Unplugging In, With and For Nature

Unplugging In, With and For Nature

A long time ago, in a mindset far away, I planted and served an online church in Second Life. I’ve served as the minister of digital community at the UCC denominational level and even traveled the States leading “social media bootcamps” for clergy. For about 4 years I worked as the director of digital strategy for a liberal arts college in the south. All this after I graduated from seminary with a focus in social justice, pastoral care and digital ministry. I was about as nerdy as theologically progressive gal could be. 

And then just before the world turned upside down and tuned into all things virtual (meetings, game night, karaoke and church), the universe with her delightful sense of humor, plopped Braiding Sweetgrass into my heart, shook me to the core and called me away from the screen and into the woods.

Now I am called to (and trained in) nature therapy, outdoor life coaching and eco-chaplaincy, as far removed from technology as possible. Of course I still hang out in digital spaces, the public square of our age, and even build websites for folx in helping professions. But every day I more fully inhabit my wild love for the natural world – of which we are all a part – to invite others into this (re)connection with creation of which we are all luminescent, interdependent parts.

More and more research around the world verifies the positive physiological, mental and spiritual benefits of intentional time in nature.  

But it’s not all about humans and how we can use nature for our wellbeing. When we spend more time (re)connecting with the natural world through activities such as forest bathing, nature retreats or guided nature meditations, there are positive impacts on our environmental attitudes and behavior. A spirit of reciprocity invites each of us to be in and with nature, recognizing we are of nature and to do what we can to be for nature in a world that only sees what can be consumed. A walk in and with nature is the first step to remembering we are of and for nature.

I hope to have the honor of sharing a walk with you one day.

1. Amy Novotney, “Getting Back to the Great Outdoors” American Psychological Association, (2008)

2. Dr. Qing Li, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, (2018)

3. Kyoung Sang Cho et al., “Terpenes from Forests and Human Health,” Toxicology Research, (2017)

4. Claudio D. Rosa & Silvia Collado, “Experiences in Nature and Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors: Setting the Ground for Future Research,” Frontiers in Psychology (2019)

Unlearning Fear

Unlearning Fear

A week or so before I was to turn 52 I was walking across the wide open fields of the Dutch countryside, alone, not another soul as far as the eye could see. As I wandered and wondered, a phrase drifted across the landscape of my mind and has lingered there ever since – unlearning fear. How have I been unlearning fear? How does anyone unlearn fear? First we have to understand how carefully constructed, how very profitable the fear is to the powers that be. So that is my exploration for the prayer, prompts, prose and practices for March…unlearning fear.

Oh Lord
We are a world
In love with fear
And afraid of love

The powerful pad their pockets
peddling fear to control the people

Be afraid, they say

And your creation
cowers behind
the great lie of scarcity

Be very afraid, they say

For those
With greedy minds
and clenched fists
shouting “Be afraid!”

I pray,
Be not afraid

For those
With terrorized hearts
And shuttered spirits
echoing “Be afraid.”

I pray,
Be not afraid

For those
with open wounds
and tear-streaked souls
crying “I am afraid.”

I pray,
Be not afraid

Gracious and loving God
free us from the myth of
fear of the other
fear of ourselves
fear of the known
fear of unknown
fear of loving
fear of losing
fear of living
fear of dying

and open us to the Truth
of abundance
of peace
of love

Amen

God be in my constant overthinking

God be in my constant overthinking

The season of my coming out was fraught with tumultuous storms and beautiful sunrises. 

It was nearly 20 years ago when I answered both a call to seminary and God’s invitation to step fully  into the life I was created to live and love. At the time I was attending St. Paul United Methodist Church in the historic Grant Park neighborhood within whose walls I uttered many a prayer, not unlike the prayers Anne Lamott suggests are the most important words we can utter – “help me, help me, help me…” and “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

There were many other prayers lifted up in those nascent days of my becoming and one that has stuck with me all these years is a prayer painted in shining text high on the sanctuary walls of St. Paul.

God be in my head
and in my understanding

God be in my eyes 
and in my looking

God be in my mouth 
and in my speaking

God be in my heart
and in my thinking

God be at my end
and at my departing

For some reason, this prayer has come back to me in recent weeks with other words wiggling into the cadence, so I thought I’d share one such version here with an invitation for you to craft your own version of this timeless prayer.

God be in my pandemic-weary head
and in the cloudy kaleidoscope of my understanding 

God be in my jaded yet hopeful eyes
and in my looking so that I may see the imprint of
your image in every person I encounter 

God be in my sharp-tongued mouth
and in my speaking truth to power 
and love to the lonely

God be in my bleeding heart
and in my constant overthinking

God be at my free-from-regret end
and my reluctant departing
from your broken and beautiful world.

Why Pray for Peace?

Why Pray for Peace?

God is not a cosmic vending machine and prayer is not tossing pennies in a divine wishing well. Prayer is persistently practicing the presence of God. It is an act of acknowledging our connectedness to God and one another. Prayer is inviting God’s creative presence and offering back to God the radical hospitality of our best selves. Prayer is cooperating with God and living into our interdependence with The Spirit, our neighbors, the environment and even our enemies.

No, my prayers will not change the greedy who profit from fear and death.
No, my prayers will not stop the spreading of conspiracy theories.
No, my prayers will not open the minds of the manipulated.
No, my prayers will not relax the gnarled fist of hatred.

No, my prayers will not halt the virus.
No, my prayers will not ease the lockdown.
No, my prayers will not make the powerful put people over profit.
No, my prayers will not bring back the thousands we’ve lost.

But, my prayers can gently break the silence of despair.
But, my prayers can channel my rage at the machine.
But, my prayers can embolden me to be the hands and feet of The Divine.
But, my prayers can encourage others of faith to awake, arise and act.

I do not pray for God to send us a miracle.
I pray for God to remind us how to be the miracle.

I am because you are and only together, with a radical belief that a paradigm shift is possible, an active hope and faithful resolve to be the change we seek, can we create a just and peaceful world for all of creation.

Wood Wide Web

Wood Wide Web

I hope you will take a nice long walk just to look, really look, at the trees that inhabit the community where you live.
“But the most astonishing thing about trees is how social they are. The trees in a forest care for each other, sometimes even going so far as to nourish the stump of a felled tree for centuries after it was cut down by feeding it sugars and other nutrients, and so keeping it alive. Only some stumps are thus nourished. Perhaps they are the parents of the trees that make up the forest of today. A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a “wood wide web” of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous amount of information and goods. Scientific research aimed at understanding the astonishing abilities of this partnership between fungi and plant has only just begun.
The reason trees share food and communicate is that they need each other. It takes a forest to create a microclimate suitable for tree growth and sustenance. So it’s not surprising that isolated trees have far shorter lives than those living connected together in forests. Perhaps the saddest plants of all are those we have enslaved in our agricultural systems. They seem to have lost the ability to communicate, and, as Wohlleben says, are thus rendered deaf and dumb. “Perhaps farmers can learn from the forests and breed a little more wildness back into their grain and potatoes,” he advocates, “so that they’ll be more talkative in the future.” Opening”
― Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World
 

25 Things to Do on a Digital Detox

25 Things to Do on a Digital Detox

At this writing, I am 165 days into my year-long social media sabbatical and I still get responses that sound a lot like – WOW or That’s Intense or You Are So Brave! or That’s Amazing! – all of which seem to be significant reasons to maybe give up social media for good, don’t ya think? Stepping away from the stream or madness shouldn’t be arduous and is certainly not an act of courage.

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired of the vitriol and your own addiction to either watching the dumpster fire or participation in planning the flames? Maybe you’ve considered going on a digital detox? Good idea! But, what will you do with all of that extra time?

Here’s a random list of 25 things to do instead of scrolling and trolling…

Make and keep a junk journal made just for this occasion

Use DuoLingo to practice a new language when the urge to go go gadget gets me

Learn the names of plants, trees and birds that you see on your daily routes

Learn about the national parks in your region

Complete at least 10 things on Keri Smith’s list

Ride a bicycle somewhere you’ve never visited

​Make things with clay, paper and thread for folks you love

Craft poems, prayers for deep thoughts by Jack Handy and don’t post them on the interwebs

When you don’t know something, check out a book, consult a dictionary or ask a person, not Google

Visit the a botanical garden a few times each season

Learn everything you can about the divine feminine as understood in different traditions

Read a book written by someone well outside of your cultural context

Learn some creative hand lettering and create affirming signs for your window

Take, edit and print photos instead of sharing on Instagram

Cut up old t-shirts and learn how to quilt, starting with a pet blanket

Notice and appreciate the changes in your body without joining a “women over 50” Facebook support group

Write letters, on paper, with a pen – buy stamps and mail to people you love​ ​​

Try yoga again without complaining on Twitter about how hard it is

Build a table-top zen garden with a cairn of wee tumbled stones

Listen to a once-beloved CD all the way through without skipping a track

Fill a sketchbook with one thing you want to draw well

Sit quietly doing nothing

Look at everything​​

Think you own thoughts

Write