September 17, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: Hearing


Last week we looked for Holy Ground in really seeing things. Were you able to take a few minutes to sit and really look at a leaf or your hand? Were you surprised? When I studied my own hand, I was awed by the lines and veins. I was astonished to consider all the various things that hand had done. There were the mundane things like cleaning and cooking, but also the loving caresses and the hands held in prayer.

This week, let’s consider another of the 5 senses. Take time to hear the sound of Holy Ground. Have you ever wondered if Moses heard anything while at the burning bush? Was there crackling and popping like in most fires, or was it intense silence? Did Moses hear wind blowing and the sheep he left behind? What can we hear when we listen for God present on Holy Ground?

Not all of us are blessed with hearing. In the Gospel of Mark, we learn how Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute. Some people brought to Him a man who was deaf and hardly able to speak, and they begged Jesus to place His hand on him. So Jesus took him aside privately, away from the crowd, and put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”) And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7: 32-34)

Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, which is typically something we do when we don’t want to hear. Yet Jesus’ touch opens the man’s hearing and gives him speech. Hearing and speaking go with each other. Those who are deaf from birth have a hard time learning to talk because they have never heard the sounds. If you go deaf later in life, you retain the memory of sound.
Science tells us that sound is created by waves moving through the air. Most of us cannot feel those waves, except with our eardrums. Sometimes you can get a sense of feeling them if you are at a loud concert or next to a car with the music playing really loud. Then you CAN actually feel the sound.

This year on America’s Got Talent, there is a young singer who became deaf later in life and is able to sing again by feeling the musical vibrations. Then her muscle memory could create the sounds that she can no longer actually hear. She is hearing through feeling and is sensing the Holy Ground through her entire body. We might in fact envy her that ability because very often we don’t listen to what’s around us.

Sit outside in the early morning or late evening to just listen to the sounds. Some are natural and soothing like birds calling or the breeze through the trees. Others may be more jarring like the neighbor’s dog barking or sirens in the distance. Close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you. Feel the Holy Ground swelling and ebbing in the noises you hear. Is that baby in the distance crying for joy or anger? Perhaps the dog is barking because it is lonely, or because the neighborhood tomcat just walked across the street. Do you wonder what the birds might be saying to each other as they twitter and coo? What is God saying to you in the wind and other sounds?

You might imagine the sounds of things you don’t really hear-like the tea in your cup. Is the steam giggling as it evaporates into the air? Does the tea bag sigh with delight sinking into the spa of hot water to steep? Or do seeds underground moan like a woman in labor as they split open to let the seedling out? And does that seedling grunt while working up through the soil?
What do you hear God saying to you in the sounds you hear? Is God saying ‘take off your shoes for this is Holy Ground?’ To what does God need to open your ears?

September 10, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: Seeing

Today we start a new series about “Finding Holy Ground”. I recently re-read the Barbara Brown Taylor book An Altar in the World. It was a good reminder that God is found in all things and places. I’ll be referring to her and to others in this series that will take us to Advent. Our journey to finding Holy Ground starts with reflecting on how God is found very close to us-in our senses. I invite you to come along and take time to find Holy Ground.

In the September 4 d365.com meditation, Ben Brown noted, “Moses had packed a bag for watching his father-in-law’s flock, but he was unprepared to encounter God through a burning bush. Life is dynamic, and sometimes we’ll encounter God in surprising places” He asks, “will we recognize the holy ground and take off our sandals?” As Taylor notes, when we become aware of all the Holy Ground, we have to be prepared to be surprised.

I invite you to encounter the Holy Ground through our senses. Today we start with sight, which many of us take for granted. Even if, like me, you wear glasses, you probably can see if you are reading this blog. Admittedly I wouldn’t be able to read it without my glasses, but thanks to modern medicine, the blurriness of astigmatism is correctable so that I can indeed see to read.

In the Gospels, Jesus heals more than one person of blindness. One instance is found in Mark 8:23-25. We hear, “So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then He spit on the man’s eyes and placed His hands on him. “Can you see anything?” He asked. The man looked up and said, “I can see the people, but they look like trees walking around.” Once again Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes, and when he opened them his sight was restored, and he could see everything clearly

Unlike many healings, this time the healing seems to be only partial at first. The man says, “I see the people, but they look like trees”. Certainly, that’s rather what happens to me when I’m not wearing my glasses. I can see shapes, but they are pretty indistinct.

I think that happens more often than we realize, because we don’t pay attention to what we are seeing. We are only seeing shapes not the reality of the people and things around us. We are not seeing God, and Holy Ground, in what we are looking at.

A few months ago, I came across an exercise for seeing more clearly. The author suggested taking a leaf or something else and really studying it for several minutes. Look at the veins and cells of the leaf, marvel at the delicacy of the feather, contemplate the tree branch until you are amazed at the complexity of the parts. Barbara Brown Taylor suggests doing something similar with your own hand. Study your veins, look at the lines or spots or scars. Think about all the places that hand has been and all it has done in your life.

I would encourage you to take time, as much as you need, but more than just a couple of minutes, to do one of these things. Find something in nature, or your own hand, and let yourself look deeply into it. Let God show you the Holy Ground in the object.

Then, take it a step further, the next time you are driving or walking or scanning through Facebook, take time to really see what is going on. Look at the faces you pass or the ones on the posts. Are they stressed, or happy, or afraid? See with the eyes of your heart and try to get past the odd, blurry ‘tree’ shapes that are safe, but which don’t tell us much. Look into the heart and really see the Holy Ground there.

The same September 4 d365.com post had this prayer to help us focus, “God of surprises, help me to notice you in the midst of my mundane activities. Prepare me for the holy ground I’ll encounter today. Amen”