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