Like you, I’m sure, I have seen many incredible sights in my life. I’ve seen two moments-old brand-new baby boys come into this world. I have stood on the Mount of Olives and viewed both the Kidron Valley and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I’ve seen the Aurora Borealis and sun dogs and solar halos and lunar eclipses and the Grand Canyon and a great horned owl sitting at the very top of our spruce tree in our backyard. I’ve seen many people die. I’ve also seen the scallops served at Irene’s in the French Quarter in New Orleans, possibly the best meal I’ve ever eaten. I’ve seen sunrises and sunsets from at least five different places on earth, and the churches with frescoes covering the outside of the buildings in Romania. Give me a few more minutes, and I can name perhaps another hundred “things” that made me pause, like standing 20 feet from a bull bison on a Sunday morning, or seeing actual small bits of gold in quartz in Pactola Lake in the Black Hills.
What a grand and wonderful privilege it is to witness so many different unbelievable things in our lives. Even if somehow we don’t have the gift of sight, to listen to and take in the sounds, or the aromas or the touch of our lives is also unbelievable, but help us to know we live in a world so fantastic and rich and deep that we can certainly go a lifetime and not use up what will surprise us next.
So, I’ve been thinking. I believe, at least for my faith, that I may have been mistaken about a phrase that is often used in our lives to describe things – see if it makes sense to you today as well. Very often, when we experience or just see something of an unbelievable nature, we tend to say, “I saw God in the beauty of the Grand Canyon,” or I heard God in the sweet song of the chickadee, or the sound of a baby elephant.” As powerful and important as those observations are for each of us, I believe they are inaccurate, for this reason.
When I say I “saw God” in something, if I am serious about that, it could mean I have captured the very image of God in a piece of nature or part of my life, like a snapshot or a professional photo. As emotionally nice as that feels, and as much as it may help us to feel closer to God, I think there are some problems with that. Two theological words that I learned in seminary have stuck with me for more that four decades. Some may disagree with my definitions, but I’ll keep them anyway. One word is “pantheism,” which equates God with everything in creation; that is, when I see a rock, I see God, and when I hear thunder, I hear God. God, in this term, is only the sum total of all created and observed things. As huge as that is, it betrays our understanding of God as Creator, since it seems to say that all that is created is God indeed.
The second word is “panentheism.” Now, it’s a little bigger word, but what it means as well is, beyond God being the sum total of all that exists, God in this instance has a little piece of God in everything, so that when I see a waterfall, it may not be God, but I seem to somehow see a little bit of God in the flowing water. My trouble with both words, as I have come to think about it, is that both of the words tend to place God in a container of sorts, which is the world. Either God wholesale, or bits and pieces, exists in the bits and pieces of our created existence. That would be the equivalent of my making a batch of world-famous peanut brittle, and handing it out, and folks saying that they can see a bit of me in each bite. That would be disconcerting to say the least!
I’d like for us to think about things a bit differently. What would happen if, instead of looking at our wonderful, magnificent world, and proclaiming that there is where God is, or that we have seen God in creation, that we take a step back, and are able to admit that all of this is what God has done, not where God is. After all, when God said, “Let there be…” God didn’t take little bits of God and sprinkle it among the light and water and milk cows. God’s creating is apart from who God is essentially, just as – as a poor comparison – I am far more than my peanut brittle.
Instead, wouldn’t it be a powerful, and deeper statement to say that we can see – not where God is – but where God has been. God created, God made, God formed, God enlivened, but all these are where God has spent time and energy in, along with all else that exists, but it is where God has been. Therefore, instead of saying that “I saw God in the sunrise,” we would more carefully, intentionally say that “I have witnessed God’s creative power in the sunrise,” or “I see that God has been here, since it is so full of heavenly Love and power.” I come to understand Who God is more fully by what God has done, even to send the Son for our eternal life. All of these are acts of God, but not bits of God. I know it may sound like a word game, but for me, it makes it so much clearer to know I witness each day the work of God, and the continual creation that God is about, but I don’t dare to say I have seen God, or captured God in anything that exists. God is much bigger, and more “Godly” than that could ever be.
Living intentionally means that we also live carefully clear about what we mean to say. So many people are casual with both their words and their beliefs, so that without deeply thinking about what they mean, they accommodate and incorporate words and meanings that are just not what they might mean, if they took time to think about.
So, I see today where God has been, where God has spent time, what God has blessed, and it helps me more freely to offer my thanks and my love in return for all that God has done in my life. I hope you can claim that for your own lives today as well.
Word for the day: temariousness. Pronounced teh-MARE-ee-us-ness. The word is of course Latin, again, from the word temeritatem, meaning “blind chance,” or temere, which means “by chance.” In its present state, however, it takes on a more negative tone. More than just leaving things to chance, temariousness means a real send of brashness, or foolhardiness in approaching an issue or a problem. You don’t look before you leap, and you don’t hesitate – it’s kind of like “Don’t just stand there – do something!” Even if it is the wrong something… a temarious person doesn’t think before acting, and see the action itself as the most important thing to do. By the way, “foolhardy,” from the 13th century, means really “bold to be the fool.” It is unthinking recklessness. “Fool” originally meant a madman, or someone acting insanely – without sensible thought. Try to avoid being temarious today!
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.