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Have you lived by the ocean tide, the coming and the going of the power of the sea? Have you lived by the sun, rising early to see the rhythms of life anew and then watching that same sun set on the same day?
Have you put up your away message on your work email and left it untouched the entire time that you said you would be gone? Have you deleted social media apps from your phone so you would not be seduced to avoid the active questions, hard questions, springing forth in your inner world?
Have you hunted for treasures on the beach, closely studying the rocky terrain and ocean life creatures that you share this enchanted world with? Have you climbed a mountain and chosen a path that scared you shitless because there was no way you thought you could conquer your fear of heights? And yet you did, just for that one moment, on that one mountain, choose the path that kept you up the night before because you were so anxious about it, and the tears came and it felt good to vulnerably open yourself up before your Maker in the sanctuary of nature.
Have you let the freedom of vacation find cadences of spiritual awakening where you understood when John Calvin wrote, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.” And you joined the chorus of the earth, your small, little part of the chorus.
I am just coming back from my vacation from some spectacular places along the New England Sea Coast (I realize I have become that New Yorker who escapes to Maine in the summer. I get it now.) The amount of joy I experienced in this vacation from nature and from the memories created with the love of my life bring forth a smile on my face as I write this. I know some of you have the privilege of being in conversation with the natural world on a daily basis. When I lived in Michigan I too took part in that conversation. Since living in the blessed Concrete Jungle my relationship with the natural world has been strained, one in which I have to attend to carefully in order to remember the soft cushion of grass touching my bare feet.
Yesterday was World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Christians around the world joined in prayers of praise and supplication for the good earth. I added my praise by reflecting on Acadia National Park and the power of the sunrise to render me with tears. I added my prayers by asking God to protect creatures, great and small, at risk because of human choices. What prayers would you pray?
On my vacation I read many different kinds of books. Mary Oliver accompanied me from her once hometown in Provincetown in the Cape all the way up to the mesmerizing Cadillac Mountain. I also read a new book called Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible by Debbie Blue. It was in this book that I was invited to consider the gift of God as a vulture, pigeon, and sparrow. A delightful read for bird lover and Bible lover alike.
One poem, by Mary Oliver, stayed with me through my month off and I leave it here with you. I hope, deeply, that each of you take a moment to let the natural world overwhelm your senses with awe and like God, look back and declare, it is good.
THE POET COMPARES HUMAN NATURE TO THE OCEAN FROM WHICH WE CAME
The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth,
it can lie down like silk breathing
or toss havoc shoreward; it can give
gifts and withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth
like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can
sweet-talk entirely. As I can too,
and so, no doubt, can you, and you.
With the depth and mystery of the ocean in me, grace and peace,