Many of you who read my column know that I enjoy the practices of contemplative prayer. This prayer is also known as meditation or centering prayer. The silent, solitary approach to contemplative prayer, which is sitting for twenty minutes, can’t be adequate for most people or many of God’s children could never know God. Another approach to contemplative prayer is writing about your present moment.
Let me show you two examples of writing about the present moment. Contemplation is simply openness to God’s loving presence in “what is” right in front of you.
My first example of this style of contemplation is planting Geraniums. This story began two weeks ago when Marian and I purchased five “Cardinal Red” Geraniums from a local flower shop. We carefully preserved these plants by giving them sunlight and water every day until the chances of frost, hail, and severe thunderstorms left the area. Above all else, we are loved by God and we are lovable which can be learned by our words and actions.
I dragged out various small garden tools and a bag of planting soil. Then I dug five shallow holes, under the bay window, in about the same places as last year. They were the same places because the locations were concaved and contained fragments of last year’s potting soil. Marian said, “Now the plants will grow to be even more beautiful in the ground.”
As I carefully held the root-ball of each plant, I realized that God is in these plants just as God’s Spirit is within me. I imagine God saying, “I’m so touched you want to spend this time with me. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so, at a certain point, I rush into these plants because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you.”
Yes, the interruption is the presence of God who comes to us disguised as the presence of our very lives. I begin to recognize the preserving of plants, digging in soil, covering the roots with planting soil, watering the plants … all of it, as the startling stunning infusion of infinite love colliding into the small shape of my finite and ordinary reality. There, at the intersection of everything, is God with us … wanting to be touched, noticed, nurtured … held by us. All we have to do is behold.
Today’s second example of contemplation through writing involves the brewing of coffee. Again, it begins with preparation – it begins the night before – grinding the coffee beans in a grinder and carefully placing the granules on a filter in a strainer. Somehow this preparation reminds me that God created the world in Christ who is the blueprint of humanity and the example of how humanity is reconciled as one with God’s Spirit. Additionally, the coffee beans are not dead but resurrected in their granules, and will be resurrected again in the morning as hot water is poured on and through them.
In the morning, I put water in an old brass kettle, bring it to a boil, and carefully pouring it over the coffee granules in a strainer until the cup is full. I carefully bring it to Marian who is resting in bed, and ask her, “Want a cup of coffee?” “You made me coffee?!” she exclaimed. “Yes,” I said, “You are worthy of a perfect cup of coffee.” She smiled and said, “Where’s the milk?” “Meet me in the kitchen,” I said while shaking my head.
While waiting in the kitchen, I realize that we practice courage by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We share our stories of struggle and strength. We learn and teach compassion by practicing compassion with each other. We set and respect boundaries; we honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. We respect each other by allowing mistakes and making amends. Rest and play will be our family values.
Marian says something to me while reaching for the milk in the refrigerator. Her voice is muffled, but I heard Another say to me, “We will laugh and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. The greatest gift that I can give to you is to always live and love you with my whole heart.”
I cannot love God perfectly or show God anything perfectly. But I will always let God see me for who I truly am, and will hold sacred the gift of seeing God for all eternity. Truly, deeply, being seen by God as I am aware of God’s presence. Now it’s your turn.
Rev. Tom Cici is the pastor at First Christian Church of Hoopeston (502 E. Main St.). Please go to www.fcchoopeston.org for inspirational sermons and much more.