god bless the grass...

I saw it today - the massive tree in the wetlands with yellow and orange leaves at the top - an incontestable sign that the season is shifting. I felt it in my bones on Monday, the first tinge of autumnal melancholia, and now there's empirical evidence. Parker Palmer put it like this:

Where I live, summer's keynote is abundance. The forests fill with undergrowth, the trees with fruit, the meadows with wild flowers and grasses, the fields with wheat and corn, the gardens with zucchini, and the yards with weeds. In contrast to the sensationalism of spring, summer is a stead state of plenty, a green and amber muchness that feeds us on more levels than we know. (Let Your Life Speak, p. 106)

Given this "muchness" I was back in the yard: sweating amidst day lilies, whacking the weeds into the semblance of order, and cutting the grass. Always the grass. It is relentless at this time of year. So, like Malvina Reynolds, I chose to return thanks to the One who is Holy and sang "God Bless the Grass" to myself.

There is a wisdom in my lawn that I am trying to listen to, an insight far more healing than anything I read in the news. It clearly eludes our leaders as they foment fear of scarcity among my neighbors. Today alone there were fears that people of color are crowding whites out of our universities as well as fears of dark, immigrant people crowding natural born Americans out of their homeland. In our local paper, one of the region's finest antidotes to fear, Music in Common, discovered that fear of Islamic terrorists has cost them a federal grant. The Berkshire Eagle's story began:

A local music nonprofit whose mission it is to sow peace between cultures and religions has suffered a devastating financial blow as one of 11 groups recently stripped of promised federal anti-terrorism funding. Music in Common, which was inspired by the journalist and musician Daniel Pearl, lost a $159,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Countering Violent Extremism program after the department took a sharp turn under the Trump administration, pulling funding from some organizations and redirecting it to law enforcement agencies.

The department had awarded a total of $10 million to 31 recipients in early January under the tenure of former Secretary Jeh Johnson. Later that month, President Donald Trump appointed John Kelly as secretary. A statement by the department said Kelly had reviewed awards made under the previous administration. Previous recipients were replaced, mostly by law enforcement organizations, or an increase was made to some of the previous awardees.

"The money never came," said Music in Common Founder and Director Todd Mack, who started the organization in response to the murder — by Islamic extremists — of his friend and bandmate Daniel Pearl, a former North Adams Transcript and Berkshire Eagle reporter who at the time of his death was working in Pakistan for The Wall Street Journal.
"This was the lifeline that we were looking for that would allow us to expand," Mack said of funds that would have helped continue the work of reaching into diverse communities with Pearl's spirit of merry music-making and goodwill.

check it out: http://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/funding-pulled-from-music-nonprofit-inspired-by-daniel-pearl,515406

Nature knows better than most of us that whenever there is a time of scarcity, it is only part of a larger cycle of abundance. In fact, from Scripture and Nature, the norm is abundance, generosity and grace - and still we stay addicted to the fears of scarcity. "The fact of nature," Palmer continues, "is in sharp contrast to human nature, which seems to regard perpetual scarcity as the law of life."

Daily I am astonished at how readily I believe that something I need is in short supply. If I hoard possessions, it is because I believe that there are not enough to go around. If I struggle with others over power, it is because I believe that power is limited. If I become jealous in relationships, it is because I believe that when you get too much love, I will be short-changed... The irony, often tragic, is that be embracing the scarcity assumption, we create the very scarcities we fear.

The wisdom of my lawn and garden, however, suggest an alternative:  God provides. Not in a simplistic or naively pious way, but consistently and humbly; my work is to stay present and nurture what has been given, not hoard or defile. Like the nighttime, I must sit with this gift in silence - even share it with those I rarely see during daylight. During the morning hours it is time to return thanks for its blessings. Then I must care for it and tend it as the day progresses, never taking it for granted. Palmer writes that nourishing community is the way we honor abundance in our public and political lives. In fact, he speaks of community as the embodiment of abundance.

Here is a summertime truth: abundance is a communal act, the joint creation of an incredibly complex ecology in which each part functions on behalf of the whole and, in return, is sustained by the whole. Community doesn't just create abundance - community IS abundance. If we could learn that equation form the world of nature, the human world might be transformed.

Currently the fear-mongers of scarcity are making policy. Their decisions are ugly and mean-spirited and, for a time, they will triumph. Sisters and brothers will suffer and the bonds of love will be tested. But then, when we least expect it and often beyond our abilities, the blessed grass will break through the harsh concrete with signs of new life. Summer is ripening now and autumn is just around the corner: so God bless the grass. To every season there is a time and purpose under heaven even the current cruelty and fear.

PS:  Later in the day, while waiting in the doctor's office, what should I read but Psalm 65: 8-14:

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your
marvelous signs; *
you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.
You visit the earth and water it abundantly;
you make it very plenteous; *
the river of God is full of water.
You prepare the grain, *
for so you provide for the earth.
You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; *
with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.
You crown the year with your goodness, *
and your paths overflow with plenty.
May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing, *
and the hills be clothed with joy.
May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,
and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; *
let them shout for joy and sing.


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