Thankfulness

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

“I had just settled my brain for a long winter’s nap,” when the Focus editor informed me that there would be no rest at this year’s end. “The [paper] must go on” she said, and so I must put to paper my Holiday thoughts.

I pulled a proverbial rabbit out of the hat when cobbling together last week’s essay amidst the Ferguson Family Christmas sprawl. Now, I am again perplexed by the task of further pontification. And then it came to me. I am alliteratively thankful:

I am alive, aware and in awe.

The Christian writer, Bill Hybil, developed the acronym ACTS as a guide for prayer. A stands for adoration. C stands for contrition or being sorry for one’s shortcomings. T stands for thankfulness and S for supplication. Supplication is your wish list. Too often our prayers are for help and only come during a crisis. As this new year approaches I seem to gravitate toward thankfulness. It’s interesting that thankfulness is not to be found in the model prayer known as the Lord’s prayer. Don’t ask me why.

In September I wrote an essay called “Quaking” describing God as manifesting himself in the natural world around us. A beautiful sunset or Mozart’s clarinet concerto moves me just as it did Salieri in the movie Amadeus. I also see the reflection of  God in love. Lastly, I see God’s hand in the changed nature of a man. The Russian novelist Dostoyevsky once said, “If there is no God, everything is permitted.” Fyodor was prescient in the identification of our post-modern, secular world. Increasingly, we see the state as a replacement for the sacred. History teaches us this has happened many times before, and it always leads to destruction.

A materialist’s vision of the universe is something he can comprehend or measure. Consequently, something outside of his vision is irrelevant or fanciful. A deterministic vision of the universe includes an outside force causal to the creation. To me the closed mind and universe of the materialist is illogical because so much that we “see” is inexplicable and majestic. I believe that there is more than man can ever understand, and therefore I embrace a boundless universe of creation and revelation.

Aristotle once argued that something cannot come from nothing. And he was no shotty thinker. I am here because of my parents. And they were conceived by their parents. Extrapolating backwards we approach the very moment of creation which we call the Big Bang for want of a better term. This is because our vision backwards over 13.5 billion years is limited. However murky the first moments of Creation, something did seem to come from nothing. Not to contradict Aristotle, but the Creator was primary and conceived and produced all that is.

The fundamental questions of humans are: where did we come from, and what is our purpose? The Deists of the Founders era (and I) believe that God “wound” it all up like a giant clock and set in motion everything that was to be, even me. However, I don’t believe that God then retreated back across the universe and left the earth to the purview of man. God’s force and will continue. Perhaps we are God’s force or “boots on the ground” exercising his will. And our purpose is to use our knowledge and talents to work in His creation guided by wisdom and reverence.

“We see dimly as in a mirror…and we know in part,” said the Apostle Paul, another eminent philosopher. As an example, I bought my wife a new iPhone for Christmas. As she was working with the salesperson to activate this powerful handheld computer I decided to check my email. On opening the device I was suddenly able to join no less than eight wifi systems. Those electromagnetic lines of force were all around me yet I could not see them. But, you can see their outlines if you place a magnet on a sheet of paper and sprinkle iron filings on the magnet and paper.

There are three other fundamental forces of nature. There is the strong nuclear force that holds the nucleus of atoms together. There is is the weak nuclear force that defines radioactive decay of unstable atoms like radium or plutonium. And lastly there is the force of gravity. I can perceive this force, but are the others a figment of my imagination because I have no sensory awareness of them? Is God a figment of my imagination because I can’t see or define Him? In antiquity one’s name described your nature. There’s a famous story where Moses encounters a burning bush and God. He asks God his name. The voice from the burning bush said, “I am that I am.” The Creator’s mystery and majesty are comprised in that short response.

This new year begins as no other for me. Health issues challenge my place and purpose as never before. It is hard to be in pain and be thankful or hopeful. I now swallow a handful of medications each morning, though thankfully no narcotics. As a younger doctor, a colleague of mine once quipped, “Medicine is for giving, not taking.” He sees the world differently now.

Late in his life and while imprisoned in Rome, the Apostle Paul told his protege, Timothy, his plans for the nascent church if he were executed by the Emperor, Nero. Paul’s reflection in 2 Timothy 4:7 was that he had “fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith.” In this new year I challenge each of you to  unashamedly pledge the same, but in the present and future tenses.

The Focus may be sorry they did not give this columnist a week off at year’s end. So, I’ll close my Holiday musings with another quote of Dostoyevsky that challenges a man like me who has one foot in reason and another in spirituality. Dostoyevsky once said, “If anyone prove to me that Christ was outside the truth, then I would choose to remain with Christ rather than the truth.”

I now know what Fyodor means.

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