Most of my mornings do not begin with prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be one of those people who wakes up before the rest of the household, pours themselves a cup of coffee or tea, and then sits in an overstuffed chair or on a deck overlooking beautiful scenery to begin their day with prayer and devotions. Perhaps you are one of those people I aspire to be like, and maybe someday when life slows down I will have a steadier rhythm of daily prayer. But right now it’s a bit haphazard. I am the pastor of two churches and I have two five year old daughters (not to mention a small menagerie of furry and feathered critters). My spiritual practices are pieced together like a patchwork quilt or stone soup- some meditation here, some lectio divina there, and a sprinkle of breath prayers throughout the day. I know it won’t always be this way; to everything there is a season, right?
Then I remember all the small moments when I’m able to slow down and pay attention to marvels of creation. One of my daughters and I fell into a morning ritual without even realizing it. She is the first in the family to rise each morning, and as my little helper she took it upon herself to accompany me down the driveway for the necessary and not-very-holy task of taking out the trash. As the wet grass tickles our toes we cross the street to an inlet of Lake Hopatcong, her hand warm in mine. I point out the flowers as the emerge through the passing season: first snowdrops, then crocus, daffodils and iris. I’m reminded Mary Oliver’s poem Praying, where she writes:
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
We walk along the water’s edge, my little girl and I, and when we reach a certain spot we crouch down on the ground and wait. Wait for the turtles to climb onto a log. Wait for the geese to come searching for breakfast. Wait for the big, white swan to glide gracefully toward us. As he lifts himself out of the water and spreads his wings, reaching towards the heavens, I look at my daughter. Her face is aglow with rapture, eyes wide with delight. Then her voice breaks the silence as she breathes a simple prayer- wow.
***This piece was originally written in June 2019 and printed in Hearts on Fire: United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders Newsletter.