Death in Dunedin: A NovelThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeA Renewed SpiritualityFriending

Lynne's Blog

Worshipping God the Creator: Creation speaks and Creation helps us give thanks

Wednesday August 24 2016

Worshipping God the Creator: Creation speaks and Creation helps us give thanks

(Much of this series on worshipping God the Creator is excerpted from my book, A Renewed Spirituality: Finding Fresh Paths at Midlife. The kindle edition of the book is currently on sale at amazon.com for $2.99.)

I want to close this series on worshipping God the creator with my all time favorite hymn about Creation. It was written more than 300 years ago by Joseph Addison (1672-1719), and its age goes to show that God was speaking through nature a long time ago, just as God continues to speak now. (You can listen to it here.)

This hymn is a poetic paraphrase of the opening verses of Psalm 19. First the sun speaks, then as night falls, the moon and stars “take up the wondrous tale.” The exultant finale is the overall message from the skies, the content of the "wondrous tale": “The hand that made us is divine.” Whenever I sing or hear this hymn, or even just read the words, I find myself praying, “Yes, Lord God our Creator, I’m listening to the voice of nature speaking so clearly. You made such a beautiful earth and sky. Thank you.”

If you're not a lover of hymns, you can approach this as a poem, which of course it is.

The spacious firmament on high,
with all the blue ethereal sky,
and spangled heavens, a shining frame,
their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun from day to day
does his Creator's power display,
and publishes to every land
the work of an almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
the moon takes up the wondrous tale,
and nightly to the listening earth
repeats the story of her birth;
whilst all the stars that round her burn,
and all the planets in their turn,
confirm the tidings, as they roll,
and spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
move round the dark terrestrial ball;
what though nor real voice nor sound
amid their radiant orbs be found;
in reason's ear they all rejoice,
and utter forth a glorious voice,
for ever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

I want to give you a bonus hymn, another favorite hymn of mine and another beautiful poem, written in 1864 by Folliot S. Pierpoint. (You can listen to it here.) The progression of logic in this one is also worth noting: the poet thanks God for the beauty of the earth in the first two stanzas, then moves on to thank God for our senses that enable us to perceive the earth’s beauty.  Next he thanks God for human love and the church, and then lastly for God’s precious presence with us and love poured out on us.

This hymn captures the reality for so many of us. If we stop our frenzied productivity and busyness for a moment, we can then notice something beautiful about creation. We thank God for it, and then, if we stop our busyness a bit longer, we easily move into thanking God for other gifts of daily life, and ultimately for God’s great gift of love and presence. This sequence illustrates the way we depend on nature to jump start prayers of thankfulness and praise. Praise God for the beauty of creation that helps us in this way.

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind's delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

 

This is the last post in a series on worshipping God as Creator. Earlier posts:
     Nature calls us to worship         
     The Creation invites us to join in praise         
     The Bible and Creation         
     Some thoughts from midlife interviews         
     The good creation         
     Creation care         
     Voluntary simplicity           
     Voluntary simplicity in action         
     Bill's story        
     Co-creators with God        
     Two quite diverse stories         
     A powerful quotation, some scriptures and a hymn    

(Next week I begin a new series: "Quotations I love." I'll begin the series with a quotation by Henri Nouwen from the Life of the Beloved, which illustrates that knowing we are beloved is the foundation for spiritual practices, and in fact for all we do as Christians. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)

Worshipping God the Creator: A powerful quotation, some scriptures and a hymn

Wednesday August 17 2016

Worshipping God the Creator: A powerful quotation, some scriptures and a hymn

Ron Sider writes:

“You and I have a problem – in fact three problems. The environmental crisis is not a silly fiction created by mad scientists and political demagogues. There are dangerous holes in the ozone layer. Our waters, soil and air are polluted.   . . . But we have a second problem. Some of the people most concerned about the ecological dangers tell us that historic Christianity is the problem. We must, they tell us, reject the biblical teaching that the Creator is distinct from the earth and that people alone are made in the image of God. . . . Australian scientist Pete Singer says that people are no more important than monkeys and mosquitoes. To think that we are more important is 'speciesism.' Fortunately, biblical Christians reject this theological nonsense. But then so often we turn around and worship the earth in a different way. By the cars we drive, the houses we purchase, the affluent lifestyles we live, we show that we really worship the god of materialistic consumerism. That’s our third problem.”[1]

Ron Sider wrote those words in the mid 1990s. It’s interesting to think about what he might say differently right now about environmental issues we should focus on. Despite some of the specifics in the quotation being out of date, his major points are still true.

Here are some scriptures that have spoken to me as I have contemplated worshipping God the Creator:

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it (Psalm 24:1).

The Spirit of the Lord has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4).

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3).

I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land,
and made my heritage an abomination (Jeremiah 2:7).

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you (Deuteronomy 8:7-10).

Here is a hymn written in 1822 by Henry Ware, Jr. (You can listen to it here.) Note the progression of the logic: creation praises God with its voice, a kind of creation-based music, and in the same way our music should call us to praise.

All nature’s works His praise declare, to Whom they all belong;
There is a voice in every star, in every breeze a song.
Sweet music fills the world abroad with strains of love and power;
The stormy sea sings praise to God, the thunder and the shower.

To God the tribes of ocean cry, and birds upon the wing;
To God the powers that dwell on high their tuneful tribute bring.
Like them, let us the throne surround, with them loud chorus raise,
While instruments of loftier sound assist our feeble praise.

Great God, to Thee we consecrate our voices and our skill;
We bid the pealing organ wait to speak alone Thy will.
Lord, while the music round us floats may earth-born passions die;
O grant its rich and swelling notes may lift our souls on high!

 

This is the twelfth post in a series on worshipping God as Creator. Earlier posts:
     Nature calls us to worship         
     The Creation invites us to join in praise         
     The Bible and Creation         
     Some thoughts from midlife interviews         
     The good creation         
     Creation care         
     Voluntary simplicity           
     Voluntary simplicity in action         
     Bill's story        
     Co-creators with God        
     Two quite diverse stories         

(Next week: the last post in this series about worshipping God the creator. Part of this post is excerpted from my book, A Renewed Spirituality. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)

[1] Ron Sider, “Tending the Garden without Worshipping It,” The Best Preaching on Earth: Sermons on Caring for Creation, Stan L. LeQuire, ed. (Valley Forge, Penn.: Judson Press, 1996), p. 30.

Worshipping God the Creator: two quite diverse stories

Thursday August 11 2016

Worshipping God the Creator: two quite diverse stories

Lorna, 40, is a career counselor.

I grew up in the suburbs. We moved all the time. I was never encouraged to be in nature. I was actually afraid of nature, wild animals, that kind of thing. Until recently, I had never been camping. I always associated it with being cold, wet and uncomfortable. I think I was afraid of it.

Nature and my physical surroundings were never a part of my awareness. Until only recently, I didn’t know the names of the mountain ranges on either side of the city where I live. I am now much more aware of the details of nature. The physical world has become a source of comfort to me. I’m much more aware of God’s presence in nature. I wonder if this comes from a proximity to death as I grow older.

I came to Christian faith in my teens, and my faith was somehow disembodied. Now I have more of a sense of God’s presence in my surroundings. More recently there’s been a parallel process of coming into my body. My awareness of God’s presence in nature is in response to a need I feel to experience God more tangibly.

I can look at a tree and feel comforted, be reminded to pray. When I look at the tree, there’s simplicity. Nature speaks to me of my desire to consume, to comfort myself by buying something. I’m finding I would rather look at the view of the tree than spend the same time shopping.

Every year I see new things in the seasons. Dogwoods. Cherry blossoms. The way they fall on the ground. Kierkegaard says we need to learn from the sparrow, because God cares for each one.

I’m more aware of the moon. When I look at the moon, it feels relational, like God’s gift of presence and comfort. I’ll always be a talker and will want lots of relationships, but it’s like I’ve found this whole other sense of comfort that helps me connect with myself. Nature is outside of me, but it connects me to myself. Connecting with nature has given me a developing sense of self, an inner life.

I can be very self-critical and unforgiving to myself. I beat myself up as a Christian that I don’t pray enough. Then I look out the window, and the tree ministers to me. Nature communicates grace to me somehow. Nature says, “It’s this simple. God is this present.”

Penny’s Story: Penny is 39.

I live near a lake. It’s two and a half miles around the lake. I walk it. I run around it. There’s an old fir grove around the lake a ways from my house. The trees stand really straight and beautiful. One day when I was walking by, I felt a presence. I felt it beckon to me, but I was afraid. I started to cry. Later I began to notice something happening to me when I’d get to that place. Once I heard a voice, “You must be empty to be filled.” Once I gained an insight about light and dark.

I’ve named the place “The Brotherwood.” The brown bark makes the trees look like monks. It’s a holy place, a place I pray and am quiet, waiting to hear. I bring concerns there. If I’m sad, it’s the first place I go. If I’m happy, I go there. Those trees are my praying community. As I run around the lake, I see the trees praising God, their branches lifted up.

One time I took a friend there, and we lay on the ground and talked. It seemed afterwards that every place I touched in those woods was alive.

People talk about the energy in cathedrals. I do believe there are holy places, and I stumbled onto one. Or maybe my heart was open and I was ready.

 

This is the eleventh post in a series on worshipping God as Creator. Earlier posts:
     Nature calls us to worship         
     The Creation invites us to join in praise         
     The Bible and Creation         
     Some thoughts from midlife interviews         
     The good creation         
     Creation care         
     Voluntary simplicity           
     Voluntary simplicity in action         
     Bill's story        
     Co-creators with God         

(Next week: a quotation and some relevant scriptures. This post is excerpted from my book, A Renewed Spirituality. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)

Worshipping God the Creator: Co-Creators with God

Friday August 5 2016

Worshipping God the Creator: Co-Creators with God

Expressing creativity through art, music, gardening, and a host of other avenues is another pathway that can help us connect with God the Creator. And at the same time, allowing ourselves the time and energy to enjoy God’s creation can help our own creative juices flow. Just like in the area of simplicity, many people have told me that they experience a vibrant ebb and flow as they enjoy the creation God made and as they engage in creative activities themselves. One feeds on the other.

Last week’s post on this blog presented Bill’s story. He talked about the way that the creation speaks to him about God’s call to each of us to be creative. As Bill said, we are created in God’s image and God is creative. Bill believes that we are all called to be co-creators with God.

Some may object to the term “co-creators.” Clearly, we are not equal partners with God in creation. God created and continues to create in a way that is totally different than anything we can do. God creates out of nothing. We take what God has already created, and we create something using already-existing forms and objects.

In addition, God sustains the universe in a way that is completely beyond our comprehension and completely different than anything we could do to care for creation. “In him all things hold together,” the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1:17. As much as we might like to exaggerate our own significance in moments of grandiosity, no human being can make that kind of statement about himself or herself.

I experience great joy and a sense of noble challenge when I think of myself as a “co-creator with God.” I love the high call to be a partner with God in creating something that reflects God’s beauty, love, and truth. At the same time, I know I am definitely a junior partner in the endeavor to express God’s creativity in human artistry.

I started writing fiction in my early forties. The ability to imagine people and events filled me with awe. Truly I felt like a partner with God, making something where nothing had been before. I didn’t create the words I used to write stories, but I dreamed up the plots and characters out of nowhere. The exhilarating sense of oneness I experienced with God as I wrote fiction has spilled over into many other areas of life.

For me, writing is a significant creative outlet, whether I’m writing a book, article, blog post or email to a friend. In addition, mundane daily activities can call forth my creativity in a way that mirrors God’s tender care for creation: fixing a delicious and attractive meal, setting a table with attractive dishes and flowers, arranging a room, or choosing flowers for an outdoor pot. I remember reading Edith Schaeffer’s classic book Hidden Art many years ago. She talks about the artistry that can be expressed in homemaking. Her ideas felt overwhelming to me as a young woman. Now they make sense.

I’m amazed at the number of people I know who enjoy making creative photo albums for their families. I’m also amazed at the number of people who have significant artistic talent for drawing and painting. When I was an associate pastor at a church in Seattle, every year at Pentecost we had a “Festival of Gifts” at our church. People brought all kinds of artwork and crafts to show. The variety was amazing. One year a family brought a kayak they had made. The wife does quilting, and a quilt square decorated the front of the kayak, deeply embedded in multiple coats of varnish. One person made soap. Someone had etched interesting designs on drinking glasses. One person made little angels as Christmas decorations. One father had made a life-size sculpture of himself and his son, cut out of plywood. People also brought embroidery, quilting, needlepoint, pencil sketches, watercolors, paintings, and collages.

All of these expressions of creativity require slowing down enough to pay attention to something other than the rush and demands of the consumer lifestyle. All of them require standing apart from the pressure and fast pace of so much of life, in order to focus on this immediate expression of beauty. In order to connect with God the creator by being creative ourselves, it is essential that we embrace simplicity in some form. The themes described in this series of blog posts – simplicity, creative expression through artistic endeavors, and enjoying the creation made by our loving Creator – are all intertwined. They build on each other.

This is the tenth post in a series on worshipping God as Creator. Earlier posts:
     Nature calls us to worship         
     The Creation invites us to join in praise         
     The Bible and Creation         
     Some thoughts from midlife interviews         
     The good creation         
     Creation care         
     Voluntary simplicity           
     Voluntary simplicity in action         
     Bill's story         

(Next week: two more stories about people's experience with Creation. This post is excerpted from my book, A Renewed Spirituality. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)

Worshipping God the Creator: Bill’s Story

Wednesday July 27 2016

Worshipping God the Creator: Bill’s Story

 Bill, 35, is an urban planner who works for an architectural firm.

I am fundamentally at home in nature. I grew up spear-fishing for flounder with my dad, riding bikes a lot, hiking in the mountains with my Boy Scout troop. From an early age, looking at the stars, when I would let myself experience it fully, it felt overwhelming. You just can’t take it all in.

I enjoy the seasons. I’m just starting to get a sense of age and cycle and process in my life, and seeing it in nature is comforting somehow.

There were a lot of difficult parts about my life growing up. I was sort of a mournful kid. Fall was my favorite season because it felt mournful, so I was comforted by fall. Fall helped me tune into my own nature.

As I’ve gotten older, the meaning of spring has become more real. I’m crazy about spring. I like the freshness, everything budding out. It’s exciting to me, and it connects me to my emotions somehow, where it didn’t in the past.

I’ve started gardening. I love the rhythm of it, seeing stuff come out of the garden. It’s a non-verbal thing, a connection with nature. It’s ordinary and yet not ordinary.

Nature has always been pretty important to me, but I’m experiencing it now in a way that’s somehow more present. In gardening, the sense of planning, designing, bringing it along -- there’s something very rooted about that. It’s not directly about God, but it feels like I’m tuning in with spirituality and my home and where I live.

The universe is huge. I see God in the hugeness. Our smallness is both spacial and temporal – we’re   such a small piece of the puzzle.

The creation also speaks to me about the co-creativity of humanity. We’re created in God’s image and God fundamentally is creative. In many ways, that’s an exciting frontier of faith for me. Creativity is a huge gift to us. You can see God’s creativity in people, but one of the most accessible ways to experience God’s creativity is in creation.

I’m an urban planner, and I’ve loved maps all my life. Now I’m thinking about what goes onto maps. My firm is designing a large project, and I’m thinking about the wetlands and the topography, how best to develop it. How do we turn this landscape into a place for humans in a way that is respectful of the way God made it?

Urban design ties into environmental policy and the political process in caring for God’s creation, trying to be responsive to God’s creativity. It’s such a profound change in how we look at the world. So many pieces can come into play as we try to care for the environment. We Christians have focused our theology and our attention on humans and on God. We haven’t taken the creation into account as we should have.

 

This is the ninth post in a series on worshipping God as Creator. Earlier posts:
     Nature calls us to worship         
     The Creation invites us to join in praise         
     The Bible and Creation         
     Some thoughts from midlife interviews         
     The good creation         
     Creation care         
     Voluntary simplicity           
     Voluntary simplicity in action         

(Next week: "Co-creators with God?" This post is excerpted from my book, A Renewed Spirituality. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)

<< Newer | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | Older >>