This blog is the continuation of a series for Lent in which I am pausing every hour between 5 AM and 8 PM
to notice and record the activity of God in my life
This Lent I have decided to re-read Julian of Norwich’s classic tome, Divine Revelations of Love, in which she relates a series of visions that she had while seriously ill at the age of 31. It is a 14thcentury text that has two forms- a short form that is the transcription of her visions, and a longer form was written some time later, containing some deeper reflections on what Julian was “shown.” The translation that I am reading is fairly new (2013) by Mirabai Starr; it is clear, pure, and beautiful.
One of the best-known visions that Julian shares in her “showings” is of a hazelnut. In this small, round, hard nut that rolls in the palm of her hand, she sees the all in all. (my words.) She recognizes the completeness of creation, the perfection of the Creator, and the wholeness that is a hallmark of the One who has made us. In that little nut, there is enough. It is complete. We want for nothing.
In a review of Starr’s translation, author Bruce Epperly writes this about the hazelnut episode-
God is wholly-here and wholly-now. The fullness of God bursts forth in a humble hazelnut.
According to Julian, as she gazes upon a hazelnut God placed in her hand, she hears God describe it thusly: It is all that is created….It lasts, and lasts forever, because God loves it. Everything that is, has its being through the love of God. God creates, loves, and sustains hazelnuts and all creation, one microsecond at a time.
Julian’s vision of the hazelnut points to one of the most important, yet challenging, aspects of God’s creativity, God’s omnipresence.
It is this last bit, God’s omnipresence, that has inspired my GOD 640 project this Lent, and the imagining of the hazelnut as all in all that has inspired my writing this week:
God is omnipresent.
God is everywhere, all the time. God is in the happy and fulfilling moments of our days and in the sorrows and depths of our human experience. God is inside of us, serving to comfort, inspire, agitate, ignite, steady, fuel, maintain, shift and center us. And God is in our immediate surroundings- in nature, in relationships, in conversations, in our work, in our play, in our productivity, and in our rest. God is in our waking and our sleeping, in our living and in our dying. The practice of pulling out a notebook every hour on the hour between 5 AM and 8 PM each day to take note of God’s presence has been a somewhat crude, but effective practice to remind me of God’s omnipresence, as I have observed it. (more on the individual’s slant of perception in another post.)
God provides all in all.
I love the image of the hazelnut as complete. I love the image of God providing for us, in any context, “exactly – and all” that we need. It may not be completely true (we send out for tools all the time to accomplish that which we have been tasked to do,) but the sentiment is less mechanical, I think, and more spiritual: God provides for us, all that we need. When we can center on the riches of God’s creation and the grace that we have been given, our needs become suddenly less, not more, and we find ourselves empowered.
This week I have been staying at Bellwether Farm, the brand new diocesan farm, camp, retreat and education center of the Diocese of Ohio. Check it out at www.bellwetherfarm.com It is a remarkable place. In the late winter/early spring it lacks the fecundity that we associate with farms- this is the season of mud, not green pastures- and, still, there is everything that we need, here, in this almost-sustainable system. Goats and lambs and chickens, an orchard, fresh water, 2 acres of vegetable garden (in the growing season) and two hoop houses with radiant heat that provide lettuce, herbs, and other vegetables all year ‘round. There is a colony of bees on the edge of the pasture that pollinates the crops and provides sweet honey. There are a couple of large dogs that run inside the fence around the perimeter of the pasture, keeping watch over their sheep and goat companions. The hens lay upwards of 75 eggs a day. There is an 18thc. barn that has been converted to serve as a worship space. In this season, the sun rises over one bank of cabin/hermitages and sets over the river, just beneath the ridge. In the late hours of the night, I’ve been woken from my slumber to see the full moon, caught in the branches of the trees just outside my window.
The work that I am here to do is for one of our Task Forces for The Episcopal Church. There are 15 of us gathered to complete the work that General Convention has set before us (I am the Vice-Chair of the Task Force to Assist the Office of Pastoral Development) and our charge is great: review and revise the process of “recruiting” and electing bishops (with one of the intents being to continue increasing the diversity in the House), and create a protocol of screening for and treating issues of substance abuse and impairment among clergy in the church, including those in the bishop election process. These two tasks (and many sub-tasks among them) are huge (and important) and… in this gathering on this sweet farm that (with lots of sweat equity) is a system that has all it needs, we are finding that with our intellectual and spiritual sweat, we are able to complete our tasks: God has given us what we need (including the internet.)
And so, I’ve found God in lots of places this week: in baby goats and the bright orange yolks of chicken eggs; in long conversations about how we nominate, screen, and care for those called to lead God’s Church; in troughs of soft mud created by tractor wheels; in sweet potato, onion and pecan hash served up for breakfast; in the earnestness of my colleagues’ focused energy; in the sustaining strength and focus that God provides as we sit for hours and talk; in the sun that comes up without fail each morning, and the moon that is my companion at night.
223/640. Bellwether Farm.