Column: Looking forward to mowing the grass

Joel Martin

BY JOEL MARTIN
GUEST COLUMNIST

Whoever you are, you are human.

Wherever you are, you live in the world, which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it.”

— Barbara Brown Taylor

I know this might sound odd, but I often look forward to mowing the grass. In fact I often view it as almost a spiritual exercise.

Using a gas-powered push mower, it takes me about two hours to mow my entire yard. Two hours where it is often just me and my thoughts as I move back and forth with the mower across the lawn. And while sometimes I put in headphones and listen to music while I mow, most of the time I simply use the time to decompress and untangle all the “stuff” that gets stuck in my head.

I think about and try to make sense of things that have happened or are happening to me or members of my family. I think about the news I have maybe recently learned about dear friends. Sometimes my mind focuses on issues we are facing in our communities and in our country.

And as I do this thinking, while mowing, I become aware what I am really doing is a form of prayer that I find deeply needed. And I am reminded of the poet Mary Oliver who, in her poem The Summer Day writes, “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention.”

I am told people who love to garden have similar experiences. Whether it be in working their hands through the soil, or in the planting of seeds, or the weeding of a garden box there is something in the practice of gardening many people find nourishing. Maybe it is just the solitude of being outside, kneeling among the rows of plants, that gives one the space to realize it’s not just the garden that needs to be “weeded out” every now and then. Or maybe the bright array of color that grows from a potpourri of annuals and perennials reminds one to pay attention to the beauty that abounds. And before long one realizes the connection with the earth that comes with gardening is only a reflection of one’s own need for connections in every aspect of life.

Living in Minnesota, many of us look forward to the month of May — warmer days and daylight that lingers now into the early evening hours. We look forward to getting outside and renewing our connection with nature.

Being a pastor I often hear from people during this time of year who go out of their way to tell me the reason why they weren’t in church on Sunday. For some it was because they were out on the river, some went for a hike with a friend or family member they haven’t been able to connect with over the past week. Others tell me they were golfing, or sometimes they simply say they lost track of time as they sat on their porch drinking coffee listening to the chorus of birds singing songs of praise for the new day. If I’m honest, I can’t argue with their choices, and sometimes I admit I’m even jealous.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m firm believer in the need to gather together to worship God. I’m firm believer in the nourishing power of hope and grace that fills our lives when we gather with others in places of worship throughout the valley.

But I also believe God doesn’t just meet us inside our sanctuaries and places of worship on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings. That if we want to know where we can experience the life-giving presence of God in our lives sometimes it’s good enough just to slow down and look up, look down, look around and whisper a soft spoken word — “thanks.” May you enjoy these prayerful days of May.

Joel Martin is pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Marine on St. Croix.