Be a Dwelling

 

Making room for GodScripture Text:  Psalm 132:3-5

I will not enter my house or get into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.

 

We don’t usually think of the Lord as having a dwelling place.  God is bigger than any structure, any way we have of limiting this limitless God, any attempt to keep the Lord within boundaries.  So, how, then, do we find a dwelling place?  How do you prepare a place for a God that cannot be held, that cannot be contained?  How do we prepare for this coming?

 

God came into this world when perhaps the world was not fully prepared for God’s coming.  Oh, we probably thought we were.  We had worshipped the Lord, designating altars and laying down offerings.  We had called places holy with the hopes that they might hold God for us, make God accessible.  We had made dwelling places for the Lord.  But then God came.  There were no processions of grandeur, no announcement fit for royalty.  There was no pomp.  There was no flash.  To be honest, there was no warning.  And we were not ready.  Why didn’t you tell us you were coming, so that we couldn’t have been ready?  We had not made room for God in this world.  And so God came in silence, peacefully slipping into the back corner of our world while kings and princes and priests alike made their usual noises out front.  God came.  There really wasn’t room.  And so God laid down in the darkness and made a dwelling for the Godself.  God took what was there–a little bit of hay, perhaps some cast away cloths, and a dark and dank room filled with the stench of animal dung.  And God made a dwelling.  God made a dwelling in the most primal, most humble place imaginable.  And the kings and princes and priests noisily laid down in their soft beds and went to sleep.  There didn’t seem to be any room for God.  We just weren’t prepared.  We just weren’t ready.  Maybe we just weren’t paying attention.  And so we slept.

 

God still comes.  Every year, every day, every moment, God comes.  God comes into this world that is probably not ready.  How do we find a place for the Lord?  How do we prepare the way?  I think the problem is that God does not show up in those things that we have built or those things that we have collected over the year.  And now that I’ve spent hours putting all those decorations all over my house, I am hit with the realization that they don’t make God come any faster.   The truth is, God probably still slips into to the dark corners of our lives, the places that are not so full of our plans and our things and our make-readies.  God is probably more likely to again show up in the primal parts of my life, those parts that are not stacked to the brim with things that I think God will like, things that make me feel like I’m ready for God, but rather in the places that I have cleared away the debris and made room.  God comes into hearts and lives that have room for God to dwell.   Oh, don’t get me wrong.  God’s deepest desire is to be everywhere, to be there for all of God’s children, to be there for you and for me.  But sometimes, there still just isn’t room.

 

In this Advent season of waiting and preparing, somewhere between the cheesecakes I made for yesterday’s Open House and the Christmas decorations that so brightly adorn my home, somewhere in the midst of the buying and the wrapping and the bulletin-making and the worrying, somewhere…somewhere I have to make room.  Because God wants to come.  God desires more than anything to dwell in my life.  So how do I prepare a dwelling place for God?  I clear a path.  I make room.  As the Scripture says, before we slumber, before we sleep, we make room.  We make a dwelling.  We become one with room in our lives for God to come and God to work and God to create us once again.

 

Making Room:  When I first met him, I knew in a moment I would have to spend the next few days re-arranging my mind so there’d be room for him to stay.  (Brian Andreas, “The Story People”)

 

FOR TODAY:  Make room.  Clear everything away.  Be a dwelling.  God so wants to stay.

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Always

Presence of God Scripture Text:  Thessalonians 5: 16-19
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Pray without ceasing?  Are you kidding me?  Think how much we have to do in this season!  I mean, prayer is a good thing, a great thing in fact.  We all know that.  But pray without ceasing?  As in ALWAYS?  So, what do we do with those distractions, with all those who need us to do something?  What do we do with life?  What do you do with all the preparations that the season holds?  How do you fit that in?  Uh oh…Spirit effectively quenched!  Not good…I hate it when that happens!

 

The truth is, Paul was not telling us that we had to spend our days body-bent and knee-bowed.  The truth is, there is WAY too much work to do.  We’ve got some Kingdom-building to do, after all.  Paul was not calling us to a life spent in prayer but rather to a prayerful life, a life that is sacred, hallowed, a life lived in the unquenchable Spirit of God.  This has nothing to do with counting the number of hours or minutes or nano-seconds that you spend in prayer.  A prayerful life is one that sees everything as hallowed and holy, sees everything as of God, embraces life as a gift rather than a vessel to be filled with things and to do lists and results.  Praying without ceasing is not about “doing”; it is about being. Olga Savin says that “[the Scriptures] tell us that ceaseless prayer in pursuit of God and communion with [God] is not simply life’s meaning or goal, the one thing worth living for, but it is life itself.”  And a life lived the way it is called to be lived is the very will of God, the very will of, as the Scripture says, the one who is faithful.  It is prayer–ceaseless prayer.

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in our Advent waiting, we found a time of prayer, we found a time, as Mary did, to ponder (Luke 2: 19).  Maybe THAT’S what’s wrong with us.  Maybe we’ve lost our ability to ponder, to be attentive to what resides in the deepest part of our soul, to be aware of God’s Presence in our lives.  Maybe this time of waiting is so that we’ll take the opportunity to do some serious pondering, to pray without ceasing.  After all, what in your life is NOT holy?  What in your life is NOT positively bursting with the Divine?  What in your life is NOT a gift from God?  Well, the answer is nothing.  There is NOTHING in your life that is not full to the very brim–spilling-over-chock-full-seemingly-unable-to-put-anything-else-in-brim–with the presence of the one who calls you, the one who is faithful, the one who is ALWAYS there.  Make everything you do an offering to God.  Let everything you have and everything you are be a preparation for God’s coming.  Offer it to God.  G.K. Chesterton once said “let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”  Praying without ceasing is probably more about living, about loving, about holy waiting, than it is about prayer as we often define it.  It has little to do with the words we say and everything to do with tuning ourselves to the conversation that God is already inviting us to live.

 

The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.  (Mechtilde of Magdeburg, 13th century)

 

FOR TODAY:  Pray without ceasing.  Look around you.  EVERYTHING that you see, EVERYTHING that you touch, EVERYTHING that you imagine, EVERYTHING that you let loose, EVERYTHING that you pick up, EVERYTHING that you eat, EVERYTHING that you love, EVERYTHING that is you…EVERYTHING is full to the brim with God.  Pray without ceasing.

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

 

This Act of Preparation

Moses at the Promised LandScripture Text: Malachi 3:1

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

Preparation…we keep talking about, keep touting this season as the one of preparation.  So, if it’s not about decorating and shopping and wrapping then what is this act of preparation that we are supposed to do?  Our culture tells us to be prepared for whatever may happen.  The Gospels tell stories warning us against being unprepared for what is to come.  And this season…this season of waiting is also laced with exhortations to get ready–for the coming of the Lord but, as hard as we try to ignore the culture closing in on us, for that big day ahead.  I mean what would happen if we awoke unprepared on Christmas morning–without the required number of gifts perfectly wrapped and under the tree, without all the luscious foods prepared, without a decorated house, and, most of all, without a ready heart prepared to receive our Lord.  Whew!  That’s a lot on our plates!  No wonder we’re stressed.  What, pray tell, are we supposed to be doing to get prepared?

 

For what exactly are we preparing?  Maybe that’s our whole problem.  We live lives that are so results-oriented that we don’t see life itself.  What if everything we did, every act we lived, every breath we breathed was not so that we could have a good result or count it as something done, but, rather, was part of who we are, part of the very journey itself?  What if it was our journey, our living, in which the Lord delighted, rather than merely the result it attained?

 

You know, I love Thanksgiving. It is the one family holiday that I can truly take the time to do right. Sure, I cook way too much food. And, this year, I probably spent more than twenty hours preparing for a 30 minute meal. I planned the menu. I put the leaves in the table. I planned what the table would look like. I drug out all of Aunt Doll’s china and Grandmother’s silver (you know, all that stuff that has to be hand washed!) I set the table. I arranged the centerpiece. I straightened the house and rearranged the back porch. I carefully picked out which bowl or which plate would hold which dish.   I chopped and I rolled and I mixed and I stirred and I cooked and I cooled. There were no shortcuts. Everything was made from scratch.   Because you see, for me, the preparation for the meal is for me as gratifying an experience as the meal itself.

 

And now as the Thanksgiving meal’s leftovers begin to wain,  we prepare for the next big thing.  But it’s hard to remember that act of preparation.  It’s hard to look upon it as a thing in and of itself rather than merely a way to the next thing.  And yet, the passage tells us that it is the messenger in whom the Lord delights.  It says nothing about where the messenger ends up or how many people the messenger gets to the end or whether or not the messenger did a good job.  God delights in the messenger; God delights in our acts of preparing the way.  Don’t you remember Moses standing on the edge of the Promised Land?  All of the journeying, all of the heartache, all of the wilderness wanderings, all of the frustrations with covenants and golden calves and burning bushes and parted waters…all of that…that whole journey to the one moment…when he looked at the Promised Land that he would never enter.  There are those that would look upon that as a failure, as if he had not completed his mission.

 

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” (Deuteronomy 34: 1-4)

 

But Moses did exactly what he was supposed to do:  he prepared the way.  That is what we are called to do.  Results are great but it is the way, the journey, the preparation that teaches us, that gives us life.  Our salvation does not come in one moment because we’ve done all the things we’re supposed to do but rather in a lifetime of preparing the way for God, making our way toward a promised land that we may or may not enter.  Advent is not about the results; it is about what we become on the way there.  God calls us to a journey of preparation–preparing our hearts, preparing the way, being open to that act of preparation to which we’re called.  Advent ends on Christmas morning.  Whether or not we are fully prepared is probably of lesser importance than the journey that we had to the moment when we looked over and saw the promised land, when we knew in the very depth of our being that God was in our midst.

 

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. (From “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 3, 1968. Dr. King was assassinated the next day.)

 

FOR TODAY:  Look at your journey.  Look at your preparation.  Live it.  God is there.  You may get there and you may not, but, oh, what a ride!  Live a life of holy preparation because the Promised Land is already prepared for you.

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

You Start at the Very Beginning…

Dawn in the wildernessScripture Text:  Mark 1: 1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Do you remember the song from “The Sound of Music”?  “You start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start.  When you read, you begin with A-B-C; when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi.  The first three notes just happen to be Do-Re-Mi. Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti…..oh let’s see if we can’t make it a little bit easier…”  (Yeah, I’m a Sound of Music dork.)  We’re used to that…starting at the beginning, learning our A-B-C’s before we jump headlong into reading Tolstoy or something.  But, the writer of the Gospel According to Mark seemed to just sort of want to get this show on the road.  We’ve become so accustomed to the beauty and poetry of the nativity that somehow that becomes the season for us.  But here…”The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  That’s it.  That’s all you get.  No announcement of Jesus’ birth, no birth story, no stable, no inn, no manger, no Mary and Joseph and the babe, no shepherds, no magi.  Just that.  It’s sort of like the Gospel writer is saying “refer to the previous volumes”.  But, of course, most Biblical scholars will tell you that there WERE no previous volumes of the Gospel but that this one was the first.  So, what is that beginning?

 

Then it goes on:  As it is written….Essentially, the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is everything that came before–all the prophets, all the judges, all the Wisdom, all the kings, Elijah, Moses, Ruth, Jacob, Abraham, Sarai, all the exiles returning home, all the burning bushes and parting waters, all the covenants, all those generations upon generations of people who wandered in the wilderness.  And now…now appearing in the wilderness is this wild, somewhat unkempt, bear of a man who clothes himself in camel’s hair and eats what appears to be whatever crosses his path in the brush.  There were certainly those with “proper” upbringing and “acceptable” expression of their religious beliefs that probably would have been a bit embarrassed by the display.  I mean, maybe it would have gone down easier if it had been someone a tad bit more “traditional”.  (But then, really, was Jesus all that status quo?)  And yet, I’m fascinated with this character of John the Baptist.  He knew who he was.  He knew his place.  He was called to prepare the way.  He was called to BE the voice crying out in the wilderness.  He was called to prepare the way of the Lord.

 

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Here we are, in the wilderness of our lives, wandering a little aimlessly at times, trying our best to connect to God, to feel God’s Presence in our lives.  And yet, we know that God did not plunk down in the middle of the bustling city of Jerusalem.  God did not come in the way that was planned or imagined.  The Son of God emerged into the wilderness that was already there, already so full of God that the very earth shook.  The truth is, God had been there all along.  The good news of Jesus Christ was always beginning.  The same is true for us today.  What we are living is not some sort of prelude of a life to come; it is the very beginning of the story.  Maybe that’s our shortcoming.  Maybe we live lives limited by the chapters surrounding us.  But God…God came and comes over and over and over again, beginning, recreating, starting us over.  Advent is the season of beginnings–the beginning of the church year, the beginning of us, the beginning of what comes next.  Advent is not a preface to the high holy day on which we celebrate the Savior’s birth.  Advent reminds us that we, even now, are the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  The truth is, the story ALWAYS is at the beginning!

 

When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly. (Edward Teller)

 

FOR TODAY:  How are you called to prepare the way for Christ?  How are you called to begin again?

 

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

 

Holy Patience

PatienceScripture Text (Advent 2B): 2 Peter 3:8-9

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.  The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

 

I must admit that I am not the most patient person I know.  I think it’s safe to assume that, really, few of us are.  The world just moves too fast.  The patient ones, the ones who wait, tend to get left behind.  And yet, those of us of us who are always on the move don’t really get there any sooner.  What is that about?  And then we read this passage that describes God as patient.  Have you ever thought of the Divine, the Holy, the Creator, the One who is always and forever on the move, compelling us to go forward, to live into this glorious Vision that God has, as “patient.”  I suppose the impatient ones of us want God to get this show on the road, already.  After all, where IS peace?  Where IS righteousness?  Where IS this promise of no poverty, no hunger, no suffering?  But wait, it doesn’t say that God is sitting back on the holy laurels and being slow about things happening.  God is not slow to fill the world with glory; God is waiting for us, patiently waiting for us, to catch up.

 

So perhaps our impatience, our living life full-throttle, without stopping, just stopping to see what God is doing, to hear where God is calling, is what is slowing this whole thing down.  After all, God knows where God is going.  God is waiting for us, waiting for our response, waiting for us to perhaps wait to see, wait to hear.  Oh, shoot!  It’s back to that waiting thing.  We CAN’T hurry this along.  We CAN’T live for the next thing.  We CAN’T live as if we are in a season that is not quite yet.  God is waiting for us to stop, to wait on God, so that we can catch up to what God envisions us to be.  It’s back to the Sabbath ideal.  God created times for us to stop, to wait, to let ourselves sort of regroup so that we could move forward down the way we are called to go.

 

You’ve heard the story of the American traveler on safari in Kenya.  He was loaded down with maps, and timetables, and travel agendas.  Porters from a local tribe were carrying his cumbersome supplies, luggage, and “essential stuff.”  On the first morning, everyone awoke early and traveled fast and went far into the bush.  On the second morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went very far into the bush.  On the third morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went even farther into the bush.  The American seemed pleased.  But on the fourth morning, the porters refused to move.  They simply sat by a tree.  Their behavior incensed the impatient American.  “This is a waste of valuable time.  Can someone tell me what is going on here?”  The translator answered, “They are waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.”

 

This Advent time is a time of waiting for God.  But it is also a time when God waits on us–patiently and lovingly waits for us to awake to God’s Presence, awake to God’s beckoning, awake to finally see where we were meant to be all along.  We cannot do that if we are too busy impatiently moving through life, always reaching and grasping for the next thing and missing that God is waiting for us now.  If we would be a little more patient, if we could just for a moment stop and breathe in that Holy Patience of God, perhaps God would no longer have to wait another day or another thousand years for the promises to come to be.

 

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only [they] who see, take off [their] shoes—The rest sit round it and pluck blueberries. (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from “Aurora Leigh”)

 

FOR TODAY:  Stop moving so fast.  Be patient.  Look.  Listen.  Take off your shoes and be.  God is waiting.

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

Anticipation

 

 

The Top of the MountainScripture Text:  Mark 13: 32-37

But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

 

You know that feeling when you’re driving up a really big mountain (or maybe climbing the tallest loop of the roller coaster)?  You can see behind you (although that’s probably not a good idea if you’re actually driving!) and you can see ahead–but only to the top.  You can see where the top begins to round out its shape and give way to the other side but in your view, there is no other side.  It almost looks like you’re just going to keep climbing and be propelled into the open sky, to lose control, to lose footing altogether.  At this point, there is no way to plan at all.  You just trust–trust that the mountain will gently curve its way to the other side and give way to another view, trust that the road on which you’re traveling actually DOES continue and that you will not fall into nothingness, and trust that, in just a moment, in just a moment…this climbing will end.

 

Advent reminds us that we’re sort of on that road.  We feel it under us.  We see it up ahead.  But it continues beyond what we can see, beyond where we can comprehend at this point.  And so we trust and we anticipate that what is up ahead and where we are called to go.  The Scripture text (which we Lectionary readers read this past Sunday) exhorts us to keep alert, to stay awake.  Maybe it could just as easily tell us to anticipate what is up ahead.  I mean, weren’t you told that by your driving instructor all those years ago?  Anticipate the road. I don’t think that means become a psychic or a mind-reader.  After all, the Scripture reminds us that we do not know, that, in fact, we CANNOT know, that we are not at this point in our being, capable of knowing what is up ahead.  Anticipating is not about knowing; it is about readying oneself, preparing oneself, maybe even feeling the road a little more deeply.  Perhaps living with anticipation is about being so awake and so aware that you can actually taste the Presence of the Divine and know that Presence so deeply that life changes.  If one begins to anticipate what is up ahead, one begins to live life as if the road is beginning to curve.  As if…what would it mean to live “as if”?  What would it mean to live as if peace were the norm?  What would it mean to live as if poverty ceased to exist?  What would it mean to live as if God’s Presence was so real that it literally permeated every thread of your being?

 

Advent is our calling to wake up, to anticipate and begin to live as if God has already come into our midst, because that’s EXACTLY what has happened.  The call to keep alert is not a threat; it’s God’s gift to us.  Stay awake, my child, for you do not want to miss it.  Life is coming, a Life that you cannot even fathom how incredible it is.  The road is beginning to round and another view is just up ahead.  Be alert.  You don’ want to miss it.

 

A dreamer is one who can find [his or her] way in the moonlight, and [whose] punishment is that [he or she] sees the dawn before the rest of the world. (Oscar Wilde)

 

FOR TODAY:  What does it mean to be alert?  What does it mean to allow yourself to be awakened to the presence of God in our midst?  What does it mean to anticipate life, to live as if?

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

Beach: Unknown Depths

Beach at Sunrise (2014-05-19)Scripture Text:  Acts 17: 22-27

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.

I got up before sunrise this morning and went out and sat on the deck.  The wind was fierce as it seemed to pull the waves toward shore.  They were noisy, crashing into each other as they fought for a place on the shore.  And in that moment, just before dawn, the light seems to hover over the deep, peeking from behind the horizon, asking you to stop and look and, just for a moment, to imagine something that is yet to be, to imagine something that is yet unknown.  (Yes, I’m on vacation!)  I love the beach.  I do NOT like the crowds or the traffic or the sun frying my skin.  I will drive right past the growing crowd at Buc-ee’s, since I don’t really understand what that’s all about anyway (I mean, they have nice restrooms and all but do you really need a whole pie for your car trip?).  But I love the beach.  I love sitting there in the silence and listening to the waves and feeling the wind and experiencing that moment just before dawn when everything is still, when everything is as it should be, that moment before creation dawns, before the light comes and the world begins trying to yet again mold itself and its thoughts into something that is comfortable and known.

This speech of Paul’s is not a treatise against religious icons and items of worship.  It is against the notion of pulling God down into one’s world, into what can be understood, can be fully known.  It is against the idea of being satisfied that you have by some miracle figured it all out and can check it off your ever-growing to do list.  Paul is pushing his hearers to imagine, to imagine something beyond themselves, something beyond what they know.  He is calling them to plunge into the depths beneath the crashing waves and the fierce winds and to see, maybe for the first time, what you’ve been missing all along.

We hear much about experiencing God’s presence, as if we are somehow running around looking for a God who is eluding us, sort of playing hide-and-seek with our spiritual well-being or in some way walling him or herself off from us.  But here Paul is talking about much, much more than just experiencing.  He is talking about allowing ourselves to imagine beyond what we know, to imagine this unknown God who so wants us to know in the deepest part of our being. I don’t really think that Jesus walked this earth and taught what he taught to give us a book of doctrines or a list of what we should be doing as Christians. I also don’t think we were ever intended to be handed a full and complete picture of who God is. What we were given in Jesus’ life was something much more profound, something much more valuable. We were given the gift of having our imaginations opened enough for God to fill them. Jesus did just enough to peak our imaginations about God so that we would continue to imagine God on our own.

Imagine it until it is. And then, close your eyes. The artist Paul Gauguin once said “I shut my eyes in order to see.” So, do not look at things the way they are. But instead, imagine…there is God, in whom you live and move and have your being.  And then plunge in–into the unknown depths, into a world that you can only imagine with a God that so wants to be imagined.

Jesus does not respond to our worry-filled way of living by saying that we should not be so busy with world affairs.  He does not try to pull us away from the many events, activities, and people that make up our lives…He asks us to shift the point of gravity, to relocate the center of our attention, to change our priorities…Jesus does not speak about a change of activities, a change in contacts, or even a change of pace.  He speaks about a change of heart. (Henri Nouwen)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli