Sunday, May 29, 2011

We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

while riding through the park yesterday on my bike ride, i was mindful of two things.  the first was the movement of my legs as the pedals revolved.  i sensed the fluidity of the motion of the joints and muscles as they propelled the pedals in their circuit, moving the bike forward.  i am not a naturally graceful person, but as i watched and felt the motions of my legs and feet, i was struck by how graceful this circular motion was.  the complex machine that is our body is amazing, and my thoughts turned to the great complexity of all natural things, the wonder of grass and trees and the human body.  it is impossible for me to believe that all the interconnectedness that works together to produce the physical world and the cyclic nature by which everything is related could be an accident.  i am compelled to believe that there is a great Intelligence that has caused all things to be.  so as i rode the mindfulness of the work my body was doing led me to think of the wonder of Creation and the presence of the Creator in everything in and around me.

secondly, i was mindful of the wind.  until the last couple of years, strong winds were a rare occurrence in our part of the country.  now we have a strong breeze blowing most of the time.  i noticed how the wind seemed to disappear as i rode in certain directions, but as i topped the hill in the middle of the ride and changed direction, it was as if a strong wind suddenly began pushing against me.  this breeze continued without letup until i once again changed directions.  i began to think about my sensation of the wind.  certainly it was there at my back when i was riding in the direction it was blowing.  the wind did not suddenly come up each time i rode against it.  yet my experience of the wind was quite different from the wind's reality.  the wind was there all the time.  it helped ease my effort when i rode in the direction it was blowing, even if i could not sense its presence except indirectly in the feeling of less effort when i rode up a hill with the wind's assistance.  the same wind that was a help when i rode in one direction was a hindrance when i rode into the wind.  it was not the wind that changed, but my direction and my perception of the wind.

this realization led me think about my (our) perception of God.  one's perception of God can be quite different from the reality of God, and one's perception of God can change when circumstances change.  the change exists in oneself, not in God.  how can any of us ever have a complete understanding of God, changeable creatures that we are?  we apprehend only a small portion of the immensity of God; our minds are too limited and limiting to ever fully appreciate all that God is.  God is the "I AM," the great first cause of everything.  My prayer today is that each of us will be open to the experience of God, that we will never come to believe that our experience of God is all that there is of God, and that each of us will respect another's experience of God though it may not correspond to one's own experience.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

In the Rustling Grass I Hear God Pass

today i am at the home of my father and his wife.  my mother died about fifteen years ago, and my father remarried a few years later.  his wife is only about ten years older than i, and i have never been able to regard her as a "step-mother".   their home is out in the country in a beautiful setting.  a long drive lined with trees leads from the highway to their home, and there is a meadow dotted with trees in front of the house.

this morning i took a walk along with drive, walking slowly and praying as i walked.  it rained last night, and the drive was damp.  there was a gentle breeze blowing.  near the house there is a lovely garden in which a variety of lillies and roses are blooming.  it was the pefect setting to experience the presence of God, and i thought of the hymn, "this is my Father's world".

i thought, too, of the dalai lama's words:  "we have to cultivate contentment with what we have. we really don't need much. when you know this, the mind settles down". my mind did feel settled.  my wife remarked a couple of days ago that i had simple needs, being content with what i have, and that's very true.  what more could i need?  i have a wonderful wife, two great children who are gainfully and happily employed, shelter that is more than adequate, resources to take care of all my physical needs, dear friends, opportunities to serve others through my church and other organizations.  life for me is good, and i have time to think about how to share my joy with others.

in this morning's walk, i experienced such peace and contentment.  my prayer for each of us is that we can be content with what we've been given and the time to contemplate how we can help others to be content.  may each of us learn how to "be" in the world, rejoicing in the experience of each breath that we take!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In Christ There Is No East or West

somehow the hours in each day have been fewer in the last several days.  i can't account for how that can be, but that's the way life has been going.  there are a few thoughts buzzing in my head that I'd like to write about in a post, but until now I haven't been able to find the time.  maybe they needed more cogitating before I put fingers to keyboard.

as i rode my bike through the park the other day, i began to think about how much those who insist on interpreting all the bible's contents literally are missing.  if there must be a literal "adam" and "eve," that diminishes the adam and eve in each of us.  the story then becomes about the two parents of all humankind rather than about the relationship of each of us with the God of creation.  if there has to be a literal "noah," the story becomes one about a vengeful God who ends the lives of almost every creature on earth because most of them were so sinful rather than a story about the noah in each of us that the ark of God's love lifts above the turbulent waters of life.

why must we spend so much time searching for those proof texts that we can use to "prove" our narrow theological arguments, rather than seeing the bible as a living testimony to the great theme of God's love and God's unceasing effort to reconcile us to each other and to God?  when we try to make the bible a history book, when we ignore it's discrepancies or go to great lengths to explain them away, when we reduce the bible to a static document that can't have different meanings in different ages, we reduce it to a finished product that is much more limited and limiting than i believe God intended.  the bible is a living document that must be read with the light God gives us in our own time, and we must seek it's truth without forcing it to be something that it is not.

i have been troubled recently about the effort to portray the "Allah" of the muslim religion as a different God from the God of christians and jews.  this attempt to demonize muslims and inflame those inclined to bigotry is deplorable.  couldn't we say that the God of some biblical writers is a different from the God of other writers.  if we are honest, many passages seem to describe very different gods, and the perspective of one writer or one era regarding God may be very different from that of another writer working in another time or place.  do these differences mean that the God described by one biblical author is a different God than the one described by another?  no christian would answer that question in the affirmative.  

because one perspective about God is different from another, one can't assert that these perspectives describe different gods. it is not God who is different, but our perspectives about God that differ.  God is so infinite, so great, that we can never fully apprehend the true nature of God.  we must not allow those who would drive wedges between us to succeed in turning our perception of muslims into "those people" who worship a false god, when we have much in common with our muslim brothers and sisters.

my prayer for each of us is that we see beyond the limitations of the literalists to the underlying truth of God's love for us as described in the bible and that we seek those truths that bind us together rather than creating divisions that arise from fear and prejudice.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Service Is the Golden Cord

my wife & i are spending a couple of days with old friends in a resort town not far from where we live.  these friends rented a condo for a few days & asked us to come up for a visit.  we get to see them only two or three times a year, & i am struck by how quickly the health of both is deteriorating.  this is a second marriage for both the husband & wife, & they've found great joy together after very miserable first marriages.  the husband is in his mid-90s, twenty years older than the wife.

the point of my post is the devotion of the wife to her husband's care.  she has sacrificed so much of herself to his well-being, giving up most of her pursuits outside their home.  one can see the toll this is taking on her, yet she feels no resentment for having given up so much of herself for his sake.  such a great love and sense of devotion is rare, and it is wonderful to behold.

in my morning quiet time, i thought of how this love we are observing is like the love God has for us.  God is constant in caring for us, always present, always ready to meet our needs, always loving us.  yet unlike the human devotion we see in our friends, God never tires, there is never any relenting in God's concern for us, there is never any sense that God would need a time away from caring for us.  it is amazing that there is such a Being who is so filled with love for creatures who are often so lacking in love & devotion.

my prayer this morning is that we can be committed to caring for each other as our friend is in caring for her husband, recognizing that in order to find one's life one must lose it, & that we remember that our love for another is a reflection of the great love God has for each of us.