Chronicles in Ordinary Time 190: The Plan, Part Two

27 April 2019
Another shooting this morning, in a synagogue in Southern California; an apparent vehicular murder a few days ago—the driver thought the group of people were Muslim. The murder of 300 Muslim worshippers on Easter Sunday. A would-be autocratic President who denounces the shooting of Jewish worshippers but has no respect for Muslim worshipers.

30 April 2019
Another school shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus killed 2 and injured 4 on the last day of classes.
The President of the United States remained silent.
The eighth school shooting this year.

How do we move forward?

[I’ve written about this before; sadly, it is still relevant]

For decades, I have heard religious people say that “God has a plan for your life;” and the worst one, especially after some sort of calamity, ‘it happened for a reason; it’s part of God’s plan.’

I am reminded of one of my favorite scenes from The Princess Bride:

Vizzini: He didn’t fall? INCONCEIVABLE!
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I think for some people, ‘God’s Plan’ is often used in the same sense as INCONCEIVABLE!

15 June 2018

Some include ‘calamity’ in “God’s Plan”, as if somehow God desires to destroy the innocent. As if it is the Creator’s desire that homes are being destroyed by the eruption of Kilauea, that non-combatants in Syria are being destroyed by American missiles; that the Rohingya people are suffering tortuous persecution; that one of the foulest dictators alive at this point in time has just been given the legitimacy of being an equal to the President of the United States [something no other President has stooped to doing] and the list goes on and on, to the killing of individual students in schools and the murder of people-of-color carrying cell phones, by white policemen who aren’t punished…

There is so much chaos in the world that it has become difficult to remember the disasters of last year.

These calamities are not designed by the Creator.

I have to interject here—I was raised by an authoritarian father. He was a good man; I don’t think I can go so far as to say he was a kind man. I doubt that he was ever taught much about kindness. In many ways, I feel as though my life ‘began’ when I left his house and went off to college. His form of demanding discipline was by yelling. One shrinks from yelling as much as from blows. A few years after his death, I watched the blossoming of my Mom—it was an amazing transformation; she became a woman I had never seen before. She was happy.

Sadly, the early stages of dementia brought the blossoming to a close.

Having been raised this way, I was never inclined to simply accept what some guy on a platform was attempting to teach about “God’s Word”. I struggled with the idea of some guy I knew nothing about, telling me what I was supposed to believe. I rely instead on critical thinking.

Over the years, I have learned to not take a passage of Scripture out of context and rely on that passage to be an explanation or promise from ‘God’s Word’. The concept of the ‘inerrancy of Scripture’ is problematic, in that the meaning of Scripture varies, depending upon which version one uses. English is a limited language when one is discussing Eternal subjects.

“God has a plan for your life.”

Isaiah 14:26
New International Version
This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations…

Young’s Literal Translation
This is the counsel that is counselled for all the earth, And this is the hand that is stretched out for all the nations.

Transliteration from the Hebrew
This [is] the purpose that is purposed against all the earth and this [is] the hand that is stretched out over all the nations

“Plan”
Original Word: עֵצָה  [Hebrew]
Part of Speech: Noun Feminine
NASB Translation (instances used): advice (11), consultation (2), counsel (52), counselor* (1), counselors* (1), counsels (1), designs (1), plan (8), plans (2), purpose (6), scheme (1), schemes (1), strategy (1).

52 times in the Bible, the word translated as ‘plan’ in English means counsel; 11 times the word means advice; there are very few instances that imply ‘requirement’. And yet, religious people around the world speak as though the Creator of the entire Universe desires that children should die at the hands of murderers.

I’ve been drawing plans for most of my life—over 50 years. There isn’t even a consistent meaning for the word, plan, when it comes to architecture. A plan can be a general idea on a napkin, or it can be very specific—down to knobs on a cabinet. The plans I reviewed during the last 5 years of my work at the City of Portland were 3ft X 4ft in size and 2 inches thick. I checked for Building Code compliance; the fire rating [or none] on a single door can be calamitous. The width of a single door, or the direction a door swings can cost lives.

And then there is ‘God’s Will’
In Hebrew, that which is translated as ‘God’s Will’ in English, actually means ‘to inquire of God’. A question, not a statement.

When it comes to understanding Scripture, English sucks. Other languages have better meanings. For example, in Greek, there are four distinct words [and meanings] that are translated in English as “love”. Statistically, when we use the word, ‘love’ we get it wrong 75% of the time. A guy may tell a girl that he loves her, when his brain is stuck on his fondness for pizza; or his desire for release of sexual tension. Women: guys give other guys advice on their behavior with the female; we are instructed to talk about ‘love’ when we mean sex.

Some will ask if I believe that the Bible [however they define this word] is the Word of God. I believe that the Hebrew Scriptures, and teachings of the New Testament are entirely true, in their original languages, for the purpose they were intended. The mere fact that one can find a verse in the Bible that justifies their particular understanding of the world does not mean that this was the intent of the verse.

Psalm 137
4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.

8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

I’ve never heard anyone state that Ps. 137:9 is their ‘life verse’. The Bible has a large number of verses that are difficult to swallow, if one treats the version of the Bible they like best, as being Literally True. The Creator in the closing chapters of the Book of Job, states that 2/3 of the Book is wrong. And yet, the ‘wrong’ verses are still part of the Book.

There is a statement, used when disaster strikes, that the disaster is part of God’s plan; or when a gold cross in a burning cathedral that survives the fire, becomes a miracle. Non-believers ask, how can a Loving God spare a piece of gold when babies are dying because our government has decided to bomb a city? The audacious ones attribute this situation to ‘God’s will’, ignoring the horridness of the statement.

Shit happens to people that are devotedly serving the Creator of the Universe, without regard to the form in which their devotion takes. Grace happens in the same manner. In the same sense that an American can only speak of ‘love’ correctly 25% of the time, I don’t think that human beings have a vocabulary that does justice to the nature of the Creator, and the way life works on Earth.

Horrible things happen on planet Earth, and the Creator of the Universe does not intervene to stop the horror. Is this part of a plan, or somehow designed, or is the horror somehow seen as ‘good’ on the part of the Creator?
No. This is the nature of Free Will given to horrible people. We CHOOSE to be horrible to others. This is hard for our society to swallow. Society’s monsters started as beautiful infants. They were taught to be horrible.

Babies are torn away from their mother’s arms at our southern border and placed in our ‘Child Welfare’ system, without any intention of returning the baby to the parents. Our current Administration considers this a good/useful means of reducing immigration into our country. But is this morally good? Does morality have a set of standards? If there is a set of moral standards, and if the behavior of our government violates this set of standards; and if you and I do nothing to oppose our government’s actions, are we somehow not responsible for the violation?

At this point, a lot of people simply choose to deny the existence of God.

Given the horrible examples of ‘Christian piety’ that I see displayed on my social media pages and the pages of the news, I completely understand those who deny the existence of a Creator. If personal computers and the Internet existed in the 1970s, many of my life choices would have been entirely different; and I don’t think Faith would be part of my life.

Something happened in my life. I experienced Something I cannot ‘un-experience’. I believe this ‘something’ is the Spirit of the Creator. For reasons unknown to me, on rare occasions something happens that I cannot understand in any other way. Since I believe that the Creator has known me from the beginning of Time [Kairos], and since I have asked the Creator to take charge of my life, I know that nothing in my life surprises the Creator. I get surprised on a regular basis.

I clearly haven’t been very effective in communicating the Something that happened in my life; tens of thousands of words later. I cannot fix people; I cannot change people. The only one I can fix is myself; the only one I can change is myself. The most that I can do for others is to create an environment where change is possible, when another person wants to change.

I know that the Creator of the Universe is as different from myself as are the bugs crawling under the rock in our yard; or the seemingly unending hordes of little ants that have discovered there is food in our kitchen. I know that the Creator is angered [a human word] by the millennia of senseless violence over territory, that humans seem to be incapable of growing beyond. I believe that the Creator of the Universe entered time and space in the form of a single cell implanted into the womb of a teenaged girl, so that another way of living could be demonstrated to we frail humans. In the words of Eric Bibb, singing as I type, we’ve got to do better if we want to survive.

this image from Hubble frames a perfect spiral specimen: the stunning NGC 2903

 

Enough of that.

  • Illustration Tip #14: Contests and Awards.

I’ve won four Awards this year; two of them for reasons that haven’t been made known to me. Two of the awards were a result of entering one of my favorite images in a contest. Having won an award, I submitted the image to the same organization for a magazine cover. I received an Honorable Mention.
A “Best of Portland” Award is an attempt to have me buy a plaque to hang on my wall. The concept of my being ‘best of Portland’ is far more grandiose than I need or deserve. I suppose it looks good on a plaque.

Problem #1: my walls

This is a really old photo, but all of the vertical surfaces in my office look like this. I have no room for a plaque.

Problem #2: I NEVER have clients in my office. I don’t need plaques to raise my self-esteem. All of the images on the vertical surfaces are either images that inspire me; or images that remind me that I have done some things well.

I am my own worst critic [actually, my wife can be worse than myself; she doesn’t often provide input].

Entering contests can be worthwhile, especially if you think that the image you enter is exactly what the contest needs. When it isn’t selected, you have learned something about your opinion. Entering contests often require entry fees. Modest entry fees can imply that the publisher is paying someone for their time while they review entries.

I tend to think that really exorbitant entry fees for some contest half-way around the world, where I’m not likely to actually see the results of my effort, are simply ways for someone to generate income. I’m really not likely to travel to Dubai to see my image on a wall or a screen.

I really like the image I created for the contest; the image that awarded me as Artist of the Year and earned a separate Honorable Mention. I reused a character I created at the beginning of this century, in a new setting. A small homage to Vermeer. The irony is that the company I created the image for, did not like it; and did not pay me for the three images I created. The latter was my choice. I don’t want clients saying that I cheated them in some fashion.

Winning a contest can be good for a dispirited ego; not winning a contest can cause a dispirited ego to feel worse.

 

 

 

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