Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Doesn't God Heal Everyone Who Asks?

When I was growing up, one of my best friends was Nathan Fischner who was born with a whole in his back (spina bifida).  He could walk only with a full lower-body brace and custom crutches, but he was an expert wheel chair racer and taught me the art and joy of the stationary wheelie.  Nathan is trained as a computer scientist, but for now he is working as a gem cutter.
A few years ago, I was preaching about a story of Jesus' healing a lame man, and I remembered Nathan.  I wondered how he reads this text and how he deals with the issue of healing from the perspective of one who has a life-long handicap.  His response - which has been percolating for quite some time - is thoughtful, personal, vulnerable, and at times profound.  With his permission, I am glad to post his answer here.

Nathan Fischner: You asked me in an email some years ago why it was that one does not say, "Rise up and walk!" to one who needs healing, and then send them on their way.  Why DON'T we ALL just go around mass healing the injured, disabled, and sick.  It seems so simple... and yet so many stay as they are.  The world God has made is a very big place, in terms of the possibilities of expressing his love to those he created in his own image.  There must, therefore, be more to it than it first seems.

I say that when it is revealed to us in terms we understand, we must accept God's will as a small trusting child would, without agenda and without expectations other than he is our Father and wants the best for us.  That being said, we are taught by Jesus himself to go into a quiet, secluded room, and, by the model prayer He gave us, to think on a much larger prayer than simply a need.  One is to acknowledge Him, His greatness and authority, and to truly rejoice before Him concerning what He has done for them and what this person has seen Him do for others (thankfulness isn't just presenting a list of items you have noticed done for you).  A little child, as we are meant to envision, comes to the Father saying "Please, fix this.", because the child has reached the end of his/her own resources, and the problem is something that they don't feel they can go on past without help.

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Help, Thanks, Wow" by Anne Lammot - Book Review

Anne Lammot's quirky, self-effacing humor makes spirituality fun, feasible, and ordinary.  Her approach is so clear of religiosity and Christianese.  Her simple words on topics of depth and pain invite us to pray more honestly and more often.
In this book, Anne lays out the three basic human prayers: what we say when in need, in gratitude, and in wonder.  It's short, but that's a good thing for a book like this.  Anne reminds me that prayer is more a part of my life than I even recognize, and this in turn allows me to be more intentional about praying and recognizing my helps, thanks, and wows.
This is a great book for a friend for whom prayer has grown stale, or for whom church and the whole religious world seems intimidating, or who simply delights in a fresh take on spirituality.  Personally, I look forward to a book on what Anne calls the fourth great prayer, "Lord, help me not to be such an ass."  I find myself praying that a lot.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Orphan Master's Son - Book Review

   Having living in South Korea for nine years, I've developed a bit of a fascination with North Korea.  I've stood on the other side of the DMZ.  I've looked through a telescope into the North Korean hills.  I've read several history books and followed the news to come out of the mysterious, murky North.
   Nothing has riveted me like Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son.  It might be described as historical fiction, except that the history it describes is present day North Korea.  For one with a moderate knowledge of North Korea and a strong understanding of South Korean culture, this novel has the aura of authenticity.  Johnson has nailed the ethos of North Korea.
   Of course, he had to take some liberties with logic, making one person do far too many things.  However, some such bending of circumstances is often necessary for a cohesive and comprehensive narrative.
   Johnson has delivered a gripping and clear picture of life in North Korea through the lens of a single individual.  The voice alternates among various narrators and even to public service announcements broadcast into ever North Korean home through a nationwide intercom system.  The story deftly weaves humor, drama, suspense, intrigue, politics, love, despair, and hope.
   One of the most compelling lines comes from a supporting character, the high level Minister of Procurement, "No one is safe."  After the recent execution of Kim JeongEun's uncle (Korea's #2 leader), this one line is hauntingly true.
   It won a much deserved Pulitzer Prize in 2013.  I highly recommend it.  But don't start it when you're busy.  You'll want to read in every spare moment.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Dream Within

A dream surges through me
Like a river in the mountains
Bubbling up like a spring
A boiling volcano
Waiting to explode.

A dream lies within me,
Plutonium in my depths,
Dangerous riches.
Beware the miner:
Under layers of rock and life,
Unstable matter,
Radiating into my dishes and handshakes.

A dream lives within me
Like a Shawshank prisoner,
Chipping at my walls
One pocket of dust at a time.
Am I warden, friend, or escapee?
Or will life prove me three?