Friday, August 31, 2018

As August Draws to a Close

The past few days have been so enjoyable.  It is not that I have done anything special, but the cool weather has been such a pleasant traveling companion.  When I spotted these asters, I knew for certain that September and autumn were on their way. I am grateful.  
Today will find me moving some dirt from one area of the front yard to various pots and planters.  A neighbor loaned me his wheelbarrow, a nice old rusty thing that makes me smile every time I look at it.  I have learned that I am not a very good gardener, at least at this time of my life, so I am simplifying things.  Perhaps this is what it means to let nature take its course.  I must let mine do the same.  
Have a beautiful last day of August. May we all enjoy our tasks at hand.  

Give Thy blessing, we pray Thee, to our daily work, 
that we may do it in faith, and heartily. 

-- Thomas Arnold (1795-1842) 
 from Spirituality and Practice, 
August 30, 2018    

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Inhabiting the Unknowing

"Here’s what I’ve learned: God is with me. God is not just watching from above. God will not decide whether I live or die by how often I pray. God is with me the most when I am at my most lonely and afraid. God will be there for my son. When I call for help, I feel God’s presence in calm and peace. As God tells the reader in Isaiah 45:7 (KJV): “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” I interpret these enigmatic words not to mean that God literally created and gave me my cancer, but that God is in all things, both the light and darkness, the peace and the evil. Where evil exists, God does not absent God-self." 
Ana Silver
article in Christian Century by Elizabeth Palmer 
I came across Ana Silver's writing while perusing "Christian Century" online. I was unfamiliar with this poet who  passed away in August at the age of 49.  This is lovely, insightful writing, but truthfully I found the passage from Isaiah unsettling. Does God create evil?   Despite the claim recently made by a patient I met in a skilled nursing this week that the King James translation is the most accurate of all translations, there are other worthy translations. The NRSV reads: "I form light and create darkness, I make weal and woe."  Yes, I had to look up weal, and it means prosperity or well-being.  So, according to Isaiah, it seems God is willing to claim it all:  light, darkness, wellness, and woe.   God is casting no thing and no one aside. 
I know the temptation to simply pluck out the most uplifting passages of the Bible and let the rest go.  While at times comforting words are needed, sometimes we do need to ponder the more difficult or troubling parts because we, too, are being called to hold light, darkness, wellness, and woe.  Yes, it is hard to not give light and goodness preferential treatment.  Most of us do want to feel good, but sometimes that is just not possible.        
Isaiah 45:18-19 has me also thinking about chaos, and that maybe chaos does not really exist: that there is an order to everything. It could be that when our vision and understanding fall short, what we think we are seeing and experiencing is chaos, but really what we are experiencing is the inability to see over our current horizon.  Maybe we are called to "unknow" or "un-label" our assumptions (which often cause us to be feel separate and afraid), and simply learn to be present even when we do not understand - to be present with that which we cannot name.   
 "For thus says the LORD, 
who created the heavens
(he is God!), 
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it; 
he did not create it a chaos, 
he formed it to be inhabited!): 
I am the LORD, and there is no other. 
I did not speak in secret, 
in a land of darkness: 
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, 
"Seek me in chaos." 
I the LORD speak the truth, 
I declare what is right."     
 I actually find this passage comforting; it implies that while there is an order that I may not understand, I can trust it. Yes, the Bible can be enigmatic, however, Jesus was very clear about loving God, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  This is our project, and it is enough for a lifetime.  We must remember that despite the mystery that is God, Jesus called God, "Abba", one of his heart and his soul, and one he spent much time with. Such intimacy is possible, even in the presence of the unknowable.  
 Jesus and Isaiah remind me that we have been created to inhabit this life - all of it, no picking and choosing what we think are the best parts, because in every moment, every inch of the journey, there God is.  It is a journey to love. Blessed be.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Psalm 127

I am taking comfort in this Psalm this morning.   
Unless the Lord builds the house, 
it will not endure for long. 
Unless the Lord guards the country, 
it will not be safe from danger. 
Vainly you keep toiling and planning
and worrying about tomorrow. 
He gives joy to those who love him 
and blesses them with his peace.       
Psalm 127, A Book of Psalms, Stephen Mitchell 


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Hidden Thereness

On Sunday afternoon, shortly after a call to Tyler telling him I was stopping by the store on my way home,  my phone battery died.  I was surprised, but then I had not been keeping an eye on it. I am not very good with making phone calls, especially just to sit and chat, so when the screen went dark my first concern was not of a missed call, but of this photograph. Would it be lost? I then felt some regret that I had not sent it that morning. Yet, after a short period of continued darkness, the phone did charge. Nothing was lost, but something was gained, but that something is difficult to describe. It was simply a moment when what I was expecting to see was not there, at least in a way I could experience.  That moment with its emptiness/non-emptiness seems worth savoring: a brief time of remembering that neither God nor our souls can be boxed in by our expectations, however much we want to bend us both into those narrow corners.  
Pictures of lilies are quite common this time of year, so I do recognize that I am not sharing something rare. However, the colors still astound me year after year. Therefore, this morning I send this to you with gratitude.      

Thursday, August 2, 2018

What Is It That You Seek?

I think I am both 
rock and journey
ground and dreams
a darkening landscape 
a moonlit sky 
a bird on a wing 
a fallen leaf 
a footprint; 
but who I really am is you. 
  SAY, late July, 2018