Prepare a cup of coffee and sit down with Jean’s wisdom…
Nature as Soother
I was listening to a recording of a flowing stream of water. There were no words and no musical accompaniment. In those few moments of total relaxation, the world was whole, the drama of these past months faded into the past.
I am profoundly touched by the level of commitment people have to their personal journeys. What is being asked of some people who come to Eremos is beyond my wildest imaginings. Yet, in the midst of life-altering decisions, I see people choosing life. I am humbled by their faith, and awe-filled by their courage.
People’s Needs and Concerns on the spiritual journey
There is a different quality of living that is needed for this interior journey. People find themselves wanting to stand back a bit from all the action going on around them. People discover a strange tendency to want time and space alone. People talk about just wanting to “be” without wanting to be attentive to anything in particular. And people express concern that somehow this is not acceptable within society.
Entering the world and leaving it
What we came into this world with seems so simple, what we leave this world with becomes so simple also. For most of us, we came into this world with a burst of energy that proclaims, “Here I am” and we seem to leave this world with a silent letting go and then stand before God with that simple Here I am—the presentation of all I have become over the years I have lived being all I am.
I smile as I think of God awaiting my full arrival. I think of the story of the talents and wonder it God will show me what I have done with all the gifts I have been given. I imagine a movie I get to see as I pass from this life into Life Eternal that shows me what I did with all I was given. I am not afraid of judgment. I don’t think I will have a Critical Parent on the other side of death telling me I didn’t do a good job. I think it will be quite the opposite—I truly believe Love awaits me and welcomes my life of loving into the full embrace of Love.
Lent is a time of intentionality and of attentiveness. As I sit with people who want to “come back to God,” I am aware their return is written within their lived experiences. For one person, it is to find her voice and begin speaking the Truth she knows. For another, it is to return to his physical body and commitments to respect and care for its health and wholeness. And, for another, it is to find ways of being fiscally responsible for her present and future well-being.
Finding time to “be with” the Lord
The challenge of Jesus to his disciples so long ago was, “Couldn’t you stay awake and be with me for just one hour?” And within each of our longings, the Spirit poses the same question. The longing of our hearts is really a response to the longing of Spirit within us and within our world today. “Can you be with me?”
. . . We all can discover sacred time to “be with” when we dare to respond to the longing within us.
The compulsion to produce. Letting it be.
We are products of a society that demands we “produce.” And yet the deepest call of God is to “let it be.” I hear that refrain echo all the way from the book of Genesis when God said, “Let there be . . . and there was” to Mary’s surrender to the angel as she proclaimed. “Let it be done in me.” Let it be, let it be. If only we could live in this surrender to Love as life encounters us.
The Vine and the branches. Our rootedness in God.
“Remain in me.” This one phrase gave new depth of meaning to life itself. Connected to the “Vine,” everything I become and all that I do is because my roots are in the ground of God and enlivened through the life energy of Christ. I am a branch, perhaps a leaf on that vine. I give unique expression to who I am, but the truth and source of all I am is rooted in God and supported by Christ through the life of the Spirit.
I have looked at the journey my life has taken, and I sit for hours listening to the journeys others are making. At some point, a question arises: “What happens if I make a mistake and this direction is not what God asks of me?” I take that question seriously because it comes from a heart whose desire is to be in communion with God. The answer I have come to is: there is no mistake in God.
Because we are the branch and not the vine, God is within all our twists and turns. . . . We may take turns we wish we had not taken. . . . In retrospect we may see more clearly the consequences of decisions we have made and perhaps regret some of those decisions. The truth still remains; we are the branches of the God who remains our source, our ground, and our stability.
People’s fear of silence
As I have listened to local pastors, I hear a common theme: people don’t know what to do with silence. One pastor said, “People are afraid of what will surface within them if they step into silence.”
. . . I find my heart grieving hearing this. Silence is about intimacy. It is the language of love. It is the embrace of mature love. We seek silence and solitude because these have discovered us.
Why would people fear what might surface in silence? I think it goes back to silence as a way of punishment when we were children. The old tapes of “go to your room and be quiet” or “be seen and not heard” can still echo within us. The fear rises up and says to us even today, “You are bad and you can’t hide the bad when you are quiet.”
Filtering experience through difficulty
As each of us stands in relationship to grief or pain or uncertainty, we can be so caught in the experience that it becomes the lens through which we see life itself. It seems this was the experience of Mary at the tomb of Jesus. There was nothing more than the overwhelming sense of loss. Then she heard her own name. It called her out of herself and opened her to possibilities that she could not have imagined.
The encounter with the “risen Jesus” didn’t change what had happened. It did, however, change her relationship with him forever.
Merton Quote and commentary—“the strangers in our midst”
The desecration, the de-sacralization of the modern world is manifest above all by the fact that the stranger is of no account. . . He fits into no familiar category, he is unexplained and therefore a threat to complacency. Everything not easy to account for must be wiped out, and mystery must be wiped out with it. An alien presence interferes with the superficial and faked clarity of our own rationalizations—Thomas Merton
40 years have passed since Merton wrote these words and I am amazed at how appropriate they are for our own time. We, too, are gazing at the “stranger in our midst” with eyes of desecration and de-sacralization. . .
As we behold the strangers in our midst, I pray each of us will behold the Mystery of God dwelling within each of them. Let us be willing to step out of our complacency this month as the Breath of God blows wherever She wills.
The radical solitude of the individual
There is something so lonely as we let people go on alone. No matter how supportive we are, how present we want to be, there is a radical truth about the solitude of our lives: at the depth of who we are, we walk along.
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At critical thresholds in each of our lives we come face to face with the uniqueness of who we are and the radical solitude of that uniqueness.
Doing it right
. . .And like children, we can want to “do it right.” We want to know there is a path and if we just follow it perfectly we will arrive at perfection. I don’t believe there is such a thing or a way. Rather I see in the lives of people I meet a unique unfolding of their lives and their direction through the responses they make to what life asks of them.
It is such a gift to watch people unfold, such a wonderful experience as individuals sit or stand or move within a group of people who can just let them be because they, too, know what being is all about.
The Contemplative Perspective
. . . the unique perspective the language of contemplation has. We hold a belief in the Mystery residing within each person that gives meaning to the ups and downs of our lives. We hold a faith vision that speaks of the depth and breadth of God within each person. We see within each person the face of God and within each actin an attempt to give expression to the life of God within each one of us.
. . . But if we look at modern research in space and the creation of the universe, we see that all creation is composed of the same matter. The wonder of our universe is in the minute balance of stars and planets and suns. One miniscule shift and everything is shifted in relationship to that.
. . .
This is more than a matter of the mind. It is a matter of existence. We are made for union. And as such, we are in communion with each other and all of creation.
The Light within all of creation
As a young person growing up in the Baptist Church, one of the songs we sang was This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. And I recall some of the stories about how I could let the light shine in our world and where I might bring that light. I suspect this was the budding of a missionary call to Africa so many years later.
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Now as I enter the third quarter of my life, I am keenly aware that “doing” has evolved into more an awareness of simply “being.”
On retreat recently, a line from Psalm 100 captivated me: Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. As I walked under the branches of tall trees, listened to the birds singing overhead, watched butterflies dance with flower blossoms, everything became a chorus of joy-filled song reflecting the vitality of God. By their very being, the light and life of God emanates through the tree or bird or butterfly. By just being, they, like me when I was a child in vacation Bible school, sing This little light of. . mine, I’m going to let it shine.
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The light that shines within all of creation creates joy in the beholder. We simply need to be present to all that is, just because it is.
Taking care of ourselves so that we can care for others
There are times when we need an attitude adjustment. We need to reconnect to the innate capacity to love others even when we are tired and feeling scattered. We need to question ourselves as to the motivation for doing what we are currently doing. If it is not done in love, we become resentful and frustrated—perhaps angry. The Gift that keeps on giving has run out of its ability to give anything at all.
At other times we need to step back from the busyness of life just to be present to the Source of life. To be present to others, we need to be present where we can touch the Center within us and be available for the Center to fill us. We may need to look out a window at the birds playing in the water, perhaps sit listening to a piece of music that touches our deepest soul or the silent music that only the soul knows. It may be watching the shadows of evening or morning break through to us. At rare and wonderful times, we need to retreat for a day, a weekend, perhaps even a week from the everyday ness of life so we can be refreshed to live life renewed.
Prayer as receiving
Receive rather than take. Open our heart up to whatever gifts may come from this time of prayer.
Contemplation as preparation for loving the world
We welcome each unique manifestation of the face of God brought to us from within the heart of God. To be that open, we need contemplation time/space. We need to gaze lovingly into the Face of the Beloved—God. It will require a simplicity of having what we need and a balance of quiet and availability in time, space—care-free. Out of that lived experience we can speak more authoritatively to others seeking “more.”
Silence within a contemplative perspective is truly an invitation to be with the One who loves us into silence . . . an invitation to respond to the whisper of loving communion. . . every aspect of our humanness (body, mind, emotions, breath) becomes still in response to the stillness within God. It is the breath of mutual surrender—God lovingly surrendering to us and us surrendering in love to God.
Who do I say sends me?
Most of us know the story of Moses and the “burning bush,” and recall that Moses was told to go into Egypt to set the Israelites free. Moses’ question was “Who do I say sends me? What is your name?” (Exodus 3)
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As you begin your day, take a moment and listen: “Who do I say sends me into this day?” Let that word echo within you and let it breathe through you as you live each day. Centered in God Who dwells within you, all life becomes a dance of loving intimacy.
Sequestering ourselves and returning to be “with”
Often, we go outside of the crowds for insights into what we need to be doing or how we need to be living. Like Zacheaus we climb trees to get a different perspective. There comes a time, however, when we need to climb down from our distance and be attentive to God within those around us. How do we serve those who are part of our life How do we make a difference to the stranger in our midst? The truth of the Gospels is that we are called to remain “with” others—not above or beyond them.