(Before I get into this post, please note that I do not dig out every Bible verse that I can reference although there are those who criticize the fact that I do not do it. It would make these posts much longer with inadequate reason to do so. I am past 60 years old and have been studying Jesus since before I could read. Maybe someday I will compile a book and note the verses there. Also, if I use quotation marks without including my source it is either to draw attention to the words as either a cliché, a frequently used statement, or as something that is not of my own creation and I do not remember precisely where I first read it or heard it. For the present, please remember the purpose of this blog is to inspire people to think about themselves in relation to everything else in life. That means finding answers for your life and for yourself. I am not out to criticize. I just hope to encourage thought and consideration. )
Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary last weekend. I did not watch SNL regularly even when I was younger. I did enjoy many of the routines from John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and others over the years. Samurai chef, land shark, Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, and Wayne’s World are all quite memorable.
The first Saturday night I can remember is one that I spent with just my father during the winter of 1959-60 when I was five years old. Only four of my siblings had been born by then and they had all gone to my grandmother’s with my mother. Dad made us some toasted cheese sandwiches and popcorn. We sat down on the sofa to watch whatever was on TV. I was not very happy that I was the one left at home. I fell asleep leaning against Dad and woke up to see him smiling at me. When my brothers returned with Mom, I felt like they were the ones who had missed something special.
An earlier Saturday when I was four is actually the first time I remember an actual day of the week. It was an afternoon when Dad took my brothers (only three of them at that time) to a small park in Richmond where we ran around and fed some squirrels for a little while. Seeing some squirrels today reminded me of that day. Dad explained to us that some of the squirrels in the park were graysquirrels and some were red squirrels and that the red ones were larger than the gray ones.
Over the years, many Saturday nights were times for wonderful or fun times shared with others. I am sure many of my dates were on Saturday nights. (I did meet Dotsie on a Monday night.) I worked a second job at Montgomery Ward during my divorced years in the 1990s. One Saturday night, two women came into the electronics department where I worked several times. Just before closing time, they returned and asked me to go to dinner with them. I spent most of my spare time visiting with my three children, two of whom lived four hours away. So, for me Saturday was the end of a long work week most of the time. I told the women I could not go with them and have remembered it as one of the interesting experiences from working in retail sales.
I spent many Saturdays as a basketball or baseball coach while my grandson, Tylor, was growing up. Sometimes, we followed a game by having lunch with my son, Dion, who is Tylor’s uncle. Our favorite place has always been Yats. The three of us have always enjoyed electronics so plenty of Saturdays were spent working on somebody’s equipment or at Best Buy or Fry’s Electronics.
The memory of the Saturday night long ago with my father came to my mind today and I am not certain why. Today is Saturday. For many years, many Saturdays have been spent with my children and/or grandchildren. I frequently have another Saturday night on my mind these days.
These days, I frequently recall Saturdays with Dion. One particularly memorable Saturday was a day when we jumped in Dion’s yellow 2005 GTO for a run to Louisville to a convention of Pontiac GTO owners. We were able to checkout virtually any model ever produced in many colors and configurations. It was a great time.
Many Saturdays were spent at cross country or track meets when Emily, Dion, andor Brookley would run in races. They all ran from middle school all the way into college. The most memorable of those Saturdays was when both Dion and Brookley ran in the Kentucky State Cross Country championship races. It was a day that showed me just how incredible my children are. Dion was always short for his age until he was in the tenth grade. During the year that he entered the tenth grade, Dion grew about ten inches. He grew so quickly that he developed identically located necrotic spots about the size of a quarter on the inside of each kneecap. Following surgery that summer, the doctor told Dion he would not run again. Dion wanted to be a runner so I bought him a bicycle to use for rehabilitation and one for Brookley so they could ride together. Their high school was the largest school in Kentucky, yet Dion worked hard enough to make the varsity team as a junior and ran in that state meet. To me, even more impressive than Dion working to make the varsity team was how he behaved at the end of the race that day. One of Dion’s teammates fell just a few feet from the finish line. Dion stopped to help him up and encourage him to finish the race. Several other runners passed them, but Dion was dedicated to his friend.
In stark contrast to those Saturdays, one Saturday will forever standout as the worst day of my life. November 10, 2012, I attended a Butler basketball game with a friend because I was unable to setup lunch with Dion that day. I developed flu symptoms that day and went to bed at around 9 pm. Shortly after 11 pm, my grandson, Tylor, called asking if I felt the earthquake. I told him I did not. Before I could return to sleep, he called again to tell me there had been an explosion in the 8400 block of Fieldfare Way. Since Dion lived at 8355 Fieldfare Way, I dressed immediately and sped to his neighborhood. Following the longest night ever, we learned for certain that Dion and Jennifer had been killed in the explosion and fire.
This is a Saturday and, like so many Saturdays since November 10, 2012, it is a difficult day. The scenes from that day and night flow through my head. Some Saturdays are worse than others, but I always remember it is Saturday.
The memories from Saturdays have been more important than one would think they should be. This blog post is to use some of those memories along with others to explain some of what I believe and what I have learned. I encourage you to look at your Saturdays or other days as necessary to understand yourself, other people, God, and life in general more clearly.
If anybody needed protection on November 10, 2012 in the vicinity of 8355 Fieldfare Way, it was Dion and Jennifer. One of the contributing factors inspiring this blog post is that a number of people have claimed that God protected them that night. It has not mattered where they lived relative to the blast, many have claimed they were protected. To me, it is appropriate to give thanks for one’s safety, but I will explain why a person should reconsider implying that God did something special just for them.
I have never blamed God for anything that has occurred. Why? I do not believe God intervenes in our affairs by favoring outcomes for one person over another. This flies in the face of the beliefs of most people I know, but if God did such things, it would be impossible for me to take God seriously. Dion and Jennifer lived just 13 feet from the center of the blast. There were people who lived as much as hundreds of feet away who claim that God protected them somehow. There is more to my thinking than just that Saturday, though.
Some people question why I want to argue this point. Some perceive it as an issue of my anger with God. Such anger does not and has not existed in me. How do I know that? How can I not have been angry with God? The year I turned 20 years old, I lost a cousin, Carl, who was 18. He and I were very close and we attended the same church as teenagers. During the approximately two years of Carl’s fatal illness, hundreds prayed for him and there were promises from preachers that God would heal him. The experience led me to better develop my relationship with God via Jesus. What Jesus has taught me is that God is ALWAYS there for us, but that does not mean that God goes out of His way to deliver what we desire. I believe that the Bible and Jesus teach us that God is consistent and persistent. I believe God calls us into relationship with Him. The Bible explains it to us and explains it most clearly via Jesus. To me, the Bible is a book of relationship. A very good explanation of this is given in a book, The Will of God, by Leslie D. Weatherhead. Adam Hamilton also gave us the book, Why?, that gives a slightly different explanation of the same concepts.
I have several reasons for presenting the argument to people that God does not intervene frequently as so many people claim to believe He does. First, God gave every one of us free will. If God busies Himself changing the natural order of things or blocking people’s free will, then we do not truly have free will. It makes it as if we are just God’s playthings. Second, does it make sense that God would play favorites? I think not. I have often heard people quote verses from the Bible to support that God has His “chosen” people. Preachers like to preach sermons and write books about the great things God will deliver for those who belong to God or do some other task that the preacher instructs them to do “for God”. The verses are taken out of contect since they obviously miss the core teaching of Jesus from the greatest commandment and from His instructions on how to follow Him. To me, to believe that God makes “mysterious” decisions, we are saying God behaves like a human behaves. God is beyond that. God is bigger than that. While we may not understand the details, God makes the path clear through Jesus. Third, and perhaps most important of all of my reasons, is that believing that God arbitrarily or mysteriously intervenes to change life means humans can duck responsibility.
The last reason, ducking responsibility by blaming or crediting God with intervening, quite often means leaving the door open for humans to unwittingly promote evil. Instead of doing what I can do as Jesus directs me to do, I can leave it up to God to whip out a miracle. Rather than being thankful that I did not live in the home thirteen feet from the center of the blast, I can sound spiritual or pious by saying that God protected me. I need not think each day how my life, words, and actions affect those around me because God will take care of it and correct whatever I mess up. I don’t buy that. In doing so, we relegate God to the duty of cleaning up for mistakes that could easily be avoided if we would take reponsibility.
The point about promoting evil is incredibly important for us to consider. Jesus teaches us beginning with the greatest commandment teachings that each of us can be an agent of God in the world. (The original usage of the idea of angel by the Hebrews and others is that angels are “agents of God.”) I believe that Jesus also teaches that if we are not behaving as an agent of God by following Jesus, we are promoting evil. One could consider not being an agent of God makes one an agent of Satan or as I believe, we actually are acting as Satan. We can either represent good or evil.
Each Saturday, I remember Dion and Jennifer and also my daughters Emily and Brookley. My grandchildren, stepchildren and other loved ones are also on my heart. Since I lost Dion, he is especially present. To me, it was evil that killed him. It wasn’t somebody directly out to take Dion’s life. It was people who had no interest in being agents of God. It was people who live lives in which they blame things on others. They accumulated evil until it resulted in the deaths of innocent people.
Evil comes in large and small packages. We all create it every day. Careless driving. Gossip. If you are in sales, did you overstate what you sell today? So many seemingly innocent things we can do. We ignore the possibility that something we do could really hurt somebody else. We all can do something about it. An approach that I hope you will consider is to develop your relationship with God and with others by making the greatest commandment teachings of Jesus as much of a constant in your life as you can. This will crowd evil out. Making excuses andor waiting for God to work a miracle leads to tragedies that could be avoided. Do something positive.
Be an angel. Seek wisdom from God in making decisions throughout your day. Do this even in the “small” issues of the day. I have the greatest commandment running in the background of my mind almost constantly. Be that agent of God. The intervention of God is through His agents. The more time you spend in that mode, the less likely you are to contribute to the evil of the world.
Returning to Dion at the finish line, his mother and I taught him and his sisters that at school and in life, we were not concerned about how other people affected them. We taught them that they were to see that they lived lives that positively affected others. They were to treat others the way they would want to be treated and they were to look out for others in addition to themselves. I feel the best way to accomplish that goal is to actively live a loving life as taught by Jesus. Nobody can be perfect, but we can all do whatever we can to make the world a better place. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.