No, Virginia, God Doesn’t Condemn Anyone to Eternal Damnation

No, Virginia, God Doesn’t Condemn Anyone to Eternal Damnation
Fire Line. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Fire Line. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

I struggled to keep my eyes on the freeway as I drove westbound. Across the Columbia River on the Washington side, I could see flames rapidly advance across the drought-parched grasses. That was a mere ten-days ago.

Because of diligent firefighters, the fast moving fire was fully contained within a week but not before over 4000 acres burned including a large portion of the familiar trails of Columbia Hills State Park.

Lush No More. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Lush No More. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ This photo was taken in September of 2015 in the same valley as Lush Days (below).

As I traveled those trails yesterday, the smell of burn filled my nostrils. The monochromatic ground contrasted with singed trees. Familiar locations looked alien to my eyes. Were it not for the memories of the shape of the earth, of the scalded yet surviving trees, I would not have known this place.

Is it any wonder that dualistic thinking imagines a Hell filled with fire and its destruction? The wrath appears final. The color removed, life can seem hopeless after a fire.

Lush Days. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ This photo was taken during July of 2014.
Lush Days. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
This photo was taken during July of 2014 in the same valley as Lush No More (above).

But hopelessness and permanence are not the nature of the earth.

The Heaven versus Hell crowd fail to observe the world as it is. Creation reflects the energy, the creator, the divine spirit I call God. Creation and Creator are not binary or unchanging.

Quite the contrary, the burnt landscape I traversed yesterday will undergo a resurrection in the spring. If the Rowena Fire from last year is any indication, the resurrection will begin before the end of the year. (See The Lichen and Leaves of Hope.)

Survivor. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Survivor. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

The nature of the One who connects all that is with all that is, the nature of the divinity within and between us all is not binary or dualistic at all. The nature of God is not about harsh judgement, angry retribution, Heaven and Hell, and certainly not about eternal damnation.

The nature of God and creation is about a path that begins at birth and continues through death to resurrection. This is the lesson of the Christian narrative of the life and teachings of Jesus — the biblical witness.  Love overcomes even death. Love does not condemn creation or humanity to fiery Hell. It can’t; if it did it wouldn’t be love but hate.

Nature's Monochrome. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ A burnt area is devoid of all color in Columbia Hills State Park following the Horsethief Butte Fire in September 2015.
Nature’s Monochrome. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
A burnt area is devoid of all color in Columbia Hills State Park following the Horsethief Butte Fire in September 2015.

One Year Ago Today

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today I was in surgery. One year ago today, my children and wife paced awaiting news. One year ago today, my life changed.

Sun Flower
Sun Flower. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

I am healthy.
The surgery was successful, though recovery included an infection which still tingles from time to time.

I learned about vulnerability. I learned about weakness and allowing others to care for me. I learned that hospital scrambled eggs can be an orgasmic experience after  more than a week of liquid diets and IVs.

I am healthy.
The surgery was successful, though recovery included an infection which still tingles from time to time.

I felt the love of my congregation, my community. I felt the love of my wife whose love manifest in our new mantra, “No more TMI.”

I cried out to God during those days! I sobbed in my wife’s arms the day the biopsy came back negative.

When a trip to the living room wore me out, I whined that I might never hike the trails of the Pacific Northwest again.

I felt the love and presence of the divine in those days as my community prayed for me. I felt the love and presence of the divine in the loving skills of medical professionals. I felt so many things, some about which I blogged and others I could barely admit to myself.

I am healthy.
The surgery was successful, though recovery included an infection which still tingles from time to time.

My journey continues. My struggle and joys continue. My gratitude for the web of divinity that connects me to every human being and every spring bud is boundless. I’ve experienced a resurrection firsthand!

One year ago today I was in surgery. I wouldn’t change a thing even if I could, especially that tingle. Amen.
___

This is the eleventh of multiple posts about my experiences of surgery and recovery following a colonoscopy and removal of my right colon.

Related Posts

God Hides God’s Face From Me! May 20, 2014
Unnatural, May 21, 2014
Out of Chaos, May 27, 2014
No Big Deal, May 29, 2014
Mortality, June 3, 2014
Wiped Memories, June 6, 2014
Perseverance, June 10, 2014
Scars, June 19, 2014
Embracing Emotions, July 2, 2014
An Unexpected Onion, January 14, 2015
One Year Ago Today, March 28, 2015

 

 

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Butterscotch Rays & Winter Breath

Butterscotch Rays & Winter Breath
Pink. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Pink. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

Blue sky dominates dissipating clouds;
butterscotch rays touch exposed skin, darkening lenses.

Gusting breath of winter denies the calendar. 

Mercury surpasses fifty and two on its way to sixty and four;
bodies yearn to strip away winter coats and scarves. 

Brisk breath of winter refuses the lengthening days. 

Brown ribbon of earth weaves and wiggles;
multiplying blooms and buds reveal the unfolding resurrection. 

Gale breath of winter persists despite muscled legs and wills of hope. 

Tangerine sun, pink, purple, and yellow florets do not worry;
the promises of the divine mama are 
kept with extravagance. 

Berry Red Hope
Berry Red Hope. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

Chilly breath wheezes, evolving into warm breezes;
resurrection reigns, embedded in the DNA of existence.

See more photos.

 

On the Blue Marble. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
On the Blue Marble. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

 

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The Things That Move

Eugene Fern's "What's He Been Up  to Now?" Photo from amazon.com
Eugene Fern’s “What’s He Been Up to Now?” Photo from amazon.com

Our eyes met. The spotted fawn looked at me; I looked at her. Reaching down to flip on my camera I silently chanted, “stay where you are, stay where you are.” She didn’t.

As I walk along the trail, I catch motion. Too fast for a snake and too small for a squirrel my eyes fail to focus before it is too late. As if to taunt me it happens multiple times. Sigh.

Far enough away, it didn’t seem to notice me. The coyote moved through the sage and grasses a few hundred feet below the trail. My camera beeped as it came on. I adjusted the zoom but my canine friend moved. He got away, too.

Catching the things that move on camera is full of near-misses, long-shots, and if-onlys. In my pursuit of the  things that move I often feel like Reginald, the elephant in a children’s picture book who falls into a deep hole in his pursuit of a butterfly. I confess that I give up sooner than Reginald. I also rarely need my father and mother to retrieve me from a deep hole.

Sometimes, I have unexpected successes that startle me as I download them from my camera. In late spring of this year, I captured an image of my very own butterfly at Dyer Wayside State Park near my home. It didn’t require a chase at all just a few steps.

A Butterfly on a lilac bush at Dyer Wayside Park between Condon and Mayville, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves
A Butterfly on a lilac bush at Dyer Wayside Park between Condon and Mayville, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

Feeling empowered by my butterfly success, I chased some moths and dragonflies in Cottonwood Canyon State Park. Though I was satisfied with several of my moth photos, it was this dragonfly that surprised me when I downloaded it on my computer. Prior to the download, I feared my near-misses of stepping in water was all for naught.

I chased this moving thing through the marsh near the John Day River in Cottonwood Canyon State Park in June. Photo by Tim Graves
I chased this moving thing through the marsh near the John Day River in Cottonwood Canyon State Park in June. Photo by Tim Graves

As chasing the things that move continued into the summer months, I had a few non-insect successes. By observing squirrel behavior, I noted to myself that they run and hide from my approach. They tend to scamper into a tree or protected space in the ground. It is their equivalent to the President’s “undisclosed location” except that I see where they go. By waiting a few minutes, camera focused, they will return to the opening to peer out to check on whether I’ve left or not. Patiently and quietly I waited for this squirrel to reappear and was rewarded with this image.

This squirrel returned to the opening of its bunker at Columbia Hills State Park, near The Dalles, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves
This squirrel returned to the opening of its bunker at Columbia Hills State Park, near The Dalles, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

Birds are particularly skittish of my approach. Their ability to fly also makes it difficult to follow or focus using my zoom. Too many of my photos of birds are blurs or of an empty sky or perch. Sometimes I am lucky. Most of the time I am not. I expected a blurry blob, particularly considering the distance from which I had to focus, when I downloaded this aviary image.

Surveying its vast domain along the John Day River in Cottonwood Canyon State Park, this bird of prey sits in its throne forty feet above mere mortals and photographers. Photo by Tim Graves
Surveying its vast domain along the John Day River in Cottonwood Canyon State Park, this bird of prey sits in its throne forty feet above mere mortals and amateur photographers. Photo by Tim Graves

Reptiles move at a pace that makes them difficult to shoot, however, I’ve discovered that a few varieties make assumptions about the quality of my vision. This one was convinced that I could not distinguish it against the rock upon which it remained perfectly still. In this angle, you can see that it is adept at blending into its surroundings.

The rocks of Deschutes State Park, near Biggs Junction, Oregon help this creature feel like a stealth jet. Photo by Tim Graves
The rocks of Deschutes State Park, near Biggs Junction, Oregon help this creature feel like a stealth jet. Photo by Tim Graves

Despite my aging eyes I spotted my camouflaged friend. Perhaps because I saw its movement before it became stationary. Perhaps because I could view the rock from more than one angle. (Remarkably its confidence at my poor visual acuity allowed me to photograph from only inches away.)

I recently encountered a friend who was convinced my vision could not make out his form on the rock. Photo by Tim Graves
I recently encountered a friend who was convinced my vision could not make out his form on the rock. Photo by Tim Graves

No doubt the things that move will continue to do so. I am committed to honing my skills and walking less obtrusively through their homelands. I suspect both actions will lead to more successful images. Nonetheless, I expect to continue to download a few blurred images as I chase my metaphorical butterflies. Just pray I don’t fall into any really big holes in the process.

Intricate Worth

Intricate Worth
Beauty lives in Cottonwood Canyon State Park near Condon, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves
Beauty lives in Cottonwood Canyon State Park near Condon, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

Our ancient kindred were not exempt from struggles of daily living. Reading their stories and experiences with the divine it becomes clear that, like me, they needed reminders to simply be and to trust.

I’ve become fascinated with photographing small creatures and plants. When I review my photos I often marvel at the intricacies of their physical form. And, though I do not consider myself beautiful in any sense of the word, I wonder if perhaps I should.

I wonder if I feel self-distaste because of an over-familiarity with my own form. Perhaps my psyche has been poisoned by pop-culture’s false images of human worth and beauty. Or maybe I worry over that which I have no control, failing to slow down and appreciate myself and others.

A discarded faith crossed my path on a recent hike in Washington's Columbia Hills State Park near The Dalles, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves
A discarded feather crossed my path on a recent hike in Washington’s Columbia Hills State Park near The Dalles, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

Whatever the reason I fail to see my own beauty and the beauty around me, I have something in common with the ancients.  I need reminders to trust the One, to worry less about tomorrow, and to let go of the past. I need to be reminded that I carry within me the Imago Dei (the image of God) and that I am valued by the divine One.

Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? If you can’t do such a small thing, why worry about the rest? Notice how the lilies grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, how much more will God do for you, you people of weak faith! Luke 12:25-28 CEB

Communal Grasses

Communal Grasses
A Single Blade
A single blade of grass in the midst of many at Washington’s Columbia Hills State Park near The Dalles, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

It is hard to photograph the beauty of wild grasses as they dance at the behest of the winds. Like the green and golden wheat fields of my eastern Oregon home, the movement of the grasses sparkle in the sunlight. First left, than right, sometimes in a whirling flourish, but always the grasses move together in their choreography.

The ripples of the tassels move in concert; no one stalk takes center stage. While each blade of grass holds its own allure, it is the combined response of a field of individual grasses that gives me pause.

Together, the grasses respond to the breath of the earth. The result is magnificence no blade can achieve singly.

***

We are each of unique value to the whole, but we are an essential part of that whole as well.

Each of us hold an intrinsic beauty within us. Our inborn exquisiteness is an inherited mark of the divine. Created in the image of the one I call God, we are each connected through that divinity. Every human being and each blade of grass is of worth to the Divine.

Just as the grasses and wheat respond to the holy breeze, when we respond together to the luring breath of God the potential splendor is immeasurable. It is in our divine connectedness rather than in our individualism that our hope as a human family dwells.