It’s evening, the last day at my cottage near the sea on Skye. On Sunday, 9/11, I will be on Iona. I didn’t plan it that way, but what grace. As the day ends, I’m never much for words. But tonight on my final walk along the sea, I felt immense gratitude. In fact, on this trip I’ve been starting my prayer with praise and thanksgiving instead of intercession (or me and for others). How’s that for huge a shift? Starting prayer with God, not me. What grace!!
Church of Scotland, Broadford, Skye
I’m stilling thinking about attending church here last Sunday. Why did I go? Put simply: “It’s what Christians do. It’s what I do whenever I can.” In fact, all faith traditions embrace the practices of attending religious services, reading sacred scripture, and praying.
I’m also wondering what, if any, is the correlation between longing for the 3S’s and being part of a faith tradition. Sara Maitland and Barbara Erakko Taylor * both attend church on a regular basis, although formal religion, or even God, is not central to their work. They write about silence and happen to mention their church attendance, although you could easily miss it.
The habit of both of these contemporary women writers was in the back of my mind as I headed out on Sunday. I think I wanted to be grounded. After all, so much of faith is amorphous and inexplicable. Since I live on terra firma, I thought that might as well start there.
* I talk about their work on www.acottagebythesea.net.
Outside the cottage window today.
There is no way for me to forget how immersed in nature I am here on Skye, and in case I might miss the point, the Psalmists continually remind me that I am wandering about in God’s creation, all of it, even in this morning’s drizzle. Clearly this trip is about something bigger than my longing to take off by myself for a few weeks, even in my willingness to think of it as a time to pray, to walk with God, to deepen my faith. It’s bigger than “just about me.”
Consider Psalm 147, all of it. What an all-encompassing God ruling the universe. But then there is verse 11 speaking to me: “the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” When I interpret “fear” as “in awe of” I sense that have been given some control over my part in this mysterious plan. And don't forget about "his steadfast love."
1 Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
6 The LORD sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp.
8 He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call.
10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the LORD delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
12 Extol the LORD, Jerusalem;
praise your God, Zion.
13 He strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your people within you.
14 He grants peace to your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
15 He sends his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
18 He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.
19 He has revealed his word to Jacob,
his laws and decrees to Israel.
20 He has done this for no other nation;
they do not know his laws.
Praise the LORD.
As I passed the ominous Cullin Hills on the bus to Portree yesterday, I was struck by how much more I appreciate God’s Light when I see it in contrast to the dark. These hills are a constant reminder of the power and necessity of all that we humans consider negative—evil, anger, tragedy, illness, you name it. The sun may not be shining today, but because of its light, I can see the hills. God is Light, but I walk with God in the mix.
(Sorry, I couldn’t take a picture of The Cullins from the bus. I’ll post one in a few days.)
As I wrote in my CBTS blog, the entire trip to Skye was a soft breeze. “Thank you, God.” Today I have walked in the wind, experienced intermittent sprinkles, and returned to my cozy cottage-near-the sea and to a warm bath; I have heard of power outages, flooded cellars, as well as loving acts of kindness happening on the east coast of the U.S.A.. What am I to make of all of this as far as God is concerned? Right now I know for certain that God Is. Oh, I can ask my small, human God not to flood my basement or to make sure that my flight is on time, and sometimes I do just that. But when I experiences the vastness of the weather and the “beauty of the earth”, I mainly stand in awe of my large, Divine God, and think of Job going through the good times and the awful times with just such a God. God is present through it all; it is up to me how I respond.