Going up alone

Going up alone

In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney lists out the multitude of passages that prioritize solitude and silence; not just the clichéd, “Be still and know that I am God” verse from Elijah’s storm. Jesus was led into the wilderness. He went to the mountain alone to pray. He went early to a desolate place, many times to be alone. Worship of God is often silent. Zephaniah 1:7 says the earth is silent before Him. David, Isaiah and Jeremiah describe waiting on the Lord in silence (Psalm 62:1-6, Isaiah 30:15, Lamentations 3:25-28). Zechariah was struck mute to prepare him to raise his son, the prophet John. Closing our mouths and shutting out sound draws us inward and focuses our self on God and His perspective.

I also took a long hike up a local mountain, in the rain, completely alone. (I only passed two other wet souls on the trail.) It was the absolute solitude that frightened me at first. Being alone on Rattlesnake Mountain was a daunting thought, but one I embraced. I have had many thoughts of the solitude of death recently, and the complete aloneness of dying is frightening. I thought that I could face this fear in a small way by taking this four-mile hike, in the rain with all the bears and cougars and no cell phone reception! Because, after all, I have been promised that I am never alone, even in death. (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5)

At the beginning of the climb, my thoughts were stilled by the great, green forest around me. But as my doubt-addled brain is oft to do, I began to question God. The hike was steep and I stopped for breath leaning onto a drippy, moss-covered tree. I opened my inner ear and listened for answers. Hearing nothing but my thumping heart, I asked to the tree tops, “Are you there?” And heard, “I am.” Now, I didn’t actually hear anything. But, I knew that His name was the answer, and I began to marvel at the revelation.

Moses, Abraham, Elijah, Jesus. They all spent time climbing a mountain to meet with God. And so did I. At least, this was my meditation and motivation to keep climbing. I was climbing to fight my tendency toward personal indulgence and comfort. It was cold and exhausting. Jillian Michaels has a saying, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” That is a worthy goal not just in physical training, but in spiritual. I meditated on the link between the two. When I stopped for breath, I realized that the harder the climb the more I needed to stop and rest than in the flat bits. This too connected in spiritual ways that encouraged my steps.

Once I reached the overlook I was aiming for, there was nothing to see. How indicative of my journey with God recently! I was amused at the metaphor. But, all was well with my soul because I have seen the view before. On clearer days, the view of the valley and Mt. Si shock your senses and drop your jaw in wonder. Today, I trusted that the sight of the valley was still the same behind the cloud. I just couldn’t see it. It was nice to experience the intimacy of the cloud with the drizzle and the wind.

 

In a book about Fred Rogers, from The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, Amy Hollingsworth says that Fred “knew that silence leads to reflection, that reflection leads to appreciation and that appreciation looks about for someone to thank.” As I sat in the noisy silence of nature on top of that mountain, my reflections were calm, assured that I can trust that God is present even though I’m often surrounded by a cloud. He is there, even when I can’t see Him. And I spent time in gratitude.

Advertisements

The Tri-une God and Motherhood Part 3

The Tri-une God and Motherhood Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Why is it important that we start the discussion of God’s mother-love with an understanding of the Trinity? Because God IS love only in the community of His person. This love births a family to participate in His communal love. Mothers know a little something about loving others.

Metaphors of God

Jesus uses parables to describe his intimate knowledge of the invisible God. His parable of the “prodigal son” introduces one of the most important metaphors of God. God as Father is so pivotal to Jesus that he uses it to title the person of God that remains mysterious and unseen to His creation. The most important information about God as Father is that He is UNLIKE ANY FATHER this world has ever known. Jesus breaks all stereotypes of fathers in the ancient world by portraying a father who acts more like a mother than a father.  In what way? Social norms of that time required fathers  to be the disciplinarian, firm and aloof.  Yet Jesus describes his father as tender, compassionate, heartfelt, quick to overlook wrongs, not concerned with discipline but with hugs and kisses (Luke 15:20).

Father is a strong metaphor for God, but there are many others. Rock, bread, water, fire, baby sheep, bird. Jesus likened himself to a mother hen in Luke 13:34. His imagery mirrors an Old Testament metaphor of God in Deut 32:11 as a mother bird guarding and feeding her young.

God has no gender.

If you are unused to hearing God described in feminine imagery, it might startle you. Remember, God is Spirit, not gendered (John 4:24). In Hosea and Numbers, God says specifically that he is God and not a man (Num 23:19, Hos 11:9). So we mustn’t take any gendered imagery or metaphor too far. The Father title is modified as Heavenly to distinguish it from a too literal a meaning. We must be careful and on guard not to make God after our own image as male or female.

God is three persons, not one person acting in three different roles; such as the role of begetter or begotten. God is three persons, not one person acting in different capacities; such as judge or advocate or helper. God is three persons, one of whom took the form of a male human, but in whom all the fullness of diety dwelled. God is three persons who are more than unified  – they are perfect oneness. Yet, because He is three persons, He can interact with each other – they glorify each other, they praise each other, they LOVE each other.

It is this Love amongst the godhead that birthed a family…something we understand as a uniquely mother experience.

Next up: Part 4 explains the motherly metaphors of God.

 

References: Wade Burleson. Missing Metaphors Makes Men Mad.  http://www.wadeburleson.org/2012/12/missing-metaphors-makes-men-mad.html

Public Prayers

Public Prayers

A lot of emphasis has been given to praying in public the last decade. Not that more people are praying in public, but that Christians are complaining because some don’t like to hear it and want it to stop. Is it really so hard to imagine that some people don’t appreciate hearing someone else’s loud one-way conversation? To some, public prayer is a bit like those obnoxious bluetooth talkers – the ones who talk loudly into quiet public spaces forgetting that others share the hear-space. We call those people rude, and I can understand the arguments that call public prayer by the same adjective.

It seems to me that public prayer has become more an issue of grasping and demanding rights. Public prayers are getting louder and more strident in an effort to drown out the demands for silence.  I believe this to be mostly a American phenomena. We have enjoyed religious majority throughout our history. That means most of the time people do not have a problem when we talk to God in their hearing. But with the rise of globalism and the internet, we are having to share our public spaces with other belief systems, and it seems to me that Christians are not very good at sharing that space.

Thankfully, Jesus taught about prayer, so its easy to take our direction from him.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Mat 6:6

Public prayers for show (or political activism) are condemned. Long prayers are ignored. Communication with God that is hidden and private is encouraged (Mat 6:5-8, 16-18).

Can’t we stop the re-activism against those who don’t want our prayers to be public? Can we try listening to them and consider ways to do to them what we want them to do to us? Jesus says to not refuse someone who asks something of you (Mat 5:40-42).

NO ONE can stop you from praying, ever. But they can ask you be quiet.

The prayer closet beckons.

 

Saying your prayers

Saying your prayers

It can be simple, really.

I find myself perfectly content in a slow train that crawls through green fields stopping at every station. Just because the service is so slow and therefore in most people’s eyes bad, these trains are almost empty—I get through a lot of reading and sometimes say my prayers. A solitary train journey I find quite excellent for this purpose. (C.S. Lewis, Letters, edited by W.H. Lewis, (New York: Harvest Books, 1966), p.265. Link)

Slow down. Take the long way home. Say your prayers.