I Haven't Been Raptured Yet

I was raised in a religious tradition that believed in the rapture, the notion that all Christians would be whisked away before the coming of the great Antichrist, the strongman of Satan. We learned the signs of the times--earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, religious persecution, the collapse of morality, the rise of the Demon-cratic party. There were plans to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, which meant something to someone better-versed in eschatological matters than I. [tweetherder]The world was spinning out of control in 1994.[/tweetherder] If you closed your eyes hard enough, tuned yourself to the gyrations of the Earth, you could sense a new wobble in its rotation. Things were off-kilter. I was only sixteen, green and trusting. Under the impression that the world was worse in 1994 than it'd ever been, I was naive to the liberal sexual ethics of, say, the Renaissance. I'd not studied the hellish trenches of the War to End All Wars, or the war that came after. I had not read Elie Wiesel.  I was unaware of Pompeii. I didn't understand the genocides of history. The preachers and politicians told me the world was worse for the wear in 1994, and that was that; I believed them.

"The sky is falling!" they said. "The King is coming!"

That was twenty-two years ago. I haven't seen the King, and I haven't been called up yonder. I'm sipping coffee in an air conditioned cafe.

I'm thirty-eight now, just old enough to have witnessed more than a few natural disasters, a handful of presidential administrations, a smattering of global skirmishes, a handful of prophetic warnings, a societal shift or two, a social justice movement or three, the occasional Catholic and Protestant bar fight (in which everyone lost a tooth), the frequent Christian/Muslim/Jew conflicts (in which everyone lost a son), and the everyday violences that taste like blood. I've seen white terrorist blow a hole in the Alfred P. Murrah building. I've seen Islamic terrorist take down the Twin Towers. I've seen Shock and Awe, watched mothers carry their limp children from the rubble of Bagdad building. I've seen the boys come home from Shock and Awe with prosthetic limbs. I've seen the rise of the European Union, and might live to see its collapse. But these things, aren't they just the echoes of history coming full circle? Isn't this world just a plate of historical vinyl, skipping back to the previous track?

Humans--we've been singing the same dirges since Cain murdered Abel.

But this world isn't just a series of  violences. I'm old enough now to have experienced the love behind a first kiss, the wedding, the consummation of that love in a honeymoon suite. I've witnessed the birth of four children, watched as friends brought their own children into the world. I've heard my grandparents speak of angels on their deathbeds, heard the eulogies and hymns sung in their honor. I've eaten cuisine on four continents, felt tiny explosions as slow cooked goat, beef, liver, or pasta has melted in my mouth. (Some of those meals were cooked by the rich; some by the poor.) I've had wine--celebratory wine (and too much of it). I've slugged communion wine, too--wine that tastes of salvation. I've done these things, and so have my brothers and sisters, so have you. The world is always creating, always giving birth to joy, after joy, after joy, after joy.

[tweetherder]Things have never been as good as they are today. [/tweetherder]

I'm just old enough to understand that the world is sometimes raucous, sometimes beautiful. It's not falling apart. There's no exigency today that has not existed since Eve first ate the fruit. There's no true beauty today that has not existed since Adam first took the fruit from Eve. The world is raw, unfiltered, sometimes unfair, but it's also beautiful and full of life. [tweetherder]The world is a miracle.[/tweetherder]

It's been over twenty-years, and though not disillusioned, perhaps I'm a bit wiser. And so, I'll not keep an eye to the sky, though I'll still say my prayers. I won't expect any rapturous exit, though I'll still read the pages of Scripture. I won't warn you of a coming collapse, or the necessity to set all things to right. I won't look for patterns where there aren't any. Instead, I'll love my wife, my kids, my life. I'll ask God what it means to be sober, to be grateful, to be free from fear. I'll ask where the Kingdom of God has already come, and if I find it, I'll invite you to come along. I wonder if this is the genuine article of faith.

Sing your doxologies.

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Are We Alone?

Genius by Stephen Hawking was on the tube last night. It's a PBS broadcast, a television show which poses a scientific problem and teaches average people to "think like geniuses" in order to solve it. Last night's episode explored the universe, asked the question that niggles at the back of all our minds--are we alone.

Hawking and the participants began with an examination of the immensity of our galaxy, the 100 billion stars that comprise it. Comparing our sun to a grain of sand (can you imagine it on your fingertip?), the participants created a stunning visual representation of the number of starts in the Milky Way, dumping ton after ton of sand on the ground. The pile spread out, rose to a height of over eight feet, maybe ten. Grain after grain represented a star; star after star represented the possibility of life; possibility after possibility expanded my imagination (in common parlance, I might say "blew my mind"). And in that moment, I felt a wash of emotion. I felt grateful.

There are, perhaps, infinite worlds in the universe, each world comprised of infinite number of atomic particles. Time--isn't it infinite, too? Isn't it true that my own atomic particles could have been spread across the galaxy, could have existed as a moon orbiting Uranus? Couldn't my particles have existed millions of years ago, millions of years in the future? The building blocks of my life--what if they had been space dust? Couldn't yours have been? Sure, this is all speculation and conjecture, but I suppose that in the universe of possibilities, these possibilities are among them. And despite all of these possibilities--the infinite, boundless, inanimate possibilities--I am here, typing on this keyboard. You are here, reading the words. We are here together, two collections of innumerable possibilities sharing this space and time.

Welcome Time Travelers.

When I consider the immensity of the galaxy, the billions of stars comprising the Milky Way (not to mention the 100 billion trillion stars in the universe), when I consider the boundlessness of time (prehistoric and historic) it's unfathomable that I was given this passage on Earth. It's astounding that I have a lover, four children, a job, and two dogs. Is it possible that I'm working on a meager retirement? How is it that I'm paying down a kind, if not modest, house? How do my lungs work, work, work without thinking. How does my heart pump, it's rhythm in my ears when my head hits the pillow? How do I sleep, dream, wake?  How am I now, both volitional and autonomic?

Surely there is a God.

I have a life of tiny blessings. I live among billions of others with their own tiny blessings. (Aren't these blessings nothing more than possibilities existing by divine providence. Is there any other explanation?) We are small specks, traveling on a small speck, around a speck of a star, in a speck of a solar system, during a speck of time. Everything here--life, time, humanity, the ability to possess and dispose of possessions--is a speck-worthy miracle.

Be grateful for this miracle. Make love. (Do not be afraid of this pleasure.) Hug your children. Pet your dog. Buy ice cream. Star gaze. People watch. Self examine. Love the tiny explosions that animate you--explosions of love, happiness, anger, and sorrow. Look at your watch. Count ten seconds. Know that each second is another tiny miracle. Bless the divine. Search for it, even among the possibilities.

Live to the end.

Sing your doxologies.

***TINY LETTER***

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*Photo by Lwp Kommunikáció, Creative Commons via Flickr.