a generous theodicy

the⋅od⋅i⋅cy: a vindication of the divine attributes, particularly holiness or justice, in establishing or allowing the existence of physical and moral evil.

this morning, i nodded along vigorously as i read prodigal jon's post on theodicy. hardly a week ago, i was discussing the story of Job with some friends, and honestly, he just might have copied-and-pasted those words from my mouth.

God is the same. our circumstances don't change His nature. do we view God through our comfort level, or do we view our life situations through God's nature? and the GOOD that He promises to give us will not always feel good. His good is greater and more good for us and for Him and His glory than any kind of good we could dream up for ourselves. when life starts to suck, we need a perspective change, not a new God.

yeah, yes, right on, i could go on with this stuff all day long!!

and then i opened up to jeremiah.

you have been a harlot
therefore the rain has been withheld
there has been no spring rain
now you call to Me
'my Father, You are my Friend!
'will You be angry forever?'
you have spoken
and have done evil things,
and you have had your way.

repent and mourn
circumcise your hearts
or else My wrath will go forth like fire
and burn with none to quench it
because of the evil of your deeds.

besiegers will come from a far country
and lift their voices against the cities of Judah.
like watchmen of a field they are against her round about,
because she has rebelled against Me, declares the Lord.
your ways and your deeds
have brought these things to you.
this is your evil. how bitter!
how it has touched your heart!

My people are foolish,
they know Me not;
they are stupid children
and have no understanding.
they are shrewd to do evil,
but to do good they do not know.

we could take it right back to the farming analogy: we reap what we have sown.

sometimes, crappy things happen in and around our lives because of other people's sin. sometimes, it's just because this world is fallen and our enemy is still roaming about with power to do heinous things just for his sick pleasure. sometimes, difficult circumstances might actually be the design of the Divine, providentially provided to bring us the greatest good -- nearness to Him. but there are times -- not always, but there are -- when our crappy life circumstances are the direct result and consequence of our own sin and depravity.

which calls for brokenness and repentance ...

if you will return, O Israel, declares the Lord,
then you should return to Me.
and if you will put away your detested things from My presence,
and will not waver,
and you will swear, 'As the Lord lives,'
in truth, in justice and in righteousness;
then the nations will bless themselves in Him,
and in Him they will glory.

break up your fallow ground
do not sow among thorns.
circumcise yourselves to the Lord
and remove the foreskins of your heart,
men of Judah, people of Jerusalem.

a lion has gone up,
a destroyer of nations has set out;
he has gone from his place
to make your land a waste.
your cities will be ruined
without inhabitant.
for this, put on sackcloth,
lament and wail;
for the fierce anger of the Lord
has not turned back from us.

wash your heart form evil, O Jerusalem,
that you may be saved.


or, like Jesus said ...

bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

christians do a lot of crazy things in the face of difficulties. we cry out, 'woe is me! God has forsaken me!' we bolster our faith with pithy verses, 'God will not give me more than i can handle.' we run away. we give up. we press on out of sheer determination and force of will, with or without faith. we ignore our nagging doubts that trials have given cause to rise, or we indulge them to the point of apostasy. we allow jealousy to take root, coveting the 'easier' lives of others. we cling to the hope of the Kingdom of Heaven, where there will be no more tears.

but how often do we repent?

even Job repented, and i'm not entirely sure what his sin was.

except that he was human.

then Job answered the Lord and said,
"I know that You can do all things,
and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'
Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know
Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
but now my eye sees You;
therefore I retract,
and I repent in dust and ashes."

yeah, i don't necessarily have any conclusions on this. but it's a thought, nonetheless.

now let us bear fruit in keeping with repentance.


the hippopotamus

by t. s. eliot, 1920

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans.

THE BROAD-BACKED hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.

Flesh and blood is weak and frail, 5
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.

The hippo’s feeble steps may err
In compassing material ends, 10
While the True Church need never stir
To gather in its dividends.

The ’potamus can never reach
The mango on the mango-tree;
But fruits of pomegranate and peach 15
Refresh the Church from over sea.

At mating time the hippo’s voice
Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,
But every week we hear rejoice
The Church, at being one with God. 20

The hippopotamus’s day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way—
The Church can sleep and feed at once.

I saw the ’potamus take wing 25
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.

Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold, 30
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.

He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr’d virgins kist,
While the True Church remains below 35
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

hmmm. maybe chronic humanity isn't so bad.


oh, louisville. now you've got me good and mad ....

so the week i moved in to my apartment just happened to be the same weekend of the St. James Art Fair. yes, for one whole weekend, thursday through sunday, our friendly neighborhood LMPD (louisville metro police department) blocks off several city blocks in the middle of old louisville (just south of downtown). there's a giant art festival, and vendors set up tents all along the streets that have been blocked off.

yes, right in front of HUNdreds of apartment buildings.

of course, my street was not blocked, but parking was prohibited. which means essentially the same thing.

but louisville, i forgave you for that. it was a small area, it was a long-standing tradition, it didn't make traffic bad, it just made it very difficult to find parking at my house where i LIVE. and you gave me a really shady ticket, which i never paid after mulitple attempts at logging the ticket number in online failed.

but tonight .... tonight, louisville, i think you and i are through with the niceties. you have put the nail in your coffin.

because of thunder.

that's right: thunder over louisville.

i just spent ALL day getting ready for and playing in and celebrating the wedding of some good friends. at 10 pm, i get in my car and drive two hours to louisville. thunder has been over for awhile. the bridge is no longer blocked. so i proceed on my merry way, seeing the northbound lanes full of traffic but my southbound lane wide open. i see my exit. it's not full of cars. i pull into the exit lane.

BLOCKED. by a police SUV.

so i decide to take the next available exit. which is, of course, in the middle of a dense traffic jam.

i get off the exit, but all streets which normally go two ways are now ALL one-way southbound. since my FIRST exit, NORTH of my house, was blocked, i now am SOUTH of my house and i need to travel NORTH.



after making a HUGE circle all the way around three sides of my block, and seeing my starbucks, i finally begin to make some progress up 4th street.

a mere 5 blocks up, it's blocked off.

i ask a nearby policeman if there are ANY northbound streets.


"so you're telling me there's NO WAY for me to get to my house at 4th and hill?"


"for the next hour and a half?"


wow. thanks for the help, you civil servant you.

then i hear something on his walkie talkie about some street being opened up for northbound traffic. i wait for him to inform me of this .... he just stares.

thunder over louisville has ushered in something new: my RAGE over louisville.

i would put MONEY on the fact that a good 1/3 of the cars stuck in traffic were meandering aimlessly (at a ridiculously slow pace) on roads they DIDN'T need to be congesting further just because all the roads were either blocked entirely or had become one-way southbound. if the roads had been allowed to keep their normal purpose, the people who were trying to leave downtown would be stuck in traffic. the people who had CHOSEN to go to the event would be reaping the consequences. instead, i sat in traffic for over an hour, i THINK i got rear-ended when i was trying to cross a street w/ no light and no traffic director and endless cross-traffic and a car behind me beeping endlessly, i couldn't find a parking spot by my house, and i had to carry my violin, guitar, and luggage from this weekend two blocks to my house. and i didn't even get to GO TO THUNDER IN THE FIRST PLACE.

i have NEVER in all my life seen a city handle such an event and such a traffic situation with such profound stupidity. not one bit of it made sense. unnecessary blockages and very confusing re-routing.

SOMEone, in SOME government office in louisville, IS going to have to deal with me and all my wrath. there is just no reason that thousands of people should be completely blocked from getting to THEIR OWN HOUSES. no reason whatsoever.


good friday, and all will be well

most of the progress i have made in my life has been in fits and starts. consistency is a characteristic that i deeply desire and highly value in myself and in others, and yet the only thing consistent about me is that i'm not.

which means that today, as i remember the cross, as i cry out for deliverance, as i dwell in the darkness of this world ... there is room in me for the good news of Good Friday.

tell me, oh death, where is your sting? you may try to encircle me with the thorns of sin, but i have been set free today. the futility of this world is passing away. the encumbrance of my failure is passing away. the frustration of my inconsistency is passing away.


follow Christ to the holy mountain
sinners sorry and wrecked by the fall
cleanse your heart and soul
in the fountain that flows
for you, and for me, and for all

at the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree
on the beautiful, scandalous night, you and me
we're atoned by His blood and forever washed white
on the beautiful, scandalous night