This month I returned to Bowen Island to spend a few days alone with God. I hoped it would help me get through the dark months ahead.
I didn’t have much of a sense of God’s presence until I passed by a church and felt a tug to go inside. I feel that tug whenever I walk by the church, but I’d given up hope of getting in. Even when there’s a vehicle parked outside, it’s been locked. This time as I neared the church and empty parking lot, I was spurred on by the memory of another time in such a place and decided to give it a try.
The door opened. A woman named Elizabeth was polishing brass candlesticks and encouraged me to come in. “I’ll put the lights on for you,” she said.
I thanked her and took a seat near the front of the church, so I could look at the statues. On my left, Joseph held the toddler Jesus in one hand and a lily in the other. On my right, Mary held the infant Jesus who faced outward. With one hand, she supported his bottom and the other was under his arm with her fingers around his chest. The Holy Child’s arms were spread wide and his face kind. On them, I rested my gaze.
Eventually, Elizabeth went outside to tend the garden. In the silence, I imagined myself responding to Jesus’s welcome by coming close and letting him feel my hair the way my grandson did at that age. It was so soothing. I also pictured my hand, like Mary’s, firmly on Jesus’s chest with his back leaning against me. That’s how I prayed–just feeling Jesus’s fingers in my hair while mine were pressed against his warm body.
The next day I was home again, praying with Luke 17:20-25. In this passage, Jesus told the Pharisees they didn’t need to go looking for the kingdom of God because it was among them. In fact, they could touch God right there and then if they wanted to.
Jesus went on to tell the disciples that there would come a time when they would be “desperately homesick for just a glimpse of one of the days of the Son of Man, and you won’t see a thing” (The Message).
The felt presence of God is like that. Sometimes the Son of Man is in our midst, having sent someone ahead to open the door, so he can welcome us with open arms. Yet other times, the door is locked and God is a cold statue.
While on my retreat, I read something Gerald May wrote in The Dark Night of the Soul. He said that the sense of God’s presence is not God. “Union with God is neither acquired nor received; it is realized.” Whether we experience the Holy or not, God is in us and we in God–as surely as the stars are always in the sky.
During the day it is hard to remember that all the stars in the sky are out there all the time, even when I am too blinded by the sun to see them. ―Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark
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This summer Fred and I took our eight-year-old grandchildren to Aldergrove Regional Park to view the Perseid meteor shower. Metro Vancouver and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada invited people of all ages to set up their tents, lawn chairs, and blow-up mattresses, and look up at the sky. There were games, storytelling, a food truck run by the Elks, and members of the RASC and Fraser Valley Astronomy Club with telescopes for viewing. Our grandchildren munched popcorn and watched the sky. Our grandson said, “It’s a good movie. Not much action, but the scenery’s great.”
What love mischief are you and God doing to care for the earth?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.
Excellent quotation: “Union with God is neither acquired nor received; it is realized.” And – great photo!
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I agree, and will remember that quotation!
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Thanks, Dave. Jesus said it too in John 14:20, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (NIV)
And, yes, the photos are great. I appreciate the photographers who share them.