Is God a Heavenly Voyeur?

Helpless-Children

History is strewn with the wreckage of broken lives of those foolish enough to believe God really gives a damn.  There are those who fall to their knees in silent, unheard prayers when suffering threatens to consume them.  In the absence of reasoning, they fall back on a blind faith, a belief that there is some higher meaning behind their loss.  But their faith has never been anything more than the posture of not pulling the alarm when the fires of evil begin to spread. They relinquish their involvement or complicity, their grief, to the dark void of a silent, impassive God.

Waiting for God to intervene is both foolish and tragic. Like many people, I have been struggling to align my faith (or lack thereof) with all the insidious tragedy in the world today.  How is it, we doubters ask, that a compassionate and loving Father (God) allows an endless flow of hate, violence, death, and destruction to inundate our world?  Where is the omnipotence conveyed in the Bible?  The promises and the facts just don’t seem to come together.

How do we accept the “free will” argument of devout Christians who, in lieu of a meaningful discussion, always fall back upon stories in a Holy Book as evidence that God does not interfere in the affairs of man.  The good book is full of examples of Divine intervention.  He saved David from the Philistine Goliath, Daniel from the Lions, and Jonah from the whale. But He simply could not find the time to save 20 young first graders from the wrath of a scrawny, disturbed young killer in Newtown this past December.

Newtown victims

If intervention exists, why did the children of Aleppo, Aurora, Columbine, Iraq, Syria, Chicago, Los Angeles and Joplin, MO, and even the children of the  Holocaust, perish in such horrible deaths?

GermanyHolocaustChildrenPoland

Why the continual absence of settling answers? Not having answers certainly does not disprove the existence of God.  However, it certainly begs the conclusion that if there is a God, he is neither merciful or compassionate.  If His sole purpose is merely to sift through the wreckage of mankind and pick up the pieces,  this would seem to suggest that He serves more as a melancholy janitor and not the all-powerful deity we are urged to embrace through prayer and communion.

Faith requires that we enter into a relationship of God as Father and we as children.

God-The-Perfect-Father

I have to reject that offering.  A true Father figure allows his children to grow by painfully sitting back and letting his loved ones learn  through their mistakes, Yet he intervenes when the child is on the verge of mortal consequence. In that moment, I, as a father, would give my life to protect my children from lethal harm.  But God, it appears, sits back and watches, up to and through the bloody end of it all. Sure, He sacrificed his Son, His most precious gift, so that whoever believes in Him might one day know peace and love…just not today!

Christians are quick to point out that it all comes back to the miracle of faith.  They claim that to know is irrelevant and a false journey, and the only thing that matters is that we “believe” there is a sound celestial reasoning for the evils we encounter as we journey through this life. But it just doesn’t add up.  Believers respond that the reason I cannot find an answer to this and similar questions of Divine indifference is because of my lack of faith. I would argue that my lack of faith stems from clear evidence that God, in allowing such horrific events to shape our lives offers a  path toward reconciliation that is too great a burden for any of us to bear.

Ask the parents of the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy.  Ask the Mother of the child killed by collateral damage in a drone strike in Pakistan.  Ask the orphan who not only loses his biological parents, but is then placed in an abusive foster home.  The examples of pain are endless.   The examples of God’s alleged compassion can fit in one book.

bible

More importantly, believers argue, while we may openly seek understanding and purpose, it is only through the power of prayer that we can even begin to approximate resolution.  On bended knee, we utter our fealty to our Creator, accepting without question that He knows what’s best.  We should leave off our incessant whys. And so many, including myself,  refuse to accept tragedy through supplication and prayer, and continue to stand up and question.

no-prayer

It is somewhat patronizing to suggest that God is tolerant of our doubt and ultimately forgiving of our lack of faith.  He cannot be both the architect of this grand design of free will and demanding that we surrender it at the same time in order to achieve a more perfect union with Him. 

free will

If in fact we are flawed from the cradle due to the original sin of Adam and Eve; if we are offered salvation through the sacrifice and blood of a crucified Son, why then not completely deliver us from evil today rather than offering a rain check for peace and happiness only once we expire?  How is that compassionate or loving?  Why do we call Him Father and not the great Procrastinator?

Proverbs 21:30 offers, “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” I don’t enjoy struggling with faith.  I wish I could take the easy path and just turn everything over to His “voyeuristic” style of non-intervention.  But I can’t. More than anything, except truth, I want to believe that this all means something. Yet, I would rather confront the evils of this world from a position of knowledge and sympathetic understanding than to close my eyes in prayer and call that a day.

Our Creator put us in a scientific world but left us with an instruction manual no better than the Ikea assembly sheets that serve only to baffle and confuse.

science vs religion

I do not believe, or want to believe that He is nothing but a heavenly voyeur when it comes to our pain and suffering.  Unfortunately, that does seem to be where the evidence points.

I can already anticipate a Christian response for my questioning the “wisdom” of God.  I will be counseled to seek Him in prayer.  I’ve done that, to no avail, for 40 years.  How about instead of my falling to my knees in prayer, you Believers fall to your knees and help a parent mop up the blood of his/her slain child.  And please, don’t ask why.  Just have faith that somehow He knows why.  Your job is to accept and live with the pain.

Looking for Work? 8 Side-Gigs That Actually Make Money

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If you’re stuck in an unemployment situation and are strapped for cash, all hope isn’t lost. There are plenty of short-term ways to make money and supplement your income while job searching. And who knows? Maybe one of these smaller gigs will bloom into a full-time occupation.

Plenty of unemployed Americans take on side gigs or other short-term positions to supplement their income during tough economic times. But half the task is finding the opportunities.

Here are eight strategies for quick money making:

1. Help out! Everyone needs a hand once in awhile. Pack up someone’s house, do yard work, run errands, make small deliveries, do grocery shopping, or take on any other task people often don’t have time for. Sites like TaskRabbit help people to find personal assistant work in their neighborhood or community, and Gigwalk is a popular option for people looking to get assigned jobs from companies that need real-world data or market research.

2. Earn cash from your car. Anyone with a car can help out their community by moving heavy objects, running errands, providing carpooling, etc. For example, I have a friend who bought a pickup truck for an affordable $1,500. He makes $300 a day picking up couches and other furniture that won’t normally fit in a car. TaskRabbit (mentioned above), Craigslist, and startups like Lyft can help you make money from your car.

3. Write. Being unemployed is tough, and job searching in itself can be a full-time job. But if you balance your day correctly, you may have time to squeeze in freelance work in between job search efforts. If you can write, pitch pieces to newspapers, magazines, or blogs that pay. Just remember to agree on monetary compensation prior to completing any work.

4. Be a babysitter or nanny. Watching children is a task that will always be needed somewhere. Pay for a nanny varies from state to state, but the average income of a live-in nanny is $250 to $850 per week. Sites like Nannyjobs.netCare.comNannys4Hire, andenannysource.com can hook you up with families in need of childcare. While nannies are considered family employees, babysitters are independent contractors. Sites like Care.com,SitterCity.com, or babysittingjobs.com can get you in touch with babysitting jobs in your area.

5. Try pet sitting or dog walking. Plenty of people need help taking care of their pets. Dog walkers can make anywhere from $10 to $30 per 30 minute walk, but the rate is usually negotiable and depends on a variety of factors, like whether or not you took it to a dog park.Dogwalker.com can hook you up with dog walking opportunities, and Care.com also offers resources for pet sitting and related efforts. DogVacay is another great resource for people looking to board dogs–participants set their own rates, and many make up to $200 a week.

6. Take care of the elderly. Here’s an area where plenty of families are looking for affordable and reliable aid. Help families take care of elderly relatives by taking up caregiving jobs in the home. Sites like HomeInsteadTheCaringSpace, and SeniorCare.net can hook you up with opportunities.

7. Create or sell what you don’t need. Plenty of people make money selling old clothes, used electronics, books, furniture, kitchenware, or other items they no longer need. Sites likeEtsy allow anyone to create and sell their own homemade products–clothing, accessories, art, and household items are especially popular on the site. eBay is another popular option for selling unwanted or used items, and Craigslist is great for selling locally.

8. Promote other people’s products. Plenty of people have blogs these days, but few consider offering advertising space to others. Sell advertising space on your personal website or blog, or try ClickbankAmazon Associates, and Red Lemon Club, or any other place with affiliate programs to sell or promote products on behalf of others.

Being unemployed is a job in itself — it requires patience and strategic thinking. While you should never neglect your job search, try these eight tips for making money on the side so you don’t burnout in the meantime.

About Dennis McHale: 

Writer and Author, FreeLance Columnist .Gadget lover, investor, mentor, husband, currently working on his two books, “The Winter Bites My Bones” (www.dlmchale.com) and “Echoes Across Time”

 

The Reluctant Father: A Serial Novel Where the Reader (You) Determines the Next Chapter

What follows is my first attempt at utilizing WordPress to write a serial novel (a novel printed in installments.)  You, the reader will play a significant roll in the evolution of this story.  Read the current chapter and leave a comment briefly letting me (the author) know where you think the characters and story should go next.

FATHER

THE RELUCTANT FATHER

Chapter One: Tatiana and Irina

Had she shot me point blank in the heart, she could not have done more damage.

I met Tatiana eight years earlier.  She was sitting alone in an Armenian café on the corner of Santa Monica and New Hampshire.  This was the “Little Russia” enclave of Los Angeles. Not the safest place for a 28 year old red-headed Anglo to be perusing at fifteen after midnight.  People disappeared in this neighborhood for a lot less than satisfying a piroshki craving.  Reflexively, I patted my .32 Baikal pistol tucked beneath my sweatshirt. My stomach gurgled with hunger.

She was stunningly gorgeous. And well, she wasn’t exactly alone.  Clutched  close to her ample breasts, wrapped in a coffee stained tattered blanket with “LA Children’s Hospital” emblazoned across the hem, was a baby.  Normally, this is when I tune out and continue on my way, but she was too fucking beautiful.

“привет,” (hello) I whispered, not wanting to wake the child.

“ебать с,”  (fuck off) she whispered back, glaring at me with the softest brown eyes I had ever seen.

“Why?” I replied, in full voice, hoping I would wake the child just to annoy her.  “Is Daddy coming…ever?”  I felt mildly ashamed at offering such a cruel comeback, knowing full well she was probably a single mom struggling just to keep her sanity for one more night.  Now she had to further her misery with flirting from some asshole the likes of me.

As if it were possible, her soft brown eyes turned even softer, as tears started to well.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “you didn’t deserve that.”

“I’m sorry, too.” she replied, in broken English.  “My name is Tatiana.  This is Irina, and no, Daddy isn’t coming…ever.”

“Tony,” I offered. “So, where’s Daddy?”  I looked at the sleeping child.  She was so pink and I swear there was a smile on her cherub face.  A beauty, just like her mother…but without the stain of a hard life that her mother was wrestling with at midnight in an Armenian café.

“In prison, “ she replied.  “He doesn’t even know he’s a Daddy.”

“Well, he couldn’t have been in long.  How old is she?”

“One month.  We broke up when he was arrested.  I was two months pregnant.”

It was a bit of an uncomfortable introduction, but we meet people how we meet them.  It was obvious that Tatiana was starving for some contact other than the baby she held.  Without thinking it through, I offered:

“Do you need help?”

“Help?  How can you help me,” she spit.

“Do… You  …Need … Help? I repeated, softly.

She looked away for a moment, lifting the corner of the baby blanket to dab her eyes.  After about 15 seconds of silence, she replied,

“Yes…we need help.”

———————————— end Chapter One

Confessions of a Taphophile

Let’s get the name-calling out of the way first. I am a confessed taphophile.

The word is of Greek origin: τάφος (taphos, “funeral rites”, “burial”, “funeral”, “wake”; “tomb”, “grave”) + English -phile (Forming nouns and adjectives meaning “loving” and “friendly”, or “lover” and “friend”.) In short, it simply means that I love to visit graveyards. I especially enjoy photographing the statuary, or “cemetery sentinels” as I call them…the carved granite, stone, clay, and marble figures adorning a grave.

My wife, Kerri, and I have been traveling across the United States for the past year and a half. We are enjoying this once in a lifetime opportunity to see all the wondrous landscapes that each state has to offer, as well as meeting so many incredible people along the way. But not everyone we meet is alive.

For years, the two of us have shared a passion ( or should we call it a compulsion ) to visit the many graveyards we encounter along the way. It’s kind of ironic that I am drawn to graveyards as I suffer from panic attacks that center on a fixation with death and dying. When I find myself dwelling on the finite amount of time each of us have to walk this earth, my heart starts to race, my breathing becomes labored, I sweat profusely. In short, I feel as though I am dying…in that moment. Yet strangely, I have never experienced a panic attack in a cemetery. I’m sure my psychiatrist could explain why this is, but until now, I’ve never shared this with anyone. You are the first.

When I walk through a graveyard, I feel intensely peaceful. I know it sounds crazy, but I feel, “at home.”  I think of all the lives represented by the thousands of tombstones and crypts I have visited. They each present to me a continuity, as it were; a beautiful thread that unites the living and the dead, the past and the present…and inevitably, my future. I think of all the people buried beneath my feet. I imagine their lives, their hopes and dreams, and their final hours. I am not a spiritual person, but I even find myself wondering, where are they now?

My connectedness to the dead is most intensely felt in the variety of statues standing guard over the graves. They are almost always gothic or surreal, but inevitably beautiful. Well, some are decidedly gauche, but for the most part, they turn a cemetery into something bigger than life and, more importantly, bigger than death.

The funny thing is, when I die, my wife and I have agreed on a natural burial. I will be wrapped in a shroud and buried, without embalming and without a casket, in the land. I most certainly don’t want a headstone, and I don’t want a statue standing guard over me.