December 18, 2017

Creation Is a Many-Splendored Thing (5): Delighting in Creation’s Goodness

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O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

• Psalm 104: 24, NRSV

• • •

It has been awhile since we’ve returned to our series from William P. Brown’s fascinating book on the many ways the Bible teaches about creation: The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder. But Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. seems like a perfect day to look at the most extensive creation psalm in Scripture, Psalm 104, for as Brown says, in this psalm “creation is seen not from the creator’s perspective but from the creature’s, specifically from the standpoint of Homo laudans, ‘the praising human.'”

As with many psalms, Psalm 104 does not readily divulge its historical context. It is pure poetry, setting its focus on the world of nature, not on Israel’s history, and in a strikingly novel way. It offers an unabashedly positive view of the natural world that includes the wilderness, traditionally considered dangerous and chaotic. Instead of “Lions and tigers and bears, O my!” we have “Lions and tigers and bears, Amen!” (along with the coneys, onagers, and mountain goats). The psalmist celebrates the world of the wild and the God who sustains it all. (p. 144).

This psalm is an extended meditation about God’s repeated pronouncements in Genesis 1: “And God saw that it was good.” The psalmist agrees.

  • Verses 1-4 — the transcendent glory of the heavens: good
  • Verse 5 — the eternal stability of the earth: good
  • Verses 6-9 — the seas that fill the places God appointed for them: good
  • Verses 10-13 — the fresh waters that satisfy the thirst of God’s wild creatures: good
  • Verses 14-15 — the abundant food that God brings from the earth to feed his creatures: good
  • Verses 16-23 — the many and varied earthscapes in which God’s creatures find a home: good

The world so conceived by the psalmist is not so much a free range as a spacious home, and its inhabitants all share the earth as their common habitat. Psalm 104, in short, is a fanfare for the common creature. (p. 147).

. . . Place and provision, according to Psalm 104, are the fundamental features of creation that ensure the continuance of life. (p. 151).

Blue-WhaleAs the psalmist praises God and relishes the vastness, complexity, and beneficence of God’s creation and the astonishing creatures who find a home there, he even mentions Leviathan. Leviathan was the mythic sea creature who represented the forces of chaos. But rather than portraying this sea monster in terms of cosmic warfare and opposition to God, he says, There [in the sea] go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it (v. 26). So good is God’s creation deemed to be in Psalm 104 that even its most feared creature is described as frolicking amid the waves by God’s design!

Furthermore, and most significantly for our understanding of the world, even the death of God’s creatures is depicted, not as a curse, but as part of the natural life cycle of rebirth and renewal in the earth (vv. 27-30):

These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

p00rwzp9This reinforces the perspective I shared last week: that creation did not change in its nature, properties, or “laws” as a result of a “fall” or “curse” in Genesis 3. It was deemed “very good” by God in the beginning, and in this poem, the psalmist affirms that it remains “very good.” This does not change the fact that God acts in both judgment and salvation in the world. But God does that because of what we read at the very end of Psalm 104, not because creation itself has been placed under a curse that transformed it from “good” to “not good.”

So let’s look at the way this psalm ends. The one decidedly minor note in this symphony of praise proclaims that a single part of God’s creation threatens its goodness. Verse 35, an imprecation on the wicked, at first glance seems profoundly out of place: “Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more.” To this point, there has been barely any mention of human beings, much less talk of sin and wickedness. Why does the psalmist include this appeal for judgment at the end of Psalm 104?

Brown comments:

For many readers, this imprecation is a “damned spot” on an otherwise perfect poem. But for the ancient listener, calling God to exterminate the wicked made sense in a less than perfect world. By cursing the wicked, the psalmist transfers the evil chaos traditionally assigned to mythically monstrous figures such as Leviathan and places it squarely on human shoulders. Conflict in creation, the psalmist acknowledges, is most savage among the distinctly human beasts. (p. 144f)

The danger this good world faces continually is that human beings will corrupt it by “corrupting their way upon the earth” (Genesis 6:12). Humankind, given stewardship over the world, is called to represent the God of Psalm 104 in all the earth. This is the God who sustains creation by his wisdom (v. 24) and by the joy he takes in it (v. 31). Likewise, through humanity’s wise care and use of this amazing planet, and by taking delight in its wonders and never forgetting from Whom they came, we take our rightful place here among the manifold splendors of the cosmos and fulfilling God’s will on earth as in heaven.

So . . .

peaceablekingdomLet us give thanks to God for the divine wisdom and joy displayed in his good creation. Thank him for giving us and all creatures a home and a source of abundant provision.

As we give thanks today, let us confess our sin of bringing corruption into this good world, posing an ongoing threat to its marvelous ecosystems, ourselves, and other creatures by our predatory behaviors.

Let us thank the Creator that though the corruption we bring is profound, God continues to rejoice in the work of his hands and the goodness of creation still shines through, prompting meditation and praise every day.

Let us pray that, like our Creator, we will be wise in tending to the creation, delighting in its wonders and being good stewards of its resources.

And let us anticipate that day when sin and wickedness shall be banished from the earth, and all things will be gathered together and made new in Christ (Ephesians 1:10).

Happy Thanksgiving.

Comments

  1. I’m not too sure that I can fully go along with the author’s point of man spoiling the earth in a modern ecological way. That seems too modern a take on an ancient text. But I CAN agree that corrupted mankind IS a blot on God’s “good” world. Of all it’s inhabitants it is only sinful mankind who disrupts the harmony.

    Granted, mankind DOES pollute the earth in spiritual AND physical ways, but it is primarily his wicked heart that spoils everything. So if one would want to conflate that to modern day eco-saviors I guess that is OK, just not necessarily the original intent of the psalm.

    • This was not so much meant as an ecological interpretation as an application of the text — representing the approach Brown takes in his book, which tries to integrate what we’re learning from science along with the Bible’s portrayal of creation. I like the way you put it, Oscar, “sinful mankind disrupts the harmony.” I would be content with that in terms of actual interpretation.

  2. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” (Romans 8:20-22).

    Perhaps Paul had Psalm 104 in mind when he wrote this. The order and beauty of creation is threatened by folly or frustration by the estrangement and non-being ushered in by human sinfulness. To betray my age, the movie “The Mission” comes to mind, where the peace and tranquility encountered by Jesuit priests among a Brazilian tribe is destroyed by the colonizing Portuguese army. Given the number of Sci Fi fans here at iMonk, some may recall a novel by Loyd Briggle, Jr. entitled “Monument”, about a pristine world destroyed by colonization, development and mining. To some extent, CS Lewises Silent Planet trilogy also captures this idea.

    The metaphore has limits. Many will debate whether human intervention and “progress” is always a corrupting force; of course, it is not. As addressed by GK Chesterton in Everlasting Man, the innocence of the primitive world is also a matter of debate. Perhaps a simpler example of the folly and frustration of sin upon beauty and creation may be the destruction of exquisite medieval European cathedrals during both world wars.

    • Good examples with “The Mission” and European cathedrals during the wars.

      You know, as I reflect upon history, so many things have been created “for good,” but then morphed “to do bad.” The wheel, created to help movement of goods and people, suddenly used on chariots for war. Fire for warmth and cooking, used to burn during war. Weapons for hunting game, then made for killing humans. Even advances in medicine, turned into biological/chemical weapons.

      • Rick, it’s probably the other way around. As Kubrick’s ascent of man scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” showed, the weapons probably developed first, and only later found peacetime applications. I would bet that was the case for the wheel. And I think you need to consider the overlap between hunting and warfare.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Robert,

          The overlap between hunting and warfare is actually quite limited – i would suggest that (following primate studies), the real overlap is between warfare and sex/procreation.

          • I meant overlap between hunting and warfare in the development of technologies. If a weapon can be used to bring down wild game, it can easily be adapted to bring down enemies.

            Is there an overlap between warfare and sex/procreation among primates in the development of technology? Do primates use technology in sex/procreation?

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Robert, I was thinking in terms of drive/motivation. Primates attack, waylay, even kill to increase their chances of procreation – both within the group, as well as between groups. They calculate odds of success etc etc.

            I wasn’t particularly thinking of technology – which only becomes another expression of the already resident drives…

          • A little late in replying back to this thread. Yes, I was thinking specifically of technological advancements, not the psychological/sociological aspects of advancements.

            Robert F., I think there’s a strong general trend that most technological advancements begin for the BETTERMENT of humankind’s condition (“created for good”) and are quickly morphed for BAD. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure the wheel wasn’t first thought of as “I can kill my enemies better with this,” but rather “I can move my stuff around better with this.”

  3. “When you hide your face, they are dismayed…”

    Looking at it from the creature’s point of view, it’s hard to square that dismay with the idea of the comprehensive goodness of creation, and it’s impossible to lay blame for that dismay at the feet of human beings. Death may indeed be part of the natural order and cycle of creation, but the extraordinary suffering involved, as expressed in that one word, “dismay,” is impossible to affirm as “good.”

    And this alienating, anguish-filled suffering that attends the slide toward death of all creatures, including humans, is an integral aspect of creation itself; its existence is not the result of human sin, though we may of course act in ways that deepen and increase it. God is responsible for its existence, as the Psalm makes clear; he “opens his hand” or “hides his face” by turns, without any human involvement.

    Unless we want to call this dismay and anguished suffering good, we cannot say that the natural world is unambivalently good. The chaos and alienation of suffering is stitched right into the fabric of creation, from the beginning; even if one believes that death and suffering resulted from a human fall, there was already a malicious serpent in the Garden before the first human sin, and God put it there.

    God is responsible for this appalling suffering of creation; there’s no way around it. And this suffering is not good. That’s the problem that theodicy has sought to resolve or soften, though it’s never done so adequately. Even the attempt to get God off the hook by getting him onto a cross only addresses this problem in a partial way; the cross has come and gone, but the same problem, the same questions, about suffering keep rising up from the silence. They are perennial, and deeper than any theology.

    “All things come of Thee, Oh Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee.”

    • I (finally) just finished Susan Neiman’s book “Evil in Modern Thought,” in which she makes the case that this problem — theodicy in its theological incarnation — is fundamental to the whole development of modern philosophy, rather than being an interesting sideshow. Her case is quite convincing.

      Indeed, there’s no getting around the fact that God created a world in which this suffering exists. Calvinism may hold the banner in this parade, but all of us Christians (and most theists in general) still find ourselves reluctantly straggling along somewhere behind the marching band, looking down at our well-worn boots rather than waving to the crowd.

      And you’re right about this too: this problem is deeper than theology (or philosophy) can ever satisfactorily address. Even philosophers with dentures will keep encountering new reasons to keep the pen in the inkwell.

      But we are left with poetry, and on this Thanksgiving Day, I will give thanks for Psalms such as this, which provide an opening to affirm “glory be to God for dappled things.”

      • Ah, yes…praise Him for dappled things!

        (By the way, what’s a dappled thing?) 😉

        • That Other Jean says:

          Pied Beauty

          Glory be to God for dappled things —
          For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
          For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
          Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
          Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;
          And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

          All things counter, original, spare, strange;
          Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
          With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
          He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
          Praise him.


          “Pied Beauty”
          Gerald Manley Hopkins
          written 1877.[2]

        • That Other Jean says:
      • @Trevis,

        ” Even philosophers with dentures will keep encountering new reasons to keep the pen in the inkwell.”

        How about amateurs with partials?

  4. Robert, as I’ve said before, the Bible assumes the presence of evil and suffering in the universe just as it assumes the existence of God. That is not the same as saying God is responsible for it; it merely puts the subject beyond explanation. Both Genesis 1 and Psalm 104 hint at exceptions to the “good” they portray. Neither lays responsibility at God’s feet.

    • If God isn’t responsible for it, then someone or something else must be. It’s easy to see that humans cause some suffering, but the anguished suffering of creatures when God “turns his face” away from them is something stitched into existence itself. If God does indeed “turn his face” away from them (speaking analogically), then I believe the Bible does indeed lay the responsibility for that suffering at God’s feet. In another place in the Psalms, God is said to be the creator of both “weal and woe.”

      While the opening parts the book of Job, by placing Satan in the proximate position as the cause of Job’s suffering, refuse to let God’s hands get dirty, Satan quickly drops away from the rest of the narrative, as does human responsibility. Human and satanic influence in the perpetuation of suffering are not germane to the question of its origin.

      Job knows this. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways…” is the crux upon which hangs the entire book, and the issues it explores. All the divine bluster of the concluding chapters does nothing to resolve the tension of this reality: Job’s creator is his destroyer, and the root cause of his suffering. The concluding chapters only draw attention away from this truth, because we humans cannot stare too long into it without being driven to despair and madness, or seeking a palliative in one pious placebo or another. God is responsible, but if we spend too much time thinking about that, it will undo us.

      • OldProphet says:

        “The Bible merely puts the subject of evil beyond explanation”. That statement, CM, is just unfathomable to me. Causality is from something I’m not trying to be a prig but Just don’t see how any kind of real discussions can progress when we say we don’t know who is responsible for evil and bad stuff

        • Wow, OP…if you know who is responsible for evil and bad stuff, maybe you can enlighten me. And I would argue that it’s taking a stance that we DO know who’s responsible (for certainty!) that kills discussions.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          “we say we don’t know who is responsible for evil and bad stuff”

          Substantively, I find, in experience, that conversation and effort both proceed much more favorably when that question is avoided. I understand the relationship of Blame and Justice, but very often Blame seems like a pointless discussion, and one that more often than not stands in the way of Mercy, Equity, Peace, or even simple material improvement. And I will often, without apology, choose those other things over Justice. Blame and Justice are of History; Mercy, Equity, Peace – and lowly material improvement – are of the Future. And the Future is where I, my friends, and my neighbors are going.

          • Yes, no doubt you are right.

            But today I had a conversation with a friend whose health is failing, and who spoke to me of worrying about death, and how painful it might be. When, as gently and with as much empathy as I could, I told him that I believed God was good, and that as Christians we could look to Jesus Christ as the embodiment of God’s love for us and with us, he nodded. But at the same time, he said, “But why is there so much suffering?”

            My friend knows that I don’t have the answer to that question. But he wanted to be able to speak the question, and acknowledge its frightening presence, and the implications it has for how difficult it is to trust God in the face of death. He was really saying, “Life is full of inexplicable suffering, from which God does not save us. How am I to come to the place where I can trust this very same God to save and care for me in my dying and death? I’m as scared of this God, and the allowance he makes for suffering, as I am of death.”

            The future is where my friend is going, and it’s also the place where his perhaps very painful death resides.

          • “Life is full of inexplicable suffering, from which God does not save us. How am I to come to the place where I can trust this very same God to save and care for me in my dying and death? I’m as scared of this God, and the allowance he makes for suffering, as I am of death.”

            This resonates.

            Robert, I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I’ll be keeping him, and you too, in prayer.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            ” I’m as scared of this God, and the allowance he makes for suffering, as I am of death.”

            Agree.

            There is the group that wants to say “Abba, Father”, which they then translate as “Daddy”, about everything. It turns my stomach. This God is not my Daddy. He is Love, I believe that, somehow, but he is also terrible. He is the wheel of fire.

        • OP, the Bible absolves God of blame — he is not the author of evil. Beyond that, I don’t think we can answer in terms of ultimate origins. I don’t think these were the philosophical questions the Hebrews were asking. Their theodicy was much more related to the Exile. Why did God, who chose us, abandon us to our enemies and remove us from the Land and the Temple and Monarchy?

          • OldProphet says:

            85 degrees here in SoCal. Just came out of my swimming pool. Beautiful day! You guys got your parkas on? Keep safe shoveling snow! Happy Thanksgiving to all of you imonkers! I love God’s creation! LOL

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        God is responsible, but if we spend too much time thinking about that, it will undo us.

        As it has done to those More Calvinist than Calvin and More Islamic than Mohammed.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          As a scientist, and as one that admires Spinoza and similar minded philosophers, I cannot deny determinism, although I tend towards non-linear determinism. But the best one can do is to recognize the deterministic nature of reality, and then to forget about it when applied to your one life…

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        “The concluding chapters only draw attention away from this truth, because we humans cannot stare too long into it without being driven to despair and madness, or seeking a palliative in one pious placebo or another. God is responsible, but if we spend too much time thinking about that, it will undo us.”

        This!

        And distraction is healthier than pious plecabo.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Or we are well beyond our pay-grade for defining what “responsible” means.

          I certainly would not quibble on this point with even a minor-league angel or daemon [and as no cosmic being has yet to inquire as to my perspective on the issue…].

          But a being dramatically awesomely unfathomably both older and more powerful than myself – by any sane human calculus – bears more moral weight from what occurs than a being such as myself who is brief and fragile. If that is “responsibility” or not… this seems like a topic I would only dare to argue among close friends; division over such a definition would be a bad thing.

    • So where does my Christian hope lie, if I believe that God is responsible for anguished suffering?

      In Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection, I discern God’s struggle to finish the work he started, and wrest it away from the alienating powers of suffering and death and evil, by sublimating and purifying them in the waters of a new and deathless life characterized by joy, reconciliation and peace. That’s where my hope lay, and why, “.. if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain…” The cross means nothing apart from this new life; without new life, the cross is merely an intensification of the dismay that Leviathan experiences when God “hides his face.”

      When I express gratitude, it is contingent on the reality and realization of this new life; if the new life is not real, then the gratitude is an illusion, and just one more pious placebo.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Robert, as I’ve said before, the Bible assumes the presence of evil and suffering in the universe just as it assumes the existence of God. That is not the same as saying God is responsible for it; it merely puts the subject beyond explanation.

      Search Internet Monk for the term “Surd Evil” for more detail on this concept.

      • According to wikipedia, surd evil is just another term for natural evil, which has no evident moral agent. From what I can gather, surd or natural evil presents more of a philosophical problem for the goodness of God than moral evil committed by created moral agents free to choose otherwise, since surd or natural evil would of necessity only be traced back to the moral agency of God, with not intermediary moral agent.

      • I find the idea of surd evil helpful. It allows me to attribute bad events and suffering primarily to the operation of a clockwork universe (or to the action of the created beings within it). A creator God is still responsible for creating and sustaining a world wherein pain and suffering are found. But at least that supposition posits that creation is good, on the balance, worthy of having been made. If tsunamis are an evil one must tolerate, at least one can chalk them up to being the inevitable price one pays for enjoying a world with oceans and tectonic plates. There’s some kind of good counter-weighing the bad.

        It is a lot harder for me to stomach the idea that God is directly, specifically behind every little thing that occurs, and that these events are all equally within God’s will or expressive of God’s intension toward creatures. At least with surd evil, a bad thing is still a bad thing – it is nothing more or less than itself. The meaning of a tsunami is that it is a tsunami. I don’t have to call it a blessing, and I don’t have to figure out how it fits into a perfect plan.

        It seems like this approach leaves me freer to identify God with good wherever it can be found, and in the actions of people bearing God’s image to create meaning out chaos, and to care for one another. It allows me to align God with redemption, and with bringing good out of bad things – rather than bringing about suffering that needs transformation. It allows me to view God’s relationship to suffering to be primarily one of solidarity with what is suffering.

        • In truth, I want badly to see God as remote from some events, because it hard for me to hold squarely in my mind the idea that God is aligned with all that is good — and on the side of the suffering — when I am simultaneously seeing God as wielding the hammer that strikes things down.

          That may be a failure of imagination or faith on my part. Perhaps I can imagine both on a good day. In a moment of weakness, however, that task feels like too much of a burden.

          • Danielle, It’s hard for me to understand how God could be both the creator of a clockwork universe, as the deists imagined him, remote and not responsible for either the natural or human evil that unfolds within it, and at the same time the incarnate Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God-with-us, not remote but closer to us than our own breath. For me, these two images don’t fit together.

            Thank you for your prayers.

  5. Christiane says:

    I love how this post celebrates the GOODNESS of God’s handiwork instead of speaking of a ‘curse’ on our world. That is so important on a day like this when the abundance we have been given is recognized and shared and we are thankful as a country, where effort is made to deliver baskets to those families in need . . . and dinners are held for the homeless and the elderly are taken meals by their neighbors, or invited ‘in’ if they have no one who comes to see them (there are many sadly, in this group) . . . this is good. All good.

    But for this day, we as a country have come to know what is possible . . . the vulnerable and often-forgotten people ‘outside the gates’ are remembered and cared for; and we are, in the very act of doing that, giving true thanks to the Lord.

    But then, there is tomorrow, and the next day, and the next . . . when this prayer is still needed:

    ‘come, Holy Spirit, enlighten the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle within them the fire of Thy Divine Spirit . . .
    and Thou shalt renew the face of the Earth.”

    • The gnostic/Buddhist in me, who is essentially a moralist, gets impatient with all the talk of creation’s goodness. There’s just too much blood and violence and predation and cruelty and bad luck, all sliding down, often with enormous suffering, toward the sump of death for me to look at creation on its surface and say, “Wow! How awesome! Thank you, God!”

      No. If creation is good, its goodness must be rooted in the eschatological event in which it is delivered from its anguished suffering and death; apart from this, calling creation good merely on the basis of what we observe there is the result of a naive apprehension that’s not been tested by the visceral experience of suffering, or not allowed that experience to touch it at the deepest levels.

      Without resurrection, both Jesus’ and creation’s, it’s all just (to quote the little boy protagonist in John Updike’s short story “Pigeon Feathers”) “an ocean of horror….” If resurrection is an illusion, then that’s exactly what creation is: a horror, with a sometimes pretty face.

      • Hmm…just for stirring some thought and discussion, do you think Jesus was able to thank God for creation’s goodness during his time on earth, especially his last three years and his last week?

        I’m guessing he was, being perfect and obedient and disciplined beyond what we’re capable of. So I’m thankful for Jesus and his example.

        Look for the glimpses of goodness. They’re there.

        • I’m not Jesus; I’m not you.

          What thanks I’m able to offer in this very moment is provisional, and at best half-hearted. Most of the time it’s just fake. I’m sure God is not interested in my pretenses.

          • Totally agree and totally understand. My walk is not your walk, and vice versa. Peace be with you today, Robert F. Thanks for being an active part of this community!

            The main reason I mentioned Jesus was that I always marvel at his walk. The kicker for me was when he’s looking to find some peace and rest and this crowd follows him and…HE HAS COMPASSION FOR THEM! Oh, my…when I want my peace and rest, there’s NO WAY people would get my compassion!

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            “The main reason I mentioned Jesus was that I always marvel at his walk.”

            I may be a bit closer to Robert F on this one. Did Jesus doubt God? Aka, himself [and despair and doubt-of-existance-or-concern are not the same thing].

            Being a god is a pretty serious advantage in the game. I’ve gotten angry with WWJD types. What Would Jesus Do? Gosh, darn it, if I was there at the fires of creation and laid the foundations of the heavens… maybe i would ^&%@^&%@ know! Wasn’t and didn’t; I’ve only got the arrows that happen to be in my quiver and the tools that happen to be on my belt.

            “The kicker for me was when he’s looking to find some peace and rest and this crowd follows him”

            But I can certainly commersate with him on this score. 🙂

          • And peace to you, Rick Ro.

      • I agree with you Robert. Watching as a pride of lions rips apart the still alive buffalo it rips my soul apart with it. There are to me horrible things that happen everyday here without us involved. How would it be a pack of coyotes ripping apart your pet for lunch. How about the same pride of lions living in your neighborhood. Still love created and called it good. My only questions would be when it was called good. Was it before the fall or after the redemption or both.

        The psalmist seems to call it good but my doubt would be that he was starving and unable to lift his hand. I call things good mostly as I look at the beauty I see in sunrises and sunsets and mountains and trees and rivers that flow by me. The cat stuck in the trap broke my heart as so many of these things have done repeatedly through my life. Like as I watched a bird looking at its dead mate alongside the road waiting for it to get up when the SUV obliterated it in front of its eyes on the way to work. I was having a good morning till then praying and being with God. Sin in this world is all I hear from these things.

        My only hope is in HIm. I have never been at home here. To some degree I have always hated it here. I told my mom the other day how since my earliest memories I have felt this pain. How I would cry myself to sleep many nights. She looked so surprised. It is also how the knife has been twisted in me by an enemy that would have me quit and pronounce it all bad.

        In my finite way of looking at things slowly changing to the forever. I long for the day I can go up to the lion and touch him and feel his power as he eats the grass of the field. In total respect of course.
        Like the typing on this keyboard passing away to tomorrow and to be forgotten.

        The problem with evil is selfish. Love is nothing if not given it can’t be forced. God knows the end from the beginning it all is quite confusing to me. I have been given consciousness made from mud. What a gift and at times here not so much. All of Job’s family taken is the hardest for me. In my finite way of thinking. I somehow think when God spoke to Job he was brought to a different level than that and that was known by God before the whole thing started. Is that what we experience?

        Today I go to the family of my wife. It is all surface and no depth. It is as dry as can be and I really can’t stand it and want to stay at home and be alone. I have to remember there are things behind those walls. I will try not to talk as I can see the fear in my wife’s eyes that I could say something that might offend someone. Eggshells. Holidays for me are like every other day except sometimes I don’t have to work. It’s always Christmas and it’s always thanksgiving for me anymore because I fell in love and even when the romance seems gone love still stands. I wrote a poem about it but someone here said my poetry sucks and I guess it had the desired result. Peace and rest to you Robert on this day.

        • I appreciate your poetry, W . . .
          please continue to share with all of us

        • The person who wrote that your poetry sucks is a person who launches grenades at people at this site all the time. He/she should probably be banned, but alas…we’re hoping that some of Jesus is rubbing off on them.

          Please, do not let ONE pathetic, mean-spirited voice keep you from posting your poetry.

          In fact, I DEMAND you post it!!! 😉

          • I benefit greatly from your poetry and other comments, w. The critic mentioned by Rick has narrow and uninformed views about things that touch on poetry, things like love and religion. Ignore him/her. Please keep commenting, and poesying.

          • w, ignore the word “poesying,” which I meant as a compliment but, having double-checked (too late), now see is not necessarily a compliment. I need to freshen up my vocabulary. Keep writing and sharing your poetry, w, please.

          • Okay, of course you know I was hoping. Actually a lot…There are kind hearts here. Jesus went to the cross silent and sometimes I have to give love the same way. What I would have for my wife’s family and what goes on behind those eyes. Is it this? This what makes the trying worth it.

            Behind the wall

            In sad times to be alone
            Deep inside locked with You
            Trying hard for heart not stone
            In depths of what is true

            The attempts to say I am done
            To finish this and learn to die
            Many times I would have none
            Always the wondering of why

            Holidays like every other
            The days all run together
            The constant love I discover
            Where His story is forever

            In time romance has fallen off
            Yet true love it does remain
            By the blood I am bought
            Let my thankfulness refrain

            I need you now and always will
            In my heart even though it’s sad
            Behind blank stare I am stilled
            You are the greatest thing I have

            I will go because I ought
            In quiet I will nod my head
            Remembering what I got
            Given in silence love is said

          • Nice. Many great lines, but I love this: “Trying hard for heart not stone”

          • w, thanks for the new song. You overcame that and you will overcome the discomfort of forced celebration. I’m off this afternoon to meet my wife at one of the few restaurants she can eat at that is open. Wife lives twenty miles away, which as it turns out is about the right distance. Maybe you and I both can get thru the afternoon speaking occasional pleasantries and radiating a silent blessing for all unbeknownst.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Creation’s Goodness” is a lot better than “It’s All Gonna Burn(TM)” you get from the Gospel According to Hal Lindsay.

      • For what it’s worth, Robert, I find myself in a similar place right now. And having that secret disquiet laid out in the open in well-chosen words is some comfort to me. I hope you may yet have some joy of this day.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > There’s just too much blood and violence and predation

        I do not feel this way.

        This puts the world on a scale – if there is enough evil it cancels out the good. I do not see the world on such a scale.

        And failure to enjoy and celebrate beauty and virtue is giving the world over. Some days, when it seems dark, the celebration of beauty and virtue is indeed an act of simple defiance, other days it is more genuine. But giving the world over is the antithesis of Love.

        Aside: this notion of cancellation is also the driver of a lot of bad writing, TV, and movies. A great man, moral crusader, something bad happens [usually to his women], and now he is evil. Cancellation. Such arcs are frustrating; as the great men and women I know… such a cancellation is impossible to imagine. Virtue is the durable side of the equation.

        • I don’t give the world over; but I repudiate aspects of it, both inside and outside myself. To say that what is horrible is good would be unlovely, and untrue. There are good things in the natural world, and there are things that are not good, like the dismay of Leviathan when the Lord turns his face away. I repudiate that dismay, that anguished suffering, and refuse to see only good in the operations of nature. Nature involves tremendous evil, and if this evil has no human or angelic agency behind it, then its source can only be God and the choices he has made.

          “Though he slay me, still will I trust him: but I will maintain my ways before him….” So says Job, speaking for himself, and Spartacus, the rebel.

        • I am glad you put that in words Adam

        • I am all about repudiation and defiance. Being nine tenths an existentialist, or maybe an absurdist, they seem to me to turn the world.

          Somebody, I think Camus, said that of there wasn’t hope people would be required to invent some. I agree and feel the same way about meaning.

  6. I’m unable to give thanks. Unlike Dostoevsky, and some or perhaps many here, my Hosanna has not yet passed through the fires of doubt. The flames are all around me, and I’m still afraid that I, and all I love, may perish irreversibly and irretrievably. I hang onto what hope I can, looking to Jesus, but my heart is incapable of gratitude….yet…

  7. I m thankful for God’s new covenant with His creation, that through Jesus we are saved, not by sacrifices and burnt offerings and through priests as in the old covenant. I am thankful for new wineskins. I am thankful for the Internet Monk community. I am thankful for the writers and contributors to the Internet Monk community, who pour their hearts out for us, and often suffer for it.

    I am thankful for God’s creation, the little we see of it here on this Earth. I would love to see some of the things He has created way out beyond where humans will ever go.

  8. I post this as an encouragement for w to post some poetry. Don’t let the One Who Shall Remain Nameless discourage you from posting your poetry!

    ————————
    I Think I Believe
    (Rick Rosenkranz, 2012)

    I stand beside those who sing “I believe, I believe,”
    But the truth is my own words are “I think I believe.”
    I’ve lived too long with doubt in my heart
    for my skepticism of You to soon depart.

    “I believe, I believe” they sing with full voices,
    Filling the sanctuary with great praise and rejoices,
    But “I think I believe” is all I can muster,
    Any more than that would be false bluster.

    Chorus:
    I think I believe You created heaven and earth
    I think I believe they’re Your wondrous works
    I think I believe in your saving grace
    I think I believe I might someday see your face.

    I’ve heard too many preachers condemn with hellfire, damnation
    They’ve made my belief in You a supremely difficult notion;
    I’ve heard too many Christians say one thing, then do another;
    It’s hypocrites who make “I believe” hard for me to utter.

    Yet I can’t deny I’ve heard some Good News
    Heard about Jesus being the One who rescues,
    Who reaches out to those who don’t believe
    even as they curse Him and cling to the one who deceives.

    Chorus:
    I think I believe, that’s the best I can tell you
    I think I believe, that’s the most I can sing
    I think I believe in your saving grace
    I think I believe I might have a life-everlasting.

    I think I believe, that’s the best I can tell you
    “I think I believe” is the best I can say,
    I think I believe You might have died for me
    I think I believe You might, just might, be the Way.

    Refrain:
    So I will sing now, Lord, that I think I believe
    I think I believe, I think I believe,
    And I hope that’s good enough for now
    I truly hope that’s good enough for now
    For “I think I believe” is what I honestly feel
    And if You are a God who truly loves and rescues…
    Well, do you have a place in your kingdom
    For one who says, I think I believe?

    I think I believe, I think I believe.

    • I do that to and struggle at times even though all I have seen. Someday I hope to lift my hand with you if not here there.

  9. W, God is for you. He speaks thru you, and he accomplshes his will thru you In your words. There are mountains and valleys still ahead of you but between them all God himself will prepare an oasis for you. A place to stop, rest, and receive His refreshment and rest. He gives you his favor which will always cause you to dance over and through your adversaries May He continue to bless your heart and pen.

    • Thank you OP and by the way when it is between 5 and 10 degrees here and the cold bites my face and hands to where they burn I actually love it. The wind cutting at me and then too when the snow falls and I get to clear every neighbors driveway and sidewalk that will let me it is the best of days. Of course I think splitting wood by hand is fun too. I’m a little off maybe.

  10. Christiane says:

    was thinking about how down we can get over darkness and evil, when even our compassion for those who suffer and for the plight of hurting animals is heart-breaking
    . . . and I remembered an old saying that was a theme of a long-ago television program called ‘The Christophers’, this:

    “It is better to light one candle
    than to curse the darkness.”

    I don’t know exactly where the saying comes from, but I have a feeling I know why ‘The Christophers’ adopted it. The name ‘Christophers’ means ‘light bearers’ . . . and the stories in the series were often about some dreadful situation and how some kind of positive intervention of a person changed the landscape . . . I suppose these stories were meant to encourage (put the heart back into) people . . . they certainly turned the perspective around from focusing on what was wrong to examining how even one person could make a difference for the good. Hokey? Oh yeah. But when I came to learn about the stories of the Jewish people from the Talmud, I was surprised to see how often, in the midst of tragedy and unspeakable loss, still it was their way to spread the table, to light the candles, and to give thanks to God.

    So when I see a Catholic group take up a saying that echoes from the Judaic tradition,
    and I think of Christ mentioned as ‘the Light of the world’ from St. John’s beautiful gospel,
    then it all comes round for me and I see that there is more wisdom in the simple phrase ‘better to light a candle’ than in unending lament over that which is existence which can be pain-filled and ever wearying to our souls.

    ‘Something’ within our human souls sets us up with hope and with a great burning longing for God
    . . . ‘lighting a candle’, if nothing more, is a testament to that ‘something’ and to the Reality behind it.