Saturday, January 14, 2012

God's Mind

Moravian Daily Texts
Watchword for the coming week:

How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!  
Psalm 139: 17

I read a summary of a Stanford Research Institute study that says the human brain is capable of thinking between 90,000 and 115,000 thoughts on any given day, but that since none of us could possibly deal with so much information without blowing a gasket, the human brain is also capable of repressing 30 or 40 or 50, 000 of those thoughts so that we might carry on. On average, then, most people hold 65,000 or so active ideas in their minds in any one 24 hour period. (At least I think that’s what the summary meant. I’m not sure that my brain is capable of comprehending neuroscientific research.)

Of course, the quality of each of those thoughts varies greatly. I’ll bet at least 64,000 of my everyday thoughts are mundane: Where did I put my coffee cup? Should I defrost chicken or hamburger? Where did I see gas was selling for the lowest price? Do empty cereal boxes go in the trashcan or the recycling bin?

A few are worthy. Remember to mail Mom’s birthday card. Remember to pray for Godknowswho about Godknowswhat.

Some are petty: I can’t believe she’s wearing leggings. And those shoes.

Some are sentimental: Awww, I remember when the boys gave me this necklace.

Some are creative: What would happen if I turn that thing upside down and put marbles in it?

Some are worrisome: It’s getting late and the roads are slippery. . .

Some are fun: Go Packers! Beat the Giants!

Once in a while I might have an important thought, and maybe once in a great while I might have a profound thought. It would be fantastic if I could have more change-the-world ideas than perfunctory notions about how to run the microwave or apply hairstyling products. I don’t suppose I’ll ever be able to tip that balance.

But enough about my thoughts. The passage at hand is about God’s thoughts—how numerous they are, and how weighty. But if I am already challenged when it comes to grasping that a standard issue human being like myself might possibly compute 115,000 thoughts per day, then I am as far away from comprehending the sum and substance of God’s thoughts as my tiny little brain is removed from the most recently discovered distant galaxy. (It’s calculated to be 13.2 billion years in the past. Wrap your mind around that!)

What does God think about? How could I be so presumptuous as to even speculate, except for perhaps this one slim concept: Whatever incomprehensible number of thoughts are playing out in the mind of God right now, one of those thoughts is of me. One of those thoughts is of you.

Now that's profound.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Atmospheric Conditions

Moravian Daily Texts
Watchword for the upcoming week:
 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor.
 Psalm 29:2  NRSV

It’s considered mundane to mention the weather. Chit chat.  Small talk.  And yet, the weather affects us regularly, sometimes shaping our days and often sculpting our attitudes. Case in point: This first week of January in East Central Ohio began grey as tweed and damp as a sponge mop. As the thermometer plummeted, the constant precipitation degraded from brittle mist to soaking downpour to injurious ice bullets. Snow eventually coated the roads enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be lovely, and the whole time, the sun disappeared as though it were in the Witness Protection Program. Under the influence of the meteorological milieu, the post-holiday celebratory goodwill of family, friends and coworkers quickly shriveled.

And then yesterday dawned like a gift. Dense layers of clouds drifted off to annoy someone else, and sunlight let down from heaven. Sour faces gave way to smiles, slumped shoulders transformed into upright posture. Goodwill returned. Praising God wholeheartedly became much easier to do on Friday than it had been on Thursday.

For the shepherd/soldier/poet who spent most days and nights outside in the weather, it’s not surprising that the mood of the Psalms shifts from elation to depression and back again with great frequency. Psalm 29 seems to be a weather-inspired piece that speaks to the fearsome majesty of a thunderstorm—the kind of storm that rattles a person to the core with atmospheric cymbal crashes and pyrotechnics. Such a magnificent display stirs up awe and inspiration, and the Psalmist seems genuinely compelled toward a moment of true worship.

Holy splendor.

“The weather” can turn out to be an ordinary topic of conversation when there’s nothing else of much note to discuss. Or it can be an uplifting spiritual experience—an encounter with Creation. There’s nothing mundane about that.