Friday, May 4, 2018

Heightened Senses

Tuesday 5/1/18 5:12 AM
One thing I love about riding my motorcycle to and from work is the raw way in which I sense the things around me. My senses seemed heightened, perhaps because I am much more aware of other drivers around me because of the greater risk they pose to my safety.
I smell the roadkill, the flowers blooming in the median, the freshly mown grass, the marijuana smoke coming from two cars in front of me as I sit at a light, and so on. I notice the grandeur of the mountains, the angles at which branches grow from a tree, the similarity between a leaf-laden tree and a cloud, and the stark differences between agapanthus leaves and flowers. I hear the roar of an engine, the cawing of a crow and the fluttering of its wings, the laughter of two friends walking on the sidewalk, and the squeaking of an ungreased bicycle wheel as it crosses my path while I wait at a light.
This heightened awareness sends my mind into overdrive. I think about the marvel of the human body with its perfect mix of olfactory receptors, rods and cones, and hammer, stirrup, and anvil, along with the appropriate nerves that allow me to experience these phenomena and other things I experience as I move through this world.
I also see the moon floating in the sky, the sun with its warm brilliance, and stars twinkling like signal lamps. These inspire thoughts of the magnitude of the universe and the vastness of space. Billions of stars separated by unimaginable distances with planets orbiting them remind me of the miracle of my own existence and its seeming insignificance.
The combination of all of this makes me think about the probability it all happened by chance over the course of fourteen billion years. The odds of all of this happening are so miniscule that it might as well be zero. It is then my thoughts turn to God and my heart and mind begin to bleed gratitude. Thank you, God, for life. Thank you for the senses to experience this vast universe with its intricate complexities and indescribable beauty.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Doing the Dance

Monday 4/23/18 4:11 AM
Two nights ago, I had a dream in which I saw my gravestone with the epitaph, “Mark Hugen, Warrior for Justice and Integrity.” Saturday night I had a dream in which I was very awkwardly fighting against racial injustice. Last night I remember no dream about injustice, but I opened my devotional book to a new week this morning where the theme is commitment, and my assigned psalm is Psalm 101. Imagine my surprise when the first two verses I read from the psalm were, “I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise. I will be careful to lead a blameless life – when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart.” The two verses are about justice and integrity.
My other assigned scripture was Mark 10:17-31, the story of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow him. It says the young man left with a downcast face, unwilling to pay that price. My readings also included and excerpt from Clinging – The Experience of Prayer, by Emilie Griffin. She writes about abandonment to God, that selling of everything to which Jesus was referring in his conversation with the rich young ruler. “This abandonment is the very heart and essence of Christian prayer, and it has nothing in common with strategy and second-guessing. It is the pray-to-win mentality turned inside out, and yet it is not a pray-to-lose mentality. It is the prayer that has moved beyond intending, directing, steering, second-guessing God it is the dancer moving completely in the rhythm of the partner, prayer that is utterly freeing because it is completely at one. Utterly beyond asking, beyond the anger that rattles heaven’s gate. Prayer that does not plead, wants nothing for itself but what God wants, … able to act with a semblance of coherence and freedom even when completely surrendered to and possessed by the loving will of God.”
This image of dancing with God, following his lead with no agenda for myself or strategy is what I want. The closest I’ve ever come to that is when I handed in my resignation to Valley Christian without having a job at Cerritos College yet. During that time, I had a great deal of peace and contentment even though I was jobless. I was literally waiting for God to show me where to go and what to do. I’m not exactly sure how to experience that same kind of contentment with this issue of righting injustice in the world. I feel like making plans for a specific ministry is the equivalent of trying to second-guess what God is doing or trying to direct or steer a ministry in the direction I want it to go. I need to become so attached to God and in tune with his will that, like a dancer, I feel the pressure of his hand on my back steering me in the direction he would have me go and then feel the leading of my hand in his and the gentle nudging of his shoulder against mine, so I can follow his choreography as we dance together bringing his kingdom to fruition.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Marvelous World

Saturday 4/7/18 6:30 AM
Last night Jaci and I went out for dinner. We were driving west as we returned home, and the sun painted cloud bellies various shades of yellow, orange, pink, and purple despite the fact that it was already below the horizon. Silhouettes of trees, the smells of spring, and the sounds of singing birds attacked my senses as I drove with open windows. I commented to Jaci what a marvelous world it is in which we are privileged to live. It is almost as if God is trying to overload our senses with amazing sights, sounds, and aromas just to show how much he loves us.
Today I read my psalm for the week, Psalm 23, complete with its images of green pastures, quiet waters, refreshed souls, prepared tables, and overflowing cups. My thoughts harkened back to our drive home last night and I stopped to thank God for this marvelous world. I also read these words from The House of the Soul and Concerning the Inner Life, by Evelyn Underhill. “Consider that wonderful world of life in which you are placed, and observe that its great rhythms of birth, growth and death – all the things that really matter – are not in your control. That unhurried process will go forward in its stately beauty, little affected by your anxious fuss. Find out, then, where your treasure really is. Discern substance from accident. Don’t confuse your meals with your life, and your clothes with your body. Don’t lose your head over what perishes. Nearly everything does perish: so face the facts, don’t rush after the transient and unreal. Maintain your soul in tranquil dependence on God; don’t worry; don’t mistake what you possess for what you are. Accumulating things is useless.”
Over the course of the past couple of months I have been considering my retirement from teaching, which will more than likely happen within five or six years, the Lord willing. I look at my investments and pensions and wonder if I will have enough to live. Underhill’s words and the evidence of God’s care for this world that pummels my senses should be enough to convince me to sit back, relax, and trust God to provide. The real question, of course, is will I be convinced by the evidence or not?