Thursday, March 27, 2008

Daffodils, Art, And My Prayer

Yesterday I received many kind, humorous, and creative emails wishing me a happy birthday. There were simply too many to respond to all of them individually. I am very grateful for all of them and I thank you very much.

Yesterday afternoon I was having a case of the yawns so I went outside for some fresh air. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. I walked past an older man who was resting on a park bench. Next to him was his bike. I said "Nice day for a bike ride"! He replied, "It's a nice day for anything except working in an office". I couldn't have agreed more.

As I was driving along the Interstate on my way home yesterday I suddenly became aware that hundreds of daffodils were in bloom along the roadway and on the median. It was the shot of beauty, hope, and sign of spring that I needed. The evening got even better because I had dinner with my granddaughter, Chloe, for the third night in a row. She is the sweetest and most loving person I know. We are always excited to see one another. As soon as her Mom or Dad lets her go she runs to me and jumps up in my arms. Then she hugs me tight and gives me a kiss. How could I not love being her Pa Paw? It's the best job I have and it gives me the greatest satisfaction.

Life is art and we are all artists. Our great masterpiece is own life. It takes a lifetime to create and we can never quite know what shape it will take or what others will think of it when it is finished. Some art is practical and to the point. Other art is more abstract and can be interpreted many ways. Some art we just don't get and other art takes time for us to understand it. It grows on us over time. What are you creating?

I have often talked about prayer. You might wonder how I pray. My prayer is very simple. To be honest, I am too busy or too tired for a complicated prayer life. My role models for prayer are the men and women of the 2nd and 3rd centuries who left the cities and went out into the deserts. They are referred to as the Desert Fathers and Mothers and were the spiritual ancestors of what would later become monks and nuns. For the most part they were simple and uneducated people who often could not read. Their prayers were often just a word or perhaps a short phrase from scripture that had been read to them at some point. Along with their simple prayers, silence was a big part of their spirituality. So, this is basically how I pray. I sit in silence or I use a simple word or phrase as a kind of mantra. My goal is to quiet my mind and open my heart and put my entire being in a receptive stance for whatever enlightenment God may choose to give me....or not give me. Prayer does not have to be complicated or lengthy. All prayer, if we are faithful to it, will eventually become the prayer of our heart even if we are no longer aware of it. This unconscious prayer of the heart is what I believe St Paul is talking about when he exhorts us to "pray always". At some point prayer becomes something you are and not just something you do. The pray-er becomes prayer. This is contemplation. It is those moments when you become one with the flame that is God. You are now part of the fire. Does this make sense? Of course, this is only one way to pray and may not be attractive to all people. Whatever works for you, do it. There are many ways to pray.

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