Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Closing a Season

How interesting it is that we enter and leave seasons of life, episodes that last for a while, but then vanish like snow melting in the Spring. Not to be too dramatic about it, but it's no small thing to spend 5 years of your life intensely engrossed in education rigors only to complete it with little fanfare. When I turned in the last of my assignments last Monday, no alarm went off. The assistant in the New Testament office at Dallas Theological Seminary didn't yell out, "He shoots! He scores!" like some enthusiastic hockey announcer. Nevertheless, I knew right then that I had, for all intents and purposes, completed my seminary education. All that remained was some housekeeping preparations for graduation. It was so anti-climactic. Not that I was expecting a parade, but it was surreal that at that moment, when I handed my completed assignments to the office assistant, only I knew the significance of what I was handing to her. She may have thought I was merely handing her a stack of papers, but I was handing to her so much more. That exchange represented the completion of five year's work, gallons of tears, numerous nights fighting over time allotted to family or school, episodes of depression, shaken faith and financial hardships. I was handing to her the last assignments required of me to complete the Th.M. program. I'm not certain, but my hand may have quaked a little when handing her the papers. She accepted them from me as though receiving a memo announcing a departmental meeting. I wanted to say, "Show some respect woman! My own blood was injected into the ink cartridge used to print these papers!" I didn't say that though. There was no reason to expect her to know what was going on within me.

Having said the above, I must say that God has graciously spared me from the more serious cases of "seminary detachment disorder" that other graduates must be experiencing. I imagine that if someone had developed no other interest, or had few other experiences than seminary for the last 4 to 5 years, graduating and leaving may be somewhat unsettling. What would they do now? How does the rest of ministry and their own spiritual walk proceed without a professor giving them reading lists and assignments?

For me, I'm very thankful that God has, over the last five years, provided me with a wide plethora of experiences and interests both inside and outside of seminary. Inside the seminary, I have been able to accomplish the goal that I started seminary with: to treat it as though it was a Christian minister's version of the "Shaolin Temple." My history with martial arts has instilled in me a love of kung fu lore. I enjoy studying the history of the art, the master/apprentice relationship, the natural movement, the training philosophy, the complementary styles and the spiritual integration. The way that the "temple" was a fully integrated training system holds tremendous appeal. Students had the opportunity to live, train and learn in a seamless environment designed to transform the "whole" person from someone merely wanting to learn "Chinese boxing" into a fully equipped "priest" that held the Art in one hand, and Buddhist teaching in the other as they set out to bless a community. The Buddhist part can be taken away, but the rest is a fully integrated and transforming training system that I loved to pursue when I taught the Art.

I sought to make Dallas Theological Seminary such an experience for myself, and I did. If I could have lived there, I would have (there was even family housing if we could have fit). I am so thankful to God for all the ways he made my dream come true, for example:

-writing two articles for the student newspaper
-given my testimony in chapel
-serving on the student Spiritual Life Board
-starting a student archaeology research group (president for a year)
-teaching two courses at the seminary's Center for Biblical Studies
-intern research for the history of the seminary, that contributed to an upcoming book about DTS

I don't write these things to submit an online resume. Only to give thanks to God for a "full seminary experience." Indeed I did, in fact, wander the halls getting spontaneous lessons from the "masters" (professors). I learned of its heritage through first hand research, and sought out profs who could regale me with tails of finding documents from a past seminary president in a "secret chamber" buried under Chafer chapel (it has almost the feel an archaeological excavation). I developed close relationships with professors who came to my home, ate dinner with us in genuine fellowship and guided me in my development. I had mentors that introduced me to broader scholarly communities such as ASOR, ARCE and ETS, in addition to those that advised me through my period as a lead pastor and eventually assisted in my ordination. Like classmates in the "temple" who would spar with one another between chores, so also I had classmates with whom I dialogued extensively to develop my theology and ministry philosophy.
Dallas Theological Seminary became like the "Shaolin Temple" for me. I am grateful to God for having, through the Spirit (who I often refer to a "the faculty of One") brought me into a season of training that fulfilled long held and deep seated dreams on mine.

As this season of training comes to a close, my reflections on the last five years conjures within me an intense sense of gratitude. God has surely been kind, accomodating and generous. "The Faculty of One" crafted a training regimen so fulfilling of my longings, that I'm left in awe of his love and kindness. God is good...all the time. Truly, all the time...God is good.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Attraction of the Sacraments

I am a Baptist minister. Theologically, there really is no way to get around it (and I've tried. Believe me, I've tried). Some aspects of theological conviction have been so ingrained in me that they are near impossible to eradicate. Among these are (1) the ultimate authority of Scripture for faith and practice, regardless of how prominent a role the creeds play in our doctrinal formation - which they must always play a significant role (in fact, confessed assent to the Creeds of Nicea - A.D. 325 and Chalcedon - A.D. 451 are necessary for properly reading the Bible), and (2) the salvation of believers in Jesus Christ apart from participation in the sacraments, regardless of how helpful the sacraments may be in the growth and maturity of believers (in fact, neither Nicea or Chalcedon mention sacramental appropriation of the God's grace - justifying or sanctifying). For this reason and others, I theologically fit better in the Baptist theological tradition, though I do not think myself so rigid as to elevate the Baptist Faith and Message to the same level as the previously mentioned Creeds. Nevertheless, I am in the Baptist tradition theologically (though I have taken great pains to explain why I seek to escape the phenomenon I call "culturally Baptist.")

Having said that, I must say that attending the service at the Church of the Holy Communion last Sunday was real treat. My friend Chris is a Deacon at this church, and our discussions regarding theology, polity and tradition are often illuminating and refreshing. On this particular Sunday my presence was not needed at my own church (I had duties related to military chaplaincy in another town and therefore would not be back to Gateway Fellowship in time for its service), and therefore I was free to visit Chris' church.

It was helpful that (1) I knew that the Reformed Episcopal Church is a Protestant tradition, and that (2) I knew what it means to be Protestant. If I had not known either of these things, my anti-Roman Catholic heritage might have kicked in, causing me to flee the church service in horror. It was very liturgical. It's possible that some Episcopal churches are more "high-church" than this one, but this one was way, way "higher-church" than what I was raised with or presently attend. The contrast was striking.

Nevertheless, I was committed to get the full experience, content to ask my friend later what some of the symbols and rites meant. We sang standing, prayed kneeling and sat listening. The liturgy included a recitation of the Nicene Creed, and many other readings from the Book of Common Prayer. The flow of service built up not to the sermon - which was in the middle, but to the receiving of the sacrament of the Lord's Table.

Interestingly, in considering the physiology of worship, I find that going forward to kneel at a rail, waiting to receive the Eucharist from the priest seems to be a better physical representation of Eph 2:8-9 "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast." Many may disagree with me on this, and that is understandable (many Baptists have developed such an intense anti-Catholicism that even this conversation is intolerable, let alone actually attending and enjoying a liturgical service). Nevertheless, the physical act of kneeling (the posture of powerlessness), waiting with hand open (the sign of reception), and having the material representation of Christ (how much Christ is represented by the wafer is a discussion I'll not engage here; I'll simply remind you that I'm Protestant, not Roman - and leave it at that). When the Bishop placed the wafer in my hand, it seemed to reflect how grace is indeed "the gift of God." I didn't even hold the cup of wine when I was invited to sip from it either. None of this reflected my power, nor taught that I play a role in my salvation. It was a very good picture of my powerless reception of God's grace.

It is because of this experience that I understand the attraction of the sacraments. While I am not of a sacramental tradition, I appreciate how, if taken with faith, the sacraments are helpful in being a physical and kinesthetic tool for reinforcing faith (orthodox faith at that). Certainly such liturgical traditions run the risk of being meaningless ritual for some. However, sometimes I wonder if the doctrinal and ecclesiastical anarchy observable in evangelicalism could use a little liturgy here and there. Maybe then we wouldn't produce so many Joseph Smiths, Charles Russells, Jim Jones and Robert Tiltons. The attraction of the sacraments is in producing continuity, solidarity and accountability for the Christian people. Surely we all could use more of that too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Does Size Matter?

Here at a conference for pastors and church planters, I'm struck by the beauty of the facility the conference is being held in. Is it at a institution of higher learning? Or is it at a convention center? No. It's being held at a local church. The church facility is enormous, with rooms and accommodations for nearly every imaginable need in a mammoth congregation. The "worship center" accommodates over 5,000 people. The double-sized gym is fully equipped for basketball and many other sports. The education wings are supplied with extravagant space, media and gaming resources. It's the picture of evangelical success in church-building, as evidenced by a church building.

However, I cannot help but continue to wonder if something vital is not sacrificed about the church when it becomes so large. Many will argue that "authentic community" is still achievable in such a mega-church simply by maintaining small group ministries, but I remain unconvinced. Do what degree have we convinced ourselves that meaningful worship is possible "with 5,000 of my closest friends" because the numbers intuitively looks like the blessing of God.

Yet what has become our criteria for determining the "blessing" of God? Are we not willing to critique the assumptions we bring to the table when we intuitively decided this is good, but that is better? Is it little wonder that, in America, the "bigger is better" philosophy is so intertwined in both business and evangelical church DNA? Does anyone really question whether these two phenomena are related?

I cannot definitively and authoritatively say that churches as big as the one I'm sitting in are bad. However, when I voice my misgivings about whether their size represents excellence in the church, I'm often met with objections that sound like the assumptions of bigger=better are well entrenched. Little openness exists among some for critiquing whether a church can grow to such size as to hinder, merely by sheer mass, some of her classic and biblical functions.

I want to argue that it is a legitimate reaction to the mega-church movement, to suspect that evangelicalism uncritically imbibed business growth models from the Boomer generation that are not necessarily "movements of the Spirit." Again, I cannot proclaim with too much confidence that God did not use business growth models for building the evangelical church, but I bristle at the often extremely confident assertion of some that he did. Is it not also possible that Boomers unwisely adopted business growth models for defining "success" in the church? I believe it is not only possible, but actually likely.

My instincts though, it must be admitted, have been influenced by admiration for the high-church traditions (specifically the Episcopal church). While I am not Episcopal, I hold their use of the liturgy and view of communal worship in high regard. One of the great principles I have learned from my Episcopal brothers is:

Lex orandi, Lex credendi
("the law of prayer is the law of faith")

In other words, the manner of worship determines the manner of belief. People learn what they believe as much, if not more so, through practice than through preaching. Therefore, it would seem contradictory to teach community (even with small groups throughout the week), but then they worship as a swelling multitude. The manner of worship (in a crowd which cannot promote authentic community, but instead is a highly individualized experience) will lead to a corresponding manner of belief. The size is defeating the stated goal.

Case in point, when the church gathers to worship, does it take communion together? How do you minister communion to 5,000 people? If you do, can 5,000 people come to the Lord's Table together feeling the needed to "examine themselves" (1 Cor 11:28) out of fidelity to the Body? Someone will say, "For this reason we take communion in our small groups." Should you not also then worship in the same small group? Why must you then come together as a throng of 5,000+ to worship? That person may answer, "Because that is when the pastor preaches." Cannot the small group leader serve that role? Why does not the small group simply become a separate church? If it has 30, 40 or 50 people in it, why cannot the leader simply lead in all aspects of worship?

Because of this logical trajectory, many small groups simply do not perform many functions of the church such as communion and baptism. Therefore, the small group is good "fellowship time," but worship is still pursued in a crowd, where intimacy in the Body of Christ is distant myth. Lex orandi, Lex credendi. We're perpetuating to people that being a member of a Christian mob is sufficient for walking with Christ, because that is how we worship - how we "role."

Does size matter? In other contexts perhaps not; but in the Church, I believe we can bloat the church body to unhealthy levels, just like the opposite would be true too (malnourished, emmaciated bodies). But let's at least acknowledge that our cultural business assumptions have hindered us from wisely critiquing our church-growth models. Hopefully new illumination, insight and wisdom supplied by the Spirit will result.

Road Trip

Perhaps running off at night with three other men to Houston wasn't the most responsible thing in the world, but the men in question were fellow pastors of Gateway Fellowship. In this case, my the spontaneous aspect of my personality came into play. For several reasons, I was able to determine in mere moments that this would be the best use of my next 36 hours. Among the chief reasons I had for jumping into the car and racing south with them was the desire to develop a better relationship with my colleagues. After, if you truly want to know a someone, traveling with them is one of the better ways to get to know them better. In addition, camaraderie is developed through travel that might not be otherwise cultivated through normal circumstances.

This is sometimes popularly labeled "male bonding," but it runs deeper than that. It's a connection that is both attached to, yet transcends mere maleness. It has to do with discovering what is important to people, what annoys them, what gets them excited or frustrated; what disappoints them, and what leaves them elated; about what are they apathetic? or about what are they convicted?

Because of the opportunity to know my colleagues better, I jumped at the chance to take a quick road trip. Some are not so spontaneous, but they might have missed out on such a chance as this.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunrise Service

This last Sunday was Easter. The Gateway Fellowship Egg Smash had been tremendous fun at the Royse City Lake Park, and I was looking forward to attending, and participating in, the church service Sunday morning. However, very early the pager went off. I heard their was a house fire with a displaced family. Though I had significant difficulty finding the location (it was a automatic aid call with the neighboring town), I eventually was able to find the house, with Engine 2 out in front. Clearly the house had been gutted by the fire, leaving only the remaining shell. I had not yet gone to meet with the family, but had only heard on the radio while enroute that they were displaced from the home (thank God they all made it out), and that the Red Cross was on it's way to assist them. When one of the firefighters directed to where the family was, I proceeded down to the neighbor's house to see if I could be of any comfort. Chaplaincy is a strange calling. Often you greatest effectiveness is born of a willingness not to say anything, but instead be a shoulder to cry on. Or, at other times, the mere presence of the chaplain leaves to impression for people that God was with them in their painful moment. This is called the "ministry of presence." In any case, I wanted to find the victims and try to bring grace to them.

The time I spent with the family was an emotional one. They cried and mourned the loss of everything they had. They were numb from the shock of the tragedy. All you can do in such times is weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15).

After a while I left them to go back over and be with the firefighters still overhauling the building. I like to stay connected with the firefighters while they go about their work, while not getting in their way. I want them to know that God accompanies them on them call, and that I'm proud of how they participate in God's rescuing work on people's behalf. As I walked around the house, I went around to the back yard to assess what the extent of damage was. Hopefully, it wouldn't look quite as bad from the rear. On the contrary, the picture from the back of the house was just as devastating as the front. The scene clearly showed the full extent of the family's loss. Their entire material life has been taken away from them in a flash of bright light when lightning apparrently struck their roof. I stood in the back yard, wondering why God would allow such as disaster...on Easter morning of all days! Can't tragedy take a holiday? On a morning when millions are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, can't pain take a time off for a few hours? I was angry. I was disappointed and frustrated that nature did not find this morning sacred enough to keep its freak'in lightning to itself.

My anger was compounded then by the sudden realization that thousands in my our country are likely at sunrise service this morning celebrating the resurrection of Christ in air conditioned, plush carpeted, pristine, beautifully adorned and neatly oranged churches. How many in those sunrise services are experiencing any discomforts? Or are they enjoyign relatively easy lives thinking that the resurrection means new life for their financial picture? How many in sunrise services are, right at that moment, thanking God for such comfortable living that they have money to tip the waitress at Denny's after church (even though they probably won't)? How many are singing smarmy old choruses about the Lord's "abundance" and favor? The grief of the family I had just met was catching up to me. I stood alone in the back yard, before the burnt out shell of a house, and cried out to God, "This was not the sunrise service we're looking for."

I was eventually able to pull it together, remembering that others still need my presence (both firefighter and victims). I spent the rest of the time comforting and connecting until it was time to head off to the church service at Gateway.

Normally I have been teaching the kids program for the elementary grades, but on this morning (because no elementary program was given for Easter; the decision was made weeks ago to have families worship together for Easter) I had duties participating in the main service. At the beginning of the service I was to read Psalm 146. This was a beat down.

Psa. 146:1 ¶ Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
Psa. 146:2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live!
I will sing praises to my God as long as I exist!
Psa. 146:3 Do not trust in princes,
or in human beings, who cannot deliver!
Psa. 146:4 Their life’s breath departs, they return to the ground;
on that day their plans die.
Psa. 146:5 How blessed is the one whose helper is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
Psa. 146:6 the one who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who remains forever faithful,
Psa. 146:7 vindicates the oppressed,
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD releases the imprisoned.
Psa. 146:8 The LORD gives sight to the blind.
The LORD lifts up all who are bent over.
The LORD loves the godly.
Psa. 146:9 The LORD protects those residing outside their native land;
he lifts up the fatherless and the widow,
but he opposes the wicked.
Psa. 146:10 The LORD rules forever,
your God, O Zion, throughout the generations to come!
Praise the LORD!

Did I really believe this psalm? Did I really believe that the LORD is a helper, and feeder of the hungry? I just came from a family with no home, and no family nearby, who didn't know where their meals would come from. Did I really believe that "The LORD protects those residing outside their native land" (v.9)? This family had moved here from far away from their family network. They were like strangers. Did I really think the LORD watches over them? Why did I have to read this psalm to a church on this occassion? It was brutal.

Nevertheless, I determined to believe the assertions of the psalmist. I decided to confess that the LORD is indeed a helper in trouble, a deliverer to those beat down, a protector of the stranger and a faithful shelter to those in tragedy. The family had all escaped the fire. The Red Cross did show up with some resources for them to get food and clothes. The insurance company did put them up in a motel to for the next two weeks. Local restaurants did agree to donate some meals for this family. The psalmist is right to confess faith in the Lord, though all the exterior circumstances turn to crap. Sunday morning was a spiritual and emotional rollercoaster, and I need a nap.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Weaker Faith

When ready through the Old Testament, we can be so quick to pass judgment on the ancient Israelites. No sooner were they delivered from slavery in Egypt by ten plagues, that they immediately grumbled on the shores of the "Sea of Reeds" about being lost in the desert. On the heels of being delivered from Pharaoh through the water, they complained about not having any water to drink. Right after being led to the mountain of God so that Moses could receive the Law, they can't handle feeling "abandoned" and construct a Golden Calf to worship. It seems they're always watching God do something amazing, only to immediately start doubting his care of them all over again. We click our tongues, shake our heads and generally role our eyes in disappointment at their lack of faith. After all, we would have acted quite differently in the same situation, wouldn't we?

As seminary draws to a close, I find that I am not made of fundamentally different stuff than they were. If anything, I might have weaker faith that they did.

Take, for example, my quest to become a Navy chaplain...

The timeline of events since I first started the process last November would seem to argue for greater assurance that God is working to make me a Navy chaplain. However, the process has contained many (seemingly insurmountable) obstacles. Each obstacle as seemed like a deal-breaker, making the eventual appointment unlikely. Yet in each case, events have transpired to suggest that God is actively making it happen. I don't just mean he's passively allowing it to happen. I mean it seems like he's actively working to make it happen. There's quite a difference between those two views. I know the difference, and confess that it seems like the latter all the same.

Having said that, you would think that I would have stronger faith. I don't. At every turn I find excuses for why God is under no obligation to make me happy or useful, enjoying any sense of significance. It's true. Much of the rhetoric we use to make Christ attractive to people is total crap. Christ died for our sins (1 Cor 15:3), not our careers. Salvation is assured, not happiness. Though it may be accurate to say, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," without further explanation that phrase is intuitively taken to mean, "God is obligated to facilitate your wonderful plan for life." If indeed my life sucked (which it does not), and if none of my desires were met (which many are), and if my life experience was a steady stream of sorrows (actually it contains a truck load of joy), God would still be God and faithful to his character and promises in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, I have no expectation to get what I want in life, just an assurance of salvation from eternal judgment and acceptance into his everlasting presence because of the person of work of Christ, whom I am bound to by faith.

However, I have learned that my faith need not be merely historical (what the work of Christ has accomplished) or futuristic (what the work of Christ will accomplish). Although much of what people think God owes them in this life is truly bogus, this does not nullify any dynamic relationship with God in this life. In other words, my faith can be historic, futuristic and presently dynamic - and still be defensive from the Bible. But what do I mean by "presently dynamic?" I can walk with God, inhabited by the Holy Spirit, in a process technically called sanctification. However, passages of Scripture that speak of sanctification only point toward changing me to behave and believe in the manner most honoring to God. This is called being "conformed to the image of Christ." No passages related to sanctification guarantee my happiness. They only guarantee that God will be actively at work to squeeze me into the mold of Christ. This work of the Holy Spirit may, at times or perhaps even often, seem unpleasant and contrary to my happiness. I am obligated to Christ by means of the Spirit, but God is obligated to no one. He is free, truly free, to act as he wishes in accordance with the character and promises he has already revealed. So I can be confident that God is actively working on me, just not presumptuous about how he's working for me.

I'm such a hypocrite. The other day I gave advice to a man that was pretty good, but I have not followed this advice as well as he did. I said to him, "No and then event will transpire in life that reminds us not to trust in a process, but instead in a person." Those words were accurate, memorable and helpful at the time. If I were to meditate on those words more, I might have stronger faith than I do. Instead I have weaker faith, that remains fearful whether I will have a career after graduation. Though many obstacles to entering a naval chaplaincy career have already been overcome, I remain anxious about that new obstacles will be overcome as well. This is not the countenance of a strong believer, but the uncertainties of one struggling with weaker faith, trying to cling to God anyway.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Seminary "Effect"

As I draw near to the end of my Th.M. at Dallas Theological Seminary, I am periodically spending time reflecting on what manner of effect it has had on me. Has it had an effect? If so, what has been the nature of that effect?

Has it positively grown my faith and maturing in Christ? Or has it developed in me a cynicism regarding what many things that are popularly called "spiritual?"

Has it left me with a greater appreciation for the Word of God? Or am I emerging what doubts about its value to the Christian experience?

Have I been "liberated" from faulty traditions to which I should never have offered loyalty? Or am I adrift on a theological sea, cut free from familiar moorings of my childhood?

To what extent is it my responsibility to continue developing my theology from here? Or has seminary had the purpose of developing my theology to a certain fixed point to which I'm to be unwaveringly loyal from here on?

Has seminary been a template of spirituality that should guide me from now on? Or has it been an anomaly in my life, from which I can "recover?"

Will God always require that I study him this much to mature as a believer? Or will I be allowed to simply enjoy him at some point in the future?

Is it possible to exercise healthy faith in the future, even if I no longer give a damn about parsing pisteuo after April 27th.

Will I always have to denounce evolution in science to be a Christian?

Do I require that all the biblical writers have perfect data to teach perfect truth through their writings?

Can I reverse engineer my Christian faith back to a pre-fundamentalist, pre-evangelical, pre-reformation, pre-Roman era of the great creeds and still be accepted in a post-Renaissance, post-enlightenment, postmodern Christian community?

Will my family ever recover? Or have they just gotten used to me being obsessed over academic matters, and blaming Jesus for these obsessions by giving my disorder pious labels?

How harmed have my children been by my hypocrisies? Has God preserved them their soul, allowing them to comprehend his goodness in spite of my weaknesses?

Does Naomi really think I'm faithful to her? Or has seminary made her secretly resentful of the "mistress" called ministry?

Will I go and serve in the Church? Or has seminary cursed me to perpetually attempt leading in the Church?

What has been the seminary "effect" on me, and has it been positive or negative? Can I tell the difference? What will the Spirit do with me now?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Trust? Are you Crazy?

It seems more and more all the time that God likes to keep some things out of my control just to make sure I have plenty to trust him for. For you pious, obvious type personalities who are about to ask is this is just occurring to me, YES I KNEW THIS ALREADY! It's just that I'm presently experiencing it in a new and different way. Take, for example, my present process of applying for Navy chaplain. My recruiter is optimistic and encouraging, believing it likely that I will perpetuate his record of successful candidates. However, my contact with the endorsing denomination is remains ambivalent about whether my ministry experience will meet minimum requirements. The net effect is that it's completely out of my control.

Finishing seminary is relatively within my control. Oh sure, I could become grossly ill tomorrow and because of it fail to complete my remaining seminary assignments. But assuming the present conditions continue, I can finish DTS. Everything else, however, is very much more out of my hands. Yet this is what people keep asking me about!

"Aaron, any update about your endorsement?"

"No. Just waiting for their decision."

I hate being so repetitive by constantly giving the same answer. The response I want to give is, "I have no idea what God's is doing." But some may not find this reassuring. TOO BAD! For reasons which seem good to him, God has kept his plans to himself. Speculating about what he's likely to do just frays the nerves further.