Moments of Awe and Wonder

I stood there, staring out a window from the quiet safety of my home. I watched the destructive chaos swirling just on the other side of that thin pane of glass separating myself from the ‘outside’ world. The wind fiercely tossed our trees to and fro with frightening ease. Rain and hail pounded away at the delicate flowers trying desperately to stand upright against this force. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled, shaking the glass in front of me as if an explosion had just rocked the neighborhood. Repeatedly, the lightning startled me – it was so very close and most certainly stretching downward for something to touch and connect with. There in the safety of my doorway, I gazed at the raw strength and fury of God’s creation unleashed.

An hour later, I drove down streets literally coated in leaves and partially blocked by downed trees. The nearby river had swelled beyond its banks engulfing yards, streets, and parking lots. The resulting destruction was clearly on display, even as the sun gently peeked out from behind menacing clouds to exhibit its rays. Meanwhile, a rainbow also appeared, stretching like a glorious painting across the canvass of a now brightening sky. Birds sang, cautiously giving the all clear signal while anxiously awaiting the sounds of other voices within their community. Some squirrels and birds were already assessing nests lost to tree damage and destruction. Some trees stood, now as only a portion of what they had previously been as a whole. In just a few stormy minutes, the landscape of the world around us had been drastically altered.

I have learned in ministry that the storms and chaos flowing in and out of our lives leave an indelible mark upon us. Sometimes I am left standing in the middle of the storm myself, being blown around by swirling winds and pelted by torrential downpours as all my efforts at control must be abandoned for simple survival mode. Other times I am allotted a chance to simply observe what is unfolding – even if from an admittedly very thin distance. I have even held the hand of a stranger after a storm has destroyed all they have ever known and worked for, or after one of the storms of life has torn their heart to pieces. In those moments, an unspoken unity and love shines its rays into unspeakable pain and darkness. In all these situations, I find myself forever changed by the encounter and left in awe of both the glorious power of nature, and the infinite fragility of life, in God’s creation. I pray never to lose the amazement I experience in the beauty of a rainbow. I pray never to lose the bewilderment I feel as I watch all the forces of our atmosphere loosed and free. I pray never to lose the emotion I feel as I hold the hand of a brother or sister in times of anxiety or immeasurable sadness. I pray that in all storms and in all silences and in all joy – I will always have the ability to feel that moment to its fullest regardless of its outcome. For I know that this is God’s world, and I am simply blessed to be afforded a place to stand, look around, and soak it all in. Thanks be to God! Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

A PASTOR’S IDENTITY

Simply believing in God and following rules has always felt far too shallow and far too easy for me. Instead, I have always sensed it is RELATIONSHIP that God seeks with each of us. I personally have what might be defined as a Contemplative Faith, meaning that I strive to live my daily life in an ongoing relationship with God and all of God’s children/creations. As a result, I cannot dismiss or divide or hate, because in doing so I would hurt and disappoint the God that I know and love as my Friend. Yes, I view God as my Friend and life-long companion. To sin in my eyes is not to fail at obedience to some rule, but rather to disappoint the heart of one I love – and who loves and forgives me in return. This relationship is all about love, not guilt. Relating to God forces me to see through the eyes of the Creator who intentionally and with purpose places all people and things here in the universe. Connecting with God makes me feel an appreciation and value for all life – because it is the work of my dear Friend’s soul. This is why I feel my Call to ministry so deeply.

In my heart, I have come to know relationship as the true meaning of life. (Ironic for someone who purports to be an introvert.) I live within the truth that we are here to love and connect and relate, for God placed every one of us here with a divine purpose. To truly love God means we must truly care for one another universally – not because it’s a rule, but more so because we care about how God feels and who God loves. The grace I feel comes from the knowledge that no one can be meaningless to God’s heart.

I see life as a blessing in that it is defined by relationship and connection. Thus, my life is measured more than anything else by the laughs, tears, and memories I share. I am never truly alone, as God is ever knocking at the door of each of our hearts – often through those around us. So this day, and every day, GO IN PEACE AND LOVE FULLY! AMEN!

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)