Tuesday, August 21, 2012
As you may know, every year Earth Ministry acquires a new Outreach Coordinator in partnership with Lutheran Volunteer Corps. Every summer the previous volunteer returns home, and a new one takes their place. It is my great honor to announce that I will be Earth Ministry's Outreach Coordinator for the 2012 - 2013 Lutheran Volunteer year.
While I didn't arrive in Seattle until this past Friday, my journey to Earth Ministry began in the Fall of 2007. At the time I was attending Northland College: a small, environmentally - oriented liberal arts college in Ashland, WI. During my time at Northland I'd often take solitary walks in the wooded gorge on campus. These walks gave me a chance to center myself and sort through the myriad of thoughts that often plague recent high school graduates. They also served as a welcome break from the academic and social demands of college life.
But on one walk I decided to try something different. I sat down on a clear, sunny hilltop that rose above the woodlands and gave me a good view of the gorge. I tried my best to empty my mind of all obligations, anxieties, and distractions: focusing all conscious thought on my senses. I picked up a blade of grass and ran it between my fingers, feeling all the tiny grooves of its surface. I felt the sun warming my skin, heard every note of a sparrow's song, saw every detail of the bark on a nearby tree. After several minutes of this intense concentration, everything around me seemed to change. The colors became more vibrant, the sounds more clear, and I was aware of an incredible energy I'd never felt before. It was as if every aspect of my surroundings had suddenly come to life. In addition, I felt as if I was alive with them; that I was part of nature. It was the most incredible feeling of my life.
I returned to my room in a half daze, both amazed and confused at what had just happened. "What had I just experienced?" As I reflected on this question I realized it wasn't my surroundings that had changed, but myself. Nature did not come to life, it had always been alive. In quieting my thoughts and focusing intently on my senses I was finally able to realize this. More importantly, I became aware of the fact that I didn't exist above the natural world, but with it. It was at that point that I realized how truly awesome it felt to live in harmony with nature.
While I've never had another experience like the one on that Wisconsin hilltop, the memory of that event has left me with a vision. Not a vision of what is, but of what could be if we all made a concerted effort to live harmoniously with nature. All the world's problems would not disappear if we made that commitment. People would still die, there would still be inequality (though markedly less), and we'd still have to put up with annoying infomercials. But we'd all feel so much more alive! We would all be far more aware of the inseparable bonds that tie us to our planet, our neighbors, and our Maker. In short, it'd be a world in which human beings were keenly aware of the spirit of God permeating all Creation. I intend to dedicate my year at Earth Ministry to making that vision a reality, and I hope all of you will join me.