Posted by: Brooke | March 25, 2009

Beautiful Creation

Today after psalms class I walked out side and was struck by the beauty of the wold around me.  Before walking outside I was in psalms class with Dr. Ben Asen we were discussing Psalm 104 and its account of creation.  Dr. Asen described what the psalm meant and the symbolism it contained. He also gave us some background information about the Hebrew idea of chaos.  For the Hebrew people chaos was found in the untamed waters of the sea, and as we have all heard, in the beginning God calmed and separated the waters from the earth and made dry land.  God tamed the chaos of the “primordial soup” and made it possible for life to grow and prosper.  For the Hebrew people chaos was personified as the dragon monster of the sea Leviathan, who is so strong and powerful no one can tame it accept God.  Psalm 104 is a beautifully poetic account of creation which inspired Dr. Asen to write a song about God taming chaos or Leviathan.  He had us sing it in class, and appropriately while we were on the topic of chaos and singing Dr. Asen’s song it was storming out side.  Once we finished singing the song a kind of peace came over me and the rest of the class.  Then Dr. Asen took another five or ten minutes to conclude his lecture, by this time it had just finished raining and the sun was out. 

After class I walked outside of Xavier Hall and looked around at the sun kissed freshly renewed world around me and was in awe of its beauty.  I turned and walked toward the clock tower, the sun at my back and the dark storm clouds rolling off to the East.  Against this dark navy background all the spring colors of the trees, grass, and flowers popped and glistened in the sun.  The birds were singing and the squirrels were running about.  At that moment of shear beauty after a spiritually moving lecture and song from Dr. Asen I felt closer to God than I have in a long time.  I slowly walked back to my car not wanting to forget or miss any second of that experience.  I felt rejuvenated and alive as if I too had been washed by the rain and now warmed by the soft rays of the setting sun.  

Walking through campus this evening I felt close to God.  I tend to feel God close to me when I’m out in nature without the hustle and bustle of man made buildings, cars, or social settings.  I don’t feel God’s closeness when I’m in church, or when I’m praying or even in class.  I feel God the most when I am surrounded by nature and I can settle my self and here the sounds and whispers of his creatures. 

My experience today prompted me to write this reflection as ask you these questions: Where or when do you feel the closest to God?  Is there as specific time that you remember most?  How do you feel in this time of nearness?  Does it happen often (weakly/ monthly) or is it spearatic and when you least expect it? 

For me these experiences are spearatic and when I leas expect them, but it is so rejuvenating that words cannot describe it. 

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Responses

  1. Great post. Something struck me that I’d like to share with you. Probably not exactly what you’re looking for, but maybe our convo at the clock tower sort of addressed these very same questions.

    But what I wanted to share was about when you mentioned chaos and how God tamed the chaos. Interesting, that it seems that in our universe and in fact for our creative growth, chaos is important and crucial for us to grow. You know the drill: Greater and greater complexity and growth and then unstable “on the edge” of chaos, where anything imaginable could result, be it utter annihlation or unseen form. It seems that this sense of chaos is not a “force” against God who “orders” It seems as though chaos is an integral part of Gods action in the universe.

    Thank you for sharing with us about your experience. It is wonderful to hear, inspiring, and has brought some thoughts to me. Hopefully we talk more,

    Ryan

  2. Your post regarding beauty in nature caught my attention because of my studies of
    postmodernism. To me, it seems that your experience of the divine took place in nature and was largely due to experience and feelings. These less scientific ways of knowing would undoubtedly be criticized by the New Atheists because of their sole reliance on scientific proof. However, your post showed how and why postmodernism is necessary.

    I feel that your remarks and more current ways of experiencing the world give a broader appreciation of our world. To me and the postmodernists, something is lost if science becomes the only valid way of experiencing reality. How much better off are we that we can experience love, beauty, and transcendence and respond with a sense of awe, rather than breaking these phenomena down into their component parts of neurotransmitters and evolutionary usefulness. At times, it is best just to experience and appreciate feelings and all that is around us without trying to understand the science involved.

    Thanks Brooke for knowingly or unknowingly introducing the class to postmodernism. I look forward to discussing more aspects of postmodernism with you all on Monday.

  3. I agree…great post. I tend to feel the same way at the most random and unexpected times – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That profound and ineffable feeling of God’s presence that comes upon you so suddenly is amazing, but it’s like a word that’s on the tip of your tongue – if you try to seek it out, it will elude you. You just have to wait for it to come to you.

    I think it would be indescribably depressing if everyone ignored those moments because they could not be scientifically or rationally explained. I, for one, look forward to them because I feel like in those moments, everything makes sense, even if I can’t explain it.

    Brooke, I’m glad you decided to share your moment. And Garrett, I’m amused by how you tied it into your presentation. 🙂

  4. Ryan, I agree that chaos is a part of God’s action in the world and that it is not necessarily a force or factor that needs to be tamed. Instead it is a well spring of novelty and reorganization that allows creation to transcend its self and grow in relationship with God. I was just pointing out the Old Testament perspective on chaos.
    Thanks guys for all your comments and support. I am glad that I am not alone in my intermittent feelings of awe and wonder.

  5. Brooke, thanks for so elegantly describing Psalm 104 and the experience that we had in Psalms class that day. I have actually been thinking a lot recently about Psalm 104 and the Creation narratives because I am focusing on the relationship between evolution (science) and theism (religion) for my paper. I am endorsing the Theistic Evolution belief system that attempts to integrate science and religion into the overarching search for truth. One of the main points of the paper is addressing the issue: What does this belief system do to our view of God? I think Theistic Evolution presents a wonderful image of God as the Creative Genius reflected within his creation. Christians must escape the hindering image of God the Intelligent Designer because this notion presents a God who creates perfectly in a static method. This representation limits God’s creative powers and self-love.

    With all these thoughts in mind, I believe that Psalm 104 in particular conveys the image of God the Creative Genius as presented by Theistic Evolution. In this psalm, God beautifully works within his creation, not as an external force working from the outside. God is not viewed as an Intelligent Designer who forces his creation to submit to his omnipotent divine plan. On the contrary, God openly gives his creation the opportunity to grow, evolve, and progress in any direction it desires. This creative force is an expression of God’s self-giving love. For example, interdependent and interconnected with one another, every organism reflects the relational aspect of the Trinity. What a striking image, so beautifully depicted within this psalm of creation!

  6. Wow Brooke – I had one of my own God experiences today that I think fits well alongside your story. My life has felt like straight, stressful chaos lately and a few hours ago I decided I just needed to go on a frustration run. I ran to the arch (which is an absolutely incredible run if anyone in the class is a runner/walker and has never tried it), and the entire hour and a half I was gone could not have been more perfect. Flowers were in full, vibrant bloom everywhere, it was a gorgeous 68 degrees out, people were out and about with smiles on their faces, and downtown St. Louis was incredible. So when I got to the arch, I plopped down under it and just contemplated life, God, and everything for like 30 minutes. I can’t really describe it, but the extreme comparison of the millions of frustrated thoughts going through my head and body to the absolute beauty of the world around me hit me hard.

    Interestingly, I have had experiences like this before, but something was different about this one. While I always take away feelings of wonder, awe, and amazement from situations similar to today’s run, today I took away feelings of pure thankfulness and praise in response to God’s incredible works of redemption. All I could think was, “Wow – my life is messed up right now and I don’t know what to do. But, God seems to be holding everything else together pretty well, and He is the Redeemer and Restorer of every messed up thing.” Only He can take a sinful, chaotic world and restore it to perfection. And that is just something I know because I feel it so strongly, so Garrett – here is your second piece of support for postmodernism.

  7. In the past four years and most especially this semester, I have become increasingly interested in the role that religious experiences play in the formation and maintenance of one’s faith. In contrast to my earlier distrust of anything that could not be tested or verified scientifically, I now realize that feelings and experiences are vital to our lives.

    Previously, Brooke and Rae both spoke of experiences of the Divine which surely brought them closer to God. I’m slowly coming to realize that we will all have our own similar stories if we just let ourselves experience the Divine. Last Wednesday, I went to the Living Insights Center—a kind of museum containing objects from many world religions. However, here the emphasis was not placed on the objects but on the religious experiences that religious objects can allow one to enjoy. Specifically, while at the center, I spent time contemplating while gazing at a nearly life-sized statue of St. Teresa of Lisieux and later listening to meditative music which was played on several huge crystal bowls. In simply allowing myself to be surrounded by religion and open to contemplation, I gained something from this experience. It may not have been profound, but surely I felt more calm and connected to some higher power, universal principle, or God.

    In this way, I saw the importance that this semester’s study of science and religion had in the way that I thought about reality on multiple levels. Because of this distinction and willingness to give experience a chance, I was able to reap the benefits of religious experience.

    If anyone is interested, . Call ahead and make sure someone is there to play the singing bowls for you.

  8. Sorry, I forgot to add the link to the Living Insights Center’s website. http://www.livinginsights.com/

  9. While I often find/feel the spirit of God in the beauty of nature that surrounds me, I also find it very powerfully in relationships. Some of my strongest “God-moments” have come from my time in Central America and are always related to the beautiful relationships and interactions with people. One of the most powerful ways I experience God and the Divine Presence is through love. In El Salvador and Honduras I was shown overwhelming, unconditional love from strangers who had little materially to offer but gave everything they had. I was offered food, beds, and water while families would go with less or nothing in order to make the guest feel welcomed. People shared with me their lives, their stories, their very selves. And I did nothing to deserve or merit this kindness and love, it was freely given. I experience God profoundly in the act of giving, of sacrifice, because that is the ultimate model that Christ gave us, his complete self-giving through love. I can’t quantify the love and relationships I have experienced and been part of. The objective observer would never understand. It is a lived reality, just like Johnson speaks of the Living God. It is a force active in the world that I see when a mother sacrifices for her children, a family spends time together and supports one another, a friend offers a sympathetic ear or shoulder to cry on, and random acts of kindness by complete strangers who seem to be angels. God is present all around in the little acts with great love.


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