December 15, 2012

Blogging for the End of the World

The end of the world is coming, they say. "They" being the Mayans, and everyone who believes them.

Kinda makes me wonder how many people who are buying into it also think the Bible is a bunch of ancient hooey...

Personally, I'm not sold on Mayan mythology, and I think I tip toward the reasonable side on the crazy spectrum. I would suggest that if you're gonna buy into their doomsday prophecy - and how does one prep for doomsday, anyway? - shouldn't you give some credence to their other beliefs, too? I don't see too many people counting in base five, sacrificing other people, worshiping corn, or building pyramids in their front yards with big weird heads carved into them.

I'm not seeing it, but that doesn't mean it's not happening.

For a reasonable guy like me, I need something more reasonable, more modern, more trustworthy than ancient Mayans.

Like late night talk radio. That's truth I can bank on.

I was driving (late) the other night when a gentleman on the radio got on and said those knuckleheads running the Large Hadron Collider at CERN - the scientists who are trying to learn more about the beginnings of the universe by finding the "god particle" - are supposed to do their biggest, most expensive, most awesome test ever on the 21st. The same day the Mayans think we're going down. That's significant because some people think those experiments might somehow open up a black hole and immediately destroy earth or something. As you may be aware, they have not yet succeeded in destroying earth. But I'm guessing that big test on the 21st could probably do it. I don't know why, I don't get it, I don't understand it, but it must be true because physics. Physics is why, physics is how that all works out.

I honestly don't want to do too much research into it. I googled "Large Hadron Collider test December 21" and the only things that came up were sites run by people who make the late night talk radio people look reasonable by comparison. So that test may or may not happen, it might be a rumor, and I don't have enough interest to waste more time or thought on it. Like the Mayans, though, if you're gonna embrace teachings from the late night radio people, then you'd better give some credence to everything else they say (Just Google John Titor and Chemtrails and try to sort it out for yourself. Oh boy, now I'm gonna get hits here from John Titor and Chemtrails.)

Okay, so if I don't believe the Mayans and I don't believe late night talk radio, what do I think about the end of the world?

As far as I can tell, no one knows the day or the hour. Not the Mayans, not late night talk radio, not Harold Camping, not Anderson Cooper, nobody.

It is interesting to think, though... If the scientists do open a black hole or something... (And I think it's interesting that we non-scientists tend to lump all scientists together, as though the guys counting freckles on seagull eggs are the same ones strapping EKGs to athletes on treadmills and calculating the fuel needed to send a go-kart with a camera to Mars.)

If the earth were to pop, if those guys at CERN were to make an oops and open up a black hole so our whole planet instantly disappeared... none of use would float in the ether long enough to feel any pain or mourn any loss. We'd all be gone instantly. None of us would be able to crack open our sufficiently Doomsday-prepped storm cellars and nosh on canned goods while the world burns. None of us would feel the hurt or ponder the significance of what would be the most horrific thing imaginable to most people - the complete destruction of humanity and all of our incredible progress. That's a dark thought, I know, but it's still pretty abstract.

So the Mayans stopped counting when they got to next Friday, which is well beyond the end of their civilization. And the idea that a science experiment in Europe could destroy the universe (on that day) banks on some fringe weirdos being right and some brilliant (and well-funded) physicists being wrong. Their experiments might produce some puzzling data one day, but it probably won't end the universe.


That day is coming, eventually. I won't even begin to speculate when, but I'm not losing sleep over it because I'm as prepared for it as I will be. For those who accept this planet and its nature as all there is... I guess thinking about its end could be pretty scary indeed. But I'm convinced there's something more, another kingdom at work. Come what may in this one, I rest assured that I am right with the other one, the infinite and eternal one, through the Eternal One.

December 2, 2012

You senseless, ignorant, brute beast, you!

(That is how you title a blog about a Psalm.)

I started reading the Psalms a long time ago, checking off all 150 of them (and the 30ish Proverbs) twice a year. It works out nicely and it's a good habit, but if I'm going to be honest, I find a lot of them hard to read and I prefer the short ones. Reading them in order means I don't necessarily get the sad ones when I'm sad, or the happy-praisey ones when I'm abundantly joyful. (Maybe that's for the best?) I can't totally relate (yet) to having mobs of enemies chasing me down, or wetting my bed with tears, or the heart-wrenching betrayal of a good friend. To my untrained eyes and mind, lots of them seem indistinguishable, and often I read them out of duty, not the passion or curiosity I ought to read them with.

But every now and then, one of them will grab me by the collar and punch me in the face, as God's Word often does. This is what happened with Psalm 73. [Hey, I conveniently linked it so you can read it if you want. It's not too long, I swear.]

Asaph wrote it. He confesses some surprising stuff for a guy who penned part of the Bible. "Why do the bad guys get to have all the fun?" he asks. They're a bunch of nasty, proud dudes, and they get all the perks, and they never get any comeuppance. They're carefree and violent, they put people down and take advantage of them, and they scoff at God, and they get rich doing it. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure these sorts still exist today.

Poor Asaph: He's worked and worked and kept his standards and remained pure and fought the good fight and everything, and what has it bought him? Plague and Punishment.

"Life is rough, I tell ya, so rough..."
"How rough is it?"
"So rough I almost betrayed God's children by speaking my mind!"

Okay, so Asaph's no Rodney Dangerfield. But he's presented his issue - he's starting to feel this jealousy of the bad dudes coming on, and he juuuuust about speaks his mind but stops short. To do so, it seems, would have been an act of betrayal that bordered on blasphemy.

Good on him for not doing it though. He came to his senses. "I almost slipped, lost my foothold" he says to kick off the Psalm. At least he has a foothold, right? And he remembers - these bad dudes are set for destruction. For real.

So he realizes his error. Maybe the only thing more foolish than someone without understanding is someone who has it, but envies someone who doesn't have it. Asaph caught himself doing that and stopped short. The Israelites couldn't often say the same. I dare say I'm not so prudent, either.

"It ain't worth it, man," Asaph seems to realize.

And here's the part that really clocked me: Verses 21 and 22: "When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant, a brute beast before you."

A Biblical writer, calling himself senseless, ignorant, a brute beast. In God's presence.


That's not how I want to picture myself in front of God. I'm working hard to be pure, to obey Him. I'm a good Christian, aren't I? I want so badly to picture myself with dignity before Him.

But nobody approaches the throne with dignity, do they? When you stand before God, it's all gone. Nothing left. Filthy rags and all that. I've got nothing of my own to stand on.

A big, dumb, senseless, ignorant, brute beast really isn't a bad metaphor for a human in front of God. Like a cow with a vacant stare, but without its strength or delicious meat.

Undignified, like David - who voluntarily let his dignity go when he danced in the buff.

But what follows is beautiful: Even as a senseless beast, "You hold my hand," Asaph says, "and guide me, and take me into glory." Lest there be any doubt, even in that undignified state, we serve a good and loving God. We have the advocacy of Christ on the cross.

That's a comforting thought.

Though the evildoers prosper around him, "Earth has nothing I desire, but you" Asaph says. May it be the same for me.