Saturday, January 28, 2006


Pamela taught me this word and concept recently.  

2. Psychology To fill in gaps in one's memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts.
Recently, I inadvertently caused quite a stir at work by listening to a talk by one manager and then doing a bit of confabulation as I discussed that talk with a much higher level manager.  It was almost impossible for me to believe I had misremembered what was communicated in the talk.  Fortunately, the talk was actually video recorded.  I was able to watch it again and see exactly where my memory gaps occurred and how I had filled them in with incorrect information.  Since the topic was the size of lay offs that might be required in my region of the organization, I believe that the right and left side of my brains (emotive and rational)  collaborated to create a confabulation that was a good deal worse than what had actually been communicated.  It was a powerful lesson for me about how one’s emotions can influence how one remembers and retells an event.
Confabulation can be the result of brain damage or brain disorders.  However, it can also be a normal brain's response to certain situations.  Below I have cut and pasted four relevant paragraphs from a much longer article:

Confabulation and Delusional Denial: Frontal Lobe and Lateralized Influences. by Rhawn Joseph, Brain Research Laboratory, Neurobehavioral Center
Reprinted from: Journal of Clinical Psychology, 42, 845-860, 1986

Confabulation (or rather, in the less extreme case, self-deception) does not occur only among severely brain-injured individuals, but, rather, is sometimes the byproduct of the normal process via which explanations for behaviors, impulses, or other actions are provided; particularly those that have causes that are not immediately and/or completely amenable to linguistic translation or interpretation (e.g.,"gap filling"). Although confabulatory, in many instances the explanations seem reasonable, innocuous, and accurate, although completely erroneous.
For example, Nisbett and Wilson (1977) describe an experiment in which shoppers were asked to indicate a preference among four supposedly different (yet identical) nylon stockings. A very significant and pronounced position effect was noted such that most chose the stocking to the right of the display. When asked their reasons, no one mentioned position, but instead commented on differences in color, texture, etc.although all of the stockings were identical. Moreover, when position effects were mentioned by the experimenters, most of the shoppers were disbelieving.
In other instances, confabulation is merely the result of an attempt to provide explanations that are acceptable to the self-image. Indeed, it often happens that people will make a"slip of the tongue,"“speak without thinking,"make foolish statements, act on sudden impulses or in a peculiar or insulting manner, or engage in various objectionable activities, and yet no even realize that an inappropriate act was committed. Of course, if pointed out, this does not prevent the left hemisphere (i.e., the speaking half of the brain) from inventing numerous explanations or denials. If questioned, the individual may claim to have"no idea"as to"what cam over them"or, in other instances, dismiss the action as a rare and momentary lapse that is not as bad as it seems. Such explanations commonly are produced, for example, by young women who have been successfully seduced. (See Joseph, 1980, p. 777).
Although such actions and denials have been classified as various forms of resistance, repression, etc., one need not posit the existence of an unconscious in order to explain the motivational origins and mechanisms involved (Joseph, 1980, 1982). Rather, in many instances these behaviors, denials, and conflicts are the result of the differential organization of the right and left cerebral hemisphere (as well as that of the limbic system) and their inability to completely communicate and engage in information transfer and exchange (e.g., something is lost in the translation and during transfer). In certain instances, one brain half often has little or no knowledge (much less understanding) of what is occurring in the other.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Lord of Lords

I don’t think it is in the book, but in the movie Marilla says to Anne “To despair is to turn your back on God.” Pamela will know for sure.

That thought came to me tonight soon after I watched the movie “Lord of War”. I’m sure it didn’t help that I was alone (five immediate family members all from 5 to 5000 miles away) and that my blood sugar was low. If you haven’t seen it, I wouldn’t recommend it. At one point the main character, a fabulously wealthy gun smuggler, is told “I would tell you to go to hell, but I think you are already in it”. I had the overwhelming impression by the end of the movie that hell is exactly where the spirit behind the film might lead someone: to separation from God and from all good fellowship forever.

The relentless theme seems to be that evil reigns supreme and there nothing that any of us can do about it. My hope is that Nicolas Cage and the other producers supposed that the prospect of utter despair would send the moviegoer running to find God and thus to find release from hell on earth. Regardless of his intent, that was the impact on me. I found myself standing on a crumbling ledge, staring down into an abyss of despair. Even now, almost an hour later, I can still feel my soul crying out to God to be delivered from that vision.

The movie showed many, many sad truths and claimed to be based on actual events. I thank God that his gift of faith is adequate to shield me from the lies that even now assail me and coax me to leap into the abyss.

God is love. God is sovereign. God works all things to good. Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord. There will be no more crying, no more pain. We will live with him forever. Meanwhile, the pain is real. There are plenty of good reasons to cry. God is love. God is sovereign. God works all things to good.

O.K. Blog written. Snack eaten. At least one family member has joined me in my home. Time to read the bible for a while and rest. May God be with you. May you know Him and his grace.

Good night!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Jesus' Performance Feedback

I work in a large corporation.  Each year, my boss at the time (I’ve had 25 or more different bosses in the past 31 years), gives me written feedback on how I am doing.
In the last decade or so, a common practice has been for the boss to solicit feedback from my peers, my subordinates, and from other managers in the company.  I also get a “rating” which is a little like getting graded on the curve.

I am far from perfect.  So it behooves me to listen to the feedback I get.  This year, I was sad to see that my “grade” had dropped some.  Also, along with a lot of really nice comments, I got quite a few that hurt.  As I struggled to make sense of it, I wound up spending a long time praying and reading the bible one Sunday morning.  Suddenly I had a thought: if someone had collected feedback on Jesus, what would it be like? Unlike me, Jesus did a perfect job of carrying out his job assignment, and he loved every single person he met.  

I spent a couple of hours scanning through the book of Matthew in the New Testament (NIV translation).  Jesus is quoted a lot, of course.  I also found at least twenty instances where a person or group was quoted saying something specific about Jesus.  Then I sorted them into those corporate speak standards:  Strengths and Opportunities.  
Unlike the comments I received, I am able to see who said what. They are as follows:


“We saw his star when it rose and we have come to worship him.”   the wise men

“This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased.”   God the Father when Jesus was baptized

“He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”   Isaiah (quoted from a prophecy he made about 800 years earlier)

“What kind of man is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him.”   his disciples

“Could this be the Son of David?”   a large crowd

“Truly you are the Son of God.”   his disciples

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”   Peter

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.”   God the Father when Jesus was transfigured

“Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”   Peter

“Surely he was the Son of God.”   Roman officer and his soldiers


“Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”   An angel speaking to Jesus’ father

“This fellow is blaspheming.”   some religious leaders

“Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”   two demon possessed men

“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”   religious leaders

“It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons”   religious leaders when Jesus healed a mute man

“It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”   religious leaders when Jesus healed a man who was blind and mute

“He has spoken blasphemy.  Why do we need any witnesses?  Look now, you have heard the blasphemy, what do you think?”    high priest among religious leaders

“He is worthy of death.”   religious leaders

“I don’t know the man”   Peter

“Crucify him.”   a large crowd

“He saved others, but he can’t save himself!  He’s the King of Israel.  Let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him.  He trusts in God.   Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said ‘I am the Son of God’”   religious leaders

A Prayer For You

A prayer by Brendan Manning. It took a number of decades for me to get to a place where this sort of thing makes sense to me. That makes me wonder what else I will learn.

May all your expectations be frustrated;
may all your plans be thwarted;
may all your desires be withered into nothingness...
taht you may experience the powerlessness
and poverty of a child;
and sing and dance in the poverty of God;
Who is the Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


This will have to be a first draft of several attempts.  I want to go after the concept of chance.  My last post was originally going to be called Chance vs. Choice.  As I wrote that one, I found that choice was plenty to bite off in one post.  I also realized that I wasn’t sure that choice and chance are necessarily opposed.  However, I do believe that the sovereignty of God is antithetical to the idea of chance.

First define terms:

chance Function: noun1 a: something that happens unpredictably without discernible human intention or observable cause b: the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings: LUCK c: the fortuitous or incalculable element in existence:

It is meaning 1b that I want to dwell on.  “The assumed impersonal determiner of unaccountable happenings”.

So something happens.  Why did it happen?

That domino fell because the one before it fell and hit it.  Cause and effect works just fine.  If the second domino didn’t fall after being hit by the first, we would seek a cause.
It must be glued down.  Why do we seek a cause?  If chance ruled, we would just say there was a chance it would fall down when hit and a chance it wouldn’t.  However, we are so sure that one domino will knock down another, that folks spend weeks building elaborate patterns of dominos, just to push the first and watch the rest fall and fall and fall.  

We largely work on the assumption that the universe behaves in a deterministic way. Natural laws are thought to be our best effort at describing how bits of the universe will behave as they do.  The pebble falls to the ground.  The hot steel glows various colors as its temperature rises higher and higher.  Of course we generalize:  one object attracts another by gravitation and a heated body will radiate energy to cooler surroundings.

Now we just need the first domino.  Once it is set into motion, all else that happens could be known by someone with enough knowledge of the natural laws that would prevail.  

But who or what pushed the first domino?  And will anyone or anything ever intervene once the dominos have begun to fall according to the law that governs such things?

One idea is that of the prime mover: the one who sets the first domino into motion.  It might be speculated that the dominos always existed.  I suppose one might even suppose an infinitely long chain of dominos that had started falling an infinitely long time ago.  Yet the idea of a start is still there haunting us with the need for a starter.  

If we were to suppose that the first domino fell by chance, why not presume that all the rest are simply falling by chance as well.  Where do we get the sense of certainty that one domino pushed means that the rest will fall?  I don’t think I can imagine thirty seconds of life on earth where I did not operate in the certainty that cause and effect were operating.  Abandon all hope you who enter there.

However, neither can I imagine that whoever, or whatever, moved the first domino would necessarily stand back and refrain from ever stopping a domino collision.  If I saw a domino stop, and could find no discernable reason for it to do so, I would be likely to consider it a miracle.  A miracle might be defined as follows: an extraordinary event manifesting the intervention of someone or something acting outside the scope of the natural laws.

Now I want to call up choice again. Something can choose to act outside the scope of the natural laws.  Without choice a universe is at best an enormously intricate domino pattern that has always been in motion and will always be in motion.  There are no choices.  Choice is banned.  Every domino must fall just as it has always been destined to fall in accordance with the natural laws.

That is the universe at its best without choice.  In it I am a very complicated domino collapse, hitting the keys of the computer as I must.  The universe without choice would be at its worst, to my sensibilities.  It would be that universe where every domino may fall or not according to chance: the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings

With choice, the universe at its worst is a vast domino fall set into motion by a single choice.  No more choices after that.  Natural law prevails. It seems a very lonely place to me for the one who made the choice.

In his revelation to man, God seems to be very intent on insisting that we make choices.  Choose him or reject him.  Choose his way or the other way.  And those choices make possible the idea of good and evil, right and wrong.  Those universes without choice have no good and evil.  Things must either happen according to the rules, or by chance, in a universe without choice.   And in a universe that does have choices, I believe that chance is ruled out. God has assured us that if we make the right choice, we will live with him forever. A sovereign God rules over all and there is no chance that can overrule him.  A God who is not sovereign really doesn’t rule at all.  In any particular instance, chance may intervene.  And chance is by definition impersonal and purposeless.  It cannot be in accord with Gods purpose because it is by definition purposeless.

God is sovereign.  We are able to choose.  Nothing is left to chance.  Chance is left as no thing.

It is a first draft.  Will I choose to revise it?  Or is there a chance that I will not? (  

Monday, January 02, 2006


We all struggle with a fundamental question: Why do things happen as they do? I believe that there is a sovereign deity with a plan for all people throughout all time. This implies that God makes choices and events unfold accordingly.

Were God the only one making choices, I do not believe real relationship could exist between God and humans. I cannot fathom a meaningful relationship with something that never does anything that I have not programmed it to do. I may talk about how angry I am with my computer. But what I am really saying is that it doesn’t always do what I planned for it to do. In that sense it takes on a bit of a personality of its own. It can be that way for us with inanimate objects because we are very limited. Even very simple objects can often thwart our purposes. I have cursed a rock for positioning itself where my toe would be stubbed upon it.

However, when we describe God as sovereign, we are perforce saying that his plans are never thwarted. We struggle to understand how it is that humans are able to make choices and yet never thwart God’s plans.

One approach to this thorny subject is to simply declare that we cannot make choices without God’s intervention into the process. Yet, in taking this approach, we actually give up the idea that we can make choices. Some are willing to steadfastly maintain that this is exactly true. We have only the illusion of free will. God is always in the driver’s seat of our conscience. God chooses those who will choose him and he chooses those who will reject him.

I see two large problems with that. First, how can it be that we are in relationship with someone, when that someone makes all the choices? Imagine a marriage where one partner made all the choices and directed all the activities of the married couple. It is a very depressing thought. Yet, we are the bride of Christ. Our marriage is portrayed in the bible as a joyous union. And even while we are still in this sin cursed world, we are given some insight into what it is to be in loving relationships.

Secondly, why would God’s inspired word frequently insist that we choose? Choose whom you will serve. Choose life. Choose understanding. Choose the right.
These are very direct commands from God. He also requires faith of us. Faith is defined as trusting, believing, and acting on that which we believe.

God and humans make choices. I also believe that spirits referred to as angels and demons also make choices, but I will not insist upon that for now.

Sometimes we choose to serve things other than God. We choose death. We choose ignorance. We choose evil. We place our trust improperly. We fail to trust. We do not act on what we believe. Pain, suffering, and even eternal separation from God may result. And yet, God is sovereign. His purposes are made manifest. He is God and we are not.
No choice of ours will thwart his purposes. This is a very great mystery. I do not presume that I understand how it can be so. But it is so.