Yesterday’s Discussion

Eight of us met yesterday at Joyce’s house to discuss Chapter One and it was a lively exchange of ideas. Here are the summary points. Let’s get a discussion going! Any questions or comments are welcomed.

  • Panentheism, seeing all things in God, God in all things, does illuminate the world in a different way and is challenging core beliefs. To some, this concept seems like what other Christians have dismissed as “New Age” thinking. However, this viewpoint has always been part of mystical theology, Franciscan and Jesuit spirituality, and permeates the writings of many saints (like Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich and others). I was first introduced to the word and its meaning by my Carmelite friends at the Spiritual Life Institute in the 1980’s and found myself falling in love with what they called “The Real.” The “soil-y” God of the Incarnation was so personal and intimate, just what I was searching for. This core belief has been with me ever since and has freed me from the limitations and constraints of the God of my childhood.
  • We were reminded how powerful language can be in the shaping of images of God. Some are struggling with thinking of God as “in the dirt,” and calling ourselves “animated dirt.” Some like the word “soil” better.
  • Many were touched by the story of meeting the farmer/author who fell to his knees in awe in the fields.
  • We had a deep discussion about “the world as the body of God,” and how it shifts our perspective from God residing somewhere in space to right under our feet.
  • The second Genesis story, humanity formed by the combination of soil (Adam) and Eve (life) was poignant and easily accepted. No one in the group takes Genesis literally. Rather, it is embraced as a “liturgical poem.” (Brueggemann)
  • I recommended the movie, “Dare To Be Wild,” which I watched on Amazon Prime recently. It is the story of Nancy Reynolds, who advocates the grown of “wild gardens” rather than manicured landscapes. Marie had just spent Mother’s Day visiting the Huntington Gardens and Barbara was at Sherman Gardens in Corona del Mar. I was struck by how communing with the beauty of nature refreshes our souls. Isn’t that the natural result of “wasting time with God?” To me, this is the ultimate act of adoration – God with us – all around us, the ground of our being.
  • We all loved the concept of the “garden church,” and want to go to San Pedro to see the “living sanctuary.” Road trip, anyone?
  • I shared about how difficult I find soil regeneration in California. No matter how much I add mulch, renewing the soil isn’t easy, as the author says. Many of us still love our flowers and grass but some of us are trying to find other ways to tend to our yards using drought-resistant and native plants. We all resonated with taking care of the land and how politically divisive this has become. Even Pope Francis has been severely criticized for his outspoken views on caring for the Earth. This group is definitely on his side!
  • Discussion about soil, sin, and salvation was serious and deep. We talked about the shame many women carry, being blamed for the original sin of Eve and how the word “dirty,” is connected with sexuality (dirty books, movies, thoughts, etc). Women are thought of as unclean or “dirty” when they experience menstrual periods every month. A woman has been called “soiled,” or  “dirty” if she is single and not a virgin. The image of Mother Mary as “immaculate” has been used as the perfect image of what a woman should be. (By the way, men are never viewed in this way even though there are some dualistic views of what it means to be chaste). Is this the reason why we don’t care for the land? No one was really sure of that but it’s something to ponder.
  • Regarding “Holy Dirt,” Joyce told us that she had been to Chimayo, New Mexico. Her recollections were about the people and the many crutches, glasses and other symbols of healing that were on the walls. I told them that I have been to the “House of Prayer” in the woods in Minnesota. It’s on the campus of St. John’s University in Collegeville and definitely a mystical place. The earth heals! What a beautiful mantra for us all.
  • “Earth is for real” was tested out when we ventured into Joyce’s beautiful backyard with its plants, rocks, soft warm grass, and flowers. This is the pathway to experience faith in new ways for “God is here. God the Earth-maker, God the gardener, God the Ground of Being.
  • We moved lunch outside on the patio and had the most delectable chicken casserole, salad, and chocolate cupcakes for dessert. No one wanted it to end!

We decided to try and read and discuss Chapters Two and Three for our June meeting. Date and place TBA. Watch your email.

Grace and peace and the warmth of the Earth be with us all. . . .

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