BookNotes: Forest Church

Forest Church: A Field Guide to a Spiritual Connection with Nature
by Bruce Stanley

Read October 2018

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This might be the most important book I could ever recommend to a Christian environmentalist or someone wondering what we ought to be thinking and doing when it comes to creation care.

It isn’t technical. It doesn’t lay out the answers. It doesn’t tell you to change your lightbulbs (although you should).

What it does is inspire you to take your connection to creation one step further. Just one step . . . But, my goodness where that one step might take you.

Ch 1 — Why Go Outside?

  • thin places = places where the boundary between heaven and earth is at its most transparent.
  • First Nations — mountains, water, woods, rock, and river
  • The Food Story and The Sacred Land — This might have been my favorite section. It breaks down belief, lifestyle, and impact of forager/hunter/gatherer vs food producer. I actually got a lot of good ideas for our little farm from this section.
  • Eco-mindedness and biophilia –embracing  our environmental challenges is an urgent issue that we must address.
  • NDD — Nature Deficit Disorder the only cure is go outside
  • Flow — the end of activity where your skill level in in balance with the challenge lever
    • gapped for air we;;-being
    • walking, cycling, drawing, climbing, foraging, playing, gardening, reading, knitting, journaling, photography,

Cha 2 — Reading the Second Book of God

  • Nature-a wild place, “other than human place,” but size is flexible.
  • 3 ways into Nature/Creation:
    • awe: Isn’t it amazing? deep sense of connection, as we is the beginning of wisdom
    • study: academic exploration, “What is it?”
    • meaning: search for insight and relevance, imagination.

Ch 3 –Participating with Nature

  • Pg 53: Ps 115:16, but “Im not sure were up to the responsibility.
  • Permaculture–people care, earth care, and fair share
    • value in nature should be recognized and protected
    • higher value –>primary use
      • example: pure water –> cook, drink, wash :: grey water –> flush, etc
      • example: energy –>solar or wind ::  No to fossil fuels
      • example: tree –>oxygen, shade :: limbs, dead wood –> heat home
  • Be with nature rather than going “into” nature.  i.e. participate
  • From Dominator to Participant
    • Dominator–nature exists to support humans, raw materials for profit
    • Steward — still seen from human perspective, recognize that their are limits to natural resources, entrusted with use not consumption
    • Partner –nature as ally. Animals as allies. life as an interplay of life forms.I am separate but conscious and ethical. Sustainable, organic, ecological care
    • Participant — I exist within the mix of interdependent and interwoven life forms, I am part of nature, respect because of intrinsic value, eco-centric, set limits. Be regenerative not just sutainable
    • Which am I? How can I move toward participant?  It is imperative that we move to being a participant.
    • Regenerative because we have a long way to go to get back to where our systems were actually sustainable.
      • pause before you enter a wild space
      • slow your soul
      • be aware when you intervene in nature

Ch 4–Developing Your Wild Side

  • well being accumulates daily through nature connection
  • more by walking, eating, sitting, working, reading outdoors
  • sit spot, journaling, giving thanks, wild camping, distance hiking, growing your own
  • following nature’s rhythm: day/night, lunar months, Light Half/Dark Half of year (equinox and solstice)
  • The only equipment you really need is;
    • comfortable footwear
    • decent jacket
    • water bottle
    • snack
    • first aid kit
    • phone / camera
    • notebook with pen or pencil

 

I am planning a series of posts where I explore these ideas more in depth.

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What I’m reading:  Harry Potter 3 in German, Cherringham #11, The Celtic Way of Prayer

What I’m listening to: Arthur

What I’m watching:  Doctor Who, The Good Place

What I’m learning in Welsh:

  • Yn well
  • Yn waeth
  • Gwych
  • wedi blino
  • Pwy dych chi?

What I’m thinking about:  regenerative eco-mindedness . . .

BookNotes: Thomas Merton & The Celts

Part 2 of the book notes

Celts, even before migrating to Gaul and the British Isles, highlight devotion to nature and a world inhabited by Spirits.

  • The Greeks called them “mysterious neighbors” who preferred living in natural environments rather than urban cities.
  • a sacredness to everyday place
  • a great sense of imagination
  • seasonal rhythms (Nov 1 = new year, Feb 1 = spring, time for planting)
  • God + humanity + earth = a trinity of social interaction
  • divine harmony — no split between matter and spirit
  • “this=ness” of each animal — glorifying God in the dogness of a dog
  • “this-ness” of hills, woods, grasses, waters
  • thin place = where the “this-ness” collapses and heaven and earth are 3 feet part.
    • groves of trees
    • stone walls
    • mountains
    • springs of water
    • island, peaks, cliffs, valleys
  • Rhythms of 3
    • shamrock — 3 leaves, yet 1 shamrock
    • 3 splashes/drops of water
    • love for neighbor, friend, and foe
    • “to save, to shield, to surround” the household
  • Celtic Knot
    • timeless nature
    • interlacing
    • spiritual and physical, birth and rebirth
    • closed path = eternity, ever-present love of God
    • the “zen” of doodles
  • Not creation entered, but creation filled: “Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, and our our destiny.”
    • intelligence, not learning or education, to understand art
    • work against ugliness by resorting beauty.
    • Welsh poetry–a striking sense that God’s grace is present and at work now, evident in the diversity and richness of creation, and in the way in which apparent opposites belong together and are at one.
    • Creation and redemption are one. Together they are the outpouring of a loving God.

BookNotes: Thomas Merton & The Celts

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Thomas Merton and the Celts
A New World Opening Up
By Monica Weis

Part 1 of the book notes

Definition and areas of overlap:

  • desert saints
  • scripture
  • pilgrimage
  • poetry
  • place
  • nature

Imagination fosters a distinctive way of seeing:

  • here and there
  • natural and spiritual
  • embraces a unity of natural (here) and spiritual (there)
  • landscape reveals the many faces of God
  • the “everywhere” God
  • John S Eriugena (C815-877) — God created all out of his essence therefore the world is a theophany
  • God’s presence makes the world
  • Holy “now moment”

Main Character of Celtic spirituality:

  • doctrine of creation (essential goodness)
  • doctrine of redemption (Christ is love incarnate)
  • Trinitarian
  • Incarnation
  • Held with vigor and clarity –> Christ the Word

Anamhara — soul friend, guide, not a mentor

  • periglour

A Celt is a entholiguist tribal society (societies) in central Europe during the Iron Age that migrated to the British Isles, southern France, Iberian Peninsula, and northern Italy.

  • the value of place
  • the value of tribe
  • the value of people
  • (i.e.: It is the Welsh in me that counts, page 12)
  • (leads to environmental responsibility as we learn the value of place)

Eremitic vs  Centobitic Monasteries:

  • eremitic — hermit monasticism (like St. Antony, 251-356), prayer work, spiritual work, reading
  • cenobitic — community living, communal, charity, humility, obedience, full spiritual lives. Village model, creation centered.
  • In Wales (Scotland and Ireland) when a chieftain became Christian, often the whole tribe became monks and the village became a monastery of sorts.
    • see Skellig Michael, Bangor, Derry, Durrow, Kildare, Clonfekt, Kells, etc
    • Iona and Lindisfarne both set up as village models.\
  • Celtic monasticism focused on allegiance to Abbot contrasted with Roman monasticism which focused on allegiance to Pope.
  • Whitby was
    • bishop vs abbot
    • date of easter
    • baptism
    • ACCD to Esther de Waal– not cataclysmic but local, took a long time to trickle down to all areas of “Celtic lands”

**Merton’s focus is on formation not information **

Celtic pilgrim: holy and insatiable curiosity, simplicity, practicality, tremendous endurance

Celtic Monasticism:

  • gentle way of life
  • retreats
  • sanctity and sweetness of life
  • significance of soul-friend
  • 3 labors of the day
    • prayer
    • work
    • reading
  • poetry
    • immediacy of the moment
    • simplicity
    • integrity of the spiritual
    • life purified from materialism in simple communion with nature
  • pilgrimage
    • a different way of seeing
    • peregrination — setting off on foot or in a small boat without a goal or destination, to discover the place of one’s resurrection
    • journey metaphor is deeply embedded in the human experience
      • exodus
      • odyssey
      • aeneid
      • divine comedy
      • Canterbury tales
      • etc
    • trasana — the crossing place, the divide, the challenge, between the familiar and the unknown
    • ethnic sense of romance and the lore of an ancient wonder-adventure
    • Phases of
      • the longing
      • the call
      • the departure
      • the pilgrim’s way
      • the labyrinth
      • the arrival
      • the bringing back of a “boon”
      • the new self-knowledge
      • the transformed self
    • The Voyage of Brendan
      • all creation is holy and everything is sacred because it is the very outpouring of God’s love.

How does one live out of a transfigured center?

  • cycles of time that revolve around the church calendar (and nature’s cycles)
  • spiritual creativity
  • travel (= aesceticism and discipline)
  • reckoning (=constantly watching so you stay on course)
  • constant care of vessel
  • See hymn — Be Thou My Vision
  • If you are facing in the right direction, all you need to do is keep walking
  • The earth, paradise, because we know in our inmost hearts that the earth was given to us in order that we may find meaning, order, truth, and salvation in it.

 

ancient wisdom

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There are times in my life when all the facts seem to coalesce into a greater truth. Normally I find that this truth is also an ancient truth, an ancient wisdom, and that I am never the first person to encounter it.  That said, it is very important to me that I come to this wisdom for myself. Otherwise it always is just facts & knowledge but never truly my own wisdom.

I recently had that experience with wellness. I have written about why I chose FWTFL. It was the best decision I have ever made health wise. It is an amazing set of “what’s” and “how’s”. It has given me the tools to get back to a healthy state.  But I am a “why” gal.  I like to know, no — I need to know, why.  So I read a book called “The Four Pillar Plan” (UK title) / “How to Make Disease Disappear” (US title) by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee. It reinforced the “what” and “how” of FWTFL and went deeper into the “whys”.  Then I began listening to his podcast.  A particular episode really struck me as something that I wanted to know more about, something that was the big “WHY” behind all the little “whys.”

The big WHY is the circadian rhythm.

After listening to the episode(s) on circadian rhythm, I purchased the kindle version of Dr Satchin Panda’s book “The Circadian Code” then I read every article he referenced, then followed a rabbit trail of links and articles. It has been very enlightening. Very interesting. Very intriguing.

What makes us think we can just unroll thousands (and thousands) of years of living, being, and observation? This is the question I have to ask myself often. This is the crux of my endeavors going forward. It all came together for me when I sat down with my Book of Common Prayer to do Laud one morning and Vespers later that day.

Laud — Let my soul rise up to meet you as the day rises to meet the sun.

Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring to your holy hill and to your dwelling . . .

The very definition of Laud is praise, public praise so it is very fitting that my first intentional (conscious) thought is that of praising God. I notice that laud (praise) is tied to and acknowledges the rising sun. That first morning light that is filled with blue light, that light that alerts our body to awaken and prepare for the day  . . . and so I complete the prescribed prayers while lacing up my trainers, downing a glass of water, and heading out to walk in the new day, with the rising sun, and continue to focus my thoughts on God.

By the time my walk is done, I’m warm, hungry, and feeling quite alert and ready to tackle the day. I spend a few extra minutes outside watching Jasper caper about and weeding the gardens. This gives me nearly an hour out in the sun, moving my body, wakening my mind, and enjoying the peace and quiet.

The rest of my day falls into place with meals, plenty of water, a shower, light housekeeping, reading, writing, and learning.  By 3 pm, I am brain-tired and ready for a change. Some time doing yoga or resistance training helps re-focus my day from mental to physical — now is when I do any heavy cleaning or other physically intensive housekeeping chores, along with a quick dip in the pool to cool off, and my last meal occurs about 5 pm.

At 6:00 I sit down with my prayer book again and I find these words . . .

Vespers —

O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are workday at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Vesper means evening (and Venus, as in the evening star) and I am reminded again to praise and I see again that it is tied to the changing light pattern. Now the sun is sinking, the day is aglow with reds, oranges, and purplish-gray. This is no time for glaring white/blue lights, screens, and exciting activities. This is a time to be be quieted, to prepare my body for rest and healing. This is a time for fireside (or candle-side) story telling, family chats, books, and audiobooks.  Even in the summer, when here in IN it can be light at 9 pm, it is easy to make this a quiet time — and sometimes another dip in the pool is needed to help cool down our bodies and make it easier to fall asleep.

There is so much more I’ve learned, and so much more I’ve remembered, but this is the gist of circadian rhythm and these are the keys to wellness:  Sleep, Eat, Move, and Relax.

BookNotes: The Way of the Heart

The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers
by Henri Nouwen

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“Arsenius, flee from the world, be silent, pray always . . ”

Solitude — Silence — Prayer :: a summary of the spirituality of the desert.

Solitude:  

  • the furnace of transformation
  • Temptations that face
    • to be relevant
    • to be spectacular
    • to be powerful
  • The very first thing we need to do is set apart a time and place to be with God.

Silence:

  • Silence is the way to make solitude a reality.
  • Silence makes us pilgrims.
  • Silence guards the fire (Holy Spirit) within.
  • Silence teaches us to speak.
  • We speak a great deal, but what good does it really do.
  • “wordy unbelief”
  • A word with power comes out of silence. A word that bears fruit comes out of silence.
  • Divine silence in which love rests secure.
  •   . . .  how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence.”

Prayer:

  • Pray always . . . solitude and silence are never separate from prayer. They create space for prayer.
  • Hesychia — the rest which flows from unceasing prayer.
  • Prayer isn’t just talking to God or thinking about God.
  • Hesychastic Prayer:
    • prayer of the heart
    • to descend with the mind into the heart and stand before the face of God
    • Heart = the source of all energies: impulses, feelings, mood, wishes, perception, understanding, will, plans, decision, PERSONALITY
  • Hide Nothing :: Surrender All
    • Happy are the pure in heart: they shall see God
  • Prayer — simple, unceasing, all-inclusive.

 

BookNotes: Our Celtic Heritage

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Our Celtic Heritage: Looking at Our Faith in the Light of Celtic Christianity
A Study Guide for Christian Groups
By Chris King

Read Dec 2017

Session 1: The Caim and the High Cross
Session 2: God the Creator
Session 3: Never too Busy to Pray
Session 4: The Trinity
Session 5: St. Patrick’s Breastplate

 

An everyday religion that permeates all.

Caim — circle, circle of protection. Starts small, just round you, and then ripples outward as you pray for those both near and far.

High Cross — the victor’s cross, sun circle as crown of victory and wholeness, this life is a challenge, struggle, battle, but Christ goes before.

They did not take Christianity to the people so much as reveal the God who was already there.

Parting — God be with you

Celtic = God is present in creation and in our lives.