Grace, The Inner Landscape

When Will I Learn to Live in God?

Today I made will smama laugh by saying I think I may be "post-inclusive." After serving two churches in a row that either never did have the conversation about inclusive language, I've had to find a way to transcend the expected masculine language for God we use in service music like the Gloria and the Doxology, to feel the presence of God even if someone wants to call "him" "Him" when I don't think of God that way at all. It's a funny place to be considering the first crisis of my life in ministry came over referring to God as "she" in a sermon. The organist quit over it, having, as she put it in her resignation letter, her "heavenly Father referred to as a 'she'". I ought to be the champion of inclusivity after that challenge.

My friend RevFun, who has a four-year-old church, got to be inclusive from the beginning. There was no battle. Inclusive language in worship is the community norm, although there are still people in the church family whose personal language for God is paternal rather than parental.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to worship with my friends at Rock'n'Roll Church, and RevFun presented a beautiful and encouraging message about living through the storms of life, knowing that God is with us no matter how hard the winds may buffet us. I don't think he used the word "buffet," but he did tell the story of John Newton, lashed to the wheel of the ship on the day that inspired "Amazing Grace." Of course I knew that tale of faith already, but it never fails to touch me.

The band had the day off, and the closest we got to rocking came when we heard a Van Morrison song, one I did not know. There came a moment when the words projected on the screen did not match the word being sung, for Morrison sang, not surprisingly, of a God who was a "he." I found I didn't care much, because there was so much else in the piece that touched me, so much that I wanted to share it with you, inclusive or no.

The sun was setting over Avalon
The last time we stood in the west
Suffering long time angels enraptured by Blake
Burn out the dross innocence captured again

Standing on the beach at sunset all the boats
All the boats keep moving slow
In the glory of the flashing light in the evenings glow

When will I ever learn to live in God?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?

You brought it to my attention everything that was made in God
Down through centuries of great writings and paintings
Everything lives in God
Seen through architecture of great cathedrals
Down through the history of time
Is and was in the beginning and evermore shall be

When will I ever learn to live in God?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?

Whatever it takes to fulfill his mission
That is the way we must go
But you've got to do it your own way
Tear down the old, bring up the new

And up on the hillside its quiet
Where the shepherd is tending his sheep
And over the mountains and the valleys
The countryside is so green
Standing on the highest hill with a sense of wonder
You can see everything is made in God
Head back down the roadside and give thanks for it all

When will I ever learn to live in God?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?

So many times in my life things that seemed unbearable have been the source of grace, of learning, of deepening. When will I ever learn?

All of scripture bears continual witness that
there is nothing that can happen which is outside of God’s caring

I say those words at every memorial service; I said them just yesterday as we remembered the life of a woman who lived to be nearly 90. We gave thanks for her life, and her little great-granddaughters bawled as they tried to let her go, and the mixture of tears and appreciation seemed to me as fully alive as anything can be. To have a life you love and be missed when you are gone, what more can we ask?

I'm grateful for friends leaving kind words and cyber hugs, for people who pray for me when I cannot, for someone who linked to a story about the Serenity prayer and how helpful those words have been to me in the night recently, for words of scripture like the ones from Isaiah referenced in the comments here. I know Isaiah 35, mostly the parts that come just after, because my most certain passages of scripture are those I have sung or heard sung. But what came just before I did not know all by myself, and so I thank most of all The Vicar of Hogsmeade for pointing me to Isaiah 35:3-4a–

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those
who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God."

When will I ever learn? I want to think today I'm making strides, feeble knees and all.

8 thoughts on “When Will I Learn to Live in God?”

  1. I don’t have many words tonight–I’m just glad you shared. Thank you for sharing yourself.

  2. hellos and hugs. and come over to my place – I have a link to an article about the Big S/He 🙂

  3. I needed to hear your words this morning, as I take my Beloved for some Big Tests in the hospital. Thank you for releasing my tears.
    Pax, C.

  4. Praise God from whom all blessing flow.
    Praise Jesus Christ and in Him grow.
    Praise to the Holy Spirit give
    That we in love with God may live.

  5. Van Morrison’s Avalon Sunset is one of the loveliest albums ever. I listen to it frequently, and I just sent the CD to you.
    Van Morrison is one of my heroes — not only is his music deeply spiritual and beautifully varied, but he’s very prolific, so there’s a lot to discover.

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