Nature Deficit Disorder

Some mornings I can’t wake up. I move through my house in a slight fog—drinking endless cups of green tea, feeding my kids and sending them off, folding clothes, doing work emails. Yet I look at my day from a distance, as if through the thin film of gunk that coats the fishbowl when it needs to be cleaned.

Words don’t really wake me up on these mornings. I read scripture commentary or listen to the radio with fog still firmly in place. Caffeine and good food help, but not entirely. Do you know what helps? I go outside. The natural world is a game changer. The smell of mint when I water it, the feel of the buds from the antique rose bush I planted after Rosetta was born, the sun on my skin. Combined they create a poultice which warms and stimulates my consciousness.

Direct contact with nature heals. Richard Louv calls it “Vitamin N” in the Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder. Contact with nature makes us feel less alone in the universe, and actually can change our behavior: making us more creative, more intelligent, more community minded.

The author of second Isaiah was familiar with the balm of nature. Our scripture passage this week is a poetic tribute to the movement of God in and through the fertility of the earth: For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be a memorial to YHWH, an everlasting sign that shall never be destroyed. Isaiah 55: 10-13.

Written for a people in exile, these passages reveal God as a dynamic source of nourishment for plants and human community alike. This Sunday we move deeper into ordinary time, a liturgical season marked by the color green. This is our time to lie fallow. This is the rest after the meaning-making extravaganza of Lent and Eastertide and our encounters with the Big Questions of life, death, liberation, and longing. Ordinary time is the recognition that we need space to assimilate all that we have seen, tasted, and learned in recent seasons.

This is true every year, but probably especially true for church in the cliff this year as we have navigated many changes—including a pilgrimage to locate new space, saying goodbye to Kidd Springs, saying hello to the Kessler, Lent in a cave, and most recently a joyful and bumpy Eastertide of fresh encounters. This included a courageous and disruptive series of changes in worship venues and activities—bike blessings, farm visits and so forth. Given all that we have experienced, what could it mean to sit in this green liturgical time and to cultivate an awareness of our green world? What could we learn if we hold the prophet Isaiah in one hand and the beauty of high summer in the other?

There are a thousand different ways to answer this question, and I hope you will prayerfully consider your own path. It could be rising early to sit on the porch with a first cup of coffee and the calls of the birds. You might immerse yourself in nature: through a day trip to a local state park. Or choose simply to roll down the windows for part of a morning commute and take note of the plant life that surrounds you. My favorite current practice is keeping cuttings of basil from the community garden in our kitchen window and adding palmfuls to everything I cook. The beautiful thing about contact with nature is that it heals without us having to try. So often we are hung up on needing to do something better to enhance our spiritual practice—thinking “If I only made time for centering prayer, or more scripture-reading, or was kinder to my partner.” These are all good things to want, but it is also good to remember that God’s healing presence is not dependent on our best efforts. Our role is more one of finding ways to reestablish the connection with the Divine than having to do the heavy lifting ourselves. And often it is through the senses: smell, touch and so on that God brings us back to ourselves.

This is another reason nature heals and wakes us up on groggy mornings: it engages us in multi-sensory experience. Ours is a multi-sensory God. She blows in the wind, burns in the fire, touches us through our neighbor’s hand, and tastes sweet like honey. The Sufi poet Rumi, writing in the 13th century, says, “From the hundreds of times I lost the connection, I learn this: your fragrance brings me back.” Join us Sunday as we explore how we can cultivate the connection between the Spirit of God and the natural world during this season of rest and renewal. Peace, Courtney

Ark Update

We put out the call and the community is responding! We have raised $3,850 so far for Heifer International– over a thousand dollars last week! Please consider making a donation as we aim for a Gift Ark, at $5,000 Heifer’s ultimate challenge! This gift provides livestock– two each of pigs, cows, trios of rabbits, donkeys, beehives, sheep, llamas, flocks of geese, goats, oxen, flocks of chicks, trios of ducks, trios of guinea pigs, water buffalo, camels and pigs– and training for struggling families worldwide. Make a donation via heifer’s secure site or bring a check or cash and join us TONIGHT for the final tally at our “Land the Ark” party as we enjoy local barbeque, home brew, and home grown watermelons! 6:30pm. 310 S. Windomere Dallas 75208.

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