Monday, January 30

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. We choose whether to see things from God's perspective or 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 ourselves have made the effort to be on time for, we have the choice to see a bush "afire with God" or a bush to sit round and pluck blackberries (and fume!) Our common response is frustration, loss, and thinking of the wasted time. But if every common bush is afire with God, might there be 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 there are things that 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 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 to 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 always with us in every situation.
God is always for us no matter what happens.
God loves us. There is nothing we can do that will change this fact.
God assigns to us our portion and cup—that which is best for our good.
God is here right now.
God cares for us.
God works all things together for our good.
God is in control of every facet of our life; 
nothing happens without first passing through his divine permission.

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