Photo by Luca Campioni on Unsplash

Photo by Luca Campioni on Unsplash

The Spirit is doing a new thing.  It is springing forth now in our consciousness, among every people, in every discipline, in every walk of life.  Do we see it?  And shall we serve it?  A new Pentecost is stirring in the human soul.  Will we open to this moment of grace and be led into relationships of oneness we could never before have imagined?[1]

This is how the 2011 A New Harmony concludes, noticing a new consciousness and asking in succession “Do we…” “shall we…” and “Will we…”  Seven years later, it would be tempting to offer a negative response.  It does not seem as though we see it, nor that we shall serve it, nor even that we will be open to it.  But, this would be a premature conclusion.

Harmony is a fitting concept, notes coming together, distinct yet working in concert to make a beautiful sound, one that can onlybe made by a coming together.  When we look at what is happening along the southern U.S. border, and the reverberations across this land and around the world, we might better describe it as dissonance.  The cries of the children torn from parents under the illusion of showers, these children left lying under foil blankets reportedly drugged.  Dissonant.  The cries for justice from those of us seeing these pictures, clutching our own children more tightly and blanketed by our own sense of helplessness. Dissonant.  The different tunes not sung but shouted at one another by those on distant ends of the political scale.  Dissonant. Will these notes come together again to sing some semblance of a song?  In moments of such angst, Newell often refers us to the Dalai Lama who maintains with his joyful disposition that the future is not yet decided.  What part shall we play in that decision, in a tuning process?

There is reason to believe we are closer to harmony than we may think.  If you have ever tuned a guitar to itself, you will know the familiar sound of playing two notes in succession, audible waves emanating at intervals that indicate the distance between the two notes. The closer the notes get to being in tune, the faster the waves pulse and the more unsettled the sound is.  Then, with little warning, the waves align, and the notes come together as one.  It is uncomfortably dissonant just before the notes release into one another.

Just as Newell reminds us that fundamentalism, the tight grasping onto the old, the desperate yet futile grabbing onto what is slipping away, is one response to change, we can choose to respond differently.  We can honor the passing away and make room for something else to come into being, and we can dare to think that new thing could be something more beautiful.  Are these death pains we are experiencing or birth pangs?  Perhaps, they are both.  Bandages often lay at the scene of each, accompanied by sweat, sometimes blood, and always tears.  Always tears. We can bury our tears and drown out the sounds of the struggle that accompanies each of these realities, or we can be fully present to them and allow them to touch us.  If we are there for the death, we will be on hand for the birth.

Newell concludes The Rebirthing of God, written closer to our time, by naming this historical moment as uncertain.  He points us to our dreams as source for new beginnings.[2]  Yolanda King, the granddaughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., the great Civil Rights activist, the great lover of Jesus, was asked to speak at a rally that arose in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  At only 9 years old, it was Yolanda’s presence that was as remarkable as her words, a living link to one who helped us dream a different way of being into reality.  At an accompanying interview her words spoke of another dream, one connected to this old dreamer.

The interviewer asked the young King, “You never knew your grandfather, but knowing that everything you have heard, what do you think that he would think about you and this movement?”

King responded, “He would probably be amazed that all of these people are getting together.”  Her answer seemed simple enough…and then she continued, “And a few days ago, I had a dream about him.”

“You did not!” gasped the interviewer in surprise.  New realities breaking in are hard to accept, but the interviewer recovered, “Tell me about that dream.”

Yolanda described seeing her grandfather in a museum, and he’d come back to life.  It was fuzzy—that’s how dream reality is—but she could see all these reporters and cameras gathered around him trying to interview him, and while she could not recall precisely what he said, she took from the dream sequence that her grandfather was with her in these times.[3]  Think about that image, people leaning in to hear King’s voice again, the prophetic voice from beyond us and yet somehow clearly deep within us.

Something is happening.  We are told that when some heard the voice of Jesus, they thought he was John the Baptist from beyond the grave, others Elijah, and still others other prophets.  The prophets are speaking again.  Do we hear it?

We have often considered our religious traditions for what they have to say, but perhaps the gift they have to offer us all now is how to listen.  Can we listen for the heartbeat of God that is pulsing through creation, affirming the sacredness of all things, reminding us to reach not for our fundamentals but for our fundamental oneness?  Out of this rhythm, let us then speak, let us put our bodies where bodies are being torn apart, and let us be living instruments of this tuning.  Let us hear it.  Let us serve it.  Let us be open to it.

Rob McClellan
Heartbeat Board

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Last year, Heartbeat created our Refugee Fund in memory of John Philip Newell’s father who had an incredible passion for helping refugees the world over. While our Refugee Fund is only one of our initiatives at Heartbeat, it typifies why we exist as a foundation: to foster and support compassionate action. Last year, Heartbeat granted a $5,000 grant to Annunciation House in El Paso to support their work with refugees. Annunciation House not only meets the immediate needs of individuals and families (many being released from detention), but also advocates for a humane response to the plight of migrants and fights against the rampant misinformation that is influencing recent policy decisions in the U.S.  Heartbeat is committed to continuing to support the work of Annunciation House and other similar organizations working to care for migrants and refugees. You can contribute to this work but giving to Heartbeat’s Refugee Fund, by clicking here.


[1]John Philip Newell, A New Harmony:  The Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul(San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass, 2011), 175.

[2]John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God:  Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings(Woodstock:  SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2014), 124.