Seeing God

attending to the presence of the holy in the everyday

“Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks” by Jane Kenyon

“I am the blossom pressed in a book
and found again after 200 years . . .
I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper . . .
When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me . . .
I am food on the prisoner’s plate . . .
I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills . . .
I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden . . .
I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge . . .
I am the heart contracted by joy . . .
the longest hair, white
before the rest . . .
I am the basket of fruit
presented to the widow . . .
I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit . . .
I am the one whose love
overcomes you,
already with you
when you think to call my name . . . .”

in Cries of the Spirit, ed. Marilyn Sewell. Boston: Beacon Press, 1991. P. 239

When was the last time you saw God? Your answer to that question may depend on whether or not you were paying attention. The witness of scripture assures us that God is always with us.

Sometimes, especially during an Adirondack summer, we can’t miss God. We hear God in loon song, or see God stretched across the Milky Way. Our holy encounters leave us filled with peace and life. At other times, we can be so busy or distracted that we miss God entirely. We may go for days – or even weeks – without the awareness that God is with us. Our self-preoccupation and inattention to the holy can leave us feeling lonely and desolate.

Ignatius of Loyola, a leader of the Counter Reformation of the 16th century, developed a prayer practice that encourages us to spend time each day considering how we have felt close to or far away from God. He called it the Examen (don’t worry, no test will be given). Ignatius believed that, by attending to our daily encounters with the holy, we naturally grow more and more into the will of God for our lives.

Would you like to give it a try? Set aside 15 to 20 minutes for your prayer time. Begin with a moment of silence, reminding yourself that God is with you. You may wish to light a candle or read a verse of scripture.

Silently and prayerfully reflect on your day from beginning to end. First, consider the ways that you have experienced God today. How has God blessed your day? For what are you most grateful today? Next, consider how you have turned away from God’s will for you today. For what are you least grateful this day?

You may wish to use a journal to record what you notice about your day. Or, you could share the Examen with a prayer partner, someone you love and trust. Don’t try to fix things or judge yourself. Just notice, and trust that the Holy Spirit will be at work to help you grow into the person whom God created you to be.

Now, take time to pray. Celebrate God’s blessings and ask for God’s pardon and encouragement.

Conclude your prayer time with a moment of silent thanksgiving for God’s abiding presence. Try doing this every day, if only for a week or two. I promise that you will feel closer to God and more deeply aware of the holiness that is already with us when we think to call God’s name.

Psalm 139:7-10

“Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.”

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Poem for a Tuesday — “Happiness” by Jane Kenyon

“There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.”

in Claiming the Spirit Within, ed. Marilyn Sewell (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996). p. 119.

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995) grew up in Michigan but settled as a young adult in New Hampshire at the family farm of her husband, the poet and academic Donald Hall. Jane published four books of poetry in her too-short life. Her work is celebrated for her exploration of rural life, nature, and living with depression. She received the prestigious Hopwood Award at the University of Michigan and the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. At the time of her death from leukemia in 1995, Kenyon was the Poet Laureate of New Hampshire.

“So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” — Luke 15:20

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