“New Year’s Resolution: More Wonder, Less Worry!”

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? —Psalm 8: 3,4. NRSV

I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Nonetheless, as 2020 begins I resolve to have more wonder in my life and less worry. I’m not going to lie; there is plenty to worry about. But I have learned from keeping a journal that when I look back on what I was worrying about it was usually the wrong thing.

I resolve to be less distracted by the shiny and ephemeral so that I can pay more attention to what is truly wonderful around me. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote this about wonder: “We do not come upon wonder only at the climax of thinking or in observing strange, extraordinary facts but in the startling fact that there are facts at all: being, the universe, the unfolding of time. We may face wonder at every turn, in a grain of sand, in an atom, as well as in the stellar space.” (God in Search of Man)

The poet who wrote Psalm 8 looked up at the night sky in wonder and became aware of the vast divide between the eternal Creator and us frail creatures. The Psalmist was also wonder-struck that this majestic Creator should care for us mortals.

Whenever I am hesitant to approach this high and holy God in prayer, I remember that this same God, so far removed from us, reached out in love to be “God with us” in the humanity of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself is the mediator between heaven and earth. He is the bridge between frail human flesh and the majesty of the Creator.

Whatever the new year brings God will be with us, and that is cause for more wonder and less worry!

Prayer: God with us, as the new year unfolds, open us to the wonder that is everywhere around us, and free us from the worry that robs us of fullness of life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(This is my devotion for January 1, 2020 in the United Church of Christ’s Daily Devotional booklet for Advent to Epiphany. Photo: “The Gloaming” by R.L Floyd, 2019.)

 

More reflections on worry: “The Peace of Wild Things”

Berry Pond

I recently posted “Are you choking? A reflection on worry” and a friend sent me this poem by Wendell Berry called “The Peace of Wild Things.” As always Berry is deeply insightful about the ways of the world and the human soul.

“The despair of the world” is great these days with wars and rumors of wars and it easy to let fear run away with us. We fear, as Berry puts it, “of what my life and my children’s lives may be.” We worry about the Middle East and Ukraine,  about Ebola outbreaks in Africa, about the tragedy of children on our borders fleeing violence. We worry about the stock market, rising income inequality, and the loss of jobs that cast a shadow over our children’s futures. With the 24/7 news cycle and the relentless posts on social media the fodder for worry is inexhaustible.

One of the features of our humanity is an awareness of the past and an anticipation of the future. It is a mixed blessing, for the cause of much of our anxiety is rooted in what Berry calls “forethought of grief.” We know that we will suffer and one day die, or as the basketball player/philosopher Charles Barkley aptly put it, “Father Time is still undefeated.”

When Jesus admonished his listeners to “be not anxious,” he told them to consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. This is “the peace of wild things” that Berry suggests can free us from our anxiety for a time and let us be.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron
feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
– Wendell Berry

(Photo by R.L. Floyd. Berry Pond at the Pittsfield State Forest, Pittsfield, Massachusetts)

“Are you choking?” A reflection on worry.

Thorns“As for the seed that was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.” – Matthew 13:22

“I’ve never been particularly susceptible to the lure of wealth, but I am an expert on “the cares of the world.” It may be in my genes. My grandmother, Irma Grace, was what the family called a “worrywart,” a word you don’t hear much anymore, but one that means “a person who worries too much or who worries about things that are not important.”

My grandmother was the Babe Ruth of worrying. She had long lists of things to worry about, and if one worry got resolved the next one would quickly move to the top of the list. (From my Daily Devotional for today. See more here)