On Planned or Not

There’s a great data department in the sky – that department is responsible for checking people in or out on a given date at a designated time.

The check-ins are the births. The assigned clerk has a card for Justin, who will check in later during the shift (3:52 am UTC) at 9 lbs 8 oz (4.3 kg). Before pacing the card to Accounting for record keeping during life on Earth, the noticed that Justin would eventually become a CEO of a prominent global company and live to the ripe age of 95.

William’s card was directly behind Justin’s because he is to be born two seconds later at a different hospital. Checking the records, the clerk applies a special sticker for expedition to the check-out group.

Accounting is much more high-tech as it tracks everyone’s determined roles for that day. With all the people in the world, there’s always much happening … and those occasional glitches in the system can cause a bit of disarray. But the Accounting staff works well under pressure, thus can get the plan back on track with seemingly unnoticeable successful adjustments.

Over in Check-Out, clerks are dealing with car accidents, cancer, heart attacks, murder, drowning, and many others. One particular clerk is unaware that William’s card will arrive at their desk for processing in a matter of hours. From the living human perspective, these clerks have a tough job … but they also look at it from a different perspective.

Some Christians see life this way – that is everything is predetermined in accordance to God’s plan for that individual – including meeting a person that turned out to be a network opportunity for potential employment … but could that have encounter been coincidental?

I don’t know why I used to believed in predestination – after all, I wasn’t taught that way in Catholic catechism … no friend guided me in that direction … I didn’t read it in an influential book … so I probably guided myself that way for whatever reason.

During my mid-20s and early in my teaching career, I met Nancy – a very bright and personable student whose father happened to be a Baptist minister. In a discussion with her, I mentioned the great database in the sky, to which she responded with a very important question – Do you really think God is that cruel?

Although it did take a long time to answer that question to myself (and I don’t know when I did), her question remained active in my mind for 40 years – but in a good way – well, at least for me.

There is no way I believe that God sent Hurricane Katrina to punish the people of New Orleans. God didn’t sent a horrific tsunami to Indonesia, or a drunk driver wildly across a road to collide with an unsuspected vehicle that killed multiple people – including a small child, a teen, and a parent. God doesn’t plan for people to be homeless, have mental illness, or be malnourished.

God didn’t make a networking opportunity possible, didn’t send volunteers to a disaster area, or provide a hole-in-one to a golfer. Nope, God didn’t make Justin a successful CEO, and Nancy wasn’t sent to me to deliver a message.

God didn’t inflict cancer on my mother nor any other unsuspecting person. God didn’t plan a young child drowning in a pool, a person’s violent shooting spree, or the physical deformities that would take William’s life in less than a day.

Nope – God isn’t that cruel .. and God isn’t playing out the world as if it was a video game. God is good. Free will is a gift to the natural world and to human beings, and with free will, many events will happen – positive and negative – which includes bad things to good people.

Thank you, Professor Nancy.

Other Posts on Free Will

 

On Letters to a Skeptic

The father grew up with church being part of his life. Over time, he withdrew, so the son grew up without church. While attending during college, church become part of the son’s life. In time, he became a pastor and a professor.

As one would expect, father and son would have religious discussions, and many went nowhere. Eventually, the son invited his father into an honest dialogue through written letters – and the father agree. Their format was simple – the father asks a question, then the son answers. As with any meaningful dialogue, answer lead to more questions.

Letters to a Skeptic (Gregory Boyd and Edward Boyd) is the collection of letters of such a journey. The father (Ed) asks good questions, and provides thoughts around his questions. Ed’s responses to his son Leters2aSkepticCover(Greg) are also direct, poignant, and relevant. Greg’s replies are respectful and (generally) easy for a layman to understand. However, the responses are also debatable within the Christian community because one size does not fit all.

The father’s questions are good, such as;

  • Why has Christianity done so much harm?
  • Why is the world so full of suffering?
  • Does God know the future?
  • Is you God all-powerful?
  • Why does God create earthquakes and famines?
  • Are the Gospels full of contradictions?
  • Isn’t the Bible full of myths and God’s vengeance?
  • Do all non-Christians go to Hell?

Given the content and the situation/circumstances of the characters involved, one would think this is a book for any atheist or agnostic – or even as a toolbox for Christians when discussing religion with atheists and agnostics. Although this may be applicable to somebody in some circumstances, I see Letters to a Skeptic as an excellent read for Christians – especially in a discussion format. (Note: I read this book this book and participated in a discussion group. The book also provides discussion questions to consider.)

The discussion between father and son is sincere, respectful, and thought-provoking. Every Christian won’t agree with every point made by the son or the father – let alone by others in a discussion group. After all, theological disagreements exist with Christianity.

This book enhanced my Christian perspective, it also caused me to question the thoughts said by others – yes, the others in my own church – and that’s OK. In the end, reading and discussing Letters to a Skeptic was worthwhile – therefore, I recommend this book for those who might be interested in learning more.

Flashbacks: On Religion

Religious choices are a personal decision. Although I’m a regular church attendee, I try to be respectful to all. Enjoy, visit as many as you want, and I hope you comment on the post you visited.

On a Church Wine Group

WineToastPeople are generally surprised when I mention that our church has a wine tasting group. Interestingly, the group is not only successful, but it also is one of the longest-running groups at the church.

I’m not sure when the group actually started, but being one of the founding organizers and prime movers, my best guess is 12-15 years ago. We are a fun and fellowship group that uses wine as the vehicle to drive the event.

The following are the basics for our group:

  • Meet 3-5 times per year
  • Volunteers offer to host the event
  • Organizers set the theme, which may be countries, regions, wine types (varietals), or something quirky as numbers, animals, or colors – and something to accommodate red and white wines
  • Attendees sign up in advance, bring a bottle of wine (per couple) within the theme and an appetizer to share

Like any organization, he had growing pains. On the other hand, because we pioneers wanted to be an official church group, we quickly adjusted. Here are some of the finer points that I have learned.

  • We went to the pastors first with our idea to get their permission
  • As attendees arrive, the host provides inexpensive starter wines
  • Using nametags is important
  • Incorporate a “program” within the event – we include a welcome, thanks to the hosts, introducing first-time attendees, a prayer, something informative about the wines/theme, and reminders about the group’s purpose
  • After the program, the remaining time is for fun and fellowship

Additional tips

  • Have a set of wine glasses for the group (they don’t have to be fancy)
  • If the wine runs out, so be it – thus the host does not supplement
  • Know the communication guidelines within the church as newsletter and weekly bulletin submission requirements and deadlines
  • Remind attendees not to fill the glass so everyone gets a chance to taste

Given our longevity, our group has been successful. During our years, I have no doubt that 400 different people attended our functions … thus I wonder how many people would I not know if it wasn’t for our church wine group.

By the way, in this past post, here’s a prayer I put together about wine, The Spirit of Wine. Plus, enjoy some of our home decor done with corks.

On Enlightening Light

CandleburningLight is many things as it can be a noun, a verb, an adjective, and even be transformed into an adverb.

We can apply different definitions to light in terms of physics, nutrition, religion, knowledge, burden, illuminations, and being less encumbered.

We think of natural light, artificial, black light, grow light, infrared, visible, incandescent, fluorescent, LEDs, fog, flood, spot, ambient, task, direct, backlighting, and countless more that I won’t try to mention.

Yet, on this day, I honor the celebration of light. I’m not Jewish, but as a Christian, I look for parallels. Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In this hectic time that approaches Christmas, Happy Hanukkah to those in the Jewish faith – especially Shimon, a kind and wise man who visits here.

Shimon, I know this post doesn’t give your celebration justice, so I hope for dignity.

Two minutes to help one understand this holiday

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One+ minute for the beauties of the Hanukkah bush

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Two minutes to visit the Menorahs around the world

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Two minutes to see Jerusalem’s Festival of Lights

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This pop song and video makes me smile

On the Spirit of Wine

Mentioned on more than one occasion on these pages, our church has a wine tasting group. Our practicing mantra is a group for fun and fellowship with wine as vehicle. I know keep saying this, but I need to write a post about this group because others may want to try it.

One part of the event is a devotional, something that I had to do at the last event. I search the net and put together the following words. (Before starting, I asked participants to have some wine in their glass for a toast.)

Our wine, which art in heaven, hallowed by thy legs.
They will be drunk, I will be drunk, at home, as in thy cellar.
Give us this day, our daily glass, and forgive us our spillage, as we forgive those who spill against us.
And lead us not to incarceration, but deliver us from hangovers.
For thine is the Chardonnay, the Merlot and the Cabernet. Forever and ever. Amen. [Posted 8th August 2011 by Lynfred Winery (Illinois)]

Wine is a symbolism of life.

  • The twisted vines represent the strength we need in life
  • The roots anchor to the soil that is the source of stability and nourishment
  • The sun represents the power source carrying hopes of yielding good fruit
  • The grapes represent our childhood, our immaturity
  • Fermentation represents our challenges and struggles
  • Barrels carry our hope
  • The cup is the vessel we can hold in our hands for hope
  • The wine is the final product of the new life
  • The full cup of wine is an appreciation of the joys we hold
  • The toast is for the good in life

Wine is something we share.

  • Wine brings people together as it does here, at a wedding, and at the altar
  • Wine’s sweetness represents the joy of the occasion, the gladness in our heart, the mask of the bitterness in life
  • Wine is a symbol of friendship and love

Wine is symbolic with faith.

  • For Jews, red wine represents the blood on the door of the houses that protected them from the Angel of Death before the Exodus
  • For Christians, wine represents the blood of Christ
  • Jesus is the new wine – the good wine He provided at Cana
  • Wine is to bread as faith is to a full life
  • Filling the cup to the brim with wine represents the completeness that one’s commitment of life needs to be
  • Wine is symbolic of life

So tonight, as we share the cup of wine, we undertake the sharing of all that the future may bring.

Blessed art Though, Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine. (a Jewish wine prayer)

And let us raise our glass to toast the spirit of wine.

On Free Will

Acts of God are acts of God. From time to time there are going to be things that can’t be prevented. (Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) regarding the gulf oil spill)

There are those who believe that the recent earthquake and hurricane along the US’s east coast is God’s sign that he disapproves Democrats in Washington. Then again, do the same people believe that the fires in Texas are God’s way of warning Americans about Texas Governor Rick Perry? At least he is out of the 2012 picture.

Last year I wrote this post about the burning of a large Jesus statue near Cincinnati. A friend of mine told me that it was God’s way of showing his disapproval of the statue; so, I respond of saying that is God’s way of wanting a newer and bigger statue. Of course, I could add numerous Rev. Pat Robertson examples to the above, but I will spare my readers. Interestingly, all this leads to the concept of free will.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Adam and Eve would be one of the first examples of free will in the Bible and Torah by demonstrating their free will by rejecting God’s will. To me, Adam represents all of humanity because of the free will we possess.

Life involving making choice – and no matter our choice – that choice leads to other choices. Regardless if the relationship is with a spouse, friend, neighbor, family member, co-worker, managers, or stranger, our individual choices affect our relationships. No matter the relationship, every choice one makes leads one makes leads them toward or closer to that personal entity.

For those of us believing in God, each choice we make leads us toward or away from God. Sure God has a preference, but we have a choice. However, no matter our choices, we still sin, we remain selfish, people die, and some do horrible acts on humanity.

As God gives us a gift of choice our own path, free will has consequences because the greatest freedom also leads us to unacceptable behaviors as abuse, murder, greed, deceit, evil, hate, and others lead to suffering. Free will is a gift, an opportunity, and a curse – thus how each of use it is a matter of individual choice.

God’s free will gift also extends to nature and the universe for they operate within the parameters natural laws. As with human behavior, this free also leads to abuse and suffering – such as, natural disasters, diseases, genetic disorders, and handicaps to name a few. Although the natural laws are not the same as human behavior, the natural world’s free will allows it to operate with ever-changing forces that work to maintain a steady state with benefits and consequences. Yet, Pat Robertson wants to use natural disasters as a way of God punishing people.

Human creations are subject to disasters as Exxon’s Valdez, Union Carbide’s Bhopal, coal mine explosions, and post-tsunami meltdowns of a nuclear reactor. Yet, Gov. Perry refers to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an act of God that can’t be prevented.

Each of our lives are not pre-programmed with dates of birth and death, family information, interests, occupations, locations, and events; nor is God playing out the natural world as a video game. Just something to think about the next time someone makes a statement about God’s involvement in a natural disaster, a horrible highway accident, or a personal illness.

Other posts done here about free will: