Friday, July 18, 2014

Darkness and Stumbling

“Those who walk during the day do not stumble because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” -Jesus (John 11)

The disciples were afraid of being killed, worried that Jesus would be jailed or killed, if they went back close to Jerusalem to visit Lazarus and his family. Jesus told them that the day has 12 hours, and one should walk during those hours, not at night. Once again, Jesus is pointing to another reality. A picture of something else. He speaks of light and not stumbling, and that makes sense to them and to us. A reasonable proverb. If you walk during the day, you do not trip; a very important thing in a time before electric lights and steel toed boots. But Jesus means that that there is a reality like the light. And there is a stumbling that is apart from hitting your toe on a rock.

What is this reality? The disciples are afraid of stumbling. They know there is darkness in Judea. But Jesus, as he has explained repeatedly, is in fact the light of the world. Where he goes there is no darkness. So it matters not whether there is war, or peace, or danger, or risk, or disease, or even death. All of those things are immediately tamed because they are like stumbling in the dark: when there is light, there is no stumbling.

In verse 16, Thomas finally gives in and says “let us go and die with him.” That is the best most of us can do in following Christ: resign ourselves to defeat, to death, to failure. We play the sad martyr and bring ourselves (with some self-righteousness thank you) to a giving up of security and success. But Jesus himself does not ask us to go this way. It is our insistence on holding to this world and closing our ears to Jesus' words that makes us joyless followers. Jesus himself says:
“Lazarus sleeps” - giving hope that he will rise again. A better picture for us of the reality that Jesus can see but we cannot. Jesus sees Lazarus, and all of us, rising again. We, never having seen anyone ever rise again, do not get that picture when the word “death” is mentioned.
“I am glad for your sakes I was not there, that you might believe.” Not that Jesus is a sadist but that Jesus, again, sees the end of things: a risen Lazarus, a woken Lazarus. A joy after the sorrow. A baby born after the pain. Faith birthed. The church begun.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Poem Space

A poem says
My language is not enough
I need more room
Let me dance my words
Even if I knock over a planter
Or some heirloom

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Now, against the sacrilegious and impious darings of reason, we assert both that God knows all things before they come to pass, and that we do by our free will whatsoever we know and feel to be done by us only because we will it.

                                                                                     -Augustine (City of God)

Friday, March 28, 2014


If God speaks not to us, then we are imagining him and all our time and energy thinking about God and praying to God and donating to God and discussing God is a fantasy and a self-invention.  At best a soothing distraction, at worst playing with razor blades.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Time of Death

Howard Miller Postema 625-406 49 Inch Large Wall Clock

The question from the nurses:
“what was the time of death?”
I have been asked that enough times
That I do now sometimes look at the clock
Before I am asked.
I think about that moment
When it happened
When the final breath left
And the heart quit beating
Must be written somewhere
And everywhere
Such an important time it must be
The time of death

But the “time of death”
is a misnomer
It cannot be
for it is the end of time
At least for one
How can there be a time 
For the end of time?
When you are out of string 
There is no string
You can’t say:  “be sure to tie a string around your finger,
when you run out of string. 
Then you will remember to buy string.”
But then the analogy breaks down.
As all do, it is death we are talking about
Speech is gone
Thought is gone
Theories are gone
Life is gone
The person is gone

But still I am called
To pronounce the “time of death”
As if I the doctor
Have a magic key
To an invisible box
Wherein this life will hide
As long as I give it a time

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Centrally Planned Healthcare

Thomas Jefferson Poster, Sowing & Reaping

The lastest SGR Deal (click for article) sounds good, increasing doctor pay tied with quality.  However:

1.  Interventions from DC that purport to make doctors provide a higher quality of care by paying them extra for certain check-boxes and computer clicks are not effective.

2.  The doctor groups that are supporting these measures do not see, or choose not to see, the reality of #1

3.  The primary net results of these measures are:  more bureaucracy, increased cost for already overpriced medical care, more passing the buck on cost-control.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Pessimist

Not many years ago when I was an atheist, if anyone had asked me, ‘Why do you not believe in God?’ my reply would have run something like this:  ‘Look at the universe we live in.  By far the greatest part of it consists of empty space, completely dark and unimaginably cold...Earth herself existed without life for millions of years and may exist for millions more when life has left her.  And what is it like while it lasts?  It is so arranged that all the forms of it can live only by preying upon one another.  In the lower forms this process entails only death, but in the higher there appears a new quality called consciousness which enables it to be attended with pain...In the most complex of all creatures, Man, yet another quality appears, which we call reason, whereby he is enabled to foresee his own pain which henceforth is preceded with acute mental suffering, and to foresee his own death while keenly desiring permanence.  It also enables men by a hundred ingenious contrivances to inflict a great deal more pain than they otherwise could have done...Every race that comes into being in any part of the universe is doomed; for the universe, they tell us, is running down...All stories will come to nothing: all life will turn out in the end to have been a transitory and senseless contortion upon the idiotic face of infinite matter.  If you ask me to believe that this is the work of a benevolent and omnipotent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction.  Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit.’

There was one question which I never dreamed of raising.  I never noticed that the very strength and facility of the pessimists’ case at once poses us a problem.  If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator?  Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that.  The direct inference from black to white, from evil flower to virtuous root, from senseless work to a workman infinitely wise, staggers belief.  The spectacle of the universe as revealed by experience can never have been the ground of religion: it must always have been something in spite of which religion, acquired from a different source, was held.

CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain