Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

ELECTED SILENCE

Elected silence sing to me,
and beat upon my whorle’d ear;
pipe me to pastures still and be
the music that I care to hear;
~Gerard Manley Hopkins [i]
Do yourself a favor. Just for fun, turn off the radio, the television, the CD player, the DVD player, the computer, the iPod, the MP3 player, the cell phone and any other sound making device. On this day, choose silence.
Once those pesky external distractions have been removed, try shutting down some of those internal voices, the songs and sounds clamoring for your attention. Elect silence. Listen. Listen to the song of silence. The rhythm of world noise beats upon our ears, incessantly filling our souls with the demands, values, philosophies and clamor of this temporal realm. Ever thought of it? Our ears are shaped like little satellite dishes, pressed against either side of our head. They are wired to pick up signals of the world beat. 360 degrees surround sound, from every possible direction, noise beams constantly into our soul.
Deep within each one of us is hidden a control room with the coordinates we choose to focus those two receivers, our ears. There in the soul’s control room, we can select which signals will fill our lives. As we tune into the song of elected silence, we allow ourselves to be transported to a place of refreshment, even in the busiest of environments. Pipe me to pastures still.
We heard the sound of the highland pipes echoing across the fields, ascending the steep slopes to enchant our ears as we walked along the high promontory of Stirling Castle, Scotland. That classic Celtic sound transported my soul to a place of quiet delight where I could lie down and chew my cud like a contented sheep.
Silence transports us to another space, to another time, to that inner realm beneath time and space where our soul can repose. Perhaps we are afraid, afraid of silence. If we remain silent long enough, we may discover the barrenness within. We may find ourselves admitting to superficiality or to addiction to noise. To give admittance to silence may be an invitation to unveil the broken and disjointed pieces that make up our inner world. Better to drown out this inner uncomfortable reality with an outer cacophony of noise.
Choose silence. The music that I care to hear. Once you’ve tasted a morsel of that sweet food for the soul, you will find you yearn for more. The first strains of that quiet song continue to beckon, calling us to return. When we heed this call, we find lives beginning to be attuned to the inner song of silence. There comes a time for all those who have allowed their lives to enjoy silence, that we discover it was not we who chose silence but rather the other way round. The silence of the cosmos has been waiting for us. That canopy of stars overhead nightly reminds us of the One who brought forth the galaxies while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy.[ii]

[i] Gerard Manley Hopkins, Poems and Prose, (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1963), 5.
[ii] Job 38:7.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

THE SAINT OF TIDES

Good and gracious God Grant to our eyes wide horizons Increase our vision to see Beyond the obvious and into the depths Let us walk ways that are new Where we do not know the destination Let us journey in joy and in hope.[i]

In the year 635, King Oswald of England invited Aidan, an Irish monk from Iona, Scotland, to come teach his people the way of God’s love. The king offered Aidan a gift, the choice of any piece of land in the kingdom of Northumbria for the site of his monastery. Aidan chose Lindisfarne, a tidal island two miles offshore in northeast England near the border of Scotland. Twice a day, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne shuts herself off from the mainland as the ocean tides swell, covering the mudflats and causeway. 

 
Today, the two mile long paved road leading over to Lindisfarne is still covered by high tides twice a day. Warning signs caution drivers to check the tide tables before crossing. All over the village on the isle, shops post the tide tables to remind people to observe the time and keep from being stranded. 
On this tidal island, in 635, Aidan built a monastery, the first buildings ever built on the island. From that location, he brought the love of God to the people of Oswald’s kingdom through acts of kindness, care for the poor and humble service to the people of the kingdom. The people of Northumbria loved Aidan and his small band of monks from the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne. In Aidan and his followers, they saw the love of God made visible through practical acts of compassion for the needy.
In this simple story from the distant past lies hidden a present wonder. Low tide reveals it. Low tide. Twice a day, by action of the gravitational pull of the moon upon the sea, the waters recede from the coastlands, exposing marine life and treasures usually buried in saltwater. Only at low tide can a beachcomber or a pilgrim walk over to the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne to discover these wonders.
Aidan chose well. He knew something basic about the human soul. Twice a day, when we are at low ebb, out of energy, run down, washed out, only then can we pass over to find our soul’s true rest. We climb a small hill on the eastern edge of Lindisfarne, sit down in the grass and soak in the extraordinary beauty of the island of light, looking out across the North Sea at the vastness and wonder of the sparkling waters. The next time you are feeling out of gas, run down, dried up, weary of life, step off the mainland, and journey across the mudflats at the low tide of your soul, make a pilgrimage over to the otherside, to the Holy Isle where you can sit in the grass, look out over the vastness of the ocean, and find refreshment for your soul.

[i] David Adam, “Wide Horizons”, from Island of Light (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), 23. David Adam is Vicar of Lindisfarne and author of many books on Celtic spirituality.

Monday, March 1, 2010

COMPOST HAPPENS

Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed. . . . other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times. ~Mark 4:3,8

There’s an ongoing miracle happening in my backyard. I still can’t figure out how it happens. I put garbage into a garbage can. Six months later, I open the can and dump out good soil. Compost happens. All we do as a family is collect organic matter from our kitchen, stuff we’d normally put down the garbage disposal or throw out in the trash. All this organic matter gets collected in plastic containers in our kitchen. Once those are full, we dump them into bigger containers on our back porch. Once those bigger containers are full, we take them forty steps to the corner of our forested yard and dump them into the black compost cans.


How to make your own home compost center:
1) Get a plastic garbage can with a lid.
2) Drill holes in the can to allow air and moisture in, as well as to welcome the earthworms.
3) Place this can in a shady spot in your yard, making sure to secure the lid with a bungey cord or rope to keep racoons and other critters.
4) Place leaves and small sticks into the bottom to allow the first layer to breathe.
5) Begin dumping your kitchen organic matter into your compost can. Include any veggie throw away items, such as rinds, peelings, stems, eggshells, and such.
6) Do not put nutshells, cherry pits, apricot pits, avocado seeds, or bones in your compost. Also, do not include any animal product such as meat, fats or skin.
7) Every few months, turn the mixture with a shovel.
8) If you live in a dry climate, you might want to water down the mix now and again.
9) Some people will add lime or other organic composting mix products to help the process. I leave it up to God’s good processes of nature.
10) After about six to nine months, you’ll have some good soil as mentioned by Jesus in the parable of the sower.


Compost happens. In our lives, we get hit with various kinds of garbage, throw away bits and pieces, and unpleasant stuff that just comes along. What we choose to do with all this stuff can make all the difference in how we live each day. Try putting all the garbage that comes along into your spiritual compost can. Throw all that smelly garbage into the pit. Put a lid on it. Let God transform it. God works miracles by turning our fears, troubles, sufferings, sins, stupidities, and disappointments into good soil. Holy composting! 
Every now and again, we are wise to go open that smelly lid and repent of the stuff we’ve caused to others, repent of the stupid things we’ve said or done, repent of the choices we’ve made. Repenting is merely turning over the compost pile and allowing God to continue working out his holy miracle. After time, God heals and transforms our dark, smelly lives into good soil, soil he’s making ready to receive the seed of the Word of God, intended to be planted into our lives to make us and all around us more fruitful.