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In January of 1997, my wife and I went to a Children’s Ministry Convention in Chicago. We had driven for a good part of the day, had been late for the convention’s opening meeting and had explored the convention area and had gone to bed somewhat late. We had hoped for a nice little retreat (This was before we had any kids) but this was not God’s plan.

At 1:00 in the middle of the night the phone rang, and I picked it up. It was my wife’s dad and he told me that Betty (his wife, my wife’s Mom, my mother-in-law) had had a heart attack and died. Just like that. No goodbyes. No chance to prepare. He told me that he wanted to tell Debbie, so I handed the phone over her. With dread. She listened for a few seconds and then I heard her say, with great emotion “Oh, Daddy.”

We made phone calls, I took a shower, we explained the situation to the guy at the front desk, and at 2:30 in the morning began the eight hour trip home. We cried many tears on the way home.

This was Jan 30th, 1997.

I have experienced somewhat close, shocking loss more than a few times in my 39 years, but I think back on that day as one of two very very sad days of close-to-home, hard-hitting loss (The other was my father’s death when I was ten.) This one taught me a few lessons. I am certain that almost any adult reading this has learned some of these lessons already but I thought I’d put them down here anyway.

1. Life is not Sure.
For every single person I know on earth, it may be the case that I will never see them again. This is dark. This is scary. But God makes no promises.

I remember driving into the neighborhood of the home that Debbie had grown up in, eight hours later, feeling strong grief that this home where I had experienced great hospitality, eaten great food, and had known great acceptance would be never again be that place again in the way it had been.

I remember, four days later, at the memorial service feeling very vulnerable. What’s next? What horrible event is waiting around the next corner? Even as I type this and am actually writing that I’ve only had two earth-shattering losses, my feeling is: Am I due? It is a frightening thought. I guess I need to trust God when he says that his plan for me (and my family) is going to prosper me and not harm me.

2. Joy is still possible.

Betty was the mother of three adult kids. They all loved her a great deal and were greatly saddened by her loss. But I have a memory of the initial visit to check out a possible cemetery (always a sobering experience.) As it turned out, there were seven of us going out to look at it, but the three siblings were the first to head out up the hill to the possible sight. There was ice on the hill, and it was one of those Minnesota days when you would take a few steps on a snow drift and then it would give way and you’d find yourself a foot deep in the snow. It made walking a challenge, but for some reason it caused Debbie and her brother and sister to be amused. They were actually giggling as they walked up.

I found it stunning that this could happen to these people who had just lost a mother, even for a few seconds. But those experiences could more accurately be called happiness.

But when you realize that this loving godly lady, who had been suffering with painful arthritis for some time, was now in heaven, worshipping God in a more direct way than she ever had before, and that we hadn’t really lost her forever, but would see her again, you experience real, lasting and true joy.

3. Normalcy is still possible.
After an event like this there are good logical reasons to believe that you will never be happy again. Certainly we felt this for my father-in-law. Now he is living alone. Now he has no one to talk to. The person he most loved is out of his life, forever on this earth. But the good news is that God has created us as persons who can handle change and build new lives for ourselves. We are surprisingly durable and resilient. And after a period of time we find that there is a new normal that we have come to get used to, and while we still feel significant grief, it is no longer all-consuming.

So soon my father-in-law was getting on with new projects. And then later he was introduced to a nice lady. And a year later he was getting married to her. Bad things happen but God brings us through.

Can you have it both ways?


 (Written by Jamsco a long time ago)

Everything that happens or exists is at the same time a miracle and not a miracle.

You are both a self-acting person and a tool manipulated by another Person (or persons.)

The world is both random and not random.

You are being with a soul and an animal controlled by natural impulses.

At the same time, God allows things to happen and causes them to happen.


Answering Questions about the Theological Side of this Blog.

First Off – Disclaimers

1. Do you think yourself to be a theologian?

No, I just wanted to respond to the anti-Calvinist rhetoric that I have heard and explain why I believe this.

2. Do you have this all figured out?


3. Do you expect to hold to this belief for the rest of your life?

I don’t even know if I’m going to hold to this belief for the rest of this month. Lately I have been rethinking things a great deal.

4. Do you speak for all compatableists?

No. I stand in their shadows and may get things wrong. In particular, I would guess that some of them would disagree with how I answer the questions below. I think I am a more complete believer in Free Will. Lately I have been thinking I should call myself a hyper-compatableist.

5. Do you think you are original in holding to this idea?

No. I first heard about this combination of Free Will and God’s Absolute Sovereignty from my College Roommate, Barth, who is very bright and got an A on his theology paper on this subject. It was my suggestion that he liked this way of answering the big question because it meant he got to argue with both Armineans and Calvinists.

But I think most Calvinists are to some degree Compatablists. I have never heard a Calvinist suggests, for example, that a person is not responsible for his own sin.

Real questions

1. What is Compatableism, as you define it?

The belief that two statements are true: (1) That God is sovereign over every action that is made by a human (among many other things); that He in fact makes the choice in every human act, even the lifting of a finger. (2)  That Humans make the choice in their every act and they are responsible for their acts.

I believe both of these statements to be true because of the many biblical statements that support them, including the number of biblical passages that support both of these ideas.

2. Isn’t this a contradiction? Isn’t only one person responsible for an act? If a choice is made, isn’t only one person making it?

This is true on earth. It is not true with God’s relationship with us. He is not on our playing field. Should it be surprising that God, as infinite and complete being, has qualities and causes realities that appear to be paradoxical?

More to Come . . .

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January 2007