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Thank God for snow!

January 13, 2011

I just came back inside after sending my grumpy husband off to work.  While I was helping him take stuff to his car, I saw the sparkles of our snowfall last night.  Only a slight covering, more than a dusting, not even half an inch – yet millions of diamonds all over the hood of the car twinking at me. And I breathed, “Thank God for snow!”

                    My man woke up irritable because he went to bed irritable – weighed down by finances and the burdens of a ranch that is overproductive in livestock and underproductive in revenue.  I tried to remind him that his very countenance was nonproductive (in kinder, gentler words), but when he said, “I don’t want to hear it,” I shut up.  Darkness in the dark of the morning.  Heaviness, weightiness, burden.  The yoke of livestock.  Whew!

Normally, (is there such a thing?) I would have pointed out the play of light on the snow, smiled, chortled about the diamonds.  I would have waxed whimsical, and we would have laughed at me.  Those sparkles usually bring out the kid in me, but today, I held my breath until I saw his tail lights, stamped the snow off my shoes and came inside,  exhaling a sigh of relief that he was gone.  I wished him well inside myself, threw up a quick prayer for his safety, and again breathed out loud, “Thank  God for snow.”

Saturday I went to a half-day retreat on Epiphany, the lovely liturgical season that follows Christmas.  Epiphany starts on January 6, known in some cultures as King’s Day, the 13th day after Christmas.  It celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. The season lasts for 6-8 weeks and celebrates the slow, but continual revealing of Light in the world.  As we progress through the season, the days get longer as the night’s darkness lessens. 

The word epiphany from the Greek verb “to appear” means “appearance,” “manifestation.” In classical Greek it meant the appearance of dawn, of an enemy in war, or of a manifestation of a god. Today, we use the word in several ways:  If  capitalized, it refers to the Christian season.  Uncapitalized it refers to a theophany, that is, an appearance or manifestation of a deity.  To Christians and Jews specifically,it is a manifestation of God, or some sign that reveals the Presence of God.  An epiphany can also be a sudden insight or flash of intuition that comes from something commonplace; or it can be a revelation.  All these are VERY important.  Each is evidence of Light (with a capital L).

At the retreat we considered the physics of light:

  • All light expands to fill the space provided.
  • Light as it is cast outward encroaches upon the darkness around it.
  • Light fills dark space.
  • Light punches holes in the darkness. 
  • Darkness has no choice, but to back off from Light.

We considered the fashion implications of light:

  • Dark clothes shrink the figure.
  • Light clothes expand the figure.

Why? Because light is ever expansive and darkness is ever shrinking.

Our project for the morning was to go somewhere, anywhere, and watch people — prayerfully.  Our assignment was to look for evidences of light (Light) in people.  Here are the questions we asked ourselves:

  • Who is in darkness? Who is in light?
  • How is God seeking to be present? Waiting? Calling?
  • Where is God showing up?
  • What are people searching for?
  • What are people sharing with each other?
  • Where are you finding active signs of Life, Light?

After an hour we returned and reported our “God sightings.”

At the Flying M Café, I had no visions, or second sight, saw no auras, witnessed no manifestations.  I just became more and more aware of people and the possibility of light in them and around them, abundantly, slightly, cautiously, fully.  I observed loneliness, friendship, cordiality, solitude, couples in parallel conviviality, tenderness, crankiness, geniality, control and its companion obsequiousness, concentration, and fairydust sprinkling.  However, I saw one man who haunts me still. 

A couple came in and took up residence on a couch.  Returning with their coffee and sweets, she smiled. He never smiled – not once. While she was gone, he squirmed, twisted, turned – just couldn’t arrange himself comfortably.  I watched closely, though I was aware enough not to stare. Something wasn’t right with him.  Pain. Was he in physical pain?  He never acknowledged her contribution to their visit.  I tried to look for signs of disease in him; there seemed to be a lot of “dis–ease” present.  He was lean the point of gauntness, pale-ish, shoulders slumped in weariness, not surrender or depression.  He sighed, frowned.  My thoughts said, “He looks so tired, burdened, weary.”  He tendered nothing to his companion.  She chatted occasionally.  He didn’t speak until a table opened up when he suggested they resituate themselves.

At the table they moved into parallel activities – she read a newspaper; he poked at an ipad.  Once in a while, she’d remark and read something aloud to him.  There seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary or dark about her.  She looked like someone I’d chat with in a grocery line.  But him . . . he worried me.  I didn’t want to lay the term “darkness” on him, as in evil, or wrong, or bad.  Not at all.  He just didn’t radiate light that I could sense.  Perhaps I look for “light” in another’s eyes or smile or posture or countenance.  Perhaps he was reflecting back to me my own “darkness.”  Not sure what was going on.  He just didn’t seem like a happy camper.  Soon they left, together, in parallel. 

Before we set out on this “God sighting” exercise, we were cautioned in our handout to make careful assumptions about intentions, motives, demography and the observees’ possible life situations.  Just the use of “light,” “darkness,” “God showing up,” or not, threw me into dichotomous assumptions no matter how carefully posited.  Am I wondering too egotistically that I can even imagine the presence or absence of God?  I know how it feels to be estranged from God.  I know how it feels to desire God, but not to be quite connected to the Holy Presence I assume to be God in me.  I know how it feels to know God is very present, but have absolutely no sign or feeling of That Presence.  But that’s me.  Can I presume to be aware of God in a situation, or in another person and not at the same time be judging?  These, of course, are afterthoughts, doubts, concerns about my charging eagerly into the Flying M to collect “God sightings.”

I am familiar with God sightings, though.  This morning was one.  In the literal darkness of the morning and figurative darkness of Curt’s mood, I was surprised by the diamonds twinkling on the hood of my car. 

Shedding light on darkness: A NASA image taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, shows what is inferred to be a massive ring of dark matter exerting a gravitational effect on light from the galactic cluster CL0024+17.

That was an epiphany, at least by definition.  Perhaps, the man in the café was too. Not necessarily a sighting of Light, but a sighting of hunger for Light. The magnetic pull that “darkness” has on light that craves the very presence which signals its demise.  (See article about Dark Holes.)

We were told that light can punch holes in darkness; can seep into the tiniest fraction of space to dispel darkness and NOT vice versaDo you realize how much hope that gives us for this world????  I ask you then, “Is there any reason for us NOT to be harbingers of Light to each other and our world?”  Wow!

I just spoke to Curt and asked him how he was doing.  He was feeling much better.  He talked to a patient this morning and spread a little light around.  He said, “I always feel better after I talk to a patient!”  Punched a little light into the world, he did.  Not a surprise that he’s in a better place! 

Here’s our closing prayer from the retreat.  Thought you might like it.

Perfect Light of revelation, perfect light of grace, perfect light inconsumable by darkness, shine.  Shine as you shone in the life of Jesus, whose epiphany we celebrate, so shine in us and through us, that we may illumine and enlighten this world with deeds of justice and mercy.  Fill all creation with that light, so that in proclaiming your joyful promises to all nations and singing of your glorious hope to all people, we may become one living body, your incarnate presence on the earth, revealing your compassion and grace. Amen.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2011 4:26 pm

    Now that last picture: That must be “the face of God” to which President Reagan referred at the funeral when the astronauts were killed when the Challenger blew up.

    • January 14, 2011 8:19 am

      You know, I hesitated printing that picture, posted another, then was compelled to change to this one. It’s pretty magnificent when you contemplate Light. I hope that’s what I see, or something equally mindblowing, if I ever “see the face of God!”

  2. January 13, 2011 7:28 pm

    Seems like all of us are having a tough time now. At least we can share and support one another.

  3. January 13, 2011 7:34 pm

    And not forget the glitter in the snow, the light in the dark. One of my favorite translations of the first chapter of John is from the Jerusalem Bible: “Light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it.”

    • January 14, 2011 8:25 am

      Me, too! Let’s just keep hanging on to that thought (it’s good, and true, and of good report) and letting our Light shine out to others. N

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