Friday, June 30, 2006

In Praise of Whining

In his account of two weeks with American forces in Iraq, Nir Rosen tells of one raid:

The next night the troop departed the base at 0200, hoping to find those alleged Al Qaeda suspects who had not been home during the previous operation. Soldiers descended upon homes in a large compound, their boots trampling over mattresses in rooms the inhabitants did not enter with shoes on. Most of the wanted men were nowhere to be found, their women and children prevaricating about their locations. Some of their relatives were arrested instead. “That woman is annoying!” one young soldier complained about a mother’s desperate ululations as her son was taken from his house. “How do you think your mother would sound if they were taking you away?” a sergeant asked him.

The sergeant spoke wisely.

Whining and grumbling can certainly be wrong, and we hear all about that from Bible teachers, just as those who want to beat their kids know where to look it up, and those who want to slaughter people can find how they're supposed to do that too. But when the people murmured in God's hearing (although not to him) in Numbers 11, Moses spoke to God like this (Numbers 11:11-15):

Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, "Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant," to the land which You did swear to their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me saying, "Give us meat that we may eat!" I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too heavy for me. So if You will deal thus with me, kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness."

What do you think? To my mind, this is a class act in whining. This man Moses knew how to whine to God, not in his hearing, and he got results.

Later on David knew this secret too. "All day long I will murmur and complain, and the Lord will hear my voice. He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle against me" (Psalm 55:17-18).

Consider too what the Bible means by the patience of Job. Job kept complaining, but to God, not about him. In the whole story, he's the only one who actually directs his words to God -sometimes very hostile words - and this was his righteousness.

David tells us some more about this patience in Psalm 40: "I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined to me, and heard my cry." For David, patience wasn't sitting there quietly. Patience was to keep on crying. So then Jesus, when telling us how to pray, gave us the parable of the unjust judge and the poor widow who got her justice by continually coming to him and saying, "Give me justice from my opponent." Her patience consisted of nagging him until she was on his last nerve, and that is how Jesus says we're to approach God.

Whining, one of those base things of this world by which God brings to nothing the high and the noble, and all their injustice. But as we learn in potty training, we need to learn to put it where it belongs. We need to take our complaints and whining about what God has done or not done to God, not to ourselves or someone else - just as we want people to bring their complaints about us to us, and not to other people instead.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"Health to their whole body"

I got an eye exam today and ordered some new specs. They took pictures of both my retinas and saw nothing wrong with them. Two years ago or so back, a little kid smashed me in the eye with a toy and did some real damage so that I had a big floater for a while and some other evidence that my retina was thinking of detaching. Severe near-sightedness makes that more likely, so it was good to see no sign of damage today.

Also my jaw has never been quite right for the past 35 years, since my wisdom teeth had to be taken out. But today for the first time, it was really agonizing as I was walking to my son's high school graduation. When I spoke to the Lord about it, it became evident that it related to tension I felt and how I go about trying to relieve it.

Pain concentrates the mind! I was motivated to pursue the subject. Presently I realized how frightened I was of brutal people when I was little, and that I had never been able to consider entrusting such situations to God and just hear from him about it. So I started that conversation, and the pain receded instantly.

Of course that's only a start. I certainly haven't worked the matter through as I need to, and my jaw still isn't right - just back to the usual. I'm just signed up for the class.

This has happened to me before. Back in 1992 I had an agonizing sinus infection for the umpteenth time and had a pastor at Vineyard Christian fellowship pray for me about it. Nothing happened right away, but as I drove away from dropping my son at daycare about an hour later, I remembered Isaiah 49 concerning how the Lord cares for us, and I realized that I just didn't believe God or anyone cared for me at all. So I stopped and told the truth about all that as I rolled up to a stop sign at Cherry Avenue in Fontana. As I spoke to the Lord, there was a sort of cracking in the back of my nose and I quit hurting. The sinus infection raged on for several days longer, but it didn't hurt anymore, and I've never had a painful sinus infection since.

It is as the proverb says, "My son, give attention to My words; incline your ear to My sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and health to their whole body."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

"What was I supposed to do?"

This is the man's question in "North Country" when the lawyer has gotten him to admit that yes, indeed, the high school teacher raped his girlfriend, and he ran away.

The lawyer answered as follows:

"What do you do when those with all the power are hurting those who have none? You stand up and tell the truth."

And everybody in the movie knows it's true, and gradually some start to stand up. Too bad life is not mostly like the movies.

But that sure is Jesus and the prophets, and it's anybody who follows Jesus. That's why when little kids were being abused by LA DCFS I stood up and spoke the truth. That's why when the American empire slaughters and robs people and then claims that they're the bad guys for responding just as Americans would if treated that way, I mean to stand up and speak the truth. And when people calling themselves Christians stand up for oppression and for the lies forged to justify it, it's my duty to stand up and speak the truth.

It's quite simple: whoever you are that's reading this, when someone with all the power is hurting you and you have none, you'll want someone to stand up and tell the truth. And Jesus said, "Whatever you want men to do to you, do so to them."

There is this: doing that got him nailed on a cross, and it will get you hated, ostracized, and reviled by men. He promised (Matthew 5:101-2). But it's worth it.

It seems time to share the letter to the Foster Family Agency that caused the FFA to retire and brought the wrath of DCFS upon me. The facts were not disputed by anyone - just whether it was OK for me to stand up and tell the truth. Read and judge for yourself whether I should have kept silent or did well to stand up and speak the truth when those with no power were being hurt by those with all the power.