Tuesday, July 31, 2007

God on My Mind

Five days ago I was given an ultamatum. So far I have chosen not to do anything about it. Anytime that I am not occupied with something else my mind slips back to the ultamatum, wondering what to do, replaying the conversation. It has become the default setting of my brain.

I got to thinking how wonderful it would be if God were the default setting of my brain. When I am not actively involved in something else my mind would automatically slip back to God and God's presence in me and God's gracious love for me. Hopefully the more time I give to contemplation and prayer, the better chance there is of that happening.

God's presence in me is always the same, always complete. What would change is that the Divine would be what occupies my mind rather than an ultamatum about something very insignificant. Like the "desktop" on my computer, God would pop up whenever I wasn't thinking about something else.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Contemplation: Listening 2

The following quote from Helen Flexner in Volume 3 of Imaging the the Word helps me understand listening as contemplation: As a child I was told that grandfather spent an hour every morning and evening listening to God. So when I came suddenly upon my grandfather one day seated motionless in his armchair with closed eyes. I knew he was not asleep. He was talking with God. I stopped short where I was and stood very still. Perhaps if I listened intently enough I might hear God’s voice speaking to my grandfather. But the room remained quiet, not even the faintest whisper reached my ears. After a long time my grandfather opened his eyes, saw me and smiled at me gently. These moments of intense listening for God’s voice in the room with my grandfather are among the most vivid memories of my early childhood. Posted by Picasa


Mary simply sits and listens to Jesus. He is my guest as well, living in me and loving me constantly. I want to learn how to be still and listen to Jesus telling me of his love. He speaks of it in the sounds of my morning walk: the different songs of birds, the wind whispering through the trees or roaring through the woods, the far off sound of a train laboring up the 17 Mile Grade, a dog barking in the distance. I hear his voice in the intense stillness of the wilderness, in the trickle of Red Creek, and in the crash of its water falls. Rain on the roof as I lie in bed during the night. Lake water lapping at the shore.

Many years ago for my walk I tried plugging my ears into a CD player. After two days I gave it up. I missed the natural sounds.

We live in a noisy world. Here on the lake during the week there are boats and wave runners and lawn mowers. We make a lot of noise ourselves. The noise of the news can be a great distraction.

To hear Jesus tell me his love requires a contemplative kind of listening. Centering prayer seems to sharpen my ears so that I am more aware of the sounds of love around me.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Contemplation: Mary's Choice

Last night, as usual, I read over next Sunday's Gospel and some commentaries. The story of Mary's choosing to sit still and listen to Jesus rather than help Martha in the kitchen is a good reminder to me, a year into my retirement, of how I want to spend my time. It may strike some of us that Mary is being inconsiderate of her sister's need.

Luke Timothy Johnson in his commentary says, "Jesus refers rather to the essential note of hospitality which is to pay attention to the guest." In his translation of the passage he has Jesus say, "Mary chose the good part," which is exactly what Luke's Greek says. In a note Johnson says that maybe even closer to Jesus' meaning would be "Mary made the right choice."

I can spend too much of my day busy about nothing. It is still hard for me to learn that being is more important than doing. Jesus is always with me as my guest. I want to spend more time in stillness paying attention to my guest. I will need lots more help from God to make "the right choice."

Happiness is like a butterfly. The more I chase it, the more it will elude me. But if I sit still it comes and softly sits on my shoulder

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Contemplation: Walking

I am becoming ever more aware that my morning walk is an extension of my centering prayer that immediately precedes it. It seems to open me particularly to seeing Beauty in the most ordinary things. I seem to notice something new every day. On a damp morning like today the spicy scent of the purple crown vetch is pleasant. After a heavy rain the night before just the slightest breeze makes it sound like its raining hard in the woods I walk through. When I walk in a fine mist of rain I find myself remembering how, as children, we put on our bathing suits and ran around in the rain.

The bergamot is beginning to bloom in the swampy area near the little stream that runs under the road. It's brilliant red blossoms stand out amid so much green. It reminds me of friends who several years ago dried its leaves and made Earl Grey tea for me. I like its nickname "Indian Paint Brush."

Queen Ann's Lace is true to its name. Everywhere there are the daisies. I noticed this morning a weed about two feet high that has pretty yellow five-petal blossoms, maybe St. John's Wort. And in the midst of the wildflowers a single hoya with two stems of pale purple blossoms has planted itself from someone's yard across the road.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Fireworks can lift me right up out of myself. A momentary ecstasy. Some spray and fall like golden waterfalls. Others spread open like red or green or blue blossoms. There were some this year that, just as they seemed spent, suddenly crinkled for a second into silver lacework. I would be lifted up into their beauty. Then I would become aware of the people seated around me. Then I would be swept up again into the light and shapes and color, exploding, fading. A grand way to celebrate freedom.