Tag Archives: awe

Wild Life Encounters

Wild life abounds in Rocky Mountain National Park.  In the high country I enjoyed the fat marmots sunning themselves on exposed boulders while small pikas scurried around beneath them.  There were some large falcons circling on the heat thermals each afternoon and one trail was closed due to an aggressive raptor in the area.  On my recent trip, two wild life encounters stand out.

Estes Park Elk

First was an elk.  I was bicycling an Estes Park city trail one evening when I  was surprised to spot an elk only a few feet from the trail.  He was enjoying an evening meal and had no problem with me stopping and taking his picture.   Later I learned that elk are prevalent in Estes Park as fall approaches.  The residents consider them a sign of the changing season.

My second encounter was late at night.  I had placed all my campsite food inside my car, except for my ice cooler.   I figured that no chipmunk or squirrel would be able to open my cooler.  At 11:30 pm I was awaken from a sound sleep by a crash outside my tent.  I quickly grabbed my flashlight and poked my head from the tent.  The cooler was on the ground, its contents strewn across the campsite.  I stepped outside the tent and then spotted the two yellow orbs and the big brown shape staring back at me about 10 feet from the cooler.  A bear had entered my campsite.

For nearly a minute we stared at each other.  He (or she) made no moves towards the cooler or me.  I stepped back to my car and open the car door for a quick exit, but the bear still did not move.  I slammed the car door in hopes of frightening the bear.   The sound startled the bear and it took a few steps back. After a second, louder car door slam, the bear turned and dashed off into the woods.  After waiting a few minutes, I gathered up all the food from the cooler and repacked it before placing it inside the car trunk.  I did take some deep breaths and contemplated calm images prior to falling asleep again.   The next morning I discovered an empty tortilla wrapper; the bear had found something to eat.

The two encounters started me thinking about how people might encounter God.  On the one hand we might think of God as a sign of the season, a kind of wild pet that comes and goes as it pleases, of which we occasionally make sightings. Such encounters seem safe and calming, but they rarely change our behavior or lifestyle.  The second encounter was more disruptive, more awe-some.  It reminded me that God is GOD ALMIGHTY, and that awe and fear can be  appropriate responses to a God-encounter.   Such encounters can change our behavior. I kept the cooler locked in the trunk after that night.

God is the Almighty, Ruler of heaven and earth.  When the Israelites confronted God on Mt. Sinai, they were terrified and thought they would die.  “For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of God speaking out of fire as we have, and remained alive?”  (Deut. 5:26)  I fear that we might have turned God into our manageable pet, rather than seeing God as the awesome Creator of the Universe.  Perhaps we need a crash at midnight to wake us from our spiritual slumber.

In what ways is God “wild” to you?

Almighty God, break into my life with all your power and glory that I might see you as you truly are.

Quarks and Prayers

Quarks: sub-atomic particles

This morning I listened to a podcast of an interview with John Polkinghorne, an English physicist and theologian.  He described how his understanding of sub-atomic quarks helped him to understand prayer. http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2011/quarks-creation/   In the past science explained the world in mechanistic terms as fixed and determined, like a carefully made watch that is ticking away.  But now physicists realize that things are not quite so pre-determined. Quarks are the tiniest participles of matter, smaller than atoms, that scientist cannot exactly locate nor predict.  Quarks are sort of “cloudy,” fluid, chaotic.

For Polkinghorne this changed his understanding of prayer.  In a mechanical, pre-determined world, prayer did not make much sense.  Everything was locked into a set pattern of laws that God had established at creation.  But in the world of quarks, where it is much more fluid and unknown, prayer becomes an interaction with God and creation. 

In old science, God was simply a watchmaker who created the world, wound it up and then step back to observe the watch from a distance. And yes, there are some strong physical laws that guide our days.  The sun will rise in the east, not the west.  If you jump off a roof, you will not fly, but fall to earth.   Yet, in the field of quarks, God is also like a conductor, constantly interacting with the musicians who are making music together.  With quarks Polkinghorne found beauty, wonder and awe, like a good jazz improvisation. 

This makes sense to me. For example I do not pray that the January cold-snap in Minnesota will suddenly become a July heat-wave.  The seasons are fixed.  Yet the chaotic, fluid nature of weather could be influence by the prayers of God’s people.  The prophet Elijah’s prayers for a drought in I Kings 17-18 is indicative of this.  The same is true for prayers of healing; there is an interplay between our body, mind and spirit that truly affects the body’s healing.  Prayer is an invitation for God to participate in our body’s healing, in a deep elemental way.  When we pray for someone to be healed of cancer, we are asking God to allow the healthy cells in the body to replace/remove the cancer cells at the most basic biological level.

My favorite prayer of Jesus reflects such an attitude.  We pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”  As we pray this prayer we are opening ourselves to God’s activity in the world, seeking to be in the flow of  God’s Spirit.  The Spirit is not pre-determined, but more fluid and sometimes chaotic, like a dance. The will of God has fixed aspects, like the ten commandments.  Yet in our daily life, we seek to see the conductor’s baton and stay with God’s rhythm and beat.

How has your understanding of prayer changed overtime?