Playdates With God: Listening

This weekend I found the rich gifts of silence –my first silent retreat, in which I would get a small taste for the rhythm of the life devoted to the contemplative. It was also my first experience with Spiritual Direction—such a tremendous blessing.
I fell into the rhythm of the days with hunger, longing only for more time to taste and see. We awoke to Contemplative Prayer—which incorporated responsive singing—another first for me. I was deeply affected by the rise and fall of these voices that rose out of the silence along with mine. After breakfast (such an experience to eat in silence—looking out the glass at the swaying white pines) I met with my Spiritual Director—Ginny Masters. She assigned me scripture to contemplate during my prayer times and we discussed my prayer life and my faith journey thus far. Even in our first meeting, God used Ginny to open me up to hear what the Divine was whispering into my life. After Spiritual Direction was personal prayer time—which I spent in a quiet spot on the grounds. It rained on and off all day that first day, and I contemplated scripture under the umbrella of the native trees—enchanted by the way the sun made shine through misty droplets. Before lunch, we had an hour of liturgy. The pastoral center is operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese, and our liturgy followed the order of Mass. Ginny had given me a little booklet to help me follow along, but I didn’t mind the newness of it all. This little Presbyterian took in the Responses and the rhythm of the service with wonder—the holiness of it all penetrated all the deeper for the unfamiliarity of it. I clung to each word, strained to touch the meaning of each tradition.  We took Communion—the Eucharist—together from the communal cup. My cheeks flamed as I tasted the musky wine—Christ’s blood, shed for me. I’ve never partook this way before and I savored each scent, each flavor.
Lunch followed liturgy, then more prayer time and some time to relax, the afternoon spiritual direction session, more time for prayer, dinner, the evening Contemplative prayer session, evening Spiritual Direction—in which we went through the prayer labyrinth first and then discussed my scripture assignments and what the Lord spoke through them.
I always think of my friend Ann Kroeker when I chill in a hammock.
I had some company during my quiet time.
By 9:00 p.m., I was filled. The grace Ginny gave me for the first day was this: to recognize my longing for God and God’s longing for me. As I snuggled into bed that night, I felt cherished; treasured and embraced by the Love that never grows tired. 
I did a little painting, letting color fill some of the silence–letting God speak through bold splashes of red and brown.
So much was spoken in the silence. Amazing what can happen in two days. Two days devoted to listening. Amazing. I might share more in the coming days.
Ginny suggested using a finger labyrinth in my prayer. I absolutely loved it.
But then again…I might just keep these things between me and my good Lord.

How about you? How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. And come tell us about it.

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Playdates: Friends

Family and friends are a shelter in troubled times… (Sirach 40:24a)
When the work is done and every trace of vacation Bible school is tucked away…we sigh. We eat together and play together and are salt for one another. We celebrate.
It’s been a long week, filled with joy and tired but we’ve done all this together. From the decking of the church to the removal of that last bit of green—we’ve been together. You tell us that where two or more are gathered in your name…You are there. This we know because we feel your hands among ours—these years of serving together, working side by side. And something wonderful has happened in between the service projects and the carry-in dinners and the committee meetings.
We have become bread to one another. 
Thank you for my Playmates, Lord. You knit us together more tightly with each passing day. We are family.

How about you? How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. And come tell us about it.

Grab my new button at the bottom of the page and join us!

Sharing with L.L. Barkat today also:

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Playdates with God: Lettuce

On Father’s Day I am rinsing the lettuce from my little garden and drying the springy green leaves one at a time with a towel and I remember the salad spinner that my friend Mary Alice used to have and I wonder if those things are still made these days. There must be some secret to this, I am pondering, and I think about my farmer friends and wonder if they hang these things on the clothesline. I tried the colander but it wasn’t working fast enough—my in-laws will be arriving soon and the salad still not made. I try shaking the leaves before the towel drying and my husband comes in smelling like smoke from the ribs he is tending outside, takes one look at my production, and we laugh. This is very labor intensive.
But, I force myself to slow down and when I do, I notice how beautiful the green is and it gives me immense satisfaction to handle these delicate gifts from the earth. My dad telephones and a boy runs the receiver in to me. I cradle it between my shoulder and ear—let my hands continue the work.
I saw you called, babe.”
And I can tell by his voice where he’s been but somehow the crisp green between my fingers says it’s ok and I tell him happy Father’s Day and how is everyone up there? Somehow we get to talking about my little garden and I hear his voice find something and he tells me about the acres my grandfather used to farm and how the family garden was about half an acre and how you can’t grow corn around here because the soil isn’t just right. He tells me how, at the end, grandma didn’t can so much anymore but she had a big freezer and would freeze everything.
“But she never stopped making her tomato juice.
He waxes poetic about the tomato juice and his voice makes me homesick for everything I never knew about my grandma and I grope around in my mind for any scrap of memory that might be there. But all that breaks the surface is the basement of our old house, how mom’s tomato juice looked lined up on the shelves against the walls in that musty place. Those mason jars a thing of beauty and I can almost taste the tangy barb of that redness.
I look out the window at my tomato plants—how they are tucked in neatly in their little square bed.
“Don’t you need a lot of tomatoes to make juice?”
I wonder aloud, and he laughs and we are having a good conversation and my fingers tingle with the feel of the wet lettuce.
When I put the phone back in its cradle I try not to overthink everything—just enjoy. A few hours before, in church, I shared this story and hard as it was…it felt good.
The salad is done, the potatoes are baking, and my love is putting the finishing touches on the chicken at the grill. I sit on the back deck in the sun and wonder at the joy a simple conversation can bring. And I wonder how many of the world’s ills have been given a new face during the rinsing and drying of a batch of lettuce.
Maybe I don’t need that salad spinner after all. 
  
How about you? How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. And come tell us about it.

Grab my new button at the bottom of the page and join us!

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And Jen too!
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Playdates: When Letting Go is Hard

I thought that it would get easier—thought that as they grew the letting go would fall from my fingers naturally. Instead, I find I’m balling my fists, clutching this thing tight against my breast and closing my eyes to the way things are supposed to be.
This is what we are supposed to do, right? Fledge them well? Yet, these steps they take away from me catch in my throat and sometimes I can’t breathe. 
Saturday, we are up before dawn so I can drop my youngest at the rendezvous point. He will be gone all day…far away—the furthest he has ever been away from this nest. Without me. We go over the list of dos and don’ts, I quiz him about hypothetical mishaps, he tolerates my neuroses.
Finally, he says, “Mom, I’m twelve years old. I can handle this.”
Twelve years old.
This is the number of years I had under my skin when my life changed forever. Twelve years old is the age I was when my parents divorced and the world I was planted in was violently pulled up by the roots.
Why does twelve years old seem so much younger now?
I remember a former patient I spoke to years ago. This dear woman had had a stroke and suffered any number of medical setbacks. She was in her mid-eighties, a beautiful crown of white on her head. One day I entered her room to find her talking on the telephone.
I don’t want you driving up here, she said. The traffic is so bad. You don’t need the stress. Are you taking your blood pressure medicine?
She was talking to her sixty-some year old son.
It never changes, she said. You never stop worrying about them.
On Saturday, as we stop at the light, my son remembers what I have forgotten. He remembers what I have let fretting replace.
Let’s pray, mom.
So we do. I drop him off and as I watch him walk away, I feel lonely. But this time, I remember.
On the way home, I pray. 

How about you? How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. And come tell us about it.


Grab my new button at the bottom of the page and join us!

 

Sharing with L.L. Barkat today also:

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Kyrie Eleison

Lyla tells me to park—to spend a week in one place. And the truth is I’m not so good at this. I’ve been parking in a certain book all year, but I can’t seem to get it to penetrate the hard shell of my heart.
On Monday at the Middle School band concert the parking is crazy. That lady doesn’t like where I pull my van and she says some things to me through her window—throws me a look. I throw one back. And all through the concert I feel that black look cast a shadow across my heart.
At work on Tuesday, I complain. I lean on the counter at the nurses’ station and tell my friend more black words. The words follow me all day—weighing me down, turning my eyes away from the good.
Thursday night, another concert at the Middle School. I promise myself not to let parking get me. But it’s the black words cast over someone I love before the show that leaves me in agony.
When will I learn? We sit shoulder to shoulder with other parents in dim light and listen to young voices fall over us from the stage. Jeffrey has been asked to play drums for the concert and I can hear the steady boom of his bass drum buoy me. But it’s the faces in the choir that twist my heart all around itself. I remember these kids in kindergarten—all chubby faces and sticky fingers. They’ve grown up beautiful and the way time tiptoes by makes my heart ache. 
I’ve been working outside all week. I finally got my little garden planted. Flower beds weeded and mulched. I’m sunburned and creaky about the joints and I have poison ivy. Tired. There is still more work to do and I feel the pressure to finish the job. But as I sit in the Middle School cafeteria and listen to those voices I think about the fat sunflower seeds I held in my hand earlier that day.
It takes strong faith to plant a seed. 
I remember a missionary telling us once that it was the hardest thing to convince the African people she served to do.
They were so hungry they wanted to eat the seeds right then, right there.
To convince them that planting would yield more—that waiting would be the better thing—this was the challenge when faced with these hungry faces.
Why can’t I plant this seed? I gobble it up hungrily and then it’s gone. No fruit, no crop, no hard shell softened and cracked so roots can burrow deep into rich soil. I make the same mistakes over and over and my black heart groans and cries for more.
A young girl walks up to the mic to introduce the next song.
The seventh and eighth grade chorus will sing Kyrie Eleison together. We hope you enjoy it. Kyrie Eleison means, Lord have mercy.
They start to sing but I am stuck on that simple prayer. The gentle lilting of the prayer fills me. And in the middle of the Middle School spring choral concert He comes to me—floods me with grace.
In those moments, I pray Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. And my black heart lifts and fills with light. 

How about you? How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. And come tell us about it.

Grab my new button at the bottom of the page and join us!

 

Sharing with L.L. Barkat today also:

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