Tuesday, November 9, 2010
A REVIEW OF "GOD IN THE YARD"
This is a review of the book “God in the Yard,” by L. L. Barkat.
Barkat had a time of feeling “pinched in this life.” Seeking rest and re-focus and renewal of heart and mind and work, Barkat committed to spending time in her yard every day for a year. Looking at the same scene over and over. But trying to see it differently each time. Drinking in the lessons that Nature could teach her about encountering God’s presence. Seeing shapes, designs, colors, patterns. Hearing swish-swishes and rustles of trees or shrubs. Sometimes, she even tasted natural objects.
She invites others to seek God in the out-of-doors, away from having chores and the obligation “to do”. She needed to just “be”, to drift, see, feel, ponder.
Perhaps not many of Barkat’s readers will actually commit to spending daily time out of doors – especially in winter, or in the midst of rain or wind -- as a spiritual quest for more of God’s presence. But if we are unable to view life from our own yard or a nearby park, we may visit Barkat’s yard through her lilting words of wind and song in the pine tree and thorn bush.
One day, alternately gazing at the maples to the
right and the pine overhead, it occurred to me that
the two grow quite differently. Maples have a Nile-
River-delta thing going on – a trunk that divides
and divides, river to stream to rivulets to sky.
White pine is wheels within wheels. The trunk is
an axle flung straight to heaven and branches
grow out from it like spokes. Each major branch
pokes stiffly outward. Then again, the minor branches
circle it like spokes. And on….
The ceiling of my makeshift temple is vast and
changeable. One morning it is pearls, strung
between the wider universe and me. Another
moment it is pink seashells on ocean foam. At night
it might be cobalt blue I could fall into, never come
…I close my eyes and feel the unexpected
“tip tip” of fine rain pricking my cheeks. Seeds in
white coats try to plant themselves on my arm.
Pine needles use my [tea] cup as a heliport.
The sky is also a sponge that sucks up offerings.
Steam from my mug rises and dissipates. …Clouds
hurry on, kiss and follow currents…
Barkat, who self-styles herself as a “dysfunctional extrovert” (though I see her as far more powerful than that), opens her heart to share how past wounds and family brokenness made her feel responsible for keeping her world running. She concludes that in many ways, her previous experiences disconnected her in-the-present from building trusting, restful relationships with people or with God. She sought, through waiting on God in her yard (and seeing, truly seeking to see him in everything), to become a more open person. Her views of pine trees and birds wheeling and pine needles slithering, led her to the surprising admission of her great grief and loss – giving her a chance to lament her wounds and ask God to open her heart to becoming more trusting, and loving life.
Readers who have experienced deep pain in their lives may find comfort from Barkat’s honesty about her own unhappy child-life-situation. And I appreciated getting to know this other side of the Laura who often presents in her blog a greater sense of being productive and “having it together.” If her story causes us to be angry at, or blame, ourselves for our own negative side or woundedness, why then, we may be sure we need to offer up our entire selves to the ONLY ONE who brings healing, the Master who values us all.
The book also offers questions to ponder for possible directions in our spiritual growth. I have to admit that I didn’t resonate well with the questions – a fact which is probably more due to my own make-up than to the questions themselves. But L, L. admits having questions may be more important than having their
answers. And also invites her audience to disregard questions that don’t apply, and to make our own.
I’m privileged to have been invited to read and review “God in the Yard.” It provided much food for thought. I pray that Laura will continue to grow in the grace of Our Lord. And that, as the time becomes appropriate, she’ll share with us. I pray also that she’ll be able to accept herself just as she is, of value in God’s kingdom because he loves her and chose and called her, and not for “what she can do for him” or her degree of success or productivity in life. And I pray the same prayer for all the rest of us.