Winged seeds

This past week the silver maple let loose its helicopter pods.  At every puff of breeze a shower of seeds  whirled and landed with a pattering in sundry places.  Some on the sidewalk where they quickly turned from green to brown.  Some cradled in the thick grass where their little bulbous bodies couldn’t reach through the carpet to the soil.   And a few settled in prime real estate:  the potted plants sitting on the deck.  Today I pulled out several, already sprouted trees, a good three inches high.

Today I was also taking a 24-hour silent retreat at home, unplugged to computer and phone.  I needed to do some serious listening, not to the flying seeds (or so I thought), but to God and God’s word.  In the middle of congregational fray there are all sorts of decisions that have to be made.  This past week I had started to make poor decisions because I simply wasn’t listening to the One who has priority.  Hence today’s silence and a return to John 1: “In the beginning was the Word.”

What beginning is it for me?  Beginning of summer?  Beginning of a quiet listening day?  What else?  And have I been listening to the Word?

A bit at a loss, I read from Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation, chapter 3: 

Every moment and every event of every [person’s] life on earth plants something in his [or her] soul.  For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of [people].  Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost because people are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.

This is no new idea.  Christ in the parable of the sower long ago told us that: “The seed is the word of God.”  We often think that this only applies to the word of the gospel as formally preached in churches on Sundays…. But every expression of the will of God is in some sense a “word” of God and therefore a “seed” of new life.  The very changing reality in the midst of which we live should awaken us to the possibility of a uninterrupted dialogue with God.  By this I do not mean continuous “talk,” …but a dialogue of love and choice.  A dialogue of deep wills.

I think I’ve been missing the dialogue of love, choice and deep wills part. That gentle awareness of God’s love.  The quiet nudging of the Spirit.  So how does this loving dialogue of noticing the will of God happen?  Merton says:

Even where there is no other more explicit claim on my obedience, such as a legitimate command, the very nature of each situation usually bears written into itself some indication of God’s will.  For whatever is demanded by truth, by justice, by mercy or by love must surely be taken to be willed by God….

So imagine all those seeds floating down, some hitting the sidewalk, a few landing in my soul and inviting me to care for this or have mercy on that.  I have a clue about a few sprouts in the congregation. There are, I trust, never too many seeds for me to attend to but enough to keep me coming back for another day of quiet listening.