From Tom Klein
I lived in a small Iowa town and played in the woods across the street from my home with every free hour. Those woods contained coyotes, skunks, foxes, bears, poison ivy, and ninjas. They were dangerous. Even an experienced hiker like me could be lost forever if you made a wrong turn or went around “Dutchman’s Pond” on the left side. During the summer, my neighbor and I packed sandwiches and hiked from morning until dinner to explore rivers, abandoned railroads, and even a cemetery, if we walked all the way to the other side. We hid from robbers, set up camp in an old tree, and buried valuable treasure so well that I’ve missed it since the day we buried it.
I grew up in the woods (which may be a surprise to those that only know me as a mild-mannered computer guy). I played in the woods year-round and very clearly remember running home one day — going as fast as I could — as a storm blew in. The snow was drifting all around me and sleet stung my face. My fingers and toes were numb and I had trouble making it up the final slippery hill to my house. I did make it, though. I don’t want you to be nervous.
These images of storms, animals, and enemies chasing me were what ran through my mind when Laura started talking about the wildness of God. I realize that my great adventures in the woods aren’t exactly what Laura meant but she did ask us to remember our first memories of childhood and nature — the strength of the crashing waves, the roaring fire under an open sky, and rain lashing our faces. To that list of incredible things, I’d also add a sunrise on a crisp morning like today, and stars that you can only see when sitting in a yard in Iowa or those amazing trees that grow sideways out of a sheer rock wall and are hundreds of feet tall. Those are the moments when we become aware of the power and creativity of nature.
At this point in the sermon, Laura switched from external wildness to internal wildness — our own creativity and passion. Our church is filled with creative people — architects, poets, musicians, artists, actors, speakers, authors — and probably equally filled with people that are extremely creative, yet keep it hidden. I imagine there are even people that we would call creative who feel like they suppress their own creativity. What could we do as a community, as a group of friends, as a church if we could let loose a little more of our inner wildness? Or create what we really want to create, rather than what we should create?
If channeled creatively [desires, emotions, and creative urges] give rise to artistic expression, to action for justice, or to new birth in ourselves and relationships. – J. Philip Newell, The Book of Creation, 21
George MacDonald shared an image and it led me to the following thought… When a book sits on a shelf, its content is unknown and unused by anyone. When opened and read, it comes to life. The book didn’t change, our action to the book changed. Laura talked a lot about creativity, and that many times, we keep creativity suppressed and bottled up. Our creativity is just like the contents of the book. The ideas, the goals, the wildness, and the desires are present, but they only become something if we let them out. (Newell, 25)
As you can see, the sermon stirred up lots of ideas in my head, but I wouldn’t be genuine if I didn’t share my first thought after hearing Laura talk about earth, air, fire and water — the fact that it is September can’t be a coincidence:
In 2005, I went back to my hometown and walked through the woods. The vast movie-set in my mind sits on less than a few square miles and I didn’t see a single grizzly bear or ninja. I did still feel the excitement and joy that I felt as a kid, though, with the wind blowing the leaves down the trail in front of me. If those now-silly memories can still be so fresh and exciting in my mind, just think what I could do with the ideas that are inside now. How about you?
“And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day.” – Genesis 1:8