By Tammy Townsend Denny, TI Executive Director
In Mary Oliver’s poem “Six Recognitions of the Lord,” she writes:
Oh, feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with
the fragrance of the fields and the
freshness of the oceans which you have
made, and help me to hear and to hold
in all dearness those exacting and wonderful
words of our Lord Christ Jesus, saying:
My husband and I have been watching The Chosen, slowly working our way through each episode. As I watch the show, I am always a little jarred when Jesus says, “Follow me.” (Watch a compilation of scenes from The Chosen here). What does it really mean when Jesus says, “Follow me”?
I understand Mary Oliver’s desire to be fed by the Holy Spirit with the “fragrance of the fields” and the “freshness of the oceans.” But the simple words “follow me” seem so much more complex.
What do the “exacting and wonderful” words “follow me” mean to you?
For an interesting exploration of “those exacting and wonderful words of our Lord Christ Jesus,” consider listening to a few of the Old St Pat’s Podcast episodes (available on Spotify). I especially recommend You Can Never Get Enough of the One You Love 6.4.23, Transforming Hearts 6.13.23, and A Little Help for My Friends 7.9.23.
Yes, tranquility can exist with chaos
Things are a bit chaotic at home these days. One of the “offspring” (a term of endearment my husband and I use to refer to the four children in our blended family) is raging through our house like a Category 5 hurricane. Just when we think we’re nearing a moment of calm at the eye of the storm, another round of 160 mph winds hits us. It is an exhausting, soul-tearing experience!
The storm has my husband and me pulling out all our survival supplies: prayer, love, healthy (and enforced) boundaries, and support from our circles of community. And we’re finding moments of rest and connection, like a Sunday bicycle ride along the river or picking mulberries off the trees in our backyard.
Our experience reminds me of something author Parker Palmer recently posted on his Facebook page. He writes, “When the world’s heartbreak threatens to take me down, it helps to remember that this is not the only world to which I belong.” He goes on to describe how each of us is part of a “vast and very real world of nature” that stretches from the “cells in our bodies” into the “immensity” of the “cosmos.” We are members of a vast and interconnected community of life. But experiencing our connection to this great whole “is not about evading heartbreak,” Palmer says. Rather this connectedness is a way of entering into life’s ups and downs “neither crushed by a sense of futility nor lost in fantasy.” (I admit I’ve fantasized about moving into a tiny house in the middle of the woods and not leaving a forwarding address.)
As part of his Facebook post, Palmer shares the William Stafford poem, “Time for Serenity, Anyone?” The poem begins with a “reminder” that “this world still is alive… and I’m part of it.” Stafford writes of “tranquil chaos” and “motionless turmoil” that co-exist in the “great peacefulness” of “wilderness.”
Yes, tranquility can exist with chaos. Yes, there can be peace even with turmoil. Yes, there can be bicycle rides and berry picking even when the winds of a hurricane-force “offspring” threaten to blow the roof off the house. We can, in the words of Stafford, embrace this “everything dance.”
What is your hurricane? When the storms of life surge, are you dancing with the winds or are you hiding under the bed? Are you connecting with God, your Theresian sisters, and your other support communities or are you being crushed by a sense of futility?
Wherever you find yourself, I invite you to join me in this everything dance. I’m going to look very silly if I’m the only one on the dance floor in the middle of a hurricane!
P.S. For those who would like to explore more about nature’s interconnectedness, I am currently reading Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, by Suzanne Simard. It is a bit of a dense read, but Simard’s discoveries about interdependence among trees are fascinating.