13 May 2010

Meditation: "What's the Story?"

"O Lord, you have searched me and known me...you formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb." --from Psalm 139

"The interior life is not a question of seeing extraordinary things, but rather of seeing the ordinary things with the eyes of God." --Thomas H. Green

Dear Friends,

I recently saw the movie, ''Date Night" starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell (two of my favorite comic actors these days). In the movie, when they are out on a date having dinner together, this married couple (Claire and Phil Foster) play a game called, "What's the story?" Phil will look at Claire and, nodding in the direction of people sitting at a nearby table, will say, "So what's the story?" On the spot, Claire has to create an imaginary, zany story about the people. The sillier, more outlandish, the better. Laughter, of course, ensues.

Sometimes I play a less silly version of this game myself. I'll see the picture of someone in the paper who has committed a crime, and staring at the picture I'll wonder, "So what's the story?" Or I'll see a person holding up a sign at an intersection asking for work or food or money, and I'll wonder, "So, what's the story?" Or even just as I watch the person in line in front of me at the store, I'll wonder, "So, what's the story?" And when I "play" this, I'm not wondering about just the factual information of their life--where they have lived or what they have done or who their family is. I'm going deeper and wondering about all the dynamics and circumstances and choices and influences in their life that have brought them to this time and place. Sometimes, when I do this, I imagine the person as a tiny baby. And it reminds me that they were once--as we all were--a vulnerable, helpless little child that was completely dependent on others. And then I wonder at all that has transpired between that time as a baby and the person I've just seen--which is another way of asking, "So, what's the story?"

We human beings can be so quick to make assumptions about people, to assign certain motivations to the actions of others, to judge them based on scant information. But human beings are so complex, too mysterious, that it really isn't possible to know another person completely. God knows us inside and out, but finite human beings can never definitively, completely know one another.

So when I find myself irritated by another person, or frustrated by them, or when I find myself judging someone, something that helps me honor the mystery of their humanity is to imagine them as a very small child and ask the question, "So, what is the story?"

Blessings, Jeremy

Prayer: Life-Giving God, we thank you and praise you for the incredible diversity that flows from your creative impulse. Help us to honor the mystery of the people that will cross our path today. Amen.

04 May 2010

Meditation: "For the Beauty of the Earth"

"Earth's crammed with heaven/And every common bush afire with God." --Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"I think the thrush's voice is more like God's than many a preacher's telling of the Word." --Evelyn Underhill

"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." --from the hymn text by Folliot Pierpoint

Dear Friends,

I am tempted to take the easy way out with this meditation, and simply suggest that you take 10 minutes and go for a walk. But don't just walk. Walk and notice and marvel at the unfolding spring around us. The soft green of unfurling leaves, the bright colors of azalea and rhododendron, the irrepressible growth of grass and weeds alike, the damp earthy smell of the ground beneath our feet. You get the idea--take it all in with as many of the senses as possible. Pause to smell a flower or inhale the cool air stirred by a stream. Touch the damp moss on a tree trunk or feel the soft, bright lime-green growth on a fir tree. Listen for the call of a song bird, or the migrating geese overhead, or the sounds of children joyfully playing outside. Maybe even let a spring shower dampen your upturned face. Walk for 10 minutes and take it all in.

Every year a miracle explodes around us as this corner of the earth emerges from winter--sometimes in a burst of regenerative glory and other times in what seems a maddeningly slow, yet inexorable process of transformation. But in either case, lest we take this natural metaphor for God's renewing grace for granted, let us notice and marvel at what too many of us fail to appreciate as we speed through our lives rushing headlong from one activity to another.

Life is irrepressible. Evidence of God's renewing grace is all around us. We are a part of God's creation, and when we take note and marvel and claim our proper place within it, we nurture God's life within our own hearts and souls.

Praise be to God!

Blessings, Jeremy
Prayer: God of Creation, thank you. Thank you for shouting out your grace through the natural world around us. Enliven our senses so that we might truly appreciate it all. Amen.