Archives for the month of: March, 2013

As I sit down to write this reflection we celebrate the Vernal Equinox, today is the first day of spring.  This past week we’ve been enjoying warm weather and getting our last runs in on the slopes; the trees are budding and many are eagerly peeping at the nursery to see if it is open – we are ready to garden!  Never mind that it is snowing today.

While we journey toward the garden with great anticipation, this week we are also invited to journey toward another garden, the garden of Gethsemane – the garden on the Mt. of Olives, an olive grove, where Jesus spends his last moments with his disciples before being arrested.  There are several gardens in the scriptures, the very first being Eden – a garden recorded in primordial mythology, where the story of God’s great love for humanity is first expereinced.  The story tells us that this was a garden of great beauty, where humanity and Divinity were one; there was peace on earth.

What does a garden of love look like, feel like, smell like, taste like, sound like?  What if we couldn’t see this garden of love but could only rely on our other senses to interpret for us, this great love?  We are quick to judge something by its appearance, it is said that we first eat with our eyes; and that we decide within seconds of meeting a person whether we find them desirable or not – before they’ve even spoken we’ve made this conclusion based on a visual scan.  So, let’s close our eyes and experience this garden, perceive this love, without the sense of sight. 

How might we perceive love through smell?   Does love smell like flowers, herbs, rain, or the sun on the grass?  What about taste?  Does love taste like mint, ripe fruit, or freshly picked peas?  What does love feel like? Is it crisp, juicy like a fresh tomato, soft, warm like the sun, cool, dense like soil in our palm, or a refreshing breeze across our skin?  What does love sound like? Could it be the buzz of a bee as it jumps from flower to flower, or a bird’s song, maybe it is the sound of the earth under our feet?

What if we encountered people this way, through senses other than sight?  Might we perceive them differently? 

Gardens are spaces of transformation. They work in mysterious ways, amplifying the transformation of the human condition, the human heart.  In order to experience this transformation we must encounter life in a new way.  We must see the hidden beauty, that which cannot be perceived with the eye. 

As we look at the garden of Gethsemane might we also see beauty?  The same beautiful love for humanity that we read of in Eden – of a love so great for all humankind that one would lay down his life in a martyr’s death?  This is a strange, alien beauty indeed.  How might our human condition, our hearts, be transformed by this garden?          

Interested in gardening at Hospitality Grounds? Please download the 2013 Plot Request, Information & Policies attachment, and join us!

Our first meeting is this Tuesday, March 19th at 6pm.

The next construction day in the garden is scheduled for April 7th – follow this blog for more information.

We look forward to welcoming you to the garden!

Hospitality Grounds 2013 Garden Plot Request & Information

Many of us are fortunate to have never experienced homelessness and hunger. Living in a nation of plenty, it can be quite easy to assume that those who are hungry and homeless did something to cause their own situation.  I myself am fortunate to have never gone hungry or without a comfortable roof over my head; I can say that because my father worked feverishly to assure that my sister and I never had to experience what he did growing up.

But then the market fell apart.  My little sister’s husband lost his six figure job that supported his family of six.  Then they lost their home; his truck was repossessed, and after living in a friend’s unheated basement they ended up moving in with our grandmother and aunt – into an already overcrowded house in need of serious repair.  Somewhere in there my sister filed for public assistance; it was mortifying for her husband who had been so exceptional at providing for his family.  The WIC, food stamps, and farmers market coupons came with a special set of glances, tones, and body language.  My sister has worked hard to protect the kids from our societal stigma of poverty.

Whether or not we recognize it, there is a line, “The Line”.  It is the line which most people struggle to keep their head above, and many fall below – the poverty line.  Sometimes we fall below due to the perfect storm of circumstances, and sometimes we are held below by systems of injustice.  During the month of March at St. Luke’s, we are presented with several opportunities to see this line.  Our mission with the Christian Center food pantry and International Dinner, our newly birthed mission with the Road Home, and our community garden are all invitations to see the hunger in our community.  We have the pleasant option of choosing to engage.  However, as we consider our option let us consider the words of Jesus, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-40

Jesus chose to identify with the marginalized, those that find themselves below the line in our community.  He continually invites us to engage with those on the margins, as the way of our own transformation.  Will we accept this invitation, to take on the suffering of the world? 

This coming week, as we practice mindfulness, I invite you to fully see the people you engage every day.  Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, be it the line at Starbucks, a conversation with a friend, or serving dinner to a homeless stranger at the Road Home – be present.  Don’t worry about being efficient and multitasking.  Let go of all else that vies for your attention and focus your attention on the other person, look them in the eye – see them, experience them, be witness to the divine in them.  Allow yourself to wonder about them, their life and their story. 

Then be conscious of your own feelings, how does this connection feel?  What did this experience of full presence do for you?  Spend time talking to God about what you have experienced.  Be sure to spend time focusing with God on the sources of your hesitation if you find yourself holding back or looking away.  Talk with God about how you may become a fully open conduit of God’s love and healing in the world.          

Christians are called to cultivate radical love.  The word radical is of Middle English origin, coming from the Latin radicalis meaning – ‘of or going to the root/origin; fundamental; existing inherently in a thing or person.’  So, radical takes us to the root of love, a deep experience of love.  Jesus is quite explicit that his call is to a radical, universal love when he states the greatest commandment: To love God with all our heart, mind & soul; and to love our neighbor as our self.  As humans we have a natural tendency to be selective, to discriminate based on our feelings toward another person.

As we become mindful of radical love I invite you to imagine three people: someone you are close to and for whom you feel great affection – a friend, someone you are averse to – an enemy (an individual you are not on good terms with – your feelings toward them disturb your happiness), and someone to whom you are indifferent – a stranger (your feelings are neither positive nor negative).  Hold a clear picture of each of these three individuals in your mind.

Begin by focusing on your friend, allowing your feelings for this person to arise.  Recall a time when you felt a joyful connection to this person; then sit and enjoy the positive feelings of love you feel toward this person as they wash over you.  As you bask in these feelings, notice how concretely you identify this person as a ‘friend’; be aware of how much you want this person to be happy – as you are happy with them. 

Now shift your focus to individual you are averse to, allowing your feelings for this person to arise.  Perhaps this person has hurt you.  Without judgment toward yourself, let yourself experience all the negative feelings you have toward this person.  As you experience these feelings, take notice of how concretely you identify this person as an enemy – someone completely at odds with you.  Be aware of how unimportant this person’s happiness is to you. 

Finally, focus on the stranger.  You may experience indifference – a lack of any feeling toward this person.  Sit with the feeling of apathy, noticing the substantial connection between the feeling and the label of stranger. 

Next, reflect on the basis for your decision to categorize these three persons as you did.  What caused you to label the first individual as your friend?  How much of your decision was based on the things this person does that make you feel good?  Then do the same with the enemy.  How much of your decision was based on the things this person does or doesn’t do for you?  Notice how much the category depends on what this person does or doesn’t do now? (Hence the lack of relationship and feeling toward the stranger.)  If the label of enemy or friend were universal experiences of these individuals, then everyone would feel the same about them.  The fact that that not everyone categorizes these individuals the same is proof that these categories are subjective; they are based on our personal feelings. 

Recognize that like us, each of these individuals wants happiness and love.  That each of them has the capacity to develop love and compassion toward others.  Each of these individuals shares the same divine nature; each has been created by and is loved by God.  Each is our neighbor. 

Our feelings could be likened to the mint plant.  If mint is cultivated without a container it quickly spreads and becomes a ground cover.  When we are not paying attention it springs up under the fence in our neighbor’s yard.  The root of the mint plant is hearty, just like our feelings.  As we strive toward radical love, we must carefully cultivate our feelings, taking note of their origin.   

This week’s reflection draws from the practice Friend, Enemy, Stranger, by Susan J. Stabile in Growing in Love and Wisdom.