Tag Archives: surrender

Love – in Small Doses for the Sin Sick Soul #10

And we are put on earth a little space, 
That we may learn to bear the beams of love. –
William Blake

wild geese

Resurrection Passion

Oh Spendthrift Love,
Oh Lay Me Down Love,
even from the tree
you coax: follow me.

Oh Love That Never Dies,
could I love like the pear tree loves
in heedless scarlet surrender
to the grey autumn sky?

Could I run breathless
bearing bright bouquets
across the fields to you?

Could I with mad extravagance
pour out all my oil
upon your brow?

Could I throw caution
to the wind and fling
myself  over the lake
in a flurry of milkweed
seeds and cattail fur?

Could we rendezvous
in every crack and cranny
of creation where you issue
in sweet tenderness?

Could I be held enthralled
by wonder unable to move
across a room for need to kneel
at every step in praise?

Could I place my palm
upon the surface of any cheek
and trace the contours
of grace with a finger?

Oh Love That Never Dies,
teach my heart to love again.
Teach me desire
that draws life from dry bones
like orange flames
leaping from kindling sticks.

Oh Way is Narrow Love,
Oh Take Up Your Cross Love,
teach me resurrection passion.

I’ve had enough of death.

______________________________

Love – in Small Doses for the Sin Sick Soul #9


And we are put on earth a little space, 

That we may learn to bear the beams of love.
William Blake

Holy Saturday

Stop!
surrender
to
resurrection

new growth

______________________________

Note to readers:  This blog is part of a series of Lenten “short takes” on the themes of lent, which follow more or less the lectionary Scripture lessons for this season. Like a note you find tucked under the bark of a tree, a lozenge to let melt in your mouth, an amulet to wear around your neck, I hope these little reflections may hold a small dose of truth or comfort  or challenge for your life on the way to Easter.

I have noticed in my work as spiritual director that it is hard for many of us to take in the goodness and grace, as well as the challenge of the story of Jesus and God’s redeeming love. Perhaps we need to titrate the gospel. Sometimes a well- timed, tiny dose, carefully administered, may be what the Physician orders for our healing. And so slowly we build up our tolerance for love and more and more joy finds the faith in us through which to invade our being.

Dose titration:  adjustment of the dose until the medication has achieved the desired effect

Exploring Solitude: Leaving Solitude, Gone to Galilee

“Don’t be afraid.  I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross.  He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer.  You can see for yourselves that the place is empty.  Now—on your way.  Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee.  You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.”

They got out as fast as they could, beside themselves, their heads swimming.  Stunned, they said nothing to anyone. (Mark 16: 6-7  The Message)

Contemplation is the world becoming luminous from within as one plunges breathlessly into human activity, wrote paleontologist, and priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Eventually, that which calls us into solitude will also send us out of solitude. Communion with God by ourselves leads to communion with God with others and everything that is. The longing to connect with God returns us to all that is in God.  As Jesus prayed:

 I pray that they will one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us…I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. John 17: 21-22 

 

Solitude deepens our appreciation and concern for all that is in God’s creation. Thomas Merton wrote that it was in solitude where he became capable of deep love for others.

I do not mean to imply that entering solitude means that we are without companions there. A jostling, rowdy, crowd of the saints and angels may join you from time to time. I believe the saints approve of our going off alone to pray and will show up to share their love, make wise cracks, and steal our cookies. Or – maybe it is the mice you hear in the night, muttering and munching your Cheetos. Yet other energies come and go – ancestors, spirits, the great chorus of prayer lifted night and day throughout time and space, the Trinitarian exchange of love that holds the stars in their courses.  Call it what you may. We are never alone. Yet one day, an angel of sorts will intrude on your cozy peace and tell you to go back to the crowds of Galilee.

Time to Go?
Many of us may live for long stretches with little major change in our lives. We complain and fret about the way things are, but we are comfortable in our complaining. Some kind of restriction, suffering, or limitation has become as familiar and predictable as on old friend. Or perhaps, we have grown beyond a wineskin, which once served us well, yet we continue to conform to it, cramming and squeezing ourselves in something which no longer serves us well.

Ways of living end. Even the lovely gifts of solitude come to an end. And it is time to go back home, or wherever home will be for us now. I have come to recognize an organic sense within me, which sits up, looks around, and begins to think of the world beyond my solitude. New energy, clarity, and purpose quicken within me. I know it is time to go back to the world. I am ready – rested, realigned, and serviceable for God’s good pleasure.

Or perhaps we wake one morning, rub our eyes, and say, “Well this is enough of this!” Maybe it’s the cross we are stuck on, clutching at our suffering, reviewing, blaming, nursing resentment, and bitterness.

So, we put down our fork and decide to stop eating sour grapes. And we go out to see if there is somebody who needs a hand to help them climb down from whatever they are hanging from or hanging onto.

Or maybe, you are stuck, numb, and passive in the tomb, playing out some kind of death drama. Then one day you sit up, look around and say, “Oh Rats. Guess I better get up. This is just plain silly. The door has been wide open for days. And I am missing out on all the fun.”

The Summons to Life
The Word of the Lord goes out to the mountains, the lake shores, the forests, and deserts. The Word of the Lord seeps under doorsills, writes itself upon your mirror, and grabs you by the throat in the doctor’s office.

Come, come! Follow me. I am not here. I have risen! Come plunge into the heart of the world, the hurly burly, the bustling shove and rush of life. Come, dive into the chaos. Let go of the death in your life. Follow me down the main streets crying, “Life is winning! Love is winning!”

And you, once basking in the silence and beauty of your Love, now ignite, burn incandescent, and, running with fire, immerse yourself in the midst of the darkness, blossoming like the night sky on the Fourth of July.

Isn’t this why you have been made, to be a rag, soaked in God, burning hot with truth and molten laughter? What good is all your suffering, your losses, and solitude, if they do not thrust you into the throng, wearing the fragrance of God?

People can tell you know, that fragrance, that scent of holiness, that wafts from you, when you have been spending time with God. Dogs and children will follow you. Birds will sing for you. And love-starved souls will line up at your door.

The world does not need your knowledge, your money, and competence. The world does not need your fear, your anxiety, your worry, your pitiful soul sagging from a cross, and your grim tales of death and woe.

The world needs your faith. The worlds longs for one authentic God-smitten soul, who can no longer hold back the Spirit, rising like an orange sun, like a soaring bird, like a great flag unfurling, shouting from every cell, “He is not here. He is risen. He is gone. Gone. To Galilee!”

Get over yourself. Stop sniveling and cringing.

Be a flame in the darkness, faith in the unfaith, hope in the despair, love in the hate, laughter in the gloom.

Go ahead. Rouse the dead! Stomp your foot, and cry, out, “Live!”

Pass out roses. Prepare a feast. You have died and risen with Christ. Nothing can stop you now from bearing grace into the world with every breath you breathe.

So good is this Good News.

So good is this raucous community filled with light.

 

 Solitude Practice:

  •  In a world full of fear, anxiety, and efforts by many to amplify that fear, how and where do you convey a different message?
  • Have you noticed ways in which your solitude practice helps you to love others more?
  •  What has you sniveling or cringing? Is it time to let it go for faith and trust in Christ?

 

This is the last post in the Exploring Solitude Series for now.  I am sure I will take up this topic again in the future.  Thank you for all the likes, shares, retweets, comments, and emails. You are each a beautiful treasure to me!

 Next post:  Something You Do Not Want to Miss   :  )

___________________________

 Praying Life Readers,

I am leading a workshop this month here in Topeka. Hope to see you there!

Look and See: Nurturing a Shining, Festive Life of Prayer

Saturday, April 21, 2012
8:30-12:00
$20.00
First Congregational Church
1701 SW Collins, Topeka, KS  

www.embracethequestions.com

Please register early to assure a place by calling or emailing First Congregational UCC. 785-233-1786; info@embracethequestions.com

 Related articles

Exploring Solitude: Tomb Time

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still, because God has fallen asleep in the flesh, and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. 

 – from an ancient homily on Holy Saturday used in the monastic tradition

 

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is one of my favorite days of the church year. I want to savor the richness of this day, but our rush to Easter Vigils, Easter Sunrise Services, Easter Breakfasts, Easter Cantatas, Easter Dramas, and Easter Egg Hunts does not give one much opportunity to enter the soundless, solemn peace of Christ asleep. I want to halt the parade of Easter soirees to discover the grace of this moment in the story of saving Love.

Such a pause doesn’t seem to be in our nature.

Over ten years ago US News and World Report solicited readers’ answers to the question, “Does America have ADD?”  According to the article, “Since 1965, the average news sound bite has shrunk from 42 seconds to just 8. The average network TV ad has shrunk from 53 seconds to 25. Fifteen second ads are on the rise. Multi-tasking is in. Downtime is out.” Millions of children and quite a few adults have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, a brain imbalance that is thought to be the root of unusual hyperactivity, impulsivity, and poor concentration. Wired magazine calls ADD the “official brain syndrome of the information age.”

What does it take to sit us down, stop us in our tracks, and shut our mouths? When have you been brought to your knees and cast face down, prostrate, by some overwhelming mystery of suffering love? Have you been able to stop the frenzied round of your life’s demands without feeling guilty, lazy, or neglectful?

What is alarming to me about our culture’s distracted, harried quality is that, as I understand redemption, transforming love requires a lot of focus and concentrated effort. I really cannot participate with Christ in his death and resurrection, and simultaneously answer my E-mail, pick up the dry cleaning, plan supper, and listen to my teenager.  Not that any of these activities cannot hold saving power, but servants of transforming love need to be able to act with attentive one-pointed concentration, and a wholeness of mind, heart, and body that require our doing one thing at a time. What is implied in such loving attentiveness is that this task, this person here, now, is worthy of my entire attention. As I am able to set aside or die to other competing calls for my concern, greater love and healing may pour through me.

Rest

Tradition holds that after Jesus died on the cross, he went to preach to the souls in hell and retrieve Adam.

16th century Russian icon of the Descent into ...

I certainly hope not. Hadn’t he already done enough preaching, enough sacrificing?

I’d rather think he rested. After all it was the Sabbath. Surely his ministry and the hard saving labor of his passion and death had worn him out. What  wondrous grace then to be placed in a soundless chamber safe and secure from all alarm – not to mention, answering machines, faxes, cell phones and pagers.

Not all silence is the graced silence of Christ’s tomb. Silence is the expression of a multitude of experiences: embarrassed, sweaty-palmed pauses, numbed shock, dissociated trauma; dull tedious droning; the excruciating stillness of shunning, loneliness and betrayal; the thick pouting silence of blame and resentment; the angry choking silence of the oppressed; and the isolated silence of the deaf.

In contrast –

The silence of the grave has a solemn feel.
After great pain a formal feeling comes-
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs, wrote Emily Dickinson.

The solemnity of Holy Saturday carries a weight that presses us down to the earth where we are no longer able to flit and flutter away from truth.

The flimsy props we use to hold ourselves upright slide to the ground and we along with them. Like sheets stretched across a sagging clothesline until the wet and windblown linens drape upon the earth, the weight of death drags us down, lays us down in a voluminous sweet surrender.

The Resurrection Power of Truth Telling

Truth is a friend of this silence. The silence of God reveals what is false, what words confuse, conceal, deny, or destroy. I love how Jesus just stands there when Pilate asks, “What is truth?”  Truth is right before us, standing in this present moment. Truth simply offers itself. It does not argue its case, defend itself, or plead. It just gives itself to us in love for those who have ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to know. As I embrace the truth of the present moment with love, the next moment is redeemed.

“The power of the kingdom is the spirit of the Risen Christ seen in the strength of truth as it continues to break through human limitation and sinwrites Jacqueline Bergan. The Risen Lord enters my world with his redeeming grace and power through the door made my truth telling. What truths have I entombed in silence? I meet the Risen Lord as I speak truth as best I can moment by moment.

Freedom

The silence of the tomb is full of freedom. One feels a releasing and relaxing throughout one’s whole being – like taking off your shoes, loosening your belt, slipping into comfortable old clothes. You are not in charge. You do not have to make things happen. You do not have to figure things out. This silence is the celebration and sanctification of being itself – your being.

So how do we get there- off the cross and into the tomb? How might we enter into such a silence and know its sweetness and its eternal freedom? I do not think we do a very good job of teaching ourselves how to surrender. We may move through lent and Eastertide watching and reflecting on Jesus who dies for our sins – trying to figure out just what it really means and what difference it makes, working up an appropriate attitude of contrition and sorrow – yet somehow distanced from it all.

Lent and Easter become a sort of mythic cardboard backdrop to our lives as unreal and one dimensional as a child’s drawing. What we may miss is that the paschal mystery played out before us in scripture, hymn, and ritual is simultaneously going on in our own lives and hearts. Jesus is dying and rising in the circumstances of your life. Knowing that, believing that transforms your every act, every thought into something holy with sacred potential to give new life.

So to what do we surrender? Evil, sin, death – a rabid crowd roaring for someone to crucify? We surrender to Love – to how Love is having its way with us in our lives – through the tedious, joyful, painful days of getting up in the morning, fixing breakfast, setting out to do what needs to be done. I know many saints who quietly surrender to love and love’s inscrutable purposes day after day, until spent with loving in the simplest, most unassuming ways they are drawn into Love itself.

Home

A freight train sounded its mournful whistle as it rattled past my father’s window at the nursing home. Sometimes a light behind his eyes would ignite and for the briefest second he remembered trains. Love had hallowed him out. He was getting ready to enter the final tomb. Every time I see a hawk I remember when he told me how he loved to lie in the fields as a boy and watch the hawks ride the currents of the wind.  My mother called the place where my father waited for God, the “rest home.” Its actual name is Pleasant Manor Care Center. We have modern names for these places – skilled nursing facilities, residential care, assisted living. I rather like rest home myself.

The tomb of Holy Saturday is a kind of rest home where we wait to be lifted into resurrection.

Go ahead.  Surrender to Love.  You have nothing to lose, but death.

 

Images in this post are from Liturgical Art, Meinrad Craighead, 1998, Sheed & Ward

Solitude Practice:

  • Look around the tomb. What truths have you hidden away?
  • Do one thing today slowly, attentively, mindfully. Perhaps you prepare a meal, listen to a child, take a walk or a shower. Open yourself fully to the task with loving generosity. What do you learn?

Next post in this series –  Exploring Solitude:  Leaving solitude, gone to Galilee.

______________________________________

  Praying Life Readers,

I am leading a workshop this month here in Topeka. Hope to see you there!

Look and See: Nurturing a Shining, Festive Life of Prayer

Saturday, April 21, 2012
8:30-12:00
$20.00
First Congregational Church
1701 SW Collins, Topeka, KS  

www.embracethequestions.com

Please register early to assure a place by calling or emailing First Congregational UCC. 785-233-1786; info@embracethequestions.com

 

Exploring Solitude: Learning to Be

So What Do You Do Out There All Day Alone?

 “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being,
with all your strength, and with all your mind . . .” Luke 10: 27(CEV)

“Why not? I thought this is what it is all about. I have this list. I told some of the people I would. You are not making any sense!”

I was on my second circuit around the lake arguing with God. This was the first day of an extended period of solitude at the hermitage and things had started off with a big fight.

I had made arrangements for my family, shared my plans with friends and clients, packed my provisions, gathered up my good intentions, and stepped into solitude with considerable self importance.

God went right to work on me. On the first day I ran into a wall. That was why I had thrown my journal on the floor and stomped off to the pasture. That was why I was walking around the lake pleading and arguing with the Holy One.

The word of the Lord that had come unto me was this:

Thou shalt not pray for other people or projects or events while here. Thou shalt not worry and fret about them or their futures. Thou shalt not dwell on the past.

 

Thou shalt pray on my terms.  Any intercession will be at my invitation,  not your over-functioning,  good intended, works righteous,  anxiety ridden,  guilty, controlling ego.

 

Thou shalt partner with me in bringing in my kingdom not by being available to the world, but by being available to me. Thou shalt get the first commandment well established in thy heart before thou shalt be ready for the second.

So it had come to this. My will versus God’s will.

I had planned to pray for others and for the needs of the world, while I was at the hermitage. God’s word to me shook my very foundations. Huh? What am I going to do out here then? This is a question people often ask me when I tell them I take a day a week for solitude.

It has taken me years to untangle myself from relationships and assuming too much responsibility for others’ well being. The notion that just being with God without doing anything in particular is foreign to many. It may take us a while to learn how to simply be present to God and enjoy our relationship with the Source of All Being.

We learn to detach ourselves from the things of creation in order to more fully attach ourselves to the Creator, in whom we rediscover the creation. In this new context my relationship to the world is transformed. Where my attachment to the creation was enmeshed, codependent, grasping, urgent, and possessive, it becomes freer, less sticky, as I allow others to be as they are. No longer do I demand things of people or of the world. No longer do I attempt to control or manipulate them, because my deepest needs are being met my God.

So what does one “do out there all day long?” All kinds of things: read, listen, watch, pray, walk, rest, create. . . .as one slowly is weaned from “doing” itself. One gives up the addiction to producing, efficiency, and ego enhancing, controlling behaviors in favor of the freedom of being, to joining with the One who gave the divine name to Moses as the holiest of names: I am. One discovers the gratitude and joy in sheer being. In this shift of perspective the things of creation are no longer “objects” for me to manipulate, persuade, desire, or possess, but holy beings themselves, each shimmering in their own goodness and beauty.

How this transformation occurs, I believe, is a process over a life time. It is different for each person, according to the work of the Holy Spirit. You may be called to suffer, to face hidden truths about yourself, to encounter evil, to repent, to grieve, and to experience ecstasy and bliss. You may also have periods of very ordinary, grounded experience with little drama or fireworks.

The common thread through the variety and intensity of experience and activity that may occur in solitude is surrender of the self, a kind of dying and letting go of whatever you may be hanging onto in place of God, who wants no less than all of you.

Whether you argue or whine, pout or throw your journal across the room, the task, over and over, is to forsake all other lovers and lay down your life before the One Shining, Sweet, and Unfathomable Power without whom you are nothing.

God has no need of our works.

God has need of our love.  

Therese of Liseaux

 

 

Solitude Practice:

  • How does the need to produce and “do” express itself in you? Through overworking, anxiety, fear, trying to control others?
  • Recall a time when you were able to just be with God. Where were you, what enabled that kind of awareness and presence? How did such a time affect your subsequent presence to your work and other people?
  • When they were little, my children used to tell me at times: “Mom, you need to go out to the cabin.” What helps you become aware of your need for solitude?

Next post in this series: Exploring Solitude: Meeting the Crucified One

Where Miracles Occur

Bristlecone Pines, California

The tension in my shoulders is melting. The tightness and ache in my jaw and throat are releasing. The constant, exhausting, mental jabber is growing silent.  The resolute soldiering on, pushing forward without awareness, without seeing anything, but a goal which constantly recedes over the horizon, is giving way to being    here      now.

The tunnel vision squint and laser focus are opening and broadening to a wide spacious plain that keeps revealing more and more. Reality unfolds like an undulating wave continuously turning up complexities, beauties, grace, and both harsh and comforting aspects of what is really going on.

I have been decelerating and decompressing over the past several weeks.  This process is not over, for it is the work of a lifetime. I need more time to shed the brain debris and external and internal clutter. I need to continue to tame the habit of acceleration, and restrain my inner harpy, that merciless harridan of self aggrandizement.

Though I have tried to practice and teach this for years, I feel like a rank beginner. And, as is the way of the Spirit, I am being shown how far I have to go. I am watching my many-faceted resistance, as I begin the slow, groaning, screeching grind to a halt. For ironically, in order to go further on this journey, I have to stop.

Sabbath means, literally, to stop. I am aiming for a Sabbath life, a life lived contemplatively, steeped in the awareness of the presence of the Holy, which initiates, and infuses my work and play. I like the broader definition of Sabbath, which Donna Schaper offers:

Sabbath sense is anything that makes spacious what is cramped. That makes large out of small, simple out of complex, choice out of obligation. Sabbath sense is anything that reconnects the necessities of drudgery to the marvelous uselessness of beauty. Sabbath sense is acknowledgment of the presence of Spirit in the petty and the profound.

In this time of beginning and transition, of halting and rest, I have discovered a different kind of urgency, than the urgency of schedule, production, and accomplishment. This is the urgency of a compass, a magnet, an urgency so primal it is like breath itself. This is the urgent love of the Maker of All honing into each particle of creation, boring into us and drawing us inexorably to itself.

"Tarfala Valley"

I have always been attracted to sparse, barren, open spaces – the high alpine tundra, and the edges of the tree line. There for over five thousand years the bent and twisted Bristlecone Pines dance their gnarled tango with the howling storms and eye the prize for the oldest continuous living residents on this planet. I look at maps for the wind-scoured boulder fields, the isolated islands, and the endless expanse of ice sheets at the poles. These places both fascinate, and frighten the wits out of me.

In a lovely blog, Being Poetry, I came across this quote from poet William Stafford:

Each poem is a miracle that has been invited to happen. I must be willingly fallible in order to deserve a place in the realm where miracles occur. 


Stafford, pacifist and formed in The Church of the Brethren, grew up in the semi arid high plains of western Kansas. He was also formed by those windswept plains, where you can see for miles. In these recent weeks I have been unwillingly confronted with my fallibility, my utter inability to live and be all that I desire. I hear Stafford advising, “Forget about overcoming anything. Embrace it all and live honestly from it.”

So I am heading out to the edges of my infallibility, that terrifying point where I and all I can think and do and figure out and hum to myself ends, and God begins.

Today I say that to live a life of prayer, I must go out to the edges of myself and my security. I must go beyond my ego to the outer banks, to my own fallibility, where the edges of the sea of God wash over my toes and beg me to fling myself into that deep Immensity.

I do not want to be safe. I do not want any part of a faith or a God or a religion that is safe. I want to stand in the barren field of the world, strewn with boulders, with only our wounds and fallibility, and without a prayer, a blog, a book, or a penny in my pocket, but the brooding mercy of God.

It is not a comfortable, quiet life of ease that God is calling me to, here in my retirement. It is to a life of surrendered love, where my meat and drink, and every breath are drawn from the grace of God. I am fearfully and gratefully being towed through fallibility to a place in the realm where miracles occur.

You come too.

English: Bristlecone Pines on a spur ridge bel...

Yielding to Grace

Maybe you have taken on a very difficult and demanding task. Maybe you have been engaged in a burst of creative activity. Or perhaps, you have been involved in the long, slow, steady, outpouring of yourself for family, friends, or your job.

You may have noticed the signs: an anxious, sleepless night here or there; drinking too much caffeine or alcohol; not enough time to get to the grocery store; a sudden attraction to playing solitaire, and a rush of those Please-Lord-give-me-the-strength-to-do-this prayers.

In my case I was following my own devices again, rushing ahead of the Spirit, plowing my own path. Finally I was stopped by a sharp, shard of sorrow in my heart, a sense of restless unease, and the accompanying guilt and self-recrimination about my lack of motivation. I did not miss God’s irony that this should assail me over the Labor Day holiday.

After thirty years of devoting myself to prayer, I am amazed at how hard it still is to expose myself to the direct presence of Christ. I really think I would be the one in the back of the crowd, wanting desperately to push through to touch his robe, but fearful and cautious, and resigned to making the best of things on my own.

Many of us find it easy to read about faith and prayer. Books on these topics are best sellers. Countless people read the Bible. Most of us do not have much trouble telling God what we need. We may even write out a list of our needs and longings and hand it to the person in front of us, asking, “Would you pass this on up to Jesus, for me?”

What I hadn’t done was the simple, radical exposure of myself and my need to God. What I hadn’t done for several weeks was a sustained, still, silent offering of my being to the being of God. This is what I believe truly heals and redeems: contact with Holiness, that mysterious communion and co-mingling of my spirit with the Spirit, a dance of love beyond my understanding or control.

I know why I avoid it and why I, suppose, that I have to write about it. The reason is that this communion may hurt at first. The exposure of a raw, chaffed heart to the burning brightness of Grace can be excruciating. (Yes, that is the word for it: ex- crucifix, from the cross.) It may be the last thing we want to do. So we often just tell God about it, then get up and go on fretting, and look about for something to do, anything other than just sitting there in that fear and pain.

Now think for a moment. If you were sick, would you not pay attention to your symptoms, maybe check them out on the internet, and go to a physician and describe what you are feeling? And then, would you get up from your chair and go home, before the doctor had a chance to ask questions, to examine you, run tests, and prescribe your treatment?

Surely you would you wait for the examination. You would answer questions. You would you lie down on the table, bare your chest to the stethoscope, your arm to the blood pressure cuff, and take whatever tests the doctor advised. You would take your medicine and follow a treatment plan.

I had been making drive-by visits to God, where I would drop off my laundry or tell God what I need for today. I was sipping those devotions for busy people, spouting sound bite prayers on the run. I was not coming before God and disrobing. I was not holding still for God to search my heart and probe my mind.  I would not wait for his grace to move into me, to absorb the pain, to refresh and heal me. Further, it was all about me. I was all about me. I had nary a thought of what God might desire or need from me.

We fool ourselves if we think a quick shot of God, a pithy quote, or Bible verse alone will do it. God desires a relationship with us, not a power lunch, and depth relationships require leisure, attention, vulnerability, and mutuality.

Part of us really does desire this. However, another part of us is just not that interested. I hear about this internal conflict over and over in my practice of spiritual direction. People are sincere and have good intentions. Yet nearly everyone I know finds him or herself facing obstacles to a sustained presence to God.

Try it. Find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Set a timer. Twenty minutes is good. Ten minutes will do. Even five minutes can hold a miracle. Breathe a while. Just be there and allow yourself to be open to Christ, the patient physician, who has been waiting for you for an eternity. Now right off, you may notice all sorts of responses in yourself: a sudden urge to get up and tend to some task; some buried pain rising up, burning and stinging like really bad heart burn. You will take little sorties into the past and into future. You will write fiction, little novellas, about your life. You will discover some hurt or slight or worry to gnaw on.

Just stay there. Hold still. You are getting a CT scan. Don’t move. This time is for God’s examination of you. What you think and how you feel about this isn’t all that important. The physician is at work. Trust that. You may feel panic or anger or despair. You may feel deep peace and joy. Whatever you feel, just stay there opening yourself to the one who loves and cares for you beyond your wildest dreams.

When the timer rings, give thanks as honestly as you can. Then do the same thing the next day and the day after and the day after. Don’t look for “results,” just be obedient in allowing the doctor to heal you. Thomas Keating calls this form of centering prayer “divine therapy.” You, of course, may also read the Bible, pray in other ways that you are drawn to, do acts of love and service, and whatever else that seems right for you.

Sometimes this prayer is like detox, a weaning from some addiction, and we go through the painful withdrawal of whatever we may have been substituting for God in our lives. Other times this prayer is like the surrendered offering of Mary to the angel, Let it be to me according to thy word.

Always such yielded prayer is an act of faith in the mystery of God’s love and purposeful activity in the human heart and soul.


Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to him.
That is all the doing you need to worry about.  St. Jeanne de Chantal

Have Thine Own Way – Organ Improvisation

We invite you to our Facebook Page: The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer
Read more about prayer at www.fromholyground.org
Read Tracking Holiness – Newsletter
Contact the author at lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary
Follow at http://twitter.com/lfross