I’ve been thinking…

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Practicing resurrection.

Wendell Berry, if you are not familiar with his work, is known for discussing and practicing environmental care and cultural criticism. He largely criticizes societal breakdown in a post industrial-revolutionized world. Berry is also know for writing Sabbath poems every Sunday. I read a poem of his recently titled “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” In no direct relation to the title, Berry freely versifies the society’s robotic rhythm and our part in it:

“Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future will be a mystery any more. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer.”

Following this, he gives examples of living contrary to automation. Instead of autopilot lives, swept up in the false fix of convenience, he offers contrary examples of active living. Here are some chosen excerpts:

“So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it ….Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed. Ask the questions that have no answers ….Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”

He continues with unique ways of saying the same, ending the entire composition with “practice resurrection.” I thought that final statement was simple and profound. What does it look like and mean to “practice resurrection,” and why do we believers not speak of this more often?

Well, after reading the Biblical account of the resurrection this Easter with some friends, I opted to read Berry’s poem aloud. I did this because as we sat around reflecting popcorn-style on the Biblical passage and its meaning/application, I figured it would be helpful to ponder how we might “practice resurrection” in our lives.

His resurrection, in my opinion, deserves the most emphasis when we talk about the Gospel. This is where death was defeated, and life everlasting became a human reality. This is where a journey began of empowering humans toward Godly action on Earth by the power of the Holy Spirit, in order for us to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth.

If we follow Jesus, we certainly do not find fun and convenience. There is a necessary and holy discomfort for us in the truth of the gospel. we will find ourselves extremely inconvenienced by truth, conviction, and ensuing growth. Discipleship is hard, which is maybe why we don’t practice it in fullness in most modern churches. But what does discipleship do? It fosters new life, a life brought from death, a new way of living according to true life in contrast to the world’s version. discipleship is a practice of resurrection.

As I interpret Berry’s statement and seek to peel it open for all its practical meaning, practicing resurrection looks like living actively and intentionally despite the temptation to flow in the motion of a world of distraction and autopilot. If we pay attention to what exists around us, notice the world as it moves by, and rest in the God-given shade of the natural beauty we so often neglectfully leave for social feeds and Netflix documentaries, we can’t help but foster life. If we take part in our neighborhood, garden and till the dirt of life, growing things with our hands despite the tediousness, we will be practicing resurrection. We will also be accidental contrarians to our modern world.

If we realize, in opposition to what is purported, that distraction and convenience are not solutions and are not the highest goods, though most of our money goes to these commodities, we will be free to live in the joy of creating things that last. There is no such thing as instant joy, life, or growth. These are inconvenient things to foster, but they are worth it. I once heard a pastor say something like, “the purest form of love is when we meet another’s greatest need at our own great expense.”

Practice resurrection.

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “The Gulag Archipelago”

I’ve been thinking about this quote. “If only it were all so simple,” as the quote states; if only labels could be permanently set and we never had to hold ourselves to a standard. But we humans are complex beings, capable of both good and evil, no matter who we are.

No one is really absolutely evil or completely good on their own. Typically, upon closer examination, people act mostly within the bounds of their influence. The Stanford Prison Experiment is a great example of this. Sometimes it’s convenient to simplify humanity when we want to distance ourselves from the idea we could be terrible given a different upbringing or set of influences, but it’s important for us to take a deeper look into what life choices and factors may lead individuals like ourselves into doing undesirable things, lest we blind ourselves to our own capacity for evil. In order to take initiative and ownership of our lives, and in order to repent and find freedom, we must be aware and take responsibility for our potential for darkness as well as light. It’s like Anakin/Darth Vader, one of the most iconic villains ever, who is always described as having potential to turn back to the light. Or Cal in “East of Eden,” who is constantly wrestling with an inherited inner darkness, a generational curse, looking to triumph over it.

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’” — Genesis 4:6-7

“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—'Thou mayest'— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man.” … “And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good.” — John Steinbeck, East of Eden

“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of disaster and collapse.” — Proverbs 24:16

What makes a man righteous or good is not perfection, but the humility and conviction to rise again after every failure; admission of faults, confession of wrongdoing, vulnerable exposure of weakness, and the choice to improve through it all. So hike upward, toward the light friends, though it may take all we have and every day brings opposition, the view from the top will be invigorating.

On the first day of a brand new August, I’ve been thinking this morning about the Hebrew word “Ahava.” It is the most common word for love in the Old Testament, and unlike how our present age might often communicate love as a feeling, concept, or idea, “Ahava” is love because it is inseparable from action and obedience. To “love” according to this word, and according to the God who uses it, is to give to and take action toward something. We can see that God makes covenant with Israel in the scriptures, and when He does, He uses “Ahava.”

“Berit (Hebrew)”: this relationship between a deity and people was unlike any ever known. Most ancient gods are said to be the “cultural furniture” or reflection of the people in their context, like the Greek gods who were the epitome of humanity in that day and age. Most gods were also takers rather than givers and bore very human vices, being a “bottom-up” construction or projection of humanity. But the Hebrew God was a “top-down” origination, quite starkly unlike the humans who followed Him. The Hebrew God was not a reflection of human “perfection” but actually in contrast to what was considered good and perfect to humans, exhibiting and beckoning a higher standard. This God was a giver, reaching out and calling humanity to Himself as much as and before humanity ever called upon Him. The Hebrew God, YHWH, offered a covenant relationship.

When God gave Himself in covenant, it was not conceptual. It was an action which was performed and executed in real time for Abraham and his descendants (Israel) and now unto all people. When God created covenant, it was outside of His nature to fail or go back on it, and henceforth He only improved upon it forevermore unto our present salvation. I believe that when He first promised salvation for Israel, He saw us, all humanity, in the same moment and therefore promised it for everyone. God is within and outside of our sense of time, and when He establishes something, it is not bound by our linear sense of past, present, or future, and it does not decay on that timeline like we do. I believe that God is Now, ever-present, and His covenant is too.

So today, I ponder that love. I consider how powerful is the “Ahava” of God. His “love” is always tied into action and covenant, and it is outside of His nature to go back on it. It is not a feeling or concept; it is a very real, tangible, and ultra-practical “love.” His promises are not static and stuck, they are now, which means that He is presently with us, as His covenant is ultimately found manifest in Jesus. He is not the God who provided, will provide, or sometimes provides, He is providing right now. He is not ancient, He is Now, and His love is happening and unchanging. He is the God who is doing what He promised and calling forth my offering of trust in His capacity to “Ahava” me; to provide and do what he says He is.

I had a great conversation yesterday, and it’s a conversation I’ve been having in different forms recently. The theme, the motto, the “gist” of our conversation was that it takes courage to pursue a dream, calling, or passion.

It takes courage to follow what you believe God is calling you to do — whether it is the courage to face the unknown of the timeline, have necessary conversations with people you don’t know, take risks of potential rejection or failure, or be patient in times of waiting — your calling requires courage.

It takes courage to follow the calling a Christian life. Believing in Jesus Christ as Messiah is to follow Him, and that is a high calling because it beckons a lowly position. It is against the world’s wide stream of egocentricity. Whether you’re a CEO in a glass office 10 stories up, or a janitor with a 4 a.m. shift, believing in Jesus Christ as Messiah will cause you to reflect His posture of humility. It’s a high calling, and it takes courage to defy the odds, to dance where you are, rain or shine, because that’s where God has you, and because a life freely given is a joyous one.

God gives gifts, and God made us creatively as His very imprint. We are creative, we are reasonable, we are carriers of things beyond ourselves. The story of the talents in Matthew is a great picture of the all-or-nothing approach we are encouraged to take in the Gospel, where the men who invested the master’s talents were blessed, but he who yielded to the fear of losing the talents was scrutinized and received nothing. I quote Will Smith, of all people, when I say that “God placed the best things in life on the other side of fear.” And to quote my best friend, “God wants to bless us…He wants to give us good things.” But what does this require of us?

Jordan Peterson, a famed Psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, provides a captivating psychoanalytic criticism of the Exodus story in the Old Testament. He sets the scene where the Israelites have left Egypt, but just like anyone coming out of a slavery or a traumatic experience, are in a desert rather than an immediate promised land. They are reeling from their lived experience. They are trying to regain their identity, all while struggling with trust in God to provide, and so they set up idols for themselves. God then sends snakes to bite them, and they finally cry out, begging Moses to do something, to intervene on their behalf. He does, and in a conversation with God, Moses is instructed to take a snake and lift it high on his staff for all to see, so that when people look at the snake, they will cease to be bitten by the venomous, invasive critters. Peterson references a staple of psychotherapy, saying that God was practically telling them the only way to champion the object of their fear was to look it in the eyes. Peterson goes on to cross-reference the cross, and how the staff lifted up is like the tree Jesus was hung on, wherein He looked death and sin straight in the eyes and championed them in His resurrection. Christ embraced the darkest things in existence in order to bring absolute life and freedom, and as a precursor the Israelites had to face their issues head-on to overcome them. If we really examine life, we find it true that getting past means going through. In Psychotherapy it’s called Exposure Therapy. On an everyday scale, it looks like my fear of intimacy being defeated through my embrace of relationship. My fear of hitting the baseball is overcome in my swinging of the bat, eyes shut tight, with full intention of getting on base.

I don’t intend for this to be an Alpha male mentality to Gospel living, like we are called to man-up and be really tough in life, but rather a truth about the need to face what we hate or fear most in order to heal from or overcome it; to live a full life in the full embrace of our Godly calling. As stated above, I have to have courage just to be a Christian in this opposing world, and part of that is doing what God has called me to do, in the way He has called me to do it. I will write and create because that’s who I am, it’s what I love and it’s what I can best bring to the table in life. It’s my deepest passion. So what’s yours, and how will you use it?

This week I met a humbling reminder: I’m not the driver. I don’t own the bus or control it. A unique piece of Christian faith is that Jesus is what I’m always headed for but also my way there; He’s what I reach for but also the proverbial arm I reach with. He is my WAY to the Father. He is also the WAY to where He has called me in this life.

I’ve been striving and building a house in vain. God placed something deeply in my heart, and I am so intent on meeting it that I have been kicking up dust to get there. I can see it far off, just the shape of it, but not well enough to pick out the details, and I want to know it exactly so I can rest and trust God that it’s really there.

But would that be faith? — to have the security of knowledge before believing in the promise of it. I’m a human and I want to get someplace but am also foolish enough to think I’m the best way there. And funny enough, I don’t even like working with myself. I’m my biggest critic and most impatient boss. There’s not a lot of peace/rest to be had in operations where I’m the taskmaster.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Pr. 3:5-6)

A traffic jam of priorities steals joy and freedom. I’ve fallen victim to the red bubbles at the bottom left corner of my screen. I’ve nearly become addicted to the restless feed and swallowed up in its endless appetite. I get stuck looking for the next big thing. Eventually, this leads me to a spiritual desert. This desert is filled with idols, lifeless and cold to the touch, powerless, half-buried and decaying in sandy dunes. And these rusted, upturned, and voiceless gods — when given the time and space — are somehow still so able to convince me that success is about going faster, doing more, and accomplishing only what I want.

But this week I met a freeing reminder. What saves me from such a desolate place, or keeps me from ever getting there, is the choice to “lean not on [my] own understanding” and “in all [my] ways acknowledge Him.” In ALL of my ways. Before all other things, acknowledge the Lord “who is able to do immeasurably more than [I] ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20) with my time/space. So in all of my goings and doings, I’m working on just acknowledging God, and what I’ve found so far is that my mindset totally shifts as I offer my life to Him in this practical way. It’s like I acknowledged God over the big picture of my life, but lost sight of the fact that it’s the miniscule tasks and little mundane parts of each day that add up to the big picture. If I don’t offer to Him what is presently holding space in my mind, or place back on the altar the energy I am giving out to what I think matters, I get lost in it all. If I do“acknowledge Him in all [my] ways,” then I “trust in the Lord with all [my] heart,” and do not “lean on [my] own understanding.” As a result,“He shall direct [my] paths.”

The greatest choice I/we/you can make is to acknowledge the Lord, because He wants to give us peace and guidance.

Israel (Hebrew) translation: “wrestles with God.”

“We must not make a false faith by hiding from our thoughts the causes of doubt, for faith is the highest achievement of the human intellect, the only gift man can make to God, and therefore it must be offered in sincerity.” – William Butler Yeats

“Doubt is but another element of faith.” – Saint Augustine

I had a friend and mentor say this week over a Zoom call that “doubt is faith in bud.” This comparison of blooming flowers and growing faith, two natural processes, really put into perspective for me what faith is all about. It is not only natural for us to doubt God’s existence, or even the reality of Jesus as the Messiah, but it seems it is necessary for growing faith!

Hear me out for a moment. I have personally wrestled with my faith plenty in my pilgrimage, and I have heard the preacher’s attempts to snuff out all doubt for its potential danger to destroy faith. I have heard the remarks about simple trust, no questions asked, guarding my mind from the enemy’s attacks which come in the form of critiquing God’s truth. I agree that the enemy wants to “steal, kill, and destroy” all truth, but I disagree that doubt is unnatural to the Christian, and that the questions it invites should be suppressed at all costs. To doubt and question is human, and it brings a curiosity and wonder if allowed to breathe. If bouts of doubt are met with gentle and understanding conversations, then even deeper and more mature faith is the impending result! Not to mention, I don’t believe God is as scared of our doubts/questions as we are.

Think about children, still trying to form a framework for this complex world, and what their natural instinct is in their constant discovery. Kids ask “why,” and they ask it A LOT, sometimes to the point of frustration for adults! Now, with that in mind, consider this strong statement from Jesus: “and [Jesus] said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 18:3).” I believe that what Jesus is pointing us toward is the authenticity of SEARCHING. We seek what we most desire. Read the Psalms and you’ll see very human examples of doubt, fear, and anger exhibited in worship. They’re practically personal journal entries. And then Proverbs endlessly tells us to search:

“If you seek [wisdom] like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures— then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:4-5).

A child fervently questions the world around them, too innocent and naive to fear what others think or have any idea that they “ought to know” already. Part of fully embracing Jesus is submitting humbly to Him, admitting there is mystery in this faith and in the Father, and seeking the source of our faith for understanding and comfort. That’s a part of love, to realize you don’t know everything about something/someone, and to humbly desire to learn more! You might say that asking questions differs from doubting, because doubt presumes something in the question, and I would agree. But this doesn’t make doubt bad as opposed to a question, so long as the intention is to understand.

I’ve realized that God is mysterious, and all that we know of Him is through Jesus Christ. Embracing and responding to that mystery in worship is part of what makes us believers. I come to the altar desiring to know, but I come with the understanding that there is always mystery in faith, and that I am not called to know everything but rather to be in relationship with “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), who is my Way to the Father. So I respond, and I think you should to, because a large part of love is interest, curiosity, and pursuit. Let’s be like curious children, searching fervently and wondering innocently, living with the peace that in relationship with Christ, we are made right with God and have access to Him! He’s not afraid of our natural human doubt, or any other response for that matter, and we shouldn’t be either!

Music is everywhere.

I think about music quite often, due to its incredible presence in the world and my own personal investment in it. Since childhood I have been largely surrounded by and drawn to music; my father even revealed to me a matter of years ago that as an infant he had prayed the ability of music over me. I thrive on the creativity of playing and writing on guitar, and not just for how sonically pleasing it is to the ear or how cool it looks to play a few riffs for a crowd, but for how personal music can be to myself and others. I find that there’s a mystery in how beautiful a song can sound and how it can even vibrantly color and influence a moment in time; music is extremely impressive in this way. Country artist Eric Church, in a song full of nostalgia and reminiscence, sings a cool observation in the line, “funny how a melody sounds like a memory” (“Springsteen,” 2011). It is funny, isn’t it? It’s awe-inspiring that a song can be so hooked on a personal memory that it can suddenly bring it back to mind decades later, and vice versa.

Following that thought, I think more than anything, I’m fascinated by the universality of music. It’s the only language that the whole world has in common; it’s the only language all people similarly speak and understand (when excluding lyrics). Furthermore, music is one of the oldest things to exist, beating the usual barriers of time, culture, and geography. As the ancient scholar Isidore of Seville puts it, “…And without music there can be no perfect knowledge, for there is nothing without it. For even the universe itself is said to have been put together with a certain harmony of sounds, and the very heavens revolve under the guidance of harmony.”

What’s more, most cultures throughout history have had a very high view of music and musicianship, whether for worship, as an art form, or simply for catharsis. “We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely, that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise” (Martin Luther). Despite the pedestal, music has historically been a priceless resource available for all people, high and low. Music has been an outlet for the struggling, a form of praise for the believer, a luxury for the rich, common ground for the divergent, and a weekend release for the working man or community. Theologian and ecclesial reformist Martin Luther, as quoted above, deeply believed in music’s revealing and edifying power for us, most prevalently in connection with God. He states again about music in another writing, “first then, looking at music itself, you will find that from the beginning of the world it has been instilled and implanted in all creatures, individually and collectively. For nothing is without sound or harmony.” In layman’s terms Luther is practically telling us, “look around, and you will see music everywhere. It was given to us and woven into the very fabric of our existence.” I like to think of music as the poetry of sound, pleasing to the ear because it reflects a universal pattern which we see, feel, and hear throughout the natural world.

The Golden Ratio, also known as the divine proportion (or Fibonacci sequence), is a mathematical phenomenon found in geometry, art, and architecture. Leonardo Da Vinci was the first to realize that designs including the ratio are the most aesthetically pleasing to the human eye. Fascinatingly, music can also include the divine proportion; supposedly, much of Mozart’s compositional genius can be attributed to the fact that many of his famous pieces conform to it. The golden ratio was also used by Aristotle to explain his take on human virtue, but for the sake of our conversation, I find it important in that it contributes a strong example of music’s part in the universal pattern. We tend to celebrate music as an observation of real life, an avenue for truth. To take from Seville and Luther (quoted above), music was involved in creation, and is consequently discoverable in our intimate relationship with creation now. I can hear music when I sit and listen to the river go by, or the sound of the forest’s movement. I hear it in the song of the creatures at dawn and dusk. Humans most definitely are not the originators of it nor are we Earth’s sole musicians, but we have the gift of intentionally manifesting the sounds around us, attempting to craft them into melodies, and do so as perfectly as possible. From the reasoning stated thus far, it would seem that we muse most effectively by tuning into our present environment.

In a documentary called “Muscle Shoals,” the historical success of the renowned recording industry in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, is detailed. The focus of the film is on how this small, rural southern town found worldwide repute as a hit-song producing powerhouse. Interestingly enough, much of the reasoning given in the documentary for its success is in correlation with the town’s natural surroundings. Many of the locals interviewed during the film attribute the phenomenon to Native American roots and folklore concerning a local “singing” river, practically stating that Muscle Shoals’ success has as much to do with its location as anything else. Outside of the mysticism of the area’s tribal heritage, lots of interviewees, including artists who recorded there, link the success of Muscle Shoals’ recordings to the environment. To paraphrase Rick Hall — highly-successful producer and owner of FAME studios in Muscle Shoals — music often reflects the landscape and environment in which it is created. Therefore, it could be said that the creation surrounding the production of music is almost equally as important in shaping it as the creator(s). This could be an explanation for why the varying musical styles and genres of today’s age can be traced back to specific cultures and geographical regions. People of days past would have no other choice but to be enveloped in the circumstance of their natural surroundings, and what they observed through their senses inevitably would influence what they poured out in musical expression. It’s not so different now, except it doesn’t seem that we allow our natural surroundings to influence us quite so much, actually sitting long enough to take our present circumstances in and let it fill our creative tank with unique fuel for personal and honest melodies. We have reached new heights in transporting ourselves elsewhere, physically and mentally, either by moving machines or stationary screens. We do not often dwell or submerge ourselves in our placement nowadays. Maybe that’s all the supposed magic and mysticism of Muscle Shoals was, and why artists from all around the world made their pilgrimage to the little Alabama town; it was a place that embraced its quiet rural surroundings, its tradition, and lacked the distraction of a busy metropolis.

Music is everywhere. It’s in everything. I’d even say that a book detailing the history of music could almost just as well be considered a world history book. It’s why I can quote and talk about ancient philosophers, theologians, scholars, a mathematic formula, and a country artist in the same place to prove the same point — the soul-finding beauty of music runs deeply through our humanity. It holds a key place in our short existence. It is anchored in our reality, riding the frontier of life’s wild seas, at the helm pointing us homeward. Things are more connected than we notice or know to look for below the surface, and there is a golden thread running through it all, the seen and unseen. Much of what I try to do in my writing is take a closer look and urge my readers to do the same. I hope this helped you do so in terms of music, and in some fashion gave you a deeper appreciation for it. I hope this post urges you forth in discovery of more on the mystery and magic of music, including its creation and inspiration.


However you arrived here, I’m glad you did. I’d love if you took some time and read my posts, which are weekly, and are in order of newest to oldest as you scroll down. If you feel so led, I’d love to hear from you as a reader, fellow writer, friend, fan, critic, etc.

I write about the things I think about often, phenomena I connect in my mind about the world, as the title of the blog suggests. I write about all kinds of things and in different styles, including songs, poems, essays, articles, and general creative writings. I hope what you read can inform, change, affirm, challenge, and/or color your perspective. That’s the goal of my writing and of this blog.

And again, thank you for reading, friend!

Contact: brycetimmons07@gmail.com

The call to nature.

I love nature. I, like many of us, am inexplicably drawn to the looming immensity of mountains and the pristine, quiet beauty of glassy waters. I love when the sky is endlessly blue, like the ocean bending over the horizon before me. I love the unique smell of a Spring morning, and likewise the scent of a coming downpour on an August afternoon. I’m enamored by the way a distant thunderstorm moves in, when the breeze’s soft whisper becomes a talking wind; when lightning reports with a snapping flash, and the thunder answers with its crack and boom — the dialogue of nature. I don’t normally like feeling small or insignificant, but I appreciate how little and inconsiderable I am below stars bazillions of miles away from me and gazillions apart from each other; tiny, distant campfires peppered into constellations above my head. Ironically, even the scary and disastrous aspects of nature pull me into their wonder.

But I’ve been thinking, and wondering, why is this so? Why do I, and many of us, feel such a connection and call to nature? Why is this connection important to who we are as human beings?

Instagram is piled high with pictures and videos of nature; friends posing in front of mountains, beachfronts with inspirational quotes for captions, and pictures of blurry moons, pink evening skies, or luminous stars. We just have to share. Even the revolution of social media and entertainment technology hasn’t quieted nature’s call, if anything it has amplified it. Inventions involving AI and dazzling sensory (digital and audio) innovations are entering the world at incredible rates, but somehow cannot replace the simplicity and tangibility of nature. My theory is that by inserting ourselves in vast natural landscapes, and submerging ourselves in lively and wild surroundings, we are seeking to grab hold of something deeply within. We find a quality, material or immaterial, which we come to lack in the day-to-day of our increasingly artificial world. That “thing” or quality is a source; the source of life itself.

An evolutionist would say that, as human beings, our fondness of nature has to do with our natural roots. We are endeavoring backwards, innately craving a sense of our true home, belonging, and origin. Most often in opposition, both religion and evolutionary theory agree that we are organic creatures which take a round trip from dirt to dirt. Biblical creationists, as well as creationists of other religions (ancient and modern), agree that within nature we discover and commune with the source, or the root, of life. The difference between the two camps is what they define as “the root” of life. Saint Paul writes in Romans 1:20, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” According to this scripture, God’s immaterial image, attributes, character, and qualities are mirrored in material creation. Paul calls them invisible, practically relaying the mystery of God, stating how “beyond” us He is. God is outside of the created order, physically and temporally, yet according to Paul nature tells His secrets. Furthermore, Jesus Christ was theorized in Greek metaphysics as the “logos,” the word or reason through which creation exists, divine and transcendent. I am a Christian and believe this to be true. Regardless, in the same way as evolutionary theory, we are looking both for something outside of us and innately within us. Either that which we are intentionally created in the image of or some source of our molecular form. We are seeking a giver of life, whether active (creator) or passive (Big Bang), which continues to give us life in its presence. We have more questions than answers, and either camp requires faith, but the point is that nature is mysteriously looming and yet undeniably important to us all.

Maybe, after all, nature is simply an endless frontier and thus endlessly exciting because of its baffling perplexity. The emerging monolith of a mountain captures me because it is so big and uncontainable. I am curiously captivated in the things beyond my control. What is within my control is comfortable to me, but comfort is boring and takes me nowhere worth going. In all the ambiguity of the cosmos, nature materializes the immaterial. Nature lends a voice to what is unheard of, puts into form the formless, makes visible the invisible, and holds a key to unlocking answers about existence. So here’s a call to get outdoors. Embrace the boundless and let it be inexplicable. Let it influence you. Go discover the expansive and the intricate, discover yourself and more, and dwell in the presence of God. Nature is necessary to your being and well-being.

“Awkward” Silence.

Ya know, I have to say, I’ve been thinking about how our world is experiencing a shortage of silence. That’s an ironic statement because silence is not really its own thing but rather a lack of a thing, just as darkness is a lack of light rather than an active property. Silence is a lack of noise. Our world is actively creating noise to fill silence with. Are we doing this intentionally, or is it just a natural consequence of advancing our world technologically? The answer to that question is complicated, but I believe the term “awkward silence” has something to do with it. I dare you to talk to someone and truly listen to their words. On a personal note, I struggle with this exact thing, because it requires me to not be thinking about the next thing to say. If I don’t have a reply on queue within three floating seconds then things can feel inexplicably uncomfortable. But why is extended silence, blank space, even a little meditation on words so seemingly scary? When did silence become awkward, and why is it typically considered bad rather than valuable?

Here’s what I have come to believe about this topic. Silence is not advertised as valuable, as it is not particularly marketable. In our present world, if a thing can’t be monetized then it becomes useless, awkward, bad. There is hardly any technology trying to take away distraction, and technology is inevitably leading to more distraction and noise. There are a million things to learn, talk about, look at, and listen to. We are championed in saying and doing all we can, although Proverbs tell us that the wise are of few words and the wicked are restless. And there is hardly anything to wait for anymore. Waiting, blank space, and quiet — these are things considered inconvenient byproducts of old technology. However, silence has great value for us. It is a gift to sit and think, deeply listen and consider, and meditatively rest.

We’ve fallen in love with space-fillers and background noise. Sometimes we need to reckon with ourselves and our reality, not distract ourselves from it. We have become addicted to superficial stimuli, swirling about us like a blizzard, demanding our time, energy, attention, and resources. These things are being monetized nowadays for outside financial gain, so much so that we hardly feel the endless prod and pull or see its negative effects. It seems like monetary gain has made silence and space lesser in importance compared to noise and various stimuli. We are overwhelmed. We can hardly have natural conversations, because we have to depend on the timing of something else and submit to natural processes. It’s not marketable. Submit to “awkward silence” between replies and you might reach something real and worthwhile. However, that’s not easy, quick, or convenient. But truthfully, we do crave what’s natural; we crave silence. It’s why aesthetic minimalism is the popular style in interior design and fashion these days, because we gotta have some space on an overstimulated planet. We are overwhelmed, overstimulated, overcrowded, and tired. It’s also why nature is trendy. We crave the quiet, and real, the spacious.

Now that we’re looking at the bones of it, I think that silence first appears to us as boring. We hate being bored and throw our money at anything that eliminates boredom. But beyond boredom, silence confronts us with a reality we don’t want to be confronted with. In extended silence, we are confronted most immediately with our inner selves and our lives, and then the world around us. Silence promotes the existential questions we wait too long to consider. Furthermore, allowing silence requires submission — a form of humility. We submit ourselves to the natural order of things; we listen to the wind talk, hear the chatter of the river, and thus let God speak first. We don’t try to fill a void where the peace of God might be just because we fear that His mystery is also there. We find that God usually whispers when He speaks, and we can hear it when we clear the clutter of our minds. We befriend and converse with the mystery of existence. It is extremely humbling to be silent because we choose to let ourselves be influenced. I think we need silence — I strongly believe that. And it’s become a discipline these days. We ought to face the awkwardness, boredom, fear, and quiet. It might just be the answer to many of our current problems.