Sunday, April 19, 2009

Slowing down the pace

In keeping with my recent decision to not work full time, I've been seeking ways to begin to slow down, and to listen better. I think I have rediscovered one of those ways.

My grandmother helped me plant my first garden of marigolds. We put the seeds into the ground, and watched them grow together. Her efforts turned me into a lover of the fruit of the earth. I've had gardens over the years, and have learned much from them. My biggest weakness with my gardens is becoming distracted with other good things, and forgetting to weed and cultivate.

Three years ago I had a myriad of pots around my deck boasting of parsley, sage, rosemary, and, of course, thyme. There were others as well, and I loved the container gardening. The weeding was easy, they were in my face with gentle aromas whenever I stepped out the door so I could not ignore them as easily. Additionally, I love using fresh herbs in cooking--my roasted vegetable pizza simply cannot do without the fresh basil to make the pesto sauce. Nevertheless, with working full time, and the many calls on my time outside of employment, they eventually and inevitably succumbed to drought, frost, and lack of loving care.

The empty pots have been looking at me sadly all winter. About a month ago I noticed life in the mint container. Brave mint--you simply cannot kill it! Then the Greek oregano (a member of the same family as mint) began to recover. On an impulse, I cleaned out their containers, and they began to thrive. The other pots looked more hopeful, and I remembered how peaceful and satisfying it is to pull weeds.

Last week my daughter-in-love's family were here from New England, and brought me a gardenia bush. Yesterday I planted it. Today, on the way home from the 7:30 a.m. service, I stopped at Lowe's, and liberated some herbs, tomatoes, and pepper plants. I rejoiced in the garden's sermon that had begun at church with the proclaiming of the Easter message of faith, hope, and love. My garden reminds me of the new beginning that the resurrection gives us; a picture of God's mercy poured out in one small corner of my world.

Susan Price

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sara Grace

[T]o know our true selves is to know we are loved by God beyond all measure.
--Thelma Hall, Too Deep for Words

Our second daughter, Sara Grace, was born yesterday (April 7) at 8:55 AM. At birth, she weighed 7 lb. 9 oz. and was 20 and 1/2 in. long. Labor was mercifully only six hours. Through delivery, Christine held a calm and focus which, on reflection, seems to me to come from a spiritual depth, and, of course, grace.

Some people say that "Only people who have never had children believe that we aren't born with sin." And I used to agree. The idea of being born "into sin" has had a number of acceptable meanings: that people are born with the "propensity" to sin, that they find themselves in a "fallen" world, that they are born into a culture from which they inherit the language of the false self. These similar but differing understandings have in common that they are trying to make sense of some passages in the New Testament and of the fact that this world we live in is indeed "fallen" as we humans never stop hurting each other. I think that such ideas can be helpful at times.

However, the idea of "original sin" put in one particular way--that people are born as actual sinners, that is, as having already done something wrong or having some spiritual wrongness about them or having already "merited" some kind of punishment--is dangerous because it can lead us away from realizing the central goodness of people.

Now that I have seen two children into the world, I would reverse the saying I used to adhere to and would now say, "Anyone who thinks people that are born as sinners has never held an infant!" This too is hyperbole, but useful, I think.

Infants are not mature, of course, and they do have some big spiritual problems in front of them. So I am not saying that I would want to be an infant or to be infantile. But infants can remind us of our own central holiness; they can remind us of the fact that the center of who we are is the spirit of God. To say this is to say that, ultimately, neither sin nor the propensity to sin can tarnish, on the eternal level, the absolute loving holiness and omnipresence of God. The truth-fact of grace is greater than the need for grace. That Sara Grace has no false self can remind us that our false selves are false in that they are not who we really are and, gracefully, they too will fall away in eternity.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Desert Experience

In the desert we must face ourselves, every aspect of our selves, our fears, temptations. We confront our own heart and our heart’s deepest desires, without any scapegoats, nothing hidden. In it we wrestle with the rebellious forces of our nature.

Yet in the desert one also encounters the call to divine encounter. In the desert we encounter our true state and must face it without blaming others or our past. We are invited to shape off all forms of idolatry and distraction and fully engage the divine reality. You enter into a deeper, more complete relationship with the transcendent realm, the presence of the boundless God whose grace is without limits. The desert is the call to go beyond oneself and be transfigured in the presence of the Holy One. The desert mothers and fathers did not go to the desert to prove a point but to prove themselves.

For us the desert signifies not a place but a way. We do not have to literally go to a desert—though we may chose to for a time. But on the spiritual level we do have to go through the desert. The desert is a necessary part of the spiritual journey. To try to avoid it would be to refuse the fullness of God’s call.

As most of us know, we usually do not have to seek the desert—the desert will seek us. Everyone goes through the desert in one way or another, really multiple times. The forms of desert experience may include failure, illness, breakdown, divorce, loss of loved ones—any or several of the traumas that life brings. We all suffer.

We will be tempted at times to try to escape or to distract ourselves with activity, food, addictive behaviors, work.

But accepting the utter loneliness and inner fearfulness of the desert experience is vital to deep and genuine spiritual growth. If we go through desert experiences involuntarily, they can crush us. But if we welcome them and seek God in them, we can be transformed. God desires not to deliver us from desert experiences, but to join us in them.


Blog Archive