Wednesday, July 25, 2007

THE NATURE OF GOD - Summer 2007

Bidden or unbidden, God is present...Carl Jung

A walk in the prairie always gets me thinking, which is why at Prairie Pond Woods an evening stroll is a top priority. Around 8:00 pm, I check to see whether conditions are right for a good sunset. If the colors and clouds look promising, I’ll take a quick walk on the Refresher Course, just to see what new displays may have emerged, and end up back on the Adirondacks for the evening's grand finale.' Otherwise, I’ll take my time and just meander through the grasses, flowers and cedars, through the woods, and then end at the noisy pond around dusk, all the while letting my mind putter inside my head.

On such a walk the other evening, I thought about this wonderful creation and how much nature is like God (it can’t help be because it is one of God’s expressions) and the many facets we can learn about our Creator through it. Just like the presence of God, nature is all around us but, sadly, most people do not know or understand the very things God has chosen to sustain us in this world. Many of us are unaware of how the natural world regulates our earth’s temperature, provides us with oxygen and other necessary elements, nurtures us with food, and feeds our soul with beauty.

What is this “world” that God so loved he sent Jesus to die for? The Greek word Kosmos means an “orderly arrangement or decoration.” Could it include not only its human inhabitants, but also the soil, sky, water, plants and other animals arranged on it and “decorated” by it? I believe Jesus died for the cosmos, the entire creation, because it is his loving handiwork and he desires to redeem it.

If this is true, perhaps we should pay a bit more attention to the world we live in. We may drive down the road and see “green” on either side, or even take a walk in a park, but not really know what it is that surrounds us; the names of plants or animals, their behaviors and timetables, their fascinating intricacies. And just as with nature, we can have a superficial knowledge and understanding of God, never experiencing the fascinating intimacies God wants to have with us.

The more I learn about nature the more connected I feel to the physical world. Craig sometimes asks me how I can stand always being “tuned in” to the birdsongs all the time. But I find that it actually comforts me to know what it is I see, hear and smell; like being in a room of people whom I’ve already met and whose names I now know. I begin to see the big picture of not only the human community I am part of but also the one made of flora and fauna. I affect it and it affects me.

The same is true in our connection to the world of the spirit. When we spend time with God, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts, the more we begin to hear and see spiritual things and recognize sacred moments in our everyday lives. When we stop our routines and allow ourselves time to meditate...on the life of Jesus, on the shortness of our days, on the desires in our souls, or the beauty of a zinnia bud ready to burst open...we are changed.

This connection is possible at any moment and God is always waiting for us to exercise awareness that the Holy Spirit is present. So, I extend a challenge to you for your week. Each evening around 8:30, step outside, by yourself or with someone you love, and watch the sunset. Give God glory for the deep breaths you take in and the Light filtering through the clouds that warms your skin.

Know that God is there…along with all Creation...waiting to be understood.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

THE NATURE OF GOD- Spring 2007

Things Are Never As They Seem

One morning in May, I might have gone deaf had God turned up the volume, even just a little, on the bird songs ricocheting through the air. Spring migration seemed to be at its zenith on that clear, warm day with the sun finally shining. The previous two night’s storms probably helped carry many of them up from the south. Surprisingly, thousands of songbirds fly overhead at night in April and May, migrating from Central or South America to breed in the US and Canada. Many of them fly for hours before stopping to feed and rest during the day in the trees (and sometimes feeders) right outside your door. That day, at Prairie Pond Woods, it was a virtual smorgasbord.

As I sat on the deck making notes on nature’s timetables, out of the corner of my eye I (barely) noticed the dark-headed bird at the feeder flashing red and white feathers. I quickly passed it off thinking it was “just a Rufie” (an Eastern Towhee, formerly known as a Rufous-sided Towhee, which is my favorite bird). The male and female had been visiting the feeder frequently the last few days so I continued to write. But something told me to give the feeder a second look. And there they were…three female and one male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Nothing is ever as it seems at first glance.

Afer 3 days, the count was up to 6 males and an undetermined number of females volleying back and forth from the feeder to the surrounding pine trees.

Later that day on the deck, one eye on the birds and the other finishing up the book of Matthew, I was struck by the words of the centurion given charge to guard Jesus as he was being crucified. Earlier, he probably saw Roman soldiers mocking Jesus’ “make-believe royalty” and heard Jewish leaders taunting him saying, “You saved others, save yourself.”

But when the mid-day sky turned dark and ominous, after an earthquake resurrected the dead, and after Jesus cried out, “Father into your hands I commit my Spirit,” the centurion was compelled to take a second look. Perhaps when his fear of danger outweighed the fear of his fellow soldiers, he finally asked, "Who was this man, really?" The humble man, he remembered, who never once defended himself, though innocent of the charges for which he was dying? The powerful man, who he'd heard made sick people well again with just a word? And the gracious man, who gave “good news" to the discouraged and hopeless people on the fringe?

In response to what must have been a terrifying realization, his only words recorded were, “Surely this was the Son of God.” Nothing is ever as it seems…

Madelline L’Engle calls awareness “a discipline that must be developed.” It involves the work of paying attention, taking time for attentiveness, beyond our first impressions. Perhaps it involves asking questions, like Jesus did, and praying for discernment. The world is a complicated place. We are complex people. And the truth about someone or a situation is often masked behind layers of things; things that God wants to either deliver us from or make us sensitive to. So cultivate the habit of taking a second look. Look may find something worth the effort.

May 2007