Deadheading is for the Birds

I don’t usually upload two posts in a day but this is an exception – tomorrow’s post is being uploaded early because tomorrow my blog is moving and I will not be able to add content. Hopefully those of you who visit the blog will not notice any changes – except that by the end of the day there should no longer be advertisements at the end of the posts. If you do have problems please bear with us – we hope that the change will make it easier to expand the resources available on the site and give us more freedom in what types of files we are able to upload. The url will change to http://godspace-msa.com but if traffic will continue to be redirected from the old site.  So with that preamble….

Dahlias in the garden

Yesterday morning I shared about spirituality and gardening in a class at Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. It was a beautiful morning and we were able to wander in the local pea patch for part of the time. Beautiful dahlias are still in bloom and the fragrance of roses wafted on the air. Rosemary, thyme and oregano waited to be crushed in hands to share their fragrance as well. But in the midst of the beauty there was also brokenness and death. Giant thistle seed heads ready to blow away on the wind. Piles of dead leaves, and much to our disgust dirty syringes and broken bottles.

thistle head

Our instinct was to  pull out the dying plants, deadhead the summer blooms and “tidy up”. We don’t like untidy spaces and we like even less, the brokenness it sometimes uncovers. We wanted to throw away the syringes and pretend that the brokenness of the city had not invaded this tranquil space.

But is that really what we should be doing? Evidently those untidy and seemingly dead flowers are an important source of nourishment for the birds over the winter. And the corners full of dead leaves provide warm hiding places for insects, frogs and other garden animals.

Maybe the brokenness of our world has a purpose too we speculated. Perhaps as the birds find nourishment from the seemingly dead flowers, we too find nourishment in the midst of the death and brokenness of our souls. And maybe those “dead leaves” are good places for us to hide too so that we can be protected from the wounds still too painful to bear. If we clean them up too quickly before they have done their winter work maybe our lives will suffer.

We grow closer to God in times of sorrow and heartache then we do when everything is going well. We find healing more rapidly when we recognize and face our pains and brokenness then we do in the height of “summer” when everything in our lives seems as sunny as the weather.

This wander in the garden provided some encouraging and challenging lessons for me. I know there are still broken areas in my life that I would love to tidy away right now. And as I look at my loved ones and my friends I see places in their lives I would like to tidy up as well. But God says be patient, make sure you nourish and protect them until God says it is time to tidy up.

Unexpected Surprises – Blessings From God We Rarely Notice

Autumn beauty

This morning was garden morning at the Mustard Seed House. Unfortunately none of my usual helpers were able to come, but as this was my first time out in the garden for a week I was still eager to get out there.

First I wandered round our side garden where an amazing variety of greens – zen, mizuna, arugula, bok choy, spinach, collards and some that I think may have cross pollinated – have self seeded from last year’s compost. Yes I know that means it doesn’t get hot enough but to be honest I kind of like this unexpected bonus and they tend to be the healthiest greens in the garden at this season.

pansies

Then I explored the front garden where I planted pansies last week. This too is thriving. The leeks and chard are the best we have ever grown, and thanks to Kristin Carrrocino’s encouragement we have a new crop of cauliflowers, broccoli, kale and spinach slowly moving towards harvest.

Autumn hydrangea surprise

 

Last I headed to the back garden where I planned to plant garlic. It almost didn’t get done because I was inspired by the unexpected surprises of autumn colours, not just in the leaves but in the beautiful changes the hydrangeas have undergone in the last few days. I soon had my camera out exploring all the amazing and surprising changes in the garden. Not all of them are good unfortunately, the slugs have had a hey day in the hostas and the morning glory is taking over but these surprises seemed trivial compared to the awe inspiring sense of entering int the presence of God I experienced.

planting garlic

 

last week I wrote this prayer about pausing to look and see God in the moment. I was reminded of it this morning as I too paused to breathe in the presence of God around me.

Lord Jesus Christ,
May we pause to look
and see you in this moment.
Mountains red and white with morning sun,
Quiet gaps between traffic flow,
Smiling faces welcoming the day.
Lord jesus Christ,
May we draw breath,
and reflect on your presence,
enlivening all things,
sustaining all things,
transforming all things.
Lord Jesus Christ,
May this moment call me to respond
with just living,
generous giving,
grateful actions.

My unexpected surprises were not finished there though. Having planted my garlic I wandered inside for a cup of coffee and my attention was caught by this amazing orchid.

flowering orchid

It is at least 10 years old and every year I tell myself – I must repot it, it is so pot bound that there is no way it will flower this year. Yet it does. This year 16 flower spikes so far and still counting. This too is an unexpected blessing from God, a surprise that I almost missed because I was eager to move on to my next task.

How often do I miss the unexpected surprises of God because I am too busy, too distracted, too focused on work? How often do I fail to pause and breathe in the presence of God they reveal? And how often do I fail to respond with praise, with thanksgiving and with generosity towards others out of those blessings?

Gardening is always a good reminder to me of my need to pause and enter the presence of God. What provides that much needed prompting in your life?

More Prayers for the Journey

This week has been a very active one on the Light for the Journey Facebook page. I hope you enjoy these prayers.

As we enter a new day – we take time to prepare our hearts for all that lies before us.

Prayer to greet the day!

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace,
help me in all things to rely upon your holy will.
In every hour of the day reveal your will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all.
In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will, teach me to pray. And you, yourself, pray in me. Amen.

Eastern Orthodox Prayer,

Posted by Contemplative network

God may our eyes be opened 

to see the threads of your glory
intertwined in our lives.
God may our ears be unstopped
to hear the whisper of your grace
comforting those we meet.
God may our hands be liberated
to share the generosity of your blessings
full measure pressed down
overflowing into the world we love.

Christine Sine 

Let everything within me cry holy,
Let everything around me cry holy,
Let everything above and below cry me holy.
God the maker of heaven and earth is worthy,
Of praise and worship and honour,
Let all that is, all that was and all that will be cry holy.

Christine Sine

May the God of grace
lift you from where you are
and raise you onto higher ground.
May the God of peace
still the anguish of your soul
and bring you to a quiet place.
May the God of love
who warms our fragile hearts
be the strength you find today.

(http://www.facebook.com/faithandworship)

God interrupts
inviting us to pause
and notice.
God interrupts
inviting us to listen
whispers quieting our hearts
bells ringing in our souls
God interrupts
inviting us to pause.
Use it as you will
but remember always
God interrupts
inviting us to life.

Christine Sine https://godspace.wordpress.com/

From Parker Palmer’s Facebook page

 

Creator God,
on windswept beaches
your saints of old
held their hands up to you
in wonder and amazement,
felt your power through the roar
of wind and surf and,
exposed to the elements
felt a oneness
with the One
who had created all things.
This world does not often allow us
such intimacy with you, Father,
we are crowded out
by circumstances of our own choosing,
seeking fellowship with each other
rather than with you.
Forgive our unwillingness
to follow in the footsteps of your saints,
to meet you in the solitude of your creation.
Forgive our unwillingness
to get our feet wet

© John Birch – http://www.facebook.com/faithandworship

Lord may I take time today
to be alone with you.
May I create the discipline of presence,
Knowing that inner retreat,
regardless of outer circumstances
is a gift worth pursuing.
May I remember that in the midst of storms
you slept in perfect confidence
rocked to sleep by your faith.
May I take courage when the waves swamp me
Knowing that to our cries of terror
you respond
be not afraid.

Christine Sine

Seize God,
the weaver of heaven and earth.
Bring your past,
Bring the present day,
Bring the promise of the future,
before the Eternal One.
Seize God,
choose love,
seek the holy presence,
Let the Lord,
make your life extraordinary.

Christine Sine

Bless to us, O Lord,
the earth on which we walk,
each mountain top,
sunlit sky.

Bless to us, O Lord,
the beauty that we see,
soaring eagle,
butterfly.

Bless to us, O Lord,
the peace within our heart
when filled with joy
or sorrow.

Bless to us, O Lord,
the journey that we make,
the footsteps that
we follow.

©John Birch: http://www.facebook.com/faithandworship

 

A Prayer by Teresa of Avilia

This beautiful prayer was posted on Light for the Journey by Micha Jazz this morning – enjoy

Santa Teresa de Avila, pintura vidrio en Convento de Santa Teresa. From from the Wikimedia Commons.

Monday is here and so an appropriate prayer for the week from St Teresa of Avila, the great Carmelite reformer and nurturer of St John of the Cross.

I am Thine, and born for Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Sov’reign Lord upon Thy throne,
Endless Wisdom, One and Whole,
Goodness that does feed my soul,
Good and great, One God alone:
Vile Thou seest me, yet Thine own,
As I sing my love for Thee.
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Thine I am, for Thou didst make me;
Thine, for Thou alone didst save me;
Thine–Thou couldst endure to have me;
For Thine own didst deign to take me.
Never once didst Thou forsake me.
Ruined were I but for Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

What, O good and loving Lord,
Wilt Thou have this creature do?
This Thy slave, a sinner too,
Waiting till she hears Thy word?
With Thy will in close accord,
Sweetest Love, I come to Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Take, O Lord, my loving heart:
See, I yield it to Thee whole,
With my body, life and soul
And my nature’s every part.
Sweetest Spouse, my Life Thou art;
I have given myself to Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Let me live, or let me die;
Give me sickness, give me health;
Give me poverty or wealth;
Let me strive or peaceful lie.
Weakness give or strength supply–
I accept it all of Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Fame or shame I may be given;
Chasten me or make me glad;
Comfort me or make me sad;
Send me hell or grant me Heaven.
Sun, with veil forever riven,
I have yielded all to Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Teach me, if Thou wilt, to pray;
If Thou wilt not, make me dry.
Give me love abundantly
Or unfruitful let me stay.
Sov’reign Master, I obey.
Peace I find not save with Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Give, I pray Thee, wisdom true,
Or remove it all from me;
Plenteous years I fain would see;
Years of drought and leanness too.
Days of light and darkness through,
Send me where Thou’d’st have me be:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

If in ease Thou’lt have me lie,
I accept it for Thy love;
If my constancy Thou’lt prove,
May I suffer till I die.
Tell me, sweetest Love, I cry,
How and when to die for Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Waste or fruitful land be mine,
Tabor’s joy or Calvary’s Cross.
Job be I, with pain and loss,
John, and on Thy breast recline.
Sterile stock or fruitful vine,
As Thou will’st it, may I be:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Joseph, captive once in chains,
Rule in Egypt over all.
David, held in cruel thrall,
Soon a crown and kingdom gains.
Jonah suffers direst pains;
Then is cast up from the sea:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Let me speak or hold my peace,
Rich or barren as Thou wilt;
Let the Law proclaim my guilt
Or the Gospel give release.
Let me joys or pains increase.
All my life I live in Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

I am Thine, and born for Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
http://spiritualsynergy.blogspot.co.uk/

God Awakens the Dawn with Light

God awakens the dawn

God awakens the dawn

As I sat in the presence of God this morning the sun was rising. The mountains outside my window were tinged with red and the setting moon glowed in the light of the pink hued clouds.

Moon setting in the dawn light

Moon setting in the dawn light

 

This is one of the delights of the shortening of the days at this time of the year. In summer I am unaware of this awe inspiring slow change from dark to light. But this morning as I watched the changes I was was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God – light always follows darkness, dawn will always come and often, as I experienced this morning, the longer the period of darkness, the more spectacular the breaking in of God’s light. 

Setting moon tinged with morning glow

Setting moon tinged with morning glow

So often we rail against the darkness. We feel depressed because God’s presence is hidden in our world and in our lives. The coming of dawn reminds me that God’s light is never far away. It will break in to every darkened night. And the bright globe of the moon this morning reassured me that even in the midst of darkness God’s light shines. 

God's light shines even in the darkness

God’s light shines even in the darkness

I must confess that I did not get to the reading of scripture this morning, or to my usual prayers. All I could say to God was thank you, thank you, thank you and within my heart the joy of God rose like that light giving sun. May it do the same for you this day. 

Five Business Lessons From the Garden

Gomphrena pink zazzle shoing tiny yellow flowers

Gomphrena pink zazzle shoing tiny yellow flowers

Many of you know that I have been reading a lot lately about Social entrepreneurship, business and imagination. Lots of new and stimulating books out there but probably the greatest lessons I have learned in this regard come from the garden, and as I read some of the books on my pile it seems that many of them just reiterate what I am learning:

  1. There is no failure in the garden – if something doesn’t work this year, try again immediately or next year or plant in a different place in the garden. One of the primary tenants of social entrepreneurship is fail well, some even say we need to become masters at failure. (see Imagination First 187) Failure is not disaster it is a learnable skill that is necessary for success.
  2. Plan for surprise – there is nothing more wonderful than going out in the garden and discovering something totally unexpected. Developing a business is a little like that too. Routine can stifle our imagination. We need to regularly rinse out our expectations (Imagination First 158) and allow the random unexpected happenings to take over. This year for example my best autumn greens in the garden are a patch just behind my raised beds that self seeded. One of my garden helpers almost covered them over thinking they were weeds. Fortunately I stopped him in time and have just encouraged everyone to walk around the patch. This unexpected surprise has provided an amazing harvest for my green smoothies.
  3. Look, listen and learn. Stillness is a fertile breeding ground for ideas (43). Wandering through my garden with no other intention than to breathe in the stillness of God and admire the flowers gives unexpected rewards. For example, to fill in my flower pots which had been decimated by the summer drought here in Seattle, I planted gomphrena – I knew nothing about it but the plants in the garden nursery caught my attention. Usually I look at them from a distance but a few days ago I walked close and was stunned by the beauty. The wonder of the leaves covered in dew and then the emergence of tiny yellow flowers has awed and stirred me.

    Gomphrena covered in dew

    Gomphrena covered in dew

  4. All good things begin small. We are easily overwhelmed by the immensity of the problems in our world- gun violence, poverty, sex trafficking, climate change – no matter what the issue we want to respond to, we can easily become powerless because our own small efforts seem so trivial. But every plant grows from a tiny seed – a seed that germinates in darkness away from the world. Forcing it into the light too soon destroys it.
  5. Share with others. Gardeners are the worlds greatest sharers or cross pollinators. They love to talk about their garden designs, share recipes, produce and techniques. they love to hear the stories others have to share and never feel they know it all. Along the way they learn, rethink their ideas, experiment and come up with new and creative plans that improve their harvests. For too long we have thought that the way to effective business is to hold our ideas to ourselves – patents and copyrights though sometimes necessary to protect our intellectual rights can also stifle creativity and new design. When we share all of us benefit.

The Big Question – A Response from Micha Jazz

Micha Jazz of the Contemplative network and St Cuthbert’s Oratory wrote this response to my post yesterday The Big Question We Never Ask. I didn’t want it to get lost in the comments and decided to repost it here. Micha is a long committed associate of MSA. We have journeyed together through many joyful and challenging experiences, learning from each other and helping to shape each other’s faith.

Micha and Jayne Jazz

Micha and Jayne Jazz

I find that what you speak of is in fact a learning that emerges through life alone. I dislike the way my youthful enthusiasm and excitement in finding Christ carried with it the ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ that were the unseen, though larger part, of the iceberg of evangelical Christianity that provided my portal into Narnia.

Whilst I was initially amazingly successful within that evangelical, charismatic construct initially, I very slowly came to realise that in fact it was consuming me – my time, my energy, my resource and my imagination. The opportunity to step out and back that the unanticipated sickness of my lovely wife, Katey, provided, in fact enabled me to begin to search for the God who might lay behind the superficial survival faith I had embraced and also preached and taught to many others as both evangelist and church pastor.

Suffice to say the journey was challenging, not least because God was interested in my wasting time with him whilst I was constructed through education, cultural context and Christian church experience within England, to work out my faith, yet without either fear or trembling. I was over familiar in my approach to God, without realising God was in fact a stranger to me – whilst unbeknown to me, II was fully known by God and that was enough as far as God was concerned. Step one, learning to rest content solely in being a sinner loved by God.

So what a journey began, one that required years of unlearning and personal deconstruction, mostly in the private space, all against the painful background of accompanying Katey in her walk with progressive multiple sclerosis until her death in 2008. In this time, usually fighting, often angry and always making judgments, I also discovered what it means to be still and to know my creator.

This story continues – utilising the liturgy of the hours daily as a core rhythm of waiting on God – whilst learning to paddle in the shallows of the contemplative life. I now long to learn to swim and recgnise that God carries me out of my depth – always and only to be found in the depths of his love. For me to live is indeed Christ yet I cannot yet say my heart does not hanker after conformation to the world I knew and have significantly left rather than transformation to live in God’s world, God’s way enjoying the God-filled life.

The journey continues – the story unfolds – the narrative is crafted.

A Garden of Inspiration – A Story of Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy via wikimedia

A young boy once lived in a house in a forest. He and his brothers played in the woods, ponds and fields that surrounded their home. One day an older brother told the child about a green stick that was buried near a ravine in the deepest part of the forest. If you find the stick, the brother said,  you will enjoy great happiness, and by the power of love bring happiness to all mankind.  At once the boy began hunting for the fabled stick. His search continued throughout the rest of his life.

The boy in this story is Leo Tolstoy, the home, Yasnaya Polyana and the green stick represented the inspiration he received in nature. In Tolstoy’s literature, landscapes and ornamental gardens signify the emotional state of the characters he created. Yasnaya Polyana was his realm of inspiration. He described it as his cathedral, his sanctuary, his muse. Today its more than 1,000 acres are still cloaked with inspiring forests of oak, ash, maple and birch. It has become a place of pilgrimage for all who love Tolstoy.

Tolstoy’s favourite resting spot – a birch log bench in a small clearing – has its back to a large open field of bright yellow mustard weed and faces directly into a thick grove of fir trees. Here Tolstoy would sit and meditate. From here he watched the subtle changes of nature like the thawing of the earth and the sounds of grass growing, two images that appear in Anna Karenina. 

Tolstoy’s garden of inspiration features a forest landscape, but a garden of inspiration can be composed of any elements that inspire us because of their special meanings. They are private sanctuaries created from a storehouse of happy associations where childhood memories, creative imagination and natural beauty are brought together in a way that can often feel like paradise on earth.

And to finish off a short video on Yasnaya Polyana. It is fairly amateurish but still worth a watch.

Prayers for the Journey

It is a long time since I have posted prayers from the Light for the journey Facebook page. There always seems to be something else to write about. So this morning I thought I would post some of the most popular from the last few weeks. These prayers are posted daily from a variety of sources with regular contributions not only from my own prayers, but also from Faith and Worship, The Contemplative Network and In His Footsteps.

In the stillness of the morning - Bonnie Harr

This prayer was written for the Inhabit conference which Tom and I are attending this weekend:

God breathe on us,
Fill us with your living presence.
Christ breathe in us,
Restore our joy in your salvation.
Spirit breathe through us,
Renew our compassion and our mercy.
Three in one, one in three,
Breathe with us,
Fill us, restore us, renew us,
Through your love,
Make all things new.

—————–

God gift us today with eyes that see,
What you are doing in our world,
May we stand in awe of your creativity,
And delight in the beauty of spring flowers.
May we embrace the wonder of your love,
And reach out with hugs and tender touches.
May we glimpse your hurting heart,
And respond with acts of compassion.
May we see the mighty deeds you do each day,
And join in wherever we can.

——————-

Gracious Father, in our walk with you
we often stumble and fall,
needing your steady hand
to raise us to our feet
and set us upon the path once more.
Forgive the unsteadiness of our faith
which wanders from your word
and stumbles into sin,
raise us to greater things
and complete obedience to you.

(http://www.facebook.com/faithandworship)

———————-

We are blessed indeed,
who have put our trust in you,
live to serve
and in our walk of faith
go where you might lead us.

We are blessed indeed,
who have found our strength in you,
seek your face
and hear that quiet whisper
as you encourage us.

We are blessed indeed
who bow down to worship you,
and go out
in faith to do the tasks
you have prepared for us.

(www.faithandworship.com)

————————

 

Reclaiming a Sacred Space – Cheasty Greenspace: A Place of Goodness and Grace by Mary De Jong

This morning’s post in the series Creating Sacred Space comes from Mary De Jong. Mary leads personal discernment pilgrimages/retreats to Iona, Scotland and locally in the Great Pacific Northwest. She is also, slowly, pursuing graduate studies with a focus in ecotheology.  She is a Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward, and is co-founder and co-chair of Friends of Cheasty Greenspace at Mt. View. She lives in the Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle, WA (USA) with her husband and three children. It sacred space than what I talked about was first published on Waymakers the blog.

 

Ed beats out the rhythm

Ed beats out the rhythm

The detective called inquiring after whether or not we had found “anything” in the woods since the fatal shooting that occurred near Cheasty Greenspace/Mt.View on February 4, 2013.  While we have certainly unearthed some curious, and somewhat disturbing, artifacts during our forest restoration work parties (lined up pairs of shoes next to an axe, dismembered dolls, rosaries, and large singular bones to name a few), no, we had not found the weapon involved in this fatal incident.  He went on to inform us that a team of officers with metal detectors and a K-9 unit would be canvassing the area the following day.  Mind you, just a few months ago, there was the horrendous reality check that came along with 40 search and rescue volunteers and cadaver K-9 units looking for the remainsof a young women in Cheasty/North, so I was already edgy about the resurfacing street-cred of our Rainier Valley forest.  However, I don’t think I was prepared for the potential emotional unraveling the impact of this dynamic in our beloved forest would have on me.

You see, we have been faithfully involved in the reclamation and restoration of this urban forest for the past six years.  We have hosted over 80 community work parties dedicated to the vision of reimagining this landscape as a safe and welcoming resource for our neighborhood.  We have written for, and received, grants that have funded our hope to build trails within this 10 acre woods that would connect neighbors, encourage walking to public transit, and provide local access to nature.  And the beauty that has resulted from this grand grassroots effort is as real and glorious as the noon-day sun!

What used to be a landscape filled with invasive plants, such as English ivy and Himalayan Blackberry,  and illicit behaviors, such as prostitution rings and illegal drug trades, has been replaced with the balance that true restoration brings.  Our native Northwest understory is thriving due to the absence of ivy.  Children now play in the forest, and their laughter mixes with the chatter of songbirds and the cries of our resident Red Tail Hawks.  The trails are a resource to neighboring youth organizations who now can bring their students into their own backyards to study, learn and just be in nature.  Our neighbors, who have worked literally shoulder to shoulder for years to see the effects of this hope-filled vision, have become a networked community of friends and families.  These woods have become apart of the vibrant, social fabric of our neighborhood.

And so my heart was heavy when I saw dozens of marked and unmarked police vehicles lined up against our trees.  My spirit sunk when I witnessed uniformed men, shoulder to shoulder, working their way through freshly budded Indian Plum, Trillium and Sword Fern.  Their presence conjured up the spirit of negativity that brooded over this place for so many years, the very spirit that we have worked so hard to drive away from this place.  I felt my repose unravel and give way to the erosive work of despair and hopelessness.  ”You can never change these woods,” the line-up of police cars seemed to sneer. “These woods will always be the cover for dark deeds!  No vision for hope and help can changethat!”

I awoke the next day to clouds over my head and heart, hardly able to utter a morning prayer, but with the imperative to get out of bed and prepare for our monthly work party we host.  Begrudgingly, I set out shovels, buckets and First Aid kit.  Grumbling, I laid out our registration table materials and sign up sheets.  Demoralized, I wondered if this slow and steady, long term effort to affect change in our little corner of the world was even worth it anymore.  Yup.  My little pet dark cloud was beginning to rain on me.

However, contrary to Saturday’s Seattle forecast (and my attitude), sun began to beam on South East Seattle and neighbors began to convene at our home to gather up tools and gloves, and log their dedicated time towards making a tangible difference.  And then Ed approached, scuffed toe-shoes ambling down our sidewalk, threadbare coated-arms raised in greeting and dusty top hat ready to blow away with the wind.  I presumed he was on his way past our home to visit one of our neighbors, who are involved in some unsavory practices…but he stopped.  Right in front of me.  And smiled.  Turns out, he was here for our work party, but his car ran out of gas and stalled in the middle of the street, just up from our main trail head into the woods.  Can I help, he asked?  My heart softened towards Ed; of course, I can help, but give me a minute to kickstart the volunteers and get the work party going.

Lesson #1: It always amazes me what kind of help shows up in a minute. The momentary pause before immediately responding to a need that you know you can meet is almost an invitation to allow those around you to participate in an assistance that is easy to presume only you can do.  All that to say, when I was able to finally direct my attention back towards Ed, Neighbor Mike had already fixed him up with a five-gallon gas container and a Seattle Parks worker was ready in the wings to tow his truck to safety.  I felt a sun beam penetrate my hopeless haze.  This community that has been created through a hope for the common good, without question, took care of a stranger in our midst.  My heart tried to soar with the pride for my ‘hood, but quite honestly, I figured I would never see Ed again and that sense of being “had” was enough to tether my fragile mood.

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I followed the last volunteers up into the woods and was mentally making a game plan for the variety of ferns we would be planting (grown by spores from a forest friend), and how we would disperse the five cubic yards of mulch, when I was called out of my reverie by the beating of a drum.  The repeated rhythm was coming from the trail head where we would be working for the bulk of our work party.  I crested the trail into view of the forest’s entrance and there was Ed, top hat and all, sitting on a stone, surrounded by a medley of musical instruments and a growing number of children.  Ed smiled at me and proceeded to play music for the duration of our work party.  Trombones, clarinets, bongos, tamborines, all were enlisted to lift the spirits of the volunteers and provide a special joy for the children.  Oh, forgot to mention the unique detail that we were the host-site for a local preschool co-op parent group who wanted to participate in a local Earth Month volunteer opportunity.  We had dozens of preschoolers running around the woods on Saturday.  And it would be important to note, too, that the sun shone during our entire work party.  Sunshine.  Children.  Music.  Ed.  My heart was unfettered and finally flew.

Now, some who knew of these back to back unique and unplanned occurrences probably could just attribute it to the Wheel of Fortune, for that would explain such a social spectrum in Cheasty Greenspace.  However, I’m one who is always interested in the quiet cadences of God and what one would call a coincidence, I’m eager to see thesynchronicity.  Essentially, this means that when you really need something, and often when you really want something, it is there.  Furthermore, the ancient practice of pilgrimage maintains that help, and the divine answer, are most often found in the company of a stranger.  Pilgrimage is this radical practice that turns upside down the ways of the world; in each other and in the strays and strangers en route, pilgrims meet-not the paupers-but the princes.  In the gestures and greetings in gravely roadside places, prayers are answered, and what you are in need of is given.  In this nontraditional way of journey-living, the road taken to a better place is one where divisions are bridged: race, status, and gender are irrelevant.  I would further go on to say that this mode of being also exists in Nature.  For in the woods, all are recipients of the goodness and grace inherent in nature.  All are apart of the greater community of things.  And to a degree, all become Kings.

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Lesson #2: Rough, worn edges and the grime of a harder-than-mine-life under the fingernails are trumpets heralding the presence of a stranger who has the potential to deliver great gifts, should we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.  Ed transformed my day and realigned my hope-filled vision for Cheasty Greenspace.  He was a vehicle of grace to me and his music was like incense, cleansing and purifying the bullet-weary woodland air.

Following the work party, volunteers (including Ed!) gathered under the large tent we had set up in our drive way.  As the expected rains began to pour down, we shared meager cookies and rich laughter together.  The rains were washing away the sundry steps of the officers and were watering our newly planted ferns.  And we, we were an intimate community of Kings, believing and working together, shoulder to shoulder, for a better place.