Sunday, May 26, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Doing our part

This week's reflection is brought to you by
Psalm 67.

Let all of creation praise you,
O God,
let all of creation praise you.

Human beings are too small
to sing your glory sufficiently.

I suspect that's why we have
ocean storms,
mountain meadows,
prairie skies
and everything else you have made.

Thank you
for being so gracious to us;
for letting your glory and goodness
surround us.

Anyone can see
your face
with the eyes of our souls --
your beauty, goodness and truth
can be found everywhere
that people remember to walk
in your love.

In those who become
your hands and feet
lies your way,
your saving power.

In spite of the challenges we face,
let us be glad and sing for joy.

You judge us fairly
and guide our ways.

You make all the spring beauty that surrounds us
and bless us beyond all measure.

Help us to cooperate with you,
with creation,
in creating more of your beauty, goodness and truth
for all those who cannot see it.

Awaken them to all that you have given,
so that we may all do our part
to care for your creation


* * * * * * *

I've been moodling (musing and doodling) a fair bit this week about whether Pope Francis' encyclical is really going to help change the world. I've come to the conclusion that it won't -- unless we remember that we are a big part of God's action in the world, and that if we want the world to change, we have to change ourselves, too.

This week's piece of Laudato Si, is about The Mystery of the Universe (paragraphs 76-80, which can be accessed by clicking here). I'm thinking that there are too many mysteries to count when it comes to the universe and God's care for one particular planet and its inhabitants.

Paragraph 76 notes that "Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together into universal communion."

In paragraph 77, the Pope and his writing team assert that the creation of the universe wasn't a random occurrence or "arbitrary omnipotence," but rather, was the result of God's choice to create out of love, and that everything created exists because of that love. For me, it's impossible to imagine that everything surrounding us in creation is the result of  randomness. It makes more sense that something, Someone, namely our Tender God, enfolds everything with love and holds it in balance so that it continues to exist. And it has become rather obvious that humans' upsetting of that balance is the reason that things are starting to fall apart.

Ancient pagan religions saw nature as divine, and I can't help but wonder if that wasn't closer to God's intent than the Judaeo-Christian thought that "demythologized nature" according to paragraph 78. Demythologizing nature might have been fine if human beings had taken responsibility for valuing and protecting it the way God does, but it seems our connection to both God and nature have never been quite strong enough to hold everything in balance the way God does. We are only human, and we have periods of doubting God -- or forgetting that we are not God! More recently, the influence of "the modern myth of unlimited material progress" has led too many of us to Mammon (greed) rather than toward the wise direction, development and limitation of our powers as intelligent creatures created by God.

In paragraph 79 we find that "In this universe... we can discern countless forms of relationship and participation....We are free to apply our intelligence towards things evolving positively, or towards adding new ills, new causes of suffering and real setbacks...." God has given us choice, over and over again. In his letter to the world, Pope Francis reminds everyone of our duty to care for nature and protect humanity from self-destruction.

Thanks be to God that He and She is reliable. Paragraph 80 reminds us that God can bring good out of the problems human beings have caused. I love the line from Pope John Paul II's Catechesis: "The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity... which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, including the most complex and inscrutable." But we can't let moments of positivity lull us into a sense that God is going to fix everything without us lifting even a finger. Unfortunately, there are people on this earth who think that way, and they are part of the problem!

The Holy Spirit's infinite creativity resides in each one of us, and as Saint Teresa of Avila liked to say, we are all the hands and feet and heart of Christ. So now the question is, what are we going to do as part of God's action on this planet? How can we put the Spirit's creativity to work in ourselves, for our world?

It's becoming clear that we can't expect world leaders to make changes -- we need to push them, and to change our own lifestyles too. That means giving our communities and ourselves an energy audit. If we really want to prevent further climate change, we all need to become more aware of the places in our lives where we are creating needless carbon emissions, and reduce the size of our carbon footprint. Change begins with us.

75 years ago, hot water was pretty much considered a luxury, but now it's an expectation that creates a fair bit of waste if we really think about it. My parents talk about the "weekly bath" that was shared in their families. Our present culture likes our daily hot showers -- but since the last time I read this part of Laudato Si, I decided to only shower every second or third day to live in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who don't have the option of a daily shower. I'm also trying to shower for less than 5 minutes, hoping to slow climate change for the sake of my children and (future) grandchildren.

And there are many other things to consider. Are we willing to give up idling our cars? Using automatic car starters? (I saw a vehicle idling this gorgeous, warm spring morning -- why???)  Are we willing to use public transportation if the option exists? Are we willing to buy local food instead of exotic items that have to be trucked halfway across the globe? Where else can we cut our energy use?

What are we willing to do? And what would you like to ask our world leaders to do? Why not write a politician a letter to encourage them to see the environment rather than the economy as our communal bottom line?

One thing's certain -- things have got to change. And we have the power to start things rolling, even just in our own lives!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Spring beauty

It's been two weeks since my last visit to Butchart Gardens with my best friend, and I was always going to post these pictures, but I've been MIG (missing in garden) since I got home. Two weeks ago, not much was happening in my own yard, but now my tulips are in full bloom, as you can see on the picture at the top of Simple Moodlings right now. Of course, I don't have the incredibly interesting varieties found in Butchart, and in Edmonton, we can't grow the kinds of rhododendrons you find in BC, so I'll post a few pictures from Butchart for you to enjoy, and enjoy the blossoms on my own pear tree in the meantime...

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Renewing our world

This Sunday reflection is brought to you by
Revelation 21:1-5a.

O God,
we await your new heaven and new earth.

You promise us newness.

But maybe the newness we await is already among us.

Your home is among us
and you already live with us.

we can't seem to remember that
for more than a few minutes at a time.

We forget that we can be
your comfort for the sorrowing,
your consolation for the distressed,
your compassion for the suffering.

If we walk with you
and live as you intend,
death and mourning will be no more,
crying will be no more,
pain will be no more;
and peace will reign
as the first things pass away.

You will make all things new.

Please, start with us.


* * * * * * *

I've been thinking a lot about newness as I reflected on this week's segment of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. It mentions a few bible stories as we continue with The Wisdom of the Biblical Accounts, paragraphs 70-75 this time (they can be accessed by clicking here). As we grow into adulthood, we see that some stories in the Bible are much more than meets the eye because of their many layers of archetypal meaning.

We are reminded of the story of Cain and Abel in paragraph 70. In childhood, it was a story about giving God the best we have and looking after each other, but for Pope Francis and his writing team, it is a cautionary tale, illustrating that
Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells us that life itself is endangered.
The story of Noah is mentioned as another cautionary tale, God's first effort to make all things new after human beings messed things up. Then we hear Laudato Si's main refrain for the second time: "These ancient stories, full of symbolism, bear witness to a conviction which today we share, that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others." What I really like in paragraph 71 is the line, "All it takes is one good person to restore hope!" Referring, of course, to Noah's willingness to stand out from the crowd to renew God's reign on earth.

Laudato Si then jumps to the Psalms in paragraph 72. They exhort us and all creatures to sing praise and adoration of the God who lives with and beside us. How often do we reflect on God's presence in the creatures who live with and beside us? They are surely part of the newness God is creating.

In paragraph 73 the "prophets invite us to find renewed strength in times of trial by contemplating the all-powerful God who created the universe.... the God who liberates and saves is the same God who created the universe, and these two divine ways of acting are intimately and inseparably connected." The encyclical team closes paragraph 73's musings about the prophets with a quote from Isaiah, who reminds us that God "gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless." Just what we need to hear after reading all of the earth's problems Pope Francis listed in Chapter one that might leave us feeling overwhelmed.

The Babylonian captivity, when the people of Israel were forced out of their homeland to live in exile for almost 70 years, is mentioned in paragraph 74 as an example of a time of trial and persecution that led to a deeper faith in God. God's "creative omnipotence was given pride of place in order to exhort the people to regain their hope in the midst of their wretched predicament," and the same thing happened in the early Christian era when the followers of Christ found themselves persecuted by the Roman Empire.

What's interesting to me is that all of these examples of the trials and struggles of believers throughout the Bible are held up as examples to us who face the trials and struggles that have come about because of the overuse of creation's resources through rampant consumerism and human greed. Clearly, we are in similar straits, a time when we can glean some encouragement from the way that our biblical ancestors came through trying times by trusting in God and doing what they could. If they could find their way to starting over again, surely we can cooperate with God in renewing our earth.

Paragraph 75 points out that "The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim of absolute dominion over the earth is to speak once more of a... [God] who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality."

But I'll return to the last lines of paragraph 74 for the last words in this Sunday's reflection: "The God who created the universe out of nothing can also intervene in this world and overcome every form of evil. Injustice is not invincible."

Injustice is not invincible! Especially if we see the wrongs around us, and to take a stand against them. Because injustices are ingrained in our culture, we may have to become counter-cultural, to appear a little crazy for a time in order to draw attention to the particular injustices to which our sleeping world has become immune.

I doubt we'll have to build an Ark to help God make all things new, but we might have to do something even harder in this day and age -- maybe to vote Green, to NOT to take flamboyant tropical vacations and to live in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. To NOT buy the latest cool but unnecessary gadget or to NOT support a company that sells genetically modified foods. In other words, to BE A SIGN, a role model, and an example of doing the just thing -- even if it's only our families and friends who might notice what we're doing.

How will you Be the Change in the week ahead? For the rest of your days? We are all part of creating a new world of peace, joy, and love.

Injustice is not invincible!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Mother Earth Mother's Day

Moodling online has gone out the window with Spring's arrival. So much to do outdoors, and so little time!

But this past Mother's Day weekend, I had nothing but time with my best friend, who lives in Duncan, BC. Instead of presents for our birthdays, we decided to enjoy each others' presence. And it just so happened that my visit with Cathy coincided with a Cowichan 101 session offered by some elders of the Cowichan Tribe in the form of a trip to T'l'oqwxwat, known (in English) as Avatar Grove. It's an old-growth forest that was saved from logging in 2009. Click here to read the story of how Avatar Grove came to be protected by the Ancient Forest Alliance. And if you love old forests, consider contributing to the cause.

At 8:30 a.m., about 35 people from the Duncan area boarded Lisa's school bus for what felt like a long drive toward Port Renfrew, and a bit further up a very bumpy logging road to the Grove. There were a half dozen vehicles parked on the edge of the road near a small sign that offers very little indication of the wonders above and below it.

After we hiked up a fairly well-made path to "Canada's Gnarliest Tree," we gathered to hear two Cowichan leaders, Fred and Rob, speak about the forest and its abundant healing properties. They sang and drummed for us, talked about the medicines found in old-growth forests, and about how their ancestors spent 40 years cutting and hollowing out thousand-year-old trees to build sea-going canoes that took them all the way to Malibu in California.

Fred played his Salish wind instrument so beautifully that tears rolled unbidden down my cheeks. I sat against a several hundred-year-old tree, set my camera to record and laid it in my lap so that I could just listen, breathe, pray, and watch the gorgeous movement overhead.

One of our leaders noted that in Japan, people pay small fortunes to go on corporate retreats to "breathe with the trees." I will never forget doing just that in Avatar Grove, spending three hours appreciating Mother Earth's goodness and beauty, and "all our (non-human) relations."

Avatar Grove is a sacred place to the Cowichan peoples -- as all old-growth forests should be for all of us. Our leaders invited us to offer prayers there, to lay down our burdens at the feet of the trees, to settle against them and asbsorb their goodness and the pure air they offer. I can't begin to describe amazing presence there.

Old-growth forests are incredible places that speak about the cycles of life -- if only we listen. Every ancient tree has five or six ecosystems, probably more, stretching from beneath its roots all the way to its crown, and the forest itself witnesses to the tenacity of life from beginning to end. I was amazed at the soil made of decomposing cedar, fir and hemlock, how new and older trees grew out of fallen or broken trunks, and how some trees were hosts to more species of flora and fauna than I could even imagine, including white and magenta trillium.

Here are some pictures that can't possibly do justice to the spirit of the place. As another participant noted, it's kind of comforting to know that technology can't begin to see the way human beings see and experience things...

If you're ever out Port Renfrew way and can make your way up a bumpy forestry road to T'l'oqwxwat/Avatar Grove, it's definitely worth the trip. There's nothing like sitting on the knee of a six-hundred-year-old Douglas Fir and breathing with her. Especially on Mother's Day weekend. I'm so blessed...

Deepest gratitude to Lisa, Rob, and Fred.