This poem is actually a several hundred year old Mennonite rendering of the Lord’s Prayer, meant to make it memorizable and recitable in a relevant way.  This has made it’s way to the board at our house.  I especially love the line “Free us, as we free.”.  Reciprocal freedom, not solely individual, nor solely communal but the magical paradox of intertwining of me and us.  Great prayer.  Let is be so.

Abba Father God, Bless your holy name.

Let your reign come now, Let your desires be carried out.

Bring your peace to birth, As in heav’n, so on Earth

Give us bread, daily; Free us, as we free.

When the way is hard, Be our guide and guard.

Your rule, power; and praise Reign supreme, always.

photo

Let it be so.

I received my son’s school newsletter and it had the following compelling information…

Of course, who hasn’t felt better after tending their tomato plants or walking in the park? But a growing body of scientific studies suggests even passive contact, like glimpsing nature from the window of a speeding car or looking at a picture of nature, can be as therapeutic as physically being in the midst of it. The bottom line: Nature can provide nurture — for the young, old, healthy, and sick. It can nurture those in a car, a hospital, a dorm room, and even a prison.

The problem is that directed attention is a finite resource-everyone has expiereinced the fatigue of taking a test or a big project at work.  Attention restoration theory suggests that walks in nature and views of green space capture our involuntary attention, giving our directed attention a needed rest.  ” We advocate that children be given views of green space from the classroom,”  Dr. Faber Taylor said.  ” We’ve done research on children in public housing that shows the ones who have a green view perform better on a broad range of tasks.”  

Why does nature have this kind of power?

“We have two kinds of attention,” says Andrea Faber Taylor, an environmental psychologist and postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “Directed, attention, which we use when driving or doing our taxes, for example, is effortful and gets tired. When directed attention is fatigued, we feel trashed and it’s hard to make good decisions and to inhibit one’s impulses.

Faber Taylor says the best way to restore directed attention is by giving it a rest and relying on our second type of attention.

“Involuntary attention is what we use when we stop thinking in an effortful way, like when we watch a fire or meditate,” she says. “Looking at nature is soothing and undemanding of our attention. This uses our involuntary attention, enabling directed attention to rest and recover.”

If you are a typical Western evangelical you are likely experiencing Direct Attention Fatigue.  You have heard so many sermons, teachings, things to do and things not to do, ways of praying, ways of not praying.  If you are a faithful church goer that means you have heard on average of 52 sermons each year.  If you have been in the church for 20 years that means that you have heard approximately 1040 sermons (this does not include Sunday evening services, podcasts, books, tapes and the list goes on).  WE ARE TIRED, FATIGUED, THEOLOGICALLY STUFFED TO THE GILLS.  

What we need is some Attention Restoration.  

It appears that God also believes in the Attention Restoration Theory.  If you begin to look at the places where God interacts and reveals himself it consistently surrounded by nature themes.

-Walking with Adam and Eve in a garden

-Moses and 10 commandments given on top of a mountain

-Jesus baptism in the middle of a flowing river

-Transfiguration on top of hill

-Teaching moments with his disciples on a boat in the middle of a terrific storm, on a hillside sharing the beatitudes, 

Our churches need some green space.  Some park benches void of all calls to new methods, ways and the latest 40 day do this and everything will be better. Our brains need some rest and our eyes need to be re-engaged again.

We serve a God who says taste and see.  Not read and think.  

Dr. Faber Taylor notes that in adults, there is also evidence that a green view is beneficial.  “Most people recognize the pattern,” she notes.  “For so long we have ignored the effect our physical environments have on our ability to pay attention.”

If our physical environment does have a profound effect our our ability to pay attention what would this means for the architecture of our churches, bible schools and seminaries, even our homes?  Most evangelical churches and seminaries are closed, cold and windowless boxes.  (in fact now that I think of it, not one of the numerous churches I have attended had windows of any sort)  

What kind of “Green space” could be incorporated into our sacred spaces?

The below is from an intriguing article discussing the future picture of what a “great depression” may look like in our day. 

And above all, a depression circa 2009 might be a less visible and more isolating experience. With the diminishing price of televisions and the proliferation of channels, it’s getting easier and easier to kill time alone, and free time is one thing a 21st-century depression would create in abundance. Instead of dusty farm families, the icon of a modern-day depression might be something as subtle as the flickering glow of millions of televisions glimpsed through living room windows, as the nation’s unemployed sit at home filling their days with the cheapest form of distraction available.

 Interesting, that the icon of a great depression would be the television.  The television being the tool to help us forget.  It would make a lot of sense that in the midst of current trends of emotional depression, hopelessness and despair that these feelings would only increase and be magnifide by the loss of security as spurred on by a financial depression.  I could forecast that emotional trauma would multiply, with hopelessness and despair being the typical emotional outlook.  Instead of facing these feelings of emptiness the TV would become, not only a great time filler, but an escape.  An escape from the helplessness of the noise around them.  The TV storylines of family, safety, security will transcend their own stories.  I imagine that the TV story lines will revert back the happy and secure plots of the 80’s Cosby show and the 70’s Partridge family.  

The TV would become the form of distraction from the unsettledness of life around me.  The cheap and accessible drug to lull the pain.  The 30 minute escape, into the fake life of imaginary charcters.  And as with all successful TV shows I become more connected to the fictional characters than I do my own neighbours. Their happy families, nice jobs, nice houses and neatly managed lives would be the soothing images that would help shield the “real-life” story of those around me who houses are being lost to foreclosure, the family friend who lost his job and the general messiness of life.

What a place for the story of the church.  People who are not only caring about the needs of others, but in tangible, real life ways providing for the needs of those around them, both physical and emotional.  It is time for us as the church, to begin preparation for such times.  Not only in terms of stocking away our 5 gallon buckets of dehydrated lentil soup, but in terms of the heart, spirit and mission of the church.  To become a place, a central place, maybe even the central place, where those who are at the end of their rope, financially, spiritually and emotionally will find an answer.  The reincarnation of the faux-ideal life of the Cosby family is not what we need, but a tangible church living out the life of Jesus that impacts real sorrows, hurts and pains and walks with and alongside those pains.  That is a story that the world may want to tune into.  

family

Did you see Barack Obama’s infomercial last night?  What did you think?  Was it on the level of selling the perfect set of ginsu knives promising the impossible?  Or did it provide you with some hope. Some sense that things could be different.  

Maybe cynicism has creeped in for some of you.  Thoughts of why try… why when we know that politics is a mire of muddy pigs dressed up in fancy suits. To be honest, I don’t know if the next president, whoever it may be, can bring true reform and change.  But one thing that Obama’s hopefulmercial gave me back again was a sense of hope in relation to the Church. 

Hope, is the possibility of seeing what God sees and having God’s thoughts, feelings and actions infiltrate into the core of my being.  

The question is, do I have hope that things can be different?  Can there be communities who reflect the image and character of God?  Will there be people who stand for radical love, inclusive hospitality and social reconciliation.  

Has middle classness, individual consumerism, safety and security so inoculated the christian church that we have become blind to the calling and dream of God in this world.  Maybe.  My resposnse out of fear is… why even try.  “Give in to the dark side, Luke”.  Just stay on automatic pilot in my individual world where safety and security are the throne and scepter of my life.  

But then Barack Obama’s pirated the network airwaves to spread his message of “What if…”.  And this is the reason I feel that Obama will win.  There are enough Americans who are willing to let a relatively unexperienced person be president because we want some with enough resonance and vision to dream “What if”.  But i digress onto my political soapbox.

“What if…” there were a people who took the words of Jesus seriously and practiced with their lives…

-RADICAL HOSPITALITY

-INCLUSIVE LOVE

-PEACE AND LOOKING FOR GOD’S JUSTICE IN THIS WORLD OF INJUSTICE

-REDEEMING RECONCILIATION

-DOWNWARD MOBILITY

Hope says, God sees all of these things and today I want to see my world and my culture as He sees it.

Hope says, that God has called out a people to live out this radical and subversive life as a light to all the world of what God’s Life looks like in a world of flesh and blood, suffering and pain, failures and disappointments.

Hope speaks.  What is Hope saying to you today?

I am wearing socks today.  The northwest chill has set in upon us.  The sun’s effervescent warmth has betrayed me.  The majority of Me is pretty good with this change, all except one part, my feet.  Unlike the fall, spring’s thaw comes the joy of new footwear .  Gone is the restriction of shoes and socks!  In comes the revolution of foot freedom… flip flops!

Ahh yes, once summer hits, nary a sock needs to be cleaned in my wardrobe.  The clickity-clack of my flip-flop sound can be heard as the drum beat of my summer soul.

But now fall is here.  The socks on my feet bring a needed warmth, but also a stark reminder of what was lost. The cold must be combated. Yes, I could live in mental rebellion to the frozen feetsies.  I could be as some are, flip-flop warriors, wearing them in the middle of the arctic tundra just because they can.  Guess I am getting too old for that kind of demonstration wear.

And so I will change with the season.

Now this does not mean I round up my flip flops and burn them in a giant heap of protest, chanting and dancing around the toxic billowing smoke shouting, “The Day of Flip Flops are over, today is the day of the sock and shoe!!!”  I probably would have done that at some point in the past.

But today, I have learned that seasons change.  Times change. And so the spiritual act of storing the flip-flops away in my closet is no longer a resignation that summer has been lost, but that summer will come again.

I wonder if that is the role of the Prophet in the church today.  One who is able to see the changing in the season a little sooner than most and speaks out that the leaves are changing color and that the first frost is near.

BTW, today did warm up a little, maybe I could even sneak the flip-flops out for one more hurrah!