spiritual life

Why does God matter?

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” C.S. Lewis, British author

It wasn’t a game of stump the teacher. The kid — eight years old and messy haired — looked at me in all sincerity and asked, “Why does God matter?”

Used to years of teaching church kids — who tend to answer any Sunday CIMG5848_edited-1.JPGSchool question with “Jesus,” even if it’s about Elijah or manna — I was flummoxed. I said something about God as creator and judge. It was theologically correct, but in no way satisfied her curiosity. Nor mine.

That question — why does God matter — has been floating around my brain for the last seven years. It shows up in my speech, my actions, my writing. It, in fact, has changed the way I look at all things church.

Which is a good thing — as there’s not a whole lot of “church” left in this world. There is, instead, a vague spirituality that ranges from blatant hypocrisy at its worst to an open curiosity like that little girl’s at best. That latter spirituality — often found in younger people who grew up completely outside of the church world — is disarming. And charming.

It reminds me of God and Moses, meeting nearly face to face on a mountain. They were already acquainted, but Moses wanted to know more. God responded, in person. And, fascinatingly, He literally walked by Moses, both naming and describing Himself as He passed. “Merciful.” “Gracious.” “Longsuffering.” “Abundant in goodness and truth.”

Why does God matter? I suspect that mountaintop encounter probably holds the answer. We only figure out why God matters — and how much — as we get to know Him. And, we only get to know Him bit by bit — the same way He unfolded facets of Himself on that mountain.

Those descriptor names — merciful, gracious — are critical. As are the many names of Jesus, whom church folks all over the world are celebrating this season. Morning Star, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Man of Sorrows. It’s true. The who of God the Father and God the Son drive the why.

So, if you are among the curious, you may enjoy visiting my Fresh Mercy blog on Facebook/NoraEdingerBooks (which can also be viewed on this site by scrolling lower on the page) over the next few weeks. Beginning with today’s Bright and Morning Star, bite-sized weekday posts will focus on the who of God.

Stop by. Hear His names. Take in those names. And, don’t be surprised if you suddenly know the answer to that little girl’s question for yourself. Christmas blessings!

family life, spiritual life

The ever-changing table

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” Erma Bombeck, American humorist

The era that set all that Thanksgiving should be in my mind was actually rather brief. It began the year my immediate family returned to our Chicago-area home base and ended about 10 years later, when the cousins began to move away. And awCIMG5835_edited-1.JPGay and away.

Now, if we take into account both my family and my husband’s, we are literally scattered coast to coast. Only once in recent years have we re-created that beloved childhood gathering of 30 or so. That was the year my grandmother died on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. As she was nearly 102 and had lived a rather good life, it was more an occasion to celebrate than to mourn. We were all together. And, at Thanksgiving of all times. Gramma’s absolute favorite.

We spilled back into the house after the funeral, an ornery young cousin I had never seen tormenting my tiny daughters by throwing a lovey into a loft and the rest of us talking at 90 mph while holding Chinet plates on our laps and eating something, somewhere.

It was almost as if gramma was there, bustling around the kitchen. At least for me. I grew up with her as part of my household, more of a daughter born out of due time than the tail end of the grandchildren. She was the family cook every day, but especially at Thanksgiving. Other than a side dish here or there prepared by my mother or one aunt, gramma single-handedly cranked out massive holiday meals for six decades.

Then I began. Not with turkeys. Oh, no. Someone else has always done that. My husband, with his love of thermometers and the scientific method, is in charge these days. He hits golden perfection every year. I cook side dishes, decorate and, perhaps most importantly to me, make sure the seats at our table are as full as possible.

Separated from family by death and distance and the occasional divorce, there’s something in me that seeks out anyone who is also missing that childhood table, even if it was never anything more than a painting or a wish. I haven’t always succeeded. My husband and I have spent a couple Thanksgivings on our own. But, more often, our ever-changing table is surrounded by a noisy mix of international students and friends, neighbors, co-workers from far-flung states and anyone else who, like us, wants a bit of hullabaloo for the holiday.

We feast. We talk. We are together. Maybe for a year. Maybe for a season. Someday, we pray, forever.

community, spiritual life

Looking for a city?

“Earth’s crammed with heaven…
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning, English poet
What do U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and the 7,000 or so Central American dreamers who are walking resolutely to America’s border have in common? The answer isn’t a punchline. It’s a universal human condition.

They are all looking for a people, a place, a homeland that is somehow better. They suspect it exists. They hope it exists. And, they are not alone.

We are all looking for a place of fairness and rightness and goodness. This is true whether we are a refugee, a “white” suburbanite sending off our DNA in search of ancestral identity, a political canvasser hoping desperately for a governmental fix, or a young person fantasizing about superpowers that can set things “right.”

In the Bible’s Hebrews 11, the Apostle Paul described this human condition as looking for a “city” or “country.” Paul wrote of ancient Israelite Abraham, who left the security of one home in search of a better place. He, indeed, made it to the Promised Land. But, even that wasn’t the hoped-for city, the place whose “builder and maker is God.” Instead, Abraham and today’s humans, particularly those believers who are operating by a higher law than that of any nation, remained “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

So, where do we look? Where do we go? Paul answered this question, as well. That better city, that better country is deliciously real. It is heaven — a place where God is “not ashamed” to be called our God and has prepared a place for us.

Isn’t it good to know that there is a place of rightness? A place where we are welcome — black or white or brown, rich or poor, male or female, young or old? A place for us?

In this world, our search may cause us to be mercilessly mocked. We might be turned away at some kind of political border or even die on our way there. But, nothing except our own rejection of God’s mercy can keep us out of this perfect city.

Let us search. Let us look. Let us enter in.