Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Art of the small things...

Enjoy this picture. Blow it up and take a good look. It was taken Saturday, up by Mt. Baker, where I was hiking with my wife. This was as much view as we had all day, as the mountain parted her skirt for just a moment or two before draping herself in the modesty of fog again. The whole time up on the mountain was like this; a hint of the bigger vision followed by everything shutting down and closing in, forcing the micro view despite our achings for the macro view. Instead of glaciers, lichen. Instead of canyons, a marmot. Instead of summit, dew on a blossom.

I like the big picture, like a clear understanding of the final destination, the summit where we're going. I like clarity more than fog. But clarity isn't always an option, and in fact, if the truth be told, we'll humbly acknowledge that the very clarity we claim to have regarding lots of details regarding our future is, in fact, a mirage. We can't even figure out the weather, let alone markets, terrorists, why cancer cells lose and win, and the foibles of our own human hearts. There's fog - everywhere. It comes and goes with the winds of grace, but it's a reality for all of us. This summer my pastoral role has reminded me, numerous times, of the realities of fog. Someone's making a decision regarding med school, having been accepted, but not necessarily having the stomach to go. What is the future God has for her? Another is hanging by a thread over the abyss of foreclosure. Another has discovered her husband's affair, shattering her vision of intimacy and trust. Fog.

Fog, though, doesn't blind us. It simply reduces our range of vision, forcing us to pay attention to a smaller world. It's easy to whine when our vision is restricted, when the future is uncertain. Instead, try paying attention to the little things. This, after all, is what Jesus advised anyway, hinting that we wouldn't always understand the big picture, because the reality of the things is that there's more fog around us than we care to enjoy. And yet, said Jesus in the New Testament, and Jehovah in the Old, "I'll give you all you need for the day; all the guidance, all the provision; all the resources for whatever you're doing, even if what you're doing seems very very small."

So here we are, a lot of us, unable to see the future. But perhaps it's precisely because I can't see the future that I can see a sink filled with dirty dishes, or that I've not had a decent conversation with my spouse, or that the bedroom has become a giant storage closet of unsorted obligations that shout "you're too busy", but I only just now heard, because I was, well, too busy to listen.

The fog shrinks our view, but the things we see in our shrunken view aren't unimportant. In fact, it just might be that while we're in the midst of minding the micro vision of our lives, listening to our neighbors, cleaning our homes, tasting our food, praying, that we'll see the macro vision once again. When the fog clears I discover that it was my attention to the big vision is made up of millions of tiny acts of faithfulness anyway, and that it's those who pay attention to the little things that gain, not only a seeing of the grand vision, but the privilege of walking in it.

That's all for now... I'm going to go home and clean my room.


At 25/8/09 10:13, Anonymous said...

Pastor Richard,
As I was walking this morning God prompted me to look behind me, and gave me a nice view of Lake Union. Sometimes we need to look back and enjoy, and He put on my heart dropping you a line.

My wife and I have visited Bethany the past couple of weeks and have enjoyed your teaching. God encouraged me through your thoughts Sunday (expanded in this blog) about the "Big Picture" being made up of thousands of small images. He had previously used "It's best to start small" (Matthew 10:41 [or so] from The Message) as an encouragement to me, so your words are helping me understand that His epic is composed of millions of "small starts." Not only are we privileged to be "in Christ," we are living the mystery of "Christ in us." It was a great walk!

When I got back to the house I was reading in Psalm 36 and felt encouraged to include this:
"God's love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks."
The Message.

May you revel in the vastness of His love for you.

At 25/8/09 14:34, Anonymous Shonnie Scott said...

Your post reminds me again of a Mother-Teresa-story Brennan Manning tells: "When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at 'the house of the dying' in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, 'And what can I do for you?' Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.

'What do you want me to pray for?' she asked. He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the U.S.: 'Pray that I have clarity.'

She said firmly, 'No, I will not do that.' When he asked her why, she said, 'Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.' When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said,'I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.'"

God brings this story to mind time and again, when I am clinging to the security I imagine "clarity" would bring...if God would just give me the “big vision." More often than not, He allows me to see just enough to take a single solid step forward and beyond that, I must trust Him…one single step at a time.

While I'm ever inclined to fight this way of "walking" with God, I've grown to appreciate this is one way God keeps me in that place of "desperate dependence" you were speaking about a few postings back.

“We live by faith and not by sight.” 2 Cor. 5:7

At 26/8/09 11:22, Blogger J said...

hello Sir. I've been following your blog for a while now and I had a question for you. can you please e-mail me if you have time. Thank you, take care.


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