This week we enjoyed a 4 minute time of silent meditation and listening. Also, I realized it turned out that we had been doing 4 minutes or so instead of 2 minutes each time. Made me laugh to think my little sand timer was twice as long as I thought. Anyway, it seems we have enjoyed the time and it has been the same each time. I am also reminded of a useful and free app called "Insight Timer". The free version allows you to set an amount of time which then begins and ends with a tone. Check it out here: https://insighttimer.com/
Chapter 4 drew us into considering nature as a book to be read, a source of discerning God in our midst. I certainly love to be outdoors and have wonderful memories of hiking and backpacking through the Appalachian mountains. I also just enjoy walking and find it a good and natural time I have conversations with God. I notice the plants, animals, rocks, clouds, etc. Sometimes I see what has changed if it is a path I walk often. Sometimes I pick up trash along the way (for a while I consistently kept a plastic bag or two in my coat pocket to pick up trash or recyclables along my walk). Taking walks for me helps me reconnect to myself and God. I often come away refreshed, thankful, and educated.
Henri Nouwen shared about a time Abbot John Eudes shared a story while at the Abbey of the Genesee. He expressed that God is not far from us. God's presence is in the things that are closest to us. Walking into a garden embrace the present moment as you look at each individual flower. It seems the more beautiful and effervescent the more fragile its life. If we try to grasp it too firmly the beauty goes away as the petals fall. It is to be held onto lightly with an attentive gaze or we miss it and it slips away.
We can learn from Native Americans to see ourselves as part of nature. Often the culture, artwork, and life is so connected to nature it is natural to see yourself as one part of the whole. They know how to listen to what the Earth, as God's body, has to teach. I really connected to Nouwen sharing the contrast of "opaque" and "transparent" in this description: "When a tree is nothing but a potential chair, it ceases to tell us much about growth; when a river is only a dumping place for industrial wastes, it can no longer speak to us about movement; and when a flower is nothing more than a model for a plastic decoration, it has little to say about the simple beauty of life." Only when listening carefully and with deep respect can nature become transparent and reveal to us meaning as part of God's language.
The part reminding us of how Jesus walked with us on Earth were impact to the point that I will hear scripture differently now paying attention to how Jesus experienced life, spoke about it, and interacted with those he met. Jesus felt the heat and cold, the wet and dry, the dust and mud. He knew the grass that withers, the rocky soil, and thorny bushes. He also knew the flowers in the field, the abundant harvest, and the species of trees. Jesus walked the dusty roads closely connected to the earthen ground. He walked from village to village and listened deeply to those he met along the way. He spoke with authority to them as a true companion on the road. May we listen and hear.