The following has been adapted, with permission, from the blog of Sigve Tonstad (originally posted October 2, 2012). Churches of all kinds across the nation are currently engaged in a month-long "journey of prayer" for America, and Dr. Tonstad has chosen to participate in this way. We will be sharing a handful of his prayer blog posts throughout the month of October.
Me: Dear God, today I am asking for your blessing on Arizona and Arkansas.
GOD: That’s nice. I love Arizona and Arkansas. The Grand Canyon is amazing.
Me: I like the Grand Canyon, too. I have hiked to the bottom many times, and once I hiked from the North Rim to the South Rim in one day.
GOD: I know. You did it on a Sabbath (Saturday) with your good friend and mentor Jens K. Jensen in 1990. It was quite a day, sunny but not too hot. I know you miss Jens. He died too young. Trust me, I will not forget him.
Me: Once I almost succumbed on my way back up to the South Rim. No more glycogen left, trying to run down to the river on the Bright Angel trail and back up on the South Kaibab trail in a few hours. I had done it before, but that day I ended up completely empty. It was dark and cold. I could have died.
GOD: It was quite reckless. It is called hubris. You have a lot of that. Could I tell you one of the things I like about Arkansas?
Me: Please do. I have never been to Arkansas.
GOD: I have. Many times. To tell you the truth, I go there every day.
Me: What do you like about Arkansas?
GOD: I like Hope.
GOD: I mean Hope with a capital H. It is a place.
Me: I understand. I have heard of Hope.
GOD: Here’s what I like about it: Can you imagine people coming to a new place and calling it Hope? It’s quite amazing. The people who did that needed hope, and they expressed their need up front. The places from which they came, if I may put it like that, were not called Hope. In some ways they came from hopelessness to hope, or, if you don’t mind the play on words, they came from places that were not called Hope to Hope. People need hope. I am big on hope. That’s why I like Hope, Arkansas.
Me: William Jefferson Clinton was born in Hope.
GOD: I know. How could I miss it? I really liked what he said about Arkansas in his speech at the Democratic National Convention a few weeks ago.
GOD: He said (and I am quoting from memory) that although Arkansas does not have the MIT, the people of Arkansas still know arithmetic.
Me: Yes, I remember him saying something like that. I thought it was clever and funny.
GOD: I didn’t think it was clever or funny. It was true. It still is. It was not a good idea to launch an expensive war in Iraq and offer a massive tax cut at the same time. In fact, while your president insisted on going to war in Iraq, he told the rest of you to go shopping. That showed lack of gravitas, and it was also, if I may quote Bill Clinton, bad arithmetic. When Churchill thought that Great Britain faced a war over its existence, he did not tell the British to go shopping. He told his people that “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” He said that “we have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering.” I hate to pour salt in your wounds, but it was reckless to go to war with such lack of gravitas and with such a deficient grasp of arithmetic. His father called something similar 'voodoo economics,' not a bad term. Sometimes I wish sons would listen to their fathers as much as my son listens to me. Let me add that I have my issues with Churchill. I cannot forget what he and the Allies did to Dresden. If you haven’t read Kurt Vonnegut’s book Slaughterhouse Five, you should.
Me: I tried to stop my oldest daughter from reading the book, thinking that it was bad. Then I read it myself and went numb.
GOD: So did I.
Me: You are doing a lot of the talking again. I hardly get to say anything.
GOD: I am sorry, but there is a lot on my mind. I am the one who hardly gets to say anything to all the millions who are praying to me because they do all the talking, then hang up on me before I get to say what’s on my mind. It would help if they read the Bible and serious newspapers, but they don’t even do that.
Me: What else is on your mind that has anything to do with Arizona or Arkansas? I need to stay on topic.
GOD: More than you can imagine, but I’ll save it for later. Perhaps I can mention it when your prayer journey takes you to Georgia. I can’t wait.
Sigve Tonstad is Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine and Associate Professor in the School of Religion at Loma Linda University.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4790