Saturday, September 3, 2016

Life as a Dilemma

This fine young fellow is experiencing the Trolley Problem. His father has asked him to decide which way the train should go. One path kills one toy person, the other kills five. He simply moves the one toy person to the track full of toy people and with much delight pushes the train over all of them.

The Trolley Problem is an example of a thought experiment in ethics. The problem asks you to decide which is most ethical – allowing five people to die or causing the death of one in order to save the others. As is typically true of thought experiments there is no correct answer. 

We really do not need to be philosophers to invent a dilemma such as the Trolley Problem. We are self-centered sinners living in a sinful world. Our lives create ethical problems all around us. When we are particularly self-centered we simply ignore the dilemma in the name of “rights.”

One such dilemma is abortion. Abortion is an easy choice when we think we are granting freedom. It is an easy choice when we feel we are champions of human rights. It seems so right to allow someone choice over life decisions when we only consider the life of one person.

But abortion is not about the life of one person. It is its own trolley problem. Do we end the life of one baby in order to preserve the quality of life of one woman and possibly her family?

I suspect that abortion is rarely a thoughtless decision. It costs money, it may have health repercussions, it changes a woman’s life much as a pregnancy does. Yet, it is only possible if we forget the second life on the other decision track.

For many women who undergo an abortion, to not do this procedure would create much hardship. Some women feel they cannot afford a child, some do not want to make  this life change, some do not feel they can be a mother to a child  with a disability, some women are battling an illness that may take their life if their pregnancy continues. Abortion is not an easy problem. It only becomes an easy solution when we forget the life of the child.

This is the ethical dilemma of our times. How can we call ourselves tolerant when our tolerance only extends to those who live outside the womb? How can we call ourselves ethical when we make it legal to kill those who cannot cry out for help? How can we call ourselves human when we care nothing for the lives of these infants? 

We have simply erased the ethical problem by erasing the existence of the life. We have decided that life begins when a woman decides she wants the baby. Life does not begin at conception, it does not begin at birth. It begins with the decision of a mother to want, to be happy, to accept. There is no science found here.
This makes no sense. It is a thought experiment that is resolved by making the decision to not think, to not consider, to not care.

This ignoring of a life does not seem to stop with the unborn child. Once we can make the decision to allow this death it becomes easy to encourage others to die. Those who have lives we do not wish to have should want to die. We do not have to decide for them to die; we do not have to do the killing. We will just let them realize their life is not valued and then they will want to die. We might work hard to stop some suicides, but look the other way for the self-induced death of those whose lives we no longer value. Death becomes a friend, or at least a solution, instead of the enemy we know it to be.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and  on earth  is named, that according  to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with  power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being  rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth ad length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV

When we think we can solve world problems we create more trouble than we can know or understand. We think we are intelligent. We think we are sophisticated. We think we can create a better world through philosophy, industry, or perhaps technology. 

We think this, but we are wrong.

We are the same as the toddler in the first clip. He does not yet have the mental capacity to see the problem his father has created with his toys. He does not know about death; he knows only about play. The symbolism is lost on him.

There is so much more that is lost on us! As advanced as we humans imagine ourselves to be, there is more about the world that we do not understand than there is information found archived on the internet. 

We cannot know God’s plan for our daily lives. We can only see His plan for our Salvation.

We cannot know God. We can only experience His love for us.

Through the power of that love we can read and study His Word, worship His holy name, and joyfully receive forgiveness and faith through the sacraments.

We can rejoice in the sacredness of being God’s child.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Wheat Ridge: Cats That Search for Narnia

 Cats That Search for Narnia

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6, ESV
The two cats that allow us to live with them are designated as indoor cats. This is not their choice, but is their best chance at longevity. A while back, my husband accidentally provided the cats with unexpected freedom. He released them into the garage from the house forgetting that the garage door was open. Quickly realizing his mistake, he rushed outside to find them sitting in the driveway seemingly stunned at their good fortune. The chase that ensued will be mercifully left to your imagination.
For quite a while after this, the cats would eagerly chase me down the stairs and beg to be let into the garage. They would clamor into the garage as if they were searching for the door in the wardrobe that led to their personal magical Narnia. Once they realized the door was not to be found, they would slink back into the house in feline despair.
As sinners trying to survive in a sinful world, we are constantly on the search for a magic fix to our lives. We look for the next diet, the next investment, the next political candidate, the next relationship that has the potential to fix old problems or bring joy to old lives. In that search, we hold tight to our doubts and are driven and tossed by the wind. Instead of searching the garage or the old dusty wardrobe, we search social media. We search in vain.
God has blessed us with many ways to make improvement in our lives. I certainly do not want to discourage anyone from making needed health-related changes. Yet, we need a way to search that does not randomly toss us from idea to idea. We need wisdom, and wisdom is found only in God.
Proverbs has a few things to say about wisdom. We are encouraged to be attentive to wisdom (2:2), that wisdom is a comfort (2:10), a blessing (3:13), and the path of righteousness (4:11). For those of us in a constant search for wisdom, the following verse sets us on the right course:
For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity. (Proverbs 2:5-7)
Wisdom is not found in the world. The wisdom we seek is not found in our abilities, in our striving, or in our desire to be wise. Wisdom is found in God and in God alone.
The verses from James remind us that not only do we find wisdom in God but that wisdom is centered in God. In this way, it is practical in our lives. God’s wisdom, found in our God-given faith, is integrated into every part of our life and learning. If we rely on ourselves to find wisdom, it will only elude us.
Wisdom is a part of faith development and faith development happens in the Word and Sacraments. God blesses our seeking, our surrender, and our immersion in the Word. He provides both the motivation to seek wisdom and the wisdom itself. We are blessed, indeed.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Toxic Fear

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
    to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
    it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Psalm 27:1-6

We live, work, and try to raise our children in a world that supports a culture of toxic fear. We are systematically bombarded with stories that inspire fear. We eagerly click through to watch videos and read incendiary comments about people and events. Fear pushes us to hide away, to build walls, to build weapons. Fear keeps us from trusting and from loving. This toxic fear invades our thoughts and endangers our emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

Immersing ourselves in fear only proves to push us into actions that cause more fear. 

This fear leads to blame and ultimately, to hate.

Toxic fear creates an addiction to fear. We can’t get enough of it and the false sense of security brought on by our sad efforts to protect ourselves.

Toxic fear turns our hearts away from God. It convinces us that we are the only ones who can bring about our own safety. And fear leaves us with doubts about God. 

Instead of trusting in God we trust our own opinions, our perceptions, our arguments, our actions, and even our weapons. 

We fall victim to the false comfort found in memes such as "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Except -- for some good guys, their guns do not keep them safe.

Except -- some good guys with guns turn into bad guys.

Except -- as Christians we know that our sin guarantees that none of us is a good guy.

Except -- we are to put our trust in God, alone.

Toxic fear is a cruel liar.

It is not my intent to criticize gun ownership or the defense of the Second Amendment. It is simply my intent to remind myself that we cannot rely on guns, or politics, or money, or philosophy, or intellect, or armies, or anything of this world to save us.

Only God saves us. Only God protects us. Only God loves us with a perfect love.

So what do we do when faced with fear?

First, we repent. We repent of our lack of trust. We repent of our fear and our hatred. We stop making assumptions about the guilt of another and focus on our own. We beg for forgiveness and ask for God’s help. We turn to the Word and Sacraments, admitting our complete and enduring helplessness.

Second, we learn to praise God for His love, His salvation, and His protection. We tell Satan we have no room for toxic fear in our lives.

Third, we rightly fear God and in this fear we seek to serve Him. We ask Him to use us to stop encouraging fear, and instead work on the side that seeks to stamp it out.

Everything we need to survive this world is found in Him.

Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling. Psalm 2:11

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Wheat Ridge: Invented Languages
Click through to read my devotion on invented languages. While you are on the site learn about this wonderful ministry.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Part of Something Big

This past Sunday I got the chance to teach first grade Sunday school. The story for the week was “Jesus Teaches His Disciples to Pray.” We had interesting discussions about prayers. We analyzed our prayers and found that they mostly consist of requests. We practiced prayers of thanks, praise and confession. It was a good lesson with a cool group of children.

Then I remembered that I had spent the previous summer teaching the Lord ’s Prayer in sign language as part of our twice a month children’s messages. I asked the class to sign with me and was touched to see they remembered and could sign each petition. Because of careful study that beautiful prayer has been installed deep within their brains.

The prayer becomes grace as it weaves its way into their faith.

I love using sign language to teach children things. It keeps their hands busy while their brains learn, it connects movement to new learning, and it exposes them to another language other than their home language. I was happy to teach them the Lord’s Prayer in sign, but their knowledge of this prayer is not my doing. I am blessed, along with the parents, teachers, and pastors of the children in our church. We are blessed to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We are a part of God’s work to teach His Word.

I am the director of child and family ministry at our church. When I recruit members to volunteer for various events I often encourage them to “find their joy.” I try to emphasize that working with children is a “get to” not a “have to.” God provides joy in the teaching and sharing of His Word. 

There is grace in service and it works its way into our hearts.

There is joy whenever God’s Word is taught or learned, whenever it is spoken, read, or heard. Such actions grow our faith and increase our joy.

There is joy in God’s Word.

There is promise in God's Word.
There is grace in God’s Word.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth: it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:8-11