Every Moment Invites Us

Today’s post is by Bill Stone.

This past summer I began an exciting new chapter in my life. I became a father, and over the last few months, there has been a steep learning curve, as I perfect my diaper changing technique and begin to notice the difference between the “I’m hungry” cry and the “I’m tired” shriek. It has been an amazing experience, and each day brings new challenges and joys.

One of the most regular challenges I face is time management. The schedule I have in mind for the day is often not the same as my son’s, and after several failed attempts, I’ve given up trying to reason or negotiate a compromise with him. This has brought a new rhythm to our family home, and has also invited my wife and me to think more about what is most essential in our daily routine.

This back to basics approach has been more refreshing than I thought it might have been. At first, I was really stressed out about not having time to work, cook dinner, help with the baby, and keep up with our ever-growing list of odd jobs and chores. Free time became a luxury to be spent solely on naps, and my usual prayer practices and daily readings were set aside and added to that list of jobs.

Around this time, however, I attended a seminar for work on “listening skills.” We spent the entire morning focusing on how to be a good listener. One speaker led an introduction to breath prayer and talked about the importance of being fully present to the people to whom we are listening. His talk and these exercises were a much-needed reminder that every moment invites us to notice the presence of God within us, and alongside us.

Thomas Keating says that God’s presence is a gift, closer to us than breathing, than thinking, and even closer than consciousness itself. You don’t need a silent church pew or a remote holy isle to access it. God’s presence, love and grace, are already there waiting to greet you wherever you are. Pausing to notice your breath can be a great tool to remember this–you always have your breath with you.

Being intentional about pausing throughout the day to focus on my breathing, and its gentle in and out rhythm, has helped me to embrace the chaos of fatherhood and approach it from a different direction–engaging the people I’m with and the things I’m doing, instead of worrying about the things that could or should have been done. A wise man once said, “So do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

BIll StoneBill Stone is an Associate Minister for Youth, working for the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, where he lives with his wife, son and west highland terrier. He is also a graduate of Shalem’s YALLI program, and assists with both this program and Shalem pilgrimages. Photo by Christine Berghoef.

Responsibility & Bliss

Today’s post is by Savannah Kate Coffey.

Winsome One,
You, whose very desire is the crucible of creation,
You, who speaks the invitation so alluring,
Let there be-
You, vulnerable and open, enticing yet restrained,
awaiting a response.
I can almost see the gleam in your eye.
We all say, Yes.
Trembling and ablaze,
rising to life.

We are more than friends, you and I.
More than companions,
more than master and humble servant, grateful for your generosity.
We are divine conspirators,
breathing together new life.
You, the beginning and end of all my longing.

This night, as I rise again and again to the cries of my son,
may I know the satisfaction of this liturgy,
The call and response of your hungry love.

May the sun find me with a weary smile upon my face,
drenched in the dew of your desire. 

silhouette-of-carefree-mother-and-daughterI wrote this poem when my son was an infant and the nights felt endless. I originally titled it, “One mother’s prayer at 3:43 am.” It was just the two of us in the house and on that particular night I traipsed repeatedly between the rocker in the nursery and my empty bed. I distinctly remember the conflict within me. I was exhausted and yet wanted to be responsive to this new life entrusted to my care. Somehow in the alchemy of writing, bleary-eyed at that early hour, my feelings found meaning and form. As dawn began to break, I felt renewed warmth in my heart for all that was asked of me. It was the Divine Lover’s voice underneath my son’s cries, longing for my tenderness.

Now, almost seven years later, I realize how often I respond to the people and tasks of my life begrudgingly, as if life itself is an unwelcome imposition on my interior world. I long to bring my contemplation and action into renewed union. I need so keenly to give of my deepest myself, to birth the inner love into form and expression.

Charles de Foucauld, the French Catholic priest and martyr, lived in the desert of Algeria among the nomadic Tuareg people. In 1916 he was assassinated outside the fort he built for their protection. Before his death, he penned this prayer, “Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you…and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence….” (Italics mine)

There can be no greater bliss than to bring delight to the Beloved’s heart. Oh, the joy of receiving and responding in love. In the topsy-turvy beauty of the spiritual life maybe we are given many responsibilities, not as tests of our endurance, but as the natural outcome of God’s yearning within. Maybe there is, woven into our spirits, a divine urgency to give of our deepest selves generously and often. May I be given grace to see each task as an opportunity to surrender into love, boundlessly confident that beneath the immediacy of needs clamoring for my attention there are the gleaming eyes of One who longs for my touch and awaits my response.

Kate Coffey is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and Shalem’s Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program for which she now serves as adjunct staff. She lives and writes in South Carolina.