Just a Tiny Speck in the Universe

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How does one get past that “tiny speck in the vast universe” feeling, that feeling that screams out,”You are insignificant!” It is true, in fact, that in this universe, we are but a tiny piece of dust. The vastness that surrounds us makes us feel infinitesimal, meaning so tiny we hardly matter. In mathematics, infinitesimals are things so small that there is no way to measure them.

So given the small size of our being in God’s universe, how do we make ourselves believe that God knows us and cares for us?

Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. – Luke 12:6-7

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. – Psalm 56:8

Be assured when you think of yourself as a small part of God’s vast creation, that God has not forgotten you, that you are of inestimable value, that you are in God’s heart, that in your most difficult moments, God knows your sorrows, counts your tears, and collects them in a bottle.

With All My Heart

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I heard a sermon many years ago that asked the question, “How do you find God?” It was a provocative question that left me pondering, looking for the answer. How do I find God? Amid the noise and haste of my world, how do I find God? In the midst of worries and challenges, how do I find God?

There are some obvious answers, at least for me. I can pray. I can be silent in God’s presence. I can sing hymns of adoration and praise. I can read the Psalms. But I’ll have to admit that most of the time when I do those things, I really don’t find God.

It is a spiritual dilemma, disconcerting at times, when I find that God seems absent in spite of my spiritual disciplines and religious rituals. And then I find this word of good news tucked in the Scripture, Jeremiah 29:11-13.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.

There’s my answer. Whatever I do — from praying to singing and everything in between — I must search for God with all my heart. And in return, God promises: “You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.”

Into the Darkness

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God’s call is mysterious; it comes in the darkness of faith. It is so fine, so subtle, that it is only with the deepest silence within us that we can hear it. And yet nothing is so decisive and overpowering for a human on this earth, nothing surer or stronger. This call is uninterrupted: God is always calling us.

-Carlo Carretto

I can understand the calling of God. I hear it summoning me every day. But “the darkness of faith” is more ominous. That phrase sounds wrong somehow. I always think of faith as something filled with the light of hope and promise. So “the darkness of faith” strikes an uneasy cord in me. And yet, faith can be strongest when there is no lighted path, when taking the next step is stepping into an unknown place. When you can’t see, you simply have step into the darkness trusting God who already knows what’s next on the journey.

God calls us to move forward in faith, to trust in God’s grace, to know that God walks before us. Sometimes God leads us through the storm and through the dark. God may lead us over some stony places. God may lead us close by a dark and dangerous precipice in order to bring us to the green pastures and the still waters just beyond.

But even when all that lies ahead of us is darkness, we can walk into the darkness hearing God’s promise, β€œFear not; for I am with you.”

A Hard Day

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Some days are just hard . . . with worries about health, concern for family members, missing grandchildren, feeling a little blue. Several years ago people were following their biorhythms, calculating the rise and fall of our bodies’ biorhythms as clues to our physical and emotional health. There may be something to that, though Wikipedia seems to debunk the idea. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about biorhythms:

A biorhythm is an attempt to predict various aspects of a person’s life through simple mathematical cycles. Most scientists believe that the idea has no more predictive power than chance and consider the concept an example of pseudoscience.

So who knows if biorhythm theory explains hard days. The reality is that most of us do have down days on occasion. I love the following definition of a hard day:

“Not standing on top of the world.
But standing under the weight of the world.”

(From a blog entitled The Edge at https://theedgeishere.wordpress.com/the-ins-and-outs/
https://theedgeishere.wordpress.com/the-ins-and-outs/)

So today for me is a hard day. I will push through it like I always do, knowing that tomorrow will likely be better. And I will stand upright (most of the time) on this promise I find in Isaiah 41:10.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Amen.

Crying Out for Help

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There is an old Gospel hymn that says, “In times like these, you need a Savior. In times like these, you need an anchor. Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds and grips the solid rock.”

There has never been a time when those words were as true as they are now. In these days, we face economic hardships, terrorism, gun violence, war, all manner of insecurity. Many voices shout out answers to solve these dangers and challenges. Their answers are inadequate at best. I suggest just one sure answer from 2 Chronicles.

If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14. New American Standard Bible (NASB)

We can complain, despair, cry out for help, all to no avail. What we must do is humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, turn from our wicked ways, and then wait patiently for God to hear us and to forgive and heal.

Please listen to a moving choral piece entitled “If My People” on YouTube at the following link.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MXbn1yhXwc&sns=em

The Politics of Jesus

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“Morning by morning, new mercies I see.”

A sunrise reminds me of the best in all of us, the caring, the love, the compassion that is new every morning. The chaotic world we live in needs the best of who we are. That’s why the current political season distresses me with its rhetoric of hate.

There is no doubt that we are immersed in politics these days.The presidential candidates dominate our news outlets with their political views. Parading across the airwaves, there are political platforms day and night. We agree with some of their platforms and promises; we cringe at others.

What makes me cringe more than anything else, though, are when candidates claim to follow God and to uphold Christian values while promising to deport people, carpet bomb countries, and turn away refugees who have nowhere to go. Nathan Hamm suggests a simple, but profound, political platform. He calls it the politics of Jesus.

Love your enemies.
Serve the poor.
Welcome refugees.
Make peace, not war.
Do justice & love mercy.
Care for all God’s creation.

Nathan Hamm

I would like to measure every presidential candidate against these politics of Jesus. When I do that, I seem to hear a lot about hatred, war, deportation, exclusion, and a brand of justice that is frightening at best. Oh, I know that reality sometimes makes it necessary to choose an unfortunate path in order to ensure national security. But is there a political candidate that holds the politics of Jesus in her or his heart as an ideal?

I know this: When I believe that a presidential candidate desires above all else to govern by the politics of Jesus, they will definitely have my full support and my vote. Until then, let us pray for a brand new sunrise of mercy and grace.

In the Cave of My Heart

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Fortress of Solitude: Unbelievable crystal ice caves in Iceland

Solitude used to be difficult for me. All my life, I have been a social person who loved to be around people. These days are different, and I have made friends with times of solitude. Paul Tillich said this: “Language…has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”

I have found solitude as a comfort these days, a time for self-reflection and a time for spending time just listening for God’s voice. It is a time when I find myself, the deepest parts of myself. It is a time when I find God in fresh new ways.

I love these words by Macrina Wiederkehr:

And don’t we all, with fierce hunger, crave a cave of solitude, a space of deep listeningβ€”full of quiet darkness and stars, until finally we hear a syllable of God echoing in the cave of our hearts?

Above all desires, I want to hear a syllable of God echoing in the cave of my heart. Solitude makes that happen for me, and I leave the cave with a renewed sense of my life.

The Blue Time of Suffering

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Gorgeous shot of the mouth of Otter Creek in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore taken earlier this month by Kristina Lishawa Photography.

The photographer writes:

I have photographed this place many times; it is never the same. Seasons march on, light changes, the river bed courses through its varying paths in the sand. My heart, too, affects the picture that is created. Hopes, fears, dreams, regrets, prayers…all are poured out here tonight in this blue hour.

I am not a stranger to suffering, and have learned much about the blue hours of life. Like many people, I have suffered loss in many ways, loss of parents and parents-in-law, loss of my youngest brother, loss of beloved aunts and uncles, loss of employment, loss of a home through fire, loss of the nonprofit organization I built, loss of my physical health through all of 2014.Β More serious still is the loss of hopes and dreams, life regrets, the experience of fear.

During most of my times of loss, I suffered. At times, I felt as though I would lose myself in the suffering. Romans 5:3-5 speaks hope to me every time I read it.

. . . We also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Suffering also touches our inner spirit with spiritual and emotional growth, the kind of growth that builds on our resiliency to face every tomorrow. Orson F. Whitney speaks to the growth that comes from suffering:

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like God.

In the end there is always abiding hope in the midst of the blue time of suffering.

Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy will continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise.Β Β Lamentations 3:21-23 GNT

That’s Grace!

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This is a photo taken by the Hubble Telescope. Scientists cannot begin to figure out what it is. My friend says, “I like to think of it as the gate of heaven.”

On January 8, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope photographed the spiral galaxy NGC 4845, located over 65 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin).

On another day the telescope saw Messier 96, a galaxy that resembles a giant maelstrom of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust that swirls inwards towards the nucleus.

Amazingly, the Hubble Telescope sees and photographs astounding images every day, many of them discovered for the first time. Many times NASA scientists have no idea what they’re looking at. I think that’s because this is God’s universe, filled with wonder that humans can only begin to imagine, much less identify.

It seems like a vast array of God’s miracles to me, miracles of beauty and wonder that form the mystery planned by the divine Creator. When I take myself too seriously, I remember that I am just a minuscule, wee speck in that enormous universe. And when I am despondent, I remember that the tiny speck that is me is important to God. That’s miracle! That’s grace!

Winter Wonderland 2016

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Today much of the East Coast is wearing a blanket of snow. The blizzard is impacting almost 30 million people, with some places expecting 20+ inches of snow.

There is never a quieter time in a city. Snow falls silently, and the sound of very few vehicles break the silence. Schoolyards are devoid of the voices and laughter of children. Government offices are quiet, though transportation crews are in emergency mode. Airplanes are stilled, with 5,700 flights already cancelled. Traffic is slowly inching along the roadways. Even metro transit is at a standstill.

Families that are normally busy at work and school are gathered around glowing hearths. Even the sound of home furnaces are silent because the power is out in many places.

But we can’t help but think about the places that are anything but quiet. Bustling with sound and labor are the homeless shelters and the organizations and churches that have opened their doors as warming centers. Blankets are being distributed, meals are being served, and we should be extremely grateful for the tireless workers and volunteers that make it happen.

During these days, called the snowpocalypse, remember your neighbors, especially the elderly who may not be able to meet their own needs. Enjoy the quiet, revel at the sight of a winter wonderland of snow-covered trees and roof tops, take this chance to stay in and be lazy, build a snowman with your children, drop into the fluffy ground and make some snow angels, make sure your pets are cared for, remember those who have no warm shelter, and thank God for the sheer beauty of a world covered with Β snow.