More than pixels

I’m sitting in front of my computer, typing these words and also watching as they show up on the screen. Pixel-points of light and color. In her devotional focus on Psalm 139:13-16 in this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Katy Matchette thanks God that “we are not random pixels dancing across a disorganized screen.” Of course, this reality doesn’t always feel good. Katy acknowledges that her aging body, for instance, sometimes makes her want to shout, “Help! I’m falling apart!” The flip-side of these aches and pains is that they focus Katy’s attention, force her to notice “the marvelous complexity of my body.”

I think this is important. I am more than a brain, more than my passions. I am also a human being with a body, created by God. As a gift. And even though we know God “created us humans,” Katy notes that we may forget or overlook the fact that God also created each of us: “Much better than merely putting the whole cycle of reproduction into motion!”

In the image above from the Oregon Coast, my body made it possible to walk out on the sand and step into the water. I climbed a rock to get a better view of others on the beach. It was glorious. But then, on my way down from this particular rock, I had to jump, and I didn’t hit the landing right. It hurt. I limped up the hill and back to the parked car, and I wasn’t as grateful for the beauty of God’s creation as I had been just minutes before. Maybe you can relate.

Maybe that’s why Katy’s reading seems especially important for me this morning. “‘Fearfully and wonderfully made’ applies to more than interlocking body parts.” But those “interlocking body parts” help me to remember – especially when they’re not working the way I want – that “God cared enough about each of us to anticipate the life he wanted for us. He created us for a reason.” 

Katy ends with this prayer: “Father, thank you for knowing me. I am awed that you wove all my intricate parts into a person who fits into your scheme and your kingdom.”

This is my prayer this morning as well.

Eric Muhr

To walk in light

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Kay Wilson writes about being afraid of the dark as a child: “I always wanted a night-light so I could see if anything or anyone was in the room that might cause me harm.” All these years later Kay still has a night-light but “for a different reason. Without the light I ... run the risk of stubbing my toes or falling.” Her point, reflecting on 1 John 1:5-7, is that “light brings clarity and allows me to see what is otherwise unseen.”

I know from experience that light can also overwhelm. I have a photo of Thor's Well, a feature on the Oregon Coast where waves at high tide rush onto a shelf of basalt just south of Cape Perpetua and put on a dynamic show of sound and spray. I wanted to capture a particular effect, the way that waves rushing into this hole create the impression of a waterfall in the middle of the ocean. But a slow-shutter setting on a bright September morning captures too much light, washes out the image. Instead of waterfall, my first photo was all bright white.

God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. But I sometimes live in the darkness, and I am frequently surrounded by it. So even though I need the light, it can be overwhelming. Too much.

Kay reminds us that walking in the light is to “walk in blessed obedience with clarity of the truth ... [to] walk in a manner consistent with the character of God.” Kay also reminds us that walking in the light is to “walk in fellowship with the Father and with each other.” What if this asks too much? What if it overwhelms? What if instead of being able to see more clearly, we are blinded?

Kay reminds us that we can pray: “God fill me with your light and then give me the strength to walk in it.”

And God does.

Eric Muhr

Stories from a cemetery

There’s a Friends graveyard across New Garden Road from the Guilford College campus in Greensboro, North Carolina. Max Carter, recently retired as the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies, leads tours of the cemetery (when he’s not leading tours to Palestine and Israel). This week in Fruit of the Vine, Max tells stories about  some of the dead “who, having led vibrant lives, need others to tell their stories now.”

Yesterday, Max wrote of Baptist evangelist Vance Havner – “qualified to reside in a Quaker burial ground through his wife, Sara Allred, born into a North Carolina Quaker family.” Tomorrow, Max shares the story of a mother and her three children dying together and the effect of this loss on surviving family members. This morning, Max introduces us to George and Emily Levering. They established the Friends school in Ciudad Victoria before returning to the U.S. from Mexico. George is remembered for his “stand against purchasing war bonds during the popular First World War.” Emily, for her service “at Guilford College as matron of a women’s cooperative residence hall.”

These stories Max shares don’t include any heroes. Just faithful people who lived the lives God gave them. Who did the work God called them to do. As Max puts it, life “was an uphill climb for the Leverings ... but their Christian witness led to mountain top experiences for many.”

I hope, someday, the same might be said for each of us.

Eric Muhr