Tag Archives: #God

“The Wonderer” (6th Stanza: God)

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Photo: TLClark

William Service wonders at “my Hand … my Eyes … my Heart … my Brain” in the first stanzas of “The Wonderer.”  Then he notes “You’re just as wonderful as I” and invites us to wonder and marvel at Creation.  In the sixth and final stanza, Service turns our attention to God:

If wonder is in great and small,
Then what of Him who made it all?
In eyes and brain and heart and limb
Let’s see the wondrous work of Him.
In house and hill and sward and sea,
In bird and beast and flower and tree,
In everything from sun to sod,
The wonder and the awe of God.

Wonder and awe.  Of Creation and Creator.

“In the beginning God created …”  Genesis 1:1

I understand the first chapter of Genesis as ancient poetry – beautiful, evocative, imaginative.  It is an invitation to take another look at the world and to wonder at our very existence.  As a person of faith in the current era, I am quite willing to stand in awe of the ‘Who’ of creation and not worry about the details of the ‘how.’  Nature is.  And God was at its beginning, is in its midst now, and will be present in all the days to come.

“Consider the lilies of the field ….”  – Jesus, Matthew 6:28

I invite you to look at a few flower photos (sorry, no lilies).  Notice the color, the texture, the raindrop or the shadow and to see the wondrous work of God.  Then gaze – perhaps at a person or pet near you or at the scene out your window – and notice other beautiful, marvelous works of God.

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Photo:  TLClark.

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Photo:  TLClark.

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Wildflowers of a restored prairie on a rainy day. The Morton Arboretum. Photo: TLClark.

This is the last in a series of posts in response to the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert William Service.  Read the whole poem by clicking here.

 

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“The Wonderer” (Stanza 5 – You/Creation)

In the first four stanzas of “The Wonderer” Robert William Service wrote of

  1. “the moving marvel of my Hand”
  2. “the wonder of my Eyes”
  3. “the wonder of my Heart”
  4. “the wondrous wonder of my Brain”

Lest you and I  think we are any less marvelous than he, the beginning of the fifth stanza of the poem assures us otherwise.

But do not think, O patient friend,
Who reads these stanzas to the end,
That I myself would glorify. . . .
You’re just as wonderful as I,
And all Creation in our view
Is quite as marvelous as you.

The pastor in me immediately remembered the words of the psalmist:  “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Ps 139:14a NRSV)  Not just me.  You, too, are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Nothing less than a marvel.

The rest of the fifth stanza – the way it is printed makes it look like it is not a new stanza – is an invitation to wonder.

Come, let us on the sea-shore stand
And wonder at a grain of sand;
And then into the meadow pass
And marvel at a blade of grass;
Or cast our vision high and far
And thrill with wonder at a star;
A host of stars — night’s holy tent
Huge-glittering with wonderment.

I searched through my digital photographs looking for sand and grass and stars.  I took time to marvel at the variety of unique flowers and wonder at the shapes of many individual leaves.  But flowers and leaves aren’t mentioned in this stanza of the poem.

I don’t take many landscape pictures.  Nevertheless I found a few photos that sort of reflect the fifth stanza of Service’s poem.  Hope you’ll take a moment to wonder or marvel or thrill – not so much at the pictures but of the memories you have of a sea-shore, a meadow, and the night sky.

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Beach, Golden Gardens Park, Seattle, Washington.  Photo: TLClark, 10/7/2018

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Sand on Fingers and Rock, Golden Gardens Park, Seattle, Washington.  Photo: TLClark, 10/7/2018.

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Meadow, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois. Photo: TLClark, 6/29/2013

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Blade of Grass after the rain.  Photo:  TLClark, 6/29/2013

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Epiphany Stars, Faith UCC, January, 2013

This is another in a series of posts in response to the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert William Service.  Read the whole poem by clicking here.  The first stanza is in my first post found here; the second is here, the third is here and the fourth is here.

“The Wonderer” (4th stanza: Brain)

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This is the fourth of a series of posts in response to the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert William Service.  Read the whole poem by clicking hereThe first stanza is in my first post found here; the second is here and the third is here.

Now, the fourth stanza of the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert Service:

Then oh! but how can I explain
The wondrous wonder of my Brain?
That marvelous machine that brings
All consciousness of wonderings;
That lets me from myself leap out
And watch my body walk about;
It’s hopeless – all my words are vain
To tell the wonder of my Brain.

A few observations about how the brain operates.  There is the “Eureka!” sort of moment; a realization of discovery.  There is the “Wow!” of wonder, of being taken aback at how another is thinking.  There is the pondering, the imagining of what might be.

EUREKA!  As a brand spanking new Computer Programmer in the “real world” in 1987 I was amazed at how my brain worked.  Computer coursework in college had not taught me exactly what I needed to know.  But it had taught me how to think to learn what I did need to know for using particular programming languages in a specific computing environment.  I marveled at how my brain made connections.

WOW!  My oldest nephew was about 4 years old when I pulled out the book God’s Paintbrush by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso.  Upon hearing the title, B responded in a matter-of-fact tone, “It must be really big.”  It took me a moment to realize that God, who is pretty big to a preschooler, would have a really big paintbrush.

IMAGINE.  Ponder.  Contemplate.  Wonder.  About a creative endeavor.  About a career move.  About the words of a poem, the lyrics of a song, the phrases in a text.  About a relationship.  About God.

Holy God … assure us again that ear has not heard, nor eye seen, nor human imagination envisioned, what you have prepared for those you love you.   – From Book of Worship, United Church of Christ.

God has prepared things for those who love God that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being.  – 1 Corinthians 2:9b CEB

 

“The Wonderer” (1st stanza)

This is the first of what I imagine to be several posts in response to the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert William Service.  You can read the whole poem here.

Here’s the first stanza:

     I wish that I could understand
     The moving marvel of my Hand;
     I watch my fingers turn and twist,
     The supple bending of my wrist,
     The dainty touch of finger-tip,
     The steel intensity of grip;
     A tool of exquisite design,
     With pride I think: “It’s mine! It’s mine!”

Have you considered your hands lately? 

Take a look.  Finger.  Thumb.  Joint.  Palm.  Knuckle.  Notice the colors and the textures.  See the veins carrying blood, keeping you alive.  Are there scars, telling stories of mishaps or something more serious?  Is there jewelry, reminding you of precious vows or a special trip or a favorite person? 

Think about how you use your hands every day.  Marvelous, aren’t they?!!

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Who has held your hand, recently or long ago?  Whose hand have you held?  With love.  In friendship.  To pray.  To teach.  To reassure.  To connect.  To hold up.

“Though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.”  – Psalm 37:24 NRSV

“Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.” – Psalm 73:23 NRSV

“…even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” – Psalm 139:10 NRSV

May your hands be helpful today, to you and to others.  May they bring joy, offer comfort, spread kindness.  May they be a reminder that you are loved beyond measure.

Christmas Countdown: Travelers

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“Wind Gusts 40+ MPH” – The wind did blow and there were 40+ mph gusts.  Thankfully the roads were clear and dry!  (And we drive a low-profile vehicle.)   Photo:  TLClark.

We arrived safely at our Christmas destination.  Wind gusts over 40 mph for the last 250 miles were the only unpleasant surprises along our way.  Upon arrival we were greeted with big smiles and open arms, given a room to call our own while we are here, and invited to help ourselves to whatever we wanted.

As we traveled, my mind wandered to other journeys and other people.

First, travelers from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1 and 2:

  • Zechariah went to serve in the temple.  I’m guessing he left his wife at home.  Since they had no children and were in advanced in years, she may have been alone.
  • Mary “hurried” to visit Elizabeth.  It seems she went by herself.  Walking or riding a beast of burden?  Was it far or dangerous?  Why did she go?  How did she expect to be received?  Elizabeth loudly blurted out a blessing as she greeted Mary with open arms; it was indeed an “extravagant welcome” (as noted this morning by the pastor at Mayflower UCC, Billings).
  • Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem, as ordered by Caesar Augustus.  An uncomfortable journey, I imagine, for Mary and her betrothed.  Often pictured today with a donkey, but there is no such creature mentioned in the text.  When they arrived, there was no space for them in the “inn” – probably not so much a place to rent a room (i.e., not a hotel or a B&B) but rather the guestroom in the family home (perhaps occupied by earlier arriving extended family).  They made do in the space – likely attached to the home – where the animals were kept.  Perhaps they were not quite the outcasts that I have often imagined!
  • Shepherds, after hearing astonishing news from an angel, rushed off to visit the newborn child.
  • Mary and Jesus took the baby Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as prescribed in the law of Moses.  They were joyfully greeted by Simeon and then by Anna.

That’s it.  Those are the journeys connected to Jesus’ birth as recorded by Luke.

Next, travelers associated with the birth of Jesus as noted in the Gospel of Matthew:

  • Magi from the east journeyed to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem to honor “the newborn king of the Jews.”
  • Joseph heeded a dream to avoid Herod’s wrath and so he took the child and his mother to Egypt – a family fleeing for their child’s safety.
  • Eventually, Joseph took the family from Egypt to the land of Israel but it didn’t feel safe so they settled in Nazareth.

Finally, I think of travelers today and the people who will greet them along the way and at the end of the journey.  I think of

  • those traveling with happy, hope-filled anticipation – to share a holiday, to meet a new baby, to gather with loved ones, to connect with friends old and new;
  • those who travel with heavy hearts for a final visit with one in Hospice care or for a memorial service to celebrate the life of one who has died;
  • those fleeing because home is no longer is safe – refugees, immigrants, victims of domestic violence, persons who identify as LGBTQ;
  • those working to help travelers long the way – staff at hotels, gas stations, restaurants, airports and train stations including security personnel, maintenance crews, janitors,  highway patrols, pilots, taxi drivers, conductors, stewards, hosts/hostesses, and so many we take for granted;
  • those welcoming the road-weary with a refreshing beverage, a good meal, a shower or bath, and a safe place to sleep.

May all travelers be protected on their journeys and be extravagantly welcomed at each stop along the way.

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Road construction / maintenance safety equipment along I-90 in Wyoming.  Photo: TLClark.

Thanksgiving Sunday Pastoral Prayer

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I’ll be preaching in a small country church tomorrow – country as you can only get there via gravel road, small as in maybe 50 total members with an average worship attendance of 15 or 20.  I’ve met a few of them in person and talked to two others on the phone (the organist and the one printing the bulletin).  In other words, I don’t know them so the pastoral prayer will be somewhat generic.  But it’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving and gratitude is never out of season.  Please join me in prayer.

PASTORAL PRAYER

Turning to God in prayer, I invite you to take a slow, deep breath.  In the silence, count your blessings and give thanks.  (silence)

Creator of Life, Giver of all good gifts,  having paused to count our blessings, we are amazed.  Thank-you.

Thank-you for the breath of life, the gift of birthdays, and for all who bear your image – the people around us, neighbors and strangers, nearby and far away; infants and children; teens and young adults;  those in the middle years of life; and those living their last days.

Thank-you for family and friends, for partners and encouragers in life’s journey.

Thank-you for love and laughter and even the tears that remind us of the most important thing:  we are all beloved – beloved by others, beloved by you.

Thank-you for land and sunshine and rain, for orchards and gardens and grain.

Thank-you for providing all that we need – food and drink, clothing and shelter, music and art, poetry and prose, rest and play and so much more.

Thank-you for the curious and the brave, for the imaginative and the practical, for hard workers and gentle spirits, for all who make your world – this earth – a good place to call home.

We are grateful to trust you with the concerns of our hearts and so we pray

for the people on the prayer chain…

for all dealing physical and mental illness and for those who love them…

for refugees fleeing for their lives, for immigrants seeking to survive, for individuals everywhere dreaming of a way to thrive…

for communities reeling from disaster – wildfire and tornado, flood and famine, hurricane and earthquake…

Holy One, send healing, send hope, send wisdom.  Use us as answers to our prayers.

We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Where God Lives

“You are awesome, O God, in Your holy places.”  – Psalm 68:36 JPS

Sitting on the chancel steps with the children, I asked them about where they live – in a house or an apartment or somewhere else?  There were a few giggles; Gracie, age 3, told me she lives in her house with her brother and mom and dad.  Her grandparents live on a farm in a house – not in the barn.

We noted some people live in tents and some don’t have homes.  We talked about how Joppa builds Tiny Homes for the homeless.  (The kids at Ankeny UCC take up a weekly coin collection during the offertory; in July this year it is designated for Joppa.)

We named places where some of God’s other creatures live:  nests (birds), hives (bees), dens (bears), shells (snails).  One child pointed out that rabbits just dig a hole in the ground.

Then I wondered where God lives.  “In heaven” was the first quick reply.  “Up in the clouds” was the next answer.  A third child just gave me a puzzled look.  Gracie whispered “in my heart.”

Jesus lives with us, in our hearts.  That means God is with us wherever we are.  And wherever we are, we are with God.