On Contemplation

There are temples all over this place.

My dining room floor, the kitchen table, underneath the pear tree, in the meadow amidst the grasses…no tall arches or stained glass, no austere organ music or deep mahogany. Just these hands, this body, these thoughts.

“To mark out a temple” is just one meaning of the word contemplation. (L.L. Barkat in God in the Yard, page 21)

Contemplation to me is a gentle wondering—a noticing. Right now I sit by the window. The rain falls in sheets of silver. Trees give in recognition of its presence. Welcome, welcome, they say. Touch me…caress my leaves and quench my thirst.

I am noticing how green the world is becoming. Contemplating how the seasons announce their arrival. And celebrating this great wonder.

Summer has arrived.

Last night I sat out back and watched the fireflies in the trees. How does one put words to such loveliness? No, I think, it cannot be done. At least not by tongue-tied me. There are places for words, but sometimes nature just asks to be noticed. When I see, I feel Him. And Peace settles over me.

It has been a difficult few days. A trip home to see the relatives…a midnight soiree to the urgent care with a sick child…the grief of a pending goodbye…and the sudden realization that I’ve had it all wrong for so long.

Part of me wants free of this contemplation. It reminds me of that old R.E.M. song, Near Wild Heaven:

It’s just a gift I’m given
Try to live inside
Trying to move inside
And I always thought that it would make me smarter
But it’s only made me harder
My heart thrown open wide
In this near wild heaven
Not near enough

My personal psychology gets me down.

But she says I should dwell there. I know this…after all.

In some ways, it seems too self-focused to let the inner landscape be part of our reaching towards the Divine. Spiritual practice is supposed to be about God, isn’t it? Yet if the word contemplative also means “putting together”, which it does, then it may be needful to search for darkness, the broken pieces of life, with an openness that these are somehow important parts of communion with God. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard, page 26)

These words unbind me.

I imagine the darkness like a cord. It is wrapped around me, I cannot move. But slowly, I start to turn. I am uncertain at first…baby steps, one foot beside the other. And then I am spinning, I am whirling around in this freedom dance as the cord slips down over my shoulders and puddles in the floor at my ankles. I twirl unfettered now, fast and free like the child that I am. This maniacal singular ring-around-the-rosy ends in a heap in the floor and I remember doing the same with my babies, and how they would laugh as we all fall into one pile–arms and legs and fleshy love. I laugh now too.

I am free. I am free.

And nearer to heaven.

This was written in response to week 3 of L.L. Barkat’s book God in the Yard: spiritual practice for the rest of us. Join me?


  1. says

    I miss the firefly’s; grew up with them but in my 20 plus years of living here where I do now, I’ve never seen them.

    Sweet memories of my childhood.

    With love,

  2. says

    We still have fireflies in St. Louis (we called them lightning bugs when I was growing up in New Orleans). To watch them briefly light the deepening darkness is to see a picture of us from a heavenly perspective. And that perspective sets us free.

  3. says

    I sometimes feel as though I think things to death. I’m not sure of the words here… It is freeing to open up all those places to the Father, but then I must learn to do that dance – the letting go and finding freedom.
    I find myself tongue-tied when I look at His creation too Laura. There simply aren’t words.
    I am praying for you my dear friend.

  4. says

    As did Glynn, we called fireflies lightning bugs; we used to catch them in glass canning jars with holes in the lid and then let them go. They’d light on our skin, and we’d laugh and call ourselves lightning bugs–a great name for rambunctious kids.

    You are reaching into some deeply intimate places as you go through God in the Yard. And you write about those places beautifully.

  5. says

    The imagining part… I swallowed hard… then you caught me up in your dance… both the joy and the pain of it.

    Your words, how they dance with mine. It is a privilege, Laura. Really. And then to see them go off on there own, that too is a privilege.

  6. says

    Oh Laura,
    When I get my borrowed copy of LL’s book, I will be re-visiting these exquisite posts of yours with each chapter.

    Yes, the struggle between self-focus and God-focus has the capacity to unravel, but to dance in that spot is divine.


  7. says

    I’m sorry that you’ve had some difficult days.
    I like how you process, appreciate that you are a thinker .
    I dance with you.

  8. says

    Laura — I loved your thoughts about the noticing, and grieved over the time that takes, the time I don’t seem to have or don’t make time for. I am logging off now, after this comment, and going outside to just notice.

    I just got LL’s book in the mail yesterday and can’t wait to dig in. I’ll link back here when I am blogging my way through.

    I also got The Right to Write in the same box from Amazon, so hopefully I can join you at HCB on Monday, too!


  9. says

    “There are places for words, but sometimes nature just asks to be noticed. When I see, I feel Him. And Peace settles over me.”

    Being outside is my #1 place of finding myself free from whatever that has bound itself around me.

    When my heart is stone, it can still reflect the sky… and I know, even then, I belong to Him.

  10. says

    I loved that quote!
    I learned long ago that to fear the dark places of my heart was exactly the plan of the enemy to keep me bound. Now, occasionally with some trepidation I request the Lord expose and heal those places, gently, tenderly, and carefully knowing that is who He is and I am longing for the freedom He brings with His light.
    Praying with you!

  11. says

    thanks for sharing your “peace” though contemplation. I enjoyed reading your article….yes closer to heaven….thanks again


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