March 2008

Spring is arriving at Turtle Rock Farm. We have several baby calves scampering around. The bulbs are popping up and we are eager to dig in the soil.

We have planted 50 cypress trees, 50 red bud trees, 50 sand plum bushes, 3 persimmon trees, 3 kiwi trees and 8 raspberry bushes on the farm this spring.


Today, the Billings Elementary Students completed the gardens at the school. They have done a fabulous job and we are all anxiously awaiting the time they can eat the vegetables they are growing.

Today, Pat (pictured on the right) was ordained as a United Methodist Deaconess, which is a lay person commissioned to a lifetime of ministry in the areas of love, justice and service in the world. Her Deaconess appointment is doing ministries of ecospirituality and environmental justice at Turtle Rock Farm. (That was also her birthday, but we won’t say which one.) We are very proud of her! To see Pat’s presentation about Turtle Rock Farm go to our website or click here.

A couple of years ago, I was grieving a series of losses:
an unwanted divorce,
my only child’s graduation from high school,
his move halfway across the country, to California;
and an appointment as a newly-commissioned elder
to a community at the opposite end of where I had been living in Oklahoma.
My first day in the new community, people from the church took me
to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.
It was an amazingly beautiful part of God’s good creation
and over the next months, I would go there often.
Days at the Wildlife Refuge healed me of my losses.
As I stood on a pier in the breeze out in the middle of the pristine blue waters of Lake Quannah Parker;
as I climbed over ancient, giant boulders;
as I gazed on the great bison
and captured for a moment a glimpse of the majestic elk on a far horizon;
as I smelled the spice and sweet of the woods following spring rains that ended a four-year drought;
as I explored the vast prairie and its infinite offering of wildflowers;
as I watched youth from the church sit on rocks in a stream and discover wild onions growing there;
as I saw Saturn and its moons through a telescope late at night on a mountain top,
I experienced for myself what I had been told in seminary:
God’s good creation can heal us.

I had expected to be a United Methodist pastor for the rest of my life,
but at the end of that year, I knew that something was amiss about my call.
I made a retreat with a spiritual director
and attended the Upper Room’s Soulfeast at Lake Junaluska,
spending a lot of time talking to God and listening for God’s guidance.
I knew at that point that it was time for me to leave parish ministry,
and I knew the great upheaval that decision would create for others –
and for me personally, because I didn’t know what else I was to do.
I had committed myself to a lifetime of ministry.
But now I didn’t know exactly how I was to serve.

One Sunday morning in my prayer time,
I suddenly remembered
about United Methodist deaconesses and home missioners.
 I remembered some of the historic stories I’d heard of deaconesses
who persevered in bringing compassionate solutions
to places of dire need in  our world.
I jumped up, got out the Book of Discipline and read
that deaconesses and home missioners are committed to a lifetime of ministries of love and justice in the world.
I think God must have rejoiced at that moment:
“Finally! She got it!”
I knew I’d found my fit.
And in the weeks to come, I came to know what the ministry would be:
I would help people connect again with God’s good creation
so that they could be healed
 and so that they could learn to live sustainably –
 as part of the web of life that we and all God’s good creation are.

I serve now as a spiritual director and retreat leader
in north central Oklahoma
 at Turtle Rock Farm: A Center for Spirituality, Sustainability and Healing.
Now I witness what happens when others reconnect with God in creation.
They sit under the spectacular night sky, in a place that is dark enough to see millions of stars, and meditate on the vastness that is God’s universe.
And they connect with the vastness of God inside themselves.

Perched on a hillside looking west as evening approaches,
they watch silently as Earth rolls up and the sun goes out of view
and the sky turns orange and yellow and purple –
and their own lives come into perspective one more time.

School children who come to Turtle Rock Farm to build raised beds
to install at their school and grown their own vegetables,
first cast their eyes upon a display of the wondrous diversity of vegetables that helps nourish their bodies and assure food security  –
asparagus, carrots, green beans, beets, lettuce, yellow squash, zucchini, spinach, radish –
and when they taste that first crunch of radish,
their eyes widen in surprise and they exclaim:
“It’s spicy!”
And when they bravely try the dreaded spinach leaf –
but this time, a fresh one –
they are surprised again: “Your spinach isn’t so bad!”

And children and adults alike,
when invited to spend one hour of their life walking slowly and silently through a meadow,
noticing the tiniest flower,
a rock that was formed in the mudflats of an ancient ocean,
the soft music of rustling Blue Stem,
the embracing blue sky all around them,
they experience the very peace of God inside themselves.
And they begin to heal.

For a long time, Micah 6:8 has been a beacon for me.
When I wasn’t certain about the specifics,
this passage kept the big picture in front of me:
God wants us to “do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with  God.”
And now I get to serve in a specific ministry that fulfills the big picture: walking each moment with God,
doing environmental justice
and loving the kindness of God’s healing creation.

March 2008

Next month, we are hosting a retreat called “Pick Two You Can Do” on April 18 and 19.

We hear about the frightening predictions of the results of global warming, but we’re not quite sure where we can start changing our lives to help sustain God’s good creation.

This retreat offers participants the opportunity to connect with creation, reflect on the circle of life, become aware of the things we can do to help sustain life and pick the first two things you want to do to help.

You’ll learn about many ways to make your lifestyle more green and sustainable!

We’ve set it up so you can come the evening before and connect with the sun as it disappears from view, or sit under the stars in the vast night sky.

If you can only come for the Saturday portion, let us know!

Participants will have the opportunity to connect with God’s good creation, reflect on the circle of life, become aware of the things we can do to help sustain life and “pick two you can do” – choose the first two changes to make at home.

If you can join us at Turtle Rock Farm for this practical and spiritual retreat, visit our website to find out more information!


It’s not exactly the same thing, perhaps, but I think there are similarities – between nature’s winter fallowness and the winter flu. I had the stomach virus for seven days, followed immediately with the flu, which survivors tell me lasts about – seven days. Seems to be the case.

And with the flu I have yet to leave the house. Even the doctor didn’t want to see me – just called in a prescription and told me to stay home; that this stuff is highly contagious. Actually, I didn’t feel like going to the doctor’s office – or anywhere.

So I’ve been laying fallow.

When do we humans lay fallow?

Nature does it, every year, without fail – well, hopefully, we can do what we need to do to stop this severe warming trend, so that nature can continue to lay fallow without fail.

Seeds and trees and plants and some animals get a rest, a chance to rejuvenate before giving of themselves again so abundantly.

Even when we North Americans “rest” we are busy. “On vacation” we do lots of thrilling things; people even joke about needing a vacation after their vacation. I think it’s mostly when we are sick that we are fallow – when we really don’t do anything. And that’s only, of course, because we can’t do anything.

The first days I could only sleep. After that I could lie on the sofa, but discovered neither books or television or movies interested me. No distractions possible. Eventually, I could watch a movie, but not the news, and I couldn’t focus on reading anything. I don’t know how many days I didn’t even think about God’s good company. I forgot everything. I was fallow.

We busy North Americans find being sick very difficult – partly because it hurts, but I wonder if the hardest part is that our busy lives come to a shockingly sudden and helpless halt. All those things we need to do just can’t get done. This time, in one of those fevered dreams, I even dreamed about not being able to get things done.

When I began to move about again, the first thing I noticed about having been fallow was the taste of oatmeal. Now, I have oatmeal almost every morning – the old fashioned kind, that tastes like oats. But I realized on the first morning I ate oatmeal after eating nothing, that the oatmeal flavor was quite strong. I don’t think I’d really been aware of the taste of oatmeal for quite awhile.

The second thing I noticed was smells. I would be stopped in my tracks suddenly by a strong whiff of something ordinary that I don’t ordinarily even notice.

The third thing I noticed was the cedar trees. They seem so well-defined and rich in texture and intensely green. Some seem to have grown about six feet in the last week.

The fourth thing I noticed is that when I went to a formal prayer time again, I could just sit and be with God.

The fifth thing I noticed is that I’ve slowed down and am enjoying it. I don’t want to rev back up again.

And so there it is, another lesson from nature: Laying fallow is necessary. It brings life. Hopefully, we humans won’t wait for the winter flu to get in our fallow time.

18 February 2008