Archive for June, 2021

30
Jun
21

Maybe God is… *

Maybe God is. 

Period. Full stop.

This might seem like an odd concession to doubt for one who publicly calls himself as a believer. [And yes, I do most definitely call myself a believer.]

Yet despite the strength of that belief (on my best days), I cannot offer you a shred of empirical proof that God in fact exists. 

  • Sure, I can enumerate all the reasons I personally choose to believe.
  • I can also regale you with story after story about the countless times God’s existence and nature have been disclosed to me… either through the created world, or through serendipitous happenings, or through human messengers, or through small, unseen nudges to my spirit. 
  • I can tell you about the hundreds of times I have turned to this God and asked for wisdom, comfort, patience, or peace in solitary moments of prayer… and received them.
  • I can readily recount for you all the ways that belief – and faith – in God has made a qualitative difference in my life.

But I cannot finally, conclusively, irrevocably, and beyond all doubt prove to you that God exists.

For some, that inability to provide objective evidence is all the encouragement they need to be prompted to stand up and declare, “You SEE! I told you: God is a myth and a fairy tale, meant for the unscientific and weak-minded! We live in a world of scientifically provable FACT, not fantasy.”

Emboldened, they continue, “And besides… disputes about who God is and what God wants have led us to some of the bloodiest conflicts ever seen in human history! As for me and my house, we will serve EMPIRICISM!”

And you know what? It is hard to argue with any of those statements. 

I am also aware that the case against faith in God sometimes runs deeper and more personally than that. I have talked to many people who carry life-long scars from their encounters with “true believers.” And as a result, they have rejected faith completely. 

Taking all of that into account… minimizing NONE of it, I will still dare to ask; what if there IS a God?

  • What if there really is a God who is so vast and deep and wide that ANY attempt to confine this God to a doctrine, a description, a definition, or a denomination is automatically futile and pitiful? 
  • What if this God INTENDED that all reason-based paths into a relationship run smack-dab into a brick wall? What if this God set it up so that an abandonment of empiricism is really what it takes to forge a connection?
  • What if a kiloton of EVIDENCE weighs less on this God’s scale than a thimbleful of FAITH?
  • What if the whole idea is that this God is meant to be most accessible to the simple, the child-like, the vulnerable, the weak, the defenseless, and the frail among us rather than to the strong, smart, powerful, and secure?

What if there really is a God and what if that God really is like that?

Man… wouldn’t that be AWESOME?!!

Abundant blessings;

  • I would be remiss if I did not credit my mentor, counselor, and friend Warren Molton as the inspiration for this blog series. Several years ago, Warren published a book of poetry titled, If God Is… A Poetic Search for God Within. Each of his poems in this book poses an “if/then” duality, inviting the reader to contemplate the many faces of God. 

My aim is not to duplicate Warren’s work, but to engage my own musings on the nature of The Irreducible Source of All That Is.

24
Jun
21

Blades of Grass

I was supposed to go to my 50th high school class reunion last year.

Instead, all members of the Hilliard (Ohio) High School class of 1970 spent our reunion year cowering inside hermetically sealed isolation suits, trying our best to avoid that minor inconvenience called The COVID-19 Global Pandemic

And so that long-awaited reunion will happen this year, the 51st since we walked across that stage and received our diplomas. Because I moved away from that town in the summer of 1969, I have not seen most of those fine folks in what seems like FOREVER!

Some I remember well. Some I recall vaguely. Other names and faces don’t ring even the faintest bell with me.

Then yesterday, I received a Facebook message from one of the reunion organizers that quite literally brought me to me knees. It was a list of members of the HHS Class of ’70 who have died since that graduation day. 

Scrolling down the list stunned me. It saddened me. It brought tears to my eyes. It also caused me to feel the cold fingers of mortality wrapping around my heart like few other things have done.

There was Kirk’s name. One of my best friends ever. Kirk was the guy who made plans to go into ministry even before graduating from high school. Sadly, Kirk ended his own life in 1990 after fighting for years against the insidious grip of mental illness and drug addiction.

There was Mike, who, it says, died in 2008. I remember Mike as the guy who introduced me to the most cutting-edge musical groups. We would spend hours listening to records in his basement.

Scrolling down further, I see Iveta’s name. Iveta was the beautiful, thin, young woman from Latvia. I didn’t know her well, but definitely wanted to.

There is Bev’s name. At our 20th reunion, Bev attended in her motorized wheelchair, the result of a debilitating case of MS. It says she died on October 2, 2020, so she would have been able to attend the 50th reunion if COVID hadn’t butted its fat head in. 

There is Bob… there is Vickie… there is Chuck… there is Sandy… and Karen… and John… and Tony, the guy who died in a car accident during our sophomore year. 

Holy cow! It began to feel as if the shorter list to send would have been the list of ‘70ers who are still alive. 

Looking at the list and meditating on it, I am certain that none of us in that class gave even a moment’s thought to the date and manner of our deaths on the bright June day as we listened to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” for the umpteenth time. We all probably assumed we would scatter, live modestly happy lives, and then gather to share our stories every 10 years thereafter, ad infinitum. 

But that isn’t the way life works, is it? There are limits. There is mortality. There is illness, addiction, and depression. There is damned bad luck, and funky genetics. 

That list reminded me that each of us is stamped with an expiration date, known only to God. It also brought the lines of Psalm 103 to mind where we read, “As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSV). 

And if the story stopped there, it would spell out a tragedy of epic proportions.

But – PRAISE GOD! – we know that the story doesn’t stop there. It continues beyond verse 16 to verse 17 where we are reminded that, “… the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children…” (Psalm 103:17, NRSV).

How incredible is THAT! 

You and I… finite, perishable blades of grass, bound to expire in the twinkling of a cosmic eye… are everlastingly loved by the One who created it all! 

And with that reminder, the thermostat on my heartache and distress dials down several degrees. My weeping becomes a prayer of gratitude for those lives… for their impact on me, and for the everlasting love of their Creator.

Abundant blessings;

17
Jun
21

In Praise of Slow

Normally, I am a pretty fast guy.

Mmmmmm!!

I walk fast.

I drive fast (much to Joan’s great displeasure).

I eat fast and drink fast.

I cook fast, I wash the dishes fast, and I make my bed fast.

I even read fast.

I was always the guy who had too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. Somehow, even though I have been retired now for almost two years, I still carry on in the same way.

Since May 4 of this year, however, all of that has changed DRAMATICALLY.

The issues I have been having with the pain in my lower back have forced me to follow the wise guidance of Simon and Garfunkel when they sing, “Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last!” 

They are right about that part. But I’m not sure I am on board with the song’s chorus: “ALL IS GROOVY!”

Every day, somewhere around 10:00 a.m. when the muscle relaxers and pain meds finally kick in, I venture out for a little walk in the neighborhood. But I have to walk REALLY slowly. You would be forgiven for chuckling as you watch me out there… taking my mincing, shuffling, “little old man” steps. 

Then it is back home for a 20-minute session with the ice pack.

In many ways, this enforced slowdown is very aggravating. I mean, we are finally coming out of the dark tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic when things are opening back up, and here I am, sidelined by this ridiculous, relentless PAIN!!

But you know what? I am slowly discovering that there are some hidden gifts that come when I take life at a slower pace. 

  • I see more of my surroundings
  • I have longer conversations with my neighbors
  • I feel zero guilt about sitting down and cracking open a book in the middle of the day
  • I note and appreciate the different hues of each hour of the day
  • This new pace of mine allows me to turn the tables and give Joan the opportunity to be MY caretaker for a while.
  • But most importantly, I find that I am much more likely to use these slow, unscheduled moments to pause and connect with God… in prayer or quiet reflection.

Looking in at the life of the man who drew the BC/AD dividing line through human history, we find that HE had a finely tuned appreciation for life in the slow lane, too. The Bible records at least 21 separate instances like this one in Luke’s gospel where we read: “Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12, NRSV). 

Jesus sounds ardently anti-hustle-bustle in this passage from the Sermon on the Mount when he says, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:27, NRSV).

Despite these manifold spirit-nurturing benefits, I absolutely will NOT accept the premise that God sent me this back pain as a hard-to-miss lesson about slowing down and smelling the roses. 

On the contrary, this dilemma is all about the accumulated effects of genetics, years of bad posture and overdoing, mixed in with a touch of Ol’ Uncle Arthur. 

God is the one who stands with me in my pain and whispers, “I know this thing with your back sucks right now, but I AM and ALWAYS HAVE BEEN in the redemption business. Tune in and I will help you make a sweet pitcher of lemonade out of this lemon you’ve been handed.”

And you know what? God is there with you too, whispering the same thing. 

All we need to do is slow down and LISTEN!

Abundant blessings;

14
Jun
21

New Glasses

He noticed!” said Joan with a hint of surprise in her voice.

Yes he did…,” I replied, adding, “…That’s because Elijah is a Professional Noticer of Things.”

Elijah, operating the sound board for our church’s outdoor worship service yesterday, noticed that I had a new pair of glasses and commented on them. In fact, he was very complimentary of my style choice.

His comment was noteworthy because in the nearly six weeks since I acquired these new glasses, the number of people who have noticed their newness and commented on them is a very small number indeed. 

Elijah noticed my new glasses, I reasoned, because Elijah is an artist. I believe it is the artist’s job to notice stuff… to attune their exquisite antennae to every shape, size, and nuance in their world… to penetrate below the surface of their quotidian environment and see that which is unseen by most… and then use their chosen medium to help the rest of us see it, too.

But then, after making my clever quip, I stopped and pondered a moment: is that kind of “noticing” strictly the province of artists? Are they the only ones tasked with that special “seeing”? Does it require an innate, inborn set of skills to perceive novelty, beauty, diversity, and wonder in our world?

Or is that something any of us can/should be able to do?

If you have a chance to spend even five minutes in the presence of a small child – say three or fewer years of age – you will soon discover that for them, EVERYTHING about the world is amazing, incredible, and totally AWESOME! In their eyes, there are remarkable new discoveries to be found around every corner! 

They think the world is a veritable smorgasbord of wonder and delight on which to feast their inquiring little eyes.

Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, are those of us who have been around the sun a few times… the folks who can come to feel – if we’re not careful – as if we’ve “seen it all.” On occasion it seems to us that all the sheen and luster has worn off our bright, shiny world. 

“Been there, done that, got the T-shirt” threatens to become our mantra. Our eyes can glaze over, our perspectives can become jaded, and we can say, “AMEN! Ain’t it the truth!” when we hear The Teacher saying, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NRSV).

We trumpet the virtue of our world-weariness and think of ourselves as, “savvy… sophisticated… urbane… refined… aware.” 

Everything we see is SO gauche and jejune and we simply can’t be bothered.

How sad!

How dull!

And when you come right down to it, how utterly ungodly.

Loving God means knowing and loving God’s creation. And central to loving God’s creation is recognizing that God is in the business of Continuous Renewal. The prophet Isaiah talks about this when he speaks on God’s behalf and tells the Israelites, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19, NRSV). 

When we allow our hearts to be transformed by the in-breaking power of the Holy Spirit, WE also become new… blessed with the capability to see newness all around us. Paul understood this transformation perfectly. He described it when he wrote, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NRSV).

So, is it possible to be mature, experienced, and wonder-filled all at the same time? 

I’d say, “Absolutely!” 

All it takes is a new pair of glasses.

Abundant blessings;

08
Jun
21

My Aching Back

There we were, relaxing on the white sugar sands of Destin, Florida. Joan and I traveled there to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. [Pro tip: Get married in a year that ends with 000 if you can. That way you always know how long you’ve been married.]

One moment we were enjoying a carefree frolic in the emerald surf…

… the next moment I was back in our room, howling in agony.

It seems my back – which has been a source of misery for me on and off for the last 40 years – was not a fan of frolicking in the surf. It seized up in a very painful way and demanded one hundred percent of my attention.

That was on May 4. It is now June 8, and the situation is only marginally better. 

Since the onset of this latest insult, I have been to chiropractors (x4), massage therapists (x3), my PCP, a pain management specialist, a guy who mixes in some rolfing with cold lasers with massage with pep talks, an orthopedic surgeon, a physical therapist, I’ve used ice, used heat, taken pain drugs, muscle relaxer drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, and plain old laying down and taking it easy. 

The drugs do a great job relieving the pain, but they also make me sleepy and sluggish and completely rob me of blog posting ideas. 

And now, I am reading a book titled, Healing Back Pain; The Mind-Body Connection (by John E. Sarno, MD) that tells me this whole thing is all in my head, essentially. 

I am not writing today to seek additional therapeutic suggestions or to elicit sympathy. Lord knows there are some of you dealing with much more serious physical situations than mine. 

I am writing to say that I am not so sure Dr. Sarno is totally wrong. 

Because there IS indeed a connection between our mind and our body. When the psalmist talked to God and marveled at the fact that human beings are, “… fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14, NRSV), I believe she (or he) was talking about all the magical and mystical dimensions of the human experience… internal as well as external.

But I get it.

It is far easier to think of our component parts as separate, unconnected entities and treat them as such. Tracking down all the pertinent details of my emotional state on May 4, 2021 and finding out which group of them sent my back muscles into spasm is infinitely tougher than just writing me a prescription for pain killers. 

In Psalm 19:1 we are also reminded that God’s inscrutable awesomeness is readily seen throughout the created world. When he (or she) says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NRSV), I can easily justify substituting the words “My body” for “The heavens” and “my spine” for “the skies.” 

At this moment I am more inclined to attribute the creation of the lumbar region of my spine to God’s Chief Adversary. But before that Pity Party even gets off the ground, I find myself invited to meditate on this reminder from Paul. He told the Corinthian Christians that, “This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NRSV). 

Thanks for letting me whine for a moment. I know this too shall pass and that I will be back walking, riding my bike, mowing the grass, and planting shrubbery in very short order. 

I’ll make a deal with you: you pray for me, and I’ll pray for you. Heck, I’ll even pray for you even if you DON’T pray for me. 

Sound good?

Abundant blessings;




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