On Angels and Demons

As I’ve mentioned before, there are aspects of my faith that I don’t understand, and I understand that I’ll never understand them, and for the most part I’m okay with that. But sometimes those aspects resurface and I need to re-wrestle them. One of those often-resurfacing facets is the concept of angels, demons, and Satan.

For the moment, I will freely admit my ignorance and … well, idiocy. I’ve done no research on the subject, unless you count reading Paradise Lost. And I know there’s not a whole lot on the subject in the Bible. But here’s my contemporary understanding of what happened:

God creates angels—because if He is the Alpha and Omega, where else would they have come from? They all chant their celestial praises and do angel-y things until Satan gets uppity, grabs some minions, and tries to oust God, who casts them all into a metaphysical pit of torment which, again, God must have created, to suffer for all eternity for their sin.

Then God creates people. They all sing their earthly praises and walk with God until they get uppity, disobey God, and try to take His place—not as literally, but they still wanted to be the supreme rulers of their lives. And God casts them out into a fallen world to live and suffer and prosper and what have you for a mortal span of years, then He sends His Son to ransom them from joining Satan and his minions in their eternal torment.

When I first raised this question, it didn’t bother me. I figured, hey, the angels had God right there with them and they still rebelled? Obviously there would be no point in trying to ransom them. Then I re-read Genesis and, apparently, the first humans walked with God also. So, really, what’s the difference between people and angels and demons? Obviously the angels had to have free will or some of them wouldn’t have been able to rebel. And if they were so fundamentally flawed as to be irredeemable, then why make them suffer forever? Why not just unmake them? Not only would that have been more merciful—it’d also have kept them from doing things like possessing people, getting cast out into pigs, and running some poor farmer’s livelihood off a cliff.

Someday when I have more time, I’ll do some more research, but in the meantime, what are your thoughts?

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Christmas Tradition

This is my nativity:

As you’ve probably noticed, something important is missing. This is not an oversight, or blasphemy, or a statement about my spiritual life.

This is tradition.

You see, Baby Jesus is not in the manger because, well, it’s not Christmas yet. And if it’s not his birthday yet, how could he be in the manger? It was a tradition in my home to set up the Jesus-less nativity and then, on Christmas, Mom and Dad would bring Jesus out of hiding and my brother and I would sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and place Him in the manger.

Then it was time for gift-opening and then aebleskiver.

What Christmas traditions did you have and still cherish?

Oh, the holidays

I freely recognize that it’s been forever since I’ve made a post. Pretty much everything exciting in my life involves Kara’s new accomplishments: eating cereal, trying to walk, sleeping through the night. And it’s all wonderfully exciting to experience for a parent, but probably not so much as a blog reader.

But now, the holidays are here!

Everybody loves the holidays. We had as much vacation as we could stand this Thanksgiving, and yet it was wonderful to be in a house filled to the seams with family (and, of course, food). My house is decorated. Granted, it’s decorated with a two-foot tabletop tree, which is on top of the entertainment center. But still, it looks like Christmas. And smells like it when I burn the evergreen candle my Grandma got me. The holidays have always been unequivocally happy, even with the terrible long drive to see my Ohio family. I never could understand what could possibly make the holidays so bittersweet for so many people.

But now, enter 2011:

  • my first Christmas without Dad (aka Santa Claus)
  • my first Christmas with my baby girl
  • my first Christmas with close family drama of the sort that shouldn’t exist outside of soap operas
  • my first Christmas with a new niece and a new brother

Now, it’s a terribly conflicted time of year. But it’s still a time of looking back to celebrate my Savior’s birth and a joyous time of anticipating His return. It’s still a time of vacation, free time,¬† family, and family games like Yahtzee, Dominoes, and Scrabble. It’s a time when people wish each other¬† happiness, peace, and joy—and mean it. It’s remembering that heaven opened up and gave us its best so that we could have those things.

So it’s a conflicted Christmas, but I’ll embrace the good, acknowledge the bad, and pray for the grace to accept both in a manner that honors my dad and educates Kara. And I wish you all, well and truly, a merry Christmas.

What a Weekend!

This weekend was a wonderful mixture of eventful and self-indulgent. It began with an incredibly busy day at work on Friday during which we spent the first half of the day playing catch-up from the previous busy days and and the second half trying to prepare for the weekend, which we knew would be crazy. After work, I picked Steve up from school and we went to Fatz Cafe, where we ate so much I’m surprised either of us was capable of walking out of the restaurant. The rest of the day was spent recovering from our food overload. It was awesome.

Then came the Saturday work day, during which we catered sandwiches for about a hundred people (literally), had our usual Saturday crowd, and prepared for the big church party on Sunday. After a nap, I felt up to going with Steve to the free Bluegrass Under the Stars concert. It was quite lovely and fun. Even though we had to leave early–it was quite chilly–I had a great time. Not in the least because that was two nights in a row that I got to spend with my husband doing something other than sitting at home.

Then Sunday, the culmination of it all–my church had its first birthday! It was started as a church plant, and yesterday it was officially organized and accepted into the Nazarene denomination. I was accepted, not only as a charter member, but also as a member of the church board. It was an amazing service, and people from all around the community and beyond–people who have helped in so many ways since the idea of the coffeehouse church was conceived–were there to celebrate God’s provision for our tiny but wonderful church, Clemson: The Bridge Church of the Nazarene.

We celebrated the way all good churches celebrate important events: with a potluck lunch. The only thing better than fellowshipping with fellow Christians from all around the area is to do it over awesome food.

Then, of course, I went home for my Nazarene nap, and then it was time for Fiber Fun. It had been entirely too long since I’d seen my fellow crafters in the area, and I had a great time catching up. Also, I finished Baby Kara’s blanket! It is amazing, if I do say so myself:

It’s lovely and textured, and the color is much prettier than what this picture shows. I’m quite absurdly pleased with it. Finishing it was the perfect cap to a wonderful weekend.

The Wonder Drug

Listening to the radio this morning, I again heard someone make the analogy of Christ to something like a cure for cancer that we would want to share with everyone. But the comparison of Christ to the cure for what ails you is more obvious and less accurate than everyone seems to think.

As an expecting mother, I read lots of baby books, baby magazines, baby forums, baby websites… you get it. And there are a lot of debates about things that seem like obvious care to me, like vaccinations. There are a surprising amount of people against vaccinating their babies. That seems foolhardy to me. Sure, vaccinations may possibly have some side effects that we don’t know about. Do you know what has fatal side effects we do know about? Measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, hepatitis… You know, the things the vaccinations protect against.

Fast forward into the future, when Baby becomes a free-thinking adult like, say, my brother, who got Type 1 diabetes when he was in his 20s. Thanks to modern medicine, we know he needs insulin. But he tried for a long time to control it mostly with homeopathic remedies. No amount of logic or persuasion would work; he had to come to the point where he himself realized that he was not in control no matter how much muscle mass he tried to build, no matter how strictly he held to his vegetarian diet, no matter how much brewer’s yeast he ate. Those things were stopgap measures at best. But forcing him to rely solely in the insulin wouldn’t work–he had to realize it and willingly embrace it before the treatment would be effective.

Christ is the cure for what ails you. However, there are a lot of other things out there that look like cures, too. Cures that leave more in your control, cures that come in better packages, cures that are more “in” at the moment.

But it’s not as obvious as some people make it seem. Anyone who pretends it’s easy to put your faith in an invisible, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent God who understands us even though we can’t understand Him and is three Persons yet also somehow only one… anyone who thinks that’s easy and obvious clearly doesn’t remember his own transition from the cures he thought would save him before. Be patient, not superior. Offer the cure, but don’t pretend people’s questions are stupid or insignificant. Let them–and the Spirit working in them–come to the place where they embrace it.

Worry Not

I sympathize with the disciples more on some days than others. Today, I think I’m catching a pretty good glimpse into what the disciples might have felt when Jesus told them not to worry.

Don’t worry? Really? The waves are swamping the ship. You may not worry, son of a carpenter, but I’ve been fishing all my life and I’ve seen what happens to ships–and the people on them–in water like this.

There are days when hearing “Don’t worry” feels less like sitting in the park with your hippie brethren (Hey, man, no worries. God’s got this under control! The sky is blue, the grass is green, the birds are singing, and there’s still plenty to drink) and more like being shoved into a room full of spiders as the shover says, “Don’t worry–they’re not poisonous.”

It’s not like bad things never happened to the people who traveled with Jesus, the ones He told to stop worrying. I can’t imagine Peter, for one, had it easy not worrying when he was crucified. So clearly “don’t worry” doesn’t mean “don’t worry–only good things are coming your way.”

I know that sometimes God calms the storm, and that’s the way we all really prefer things to happen. But sometimes He just calms the storm inside us. At the moment, I’d be happy with either.

Ready, Willing, Going

Recently, a group called ReWiGo (Ready, Willing, Going) had a lunch meeting at Main Street Deli & Coffeehouse, and they let me sit in for The Bridge. ReWiGo helps people in the area who need any number of small things done: yard work, minor repairs, small wheelchair ramps, etc. Since I’m a firm believer that love manifests itself in actions, this is definitely a ministry I can get behind!Even more promising is the fact that ReWiGo supplies the skilled labor–they just need people like me who are unskilled but willing to help.

I immediately signed up to be the “Ambassador” for ReWiGo to The Bridge–yet another advantage of being a freelancer is that I can accommodate my schedule to fit around projects like this. If you’re in the Clemson area and want more details of how to help out, please feel free to email me!