Category: Solitude


I can remember being pretty little–four, five maybe. Digging my fingers into the dirt in my mother’s garden, my sisters pudgy hands playing right next to mine, her face (and likely mine as well) covered in streaks of mud. We “helped”, you know. Helped with the planting, helped with the weeding, with the harvest.

In those days, the farm was about 40 acres of horses, steers, cotton, and alfalfa with a little garden patch. As multi-generational agriculturists, my family was somewhat offended by the idea of Earth Day. In our world, where the land and the animals were a sacred trust, every day was earth day.

People who live in cities think they know more about how to protect the world than farmers and I will admit that the two or three corporate farms in America are not really doing their part. But the real farmers and ranchers, the men and women I grew up with, protect the earth from you every day.

Did you know that agriculture is truly the green buffer between the city and the wild? I mean, bless you, if you are a city-dweller, for trying to do more–for recycling, reducing your carbon footprint, buying locally, etc. But look out there and tell me that if the city ended at the edge of wilderness, and not in agricultural land (as most cities do), that you would be able to better protect the wilderness from yourselves?

Instead of having to worry about it, you have a buffer zone cared for by thousands of people who love the land in a way you can never imagine. You can argue if you haven’t been there, but I can tell you that the farmer and rancher loves the land like a family member. Don’t talk Monsanto to me–talk about the folks whose children have dug their hands into the black soil and eaten the produce from that same soil. Talk about the people who get up with the chickens every morning to make sure you have food on your table. Talk about the new farmers who are leaving the city for the truly better life in the country, many with absolutely no idea that the endeavor is as heartbreakingly difficult as it is heartily worthwhile.

Talk to me about the G.B. Olivers who, long before any study proved it to be a good practice, methodically rotated his cattle from pasture to pasture for the good of the grass. Talk to me about the Willie Koenigs (and other multi-generational farmers) making material changes to reduce water usage in their irrigation and packing procedures. Talk to me about the Tom Spaldings, creating alternatives to pesticides by breeding good insects–all without government influence or interference.

(Yes, you’re right–the government has stepped in to make some improvements in these areas. But don’t forget that it was the government who originally gave us things like pesticides–and who convinced the farmers that they were safe!)

So have a very happy Earth Day! Re-examine your priorities in light of what you can do in your life, be it country or city, to protect the earth. Have a happy Earth Day, but never forget that for about 2% of the population of this country (the two per cent that keeps you clothed and fed), every day is earth day.

 

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“In the essence, centering prayer is almost idiot-proof.” The conferees titter, but Cynthia explains. It is an “inner gesture”, letting God know that you are open to any message.

“If you catch yourself thinking, you let the thought go,” she says. It is a beautiful practice of letting go! What a lesson for me!

This type of prayer can help us recognize what we need to let go of in our “return to God.” As the centering prayer movement has taken off within the Catholic church, it seems to open a whole new way of thinking about things–not what people think, but how they think. It creates a capacity for “non-dual thinking”, embracing the both/and rather than the either/or. Sounds like a conversation we’ve been having on Facebook recently.

Apparently there is data on why this sort of meditation works this way: how we respond initially to a stimulus in the outer world is tied to which part of our brain reacts. In general, this is the reptilian brain, the deepest and oldest part of our brain. This is where we get violence and dualism.

However, if the brain is trained to open and soften, the neocortex gets involved much earlier in the stimulus-response process. Good stuff. (Is it possible to force violent people to practice centering meditation? That probably wouldn’t work; or at least it would be against the intention of prayerful contemplation.)

To be able to listen “through the still and open heart”–what a beautiful image! I am excited to practice this more. Cynthia compares the inner reality created by this practice to Jesus’ term “the kingdom of heaven”.

I’m not going to take the time/space here to discuss the historical nature of this meditative practice–nor am I going to get too much deeper into the issues of reality (spiritual sight of things “unseen”). But I welcome an opportunity to center. I’ll let you know what happens.

Bringing Art to the Church

So the conversation after the MONOTATION workshop (check out the cool new pix being added every day) was whether art could be better incorporated into a worship service and if so, how. I have lots of ideas on this topic beginning with the resounding “Yes, art can be incorporated.” As to the ‘how,’ well, it’s a process.

I don’t really want to dwell on the process, even though I have had years to think about and practice it. What I want to do is offer reflections on every day worship, provide some teaching opportunities, and maybe create a library of practical ideas that can be implemented in services or cohort meetings or gatherings or conferences with a minimal amount of effort. I understand how important that is–simplicity of ideas always makes them easier to implement. And a busy worship leader might want to do more than music, but where will the time come from? As my good friend and mentor Ken Green says, “Music isn’t magic.”

Instead of trying to redesign worship every week or squeeze something in to an event that might not otherwise fit, a first step might be to find ways to experience other art forms in our own lives. By other, I mean “other than music.” We can tend to focus so much energy on our music that we forget that we love to visit museums or pull out our cameras.

This is why I took on hosting a MONOTATION workshop. I’m no photographer (just take a look at the two sad little pictures I’ve posted on the community site and you’ll agree!). But getting out of the house with my camera and looking at the world around me with a different perspective was immensely rewarding.

So for this week I challenged myself with taking some pictures, and next week maybe I will visit the Episcopal church again to soak in the liturgy (which is very artistic to my mind) and perhaps the week after that I will LISTEN to carolers sing (instead of insisting on being a caroler myself). I want to write, I want to paint, I want to create a computer game. And if I can’t be a part of the creation of some new art, then I should be still and allow someone else’s art to inspire and uplift me.

And in that activity or passivity, I will look for the worship opportunities that are all around me.