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Theme:
Cosmology and Nature

Cosmology and Nature

Saturday, June 27, 2020
Summary: Sunday, June 21—Friday, June 26, 2020

I hope this week’s meditations offer you a vision of a cosmology that is scientifically accurate and still entirely suffused with the presence of God. (Sunday)

In Jesus, I hope for more than just a God with a face or a uniquely gifted moral teacher. I hope for a resurrection that will one day reach every corner of our universe. —Mike McHargue (Monday)

Twice a year we pause the Daily Meditations to ask for your support. If you’ve been impacted by these Meditations, please consider donating. Any amount is appreciated, as we are committed to keeping these messages free and accessible to all. (Tuesday)

We are not just citizens of one nation or another, but of the human and cosmic community. —Barbara Holmes (Wednesday)

God is the web, the energy, the space, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. —Barbara Brown Taylor (Thursday)

When we love something, we grant it soul, we see its soul, and we let its soul touch ours. (Friday)

 

Practice: Go Where the Big Bang Leads You

Dr. Barbara Holmes offers us a reminder that while cosmology might be a new area of exploration for some of us, scientific questions and cosmological views of the world have always been valued by ancient and contemporary indigenous communities:

“Indigenous societies include science and theology and all other aspects of their culture as a part of their ordinary discourse, for the sciences have never been alienated from daily life. Ancient cosmologies assure us that reality is relational and will not be discovered through a microscope or an intricate mathematical formula; instead, it may be encoded in each event of creation.” [1]

The following practice by Walter Truett Anderson invites us to have a taste of such an integrated perspective. I hope you will take this playful thought experiment seriously the next time you are reading a book, washing the dishes, or brushing your teeth!

Let us assume, for the purposes of this thought experiment, that you are in general agreement with the big bang theory of the origins of the universe and contemporary thinking about its evolution—the explosion out of nothing; the conversion of gases to matter; the formation of stars and planets; the appearance of life on earth, and then of consciousness, and then of symbol-using, self-reflective human consciousness. If you do see things this way, and if you don’t believe yourself to be somehow separate from this series of events, you might try sometime—say, when you are brushing your teeth in the morning—contemplating the eminently rational proposition that what you are doing and seeing is an integral part of those processes: The universe is not only going about its mysterious business with quarks and black holes and supernovae; it is also brushing its (your) teeth.

Try it and see where it leads you. Where it leads me is into a sense of wonder, a new discovery of being akin to some of the fresh experiences so commonly recorded in the various enlightenment texts.

“What miracle is this!” goes a Zen saying. “I draw water and I carry wood.”

What miracle is this: Something emerges out of nothing and, fourteen billion years later, takes the form of words being written on a computer screen. Molecules spinning about the galaxy settle into the more or less stable forms of pine trees outside my window, an expanse of blue water, the Golden Gate Bridge. Others take the form of a woman in a gray pith helmet delivering the mail. What miracle is this: The debris settled out of long-dead stars takes the form of you reading a book.

References:
[1] Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently, 2nd ed. (CAC Publishing: 2020), 120.

Walter Truett Anderson, The Next Enlightenment: Integrating East and West in a New Vision of Human Evolution (St. Martin’s Press: 2003), 219–220.

For Further Study:
Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe (Columbia University Press: 2009)

Ilia Delio, Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness (Orbis: 2015)

Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently, 2nd ed. (CAC Publishing: 2020)

Mike McHargue, Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science (Convergent Books: 2016)

Richard Rohr, Christ Cosmology and Consciousness: A Reframing of How We See, (CAC: 2010), MP3 download

Richard Rohr, A New Cosmology: Nature as the First Bible (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), CD, MP3 download

Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, And Believe (Convergent: 2019)

Barbara Brown Taylor, The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion (Cowley Publications: 2000)

Image Credit: Una “rete” di rami all’Arte Sella (Wood and Art in the Forest of Italy) (detail), 2008, Arte Sella, Trento, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God is the web, the energy, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. —Barbara Brown Taylor
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Cosmology and Nature

A Communion of Subjects
Friday, June 26, 2020

Acknowledging the intrinsic value, beauty, and even soul of creation, elements, plants, and animals is a major paradigm shift for most Western Christians. In fact, many in the past often dismissed such thinking as animism or paganism. We limited God’s love and salvation to our own human species and, then, in this theology of scarcity, we did not even have enough love left to cover all of humanity! To be honest, God ended up looking quite stingy and inept—hardly “victorious,” as our Easter hymns claim.

The word profane comes from the Latin words pro, meaning “in front of,” and fanum, meaning “temple.” We thought we lived “outside the temple.” Without a nature-based spirituality, it was a profane universe, bereft of Spirit. We had to keep building shrines and churches to capture and hold our now domesticated and tamed God. Soon we did not know where to look for the divine, as we made God’s presence so limited. We became like fish swimming around looking for water, and often arguing about who owned the water!

I’m not saying that God is all things or that all things are God (pantheism). I am saying that each living thing reveals some aspect of God. God is greater than the whole of our universe, and as Creator inter-penetrates all created things (panentheism).

When God manifests spirit through matter, then matter becomes a holy thing. The material world is the place where we can comfortably worship God just by walking on it, loving it, and respecting it. Everything visible, without exception, is the outpouring of God. What else could it really be? The incarnation is not only “God becoming Jesus.” It is a much broader event, which is why John’s Gospel first describes God’s presence in the general word “flesh” (John 1:14). This is the ubiquitous Christ that we continue to encounter in other human beings, in a mountain, a blade of grass, a spider web, or a starling.

When we can enjoy all these things as holy, “the world becomes a communion of subjects more than a collection of objects” as the “geologian” Fr. Thomas Berry (1914–2009) said so wisely. [1]

When we love something, we grant it soul, we see its soul, and we let its soul touch ours. We must love something deeply to know its soul (anima). Before the resonance of love, we are largely blind to the meaning, value, and power of ordinary things to “save” us and help us live in union with the source of all being. In fact, until we can appreciate and even delight in the soul of other things, even trees and animals, we probably haven’t discovered our own souls either. Soul knows soul through love, which is why it’s the great commandment (Matthew 22:36).

References:
[1] Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe (Columbia University Press: 2009), 86.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A New Cosmology: Nature as the First Bible, discs 1 and 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), CDMP3 download;

“Is ‘Green’ a Christian Position?” Radical Grace, vol. 22, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), 3, 22; and

The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, And Believe (Convergent: 2019), 13.

Image Credit: Una “rete” di rami all’Arte Sella (Wood and Art in the Forest of Italy) (detail), 2008, Arte Sella, Trento, Italy.

Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God is the web, the energy, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. —Barbara Brown Taylor

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Cosmology and Nature

An Infinite Web
Thursday, June 25, 2020

Author and Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor has been writing about the intersection of faith and science for a long time. In this essay, written over twenty years ago, she was already exploring a new cosmology, one that honored her deep understanding of both God and the workings of the universe. She has the courage and conviction to ask hard questions and wrestle with them alongside us. Her insight into God’s unifying and enlivening presence has much in common with the mystics. As Franciscan theologian Bonaventure described, God is One “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” [1]

In Sunday school, I learned to think of God as a very old white-bearded man on a throne, who stood above creation and occasionally stirred it with a stick. When I am dreaming quantum dreams, what I see is an infinite web of relationship, flung across the vastness of space like a luminous net. It is made of energy, not thread. As I look, I can see light moving through it as a pulse moves through veins. What I see “out there” is no different from what I feel inside. There is a living hum that might be coming from my neurons but might just as well be coming from the furnace of the stars. When I look up at them there is a small commotion in my bones, as the ashes of dead stars that house my marrow rise up like metal filings toward the magnet of their living kin.

Where am I in this picture? I am all over the place. I am up there, down here, inside my skin and out. I am large compared to a virus and small compared to the sun, with a life that is permeable to them both. Am I alone? How could I ever be alone? I am part of a web that is pure relationship, with energy available to me that has been around since the universe was born.

Where is God in this picture? God is all over the place. God is up there, down here, inside my skin and out. God is the web, the energy, the space, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is.

At this point in my thinking, it is not enough for me to proclaim that God is responsible for all this unity. Instead, I want to proclaim that God is the unity—the very energy, the very intelligence, the very elegance and passion that make it all go. This is the God who is not somewhere but everywhere, the God who may be prayed to in all directions at once. This is also the God beyond all directions, who will still be here (wherever “here” means) when the universe either dissipates into dust or swallows itself up again.

References:
[1] Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey into God, 5.8, quoting Alan of Lille, Regulae Theologicae, reg. 7. See Bonaventure, trans. Ewert Cousins (Paulist Press: 1978), 100.

Barbara Brown Taylor, The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion (Cowley Publications: 2000), 73–74.

Image Credit: Una “rete” di rami all’Arte Sella (Wood and Art in the Forest of Italy) (detail), 2008, Arte Sella, Trento, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God is the web, the energy, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. —Barbara Brown Taylor
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Cosmology and Nature

Awakening in the Cosmos
Wednesday, June 24, 2020

My friend and fellow CAC teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes has the ability to bear witness to the expansiveness of the cosmos, the major systemic shifts taking place in society, and the small and sacred moments of daily life—all at the same time. Her writing is a poetic and prophetic call for us to wake up and pay attention to everything that is happening around us.

It is time to awaken to self, society, and the cosmos, for none of us has the luxury of sleepwalking through impending cultural and scientific revolutions. In the last sermon that he preached before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. urged us to “remain awake through a great revolution.” [1] . . .

Up above our heads, there are worlds unknown and a canopy of grace, light, air, and water that supports our survival. Without realizing it, we expend massive amounts of energy to block out the vastness of our universe. This is to be expected, for, in its totality, this information can be more than human systems can take. However, by riveting our attention on the mundane, we filter out the wonder that is available with each breath.

Although we have a fascination with space and the possibility of life in other realms, we steadfastly refuse to respond when the universe invites us to broaden our lines of sight. We are beckoned by blazing sunsets and the pictures returned by powerful telescopic lenses, yet, on any given day, we court a busyness that beguiles us into focusing on the limited perspectives in our immediate space.

Today, scientific information about the universe is increasing exponentially while ethnic and racial balances within the United States are shifting radically. In the scientific realm, the epistemological foundations for hierarchy, dominance, and rationality are crumbling, while proponents of gender, class, [racial,] and sexual equity have found their public voices. . . .

We are not hamsters on a wheel, waiting to fall into the cedar shavings at the bottom of the cage. We are seekers of light and life, bearers of shadows and burdens. We are struggling to journey together toward moral fulfillment. We are learning to embrace the unfathomable darkness where God dwells with enthusiasm that equals our love of light. Physics and cosmology have metaphors and languages to help us awaken to these and other possibilities. . . . We are not just citizens of one nation or another, but of the human and cosmic community.

Awareness is the moment when we rise with eyes crusted from self-induced dreams of control, domination, victimization, and self-hatred to catch a glimpse of the divine in the face of “the other.” Then God’s self-identification, “I am that I am / I will be who I will be” (Exodus 3:14) becomes a liberating example of awareness, mutuality, and self-revelation.

Barbara teaches us that “everything belongs”—from moments of personal awakening, to mind-bending discoveries with the potential to change everything. Growing in awareness of a “Christ-soaked universe” helps us to awaken to wonder and see the divine in all things.

References:
[1] Martin Luther King, Jr., Sermon at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. (March 31, 1968). See A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James M. Washington (HarperCollins: 1986), 270.

Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently, 2nd ed. (CAC Publishing: 2020), 42, 43, 57.

Image Credit: Una “rete” di rami all’Arte Sella (Wood and Art in the Forest of Italy) (detail), 2008, Arte Sella, Trento, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God is the web, the energy, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. —Barbara Brown Taylor
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A reflection on the past 50 years from Fr. Richard

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Dear Friend,

It is hard to believe, but this month marks 50 years since I was first ordained in my home parish in Topeka, Kansas. It was a beautiful ordination ceremony. I was young and excited; my hair was long (I had hair!), and I wore colorful vestments covered with flowers I’d probably be embarrassed to wear now.

This was during the great years after Vatican II—the inspired spiritual renewal that had put the Gospel back at the center of our lives, just as St. Francis tried to do.

After the ceremony people were waiting in line to congratulate me, and I was feeling very important and holy. A woman held up the receiving line to tell me a story. I was irritated; as many others were in line. She told me about the history of my parish church, and how it was built on the very spot where the Pentecostal movement began. “You’re going to be used by the Holy Spirit,” she said. I tried to hurry her along, but nevertheless she persistedAnd by she, I mean both this particular woman and the Holy Spirit—who has never given up on me.

Five decades later I am humbled to think about how it has all played out. I’ve written more books than I care to admit, prayed alongside amazing leaders and spoken in front of countless wonderful people. Through it all the Spirit has persisted in her work despite my many personal limitations and times I passionately believed my own message while also denying it in practice.

God always uses unworthy instruments so we can never think that it is we who are accomplishing the work. The older I get, the more I think, “God, you were so patient with me! I didn’t do it right and you still did it right, you still used me.”

2020 has been an unprecedented year—like nothing I have seen before.  I believe we are seeing humanity awaken to a new level of awareness of systemic injustice in the world, the suffering it causes, and of the role each of us play in perpetuating these systems—predominantly by those of us with privilege and power. We would do well to remember that evil can only be substantially overcome by collective good. When one part is hurt, we all share in that pain, and if one part is liberated, we all share in the joy.

There is a great need right now for unworthy instruments—people who have done the necessary work to ground compassionate action in contemplative, non-dual consciousness. When you experience the reality of your oneness with God and Creation, actions of justice and love will naturally follow. This message has been at the core of what I set out to teach over the last fifty years, and now that I rarely leave my hermitage, these meditations have become my primary means of sharing what God is putting on my heart. It is my hope they have been a source of both healing and encouragement for you.

Twice a year we pause the normal Daily Meditations to ask for your support to continue this work. We understand that the needs in our communities are as high as they have ever been, and we trust your discernment about the right way to help. If you’ve been impacted by the Daily Meditations and are financially able, please consider donating. All contributions are appreciated, as we are committed to keeping these messages free and accessible to people all around the world—now more than ever.

Please take a moment to read our Executive Director Michael’s note below about how you can help and a gift we’d like to share.

Tomorrow the Daily Meditations will continue exploring the important theme of Nature and the Cosmos.

Richard Rohr Signature

 


 

Dear friends,

On June 13th, 1970, at the age of just 27, Fr. Richard began an incredible life of teaching and service to people all over the world. As a longtime student of Fr. Richard’s, it is an incredible privilege to partner with him and our whole Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) team each day.

We believe that a more loving, just, equitable and sustainable world is possible, but a new consciousness is necessary to get there. In the tradition of Jesus, St. Francis, and mystics from every tradition, our goal is to provide spiritual wisdom that supports both inner and outer transformation. Action and Contemplation are inextricable on the spiritual journey, especially during a time of worldwide disruption and pain.

As the CAC’s Executive Director my top priority is ensuring Fr. Richard and our other amazing teachers have the structural support they need to continue sharing their work through these daily meditations and our other programs. Because of our partnership with you, more and more people are being introduced to this wisdom. Thank you—there is no way he could do all of this alone, and there is no way we could do all of this alone either.

We do our work in deep respect and awareness of the many other people and organizations playing their part to transform systems of oppression in the great body of Christ. Specifically, we stand in solidarity with activists around the world who are prophetically demanding justice for all Black people who have faced violence, anti-blackness and systemic racism. These are spiritual evils that impoverish us all and they demand our participation in a systemic response. Now more than ever we honor the needs in all of our communities, and we trust your discernment on how best to help. Thank you for any support you are able to offer our mission at this time.

Please consider making a one-time donation or a recurring gift. Your support allows us to keep these Daily Meditations free and accessible to an ever growing audience around the world. Will you contribute and support the future of this work? If you are able, please consider making your donation a monthly one. Monthly support helps create the stability we need to share this vital message to more people in more ways well into the future.

In gratitude for an online donation of any size we will send you a free digital version of our current edition of ONEING: Liminal Space.

Our hope for this edition is to help us stand on the threshold and see beyond ourselves to the broader and more inclusive world that lies before us.

On this 50th anniversary of Richard’s Ordination, we honor his life and are deeply grateful to be on this journey together.

Peace and Every Good,

Michael Poffenberger's Signature

Michael Poffenberger
Executive Director, Center for Action & Contemplation

P.S. Please consider making a contribution to the Center for Action and Contemplation (tax-deductible in the United States). We invite donations of any size. You can donate securely online at cac.org/dm-appeal or send a check (USD only) to CAC, PO Box 12464, Albuquerque, NM 87195. Learn more about charitable giving at cac.org/support. Read more of Fr. Richard’s thoughts on the systemic nature of Evil. Email us at [email protected] if you are considering making a legacy or estate gift. Thank you.

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Cosmology and Nature

The Divine Signature
Monday, June 22, 2020

It seems that for many people accepting the truth of science means rejecting the truth of God. Of course, it’s not an either/or proposition, but the two have been set in opposition for so long we could expect little else. There have been many religious scientists throughout the ages, but their work has often only been appreciated in hindsight. Thankfully, Pope Francis is working to correct that. A growing number of people like author and podcaster Mike McHargue are beginning to articulate how science and faith can be reconciled in our modern age. Here he explains in layperson’s terms how the evolutionary phenomenon we call the “Big Bang” is a reflection of what I would call the Paschal Mystery.

In the beginning, there was a rapid expansion of a Singularity. Around 380,000 years later, there was light. There was also hydrogen and helium and four stable, fundamental forces of physics. Atoms and those forces worked together to birth the first stars from massive clouds of gas, and those stars lived for hundreds of millions of years before they died in explosions that spread their matter across the sky in clouds of gas and dust—now with heavier elements than what existed before.

The forces of physics worked together once again to craft new stars now tightly packed into the first galaxies.

As the cycle repeated, heavier elements formed planets orbiting those stars, emerging from disks of gas and dust like dust bunnies under your bed. In our universe, planets can exist only because a few generations of stars died and were reborn. The rebirth of stellar matter into planets is how our Earth came to be.

This planet, our home, is covered with a film of life unlike any we’ve yet seen anywhere else in the universe. As far as we know today, it is unique. A blue marble floating in the dark.

Earth’s life is fed by a process in which carbon from the air and minerals in the soil are attached together by the energy of photons via photosynthesis in plants. In this process, everything on this planet lives by the constant sacrifice of the nearest star. Every blade of grass, every tree, every bush, every microscopic algae on this planet is a resurrected form of the Sun’s energy. . . .

One day, I will die, and in time my atoms will go back to giving life to something else. Much farther along the arrow of time, our own Sun will explode and spread its essence across the sky. Our Sun’s dust will meet with other stars’ remnants and form new stars and planets of their own. The universe itself exists in an eternal pattern of life, death, and resurrection.

It seems poetically appropriate that the Source of all would have left this divine signature on the fabric of reality. In Jesus, I hope for more than just a God with a face or a uniquely gifted moral teacher. I hope for a resurrection that will one day reach every corner of our universe.

Reference:
Mike McHargue, Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science (Convergent Books: 2016), 204–205.

Image Credit: Una “rete” di rami all’Arte Sella (Wood and Art in the Forest of Italy) (detail), 2008, Arte Sella, Trento, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God is the web, the energy, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. —Barbara Brown Taylor
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Cosmology and Nature

A Christian Cosmology
Sunday, June 21, 2020

The word cosmology has been used more frequently in recent years, even in religious circles. If cosmology is the study of the origin, processes, and shape of the universe, then it also involves the study of God, the universe’s Creator. I find it utterly enticing, but I also know how threatening it has been to Christian thought as a whole.

Up until Copernicus and Galileo, western cosmology was very linear and largely informed by faith, with little attention to science. With a kind of extended egocentricity, Christians thought the earth was the center of the universe. God dwelled on his throne (and God was considered male), Jesus somehow dwelled beneath God, with heaven, the earth, and hell set below in their fixed places. But after the Copernican revolution, scientists have discovered ever more galaxies, and demonstrated that we humans are not the center of anything. We are just a small part of a much bigger ecosystem and universe. It is a very humbling lesson that we are still adjusting to five hundred years later! From that revolutionary moment, religion and science largely stopped talking to one another and started going in two different directions.

At a minimum, we need a God as big as the still-expanding universe. Otherwise, many earnest people will continue to think of God as a mere add-on to a world that is already awesome. However, I believe our traditional faith has a key to open the door to a new cosmology. That key is the proper understanding of the word Christ.

Christ, as I like to say, is more than Jesus’ last name. Christ is God, and Jesus is the Christ’s historical manifestation in time. Jesus is a Third Someone, not just God and not just human, but God and human together.

If we cannot put these two seeming opposites of the divine and human together in Jesus Christ, we usually cannot put these two together in ourselves, or in the rest of the physical universe. A merely personal God becomes clannish and sentimental, and a merely universal God never leaves the realm of abstract theory and philosophical principles. But when we learn to put them together, Jesus and Christ give us a God who is both personal and universal. Jesus is a map for the time-bound and personal level of life, and Christ is the blueprint for all time and space and life itself.

When cosmology became largely a secular science, a large number of Christians felt free to reject evolution and history. Today, however, we are living in a wonderful time of convergence. We have a chance to bring them together again. As author Beatrice Bruteau (1930–2014) wrote: “We need a new theology of the cosmos, one that is grounded in the best science of our day . . . so that all the world turns sacred again . . .” [1] I hope this week’s meditations offer you a vision of a cosmology that is scientifically accurate and still entirely suffused with the presence of God.

References:
[1] Beatrice Bruteau, God’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World (Crossroad Publishing Company: 1997), 13.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Christ Cosmology and Consciousness: A Reframing of How We See, (CAC: 2010), MP3 download; and

The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, And Believe (Convergent: 2019), 6, 17–21.

Image Credit: Una “rete” di rami all’Arte Sella (Wood and Art in the Forest of Italy) (detail), 2008, Arte Sella, Trento, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God is the web, the energy, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. —Barbara Brown Taylor
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