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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

God of No Gaps

" wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know. 
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

I recently received the above quotation from a friend who sends out a "Thought for Today" email.  My suspicion is that much of the time many of us think of God as a "stop-gap" God.  Hence proverbs like, "God helps those who help themselves."  Which by the way is probably the most quoted  "the Bible says..." quote that is not in the Bible.  It's old Ben Franklin again.  But I digress.

Actually the Bible is an account of exactly the opposite.   Time and again God is revealed and discovered as present in surprisingly common places, events, and people.  God is present in the wind, the rain, the mountains, the desert, in dreams, in meals, in encounters with people, and even in silence.  Far from being "stop gap", with God there are no gaps.   

So what if we made a small yet significant shift in our thinking and begin to understand God as not incomprehensible but rather totally accessible in, around, and through everything we can see, touch, smell, hear, taste, and imagine?   What if, as the Joan Osborne song says, "...God were one of us...just a stranger on a bus?"

"...Earth's crammed with heaven,  And every common bush afire with God..."   
--Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Still                                                     Breathe

     Quiet                                      Listen

            Listen                      Quiet

                   Breathe       Still


                   Breathe        Still

             Listen                      Quiet

      Quiet                                      Listen

Still                                                       Breathe

"X" is the Greek letter "Chi" the first letter in Christ.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Be still and know that I am God.   The Psalmist

Earth is a solar-powered jukebox.  Gordon Hempton

Let anyone with ears to hear listen.   Jesus

As I sit writing this blog in early morning quiet I begin to hear sounds of which I am usually unaware:  the sounds of my fingers pressing the keys on my computer, I hear a hair dryer in another part of the house, an airplane takes off in the distance, doves that regularly visit our backyard are cooing, various birdsongs come and go, a car passes by, my arm brushes the arm of a sofa as I reach for a cup of coffee.  I hear the coffee go down my throat, the hair dryer stops, the computer hums, the dog sighs, my own breath goes in and out... What's that - a train's horn?  All of this from the same place in my living room.

It's only when we are quiet that we can hear what's around us - and within us.  It is in such quiet that we begin to discern what is noise and what is music in our lives.  And, who knows, we may even hear the "voice" of God?

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said...      
                                                                                  1 Kings 19:11-13

Find a quiet place today and discover how noisy and music filled your life really is.  I invite you to share with me and others in the comment section of the blog what you hear. 

Also, when you can spare and hour,  I suggest you listen to this "On Being" program.

Last Sunday's sermon. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Say "You're Welcome" And Really Mean It

Last week's blog got me to wondering about the other side of "Thank you" - that is "You're Welcome."  If the way to receive a gift or compliment is the say "thank you" and shut up, then what is our reaction with someone says "thank you" to us?

So I tried to pay attention.  My observation has been that I, and others, often deflect someone's word of thanks with something like, "Don't mention it." or "No problem." or "It was nothing."

Why is it so hard for some of us to simply say "You're welcome." without qualifying or deflecting?  It seems to me to do otherwise not only disregards the expression of thanks, but also dismisses the value of   the gift we have to offer.

"Thank you" and "You're welcome" are among the first phrases we learn in polite, respectful discourse in any language.  It's how we teach children to give and receive.  Graciously giving and receiving are at the core of all human relationships.  

So, in addition to saying, "Thank you" and shutting up; also try saying "You're welcome." and really meaning it.   We may be surprised as how genuine and rewarding these simple exchanges in our relationships with others can be.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Say, "Thank You" Then Shut Up

  " have made humans a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor."
Psalm 8:5

"We are stardust.  We are Golden.  And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden."
Joni Mitchell

One day years ago when I worked in the theater I bumped into a friend who had the previous night seen a show I had directed.  She had retired as a teacher of theater and drama in public high school, and I valued her opinions and criticism.   She was quite complimentary of the show to the point of being effusive.  My response was to begin a litany of all the things I thought were wrong with the production.   After a moment my friend put up her hand to stop me and said, "Andy, when someone gives you a compliment, just say 'Thank you.' then shut up."

What is it about us that won't let us receive from others?  What's behind insistence on deflecting gratitude, kindness, generosity and compassion from someone else?  Is it pride?   Or inferiority? More importantly, how can we learn to let go of resistance to seeing ourselves as capable, worthy, and appreciated?

Things like pride, inferiority, and self-pity are sometimes so deeply ingrained in our lives that we don't realize we aren't accepting the gifts others give us.  We may have even been taught and led by religion to believe we are unworthy of love and grace.

Whatever the source of our defenses, the reality is that each and everyone of us is a magnificent, wonderful creature, as the Bible says, created "in God's image,"  living in an abundant world that continually gives.    

It may not be as easy as my friend suggested, but at least it is a beginning.   When someone gives you a compliment today simply say "Thank you" then shut up.   Take a walk in the sunshine, or rain, or wind - take a deep breath of life and say "Thank you." then be quiet. Rest in the grace of a moment and enjoy where you are and who you are.