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Last night felt to me like a great circling together, a gathering of brothers and sisters in Christ, a community serious about rearranging our lives to follow Jesus.  From our coffee and dessert to our prayers of intercession to our sharing of stories, and from our receiving communion to our communal plea that Christ be our everything, God’s presence was palpable.

There is something about solitude, silence, and stillness, isn’t there?  In our world, filled with noise, both audible and visual, moments of silence stand out as places to be filled.  These moments are so discomfiting that when they happen, we reach for the television remote or scroll through our Facebook feed to avoid whatever waits in the silence.

This morning, we all woke up, most likely with our deepest desires still tugging at us, but with the knowledge that Jesus awaits with a response that will point us to him.  I am carrying my rock, the one that represents my desire to belong, into his presence this morning to say once again, “Here.  Here is my deepest longing.  Open my eyes to your presence, Lord.”  And once again, like salve, I hear, “You are my beloved.  You are mine.  I have summoned you by name.  I am with you.  Be still and know.”

What is the desire you are carrying into God’s presence?  If you can name it, try to hold it in your hands, whatever it is, and just say, “Here.  Open my eyes to your presence, Lord.”  And, if you just don’t know yet, that’s okay.  Perhaps your prayer could be more like this, “Father, show me.  Show me, by your grace, my longing.  Open my eyes to your presence, Lord.”

We learned so much last night from those who shared their stories.  Two things stick most in my mind.  First is the image of the wind blowing through the pine trees.  There is something so calming and beautiful to me about that image and I seem to need to place myself somewhere in my mind as I practice.  The second is that the fruit of this practice comes later.  The point is not to seek an experience with God, but to rest in his presence.  The evidence of his presence and movement will be seen in the lives we live.

Did you have a takeaway from last night?  Did one of the words or images that was shared resonate with you?  If you need to place yourself somewhere, what image would you use?

Last thing: I was reminded last night of the importance of community.  Imagine if you had been practicing centering prayer, but had no one around to share with, no one to learn from, no one to just be present with as you process your experience.  Although in some ways centering prayer is a practice of being alone in God’s presence, it is one that is greatly enhanced and enriched by being in community.  Phileena shared her thoughts about this when she was here last week:

Let’s keep practicing centering prayer this week…finding a regular time to simply and humbly “keep company with God”.  Remember what Father Keating said: thoughts are inevitable, integral, and normal.  Don’t resist them, have a friendly attitude toward them as they come, and then let them pass by.

Blessings and grace,

P.S. Here is the Father Keating video we watched last night:  Guidelines for Centering Prayer

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Ann Cameron Williams says:

    First, thank you and the Practice Team again for creating the space and guidance for all of us to experience stillness in and with the company of God. The community that is there, meeting on Sunday evenings strengthens and sustains my own newly formed individual centering prayer practice. If more people knew about this amazing peace and comfort that is being offered through The Practice at Willow, the main auditorium could not contain them.

    I work hard, more than full time. I am a single working mother of a young man with Down syndrome and spend lots of time with my mother who also needs me. It would seem I am too busy to find two 20 minute spaces in my day to rest in centering prayer. But as I arrange my priorities and move into this space and time as my commitment to God – just one day at a time – I find that my world shifts to allow me these precious moments with God. On days when the appointed time is committed elsewhere, I find another time opens up. Only a few weeks into this and I cannot imagine not doing this, can’t imagine not showing up to just be present. It’s easy. Resting in God is so easy. Unspeakably beautiful.

    I would not have known about this without Willow, without the Practice. So, so thankful.

    • Aaron Niequist says:

      Wow, Ann, this is really powerful and beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! I’m finding a similar thing…that even in the most busy/crazy days, it’s the quiet and stillness that sustains me.

      Thanks for giving voice to what God is doing in you these days. Blessings!

  • ginnie grant says:

    Like Ann, I too, am a full time working single mom. I have found it hard to squeeze in 20 minutes of centering prayer time, but when I have it has softened AND strengthened me. Quite honestly, my struggle has been drifting off when I do sit down. The visual shared last night of the breeze blowing through the trees as well as John’s strong name, “Jesus of Nazareth”, helped me focus today. One image so peaceful, the other name so strong, honorable and deserving of my attention… I also thank Kelley for her open honesty in sharing her message last night – I very much related to several of the thoughts she shared.

    Today, just before I was ready to pray – I realized I was singing Amy Grant’s, Lay Down Your Burden. So, I played the song, reminded of the never ending strength of God – and my own weakness. The lyrics and melody helped center me to just the place I needed to be. I’ve promised myself to follow Father Keating’s suggestion and give Centering Prayer a full six months before I decide the practice is not for me. 🙂

    The Practice – the Sunday night version – is quite honestly slowly changing my life, and for that I am so grateful to you, and Kelley, Mindy, and Shauna and all who have and will continue to be involved. It’s become an important and welcome retreat for my soul, ending my busy week and spring boarding me, ever so gently, into my new.

    Thank you ~

    • Aaron Niequist says:

      Ginnie, this is so beautiful. And encouraging. And inspiring. Wow, thanks so much for taking the time to share your story. I relate to so much of it – both the struggle and the incredible blessing. Amen and amen.

      Let’s keep letting ourselves be found in these practices. In this with you…

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