Guest post from…Nancy Flinchbaugh writes as a spiritual practice. Her educational background includes degrees from Otterbein College in sociology and religion and a Master’s Degree in education and counseling from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She currently lives in Springfield, Ohio, and is a longtime friend of my family from our days living in San Antonio, Texas. She is the author of the novel, Revelation in the Cave.
Here, in the Midwest where we live, it’s Spring… The earth is awakening after a long winter. The season ushers in new birth, love, new leaf green on leaves, beautiful blooms. The first crocuses have poked through in the yard. In the woods, miraculous wildflowers adorn the thawing paths. Along my walk the daffodils and tulips are showing green, and I know the delicate yellow trumpets will be opening soon. In another week or two the flowering trees along my street will be filling the air with fragrance. In the midst of this magical time of opening, we pause to celebrate Earth Day – a day to honor and remind us to care for our little planet from which we have emerged and on which we depend for life.
As I become more contemplative on my spiritual path, I enter silence more frequently, sitting into mystery. Scientists now explain that 95 to 99 percent of the universe consists of dark space or dark matter, of which they know very little. I believe this mystery contains marvelous love, spacious hope, and the mystical wisdom of our Creator. I now start each day entering this mystery, absorbing God’s first language of silence and I have been cultivating the spiritual practice of listening to the earth.
When you open the holy book of nature, God’s Spirit dances, inspires and speaks in so many ways. Have you ever tried listening to the earth using the ancient practice of Lectio Divina (Divine Reading)? Often applied to scripture, this discipline can also help us connect with God’s Word deep in nature.
Begin with Lectio (Reading): carefully observing and watching for something that shimmers or speaks to you. Then, continue with Meditatio (Meditating): ruminating on how this particular aspect of nature applies to your life. Next, enter into Oratio (Prayer), talking with God about the message you’ve received, and finally, sit into silence Contemplatio (Contemplation), rest in this aspect of God’s truth deep in the heart of the earth.
As we take time to listen to the earth, we discover that there are endless miracles, but also serious problems these days. The ice caps are melting at an alarming rate. The seas are acidifying. Species are becoming extinct. Our water is becoming more polluted and now at greater risk from new fracking practices. The bees are dying. The temperature has been gradually rising, which is creating climate changes – increasing winds, increasing quantity and severity of storms. Although there have been great efforts to minimize and deny this problem in our media, over 90% of the scientists tell us that we should be concerned. Increasingly, the scientists are also calling us to action around this global crisis.
I believe the earth, too, cries out for us to listen. I hear a cry of pain, but also a cry for hope and resolution. I believe within the silence, deep in the mystery, our Creator’s presence is stirring us into action and movement toward healing opportunities for our planet.
A wonderful book edited by the Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, assembles an esteemed group of prophets from many spiritual traditions. They encourage us to listen to the earth, to wake up to the pain, and to take action. The MAMs Book Club Springfield read this book a few months ago and you can use our Study Guide on my website to check it out at: http://www.spiritualseedlings.com/the-mams-book-club/8-spiritual-ecology-the-cry-of-the-earth/.
As Earth Day comes this year, I encourage you to develop a practice of listening to the earth. I encourage you to wake up into the hope of love and mystery in God’s unfolding creation. I encourage you to take action. Here are a few specific things you can do:
1) Read some of the spiritual books written in this area to ground you in your work and to give you hope. I started with Judy Cannato’s books Radical Amazement and Fields of Compassion. Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, also summarizes many traditions. Read Thomas Berry, the Catholic priest who told us that our great work at this time is to wake up and learn to take care of the earth. You can find a list of books I like here.
2) Incorporate listening to the earth into your spiritual practice. Some books have explained how to do this as noted on my bibliography. I will be glad to come visit you and lead a retreat in this practice, if you want some instruction. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at www.spiritualseedlings.com. I’m flexible and willing to travel!
3) Ask God to use you. When I first started in this area, I was rather pessimistic, feeling overwhelmed. “What could I do?” I thought. With some prayer beads, I began praying each day a simple prayer, asking God to show me the way. Over time I have discovered that there is so much that I can do. I’m sure that will be true for you also.
4) Take action. There are important things you can do each day to conserve energy, recycle, and cultivate the earth. I would also invite you to check out the Citizen’s Climate Lobby (www.citizensclimatelobby.org) and become involved in a local chapter or start a local chapter if needed. They have a plan for a revenue neutral carbon tax which would let the market push the drive to development of alternative fuels, to slow down carbon emissions for a sustainable future. They are very good people. They teach you to lobby by building relationships, affirming your congress people and listening.
Thanks Hannah, for inviting me to do this post! Happy Earth Day! Please join me in listening for solutions and taking action to keep the world inhabitable for that adorable little Baby E Heinzekehr and for all of our children and their children. Let’s do it!