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Grief, Contemplation and God’s Love (part 1)

Today’s post is by Tom Adams. This is part one of a two-part article. Part two will appear next Friday.

Like the fields, my heart has times when it is fallow and times when it bursts with new life. These growth spurts seem to come from life’s challenges and from pain. They come with a special grace and invitation. For me, the invitation to commit to centering prayer was part of the grace of a time of much loss and confusion.

I used to get the Jesus prayer and centering prayer confused. They sounded like the same thing to me. You get centered by saying this short mantra: “Lord Jesus have mercy on me, a sinner” or some variation of it. My confusion ended when I attended a Shalem gathering in April 2016, where Thomas Keating, advocate and leader of the centering prayer movement, was being honored for his work.

Centering prayer, I finally understood, was a simple form of sitting and being with God/the Holy one/Jesus. It worked best, I found, if done twice a day for 20 minutes. Like many useful suggestions, I quickly dismissed that one as not applying to me. I am much too busy and important, I thought, and at the deepest level afraid of what might happen if I spent that much time with my Beloved. But, I decided I would try this—whatever “it” was—for 20 minutes once a day.

To better understand what I was supposed to do, I went to Cynthia Bourgeault’s Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, where I learned to sit quietly, to let my mind be empty, to have a simple holy word to use to bring me back when distracted, which everyone is.

Several months before I attended the April gathering, my dad died at age 90. He and Mom were living in the home where I grew up and where they lived for over 60 years; they had been married 68 years. I had the blessing of visiting frequently before he died. At the end, when the hospice nurse alerted us that he might not make it, I took Dad’s hand and told him I loved him and it was okay to go. He squeezed my hand to tell me he heard and understood. That was the deepest and sweetest communication I ever had with my Dad.

Grief has come and gone, mostly showing up as low energy days with difficulty getting up. A few months ago, I was having a quiet day at the beach and a very large flock of geese flew over. They were honking so beautifully I imagined it was a song of praise to God. I recalled how much my father loved geese—he called them honkers as did most folks from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I began honking with the geese in praise. As I honked, I began to sob. I realized Dad had sent these geese to remind me how much he loved me.

I had for many years desired to make peace with my feelings and not be afraid of them. I had used work and other addictions to keep them at bay while longing to be closer to those I loved. I began to pray for an open heart and looking to connect with what Tilden Edwards calls “the spiritual heart.”

Unexpectedly, I found that as the months went by and I continued my fledgling efforts at 20 minutes of centering prayer daily, I felt my heart opening. There are probably not words to describe how the longing to be with God and in God’s love and the longing to be loved and to love grows. Yet the simple act of making time to be with God seemed to deepen my desire to love and my belief that I am loved and lovable.

September 09, 2017 by Tom Adams 2 Comments
Categories: Contemplative Spirituality, Loss, and Prayer. Formats: Article and Friday Blog. Interest Areas: Friday Blog.

2 responses to “Grief, Contemplation and God’s Love (part 1)”

  1. Shellie Matt says:

    I needed this today. Thank you!!

  2. Barbara Oshlo says:

    I really needed this today. Thanking God for this post, and the one who sent it. f2f

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