Those who believe that they believe in God,
but without passion in their hearts,
without anguish in mind,
without uncertainty, 
without doubt,
without an element of despair even in their consolation,
believe only in the God idea, not God Himself.
                                                       - Unamuno

Paradox of fog

The paradox of fog is that it both conceals and reveals. I made this photo of delicate spiderwebs one foggy morning. The previously invisible webs were made visible by the fog's moisture.
Faith, like fog, enables us to see things that are not visible to the naked eye.

The Mystery that's God

It seems the more I think, pray, study and experience,
the more unknowable God becomes. This, I suppose, is
what is meant by the mystery of God. I love that God is 
so much more than I’ll ever be able to comprehend. Yet 
it’s frustrating for someone like me -- who loves to figure 
things out, to have things add up and make sense -- that 
I’ll never know God completely.

Whenever I think I’ve gotten a “fix” on God, whenever 
I begin to think or believe I know what God is up to, God 
throws me a curveball, cautioning me that I'm becoming
a spiritual know-it-all. 

So it's out of necessity, as well as choice, that I turn to 
Jesus for help in connecting with the Great Unknown. 
I listen to what he has to say about God, I relate to his 
struggle to discern God’s will, and I learn the wisdom 
of humility: to surrender without knowing the outcome.

Such is the spiritual life. 

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

Jesus vs. religion

What is the kind of religion that Jesus opposed? Any religion that is proud of its virtue, like the boastful Pharisee. Any that is self-righteous, quick to judge and condemn, ready to impose burdens rather than share or lift them. Any that exalts its own officers, proud of its trappings, building expensive monuments to itself. Any that neglects the poor and cultivates the rich, any that scorns outcasts and flatters the rulers of this world. If that sounds like just about every form of religion we know, then we can see how far from religion Jesus stood.
- Gary Wills

There's no such thing as NOT worshipping...


"In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

 If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness."



– This is Water (David Foster Wallace) 

I am torn

O God, I am torn.
Do I rant or praise?
This world is so magnificent,
so flawed,
and I cannot divert
my gaze,
my heart,
from either.

Afterlife

In the October 18, 2012 issue of Newsweek a neurosurgeon writes about his journey to the afterlife. Dr. Eben Alexander chronicles in vivid, sensory detail his near-death experience after his cortex shut down for seven days due to a rare bacterial meningitis. While in a deep coma, Alexander experienced the universe as "the same one both Einstein and Jesus were speaking of in their very different ways."  He is so convinced this experience is "Proof of Heaven" (title of his forthcoming book) that he's willing to put his name and professional credentials on the line.

Alexander received a three-part message from a being he encountered while on his journey:

"You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever."
"You have nothing to fear."
"There is nothing you can do wrong."

In addition to seeing "big, puffy, pink-white clouds," Alexander speaks of "entering an immense void, completely dark, infinite in size, yet also infinitely comforting." He quotes the 17th century poet Henry Vaughan who described "this vast, inky-black core that was the home of the Divine itself."

"There is, some say, in God a deep but dazzling darkness." (Vaughan)

Medieval mystics knew and wrote about the Void, the Abyss, the no-thingness of God. God is everywhere and nowhere, in the dark as well as the light.

Something for us to ponder in our hearts.

Resurrection


Resurrection was the subject of endless late-night discussions in seminary. “You don’t really believe in resurrection, do you?”  
“Are you kidding? If Jesus wasn’t resurrected, my faith has no meaning.” 
“Resurrection is a myth.”

At this time of the year -- every year -- flower heads die, yielding seeds that are capable of producing new growth. It's the end of the old, the beginning of the new. We accept this natural cycle without question.  In fact, our lives depend upon it.

When we welcome Christ into our lives, we’re made new. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!"

I can't prove if or how Jesus’s resurrection happened. But I am willing to trust that God – the creator of all that we know and all that we don’t know – could make it happen. Because I know my resurrected life doesn't look anything like it did B(efore) C(hrist). 

The courage to change

So often in our willingness to surrender, to hand things over to God, we forget that we also prayed for "the courage to change the things that we can."  Who doesn't want God to step in, to wave some kind of supranatural wand and have the source of our disquiet disappear? It's so much easier than doing the hard work that transforms change from a prayer into a reality.

Change calls us to move from where we are, from where we've been hiding, from where we've felt most comfortable. For some, it may mean speaking up for the first time on behalf of ourselves, or stop trying to "make peace," or walking away. For others, it may mean stepping into a space that feels very, very uncomfortable.  We forget that God, bent down on one knee -- like an encouraging, loving parent -- arms stretched out toward us, is calling us forward. Only we can move our feet.

The Peace of Wild Things


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
- Wendell Berry




A way where there is no way; 

that is something God, 

and only God, can provide.


Responsive prayer for our world


Lord, sometimes the world feels like it’s spinning out of control.
     We no longer believe what we hear or read.
We’ve grown cynical about everything from climate change 
to the number of American children who are hungry.
     We don’t want to know what we know.
We feel powerless in the face of painful realities; 
we pretend they don’t exist.
     You call us to do what we can; to live life with honesty and integrity.
To make a difference; to not sit back and think only of ourselves.
     Lord, let our lives be a witness to your love and concern for the world.
     Help us begin anew today.  Amen.

Happy Birthday

Two years ago a friend gave me a bouquet of sunflowers with a colorful card. I hung the card in my kitchen as a reminder of the joy of friendship.

When I posted this photo on flickr today I almost instantly received a Happy Birthday wish from an online friend. A while back I would have rushed to explain,"Well, today's not my birthday." Instead, I've decided to let it go.

Meister Eckhart, an early Christian mystic, once asked, "What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and culture?

Happy Birthday, Christ, into my life today.

Peace be with you


I love just about everything related to fall.  I love waking up when it's still dark outside, savoring my first cup of coffee in the glow of my computer screen.  I love the heavy dew that saturates our dogs' paws.  I love having to put on socks and a sweatshirt for my morning walk.  I love the crunch of leaves underfoot and the smell of my neighbors' wood stoves. I love the sun's lower angle throughout the day, especially in the early evening hours when it seems the leaves have burst into orange, yellow, ochre, red, and purple flame. I love cooking a different menu of foods:  soups, casseroles, and one-pot meals.  I love wearing a soft cotton nightshirt to bed and putting on a flannel robe and slippers in the morning. And I love the promise of new programs at the church where I pastor, at school, on television, and on the internet via free college curricula (see Coursera.org). I'm at peace in this season.  I wish you the same.

Being there



I've been experimenting with my iPhone camera and have discovered the freedom of having no control over aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.   I point. I shoot. It's that simple. Yet something magical happens in that moment. I'm capturing the mood, the experience of just being there.  How wonderful is that?

Imago

Imago: psych., an often idealized image of a person formed in childhood and persisting unconsciously into adulthood.

I was wearing chubby-sized clothing when I first got my Barbie. Though Barbie was more lifelike than any other doll I'd ever had, I didn't covet her long legs and cone-shaped breasts.  I was realistic enough to know they were outside my realm of possibility.  I did pour over any catalogue that featured her trademark clothes, and I purchased items that spoke to my fashion sensibilities.

Recently I took Barbie out of the black travel case that's sat on a shelf in my clothes closet since my husband and I moved into our present home twenty years ago. I perched Barbie on a book shelf in my office for a photo shoot.

Later I looked through the clothes that were stored in Barbie's travel case.  I found her signature strapless, black & white striped one-piece bathing suit; a soft coral kitchen apron and puffy white chef hat; and a deep red business suit.  The suit's pencil skirt falls just below Barbie's knees.  Its boxy, short-waisted jacket has no collar or closures.  The jacket's style is identical to several jackets I've owned and worn over the years.

Hmmm.  Maybe Barbie had more of an influence on me than I imagined.

Moments of bliss



Ed and I took the dogs for a swim last night at our neighbor’s pond. We were relieved to discover that a recent rainstorm had purged the pond of its smelly green scum.  The dogs, who’d slept most of the day in our air-conditioned living room, launched themselves into the water and paddled in pursuit of trout.

I photographed Maggie when she exited the pond and had what Ed and I call one of her "moments of bliss.”  Maggie dropped onto the ground, rolled over onto her back –- legs and feet thrust upward -- and rubbed her torso and head on the coarse grass, mouth open, gasping with pleasure.  Her moments of bliss can border on erotic.

A few hours after I posted the above photo on Flickr, a friend wrote that he wished his neighbor had a pond. 

My friend’s comment helped me to see that I’ve been taking that beautiful pond and our many wonderful experiences there for granted.  Over time I’ve lost my sense of gratitude for the owner’s willingness to let Ed and me visit with our dogs. 

I hope I’ll continue to notice what I’ve been taking for granted in my life.