We, Too, Are Creatures – Remembering We Are Dust

“The world is like our bodies. It, too, is formed by many limbs and directed by a single soul. Yes, the world is an immense being directed by the power and the word of God, who is, so to say, its soul.” – Origen

Modern life is lived out almost entirely in a human-made bubble. Within the world that Origen describes – the natural, God-created world of which our bodies are part– there is a manufactured sub-world of machines, concrete, currency and climate-control. Through the power of our technologies it is easy to forget that we are creatures, dependent on a world not of our creation for our food, water, and air. All too often this sub-world becomes all-consuming. It begins to feel like THE world itself, all that there is.

Thanks be to God, this is not so. This manufactured sub-world rests within the larger, God-created world. This God-created world holds and sustains us and this smaller world we’ve made.

But how can we remember this? How can humanity return to the lived understanding that we too are creatures? That we belong first and foremost to the world Origen describes? That our very destinies are interwoven, not with the powers and principalities of our human-made sub-world, but with the earth, the rivers, the birds and the beasts? How do we know in our hearts and bodies – not just our minds – that from dust we have come and to dust we shall return?

I believe our first and most important step is to immerse ourselves in the God-created world as much as possible. Or as Steve Blackmer much more simply puts, “Go outside!” And when we go outside, we go to listen, trusting that the earth will remind us who we are and whose we are. We go not to retreat from our manufactured sub-world, to fuel up and go back into the fray. We go to relearn how to be creatures that live in balance with our precious home every moment of our lives. This is the intimacy, this is the relationship with creation, for which our souls and the world’s soul longs.

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Are you interested in exploring a greater intimacy with God’s creation? To awaken evermore to your own creature-liness? Consider joining us for the first Earth Credo retreat April 22-27, 2018.

Earth Credo is a 5-day immersion in the practice and spirituality of living in right relationship with the natural world. Rooted in the Christian tradition of care for the earth, participants will learn contemplative disciplines that support intimacy with God through Creation and learn practical outdoor skills needed to be comfortable interacting more closely with nature.

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~ Written by Lisa Hershey Kutolowski ~

Lisa, a co-guide on the River of Life: Connecticut River Pilgrimage 2017, lives, writes, works, and prays on a Vermont homestead with her husband, Mark. She writes regularly about their life, nature, yurts, spirituality, porcupines, and homesteading – read more here. Learn more about Lisa and Mark’s shared work and ministry at Metanoia of Vermont.


Waking Up with the Earth

Spring comes slowly to Vermont. The day’s light lengthens incrementally and the sun warms. The chickadees come alive with their glorious tunes. The red squirrels come out and begin to scurry and play. Yet, with all this pre-spring activity, a foot of snow still covers the earth I so long to dig my hands and feet into! Spring comes so very slowly to Vermont.

Taking in these little hints of spring available to me (and at this point impatiently wishing spring would come rushing at me all at once) has lead me to reflect on how our inner lives mirror the change of the seasons, especially as it relates to baptism and immersion – the River of Life Prayer Book’s theme for this week. As this week’s intro says, “Baptism was understood in the early church as a ritual drowning – dying to the old self to be born anew in God.” Every year we have the opportunity to watch how the earth herself dies each winter and is born anew each spring. It is a rhythm that will not be rushed and one that is essential for the vitality of our ecology.

So it is with our inner life. The spiritual path is a lifelong process of dying to our false self and being reborn into the fullness of life. The liturgical calendar invites us into this rhythm every year during the Lent and Easter seasons. The earth invites us into this rhythm with each setting and rising of the sun. Our own bodies invite us into this rhythm with our very breath – taking in the new and releasing the old with each inhalation and exhalation.

In the Gospel of John, Nicodemus asks, “How can anyone be born after having grown old?” Jesus replies, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The spiritual life is saying yes to the possibility that with each year, with each day, even with each breath the gift of a new life – the gift of spring – is available to us.

This is why we have Lent. To remind us that we need not stay locked, frozen, and trapped in our false selves. The new life of spring, the resurrection of Easter, is always as near to us as our very breath.

May we wake up to this reality this Lent, this day, this very breath.

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~ Written by Lisa Hershey Kutolowski ~

Lisa, a co-guide on the River of Life: Connecticut River Pilgrimage 2017, lives, writes, works, and prays on a Vermont homestead with her husband, Mark. She writes regularly about their life, nature, yurts, spirituality, porcupines, and homesteading – read more here. Learn more about Lisa and Mark’s shared work and ministry at Metanoia of Vermont.

 


Mud Season of the Soul

The earth has begun to thaw in my home region – the Upper Valley along the Connecticut River – with unseasonably warm 40+ degree days. When the frozen ground begins to melt in Vermont, where the majority of the roads are dirt, we experience mud season – the messy, mucky, unwieldy transition from winter to spring. This season, the limbo between the frozen waters and waters that flow clean and free, is an apt metaphor for grace.*

Grace is good news. It is the gift of God’s infinite and loving presence available to us at every moment. It is the freedom that does not bind us to our past faults, foibles, and ways of being and acting that wrought pain to the world and ourselves. It is the promise that true healing of our wounds, relationships, injustices, and the earth is possible.

Yet in the transition from our hardened, frozen hearts to life, freedom, and wholeness we need to walk through some muck. When we seek to discard idols and attachments that we may experience the infinite riches of the present moment, our “senses will cry like disappointed children” (Jean de Pierre Caussade in The Sacrament of the Present Moment). When we embrace the freedom of forgiveness we need to look squarely at the pain we caused. When we work for true healing in our lives, our community, and the earth, we must first name the hurt, the disorder, the fracturing. We experience grace to the extent that we have eyes to see the reality of the world in front of us – the muck of wounding, injustice, and exploitation as well as the spring flowers of forgiveness, reconciliation, and freedom.

Lent, then, is our liturgical mud season. It is the season in which we fast and pray, intentionally looking at the places we have fallen short, grieving our role in the cycle of wounded-ness, and asking for the grace of a transformed heart.

May we embrace the difficult, uncomfortable, painful invitation of Lent, knowing that the muck is a sign of God’s fiery grace melting our hardened, frozen hearts.

 

*It’s important to note that true mud season in Vermont is typically late March into April. The sloppiness of this week is unusual.

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~ Written by Lisa Hershey Kutolowski ~

Lisa, a co-guide on the River of Life: Connecticut River Pilgrimage 2017, lives, writes, works, and prays on a Vermont homestead with her husband, Mark. She writes regularly about their life, nature, yurts, spirituality, porcupines, and homesteading – read more here. Learn more about Lisa and Mark’s shared work and ministry at Metanoia of Vermont.

 

*Note: If you do not have a River of Life Prayer Book, you can download an online version here.  If you’d like to print out the one-page document that aligns the River of Life Prayer Book entries with the days of Lent, click here.

 


What Stands Between You & Wildness?

Our winter lives in New England are full of barriers to protect us from the wildness of the outside world – the walls of our houses and the heating devices within; coats, boots, hats, mittens & scarves; our climate-controlled vehicles. Thanks to amazing road crews our routines can continue uninterrupted save the occasional blizzard or ice storm. All these protections keep us cozy, safe, and protected from the fierce wildness of winter.

Barriers that keep our bodies warm and alive on cold winter days are good and necessary protections. Yet our lives are filled with all sorts of other barriers that protect us from the wildness and the unpredictability of God. These barriers also keep us from dying, but they keep us from a spiritual death of the ego. Ultimately, that death invites us into a much greater life than we can possibly imagine.

Lent is a time to discover and strip away the barriers that stand between us and the wild love of God. Because God’s nature is so clearly revealed in the wildness of creation, I think it is also a time to strip away the modern barriers between us and the incarnate wildness of creation.

It may be a few days after Ash Wednesday, but it’s not too late to think about what to fast from this Lent. What can you remove from your life that will bring you into greater encounter with the wildness of God, the wildness of nature, and the wildness of the present reality. What barrier, can you remove to remind you that life – existence itself – is wild, free and glorious?
Here are some ideas:

Internet/Social Media: We all have had the experience of being transported from where are bodies are to some other place with one ding, swipe, or click. The internet is an incredible tool when used wisely. It also has tremendous power to shield us from the wildness of the present reality – including God and nature. Every time I do an internet or social media fast I am shocked at how programmed I am to reach for my phone as soon as I am no longer preoccupied with something else.

This fast can manifest multiple ways – delete a social media account for the season, limit internet use to working hours, keep a tech-free Sabbath once a week, or remove internet access on your smartphone. And then, look around you, really see the people you walk or drive by, notice how your body feels, pay attention to where your mind goes. Pray that your eyes would open to the infinite presence of God in each and every moment.

Conveniences: Our modern lives are chock-full of conveniences! Surveying our morning routines alone demonstrates this – light at the flick of a switch, water at the turn of a handle, hot water at the turn of another handle, a refrigerator keeping our food cold, a heater keeping us warm. Choosing to fast from a convenience can remind us how interconnected our lives are with the rest of the planet.

You can fast from a convenience by using candles in the evening instead of electric lights, hand wash dishes instead of using a dish washer, or limit the amount of trash you generate during Lent to a quart-sized jar (or smaller!). Consider parking far away from your office, grocery store or church rather than the closest spot you can find. If you are able to walk instead of drive, opt for walking this Lent. You can also remove a barrier between you and your impact on the earth by visiting the source of your conveniences. Visit the hydro dam, solar panels, wind turbines or power plant that produces your electricity or the reservoir that supplies your water.

Noise: The news, background music, podcasts, Netflix, conversation with others, books. We have countless ways to distract us from the physical reality around us, our thoughts, and God’s presence. On the Connecticut River Pilgrimage, silence was the cornerstone of everything we did. Without the silence – 3-4 hours every morning and 20 minutes of silence during communal prayer – the challenge of hearing the voice of the river and the presence of God would have been so much greater. Silence is our greatest aid in encountering the wildness of God, nature, and the present moment. The gift of silence is that it is accessible to us no matter where we are!

The prayer book encourages a practice of twenty minutes of silence two times a day. Additionally, you can fast from noise by not listening to the radio or podcasts; giving up recorded music; choosing to not watch TV, Netflix or movies; or keeping silence until mid-morning each day (you need to get your household in on this one!). Do not be afraid when your mind fills in the silence with noise of its own. You may be tempted to replace your old form of noise-making with a new form. Resist the temptation. If you stay with the silence and surrender your inner noisiness to God, inner silence will come.

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It is a terrifying undertaking to remove the barriers we have built to protect us against the wild unpredictability of God, nature, and the present moment. I resonate with Emilie Griffin when she writes,

“‘Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.’ Isn’t that one of the most disturbing sentences in the Scriptures? We know God asks hard things. We know he did not spare his own Son. We know Jesus, prayed, not now and then, but all the time. Isn’t this what holds us back –the knowledge of God’s omnipotence, his unguessability, his power, his right to ask an All of us, a perfect gift of self, a perfect act of full surrender?”

Yet even as we enter this forty day fast, we already know how it ends. We fast, not in a spirit of deprivation, but with the promise that it is only through stripping the old away, through death, that new life will come.

May God give us the courage to strip away all that keeps us from knowing fully the wonder of this wild world and the love of a wild God!

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~ Written by Lisa Hershey Kutolowski ~

Lisa, a co-guide on the River of Life: Connecticut River Pilgrimage 2017, lives, writes, works, and prays on a Vermont homestead with her husband, Mark. She writes regularly about their life, nature, yurts, spirituality, porcupines, and homesteading – read more here. Learn more about Lisa and Mark’s shared work and ministry at Metanoia of Vermont.

 

*Note: If you do not have a River of Life Prayer Book, you can download an online version here.  If you’d like to print out the one-page document that aligns the River of Life Prayer Book entries with the days of Lent, click here.

 


The River Is Still Flowing

The River is flowing
Flowing and growing
The River is flowing
Down to the sea

The Connecticut River between Vermont and New Hampshire does not seem to have much flow these days. The frigid temperatures have locked her surface waters into a standstill. During the January thaw on the White River (a tributary of the Connecticut), huge, jagged blocks of ice melted loose and were carried downriver, eventually marooning at narrow banks and bridge trestles. When temperatures dipped again, the river north of the Wilder Dam transformed into a 17-mile ice-skating rink, smooth as glass. With the snows last week, the river has nearly disappeared under the world’s white blanket.

By all surface appearances, the river is no longer flowing. During these cold winter months, the river is as still as a meadow. Yet the River is still flowing. Beneath the surface, her steady, faithful current is carrying her waters to the ocean.

As we witnessed over and over again on the Connecticut River Pilgrimage in 2017, God’s loving presence is mirrored beautifully in the dynamic, flowing, and free water. Yet again, in these frozen months, the river speaks to those who are listening. Regardless of how still, how cold, and how harsh our lives may seem on the surface, God’s ever-loving presence is flowing free. It may feel a lot less accessible some days than others, but the Spirit is no less real and no less present today than any other day.

As we enter into this Lenten season, we at Kairos Earth invite you to journey with us for forty days of prayer with the River of Life Prayer Book from the Connecticut River Pilgrimage 2017. We invite you to return with us to the river, to hear what she whispers about the nature of God and how she invites us to open to the ever-flowing stream of God’s presence. We invite you with the deep conviction that the joy, freedom, and abundance of God’s presence is flowing as faithfully now as it always has.

In addition to praying along with you every morning and evening, we will be posting weekly reflections on the Kairos Earth blog that will help you integrate the readings into this darker, colder season. (If you do not have a River of Life Prayer Book, you can download an online version here).  If you’d like to print out the one-page document that aligns the River of Life Prayer Book entries with the days of Lent, click here.

May this Lenten season prepare our hearts to receive the gift of new life that is always just below the surface. Join us.

 

~ Written by Lisa Hershey Kutolowski ~

Lisa, a co-guide on the River of Life: Connecticut River Pilgrimage 2017, lives, writes, works, and prays on a Vermont homestead with her husband, Mark. She writes regularly about their life, nature, yurts, spirituality, porcupines, and homesteading – read more here. Learn more about Lisa and Mark’s shared work and ministry at Metanoia of Vermont.


Grace & The River of God

From June 4-10, pilgrims embarked on the second leg of the journey down the Connecticut River: “Water, Grace, & The River of God.”

“All God asks of us is to come – dams, stagnation, obstacles, all of it. Bring it to the constant, ever-flowing wonderful stream. God will wash it all away, revealing the beautiful, good, loving creature formed and loved by the divine.”

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It was a week of both joys and tears, rejoicing in the beauty of the water and grieving the damage and pain we as humans have wrought upon it. It was a week of remembering where in our own hearts and spirits God’s love flows through us, strongly and ceaselessly, and where in us there are blockages and dams, places where we feel stuck or stagnant.

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We portaged around the Gilman Dam on Saturday, June 10th. Dams like this one were added along the Connecticut River to control annual flooding and to protect riverside towns. Despite the human benefit, damming rivers does not come without great consequences for the river, for its inhabitants, and for its neighbors. The Moore and Comerford Reservoirs cover what was 15-mile falls, the longest consecutive stretch of falls on the east coast, and a sacred site to the Abenaki. As we paddled near the shore, we could see traces of what the sunlight once touched – huge rocks, built stone walls – all of which are now submerged beneath these still waters which no longer tumble and froth.

May we remember to temper our appetite for control, efficiency, and power, especially when such drives permit us to forget that the earth is alive and thriving, not an inanimate object for our desired use and purpose.

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“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

And do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

And succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” — Isaiah 55:1-13

Pilgrims have now begun the next stage: “Baptism and Immersion in God.”

May they receive many blessings on their journey!

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Water Wheel

This week from “A View from the Covered Bridge:”


I have been watching clouds flow across the continent on TV, tracing the curving river-like paths of our snow events.  This experience speaks the connection of the rivers of air and moisture flowing through our sky to drop snow or water to feed the rills, brooks and rivers streaming to the sea where the currents create underwater rivers within the mothering mass we call the oceans, which yield up their waters back to the sky, again and again.  Gray mornings like today brings us face to face with this water wheel, clouds pregnant with snow.