Sunday, July 30, 2006

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

A friend just sent me this quote from Democracy in America. It is worth sharing.

"As for me, I shall not hesitate to say it: although in the United States the woman scarcely leaves the domestic circle and is in certain respects very dependent within it, nowhere does her position seem higher to me; and now that I approach the end of this book where I have shown so many considerable things done by Americans, if one asked me to what do I think one must principally attribute the singular prosperity and growing force of this people, I would answer that it is to the superiority of its women."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team!

In celebration of Caleb's 9th birthday, Nate took him (and his friend Daniel) to Yankee stadium for a night of baseball. The Yankee competition wasn't too stiff - they played the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Nate says that in the approximately ten times he has travelled to the stadium for the game, the Yankees have only lost once. This time was no exception.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Oh, What a Life!

Today the oats in the alfalfa field were baled. I guess it is a misnomer to call the oat field the "alfalfa field" but for many years it was the field where the alfalfa was planted and it is very hard to change a name.

Bentley has gone through many changes lately and it is nice for a name to maintain constancy. The field has a lot of history. Before the farm was even called Bentley we believe that the field was used by the Native Americans. How do we know? The arrowheads give a little clue. But the really neat thing is that in the spring, when the alfalfa field is recently plowed, you can climb the adjacent hill and spot some dark patches in the soil. Henry, our beloved and missed farmer, always used to hypothesize that the dark spots were indicative of the places where the Native Americans used to have their fires.

Today, however, was not a day for fires, but for baling. The oats and straw were not separated with a columbine. Everything was kept together for straw.

I have been in Philadelpia for a week, away from the farm. I was talking to other teachers at dinner about life on Bentley Farm. They all seemed to agree that there was something completely attractive about working with the land, being a part of the seasons and completing a hard day of work. I heartily agreed. Summer baling memories rank among the top ten best memories. It is hard to beat the heat, sweat, pin-pricking hay, upper arm exercise, adrenaline-producing flights of the heavy bale thrown by the kicker in the direction of your head, the satisfaction of a full wagon and then an empty one and the feeling of a job well done at the end of the day. What a life.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Moments of Clearest Thought

Nathaniel recently recounted an instance at Princeton where Robert George spoke about the continued work of the pro-life movement. During the speech, Robert George was holding a baby and commented that he often grows weary in the face of opposition and begins to doubt himself. But, looking into the eyes of the child in his arms, Mr. George said that he knew his battle for life was worth it. It was the child, mute and peaceful, that made the truth spring forth from the maze of intellectual debate.

Nathaniel's account complemented some of my recent reflections on perceiving truth. While I am sure that loving God with the mind leaves spacious room for intellectual defense of Truth, I am increasingly convinced that becoming a disciple of Truth happens more often through the eyes than the ears. It is when we witness the power of God that we perceive His nature. I am most convinced that God is Creator when I stand in silence and gaze at the heavens; I am most assured of His love when I see the father in the airport terminal grieving his impending separation from his family; I am most aware of His nearness when gathered in prayer; I am most persuaded of his power when the suffering continue in patient faith.

As Caravaggio so wonderfully displays in The Conversion of Saint Paul on the Way to Damascus, the working of God in the moments of every day life bring conviction of the truth in a way that no intellectual argument ever can. May we submit to those workings of God.

Farm Picnic on the Hudson

The family enjoyed the evening with Henk, the Dutch banker for the Waterlands at Bentley project, and his family at Mills Mansion. The weather was threatening rain, so the park was quiet and empty. A lovely time was reported by all.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Reflections on The Day Alone

In his book on Christian community living, Life Together, Deitrich Bonhoeffer dedicates a chapter to presenting a picture of discipled living in times lived apart from community. When I read through this work for the first time I was living alone and three hours from family. I was always aware that Life Together had sculpted my dad's thinking and that I have known a vibrant family life as a result. However, I was surprised to finally open this book for myself and find that there was a piece that spoke to me in my season away from home.

From a young age the call of a Christian in a family community was painfully clear. I knew that a peaceful home was the result of obedience to my parents and of love shown toward my siblings. These two requirements bit into my will quite frequently as love always promises to do. Sacrifice and service were challenging, difficult and demanding. Talk of Christian community life was inspiring and noble in the evening hour around the fireplace. Living Christian community life in the bustle of the noonday hour was a task for a lifetime.

When I first picked up Life Together, I realized that I was reading the story of an ideal to which my family strove. As my car bumpersticker says, "IDEAS HAVE CONSEQUENCES." I happened to be quite favorable toward the consequences of the ideas that I was reading, given that I had seen their efficacy at work in my family life. Bonhoeffer spoke of the importance of daily morning and evening family worship. These practiced events in familial community life bookended the day with a focus on the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things.

Moving away and living apart from family was such a new challenge to me. Of course the love of God and man is a call on every moment of our lives, whether in solitude or community, but the implications of this call often seemed harder to discern in the moments away. For all of the challenges associated with living in Christian community, the gift is that you know the task that lies before you.

However, Bonhoeffer encourages us that in the day alone we are certainly not left without specific ways in which the life of Christ may become more visible. Bonhoeffer reflects on the importance of allowing the work of this time to be that of silence, prayer and intercession. As Bonhoeffer says, "Silence is the simple stillness of the individual under the Word of God."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Garden of the Gods

I visited a beautiful portion of Colorado Springs today. The Garden of the Gods is composed of sedimentary rock - beautiful red sandstone. The unique thing about the rocks is that all of the sedimentary layers run vertically for a stunning and breathtaking (quite literally as the elevation is around 6000 ft) early morning view.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

On Becoming a Discipled Zealot

"What is your response to militant Islam?" I recently asked this question to a devoted follower of the Bahá’í religion who spoke frequently of his involvement in inter-faith work. He had mentioned in an earlier conversation that the greatest problem of religion was fanaticism. Again his response was the same, "They are fanatics." His argument was based on the belief that many of the major religions were virtually similar, that fanaticism was religion gone awry and that all religions warned against fanaticism. "Fanatic" seemed to be the term for someone whose religion could not be unified in the grand scheme of many faiths, for the one who had made their faith the all-consuming passion of their life.

As we spoke, the words of the gospels resounded in my head. I could not agree that the gospel warned against fanaticism. To the contrary, gospel discipleship was solidifying in my mind with Christ's timeless words, "Unless a man take up his cross daily and follow me, he cannot be my disciple." When Our Lord called to Peter and Andrew casting their nets into the Sea of Galillee, saying, "Come, follow me," they left their boats immediately and followed. Peter and Andrew were fanatics.

Jesus preached a radical gospel that demanded utter abandonment and complete devotion. As soon as the story became following Christ and following..., the Christ was lost. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." The cost of discipleship is everything. We sell all for our one prized possession -- Jesus Christ. We are as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. Our call is to unadulterated devotion, simple obedience and steadfast zeal.

May we pray to become zealots - full of fervor and staid in passion.

While zeal is often pitted against the intellect, Solomon testifies to the importance of maintaining a continuity between the life of the mind and the zeal of the heart. "It isn't good to have zeal without knowledge," he writes. Christ's zealot must not forsake the knowledge and discernment necessary to complement his fervor.

May we pray to become discerning zealots - rightly handling the word of truth.

In addition, it is a common tendency for a zealot to complement his fervor with pride. Perhaps this was the case of the young rich ruler who came to Christ and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Professing to the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments, the young man is told to sell all of his posssessions and follow Jesus. That is the humbling thing about discipleship: no matter how far you have followed, there is still another step further.

May we pray to become humble zealots - aware of the continual call.

As expressed in my recent conversation with the Bahá’í, one of the greatest preconceptions about a fanatic zealot is that they love their ideas to the point of hating their fellow man. When the neighbor interferes with the zealots' idea, the neighbor becomes subject to militant force. How beautiful that the ultimate expression of gospel discipleship may be found in the words of Christ, "No man has greater love than this - that he lay down his life for his friend."

May we pray to become loving zealots - even to the point of death.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Erasing the Fingerprint of God

I am writing from Colorado Springs where I am attending a week-long conference on methods in teaching scientific inquiry. I am feeling somewhat dismayed by the attempt of my colleagues to erase the fingerprint of God in creation. The beautiful and brilliant handiwork of God is so flippantly dishonored to an entirety of natural processes. In many ways, this erasal of divine preeminence in the purposeful creation of life seems to me one of the ultimate assaults on God. Paul writes that we perceive the invisible qualities of God through what has been made. The attempt to erase this fingerprint of God undermines an important reflection of the nature of God in this world.

In many of these discussions that take place within the scientific community there is a need for thought to be given as to epistemological hierarchy. The very definition of science itself places it in a very rigid place in the schema of knowledge. Science is as a systematic approach to inquiries concerning the cause and effect nature of the world of matter and energy. This definition is not novel. Science for All Americans states that science is built upon this same crucial presumption, “Science presumes that the things and events in the universe occur in consistent patterns that are comprehensible through careful systematic study.”[i]

In arriving at a definition, I find that it is often helpful to look outside the parameters of a definition. What is science not? Most importantly science does not begin to hold every answer to every question that humankind may ask. Few may disagree, but many will assign undue credence to science. This is especially true when considering questions that are spiritual in nature. Interestingly, Project 2061’s Benchmarks, illustrates this point with an introduction to a chapter, The Physical Setting. Here it is stated that, “Humans have never lost interest in trying to find out how the universe is put together, how it works, and where they fit in the cosmic scheme of things. The development of our understanding of the architecture of the universe is surely not complete, but we have made great progress.”[ii] The implication is that humanity has made great advances in understanding the architecture of the universe (cause and effect of matter and energy) that somehow addresses not only how the universe works, but how it was put together and how we fit into the cosmic scheme of things. Science may lend witness to our understanding of the origins of the universe and the purpose of our human existence. But to imply that science answers the questions “Why I am here?” and “How did the universe form?” in the same way that it answers “How does the world work?” is to assign undue credit to the scientific process.

Assuming that changes of matter and energy are within the defining parameters of science, we must quickly recognize that the existence of a spiritual realm cannot be offered either proof positive or proof negative by solely studying changes in matter and energy. This does not mean that the world of matter and energy bears no testimony to a spiritual realm. This also does not mean that the spiritual realm does not have a profound impact on the world of matter and energy. It simply means that by studying the changes in matter and energy we do not arrive at the end of a long equation to find that it equals “God exists” or “God does not exist.” If the scientific process and mathematical analysis proved God, there would be no need for the apostle Paul to write to the Hebrews, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”[iii]

However, while science does not prove or disprove God, the existence of matter and energy combined with the existence of man, who while operating within the world of matter and energy is much more than matter and energy as evidenced by his personality, does clearly bear witness to God. The distinction is important – science does not prove God – but the existence of a world of matter and energy combined with the existence of man, who prides himself in being more than a mere beast, does. Here I must be careful; in saying that existence of a universe and a man prove God, I do not mean prove in the scientific sense. For that itself is the distinction. Science does not prove God because a scientific proof deals only with the cause and effect of matter and energy.

However, man may perceive the existence of God from the existence of matter and energy and a not-simply-material man. And perception does not take off its hat to proof. Proofs and perceptions are simply two different ways of knowing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it concisely, “The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality ‘that everyone calls ‘God.’”[iv]

It is this distinction between knowledge through the scientific process and knowledge through perception that adds humility to the scientific process. Science, by definition, has no way to account for that which does not relate to the cause and effect nature of matter and energy.

In fact, we can see that comparing perception to proof causes proof to come out the lesser. Perception does not need proof; proof does need perception. In other words, on an epistemological scale, scientific knowledge and proof should find themselves to be quite a humble way of knowing. Quite simply, scientific proof and study find the patterns in what already exists. To be a scientist, in the most basic sense, one need be observant, but not necessarily much else. The bird herself is a scientist, observing the cause and effect nature of matter and energy. If the bird does not beat her wings, she falls. If a bird does not eat, she dies. To be a good scientist, in the genius sense, one must be more than a keen observer of reality: one must rationalize. But if the aim of knowledge is to fully comprehend the truth that exists in every realm so as to live life perfectly, even the combination of observation and rationalization only combine to form a very basic form of knowledge. It is possible to have the mind of a scientific genius and be a despicable fool.

If it is not clear from what has already been stated that science is quite a humble way of coming to an understanding of what really is true, let us then consider the history of science. The history of science is a history of scientists proven wrong. This does not mean science is worthless. It just means that science finds meaning in continually improving upon past theory; usually this involves showing that past theory was plain wrong. The history of science portrays an experiment that proves that a tree’s mass is due primarily to water intake, it shows the observation that gnats spontaneously generate from meat, it bears the burden of proof for a geocentric universe, it experimentally determines that heavy objects do fall faster; the list could go on. In each of these instances, a variable was ignored that led the scientist to comprehend what, in fact, was not true. But science does plough along, and each of the aforementioned untruths were eventually revealed. But a scientist must look at modern scientific knowledge and understand with humility that today’s deeply held truths may be tomorrow’s unquestioned falsehoods. That is why science books become outdated. William McComas expresses this thought in an article entitled Ten Myths of Science. Myth 5 (Science and its Methods Provide Absolute Proof) explains, “[A] hallmark of scientific knowledge is that it is subject to revision when new information is presented. Tentativeness is one of the points that differentiates science from other forms of knowledge.”[v] Scientific proof must remain quite humble.

At this point a logical question arises asking, “What if, through alternative ways of knowing, one arrives at contradicting truths?” For instance this question often takes the form, “If through perception I find God and through faith believe that the world was founded by him, and if through the scientific method, proof is offered for an alternative mechanism for the existence of life, what is true?” First, it is necessary to understand that the truth is one. That immediately places the contradiction in our epistemological methods, not in the reality of the truth. Johannes Kepler was known to say, “The tongue of God and the finger of God cannot clash.”[vi] Once it is accepted that the contradiction lies within our methods of knowing, we must be honest in evaluating where the epistemological fault resides.

Yet certainly scientific proof is not the lowliest of epistemological levels. Worse than thinking that the study of the predictable within the realm of matter and energy is the fullness of knowledge is thinking that the study of the unpredictable within the realm of matter and energy is the fullness of knowledge. From the ancient wives tales, to the modern horoscope, our baser faculties associate the mysterious with the world of matter and energy and assign a superstitious meaning to a pattern of events. Simply put, the scientific method would outwit this pattern of thinking any day. Pseudoscience even ventures to leave the realm of knowledge altogether and become an arbitrary belief associated neither with reason or faith. Pseudoscience wants to believe for no reason other than to fulfill a craving for a mysterious, unexplainable anti-reality. The true scientist believes because nature proves to respond the same way over and over and over again. The scientist builds on reason and says, “This is what has always been known to happen.” The pseudoscientist builds on the emotions saying, “This could happen. Wouldn’t that be exciting?”

Succinctly, science is a specific way of gaining knowledge. When compared with many other means of gaining knowledge, it is humble and subservient. A scientist must take no claim for what she discovers; she owns no piece of her discovery, except the new connection in her mind. For what she believes she discovered, has been since the foundation of the world was laid.

[i] American Association for the Advancement of Science. Science for All Americans. Washington D.C.: AAAS, Inc., 1989.

[ii] Chapter 4: The Physical Setting. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Benchmarks for Science Literacy: Project 2061. NY: Oxford University Press, 1993.

[iii] Holy Bible. King James Version. Hebrews 11:3

[iv] Article 34. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Catholic Book Publishing Co.: New York, 1994.

[v] McComas, William F. Ten Myths of Science: Reexamining What We Think We Know About the Nature of Science. School Science and Mathematics. January 1996, 96(1), 10-16.

[vi] (Qtd. in) Beginnings of modern science. Accessed May 5, 2005.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Of All the Dreams

It was said of Amy Carmichael that she had a "vision for holy living." Of all of the longings and dreams that I have ever known, I am convinced that the vision for holy living must be superior.

While I was reading through the biography of Amy Carmichael, I began to think, "If I want to be a holy Christian, I must go be a missionary in India or suffer in China." I had to stop myself, "No. I must obey." Simple. Unattractive. Yet before the grain of wheat can spring forth from the field, the seed must die. And where did I come but back to the moment which in time is called "today." Today there is a deeper call to obedience. One task befalls me, "Can I make visible the life the Lord Jesus?"

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Schooling Children

Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote in the mid-twentieth century: "One of the greatest of all Christian works is the teaching of children. We are convinced that much time is spent teaching them secondary matters while important things - 'first things' - are neglected. Of what value is it for a child to know how many miles it is from Jerusalem to Nazareth if he does not know the distance that separates a human heart from God? What is the use of learning the geography of Paul's missionary journeys, or the wanderings of the children of Israel, until he has been taught to bring his own wandering heart to the Savior? At every moment the teacher must be conscious of the fact that the children are there and need to be brought to Christ as Savior and Lord."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fifteen With a Splash

Hannah turned fifteen today. She is a good sister and makes us proud with all of her organizational talents. She knows how to keep an operation running and she is dilligent and hard-working. She laughs a lot and enjoys new activities.

The eight of us children travelled to Splash Down to celebrate her birthday. It was a little bit out of the mainstream for the Bentley crowd, but Mom and Dad had taken the older kids to Splash Down about fourteen years ago and those of us who were alive then still maintain very fun memories of flying down water slides. I decided that it would be a good memory for the new younger children to keep as well.

Thus, Hannah celebrated turning fifteen - American style. Upon arriving at the water park we felt a little out of place - our tans were the farmer types, otherwise known as the "invisible T-Shirt tan" - characterized by dark brown lower arms and a white upper body. However, adrenaline has unifying powers and after falling from the four-story halfpipe ride in a inflatable tube, we somehow felt able to enjoy the thrill of a unique, and perhaps solitary experience. We came home with fond memories. Those memories will serve as satisfaction for any remaining water park cravings in the years to come.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

John Greenleaf Whittier: Barefoot Boy

Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim's jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy, -
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art, - the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye, -
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood's painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor's rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee's morning chase,
Of the wild-flower's time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole's nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape's clusters shine;
Of the black wasp's cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy, -
Blessings on the barefoot boy!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Monday, July 10, 2006

Lake Erie, Lake Chautauqua & More Summer Vows

Hannah travelled with me to the Jamestown area this weekend. We attended the marriage of my friend, Carolyn. Carolyn and I met in the graduate education program at Binghamton University. We met on the first day of a class called Foundations of Secondary Education. The professor decided to group us by way of our horoscopes, proposing that the "essence" of the differing groups would work out best that way. When it came time for Carolyn and I to report our astrological signs we both shrugged our shoulders and quickly became friends. Throughout the remainder of graduate school we met on frequent occasion for prayer and Bible study.

Carolyn's wedding was simple and elegant. The reception was held on the banks of Lake Chautauqua. Hannah said that Isaac would have been very approving of the lunch feast - roasted pig and corn.

Hannah and I visited Lake Erie State Park before the wedding. The shoreline of Lake Erie was surprisingly overgrown with algae. In addition to some very mushy and slippery footing, we found some odiferous fish that had been washed up on the shore. While we had originally hoped to go swimming, we curtailed our planned water excursion and opted for a quick beach walk, a greasy concession-stand lunch and a wonderful afternoon nap in the shade of a big maple.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

You'll Know You're a Farmer When...

Nathaniel's early morning retelling of an event that happened last night stirred in the family a bit of sympathy (and some laughter too!) for our hard working brother, Isaac.

Isaac has been waking up before 4am every morning with Luke to go milk the cows at Clarence's farm. Farming at Middlevale Farm is a hard task, no matter how you cut it, but Isaac has also been working at a veterinary office and taking a Kaplan course two nights a week. These demanding events precipitated a somewhat humourous event last night. Nathaniel was just about to fall asleep around 10pm, when he hears Isaac, who had been sleeping for about an hour, trying to wake up Luke to go to Clarence's: "Luke, let's get going."

Luke, quite groggy and sleepily complacent, slowly starts to get up. Meanwhile, Isaac heads downstairs. Nathaniel, in a more cognizant state of mind, decides to go follow Isaac down the steps and see why Isaac was leaving for the farm at 10pm. As Nate turns from the stairs into the living room, he finds Isaac sitting on the couch in the living room, stuffing five chocolate chip cookies into his mouth simultaneously. (By the way, it is typical for Isaac to heartily eat dessert when he wakes up before 4am in the morning.) This night, though, Isaac turns surprised to Nate: "What are you doing?"

Nate, finding the situation quite humorous, asks Isaac, "What are you doing? Do you know what time it is?"

Nate explains to Isaac that there are still several more hours he can sleep before he has to leave. To which Isaac replies, "Oh, I feel more awake now than I normally do."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fourth of July Celebration

Farm families, town neighbors and Caputo relatives gathered on the farm today for a marvelous Independence Day celebration. The Caputos succeeded in making a rainy day very fun. A rented waterslide provided hours of countless fun for children young and old. Many of the kids were able to perform amazing gymnastic stunts before arriving at the bottom of the slide. The growing mud puddle by the waterslide exit did not stop anyone; it wasn't rare to see one of the children decide to actually bathe in the growing mud pile. To add to the fun, the Caputos made a homemade pinata in the form of a barn - it broke with about five swings from the strong children! The water balloons and water guns also complemented the periodic rain. The Caputos made quite a feast, including a rare treat for us -- paella. The afternoon was made complete when Italy won their game in the World Cup semifinals. Watching the game with many Italians was vicariously intense for the rest of us. After Italy scored their second point, Mr. Caputo, Mr. Italian himself, ran to hug the big screen TV, the grandmother's friend (Columbian, but rooting for Italy) raised her fists in praise and shouted, "Mi corazon!", the general noise level exponentially increased and Ralph Caputo says to my father who had recently joined the viewing crowd, "Tommy, you bring us good luck."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Evil, Suffering and God

At the family reunion yesterday I was speaking to Cousin Randy who is a recently retired English school teacher. He was reflecting on different books that he had read over the years. He recommended The Long Walk (Slavomir Rawicz), a story that he said spoke powerfully of human perseverance and hope in the midst of imprisonment in Siberia. He then was reminded of The Hiding Place, a book that he had read with his high school students. We both started reflecting on our favorite memories of this book - favorite not because of a serene or romantic picture of life but because of the powerful force with which we remembered being awestruck by the mercy of God in the midst of a Nazi concentration camp. We remembered the medicine bottle that never ran out, the amazing gift of the Bible that fulfilled all of Corrie's longings, the deep love between Corrie and Betsie that only grew in the presence of hate and the rejoicing in the answered prayer of fresh bananas. I had not read The Hiding Place for about ten years, but the portrayal of bright light shining in darkness remained illumined, as though I had read it yesterday.

As much as I have always cherished the story of Corrie ten Boom's life, yesterday it held particular meaning. Its newfound profundity was realized with respect to another book that I have recently been reading by Lee Strobel, A Case for Faith. Strobel, a journalist, speaks of an interview that he had with Charles Templeton, a man who had preached with Billy Graham before becoming agnostic. His agnosticism was inspired by a National Geographic picture of an African woman staring toward Heaven in agony, holding a dehydrated and dead child in her arms. Templeton, at that moment, concluded that he could not believe in God, because if God existed he surely would have sent the rain that was necessary to quench the thirst of the young dead child. Templeton lost his faith. Following that conversation, Strobel continued to interview the learned with respect to the compatibility of suffering and a merciful God. His further conversations shed clarifying light on the orthodox Christian response to the popular question, "If God exists, why is there so much suffering?"

Certainly the intellect can find fulfilling answers to this question, but yesterday, in conversation with Cousin Randy, the answer to this question came not in words, but in a picture of a simple woman that loved God. Corrie ten Boom's life was far from desirable in any normal sense of the word. Her intense suffering was known physically, emotionally and spiritually. Her family was torn apart for their illegal hospitality to the Jewish people, her sister was killed while at Ravensbruk, her living conditions were unimaginable and her body abused. Perhaps it could be said of Corrie that she was a twentieth-century Job; for like Job, she remained faithful to the love of God through everything.

The product of her suffering was a treasure. Corrie knew God. And Corrie would proclaim without doubt that this was the pearl, long buried, but when found it was worth the sale of all else. Corrie witnessed the bold power of God in many miracles. We may wonder why we do not often see the miracles of God in the way that Corrie did. Yet how willing are we to suffer in faithful obedience? The timeless testimony of the saints repeats the consistent truth that the knowledge of God is valuable beyond measure and is known through obedience.

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

-William W. How

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Independence Day Celebration

One of my paternal great grandmothers, Alice Angell started a tradition with her sister, Clarissa Holden, of hosting a family reunion in celebration of Independence Day. Four generations later, the tradition continues.

Our family enjoys the annual drive to Pleasantville. The event seems to mark the fast marching progress of summer. As we drive we typically remember the old addage that corn should be "knee high by the fourth of July." This comment serves as a slightly painful reminder that we are well into the summer growing season. Before we know it, harvest time will be upon us.

The day was full of many delights - excellent food and barbeque, swimming, good conversations, live Bluegrass, frisbee, softball and relaxation.