26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” (NRSV)
To whom were you speaking when you created humans? Who did you consult, an unborn Adam or, other gods just stopping by to see how you were doing?
I’m asking for a friend ‘cause I think you need new consultants.
Today, I went into the woods cool shadows covered me soft breezes kissed me my footsteps muffled by last year’s leaves I breathe deeply scents of leaf, violet, and damp earth surround me robin, finch, and woodpecker serenade me rabbit, doe, and fox walk beside me. I walked in the woods today creation sang her glory life in all her splendor surrounded me The Creator held me in her arms
I have been trying to make sense of the events of the last week. The deaths of two black men at the hands of the police, the Dallas Police targeted and killed, and the bombings in Iraq and Turkey. And, just today a new shooting in Michigan. My heart is filled with sadness and tears and I could only cry out to God “Where Are YOU.”
“God where were you . . .
when suicide bombers chose to end their lives and take the innocent with them?
Where were you when 29 men and woman
enjoying a night out were used as target practice?
Where are you when cops shoot people,
when people shoot people,
when cops are targeted,
When people die, the good and the bad?”
God where are you . . .
when we are filled with emptiness by shooting after shooting,
when bombings and assaults become common place?
Where are you when we turn the news on and
another child has died, another cop is killed,
another person of color, differing abilities, or characteristics is assaulted or killed?”
“Why Oh God do you not answer?”
God said “I am there . . .
Holding the bodies as they bleed,
I am there leading the survivors’ out of danger.
I am there, holding the victim’s family’s in my arms
I am there in the broken hearts of witnesses, law enforcement.”
“When the darkness is greatest
I will sit with you, and listen to your sorrows,
I will hold you in my arms when you are weary.”
All I can do is lead the dying home to my arms,
to comfort those left behind, if they let me.”
“When pain and grief grip you
I will be there to tell you everything will be alright.
When you scream into the night,
I will come and comfort you,
I will dry your tears, and wrap you in my embrace.”
“I will be there when you are weary and in pain,
I will be there to lift you up, and comfort you,
All you have to do is call”.
God said, “I cry when you do not hear my voice, and
I cannot stop you from harming each other,
that choice is yours alone.
“All I can do is encourage each of you to stand up for justice and mercy.
All I can do is hope your hearts will soften
and let the love I have for each of you awaken your love for each other.
All I can do is wait for you to choose the path of justice, mercy, love and peace
between your selves and all that is created.”
God says “I gave you the choice of right or wrong,
It is up to you to choose. I will not make that choice for you
nor will I force you to choose one path over another!”
“You asked for freedom, it is your responsibility to choose.
Choose to use that freedom wisely.”
Stained Glass window of Julian of Norwich, Church of St. Julian, Norwich UK
For just as our bodies are clothed in garments,
our flesh enclosed by our skin,
our hearts centered in our body,
so are we, spirit and flesh,
clothed head to toe in the goodness of God.
But this metaphor hardly does justice,
for all things will decline and wear out.
God’s goodness, however, is everlasting,
and is incomparably nearer to us than our very flesh.
Julian of Norwich 14th century Anchorite
We are clothed in God, clothed in the goodness of God. These words have been especially comforting to me today as last week was an especially difficult one. Just knowing God, Spirit, and Christ are closer to me than my own flesh has kept me going.
During the day be especially sensitive to when God is present. At day’s end remember the times when you noticed God’s blessed presence. How did you feel?
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins.
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner,
To teach the nations,
To bring Christ to all,
To make music in the heart.
Audio of Jim Strathdee singing I Am the Light of the World
Today, January 6th, is Epiphany, the day tradition tells us the Wise Men visited Jesus, Mary and Joseph. My mother used to call this day “little Christmas,” and she would prepare a special meal in the evening. I don’t remember gifts being exchanged but we did eat a lot, and usually finished up the Christmas cookies. But, it was years later when the song I Am the Light of the World by Jim Strathdee, based on Howard Thurman’s poem, came out that I began to look at this day differently.
Today instead of just thinking about nameless astrologers coming from the east and giving unusual gifts to the Child I see this day as less a celebration and more of a new start to living as Jesus taught. Thurman’s poem and Strathdee’s music remind us that Christmas isn’t just one day, 12 days, or the 34 days of Epiphany. (Yes, today only begins the season of Epiphany which will end on Ash Wednesday this year on February 10th when Lent begins.) We are called to carry the message of the love of compassion, justice and peace throughout the year. The season of Epiphany offers us the opportunity to make caring for our fellow travelers on this planet, human or animal, a habit. A habit that empowers the weak and the young, gives food to the hungry and compassion to our elderly, poor, lonely, homeless, and war torn neighbors in this place we call home. Strathdee’s hymn is the theme song for our work in the world, the work of Christmas.
Every year we are given the opportunity to begin again as Jesus followers. Every year we are reminded of who we are, and whose we are. Every year we are given another chance to live our lives in such a way as to bring change to the world. Every year we are given the chance to accept the radical challenge of being the Christ figure for the people we see and interact with every day. It is a radical idea! If each of our neighborhoods is changed, even a little, eventually we change the world and Jesus and God never asked us to be more than who we are, only to be the best that we can be.
To live with compassion, love justice and to travel in the company of the Divine is all we are asked to do. I don’t think that means a drastic change in our habits, rather it means we share what we have so that all have enough. Is that really so hard?
So I challenge myself, and you, to begin to change how we live in the world, feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, standing up and letting your voice be heard when justice is violated and oh so many other little acts of compassion. Each of us can do something. We don’t have to do everything at once simply pick one to get started, let one act of love become a habit this year.
Luke 19:40: He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Power of 10 Are We Alone in the Universe,
Updated May 3, 2011 by Securityscience
Several years ago someone sent me this video that imagines going out from a 1 meter distance by a power of 10 up to 1020 Km or 10 million light years, then coming back to earth to 1 meter starting point and doing a reverse trip into a leaf by a power of ten to 10-16 meters or 100 Atómeters (that’s 0.0000000000000001 meters). What has always fascinated me we could have kept going forever if we are traveling away from earth, there is no limit that we know of to the distance we can travel. However, 10-16 is the smallest we can get if we reverse the trip. After this point all is mystery. What lies beyond that limit of 10-16?
While this video imagines going into leave they could just have easily imagined entering an atom of a rock. You see that place of mystery is found in all things, living or what we call non-living. Whether rock or human both are made of atoms and that means that this place of mystery is found in rocks, humans, our pets, trees, and air. What mystery does this place hold? What if our connection to all things created is found within this gigantic, tiny, place. What if, this is where the Divine can be found and how would that idea change the way you think about our planet, our universe.
When George Lucas created the story of Star Wars he consulted with the author Joseph Campbell about mythology and how it explains the unexplainable. From those conversations Lucas developed the concept of the “Force” surrounding and being within all things, not unlike this place of mystery in every atom. So might our search for the unexplainable be present within each of us?
Might it be that developing a relationship with the Creator requires us to look within ourselves, to listen to the inner “voice” that whispers to us at the edge of our consciousness. That is what the mystics tell us we should do. What if we should recognize the presence of the Creator in more than each other? That we should respect all created things, even rocks because the Creator, or however you name or depict the Divine, will be found there.
This week’s meditation
After you watch this video look at your hand and contemplate how the molecules and atoms that make up your hand resemble the greater universe. Then contemplate how the place of mystery compares to the limitlessness of space. Where might you find the greatest mystery of life? Contemplate how we as humans are connected to more than each other. Then ask yourself “what can I do, no matter how small, to help reconnect each of us to the Divine?”
Fall has finally arrived in the Northwest. The trees are shedding their leaves, my garden is clean all ready for winter, and the air has turned cold. The land is preparing to sleep until the earth shifts again and the warm sun returns. I took a walk through Yost Park with the dogs the other day and the air was rich with the scent of wet and rotting leaves. This is a time for animals to prepare for the coming winter when food is scarce and the land is cold and wet.
Fall is also a time for us to slow down, to sit with a cup of warm tea, coffee, or coco and let the seasons turn. A time to pull out the afghans and a good book. It is also a time of reflection. It is a time to remember the joys of spring and summer and the many joyful moments. A time to ask ourselves questions: what have I done this year that will leave it a better place? Have I spent time caring for others, standing up when injustice rears its ugly head? Have I taken care of my own spiritual needs? Have I remembered to stop, recharge and renew myself so that I will have the energy to be present to those in need? This is the time to look back at what I could have done better, and to look forward to how I will improve. It is also a time to reflect on how I have done my best with all I have even if I didn’t achieve all I wanted to; remembering that doing my best was enough.
This week I challenge you to sit down with a warm cup of something, or maybe a glass of wine, and spend some time on your past year. Let the joys and celebrations provide the energy to improve what didn’t go so well. Laugh, cry, and dance your memories of spring and summer. Remember the sun and wind on your face. Look back at your achievements and at what didn’t get done. It is a time to forgive yourself and others. Were you the best you could be? As the summer ended did you leave the earth a better place, did you care for the disadvantage, or do something to respond to the many, way too many, disasters of the last year? Look toward the coming year and ask yourself how can I be someone who cares about mercy, justice, and peace? How can I care for my own spiritual well being? These aren’t easy questions, and they may take many days to reflect on. But it is dark early now, and it’s cold outside so curl up in your lap robe and reflect on who you are.
May the coming days of fall and winter be a time of rest for your spirit and a time to prepare for the next spring and summer.
Psalm 23:1-3 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul.*He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
In the last several months I have been struggling to find the calm midst the shootings in Umpqua, the deaths of those fighting wild fires, more shootings (at least one a week), floods, earthquakes, and all of the other disasters that seem to be all that is ever reported by news media. I know I will not find any meaning in any of these crises, so, I am looking for a way through the noise and pain I hear, read about, and feel within. Yesterday I found my still point when I happened upon the following poem written by grandfather:
Commentary on the 23rd Psalm
“In pastures green?” Not always: sometimes Thou
who knoweth best, in kindness leadeth me
in weary ways, where heavy shadows be.
And by “still waters?” No not always so;
oft times the heavy tempest round me blow
and o’er my soul the waves and billows go
But where the storm beats loudest,
and I cry aloud for help, The Master standeth by
and whispers to my soul “Lo, it is I.”
So where He leads me I can safely go,
and in the blest hereafter I shall know,
why, in His wisdom, He hath lead me so.
By Grandfather Rufus Miller, 1937
As I read the familiar lines I remembered I don’t have to understand the why of things. I don’t have to carry the burdens of the world on my shoulders. I don’t even have try to carry all of the world’s problems. I can’t change the way people treat others, I have no control over how one person treats another. However, I do have control over how I treat those around me. I do have control of how I respond to the many crises trumpeted in the news.
My grandfather’s poem reminds me that life is not a bed or roses where everything will always be “hot coco, and peanut butter toast by the evening fire.” No there are bad people in the world and even though I, or my loved ones, have done nothing wrong, or done anything to cause a tragedy, other people will affect my life in both good ways and bad. I can’t stop it from happening. I know I can’t stop the hate, but, I can stop the hate from residing in my heart. I can stop myself from acting out of anger and rage. I can stop and take a deep breath and let the real me come up from deep inside. That is all I can do.
For the prayer practice this week I am offering a chant that helps me when I am feeling lost. It is the refrain of a hymn written by Marty Haugen and below is the score for the chant. Above is a video of Haugen’s complete hymn. Watch the above video and when you are feeling a little lost this week sing the refrain. You don’t have to chant out loud, and you can chant anytime of the day, driving, riding public transit, cooking dinner or even working on that paper for class or the boss.
May you find your still point, and may it bring you comfort.