When I See The Stars…

I took this picture using a shoe as a tripod for my DSLR last Sunday night

Looking at the stars is one of my favorite things to do, but it’s often nearly impossible to find a spot to go where I can actually see stars and feel comfortable because I actually have permission to be there. The bed and breakfast where my husband and I stayed for our “anniversary-moon” is one of those rare spots. I stayed up late most nights sitting on the grass or standing beside the horse paddock at the ranch simply drinking in the glory of the night sky.

I identified constellations I’ve never known before, because they lie too close to the horizon, and at home they’re lost in the city wash. I got to watch the Milky Way emerge incrementally from the darkness. The last night I saw 5 meteors and 10 satellites.

Most of us rarely (if ever) get to marvel at the vastness of the universe in this visceral way. We spend our nights inside, and even when we do go outside, the sky is washed out.

We could all say, “Sure, I know the stars are there.” But we don’t know it, not the way we know the movement of the sun from east to west: where the shadows fall, what time of day we have to close the blinds because the summer heat will overcome the a/c, or what time to open them in winter to take advantage of natural warmth and light.

Sometimes we pause to drink in sunset, but most of us give up soon after. What took the place of this glow, when it faded, was the Big Dipper. But you to devote another hour to waiting for it to happen.

In the same way, the reality of God and responding to/living out his call are things we know to be there, but they often get lost in the washout of the brighter, more attention-getting concerns of daily life. We don’t have time to think about things like what does human dignity mean, beyond the obvious question of abortion: in terms of racial tension, questions of immigration and gun violence and honesty in the things we choose to read and share online.

Things like God’s presence in all the places in the world, and the way our tendency toward hyperbole leads us to outright heresy without even realizing it.

Or how often we go to war over minutiae of worship while relegating to the sidelines the fundamental call of Jesus to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick of body and mind, and basically work to see the Kingdom made manifest on Earth. Good liturgy is important, but not as an end in itself. The liturgy is strength for the work of doing God’s will in the real world. When we get stuck in a war with each other over questions of style, we’ve missed the point.

The devil has many ways to get to us, and unfortunately it’s often by working on our religious sensibilities. Or simply our busy-ness.

I’m devoting the time and energy to this ministry because I’ve spent the last several years trying to quit bouncing along the surface of my faith on autopilot and dig down to something deeper. It’s been spiritually challenging, but also extremely rewarding and energizing for me to recognize the profusion of ways in which my belief in God touches the most trivial minutiae of daily life. I’m not perfect by a long shot, but what I’ve discovered is that I’m better able to teach my children a faith that–I hope, at least–will have the real-world grounding to stick for a lifetime.

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