It seems to me that the best “sign” that an able-minded person can receive from God is the simple fact that God saw fit to endow you with a working brain. If you are of rational mind and reasonable intelligence, I don’t think it’s necessary to try and find “signs” that you are doing the right thing. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be mindful of God’s will for our lives by being in prayer and study. I think that if you are able to see a situation for what it is whether it’s deciding to take a new job, to move to another city/state/country, to end an abusive relationship, to have more children, to change churches and so on, then you can make that decision without relying on “signs”. Yes, sometimes things happen in our lives that add clarity to those decisions but just because everything falls into place doesn’t necessarily make it a “God thing”. God’s will for our life isn’t a “That was easy!” button. Life itself is a “God thing” and it’s up to us to make something of the life we’ve been given. There are times when everything works out and decisions are easy. And there are times when things will work out but the decision is still very hard.
Category Archives: religion
I began this post as a part of the Museum of Sacred Space post last fall. Portions of it have been sitting in draft form since then for fear of sharing these thoughts.
It is said that there is a darkened room in the recesses of every person that we dare not let anyone else near for fear of exposing our true self.
There is something about “feel”, sacred space, mysticism and spirituality that is lacking in the version of Christianity to which I am accustomed. Entrenched squarely in the Enlightenment, what matters most in my tradition is what one knows and believes. It is a cerebral, internal, intellectual and thoughtful thing. Knowing and believing are wonderful and necessary but I think they are not entirely what it means to be in relationship with the divine or sacred.
I attended a “green” business summit last week that focused on sustainability. Some of the most fascinating seminar speakers talked about how the science of sustainability is going to nature to determine better ways to do things. It is a concept called “biomimicry”. It is all the rage. It is also nothing new.
We once thought that we could tame the world to do our bidding….bigger, better, faster, higher returns with smaller inputs, more, more, more. We thought that we could know everything there is to know about the world. However, we are slowly learning that we are but one component of a very complex system. We are learning that the natural way is cyclical not exponential, that our choices fueled by our knowledge have consequences that we can not always foresee or know.
Somewhere along the way our knowledge outstripped our ability to observe anything further in some matters (eg. string theory) and we lost touch with the natural rhythm and harmony of life. Michael Polanyi speaks well of this when he writes about transcendence in this essay. Within a framework of hierarchies and boundaries, the higher one gets in hierarchical levels, the more meaningful but intangible the levels become.
I think that is where the divine intersects our existence, something that we can encounter but can’t explain, something that we can know but not tell, something that, in its comprehensive form, is incomprehensible, something that is deeply meaningful but intangible, something ever-present but undetectable.
The more I think about this the more I understand that the encounter of the sacred in our lives is as individually resonant as just about anything else in life. While the St. Patrick’s Cathedral was beautiful and grand, it did not stir in me a sense of the sacred like beautiful art or a sunset or some music or a cool rock does. Aunt B “sits out“, Malia has her Wednesdays, and I have my music and art.
In all of these, we open that darkened room within ourselves and encounter what lives there. These are the encounters which ground us, which shape who we are as people, which define our true selves. It is here that we find our sacred space.
Back in December, our worship minister resigned to pursue other opportunities. He had a bunch of responsibilities in his worship ministry role including Christmas and Easter plays/concerts/productions. His resignation came after the Christmas concert was finished and it didn’t really hit me how much he set the tone for these two holidays until we got to Easter. There was no play/concert/production. There was no special chorus group for Sunday morning’s worship time. The cross that is always used at this time of year did not get set out and draped with a purple sash. And to be quite honest, yesterday felt kind of, well, bland. (I’m not at all disparaging what anyone did for yesterday’s service, just making an observation.)
And I’m not really sure how I feel about that. I know it shouldn’t take the charisma and talents of a worship minister for me to feel excited and joyous about our risen Savior on Easter (or any other Sunday for that matter). But on the other hand, I really missed that aspect of Easter Sunday this year.
There are times I allow myself to contemplate what the “gospel of Christ” fully means. In general, I find the topic to be rather scary because it illuminates how deficient I am as a “Christian”. Sure it is easy to rationalize and even talk about certain seasons in life when “worldly” matters must take priority over the full discipleship that a Christian is called to. But, it is easiest just to not think about it and keep those rationalizations as a hedge against any stray thoughts.
The title of this post is in quotes because it is from the “Beyond Vietnam” speech that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave in 1967. More specifically, he said it near the end of the introduction to explain the reason for being involved in pursuing peace and justice and opposing the Vietnam War. Most remember Dr. King with the label “civil rights leader”. I think that title diminishes what he was trying to do in “taking the gospel seriously” throughout his life. He felt compelled to involve himself in pursuing justice for the poor no matter where they lived and opposed the policies of the United States government and the people of the United States that used their position of power to exploit and oppress rather than administer justice and peace.
When I see the lengths to which Dr. King went to take the gospel seriously, even to his death, I am humbled and compelled to evaluate my own dedication and commitment to the gospel of Christ that teaches the way of peace and pursuit of justice even in the face of oppression and persecution. It reminds me that the way of human power is temporary and will always eventually be brought down by the ways of justice and peace. If you don’t believe me, then ask yourself who currently cares anything about the spread of communism via the domino theory?
There are many parallels to the current political climate. But then again, I think there always will be pressing crises that garner our attention and are vitally important that we urgently face and solve them, whether it be a soft housing market, an “Islamic terrorist” threat, a pending recession, a pit bull ban, what have you. From what I read and understand, a Christian is to live differently and unwaveringly by a different ethic that always points to justice and peace for all people no matter the current distracting crisis. I admire that quality of Dr. King above all others. May we all as a collective of humanity strive to live that way.
The Ladies Bible Study at my church that has just started is called “Cultivating Contentment”. I think it’s supposed to be about being content. (Yeah, yeah…I crack myself up!) We were having our group discussion time this morning and something about the verses we were looking at really stood out to me. It was Romans 8:19-22:
19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
I piped up and tried to explain why this was important to me but I didn’t do a very good job. It was hard to say without sounding kind of crazy and without the ladies in class possibly thinking I’m really a polytheist. But I was quite struck by the multiple uses of “all creation” in this passage. It also makes me think of Luke 19:40 where Christ says:
40“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
And there are numerous other references in the Bible to all of creation being part of giving glory to God and being affected by God’s will.
So, back to my musings. When I read, “all creation”, I think not only of mankind but of all the parts of this world; animals, trees, plants, flowers, oceans, rivers, mountains, glaciers, deserts, insects, etc, etc. And when I think about contentment, I believe that while it’s a worthy venture to try and find contentment in our circumstances, we will never be truly content until we “go home”. I think the restlessness of lives is a greater symptom of our underlying knowledge that “this world is not our home”. So, when I read that “all creation is eagerly waiting” and “looking forward”, I feel that even our planet is not completely content, not entirely satisfied with the status quo because even it knows that it’s not our true home. We’re all connected because we’re all the work of the Father and we’re all longing for the day when He calls us home.
And that’s what I was trying to say though it still may not make much sense!
Little did they know that our home is, in fact, where the Flying Spaghetti Monster resides. Ginger was christened by having spaghetti noodles thrown into her hair and her daughter, well, she received the most coveted blessing of all, Sauce in Thine Eye.
So, if you’re looking to convert, Tuesday is pasta night. Who knows, maybe you too can catch a glimpse of this noodly deity. If your lucky, he may even show you his pirate ship.
I was in New York City recently on business. On my last day there I had a little time to kill before I needed to catch the subway to the airport so I decided to do a little sightseeing. My work was based near Times Square in Midtown so I had had enough of the blinking lights and 80,000 guys in yellow and red shirts trying to sell me a bus tour to stay in Times Square for the brief time I had to sightsee. However, going anywhere out of Midtown was out of the question based on the available time. Given all that I decided to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
I recall visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral as a child or perhaps I just saw a lot of it on television growing up in suburban New Jersey. Either way, I was familiar enough with it to know it was nearby. Also, some friends in Nashville had visited New York in the last few months and had mentioned how impressed they were with the structure and, most importantly, the “feel” of the place. The “feel” being the presence of something bigger, more important, and more timeless than oneself. A “feel” that gives perspective about one’s proper place in the world. It was that “feel” that intrigued me most about visiting.
I entered the building and it was as expected, lots of candles burning, many people milling around. There had been a mass that finished about 30 minutes before I arrived so I don’t know if the folks there were lingering from the mass or if they had done what I had done and wandered in later. I walked around a bit admiring the stained glass, sculpture, and architecture. I then sat down near the front right under the pulpit. I continued to look around and take in the surroundings in the hopes of experiencing that “feel”. Then something caught my attention.
While there were several people there who had come to pray and use the building as it had been purposed (I assume), the vast majority of people were walking around taking pictures and talking, like it was Niagara Falls. The “feel” I had gone there to experience was not there. Instead, I had a grave sense that I was in a dead place, like I was in the tomb of some famous person that people visit but had long forgotten why the person was famous. Rather than an active, breathing sacred space, I had found St. Patick’s Museum of Sacred Space.
What confused me most about this hollow, dead feeling I was having was the fact that this space was specifically designed to assist one in encountering the divine. Between the grand space created by the arching ceilings to the stained glass with sacred images meant to invoke a memory of the story depicted to the ornate gold altar and burning candles everywhere, one is expected to feel in awe of something greater than oneself.
But I had none of it. I left the building and headed for the subway to catch my plane.