Soul Rain ... Kelli Sorg

a little rain refreshes the soul

Tag: Kentucky (page 1 of 2)

Clearing the mist #asburyu #kentucky

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As I sit here at the Asbury University Equine Program barn this morning, I can see Harold mowing hay way over in the far field.  He says it’s his favorite thing to do even though the college powers that be would rather him spend his time in more administrative ways. That’s a common theme with pastors, too. You have no idea how many of them love to cut the grass. In a life full of unresolved stress, tension and grief, when you look back over a freshly cut lawn, you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

It’s still early enough that the mist is still hanging heavy over the river. The palisades are still covered with trees and green leaves so the path of the river isn’t as easy to see as it is in other seasons. Somehow the mist gets caught in the valley formed by the river and you can see its bending and twisting all the way to the horizon, where it bends and twists on itself and finally moves away behind a hillside.

Atlas, the big German Shepherd-Husky mix, just came and settled down at my feet with a sigh. I would guess that all he has to complain about is that the cats ate all their breakfast before he could finish it off for them. Across the pastures, the horses are all moving slowly toward the gates. It’s breakfast time for them, too.

It seems idyllic here. This farm cared for with love and respect, these horses and college students made sacred in their ordinary lives, even the land itself seems to be tilted upward along the edges, cupped in the palm of God’s hand. And yet, outside the boundaries of these stone walls, gravel roads and painted fences, the world moves quickly on. Politics, economics, cultural tension, financial woes, poverty, war and disease are having their field day, too. Just because we can’t hear the clamor from here doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

So how do we live in this world as ‘resident aliens’ (Hauerwas and Willimon), as if ‘this world is not my home/ I’m just a-passing through,’ like the old song says? Or as Jesus prays in John 17:14-15, how do we live in this world and not be of it?  How are we to be transformed (Romans 12:1-2) into people who are conformed to Christ instead of shaped by hurt, grief and woundedness?

There are three options. One, pull the farm gate shut permanently, lock ourselves in and ignore everything else. Two, go to the other extreme, lock the farm gate shut permanently but with us on the other side of it, living our lives as if this sanctuary didn’t exist or never existed. There has to be a third way, just as there is a third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. It is in considering the Holy Spirit, the real-time action of God at work in the world, that we can come to terms with the delicate balance between embrace and exclusion (Volf).

The key, I think is to understand that life is a both/and proposition, not an either/or choice. We have to learn to hold things lightly and to accept what we’re given.  What’s happening around me right now is a great example. It’s a beautiful, cool, September morning in the rolling hills of Kentucky bluegrass country. The sky is that cloudless Kentucky blue, clear and clean. The day gets started slowly around here so there is time to water the roses and write in my journal in the stillness of birdsong and the quiet that comes ‘dripping slow.’ But about 15 minutes ago, as I contemplated the mist on the river, someone decided to use the tractor for some chore around the other side of the barn from where I’m sitting. It’s loud, intrusive and well, irritating.

Yet, just as I write this, David, the farm manager comes around the other side of the barn on the tractor and I realize he is dragging the arena surfaces for today, so they’ll be flat, even and ready for all the folks that will come here to ride and experience a little of God’s creation. That’s what we’re here for – to connect God the Creator with his creation – human, equine, canine or feline. There are certain things that have to be done at certain times. Learning to accept those divine rhythms is a discipline that serves us well in places where we don’t have any control over the brokenness and just plain evil that exists in the world around us. That’s the point of spiritual formation or spiritual discipline. It’s not to make us miserable at God’s random whim. Through creation and creatures, God gently teaches us that He is God and we are not. That there is a rhythm, a hierarchy and a pattern, if we’ll sit still long enough to listen and begin to understand.

That hierarchical structure doesn’t take away from the experience of peace. It’s not an excuse for us to lord our human power over each other or the rest of creation in violent, degrading ways. In the time it’s taken me to finish these paragraphs, David has finished with the tractor and all is quiet again. I could have packed up my stuff and gone away when the tractor started up. By waiting (never an easy task), the sense of serenity has been restored. Someone else knew what had to be done (prepping the arenas) and i didn’t stomp off mad about something I couldn’t control.

So what are the lessons from this morning’s meditation?

  • God is God and I am not. (thank heavens)
  • Hold experiences and people lightly. As my grandmother Barkley would say: this too shall pass.
  • Being controlled by strong emotions and indulging our feelings, positive or negative, means that we make quick, rash decisions that leave us hungover and ill-prepared for the next right thing.

The mist has burned away now. The landscape has taken on its daytime look; horses are being led or ridden in for a day’s work; arenas are prepped and ready, planting beds watered, barns and classrooms swept and straightened. Physical and facility preparations have been made. So too must we prepare our hearts and spirits by asking for grace, expecting God to show up and saying thanks when we reflect on the gifts we have been given – gifts of patience, understanding, grace and freedom.

Baffled? #nccumc #umclead

Kentucky Horses

Kentucky Horses

FarmPond2002One of my favorite Kentucky authors….

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we may have come to our main work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

-Wendell Berry

My Place in the Scheme of Things

FarmPond2002

 Thomas Merton’s Hermitage at The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, Kentucky

 

Everything about this hermitage fills me with joy. There are lots of things that could have been far more perfect one way or the other – ascetically and ‘domestically.’ But it is the place God has given me after so much prayer and longing – but without my deserving it – and it is a delight. I can imagine no other joy on earth than to have a hermitage and to be at peace in it, to live in silence to think and write, to listen to the wind and to all the voices of the wood, to live in the shadow of the big cedar cross, to prepare for my death and my exodus to the heavenly country, to love my brothers and all people and to pray for the whole world and for peace and for good sense among men. So it is my place in the scheme of things and that is sufficient. Thomas Merton, Journals, February 24, 1965, V.209-10

 

Perhaps in no other place does Merton sum up my need for a sense of place and belonging. It cannot be simply my need alone. I believe all people have a similar basic need that very rarely gets met. – KSS+

December 20

White smoke rising up from the valley, against the light, slowly taking animal forms, with a dark background of wooded hills behind. Menacing and peaceful, probably brush fires, maybe a house, probably not a house. Cold, quiet morning, watch ticks on the desk. Produce nothing.
Perhaps I am stronger than I think. Perhaps I am afraid of my own strength and turn it against myself to make myself weak. Perhaps I am most afraid of the strength of God in me.
It is simply time that I must pray intently for the needs of the whole world and not be concerned with other, seemingly, ‘more effective’ forms of action. For me, prayer comes first, the other forms of action follow, is they have their place. And they no doubt do to some extent. Prayer…for Latin America, all of America, for this hemisphere – sorrow for the dolts, for the idiot civilization that is going down to ruin and dragging everything with it.
Fr. Louis (Thomas Merton) December 13, 1960 Journal IV.73

Comfort and wonder

MertonSmile“I will not easily forget the thin sickle of old moon rising this morning just before dawn, when I went down to say Mass. Cold sky, hard brightness of starts through the pines, snow and frost, exaltation on the dark brightness of morning. In the cold of Advent, I recapture the lostness and wonder of the first days when I came here twenty-three years ago, abandoned to God, with everything left behind. I have not felt this for a long time here. Breaking off and living (to a great extent in the woods) brings me face to face with the loneliness and poverty of the cold hills and the Kentucky winter – incomparable. And the reality of my own life.”  {Thomas Merton, December 1, 1964, V.172}

This paragraph from his Journals is some of Merton’s best writing, I think.  I can feel the cold, taste the metallic tang of the early morning darkness as he walks through the woods to the monastery.  What captivates me is being able to insert myself into this frame.  Just a few miles away, I lay sleeping in my crib, 10 months old, swaddled against the cold in the Quonset hut that served as my parents married student housing at Western Kentucky University.  I believe Merton’s walk to the monastery, his prayers and the Mass he celebrated that morning are part of the reason I am who I am today. We are all wrapped up in the early morning prayers of the world.

If Mary had been filled with reason

There would have been no room for the baby  – Madeline L’Engle

Mary herself in these days would have been abandoned to God, with everything left behind, making their rugged way to Bethlehem. Mary and we face the poverty and the loneliness of the cold hills, depending on God alone for sustenance, comfort and wonder.

Can we, in this Advent season, leave reason behind us in order to be filled with the new life God has conceived in each of us?

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