From the Psalms…”Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, In the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, The city of the great King.”
I often wonder how “city folk” understand eco-spirituality when their lives are filled with constant noise and movement, concrete and metal, haze and light? How do they see the moon amongst the streetlights, the stars amongst the glow of the city? How do they smell spring with the smog and hear the birds amongst the din of traffic?
I’ve lived in two cities, Philadelphia and Hartford, and I remember how it felt to get a glimpse of a sunset or to hear a robin chirp. My heartbeat would quicken, and I would stop whatever I was doing to take it in. And I would wonder, “How do people live their whole lives in cities?” The Old Testament Scriptures speaks of cities as being “fortified” and a place of being “established.” In the beginning God might have created the Garden of Eden, but it didn’t take long for humankind to put up a gate and lay claim to the property rights. Zion is referred to as the “City of God.” One of my favorite hymns is “Marching to Zion,” where all the righteous march to the City of God. I’d rather be sitting in a field watching the moon rise through the trees or sitting along the creek bank listening to the rushing water and taking in the wonder of the mountains.
I realize that my opinion sounds like judgement against the city folks, but it is more of a curiosity about how we managed to get from a garden of perfection to a world of crisis. How much of that has to do with humankind’s need for fortification and establishment? And at what cost? This semester I am enrolled in “Environmental Ethics” and part of the requirement for that class is to sit and observe my neighborhood. I am thankful that my neighborhood is fortified with trees, deer, turkey and moose. I am thankful that my establishment allows for the free movement of friends, family and visitors. And while I sit and observe what I have around me, I cannot help but wonder, is this not the original intention for the City of God?
“The stillness within will never be greater than the stillness with-out.”
What a wonderful nudge to sit with as I watch the sun remain in the sky for just a few more minutes today than yesterday…and the day before that…and the day before that…
It is such a relief when I realize that the sun has hung in the sky for a little longer today. A few more minutes to enjoy the stillness within my soul, which in turn will give me the ability to embrace the stillness on the outside. To embrace it and to create it.
Of course, the idea of creating stillness on the outside of our lives begs the question, “Can we ever be completely still?” It runs along the idea of total self-sufficiency. Depending on the level of “off the grid” that one would seek to live, we are challenged to ever be fully self-sufficient. Just having a vehicle at our disposal requires some kind of dependence on others. Having access to communication, emergency services also requires even the mountainous of mountain people to reach out to society.
The same is true for the stillness that lies “with-out” as the Spirit put it. While we walk (or ski or snowshoe) in the woods we may be away from the rumbles of vehicles, the ringing and dinging of phones, the ticking and tocking of clocks, we are still in the midst of a natural world that is completely full of the peaceful sounds of…stillness.
That stillness in the natural world…water rushing over rocks, leaves falling from trees, limbs swaying in the wind…those are the sounds of the Spirit with-out. And THAT stillness…THAT stillness can only be realized when the stillness within is just that…still.
As the sun hangs in the sky just a little longer, the temptation to fill that time with busy-ness, errands, the “one more thing” of the day is a temptation that in and of itself needs to be…stilled.
Rather than filling those extra hours of sunlight with extra “things” on my calendar, I plan to fill them with the sounds of stillness…and a deeper relationship with the sounds of the stillness “with-out.”
From a reading of Romans, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
There’s something about waiting for the snow. As I see photos being shared on Facebook from my friends and family back east, getting hammered by yet another typical Western New York snowstorm, I find myself gazing wistfully at the mountain waiting for the snow fog to cover her peak and work its way down Broadway. As I write this on Thursday morning, the peak is clear…but it’s coming…I can feel it…
I know that I need to prepare a little better for the snow that’s on its way. I need to clear the rest of the ice from December’s snow off my back walk. I need to break up what is left of the ice on my berm so that I don’t slip and fall on this next round. And I need to make sure that there’s enough salt and sand on hand for when I need it. I also know that I need to stock my pantry just in case it’s a little too slippery to make it to the store. All that…for a little snow that will be melted within a week.
So what is it about the snow that I desire? The way that it covers up everything and wipes the slate clean. All of the gray snow, the sharp edges of the ice, the sand covered berms, the brown grass that has peaked out from under the left-over snow from December. Everything will be fresh again.
Isn’t that how God’ grace works? It makes everything fresh again. Every morning, every moment. Whether I have mucked things up with trying too hard or not trying hard enough; whether I have glossed over something too quickly or spent so much time on something that other things have gone undone; whether I have not spent enough heart-time on heart -things and too much time brain-time on brain-things…God’s grace says, “Here…let’s cover all of that with my unconditional love and full acceptance…and try again…”
And I know that once that new snow comes today and tomorrow it will not last. Within a week there will once again be sandy berms, brown grass, icy sidewalks and an empty larder. But it’s Montana…and just like God’s grace…there will be more snow…and another opportunity to start fresh…again.
Red Lodge Community Church - A place where Spirit and so much more happens!
308 S. Broadway
Red Lodge, Montana