“Where are you?” Is the first question of the Bible, the first question God asks humankind. They have just eaten the fruit, committed the first sin, and broken the most important relationship in the world. They are hiding in their shame and trying to cover their nakedness.
And God, in the cool of the afternoon, walks in the Garden to ask them “Where are you?”. Why ask this question and what is the tone of God’s voice? God does not ask to learn of this action-
Where are you?The omnipotent and omniscient God asks a tired and broken humanity hiding in their own shame and lack. God’s voice, announces not God’s judgement but God’s presence – in the midst of suffering and lack. Perhaps in this question we can hear a it of the divine truth that wherever we are, God is with us, in the midst of our pain and suffering. For where can we go from your presence, Oh God?, and where how can we run from you?
God comes to find us and offer us reconciliation.
We have been told that God is angry, God demands blood and vegence, and that God’s words are meant to further shame the already shame-filled people. To hear these words as the words of a mother to her creation, as the words of a heart broken parent to a scared and hurting child – this is the truth offere to us in God’s word.
Perhaps we feel the need to hear divine judgement and disapproval and shame because – in light of our shame and sin – God’s offer to love and forgiveness and reconciliation seems too much to bear. We could not bear the responsibility to live contently in the Garden – why should receiving the costly forgiveness from a love, self-sacrificing God be any easier for us? But God offers this to us – again and again and again and again.
‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
We live in a world full of half-truths and outright lies – these ideas and fears wash over us and lap against our hearts and minds, trying to slowly erode and corrode our lives. In this quiet moment, take time to reflect on this simple truth and so be refreshed and restored:
Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong—
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
Remind us of these truths each day and help us to trust the promises of scriptures.
God, thank you for offering us abundant and eternal life. Teach us your truth so that we may choose abundant life and live for your glory and the good of our neighbor.
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I try and keep the towels neatly folded in my apartment. My wife doesn’t ask me to do this – but I know she appreciates it and I do it out of love for her. The few seconds I spend folding towels each day are moments that bring her to my thoughts and allow me to silently express my love for her. I hope that my towel folding practice is shaping my soul to become more loving and selfless and caring.
What does folding towels have to do with the call to love one’s enemies? Loving our enemies seems overwhelming – is there some small way we can start to practice this love? Perhaps this small way is through prayer or offering forgiveness. Abundant life is defined by love – let us look for the small ways we can begin to practice this radical love.
God, thank you for offering us abundant and eternal life. Help us to love so that we may choose abundant life and live for your glory and the good of our neighbor – and enemy.
‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
Have you ever settled a dispute with a tape measure? I know I’ve relied on exact measurements to settle close calls on the Bocce court. My family settled many contentious car rides by measuring out a line to divide two squabbling brothers. Sometimes rulers and tape measures provide something useful and even good.
However, Jesus tells us that there is a time and a place to set aside rulers and tape measures. Setting aside the conventions of the world, Jesus offers stories that shape and challenge our moral imagination. Poet and theologian Wendell Berry makes the same observation about the Kingdom when he writes: “So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world.”
God, thank you for offering us abundant and eternal life. Fill us with stories of your Kingdom so that we may choose abundant life and live for your glory and the good of our neighbor.
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life…”
This passage seems to pose a simple question for the people of Israel – and for you and me: “Do you want life and blessings? Or do you want death and curses.” Only, of course, this question is not as simple as it seems. How often did God’s chosen people reject God and reject God’s promise for abundant life? How often do I reject the fullness of life and choose death by failing to forgive? By hoarding my time and money as if they were mine to hold? By failing to work for compassion, mercy, and justice in the world?
In a moment of honest truth-telling, let us confess our own tendency for self-destruction and remember and rejoice in the truth that God has offered life to us – and offers life to us each day.
God, thank you for offering us abundant and eternal life. Help us choose abundant life and live for your glory and the good of our neighbor.
I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple.
“The World Has Need of You” by Ellen Bass from Like a Beggar. © Copper Canyon Press, 2014.
There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot—air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That’s the world, and we all live there.
I’m writing a poem about Ben Steel per Elise’s request. It’s for his 30th birthday. I’m also procrastinating from working on a paper I need to complete for GSLIS. I’m also writing a limerick.
What Makes Ben Steel Great
I know an old man from out West
Who barked and who coughed in distress
he struggled to write
his shirt – too tight!
the American Flag ruined our bible test.
Watched a short video today while taking a break from studying.
They reference this poem that I thought would be worth tracking down. Here it is:
silently if, out of not knowable
night’s utmost nothing, wanders a little guess
(only which is this world) more of my life does
not leap than with the mystery your smile
sings or if (spiraling as luminous
they climb oblivion)voices who are dreams,
less into heaven certainly earth swims
than each my deeper death becomes your kiss
losing through you what seemed myself;i find
selves unimaginably mine;beyond
sorrow’s own joys and hoping’s very fears
yours is the light by which my spirit’s born:
yours is the darkness of my soul’s return
–you are my sun,my moon,and all my stars
(- e.e cummings)
I’m interested in the line:
losing through you what seemed myself;i find
selves unimaginably mine
What a marvelous line. I think in wondering about my past and my future these lines really spoke to me and said something new and insightful. More later – just wanted to clip and catalog this thought.
This was a day when nothing happened,
the children went off to school
remembering their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch’s little scraps.
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow,
preened and flashed his jeweled head.
Now a chicken roasts in the pan,
and the children return,
the murmur of their stories dappling the air.
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb.
We listen together for your wheels on the drive.
Grace before bread.
And at the table, actual conversation,
no bickering or pokes.
And then, the drift into homework.
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa’s ridges and hills.
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss,
tasting of coffee and cream.
The chicken’s diminished to skin and skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard cold knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
into the winter night.