On the Move
I Kings 19:1-13
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
First Central Congregational UCC
16 June 2013
Elijah just had the greatest mountain-top experience you can imagine. He demonstrated with great certainty and before the entire assembled nation, that he was right. Imagine that. With all the forces of Ahab and Jezebel's empire conspiring against him, when that fire fell on the altar, the people had solid evidence that what Elijah was saying was the truth and that what everyone else in power was saying was false. I can't even begin to dream what that experience would be like. Public, visible, certain confirmation that you are right! How exciting would that be? After that, surely it would be easy to get your way?
Wrong. Elijah's victory was short-lived. Jezebel, humiliated and angry, set out to destroy him. And Elijah, filled with fear, ran off into the desert to die. Fear became self-loathing, as he considered himself a failure and believed that he was the only one who still worshiped God.
We've all had experiences like Elijah had out there under the broom tree. Uncertain of the future. Afraid of what might happen to us. Beating ourselves up for not being as good or successful as we think we ought to be. Thinking that we are failure. Thinking that we are alone and that no one understands us, no one is there for us, no one can help us right now.
Elijah, out there under the broom tree, experienced a pretty extreme example of a faith and identity crisis.
Then an angel appeared and told him to "Get up and eat. Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you." Elijah then traveled to Mt. Horeb to await a message from God; he put himself in a place where he could receive the help he needed.
We can't just sit around in our uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. No, we've got to get up, find nurture, and then set out on a journey, expecting a word from God.
Elijah arrived at this sacred place and waited for God to speak. And what happened? First, there was a great wind, and then an earthquake, and then fire, but God was not in any of these. Of course, God had used all of these before. God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind, appeared to the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai during an earthquake, and led the people through the wilderness as a pillar of fire.
But on that day, God did not appear in any of these ways. Right then, Elijah didn't need any more drama. What Elijah needed was peace and silence. He need gentleness and comfort. And that's how God appeared.
Back in the fall of 2004, while I was still Associate Pastor at Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, similar to Elijah, I was uncertain of my future. Was I going to stay at Royal Lane or look for some other job? Was I going to stay in ministry or seek some other career? Was I going to stay in Dallas, move home to Oklahoma, or go someplace else? There were many questions, and no answers were apparent to me.
Throughout 2004 I had slowly been coming out to more and more people, yet I was still living in the closet in much of my professional life. When I was around those people who knew it was wonderful. Those were times of freshness and life when I could be open about myself. But through much of my professional life I had to act, to fake it, and even sometimes to lie. This weighed heavily upon me.
It was a time of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. I didn't know the path ahead and was unsure of what the right thing to do was. Let me be clear; I didn't think there was one and only one path that I had to discern. I believed then and still do, that there were many good outcomes that were possible. I just had to be open to those possibilities.
At the time I began to pray a simple prayer asking God to make clear the options for me to explore. But I also told God that these options would have to be obvious, like hitting me over the head, because I was in such a confused state that I didn't trust my normal processes for making such decisions. Here's what happened.
In January 2005, Scot Pankey, then the youth minister at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas began to explore options for taking the CoH youth group to summer camp. Scot had grown up and worked in Southern Baptist churches and new that baptists did great youth camps, but he wondered if there were liberal options. So, Scot searched for a church which was a member of the Alliance of Baptists. The Alliance broke away from the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980's after the fundamentalist takeover. The Alliance is very liberal and has taken strong pro-gay stances. They are also in partnership with the United Church of Christ and many Alliance churches are dually aligned.
On the Alliance website, Scot discovered Highland Park Baptist Church in Austin. Scot didn't know anyone at Highland Park, but he called and asked to speak to the youth minister. The youth minister at that time was the Rev. Dan DeLeon. Dan is one of my best friends in ministry and is now a UCC pastor in College Station, Texas.
Dan told Scot Pankey all about the Southwest Baptist Youth Camping Association, and Scot was excited. The SWBYCA is a group of mostly moderate baptist churches, predominately in Texas, that have done youth camp together for about sixty years. Dan said he'd talk to some others and get back with Scot. After a few phone calls, Scot was invited to our planning meeting in Austin, just a few weeks away, and it was determined that he'd drive down from Dallas to Austin with me.
Just so you get how improbable the story is to this point, think for a moment. The world's largest gay church was talking to a group of Texas baptists about coming to their youth camp.
When Scot Pankey and I were driving to that camp planning meeting, I began to tell him about the uncertainty I was facing and what was going on in my life around my coming out. Suddenly, Scot said, "Did you know that our church in Oklahoma City is looking for a pastor? You'd be perfect for that job."
Scot immediately called Jo Hudson, senior minister of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, and told her about me. Jo wanted to meet me within the next week. It just so happened that the very next day I was planning to attend a conference at the Cathedral of Hope, a building I had never been to before. Jo and I met the next day and scheduled a more formal conversation.
When I met with Jo, we sat down in her office, and she said, "Before I hear anything about you, let me tell you what we are looking for. We want someone who is liberal in theology, from an evangelical worship background, who would be willing to live in Oklahoma, and can speak to Oklahomans in their cultural context."
Well, folks, sometimes we are hit upside the head.
That is the story of how I came to be part of the United Church of Christ.
I do not believe that everything happens for a reason. Nor do I believe that there is one path in life which we must walk in order to remain within the will of God. But I do believe that God works with us, helping us to figure out our way.
I do believe that we are each on a spiritual journey and that with open hearts and curious minds we learn from one another and help one another as we grow in our faith and understanding.
We help one another grow in our faith by caring for one another in our time of need. We do that by forming lasting connections with other people. We do that by empowering each other to explore every angle, welcome new ideas, and become our best selves.
We gather with other people who believe and think differently than we do and together, in conversation, we learn. This particular congregation thrives on thoughtful dialogue about what contemporary Christian faith really means for each of us. We invite everyone with an open mind and an open heart to come see what is happening here. We are thoughtful people, together on a spiritual journey.
In that wonderful novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis tells the story of Narnia, a magical land trapped in an evil curse, longing to be set free with divine love. You see, Narnia has suffered under a long winter which has lasted many years. This apparently permanent winter was the result of a curse put upon the land by the White Witch. And in one of my favourite moments in the story, that curse begins to break.
Frightened and cold, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, and Lucy, are fleeing across Narnia, attempting to escape the Witch and her wolves, when they begin to notice little things: a few degrees of warmth, the drip of melting water, the tops of grass poking through the snow, eventually the bloom of a crocus. These are signs that the Witch's power is being broken by an even greater power. Those first little signs of new life burst forth into overwhelming, spontaneous glory. In the matter of a few hours the land passes from the wintry depths of January to the fresh beauties of May.
And when they saw the very first of those little signs of beauty, in a moment otherwise filled with doubt and fear, they proclaim "Aslan is on the move!" Alsan, the Great Lion, is the Christ figure in the story, the embodiment of grace, compassion, and all that is noble and good and true.
I've always liked that phrase, "Aslan is on the move." When we are uncertain, anxious, or afraid. When we are doubting ourselves, or struggling to make an important decision. When we don't know what is the right thing to do in a given circumstance. Then, let's look for those little signs. The evidence that goodness and truth and beauty and love are "on the move" in our lives.
This spiritual family at First Central is on the move. We are dynamic and visionary in our effort to follow God's mission. We care for each other, learn from each other, are authentic with each other. This family of thoughtful people together on a spiritual journey is changing lives. And I am convinced on this journey together we have the chance to discover our best selves.
God Is Here
I Kings 17:8-24
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
First Central Congregational UCC
2 June 2013
The widow of Zarephath had reached the end of her stores. There was just a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug. Throughout this drought and famine she had struggled to take care of herself and her son. But finally she was at the end. There was no more food and it didn't look like there would be any chances of finding any more. All the neighbors were in the same situation; they didn't have anything left to share either. Soon the dying would begin. First the sick and the elderly would go. Widows, who had difficulty supporting themselves, would be among the first to die. The mothers would do everything they could to keep the children alive, but finally they would reach a point where they knew that they couldn't go on. I'm sure she pondered, "Do I watch my child die first or do I let him watch me die?"
There was barely enough left for one more meal, so the widow went out to gather tender for her final fire. Everything was dead and dry, so finding tender wasn't difficult. She had planned to return home, clean the house, wash herself and the boy, build the fire, cook the meal, and then spend that evening together eating their last meal. Tomorrow they would begin to starve.
As she gathered up the tender, a man appeared. At first she was hopeful. Maybe this man brought good news or some food. But, as he came closer, she could see that he was not well-fed either. Another victim of this catastrophe. A refugee and scavenger, wandering from village to village until he too would die.
The man called out to her and asked for a drink of water. One must always be hospitable to strangers, her mother taught her, you might just be entertaining angels. So, she sat down her bundle of sticks and went to go draw water from the well. He called out again, asking for food.
She knew this was coming. She turned and told him the truth. She didn't have enough for one last meal for her and her child. They just had a handful of meal and a little oil.
Then the man spoke again,
Do not be afraid. Do as I have said. Fix me a meal and then fix one for yourselves. For thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel: The jar will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until Yahweh sends rain again upon the land.
And in that moment she did as the man said. Why? She wasn't sure. Did she really believe what he had said? Or, was she at the last straw anyway, so "why not?" As she prepared the meal, she had more than she expected, and the three of them ate together.
The next day she awoke. This was the day in which she would begin to die. She lay there on her mat much later than usual, pondering where life had brought her. But then she thought about the man's words. A little curiosity began to nag at her; the curiosity opened a little door in her soul, and she began to hope just a little, when the sheer absurdity of it all slammed the door shut.
She finally rose from her mat, pondering what to do on this day of death, when she found herself standing at the cupboard. Hurriedly, she lifted the lid of the jar and peered in and . . . it was filled with meal! She quickly grabbed the jub, pulled out the stopper and . . . it was filled with oil! And suddenly she cried out in praise, "God is good and God is able."
The man stayed on after that. He was obviously no ordinary man. He was a seer, a God-man. And, amazingly, the food did not run out.
Yet, sometime later the widow's son became ill and quickly died. This was a mockery of her praise. How dare God default upon the blessing! Distraught, agonizing this mother screamed at the seer. He had come to keep them alive to judge her sin and to take her child. She had lived too long. She had lived to see her own son die.
Then the God-man took the boy and spread himself over the boy three times, praying to God. And life entered the boy again. The man returned the boy to his mother and she said, "Now I am certain you are God's man and that Yahweh's word is in your mouth."
Almost everything you need to know about the entire biblical story is contained in this story of the widow of Zarephath. First, there's the bread. Remember with me for a moment. The children of Israel are traveling in the wilderness and they have run out of food. They will starve. But in the morning a white, flaky, bread-like substance appears -- manna they call it. Yahweh, the God of Israel, provides.
David and his men were fleeing the wrath of King Saul and they had run out of food. They found refuge and safety in the tabernacle of the Lord. They asked the priest for food, but there was none. None except for the "bread of presence," the bread that had been offered back to God as thanksgiving. None but the priests were to touch this bread, but David and his men ate the bread of presence. Yahweh provides.
The people had come out from towns and villages to hear this new wonder worker and teacher. He had not claimed to be the messiah like so many others were doing, but, still, they wanted to see and to hear for themselves. And they stayed all day, amazed by his teaching. He spoke with an authority and a power that no other teacher had before him. It was time to leave, to go home to eat, but they wanted to stay. Suddenly there was food -- bread and fish for everyone. Jesus is good, Jesus is able.
And then he took the bread and blessed it and gave it to them and said, "This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." Jesus provides.
Now, there is a second episode in this story of the widow and Elijah. Even after God provides bread, the child dies, but is restored to new life. Again, let's go deep into our scriptural memory.
Sarah laughed. She was old, really old, and she'd always been infertile. A barren womb was like a desert for her. She laughed because these men said that Yahweh God would cause her to conceive a child. Yahweh who had led her husband Abraham on these wild journeys through unknown countries. Yahweh who seemed to be more trouble than help. Yahweh would bring life into her dry and empty womb? So, Sarah laughed. Then, on the day she gave birth to her son Isaac she exclaimed, "God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me." For God is good, and God is able.
The poet looked out over the ruined city of Jerusalem, destroyed by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar, the people carried into exile, and the poet sang these words,
Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from Yahweh.
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of Yahweh never ceases,
your mercies do not fail,
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
In a vision Ezekiel was brought to a valley; it was full of bones and they were very dry. And God said to prophesy to the bones. So Ezekiel prophesied and suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together. The sinews and flesh came upon them and the breath filled them and they lived. Behold, God is good, and God is able.
In the morning the women gathered their things and headed to the tomb. The Sabbath was ended and it was time to prepare Jesus' body for burial. They hoped that in the last few days that his body had not decomposed too far. If so, then the task would be quite nasty. But when they arrived at the garden tomb, the stone was rolled away, and a young man sat there and said to them, "He has risen."
John of Patmos recorded his vision:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her spouse. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
'See the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them; they will be God's peoples, and God will be with them; God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."
And the one who was seated on the throne said, 'See, I am making all things new.'
Two images, bread and new life, that run throughout our common story, from Genesis to Revelation and continuing throughout the history of the people of faith. These images reach their climax in the life of Jesus with the feeding of the multitudes, the Last Supper, and the resurrection. And they reach their fulfillment in the vision of the reign of God where all will participate in the new heaven and the new earth and all will eat at the wedding feast of the lamb.
Two amazing images, and they appear here together in the story of the widow of Zarephath. Why here? What's special about this situation? What is happening?
A few verses before the bible shares this story with us, it tells us about a political change in the life of the nation:
In the thirty-eighth year of King Asa of Judah, Ahab son of Omri began to reign over Israel; Ahab son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him. . . . he took as his wife Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him.
The introduction of Baal worship is Ahab's new use of religion to control the people and further his imperial agenda. Baal, the thunder and war God of the Canaanites, is much more accommodating to an imperial agenda than the story of Yahweh, the God of Israel. Think about it a minute. With what is Yahweh associated? Yahweh heard the cries of an oppressed people who cried out against their king, Pharaoh. The people cried out for justice, for freedom, and for food. And what happened? God provided all those things, and the king and his chariots were thrown into the sea. Now, if you are a king, you can't have people worshipping a god who does those things, right? I mean it's too difficult to control people if they believe in things like freedom and justice and plenty and that God will provide for them. So, let's compel people to worship some other god who doesn't do these things.
And in this crucial moment, God sends a prophet. And part of the job of the prophet is to imagine an alternative to Ahab and his imperial agenda. In these awful circumstances, can the people's hope be renewed? Will they dare to imagine?
And so in this moment of shriveled hope, we are told a story. "Once upon a time a widow . . . ." A widow! One of the outcasts, one of the least of these, one of those who cries out to God for justice and liberation.
And then, there is a prophet. And he is named "Elijah." And "Elijah" means "Yahweh is my God."
And then . . . there is miraculous bread.
And then . . . there is new life.
And suddenly, we sit up, and we take notice, because in this story something is happening. Something is being imagined. Something both old and new. Something which will restore our hope and our vision. For God is here. Yahweh, who promised us freedom and abundance, is right here, among us. God is here, providing sustenance and new life, so that you can dare to imagine.
We live in a time when people are struggling with faith and spirituality. Millions reject the teachings of the churches they grew up in, though they do not want to abandon faith altogether. They have questions: Is God still speaking? Who is God? Can I trust God? Is God a judgmental jerk?
We live in a time when people's lives are controlled by economic forces beyond their ability to influence. Consumer capitalism has become its own religion with rituals and icons and idols to worship. Can we envision an alternative? Something focused on the common good? Something which liberates the individual and strengthens the community?
We live in a time of global climate change, where the lifestyle we lead is becoming increasingly unsustainable. People wonder if the good days are all in the past. Can we be resilient? Can we change the path we are on?
And we live in a time when people seem incapable of getting along, we lack tolerance for those who disagree with us, and instead of conversation all we get is shouting matches. Can we respect one another? Can we listen and learn from one another?
At First Central Congregational Church we imagine something different than the conflict, greed, and emptiness of contemporary life. We proclaim that God is inclusive and loving and liberating and still speaking. God is not a jerk.
We imagine people gathering together, inspired by thoughtful conversation about faith and personal growth, opening doors to community, and taking meaningful action in service to others.
And, we believe that this vision can change lives and make us better people. It is a vision that could change Omaha, and make it a better city. It is the ancient story of our faith -- that God is here, at work among us, providing sustenance and new life. And it is also our vision for the future-- dynamic, vital, progressive, always evolving.
So dare to imagine. Open yourself to possibilities and a passionate faith. For God is here. God is good, and God is able. And God will provide.
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
First Central Congregational UCC
19 May 2013
This week I came across this description of the early history of Earth:
The volcanoes filled the air with water vapor and carbon dioxide. The surface cooled, a crust formed, and oceans condensed upon it. In hot springs and undersea vents, simple carbon compounds bubbled up to form amino acids and peptides. The first bacteria moved through the ooze; then came blue-green algae, spreading across the planet like a watery carpet, drinking in sunlight and exhaling oxygen, giving breath to everything that came after. Geologists call this the Great Oxygenation Event—the most momentous change in the planet's history.
I was particularly struck by the phrase, "giving breath to everything that came after." We live and breathe because prehistoric algae set the stage for our evolution.
The ancient psalmist did not possess our scientific understanding, but he also knew that breath was essential to life and creation.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to dust.
When you send forth your breath, they are created;
And you renew the face of the ground.
Giving breath so that everything might live is the great creative moment in our planet's history. Today I want to celebrate that breath which is the very Spirit of God.
Let us pray.
Blow into our lives, O God, your Living Breath,
your Life-Giving Spirit.
Help us to notice your presence in every moment, every day.
Make plain before our very eyes
Our kinship with all creation.
And fill us with your power,
Transforming us to be your ministers to everything in need.
This we pray.
Today is Pentecost. This is our annual celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles in Jerusalem, celebrated as the birthday of the Christian church. In Acts 2 we read that the early followers of Jesus were gathered in one place together "and suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. . . . All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit."
On Pentecost we often focus upon fire; it's why I'm wearing the fancy red chasuble. Cathedral of Hope in Dallas every year surprises their congregation with some new pyrotechnic effect. One year flames shot across wires suspended over the heads of the congregation. Since our sanctuary is mostly wood and not stone, I don't think we should try any pyrotechnics. Plus, I can imagine Sam's response if I were to even suggest the idea.
This year, though, I'm definitely not focused upon the fire, but upon the wind. The story we are told is that that day in Jerusalem the breath of God blew upon the gathered, filling them with new power. For, you see, in Hebrew breath and spirit are the same word – ruach. The breath of God that renews creation in Psalm 104 is the same wind, the Holy Spirit, which blows with power in Acts 2 creating the church. It was the same Spirit-Breath that hovered over the primordial waters of creation in Genesis 1. Our closing hymn calls it "Wind who makes all winds that blow."
What sustains this entire universe in all its wild, wonderful glory, is God's breath, God's spirit which blows within nature, becoming the very breath and spirit of the creation itself. God breathes and Earth is renewed. God breathes and we are healed. God breathes and nature bursts forth into song.
Take a moment, and join with me in breathing God's holy breath. Breathe deeply, filling your bosom with the spirit of God. Breathe out. Letting all that stress and busy-ness go. Breathe in God's healing love. Breathe out. Letting your own care and nurture spread to everyone and everything around you. Breathe in, filling yourself with power and energy. Breathe out, sharing yourself with the rest of creation. Breathe the spirit of the living God.
We know that breathing is an essential aspect of our spiritual practice. If you have ever taken a yoga class or tried Buddhist meditation, you know that the first thing you must do is focus upon your breath. It can be difficult to breathe deeply. Our breaths are usually shallow. The first time I learned meditation, the instructor of the class required us to take slow inhalations and exhalations while she counted all the way to the number 12. Twelve counts on the inhale and twelve on the exhale, and it was tough for me. My body was not used to that kind of breathing. But all the spiritual practices of every major world religion teach us to concentrate upon breathing slowly and deeply. And even if you don't discover the spiritual benefit of this practice, it is a great stress reliever.
A couple of weeks ago I took some time of personal retreat to work on the church's annual goals and objectives. I spent a couple of days at Platte River State Park, in one of the cabins overlooking Owen Lake, the area where we just recently had the all-church retreat. I was only there a week later, but it was significantly more spring-like.
I didn't work on plans the entire time I was there. I took moments to nurture myself and to experience the beauty of God's creation. I would sit out on the screened-in porch to read or eat or simply to listen to the birds. And each day I took a couple of hours to go hiking. I'd walk along creeks and the river, over hills and under trees, enjoying the beautiful weather – for it was fortunately in the 80's those two days. It snowed the day I came home. While hiking I saw geese and ducks, squirrels, wild turkeys, and deer, and even one rather large snake which startled me when he hurriedly slithered out of my path.
These moments are more than restful and relaxing, they have spiritual value in taking time to delight in God's handiwork. Even non-religious people know the value of moments like these. Adam Frank, who is a physicist and an atheist who blogs for NPR, wrote recently about the value of "noticing," which he took to be a scientific activity, but which I think is also a spiritual practice.
Adam Frank's column began with the observation that we are all too busy. In fact we are so busy that not only do we not stop to smell the roses, we probably haven't even paused long enough to notice that the roses are there. He continued:
Noticing . . . . begins, with [the] simple act of seeing the smallest detail as an opening to a wider world of wonder and awe. . . . the best place to begin is with a walk in the woods.
Frank writes that a walk in the woods can get us out of our own heads and clear our minds, especially if we take the time to notice patterns, shapes, colors, and the activity of nature. He even encourages us to hoist ourselves up into trees and take notes of what we see. I for one can't quite clamber up a tree as easily as I once did. And I'm probably a little afraid of what all would break on the way back down. But I understand his point. Maybe a nice bench along the trail would work?
He concluded this particular post:
Refining our capacity to notice is an act of reverence that we can bring to everywhere and everywhen. It's an invitation, bringing the world's most basic presence into view, opening our horizons and restoring our spirits.
Couldn't we all use a little dose of restoration?
And that is what God desires for us. God breathes, sending God's spirit through the creation, so that we might be healed and renewed. Recreated, in all the wonderful senses of that word.
One of the delights of Psalm 104 is the image of God it gives us. Robert Alter writes that "the poet imagines the presence of divinity in the world as a dynamic series of actions." What a fantastic idea – God as a dynamic series of actions. The Psalmist wants us to take the time to notice what's going on in nature, and when we do, he thinks we will discover God at play – sporting with sea monsters, crafting the heavens, riding on the wind. In one image, God is playing with the foundations of the earth like a child plays with building blocks. In another God is setting the table and providing for animals like a child inviting the family pets to a tea party.
Walter Brueggemann writes that this psalm proclaims that "God is known to be confident, serene, and at ease" and that everything we experience is a daily gift from God. Because of that we and all creation are moved to respond with "spontaneous wonder, gratitude, and praise."
All the creatures of Earth are our siblings who join with us in praising and worshipping God. If we take that walk in the woods and notice, as Adam Frank suggests, one thing we should listen for is the voice of our fellow creatures praising God. We are the family of God, joined in one circle of life. We are made of the same stuff and filled with the same life-giving spirit. We breathe the same breath -- God's breath. Life-giving, life-renewing, playful and empowering breath.
And the breathing began when God's spirit hovered over the waters, with "blue-green algae, spreading across the planet like a watery carpet, drinking in sunlight and exhaling oxygen, giving breath to everything that came after." And God's spirit continues to blow upon you and me, empowering and transforming us, that we might be the people God desires us to be.
So, take a walk today and notice the glory of God. Take a moment to delight in the beauty and joy of God's handiwork. And, then, breathe deeply, breathing in the spirit of God, connecting back to the very moment of creation. Breathe deeply, breathing in the spirit of God, alive and powerful, renewing everything around you.
May my meditation be pleasing unto God, for I rejoice in the Lord.