wild things and kings

I’m putting this entire post behind a jump, because I hate having things spoiled. However, I wanted to write about seeing Where the Wild Things Are last night, so click on through if you’ve seen it or if you don’t mind being spoiled. Continue reading “wild things and kings”

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AWEsome

Picture 2Today, two of my favorite thinkers seem to be in a weird synchronicity, so I thought I’d share.

First, Colin aka No Impact Man asks, what fills you with awe?  Colin is not, as far as I know, a Christian, but he’s a very spiritual person, and often in his writing I find things that resonate with what I think and feel and believe as a person of faith.  Today he has a video of whales and writes:

Once in a while, even though it’s trendy, these days, not to talk about other species when we talk about environmentalism, I like to reconnect with that about our planet that fills me with wonder. And for me, one of those things is whales….Meanwhile, what about our planet fills you with awe?

Second, Rob Bell, a pastor from Michigan whose sermons I often listen to via podcast and whose book Velvet Elvis recently changed my  life, has his latest Nooma film availble for free viewing online today, until midnight.  You can check it out here.  This video is about the story of Job, and how God speaks to a man who is in the midst of unspeakable suffering and despair and reminds him that the story is so much bigger than he is, and that his suffering is not the final word in the middle of the grand story of our creative Creator God.  Bell says

We want to know why we suffer like we do…and there are times when the only honest, healthy, human thing to do is to shout your question and shake your fist and rage against the heavens and demand an explanation.  But true wisdom, the kind we find here with Job, the kind that endures…that kind of wisdom knows when to speak and when to be silent.  Because your story is not over.  The last word has not been spoken.  And there may be way more going on here than any of us realize.  So may you be released from always having to understand why things happen they way it does…May you have the wisdom to know when to say ‘I spoke once but now I will say no more.’

What is it that God says to Job that inspires him to be silent?  That changes the way he feels about his suffering?  It’s the thing that ties in with Colin’s question above.  What God says to Job is truly awe inspiring:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone–while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?…

Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.

What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?

Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up [God’s] dominion over the earth?

Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water?Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?

Who gives the ibis wisdom [about the flooding of the Nile], or gives the rooster understanding [of when to crow]?

Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clods of earth stick together?

Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?

Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth? They crouch down and bring forth their young; their labor pains are ended. Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds; they leave and do not return.

Who let the wild donkey go free? Who untied its ropes? I gave it the wasteland as its home, the salt flats as its habitat. It laughs at the commotion in the town; it does not hear a driver’s shout. It ranges the hills for its pasture and searches for any green thing.

Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will it stay by your manger at night? Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness? Will it till the valleys behind you? Will you rely on it for its great strength? Will you leave your heavy work to it? Can you trust it to haul in your grain and bring it to your threshing floor?

The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, though they cannot compare with the wings and feathers of the stork. She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them. She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider.

Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane? Do you make it leap like a locust, striking terror with its proud snorting? It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength, and charges into the fray. It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; it does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against its side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground; it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’ It catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread its wings toward the south? Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high? It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night; a rocky crag is its stronghold. From there it looks for food; its eyes detect it from afar. Its young ones feast on blood, and where the slain are, there it is. (Job 38:4-39:30)

So I will answer Colin’s question. One thing that has always filled me with awe is the stars. Perhaps I inherited this from my father, who was always calling us outside, sometimes even after bedtime, to point out Mars and Venus in the night sky, to trace the lines of Orion or the Pleiades in their constellations (just like the part I bolded above). Who calls me from 1000 miles away, even now, to tell me to go outside and look at the moon, or Jupiter, or some other stellar thing. When I would go to camp in the summer at Mo-Ranch in Texas, my favorite thing was after vespers, when we’d all go lie on the tennis courts in the dark, their concrete still warm from a day’s baking in the sun, and stare up at the sky, so far from any city that even the Milky Way was visible. And more than any sermon ever could, this would fill me with awe and wonder and a deep awareness of the presence of God. The sight was so overwhelming and beautiful and humbling that tears would well up in my eyes and in the back of my throat.

And my love of seeing the stars is one thing that inspires me to take better care of the environment.  To keep the air clean so we can even see the stars.  To be mindful of light pollution and its effects on ecosystems.  As Rob Bell says, “How we treat creation reveals how we feel about its Creator.” (my paraphrase)

So. I answered Colin’s question. What fills YOU with awe?

Photograph above is by Jim Richardson, via National Geographic.

this i used to believe? goalposts, grief, God, and Godwin’s Law

Image via thisamericanlife.org
Image via thisamericanlife.org

As I was cleaning my house Sunday morning, sweeping floors, vacuuming up dog hair, doing loads of laundry, unloading dishes, dusting, I was catching up on listening to several of my favorite podcasts.  In particular, I listened to an episode of “This American Life” called “This I Used to Believe.”  It’s a take-off from the NPR series “This I believe” about people who used to believe strongly in something, but no longer do so.  You can listen to this episode at this website.

The part that made me hit pause, walk away from my chores, and sit down to blog was the second segment of the show called “Team Spirit in the Sky”.  It was about a woman who saw a story on the news about a Texas football coach (I can’t help but picture Coach Taylor from “Friday Night Lights”) from a Christian school who touched the lives of an opposing team from a juvenile lock-up by having fans from HIS team learn their opponents’ names, cheer for them, form “spirit lines” for them, and root for them when his team played them.  For many of the lock-up’s players, it was a unique experience to finally be rooted for in any sense of the word, and for the coach, a chance to live out in some small way the biblical idea of loving one’s enemies.

The woman telling the “This I Used to Believe” story was a woman wrote to the coach after seeing the news story to tell him that though she was a lapsed Catholic who became an agnostic following the death of a close friend to cancer, she is glad that he is living out an authentic Christian faith for his players and everyone else in his community.  And at first, the coach responds, and I, the listener was thinking, “YEAH! This guy is getting it right!” The coach says he feels that God is speaking to him about this woman who has emailed him, and they begin a correspondence.  She even agrees to talk on the phone with him, intrigued that God has been waking him up many nights in a row, bothering him about what he needs to say to this woman who has lost her faith because of one of the most classic questions in theology: why do bad things happen to good people?

But then the coach totally drops the ball. Continue reading “this i used to believe? goalposts, grief, God, and Godwin’s Law”

we are what we eat: thoughts on eating and believing

The face of malnutrition is becoming what I see more and more when I have a bite of meat.  Photo by John Stanmeyer via National Geographic.
The face of malnutrition is becoming what I see more and more when I have a bite of meat. Photo by John Stanmeyer via National Geographic.

I have a feeling I’m on a slow slide to vegetarianism.  It almost feels inevitable to me as a bleeding-heart liberal who weeps for global poverty and worries about the environment. The more I read, the more I feel that maybe, though I love it, meat is incompatible with many of my most deeply held beliefs.

Now, before anyone flips out, I’m not a PETA obsessive.  I do care about the cruelty involved in meat production, and would prefer that all meat come from animals who are raised without cruelty, with basic dignity, who are fed the kinds of things they were born to eat, and who are killed in as respectful a manner as possible.  I’m not morally opposed to eating meat based on ideas of animal rights.  Though I love animals, I do believe that we’re omnivores, that some animals are made for eating, though I support anyone’s choices and reasons for becoming a vegetarian.  I buy organic, free-range, cage-free, local eggs at $5 a carton, and as much as possible I try to do the same with the meat I eat, though I can’t always afford free-range chicken and grass-fed beef.  I’m just beginning to feel that I’m still not doing enough.

Today’s musings are fueled by a piece I read in my latest issue of National Geographic Magazine, to which my parents give me a subscription each year for Christmas, as I’ve loved flipping through it for as long as I can remember.  The piece, called “The End of Plenty” by Joel K. Bourne, Jr., is about the global food crisis.  Basically, even before the current economic crisis, we (the world) were consuming more food than farmers had been producing, and we’ve been doing that for over a decade.  This has caused massive increases in global food prices, the price of rice doubling in the past two years, for example.  This spike in prices hits the world’s poorest of the poor hardest, as they typically spend 50-70% of their incomes just on food alone. Continue reading “we are what we eat: thoughts on eating and believing”