Silence – God’s first language

It was still pitch black outside when I woke up the morning after Hurricane Sandy had swept over us. The electricity had gone out the evening before. We remained in full darkness. I had woken once in the middle of the night to hear…nothing. The howling, tearing, threatening wind had gone. Away.


When I sat on my cushion for morning prayers,  I couldn’t see anything. I listened intently, but I couldn’t hear. Anything. The world had gone silent. The wind was gone. The rustling leaves were gone. The usual gurgle and hum of the refrigerator behind me was gone. All was still.

It isn’t easy to find silence in our hyper world. It is even harder to be silence. If there is one thing I urge you to do in your quest for God, it is to seek silence. Simply to listen.

Silence is God’s first language

Pause, listen to the silence, listen to God.


Originally posted at Sunshine Faith


God’s delight

The November issue of The Atlantic contains a wonderful piece written by John Muir, excerpted from a longer article published in 1897:

“The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God; for they were the best he ever planted. The whole continent was a garden, and from the beginning it seemed to be favored above all the other wild parks and gardens of the globe…These forests were composed of about five hundred species of trees, all of them useful to man, ranging in size from twenty-five feet in height and less than one foot in diameter at the ground to four hundred feet in height and more than twenty feet in diameter – lordly monarchs proclaiming the gospel of beauty like apostles…

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed – chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones…It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these western woods – trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ’s time – and long before that – God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools…”   John Muir, “The American Forests,” The Atlantic, August 1897

There is a much to hear in this paean to the great forests of America – and too much that has not changed. Many of the forests Muir loved have been felled and we struggle still with fools and foolishness regarding trees, forests, and Earth.

I would particularly like to point out, though, Muir’s unabashed use of Christian language and imagery to make his case. Muir is using what was, and for most Americans still is, accepted and understood language of sacredness to express his love of these great forests. Unabashed, he speaks of God and of Christ to communicate his own anger and frustration and to evoke in his readers a sense that to destroy these forests is to desecrate a sacred place.

Muir’s use of religious language – and his deep personal belief that sacred places are created by God – was instrumental in his ability to communicate with a wide cross-section of Americans and to create the 20th century conservation movement. In the intervening hundred years, America’s environmental advocates have largely lost our comfort and fluency with such language and belief. As we have forgotten how to speak, we have lost the ability to speak to a large part of America in ways they can hear.

How can we regain this lost language on behalf of Earth? How can we learn to speak to those who don’t hear or understand technocratic enviro-speak? How can we re-create within ourselves an understanding and practice of Earth as holy? How can we re-learn that way of Christ that so moved John Muir?


I encourage you to poke around, read from stories and reflections about how I came to be here and what I’m doing, and to add your own thoughts, experiences, and questions.

In a time when global climate change is such an extraordinary threat to the flourishing of people and other forms of life, I dream this will be a place where people can explore and express their deepest yearning – to live in harmony with each other and with all of Earth – and to find help in transforming themselves and the world.

This site is starting as a way for me to give to the world what I have to give. In my wildest dreams, though, it is becoming a place for everyone who believes that conserving Earth and helping her people is much too important to leave only to “the environmentalists.”

The environmental movement has forgotten that it grows, at its roots, from a religious impulse. We must recover that religious impulse to be able to live in harmony with Earth and each other.  Kairos Earth will explore how this recovery might happen. Of course we need better science, technology, economics, and so on, to respond to climate change and other human-fueled harms. But alone, these technocratic tools are insufficient. We need also to transform our fundamental way of being – to be rooted in awestruck wonder and reverence, in gratitude for all we are given, in comprehension of our own puniness and failings, and in recognition of our ultimate dependence on the one Source from which all flows.

I write as a Christian exploring what my own new-found faith has to give to this work. I welcome people of all faiths, and of no faith or tradition, who are drawn by the idea that God – by whatever name, faith, and form – is essential to transforming us and the world.


Ocean’s Rising

As I write, I see and hear the winds of Hurricane Sandy tear through the pine and oak forest outside my window. If I am honest, I will admit that it is frightening. This wind can kill.

Throughout the eastern United States tonight, coastal communities are facing flooding as the storm surge amplifies the natural rise of high tide. Sadly, in addition to purely natural causes, the dangerous intensity of this wind and flooding also owes something to humans. Because of our actions, there is more heat and more energy in the oceans and atmosphere, and that makes storms more violent.

If we are paying attention, we know that our actions contribute to climate change. Every time we drive in a car, every time we buy a new electronic gadget, every time we fly on an airplane, more greenhouse gases go into the air. We are part of the problem.

In traditional Christian language, we are sinners. But this is a different kind of sin from your great-grandmother’s sins of drinking, playing cards, and sleeping around. This is a kind of systemic sin in which we are participants in a huge system of behavior that is threatening untold other beings, human and non-human, here and far away, now and for centuries to come.

We need language that helps us recognize and admit that we are part of the problem. Mea culpa! I have sinned! We need practices that help us understand that even as we have caused harm, nothing can separate us from the love of God – that we are forgiven. And we need practices that allow us to change our harmful, sinful ways – to transform our lives in order to stop the actions that cause harm, and start working to repair the damage


Originally posted at Sunshine Faith