Friday, February 24, 2012

In Tents


One of my professors from college once told our class what he thought was a description of maturity. He addressed his comments to the ladies in the room and told them that if they were looking to date, that they should look for a man, not a boy. He said that boys are interested in getting and playing, while men are interested in giving and working. 
At the time his words were pretty convicting to me, because I realized that as a legal “man” of 19 years, I more closely fit his description of a boy. I had very little direction and was not contributing much to the world around me. I even started wondering if it was this type of life orientation that was stifling my ability to be successful in the dating world. If you want to motivate a 19 year-old toward self-examination, tell him that it may impact his dating life.
In the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul warned the church in Thessalonica against becoming idle. He reminded them of how he chose to earn his keep when he was with them. Tradition has it that in addition to being a preacher and intellectual, Paul made tents from goat skin.
I guess I could argue that 19 year-old me did not really see how the world needed me to contribute. At least then my professor’s words inspired to start seeking. As my professor suggested, may be learning to find joy in contributing is a sign of maturity that only comes when it is ready. 
At the same time, once we are on the other side of maturity, I think we still need an occasional reminder. We need to be reminded that this broken world does need Christians to comfort the broken, feed the hungry, and give to the poor.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cold Shower Chaos


Last year I was continually frustrated from having to take cold showers. Sometimes it would be fine, other times it would be cold. When the management company sent someone to test the hot water heater, he checked the temperature while running the water for 10 minutes and said it was fine. I knew it was not fine, although I did not know what was wrong.
Like a true scientific thinker, I developed a method of systematic observation in order to develop a theory of what was wrong. For a couple of weeks, my roommate and I logged the day and time of each shower, as well as a rating of the warmth of the water. I just knew there had to be some pattern or order that I (as well as the plumber) was missing. 
I am not the only one who seeks to make order out of the world, this ability seems to be an important part of being human. Paul’s encouragement in the first chapter of his second letter to the Thessalonians brings about thoughts of this utopian world of justice where good is rewarded and doing wrong brings punishment. It seems simple and right.
Unfortunately, my experience in the world, like the heating of my water heater, does not seem to be so simple. Sometimes I see the wrong, but not the punishment, sometimes the I see punishment, but not the wrong. I also see the good without seeing the reward, or the reward without the good. From such a convoluted picture, it is not hard to fathom that some would interpret all of this as chaos.
However, the perception of order depends on the capacity of the mind to perceive order. Although the plumber did not see order in the hot water heater problem, scrutinizing the results of our systematic observation revealed that if it had been more than 12 hours between someone using the shower, the water would be cold when the next person used it. 
In a world that seems very random, I believe that order is often difficult to see, sometimes so difficult that it can only be perceived by God. His consciousness is not constrained by time like our own. We can only see parts, he sees the whole.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Scientist in Church


It is part of the ethos of scientists to be skeptical in many areas of life. I think this is particularly true because as a scientist, we also have a particular incentive to make claims of discovery. Our propensity to discover new and important knowledge that may impact society is likely the fuel that keeps the flame of science from being snuffed out. At the same time, making claims that cannot be replicated is a sure-fire way to ensure that one’s career and reputation will be snuffed out. 
In addition, I have had personal experiences in which a rational and well thought-out experiment can have unexplained and counterintuitive results. Therefore, I can say unequivocally that there was at least one thing wrong with my thinking about that particular experiment. Unfortunately, I think many people outside of science rarely get to this process of their own flawed logic in such a tangible way. People largely prefer to support their thinking process despite the evidence.
In First Thessalonians 5:19-22, Paul tells the people that they should test what they hear people say about the scriptures. What he said implies that some of the information being spread was not in accordance with spirit and truth of God’s word. 
The first lesson Paul appears to be giving is that Christians should not automatically dismiss new ideas. Far too often, the culture of Christianity involves exactly the opposite of what Paul is suggesting. We retreat to our churches to find other people who agree with us, not those who might challenge us to think differently.
Instead of automatically accepting or rejecting ideas, I think Christians could use a little more science-styled thinking. The science-oriented thinker does not outwardly reject or accept newer ideas, but they tests them to assess their validity or utility. What if Churches started testing new ideas? How might that change how we treat people who think differently than us? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Flaming


I tend to be an early morning person. I have a hard time sleeping in even if I try. My mother says that she would have to fight tooth and nail to wake up my brothers for school, but I would often already be awake when she came in to wake me. I think I just do not sleep very deeply.
A scientific explanation is that it seems are bodies are largely created to be more active in the day and rest at night. We do not regularly use awesome raccoon night vision or dolphin echolocation to navigate our environment. We rely on the light to keep us from running into things or other things from running into us. Our bodies also intake necessary vitamin D from the sun’s rays.
In first Thessalonians, Paul wrote about being children of a different kind of light. He says that being in this light implies awareness and alertness. This light helps us to not be afraid of others knowing us and knowing others. It also involves being vigilant of our role in the world. 
Living in a pre-electricity world, I can imagine that Paul’s concept of night and day was probably much more potent to him and his readers in Thessalonica. Night may not have been considered a time when people necessarily I have read that people who lived in cities before electricity rarely ventured out of their homes after dark because doing so was not very safe.
As much as I find myself attracted to physical and metaphorical light, I know that I am not always living in this reality. My life rhythms get out of step and I find myself running and hiding in the dark. Usually it takes another person to notice it, someone says “Where have you been?” Then I know, then I see a flickering flame in a dark room. I hope you people in your life that may speak such truth to you, and I hope you feel the need to speak it to others.
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