Divine Relationship

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about our relationship with God. Mostly my thoughts have been along the lines of "the purpose of religion is less about morality and more about relationship with God," but I was writing an LJ response to another religious thread and the thought suddenly hit me (though not for the first time) "what does a relationship with God even mean? How do you have relationship with someone you can't physically interact with?"

I considered all the activities we do in order to improve our relationship with God: going to Church, worshiping Him through praise, learning about Him through sermons and studying His revealed word, evangelism to bring others closer to Him, behaving in a righteous and just fashion to honor His laws (not to mention our fellow human beings), and finally prayer. It's my opinion that prayer is really the place where we build intimacy with God. In Church and evangelism, we're focused on other people as much as on God (which I don't think is a bad thing). Though reading His word can sometimes provide powerful insights which lead to a closer, more intimate relationship, I feel that it's a bit too second-hand to reliably build intimacy. Worship can involve that one-on-one interaction which builds intimacy, but most of the time we're worshiping in public, so that puts a barrier up. Furthermore, worship is from us to God. I think that intimacy is a two-way street. Prayer best seems to serve that purpose.

This would seem to inform the kind of prayer we should seek out. Intimate prayer will not be formulaic or perfunctory. Prayer of thanksgiving, such as over a meal, is appropriate but not really intimate. It seems to me that intimate prayer should be a dialogue. Furthermore, intimate prayer should allow us to reveal our truest selves to God...even when our truest selves don't have very flattering things to say about Him. I think God welcomes that, even when we rant and rail against Him. At least we're talking to Him, and can become engaged in a divine dialogue. That can be very healing, and builds intimacy between us and Him.

Intimate prayer may sometimes be inarticulate. The Apostle Paul once said that when words fail us, the Holy Spirit intercedes with groanings to express what we need to say. When I read the news about the uprisings in Iran, I was at a personal low point. I was physically exhausted from a canoe trip we'd taken over the weekend, and I was feeling emotionally fragile for reasons I still can't fully explain (though the canoe trip likely had a lot to do with it). When I saw the news from Iran, I must admit that for a little while I broke down. I was inspired by their courage to risk their lives for freedom, but at the same time I was frightened beyond anything reasonable for their safety. These people live half-way around the world from me, and moreover are in many ways my enemies (they still call out for Death to America). Why should I be so concerned for their safety? Perhaps it was a symptom of my emotional state at the time, perhaps it was a genuine outpouring of compassion, but it was certainly not something I could articulate. In that confusion, my prayer first manifested itself as an upswelling of intense emotion and what I can only describe as silent sobbing (I was at work, so audible sobbing would have been...inappropriate). Eventually I was collected enough to cry out for God to protect my brothers and sisters, though they did not acknowledge Him in the way I acknowledge Him, as well as for their ultimate victory and His revelation to them. Which, oddly enough, seems to have happened to some degree. I just read an article today about how a showing of The Lord of the Rings on Iranian tv was providing hope and encouragement to the protesters. How odd that a fantasy work by a Christian author would have such resonance with Muslims. How odd that a state-run media outlet would play such a work at this exact time! Allahu Ackbar, indeed.

In many cases, intimate prayer is silent. I remember on a recent re-reading of Job that it struck me that the only time Job's friends were really a comfort to him is when they came to visit during his hardship and just sat with him in silence. There's a great deal of power in just being with someone. Sometimes the greatest thing to do is to go to a silent place and open yourself to the presence of God. Sometimes this results in an outpouring of emotion and articulate prayer, other times simply a feeling of calm and rest. At least, that is my experience.

I hope that each of you finds intimacy in your relationship with God. I hope you find the sense that He is not just the God of Creation and the Eternal Judge, but that He is with you personally, spending time with you, caring for you on every level from the banal concerns of your every day existence to the most sublime questions of eternal importance.

God bless and be with you,

Moment of Zen

Moral Responsibility for Opposing Murder

So, apparently, it is now legal in Sweden to have a sex-selective abortion: that is, you can get an abortion based on the gender of the child (this is already the case in China, though it was enacted there primarily due to their "one-child" policy).

Now, leaving aside the question of whether abortion is murder or not (and hence is morally acceptable or not), since we've already discussed that here, the following question comes to mind: If a person honestly believes that abortion is murder, what is their moral responsibility to oppose it? Is it sufficient that they themselves avoid this practice (murder)? Should you try to talk your friends, family, and/or other people you meet on the street into avoiding this practice (murder)? Should you try to change the laws to oppose this practice (murder)? Should you withhold your vote from any politician who supports (what you consider to be) murder? Should you take up arms and defend the lives of others by force, if you truly, honestly believe that they are being murdered?

To help clarify our thinking, let's consider two other cases. First, what if you are a citizen of Cambodia living under the murderous regime of Pol Pot. To what extent should a moral person oppose the murder that government committed? Second, consider a Polynesian island tribe whose fertility rights involve gang rape and eventual murder of the victim and her final rapist. To the tribe, these actions are not immoral, but the hypothetical observer is absolutely convinced, in their own mind, that these actions are completely morally repugnant. To what extent should this person oppose the rape and murder being committed by this tribe? Should they agree to disagree? Should they try to talk the tribe out of it? Should they get the government of the nation that has oversight over this tribe to intervene? Should they oppose this rape and murder by force, personally?

To what extent should a moral person act in each of these three situations, and why? If you recommend different courses of action for any of these situations, what is the difference between them and how does that affect what course of action you would recommend?

Collapse )

Just curious how many of my friends will get this....

So, in America, Christianity is pretty ubiquitous. Theoretically, therefore, most Americans should have at least a passing familiarity with the Gospel. Of course, we all know how theory and reality always match to exactly all the, to test the hypothesis, two questions:

1) According to Christianity, how certain can a Christian be that he or she is going to go to Heaven when they die?

2) According to Christianity, if God were to ask a Christian why He should let them go to Heaven, what would the Christian say?

Okay, guys, what are your answers?

Seriously considering giving up on going to Japan

First, funding has been difficult to acquire (most amusing quote of the process: "In Japan, it's the job of the parents to provide for their children while they're in grad school."). Second, I've got a lot to do to finish my own research, never mind working on something for Dr. Funaki. Third, to get funding, it's looking like I'd have to push my graduation back to Spring of 2011 so that I'd have a semester to transfer what I learned in Osaka to the UofA. Fourth, I get the distinct impression that most of my professors consider the whole exercise a waste of time and resources. Certainly my adviser has that attitude.

On the other hand, there are a lot of good reasons to stick it out. First, it's still a good resume builder. Second, it's still a great evangelistic opportunity. Third, it would be a great personal growth opportunity. Fourth, I'd learn Japanese. Finally, perseverance produces character. Yes, doing this is hard, but I honestly think I'd be a better man for accomplishing a difficult thing. Or even for trying very hard to accomplish it, but ultimately failing.

So, what do you guys think?

I survived the great ice storm of 2009, and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt

But I did get power back!

Man, it is really gorgeous out. Ice covers everything, and it looks really cool on the trees. Unfortunately, it's also been incredibly destructive. Tons of trees have just been destroyed, not to mention power lines, transformers, and cars. A few people too. :-(

Some good news, though. A Chi Alphan from South America has a brother who'd been kidnapped back in October. Today, the police found him and returned him to his family, alive and unharmed. Praise God!

I hope others are doing okay in the aftermath of the storm. God bless and be with you all!

Best Birthday Ever! (A day early)

Sanna got me a ring! To replace the one I lost in the lake. So, now I look married again. :-D

Thank you thank you thank you thank you! I don't know why, but symbolic items like that mean a lot to me. It's good to have it back.

She made me promise out loud "I will not wear it to the lake, or anywhere else my wife tells me not to wear it." :-p

Anna, I forgive you.

I forgive you for the hurt you caused me with your comments a couple of weeks ago. This does not mean that I'm going to allow you access to my life again, as that would be foolish unless I had some guarantee that you weren't going to use such access to tear people down again. Still, I'm willing to give you another chance. I've screened the comments to this post, so you can come and talk to me here. Tom and I were close once, but now there's a big rift between us. I'd like to discuss how that rift might be healed.

Werewolf Thoughts, Part IV

When the pack returns from Arkansas, Vince gets a call from the department telling him of a horrific murder in Muskogee. As he and Kevin go to investigate, Logan gets a call from the Tulsa pack informing them of a massive attack in the Shadow realm--their allies in the military choir have been hit hard.


1) Real world target, a hiker, is killed brutally.
2) Military allies are attacked and utterly destroyed, locus is drained.
3) Following evening--another real world murder, this time at a farm (this is a human agent of the Changelings, enchanted to enable him to guard the Trod on the edge of town--this is a coincidence).
4) Brian's wolf pack is attacked and destroyed, only the alpha escapes, heavily wounded. Describes a mighty predator, drenched in blood, feral and catlike.
5) Another attack in the Shadow, this time on some of Muryk's forces near the River.
6) Muryk calls a meeting, describing how the River is getting more powerful with help from upstream...
7) Wednesday night--another murder, this time an entire family at the edge of town.
8) The pack's totem disappears, a local raccoon spirit describes the owl as being chased by a massive catlike creature, shot out of the air, and dragged away to the south.

Plot--McKenzie is using a ritual from Dr. Adams to use the essence produced by a human death to empower Arcfang.

The first crime scene: