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Jewish scholar Martin Buber wrote a book entitled "The Eclipse of God." He was describing a cultural condition. However, there are times when, for an individual, there is something like an eclipse of God. Such times may come when experiencing loss, facing the unexplainable, or just waking up and feeling this way.

Some may be looking for God too high up and too far away, rather than beginning within and close at home. Here is a good thought from St. Bonaventure: “God is the center of everything and the circumference of nothing.” Or this metaphor: the universe is the body of God. (As St. Paul preached when quoting a pagan philosopher of his time in a sermon, “In God we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28)

It is paying attention and listening for God speaking in life’s “every-day-ish-ness,” in beauty and ugliness, wonder and pain, nature, acts of kindness, and presentations of human need. It is listening for God speaking in Christ and those who practice his ways and live in his spirit. This line of thinking and imagining leads one to consider religious experience as all the experience of a seeking and/or spiritual person.

It is living with the reality that faithful people have times of dryness and struggle. “Doubt,” wrote Frederick Buechner, “is the ants in the pants of faith.”

Poet Mary Oliver died several weeks ago. She wrote readable poetry and lived the life about which she wrote. Her poetry almost sings the experiences of faith casting light upon the eclipses that may come upon one’s faith journey and discovering God in the ordinary everyday experiences of life. I close with some illustrations:

“Some words will never leave God’s mouth no matter how hard you listen.”

“Let me keep my distance always from those who think they have all the answers. Let me keep Company always with those who say ‘look!’ and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.”

“Why do people keep asking to see God’s identity papers when the darkness opening into the morning is not enough?”

“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”

“So every day I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God, one of which was you.”

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Bortell, of Normal, is a retired United Methodist minister. Contact him at jimbortell@gmail.com.

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