Sunday, January 25, 2009
This is a scene that caught my eye while I was following the snowmobile tracks a few days ago. I always have this feeling that if I go a little bit farther into the woods, up the hill, down the beach I'll get a better view. And that often happens as it did with this lovely combination of nature's subtle colors and different lines. I didn't even feel a need to crop the picture.
This same attitude drives me in other aspects of my life. I know that, if we add this one more thing, the whole will be better. If we do things in a new and different way, the result will be better. While I thoroughly enjoy the present moment, I feel sure that the future will be better. If I keep reading more and more about centering prayer, my prayer will get deeper and my relationship with God will be better, not neccesarily more exciting, just better.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Yesterday and today I took my morning walk along snowmobile tracks. The road is still so slick that I have to walk very slowly and watch closely, lest I fall. These tracks looked safer and held the propect of walking in the woods, so I left the icy road and, following the tracks, went into a field and then into the woods. Off the tracks the snow was more than a foot deep.
The sun was out both mornings and there was no wind. It was a comfort to walk in the snow with no sign of houses or cars. I don't recall ever hiking in the snow before. I walked only about half an hour. It was a pleasant adventure and a holy extension of the centering prayer that I do just before my morning walk.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
More snow. This is yesterday morning when the snow was sticking to everything. Everything conspires to promote silence.
The night before last I came across this quote from Soren Kierkegaard:
As my prayer became more attentive and inward
I had less and less to say.
I finally became completely silent.
I started to listen
--which is even further removed from speaking.
I first thought that praying entailed speaking.
I then learnt that praying is hearing,
not merely being silent.
This is how it is,
To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking.
Prayer involves becoming silent,
and being silent,
and waiting until God is heard.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The temperature on my deck this morning was sixteen below zero! I don't remember ever seeing a number that low on that thermometer. That kind of cold forces us to stay inside.
I have been reflecting all week on the verb "stay" as it is used in John's Gospel. The Greek verb is of special importance to John. It can be translated "stay," "remain," "dwell," "abide." It carries a notion of permanence.
In the first chapter of John's Gospel Jesus turns to two men who are following him and, in the first words that he says in this Gospel, asks, "What are you looking for?" A question for all us.
They respond, "Where are you staying?" Jesus says,"Come and see." They went and saw where he was staying and they stayed with him.
In chapter 15 of the same Gospel, Jesus says "Remain in me and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me....Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love."
That abiding, loving presence is the answer to the question, "What are you looking for?"
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
We had another inch or two of snow by this morning. It covered the ice that we had Saturday and Sunday and made it a little safer to walk. So I put on my boots and stayed in the deeper snow on the side of the road. The quiet that comes with freshly fallen snow carries the Holy One and brings me to stop at times in silence and just be in the moment.
I recently started going through again Thomas Keating's "Manifesting God," a book I read a while back. As far as I know it is his newest book on Centering Prayer. It is very helpful. This morning I came upon this passage in chapter eleven:
"We are normally aware of ourselves all the time and in every situation. Consciousnesss of self is the last bastion of the ego. Under its influence, we never quite experience the present moment. The ego acts as a kind of bridge from the past to the future, hindering us from ever being where God actually is, which is in the present moment."
Thursday, January 8, 2009
My calendar tells me this is World Literary Day and orders me, "Share your favorite book." Well, my favorite Christmas book, really just a story, is Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. Some time in the early 1950's I saw a TV show based on it and then bought the book and have read it most Christmases since. My book is published by Random House. I notice that there is a new version out with pictures.
Capote shares with us a memory of getting ready for Christmas with an old cousin who is very simple. They are not well off and make do with simple decorations and gifts. Near the end they are flying the kites that they gave each other for Christmas and as they sprawl on the grass his friend cries suddenly,
"My, how foolish I am! You know what I've always thought? I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark. And it's been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I'll wager it never happens. I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are"--her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and the dog pawing earth over her bone--"just what they've always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."
This expresses so perfectly my conviction that God is always present in everyone and everything around us.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
I bought a calendar last year from ministryofthearts.org and liked it so much I got this year's. It has suggestions or "orders" for each day. Building up to the New Year on 29th it said, "Consider your place in time." On the 30th, "Reflect gratefully on 2008." This worked well for me. But then on the 31st, "What would Earth appreciate your doing in 2009?"
That's a big question, bigger than New Year's resolutions. I'm retired, trying to be more prayerful. What could I do for Earth? I looked at the 2009 calendar for January 1, "Reflect with your heart." Just what I'm doing or rather trying to do. It made me think that if everyone in the world was reflecting with their heart, we would see how connected we all are. The God in me would never hurt the God in you, or in any so called enemy.
Mary comes as we begin this New Year to teach us how to reflect and contemplate. After the shepherds have come to the stable in the second chapter of Luke's Gospel, he says, "As for Mary, she treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart." Ponder means to knock ideas and memories up against each other, like stones being polished, turning events over and over in our heads and in our hearts, until we get some glimmer of meaning or insight. Mary models mindfulness.
Contemplation deepens our awareness that the Holy One is in everything and everyone. That's something that Earth might well appreciate.
Filippo Lippi's beautiful Madonna seems lost in contemplation.