Monday, January 10, 2005

i thank You God for most this amazing day

This is one of my favorite poems. It relates to my last post, so I thought I'd share it with you. It's by e.e. cummings, and yes, the punctuation and capitalization is supposed to be like that.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any - lifted from the no
of all nothing - human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Friday, January 07, 2005


So I went to a seminar today and this old guy with an English accent told an incredible story about a Christian scientist. Well, to me, every story about Christian scientists is incredible. But this one was especially good.

It was about this scientist (I wish I could remember his name...) who was poring over all this data, late into the night, trying to figure out how the information in DNA bases could be transformed into proteins, what the code could be. Suddenly, he figures it out - like a "Eureka" moment - the reading frame of DNA. So what does he do? Run and call all his scientist friends? Or his wife, maybe? Jump up and down? No. He stays sitting in the same place for two hours. He's overwhelmed by one thought: "In the whole world, the only ones who know this amazing secret are me and God!"

It was enough to make me want to go into research. (The desire passed - research is not for me!) Really, though, I could kind of identify with this scientist. Some of my most amazing times with God have come about in my Biology labs. I could sit there for hours, watching fern sperm swim, or an amoeba creep across my slide, or thinking about the complexity of each one of my cells, and the miracle that I started out as one cell... and I'll think, "What an absolutely amazing God you must be to think this up! And I'm so grateful you let me enjoy it."

If I do end up going on in Biology, I think I'd want my job to somehow involve inspiring awe in people. Because so much of science and school sucks the awe right out. Which, as the seminar guy pointed out, is exactly what leads to things like genetic manipulation and euthanasia and cloning. If we're not in awe of life, we think we understand it all and we're masters over it. The awe reminds us of how small we are, how little we actually understand, and how we have no right to play God. But beyond that, this experience of biological awe points directly to our Creator, and it's powerful, even in the naturalistic science community. Brian MacLaren says it better than me:

"I remember in 8th grade looking forward so much to taking biology - a chance during school hours to indulge a personal delight. But to my huge disappointment, science studied animals in every way except the way that counted most to me. That red eft? It's nothing but a larval stage of the primitive vertebrate amphibian notophthalmus viridescens. That sunset? That's nothing but light being refracted through humid atmosphere. That house finch singing? That's nothing but a territorial organism's defense call...

I would be denying my truest sense of how things really are to go along with this view. In all of these beautiful things I could sense a taste of something so fine, a subtle clue, an enticing scent. Who can help but love these creatures, and in loving them, who can doubt that his or her love wants to reach through and beyond the creatures to their Creator? The world rings like a struck bell with this resonance: There is a God, and God is alive, and God is good, and God is beautiful. Science keeps leading me to faith."

There. Now, don't you all want to be in biology with me? And watch fern sperm swim for hours? I thought so.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Suffering for joy?!?

"The Christian lifestyle is so morally satisfying and fulfilling, with so many psychological and relational benefits that even if God didn't exist, even if it were all just a joyful delusion, it would be a good life anyway."

Has anyone ever said this? I know I've thought it before. I've been slowly reading a book by John Piper called "Desiring God", and he challenges Christians who think this way to look at Paul's life. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:19, "If we've only hoped in Christ for this life on earth, not for eternal life, we are the most miserable people in the world." When you look at his life, with beatings and imprisonments and stonings, it's not hard to see why he says he would be the most miserable man alive if he chose to live that way without good reason. Paul would never say the sentence at the top of this post.

Yes, we live in a different time than Paul, where we are rarely persecuted, where we rarely suffer for being Christians. Life is rosy for Christians in the West. Are we too comfortable? Are we willing to give up this cushy life of security for the sacrifices and, yes, the suffering that every type of ministry, and love itself, require? The kind of servant love the world needs to see in us will cost us time, convenience, effort, money, maybe even our very lives. Piper says Christians must choose to suffer.

And, incredibly, the reason they must choose it is for the joy it will bring. This is not masochistic. Paul actually rejoiced in his suffering (Colossians 1:24), he was pursuing the most deep and lasting joy there is - reward in heaven, strengthened faith and endurance, and the chance to show people around him what his faith meant to him, so they could share his joy in Christ. He wasn't doing it out of duty, or to prove how superior his faith was, or how high his tolerance for pain. He had no self-pity.

Suffering for joy. Sounds like an oxymoron. There are obviously dangers in becoming a "Christian doormat" and succumbing to self-pity. But too often we err on the other side, choosing to not serve sacrificially because we think the life of a Christian should be comfortable. I know that lately, I've chosen the fleeting pleasures of comfort and security over the sacrifice of ministry and love, and in so doing, I've chosen against joy.

For those of you who want something even more controversial (I'd love to hear your comments on this) check out this quote from George Otis on the ultimate form of Christian sacrifice:

"Should the Church in politically or socially trying circumstances remain covert to avoid potential eradication by forces hostile to Christianity? Or would more open confrontation with prevailing spiritual ignorance and deprivation – even if it produced Christian martyrs – be more likely to lead to evangelistic breakthroughs? Islamic fundamentalists claim that their spiritual revolution is fueled by the blood of martyrs. Is it conceivable that Christianity’s failure to thrive in the Muslim world is due to the notable absence of Christian martyrs? And can the Muslim community take seriously the claims of a Church in hiding?… The question is not whether it is wise at times to keep worship and witness discreet, but rather how long this may continue before we are guilty of hiding our light under a bushel?"