1. Basic Understanding God is Not

Nikos Kazantzakis “We struggle to make Spirit visible, to give it a face, to encase it in words, in allegories and thoughts and incantations, that it may not escape us.  But it cannot be contained…”

     “I prayed for God to not take away my grandmother and she died,” a grieving Native youth says.”What is God if he can’t help us?”

     When someone is grieving, it is not the time to state theological beliefs. It is the time to be present and acknowledge the pain of loss. It is the time to let cries of anguish be heard.

     After this encounter, some of the young adults met me to try to understand this whole God thing. So we went over the basics again.

     I begin. “If you start with ‘God is…’ you buy into the assumption that you can put God in a box. God cannot be defined with abstractions like God is love or anything else. So we use metaphors and symbols that point to but do not confine that which we experience as God. Sometimes we talk about the activity of God or our response to God.”

     I continue. “It is easier to say what God is not. God is not Santa Claus, a fix-it God, a supply depot, a drive through God that gives you what you order.  All of these images of God assume a super human god who can be manipulated in getting us what we want.”

     “When we experience the God who is God, the center of our being, the call to something more, we are drawn to wholeness, to a radical yes and no that makes us face what is given, to a profound response beyond the superficial, and to choices that set us free.”

     We experience God in the face of someone suffering, in the voice of someone who speaks to us hard core, in the touch of someone who cares for us, and in the awesomeness of holy moments.

     The Presence of God is an unforgettable experience when we respond to something that has entered our everyday situation and raises it to something eternal, wondrous, profound and indescribable.

     It goes like this:  We get out of the car and see someone getting food out of a trash bin. Unexpectedly we are moved to compassion and our own problems don’t seem so large. What is ugly is transformed into beautiful. What is superficial becomes profound. What has been confusing has become clear. And it doesn’t come from us. It enters our time and raises the ordinary to eternal significance. The Holy meets us. And it happens all the time. More, if we are awake to it.

     Our God is not a fix it God, waiting above us to swoop in and rescue us. It is that wholeness that comes to us when we allow ourselves to see through the ordinary to the Holy.”

     This is too much to absorb at one time so we print this and study the parts that make sense. Several weeks later, one of the youth says “So if it returns me to wholeness and takes me to a deep place, it is God acting?”

     In relief I say “yes, that is the way God comes to me.”

     “It makes more sense to me if I talk about the way God comes to me rather than beliefs about God, says a Native young adult. “I know when the Holy is around. I don’t have to pretend I’m someone I’m not.”

In faith,




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