Jun 23 2013

The Answer Center

Akaka Falls 213Yesterday I was driving into town when I saw a long line of people in front of a building.  As I got closer I looked to see what the building was.  The name on the front of it was “The Answer Center.”  When I saw this I couldn’t help but chuckle.  It made sense that a place where you can get answers would have a long line in front of it.  In fact, I was tempted to get in line myself.

CSP3967In this life we all have questions we’d like answers for.  One question many people ask is “what is the secret to happiness?”  Happiness tends to be one of humankind’s primary goals.  Everyone wants to be happy.  So what is the answer to the secret of happiness?  Shortly before seeing the line in front of the building yesterday I had pulled out one of my favorite Thomas Merton books, No Man Is an Island.  I was flipping through the pages when I came across a passage I had underlined a number of years ago.  It reads: “It is for this that we account ourselves happy when we know His will and do it, and realize that the greatest unhappiness is to have no sense of His purposes or His designs either for ourselves or for the rest of the world.”

I happen to believe that there are answers indeed to be found in Merton’s words.  If people want to experience true happiness they must come to know God’s will for their lives and do it.  If a person doesn’t have a sense of God purpose or design on his or her life it creates both confusion and unhappiness.  Our happiness is dependent on fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.  It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

I would have you note, however, that Merton also points out that it is imperative that we also have some sense of God’s purposes and designs “for the rest of the world.”  I’ve read enough of Merton to know that he would include in this God’s purposes and designs for Creation.  He knew that if we do not understand God’s intention for Creation then it will affect our happiness.  How could it not?  If we do not have a clear sense of the role the world or Creation has to play in God’s design then we are likely to miss out on much in life.

LAV 837I have written several times about how the chief purpose of both humankind and Creation is to bring glory to God.  Recently I pointed to an important passage in Colossians 1 where we are told that the world was created by and for Christ. (v. 16)  In my own life I have discovered that I am most unhappy when I am centering everything on me.  There’s a reason for that.  The world does not center on me; it centers on Christ.  If we keep trying to make everything about us then we will remain unhappy.  But if we will live out our lives in the recognition that we, along with Creation itself, exist to bring glory to God it will end up bringing us a joy and happiness we will find nowhere else. 

In Merton’s words I find the “answer center’ I need.  Perhaps you will too.


(I took the top image of Akaka Falls in Hawaii, the middle image at Custer State Park in South Dakota, and the bottom image of lavendar on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

Jan 23 2013

Jimmy Carter & Wilderness

TR6204Because I had a funeral to officiate at on Monday I did not get a chance to watch much of the President’s inauguration.  From what I’ve read and some of the images I’ve seen it must have been a grand event.  Many years ago I had the privilege of attending a presidential inauguration, that of Jimmy Carter.  I was in college at the time and my history professor, who was a member of the Electoral College, invited some students to go to Washington, D.C. with him.  I am very thankful I had a chance to be a part of that trip.  It was wonderful!

AK-Kenai-Fjords-NP-Exit-Glacier-(v)I realize that that there are many who do not feel like Jimmy Carter was a very good president but I have to admit I’ve always admired him.  Part of the reason for my admiration is his faith.  Carter has never been hesitant to speak of his religious convictions.  He taught Sunday School while in office and continues to do so.  I also admire greatly what Carter has done since leaving the Oval Office.  His work through the Carter Center has had a positive effect on millions of people.  I was once at a denominational meeting where Carter spoke.  He was introduced as the first President who used that office “as a stepping stone to greater service.”

Still another reason why I like Jimmy Carter is his love for the outdoors.  While President he was a proponent for environmental issues and also supported the national park system.  I actually believe that this had something to do with his faith.  Why?  Carter once said, “I have never been happier, more exhilarated, at peace, inspired, and aware of the grandeur of the universe, and the greatness of God than when I find myself in a natural setting not much changed from the way He made it.”

AGPix_summers402_0802_Lg[1]When one is cognizant of God’s hand in nature and awed by its beauty he or she cannot help but want to be good stewards of Creation.  Such a person recognizes the need to preserve wilderness areas and to support those places already protected.  These places are valuable in and of themselves but also, as Carter saw, as sources of happiness, exhilaration, peace, inspiration and experiences with God.

Wouldn’t it be great if our current elected officials recognized the spiritual value of wilderness?  I suspect some of them do.  Others, I fear, do not.  It is important that we all do our part in helping our elected officials to see the connection.  After all, they are the ones who will make the decisions about whether wilderness areas are preserved and our national parks are properly funded.  Perhaps now would be a good time to let your Senators and member of Congress know how you feel.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.


(I took the top image at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (ND), the middle image at Kenai Fjords National Park (AK), and the bottom image at Dolly Sods Wilderness Area (WV).)