Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

God is here ...

My most recent sermon is about the fact that God is omnipresent; meaning there is no place or space or moment in time where God is not present.

This changes everything.

Every moment - no matter how mundane, boring or ordinary - is a moment filled with the presence of God.

It is our job to become awake to this truth; to stop living half-asleep, dulled into using made-up descriptive words like sacred or secular, holy or unholy.

We must stop praying, "God, please be with us ..."

God IS with us. It is we who are absent. It is we who need to be invoked.

I stumbled across a piece of paper on which John Ortberg's thoughts about God's omnipresence were presented in bullet form.

See what you think:

* God is always present and active in my life, whether or not I see God.

* Coming to recognize and experience God's presence is learned behavior; I can cultivate it.

* My task is to meet God in this moment.

*I am always tempted to live "outside" this moment. When I do that, I lose my sense of God's presence.

* Sometimes God seems far away for reasons I do not understand. Those moments, too, are opportunities to learn.

* Whenever I fail, I can always start again right away.

* No one knows the full extent to which a human being can experience God's presence.

* My desire for God ebbs and flows, but God's desire for me is constant. 

* Every thought carries a "spiritual charge" that moves me a little closer to or a little farther from God.

* Every aspect of my life - work, relationships, hobbies, errands - is of immense and genuine interest to God.

* My path to experiencing God's presence will not look quite like anyone else's.

* Straining and trying too hard do not help.

Pay attention, friends.

Every moment is holy.

God is here.

 

Learn ...

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something.

That is the only thing that never fails.

You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies,

you may lie awake in the  middle of the night listening to the disorder of your veins,

you may miss your only love,

you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewer of baser minds.

There is only one thing for it then -- to learn.

Learn why the world wags and what wags it.

That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust,

and never dream of regretting."

(T.H. White, 1906-1964 - British Author)

Prayer and dogs, Part 3 ...

One evening, many years ago, I was preparing a Stouffer's frozen lasagna for dinner.

Our kids were watching TV or doing homework.

I was looking forward to an easy meal - just pop the lasagna out of the freezer, put it on a baking sheet and toss it in the oven. Voila! Dinner is served.

One of the habits of our old chocolate lab, Chessy, was to troll around the kitchen during meal prep hoping that a scrap or two would make its way onto the floor for her consumption. Since I am kind of a messy cook, she was often rewarded.

But this night, oh this night, she was about to be rewarded beyond her wildest imagination.

For as I pulled the cooked lasagna out of the oven and placed it on the counter to cool, something strange happened.

The baking sheet I had placed the lasagna on had somehow gotten a bit twisted up in the oven and a slight bend was created.

And as that baking sheet cooled, the twist untwisted ...

And that hot pan of lasagna launched into the air and turned upside down and landed right on Chessy's wandering back.

In a moment of extreme shock and surprise Chessy was simultaneously injured and in heaven.

Yes, the lasagna was hot.

But that hot lasagna was not only on her back, but it was on the floor and then, very quickly, in a twinkle of an eye, it was in her mouth ... all of it.

All I could do was yell, "Chuck, order some pizza!!!" and then laugh at the exquisite level of joy and amazement of my always-hungry dog eating the very best surprise of her life.

What does this have to do with prayer?

Sometimes, we don't even know what to pray for.

Sometimes, we just walk around with unspoken yearnings.

Sometimes, God hears the unspoken desires of our heart.

And sometimes, not all the time lest we become numb, God gives us more than we could ever ask or imagine and, like a flying pan of lasagna landing on the back of my dog, a gift lands in our lap, seemingly out of the blue ...

but we know from whence it came,

and our only response is to cry out in joy and gobble it up with gratitude!

This, too, is a sort of a prayer.

AMEN.

Prayer and dogs, Part 2

Our current chocolate lab, Stella, loves to eat.

We feed her the same amount of the same food every day at 7:30 AM and 5:30 PM.

We have never failed to feed her.

Yet each day, anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes prior to mealtime, she starts to worry. She starts to hover around me, restless, urgently staring at me, unsettled. 

It's as if she is worried I am not going to come through for her, even though I have always come through for her.

It really irritates me.

I can't understand why she doesn't trust me.

Haven't I always been faithful?

Doesn't she know I promise to take care of her?

Doesn't she know I want her to thrive and will provide what she needs?

Why does she act as if none of these things are true?

I will feed her no matter what she does. She's my dog and I love her. 

I feel sorry for her and wish she would actually LIVE those wasted moments prior to mealtime, rather than fritter them away with anxious care. All her anxious care is a complete waste of time.

This makes me wonder if God is, at times, saddened by my anxiety, my worry that he will not provide what I need when I need it, even though he has proven himself faithful year after year after year.

When I ask the same thing over and over and over again is it like Stella circling me as if all her frantic energy is what is going to cause me to eventually give in and feed her? 

When I pray, I can rest in the knowledge that my needs and concerns are in God's good care. Yes, I can pray again about the same thing, but I certainly don't need to nip at God's heels as if he is unconcerned or unaware of my issues. God's actions flow out of his love, they are not responses to my level of energy expenditure.

God knows what I need even before I ask.

My job, it seems, is to live a life of childlike trust.

The kind of trust I wish my Stella would offer me.

Because every day at 7:30 and 5:30 I will provide what she needs.

Always have. Always will.

AMEN.