Did you ever try to describe God to someone? Did you ever try to put your belief and your understanding into words? Usually, when a discussion around God comes up, we quickly realize that each one of us has our own unique understanding of God. When answering from the heart, rather than giving a memorized answer from some doctrine, no two people will ever give the same answer when asked to describe God. Interestingly, I’ve also observed that if you ask the same person at different times in his or her life, the answer also changes.
I think this happens because each one of us is a unique expression of God. Whether we know it or not, when we attempt to describe God, we are describing our own deepest nature and ultimate reality. And as we move through this human experience, our understanding of God changes because we ourselves are changing as we grow in consciousness to allow more and more God to express in our lives.
My current favorite description of God comes from Robert Kegan, a professor at Harvard University who wrote the book The Evolving Self. “God is the name we give to the ceaseless, restless, creative flow of energy in the universe.”
Did you ever hear the saying, “Everything happens for a reason”? When I hear this statement, depending on the “thing that happened”, I find myself either nodding in agreement or shaking my head in irritation. How can I have such opposite reactions to one statement?
Do I really believe that things happen for a reason? When something really good happens – meeting a new friend, getting a new job, receiving an unexpected financial blessing – it is easy to say that it has happened for a reason. On the other hand, when I think of some of the painful and difficult things that happen in life – death, divorce, illness, natural disaster, crime – it seems downright callous to say these things “happen for a reason”. What reason could possibly justify the pain these kinds of events cause?
As I consider this more deeply, I find the idea that things happen for a reason is a little too simplistic. Rather, I believe that things happen, and we humans have the ability to choose whether those things will have meaning for us, and what that meaning will be. We ourselves create the meaning based on our general worldview, our life experiences, and our level of emotional and spiritual maturity.
And, it’s never too late to change the meaning we have assigned to an event in our lives. As we grow and mature, we can see new possibilities in past events that overwhelmed us at the time. So, if things happen for a reason, it is because we have decided they do.
As I look out my window on this fine spring morning, I see green everywhere. I can hear a few dozen birds singing. And there is a gentle rain falling.
At times like this, when I can see the change of the seasons happening right before my eyes, it always seems to put me in mind of the cycles of life. For all life seems to move in cycles of rebirth, growth, retreat, and dormancy.
This ‘spring’ part of the cycle is a time of great beginnings. Everywhere we look, new life is emerging with joy and abandon. I see it in myself as I seem to come out of my winter sluggishness with renewed energy and zest for life. I see it in nature as I walk the trails or ride my bike. I see it in my home as I get the ‘spring cleaning’ bug. I see it around our Unity center as we welcome new faces in our congregation, and as people step forward with new ideas and renewed energy.
And yet, spring is also a time of storms – from gentle rains to great crashing thunderstorms. I am reminded that turbulence is also a part of the birthing process in the natural cycle of life. I find this thought oddly comforting. It frees me from trying to avoid the storms that happen in my life. Instead, I can simply be in them, knowing they too shall pass, and trusting that somehow in the midst of the storm, new life is trying to emerge.
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.’” Luke: 2:1-14
Today is the second Sunday of the Advent season, and the focus of this day and the week that follows is Peace.
So, as I’ve been preparing to give this lesson, I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about peace. What do we mean when we say ‘peace’? If you ask most people, they will agree that they want peace, that peace is a good thing. But if you dig deeper, you will find that people have very different ideas as to what that peace looks like.
Continue reading What does Peace mean to you?