Friday, February 29, 2008
The first words God says in the Bible are, "Let there be light." Darkness and chaos gives way to light and order.
Not many verses before the end of the Bible in the Book of Revelation that author in describing the heavenly Jerusalem says, "The city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since the glory of God is its light....They need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light."
Our word "God" comes from the Sanskrit word for day and suggests brilliance, light, sunshine. Light makes it possible to see. In the early dawn we see only black and white and gray. But as the light increases we see the world in color.
Sun shining on snow transforms it into a forest of sparkling diamonds.
Some days the volcanic peaks of Washington and Oregon cannot be seen from a distance, but when the light is right, they can be seen from a hundred miles away.
Light gives life. Without the sun our world would wither and die.
Since God is mystery we look for symbols to help us get some understanding of the Divine. Light is one of the clearest symbols of God, who gives us life and enables us to see both physically and spiritually.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
"No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place." -- Zen saying
This morning was one of those magic winter mornings when God is present everywhere you look. It started snowing Tuesday night and has snowed off and on since. Maybe about 5 inches. This morning the temperature was 19 degrees when I went for my walk. The snow was extremely fine but there was so much of it that I could barely see the shore across from me. There was next to no wind. The flakes just floated around me. All the trees were outlined in snow. The plow had not been on the road yet so I was walking in virgin snow. Near the end of my walk the snow changed to those big, fluffy flakes that mesmerise me and lift me out of myself into the Beauty.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water," says Loren Eiseley, a scientist who writes like a poet. That's the first sentence of his essay "The Flow of the River." Because of a childhood incident he is afraid to swim, but one day he decides to lie down face up in a shallow river and let the water take him. As he floats he becomes intensely aware of the water that is in his body uniting him with the water in the river and all the water on earth and with all the forms of water, including the snow on the Himalayas.
He points out that we are three fourths water. We are "a way that water has of going about beyond the reach of rivers." We are water up walking around.
This profound and intimate way of thinking about water makes it a perfect image of the life God shares with us. Through that Spirit we are at one with God in an even more intimate and powerful way than we are with all the water on the earth. We are the Spirit of God out walking around.
Friday, February 22, 2008
"The water I will give will become in them
a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."
-- John 4:14
The vivid water imagery that Jesus uses in talking to the Samaritan woman at the well helps us to appreciate how very real the life is that Jesus shares with us. Jesus realizes that she is thirsty for more than water from the well. He draws her into conversation by asking for a drink. She is taken aback since a man did not talk to a woman alone and a Jew did not talk to a Samaritan.
Double and triple meanings are common in John's Gospel. The woman is thinking about the water in the well. Jesus says to her and to us, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."
Resurrection makes Jesus himself a gushing spring of living water, the Holy Spirit. We drink this "living water" and are filled to overflowing with the life of the Spirit. Just as her encounter with Jesus inspired the Samaritan woman to share Jesus with others, this life of the Spirit gushes out of us into anyone we encounter.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Mountains have traditionally been places for experiencing Divinity. The Dolomites in northern Italy are magnificent mountains where I had an intense experience of God as the rising sun made everything splendid. As Tennessee Williams has Blanche DuBois say, "Suddenly there's God."
It's to a mountain, then, that Jesus takes three Apostles for an intense experience of God in Jesus. He was transfigured. His face became like the sun. His clothes shining with light. A cloud embraced them. Both light and cloud cannot be grasped. Good symbols, then, to express the inexpressable Divinity. Suddenly there's God.
God is always waiting to show Godself to us. Regularly setting aside a particular time and space for prayer can ready us for those moments in our ordinary, everyday life when suddenly there's God.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I woke this morning from a dream that made me feel happy and contented. There were a lot of people. Most of them had something orange that was sort of a scraper with which they were cleaning themselves of sin. Another sizeable number had red containers that were collecting grace. Some finished with the orange scrapers and got red containers.
I had neither. There were others here and there who had neither. I wondered why I didn't have a red container. I didn't really want one. In fact, it seemed that just wanting was what got someone an orange scraper or a red container. I was very content as I was.
We all seemed to be headed somewhere, but in no order and in no hurry. More like quietly drifting.
Someone into dream analysis might come up with some grand or embarassing interpretation. I figure it for a Lenten dream, heading toward Easter, getting rid of sin, being filled with God's life and God's love. The happiness and contentment that I was feeling as I came out of the dream makes me guess that I am satisfied for now with what God is doing with my life.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
"The best way to know God is to love many things."
-- Vincent Van Gogh
The quote I have liked for a long time and just came across again recently. This is a picture of the work of a glass artist, Dale Chihuly. He has done many large installations in a wide variety of places. I saw this one in the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh where he has installed many of his works in among the plants. It is a spectacular exhibit. Everything beautiful carries God to us.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Yesterday morning's temperature was 1 degree. Today we have had about ten inches of snow. Getting out to vote was a little chancey.
As I was driving home the snow was coming down in big, big flakes, beautiful to look at, uplifting, almost hypnotic. Now I am warm and peaceful at home.
As much as I like winter and snow and cold, I also look forward to getting to the Caribbean each winter. As I was eating lunch in Puerto Rico with some friends I got up and, with no planning, snapped this picture. Everything about it seems right, just as it should be. It reminds me of the warm and relaxed feeling I had there. God comes to me in cold and warmth, in snow and palm lined beaches.
Friday, February 8, 2008
On Ash Wednesday it was warm and raining and I got to thinking that "Lent" was an old English word for "springtime." This early in February, though, I realized that in these mountains we still would have more cold and snow. Then late in the afternoon this double rainbow appeared.
The rainbow was the sign that God gave Noah of the covenant between God and our earth. After the flood it was a sign of hope for a new earth. I'll take Wednesday's rainbow as a promise of new life for me and for our earth, even though there may be some wintry trials ahead.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
I just came back from my first walk in my neighborhood since I returned from vacation a week ago. It is so quiet and peaceful. Walking for me is contemplation. Trees are bare. No wind. A gentle breeze here and there. 30 degrees. A little ice on the road. The stream under the road was high and flowing and also water in a ditch by the side of the road. I don't make any effort to think of a particular thing or to say prayers. The walking itself and the looking lull me into an awareness of the Divine.
While I was on Flamenco Beach, Culebra, three weeks ago I walked its two miles two and three times a day. The sound of the surf and the warm air and the fine sand under my feet and the few people playing or sunning themselves creates a kind of contentment and joy. Lying in the water and letting it support me was renewing. Flamenco is among the top three or four beaches that I have experienced in my 22 years visiting the Caribbean. It is the classsic horseshoe shape, open to the north, sunny all day. Invites contemplation.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
A shock to see "Christmas" in the title of my last entry. And here we are at Ash Wednesday.
The meaning of the ashes is not entirely clear. We know that ashes were used in most ancient religions. To acknowledge their sin, someone might say, "I am nothing but dust and ashes." On our own we really are nothing. God is everything. All that we are and have and do is God's doing.In Isaiah 26:12 we pray, "Our peace is your gift, Lord, our good deeds your work." Putting ashes on ourselves can help us reflect that we are nothing without God.
We are not left in ashes. The Messiah promises "to comfort all who mourn, and to give them instead of ashes a garland." (Isiah 61:3)