Sunday, October 30, 2005

A View on Contentment

I am reading the book, Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman. (edited by his daughter Michelle Feynman. Copyright 2005 by Michelle Feynman and Carl Feynman. Basic Books member of Perseus Books Group. ISBN: 0-7382-0636-9).

Richard Feynman was Nobel prize winner for his formulation of QED (Quantum Electrodynamics) theory, he worked on the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, was a public figure of much character, and he uncovered the reason the space shuttle Challenger exploded as part of the President's commission demonstrating in a congressional hearing the failure by dropping an o-ring into a class of ice water. A fascinating man who died in 1988.

Below is a letter to his mother, Lucille Feyman, August 20, 1954. Please note the year as you read. I found this letter very touching and appropriate to many blog discussions I have been involved in lately. I hope you find it as enlightening as I do. I have edited the letter to focus on the sentiment revealed to me. [] reflect my insertions. Bold type is mine.

Dear Mom;

You have nothing. A small room in a hotel. Stuffy and no home with friends and family in it. A job that gives no enlightenment or has no further aim than to be done each day, building nothing for yourself. No easy transportation but to be jostled by the crowds. Nor fancy meals, nor luxurious trips, nor fame nor wealth. You have nothing.

So say your friends, but they are wrong. Wealth is not happiness nor is swimming pools and villas. Nor is great work alone a reward, or fame. Foreign places visited themselves give nothing. It is only you who bring to the places your heart, or in your great work feeling, or in your large house place. If you do this there is happiness. But your heart can be as easily brought to Samarkand [lower income] as to the Hudson river [upper income]. Peace is as difficult to achieve in a large house as in a small one. Feeling can be brought to any work. Your friends of wealth have nothing because of it that they would lose, if with more modest means.

In the sea of material desire that is our country you have found an inlet and a harbor. You are far from perfectly happy, but are as contentful as you can be, with your make-up in the world that is. That is a great achievement, or a great woman.

Why do I write this? Because you have told me these things many times, and I have nodded,vaguely understanding. But you mention them again and again, so perhaps you think I do not understand. For so few understand, each friend questions you, each relative hounds you with the query, how can you live in such a tiny place, how can you work in that unbearable shop with those horrible sales girls? You know how. They could never do it, nor can they live as contentedly in any other way, for they do not possess your inner strength and greatness. A greatness which has come to realize itself thru the knowledge that, beyond poverty, beyond the point that the material needs are reasonably satisfied, only from within is peace.

I offer you all my resources of wealth. What do you want, what will you take? I have offered many times. Not $10 worth can you think you need that you will let me give you. You must always know that I will give you any material thing of wealth you could desire. Now or in my ability in the future. You have no insecurity. And tho you wrack your brains to think of something--not the smallest item suggests itself to you. No man is rich who is unsatisfied, but who wants nothing possess[es] his heart's desire. No need to concern yourself with friends' attempts to help. You are not forced to live as you do. Your son's offer proves that. It is your choice, your life, your simplicity, your peace and your contentment. It needs no further justification.

When I offer it, what do you ask? You ask that I write to you. What can I give more easily, and am yet more stingy about? Tho I know your strength now requires nothing for its self-confidence,--tho I know you could live without my writing by accepting such a fact and living with it,--I do not desire to test your strength or to make your burden more heavy. What son has a mother who in such circumstances asks less of him!

My duty is clear, right action obvious. May I have the strength of resolve that this be the beginning of a more regular correspondence. I hope that the lesson of your strength in life will inspire me more often to try to add a bit you really want. I hope I can write more often to a most deserving and inspiring woman. I love you.

Your Son.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Judging Angels

In a daily Bible study, I read I Cor. 6:2-3: Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

The context is Paul directing the members of the church to bring disputes before the elders and leaders of the church rather than the ungodly for judgment. Paul clearly indicates that man will have some role in judgment in the future. Here he says the world and angels. Yet, in I Cor. 5:12, Paul hints that man's role will be judgement of the church (and maybe others that know Christ, such as angels).

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside!

Mt. 19:28 adds weight to man's role in judgment but it is limited to a specific group: Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The notes in my study Bible state that the word judgment in the context of Mt. 19:28 meant to lead or rule, referencing back to the Judges of Israel.

I have never heard these scriptures discussed or taught prior to this daily study. In fact, all the teaching and scripture I am familiar with concerns God's judgment and for me not to judge. Needless to say I was quite surprised and somewhat confounded as well as very intrigued by the above scriptures.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measures you use, it will be measured to you. [Mt. 7:1] Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condem, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. [Luke 6:37-39]

These scripture are cross-referenced to Mt. 23:13-39 which is Jesus' harsh indictment of the Pharisees hypocrisy. The "do not judge" scriptures seem to refer to hypocritical judging and judging for the sake of judging, that is, negative Christianity. They may not refer to righteous judgment, and thus do not conflict with the first set of scriptures I listed.

But there is still a paradox and some confusion. There are scriptures that talk directly about who has the authority to judge and what that judgment will be.

Jesus' words: Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. For the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. [John 5:22-23; 26-27] Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. [John 9:39] As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. [John 12: 47-48]

The Apostles' words: He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. [Acts 10:42] In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. [Acts 17:30-31] This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. [Ro. 2:16]

Hint of the method of Christ's judgement: It is the Lord who judges me [Paul]. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. [I Cor. 4:5]

Even further confusing is John 8:15-16, which seems to say that even Christ won't judge us, but leaves the door open for judgement of our sin. And, it clearly speaks to Jesus' authority to judge.
You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone, I stand with the Father, who sent me.

I found the above search rewarding but still somewhat paradoxical. I am not sure what to make of it. I am still intrigued by the scripture on judging angels and man's role of judgment in the Kingdom. Here are the initial thoughts I came away with:

1) God will judge man through Christ. 2) We will be held accountable for our actions, and more so for our heart. 3) Man has a leadership and judgment role within the church. But, does this extend to the end-judgment or is limited to leadership within the church? I don't know. 4) Judging should never be a motivation [added 10/17/2005].

What are your thoughts? What does your research reveal? For those familiar with Lee Camp's Mere Discipleship, do you think that the references to man's role in judgment, especially in the context of leading or ruling, refers to roles in the coming Aeon (the New Aeon)?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sad Today

I am sad today. I read the obituary this morning of a friend from high school. He was 43, the same age as me. I am not sad because we are the same age or because he is was young.

I had a fairly miserable time in school from 5th grade until half way through my junior year of high school. I was happy and fit in well in 1st through 4th grades. Then, I was moved from public school to a private school, hereafter known as Pain High School (PHS), after 4th grade. I don't really know why life changed so drastically with this transition. I just didn't seem to fit in. Kids were cruel and I had no friends initially. Maybe it was strictly due to being an outsider and the new kid at the same time. Most of these kids had been together since kindergarten. Things just seemed to get worse as time went on. A majority of the teachers and administration were just as bad or worse in the way they treated me and others in a similar situation.

Surprisingly (well, maybe not), this was a Church of Christ private school. I was Church of Christ too, but it didn't seem to matter. I can honestly say this environment was one of the most un-Christian places I have endured. Finally, during my junior year I had had enough. I told my parents I was not going back and that I wanted to transfer to Hillsboro High School. My Dad, who taught in Metro schools, did not mind. My mom was against it. She felt I needed to be in private school. I told them I could transfer or I could drop out, their choice. At this point, I had already been accepted into Vanderbilt having applied early. So being willing to drop out I think had an impact.

I transferred, and that year and a half at Hillsboro was one of the best times of my life. I made friends quickly, enjoyed my AP classes (which weren't available at PHS), and felt so much relief from stress. I still have many of the friendships I made at Hillsboro. Those at Hillsboro who had transferred very early on from PHS to public school asked, "what took you so long to leave?"

Anyway, I have never forgotten those few that were nice to me or that were my friends while attending PHS. Don Blair was one of those. I have no recollection of Don ever participating in ridiculing or humiliating me. He got along with everyone. Don seemed comfortable and confident within himself; probably a big reason for his likableness and friendliness. He did not need to deride others in order to build himself up.

Don led a hard life during his young adult years, most would say wild. He actually was on the competition rodeo circuit for several years as a professional bull rider. Despite any wildness, Don had a good heart. Sadly, Don also had a bad heart--he had major heart problems that began, I guess, in his late 20's and early 30's. I did not keep up with him after high school other than the odd word from old classmates. I believe he had a heart transplant in his early or mid 30's. I did know he was having severe problems these last few years.

I am sad reflecting on this time in my life. Yet, more so, I am sad because someone whose natural friendliness to me, which he probably didn't think twice about, had a profound effect on me; sips of cool water while struggling through a vast desert of the soul. "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you...thirsty and give you something to drink?' ... The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

It is the people like Don who I remember fondly and with respect. I believe in a loving and merciful God who accepts people like Don Blair. So, this is my small tribute to Don. Thank you for your kindness and God bless you.

Goodbye, Don, I will see you later and I will thank you.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Boundaries and Trees: What was God's Purpose Part 2

I encourage everyone to visit Preston's Blog. His recent post directly addresses the question in my last blog. I really like his thoughts. Even though he is many (many, many) years younger than I, Preston's maturity of thought and his depth of theology research greatly impresses me. We don't always agree, but I always learn from him. And, despite his grasp of deep theology, he truly is a servant of Christ. He is more focused on serving others than debating theology.

So read and be challenged. I always am.