Sitting on the shore of Lake Dunmore in Vermont is one of the easiest ways to feel God presence. I think of those in the world who never get out of the city, or who are stuck at our southern border. My list could go on and on, with situations I know, and with myriad situations beyond my limited, privileged life. I feel humbled, grateful, and prayerful.
I attended the 8 o’clock service at St. Elizabeth’s Chapel this morning. I love walking up the wooded path from the parking lot to the stone chapel, designed and built between 1912 and 1914 by Ralph Adams Cram, architect of St. John’s the Divine in New York City, for himself and this family.
A summer Sunday mornings isn’t the only time to visit the chapel, at least the external grounds. Sit on the bench outside the entrance and watch the sunlight dance of the chapel’s façade and amongst the leaves on the forest floor and trees.
Here I am responding again to Carl McColman’s latest blog. This one, posted today, is about mysticism in the midst of the latest mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso.
McColman writes about mystical spirituality, or to use another term of his, contemplative practice. Those of us, whatever our religious tradition, who spend time praying, practicing meditation, contemplating religious texts, and searching for God, can resonate with these terms. For my purposes here I will embrace the phrase mystical spiritualism as I struggle to make sense of my faith journey in light of the violence in these two American cities over the weekend.
Is it enough to sit praying in my beautiful yard? How does this kind of being compare with the doing others are taking on? As I’ve mentioned before, I believe God has called me to pray for others. For years that call has focused on praying for individuals, but recently I’ve been praying for situations. What is behind my prayer? How do people and situations change? How do I change? How does God change? Those questions are mysterious, cryptic, and vague; any answers will also be mysterious, cryptic, and vague. Of course the answer is LOVE, but that one word answer isn’t easy to comprehend and live by.
McColman offers a few thoughts to answer the question, “How can mystical spirituality help us to deal with our social and political challenges?”
• Mysticism fosters humility and an ability to listen.
• Mysticism reminds us that God created and loves everyone, not just the people on “our” side.
• Mystical practices teach us how to think creatively.
• Mystical living helps to foster compassion, forgiveness, and healing.
What is your core spiritual issue? Carl McColman https://carlmccolman.com/the-paradox-of-radical-trust/ addresses this a blog posted titled, “The Paradox of Radical Trust.” Upon reading it I immediately want to name my core spiritual issue and then solve it so it wouldn’t be an issue any more. But that’s not McColman’s point, nor is it God’s point. How arrogant of me to think that I can be perfect. In fact, that is very likely my core spiritual issue—that I think I can figure out my faults and get rid of them.
The challenge is to live a spiritual life with ambiguity, to accept what McColman suggests, “…you can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in” and work from there. That dark, that imperfection is there as a way to see the light.
The church I attend has no air conditioning, so with yesterday’s 95 degree forecast, Sunday service was held on line. Instead, I chose to worship at the Greater Framingham Community Church. Gfccnet.org
. And worship I did. I’m still in awe of how praise and thanksgiving was front and center of the entire service. Praising God and thanking God through the music of a live band and singing, and through word expressed by the pastor and the ‘amens’ from the congregants. But it was more than that. Gratitude encompassed everything—it took over.
What I’m trying to convey here is beyond words. Too many words don’t help; in fact they hinder. John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” One word, gratitude; one word, love; one word, Jesus.
There is much more to say about yesterday, but not now, not yet, maybe not ever. Perhaps I’ve said it all in the one word that was at the core of yesterdays service. I trust that when I go return there to worship on another Sunday I will receive the same Word. But I’ll go again, just to hear it and be refreshed (they have air conditioning).
(I didn’t take any photos because I went as a worshipper, not as a tourist or blogger.)
On this muggy New England morning I am trying to stay present to God’s world just as it is. The heat helps because my body wants to stay put, to sit and look out the window, and be with God—that’s all. The good news is that we have no central air in our house, no artificial means to distract me from the climate and temperature at this July moment. The heat outside has slowed my body down
God does not separated mind/body/ spirit, and neither do I in my longing to be in God’s presences. I rejoice that my body is coming in sync with my contemplative mind and spirit. I am grateful for this heat.
(Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of air conditioning, and I pray for those who have no choice and who live in desperate heat around the world and at the southern border.)
A friend’s husband is back in the hospital again. Yes, again, after many previous stays during the past few years. My friend continues to be grateful for all the good times and prays that God will do what’s best for him. To be more precise, she knows that God is doing what’s best. Her prayer is that this will be apparent to all. What faith.
I’m reminded once again that gratitude is the core of faith. When we start prayer with gratitude, we surrender to God; we start with Thy will be done. From there we can humbly offer our petitions.
I sit here in my lovely yard enjoying the flora and my family. I could write about that.
I sit here in my lovely yard worrying about the racism that has a grip on our president and so many in our country. I could write about that.
Neither of those scenarios help me, a person who God keeps calling to another way of living that is beyond enjoying or worrying. At church we lift up joys and concerns because that is where we are settled in our lives. But then we are asked to soar above them, to let them go, to stop allowing them to take over. We are asked not to think them away but to pray them away.
Again and again I return to Paul’s plea in 1 Thessalonians: pray without ceasing. When I pray the Jesus Prayer, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, my dependence on the joys and concerns of life lose their power and the peace of God that passes all understanding takes over. Of course I have to keep practicing this, but the results keep me at it.
“In the beginning Jesus Christ by His Spirit has to check you from doing a great many things that may be perfectly right for everyone else but not right for you.”
This quote from Oswald Chambers that I just posted as the daily quote has me thinking. Throughout adulthood people have told me that I am too hard on myself. I never agreed with them, always feeling and knowing that this is the way I should be. Chambers helps me clarify that I am on the right track in being hard on myself.
He goes on: “See that you do not use your limitations to criticize someone else.” I would add, ‘or to compare yourself with someone else.’ We are all on our own journey, and by grace some of us hear the call from God. That’s on only guidance I need to follow.
As I walk the streets of Edinburg I carry Krish Kandiah’s question in my mind and heart: Who is God?
I ask it as I smile at the statues of Oog Willie placed throughout the city. Who is God for the designers of these hopeful statues celebrating children.
I ask it as I enjoy fish and chips and a beer. Who is God for me, so fortunate to be able to take this trip?
I ask it as I watch waiters and waitresses clear tables. Who is God for people who have steady jobs?
I asked it yesterday as I wandered Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth. Who was God for the Augustinian monks who lived here from the 400s to 1450?
I ask it as I pass homeless men and women on every block of Princes Street, along the Royal Mile, and places in between. Who is God for those whose home is the street?
I offer no photos, not because I want to avoid the sadness of it all, but in deference to these human beings. I am a tourist but these folks, with their blankets and jars where I can place a coin, are not tourist attractions.
Who is God for them? Who is God for me as I walk by, sometimes dropping a coin, but usually ‘passing by on the other side’?