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God-listening and the tsunami

May 3, 2010

Once upon a time I thought I had nothing to say. Today, this day, Monday, I have so much to say I’m not sure I can write fast enough to capture it all.

I just walked out to the mail box and on my way I listened. My whole attention was focused on what was coming in my ears:   Birds–predominantly redwing blackbirds, lots of tweeters and an occasional meadowlark. I love the sounds.

Then I remembered the program on NPR yesterday. A man has spent the last 30 years recording the sounds of silence. He seeks the most silent places on earth and records what he is able to hear without the overriding “human” noises: a glacier melting, old-growth cedar logs thrumming. He says the most disruptive sounds in pristine places like the Olympic Peninsula are tourist planes and jets. He’s sponsoring legislation to ban aircraft  in a certain perimeter over national parks.

I listened and shifted my attention to the other things I could hear: to my right water glubbed as it turned a corner into the irrigation ditch. Man made, I thought, but water nonetheless.  More water to my right blipping over a branch caught in the ditch. Soothing water sound. No matter it’s man-made. I could listen forever.

My antennae reoriented to the chuz of commuters. We are one of two residences on a country block, cordoned by two busy country roads.  As I listen, I realize by minute degrees, the sound is approaching from a long way off. I wait and wait to catch sight of the pickup pulling a flatbed. It needs a muffler. The NPR man wouldn’t like it, but Someone going Somewhere to do Some work to sustain and nourish Something is driving by.  God-driving.

One of my seminary texts was God Is A Verb. I can’t remember a thing about the book, but I love the title. What could it possibley mean? Well, just this morning, I get it. God is my anticipating, my listening, my seeing, my getting. In the action is God – Whatever Whatevering.

On three sides I’m hearing God-driving. That’s a happy thought. But when I walk by the aspen, shimmering in a slight breeze, I wonder if I can hear it quaking. I see the leaves touching each other, so I know there must be a sound if only there were silence. Too much chuzzing. I see what he means. I can love and appreciate Whoever is driving Wherever to do Whatever, but I’m missing the sound of the quaking. Sigh!

Then I shift to some not so happy thoughts. On Link T.V. ( #375. If you don’t watch it, it’d be a good idea (i.e. you should. This is God-watching.) The Planet is a program on global change that Curt and I watched Saturday. Unless you’re an ostrich, we have until 2031 to get our act together as a world! This is not “gloom and doom” talk. This is “Wake up, world, and smell the garbage!”

So here I am, contemplating both nature and humanity. (All I thought I was doing was God-listening.)  As I walk back to the house, I wonder,  What is my carbon footprint? In another NPR story, a man who educated folks around the globe, decided that his carbon footprint was much too great because he flew to and fro upon the earth. He vowed to go no further than a 60 mile radius. He lives on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, so his 60 miles encompasses Seattle and probably the Olympic Peninsula. He’s taken to walking most everywhere. He says it’s amazing what lovely bits and pieces one misses zooming by in a car.

So, I’m behooved to question my own carbon footprint. Not that I’m willing to give up air flight to see my grandboys. But there are other ways I can encourage myself to be a better steward of resources.

I wonder if there are too many decisions like mine –the grandboys– that will prevent our meeting our 2031 deadline. I’m as selfish and greedy as the next person. Hmmm . . . God-thinking. . .

I used to think that if I’m a “good girl” (you can hear my history there!) and recycle and turn off the water when brushing my teeth and replace all my lightbulbs, I’ll make a difference. There are millions of us “good girls and boys” trying, now desperately to do our parts, and the world’s garbage –solid, air, water, etc. — is a twunami inundating us as we flee. What is it going to take for us to get to higher ground, literally and consciously,  before it’s too late?

What we need is a tsunami of God-doing, God-thinking, God-being. A critical mass of unselfishness, compassion, generosity. We’ve got a long way to go, baby.

I wrote this first thing this morning. Then I sat down to eat my lunch in front of Link T.V. I had taped a seven-minute message from the Karmapa replete with lovely pictures of Nepal and red-robed boymonks, dancing and chanting. Here’s a translation of his few simple words:

The power of oneness begins as an internal experience. It comes from the mind’s way of thinking or discerning.  We have studied and meditated a great deal on unltimate truth.  This kind of study and meditation contributes to an ability to conceptualize oneness, sustain a holistic way of thinking, and foster an all-inclusive and broad universal vision.

There are many qualities an individual needs to contribute to societal unity and oneness.  An individual needs courage and willingness to sacrifice for the good of the community and society as a whole.  In turn, society needs to exist for the good of each individual.  Thus when society and the individuals that make up society are mutually supportive, social unity and harmony is possible.

As I see it, religion must adapt to the changing needs of people. The way things appear to people in the world is changing.  And it is the responsibility of religion to adapt to these changes.  We should try and preserve what is useful about our spiritual and religious perspective, and leave aside what is not useful.  Human psychology is evolving.  As it evolves, we need to adapt to spiritual customs to address the needs of individuals.  Just studying religion ourselves is not enough.  We need to connect to humanity, with the world, in mutually beneficial ways.  If we can form positive, conscious relationships with the human family, then we can really make a difference in the world.

And a propos, the Merton reflection and thought for the day:

A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him.

It “consents,” so to speak, to His creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.  New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Directions Books, 1961).

Thought for the Day

This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in a way that no other tree before or after it ever did or will do.   New Seeds of Contemplation. p.29.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. tekia permalink
    May 4, 2010 6:41 am

    Loved the Merton reflection and thought for the day. In the same way we give worship to God by leading the lives He intended by obeying him. Also, I agree that there should be a greater degree of compassion, and generosity in the world but also love too.

    • May 4, 2010 7:10 am

      Thank you, Tekia. It’s so important to recognize how we give worship to God. To me, we are really worshiping when we realize that love is the outpouring of God into the world through us as the compassionate and generous things we do — like, for instance, your poetry.


  2. planejaner permalink
    May 4, 2010 8:04 am

    Nancy–sometimes God-listening is so all-encompassing as to knock every other idol off its throne–even if but for a moment, that time is gloriously, wonderfully sweet.
    keep listening…you write so well of what you hear…

    • May 4, 2010 9:33 am

      God, I love what you just said! I am encircled with that sweetness this very, very moment and I love you so much for it! There are tears, sweet Jane. Tears of tenderness just for you. Nancy —– Original Message —–

  3. Jennifer Barricklow permalink
    May 4, 2010 9:43 am

    God is so much easier for me to manage when God is just a noun. God as a verb DOES stuff without consulting me, and has the nerve to expect me to follow suit. Very messy, that. Thanks for the much-needed reminder.

    • May 4, 2010 10:23 am

      Thanks for saying it’s messy. It IS! And you’re right, we lose a grip over our carefully controlled process when we verb. But I dangerous as it is, I wish you Happy Verbing!


  4. May 5, 2010 6:55 pm

    Wow. I really need to do some reflecting on the God as a verb thing. Deep…and good…stuff. Thanks for this beautiful post.

  5. smalltownbiglife permalink
    May 6, 2010 9:50 pm

    This post offers so much beauty and so much truth and I LOVE the concept that ultimate truth should lead us to become healthier people who like the tree, obey by simply being and becoming. There is such a connection to stewardship of God’s art–this earth–and our individual in-tune-ness to create our own beauty and art and life. I tell my oldest son all the time “I am the reason you believe in God…and the reason you don’t want to go to church!” There is a definite disconnect many times between organized religion and true God-seeking, as you have so wonderfully described here. I will come back and read this post many times. Blessings to you.

    • May 7, 2010 8:15 am

      I love your phrase “our individual in-tune-ness to create our own beauty and art and life.” To me, that’s what makes my heart sing, that’s what brings joy into the world, that’s the essence of healing that this planet needs. Thank you for your insight! I’m going to pay attention to my “in-tune-ness” and see where it takes me – in-tune: in harmony, pleasant bending of sounds – mine with yours, yours with others, all of us together “in-tune”. Sounds like a God-verb, too. I will in-tune my day. Happy in-tuning, biglife!

  6. Stephen permalink
    May 7, 2010 1:17 am

    I think that we have pretty much lost our sense of wonder. We no longer notice the world around us, and in those moments we “notice, all too rarely do we see the sacred. Our world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God, but we are moving too fast, and are far to tied to our cell phones, Ipods and other media to, as they say, smell the roses. Frederick Buechner once wrote, “there is a God right here in the think of our day-by-day lives who may not be writing messages about himself in the stars but in one way or another is trying to get messages through our blindness as we move around down here knee-deep in the fragrant muck and misery and marvel of the world.” Amen

    Thank you for your trip to the mailbox, and that shift of attention that put you in touch with the world and its people.

    • May 7, 2010 8:30 am

      The “lurking presence of God.” How delightful! That’s a “thief in the night” kind of Presence. Everywhere equally present and gonna getcha when you least expect it. I love that – a pouncing God. Aha, gotcha! That’s how I feel sometime because I’m so busy and unaware, and this glorious Something jumps out and surprises me.

      I was driving back from Twin Falls one day. I had been listening to a Pema Chodron tape (she’s one of my heros). I was passing a hill just before Mountain Home where I’ve seen an antelope or two, and I glanced out to see if I could spy one. There were millions of them in the setting sun–absolute myriads of them. All I could say was, “oh, my, oh, my, oh, my.” Then “Thank You!” as I teared up. What a spectacular display of wonder unleashed upon me that I might have just driven by.

      Surprised by the lurking God. How in love I am.

      Thank you, Stephen for your beautiful expression of love. So glad we’re in touch.


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