How About This Weather?

A common icebreaker, during my walks downtown, is to talk about the weather. “Sure is hot today.” “Looks like rain.” “What a beautiful day.” The weather is something that people tend not to have passionate opinions about and is also something that is easily observable. Someone can talk with me about the weather and I can easily understand the point they are trying to get across.

At the same time, there is something mysterious about the weather. In spite of our often failed attempts at predicting it, we cannot control the weather. It is something beyond the human sphere that, nevertheless, we find ourselves in. The weather is part of nature; part of God’s creation.

Various individuals have argued that glimpses of God can be gained through meteorological observation. An even wider collection of contributors has contended that awareness of God comes through careful analysis of God’s creation

In his book on systematic theology entitled, Christian Doctrine, Shirley C. Guthrie Jr. defines general revelation as “the self-disclosure of God that all people can perceive by contemplating evidence of God’s presence in the world of nature, history, and human life in general.” That is to say, general revelation is the way in which we find God through examination of the world around us.

Popular evidence for such a claim centers on the idea that the universe appears to operate with purpose. The body is an extremely complex system of networks that operate in intricate harmony with one another. We breathe in what trees breathe out and trees breathe in what we breathe out. The acorn that the squirrel drops sprouts roots fed by decomposing leaves as it grows into a replica of its mother. The natural world appears to have order; purpose.

Many a heated debate has revolved around the how of the Genesis 1 story of creation. For the sake of this discussion, we are not concerned with the how, but the why. According to Genesis 1 God creates the heavens and the earth; all of existence; the cosmos. However, God does not just say a couple of words and the world poofs into existence. Rather, there is a method utilized by the Divine Creator.

On the first day God creates light, dark, and time (via the distinction of day and night). On day two God creates the waters below and above, the oceans and the sky, locations recognizable only in the presence of light and dark. On the third day dry ground appears. Dry land only exists in contrast to the seas. Its existence is dependent upon its relationship to that which has come before it. Further still God goes on to create plant life, animals of the land, air, and sea, and finally humans. Each creation made only after that which sustains it has been created. Plants are not created until after there is dry land for them to dwell, water for them to drink, and sunlight for them to “eat.” God’s creation is codependent. As the last part of the process, the pinnacle of creation, humans are dependent upon all that has come before them; all of Creation. Human beings gain purpose through relationships with the world around them. This relationship driven purpose is not isolated to ecology, but dwells within our own intra-species interactions.

Perhaps a more easily observable conclusion can be drawn from another famous founder. Perhaps my favorite mortal creator, the late Jim Henson has utilized intricate relationships is his creation of the worlds of The Muppets, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock. It takes a powerful creator to turn several yards of felt into a banjo playing theatre manager who has an on-again, off-again relationship with Miss Piggy. However, Kermit is just a puppet if not for his best friend Fozzie, temper with Gonzo, and patience with Animal. Kermit is Kermit because of the relationships he has with the world around him.

Like Kermit, we too are defined by our relationships. I know myself, my environment, and God through my relationship with you. The Kingdom of God is not to be studied, but observed. Sometimes, the most devout questions are not answered by theologians, but by the stranger. Sometimes glimpses of Heaven can be gained by asking, “How about this weather?”

This inspirational word was brought to you by Ben Wright of Grace & Main Fellowship.

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Laminar Lives

I tend to think in extremes; first and last, highest and lowest, longest and shortest, all or none. I believe most people do this to some extent. For example, when I’m at work and working on a task, I am asked how long it will take. I always say something like, “that should only take an hour” which is the absolute minimum amount of time I would need to finish it, when it actually ends up taking four hours. Or when given a big problem to solve, for example, social poverty; what might be our first solution? Let’s go and spend every chance we can with people who have been socially neglected. Sounds good, right? Sure, except when we see there are so many people in need that we become overwhelmed. Generally, we think, if we can’t fully devote time, effort, strength into it, it’s not worth doing or it’s not going to be enough to solve the problem. Then, nothing gets done. So, we want to do something, but if we try to solve it thinking in extremes, we will eventually burn out.

I went to school to learn engineering. While there, I learned about how fluids flow. In my Fluid Dynamics class, I was taught that fluids flow in two categories: laminar and turbulent. Laminar fluids flow smoothly, uniformly, in one direction with very little friction. Because of this parallel flow with all particles moving in the same direction and small amount of friction, the sum of the energy output is very close to the sum of the energy input. This results in a very powerful and efficient flow. In contrast, turbulent fluids flow irregularly, chaotically, and unparallel to the overall direction of the flow. At any one point in the fluid, the speed is constantly changing in magnitude and direction. Turbulent flow is characterized by a large loss in energy due to friction. The sum of the energy output is much less than the sum of the energy input.

I tell you about fluid dynamics because I believe we can apply those fluid flow principles to our lives. We have a finite amount of energy we put into everything we do. Sometimes we will try to “do” too much to bring the kingdom of God here on Earth; other times, not enough. I believe there is a balance between the two where we are most effective at being disciples of Christ. There is a difference between trying to do so many good things and being very effective at what we do. Sometimes we are blinded by a need so big that we think we have to do everything we can to help solve it. Instead of spreading our efforts on something like this, which ends up being solely charity, what does it look like to focus our energy and try to provide some real justice? We must evaluate how we use our energy such that it shows we love God with our entire lives and we love our neighbor as ourselves.

If there are things that cause friction, slow us down, and make our lives turbulent, maybe we need to consider removing them from our flow path. These things that slow us down may be good, but they’re causing turbulence. What aspects of our lives are causing turbulence? I’m not saying that we should throw out everything that doesn’t seem effective at Kingdom work. I truly believe that having fun, not being productive and resting is part of living a balanced, laminar life. I’m saying, let’s take a look at our lives and find ways we can show the world how powerful God is; that He has a plan to heal this broken world with love.

This inspirational word was brought to you by Mike Huggins of Grace & Main Fellowship.

The Church Defined

You don’t have to read too far into the book of Ephesians to surmise that Paul is addressing the Church in Ephesus with this letter. But, almost 2,000 years later we can sometimes miss the particular audience of Paul’s letter by applying our own understanding of “Church” to Paul’s writing. In the first two verses of the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul is addressing his audience and, in doing so, he identifies them. It reads, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is striking that Paul explicitly identifies his audience—the Church—as those who are “faithful in Christ Jesus,” and not as those who are present or connected to this local body of believers.

This isn’t to say that Paul wants to exclude these others who may be attending but who are not “faithful in Christ Jesus,” but rather that Paul understands that the letter that will follow this greeting will only be understood by those who are fully invested in the work of Jesus Christ and have demonstrated this by their deeds and confessions. As we look back, nearly 2,000 years after the fact, we should not simply pass over this greeting as we often pass over the introductions of books. Instead, we should take a moment to thoughtfully consider whether or not we can be counted as “faithful in Christ Jesus,” that is to say as people of the Kingdom of God who are busy doing the work of the Kingdom.

This inspirational word was brought to you by Joshua Hearne of Grace & Main Fellowship. www.thirdchanceministries.wordpress.com

Midday Prayers

A few of us gather several times during the week and go into some of the roughest, most neglected parts of downtown Danville, bringing lunches and friendship to the folks who live there.  We call it our “roving feast.”

The roving feast brings us into the lives of people who must deal daily with violence, poverty, addiction, abuse, homelessness, injustice, loneliness and despair.  We don’t just give them something to eat.  We listen to their stories.  We look for ways to help them.  We try to affirm their worth.  We just try to show genuine love, without judgment.

Lately, we have begun a practice of joining together for Midday Prayers before heading out on the roving feast.  Many of us at Grace and Main have adopted the discipline of praying the daily offices from Common Prayer—A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  We like knowing that as we pray we are being joined by thousands of our brothers and sisters around the world who, like us, are seeking God’s face daily.

Our Midday Prayers bring together the Prayer of St. Francis, the Lord’s Prayer, the beatitudes, a prayer for the fruit of the Spirit and the ancient Anima Christi.  These prayers seem fitting as we prepare to begin our roving feasts.   They encourage and bless us.  They remind us of the reason we rove.  They center us on God as we ask for his blessings.

God is at work in downtown Danville, in beautiful redemptive ways.   We hope you will consider joining us for dinner on Thursday evenings and for worship on Sunday evenings.  All are welcome.

We also hope you will consider joining us in prayer.  The daily prayers are online at commonprayer.net and can be prayed alone or in a group.

The following are the Midday Prayers.  We encourage you to consider making these prayers a regular practice.

Draw us into your love, Christ Jesus: and deliver us from fear.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Silence for meditation

Our Father…

Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our brothers and sisters throughout the world, who live and die in poverty and pain. Give them today, through our hands, their daily bread and through our understanding love, give peace and joy. Amen

Blessed are the poor,
for theirs is the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are the hungry,
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they are the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness and justice,
for great is their reward.

Come, Holy Spirit. We pray that your fruit would be in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
body of Christ, save me;
blood of Christ, inebriate me;
water from the side of Christ, wash me;
passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me;
within your wounds hide me;
suffer me not to be separated from you;
from the malicious enemy, defend me;
in the hour of my death, call me,
and bid me come to you
that with your saints I may praise you
forever and ever. Amen.

Through our lives and by our prayers: may your kingdom come!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This inspirational word was brought to you by Bill Guerrant of Grace & Main Fellowship. www.practicingresurrection.wordpress.com