Wednesday, June 20, 2007

God’s Word in a Wal-Mart

A few years ago I was standing in a Wal-Mart checkout line when I noticed something going on in the lane next to me. A young, poor looking family was rung up, but there was a problem with the check they were trying to use to pay. Their cart was full of essential things-- diapers, staple foods--$110 worth. I watched them fidget as the supervisor was called. As I stood there God spoke to me saying: “pay their bill.” Even though I knew it was probably God talking I didn’t act immediately. In fact I didn't act at all.

You might be thinking that a more likely explanation for the "pay their bill" suggestion would be a chemical problem in my brain, serious psychological problems, or perhaps just a compassionate nature. All of these are possible. But I believe it was God. When He speaks to me it can be a simple statement, a word, a verse in the Bible or something non-verbal. I don't think there is anything special that enables me to receive messages from God. I believe everyone gets these messages--the tough part is listening. I do test the messages for reasonableness--I don't totally trust my brain...

I debated the "pay their bill" suggestion; how should I do this? What should I say? Will they reject my offer? Should I just pay their bill, or ask that they pay me back at some later date? I admit I worried about giving them any information that they could use to contact me later. I did nothing.

The supervisor came and things still couldn’t be resolved. They asked the family to follow them to an area that wasn’t quite so public. The last thing I saw as I drove away was the family, sans groceries, driving out of the parking lot.

I wish I had handed the clerk my Visa, and put that $110 on my card. I hope that Wal-Mart experience was just a minor setback to that family. I struggle with the feeling that this event had a very negative impact on them. I will never know what happened.

What I do know is my disobedience blocked the best path for that day.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Uncaused Light -- God as a "stop-gap"?

In the book "Letters and Papers from Prison" Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: "It has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case). Then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat."

In one of his essays in "Creation and Fall" written in 1933 Bonhoeffer breaks his own rule. In his concluding remarks regarding Genesis 1:14-19 he raises the "old rationalistic question" of how light could be created in day 1 and the sun not until day 4. Where did this "uncaused light" come from? Bonhoeffer discusses this apparent paradox and concludes by saying: "The light per se of the creation, the light which lay formless over the formless darkness, is bound to form, to law, to the fixed, to number; but it remains in God, it remains God's creation, and never itself becomes calculable number."

The "never itself becomes calculable number" part of his statement appears to be wrong. Bonhoeffer reasonably assumed that the specifics of the creation of the universe would be forever inaccessible to science. What he could not have anticipated was that fifteen years later, based on the principles of Einstein's general relativity, George Gamow would publish a model for the creation of the universe. This theory postulated:

  1. Light could not travel any appreciable distance in the initial years of the early universe because any emitted photons were immediately reabsorbed by the ionized matter around it.
  2. About 400,000 years after the Big Bang the universe had cooled enough for matter to "condense" into neutral atoms. This transition allowed light to freely travel throughout the universe. Because the universe was exceedingly uniform at that point (formless) this shift occurred concurrently throughout.
  3. Gamow calculated that these freed photons from this transition would still be continuously arriving at the earth, "cooled" by the subsequent expansion of the universe to an equivalent black body temperature of about 5 degrees above absolute zero.

In 1948 when Gamow made this 5 degree prediction the technology did not exist to prove or disprove it. However in 1964 two physicists testing their new microwave receiver pointed it at the sky. They expected to measure just the self-generated noise of their equipment. Instead they found that no matter where in the sky they pointed they measured more noise than they could explain. At first they attributed it to pigeon crap in their antenna. But eventually they established it was photons from the cosmos, arriving with an equivalent temperature of 3.5 degrees --the light from the Big Bang. Recent satellite based measurements have refined that temperature to 2.725 +- 0.02 degrees (really!)

The light of creation that illuminated the universe for almost ten billion years before our own sun ignited has been given a number.

Friday, June 01, 2007

8 Random Facts about Vance

I’ve been tagged by Dr Heidi from Virushead for the “Random 8″ blog meme.

  • Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
  • Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
  • Players should tag 8 other people and notify them that they have been tagged.

So here are 8 random facts about Vance:

  1. I hate sweet potatoes and acorn squash--there is something in these two foods that grosses me out. It is not like I am a picky eater, I will eat almost anything, in fact I like the traditionally avoided foods like broccoli and brussels sprouts. Through sweet potatoes my parents learned that sometimes a kid is serious when they say a food makes them sick...

  2. I am an ex-believer in Intelligent Design. This blog is named for the meditation sequence that resulted in my change of heart. I didn't give up on God, I just decided that regardless of how complicated life is, science will eventually come up with credible theories how it happened. God's fingerprints won't be obvious and we will be left with another singularity like the Big Bang that defies analysis.

  3. My favorite musician is Bill Evans, the saxophonist, not the pianist. Not a gifted marketeer this Bill hasn't worked very hard to distance himself from the late Jazz great. He is almost invisible on Amazon unless you know one of his titles. If you like Jazz Fusion you might give this Bill Evans a try.

  4. I have this theory that all managers create a scientifically undetectable field called the "Reality Distortion Field". When multiple managers are in a room this field reinforces itself leading to some pretty scary results. The Reality Distortion Field (RDF) explains a lot of the apparently insane behaviors that businesses engage in.

  5. When I call my parents, their first question is often "Where are you", instead of "How are you".

  6. My advice to people that are lost while driving in a European city is to pick a random car to follow --it is unlikely that they are driving in circles. For more of my travel hints see tickets-passports-money

  7. Unless I really focus, I totally miss the lyrics in songs. Usually for me the singers are just another instrument.

  8. My favorite Science Fiction writer is C.J. Cherryh. If you like Science Fiction that focuses on character development rather than hardware/warfare you might try her novel Cyteen or her Foreigner series.

Here a the 8 I am tagging: