Stillness and the Septic Tank — The Day After

About this piece

"Leave Rage Alone" aired yesterday as a podcast recorded during a rare moment when all of us were in the same boat, waiting for the 2022 election returns. The text for the podcast is printed below."Leave Rage Alone" was written and posted four years ago before Kay and I re-located from Chaska to Brooklyn Park MN to be near grandson Elijah. We share it here in hopes it still speaks.

Searching for stillness

Stillness defines life at the cabin. It’s quiet. The only sounds are bird calls. It is this stillness that draws us here by the wetland. But my heart is not still. It’s preoccupied with evil. This morning’s assigned psalm from The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) speaks to my condition.

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers…
For they shall soon wither like the grass…
Be still before the LORD…
Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers,
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

Psalm 37 BCP

Leave rage alone.

Last night, after a quiet swim, I put my hearing aids back in, returned to the cabin for dinner, and listened to a podcast of The Beat with Ari Melber which Kay had downloaded on her iPhone. Back home in Chaska, we watch The Beat because it suits our outrage over what is happening to America. But listening to the podcast re-awakened the rage from which I seek relief in the quiet beauty of the disconnected cabin by the wetland. Listening to the podcast disturbed the serenity of the place. It felt like a fatal assault, a return to hell.

Midway through the podcast, I removed my hearing aids again to distance myself from the septic fret of rage. It was the tone of voice that felt like death or a foreign invasion. I was swimming in my own body waste.

The pond and the wetland are changing every day. So is the world. The Trumpeter Swans that brought such joy a month ago are gone. So are the red-wing blackbirds that had feasted on the cat-n-nine tails. And the grass? The grass is green and growing again. But the psalm reminds me that green will fade to brown in autumn until the swans return.

Meanwhile the calendar reminds me. It’s time to call the guy who empties the septic tank, before it gets full and no longer works. — July 19, 2018.


Afterword

The day after the election day, the boat of anxiously awaiting the election results is over. The shared experience of unknowing was perhaps its own kind of sacred moment, a suspension of the lethal spirituality of winners and losers. Is it too much to ask, for the sake of everyone’s health, that we come together again to empty the septic tank before it gets full?

Gordon C. Stewart, public theologian, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017, Wipf and Stock), 49 two-four page essays on faith and public life; Brooklyn Park, MN, November 9, 2022.

When the news goes away

Days away from internet access brings a calmer reflection. Being in touch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Out of touch with bad news brings relief to the body.

220px-Tipi_bij_daglichtIf living in the developed world means being on edge all the time, I’d prefer a less developed one — maybe a teepee with smoke signals for communication. Anxiety is real enough without the constant sting of bad news from far away and beyond my small sphere of influence.

Madison Avenue loves my anxiety. It preys on what can only be prayed about. An ad agency is no praying mantis! It loves green but its antennae hunt for the anxious selves who confuse wants with needs, buying the things we do not need if we believe we only exist by having them.

Stillness and being are not their thing. Selling is their game. They don’t pray. They prey on well-trained animals, ringing Pavlov’s bell for manufactured tastes and smells, while down on Wall Street Monday’s opening bell opens the door of hornets’ nest.

Praying_mantis_indiaLike the praying mantis, the non-preying prayers live far from the bells. In touch with what’s worth much more than it’s cracked up to be: a less bad news world where humans live teepee-lives in touch with the body . . . in the stillness of time.

“Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted, but the LORD is their refuge.” [Psalm 14:6, The Book of Common Prayer]

  •  Gordon C. Stewart, wilderness cabin, northern Minnesota, September 3, 2017

Listening for the Whisper

Video

In this time of great restlessness many of us long for the “still small voice” heard by Elijah hiding in the cave of his own self-righteous pouting. This sermon was preached in a moment similar to this – the political campaign season of 2014 – and the search for stillness in a world gone mad. FYI, several of the members of this lovely church were in their 9os. They owned neither cell phone nor computer. They had no idea what a tweet was. But they knew experienced a stillness that sometimes comes with the wisdom of age. I post this here in honor of Carol and Maxine.

Grace and Peace,

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, Minnesota, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, now available through Amazon, Wipf and Stock, Barnes and Noble, and your local bookstore.

 

 

 

The Refiner’s Fire

While reflecting on Malachi’s strange metaphor of  the refiner’s fire, Via Lucis’  post “Stillness Crieth Out” (re-posted here last week) re-focused the sermon. Here are the words from Malachi:

“Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way for me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap….” – Malachi 3:1-2.

Thank you, Dennis Aubrey and PJ McKay, for you splendid insights to to these grand Romanesque and Gothic sacred spaces that still bring the soul to stillness and wonder.