This past weekend I was involved in putting on a workshop about prayer and meditation. I’ll talk about the workshop itself in a separate posting. As well as the presentations on the topic we also provided food. We work on the premise that “if there’s food, they will come”. I knew there were plenty of veggies, chips, dips and desserts being prepared as well as a couple of platters of wraps. But only one meat dish was on the sign up list, so I decided to grab a few rotisserie chickens, pull the meat off and serve it up in small portions.
This left me with four chicken carcasses. I love homemade chicken soup, so before leaving for the workshop I dumped the bones into a large pot, filled it with water, and put it on to boil. When I came home I fired it up again, let it simmer for a bit, then turned it off to cool over night. Now I’m not sure about you all out there, but when I make chicken soup I don’t want just the broth. I want every single tiny morsel of meat that was left on the bones in my soup.
So, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than to scrub my hands clean then plunge them into a pot-full of cold chicken broth? I mean it’s the ultimate Sunday afternoon activity, right!! My husband thinks it’s a little crazy but he sure enjoys the soups that come out of this. However, this Sunday was a little different because as I manually sifted through the chicken bones I had a real spiritual experience. She’s flipped, you’re thinking. Totally lost it, you’re saying.
Don’t be too quick to judge and let me explain what happened. Now I’ve been through this chicken soup process many times before and never thought about God. Perhaps it was a result of the workshop the previous day that had me floating on a higher plane, on a deeper spiritual level; who knows. But as I picked up the different skeletal parts of the chicken to strip them of their tasty morsels, I became very aware of how amazingly a chicken is put together. Hundreds (at least it seemed like that many) of tiny bones all put together and connected in a specific design to create the animal that we know as a chicken.
Then I began to think about how many different animals, birds, insects, reptiles, and sea creatures inhabit our planet earth. Having watched many different animal documentaries and always being so totally surprised by the number of different animals there are, I surmise there must be millions of different species all over the globe. As I thought about that, I began to let my mind wander in this zoo that I had conjured up in my mind and saw all the different shapes and sizes of the various creatures therein, and I imagined all the different skeletal designs that each one had.
It occurred to me in that moment how marvelous and how rich was the diversity of life on this planet. It also became very clear to me in that moment that even if I didn’t have a religious experience in my life, no way could I believe that all this richness, all this diversity, just created itself out of nothing or came from some “big bang”. Some incredibly awesome, powerfully intellectual-beyond-belief Creator had to have masterminded all these different creatures.
My mind was totally boggled for quite a while as I continued to sift and separate bones from meat, from fat, from grizzle, from tendons. It’s in moments like this that I get quite “right sized”. I realize in the same moment how insignificant I am in the bigger scheme of things and yet how important I am. I must be important if this Creator, in the middle of creating this planet with all its life forms as well as the universe with its billions of stars and planets and who knows what else, had the time to think me, to love me into existence with my own unique skeletal design.
In the same instant it is both a wildly happy thought and a wildly terrifying thought because it is really quite unfathomable to the human mind. So I think, and this is just my take on this, that all those grand intellectuals who claim the non-existence of a God, a Supreme Creator, are probably too terrified by the thought of such an all-powerful being to admit He/She/It may be there. I would not like to be on their deathbeds.
No, I’m not going to do an Albert Einstein. I do not have that kind of analytical and scientific mind. But it struck me that any given situation will probably be viewed differently by each person involved in it. I just have to think about any normal, every day conversation between myself and my husband and how we sometimes struggle to understand exactly what the other is saying – and we’re both speaking English, and are relatively on the same page!
Just recently I read a phrase that really caught my attention. It said something like, “A mistake is just another way of doing something.” Yesterday I read another phrase which said, “A weed is no more than a flower in disguise.” And they both carry the same message as the old proverb, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
I remember participating in a workshop some years ago. There were various projects and activities that we engaged in during the course of the workshop. One that I will always remember went something like this. We re-entered the classroom after a short break and in the middle of the chalk board was the word “track”.
The instructor asked us to just focus on that one word. Then she asked us not to talk among ourselves and to write a sentence using that word. As I recall, there were about twenty to twenty five of us in the class. There may have been a handful of sentences written that were similar. The rest were completely unique, each offering a different meaning and use of the word.
I’m sure that this creates problems from time to time. Going back to my husband and I, I can think of a few times when the discussion has become somewhat heated simply because of two completely different perspectives, understandings of, one word or phrase. (We’re probably not a good example because I’m British and he’s American, so the language barrier in and of itself sometimes is a bit of a beast!!!)
But different perspectives can also bring wonderful variety to our lives. Just think of art and architecture, and what about music? All the unique styles created by different people enrich our lives in all those areas. I absolutely love Modigliani and Monet and yet they create works at opposite ends of the spectrum. As do Degas and Dali and yet both have produced works of exquisite beauty.
I cannot imagine life without the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But there are days when all I want to hear is Dvorak or Beethoven. And when I’m in the mood, please get my toes a-tapping with some down-to-earth, boot-stomping Blue Grass.
On the news yesterday and today are the heart-wrenching stories and pictures from Samoa and Indonesia. People’s lives torn apart, wrecked by savage tsunami’s and earthquakes, forces of nature over which we have no control. Any “small stuff” problems that I may have been lamenting about dwindle into nothingness by comparison.
Probably the biggest example of perspective that I can remember in my own life happened back in the mid seventies. I was living in Sardinia at the time. It was a gorgeous, warm, clear August evening and the sky was littered with millions of stars forming the Milky Way. I remember standing on the patio of my little cottage and getting a cricked neck from staring upwards.
Then I had an idea. There was a six-foot long wooden picnic table on the patio which I covered with a sleeping bag. Then I lay on top and in wonderful comfort began to star gaze. It was an incredible experience. It looked as though someone had taken a dozen sacks full of diamonds and thrown them across the width and breadth of the sky.
It was only then, at the ripe old age of thirty something, that I began to get a clear idea of what the universe was about. As I lay on that picnic table I suddenly realized that it wasn’t just a flat dark blue background with “big stars, and little stars” painted all over it. I understood for the first time the significance of the word “infinity”.
I became aware that the “little stars’ were in fact probably just as “big” as the others seemed to me, but that they were further away and thus seemed “smaller”. And I also realized that if I squinted I could just barely see even “smaller” stars that were even further away. And in that one moment the full magnitude of “the universe” hit me.
In that one moment I was both terrified and also in total awe, and I realized just how insignificant I really was in the bigger scheme of things. And yet I also realized just how important I must be to my God that He has chosen to place me here in the bigger scheme of things.