Leaf and Cloud

This morning I woke up to catch earth and sky in a misty embrace. Little Mountain lay under a gossamer sheet. The Pacific Northwest coast is a place where leaf and cloud are often in intimate relation, resulting in verdant green and impossible flowers. Only in the tropics have I seen a more fluid communion.

Teilhard de Chardin, paleontologist, scientist, philosopher and theologian, believed creation itself expresses the divine, and evolution is the divine process of divinization of all things. Love, he taught, is the force that draws things together for mutual transformation and generation. Love is the power behind the evolving creation.

The other day I was talking with a friend who expressed dissatisfaction with the coming “new normal.” The “old normal” was good enough and he didn’t want it to change. The old order had been good to him, clearly, and he didn’t have any desire to give it up. I suggested that if the new normal resulted in a more unified society, it would be good. If the evolving scene of the pandemic could push us toward greater love, then perhaps Chardin was onto something.

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Audacious Spring,

Dressing the world in fire

Of sunlight and earth born,

And unbounded joy!

Photo credits:  Paul Moore

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Between and Betwixt

Fr. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest and monk who leads the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM.  This is from his daily meditation today. I share it with you all because I think it is especially poignant.

The Liminal Paradox
Wednesday,  April 29, 2020

Sheryl Fullerton, an editor and author with whom I have worked for many years, received a cancer diagnosis two years ago which required a difficult surgery. Like many individuals who are on earnest spiritual journeys, she allowed the painful and challenging experience to transform and guide her to greater wisdom.

When we find ourselves in liminal space, does it matter whether we are pushed or whether we jump? Either way, we are not where or what we were before, nor do we know how or where we will land in our new reality. We are, as the anthropologist Victor Turner (1920–1983) wrote, betwixt and between. In that space—which is mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual—we are destabilized, disoriented. The old touchstones, habits, and comforts are now past, the future unknown. We only wish such a time to be over. We may be impatient to pass through it quickly, with as little distress as possible, even though that is not likely. . . .

But what if we can choose to experience this liminal space and time, this uncomfortable now, as . . . a place and state of creativity, of construction and deconstruction, choice and transformation[?] I wonder whether it is, then, also the realm of the Holy Spirit, our comforter, who does not take away the vastness and possibility of this opened-up threshold time, but invites us to lay down our fears and discomfort to see what else is there, hard as that may be. . . .

One transformation in this liminal time of cancer treatment and recovery was my recognition that the staggering vulnerability I was experiencing was not weakness, not shameful, but the source of what would allow me to survive and, eventually, to thrive. I allowed others to see me—not just my broken, lopsided face, but also my pain, sorrow, disappointment, and discouragement, as well as my gratitude, resilience, joy, and recovery. . . .

Like Jonah in the belly of the sea monster, we are led where we do not want to go—not once, but many times in our lives. Dwelling in unsettling liminal space, whether we are pushed or we jump, we are led to draw on resources and possibilities we may not have tapped before. In the unknown space between here and there, younger and older, past and future, life happens. And, if we attend, we can feel the Holy Spirit moving with us in a way that we may not be aware of in more settled times. In liminal time and space, we can learn to let reality—even in its darkness—be our teacher, rather than living in the illusion that we are creating it on our own. We can enter into the liminal paradox: a disturbing time and space that not only breaks us down, but also offers us the choice to live in it with fierce aliveness, freedom, sacredness, companionship, and awareness of Presence.

Gateway to Action & Contemplation:
What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me? What sensations do I notice in my body? What is mine to do?

Prayer for Our Community:
O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.

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Happy Audacity

Red AzaleaThe Red Azalea bush at the foot of our drive is in full color (see picture.)  It’s hard to find the green under all the flowers.  Flowers are reproductive.  They require intimate communication to produce fruit seed.  Flowers have no respect for social distancing.  Neither do the squirrel that, until I doubled the depth of the mulch, was digging up and eating our new tulip bulbs, leaving the leavings audaciously on the mulch at the base of a tree!

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin identified the force that brings beings together as the force of love, and that if we ever learned how to harness the power of love humanity would have discovered fire for the second time.  Apparently azaleas and squirrels are good at loving! I would suggest that the difficulty of social distancing lies precisely in this deep, gut desire to overcome distance.

The yearning that is at the root of our collective pain is love.  The obedience to the distancing orders, even as they are being relaxed, is an expression of love willing to suffer for that which is loved. Greater love has no one than this, to give up one’s life for one’s friend.

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Clouds and Sun

This morning Little Mountain, a glacial erratic the size of a large neighborhood just south of our house, wore a wide beret of white that pulled itself down over her green, leafy hair and then raised itself teasingly again, tipping the day.  By now, the sun has forced her to put her hat away.  Now the slow greening of the Alders can quicken against the dark evergreen.  And we drift into another hundred-day blur.  What was the meme?

Remember, today is March 97th.

The fog is not just on the mountain.

I am not one protesting the lock-down.  I am ready and willing to suspend my liberties for a season to save lives.  I hurt with those whose incomes have melted away, and I stand ready to help, because I think a quick reopening of the economy is to have one’s head in the clouds; to have one’s eyes fogged to the stories from Europe and just now emerging in Latin America.  I will wear my face-mask as a badge of social conscience.  (Besides, it’s camo and it’s cool!)  This, too, shall pass.

I will let the sun force me out of my hat and into the light of day.

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Spring walks leisurely through this land.  The first blushes came in late February, and now, almost two months later, things are in full flush.  Blooms are everywhere, leaves are young and half-formed.  The early ones are fading, and the late ones still await.  Spring walks leisurely through this land.

It is a good time to walk leisurely.  Most of us have time on our hands we didn’t before.  Most of us are forced into quiet.  It is as useless to fret about it as it is to try to worry a bud into full blossom.  You can’t force this COVID thing away any more than you can force your yard-tree into full leaf.

I wish I had faith to pray that when this is all over (whenever that really is,) that we will have learned to walk leisurely through life, and not return too quickly to the hectic heartburn of what we would like to call “normal.”  All I can muster is a want-to, a “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief,” and a desire to practice now so at least I won’t forget.

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New Normal

Everybody is talking about the new normal. The coronavirus may be novel, but the isolation isn’t anymore, whether or not one liked it at the beginning. “Stir-crazy” is the new normal. But such it has to be. China let down its guard just a bit too soon and is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases again. Only the President seems to be holding his breath about when this is really going to be “over.” The actual date is impossible to pin down, even as the official date keeps receding into the future. Nobody is expecting the May 4th date to hold.

But the new normal is driving us to what human beings are so good at—creative solutions to the problem. We are figuring out ways to make money in spite of the social distancing. We are figuring out ways to stay connected when we can’t stand next to one another. We are taking time for relationships we didn’t tend before. We are finding common ground when we had no reason to before. There are parts of the new normal I hope we don’t lose once we’re free to mingle once again, but that is going to take being in lockdown long enough that the new becomes the expected order rather than the unhealthy ruts of the past.

You say you can’t really ever go home again. New normals are constantly presenting themselves. As a Christian, the principle of change is at the core of my faith-system. The old order of death, abuse, division and egotism, inequality and hatred is nailed to the Cross, and a new way of being human is presented, one rooted in self-giving love.

Each new normal is a practice run at this Great Work.

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