Friday, January 27, 2012

The Reaper is Grim Because He Is Doomed

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Psalm 116:15

On Wednesday this week two dear saints saw the sun for the last time this side of glory. One was my 83-year-old grandmother, who passed away peacefully in her sleep at the hospital. She was a missionary, pastor and professor's wife, mother to four godly children, 12 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. She lived a full life, was close to friends and family, and finished the race.

The other was my friend's nephew, born at only 15 weeks gestation. He saw the brightness of the sun and heard his mother's voice before also passing away, without a sound.

Death is always hard, and always grim. Death is the last enemy, and even when the race is finished well, it still ends in tragedy. We are called to fight this enemy our entire lives, all the time knowing that he will win and he cannot be cheated.

It is easy to thank God for my grandmother's life. She accomplished much, and died at peace, old and full of years. However, it is harder with the tiny baby, who had such a short life. Why was he created only to die? Why did God choose to take this tiny one home so soon? Maybe I only have a hard time because I have said good-bye to my own tiny babies several times.

And then I was reminded that the Creator wants us to be like Him. He sees all tragedies, all small, quiet deaths, everywhere, every day. In that moment when that young mother said both hello and good-bye to her son, she was given the opportunity to grieve as God does who is present at every death, millions of people every day. He sees His enemy at work, on a massive scale, and is waiting for the perfect timing to sound his defeat.

Jesus showed us that death will be defeated. I will see my grandmother again, at a great feast, drinking wine and rejoicing. This mother will hold her baby boy. But, like our Heavenly Father, we have this opportunity, here and now, to see through His eyes. The blessing is to be present at the side of a loved one, and cry out as they breathe their last breath, just as He does all around the world, every day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Big, Bad Wolf

There is a reason why we named our daughter after a fairy tale hero, mostly because we love fairy tales. We love the ancient-ness of fairy tales and the Christian stories of fairy tales, which includes lots of witch-burning and troll killing.

I was raised knowing all the famous fairy tales, and as soon as I had children, I knew that they needed to know them too. It was part of their culture to know who the big, bad wolf is and why you should always listen to your mother's instructions. We got a beautiful copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales when my oldest was still a newborn, and began to read the stories as soon as the kids were old enough to listen.

As I started reading them aloud, though, I realized that many parts of the stories ruffled my adult comfort feathers. There were some gruesome parts, some seemingly ignorant parts, and some violent parts. Sometimes I hesitated to read these stories--like the fact that Hansel and Gretel's mother wanted to abandon them in the woods and let them starve to death. But I also realized that if I cleaned up these stories, I would be guilty of the same crime the Disney Corporation has been committing for years!

But what really taught me to love the fairy tales--in all their bawdiness and gruesomeness--was that I want my children to love the Bible in the same way. Our family standard of "appropriate" is anything you can find in the Bible, and fairy tales fit neatly into that category. The Bible is certainly not G-rated (despite what this may lead you to believe), but we still want our kids to know and love all of it. That doesn't mean that they need to know in detail what some of the racier sections mean (like my personal favorite, Leviticus 15), but they shouldn't be shocked when an unbeliever tries to discredit God's Word by surprising them with the Book of Judges.

I also realized that all of those same elements that bothered me in fairy tales as an adult, were still in those stories when I was a kid, and didn't bother me at all. Most of these stories, at least those written in the medieval days, were entirely Christian. They spoke the truth about the gospel in a way that was written specifically for children to understand.

In elementary school I remember begging my own mother to tell me a Bible story that I'd never heard before. She opened up Judges and read the story of Ehud killing Eglon. It was the first time I can remember being fascinated and grossed out by something simultaneously. Children everywhere seem to be fascinated by the grotesque, and nearly nothing we can do as parents will make them fall in love with perfectionism. This is why toddlers stare at odd people in a way that makes their parents want to melt into the carpet. And why those same toddlers create chaos anywhere they find order. The Bible and fairy tales are one way to direct that fascination the way God intended it: to show mercy to those who are beaten down, and what to with those who are doing the beating.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Science Friday

Today in the car I happened to catch the first few minutes of NPR's Science Friday with Ira Flatow. I used to listen to this more often, and he would occasionally irritate me with his social and political interpretations of science, all the while pretending to report things from a truly scientific perspective. However, today I laughed out loud in the car listening to this week's line-up of stories, which you can see here.

Notice anything funny? The first story is "Defending Climate Science's Place in the Classroom," where he reports that just like the anti-science of Creationism was being pushed in public schools, now the anti-science of climate change doubters is causing problems. He had nothing nice to say about either the Creationists or the Doubters.

But here's where it gets funny--the next story was about the benefits of meditation and included an on-air meditation session. Lastly, was a look at the planet Mars and its possibilities for life.

So here's what I learned: Creationism is stupid and to doubt climate change is ignorant, but meditation and Martians are healthy and scientific.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Underground

Right now I'm reading this and loving it. Dostoevsky has an amazing talent for irony and sarcasm (which seem to be the theme of all my favorite writers). The first story in the collection is a striking satire on romance, which is hilarious. However, my favorite "short" story in the collection (really the longest one) has to be Notes from the Underground. The very epitome of irony, malice, and man's sinful heart. I'm also starting to notice lots of similarities between Dostoevsky and Chesterton; including their love of irony, irrationalism, and the common peasant of their own countries.

Here's a bit of fun from Notes from the Underground on free will:

"For man is stupid, phenomenally stupid.....I would not be at all surprised, for instance, if suddenly and without the slightest possible reason a gentleman of an ignoble or rather a reactionary and sardonic countenance were to arise amid all that future reign of universal common sense....and say to us all, 'Well, gentlemen, what about giving all this common sense a mighty kick and letting it scatter in the dust before our feet simply to send all those logarithms to the devil so that we can again live according to our foolish will?' That wouldn't matter, either, but for the regrettable fact that he would certainly find followers: for man is made like that."