Everything happens for a reason? | The impact of believing that on our societal morality

IMG_3901If everything happens for a reason, if the prosperity gospel is taken literally, then we don’t have to help anyone. It works great for easing our consciences on the poor, the sick, the refugee, the prisoner, or anyone else we can call the “other.” Everything happens for a reason means that they are responsible for their own situation whether it’s through bad actions, lack of faith, or maybe just God’s will. And who are we to interfere with that?

When author Kate Bowler got sick with stage four cancer, people told her that maybe God had let her get cancer so she could help other people. (See her TedMed Talk). There’s multiple parts to this sort of statement. And I haven’t read her book yet, (it’s on my list!), she may get more into some of this, but here’s my take on everything happens for a reason.

People desperately need to make some sense out of bad things that happen. The world can be scary and dark and chaotic, and maybe, just maybe, if the bad things happen for a reason, then there’s sense to be made out of it all. People quote or misquote that Bible verse “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (my paraphrase of Romans 8:28 but it is similar to multiple translations of this verse). This verse, this one tiny phrase from the whole library we call our Scripture, gets turned into “everything happens for a reason,” the beloved American proverb quoted by religious and non-religious alike.

This misquote or misunderstanding is scary; this underpinning of a five-word phrase that can literally shape the course of a nation. It is so commonly said, commonly quoted, commonly believed.

Everything happens for a reason allows us to distance ourselves from someone who is suffering rather than entering into their pain with them. When I got pregnant the first time, I made the mistake of telling a whole lot of people right away. So then a few short weeks later, I had to go and tell them that I’d miscarried. I received so many reactions, and almost all of them were distancing ones. People needed to put distance between my pain, my loss, and their lives. “Oh, everything happens for a reason!” “The baby must have had something wrong, this is a good thing!” “At least you know you can get pregnant.” Needless to say, all of those rubbed salt in my wound. I was excited to be pregnant, excited for the possibility of a child, and my hopes and dreams in that moment were dashed. The second time it happened, I was somewhat wiser, but as it was later along and I had one child, I needed support. It was hard to find people to just come watch my kid so I could deal with the physical symptoms I was experiencing. People don’t want the awkwardness. I had one friend who volunteered, just one. To be fair to some of my long-time friends, they didn’t live nearby and I know they would have helped if they could.

Everything happens for a reason allows us to distance ourselves from poor people and from addressing poverty as a system of injustice. If God blesses those with the “right” kind of faith, then they are poor through their own fault, right? And people who are sick are sick because they lacked faith, and the prisoner is in jail because of their actions and the sentence was surely just because, everything happens for a reason. And the refugee, and the immigrant, well, if their faith is right it will get them where they need to go, no need to reform immigration, or offer our aid.

It’s great for justifying ignoring everyone, putting all the onus on God to bless or not bless, and then we can just sit here and judge people because of their lives, after all, aren’t their lives the fruit of their faith?

And that’s all well and good for soothing consciences, except…

Except, literally none of that is scriptural. In fact, it’s as close to the opposite of the story God is telling us in Scripture as I can think. The story that follows God trying to be in relationship with messed-up, broken people. That follows those people of God through slavery, through the desert, as refugees, as people displaced from their homes and carried off into captivity. And yes, I’ve heard all the arguments about how those people disobeyed God and brought all that one themselves. Everything happens for a reason, after all. But if we follow the story, it was God that led them to Egypt in the first place as a salvation but they were later enslaved. Where babies were killed because Pharaoh was worried they would outnumber the Egyptians and take over. If God led them to Egypt and left them there, and everything happens for a reason then God is the author of all that evil too. But we don’t usually like to think of the full implications of that statement. Obviously there’s more there than can be tackled in one blog post, but it bears thinking about.

Perhaps most clearly, everything happens for a reason ignores the very Saviour it claims to worship. The Saviour that was born a poor brown baby in a kingdom ruled by an evil king. A Saviour who had to flee a massacre–becoming a refugee from violence–when he was just a little boy. A Saviour who did nothing but kindness and mercy and healing, but was still wrongfully convicted by a justice system that was anything but just, and put to death at the hands of broken, messed-up people who thought they were doing God’s will.

If Jesus came to show us God, and also came to show us how to be human, then what Jesus shows us is a God who enters into human particularity and doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff. Doesn’t blame people for circumstances wrought by unjust systems, doesn’t leave those who are grieving or without hope. He sits with those society shunned, touched the unclean, and broke the rules of the religious orders of the day. He was executed by the government for fear he would cause an unrest. His arrest was instigated by religious leaders because they thought he’d blasphemed God.

The cross has many lessons for us, but the one for today is this: we must be very very careful thinking we know what God looks like, especially when that picture of God we hold looks like us and agrees with us. Scripture shows us that wherever God is moving it’s disruptive. Things that Jesus did in Scripture were revolutionary and even transgressive. So we must be wary of a picture of God that makes us too comfortable with what we believe, because there’s a good probability that picture is an idol.

A New or Not-so-new Thing | Blog 9.0 | A tale of many blogs

I’ve blogged extremely sporadically for years. Back in the early days of blogging when everything had to be hand-coded if you wanted to customize one of the few themes available, I had a blog called Emerging Ecclesiology. Which auto correct thinks should be “Emerging Anesthesiology” but I digress. I engaged in questions of theology and culture, the emerging church, and what ecclesiology (a theology of church, not as sleep-inducing generally as anesthesiology, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, otherwise, auto correct may have a point) looks like for a post-modern church.

That was about 17 years ago if I recall correctly, I was 23 and fresh out of seminary and bursting with ideas. I was teaching world religions at a community college west of Los Angeles, teaching assisting with some classes at Fuller where I had just graduated, and developing a college ministry program at a local church. Writing that reminds me that I used to have energy, now just looking at that sentence makes me tired.

Eventually I wanted to turn to more of an emphasis on general theology and spirituality so I renamed the blog Deep Soil and indulged in beautiful headers of trees and forests. Somewhere around this time (age 25 by now), I met my now husband on my blog. That’s right, I met my husband on the internet without internet dating and before blogs where a thing. I had to explain our origin story starting with “what’s a blog” to about 50% of the people I tried to tell it to.

I moved to Tennessee and took a full-time youth ministry position. That and planning a wedding, getting married, remodeling a house, husband getting ordained, then moving again a year later and both of us starting new jobs, a local church for him, a diocesan position in youth ministry for me, and blogging kind of fell by the way-side. Oh somehow in the middle of this, I wrote and published a book of youth ministry lessons on the book of Ezekiel. Why Ezekiel for my first book? Because I like to jump in the deep end and see how long I can tread water. This can be a good thing and very very bad thing, but it’s what it is. Now as I approach my 40th year, I sometimes remember to look before I leap. Sometimes.

We built a house north of Nashville, my diocesan position got cut after two years because of money problems, and I launched into free-lance photography, simultaneously starting two new blogs, one called Wayfaring Artist, which still exists in some ways on this site  as I moved the posts over here when I closed that down, and one called Daily Ikon which was a photo blog turned photography business. Those blogs lasted me through the birth of my first child (he’s now 8), after which I had to dial back the photography thing because it wasn’t paying enough to justify child care. Then in November of 2011 I finished my first National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), and decided I wanted to do something with the novel I had written. So I launched edits, and blog tour and started this site, A.E. Howard Writes to go with the “branding” of my author name. Initially I only used this blog feature for announcements, as I optimistically and unrealistically thought I could write a book a year and there would be things to update. I’ve done some short stories and novellas but haven’t published another novel as of yet.

Somewhere in there I tried briefly to revive Deep Soil, and at one point had (or maybe have, I need to check, lol) a blog called Anna’s Grace Notes, and now I’ve started a blog for my aquarium and vivarium business over on Engaging Ecosystems

So by relaunching now, that brings me to blog number nine I believe. Part of my problem is I kept thinking that I had to have separate branding for everything I did, and I’m getting to where I’m rejecting that notion. Now, what I want to write about here (more in a second), is very different then technical posts on how to build a dart frog ecosystem, so I am going to keep those separate, but that’s it. I’m not removing the artsy maker posts just below this that I briefly dabbled in trying to make a go of. I still make and build and design all sorts of things but I do that for me, not for content to share.

One constant theme in all these is a search for beauty in everyday life, hence the name “daily ikon” for instance, or some of my taglines “beauty in the daily” and so on. It has been a constant theme to learn to live everyday life with appreciation and gusto even because if we only wait for the big things, the milestones, the events, we miss the majority of our own life–the one built from seconds and minutes, from children’s smiles, hot coffee, and spring flowers. If we miss the ordinary, we can’t truly appreciate the extraordinary anyway, so it’s important to make the most of the daily.

So that brings me to this blog, now in the middle of 2019. I’m working on a non-fiction project that I don’t know exactly what it will be yet. As I get parts of it done and polished I’ll post them here. I’m exploring ideas related to empathy, right relationships, theology, and what’s wrong with American Christianity. Yeah, tiny little topics, I’m sure I’ll have it sorted and polished in no time flat.

I’ve been reading a lot, so I thought I could also share some feedback and reviews from my current reading list as I go along as well.

And I’ve got about 4 different fiction projects in the works, I can’t make any promises as to when they will be finished. Books 2 and 3 of my middle grade Keeper of the Keys trilogy, a full novel from the novella I contributed to Wonderstorms, and a new project that will most likely include frogs. Which gives me my latest tagline for this site: Faith. Frogs. Fiction.

I’ve suffered for some years now from a chronic illness, namely untreated and then under-treated hypothyroidism that really wrecked my ability to much more than survive. I’ve learned a lot from being so restricted, more that I can share in other posts, but the biggest take-away is that I am not what I produce. I am happy when I can write thought, and now that I’m closer to getting the proper dosage of meds and all worked out, I can tackle some of these projects and even start bringing them out into the light, even if I don’t have any time frame that I can promise on them.

So that’s where we’re at as of today. Thanks for coming along on the journey, and welcome! Or welcome back, as the case may be

Fine motor skills activity: egg carton buttons

   
 So I saw this idea on Pinterest and decided to try it + make my own tutorial. It’s pretty easy, but a few points will make it easier!So you need:

  • an egg carton
  • two pipe cleaners
  • six buttons
  • wide grosgrain ribbon
  • wire cutters
  • candle lighter, preferably the kind that don’t blow out in the wind, they put out a very focused flame with a tiny point.

Step ONE: Cut each pipe cleaner into 3 parts. Bend in the middle and thread both ends through the holes in the button, then pull it down. If you try to do one then the other, it’s hard. Don’t ask me how I know, lol!

Step TWO: Poke two small holes in the bottom of the egg cups on one side of the carton. Thread the ends of the pipe cleaner through the holes and twist. Make sure there’s a little give on the button on the top so it’s not hard to get the ribbon buttoned onto it.

Step Three: I didn’t take a pic of this because I can’t simultaneously burn ribbon and snap pics with my cell phone. I really need another hand! So, cut your ribbon slightly longer than your carton. Burn both ends by quickly running the flame over the cut edge. Cut button holes by snipping the ribbon lengthwise about the same length as the button. Fold the ribbon lengthwise and quickly burn the cut edge before you try to button it on the button! If you attempt to button it to test your cut first, you’ll see immediate fraying. Ask me how I know ;-). Cut it too small if in doubt, you can always snip a bit more and burn again.

And that, folks, is all for today!