Some Methods To Find Those Treasures In Plain Sight

Discussing meditation and contemplative prayer and all these other terms can sometimes distract us from actually doing the practice. Mark Buchanan is a wonderful author who often expresses things in a way I had not previously thought about. His book The Holy Wild mentions this:

“Our creativity, at least in part, comes from resting in His creativity until it seeps in. It springs from prayer. Not the busy chatty prayer we often do, but the other kind: prayer as emptiness, prayer as silence, prayer as stillness. Prayer as the absence of wanting and asking. Not the clamoring man waking his neighbor, desperate for bread (LK 11:5), but the suckled child curled up, satisfied in the mother’s arms (PS 131:2).

“Sometimes I just sit there. I don’t speak or ask or think. I watch, devoid of analysis. I just sit and look.

“I let things be, and I simply dwell in their presence. Where there is music or poetry or artistry in these things, I receive it without comment or lament, without the impulse to possess it or explain it. There is nothing mystical about this. This is not a slipping toward pantheism, where every rock bluff or grass tuft brims with divinity. This is simply an act of reverence for the God who makes things, and respect for all that He makes.

 “God’s creativity is, in one sense, the most obvious thing about Him. He saves His most intricate work for the insides and undersides of things. (Molly’s favorite part of the ocean is the underside of waves!)

Richard Rohr has also at times taken as his guide in prayer a simple phrase: “Don’t think. Just look.” He wrote in Near Occasions of Grace “Father McNamara’s definition of contemplation became transformative: “A loving look at the real.” The world, my own issues and hurts, all goals and desires gradually dissolved into proper perspective. God became obvious and everywhere.”

He says “To Practice This Today: Take a loving look at the real. Use the phrase “Don’t think. Just look.” as a reminder throughout the day.”

Often I think of the view out the window nearest to my prayer chair as a cathedral. Not one built of stone and wood, but the most important place of worship. The biggest sanctuary in the area! I dare you to try these methods of prayer, if not for an entire day, then start with 15 minutes. “Don’t think. Just look.” Just sit and look, especially if you can be out of doors. “Rest in God’s creativity. Prayer as emptiness, silence, stillness.” You will never know the benefits until you try this repeatedly. Devote 15 minutes to this practice for one week. And be blessed by a renewed awareness of God’s Presence, within and without.

About jumped out of my skin just now.

While I am typing I have my phone timer set on the silly duck sound, Kay’s favorite on her phone. I keep setting the timer for changing the outdoor hose. My plants are suffering from our near drought conditions. Writing the blog I was deep into trying to explain the practice above and the benefits of meditation and contemplative prayer. I am home alone. That phone quacked and I nearly jumped out of my skin! My Prayer Core-Group friends are never far from my mind! TURN UP YOUR VOLUME TO EMULATE MY EXPERIENCE!

So, just a reminder, to try this practice but also stay aware of the things around you so you might not be as startled as I was just now!

Sometimes a Writer Must Work and Wait

I have been working to read and then copy out selections from Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” That book had a huge impact upon me years ago when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. For those who have followed this and my other blog I mentioned the book a while ago. Since I continue to age (better than the alternative) and the future is uncertain regarding this shoulder, which means our summer, and then our trip to Cape Cod in the autumn, and on and on it goes in uncertainty – seemed like the right time to take up the project. I had ordered a used copy of the book but it was SO old that pages were crumbling as I read. So I got a newer copy and have completed the part entitled Experiences in a Concentration Camp. Now this might seem totally depressing to some, but Frankl is worth reading. He writes from the viewpoint of a psychiatrist and a prisoner about what happens to humans when choices are removed. This chapter is about 145 pages in a smaller paperback, so not too difficult to accomplish. He actually writes from experience. Bob’s Dad was part of the Liberation Army in WWII and set some of the camps free. I have wondered if he was one of the soldiers who freed Doctor Viktor Frankl?

Frankl focuses repeatedly on the fact that the last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstance. Hopefully, my synthesis of his insights will come forth in future blogging.

The attitude choice has come home to me again personally as I wait for diagnosis of the problem in my shoulder after the fall in the living room. I get to choose my attitude. I am NOT always sweet and kind and uncomplaining. When I get weary from pain and frustration I often want to just go crawl under a rock where I will not hurt anyone with my misunderstood tone of voice or sour attitude. Today I will focus on what Scripture says about waiting.

 Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!  I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.  The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the LORD.

Lamentations 3:22-26 (HCSB)

His mercies never end – even when we are irritable. His mercies are new every morning – He knows so well I will need a daily dose! His faithfulness far exceeds mine.

The Lord is my portion, therefore I put my hope in Him. Well, what else can I say? I trust the doctors and MRI, but He is my highest and best hope, my most thorough Physician. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him. I wonder HOW many times we are admonished to wait for Him in Scripture? Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. In returning and rest I am saved; in quietness and trust will be my strength. Be still, and KNOW that He is God.

Jeremiah ends with “It is good to wait QUIETLY for deliverance from the Lord.” I know a woman who is waiting for healing from a second back-to-back Shingles infection. I know a man waiting to find out if the purchase of the home he wants will go through. I know others waiting to heal after surgery, waiting for back pain to let up and be healed, waiting for a church dedication and celebration after hours and hours of hard outdoor work, waiting to plant their crops after history-making flooding. Some are waiting for asylum in America fleeing violence in their homeland, another waiting to finalize a divorce after a miserable marriage.

As humans we do not generally wait well or quietly. Perhaps remembering His mercies are new daily and His steadfast love for us never changes can help carry us over the bumps and crashes of our dreams in life.

When your particular house of cards comes down, remember that no one EVER said “I want to be ill this summer”, or “I want to be waiting weeks on end for an answer .” Ever. So along with me, rest, wait, hope and watch for a manifestation of His love in our presence.

Holy Treasure Placed in My Ear

If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY

Wikipedia says: Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint-Exupéry was a French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist, and pioneering aviator. He became a laureate of several of France’s highest literary awards and also won the U.S. National Book Award. Bob’s favorite book of his is “The Little Prince.” My favorite quote of his is “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Our long marriage has proven this to be true!

This quote about building a ship made me think about drawing people to a relationship with God. How can I make them long for the endless immensity of His holy love, the tremendous power of His resurrection life for changing and transforming us? His endless promises for good and the joy of Spirit- filled living?

Bob told me a story about talking with men in his Silver Sneakers group. It seems one man knew rather a lot through a work relationship about a man whom Bob knew tangentially. And pondering that sent sparks of inspiration!

In Exodus 20:18 the people trembled with fear when they were at Mount Sinai. God wanted the people to come and meet there (EX 19:10-11). They were so afraid that they asked Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” This was a major twisting by the people of what the Lord had instructed. He wanted the people to experience Him. Here they are, holding the God of Glory at arm’s length. And it has been like that for ages. Congregations asking the Pastor to bring an inspired word, but please do not ask them to go to God for themselves!

My mother taught me to sing when I was just a small child. Her father had been a Methodist minister and she was made to sing for his services when she was growing up. She also taught me to sing the alto parts as she was soprano and wanted to harmonize. One of the first songs was “The Garden Song” with lyrics by C. Austin Miles. We sang in the car so obviously, we sang a cappella.

I sifted through You Tube versions to try to find one I liked best. I think I probably liked the singing in the car with Mom the best. Here are the lyrics

  • I come to the garden alone
  • While the dew is still on the roses
  • And the voice I hear, falling on my ear
  • The Son of God discloses
  • And He walks with me
  • And He talks with me
  • And He tells me I am His own
  • And the joy we share
  • as we tarry there
  • None other has ever known.
  • He speaks and the sound of His voice
  • Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
  • And the melody that He gave to me
  • Within my heart is ringing
  • And He walks with me
  • And He talks with me
  • And He tells me I am His own
  • And the joy we share
  • as we tarry there
  • None other has ever known.

So you see early, early on in my life I was taught, through this song to go and listen for the Lord. Choose to walk with Him and talk with Him. Listen for His voice.

I had a Lutheran priest ask me once in amazement if I really believed that. I replied, “Absolutely!” because you see, by the time I spoke with that priest, I had experiential knowledge of this Bible truth. I did not know Jesus tangentially through sermons, but with my own understanding and through my own Bible study, prayer and seeking Him.

Jesus said He came that we could have access to the Father, direct access. And through His death and resurrection He made certain that access is available for all who believe.

Do not satisfy yourself with the Pastor of your church going to God for you. Go seek Him and share with your pastor your experience. You will both be blessed!

For One Moment

Rumi wrote:

“But listen to me: for one moment, quit being sad. Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you. God.”

In re-reading Radical Acceptance I have been reminded how very much I admire the poet Rumi. Found I could get a Kindle version on Amazon for $1.99. Yeah, baby! Same version that I have in paperback, too!

So for one moment, TODAY, can you challenge yourself to quit being sad? God is dropping blessing blossoms all around you. Now perhaps Ann Voskamp can step up the microphone at this point and remind you to find 3 of the 1,000 gifts that flood your life. Just 3.

Here is one I wrote recently. Perhaps I already posted it but the image remains with me though the moon is not full right now.

“Moon shadows out the bedroom window at 1:00 AM are as if an architect has been doodling straight black lines drawn with a ruler on hillside brown background.”

And #2 on the morning walk today, January 8, 2019 shows our back hill with husband and this item complete with flower bud!

This is just WRONG for Ohio!

#3 Wind is driving high cumulus clouds across a blue sky at many miles per hour! What a sight after days and days of GRAY.

What are your three?

Simple to Read, Harder to Do!

In her book 1,000 Gifts Ann Voskamp quotes Chesterton:

“Thanks are the highest form of thought  and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

When I read this I saw thOUGHT. This is how I OUGHT to think. This is what I OUGHT to do. The part of the earth where I live is gloomy today. No sunshine in sight. This is one reason our best friends moved to New Mexico! Much more sunshine there.

The gloom is accentuated by naked deciduous trees. Somehow they look even skinnier this morning. The ground is mostly brown and gray, too. The recent record breaking rain is slowly making the grassy areas “green up,” that is unless the ground has just turned to mud as in my friend’s driveway! Mushy brown muddy goo.

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Gray sky, brown and gray tree skeletons, but this also reminds me that with this New Year turning of the calendar, I am also supposed to be renewed and resting. One young friend told me she had prayed the Lord would give her a word for the year 2019. She suggested I ask Him also. It seems He already did in my recent journaling and seeking His face. “Be still.”

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Except for the recent wind storms here, the trees are still. No leaves fluttering, not much fluid moving up and down the trunk. No fragrance of newly mown grass outside. The rose bushes are dormant. Even the snap dragons that were holding out with leaves and a few flower buds in the garden are looking shabby and going dormant.

How can I be still and just rest in all of this? Bob’s procedure is coming up in a few hours. But fretting will not help that. Me being still would create a better atmosphere for all. I learned from a recent hospital test he endured that I can accomplish little while the doctors are working their magic upon his body. So perhaps I can take that opportunity to practice being still. Not running out into the future of “What ifs” or the past of “If onlys.” Still in the present moment.

Thanks and gratitude in the stillness. Making that list of 1,000 Gifts to be thankful for feels forced and corny in the beginning. Later it becomes a lifestyle that enriches awareness and has the potential to bloom into gratitude. Help me be still and open my eyes and ears to thanks and gratitude.

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Meanwhile, Back at the Soldier Crawl

ABIDE:  me with You, You in me , and flowing forth from me.

You are the vine, I am the branch. Our relationship, love, contacts create the tendrils that help me to cling, ABIDE.

Even at crochet group, I choose to abide. Even at the grocery I choose to abide. While listening to Bob and learning to hear, I choose to abide. 

While traveling a few years ago I found this wrought iron sculpture and remembered the book “Clinging” that I had been reading and ABIDE which I am still trying to learn. The tendril is clearly delineated. I want my tendrils tight and close with Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Defined: “Tendrils are slender structures that coil around smaller objects to provide support for growing shoots.” So I went ahead and wrote the meditation/prayer outline for our weekly intercessors meeting.  The theme was abide, remain, stay, endure, dwell. I presented it the day before Bob and I went to the Convent for an Advent Quiet Day. Emilie Griffin wrote “Prayer is clinging, not only that we cling to God, but that He clings to us.” We prayed that the persons on our Topics List would cling to God for all of their needs.

At the Convent we were each assigned a room for our personal use during the day. The sign on my door had a quote from Jan L. Richardson: “The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before . . . .What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you . .  So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder. There will be time enough for running. For rushing. . . For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon.”

I was gobsmacked!   Abide   Remain  Stay  Endure  Dwell  Stay  Sit  Linger  Tarry  Ponder  Wait  Behold  Wonder all within 24 hours!

How are you spending your Advent Season?

Hopefully you are able to shed cares and move towards the silence that re-creates.