Archive for December, 2006

Thank You, Jesus

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Even if you mostly avoid watching sports, as I do, you can still manage to learn that a lot of athletes, after a big win or even a small one, thank either Jesus or God. Sometimes it seems to be about the specific game they just finished and others it seems to be about their skill in general. I thought I’d ask God how he feels about that. Does he really help them? Does he want to be thanked? Is he getting tired of me asking stupid questions?

Well, if you’ve been reading along in my past posts, you know that God is not really big on taking sides. His general tack is to let us play out our lives and then, based on how we think and behave, he chooses how to set up our after lives. So no, he doesn’t help.

Now the thanking? First, he thinks he should be thanked for the things he does. So a beautiful sunset? Sure. The Grand Canyon? Thank away. Beating your fellow man at a contest that is nothing more than essentially vacuous entertainment? Get a life.

Now before I lose all the sports fans, let me say that neither I nor God have anything against essentially vacuous entertainment. I don’t spend all my time on education and good works. My tastes run more to watching stand-up comedy on HBO than keeping track of earned run averages, but if that’s your thing, no problem.

But thanking God for your latest field goal. Now that’s hubris trying to mask itself as humility and God would just as soon be left out of it.

Oh, and God told me that I haven’t asked too many stupid questions yet, but I should maybe be a little more careful in the future. Of course, just because the advice comes direct from God, doesn’t mean I’ll follow it. Free will, baby.

Vocal Stylings

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

I was looking through my music collection and I noticed that I seem to have a strong preference for male vocalists. It’s hard to come up with any real percentages without doing a lot more detailed work than I feel like, but at a very rough guess I’d say that male vocalists outnumber female by a ratio of about two to one. So, of course I got to wondering and I asked God if she prefers male or female voices when people sing. The answer was that she of course likes both but, like with so many other things about humanity, what she likes best is harmony.

Look Back in Splendor

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

The Bible has that piece in it where it says that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. That got me to wondering about all the captains of industry that turn philanthropist in their old age. It’s commonly thought that they’re trying trying to cover for a lifetime of screwing over their fellow man. Some may indeed be trying to get into heaven but others may just be trying to reform their image for the history books. But then I thought about Warren Buffet. Now I’m no expert on The Oracle of Omaha but I’ve never seen anything to suggest that he got where he is by the sort of dirty dealing that is all too common in capitalism, so I was wondering if he really was as nice as he seems or if there were skeletons buried in his past.

I asked God about it, but he said that he wasn’t going to tell me anything that I didn’t already know. He did offer one plausible metaphor though, something that would explain Warren’s late life philanthropy without it having to be either genuine goodness or nefarious plotting. He told me how I could know the sort of feelings that would lead a man to give away most of his wealth without being either just altruistic or having done some bad that he needed to balance out.

You can know that feeling yourself. Let me tell you how.

Sit back in your chair and close your eyes. Imagine you’re driving along a highway. You haven’t done anything wrong, that you’re aware of, but you haven’t really been paying attention either. You’ve been sort of daydreaming your way along. Now you glance into the rear view mirror and there’s a cop right behind you.

That feeling, right then, is the same feeling that even a good man can feel when he’s nearing the end of his days. That’s the feeling that can lead even the best of men to want to do something more.


Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

What’s the deal with forty days? There’s forty days of Lent. Christ fasted in the wilderness for forty days. When Noah built his ark, it rained for forty days and forty nights. When Moses went up the mountain to receive the ten commandments, he spent forty days.

I thought maybe it had to do with when the calendar had only ten months, so the number of days in the month would have rounded up nicely to forty, but God told me that wasn’t so. I went and did some reading on the subject and was surprised to learn that when we only had ten months they were still about thirty days long, leaving a period of about sixty days in the dead of winter that didn’t belong to any month. That would be right about now, so I guess we’re in no month’s land.

I think I’ll quit worrying about it and instead catch up on forty winks.

Happy Birthday

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Today, God and I didn’t have much of a conversation. He stopped by but just for a minute, just long enough to give me a small present. He pulled it out of a big red sack he was carrying, said merry Christmas, and then told me he had to go. He said he had a birthday party to go to.

Then as he left, he asked me to pass on a message.

So, on behalf of God and myself, Merry Christmas.

Artificial Christmas

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

It’s Christmas season. Decorations have gone up all over town. Shopping centers have devoted part of their parking lots to the sale of assassinated trees and part of their floor space to imitation trees. The imitations seem to get a little better every year, recent years especially I’ve noticed a devotion to having the lights pre-wired into the tree.

For myself, the imitation trees never quite make it. We used them in my house for a number of my formative years, so it’s not a harking back to childhood that makes them fail in my mind, rather, it’s sensory deprivation. I’m a big fan of the gaudy light displays of Las Vegas, so I’m a fan of trees with nearly too many decorations and a ton of lights, but what makes the tree for me is the smell. There’s something invigorating about the smell of fresh pine settling into the corners of the house that gives me a primal sense of contentment.

I asked God where he stands on the issue. Does he feel that something artificial is what puts the X in xmas? Or is he saddened by the millions of trees whose lives are literally cut short so that we can brighten up our family rooms for a couple of weeks?

He said he doesn’t really care, as long as we don’t make it look like we’ve shoved them up the backside of an angel.


Thursday, December 21st, 2006

We’re born with an incredible power, the power of imagination. We’re able to imagine things much better than they can ever actually be. It’s this power that fuels the sparkle in children’s eyes as Christmas approaches, they imagine sugar plums dancing in their heads but the reality is that sugar plums don’t actually dance.

An example of this power put to bad use is the tempting of young men to “martyrdom” by encouraging them to imagine a reward of seventy-two virgins. The reason I put quotes around the word “martyrdom” is because God told me that real martyrdom comes from being killed for your cause but never from killing yourself. He says some things may be worth dying for, but you should always try to find another way.

But back to imagination.

God says that sometimes, imagination is our souls calling home to Heaven.

Reality is getting the phone bill.

Festival of Lights

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

When I told God what I wrote yesterday about sometimes less is more when it comes to putting up your Christmas lights, she brought up something I hadn’t thought of. When it comes to keeping down the number of holiday lights, the Jews have got it all over the Christians. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, uses just eight lights, and none of those fancy electric or LED things either, just candles.

So I’d like to applaud all my Jewish friends for keeping it simple, but I’d also like to give them a warning. You know guys, Christmas is outselling you; maybe if you’d fancy things up a little you could get a better market share.

Lighten Up

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

One of the staples of Hollywood movies is the neighbors trying to outdo each other. A not uncommon example of this is two houses trying to have the biggest, fanciest, display of Christmas lights.

Talking to God about this, I expected him to tell me that he preferred a simple nativity scene to a gaudy array of lights, but, as is often the case, I didn’t get the answer I expected. He said that nativity scenes are nice, but rather limited in their options. Light displays, on the other hand allow for nearly infinite variety, and one thing that God is obviously fond of is diversity.

But what God most wanted to tell me was that a little friendly competition is a good thing, just be careful not to take it so far that you lose the friendly aspect. As with all things, you should focus on quality over quantity.

So remember that the whole Christmas lights thing started with just one over-zealous star, which shows that sometimes less is more. Of course, that’s only sometimes.


Monday, December 18th, 2006

While I was driving today, I saw one of those bumper stickers. The ones that say, “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.” So I thought I’d ask God if that was true.

That they’re not perfect? Absolutely.

That they’re forgiven. Well, yeah. It seems God is pretty easygoing when it comes to forgiveness. If you ask for it, and you really want it, then he’ll give it to you. Now part of really wanting it is really believing that you need it, that you did something that was wrong. And don’t try to parse that for a loophole, it just means that the only part you’ll be forgiven for is the part that you believe was wrong. It doesn’t even matter if God thinks it’s wrong, as long as you think so, he’ll forgive you for it.

But the part that the bumper sticker fails to cover, is that being forgiven doesn’t mean you don’t get punished. Just because the mother of the man you killed finds it in her heart to forgive you, doesn’t mean the warden is going to let you out of jail.

The Difference

Friday, December 15th, 2006

Sometimes the answers are easier than you expect. I asked God what was the difference between love and lust. She told me that lust is whatever we want for ourselves and love is whatever we want for someone else.

You Know

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

I got to thinking about mortality. I was trying different tacks to get God to tell me something about the end of my life. When would it be? Would it be soon? Would it be of natural causes? Stuff like that. At first he was fairly oblique, just tried changing the subject or joking about it, but finally he just flat out told me that it wasn’t something I was supposed to know.

That popped an alert up in my brain, and I asked the next question without taking time to even think about it: Are there some things that mankind is not supposed to know?

Well, God came right back and told me, if there are things that man is not meant to know, then foremost among those things would be knowing if there are things we are not meant to know. Then he left.

So… There are things that mankind is not meant to know and among those things is that knowledge that there are things we aren’t supposed to know. Or there aren’t things that mankind is not supposed to know, but God didn’t feel like telling me that and dodged the question. Or the only thing that mankind isn’t supposed to know is that there isn’t anything that mankind isn’t supposed to know except that there isn’t anything that mankind isn’t supposed to know.

Somedays I think I should just stay in bed and watch cartoons.

Of God and Government

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

I brought up the subject of the old Soviet Union with God today. The battle between the USSR and the USA was often pitched as the godless communists versus the Bible thumping Americans and I was wondering how God himself had viewed the whole thing. As usual he refused to really take sides but he did give me an insight that I’d never had before. While the battle was sold as Communism against Democracy, that doesn’t really make sense, because that’s an economic model versus a political model, so it’s essentially orthogonal. The other pieces, then, are the political model of the Soviet Union, which was Totalitarianism, and the economic model of the United States, which is Capitalism. So the more complete struggle was between Totalitarian Communism and Democratic Capitalism.

Now God didn’t exactly say any of these things himself, he mostly just kept asking me questions until I managed to fill in the details on my own. What I came to realize is that Totalitarian Communism is about the few demanding that the many work together to reach common goals and that Democratic Capitalism is about the many demanding that individuals each compete to reach individual goals, many of which will doubtless be held in common.

I don’t really know what this says about the value of one system over the other but the key thing that I note is that neither system really involves God.

Christmas Presentation

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

The idea of giving Christmas presents originated in the Nativity story, wherein the three wise men brought gifts to the Christ child. A lot of people are ignorant of the art of gift giving. Everybody gets the idea that you should give a present that the receiver wants and either doesn’t have enough of or doesn’t have at all, but there should be more to it than that. A friend once told me that the best presents say something about both the giver and the receiver and about the relationship between them and I’ve born that in mind ever since.

So what did the gifts brought by the three wise men say about them and the Lord?

The first brought frankincense, an aromatic resin used to make incense and perfume. From this we can gather that he felt their relationship stunk and he wanted to improve it, at least cosmetically.

The second brought myrrh, which like frankincense was the dried sap of a tree. Myrrh was used to make incense but was also used in liniments and salves. So again, we can guess that he felt his relationship to Jesus was in need of some healing.

The third wise man brought gold. The gift card of its day. Often a gift card just says that the giver doesn’t care enough to think about the receiver enough to figure out what they might want. In this case though, I think it might say something different and altogether more honest than the frankincense and myrrh. From this gift we can conclude that the third wise man really had no defined relationship with a newborn infant but felt that he had to bring something. It’s an early example of peer pressure and no time to shop.

We’re All in this Together

Monday, December 11th, 2006

I asked God about global warming. Is it something that is just happening or is it something we did? There were a couple of parts to her answer. First, she set it up to happen, in the sense that she created the world and our desires in such a way that they were likely to collide in the scenario we’re now living through. It wasn’t inevitable, it was just the likely outcome of all of our individual decisions. Second, even if we weren’t major contributors to it happening we should still want to do something about it. Think of it as installing air conditioning on a grand scale.

She also told me that she’s always wanted something so big that all of mankind really needs to pull together to solve it. World War One was something of a practice run.

Global Storming

Friday, December 8th, 2006

One time God was hanging out in a cave with a storyteller, waiting for a big rainstorm to pass. This particular storyteller had a big fear of thunder and lightning and was having a really bad time as the storm went on for days. So God wanted to distract him and cheer him up. She was looking into the future at the time and thinking about things she could do to get all of mankind to pull together as one team, to become one big tribe. So she talked about that to the storyteller, but only in very general terms, nothing specific.

Well, the storyteller thought it was a pretty cool idea but he couldn’t imagine it happening. In his mind, it was difficult enough for just a family to all get along so it had to be nigh on impossible for all of mankind. But then, he thought, what if the problem was not only something that people needed to band together to deal with but something that effectively reduced mankind down to little more than a single family.

He liked that idea, so he ran with it. Because of the recent storm and the dark clouds that still hung over the land, he decided to go with flooding for his crisis. Soon he was fleshing out the details and telling his tale and being treated to dinner and other tokens of appreciation all over the land. His story was the box office hit of its day.

Eventually, a version of it made its way into the Bible as the story of Noah and the ark.

March of the Toys

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

There’s been a recent request to put several types of penguins on the endangered species list. Two of the biggest reasons for concern about these great southern waterfowl is that the effects of global warming seem to be shrinking their habitat and that massive commercial fishing efforts are cutting down on their food supply.

Implicating mankind in the extinction of species is nothing new; you can go all the way back to the wooly mammoth, for an early example, but in the Bible it cautions us about this. It says that God gave us dominion “over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth,” but it also says that we should “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth.” When I asked God how she felt about what we were doing to the penguins, and what we’ve done to other animals over the millennia, she talked about it metaphorically.

She told me that it was like giving a small child a new toy for Christmas. They’ve already got a lot of toys but that doesn’t stop you from wanting to see their faces light up when you give them something new. Though many of their toys are still good, a lot of them are broken,. Some were damaged through neglect, having been left in the rain or stepped on or a myriad other fates. Some of their favorites were broken, just from constant use. And some of the others were simply sacrificed to experimentation.

You never really want to see toys get destroyed, but it happens. You learn not to ask where that teddy bear with the eye patch has gotten to.

What do you do? You just keep telling the kids to clean up their room and put their toys away. And always, always, you hope they’ll do better next time.

Just Over Your Shoulder

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

You know that feeling that someone’s watching you? That sense that if you could just look in the right direction you’d see a pair of eyes pointed right at you, but you turn and twist and you crane your neck and there’s nothing there? I had one of those moments this morning, but I was home alone when it happened. That got me to thinking about what else that feeling might mean. What if the feeling was true but it wasn’t from anything corporeal? So when God stopped by this afternoon, I asked him straight out, does that feeling have anything to do with guardian angels?

He laughed and told me no.

So I had to find out why he laughed.

The notion that we’ve each got an angel that follows us around and keeps us from any unapproved harm, apparently that’s not true. If angels had to follow us around, well that would sort of preclude any possibility that they’ve got free will and then there couldn’t have been any revolt of the angels, and, as I’ve already told you, the revolt remains a big deal with many of the angels.

On the other hand, there are some angels that do go around playing guardians on their own, as a kind of hobby, but God doesn’t really sanction that sort of vigilantism. Go figure.


Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

I was driving out on the highway and got to wondering what God thought about our penchant for strewing the planet with long ribbons of asphalt and concrete. The next time he stopped by I brought up the subject and we went down various paths and pretty much went wherever the subject took us. God seemed pretty accepting of the need for the utility they provide but was somewhat wistful for the days before.

Imagine God as a sculptor and Earth as one of his works. Have you ever seen a sculpture of a horse rearing up in all its majesty? The kind of sculpture where the sculpted legs of the horse wouldn’t be able to support the weight of the whole piece. In a lot those, the artist has placed a rock or tree or some such next to the horse and often under the horse so that it helps support the weight without being completely aesthetically bankrupt. I’m sure the creators have agonized over how to balance their vision with the practicalities of their chosen medium.

Now imagine that some cretin buys the sculpture and it doesn’t quite fit in the space where he wants to put it. He hires someone to cut off the tree or rock or whatever and then just ties it up to a wall with steel cables wrapped around the body of the horse.

Our roads are those steel cables, practical but ugly.

Second Hand Truth

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Okay, I probably heard this second or third hand and even that was so long ago that it might even be that I’ve imagined the whole thing, but that still wouldn’t invalidate the idea and the idea is all that really matters to what I’ve got to say. Phew.

Someone once told me about a science fiction story that was about humans encountering an alien race that had no concept of lying. I don’t remember how the fact that humans not only know of lying but do it on a more than regular basis figured into the story, but just the idea itself is pretty intriguing. So I asked God about it. We talked a little about it, she seemed to be feeling me out to see how I felt about lying in general, but I held my cards pretty close to my vest. The thing that we eventually came around to was when she asked me if I thought it was possible for a race to have no ability to lie in a world that was rife with ambiguity.

I had to think about that for a little bit, but I finally allowed as how I didn’t see it as very plausible.

So then she asked me if I could imagine a world that significantly lacked ambiguity.

I found that even harder to believe.

Then, and I think she was just messing with me, but you never really know, she told me that she could imagine both things, but that she wasn’t going to tell me if she had.

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Friday, December 1st, 2006

When Rock and Roll was in its early days it was often denounced as the music of the devil. The old cliche was “sex and drugs and rock and roll,” and parents were warned that it was destroying the morals of their children. Now the new kid on the block is hip-hop and rap, and they’re saying the same things. It’s a big change in my lifetime but nothing in the span that God is used to looking at, but I still thought I’d get his thoughts on it.

The main thing he had to say was essentially, that this too shall pass, but he did express disappointment that there’s so much violence in the songs.