Friday, April 30, 2010

The trees of the field shall clap their hands

(Note: Happy Arbor Day!  I wanted to post a little earlier in the day to remind you in case you plan on planting a tree on arbor day.  I might get a chance to post something else later or on Sat, but here's an excerpt from a report I gave to the Fund For Theological Education, who gave me a grant when I started seminary.  It's not every day I sing the praises of a pharmaceutical company, but Lilly really has provided me a lot of opportunities in my education as a minister, including what I've gained from the FTE.)  

....In Wyoming, I had the opportunity to take time to connect with the outdoors.  Here I attended a workshop with Belden Lane, author of The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, and Landscapes of the Sacred, Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality.  At this workshop, the general theme of a landscape’s influence on our spiritual lives was explored.   Because one of the participants was a geologist, we also considered the timeframe and history of a landscape as a spiritual journey in itself.  In this glacial valley, sitting among petroglyphs that were expressions of mystical visions, I received a message from the Holy Spirit through the wind blowing through the trees.  This is the prayer with which I responded:
                        Fill us, o wind of God—Great Spirit of Transformation
The trees taste your presence and shout their thanks and praise.  In the whistling of their needles and limbs, they sway in a dance with you.  They display openness to your guidance.  Help us to be more like the trees in their wisdom.  Blow into our heads and refresh our minds, o mighty wind of God.  Stir the embers that reside in our hearts.  Fill our lungs like you fill the lungs of these pines.  As they give voice to your movement, we will also sing your praise.  As the trees move with your breath, unite the fire in our hearts with the newness of our ideas to make manifest in our lives a reflection of you.  Blow through us, Spirit.  Make us your tongues in this world, as you did on Pentecost.  Help us speak the same language with all creation so that we might have communion.  Lord you have written your vision in the interdependence of all things in nature, but we have attempted to escape that beautiful purpose for the rickety designs of our own greed fear and ignorance.  Lord, give us the voice of the tree. 

...At Sequoia National Park, my wife and I camped among the lodge pole pines that surround the “Giant Forest” of Sequoias at 6500 feet.  As we walked among these trees, which have a magnificence and gentleness that are unparalleled in creation, we learned several things about God’s intentions for creation.  Though the Sequoias sometimes grow too tall and massive to be supported by their own roots in a shallow three feet of soil on top of solid granite, the trees interlock their roots to support each other.  Though this fact does not make much sense to a scientific worldview of competition, it does show that God’s purpose for creation is for us to welcome our interdependence and not live outside the relationships that support us all.  As I sat among the mighty Sequoias, I read the thoughts of John Muir. 
Do behold the King in his glory, King Sequoia! Behold! Behold! seems all I can say.  Some time ago I left all for Sequoia and have been and am at his feet; fasting and praying for light, for is he not the greatest light in the woods, in the world?  Where are such columns of sunshine, tangible, accessible, terrestrialised? Well may I fast, not from bread, but from business, book-making, duty-going, and other trifles, and great is my reward already for the manly, treely sacrifice.  What giant truths since coming to Sequioia gigantea, what magnificent clusters of Sequoiac becauses. 
~Letter to Ezra Carr, 1872

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