Category Archives: Praying with the senses

Lord, that I may see

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This window is in the beautiful little chapel of the Jesuit Retreat House in Los Altos, California.  I’ve been there several times, and it was on this most recent visit that the words resonated with me.  Lord, that I may see.

What in my life do I see clearly ? What in my life do I miss?

Like many of us, the sense that I rely upon the most to engage with my world is the sense of sight.  It helps me do the things I classify as unexciting and mundane, like drive and cook dinner.  It helps me survive.

But sight also brings joy to my life.  With sight, I can fully experience things like this:

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And this:

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And this:

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And this.

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But it’s not enough just to see these things.  To live richly and gratefully, I need to be conscious that I am seeing them.  I need to pause in the moment, or at the end of the day — or both — and let the miracle of those flowers, that sweetly absorbed reader, those vivid red radishes, sink into my soul.

In the Gospel story referenced in the window above, the beggar wants to go from blindness to sight.  My challenge is not literal blindness, but taking sight for granted.  My challenge is to recognize that God’s grace drenches this world, and that my sense of vision is one of the primary ways that God chooses to share that grace with me.

Lord, that I may see … what a beautiful challenge for the week ahead.

Praying with the senses, January edition

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SIGHT

There’s something about primroses. Their color is so beautifully vivid,  a pop of color in the brown yard of January.  This is the second year in a row that I’ve made a point of planting them shortly after New Year’s, and that little bit of effort pays off big-time.  My mood is lighter when I can savor this little splash of color outside my bedroom window.  (Bonus: when you get really close to primroses, you realize they smell like jelly.)

Speaking of beautiful sights, on our little getaway last weekend Scott and I went to Point Reyes National Seashore for a hike. To get to the coast, you  hike through beautiful, Lord of the Rings-style forests with ferns and little creeks and redwoods, and it’s all so bucolic and lovely.

And these plants, whatever they are, caught my eye. Look closely, and you’ll see a raindrop in the center of each cluster of leaves.  Each drop was just resting there in the middle, looking like a diamond solitaire in an engagement ring.  Just one of those lovely little miracles I so often miss.

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 SMELL

There was such a glorious smell at Point Reyes, that mix of vegetation and damp earth and a hint of the ocean.  I must have mentioned it at least eight times to Scott during our hike.  I don’t realize how much I miss the smell of nature until I’m back in the middle of it.

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TOUCH

My boys have very short hair, but I love tousling it with my fingers.    My cousin once remarked that Matthew’s hair feels like feathers, and it’s really true.  I know there will come a day when there will be an invisible protective bubble of adolescent space around my boys, and they won’t let me ruffle their hair as I pass by their chairs.  But for now, I absolutely love doing it.

Where are YOU finding God these days?

 

Finding God with the senses, Early December edition

Mary with her mantle of snow.

Mary with her mantle of snow.

Finding God in all things?  You betcha.  Here’s how I’ve been glimpsing God’s goodness lately.

SIGHT

We spent Thanksgiving week in upstate New York. So did Winter Storm Cato.  The effects were cold, but dazzling.

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I love those winter sunsets … glorious.

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You can barely see Otsego Lake out there.  The hills beyond the lake, so green and visible in summer, were totally veiled in mist.  There’s such an austere beauty about a snowy landscape; it’s like nature’s version of a black-and-white photo.   In the lovely book Stillmeadow Sampler, about life in rural Connecticut, Gladys Taber writes, “I do not know why white seems more pure as a color than green or blue, but so it is, and the countryside in winter has a purity we never see in any other season.”  I think she has a point.

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The other night, having run out of wine, I cracked open a bottle of Martinelli’s sparkling cider.  And its snappy, apple-y flavor made me recall Christmases as a kid.  It was the treat we’d always have on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; I recall sipping it slowly from one of my mom’s orange juice glasses, savoring it as long as I could.  Those were good times.

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HEARING

I’ve been listening to Christmas carols a bunch lately (yes, I know it’s Advent, but that never stops me) and hearing these tunes again for the first time in a year is such a welcome thing.  They remind me of Christmases past; they get me in the right mood for the miracle of Christmas Present.

One of my favorites is the  beautiful carol by John Rutter called “What Sweeter Music.”  This video is terrific because it also shows the lyrics, and the words are almost as lovely as the tune.   The song never fails to move me, even in the middle of the holiday hubbub.  We all need peaceful pauses like this, quiet moments to reflect on the wonder of God becoming man and dwelling among us.

How are you finding God this week?

Goal for the week: One beautiful thing each day, shared aloud

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I have a goal for the week.  It’s one I think I might actually be able to pull off, even as busy as this week will be.

It’s to point out one beautiful thing to my boys each day.

What kind of beautiful thing?  The sunset.  The light shining through the leaves.  The fog over the hills.  A song on the radio.  Maybe even something like an elderly couple walking along holding hands; I’m open to whatever crosses my path.

I notice these sorts of things often, and sometimes I point them out to my kids.  But I don’t share them often enough, and I have a feeling that I’m missing a pretty great chance to slowly help build a sense of wonder in my kiddos.

So that’s my goal: One beautiful thing each day, shared with my boys.

Want to join me?  You don’t have to be a parent to do this; you could share your beautiful things with a spouse, friend, coworker, neighbor, or random person on the bus… however the Spirit moves you.

Happy noticing — and sharing!

Finding God with the senses

It’s been a real pile-up of end-of-quarter work lately, with stacks of papers to grade and all the stress that goes into wrapping up the term.  But in the middle of all the craziness, God keeps on speaking through the language of the senses.  And every now and then, I’ve been able to tone down the stress and listen.

Here are three examples from the last week.

TOUCH

Last week we had crazy warm weather, in the eighties.  While I don’t love that in October — give me more seasonal cold and rain, especially in the face of this horrid drought — it was awfully nice to sit at the pool during the boys’ swim lesson and bask in the sun.

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I had a book to read, but finally even that felt like too much effort.  All I wanted to do was luxuriate in the sun like a cat and feel the warmth … and, for a blessed half-hour, I did.   It was wonderful.

SIGHT

There was a full moon last week, or almost-full (sorry; I never can tell the difference).  I happened to be at my evening exercise class, which is held outdoors, and as I did the running portion of the circuit, I suddenly looked up and saw the moon there, just on the rise, astonishingly beautiful in its saffron splendor.  It was so perfect and round that it looked almost fake, like a moon in a  1950s MGM musical.

And then I thought: Why do I see beautiful things in nature and immediately think that they look fake?  (I do this all the time with sunsets.)  Have I forgotten that the natural world, the real world of fire and water and air and stone and light, is created by the best artist of all?

It was good to be reminded of that.

HEARING

My local classical radio station has put so many great artists on my radar, and one of them is the Canadian violinist Angèle Dubeau.   I’ve been listening to this beautifully evocative piece lately, and doing so feels like prayer.   Great music always makes you feel like life is full of promise, doesn’t it?

Where have you been finding God lately?