The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
The weather has been beautiful and sunny lately, and yesterday I felt that deep need to be outside for long periods of time, to breathe in fresh air, to soak up some sunshine. So I went exploring and ended up hiking around at Joaquin Miller Park. It’s a big place, and there is enough space to actually find quiet among the hills and redwoods.
The park is sprinkled with strange little monuments and staircases. I stumbled across this tiny tower, erected by Miller in 1894 to honor his friends and fellow poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
I wandered around the base of the monument, running my hands along the stone, warmed by the afternoon sun. I looked out across the Bay and tried to imagine what this place would have looked like to 19th century eyes. I remembered my favorites lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing’s small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And, — glancing on my own thin, veined wrist, —
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.
(from book 7 of Aurora Leigh)
I thought about the glory of heaven crammed into the body of the tiny bumble bee crawling along the dirt, the splendor of creation reflected in the particular shape made by wind-swayed grass, the beauty of God formed by the layering of clouds on mountains. And I had to sit down to soak it up. Then I had to scribble some words in the margin of my book (it’s wise to always carry a pencil… and a book):
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
and I am likewise full —
this body made of earthen dust,
this soul breathed of wind and cloud.
I rise as the earth does —
slowly, painfully, groaning.
Is perhaps heaven also crammed
with earthen vessels gathered round a table?
My soul is still before God, and waits.
Holy, barefoot ground.
Flaming, thorny bush.
Turn aside for me also, God,
so my life may breed your presence
in the deep, dark places.
And when the call to worship comes,
up from the ground like an ancient mist,
begging an answer,
I will stop — open wide my mouth —
What is inspiring you this week? What reminds you that earth is crammed with God’s glory? Have you ever forgotten to “turn aside” and found yourself with a face full of blackberries?
And one more thing! If you’re still thinking about Psalm 23, like I am, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Carter’s sermon “A Psalm for the end of the world, or not” @ Day1.org is worth a read!