Luna enjoying our porch swing.
Others have come to the same conclusion, but in the sixty-six years that I have been given, I believe the essential ingredient of a spiritual life is wonder.
It can be found and expressed in many ways: worship, contemplation, compassion, activism, lovemaking, the beloved community, science, art, nature, and the recognition of the commonwealth of God, to name a few.
But the further away any of these get from wonder, they can become tablets of stone, stumbling blocks, millstones round our necks, a dutiful obligation rather than a pleasurable joy.
As I write this, Luna, our neighbor’s cat, is chasing something in our back yard. I have spent happy moments watching Luna from my home office windows as she approaches our yard with wonder, leaping up the tall, central Bradford pear tree, slinking beneath our hedge of privet shrubs, luxuriating in rubbing her back on our weedy grass.
Curious Luna looking through our back screen door.
From our front porch, I’ve enjoyed watching her go on morning walks with her family (yes, really!): a dog named Lexi, children with a literary and a biblical name, Darcy and Micah, their father Chris, a New Testament professor at Mercer University, and mother Jenelle, who is the organizing pastor of the newly-forming Ormewood Church.
Luna runs ahead and lingers behind, depending on what catches her attention in the moment. She exemplifies wonder. And I realize that we human beings know only a little more than she does about the nature of things.
The morning I write this, I greeted them again from our front porch during my prayers, after reading a couple of psalms and Matthew 18, which includes Jesus’ counsel to enter the kingdom as a child, remove their stumbling blocks, find the lost sheep, confront wrongdoing in yourself and in the community, and finally, forgive from the heart, even as we have been forgiven.
Luna helps me with my bulb garden.
Photo by Wade Jones
In silence I contemplated the very tall and old leafy trees before me, the tiny bird chirping on the railing, the runner going by, the found stones that line our gardens, only a little distracted by the passing cars, some of which take the stop sign at the intersection as a mere “suggestion.”
The week I write this, I awoke each morning to NPR reporting on various catastrophes, a high rise fire, several bombings and mass shootings, the investigation of the administration.
Despite all that, I found myself marveling (yes, I realize how antiquated the gerund) that all I saw before me, including me, has evolved. What impetus organizes seemingly inert matter into living things, thinking beings, and seems to call for beauty and compassion and wonder?
Luna poking her nose under our grill cover.
A couple of days ago, I read how the liver regenerates itself daily as it carries out so many mysteries that ancients thought it was the seat of the soul. And not long ago I read how disparate parts of the brain organize the various signals from our eyes into what we “see.”
No wonder the psalmist sang this morning, “The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of God’s mouth” (33:5b-6).
“Breathe on me, breath of God,” sings the old hymn. What a sensual yet spiritual request!
“The glory of God is the human being fully alive.” This popular quote from Irenaeus of Lyons hangs in our hallway, written by the hand of the calligrapher who once graced Mt. Calvary Retreat House in the hills above Santa Barbara before its destruction in the 2008 Montecito fire.
From dust to dust, ashes to ashes, our brief flicker in between is a cause for wonder.
A post in which I describe the “impetus” mentioned above as an “oomph”:
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