I am on retreat at a friend’s cabin on one of the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, a lake that is about 2 by 3 miles in size. It’s a small cabin, built 125 years ago, and has a screened in porch that overlooks the lake. The porch is one of my favorite places to be, sitting on the rocking chair, watching the light change and dance on the water, the leaves blow in the breeze, hearing the birds chirping and the loons calling. It is an easy place to just be, surrounded by God’s presence in the most elemental way.
From here each evening we would watch the light fade across the lake, the trees drain of color, and the water slowly disappearing into the night. But one evening we decided to take a sunset ride out on the water. We loaded onto the pontoon boat and set off from the dock, enjoying the coolness of the evening. I was looking forward on the boat, facing the same direction as the view from the cabin, ESE, when I heard an exclamation from my boat mates. “Wow!” I turned to see what they were looking at and behind me was a breathtaking sunset beginning to happen. While the sky ahead of me was pretty with pale blues and greys, the sky behind me was filled with yellow and orange and purple splendor, scattered across the clouds. It was so beautiful, ever changing with deepening colors and sunset awe. We prayed from the boat that evening, filled with the glory of creation surrounding us as we rocked gently on the waves.
As I reflected on this I wondered how much I miss out on. Sometimes I feel like I am so focused on the direction I am headed in that I miss the beauty that is all around me… changing and sometimes even more dazzling that where I am heading. At other times I am stuck on the shore, not knowing that if I just get on the boat and push off I will see a whole different point of view. And still other times I resist looking behind me, missing out on the beauty available in what has come before. It reminded me how much I need to turn and step out in courage and look at many possibilities and directions and options to take in all the beauty and goodness surrounding me.
It reminds me of some lines from the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness….
And for all this nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.
May we soak in the grandeur of God, turning to see it in full glory, and then turn in our lives to see the full glory in them too.
Last week I was blessed to have a few days in the wilderness. I had found a solo campsite 6 miles up a windy road that took 25 minutes to drive up. And pulling up the first thing that caught me was the view. Miles upon miles of rolling hills spread out before me with no buildings or people in sight (except at night you could see lights from the city way off in the distance). I quickly unloaded my car and set my space up, and then sat and looked and listened. The dry grass was waving, butterflies and birds flying around me in abundance, and a pair of lizards were doing push ups and playing tag on the fire pit.
For the next four days this was home! A time spent praying and reflecting and reading and sleeping. A time of silence and allowing feelings to arise. A time to just be. And it was exactly what I needed.
These times of taking ourselves out of our normal routines feel so important to me, especially in this world we live in that is so fast paced and filled with brokenness on personal and corporate levels. When we give ourselves the gift of stopping and paying attention to the beauty around us, when we can really allow our whole sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems to feel at peace, and when we fall into that place of peace where our bodies can relax fully, we heal.
This is something we can offer ourselves every day, and not just something that can happens when we remove ourselves from the world…. Although I think that these deep long sinking in times are necessary, at least for me! But each day we can give ourselves the gift of sinking into a space of healing.
Here is one way you can do this:
Find somewhere to be that you won’t be disturbed for a while.
Sit or lie comfortably.
Begin by looking around the space you are in. See what catches your eyes, but look all around the room. Is there a color or an object or the way the light is falling that brings you peace? Allow your eyes to close, or to hold a soft gaze on an object.
Listen to the sounds around you. What can you hear outside the room? What can you hear inside the room? What is the softest sound you can hear? What can you hear inside you?
Stay in this space. Allow it to settle you.
If you begin to have a lot of thoughts appearing, you can repeat a phrase over and over each time a thought comes up. It can be something simple like “I am light,” or call upon God with words such as, “O God, hear my prayer.” The words themselves don’t matter as much as the intention to draw your attention back to being in this space of peace.
When you are finished, give thanks. Before you move, wiggle your fingers and toes, look around the room and name three things you see. Get up slowly, and try to carry this beauty into your day!
If you try this, let me know how it goes!