Sunday, November 29, 2009

Faith: A Kinder and Gentler Jonathan Edwards

When you hear the name Jonathan Edwards, what do you think of?

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

The other day I was web surfing and came across the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.

Apparently, Yale has become the repository of the written materials of Jonathan Edwards.

One very interesting part of the web site is an online exhibit of Billy Graham preaching a variation on Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God during the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade.

One wonders could a sermon like that be preached today and how different would it sound and read?

As you might expect the web site also has information about Edwards beyond his religious writings.

Perhaps most moving was his reflections about his wife in On Sarah Pierpont.

Excerpt:

She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after those times in which this great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about, singing sweetly, from place to [place]; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, and to wander in the fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Life: Thanksgiving 2009 & Small Bowel Obstruction, episode IV

Thanksgiving day is coming to a close.

There is much to be thankful for.

I am thankful that God has "shown up."

God demonstrated his love for us while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Words like sin don't go over so well these days. But looking in our lives and around the world, there is the sense that things are not the way they should be. We can call those things by many names: injustice, unfairness, suffering, crime, racism, alienation, etc.

Bottom line: sin.

Ugly three letter word.

But Jesus came to give us life and began the process of restoration. Thanks be to God!

Am thankful for God's gracious gift of my beloved bride! She has been a source of joy, encouragement, strength, humor, faith and simple day-to-day partnership. The aforementioned have especially been true during my latest hospitalization.

Am thankful for the nurses, doctors and staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

On Saturday morning, October 31, my father-in-law and wife drove me to the ER with the familiar abdominal pain mixed with a fever and body aches.

For followers of this blog, you know I have been hospitalized for small bowel obstruction in 2004, 2005 and earlier in 2009. This ailment is usually treatable but anytime you get admitted as an inpatient in a hospital, it is a concern. And any condition that might require surgery is serious.

The initial x-ray and CT didn't indicate bowel obstruction but my symptoms and prior medical history couldn't be ignored so I was admitted into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for overnight observation.

Because of my fever (the docs said at one point I was at 102) and muscle aches and shivering, the MDs thought it was possible I was suffering from a bad bout of "some kind of virus messing with my guts." If so, it should clear up and I would be out of the hospital.

Alas, Sunday morning, from midnight to 6am, the waves of abdominal cramps hit. I was given morphine twice during that time.

The x-ray this time clearly suggested small bowel obstruction.

By Monday, the NG tube went in. Tuesday's x-ray didn't look much better and surgery was a possibility.

This surgeon blogger described the issues around small bowel obstruction and when surgery would be called for.

Wednesday's x-ray looked better and they turned off the suction on the NG tube and waited to see if much fluid accumulated. It didn't so the NG tube came out and I had broth for dinner. Thursday was more broth for breakfast and soup for lunch. I was released by mid-afternoon Thursday, November 5.

A big thank you to the medical professionals at CSMC!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sports: Bowl pecking order for Pac-10

#1 Pac10 team goes to ROSE Bowl
#2 Pac10 team goes to HOLIDAY Bowl, 12/30
#3 Pac10 team goes to SUN Bowl, 12/31
#4 Pac10 team goes to Las Vegas Bowl, 12/22
#5 Pac10 team goes to Emerald Bowl, 12/26

Looks like the Poinsettia Bowl will take the #6 Pac10 team if it is bowl eligible and Arizona is currently #6 and bowl eligible.

UCLA is currently the #7 Pac10 team and is bowl eligible so it could get an invitation from a bowl that has an at-large open slot.

Certainly, an upset win on Saturday over USC would help UCLA's bowling chances.

Go Bruins!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Devotional Thoughts: And so he died, old and full of years ...

The Epilogue to Job ...

After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job's prayer.

After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so he died, old and full of years.

And so after all the turmoil and shouting and questioning and arguing, we do reach, "and they lived happily ever after ..."

Did Job know he was on the center stage in a spiritual battle described in Job 1-2?

We don't know.

If he did know, he didn't appear to make any comment about it. If he did know, God's "answer" of I am the Creator and you are not was enough for Job.

And so what if Job never knew about the spiritual battle?

God showing up was enough.

Each of us faces struggles in life. In my humanity, I know I have sometimes, often times, asked WHY?

Yancey in his book, Disappointment with God suggested getting an answer to the WHY question might not actually help us because God's perspective is so much larger than ours.

And so our WHY question is washed away when we sense we are not alone. God "showing up" through Jesus. God "showing up" by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. God "showing up" when we are loved by family and friends. And indeed, God "shows up" in the kindness of strangers.

Is the story of Job true?

It is definitely true in the existential sense that all of us struggle with suffering and that we can argue ourselves into knots trying to explain it to ourselves and each other.

It is definitely true in that God "showing up" makes all the difference in the world.

But was the story "literally" true?

Will we meet Job in the afterlife?

If Job is a moral story than Job may or may not be a literal person. He could be a stand-in everyman for all who have faced suffering. The power of this tale doesn't rest on Job existing as is.

But, if Job was a literal person, did the story happen as literally described?

Job as a book has literary style. It is Hebrew poetry.

We do not talk to our friends in poetry. We talk in prose. We can reflect on life in poetry.

And so perhaps Job was a real man who suffered and his story was memorialized in the poetry of this book.

Another hint of "editing" or "stylizing" in Job was the speeches of Elihu.

Job was visited by his three friends and Job prayed for them.

As a side point, isn't it interesting how in life we go to comfort the sufferer and the sufferer winds up comforting the comforters?

But back to the idea of literary forms... Elihu isn't mentioned as one of the three friends yet he spoke in chapters 32-37 in pretty strong terms!

He was younger than the other three and held back until the end.

Yet, he isn't mentioned in any other way with the three friends.

Was he there all along and omitted in the friends list? Maybe he wasn't really close at all?

Or perhaps those chapters were added later?

Elihu's comments do have elements in common with God's speech at the very end. Maybe it was added by the editors of Job to foreshadow what God would say?

Don't know.

But whether Job's story is more or less as it was in here, underwent some editing or was a moral tale, I think the message stands regardless: suffering is real and our only comfort is having God show up not so much to explain it but to show us he cares for us as individuals.

"God with us" ... Immanuel = Heb. God with us. Jesus the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Lord, thank you that you invite me to bring my complaints to you. You hear my prayers. Thank you that you were not content to allow the world to continue in its course and so sent Abraham, Moses, the Prophets and most significantly Jesus. Though things seem lost now, you are at work restoring. Help me to receive that restoration and be an agent of it. Amen.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sports: UCLA vs. ASU this Saturday

There are no national championship implications.

There are no BCS implications.

They aren't vying for the Pac10 title.

Both teams are clawing at the chance to be bowl eligible with 6 wins.

For UCLA a win gets them their sixth.

For ASU a win gets them their fifth which allows them a shot at six on their final game of the regular season.

So in the grand scheme of College Football, the game is an after thought.

But for Bruins fans who have seen the program fall on hard times, this is a big moment.

After last season's 4-8 finish, the goal this year was six wins and a shot at a bowl game.

They are on the verge.

Wall-to-wall coverage can be found at the "blog of the Bruins, by the Bruins, for the Bruins."

Go BRUINS!

UPDATE: Bruins 23 ASU 13! The Bruins now have a shot at going bowling. Next week, it is the showdown with dreaded cross-town rival, USC. They have won 9 of the last 10 faceoffs. I would anticipate USC would be favored despite the struggles they have had this year. Nonetheless, UCLA fans go into this edition of the game with more hope than usual!

GO BRUINS!!!!