Earth is Messaging

“Is God trying to send us a message through this Coronavirus pandemic?” That’s what a member of our Lenten study group asked.

“No, but the earth is.

I thought that was a wise and wonder provoking answer from our guest leader, Paul Galbreath. Clearly, the unprecedented changes and challenges of the last few days have gotten our attention.

At the very moment I am writing this, my husband is at our church, meeting with a group of elders who are wondering how to be the Church without Sunday worship.

The discussion of the elders will include how to care for each other during this time. Ours is an aging congregation like many so-called mainline denominations. However, we are all vulnerable.

Martin and his wife live on his dishwasher’s salary. They are gifted musicians from another continent. On Friday, he was sent home from the restaurant, indefinitely, because there are no dishes to wash.

Paul is a young man waiting for a kidney transplant. I noticed he often comes from the balcony to the downstairs washroom about halfway through Sunday’s service. He has green hair and a joyous smile.

Andy is a thirty-something climate scientist who had never been to a church until he showed up on a recent Sunday morning. He wears a suit and slips into the back row. A lady in the choir thought he was Justin Trudeau visiting and wondered about his security detail.

Jee Yoon and her two sons are far from their home country. She wanted to expand her young sons’ opportunities and education. They cannot go home safely now. She is drenched with so many questions and so many gifts.

There is a lot to wonder about these times. But in our Lenten study, our conversation took a different turn than I expected; unveiling the messages we might hear.

We might pay attention to the earth in scripture, our leader suggested. How does the text associate with our landscapes?  Victoria, our city, is the Garden City, with resplendent ocean and mountain views. Yet, our J-pod of orcas and the salmon that spawn in Gold Stream Park and the Garry Oaks that line the Camosun College grounds are in peril.

Victoria is Canada’s busiest cruise ship port-of-call. With the season officially delayed until July, 120 ships will not visit our city. The promise delivers a crushing economic impact and more jobs like Martin’s will be compromised. And yet, slowing the surge of cruise ships, airplanes, and all kinds of travel might save our planet.

When I walk past the homeless man and hear him cough, I am reminded that his health is as important as mine. The strong public health system of Canada and the more limited public offerings in the United States will shape our collective response.

Toilet paper has come to represent our most basic need for luxury. Is there more to hear than the call of consumerism that says our needs must be met at all costs?

Earth shares a message with the Lenten season—to die and live is earth’s refrain.

What will rebirth look like?


Moss Lady at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC     Photo by Mitch Coggin

Lenten Leaning


Lenten Rose in my backyard.

A curious thing about writing is that ever so often, I write a sentence and I’m not really aware of what it means until I reread the words on the page. I wrote in my last blog one of those emergent insights: Truths come gradually and at the same time, in the very moment when they make the most sense.

My husband, Mitch, loves the song, Lean In Toward the Light, by Carrie Newcomer. I wasn’t so captivated.

Last Lenten season, Carrie’s notion of “the beautiful, not yet” (the album title with the song, Lean In Toward the Light) was my survival mantra with so many unknowns in my immediate future.

Now, I’m on the threshold of the next spring. As I half-consciously listened to Carrie’s album the other day, two words in the Lean In song caught my attention: practice resurrection. The words are the last line of Wendell Berry’s poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, and call us to lean into the mystery and risk of an unknowing life. Those two words drew me in so that I might hear what I needed to hear for this moment in my life: lean in.

“Lean in” has become a popular feminist notion since Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, published her best selling book with the same title a few years back. According to grammerist,  lean in means to grab opportunities without hesitation. That description is consistent with Sandberg’s vision but doesn’t fit my own. I’d like to change the word “grab” to “ease into,” which I believe is more fitting for how I imagine leaning in.  My revised definition is more in line with an older meaning for lean in: to incline into something, such as a skier leaning in at a turn or pedestrian leaning into the wind during a heavy gale.

Leaning in requires strength. Leaning in is physical and emotional and conscious. Leaning in is a beginning, not a plunge. Leaning in implies being supported; I am not alone. Leaning in is my theme for this Lenten season.

During the coming 40 days until Easter, I plan to gently lean in. Lean into the abundance of opportunities that move me out of dark places, while at the same time, make the dark places okay. Easing into the light takes away the sharpness of the contrast. This posture is akin to letting in a little light to challenge the darkness, the deficit thinking that binds me. I practice resurrection when I lean into the newness of this moment.

My focus for this Lenten spring is to discover the divine light that does shine through everything and everyone when I lean in to see it.  In Carrie’s words:

Lean in toward the Light.  Keep practicing resurrection.