Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Dad the Day Before He Died

Here is my Dad the day before he died during a family reunion near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

It was the summer of 2001.

Family Reunion 1983

Dad and I are shoulder to shoulder in the middle of the back row.

He was 56 (my age in my profile photo). I was 33.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Note to My Dad

Dad, I don't know if you can read this. I believe there is a life after this one, but I don't know what the ground rules are in that life. When you died six and a half years ago, I felt glad that I was somewhat at peace with how we related to one another. Occasionally I have told other folks about the good traits that you had, the great things that you did for Mom and my brothers and I. Recently I was convicted of the fact that I have spoken much more often of my frustrations and hurt feelings. So I am writing this note to you and to anyone else who chooses to read it. It is my effort towards restoring some balance.

Now I am 57, which is about the age that you were when I began to think of you as getting old. Such virtues as I have are by the grace of God. My flaws are all my own. Now I understand more completely that the same was true for you. I want to thank you for all the good choices you made. Thank you for showing affection. Thank you for providing for my material needs. Thank you for loving Mom. Thank you for all the sacrifices you made so that I would have a great start in life. Thank you helping me to understand the need for discipline and hard work. Thank you for sticking around through the good times and the hard times.

Some of how you were frustrated and angered me. I see now that I could have shown much more grace to you when that happened. I also know that frustration and anger are an inevitable part of any deep relationship. I am sorry for when I overreacted. I am sorry for when I held a grudge. I forgive you for things you said or did that I found hurtful.

I hope some day I can tell you these things face to face. Meanwhile I pray that I grow in my ability to love those who are still in this life with me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

We All Want To Change The World

You say you want a revolution. Well, you know We all want to change the world.
Beatles "Revolution"

Do you want to change the world? I do. I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we are changing the world, everyone of us. The bad news is that we are changing the world, every one of us. We often contribute to dramatic change that strikes like a lightning bolt . When I sang along with the Beatles, I was thinking dramatic change for good. I have made choices that contributed to goodness. I have also made choices that pushed us all closer to hell on earth. Sometimes my ignorance contributed to my making wrong choices. More often it was knowledge. I knew what I wanted. I was willing to overlook the cost to others.

"I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks ... got a fur sink ... let's see ... an electric dog-polisher ... a gasoline-powered turtleneck sweater ... and of course I bought some dumb stuff, too." Steve Martin

I am changing the world. I want to increase my batting average. More good hits. Fewer foul balls and strike outs. It requires mindfulness greater than that I am accustomed to. I also have to care. I pray that God would grant me eyes to see and a heart that is soft.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Listening, Thinking, Saying, Doing

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have plenty of time. Time to listen (including reading), time to think, time to speak (including writing), and time to do. I retired from my job. My kids are grown up. Other than taking a walk or doing a bit of weight training, I have nothing you could call a hobby.

I converse. I write and read. I take care of myself and help with our home. I spend. I give.

Now that things are simpler, I find that my focus is not as sharp as I hope it can be.

Focus on God.
Focus on family.
Focus on serving others.

I pray to God for the wisdom to use my time well.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

You Will Die

You will die. Every human will die. All humans through history have died. According to cosmologists, eventually all the stars will die. All life will end. So why the fascination about whether humankind will live on for decades, millenia, or eons more? Die one by one. Die in large groups. Die. Nobody gets out alive. Let's relax about that and use the time we have here to glorify God.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Tragedy of Disbelief in God

“The tragedy of disbelieving in God is not
that a person ends up believing in nothing,
alas it is much worse, that person may
end up believing in anything.”

G.K. Chesterton

Good and Evil without God

When I was in my twenties, I believed it impossible to prove that God exists. As I approached thirty, I became increasingly aware of the fact that I had no basis for declaring something good or evil beyond my own preferences. Intellectually I was a nihilist clinging to a shred of existential justification for having any sort of morals at all. Emotionally, culturally, I deeply believed that some things were good and others were evil. It was a most unsatisfactory dichotomy.

Now, as a Christian, I seek God when I want to know the difference between good and evil. I find that an increasing number of thinkers, writers, people on the street refer to my faith in certain fundamental truths as "fundamentalism". This is most often meant as a pejorative.

Here is a link to an article which I believe to be one of the more direct and cogent attempts to elucidate the author's conviction that it is imperative that we discard moralism, fundamentalism, and totalitarianism in favor of human science. Is it possible to know what is good and what is evil?

However, consider his closing two sentences:

In other words, to paraphrase Winston Churchill's remark about democracy, the human sciences are the worst (the least cognitively adequate) of all possible forms of practical reason ­ except for all the others (such as moralism, fundamentalism and totalitarianism)! What that implies is that nothing is more important for the continued survival of the human species than a stupendously increased effort to make progress in the further development of the human sciences, so as to increase our understanding of the causes of the whole range of our own behaviors, from life-threatening (violent) to life-enhancing.

The author James Gilligan has been on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School since 1966. He is the author of Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. What astonishes me about articles like this one is the author's apparent inability to see his own bias that posits the survival of the human species as Good and life threatening behaviors (for the species) as Bad.

Francis Schaeffer put it well when he wrote "Modern man has both feet planted firmly in mid air". From what I have seen of "postmodern" folks, they simply add wildly flapping their arms in hopes of finding some additional support for their convictions.

May God grant us all the wisdom to know what is good and to do what is good. May he deliver us from evil.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Do Your Best, Leverage the Rest

Leverage is a word used a lot in big corporations. In that context it means this: Utilize someone else's efforts to make your own job easier. And it isn't as sinister as it sounds. It is nice to give credit, however. My son Samuel posted this picture on his blog. I liked it so much that I am posting it on mine, leverage.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Science as a Subset

Lord (William Thompson) Kelvin,
"I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind." – from Popular Lectures and Addresses

Lord Kelvin was my hero when I was younger. This was my favorite quote. I will not presume to tell you what Lord Kelvin meant, in context, when he wrote this. I think it would be better for you to read his original works if that is what you seek. I can tell you what it meant to me. I believed that only something which can be measured, experimented upon, and verified could truly be known. That ruled out God or anything "supernatural". There was no super nature.

Throughout my life, heroes have proven fallible. Most are wiser than I, but limited and fallible none the less. Kelvin was very insightful, but he was dead wrong about a lot of things. Much was not known in the 19th century, such as Energy=Mass times the speed of light squared. Einstein, who was able to develop that equation, struggled with quantum physics. I'm sure he understood quantum physics a lot better than I do, but as Einstein ran out of steam, other physicists pushed forward.

Science as a field of knowledge is a subset of all that can be known scientifically. Why else would scientists be working so diligently to expand the field? Much of our current knowledge will seem as antiquated as Lamarck's theory of heredity, which proposed the inheritance of acquired traits. Lamarck deserves respect as a scientist, but his theory did not stand. Newton deserves great respect as a scientist, but there was much he did not know. Special and general relativity, for example.

So current science is a subset of all that can be known scientifically. Things will be learned that surprise us and discredit some of our best efforts to date.

What can be known "scientifically" is also a subset of what can be known by humans. I love my wife. Measurements and experiments would be ludicrous. I love my wife. It is something I know. I do not need science to know it. I exist. I once wondered how I knew that. I gave up wondering after a while. I simply know that I do. The universe exists. I'm quite certain about that as well.

God exists. God told me so. I resisted hearing God for a very long time. I had to be profoundly humbled before I was able to hear God say "I am not your concept, you are my concept". I once believed that the universe just existed, and needed no creator. I was wrong. It is the creator who needs no creator. I have knowledge that transcends science. To those who would deny my knowledge, I simply ask this. How can you be so sure?