Craig Vick's Scattered Thoughts

Adventures in Virtual Community


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Au Revoir Camp Joan Mier

Camp Joan Mier was a camp for children with disabilities. It was located in the hills of Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean. For ten days every Summer, from age ten to eighteen, I was a camper there. It was in many ways the highlight of my year. I did a Google search on the name because I wanted to make sure I spelled it correctly for an upcoming disability parable. I found some sad news. Camp Joan Mier, my Summer camp, has closed. You can read about the closing here.

I confess that, after the sadness of realizing Camp Joan Mier had closed, I was a little annoyed by the remark in the above article attributed to Steven Rosenthal. He described Camp Joan Mier as “a great place for disabled children to learn how to tie their shoes and make their beds”. Why did this bother me? I’m sure he intended no harm. Perhaps something I ate for breakfast has made me more irritable than normal. For the record, however, let me point out a few things. First of all I doubt any child learned how to tie his or her shoes at Camp Joan Mier. We all knew how to tie our shoes before going to camp. The minimum age for a camper, as I remember, was ten. If the implication is that children who live with disabilities need a special place to learn how to tie their shoes, that’s at best misleading. There may have been some children with disabilities which prevented from or made it very difficult for them to able to tie their own shoes. Even so these challenges would have been solved long before coming to camp. The same goes for making our beds. Bed making was more strictly enforced at camp than at home (at least for me), but this was a matter of discipline, not learning. We all knew how to make our beds before going to camp.

Rosenthal’s remark, whether intended or not, points to a difference in perspective, the difference between viewing a disability from the outside as opposed to the inside. From the outside a disability is seen as a monster. It robs one of normality. The focus falls on giving back as much of normal as is possible. People are even seen as disabilities rather than as people. From the outside it looks like I can’t tie my shoes. Shoe tying is part of normal life. If I can only learn how to tie my shoes, I’ll be that much closer to normal. From the inside, I’m already normal (or at least as normal as I’m ever going to be). I don’t spend much time thinking about shoe laces. Tying my shoes may be difficult. It may be a big nuisance. It’s not a part of who I am.

I don’t want to end on a complaint. Though I’m a few years late, I’d like to give Camp Joan Mier a more proper eulogy by expressing my thanks. Thank you for being a huge part of my growing up years. Thank you for making so many friendships possible. Thank you to all of the staff and counselors who gave far more than was required. Many of you kept in touch even after the Summer ended. Your love and patience were tremendous gifts. Thank you for introducing me to rock n roll, days at the beach, sand crabs, star fish, rattle snakes, camp life, arts and crafts, swimming contests and a host of beautiful people. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to sing in a band. Thank you for providing some magnificent adventures and many memories. Thank you for being there as I chartered the very difficult waters of being a teen. Thank you for a cabin overlooking the ocean. Thanks to all who gave their support through donations or taxes. Many lives were enriched by your mission. We’re all a bit poorer now that you’re gone.

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What is Faith?

What is faith? Observant readers of this blog have no doubt noticed that this question is present in almost everyone of my posts. Johannes Climacus, one of Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms, defines faith as immediacy after reflection. I realize that many of my readers are rolling their eyes at this point and some have already left this post in search of better reading. “Craig”, some are thinking, “you started off so well with a clear question (What is faith?) and then you jumped into a muddy philosophical lingo.” Many of my readers, always with good taste and respect, have teased me about the philosophical (ie undecipherable) nature of my writing. I’m guilty as charged. Thanks to all who have tried to understand what I write. You have given me a great compliment. I hope you’ll bear with me a little while longer. In this post I want to show why this definition or view of faith means so much to me.

Let’s start with ‘immediacy’. What does this word mean? I find it helpful to think of the experiences of a child. As children we have an immediate trust of our world. We assume it’s safe and right. We trust our parents, that they love us and will care for us. We have this trust even when it’s undeserved. A child’s trust isn’t easily destroyed. Immediacy, in this sense, is joyful. For most of my years growing up I went to a school for children with disabilities. From the outside this may have looked to be a sad place. One would see wheelchairs, braces, crutches, amputees, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and more, and all this suffering would be borne by children. A closer look, however, would reveal that we were, for the most part, very happy. This wasn’t because we were special or knew some life secret. It was because we were children. We accepted and enjoyed our world as children do. We knew an immediacy before reflection.
Of course, it’s not only children who experience life in this way. As adults, we may find ourselves reverting to our childhood or finding new forms of immediacy. We fall in love, find a friend, see our children being born, meet our grandchildren and the world is good and beautiful. We may even experience immediacy over fairly insignificant events. I’m embarrassed to tell how delighted I was to see my beloved Green Bay Packers fell the Saints last Sunday.
Climacus might give us two warnings about this childlike immediacy. First of all, he might point out that this kind of immediacy isn’t faith. It’s on the road to faith, but it’s not faith. Faith is immediacy after reflection. Secondly, he might give a warning  to those of us who tend to look down upon this childlike immediacy. We may be convinced that we’ve matured. We’re grown up now. We have no need for childish immediacy. Climacus might ask us to make sure we’re even on the road to faith. Do we look down on expressions of immediacy because we’ve made so much progress in our own journey or because we haven’t even started our own journey? I find this warning especially relevant to those of us who tend to think a lot about theology. When we find ourselves looking at others and saying “How immature” or “How naive” it’s time for self examination.
What, then, is reflection? In California I had a next door neighbor who lived, as a child, in Hitler’s Germany. Her mother was arrested. Before being taken away this mom promised her young daughter, “If there is a God, I will return.” After that day my next door neighbor never saw her mother again. I was told that story almost thirty years ago and I still can’t even think about it without shedding a few tears. Reflection takes place when all that we think we know and love, in our immediacy, is assailed by doubts. Our world, as we know it, is shaken at the foundations.These doubts may be intellectual. They may be experiential. We look at what we believe and begin to see that we have no sure intellectual foundation for our beliefs. We look at death camps and totalitarian regimes and wonder if we can ever again sing “This is my Father’s World”. In our doubt, some will tell us to just believe. They want to protect our faith. Climacus, however, might warn that it isn’t faith but unreflected immediacy that’s being protected. Faith is immediacy after reflection.
So how do we make the last movement? How do we get to immediacy after reflection? How do we get to faith? Climacus, by his own words, won’t be able to join us for this part of the journey. He can describe faith. He can admire it from a distance, but he hasn’t experienced it himself. As children we believe our world is safe and good. This gives us joy and room to experience love. As adults we find we have no right to these beliefs. Our world is dangerous, continually threatened by death, suffering  and evil. How do we find, after reflection, an immediacy that brings joy and love? Perhaps this isn’t something we do at all. Perhaps it’s a gift. We bring broken promises, disappointed hopes, tears, fear, doubts, powerlessness, despair, failure and brokenness. Our Lord gives faith. In him we have a new immediacy.
I’ve used this view of faith often when I prepare sermons. For example, Jesus’ mother asks him to handle a problem at a wedding. There’s no more wine. Mary has a confidence in her son. She knows he can solve the problem. Then something shocking occurs. Jesus rebukes his mother. It’s a gentle rebuke, but still a rebuke. Mary must find her confidence in Jesus this time after reflection, after the rebuke.
I’ve also found it helpful in pastoral counseling. I don’t mean that I start teaching about Kierkegaard. I use it more as a reminder to myself. My goal isn’t to cut off immediacy or reflection, but to point through reflection to a new immediacy in God. When I’m faced with what might appear to be a naive faith, I rejoice. When reflection comes I don’t try to stop it. I encourage it and I weep. Then I pray that God will do what I’m not able to do.
This week I’ll be preaching from Luke 18:15-17, a text where Jesus tells us “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” I probably won’t mention Kierkegaard, Climacus, immediacy or reflection. It isn’t wise for a pastor to put a congregation to sleep. You, however, my blog readers, will know what I’m thinking and asking. Faith is immediacy after reflection.


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Playing Chess

At several points in my life I became enamored with the game of chess. I loved the game. Finding challenging opponents was sometimes difficult but always rewarding. I went so far as to study books on chess. I followed the Fischer-Spassky world championship match as if I were observing a great historical event. A good friend took me to see the Second Piatigorsky Cup, a tournament including all of the best players at that time. I realize that for many of you this sounds about as exciting as watching grass grow, but I assure you that being there, in the midst of those games, was as thrilling for me as watching my beloved Green Bay Packers. I joined several chess clubs and even played in a few amateur tournaments.

In Junior High, I joined our school chess club. We challenged another school to a match. We were supposed to rank our players and then match our best against their best, our second best against their second best and so on until one of us ran out of players. Neither of our two best players, however, wanted to play the opposing school’s best. He was well known and intimidating. I was new to the club and so asked if I would play as our best player. I naively agreed and proceeded to lose. I lost in a most humiliating way, making an embarrassing blunder. I didn’t see a mate in one. The next time our club met, I was ridiculed by one of our best players. “How could you miss a mate in one?”, he repeatedly asked. I found this more than a little irritating since by all rights he should have played in the top slot not me. He then challenged me to a game. As we played he continued to remind me of my stupidity in my loss. As the game progressed I saw a simple way to set up a mate in one. I was sure he would see it. I tried to camouflage it a bit before I set the trap. It was not a good move on my part, from a purely tactical point of view, but I couldn’t resist. To my amazement he didn’t see the trap. I won. That was the most enjoyable game I’ve ever played. It wasn’t a very good game, but I relished being able to ask my opponent at the end how he could have possibly missed a mate in one.

I imagine learning chess is quite different today because of the growing power of computers. I played against and easily beat the first popular computer chess toys. This wasn’t because I was so good but because these programs were so poor. That’s all changed. Today several inexpensive programs exist that would easily win against even my best efforts. More than this, a specially designed computer has been able to defeat a world champion chess player. That special design is relevant to this post. Experts in artificial intelligence in that day had thought the best way to program a computer to play chess was to make it play like a human being. They looked for algorithms to express things like chess theory and strategy. Their computers didn’t perform very well against good human players. The switch came when some IBM engineers designed a program to play like a computer and not like a human. Deep Blue relied on blazing quick processing speed and a huge database of openings. It favored brute force which means that rather than analyzing a position’s strengths and weaknesses to find the best move it looked at as many moves as possible. In theory, a computer could look at all possible chess games and find the best moves by avoiding any path that leads to a loss. What makes this difficult in practice is the vast number of possible games, a number in the trillions. As computers get faster and faster, however, this difficulty becomes less of an obstacle. Deep Blue was the first computer to beat a world champion.
All of this suggests a thought experiment. Let’s imagine someone learning to play chess, developing strategic and tactical skills, learning to avoid blunders and find the best move, without ever playing against a human opponent. The tutor would be the latest and greatest computer. What would result? Given a modicum of natural talent, our imaginary chess player could become incredibly skilled and proficient. Given brute force processing, faster processors and a huge database of games the computer could, in theory, always find the best move. The computer wouldn’t miss anything. It would be totally objective. It would focus on outcomes. Its results would be deterministic and, therefore, repeatable. The computer wouldn’t need theory, beauty or elegance. Trained by such a tutor, our imaginary chess player would be only a perfect memory away from being able to play perfect chess. Perhaps, but I’m not so sure.
In fact this scenario haunts me. It seems to threaten to destroy everything human about chess. Is our imaginary chess player really learning to play chess? The best play would involve following a list of computer generated moves. These moves would need to be committed to memory. Can following a list of moves committed to memory pass for playing the game? Why would our hero play? What would draw him or her to the game? What if we eliminate the human element altogether? Can a computer play chess? What would be its purpose in doing so?
This scenario haunts me not just because of my enjoyment of chess. It haunts me because it seems like a picture of our modern world. On the one hand we see and experience the tremendous, almost miraculous results of science. On the other hand we find our humanity to be more and more alien to the very world we’ve created. I don’t think it’s an accident that two of the most totalitarian regimes in recent history, those of Hitler and Stalin, lauded science. What scares me isn’t science, it’s forgetfulness. It’s forgetting that doing science, really doing science, is a human activity. It requires people. It’s social. Its purpose is to serve not obliterate human beings.


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Let’s Get Radical

While in college I, like many, read with great excitement Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn gives a compelling account of how science works. He slays the myth that changes in scientific thought are primarily the result of new discoveries. He argues that most scientific work consists of filling in the holes of currently accepted theory. This is the day to day work of science. As that process continues, problems with current theory can emerge. When these problems increase, current theory is stretched. It becomes clumsy and less elegant as it’s adjusted to accommodate dissonance. This opens the door to new theories. Such a new theory is not so much a development of current understandings as it is a break. It’s a paradigm shift. At first the new theory has as many problems, if not more than the old.  A battle takes place between scientists committed to the old theory and those committed to the new. Good arguments exist on both sides. Eventually, the explanatory power of the new theory convinces a majority of scientists, and the shift is complete.

After reading this little book it seemed to me that my world had changed. I was not alone. The book created a new discipline and its language began to permeate other academic fields. In particular, it became common to read of paradigm shifts even in Theology and Biblical Studies. Paradigm shifts have become daily occurrences in these fields. I find this trend to be a bit disturbing. Kuhn seems to suggest that paradigm shifts are rare (the Copernican revolution and Einstein’s theory of relativity), and that most scientists are involved not in creating new theories but in confirming the reigning ones. I suspect that work seemed a little too mundane in other disciplines. The desire for the fame and glory of making intellectual history with a paradigm shift proved far greater than the desire to contribute to the working out of current theories. An unfruitful pattern began to multiply. New theories were announced. When criticism followed, the new theories were defended as paradigm shifts. Critics were not only accused of not understanding the new theories but of being incapable of understanding the new theories. The critics, it seems, were mired in the old paradigms and so unable to grasp the new. Sadly, these debates raged even outside of academia. When churches split over the latest paradigm shift, as a pastor I need to call for change. I suggest the following:
First, we need to limit the number of permitted paradigm shifts. Perhaps each academic discipline should be allowed only one paradigm shift every twenty years. That seems more than reasonable given the time between Copernicus and Einstein. Since Theology has had far more than its fair share of late, we should have a moratorium on theological paradigm shifts for the next fifty years.
Next, I suggest we get radical. I don’t mean ‘radical’ in the sense of being way out there, but ‘radical’ in the sense of focusing our criticism at the root. This is the kind of radical criticism that Tillich recommends in his Systematic Theology. I’ll leave it to the reader to judge Tillich’s success. We need to look for the hot points in our various fields, the places where debates don’t seem to make any progress. Rather than joining in these seemingly fruitless debates and using all of our intellectual skills to gain victory for one side or the other, we need to look for the root. What thinking and assumptions do both sides share? Our guess is that at the root there are structures which practically mandate the intellectual parties we see. Focusing on the root has the potential to dissolve the debate.
Finally, we need to reject any paradigm shift proposals that aren’t proceeded by a thorough going radical criticism. Let us be quick to listen and slow to speak.


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A Book that will Never be Written

Many years ago I had visions of writing a book. I was going to call it Disability Parables. I was frequently invited to speak to children at schools, both public and private, about life with a disability. A good friend had started a magazine about disabilities (Ability Magazine) and I was a regular contributor. I was even active politically, being a member of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Council on Disability and at the scene of a few disability rights protests.

More than this, I had an observation based on my own experiences of living with a disability. I believed then, and still believe, that there was some wisdom in that observation. I had noticed that a disability looks very different when seen from the inside. More than a little is revealed in that difference. From the outside a visible disability, like mine, takes center stage. If the protagonist in a movie has a disability, the movie will usually be about overcoming the disability rather than about the character. If the movie has a religious theme our hero will be miraculously healed at the end. It has to be at the end because once the disability is removed the drama is over. A less religious film will still end when the disability is defeated, usually through some kind of crisis followed by wise counsel and a change of attitude.

This is the view from the outside. In my case, I’m generally happy. I love life. I love people. I’m blessed beyond my wildest dreams. From the outside my love of life looks like a tremendous victory over my disability. It looks like I’ve learned or acquired an almost magical life formula. In reality this is an illusion. I don’t see myself as a disabled person. I rarely think about my disability. I’m aware of the power of my disability to dominate perspectives especially of people I don’t know well. Over time, however, this power is greatly diminished. Those who know me well see my disability less and less.

Having a disability doesn’t make me a wise counselor. I haven’t overcome my disability. I haven’t even tried to overcome it. It hasn’t conferred upon me any advice that I can pass on to those who wrestle against the harshness of life and despair. With them I can only weep. It hasn’t made me a life coach or a self help guru. Yet, perhaps my disability has some lessons worth thinking about. These lessons aren’t direct. They’re not the result of what I’ve learned doing battle with an impairment. They are, in fact, indirect, hidden in plain sight. They’re like parables, and that’s how I arrived at the title for my book.

I had it all dreamed out. My book was going to be a best seller. I was going to become a famous author. I imagined a talk show tour. I had all my answers ready for the Oprah Winfrey show. I’m tempted to flatter you my readers by saying that I gave all that up so that I could bring you these parables on my blog. I’m afraid the truth is more mundane. I have great respect for anyone who is able to write and publish a book. I lack the discipline and the will. My book will never be written. Even so, I think these parables are worth some time and attention. I’ll publish them here and wait eagerly for your comments. Look forward to my disability parables appearing as future posts on my blog.


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Blog Stats

I started blogging with the goal of rich and real communication. I visited other blogs and was delighted with the possibilities of connecting with people I would never be able to meet in less virtual ways. I made a few friends. I’ve had the joy of meeting some of those friends face to face. Then I discovered blog stats.

My son informs me that I need to get about two million hits a day in order to make real money from my blog. My average is two hits a day, so I need to raise that number by 1,999,998. I have a ways to go. My low numbers are in part the result of not posting for long periods of time. If I limit my stats to only those months in which I actually posted something, my hit count goes up to ten per day. That leaves me down 1,999,990.
I’ve developed several tactics to help me reach the money mark. First, I’m going to try to post at least once a week. I may even resort to posting silly pieces about blog stats. Next, I’m asking everyone in my family and all my friends to visit my blog every morning. Perhaps you can do this right after your morning devotions. At least I’m not trying to sell you soap. When you make your morning visit, I suggest you click on every one of my articles. I’m pretty sure I get credited with a hit for each article click. I’ll set a good example in this regard by logging out of wordpress and visiting my blog daily. I’ve confirmed that I get credit for that.
Next, I suggest, dear friends and family, that you tell others to visit my blog everyday. I realize this may be difficult for some. Be bold. I hope to have future posts with helpful hints on how to share my blog. I can teach you how to give a blog testimony. You will learn how to say something like “visiting Craig’s blog changed my life.” I don’t want anyone to be dishonest. If visiting my blog hasn’t changed your life then keep visiting until it does. Also, write down any good things that happen to you after visiting my blog. Include these in your blog testimony. Think of how many blog hits the following might generate: After visiting Craig’s blog everyday for two weeks I won the lottery.
I suspect the above tactics will get me to around three hundred hits a day. I’ll still have 1,999,700 to go. My next move will be to make my blog more blogger sensitive. I’ll need to compile a list of topics from the most popular blogs. I can then use these topic names as tags for my posts. I don’t really need to write anything profound on any of these topics. The tags will do all the work. Controversy’s also good for blog hits. I think I can generate a lot of controversy by acting as if I know just about everything worth knowing and being rude and insensitive to anyone who disagrees with me.
If I keep thinking along these lines I’ll have the most successful blog ever. Of course, I’ll lose my real readers. I understand. You love me too much to let me lose my real self in blog stats. Let’s not love the church with anything less.


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Mom’s Faith

A little less than four years ago Mom died of pancreatic cancer. In this post I’d like to both honor and remember her by revisiting the thoughts I shared at her memorial. I have many other memories of Mom. She was an amazing woman. However, as I did then, so now, I want to focus on her faith.

Let’s start with a story. A young newlywed joined his buddies for a hunting trip deep into the forest. For the first time since his marriage he was separated from his wife. He began to miss her. As he longed for her he began to dream about their reunion. He thought about the meal he would share with her when he returned home. He began to describe this feast to his buddies. “We’ll have lobster tails dipped in butter, exquisite vegetables cooked to crisp perfection, creams and sauces rich in flavor and for dessert, baked Alaska.” He described this meal again and again and with each telling new delicacies were added. He spoke of roasted duck, beef wellington, caviar and more with such passion that all became hungry. His buddies also began to worry. They knew he was very poor. They knew neither he nor his wife knew much about cooking. They feared that his extravagant dreams would end in disappointment. Our newlywed returned home and shared a bowl of potatoes with his wife. Their poverty allowed nothing more.

The next day his buddies were afraid to approach him. They didn’t know what to say. Finally one of them asked, “So what did you eat last night? How was your wonderful meal?”

“We had potatoes. I’ve never had a greater feast.”

“How can that be? What about all of the rich delicacies for which you longed?”

“It was the most wonderful meal I’ve ever had because it was prepared by my loving bride and I had the joy of eating it with her.”

That old story is a picture of faith. It’s not a picture that tells us everything about faith. Perhaps it’s not even the way we normally think of faith. We don’t see great miracles, great events or great, history changing, accomplishments. It’s more the other side of faith, a faith that knows God in the very ordinary events in life. It’s a faith that finds God even in sadness, a faith that seeks and finds God where most of us see only disappointment and discouragement. That’s a faith that my mother knew.

When I was born I brought a little pain into the world with me. Normally the arrival of a new born is an occasion of joy. That joy is elusive when the new born is an amputee, missing both arms below the elbow and the left leg at the knee. Normally a young mother takes pride in showing her baby to relatives and friends. When friends and relatives saw me for the first time they responded with discomfort and even shock. Imagine Mom taking me for a walk in my stroller. A stranger passes by delighted to see a baby. The stranger smiles and looks into the stroller. The smile leaves or perhaps it remains as a covering of embarrassment and fear. The stranger doesn’t know what to say or what to do. Sometimes Mom would boldly take me out in public. Other times she’d stay home in tears. Of course, no one had anyway of knowing how incredibly good looking I’d turn out to be.

My birth was only the beginning of the difficulties my Mom faced. She had never been around someone with a disability before. She had unsettling questions. How would she raise me? What kind of life would her son be able to live? Would it be a normal life? What skills and hardships would she need to master in order to love this child with so many needs? She had no idea how to find help. She knew no experts.

At a time when Mom was very depressed, a few months after my birth, she was giving me a sponge bath in the sink, her tears mixing with the soap bubbles. She cried and she prayed. A strange warmth filled her heart. She felt the presence of the Lord. She knew she wasn’t alone; God was with her. His presence gave her a calm confidence. She knew that things were going to be alright. Notice that, looked at one way, nothing really changed. My disability didn’t go away. Mom didn’t all of a sudden know what to do. Her questions remained unanswered. Yet God had begun to fill that whole situation. God visited Mom at that moment in her life. After that moment she never looked back. She raised me. She loved me. She fought for me. She taught herself many things and found the resources she needed. I can honestly say that I have never in my entire life felt that I am somehow less because of my disability. That’s a gift from both of my parents, but especially from my mom. It’s a gift she gave in love because of her faith.

Mom had her fears. I remember what a crisis it seemed to be whenever my dad was away on a business trip. Mom would watch the news. She feared that Dad’s plane would crash. I remember one time in particular when there was a crash. I don’t remember the details. I suspect the crash was fairly remote from Dad’s actual flight. Mom, however, seemed certain that Dad was in that crash. She was in a panic. As I grew up, those fears began to subside. Mom got to a point where she was calm when Dad was away. She told me at a later time in life what had happened. When she got married, Dad was everything to her. He was her whole security, her whole meaning in life. When he was gone, even on something like a business trip, it felt like her whole world could be taken away. As she grew in the Lord she realized that no human person should be put in that position. Her confidence moved from being in Dad to being in the Lord. She realized she was under His provision, His protection, His might and His strength. She didn’t love Dad less, she loved him more, but she knew God in a more intimate way than she had early in her marriage.

Mom was a joyful person. She had an enthusiasm for life and for everything that she did. Growing up, it was one adventure after another and they were all exciting. Singing, cooking, sewing, caring for her dogs, exercising, collecting dolls, thinking about politics – Mom never half lived any of these things. Her joy was infectious. She was fun to be around. Joy is complex. I wouldn’t say that all of her joy was because of her faith, but I do think that a large part of it was. She loved life. She loved her family. She knew her Lord. She knew that all of these things were gifts from Him and tokens of His love for her. She knew that deeply.

When Mom got the news that she had pancreatic cancer she quickly realized that she was going to die. That was very difficult for me. I kept thinking we had plenty of time. I saw her in August, sick but still herself, still full of life. In September she lost consciousness and soon died. Mom knew. She also knew that her God was faithful, that He was going to see her through sickness and even through death. She wanted her family and those whom she loved to know that she was going to be OK, that she was going to be safe. It’s a testimony to her faith that in our tears and sadness in saying goodbye, we have never doubted that she is in very good hands – in the hands of our Lord. That’s a gift she gave to us as she went from this world into His hands and embrace.

What makes a faith like that possible? It’s not just a matter of positive thinking. Positive thinking has to hide almost as much as it reveals. Faith isn’t really compatible with that kind of cover up. It’s not just a matter of imagination. Imagination by itself can’t bring us to reality. It can’t bring us to truth. In the face of a bowl of potatoes we can imagine a glorious feast, but apart from faith we can’t eat that feast. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that our imaginations, apart from God, are corrupt and prone to go in wrong directions. What makes Mom’s faith possible? It’s simply this: God has spoken to us in His Son. God’s speech created the universe and He has spoken to us in His Son. In the life of Jesus we see God’s character. We see God’s wisdom. We see God’s power. We see God’s love, compassion and mercy. In the death and resurrection of our Lord we see God’s great victory – victory over everything that would keep us from Him. Victory over our own sin as our Lord Jesus Christ bore that sin and we now bear by His grace His righteousness. Victory over all of the evil in the world. Victory over death. That’s why Paul can say that in the Lord Jesus Christ all the promises of God, however many there are, all of the promises of God are yes. We yearn for that yes every time we look at our world and we say it shouldn’t be this way. We want our lives to be better. We want our lives to be right. We want justice in the world. We want goodness. We want beauty. Paul says all of those things are yes in Christ Jesus. Jesus fills our world and fills those promises, desires, hopes and yearnings. Mom knew this. That’s the kind of faith that she had. I don’t know if she would have put it exactly that way. I suppose she would have had to have gone to seminary in order to make something very simple complicated. Mom was very good at keeping things simple. She would have put it in terms of songs, in terms of joy, in terms of a life lived for her family and in terms of love. As I remember Mom’s faith it calls me to God through His Son.