By: Janina Graves
Photo credit: Jim Richardson
Happy New Year! Can you feel it? The excitement, the disappointment, the anticipation, the dread… we can sometimes wrap up so much meaning in this one word, y e a r.
National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson says, “the years, the days, and the hours make the passages of our lives — but we live in the moments.”
We live in, the moments.
m o m e n t s.
live in the moments.
A few years ago, I found myself driving six hours from Stillwater to Omaha, Nebraska. I had just re-entered life and work at the Wesley after traveling for two weeks non-stop in the Philippines and returning home to a weeklong hospital stay and an even longer recuperation process from typhoid fever (it’s a long story).
Typhoid fever was, in many ways, an external expression of the internal heat I was experiencing from conflicting experiences, relationships, and beliefs. (This is normal, by the way. Well, not the typhoid fever — but, the reality that in young adulthood we’re cognitively bombarded by new information, different perspectives, and conflicting beliefs — it’s literally written into our biology, and brought about by the experiences we collect as we ‘leave home.’)
Anyway, I was going to Omaha because I needed to stop. I needed a “moment.” A chance to breathe after the whiplash of several life-changing experiences and the opportunity to ask, “God, what’s happening?”
I needed to hear The Voice say to me, “Janina, be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Be still. and know that I am God.
Be still. and know. that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
I was going to attend my first-ever contemplative spirituality retreat at a lovely Benedictine monastery; the circumstances rather serendipitous… or, not so serendipitous depending on whether God gets hands-on with our lives. All that to say, the retreat came at the “perfect time.” The Gravity Center for Contemplative Activism, co-led by a woman I had come to know through The Work of the People, was having their first ever “Grounding Retreat.”
It was there that I continued to hear affirmations of the goodness of God and the smallness of me. The necessary nature of the “good” and “bad” of life and how often those adjectives are misnomers for what the outcome will be if we remain receptive to the grace of God (Romans 8:28).
It was there that I first learned to pray the Prayer of Examen… wow. What a gift as I began to scrape the surface of embracing and reflecting on the moments of my life, as I experience them on a daily basis.
“…the years, the days, and the hours make the passages of our lives — but we live in the moments.”
Do you live in the moments? Do you know that they’re happening? Do you remember them?
If you’re like me, perhaps it takes a power outage or an earthquake… or, typhoid fever… to “wake you up” to… get your attention. To stop. To listen. To be still and know.
If I have one primary hope in the Christian narrative, it’s that God engages with us in the most loving of ways… that God is beckoning me and beckoning you into goodness, into light, into grace – regardless of our external circumstances. God’s invitation through a web of interesting connections and circumstances led to my drive to Omaha and my rest in the capable, loving hands of a community who was ready to receive my heartache, frustration and uncertainty… and, I discovered that I too was ready to receive theirs as well… we held each other in the silence and through a divine love that we didn’t need to understand or explain.
I wonder how the shepherds knew (that Christmas night long ago)… I wonder how they knew that God was in their midst…. in their midst right. smack. dab. in the middle of the mundane.
Imagine it, you’re at work — it’s late, all you really want to do is get home and, an interruption. A star that’s just a bit brighter than the others. Supernatural? No, it couldn’t be. Let’s finish what’s on the agenda and wrap it up. But, what… what if it is?
Do you stop? Do you consider the possibilities? Do you take the risk? Do you walk in the darkness to follow the light?
I’m young. And, I have a lot to learn. But, I must say that I’m baffled into belief, and I’m also blessed into belief when I pay attention to the “moments” that make up this humble life, and I listen to these words, “Be still and know that I am God.”
One of the ways I’m reminded to pay attention to “the moments” is through spiritual practices like the Prayer of Examen, as I give invitation for God to show me the gifts (“the moments”) throughout the day which were easy and which were hard to receive. Then, to show me the patterns of my relationships and behaviors and to end my time in prayer with gratitude.
I’m also reminded to pay attention to “the moments” when I participate in other spiritual practices like taking the time to brew a pot of chai and drink it slowly, to dance my prayers and heartache, to listen to my family, to sing my contentment, and to let go of the need to control.
How do you live in the moments? How could you…how will you? What moments are you in the midst of right now?
My prayer for you and for our community is that we will better practice living in the moments this year. together. For as Mr. Richardson says, it is “We” who “live in the moments.” Our existence is never completely solitary. We are not alone.
let’s go together.
We’ve got a year full of moments ahead of us for which we could say, “Thanks be to God. Amen.”