Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Buy a man a fish...

and you'll feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and he'll buy a funny hat.
Scott Adams

Monday, October 29, 2007

Especially for Preachermom and Besomami

Malfunctioning Earth Suit

Wade Burleson has written posts on the soul here and here. The two posts spurred the following thoughts that I posted as a reply on Wades blog and now here.

Update: I've added an appropriate video to the end of the post.

I've had several opportunities over the last few years to serve as camp pastor for the Young Musicians camps sponsored by my state convention. The kids are 9, 10, and 11 years old. I remember particularly one year when I was trying to find a way to help them understand what a soul is.

I showed video of astronauts walking on the moon in that stiff, bouncy fashion that we late baby boomers are so familiar with seeing on our black and white TV sets when we were kids their age. Switching to a photo of the spacesuit, I talked briefly about how NASA designed it so the moon walking astronauts could best live and work in the moon's environment. Looking at the face mask of the suit, I asked them to describe what the astronaut inside the suit looked like. Because it is so heavily tinted to protect them from the sun's rays, they could not see the astronaut's face to describe him well.

I went on to put up a short, video clip, without audio, of some of them going about their activities at camp that day. As that ran, I talked about how God, like the NASA engineers who designed the moon suits, has design our bodies to best live and work in earth's environment and that, like the moon suit has an astronaut living inside of it, our bodies have a soul living inside.

The soul is that part of us made by God to live inside our bodies while we are on earth. It is that part of us that makes us uniquely and especially who we are and who we will always be. Just like when we look at the astronauts in their moon suits it's hard to recognize and separate the astronaut from the suit, we have a hard time thinking about ourselves separate from what we see when we look in the mirror. But the part of us that makes us who we really are in God's eyes is alive inside our "earth suits".

The soul has been inside us from the minute that God chooses to create it inside the new “earth suits” that grow inside of our mothers. The five senses of our “earth suits” are made for the world, and God makes our souls with special senses made for hearing and understanding God for both while we are in our “earth suits” and for eternity, when we won’t be needing our “earth suits” anymore.

When our bodies, our earth suits, stop working, the soul will continue to live on forever and ever...somewhere...and God gives us a choice where that will be.

This teaching opportunity took place a couple of years before my earth suit started to malfunction. The communication devices started to falter. I started having difficulty with the fine manipulation of the vocal cords required for singing. Ability to see with the left eye failed, and when it returned, it returned only partially. RAM chips in the central computer began to malfunction, too. My short term memory and ability to remember names even of people I’ve known for decades is sometimes unreliable. Battery packs fail. Fatigue is sometime overwhelming. Gyroscopes are unreliable. Balance when walking is iffy some days. Diagnosis: MS.

The challenge to help children understand the soul those years before has been a stronghold for me when days are bad. Despite the fact that the ability to repair my damaged earth suit and delay its further deterioration is limited, there is no limit to the desire or ability to develop the senses that MS cannot touch...the senses of the soul.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Wisdom of Thomas Merton

Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm. If we strive to be happy by filling all the silences of life with sound, productive by turning all life's leisure into work, and real by turning all our being into doing, we will only succeed in producing hell on earth.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A New American Gothic

Kim and I caught a quick supper at Wendy's this evening. When it's just the two of us, as is the case most of the time these days, we normally sit across the table from each other and engage in near constant, and often animated, conversation.

Tonight, we both were facinated with an elderly couple seated across the restaurant. (Pardon the grainy cell phone photo. I tried to be surreptitious as I snapped it...I don't know how successful I was.) This couple had arrived before us. They were quietly involved with their meals when we sat down.

Their table, like ours, was a four-top, with seats available on both sides. As is our habit, we sat opposite each other. This couple chose to sit side by side. Per our habit, we talked throughout our meal. We observed not a single word pass between them. At no point did we see one look in the direction of the other. When they finished their meal, they carefully folded their sandwich wrappers and continued to sit quietly with each other. At irregular intervals, one or the other would take a sip from their drink. She used a straw. He didn't.

I can imagine each of them in their Sunday School classes each week...she in her ladies' class, he with the men. They're sitting in straight, ladderback chairs that creak occasionally, with cushions in the seat that could use fresh foam inside the faded, handmade covers. Each have adopted the exact same posture we see in this picture as they patiently listen to the teacher standing behind a slightly off-perpendicular lectern made in someone's home woodshop years and years ago. Neither class is as large as it was last year, two years ago, five years ago. So many of their friends...the ones he used to share a smoke with on the front porch of the church between Sunday School and church, that is before it became frowned upon and besides, the doctor made him quit...the ones she used to call once each morning and once each afternoon "just to catch up", that is if she could catch that chatty neighbor off of their party line...they're in the cemetery behind the church.

There's a place waiting for each of them in that same cemetery. It's a thought that each of them used to ignore because of busyness, because of energy, because of fear. Now, neither is as busy, neither has as much energy. But neither is there as much fear. Because after all of those years sitting with those friends, in their separate Sunday School classes, listening to the Sunday School teachers standing behind the slightly off-perpendicular, homemade lecterns, those lessons, especially the ones from Ecclesiastes, ring truer than ever.

To everything there is a season...a time to use a straw and a time to go without...a time to sit across from one another, and a time to sit side by side...a time to talk and a time to sit quietly...a time to be born and a time to die.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007