Monthly Archives: June 2009

God and the tsunami

tom honeyOne of my friends who is not a Christian recently sent me a link to this video. It’s basically a priest, Tom Honey, giving a sermon on why he lost his faith after the tsunami in Indonesia a few years back. My friend asked what I thought and I felt pretty prepared because in church this week we had just studied the section of Job where God responds to Job’s questions and demands. But I still felt unprepared because Tom Honey has some very valid points and he gives one of the most heartfelt sermons I have ever heard.

This was my response to my friend:

During church last night we were studying a passage in Job where God responds after Job airs all of his complaints and demands. God basically says, “How can you, a man, even pretend to know why I do things?” Among the highlights of the passage (I am in Job chapters 38 and 39 if you want to read the whole thing): “Who is this that darkens my counsel by words without knowledge?…Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding…Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you understood the expanse of the earth?”

And the best answer comes in Job 40:8: “Will you condemn me that you may be justified?” Will we force God to be the kind of God we want him to be just so we can feel good about everything?

God’s response is not the most compassionate, but in reading it I was reminded of how little I know about the ways of God. Is God in control of everything, even down to finding me a parking spot? I highly doubt God is a micro-manager, but I don’t know.

“I don’t know” is about all I can come up with when faced with the reality of tsunamis, earthquakes, the Holocaust, etc… But my faith in God tells me there is something more important than all of these things. I don’t rejoice in the suffering of others. I hurt for them. But I also trust that God has everything under control.

To look at something like the tsunami in Indonesia and say that if God is in control of everything then he must be evil is to look at it from the wrong perspective —  from a very immediate, context-less perspective. I don’t pretend to know the context, but I know God does.

It would make everything a lot easier if God would have a conversation with us like he did with Job after every major disaster, but he doesn’t.

Job responds to God in chapter 42: “I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees Thee; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”

My faith comes not from a literal hearing or seeing of God, but my soul’s hearing and seeing, and my physical experience of his spirit in the beauty of the earth and the love of my family and friends.



Twitter’s Redemptive Value for Real Change: ‘You Twit Face’

twitter1Sometimes twitter and facebook seem like a receptical of self indulgent banalities: messages of “just got home” “brushing my teeth” “I love ketchup with pickles” and other such messages seem to be strangely self indulgent and sometimes they even border on what could be called ‘twitter farts’ in that it may be just as well to try to keep them to yourself out of politeness to the rest of those around you. But lately, particularly with the recent events in Iran where thousands of people are using Twitter to stay in touch as Facebook and even internet have been closed down, I’ve changed my mind and now I think that like most things, Twitter can have great social redemptive uses and as most earthly things its value should be judged by HOW it is used. I think its clear that criticizing Twitter because you see it used in silly ways is probably a legalistic narrow viewpoint somewhat like those who totally condemn alcohol use because they have seen negative effects from it, or those who totally condemn guns because of criminal use of them, or who totally condemn dancing because they’ve seen it lead to other behaviors they dissapproved of in some cases.

I think there are posts which can prompt others to thoughtfulness and new insights, and so I try more now than ever to think about the social usefulness of my posts and comments. I mean, of course we all need to express ourselves, and some do that through facebook and twitter– and thats OK. But it just shouldn’t be done without constraint like some sort of internet blackhole.

So while now I am more convinced than ever that Twitter and Facebook and other social networking tools on the internet can be used for good purposes, I think we need to see this as a stewardship issue– we have some responsibility to use these for the good. I still believe that they often are used for pretty self centered banal purposes. I realize that it is a matter of degree and balance, and a bit of silly facebooking or twittering is harmless, and I love to do it. But when significant time is wasted on these and most all of the postings are frivolous at best, then I think stewardship issues arise, for any Christian who sees their life as having a worth and purpose for their Creator. I mean, what in the world are we wasting our lives doing down here?

I know I waste a lot of my life on stupid frivolous activities (look at my dumb DVD collection). Its hard to know how to spend one’s time– thats part of the difficulty. But lately I have been more able to see how that we can use technology resources in twitter and facebook to do good and prompt others to thoughtfulness and responsiveness, without eliminating the laughter too… May God have mercy on us all– and on our twittering and facebooking…

check out this article on the twitter revolution in Iran from the Washington Post:

Neighbors United

A few weeks ago Brittany from Mosaic Community Development came to talk to us about Neighbors United ( ) a movement to unite various community churches to feed the local homeless in the north park-avenue area. This week Scott, Zach and Andy went to help. We had been told they needed more guys to just generally patrol the area and keep peace if people really high or drunk showed up.

When we first got there, we saw (to our amazement) that one of the homeless guys outside was wearing an AG Gustafson family reunion T-shirt from 2006. He was not a relative, but we had a good talk. Scott and Zach and I each did some patrolling, and some eating with the guys who came and talking, and some cleanup at the end.

I ran into some people I knew– mostly friends and relatives of my guys who help me out. I had good conversations with people about the renovation of apartment buildings in the area and how that is driving some of them elsewhere, the promise of Obama, and the hot weather. In one of the more interesting interactions a guy told me that there are people who come in and eat and get clothes who don’t really need them. He also told me that the last thing a homeless guy wants is to be snubbed– he just wants respect, like any person. Clem told me, “People who are nice to us have a friend! I mean, I don’t smoke or drink, so I don’t need your money. I can get what I need without it– its not all about money for us.”

People working and eating seemed happy we were there, and it was a really encouraging time for us, and I believe we all felt a desire to want to be involved and stay involved in this ministry. We work with people from many different church backgrounds, we met new friends from those churches, but best of all, we made new friends with some of the people who live on the streets near to us. It is wonderful that neighbors united ministry got started. We hope that real relationships that matter are started through this feeding time. Its great to fill empty stomachs, but it takes a lot more to help fill the emptiness in some of the lives of the guys who were there today. May God help us all to seek ways to be used in our world around us…

Getting emeshed in the lives of the poor

asm_P1010898So during liturgy at our group tonight I was thinking about my guys who work for me– the guys who come for coffee each morning at 830 most of whom were semi homeless when I met them. Most have some alcohol related tendencies. This morning I helped one of them to get connected with a guy who will pay off his tickets so he can drive again– the guy needs my guy to help him drive back cars he buys. So employment! Another of my guys has been helping me a lot and is best working on his own– without others to distract him or get him to drink. We got him a TV converter today, and got his brakeline fixed (he has no money really, so our agreement is: “you help me, and I help you” 🙂 But a third one of my guys was thowing up blood tonight and I got three calls– one from him and two from Karin (a lady who helps me) telling me that he was going to the hospital in an ambulance because he’d passed out. Hopefully we’ll know by morning how he is. Coffee won’t be the same without Richard there tomorrow…and so, when your life gets emeshed in the lives of the poor, God does bless you in new ways, and gives you concerns you’d never have if you didn’t involve the poor in your life…

Helping Widows in Kenya

lindaThis Tuesday we will have Linda Spriegel (Andy’s big sister) with us from Kenya sharing about her Tabitha ministry which is directed towards widows in Kenya who in many cases would be forced into prostitution to provide for their family. What started as a small study developed into a ministry whcih helpes provide seed and fertilizer, new mud houses, and cows to these widows, alongside a very active bible study which has many groups reaching over 1,000 women weekly. If you’d like to hear about this ministry come at 6pm for a cookout at our place, and then Linda will share with us for about an hour… Call Andy if you have questions: 669 9846

Check out their sites: