Human Certainty

Today has been filled with conversations surrounding human certainty, or should I say, the desire to have certainty of things as humans. Or, if you prefer the term, clarity.

Ironically, the first conversation was with my four-year-old daughter. Kids have so much to teach me. They can also teach you about yourself.

We were looking at photos of when “we” lived in Kentucky. She kept insisting that one picture was of her and her older sister and that it was taken in the first house she lived in as a child in Monroe, Louisiana. No matter how much I tried to clarify her thoughts and memory (no sweetie, we lived in Kentucky then; you weren’t born yet; that’s Emily not Sophie, and Sophie not you), she insisted that this photograph captured what she “remembered,” “who” she thought was in the picture, and “where” she thought it was according to her framework of understanding.

I was fascinated by this reality. I’ve taken part myself in creating such a “memory” of past events. Yet today I reflected on this thing we humans do, positively or negatively, of wanting to be certain of things we perhaps don’t know and wanting to have clarity in the details we “know.”

Fast-forward to the next conversation in the church office with a staffer. Ultimate end: we want to know if God exists or not, we want to know why God allows bad things to overtake good folks and good things to pleasantly meet bad people, and we want to know our origins as a race: humans.

I’m not going to begin to unpack all this, but I will ask you this question as I reflect on my own desire to be certain of things as a human being: Can I be ok with answering within myself that I don’t know? Is it possible to begin knowing in the encounter of unknowing, not-knowing, and sitting long enough in that space to begin to wonder and truly think? Can I write a poem to further capture this thought? I’ll try.

Can I hold onto what I know

To behold the things I don’t

Reflecting on another’s nature

Whether person, place or thing

Bringing me to a state know as

Dis-equilibrium and knowing

In not knowing and un-knowing

Ourselves, our places, and our things

Letting new freedom and wisdom ring?

What do you think? What are the things, if you can be so honest to share and sit with not knowing, that you do not know yet want to have certainty and clarity of knowing? For me, I currently want to know why God has been so silent toward me. My hope, in terms of uncertainty, is that I will come to know that the thing I don’t know will lead me into a deeper knowledge and even trust in God in my human-ness of asking the question and waiting for

Civil War Thanksgiving Reflections

We always think of eating turkey on Thanksgiving day, but sometimes people choose to eat other meats instead.

Complete Holiday Dinners

For instance, my stepdad does not like eating turkey at all. He doesn’t like the taste. So, we’ll graciously provide a cooked ham for him to eat for “turkey” day.

As I was scrolling through soldiers’ diaries reflecting on Thanksgiving, I found that some had to choose not to eat turkey, because it simply was not available to them at the time. Take poor Luman Harris Tenney for example:

Thanksgiving chickens for dinner… Considerable dissatisfaction among the boys. Band played some time. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

Something tells me Tenney wasn’t the only one hoping for turkey that year. But, at least the boys had chicken and some entertainment.

I hope wherever you were, whomever you were with, and whatever meat you ate that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving day, praising God for all He has given us. I thought yesterday’s weather in Shreveport, LA was gorgeous and all around, I had as good a time as Rutherford B. Hayes had back in the day:

We had a jovial Thanksgiving. A fair supply of turkeys and other good things from the cities, together with good weather, made the day cheerful. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

Until next year, Give Thanks!


Received Packages are Sweet, Even If Opened Later

I received a package today and, as usual, had to wait to open it. The surprise of discovering what lies inside excites me. Having to wait to open it just makes the anticipation grow all the more. Even if it’s a present for someone else, like today’s was (we’ve done a majority of our Christmas shopping online this year; Amazon Prime baby!), I’m thrilled just knowing that someone I care for deeply will soon open a wrapped present this Christmas and receive the gift with wonder and joy.

Jenkin Lloyd Jones of the 6th Battery, Wisconsin Artillery, received a package from home on August 28, 1863. Jones had to wait to open his package on account of rain. Here’s how it went down:

Fine day. Just before dinner I was informed that there was a box for me at the express office… Found it “a good large one,” but just as I got in the wagon it commenced raining, and did rain all the way back, giving us as good a wetting as ever a soldier had… Obliged to lay the box away for two hours before the storm abated so as to open it… But at last it stopped and we found lots of good things, butter, cake, dried fruit, cheese, etc. Much obliged to you. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

When you’re fighting in the American Civil War, miles and miles from the ones you love, received packages from home are oh so sweet. Jones must have sat pondering for two straight hours what was in that box. Perhaps that added to his gratitude when he discovered the thoughtful and even literally sweet contents found inside from the ones who love him.

Many of us will be receiving gifts this Advent / Christmas season. Whether big or small, what you hoped for or not, I hope that each one is as dear to you as the one Jenkins Jones received in love. Perhaps its just the pastor in me, but please do take the time to reflect upon Jesus Christ amidst every gift you get this Christmas. He is the sweetest gift you can ever receive from God, or anyone else for that matter; for he too was given in love, from the very One who is love.

Until next time, Anticipate gifts of love…