Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lessons From White Buffalo

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day." Genesis 1:31

"There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you." Deuteronomy 12:7

I've been busy getting ready for the coming school year! I've been assembling everything we need for Abigail's year of fourth grade, and it's really been fun getting familiar with the curriculum and seeing just how much she is going to learn this year. Her focus this year is going to be American History up to the Civil War, and this means learning a lot about Native Americans. As I've been preparing myself and familiarizing myself with her curriculum, I've been reading the books that she will be reading, and one in particular, taught me something I have long suspected.

I have always thought that Native Americans are very spiritual people, and in the book Vostaas: White Buffalo's Story of Plains Indian Life, I learned exactly what the Indians take on God was when white men first came over- here is an excerpt from the book.

Worship of God, known to the Indians as the Great Spirit, was an everyday, common way of living. The early Plains Indians tried to live with God all the time. They believed God was in everything. All the earth was a holy place. Therefore, everything on the earth, under it, or above it, was sacred. They believed that they were always in the presence of God. All of the Plains Indians people prayed to God for His help in anything they dud, in every move they made. They believed God was merciful and that He loved His people. They sang songs to God in praise of Him. They carried out ceremonies and dances in His honor. They thanked Him every day. There was no Sunday on the Indian calendar of seasons. Every day was God's day.

Wow! He goes on to talk in the book about how when the preachers and missionaries came in, they worked very hard to try and get the Indians to attend church on Sundays and cease a lot of their own worship because it was strange to their way of thinking.

Here we are, nearly 2010, and a lot of the things I've been reading lately or studying have involved the art of being in God's presence more than just on Sunday. People here are talking about these things like they are new- like it's some new idea to spend time daily with God. And here I learn that thousands of years ago, the indigenous Native Americans were already doing that very thing- and were encouraged to stop!

I can't help but wonder what else we could learn from the old forms of Native American worship. We certainly know they danced in their worship, and that is a form of worship that is very slowly working it's way back into the church thankfully. I think about the Plains Indians of long ago, and I think I can imagine what it would be like to wake every single day thanking God for His beautiful creation. I get a glimpse of that life every year when we go camping, and I wake each morning smack dab in the middle of the wilderness.

As I go back and read that excerpt again, I wonder how life would be enhanced by applying some of that same spirituality today. What would it be like to spend every day believing that I am in the very presence of God. Because I am, you know. I don't just spend time with God on Sunday mornings, I know that God is present in my life always, but what about actually knowing that and focusing on that? Would that change anything? Would that change the way I spend my day? I think it might. I think that if I behaved each and every day as if God were present with me that I would be more conscious of wasting time. I'll be that there was no such thing as wasted time for the Native Americans. On the rare occasion that they got to sit and rest, I'll bet that they spent that time resting and in quiet reflection, reflecting on all that God had done for them.

I pray that the spirituality of the Native Americans, that spirit of being in God's Presence all the time has not been truly forgotten. Perhaps it lies dormant in some, but I pray that a great awakening takes place, and that people truly realize that we are all children of God. That we are to rejoice in all that God has blessed us with each and every day- and not just on the days we go to church. That, to me, sounds like a great life well worth living.

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