Sep 2 2011

Friday Florilegium

This week I reread David Hansen’s book, Long Wandering Prayer. Eight years ago, when I first read it, it drastically changed how I approached my “quiet time.”  The common understanding of prayer as only a silent, mental exercise disconnected from the body bored me terribly and seemed so artificial. My best times of prayer have always been while wandering city, hills, forests, and meadows. Hansen’s book gave me the freedom to embrace this way of praying, a way I had been praying since childhood, but never felt fit in the quiet time box.

If you find that prayer seems dull or disconnected from your life, I invite you to walk your prayer–wander your house, your neighborhood, your church building, and pray with your eyes open. Pay attention to what you see and let it lead you into prayer. Pay attention to the sounds, the noisyness of life, and let the Spirit speak to you through the noise. Kids are best at having noisy times with God. Pray with a young person in your life. Dance. Talk out loud to God. Talk back to God. If you need some inspiration, try reading a couple psalms–the psalmists loved to pray with their eyes open and use the created world for prayer images, and they also were not shy in talking to God!

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From Long Wandering Prayer by David Hansen:

“The body matters in prayer, as does the physical world around us. We know this yet many of us understand prayer as an exercise in which we should ideally subdue, quiet or otherwise discipline the body so that it reamins dormant while we engage in the spirtual exercise of prayer. There is no question about the fact that prayer is a spiritual exercise. Prayer is in its very essence our soul in communion with the Spirit of God.

The fallacy lies in the idea that the body must be subdued in order for the soul to commune with the Spirit of God.  The very term quiet time (the fullest term being quiet time with God) implies this very thing–that we go to a quiet place and quiet the body so that we can be with God in quiet. Why can’t we call it noisy time? Why can’t we call in moving time? Why can’t we say, ‘I had a great noisy time with God this morning.’ I know of no biblical mandate for quiet time. For me, quiet time always turns into sleepy time. I think what we have be calling quiet time should really, be termed alone time.

Doesn’t Jesus tell us to pray in our prayer closet alone? Indeed. He tells us, “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ (Mt 6:6) Jesus tells us to pray in secret, not in quiet. How quiet would that room be? He was probably referring to the pantry or storage room of a small house. The house filled with children, animals, neighbors, and street noise would have provided precious little quiet time. However, alone in the pantry, hearing the glorious cry of a child at play, the parent might well have prayed more fervently for that child than if they had been praying in an insulated room.

Did not Jesus go to the mountain to pray? Absolutely. When did you last pray on a mountain? I prayed on a mountain yesterday, alone. Birds whistled, the river roared, the wind howled, and my heart thumped as I climbed the mountain. Alone with God, I felt quite free to speak out loud. It was not quiet–and my body was not subdued…

Doesn’t it say ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Ps 46:10)? Yes, it does.  But in the context of Psalm 46 the injunction means ‘be still’ in the presence of war’s violent destruction and mountains that are shaking and falling into the heart of the sea. It means to be still in the midst of chaos.”

Friday Florilegium 1


Jul 30 2011

Creating Space for Beauty

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I’ve found that experiencing beauty as a regular part of my day requires cultivating a welcoming space: physical space, such as having a special area to display something I find beautiful or art supplies at the ready for creating; space in my schedule to intentionally notice beauty, such as walking to a look-out, taking my camera on an urban hike, hand writing a letter, or sharing a meal and seeing the beauty of a friend; and mental space, where I release behaviors and thoughts which clutter my head and blind my eyes to joy, and instead look at life with a gaze of gratitude.

When I invest energy in looking with a grateful eye on all that is beautiful, small things and experiences especially, it balances me and helps me see life as a whole, not just what is painful or difficult in the moment.

When I intentionally cultivate space for daily beauty, I find that any energy invested multiplies exponentially. Beauty is nourished by beauty.

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Awhile ago, I wrote about seeing a lovely cottage and garden near my apartment, and how sad I was, knowing that owning such a place is many years down the road. After pouring out my desire to God, it became clear that I had a choice: live in sadness and scarcity, looking longingly toward a future dream, or make space to be inspired by the real beauty of that garden and to cultivate a similar beauty in my own life.

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Making space for beauty, or really anything, is difficult if we keep a death grip on one vision or image of what must fill the space.

Instead, if we clear the space and then let beauty breathe into it (in-spire it), what fits our particular life and situation can grow organically.

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We make space for the possibility of beauty. Rather than making demands, we invite, welcome, practice hospitality.

For me, after seeing the cottage garden, inviting beauty meant taking time to clean up my balcony and simply sit, allowing a vision of beauty for that space to superimpose itself on reality.

Clearing mental space helped me feel: my hands were itching to get into dirt and to nurture growing life. I realized I didn’t want a ready-made garden, but to start from scratch.

Then, after planting the seeds, patience was necessary to nurture the space, as I waited weeks for any sign of life and then more weeks until flowers bloomed.

Now, when I look out on my balcony, I see the beauty of that cottage garden, but in a form perfect for my situation. The bees buzz, butterflies flutter, and hummingbirds greet me in the morning. A bit of Eden, four storeys up.

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Gardens are all through scripture, places of growth and healing.  A garden at the beginning when all things were new, the garden of Gethesmane when tears flowed and angels soothed, a garden for the tomb when the world held its breath. Even for the resurrection, in the garden, Jesus greeted is beloved friend, and what could happen but, “She thought he was the gardener.”  So true.

And finally, finally, the end and a new beginning: a Garden around a Tree in center of the Beautiful City.

That final glorious Day will come, but the greening, growing beauty of that Day can in-spire our days now.

Clear some space, welcome Beauty, wait and see.

What is a beauty that captures your heart?

This week, clear some space, in your physical surroundings, in your schedule, and in your thoughts for this beauty to find a home.

No need to fill the space, just let it breathe.

What vision reveals itself?

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Sep 27 2010

Feathered Gratitude

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268. Grateful for the little hummers visiting me today.

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269. For the little feet.

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270. For the amazing wings.

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271. For glints of iridescent red.

272. For the Creator God who designed these little hovercraft and that they always show up when I need to remember Love.  They are God’s laughing “Yes!” to me.

(for more hummingbird delight, go to my photostream here)

And….

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273. Now back from an emergency trip to be with my parents in Texas, I am so grateful that my dad is doing better after being in the hospital!

holy experience


Oct 20 2009

Eucharisto

Birch by Susan Forshey

Birch by Susan Forshey

If spring is hello, autumn is thank you.

After a particularly long four weeks, walking sometimes gently and  sometimes stubbornly with  personal and academic fears, I sensed this morning a still small nudge to the Tuesday morning Eucharist at my church.  My keys seemed to place themselves into my hand and I was out the door without much thought.   I went closed and distant, but during the prayers, we were asked to speak out something for which we were thankful.  The stunning leaves of gold, orange, and red, came to mind and speaking the words aloud shifted my attitude, widening my heart just a little.   The message of thankfulness then went much deeper as we remembered in prayer a marriage of six decades.  After Eucharist, a lovely woman spoke about her husband, her gratitude hugging every word and every detail of memory in the midst of the pain of her loss.

Leaving the church, I saw again the autumn colors, and the crunchy leaves at my feet.  Winter is close, and soon the colors will dim and disappear to browns and frost. The leaves which had greeted the first touches of  spring warmth with nuanced greens and yellows, are now flaming in the crisp chill with thankful beauty.  They seem to say, Thank you, sun, soil, rain, wind.  Good-bye for now.

Winter Song / Emily Smith

The leaves are falling from the trees
Farewell for now warm summer breeze
Weather has been good this year
Now the winter will soon be here
The nights are drawing into shorter days
I hear the old folk and the country people say
Don’t fear the dark, nature has it all in hand
Time to reflect and renew the tired land

So we’ll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by

I see the frost etched upon the glass
In the morning sun he soon moves fast
But he’ll be back to claim the frozen ground
With each clear day he surely will be found
The geese fly south to find a warmer home
While the weary bull he soldiers on alone
Children’s laughter it crackles in the air
Sparks fly high and they catch them if they dare

So we’ll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by

With carols sung, the trees been taken down
We’ve passed a dram and the bells no longer sound
Snowdrops rise with promise of the spring
There’s talk and wonder
At what the year might bring
The blackbird starts to thicken up her nest
While the early lamb, he takes a snowy step
But the north wind’s grip it tightens with his chill
And holds the buds closed against their will

So we’ll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by


Oct 4 2009

Air

Ferry Flyer by Susan Forshey

Ferry Flyer by Susan Forshey

As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain freefall,
and float into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns that all-surrounding grace.
–Denise Levertov


Oct 3 2009

Night Prayer

Shimmer by Susan Forshey

Shimmer by Susan Forshey

Lord, dear lover of my heart,
I see you in the dance of Light
The play of leaves
The healing lines of heart sacrifice
Be to me my all
Be to me my hope
In this called distance
Hold me for your life alone
Proclaim your favor
Nothing can I offer but the fears, the shadows,
The spaces aching.
Be to me the morning silence
Be to me the hugging comfort
Of the sliding sun.
And in these dark-lit days,
My path lost to mortal sight,
Mother my late-night tears
Quench my sleepy thirst.
Love me to your side,
Redemption crowned,
Song-full–my cup, laughter-brimmed–
A dancing child before you.

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