If God is everywhere equally present, then…

He can be found, felt…perceived in any place.

Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Brother Lawrence, St Ignasius, and countless others, past and present, tell us how and where to find God, to hear His directions and desires for our lives.

This morning I was reading Nouwen’s book Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. In today’s passages he was discussing finding God in the books that we read and in nature.  These venues can be especially helpful, often making it easier for us to hear His voice, see His beauty, feel His presence, taste and savor His many blessings on our lives.

Still, another message hit me as I read. As clearly and as demandingly as if it were flashing in neon atop a tall billboard I was struck by the certainty that:

If God is everywhere equally present, then He can be found, felt…perceived in any place.

If God is everywhere equally present, as I believe and have been taught, then, simply being conscious of Him in our midst is the key … and the challenge.

No matter where we are, who we’re with, what is occurring, God is there. Walking down the street, on a treadmill at the gym, on a forest path, along the water, in a line at the grocery store, driving down the road.

To be sure, some places are more conducive to feeling our Lord’s presence, but He’s everywhere, just waiting for us to join Him in His holy purpose. Waiting for us to walk with Him along the way He has planned for us. Waiting for us to acknowledge His presence with us.

No matter the circumstances of our surroundings — whether beautiful, natural, sanctified and holy; or man-made full of industry and technology, metallic maybe, full of cold hard surfaces, filled with loud noisy people of all sizes and shapes; or even places polluted, foul, and rank with the discarded, the misused, the abused — He’s there, waiting for us to beckon to Him, waiting for us to cry out to Him maybe, that Now is the time we need to draw near to Him.

Our first steps toward Him may be shaky and feeble, but as with any new endeavor, practice helps us remember Him more and more often. We will soon learn to call upon and recall those ways and places where we discovered Him earlier. Deep in our hearts we remember the warm blessing of His love as He showered it upon us. We remember (or maybe realize for the first time) that He was with us no matter where we were or what we were doing. We remember over and over again, if we are searching for Him, that He is constantly sending us messages – through the words of people we encounter, the material we read, the sites and sounds that draw our attention. He’s there loving us, waiting to participate in close relationship with us every minute throughout our day.

How did I deserve such goodness, I wonder?

That’s easy. I didn’t. I don’t.

He is simply there for me – for each of us – waiting to bless us, waiting to take each part of us, no matter how broken, or even fetid it may be, and wash it clean. With His blood He prepares and purifies us to be His, so that we may become a blessing to share with others.

The Boundless Beauty of Holy Ground

What do we miss when we ‘don’t look deeply enough.’ Great post by Michelle Lesher SSJ from God In All Things.

God In All Things

This is a guest post by Michelle Lesher, SSJ.


Picture it. An August retreat. A sunset as beautiful as any I had ever seen. The colors turned the sky into an artist’s canvas and I felt compelled to immortalize it using the camera on my brand new smart phone – Should be easy, right? I think not. Instead, what I got was shot after shot of a blurry hazy ball of orange nothing. Frustrated, I held the camera face down in front of me trying to figure out how in the world to zoom in so that I could see something; anything with a little more clarity. I accidentally pushed the shutter button and this is what I saw:

Sand Close-up

This was most definitely not the lovely sunset still happening in front of me! In fact, it took me a few moments to realize what I was seeing – the sand magnified…

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Obedience: Ordinary things are made holy and great when we desire His will

It’s early morning again. I’m reading Merton’s journal for April 1 where he discusses obedience.

Book Cover

I found myself savoring one particular sentence where he wrote,

But in so far as we desire, with Christ, that the Father’s will may be done in us, as it is in heaven and in Christ, then even the smallest and most ordinary things are made holy and great. (highlighting added)

This recent time has been a one of waiting and worry, of deepening concern where I must learn (and relearn it seems with each new day) to trust and have faith, to lean on and submit to Him whose will I desire above all things. As each day has passed, my prayers for what I thought was desirable have gone seemingly unanswered and yet I know He has heard me.

I know this just because. This is our faith. But, I know this, too, because along the way He has sent me many beautiful reassurances – on holy waiting and patience; on the differences between worry and prayer; and here, where Merton goes on to write:

And then in all things the love of God opens and flowers, and our lives are transformed. This transformation is a manifestation and advent of God in the world.

One of the fruits of a solitary life is a sense of the absolute importance of obeying God—a sense of the need to obey and to seek His will, to choose freely to see and accept what comes from Him, not as a last resort, but as one’s “daily super-substantial bread.” Liberation from automatic obedience into the seriousness and gravity of a free choice to submit. (highlighting added)

Accepting what our Lord provides, ‘not as a last resort,’ but as all we need and precisely what we need for that day. And not just passively accepting His will, but actively participating in His plan by making ‘a free choice to submit.’

Then, I almost laughed out loud as I read Merton’s final thought. He wrote:

But it is not easy to see always where and how!

Well, no it’s not. But our Lord loves us – even in our feeble and flawed attempts to do His will.

———————-

Another day has dawned. Another day filled with opportunities to choose first to submit to the wonder He has planned for us, to give thanks, to rejoice and be glad.

 

 

 

 

Compassion

For years, I’ve awakened at 3 and 4 and 5 in the morning, no matter when I go to sleep. I often struggle to get back to sleep.

In recent months I find that this is a most precious time in my day. It’s a time of quiet and an almost holy darkness. For even when I get up and dress and sit here in the half-light to meditate and write (I only turn up the lights enough to cast a dim glow), the daytime details and distractions of my life are obscured.

I can perceive the chair I’m sitting in, the floor nearby, but the light of my laptop screen is so bright as to throw the rest of the room into utter darkness – I can’t even see my feet there at the ends of my legs as they rest on the hassock before me.

During these times, His light seems able to focus on the one part of me that needs illumining this day at this time.

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Something I read just now of Merton’s is helping me to understand better what’s going with me right now. I have long wondered and prayed for guidance to be alert to His will for my life; to be aware of what He is calling me to be and to do.

I’ve known for sometime that my role of mother, wife and friend are my holy callings. But when times get rough and rocky for me or for any of those close to me, I can become so involved in the fear and pain of the moment that I often forget that this is His mission for me, I forget to use each of these periods to grow closer and to help others grow closer to Him.

Not just to remind them of His love for them, and His presence with them in the midst of their anguish, but to love them myself, allowing His love for them to flow through me.

And not just to preach to them of His love from outside the pain of their burden, but to enter into their burdens and help Him to help them carry their load.

And not even that … not just turning to Him for help for them or for me, but in the midst of the turmoil and fear … now, my turmoil and fear and compassion (literally translated to be with (com) or part of another’s pain and suffering (passion)) … to realize and give thanks that He has chosen me for this small task.

To realize that He has allowed me to help shoulder this discrete portion of His burden and thereby, to share in His Passion, to carry a portion of His pain, to lighten some small portion of the burden of His suffering.

All of a sudden this time of consternation, which can verge so closely on despair, seems blessed. It becomes a more holy undertaking where He’s “helping me to make of the lumber of my life not a tavern but a temple, out of the work of my every day not a reproach but a song.” (This whole anonymously written poem, I Love You, is here.)

And just now, as I write this, I’m recalling that I prayed last week to be given a better and deeper understanding of what it is to ‘worship at the foot of the Cross,’ to share in His Passion…how thick I am to just now understand that that this sharing in His pain is the true meaning of compassion.

Praise God for His goodness and faithfulness in this and all things.

————

The sun is up outside my window now; the new day is here. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Faith

I began this year, 2014, planning to document the little miracles of my life as they occur along the way. And there have been so many: Our daughter’s job loss and her subsequent move and reemployment; her house sale, house purchase; our grand-daughter’s birth, my ability to be present when she was born; and so many little revelations, blessings, and consolations along the way.

I feel certain this most recent job loss is also gift from God. And, as the pastor, whose car’s brakes failed and rolled over the cliff while he was in church, was heard to say, “I can’t wait to see what good God has planned from all this.

In the meantime, I am called to have Faith.

Faith in His goodness.
Faith that He has our lives in his hands and will provide all that we need,
Faith.
No matter whether our circumstance is easy or hard, faith that His love is constant and sure.
Faith in His care of us.
Faith that He is present with us always, longing for us to be present with Him.
Faith that He is in control and that we should have no fear.
Faith.

Losing ourselves in God’s plan

Book CoverIn today’s world of blatant self-promotion and scrum to have one’s qualifications stand out from the rest of the crowd, Thomas Merton’s writing resonates. Critiquing his own early fervor, he said he unconsciously sought to have it ‘become spectacular’ and ‘draw attention to itself.’

In much of my world outside this virtual space, where with all of you I’m coming to understand a different way, self-promotion is often a default way of presenting oneself. Advice like, ‘if you don’t sing your own praises, who will?’ and ‘you have to be your own advocate if you want to succeed,’ are standard in many professions.

As we all become increasingly familiar with the mechanics of communicating online through various social media, there are growing numbers of folks seeking to teach us how to maximize our ‘hits’ and grow our network of friends and followers, to get the word out.

Many have worthwhile advice. But I long for there to be greater value placed on humility; for acknowledgement of the shoulders we all stood on to get where we are; for some appreciation of God’s work through each of us; for less grasping to ourselves and more embrace of shared recognition.

Merton described it this way:

The fervor of those days was special and young. It can inspire me to seek a new and different kind of fervor, which is older and deeper. This I must find. But I cannot go back to the earlier fervor or to the asceticism that accompanied it … What has begun now must grow but must never seek to become spectacular or draw attention to itself—which is what I unconsciously did in those days, proclaiming that I was a poet and a mystic. Both are probably true, but not deep enough, because then it was too conscious. I have to write and speak not as an individual who has cut himself off from the world and wants the world to know it, but as the person who has lost himself in the service of the vast wisdom of God’s plan to reveal Himself in the world and in man. How much greater, deeper, nobler, truer, and more hidden. A mysticism that appears no longer transcendent but ordinary. December 11, 1958, III.237–38

Merton, Thomas (2009-10-13). A Year with Thomas Merton (Kindle Locations 5833-5835). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Would that the small seeds of love and appreciation that we share here as witness to God’s transcendent power in our lives were ordinary.

 

The breath of God?

I recalled just now my time at the gym yesterday. As I try to do each day when I’m on the treadmill, I prayed and tried to open my consciousness to God’s presence in that place, in each person, even in all the technology of the aerobic machines.

It mostly started as a hypothetical quandry: If God is in all things, then He must be in this place, this gym, as well…even amidst all the sweat and the noise and the busyness of the rooms full of people working hard to be healthy and fit.

The opening of my spirit to the sense of His presence made my time lighter and, at once, more alive with possibilities. The sense that others there with me, engrossed in their own music or stories coming through their earphones, were His children too led me. Is that woman there aware of her holy lineage? Does that gentleman contemplate anything beyond what he is hearing, how his muscles begin to ache, how much longer he has before he can move on? Am I just projecting my own sentiments on to others? Probably, though we’re all similar in so many ways.

I thought to talk about all this with God as I alternately walked and ran on my machine. I asked Him where He was in this space.

And as I was becoming increasingly steamy myself from my own exercise, I felt this cool breeze blow gently on my face. I know the air conditioning unit just in front of me and overhead had kicked into a different gear, but its breeze gave me the momentary sense that God had answered me with a cooling breath of air.

What a gift I received this morning…from God…through Andy Otto at dotMagis

What a gift this blogosphere is or can be. I have struggled in my recent months of busy-ness, feeling guilty about not spending more time in prayer and contemplation, not spending more time here. I’ve asked for God’s help and insight about how to find better balance in my life. I’ve written about it here and here.

Then, this morning Andy Otto at dotMagis shared these words in his piece, Opening Our Eyes to Contemplation.

When I told my spiritual director that I had not been praying, he asked me what I was doing. I told him about the journaling, the talking with others about my patient visits, how the experiences and people in the hospital were often on my mind, and the bit of spiritual reading I was doing. “Sounds like you’re praying quite a lot,” he told me. My director helped me open my eyes to the reality of God all around me. I was indeed being attentive to my reality, but I had failed to recognize fully God’s presence there.

Many of us have practiced contemplation without even realizing it.

He reminds us that the key is sharing the experience with God…recognizing that He is in all that we see, being present with Him as we take in His wonderful creation all around us.

 

Being present with God in the world

Upon awaking today I intended to focus on ‘being present.’ It is challenging for me. I can be adept for a while at a sort of consciousness that acknowledges God in my midst and then find that, little by little, I’ve fallen away. Busy schedules, spiritual laziness, life’s distractions. But few of us really are called to be full-time contemplatives or to spend all our days studying the Word of God.

Still, I have found myself longing for more quiet and alone time again after several months of deadlines, difficulties, and demands that have pulled me from my solitude into ‘the world.’ After a flurry of inner excitement and an obsession almost with exploring my spiritual/blogging world, I found I’d set a pace for myself that I could not maintain…especially when life’s challenges intervene to shake things up a bit.

So, for some time now, I’ve been seeking balance. Some routine that acknowledges my need to connect with God and to focus here in this blogging space on the spiritual lessons and challenges with which my life is blessed, as well as to cope with all the calls – the critical, the social, the trivial – of a normal day of being who I am – wife, mother, friend, worker, helper – well, you know.

A normal day in my life of late most often starts with a ‘good morning’ to God, coffee and contemplation on some commendable text. Today, I’m in the middle of A Year With Thomas Merton. In the meditation I was reading this morning Merton wrote:

I find more and more the power – the dangerous power – of solitude working on me. The easiness of wide error. The power of one’s own inner ambivalence, the pull of inner contradiction. How little I know myself really. How weak and tepid I am. I need to work hard, and I don’t know how – hence I work at the wrong things. I see that the first two months I got off to a nearly false start with too much excited reading of too many things, and my life has been grossly over-stimulated for a solitary (in community, all right). Especially I worked too hard, too obsessively on the book, to frantic a pace for a solitary (again, in community solitude seems crowded and hopped up to me).

The parallels with my recent experience thrilled me. I’m not the only one to struggle with this. Praise God!

Merton continued:

Everything has meaning, dire meanings, in solitude. And one can easily lose it all in following the habits one has brought out of common life (the daily round). One has to start over and receive (in meekness) a new awareness of work, time, prayer, oneself. A new tempo – it has to be in one’s very system (and it is not in mine, I see).

And what I do not have I must pray for and wait for.

Prayer and waiting. Yes. Then, I think I would add…

  • Patience and faith.
  • Preparation and practice.
  • Progress and growth.
  • Recognition and thanksgiving.
  • And, at the last, acceptance of myself as God’s divine creation.

 

 

So Long Sweet Summer

Beautiful poetry and photography sooth my soul.

Wendy L. Macdonald

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So Long Sweet Summer

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So long sweet summer

I’ll miss the warmth of your sun

as autumn cools the air

and I read by the south window

under a soft wool shawl

instead of out in my garden chair

~

So long sweet summer

I’ll wait patiently for your return

 when three seasons have passed

 and like a faithful lover  

 you bring me fresh flowers

because we’re reunited at last.

~

Wendy ❀ 2014 

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How can you tell that I love summer?

Thankfully there’s beauty in each season.

It’s true for the seasons of our lives too.

~

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I’m choosing to live in today.

So often I’ve waited for something special to happen

 only to see the unexpected take its place.

There’s beauty in the unexpected 

if I trust that God is in it.

~

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My prayer list has grown longer with time.

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