Things I am pondering…

Wisdom House, Litchfield CT July 2014

Today I am wondering about how compartmentalizing our spiritual life keeps us from God. Many of us seem to think that the place to pray is Church, perhaps at mass. I’ve heard the remark that mass is “my time with God.” While I do understand that, and have thought it myself, I have to wonder how this harms our spiritual growth and well-being.

This is not to say that mass is not time with God, but it is time with God in community. For me, I see it as a rather large, raucous, dinner party with Jesus. I love time alone with God, but mass is not where I expect it.

This is not meant to be a post delineating liturgical elements and ecclesiology. Maybe we will do that another day, but today I am pondering the nearly invisible but resilient fabric of integrated spiritual life. It is something I long for, gratefully something I glimpse, but it can appear to be elusive.

This got me wondering about how I compartmentalize, without fully understanding the utterly shocking reality of Christ in the most mundane and often annoying moments of life. Doing the grocery shopping, cleaning the bathroom, dealing with a difficult person, and so forth. How many times am I sitting in a meeting as a sense of growing testiness rises up within me because I am impatient, thinking to myself “I can’t wait to go on retreat.”

If I cannot experience the presence of God in all moments and all things, how can I expect to find God at a monastery or retreat house?

Of course retreats, mass, spiritual direction, and other such pursuits are important. However, today I am hoping to smooth out the ridges that keep me from traversing the ordinary and the holy in one journey. Maybe my need for this day is to experience the “Quiet Area” that is deep within my heart, rather than seeking it as part of something external.

What is your quiet area? The one in your heart and the one outside. How can any of us stitch the interior and exterior together with the thread of God in our very being into a quilt of holy integration?

This will be my prayer today. Will you join me?

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Silence, stillness, solitude

This week I listened to an exception episode of an outstanding podcast. If you have never listened to “Encountering Silence,” I cannot recommend it enough. Hosts Cassidy, Kevin, and Carl spoke with that font of spiritual wisdom, Joyce Rupp. This is an episode I am sure I will listen to again, and I have already recommended it to several friends.

Labyrinth, National Shrine of St Therese, Juneau, AK – a place of exceptional silence and grace.

One of the things that most struck me was when Sr. Joyce spoke about silence and stillness. She was talking about how silence is one thing, but stillness is something else entirely. This is one of those things that I not given much thought to, so it made me stop and reflect.

Silence is a necessity to me. By nature, I am a kind of noisy person, but my nature also means having adequate amounts of silence in my day. My mornings are spent in silence as I awaken first and sit quietly, reading, praying, writing, thinking. You may notice a clear lack of stillness in that mix – more on that in a minute. If I do not get that quiet time, my day is simply off. People wonder why I wake up so early, but it is as necessary as a medication is for a chronic condition. Without it, I would not find the solitude that I require to be present in life.

My woods, my outdoor monastery.

I also like to walk, and while I used to always walk and listen to a podcast, I now generally walk in silence. After a hectic day at work, being in the forest, listening to the breeze in the trees, the birds singing, the movement of woodland creatures under the brush is all a healing balm to me. This is a kind of silence, but once again, not necessarily stillness.

Listening to the podcast reminded me that I might want to incorporate periods of stillness into my silence. I’m wondering what you all might think about this topic. Do you pursue intentional silence? Is stillness a practice in your life? What contemplative paths do you follow? I’m curious to see if we can find some conversation about this – even though the topic is silence. After all, know more about how we each live our silence might help us all.

Personal desert

EDIT Somewhere between Logrono and Najera Sep 2016I’m enjoying being off of Facebook for Lent, and spending my time on Instagram with one post per day; a photo and a mini-reflection. You will have to head over to my Instagram feed, or to my Facebook page (where my Instagram auto posts) to read my reflection for today. Essentially, I am thinking about Jesus instructing us to love our enemies.

Hardest. Thing. Ever.

I’ll gladly take a long walk with a heavy cross on my back than to do this. Yet, I try to constantly push myself to do so. I suck at it, by the way. Big time.

It occurs to me that part of the problem is my own lack of willingness to look at the enemy within. Of course I am well aware of that enemy, but my inner looking often results in things like my own defensiveness about myself, my shame, and my superhuman strength at avoiding and denial. I’m great at that stuff. Big time.

All of this is an invitation to me, a good deal of which is more clear this Lent because I am spending less time “talking” via Facebook. Painful is my awareness this Lent that the driest and most arid desert is often found deep within my own heart. Thus, the gifts of death and new life are made clear, but only if I am willing to keep going.

What does your inner search Please be assured of my prayers as we ply our way through deserts of our own making. God offers us so much more, but even for those of us who say we will follow, do we really?