God in the Grass

Dew soaked grass against bare feet, soaks the hem of her jeans as she tip toes across the yard on an early Spring morning. The birds trilling in the trees seem so incredibly happy, so full of joy they have no choice but to sing.

From the grass to the barn road, ouch, ouch, ouch, she gingerly steps across the rocks. It’s not wise to go out to the barn in bare feet, but sometimes there’s no other way. The earth calls to be stepped on, to be touched. It’s as if God is in the very soil, saying walk with me.

The ponies neigh happy greetings. She has no illusions. It’s food they want, not company. The smallest one nips at her as she passes by and gets a swat on the nose, followed by an affectionate rubbing of her forehead. Pony girls have a tendency toward naughtiness, but they’re cute as hell.

She tosses hay into each stall, then slips on her Fat Baby cowboy boots, the pair she leaves in the barn because she knows she’ll be coming out barefoot as long as the weather holds. Slipping into the first stall with a curry comb, she creates an explosion of white fur. Fur in her mouth and nose. She and the pony sneeze at the same time and she laughs. The pony laughs too. She can’t see it but she feels it, like God in the grass and earth.

Barn swallows are brave little souls. They swoop down and fill their beaks with so much fluffy white fur it’s a wonder they can fly, but they do. The nests in the rafters are lined in downy white. God smiles at the same time she does, watching their happy industriousness.

Not so long ago, she would have ran back to the barn in church clothes, tossed hay at the ponies and hopped in the car, racing not to be late. Hello, hello, hello, good morning, across the parking lot she would go, hoping not to be waylaid before arriving at the church bookstore where a line already awaits her, but nobody really waits. They talk at once, asking questions she can’t possibly answer as she counts the money, marks her sheet, holds up a hand palm out, politely asking for a moment to put everything together.

By the time the service starts and she closes up shop, she’s harried and frazzled and has to stand in the back, so as not to disrupt worship. Her feet hurt, so she surreptitiously kicks off her shoes and slides them under the usher’s bench, until an usher passes by with an arched eyebrow and stern look. Right. Shoes back on. Apparently, God is not in the church floor the way he’s in the grass and earth.

The music is lovely. All around her, lifted arms reach for God. It’s meant to be an immersion, a surrender, an act of worship but it looks for all the world like they’re reaching for a God they cannot grasp. Perhaps it’s only ritual. How many minds are back at home, mowing the grass, playing tennis, drinking a beer and watching the game they know they’re missing.

Everywhere she looks, hands are dropping to adjust ties and tug at the hems of skirts. Everyone’s dressed carefully, hoping God will notice. Oh, who are we kidding. It’s not for God, not really. It’s preening, something birds are way better at and more sincere. A preening bird makes God smile in a way high heels never will.

End of service, praise God, brother, sister, kiss kiss, how are you. There’s no time to answer because he’s walked past fast, followed by him and her and her. Coffee time! Can’t miss coffee time and fellowship. Hurry up!

There’s a certain lingo in the church. God is in control. Are you spending time in the word? How’s your walk? Give it to God, brother, sister, other brother. Can I pray for you? Long words, fancy words, well practiced, sometimes sincere, mostly rote.

It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time. But more and more Sundays she wakes up and can’t find the impetus to get dressed and out the door, to rush the kids and the family, who don’t have time for breakfast, to smack, quick, quick, dog food in bowls and hay to horses, and zoom to church. How many people get speeding tickets, racing to bible study or church? She’s seen more than a few, including the pastor’s wife who blustered and blushed and insisted the speed limit sign wasn’t clearly visible. Never mind that she traveled that same road two thousand billion, jillion times before.

A day off. A day of rest. A day with God. And here he is. The wet hems of her jeans are covered in sawdust and she can’t get the pony fur out of her mouth. She laughs as the dog licks her hand and gets a tongue full of fur for his efforts. They cough together, fingers to tongue, paw to face. Note to self: don’t brush the ponies in the barn during the yearly Spring blow out. She opens stall doors and watches as the pony girls leap and buck and tumble, one over the other, pure joy, making God smile some more. She brings new hay, the other stuff will go to compost ‘cause there’s way too much white fur in it.

On a bale of hay, face tipped to the sun, barn cats twining round her legs, dog panting at her side, she pulls off her Fat Baby boots and listens to the earth praise God in a beautiful, natural chorus that cannot be scheduled or contained. It just… is. Happy trees reach toward heaven. Birds fly, swoop, twitter, cheep, even the dog smiles, feeling God in his very bones.

This is her church, her worship, her congregation. The breeze is God’s touch. The earth his heartbeat. She’ll never call a church building or ritual gathering church again, and it is good.

©Just Kate, March 2010

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    About Me

    I love laughter, wickedness, fearlessness, irreverence, and kindness. I love road trips where I can prop my bare feet up on the dashboard. I love the feel of sunshine warm against my bare skin, the smell of the mountains and the roar of the ocean. I love to read. I love to challenge conventional thinking. I'm a huge fan of spirituality but have little tolerance for religion. I love to talk faith and philosophy. I love children. I get bored far too easily. I love debate and people who don't try too hard. I love it when people aren't afraid to disagree with me and know why they believe what they believe.

    Music

    Things that sound like music to me: rain on a tin roof, the trill of birds first thing in the morning, the coo and gurgle of happy babies, the beat of African drums, the roar of the ocean as the tide ebbs and flows, the sound of a rushing river, unrestrained laughter, the wind moving through leaves, the tick-tock of my grandma's old clock, the crash of thunder, a quiet whisper in my ear, the contented purr of a cat, the musical ting ting of wind chimes, children laughing, the sizzle sizzle sound of something yummy cooking, and the rustle of dry leaves under my feet.

    I also enjoy many musicians and bands including: Ray LaMontagne, Jason Mraz, The Black Eyed Peas, John Mayer, James Carrington, CCR, REM. My favorite genre is acoustic folk/rock.

    Favorite Quotes

    "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." —Aristotle

    "The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." - Ben Okri

    "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do."—John Ruskin