And Sometimes This Is How The Spirit Works…

[For my father-in-law, Don McLaughlin, who has always believed the kingdom of God is at the DMV!]

by Katie Harmon-Mclaughlin

And sometimes this is how the Spirit works…

Despite my best attempts at describing and containing and formulating
Even at trying to perfect my practices of prayer…

It happens unexpected
In waves of humbling awareness
That wash over me as grace

Today it was at the DMV
Such an ordinary, human place
Of diverse people waiting together
And in the midst of my busyness
I was forced to stop for a couple sacred minutes
To be part of the waiting community

And impatience gave way to awe
As I listened to the man behind the counter say
Over and over again
As he took pictures for renewed licenses
“Look over here, young lady”
To women who were not particularly young
But smiled instinctively
At the friendliness he shared

And I watched the woman behind the counter
Make jokes with people writing their checks
And a sense of ease filled the place
Because of simple human kindness
And transactions transformed into relationships

And suddenly I saw
I really saw
All the people around me

And deep-love tears filled my eyes
In the middle of the DMV!

And my heart burst open with
GRATITUDE
At this surprising realization
Of the presence of the holy
Here
In this common place

And sometimes this is how the Spirit works
When and where we least expect
Whispering into our daily realities
“Pay attention- I am here.”

The River

by Dustin Davis

One day I discover that deep inside my heart a river flows. So deep is this river that before I stumbled upon it – quite by accident mind you – I never knew it existed. Even as this river is new to me I can tell it is an ancient river, its banks carving out the landscape long before. What a delight to find such an unexpected surprise in what I thought was the well-mapped terrain of my heart!

Time and time again I return to the river. Its beauty is at times beyond comprehension or expression, and it seems enough to simply sit along the edge and take in the dazzling sight. So much of this river still remains a mystery. I don’t know its source or to where it stretches over the horizon. And what to name it? The River of Life, the Flow, the Living Water, the Force, the One…

I decide that I should build a place to live along the shore of this river, as majestic as it is. Who wouldn’t want to live amongst such scenery? Stone by stone I build my dwelling. It is hard work! When I grow tired from my labor I walk to the river to rest, to get a drink. How refreshing! Most times I return quickly to the task at hand, but sometimes I linger. “Drink of me and never thirst again,” the river quietly whispers, lapping at the shore.

My stone house grows very large. It has more rooms than I had originally planned. It appears impressive to some, though I never seem satisfied. Its walls are too high, and it’s hard to see the river outside because the windows are too small, too few. It does offer a certain level of shelter and comfort, but then what’s the point of living so near the river, I catch myself wondering.

There are times when I leave my house to marvel at the river. “Never thirst again,” it invites me. Drawn by its cool, healing waters, I actually wade into the river. It moves swiftly around me, the current gentle but strong. What a feeling to be part of the river, to be part of something more! I swim out from the shore and am caught in the current. I begin to flail and flounder. I can’t touch the riverbed below. Already I am swept down the river away from my house. I try desperately to swim upstream, fighting the current. In a matter of mere moments I am exhausted and gasping for breath. Finally, once I reach my familiar shore and my house, I pull myself from the river and collapse on the dry ground.

At night I sit and look at the river from inside my house. It sparkles in the moonlight, the stars reflecting on the smooth surface. It was exhilarating to be swept of my feet, but startling nonetheless. I have too many questions and not enough answers it seems. Should I risk going back in? I wonder. What if I am swept away for good? What if I end up so far down the river I can’t make it back? What will happen to my house that I’ve worked so hard to build? My lovely view of the river will be lost! Do the waters turn choppy? Are there rapids? A waterfall? I realize that I can’t control the river.

“Be still,” the water calls, and I go outside. Even though I can’t see where the river flows beyond the horizon I imagine it flowing where all rivers flow, to the ocean. My deepest longing is to float along the river, not fighting, not struggling, but riding the twists and the turns and the rapids. My deepest longing is to float in that Great Ocean at the end, held aloft by the buoyancy of the loving voice that assures me, “You are mine.”

I stick my feet back in the river.

SILENT BEFORE THE MYSTERY

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Practice Silence.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

From the Community of Christ Guide for Lent: 

Practicing silence reminds us that relationship with God is a mutual, reciprocal act. In silence, we take the time to listen intently and be present with God without words. Often, our most profound spiritual experiences cannot be fully described. We know that in times of distress (Romans 8) the Spirit prays for us hearing the groans of our hearts that are too deep for words.

Intentional time in silence allows us to be fully present with God without the confines of language. As we enter Holy Week, the full implication of life as a disciple brings with it a weighted hush. There are moments when words are inadequate and our most faithful response is to stand humbly before the mystery.

Practicing silence may be difficult at first. The mind may run wild, and centering in God’s presence could take some spiritual effort! Allow yourself grace in this practice and the ability to slowly ease into longer periods of silent reflection.

Perhaps you begin in silence for 5–10 minutes and then write in a journal or pray about your experience. Breathe deeply. Focusing on each breath in and out can help quiet the mind and center you in God’s Spirit.

Become aware of your surroundings; notice how the air feels on your skin; trust that you are in the presence of the holy—fully surrounding and embracing you. Don’t expect that God will speak to you in a certain way. Just open yourself to what is.

Allow your inner conversations to stop for a while, being fully present with the one who is fully present with you.

After being silent for a while, offer a prayer of gratitude for God’s constant presence whether you are fully aware of it or not. Pray that you may continue to draw closer to God and discover what God is saying and doing within you.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 

Romans 8:26, NRSV