of Dubrovnik we saw pots with herbs and flowers and small arbors covered in grapes for eating or making wine.

The first peoples learned to grow food rather than gather because it gave them a more reliable diet. But I think there's another reason agriculture developed.  Being fruitfulLatin fructus "an enjoyment, delight, satisfaction; proceeds, produce, fruit, crops,"  is innate. We are wired to choose activities, either in leisure or work, that give us something to show for our effort.

These photos show gardeners’ creativity and passion to grow something, anything!

Narrow staircase? No problem, there is room to set out planters. In this case there's a tree at the top. 

Your house is on a paved courtyard? Just set out pots. 

I like the ascending order.

Maybe your shop's exterior lacks pizzazz. This invites people to stop and look.

The restaurant needs to be set apart from all of the others in the alley.  Use plants to create outdoor "rooms" lining both sides of the walk.

These botanical examples can be a metaphor for using our limited talents to help others flourish. Don't diminish the value of your efforts. Here's proof that much can be accomplished with restricted resources. 

How are you most fruitful? 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Travel Tuesday: Sailing in Croatia

As soon as I zipped up my bags for the outbound flight to Croatia I was an explorer rather than staid grandma, a discoverer rather than an observer.

Our ten day sampling of the culture and land of Croatia was delectable. 

Now, Bill’s favorite hat is stiff with dried salt from the Adriatic Sea. My swim shoes smell pleasantly fishy. Already the spills, sweat and wrinkles are laundered out of my sundresses. 

We’re still in a time frame to remember that last week we were tromping through 1,900 year old ruins from a Roman emperor’s palace.  Dinners included things like octopus salad and dried figs, four kinds of cheese and delicious fresh bread. 

We strolled seaside cities as the sun set over Croatian hills and lit up the harbor. We slept on a ship for the first time and cruised two hundred miles of coastline over a week. 

We didn’t miss an opportunity to take a swim, then sit on the upper deck of the boat and treasure the sensations: the sun warming our faces or the colors of the sunsets, breezes tossing my hair like riding in a convertible.  The water splashing as it surged away from the boat and the engine's rhythmic thrum- thrum-thrum. When dark winter takes hold we’ll sit on the couch to relive those moments. 

Some grappa may help. That’s the plum brandy traditionally made by most households in the region. Its high alcohol content scalds the throat as it goes down and enters the stomach with a small explosion. Our guide told us his grandmother started every day with a cup of coffee and a shot of grappa. It would get you up and moving for sure, and probably dull  annoyances.

Of course we weren’t easily annoyed on our holiday, except by the crowds the ocean liners disgorged into medieval cities too small for the their numbers. Dubrovnik’s walled city has decided to cut the daily visitor county by half to make visits more pleasant and reduce the burden on the city.

If I had it to do over, I’d still take a small ship (through Intrepid Travel, 29 passengers) over a large one, and be able to swim in coves chosen by the captain for calm seas. I’d be willing to repeat a week in our lower deck cabin with just the port hole for light. (I wouldn’t repeat my visit to the ER!) 

But I’d extend the cruise another three to four days and linger a little longer in the small ports, like Korcula or Sibenik. I’d ask for the tours to include folk music concerts. The snatches of singing and folk dancing we happened upon didn’t satisfy, I want whole concerts. I’d eat even more ice cream, and visit more wineries.

This trip was our reward to ourselves for a hard year, and a toast to forty four years of marriage. It didn't disappoint.

Ċ½ivjeli, cheers.