Soul Food

Life Notes—January 31, 2013 

“He humbled you by letting you hunger…in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  Deuteronomy 8:3 

Recently I attended the funeral for the mother of a long-time friend.  The minister recalled, factually, how this caring lady specialized in feeding both the body and soul of those in her presence.  Warm cookies and good conversation are among my memories of her home.  He spoke of her life in poetic terms and quoted Carl Sandburg, saying, “Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” He followed with a story inspired by a quote from the Prophet Muhammad, “If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one and buy hyacinths, for they would feed my soul.”  The point for us is that we do not live by food alone.  For a rich and full life we must also attend to feeding our soul.

If we were simply physical creatures we would be happy and satisfied with shelter and a full stomach.  But we are not.  Clearly, there is more to our reality than the physical. Abraham Maslow, an influential psychiatrist of the last century, postulated a “hierarchy of needs,” where our physical needs are primary—when we are cold and hungry all our attention is focused on warmth and food.  But once our physical needs have been met we experience a much different kind of hunger for a higher and fuller state of being.

There are many ways to feed the spirit and most of us probably practice a number of them.  Music, poetry, scripture reading, prayer, worship, gardening and meditation are among the different ways people feed their spirits.  Exercise, though considered a physical activity, can help free the mind to focus on spiritual matters.  Serving the needs of others less fortunate is also a nourishing practice, both for the served and the server.  The point is to stretch our awareness beyond the obvious, familiar and physical.  The world of the spirit is present wherever we are, but it extends beyond what we can see. We must find ways to reach for it; and in our reaching we experience deeper levels of blessing in every common reality.  A hyacinth is a beautiful flower.  And it has a beautiful fragrance.  And the combination of its beauty and its fragrance can take us to a level of experience neither can accomplish alone. It is food for the eyes and a balm for the soul. It is soul food.  Mmmm, good!

Tom will preach downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Reverend Kara Eidson, KU’s Campus Minister, will preach at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  You feed your body; we’ll furnish the hyacinths.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

A Plan Coming Together

Life Notes—January 24, 2013 

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

My son, Reid, loved Legos as a child.  He loved putting them together, taking them apart, building them in new ways and creating his own little world out of them.  When he was about six or seven I bought him a model of the Space Shuttle made from, you guessed it, Legos.  Of course, it had to be assembled and there were over two thousand pieces with an instruction manual the size of a novel. But Reid was very excited about having his own space shuttle to play with.  The primary complication was the time and effort required to get from the dream promised by the picture on the box to the reality of a space ship a little boy could actually play with.  Having a father with obligations outside of space shuttle construction did not help extend the patience of a boy with a dream…

Just about everyone I know, myself included, has a space shuttle in some phase of construction.  Something we have long dreamed about or are desperately hoping for.  I know people trying to lose those last few pounds to reach their ideal body weight.  I know those who are pinching pennies, trying to save enough money to reach a level of financial security.  I know single folks waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right to come along and help them realize their dream for a family. Sometimes it seems our lives are like a Lego puzzle, with the events of each day being locked into place by a divine being who knows exactly what the finished product will be, but who also keeps us in the dark regarding our progress towards and the nature of that mysterious completed state.  Being impatient by nature, we imagine the worst and speculate that our dream will never be realized.

I believe God does have a plan for our lives, as we are told in Jeremiah above.  Not some fatalistic destiny that will manifest no matter what we do.  Rather, I believe God’s plan is more of an array of unique possibilities for us; and the unique and dynamic blend of our free-will choices, our environment and God’s will manifests in our individual life experience. Our life puzzle has many pieces and, like the Lego space shuttle, many bear no resemblance to the finished product until they are locked into their proper place in relation to the other pieces.  Like a journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step, and then another, any one step is likely to seem insignificant; but all are required to complete the journey. We have many more reasons to hope than to despair.

Tom will preach downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch gives Part 2 of his “Adventure” series at the west campus, where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Discover the possibilities God has for your life.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Seeking Immortality

Life Notes—January 17, 2013 

“For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh. The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; and they are soon gone, and we fly away.”

Psalm 90:9-10

The past few winters it was ladybugs.  This winter, box elder bugs.  These harmless, but annoying creatures have invaded our house in impressive numbers.  Typically, I gently but firmly grab the offender and escort it outside to fend for itself, as God intended.  The unlucky ones seen first by my wife meet a quick and flattened end, prior to a burial at sea via the sewer system.  Until recently, I assumed they were seeking immortality, extending their life by a generation or two by surviving a winter meant to kill them.  And who could blame them?  Personally, I do not seek an expedited end to my earthly days; nor do I prefer spending cold nights outside when there is plenty of cozy, warm space inside.  How can I begrudge a box elder bug the desire to extend or improve its buggy existence?

In preparing for this Life Note I did a (very) little research on box elder bugs, and guess what?  They do not typically die in the winter anyway, but hibernate in leaf piles.  When the weather warms in the spring they climb a tree, mate, lay eggs and then proceed to the box elder bug hereafter—not due to the cold winter, but because that is their life cycle as designed by their Maker.  So, our winter visitors have not been seeking immortality, as I first assumed, but simply finding a warmer place to bide their time until mating season.  No doubt, I learned that once upon a time in Biology class.

My initial focus for this Life Note was intended to be that we are all accorded a finite amount of time to live on and from the earth, and that is the natural flow of creation and the course God intended our lives to assume.  At our death we relinquish our place on earth to make room and resources for another life to flourish.  I intended to use the lowly box elder bug seeking immortality as my illustration of consciously going against God’s will and plan.  However, in light of my research it turns out the box elder bugs have not been seeking immortality, but simply attempting to improve the conditions under which they live out the days allotted to them in the God’s grand creation scheme.  Perhaps this week’s lesson is that I need to be less judgmental about the motives of my fellow creatures.  We are all just dealing with life’s challenges the best way we know how.  Be that as it may, box elder bugs caught in our home can expect to miss their mating season in favor of an expedited meeting with their Maker!

Rev. Stan Hughes will preach downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch continues his “Covenant” series at the west campus, where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  We’ll try not to bug you…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Nothingness Nowhere

Life Notes—January 10, 2013 

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-30

Earlier this week I drove my daughter to her graduate school in south-central Texas.  Often, the miles between home and Wichita seem to me among the longest and most boring stretch of nothingness imaginable.  Perhaps it is because it is too familiar.  More likely, it is because I tend to focus my attention on my destination—the future—rather than the present moment.  Of course, there is no nothingness between home and Wichita.  In fact, there is an unfathomable amount of somethingness.  There is nowhere God created nothingness.  It is just that some areas of creation require more effort to appreciate God’s handiwork than others.  But it has less to do with God’s creative abilities and everything to do with where we chose to direct our attention.

In college I took a Botany class that was an entire semester on the native grasses of northeast Kansas.  We spent many hours on the Kansas prairie learning to distinguish between the dozens of different varieties of grasses.  By semester’s end we could identify about 50 distinct species of grass, most all of which can be found a short walk from anywhere in northeast Kansas.  From a distance, or when driving 80 mph down a long stretch of asphalt, the prairie just looks like a whole lot of grass.  But up close, with a little focused attention and instruction, I was taught what amazing and beautiful diversity is present, even in a seemingly unspectacular stretch of creation.  Nothingness indeed!

Sometimes in life we look to our horizon and, like the stretch of turnpike to Wichita, see nothing of interest.  We find ourselves bored and uninspired when we want to be entertained and inspired.  Or, worse yet, we strive to get past the present moment to something we are looking forward to in the future.  But to get there we must get past this present moment.  Instead of wasting another moment looking forward to a future that may or may not materialize, we are much better served to focus on the wonders of the moment.  If it appears to be a moment of nothingness, it likely means we’re not sufficiently focused on the now.  Nothingness is a state of mind, not a reality of creation.  God is present in the details of each moment and to the extent we are not fully present right now, we miss an encounter with God.  Our lives are but a series of moments and when we throw them away, by wasting or passing time, we give up something of inestimable value—life.  Lord, keep me focused on the blessings of each moment.

Tom preaches downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch preaches at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  It will certainly be better than nothing…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

The Spiritual Cliff

Life Notes—January 3, 2013 

“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:26 

Much has been made in the past weeks of the ‘fiscal cliff,’ with warnings of higher taxes, return to recession and all manner of doom and gloom.  In the past 48 hours, much has also been made of the ‘heroic’ efforts of national officials for their efforts in steering our nation away from this cliff.  Of course, the fiscal cliff has not really been avoided, but our progress towards it has apparently been slowed, at least for a time.

Money is the lifeblood of our government and economy.  Without sufficient funding, the government can neither adequately provide the services we have all come to depend upon, like national security and interstate highways, nor fund other services counted on by many, such as food stamps, healthcare and pensions.  Money to fund the government comes primarily from two sources—taxes paid and, increasingly common of late, borrowing.  Without a sufficient flow of its lifeblood—money—the government cannot continue to function, so it faces three undesirable and difficult choices—increase taxes, decrease spending or borrow more money.  Obviously, there are degrees of undesirability for each of these options and no consensus on which degree of each is best.  The current fiscal cliff was created some time ago by a convergence of expiring tax cuts, mandatory spending reductions, and a legal limit on the government’s ability to borrow money.  Combined, they threaten the life of our government by restricting its lifeblood.

But that is government.  What about individual lives?  Is there a spiritual cliff looming ahead of us?  Many would answer with an emphatic “Yes!” and for many different reasons.  If we believe our individual lifeblood is the Spirit then we can draw a spiritual analogy to the fiscal cliff.  We all require a two-way flow—a relationship, if you will—with the Holy Spirit.  By its flow through us we are animated and sustained.  There are ways we can increase that flow—through worship, study and prayer.  Likewise, there are ways the Spirit flows out of us—stress, anxiety, poor health habits, to name a few.  We can borrow “Spirit” from others sometimes, from those generous souls who love and support us.  But at some point we, like our government, must establish a healthy balance between the inflow and outflow of our lifeblood.  If your life seems to be trending downward, maybe you’ve gotten a little too close to the edge of the spiritual cliff…

Tom will preach downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch returns to the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.  His sermon title is “Covenant, Part 1,” based on Genesis 9:8-17.  Communion will be served at all worship services.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Step away from the edge and refill your spiritual cup.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator