Five tight buds, glossy purple lollipops, greeted me as I passed them on my way to morning prayers. Many flowers that I recognized were blooming at Twin Creeks Lodge–iris, geraniums, petunias, pansies, and daisies–but I had never seen buds like these before. By mid-morning, one had opened up to the sun. “It’s a straw flower,” someone told me.
Next morning, there were five buds again. Had I been seeing things? Where was the flower? Before noon the blossom reappeared: it closed at night and opened in the day!
Every time I passed the straw flowers during the Living from the Heart intensive, I looked to see what they were doing. And they, in turn, looked at me and asked, “Are you open or closed?”
I’m one of the facilitators of SoulStream‘s spiritual formation course. In the week-long intensive, Deb Arndt, Jeff Imbach and I introduced ancient prayer practises and explained contemplative living to the participants. We had the privilege of watching them open up to God and to one another. Our job was to help them recognize the Real Teacher in their lives.
It sounds easier than it is. At times, I was as tight as a bud, anxious that I might say or do something that would inhibit God’s work in a participant’s life. The straw flower invited me to relax and open myself to the sun. So did morning and evening prayers, the lighting of the Christ candle, the gathering of this little community as we ate, shared and laughed together. Even the rhythm of my breath–full, then empty, then full again–encouraged me to trust that God was at work in me too.
By the end of our time together, spring had ended and summer arrived. The straw flower no longer needed to retreat at night. I long for the day when I will remain open to God and bask in Love’s warmth. But for now, I sense, it’s enough to listen to the flowers.
“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me
and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
— Matthew 11:29-30 (MSG)