Hey Boss

Most of us think of God as a fearful, punitive authority or as an empty, powerless nothing.

Really? What do you think? And whatever your view of God, from where or from whom does it come from?

The late Henri Nouwen wrote the opening quotation, which I first read in a daily devotional entitled, RENEWED FOR LIFE. In one of the churches I served, we distributed RENEWED, an inexpensive pamphlet, to folks at the beginning of Lent. In that Lent, knowing we were all “on the same page,” I couldn’t help wondering how others thought of the Holy.

A punitive authority? A powerless nothing?

First Sunday of Lent – for March 13, 2011

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance… (Psalm 32: 7)

Nouwen continued by claiming Jesus imaged God as a lover. Hmmm? Does that work for you?

Of course the Bible is chock-full of images for God. A she-bear. A father. A hiding place. A mother hen. Wind. The still, small voice. In the grand story of Adam and Eve, isn’t God a seamstress? Start at Genesis 3:20 and by the time you get to the end of the chapter, God banishes Adam and Eve from Eden for their snack attack. But, before the mythic gate clangs shut, God whips up some clothes for them to wear, runway ready ‘cuz they were on the run.

As a kid, I thought Grandfather was like God. Sort of.

God, the one who banishes; God, the seamstress.

I suspect many of us acquire our earliest thoughts about God by observing others. Aren’t parents and grandparents our first gods?

As I look at my own childhood, I wonder how much my grandfather, my mother’s father, influenced me? To the right of my desk, hanging on a wall, is an aerial photograph of my grandparents’ farm outside of Merced, California. My older sister gave the photo to me as a gift several years ago. It brings me great pleasure to glance to the right and think of yesteryear adventures. On that farm, I watched grandmother bake, cows being born, alfalfa wave in the wind across late summer fields, and water swirl by in a magical place called Bear Creek. My earliest memories of the Sierra Nevada come from walks in the pastures, looking east toward an immense wall of snow and glory. When young, I didn’t think of the mountains as “snow and glory,” or other fancy phrases, but the Sierra caused a whole lot of “Wows!” and “Whoas!” for a wide-eyed kid. Continue reading →


I remember the glimpse.

One of the hikers next to me suddenly said, “I think I see a large mammal over there!”

All four of us looked over there.

I saw it. The “large mammal” was maybe two hundred yards away: a bear.

On the third day of our church backpack, camped at 9,100 feet near a lake, and chatting after a leisurely lay-over day breakfast, we’d spotted a smallish bear. Call it St. Bernard-sized, probably a year or so old. Really, for a bear, being compared to a St. Bernard means that it’s small!

Epiphany – Transfiguration Sunday  – for March 6, 2011

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. (Matthew 17:2)

The Ursus Americanus—the Latin name I’m sure any self-respecting black bear would deny ever using—trotted along the lake’s shore, heading away from us. I knew, having explored that area yesterday, the bear headed for a granite-bound drop in elevation to a valley below our lake basin.

We spread out, cameras ready, seeking the bear.

Since "my" bear vamoosed, this image is courtesy of www.naturespicsonline.com.

No bear.

No bear anywhere.

South, north, no bear. I looked up the ridge, down the ridge. No bear.

In the handful of seconds it took us to scurry to the bear’s last location, the bear had vanished. It seemed a daytime mystery, a sunlit ghost.

All we got was a glimpse. But the bear had been there. All of us had seen it. Four pairs of “there’s a bear!” eyes weren’t lying.

Glimpses are essential parts of our faith experiences. A glimpse of truth can last a lifetime. A sudden and singular idea—often depicted as a light bulb clicking on in a cartoon—can burn brightly in our minds for years until the irrepressible thought becomes reality. Continue reading →