Thursday, November 20, 2008

response to text messages from Sunday, November 16th

alright, i know i promised these monday but they are questions about the most difficult question you can ask 'how can God allow suffering?' and even after thinking about my responses for a few days i think any answer this short is incomplete.

the questions came up during a message i gave last sunday at visio dei. you can download the podcast here. i got three text messages from the same person. in my response below, these texts are in italics.

“No matter how much silence you give to god, the one question he never answers is “why,” and that is the hardest question to not be answered.”

This is why Ecclesiastes is such a great book, because it doesn’t duck the toughest questions. One of the passages from next week’s message reads:
“When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover, and though the wise man should say, ‘I know,’ he cannot discover. For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God.”
Ecclesiastes 8:16-9:1
This is his conclusion, we can’t know. And he’s not going to gloss over that, but he’s not going to let it stop him in his tracks either.

“How can anyone be thankful for that emptiness? It’s that feeling that makes me think God is a kid with an ant farm. I really don’t want to be an ant.”

I don’t think he’s advocating being thankful for the emptiness of not knowing why. I think he’s advocating being thankful for all the good things that you have in life, that according to him, are from God. I think part of the message of the book is not to let the things you’re uncertain of keep you from following the ones you are certain of. And I think the emptiness is there because of the reality of sin in our world and it the reason that all creation, including us, “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:22-23)

“I am not even sure he answered the question for jesus, and if he won’t answer for his own son… and that makes it hard not to hate god.”

Did He need to answer the question for Jesus? Didn’t Jesus already know why it was all happening? Wasn’t Jesus there when all the prophecies were spoken concerning the suffering He would endure for our sake? And Jesus certainly didn’t hate the Father for not answering, Jesus loved the Father because He trusted Him completely and submitted Himself to the Father completely and knew that God was up to good and not evil. Ultimately, I think that’s what this comes down to, trusting that God is smarter than we are and that God loves even when it doesn’t seem like it to us. I’m not saying that’s easy, and in midst of deep suffering this is an insensitive answer, but I think it’s the truth.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

the smell of warmth and other random notes...

love this time of year. love watching football, wearing a jacket, using blankets at night and it being too cold to get up in the morning. carved pumpkins the other day, that's pretty fun with a 2, 4 and 5 year old. drove through a bunch of dead leaves flying around on hillsborough street today. monday when I got to the building i turned the heat on for the first time this season and the building smelled like a giant, old space heater for a few hours. i love that smell.

also monday, i took matthew to pick up michael from school and we sat at krispy kreme for 45 minutes and watched the donuts on the conveyer belt. they were making the donut holes, so we watched them go through the whole process. this doesn't sound like fun until you do it with 4 and 5 year old boys. some of the donut holes get crushed in the conveyor belt and fall into the oblivion of the frosting vat. it's a rather darwinian process. the next day when i picked michael up from school, he spent 5 minutes, in the carpool lane, recounting the whole epic saga of the donut holes to the teacher who was helping him get in the car.

finally, i found this quote in a book this week. it was written by a harvard economist in the 1920's. it'll probably make the message sunday:

"There is no reason for believing that more leisure would ever increase the desire for goods. it is quite possible that the leisure would be spent in the cultivation of the arts and graces of life; in visiting museums, libraries and art galleries, or hikes, games, and inexpensive amusements... it would decrease the desire for material goods. if it should result in more gardening, more work around the home in making or repairing furniture, painting and repairing the house and other useful avocations, it would cut down the demand for the products of our wage paying industries."

translation: we don't dare give people free time to enjoy life or they might develop their brains and realize they don't need stuff to make them happy and the economy would go in the tank...

Monday, October 13, 2008

updated jonathan pics

here are a few newer pics of jonathan...

a follow-up from yesterday

we finished a series on our vision as a church yesterday by talking about the importance of spiritual authority in our lives. you can listen here. i talked about the source of our problem with authority, the reason it's good and necessary for our lives, and how God meant for it to work.

anyways, i made the case that we all have problems with authority and used the example of going to see the dead sea scrolls downtown last week. they have the fragments enclosed in humidity-controlled glass and they tell you not to touch them because there are alarms on the glass. this, of course, led to a low level tension the whole time i was looking at them because i really, really wanted to touch the glass and find out what would happen.

so today i go volunteer at my kids school. at lunch, the kindergartners and the 2nd graders eat together and it's as loud as you would imagine a room full of kindergartners and 2nd graders to be. so they installed a stoplight that stays green when the noise level is acceptable, turns yellow when it gets a little too loud, and turns red when the noise level is unacceptable. the assistant principle starts explaining how this works to the kids and i lean over to one of the other parents and say, 'this could backfire in a big way on her'. sure enough, the rest of the lunch period kids are staring at the stoplight, screaming to see if they can get the red light to come on. perfect... but just one day too late to make my sermon... rats.

on a side note, they just had fall break and one of these 5 year old's told me she went on a cruise to gibralter, italy, spain and morroco over break. how does a five year old remember gibralter? and is it right for me to be so jealous of a 5 year old? seriously, that's my life-long dream vacation and you're 5...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

jonathan scot ramsey

matthew was almost named jonathan, and 4 years later we still like the name, so we decided to name him after the collective jonathan's in our life... good name.

scot is my middle name. my parents have informed me that the one 't' is in deference to our scottish heritage. i don't have much evidence of this scottish heritage, but i like the idea of it. someday i will return to visit my people. a lot of scottish folks settled in western nc because it reminded them of the highlands of scotland. there's actually a town (a stretch to call it a town) named 'ramsey' out there. we visited once. no one was around.

i'm actually 50% croatian, so we considered my grandma's maiden name, kutuzovich, but jonathan kutuzovich ramsey doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

so here he is... with the rest of the clan (get it... scottish... clan?)...

Monday, September 15, 2008

he's here!

about 12:30 this morning bobbi-jo was feeling contractions every 4 to 8 minutes so she drove herself to the hospital (i'm pretty sure this means i'm a lousy husband, but wanted to make sure it wasn't a false alarm before waking up jason and diana... that sounds like i'm blaming it on jason and diana, let's just call me a lousy husband) and they decided to get that baby out here.

so i headed over to the hospital, we waited a few hours for everyone to get ready, and at 5:59 this morning, they delivered the yet-to-be-named ramsey baby #4. he was 7 lbs 11 oz and 21 and a half inches long. good size for 37 and a half weeks.

i'll put some pics up later...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


will be making his or her appearance in the Ramsey household sometime in late september or early october this fall. Shannon wrote that if Favre retiring didn't get me to blog again, nothing would. and i thought i can't blog about brett favre but not about having another kid...

so, as if everyone doesn't already know this, we found out a few weeks ago that we are having another kid. a last kid. we debated having #4 and came up with some good reasons to have another go at it (we really like the first three, it'll be fun for abigail to have a baby around the house, many years from now it'll be fun to get together with this family, it increases the odds one will strike it rich and take care of us in our retirement, etc.), we couldn't think of a reason not to that didn't relate to money or our convenience. those didn't seem to outweigh the reasons to have a kid... until we found out we're having one. now i'm freaking out just a little about the money and convenience stuff. i'll be over it by fall...

and, as if everyone doesn't also know this, brett favre is retiring. thanks for your condolences. i was pretty sure he was coming back until that devastating loss to the giants. everything went their way this year, they played a horrible game and still only lost in overtime. the odds of that repeating itself next year seems slim, and even as a fan it's hard to get yourself excited about next season because of it. i get why he's walking away now...

favre said he's tired. tired up the public exposure. tired of studying each week to be ready for sunday. tired of feeling like he has to outdo his performance from the last week. i realized that i pretty much feel the same way about my job, so i'm announcing my retirement from visio dei and freeing up some room in the salary cap...

anyways, i'll miss watching him play. he was maddening at times, and i won't miss the bonehead interceptions that characterized the last few years, but he was really fun to watch, and easy to admire. this article, from a few days before his retirement announcement, does a good job of describing what i'll miss. he's a bit of an everyman, just seems like a normal guy that you'd love to hang out with. i feel a little bit like i felt the last time i broke up with a girl. you know it has to happen and it's for the best (in the long run), but you wonder when a relationship like it will come around again. in this case, i'm guessing there'll never be a player i enjoy watching and admire as much as favre.

unless michael's prediction comes true. last night i broke the news to the boys that favre decided he didn't want to play football anymore. michael said, 'maybe i should play football.' and then when i told him to tell jason who green bay's next quarterback was going to be, he said, 'i am'. nice. actually, the thing that upsets me the most about all this is that i bought the boys new favre jerseys at the end of last season, thinking they could where them for at least one more. i wonder if he'd give me a refund...

Monday, November 12, 2007


internet access has been hard to come by and expensive, so apologies for the 3 of you (ok, 2) who were hoping for updates from Israel. I tried really hard the first night here and then lost the whole thing and have been too pissed off at the internet to try again.

I have been taking good notes, so I'm going to post some of the highlights. Get ready... this is a good bit of stuff. Overall, incredible trip. We stop at at least 4 places a day and most of them have exceeded expectations.

I'll put some pictures on another post as soon as i get enough bars to upload...

Day 2 (Day 1 was the plane ride)
We went to the Valley of Elah, where David fought Goliath, as our second stop after leaving the airport. This is cool because I just preached it and spent a lot of time in it. Hard to believe it’s really the Valley of Elah because it’s not marked and now it’s a farmer’s field. That being said, you could easily imagine armies lining up on the mountains on either side of the valley, getting ready for battle. We picked up a few rocks and that was it. I could spend a day walking around this valley imagining what it was like and exploring.

Later that day we headed to Joppa, which is basically Tel Aviv. Hard to tell much about Joppa. There was a museum with some ruins but we didn’t go in it. It’s right on the Med. This is where Jonah caught the boat to escape God’s call to Ninevah (Jonah 1). It’s also where Peter got his vision with the sheets coming down and God telling him not to consider unclean what God has made clean (Acts 11). As an aside, I could live in Tel Aviv.

It is crazy to think that these locations are where these stories took place. The Valley of Elah. Really. It’s crazy to think that within the mile around where I slept last night Peter got this vision from God that opened up the gospel to the gentiles. It’s crazy to think that Jonah got on the boat right here. It’s hard to feel connected to these stories because our culture is so radically different and they are some pretty crazy stories. I don’t know if this makes the stories feel more true, which might be what I was expecting. It may make them a lot more possible, or likely, seeing where they actually were supposed to have taken place.

Day 4
We’ve been hanging around the Sea of Galilee and went to Capernaum, where much of Jesus ministry took place, today. In a word – sleepy. I guess it was small town then and there is surprisingly little going on now.

We ended up north in Caesarea Philippi. This was one of the stops I was most looking forward to and it was everything I expected. They have a plaque there talking about how they threw sacrifices into a crevice in the back of the cave. If they saw the blood running in the river, that signified to them that the sacrifice was rejected. It makes sense that these were understood as the gates of hell. It was definitely used to worship Pan in the day of Jesus but it doesn’t appear it was used to worship Augustus, Zeus and others. They were all worshipped there, though. The thought that this is where the church was born is incredible.

Day 5
One of our stops was Jericho. The excavation isn’t that exciting here given the significant things that happened here in the Bible, but there is a tower with some stairs that are apparently 10,000 years old. The stairs are the archeological evidence used to say Jericho is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. I climbed down them. I’m fairly certain this is not a regular occurrence. There were no signs explicitly forbidding climbing the steps, just a beaten up fence and a gate over the stairs that was movable. So I figured, ‘How often do you get to climb a set of 10,000 year old steps?’ The ‘Tourism Police’ started walking up the hill to where we were, but our group held them off. Only then did the thought occur to me that ‘spending time in a jail in the West Bank’ is close to last on my list of things I want to have to do in life.

FYI, the Dead Sea rocks… we stayed there for a night. You float. I mean you couldn't sink if you wanted to. And it's beautiful.

Day 6
Church of the Nativity
This is Nabil, our guide’s, home church (he’s a Palestinian Christian; great man; we’re getting an education). He’s worshipped there his whole life. I had low expectations and the outside of the church did nothing to raise them. It’s pretty bland and doesn’t look much different than it’s surroundings. Then we went into the Greek Orthodox section of the church. It’s hard to describe. Definitely old, but tacky too. There were some mosaics surviving from the 4th century under the floor, very cool. But the lamps they had hanging looked like they came from a yard sale and all the pictures are so old you couldn’t see them. Then we went downstairs into the cave where Jesus was (allegedly) born. They believe this because early Christians gathered at this spot to pray and an emperor was eventually so threatened by it that he built a temple to a pagan god over it. Then Constantine built a church over it.

You go down these steps and get on your knees and there’s this star with a hole in the middle that you touch and this is apparently where Jesus came into the world. I can be a world-class cynic but it was all I could do to hold myself together here. Maybe it was low expectations. Maybe it was the act of bowing low. Maybe it was the fact that the early Christians gathered here, which gave it more validity in my mind. But the thought that this spot that I may have just touched is the spot where Heaven landed on earth, where God became man, was insane and intense. I wish I’d had an hour or a day there but you have to keep moving.