Nov 7 2012

God Is In Control!

Next week Dr. Matthew Fox will be speaking here in Pikeville.  I’m really excited about that for he is one of the persons most associated with “Creation Spirituality.”  He has written extensively on the subject and has also done much to show how what many consider to be a new movement in Christianity is actually quite ancient.  I’ve been reading a couple of Dr. Fox’s books in recent days.  In one of them, Creation Spirituality, I came across a passage that seemed most timely.  On the day after our national election a lot of people are feeling very discouraged, others are experiencing elation.  Perhaps something both groups should do is go for a walk.

In a chapter called “Gifts of Awe” Fox writes: “All who embark on a spiritual path need to be willing to learn to let go; to know that none of us has all the answers, and yet that none of us is apart from divinity; to be able to let go of bitterness or prolonged anger.  We can drive down a freeway and be full of anger, but we cannot walk down a pathway when filled with anger or bitterness.  We must be emptied to be able to walk the pathway of spirituality, and of course the walking itself will accomplish its own surprising emptying.”

Christians often use the language of walking to speak of the Christian life.  We talk about “walking the straight and narrow path.”   We use words like “journey” and “pilgrimage” to describe the calling to follow Jesus. This past Sunday in my sermon I even used one of my favorites sayings from my teenage years—“Don’t talk the talk if you don’t walk the walk.”  Perhaps this language might lead us to incorporate walking as a spiritual discipline.  I know that when I am stressed out or feeling down going for a walk in the woods always seems to help.  Walking has a way of helping me gain perspective, a way of enabling me to see the bigger picture.

Walking on a treadmill is an excellent way to exercise but I would suggest that when possible walking outdoors is far more beneficial for in addition to the physical exercise one gets on a treadmill there is also the calming and restoring powers of Creation.  There’s just something about being in nature that causes us to “let go” and to help us to realize that the world is bigger than us or any of our problems.  Even more important, time in Creation helps us remember that God is even bigger than that and “has the whole world in His hands.” 

Whether your candidate/party won or lost yesterday Creation reminds us today that God is still in control.  God brought this world into being, maintains it even now, and will one day bring it to an end—God and God alone.  In Matthew 6 Jesus went to great length to tell us that there is no need to worry.  He challenged us to “look at the birds” and to “consider the lilies.”  Jesus said God takes care of these and went on to add that we can rest assured that He will also take care of us.  We should all be putting our trust in our Creator, not any politician.  So go take a walk.  There may not be many lilies to consider this time of year but there is still plenty in nature shouting the good news, “Don’t worry, God is in control!”

–Chuck

(I took the trail image in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, the coneflower in Tennessee, and the sandhill cranes in New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache.)


Aug 12 2012

Nature’s Dictionary

One of the primary reasons Rob and I started this blog site over three years ago was to help people see God in and through His Creation.  Both the Old and New Testament teach us that God makes Himself known through the world He has made.  Our lives are enriched spiritually by contact with nature.  Creation is, in fact, one of God’s primary ways of speaking to us.

This past week, while reading Psalm 36, I was reminded that Creation also helps us speak to God.  Pay close attention to the references to nature used in the Psalmist’s prayer: “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.  O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.  How priceless is your unfailing love!  Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (vs. 5-9)

Here we see how nature not only reveals God to us but also gives us a means by which to speak of God’s greatness and our experience of Him.  Whether we are speaking directly to God in prayer or talking about God to others nature equips us with metaphors and images that enable us to describe more adequately our feelings.  The sky helps us describe the great scope of God’s love.  The mighty mountains give us a way to portray God’s righteousness. The ocean depths illustrate the extent of God’s justice. The wings of a bird provide us with a way to depict God’s protection.  God’s storehouse of treasures can be conveyed as a river of delights.  The gift of life itself can be viewed as a fountain.

There are certainly many other places in the Scriptures where nature helps give the biblical writers the words they need to pray to, or speak about, God.  At times you get the impression they would have been lost for words had it not been for what they saw in Creation.  Even Jesus asked us to “consider the lilies” and to “look at the birds” (Matthew 6) when attempting to teach us not to worry and to trust God to take care of our needs.  The apostle Paul, likewise, used imagery of nature throughout his letters to speak of the things of God.  He used things like trees, seeds, and fruit to convey his message.

We are invited to follow in the steps of Jesus, Paul, and the other biblical writers.  We, too, can use our observations of nature to help us pray and to speak about God.   Creation can become like a dictionary for us, providing just the right word we need to express our praise or to convey our thoughts about God.  If you’re not used to doing this I encourage you to give it a try.  You will soon discover that there is no shortage of possibilities.  Why, there are as many possibilities as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand on the shore or fish in the sea or ____________  (you fill in the blank).

–Chuck

(I took the top image of the Pacific Ocean at Point Reyes National Seashore in California; the middle image of the Russell Fork River at Breaks Interstate Park in Kentucky; and the bottom image of Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake at Denali National Park in Alaska.)