Posts Tagged stars

So…How Do You Heal? Rev. Susan Sparks: Madison Ave. Baptist Church: NYC

Among many things, I find healing in the stars. And specifically, the spectacular images from the James Webb telescope like the “Cartwheel Galaxy” (above) published just this week. Those images bring me perspective — a sense of belonging to something bigger than our stressful, angst-filled world.

The stars are our old ones, our wise ones, for we as human beings carry their genetic imprint. Joni Mitchell sang the famous lyrics “we are stardust,” and as it turns out, she’s right.
Literally.
Our human bodies are made of remnants of stars and massive explosions in the galaxies. Carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, and sulfur—most of the materials that we’re made of—come out of the star dust kicked off by those explosions and scattered across the universe. As Astrophysicist Karel Schrijver explained in National Geographic, “We have stuff in us as old as the universe.”

We have much to learn from the heavens. In fact, the stars actually share the secret to life. (Brace yourself—a liberal arts major is about to explain physics . . .)
There are basically two stages to the life of a star. The first stage is when a star is born. As gravity begins to pull gases towards a center core, the temperature begins to rise, and eventually, the density of the gases causes a nuclear reaction. It’s then that the star begins to shine, drawing energy toward the light, to its core, then radiating that light back out into the galaxy.

This can go on for billions of years until we come to the second stage, when the star’s center can no longer hold. Because the star has too little fuel left to maintain its core temperature, its light goes out and it collapses under its own weight, drawing everything around it into a dark abyss.

Tell me that doesn’t sound familiar. Sometimes we draw our energy toward the light and reflect its warmth to all around us. Other times, we have lost all fuel; our light goes out and we collapse, emotionally or otherwise, into a dark abyss.

These days, it’s easy to find ourselves in that abyss. And like the stars, the only thing between a heart that draws in the light and a heart that collapses into a black hole is a strong center that can hold.

Sadly, we tend to put all kinds of crazy things at our center that weaken our core, such as ego, anger, status, stuff, and other people. Inevitably, there comes a time when these things can’t hold anymore. The latch on your designer purse will eventually break. Human beings let us down. Botox lasts for only three months (or so I’ve heard). Like a dying star, we begin to collapse into the darkness, and our light goes out.

Which brings us to the secret of life—we must find a center that will hold.

We need look no further than the scriptures to locate that strong center. Consider Isaiah 40:31:“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles.”

What do you have at the center of your life?

Is it strong enough to hold you through the good times and the bad?

If your light is starting to go out, get a little starstruck. Find a place where you can look up into the heavens. Or just Google “Webb telescope” and enjoy the images of those incredible galaxies. Then, remember the creator of those stars — the ultimate center that can hold. It is through that true center that you, too, can hold strong in the hardest times, radiating light and warmth to all creation.

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Hope – Suny Side Up – Rev. Susan Sparls

Here’s the thing that I hate about living in New York City: you can’t see the stars. Oh sure, you can watch movie stars sip their lattes in the hipster restaurants in Brooklyn. You can observe television stars through the glass walls of the talk show studios near Rockefeller Center. And you can see the Broadway stars on . . . well, Broadway.

But I’m talking about real stars. The kind that gleam from the sky. Sadly, those stars are hidden by the lights shining from the city. That’s why every once in a while, I have to leave the Big Apple and head to a place where I can actually see the stars. I need remind myself that they are still there.

Last week, I did just that in Dubois, Wyoming. There, at a spiritual retreat center named Ring Lake Ranch, the night sky exploded with more stars than I could ever have imagined. Pulsing overhead were constellations and shooting stars and the dazzling Milky Way that seemed to leap out of the sky in three dimensions.

There’s something about looking up at a sky full of stars that transports us past our tiny, limited worldview. To see the stars on the darkest night brings a sense of hope. In fact, I think finding hope is just like trying to find the stars in New York City.

Sometimes in life, hope seems so near and clear to us, like the stars in a Wyoming sky. But then, sometimes hope feels more like the night sky in New York City where the celestial light is dimmed. During those dark times, we must have faith that hope still exists, even though we can’t see it or feel it. It’s as Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

A few years ago, a dear friend of ours, Ed Charles, passed away. Baseball fans may remember Ed as a member of the 1969 World Champion Mets and one of the first black players in the major leagues. Ed used to tell the story of when Jackie Robinson came to Daytona Beach where he grew up. Ed and his friends sat in the segregated section of the park and watched Jackie play, and after the game was over, they followed Jackie to the train station, running down the tracks and listening for the sounds of that train as far as they could. When they couldn’t hear the train any longer, they put their ears to the track so they could feel the vibrations.

That train carrying Jackie Robinson gave Ed hope, and he held on to that hope as long as he could. We, too, must hold on to hope. And when we can’t see the light of hope anymore, then we must listen for it. And when we can’t hear it, then in faith we must hold on to the memory of it through prayer, meditation, or scriptures such as “Do not fear, for I am with you,do not be afraid, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10).

Hope is always in our hearts. It may not seem like it, for the world tries its best to beat hope out of us, but the operative word is “tries.” We might have to dig, excavate, search, and wait for it, but hope is there—and if we have faith, we’ll find it. It’s just like living in New York City where even though you can’t see the stars, you know in your heart they’re still there—watching over us, shining down on us, and lighting our way.

This piece was also featured as a nationally syndicated column with GateHouse Media.
 

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