Tag Archives: light

Quotes Worth Repeating: “The Light Is Everything”

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“The light is everything” is the last line of “The Ponds” by Mary Oliver, who is one of my favorite poets of all time. a1ed9b133e3f0d78cc15fecea3bd8b36 In “The Ponds” Oliver encourages herself and us to look past the imperfections of life and focus on the beauty that exists. Here is the whole poem:

The Ponds by Mary Oliver

Every year the lilies are so perfect I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding the black, mid-summer ponds. Nobody could count all of them—

the muskrats swimming among the pads and the grasses can reach out their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that rife and wild. But what in this world is perfect?

I bend closer and see how this one is clearly lopsided— and that one wears an orange blight— and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away— and that one is a slumped purse full of its own unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled— to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world. I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery. I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing— that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.

Mary Oliver

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Our God Is A Consuming Fire

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With Advent, the December synchroblog, Christmas decorations and the approach of the Winter Solstice I have been thinking a lot about light lately. Between thinking about light and using Amy Carmichael’s poem “Make Me Thy Fuel” as an Advent Prayer I began to think about fire and that reminded me of Hebrews 12:29 which says “Our God is a consuming fire.” Through all of this thinking and pondering and praying I stumbled across a great article written by Frederica Mathewes-Green that was published on belief.net back in 2006 called Transfiguration. It was so good I wanted to share it with you. 

You really have to read the whole article  but here are a few excerpts:

“But there is something about light that most previous generations would have known, that doesn’t occur to us today. We think of light as something you get with the flip of a switch. But before a hundred years ago, light always meant fire. Whether it was the flame of a candle, an oil lamp, a campfire, or the blazing noonday sun, light was always accompanied by fire. And fire, everyone knew, must be respected. That’s one of the lessons learned from earliest childhood. Fire is powerful and dangerous. It does not compromise. In any confrontation, it is the person who will be changed by fire, and not the other way round. As Hebrews 12:29 says, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Yet this consuming fire was something God’s people yearned for. In some mysterious way, light means life. John tells us, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Jesus says, “I am the Life” (John 11:25), and also “I am the Light” (John 8:12). Light is life: we live in light, and couldn’t live without it. In some sense, we live on light. It is light-energy that plants consume in photosynthesis–an everyday miracle as mysterious as life itself. When we eat plants, or eat the animals that eat plants, we feed secondhand on light. Light is converted into life, literally, with every bite we eat.”


“Through prayer, fasting, and honoring others above self, we gradually clear away everything in us that will not catch fire. We are made to catch fire. We are like lumps of coal, dusty and inert, and possess little to be proud of. But we have one talent: we can burn. You could say that it is our destiny to burn. He made us that way, because he intended for his blazing light to fill us. When this happens, “your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22).”

“On the far side of everything–the Last Supper, the campfire denial, the Resurrection, and the Pentecost outpouring–Peter tries in a letter to make sense of what happened on Mt. Tabor that day. Peter saw God’s glory, and he knows it is for us. He says that God’s divine power calls us “to his own glory.” Through his promises we may “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:3-4). “Partakers of the divine nature.” The life that is in Christ will be in us. In Western Christianity, we tend to take Scriptures like this metaphorically. When St. Paul refers to life “in Christ” some 140 times, we expect he means a life that looks like Christ’s. We try to imitate our Lord, and sing of following him and seeking his will. We ask “What would Jesus do?” We hope to behave ethically and fairly in this life, and after death take up citizenship in heaven. But it appears that Peter had learned to anticipate something more radical and more intimate: true oneness with Christ and personal transfiguration. We partake of, consume, the light and the life of Christ. We receive, not mere intellectual knowledge of God, but illumination.”

What the heck…

This post is part of the December Synchroblog: Darkness and Light as Motifs of Spirituality. A list of contributors can be found at the end of this post.
I almost backed out of participating in this month’s synchroblog. To begin with, I am new at this blogging thing and still have a little anxiety about putting myself out there. In addition, I wasn’t that comfortable with the subject as I have been going through a spiritual transition over the last couple of years and am somewhat hesitant to declare what is light and what is darkness. But then I said, “what the heck”…so here goes:

 

 

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The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:5

I went to an old time revival with my mother when I was nine years old and ended up “walking the aisle” and “accepting Jesus as my savior.” I was baptized, started attending church and was satisfied that I would “go to heaven” when I died. My parents were believers but not committed and I went away to college with a shallow faith.

I married in my late 20s, had two sons and got divorced all in less than ten years. When my husband left me I went through a very “dark” time (for the record, my husband and I remarried seven years later and are happily married today). After a lot of emotional ups and downs I did some serious reflection and decided that I wanted and needed my faith to amount to more than “life insurance”. I found a church, began to study the bible diligently and over time became a good evangelical Christian. I was a near perfect attendee, a generous volunteer and a sincere seeker of God. I was committed to following all that I was taught.

Fast forward…A couple of years ago something happened in my life (that’s another post for another time) that left me reeling and asking questions about a lot of stuff, including spiritual stuff. Through the course of processing what was happening in my life I began to realize that I thought some of the stuff the church was teaching was wrong or at least misleading. And that began a spiritual journey that I am still on and will probably be on for the rest of my life.

This journey has been a difficult and unsettling one for me. I was accustomed to having answers, being certain and able to argue my case. It seemed like all of a sudden all I had were questions, doubt and confusion. I experienced anger, sadness, resentment, shame, guilt and loss. I felt displaced and alone. How could I have believed that I was “in the light” when I had obviously been “stumbling around in the darkness?”  How could I keep from being deceived again? What if I was no closer to understanding the light now than I had been before? What was I supposed to do about all the times I had taught the wrong things to others, modeled the wrong things, thought the wrong things, said the wrong things? What was it about myself that made me enjoy the darkness so much that I remained in it for so long? How could I live out my faith in the place I was now inhabiting?

Over time, with the help of many of you in the blogging world, my husband and sons, and a few from my church community, I am learning to cope with the tension of living out my beliefs with enough humility that it doesn’t feel like I am being thrown off a cliff every time I have to come to grips with the possibility that what I believe may be wrong.   

I am learning that sometimes understanding the light means saying “I don’t know,” that light doesn’t always equal clarity and that things usually look a lot messier in the light.  I am learning that light seems to be a lot more about relationships than about facts and precepts, a lot more about love than law, and a lot more about inclusion than exclusion.  And I am learning as Henri Nouwen said:  in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness.

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For thoughts and musings from different perspectives check out these posts:

Phil Wyman Darkness: A Thin Place For My Soul

Adam Gonnerman On Being In Darkness

Lainie Petersen What The Mirror Doesn’t Tell Me

Jeff Goins Walking in the Light with Jesus

Bethany Stedman Light is Coming

Julie Clawson Darkness and Light

Kathy Escobar Light- I’ll Take a Sliver Anyday

Susan Barnes  and here’s a photo of one I made earlier

Joe Miller Discover Light in Darkness

Beth Patterson Advent: Awaiting the Ancient and the Ever New

Liz Dyer What the Heck

Sally Coleman Light into Darkness

Steve Hayes Lord of the Dark

Josh Jinno  Spiritual Motifs of Darkness and Light

KW Leslie Darkness versus blackness

Erin Word  Fire and Sacrifice

Ellen Haraoutunian Holy Darkness