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!

Tuesday, May 21

It is Tuesday morning. My Monday and Tuesday mornings are meant to be reserved for writing and blogging and organizing my thoughts. Some weeks, that gets interrupted by other things to be done. Today is the best Tuesday in a while. We are both at home in Ohio. Suitcases have all been unpacked and laundry basically caught up. This is a day meant to focus.

And here is my favorite, years old rose, urging me to center, focus, come to the center with Christ, unfold as I am meant to do.

So a few more photos in the front flower bed and I am back at my desk, praying for words to inspire and challenge you and, most of all, words to honor my Lord.

These with keep blooming with or without my observation. May we bloom to always bring honor to Christ.

A Prompt in Plain Sight

Found this a year or so ago on the sidewalk. I have kept it ever since. It is a writing prompt and in some ways a prod. How so? you ask.

If you have a broken pencil you cannot write much unless you sharpen it and determine to use it. And that is the prod part. Was I willing to use it and sharpen it? This was before I started writing the blog. For years I had been putting off actually writing with regularity and purpose. Once again, I was being given the choice of just keeping a broken pencil, throwing it away, or putting it to work.

And the prompt? Even the stub of a pencil can be used to write. What is to stop the finder from using it? Yes, some kid is missing a green pencil from their colored pencil set, but what about the senior citizen who found and kept it. Will she make use of it, even in old age and gray hair? Will she step out in faith and just do it?

You can scroll through my posts and see if you agree. I think I am onto the discipline of using it and helping the last years of the pencil produce a harvest! Not to mention, the older woman holding said pencil.

Steve Green summed it up nicely with the song “You Want To, Now Will You”


You’ve heard the words
And know they’re true
And now they ring inside of you
They’re calling you to come away
Now will you come or stay.

You want to, now will you
You want to, now will you
The truth that burns within you
Like a bed of fiery coals
Contains that power to liberate
A thousand captive souls
But if the truth will ever set you free
Depends on you
You want to, now will you
You want to…now will you

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!

Transfigured Rock

What if I told you a story about myself?

Once I was frozen in my feelings. Our alcoholic family of origin lived by the Alcoholic unspoken, but strictly enforced, rules of “Don’t think,” “Don’t talk,” “Don’t feel.” When I began attending Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings and Al-Anon I started breaking all of those rules. It was as if I was “breaking out of an inner prison” as I first wrote in 1982.

Someone at a Christian group told me about this book. The first time I read “Codependent No More” I bought my sister a copy and told her, “She lived in our house. She got in our heads. She wrote it all down!” I was truly amazed that someone else on earth not only understood the life in our house on Skyview Lane, but published what she knew!

There is a hillside on the way to my house now that is studded with stones. When the temperatures get frigid, as they are right now, the water might drip from the stones, but it quickly freezes into bars. It often reminds me of the prison I once lived in.

The stone that was once my heart has thawed and been healed in so many profound ways. I would be hard pressed to list all of those ways! I have been learning to think and feel and talk in appropriate ways for many years now. I do not ever want to go back to the ways of my upbringing. I spent hours in sessions of therapy trying to untangle the mess that was made in me.

I see a woman in the rock.
In case you do not see her, here she is enhanced.

I am certain my husband and I made some mistakes while raising our children. We used to joke that they might one day need counseling as I have needed it. But “we did the best we could with what we knew at the time.” And I, too, believe that my parents did the best they could with what they knew at the time. Hope my children can understand how not having alcohol as a constant influence in our home set them free from many weird things.

Living Water Photos

As I wrote this poem on the other blog I was amazed at the photos ….

At the shores of Living Water
Hear crickets there

Flow of Living Water invites me deeper,
Quieter

Petrified Wood

I was struck while choosing these photos for my stand-and-tip blog how much the stone around the mouth of the water resembled petrified wood.

And then how much Grand Canyon itself looked like the petrified wood!

What an amazing creation!

Grand Canyon

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.

IMG_2849

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.”

IMG_2850

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.

IMG_2848

A Calendar Quote

From my 2018 calendar produced by Sounds True, this quote from Kelly McGonigal:

“Our capacity to notice suffering, be moved, and respond is not just a form of caregiving or love – it is a form of courage.”

In February of 2018 this was the page on my calendar. As I learned more about my husband’s suffering from a critical illness I also learned more about caregiving, my capacity to notice suffering and the courage required to walk through that awful illness and recovery. Every day the calendar spoke to me and helped me.

calendar-e1546359442601.jpg
Similar calendar page

 

Recently we were made aware of the suffering of a 78-year-old widow. Living alone she had slowly let herself stop eating and drinking, falling into a deeper and deeper depression. When her family discovered her condition, she told wild tales of falling down the stairs. Said she did not want to bother anyone after she fell. She evidently waited three days to tell anyone. Weird thing was there was no bruising on her. No stairways that would let her fall head first, though maybe bounce on her bottom. CT scan showed no brain bleed or other problem. Her isolation, mental habit of worry and fret, lack of exercise and nutrition likely all contributed to her condition. She was hospitalized for several days to rehydrate her and get her stabilized. Then moved to a care facility to work on her strength, physical stability and mental capacity. They will eventually move her to a small apartment in the same complex.
When we went to help the family make sense and put into order her condo, everyone was stunned. The mailbox had not been opened for about 2 months. The dishwasher was overflowing with dirty dishes as were the kitchen sinks and counters. Broken and burned out light bulbs were in several places. When the light was returned to the laundry room, empty bottles of laundry soap, fabric softener and piles of soiled laundry along with broken glass were deep on the floor.
My first response was fear. Oh my! I better get back to walking or being in the pool at the YMCA or this could be my future. Especially if something happens to my husband. Then pity that she let herself despair to this point. I too suffered a bad bout with depression several years ago. When I worked my way out of it with therapy and loving care, I vowed to never let myself do that again. No matter what others do or how they behave, my mental health would be my #1 priority.
Then I was angry at her. And we are not even related. It has taken  a reminder from the calendar quote to bring me back to the point of noticing her suffering and having the courage to go see her. I want to be loving and non-judgmental. I do not live in her head, so I really do not know exactly the components of her suffering.
God help me to respond and be moved with Your love and the courage of the Lion of Judah.