Tag Archives: prayer

Stephen Martin (no, not that one)

Many of you know Stephen Martin – he was a trumpet player at APU with us and he’s currently an adjunct teaching Intro to Music Tech with me.

On Tuesday morning Stephen will be undergoing surgery to donate 40% of his liver to be transplanted into his nephew Liam. Liam is a little 7-month old baby, the son of Stephen’s sister; his liver started shutting down about 4 months ago. As the situation developed, Stephen volunteered to undergo testing to see if he was a match, and when he was confirmed as a potential donor, he quickly agreed to the transplant surgery. If you know Stephen, you know that this kind of selflessness and generosity is right in line with his character.

Please pray for Stephen and Liam during their joint surgeries tomorrow morning. There will be a long period of recovery following the transplant, for both Liam and Stephen. Pray for Stephen’s wife and children as he recovers, and for Liam’s family as well – he has a long road ahead of him, even after the successful transplant.

One more thing – have you checked to make sure you’re an organ donor? Have you told anyone? Gretchen and I have talked about it, and both of us feel the same way; if we die, use whatever is useful.

On Lazarus

Kyrie Yeshua

Even over death?
What of death come early?
death come in the midst of life

and passing by the body
and passing in echos
into every part of life

These echos of death
are theft of joy
and bind us too closely to feet of clay

These echos of death
make sharp our tooth and claw
to rip from the earth our daily meat

These echos of death
make me selfish
and base
and cold
and mean
they cause me to betray my sacred birthright

These echos of death
wrap fetid hand across the mouth of
breath of God and dragging down
make silent what should be
our chorused song of hope

Even over this death?
This death come in the midst of life?

Gathering Eden

Kyrie Yeshua,

We have no memory of happier times
except the mimeographed black and white
irrelevant and unlived kind

No touchstone of bliss to serve as reference
For reconstruction and renovation

Instead we forage through the present pieces of ordinary lives
gathering Eden from the disparate strands presumed to be
echos of the first thing, the better thing, the joyful thing

And perhaps the joy itself is provenance enough
to prove that such things were present there
And have floated down the Tigris to us here.

Prayer, Suffering, and the Nature of God

So how’s your week? Oh yeah? Cool.

Mine included the two devastating, soul-crushing defeats of the Most Excellent Angels at the hands of the Boston Evil Sox of Boston. Which, of course, led me to contemplate the purpose of suffering, and prayer, and the nature of God. No, I don’t think I’m overreacting, why?

(WARNING: This post contains philosophy. Do not read while driving, or while operating heavy machinery. Some content may not be suitable for children or undergrads. The views of the author are not necessarily those of a rational person. Proceed with caution.)

Suffering poses a philosophical problem for those who believe God exists. If God is both omnipotent and loving, then why does suffering exist? Is he capable of alleviating suffering, but chooses not to, in which case how is he loving? Is he willing to alleviate suffering, but incapable, in which case how can we consider him omnipotent?

There is a classic solution to this problem. It argues that in God’s economy, it is the greatest good that counts, and therefore only as much suffering exists as is necessary to produce God’s best possible outcome, the most loving outcome for the most people. We’ll call those two concepts “necessary suffering” and “greatest good”. Like a doctor who causes pain in order to perform a life-saving surgery, some suffering is necessary in order to produce the greater good. A child may suffer with an abusive alcoholic father in order to produce a certain kind of character in that child, which will lead to great benefit for those influenced by the child when he grows up.

The greatest good requires the existence of free-will creatures, since so many of the great virtues (love, courage, integrity, justice, charity) are impossible apart from free-will. If we had been created as automatons, we would be incapable of any of those virtues.

There can be no world in which free-will exists, in which suffering does not also exist. God chose to decree a world with free-will, and allows only as much suffering as is absolutely required to produce the best possible outcome (either in overall human happiness, or flourishing, or if my undyed Evangelical roots are showing, numerical count of souls saved). So, God is constrained by these limitations, imposed by his own nature: the existence of free-willed creatures, the entailed existence of suffering, and the need to limit that suffering as much as is possible while producing the most loving outcome for the most people.

Each individual act of suffering can only be justified if it is necessary to produce the greatest good. If we hold that God is both loving and omnipotent, then we must hold that every actual instance of suffering is therefore “necessary suffering”.

We might rebut that some acts of suffering don’t seem connected to any redemptive good outcome, but we should acknowledge how limited our perspective on the matter is. We see a few things, for a few brief years, with limited understanding. God sees all things, and their eternal outcomes, with full understanding. On the basis of his character alone, we might yield him the benefit of the doubt and allow that all acts of suffering are necessary to produce some good that outweighs the bad.

Let’s lay out the classic resolution in nice tidy philosophy math!

  1. An omnipotent God can control all circumstances and outcomes for all given situations.
  2. A loving God would act to cause outcomes which produce the greatest possible good, and the least possible suffering.
  3. In a world where a loving and omnipotent God exists, every individual instance of suffering occurs only because it is necessary for producing, in the final balance, the greatest possible good.

If we accept this solution, the dilemma seems to resolve. I don’t think it does, though. I think it just shifts to the problem of prayer.

Does prayer influence God’s actions?

The knee-jerk response is “Yes, of course!” We are commanded to pray, and examples are held up to us of how to pray, those examples include petitions for actions general and specific, we are told that God moves in response to prayers, Jesus even gives us a handy parable that shows how important persistence is in having our prayers answered.

Let’s take a specific case of human suffering, a child with a painful and terminal cancer. Suppose that child is surrounded by loving people of faith, who pray fervently and earnestly for the child to be healed. I realize that in a reading audience of this size, there are undoubtedly people who have faced just such a case as this, and please, I mean no disrespect or insensitivity. I apologize for treating a freighted emotional circumstance as a math problem. Allow me though, if you will, to pose this case in a detached way in order to explore this dilemma.

There are 3 possible outcomes in this situation.

  1. God did not intend to heal the child, does not alter his intent based on the prayers, and the child dies.
  2. God did intend to heal the child, and intended so prior to any prayer, and actually does heal the child.
  3. God did not intend to heal the child, the prayers altered his intent, and so he heals the child.

The first two cases fit neatly into our previous perspective on necessary suffering. If the child does die, their suffering was necessary to bring about some greater ultimate good, even though we cannot possibly understand how or why. If the child is healed, then God was able to bring about the greater good without that particular instance of suffering.

It’s the third case that causes me to have mental hiccups. There are two states to God’s intent in the third case. Let’s call them (A) intends not to heal, which is the state prior to prayer, and (B) intends to heal, which is the state after prayer. In the classical resolution of the problem of suffering, only one of those two outcomes leads to the greatest possible good. If (A) leads to the greatest good, then (B) cannot. If, on the other hand, (B) leads to the greatest good, then (A) cannot.

This leaves us in a very difficult situation. If we allow that (B) does, in fact, lead to the greatest possible good, on the basis that it is the course God actually chooses to take, then we must also say that, prior to (B), in the case of (A), God intended to follow a course of action that included unnecessary suffering. We must choose between two equally distasteful horns:

The Unloving God

  1. A perfectly loving and omnipotent God only allows suffering that is necessary to produce the greatest good.
  2. If prayer alters God’s intentions, then there are some cases in which God’s intention prior to prayer includes greater immediate suffering, and intention after prayer includes less immediate suffering.
  3. Either God’s final intention leads to the greatest good, in which case God’s original intention does not, and includes unnecessary immediate suffering, or
  4. God’s original intention leads to the greatest good, in which case God’s final intention does not, and therefore produces less than best final outcomes, and unnecessary final suffering.
  5. A God who intends unnecessary suffering cannot be perfectly loving.

The Unhearing God

The alternative to the unloving God is to accept an unhearing God; we may strike point 2 from the argument above, and say that prayer does not alter God’s intent. Whatever he does, he always intended to do, and the earnest and persistent pleas of people of faith do not, in any way, alter God’s intentions.

I know there are some very smart, and very philosophically oriented people who hang out here, so if anyone can help me pick this lock, I would very much appreciate it. I don’t have a solution here, just the question. It seem like, in the end, we have three impossible choices: a God who is unloving, a God who is unhearing, or a God who is unable.

Two Shootings in Colorado

I was coming home from church today, and got a news alert that there had been a shooting at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. You might remember this as the church that Ted Haggard resigned from in disgrace after his homosexual affairs became public knowledge.

Horrified, I started scanning for more information, hitting up Google News. I found more information about a shooting at a missionary training center in a Denver suburb. I assumed that my original news alert had gotten the details wrong, but that wasn’t the case. There were two shootings in Colorado church gatherings today, and it’s unclear if they are related or not. There are some details, though not many, at Reuters. [link]

Please pray for those affected.

LA on fire, again

la-on-fire

Every time the Santa Ana winds blow through LA, the whole place catches on fire. If you’ve never lived here and seen one of these fires up close, you can’t image how terrifying it is to see flames shooting 20 feet in the air, consuming a hillside at 30 miles per hour.

Please pray for those in the path of the flames, and for the safety of those who fight them.

Good Vibes Welcomed

I’m doing my once-yearly (annual? anal?) checking-in on the blog to beg for good karma. Tonight at 11:15pm I’ve got a big audition. This is the one that could make me as huge as I think I already am. It’s the ground floor of a Brooklyn-based band called Outernational. Google it if ya want.

I never read this site (not out of hatred or disrespeck, but simply because I can rarely work a computer if it doesn’t involve a point-and-click link to a poker site) so what I’m posting probably counts as worthless spam. But I allow myself this Smoked Processed indulgence because I know a lot of the folks who do read this, and some of you are nice enough to consider me a friend in some regard. Therefore, I eagerly ask your thoughts/prayers/good karma tonight if you think about it. I cancelled a $400 fly date on 6-hour’s notice to do the audition, and those of you who know how deep my love affair with money is realize that’s a pretty big thing for me.

Disclaimers:

1. Auditioning for this gig does not mean I’m looking to quit your band, if I’m currently in your band. It just means I’m tired of churches and Bar-Mitzvahs, and I want a Grammy, dammit!

2. If I get the gig, I’m not necessarily moving to New York right away. I hate New York. Especially on my dime.

3. If you don’t hear about this gig from me within the next 3 days or so, it means I didn’t get it and I’m probably pissed off about that. You can still ask out of caring friendship, but I might not be very gracious or appreciate your concern. I love you, I really do, but I’m a d%&k.

If anyone still decides to throw some love my way, it is GREATLY appreciated!

Update on Rod

From April 9th 4:00pm
from Jeannette, Rod’s daughter:

“My dad is doing better and better everyday. Physical therapists have come in the last 3 days to help strengthen his left side, which is getting stronger all the time. 2 days sitting in a chair for an hour each and today he stood up for a few minutes. He has been the best today, in and out of sleep but totally having long conversations with whoever is in the room. He can still only whisper because of his laryngitis, and he’ll most likely start eating solid food today (that’s a big hallelujah).

The surgery is tentatively scheduled for this Thursday and will be performed by Dr. David Lundin. The family jokes about how we think he looks like Jack from Lost, who also happens to be a neurosurgeon☺. Although Dr. Lundin has some pretty incredible credentials, my dad’s surgery is also in the hands of God, and we need to pray that it goes without a hitch.

The doctor is waiting for his swelling to go down enough to where he can perform the surgery. Because my dad is alert and awake more these days, it’s obvious he is thinking a lot about the fact he’s going to have brain surgery soon, and the more waiting he has to do, the harder it is to not have it on his mind. It’s a pretty freaky thing to think about.

So I was thinking, perhaps to get his mind off it (and because the family is running out of things to talk about with him) it might be nice if people wanted to, they could submit some words of love and encouragement or a funny story or memory that involved my dad, it could even be a funny joke they know! He’s already so amazed at how many have joined the facebook group and that so many people are praying for him.

So, if you’d like to send Rod some love, a joke, memory, or story, please send it to my email address: jeannettecathey@yahoo.com

Thanks,
Jeannette”

A little change…

We FINALLY got an offer on our condo and we close April 27. Yikes! Tomorrow (Friday) is Find A New Place To Live Day (with beer and fireworks at 8!), so if y’all could be praying for us, that’d be spectacular. We’re hippies and all, but I don’t think we’re quite ready for full-on street livin’.

Pray for Rod Cathey

Rod CatheyYesterday evening (Tuesday, April 3rd), Rod Cathey had a massive seizure, lasting over 20 minutes. He was rushed to the emergency room by ambulance, where he continued to seize. They conducted an MRI at the hospital, and found a tumor in his brain, about 3cm across. It was large enough that it pushed the brain to one side in the cranial cavity, which caused the seizures

I spoke to Rod’s son Ryan at midnight; at that time Rod was still under sedation, and they were waiting for a consultation from a neurosurgeon. In the meantime, he is under observation in the critical care unit. His condition is very serious.

Please keep Rod and his family in your prayers today. As I know more about the situation, I’ll keep you all updated.

For those joining us recently, Rod is an important person to many of us here. He is a reader here on the blog. He was a professor in the School of Music at Azusa Pacific University when many of us attended, and some of us were in ensembles that he conducted. He also led the small group program that many of us toured with. He is currently the Department Chair of the school of music at APU, which makes him one of my bosses. We are friends with his kids, his grandson is in playgroup with my daughter.

More than all of that though, we count him as a friend. Rod, we’re praying for your full and complete recovery, and for the peace of God to sustain your family in the interim.

Updated Wednesday, April 4th, 11:35 AM

There’s been some encouraging news. Rod woke up briefly, and was able to recognize his wife Sharon. A nurse asked him to lift one finger, then two fingers, and he was able to do it correctly on his right side, but not his left. He has been in and out of consciousness since, but the fact that he woke up and responded is a very positive indicator.

An MRI is scheduled for later today, and they will decided how to proceed based on the results of that test.

Updated Wednesday, April 4th, 4:15 PM

From Karin Cathey, Rod’s daughter-in-law:

“Rod is off the respirator, and is breathing on his own”

Updated Wednesday, April 4th, 10:30 PM

From Ryan Cathey, Rod’s son:

They had a consult with the neurosurgeon. The tumor is located in the right frontal lobe of Rod’s brain. They are adjusting his seizure medication to try to keep him stable. Surgery to remove the tumor will happen in the next day or two. They are waiting for Rod to stabilize to a state where they can perform the operation.

He is still under heavy sedation, but he is in and out of consciousness and responding to people. These are positive signs.

Updated Thursday, April 5th, at 8:00 AM

No new news on Rod’s condition, but I wanted to let everyone know that there will be a public gathering to pray for Rod and his family, today at APU, in the courtyard outside of the School of Music. If you are anywhere nearby, please come. If you are not in the area, please join in wherever you are with a prayer for Rod’s swift and full recovery. The prayer meeting will be from 4pm to 5pm.

Updated Thursday, April 5th, at 2:30 PM

From Karin Cathey, Rod’s daughter-in-law:

Well, Rod had the MRI, and they are sure that he did NOT have a stroke. The neurologist came in and was very explanatory to Sharon and had wonderful bedside manner. While he was explaining things, Rod woke up and (Mike said that he had fire in his eyes) meaning: he knew where he was, and who was looking at him. The doctor asked Rod if he know where he was, and Rod said “hospital”. He asked him to do some other things and then Rod was really sleepy so he drifted off again.

The Family feels like he is making progress. Someone is in the room with him round the clock. Every time we would hold his hand last night, Rod would squeeze back knowing someone was there. Things are looking better. But now it’s hurry up and wait!!!!

The neuro-surgeon wants to wait (until the swelling in his brian is down) to operate. Then, when they go in they will decide if they can take it out/some of it out/biopsy it. They may end up taking most of it, and then following up with CHEMO. (That doesn’t mean that it is cancer!!!! CHEMO is a way of attacking the foreign matter.) At that point they will send it to pathology, and then tell us what Rod is dealing with.

I think as most of you know, we were having a big birthday dinner for the brothers when Rod started seizing…well, today is Mikes (ed: Rod’s Son) birthday, and all he wants from people that love him is to pray at 4:00pm if possible.

There will be a prayer time at APU in the School of Music at 4:00pm. Even if you are unable to be there physically please set some time aside to pray for this incredible Godly man… That is Mike’s Birthday Wish!

Thank you so much for everything,
In His time,
Kar Cathey

Updated April 6th, 12:40 AM

a text message from Joel Cathey, Rod’s son:

“They’re gonna do surgery at the beginning of next week. There’s more evidence that the tumor is benign. More info should be coming very soon.”

Updated Friday, April 6th at 10:45

For further updates, please refer to Scott’s site prayforrodcathey.blogspot.com. I’ll post when there is major news, but in the mean time, Scott is keeping a running log of updates. Thank you all for your prayers.

Updated April 23rd, 9:40 AM

Rod had his surgery last week to remove the tumor. They were able to remove most, but not all, of the tumor, as some of it was intertwined with sections of the brain that control motor skills.

A biopsy on the tumor confirmed that it was cancerous, and in Stage III. I’m uncertain on the specifics, but most cancers are graded from I to IV, with with IV being the most dangerous. Rod will be undergoing aggressive treatment to control the spread of the cancer.

This morning, Rod suffered a significant setback in his recovery from surgery. He relapsed into seizures, and they discovered bleeding in his brain.

Please continue to pray for Rod and his family. We are all experiencing the emotional highs and lows of alternating good and bad news as updates are released, and I can only imagine how much more intense, and exhausting, those emotional swings must be for Rod and the family.

On the Presence

Kyrie Yeshua

Be with us
though we shriek and
spit and kick
claw and tooth

Be with us
though we beat your chest
molars grinding
face wet with sweat and red

Be with us
though in our shame
we flee your grace

though in our shame
we are repelled by your innocence
by your strength
vast

Be with us
though your children are
too often
children in your presence

May we never be
Bereft of you

On Participation

Kyrie Yeshua

300 strong we lift this cup
And cry the “Hallelujah”
And sing

I arrive, and am at once a harried messenger of grace
Procuring and delivering the dispensations
Removed from the penitent throng

But when we lift this cup
300 strong and I
We cry the “Hallelujah”
and sing

I am not a people set adrift

Hi-ho, Hi-ho.

It’s back to work I go…tomorrow. I’ve been off for three months to try and get a handle on a pesky clinical depression/anxiety disorder, and now it’s time to get my life back.

I’m both nervous and excited. Excited, because I like what I do (book editing) and mostly like the people I work with, and it will be great to get back in a rhythm of life instead of just blowing where the wind takes me. Which was nice for awhile, actually, but got old pretty fast. “What am I going to do with myself today?” is not a question that combats depression.

I’m nervous because I’ve discovered in therapy that work is where most of my fears and anxieties play out and I really, REALLY don’t want to fall back into newly old patterns. I’ve discovered that I’m afraid of both failure and success, which is pretty much a recipe for career turmoil — and hella confusing, to boot. Nothing like being your own worst enemy.
So here’s where you come in: If you’re the praying kind, please pray for me tomorrow, specifically:

  1. That catching up and fitting back in with my coworkers will be a smooth transition.
  2. That I can focus on getting my work done, and leave failure and success out of it for now.
  3. That I can give myself as much grace as I give others, instead of mentally cold-cocking myself every 5 minutes.

Thanks a bunch, Church of The Road House. I’ll let you know how it goes.