It is a beautiful morning here in the Smokey Mountains! The sun is shining and the sky is blue. The online weather says it is snowing in Sparta, NC and I will check that out later when I drive down into town to errands. It's seven miles into Sparta but all downhill and not unusual to find the weather different at the bottom of the hill!
I was so fidgety this morning when I sat down to pray. My mind was jumping all over the place and I could not be still. I wondered if it was alright to scratch my eye or change my position; and then, of course, I got carried away with these thoughts. I realized that I was observing myself praying and got distracted by that. I found it helpful to remember some words from Into the Silence by Martin Laird:
"We cannot reduce prayer to a technique... Contemplative prayer is a skill, a discipline that facilitates a process that is out of one's direct control, but it does not have the capacity to determine an outcome...Contemplation is a sheer gift. There is nothing we can do to bring forth its flowering, but there are important skills, without which it will be unlikely to flower."
I have not idea how long it took me to settle into a rhythm of silence because the gift of being away for rest means that I don't have to watch the clock or set a timer...I can just be in the silence. And so it was a "sheer gift" to be able to become still finally and let myself be a part of the stream of God's love. That's what it felt like for me on this cold, windy morning. I was somehow one with a river of Love that eventually wound through the cares and concerns of our lives. In Laird's book he quotes Teresa of Avila, "Beloved, there is much we can do to open ourselves to receiving his favors." God is always Self-giving; it is a question of removing the obstacles that make it difficult to receive this Self-gift. This receptivity is what contemplative practice cultivates."
I am grateful for this time of cultivation in the silence of my friends, these mountains. When I was a child living among these oldest of mountains, I called them my "purple hooded priests." That's how they looked to my 11 year old imagination in the evening light. I doubt I fully understood the concept of priest then, except I knew from somewhere that priests listened to confessions and I wanted that "listening presence." And I had it in the gift of these graceful peaks.