Monday, October 1

Is God in everything?

Earth's crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Aurora Leigh" VII.821-22

Few lines capture as profoundly the mystery of God and his ways.

One of the most remarkable gifts God has given mankind is the freedom to choose. We can choose to see God in every common bush, or we can choose to see bushes and pluck their berries. The choice is ours. How we see the common bushes of life determines how we embrace life and God.

Is God really in every common bush? Is he in the coffee cup sitting by my side, or the laptop sitting on my desk? Is there really such a thing as a "holy telephone" or an "anointed paper clip"? Is that what Browning is trying to say?

I believe she is hinting we have the choice about what we choose to believe about God. We choose our responses to the things that come into our lives. It is like the story of two prisoners gazing out from behind bars – one sees mud and the other sees stars. Life can be seen from either perspective, mud or stars. Seeing things from God's perspective or choosing to see what literally stands before us. Perspective is everything.

When Moses encountered the burning bush in the wilderness what first amazed him, "though the bush was on fire it did not burn up."

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."

Does God still call us from the common bushes? I believe He does. But only when we choose to see, hear, and perceive Him in all things. Our response has to be the same as Moses, "Here I am, Lord."

When someone is late for an appointment that we have killed ourselves to be on time for, we have the choice to see a bush "afire with God" or a common bush to sit round and pluck blackberries (and fume!) Our common response is frustration and thinking of wasted time. But if every common bush is afire with God, is there always a spiritual reason or significance for even delayed appointments?

Elisabeth Elliot elaborates on Psalm 16:5, "Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure." She comments, "I know of no greater simplifier for all of life. Whatever happens is assigned. Does the intellect balk at that? Can we say that there are things which happen to us which do not belong to our lovingly assigned "portion" (This belongs to it, that does not?) Are some things...out of the control of the Almighty? Every assignment [common bush] is measured and controlled for my eternal good. As I accept the given portion other options are canceled. Decisions become much easier, directions clearer, and hence my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter."

I think the key word in the above wise words is, " I accept the given portion..." As we choose, accept life as it comes assigned to us from a loving Father, we indeed learn to see "every common bush afire with God."

God is with us.
God is for us.
God loves us.
God is here.
God assigns.
God cares.


Wes and Ellen said...

This is a really interesting post today. Especially interesting because a coworker and I were having a conversation about the freedom of choice given to us by God.

I have wrestled with the story of the 10 plagues recently. After learning that Pharoah's heart was hardened by God, I was left wondering if we always do have free choice.

Have you thought about this?

GuyMuse said...

Wes and Ellen,

Thanks for stopping by and for your encouraging words. I believe as children of God we have free choice. I do not believe God hardens the hearts of his children, but He does allow us to be tempted. Jesus was allowed by the Father to be tempted. In our trials and temptations we have the choice of how we are going to face what God has allowed in our lives. I believe He has ordained/permitted everything that gets to us. There are certainly many times when he "removes the stone" in our path before we stumble upon it, but sometimes He leaves the stone in our path, and indeed we stumble. But even in our stumbling, He is there and uses the experience for His Glory and purposes.

Anyway, that is my 2-cents on a tough question.

Cahleen 何凱琳 said...

Interesting post! I do believe that we have the choice to see God in things that might otherwise appear ordinary, not deserving of a second glance. Some might say this is the classic difference between an optimist and a pessimist (thinking back on the prisoner analogy), but of course, it's a bit more than that. It's a matter of opening your eyes or keeping them closed I guess. The only thing that can get a bit weird is when people not only see God in everything, but claim that everything is a message from God. It's one thing to see evidence of God's hand in our lives, but to use certain "signs" as justification for behavior that isn't in line with the Bible is another matter entirely. I know this isn't what you were talking about and that I'm kind of rambling now, but I think there's a line that can be crossed.

By the way, thanks for stopping by. I read Wild Swans and learned a lot about Chinese history and culture. I'm glad you're interested in Taiwan!

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for your good "rambling" thoughts. I tend to agree with you about the extremes some people go to with this kind of thing. I am really enjoying "Wild Swans" and am still trying to get a hold on Chinese history and culture--so different from what we have here in Ecuador. I would be interested sometime to hear your views on Taiwan and China.