Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where Are You Little Star?

Dion sang the haunting words in 1961. They were the lament of a young lover who desperately needed a star upon which to wish. "Where are you little star?" This yearning for love needed the twinkling of a star to ignite the flame of romance.

Well, they've found your star. It may be a little too late for the particular star-gazer of the song but none the less the light has come. It is known as GRB 090423. Let's see how can we work that into the lyrics of a new song?

The letters stand for Gamma Ray Blast. The numbers are I suppose what you would push on the juke box if you want to hear the sound of it all....well...not exactly.

This Gamma Ray Blast is the oldest and farthest away point of light that we have discovered thus far. The "blast" happened about 13.5 billion years ago not too long after the "Big Bang." The light just now got to us after traveling at the speed of light for a little over 13 billion years. And you and I get impatient if our high speed Internet does not flash what we need on the screen quick enough.

Gamma Ray Blasts happen when stars die and explode. The next thing that happens is maybe a black hole of some kind. These blasts are the brightest things that happen in our rapidly expanding universe. Our universe is supposedly made up of 70% dark energy and 25% dark matter. All this dark stuff is supposedly what keeps together the 5% of "regular matter" that reflects light...or visible matter. The dark stuff is the "glue" for the "light stuff."

Another way of putting it, if you are getting lost in the letters and numbers, is this: And God was "brooding over the dark." This expression comes from a literal translation of the first few verses of Genesis when the "earth was formless" and the "wind of God" swept over the deep, dark waters of chaos and formed "something." The "something" that we now call Creation happened when God said, "Let there be light."

The "wind" comes from the Hebrew word for the flutter of a mother bird's wings over her nest. In other words this seems to refer to a kind of cosmic "egg" that the mother bird is protecting as it gets ready to "hatch."

Are you ready for the really exciting part? Astronomers and cosmologists tell us that the whole cosmos got its start from the explosion of a small....uhhh....egg-like something. This all happened about 14 billion years ago and is now called "the big bang."

"Where are you little star?" Finally the star arrives "fresh" from 13.5 billion years of travel. The star proclaims a message overheard from the first "days" of Creation. "Let there be light." God's "brooding" reflects the love of the one who creates all light and even all dark. It seems it takes the dark to keep the light together. And you wondered why there was so much darkness in this life of ours.

"Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are." GRB 090423. Astronomers call the hum that can be heard in radio telescopes "background radiation" left over from the original big bang explosion. I think it is the music of the stars....or...maybe it is God laughing at us with love because after 13.5 billion years we are finally catching up.

And God said let there be light. Thank you, O divine Creator, for "hatching" up such a wonder-filled place from which we can "wish upon a star."
Bless you,

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Messing with Time

Here we go again. We are going to exercise our power by changing the time. Someone is going to sneak into some cave somewhere and push a button. "They" say it happens around 2:00 in the morning. Of course that is if you live on the east coast of this particular continent. On the coast of some other piece of terra firma it might just be 2:00 in the afternoon. But it is the same cave....they say.

Did anybody get to vote on this? When did we fall down the rabbit hole and discover that some mad hatter gets to mess with time? The original Mad Hatter told Alice, "No wonder you were late. Why this watch is two days slow."

We human "beings" like to really be human "doings." We have to feel like we are in control. We convince ourselves of this by doing life. One of the best ways to "do" life is to think that we have a handle on time. When we start loosing control of time we take it back by adding an hour on to the day or taking an hour away. Like some "Alice in Wonderland" character we do our time math and then stand back and say, "There now...We changed time...How about that."

The "one" who is beyond time must smile at our efforts. This God of "all time" knows that we are not really in control of our time. I wonder if we checked our cosmic e mail "in box" we would discover a short message that read, "Quit your attempts to change time and figure out that it is really time for change."

Once upon a "time," except this really happened, a certain time traveler spoke some words that echo over the ages into our modern attempt to mess with and change time. He said, "Repent, the time is at hand." In his native tongue that ancient word he used means not so much to feel shame about who we are but rather the word "repent" means to "turn around and make a change."

So, soon we will do our "day-light savings" time change thing. Down in Alice's rabbit hole the King said, "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop."

We'll soon "receive" an extra hour. I suppose it will be a gift. Then again where did all those other hours come from? Were they gifts?

The time is at teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Bless you,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

But Can I Keep the Boat?

His name was Foster. He was my uncle...the crazy one...they said. As a child all I knew was that he often smelled funny. I later learned that the aroma was from left over trips to the local watering hole. Foster liked to come in early from his shrimp boat and spend quality time with his friends at the bar that was adjacent to the dock.

His other brothers, who also owned shrimp boats, took the bait that was offered by the new shipyard that came to the area. They quickly realized that the money was better, the hours shorter, and the income a sure thing. Shrimping was kind of like farming. One never knew what the result would be from the long hours of investment.

But...they had to sell their boats. To maintain shrimp boats takes time and money. Foster, however, hesitated. He too liked the lure of the money and the sure thing, but he also liked the life style that allowed him to come in early from his boat and load up at the dock. He liked the idea of more money but he knew that he too would have to give up the boat and the "perks" that came with what happened on those times when he simply wanted to stop work and start drinking.

This reminds me of another group of fishermen who once said to the one who offered them a different life style, "If we repent can we still keep the boats?" Jesus basically said, "no."

As the story goes they hung up their fishing nets one afternoon and went off to follow a man that promised them that they would be fishing for people....but they could not keep the boats. The new life meant leaving the old behind.

Me...I want my cake and eat it too. I want to follow Jesus but still keep my boat. No wonder I don't catch more people or something like that. To follow this fisher of people means giving up some old stuff. Like Foster I've established some "ways" that I kind of like. So...what does your boat look like??
Bless you

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Woke Up in the Dark

I don't think I have "seasonal affective disorder" but then again I might. What's the deal with all this dark? I know, the time has not changed yet to at least give us a break in the morning. That is the way it works, isn't it? I also have day light savings time disorder. I always get mixed up with "fall forward" and "spring backward." I spring when I should fall or something like that.

Anyway I sure know why all those people in the past came up with rituals in the month of December. I mean by the time December gets here it is really dark. No messing with our watches can change it. So, long ago people lit fires and danced around them. Sometimes, depending on their religious or non-religious persuasion, they asked, pleaded, or enticed the "sun" or "sun god" to please come back from his or her hiding place. This makes me feel a little better. I don't feel so alone in the dark. They did not like it either.

Speaking of December, there is some debate about the dating of Jesus' birth. It seems that Matthew and Luke did not bother to pay attention to the calendar. They were so excited to tell the story that they forgot to tell us what day it was. You say, "What do you was December 25 of course." Well that's when we celebrate it because we sure need to. We need the light in the dark. We need a good story with a happy ending. We need to not always wake up in the dark.

Since those early gospel writers failed to mark the calendar it seems that one of the Popes long ago got penned up against the wall and felt he had to offer an encyclical authorizing the exact date so that shepherds and Wise Men would no longer be "in the dark." It did not take him long to know exactly when God would have done such a thing. It had to be in the darkest time of the year. Maybe the Pope had that seasonal affective thing.

He did not need a calendar because he knew that the light needed to shine in the darkness. Maybe the exact date of that exceptionally bright star is a mystery, but it is not a mystery to me. We need and it's not even December yet.

One of the earliest Christian expressions ever recording was one word, "maranatha." It simply means, "come Lord Jesus." Some folks these days get all worked up about the word because they assume that the it refers to the literal second coming with all the end of the world fire-works and all. I simply like what it really means. Day-light savings time or not....maranatha...come into our dark mornings...and too early dark evenings...come into the dark that cannot be measured in people's lives who are without the light of love or hope or care...come into all the dark with the kind of light that penetrates the darkness like only you can...maranatha...

May you experience his light today.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This Time it's 2012

Well, I've just seen the trailer for the movie. It's even been suggested on none other than the "History Channel" that the world as we know it will come to an end in the year 2012. Shucks I'm still getting over the millennium bug and now we have the 2012 virus and the upcoming movie with the number as the title.

The doomsday proponents dusted off predictions that had been stored in the attics and basements and brought them out to the light when 2000 loomed and computers were going to crash and stars would fall. Toilet paper disappeared from grocery store shelves? did canned food and other staples that could be stored wherever it was that people were going to hide.

I've done a little research on the 2012 phenomenon...very little...but I'm as much of an expert as some who are writing books and making movies. Yes, there seems to be a galactic alignment coming, and yes the Mayan calendar seems to "run out" about December of 2012 (of course some scholars think that it kind of starts over...but don't confuse end of timers with such dangling conflicting facts)...and yes there is always the possibility of a big chunk of space stuff colliding with our spinning ball of cosmic dust...but

If you check out the "history" of end of the world close encounters of every imaginable kind you will find one common element: they've all been wrong. Another common devise is to use the Bible to make the time-line-charts...and again is wrong. Every biblical "mathematician" and prognosticator have gone down the black hole of evidence that is manipulated to meet the criteria of a certain prejudiced ideology.

Why do we need "anti-Christs" and Armageddons and apocalyptic predictions? Last time I checked there was enough fear to go around without thinking about all this. Do we really think that God has some calendar type kind of plan? If there is one, are we supposed to figure it out?..and if so...why? Is it in order to "get prepared?"

Jesus seems to have never visited a Hallmark store in order to purchase a calendar. He did once say that, "Before THIS GENERATION passes away you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds." As soon as Jesus went back to where he came from, folks rushed to the store and bought calendars and rulers so that they could make time charts.

Jesus did not show up at the "end of time" least not at the "end" that they plotted. What did he mean by "this generation?" He obviously did not mean the way we measure "this generation." God's time-clock is way beyond our meager let's quit playing this silly game and getting people all worked up with anxiety.

Jesus got cornered one day about all this by some of his disciples who wanted to know when the "end would come." Jesus gave them a definitive answer; "I don't have any idea," he said..."Next question."

Basically the "way" that Jesus offered to those who would listen was time sensitive for sure. "Live now and be present to the present...the end is always near." That's about it.

How about we if "spend" our time making life full and better for all God's children. Let's "consider" those lilies Jesus seemed to have us ponder. Let's fill our remaining hours looking for the "least of these." According to my calendar the time is now...that is all any of us have. Whenever the "end" does come, the God who gave us the beginning will be there. That is about the only "chart" we need.
bless you,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Defending God?

I wonder if atheism goes in cycles like, you know, wide ties? Lately it seems that books on atheism are on the best seller list. "God is Not Great," and "The God Delusion" are two that come to mind. Laced with this are thoughts like those of John Shelby Spong who wants to debunk "theism" by stating that there is no God "up in the sky." I'm not just being defensive because I think we can learn from the "loyal opposition."...but...

The problem with some of this "God is outdated" kind of stuff is that the choices given are 1)to be simple minded believers or 2) with-it realistic atheists. Somebody needs to tell these God knockers that there are a whole lot of choices between being a rigid fundamentalist and a "no thanks to God" advocate.

For one thing, God and science do not have to be such opposites if one has an expansive view of God and an educated understanding of what the Bible is and what it is not. Don't lump me with the foolish believers who have to spend all their time criticizing evolution and the big bang theory. The God of the universe has enough imagination to do whatever God wants when it comes to creation.

And I'm tired of TV talking heads who seem to "represent" Christianity. Most of them do not represent my understanding of Christianity so quit doing the "one size fits all" kind of defense of atheism. The God that some of the atheists don't believe in sounds a lot like the God I don't believe in either.

I like what Karl Barth, the eminent German biblical scholar and theologian said when asked, "Dr Barth, it sounds like you do not take the Bible literally?" His response was, "I take the Bible far too seriously to take it literally."

Well that goes not only for the Bible, it also goes for one's understanding of God. There are many ways to understand God besides the simple "man upstairs" or "cosmic policeman" or "divine puppet master." Another theologian named Paul Tillich called God, "the ground of all being."

So you can save your wide ties and know full well that atheism comes and goes along with all kinds of "views" of God. The deal is that if there is a God, and what do you think...I think there is...then the real God has to be much more complex than our mere views of that God.

So yes functional atheism can kick in when God let's us down or does not show up or is accused of allowing some "god-awful" (interesting expression) event to happen like a tsunami or something. The God who is way beyond any sky and a whole like deeper than our human thoughts can handle our disbelief and disappointment. Some religion can't handle complexity, ambiguity, and doubt; but the God of the universe is way bigger than religion.

I'm not big on the "Faith for Dummies" brand of faith that the latest atheists suggest that we believers espouse. There is no fact about the Bible or finding from the world of science that "true believers" need fear. Bring it on. The really big God, who by the way cannot fully be understood literally, can handle the questions.
Bless you

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's Time to Fly

Well they're here. Those caterpillars I told you about a few weeks ago who ate to the ground Betsy's parsley plants are now flying around our backyard equipped with the colorful wings of Monarch butterflies. They seem to be having a good time bouncing from flower to flower. I mean they've been in a cave for a few weeks, remember.

Wonder what a "to be" Monarch thinks while he or she is in that cocoon? "I'm done. I'm never getting out of this hole. The darkness is too overwhelming. I don't care what those others said it's lonely in here. Maybe what they said is a lie. Maybe there is nothing on 'the other side' of this darkness. What if I just wither up and die in here...heck this feels like death already. Is this feeling I have a real spinning of something else or am I wasting my time?"

The only way that a once upon a time caterpillar will know that the waiting in the dark was worth it is when the day the seal is broken and the light surrounds those strange new stained glass windows of flight. No wonder butterflies are loved all over the world. Could it be that we look at them and have those subliminal thoughts about us and our doubts about what will happen one day when we end up in the dark...that day when life calls it "a wrap" and life says "lights out." Somebody will take what's left of us and well...put us in a box...somehow...and then....

Well all I know is that the Monarch butterfly goes through four stages...It is only the fourth generation of Monarch that lives longer than two weeks. The fourth generation somehow lives four to six months and they will soon migrate 2,5000 miles to Mexico and end up in the same trees that their great grandparents went to. Now how do they know to do that?

The mystery wraps us all in a cocoon of wonder. So have a good trip my winged friends. You remind us all of a Creator who must be really be enjoying all of this. We sure are...

Bless you,

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Colored Water

I just finished the book, "The Color of Water" in which Ruth, the main character, tells one of her 12 children who asks, "What color is God?"..she replies, "God is the color of water." This white woman married an African American man. The story of her life, her struggles, her faith pilgrimage from Jewish to Christian, and her views of God are fascinating stuff.

I am reminded of the poem I wrote years ago when I reflected on that day in Biloxi Mississippi when as a child I mistakenly drank from the "colored" water fountain. It was around the corner from the "white only" fountain. Here are my "old" words:
Colored Water

"Colored" read the sign above the fountain
whose water I had drunk
Would I be sick from drinking "colored" water?
For I was "white only
though but a child

I asked a big person
but my mistaken drink was washed away with
So I waited to see if I would turn ill
or perhaps "colored"
for no one would say

There was only laughter at my childish question
and the strange word, "nigger" tossed about like
a toy
some strange enjoyment I did not understand

Now I am a "big person" with no signs to read above
And my children laugh when I tell them the
colored water story
For they do not understand how water could
make people sick

Ah but we "big people" do know that colored water did make people sick. Ruth learned it. We who have age on us remember the fountain of racism, the "colored" balcony at the movies, the back of the bus world, and that other part of town that was called "colored."

We had to learn that God "is" the color of water. It is we who are God's creation that attach labels and make water and even people "colored."

Have we learned? My children disbelieve me when I tell them that there were really fountains that read, "colored." They think I'm making it up. They can't believe anyone would really do that. There's hope. They can't believe it. I hope they believe along with Ruth that God is the color of water.
Bless you,