Archives for November 2014

Seeking Knowledge

Children have control over so little in their lives.
We grownups like to think that we have control over our lives, but perhaps that is only illusion.
Daddies and Mommies tell them when to get up and when to lie down, when to eat and when to play, what to wear and where to go.  Children will often grasp at anything that will give them more power over their lives.
One of the things I’ve noticed that children use to gain a little control is knowing what name to call things, especially when that thing frightens them a little.  When she was smaller, my eldest daughter’s constant response to a loud noise was That was? That was?  Now that she is a little older, she asks What was that? That noise?  Knowing the name of something gives her power over it, makes it seem a little less scary.
She seeks to know.
Perhaps she is not very different from many adults.
Scientists, medical researchers, geneticists, stay-at-home moms who like to learn…people want to know what name to call things, want to know about things, because that gives them power over those things, those ideas.  If we know how something was put together or how something works or even just what to call it, we feel as though we have power over our world.
We seek to know.
A long time ago, in a land far away, around the beginning of the Christian Church (perhaps even earlier), there lived a group of people we call Gnostics who believed (among other things) that matter, the material universe, was bad and that deliverance from our material form could only come through special knowledge.
Not long ago at all, in a land not at all far away, there lived a group of people who believed that their minds were all-powerful, that the dying of their flesh was bad, that through knowledge they could overcome all physical limitations.  They could eat poorly and take vitamin supplements.  They could ignore their children and send them to therapists.  They could extend life and choose the sort of life that they procreated through the technology they created.  They believed that saving our natural resources wasn’t important because their minds, human ingenuity in the form of science and technology, could surely take care of that problem as well.
There is nothing new under the sun…
In C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man (in 1943!), he said that mankind’s power to do exactly what it wants seems to be growing all the time through humanity’s so-called “con­quest of Nature” – the progress of applied science.  However, “each new power won by man is a power over man as well.”  We can throw bombs from airplanes but can also be bombed ourselves; a race of birth-controllers is a race whose own birth has been controlled.
We seek to know.  We seek to control.
Why do we feel that Nature is bad, that the material world needs to be conquered?  Even as Christ-followers we seek knowledge because we fear.  We want to know and to name so that we can control that which is uncontrollable.
Is the pursuit of knowledge wrong?  Not at all.
Paul says in Philippians:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. ~Philippians 1.9-11 (Italics mine)
Paul seeks to know.
Paul also said this:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~Philippians 4.12-13
Paul is definitely not in control, nor does he seek to be.
Is this a Faustian-like power, this power of knowledge?  A power that gives away everything good that God created in order to gain power and control over His creation?
It can be.
As Christ-followers, do we seek knowledge because we are fearful of the future and wish to wrest control of His creation from the One Who set it all in motion?
Sometimes I do.
Perhaps instead we can seek knowledge in order to praise God with our minds.  Perhaps we can seek knowledge in gratitude for our imagination and intelligence, in gratitude for the complexity of His creation.
I suppose that, as with most that God has created, the goodness or evil of the pursuit of knowledge depends upon the heart of His creation.
May our hearts and minds seek to know out of thanksgiving rather than out of fear.

*etching is “Faust” by Rembrandt

*edited from the archives

Famine in the Land

Amos, the herdsman turned prophet.
The visionary with the visions of things he kept talking God out of doing.
Too much! he would say, and God would agree.
Locusts forming up to devour the land.
Too much! And they were turned away.
Fire consuming the deep places in his country.
Too much! And they were put out.
Amos looked around at the men lounging around eating their fill of the richest of foods and throwing the rest to the hounds.  He looked around at the women dressed in the finest of cloth and adorned with the choicest of jewels.  He looked around at the leaders and their wives lying on beds of the softest linens and dabbing themselves with the sweetest perfumes.
Amos also looked at the men and women who fought with the rats for the stalest of bread, who froze when the wind whipped through the largest of holes in their shirts, who slept with the cockroaches on the hardest of stone.
He said there would be famine.  A famine and a thirst and a loss of the sun in the middle of the day.  But not a famine of bread or a thirst of water.
No, this famine would be far worse.  It is a shortage of the words of God.  It is a loss of the light of His face.
The rich and the lovely would be doomed to run from sea to shining sea, searching and thirsting for the Word of Life.
It is a loss of light, a loss of life.  It is the loss of God himself.
Towards the end, God will make himself so scarce that the world won’t even know what it’s starving to death for. ~ Frederick Buechner in Peculiar Treasures
Too much!
May God have mercy and not abandon us to our own selves and desires.
Lord, we would have more of You.

My Little Circle of Lamplight

We wander around in the dim light.
Dim Light
Lost in a twilight we hope will end in glorious dawn yet are frightened may only lead to utter darkness, we stumble around and squint about us for a path.
We can ever only see the next step, sometimes two, but we still strain our eyes towards the horizon, searching for a ray of the sun.
Other shadows stumble near us and we are as likely to swing out clumsily to protect our frightened selves as we are to welcome them as companions on a journey.
All we can do is cling to Jesus, to that name, whatever it means to each of us. We cling to the Word and are disappointed that it is a lamp and not a floodlight.
Yet as we stumble and search, if we keep our eyes on that dim pool of lamplight, we find that it is enough. We find that a circle of candlelight is enough to keep us from falling flat on our faces if we will only keep our eyes on our own path instead of casting them around farther ahead or behind.
Asking for our daily bread keeps us crying out that we need Him every hour rather than only every week or so.
And so the dim light helps rather than hinders. It keeps us clutching the One who knows where we ought to be rather than stubbornly crawling off the edge of a cliff because we have the right and freedom to do so.
Perhaps the searchlight of God would be enough to turn us to stone and make us beg for the soft familiar lamplight again.
soft guiding light
We all wander around in the murky light.
And if we can only remain content in our small circle of candlelight, then one day we will see, perhaps only out of the corner of our eyes at first, the first rays of Him who is the Light of the world breaking through our mist and burning it all away for a glorious dawn.
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

My Prison

Sometimes I live in a prison.
It is a prison of my own making, but it is a dingey dungeon nonetheless.
These bars over here are the guilt I give myself whenever I read instead of playing with my children. The guilt that I feel Every Single Time.
Those dirty, cinder block walls over there are the pressures I put on myself to be sure I am teaching my kids every single thing they will ever need to know in their lives. Perfectly.
That low, suffocating ceiling up there is the stress of trying to be the perfect wife, with the perfect body and the stellar cooking skills. The pressure of trying to give without taking. Ever.
It is an unreasonable prison, and I know it. Deep down I know that I am imperfect and that it is okay to rest, to receive, to care for myself.
Gratefully, I live here only some of the time. Only some of the time do I give in to the pressure I feel around me; only some of the time do I tuck deep into my heart those perfect photos on Pinterest.
The rest of the time?
Those are the times in which I wisely choose to listen, instead, to a God who says “I love you No Matter What”. Those are the times in which I choose to listen to One who tells me that His is a “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”
And in those times?
There is release.


Art Credits: photo of prison 1 and last photo of open door by Miguel Saavedra, photo of prison 2 by Colin Brough, photo of cellar prison from rgbstock. photo of prison window by Chris Hitchcock,