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An Amazing Journey

Article by Lerita Coleman Brown (February 2019 eNews)

My religious and spiritual life is an amazing journey. I began my prayer life kneeling at the foot of my bed pleading to a white man in the sky and moved to the foot of a mountain where I felt the Presence there. In between I learned that I like the combination of lively praise with moments of deep silence and stillness as modeled and cultivated by Howard Thurman. I yearn for a life that seamlessly and calmly interweaves these seemingly disparate threads of prayers into a gorgeous piece of the fabric of life. Indeed, I feel as though a beautiful red carpet has been laid on the ground by the many contemplatives, mystics, and individuals who heard a similar Call and chose to follow it.

In the midst of my early Catholic roots lay dormant an unrecognized contemplative Christian who now feels drawn to the mystical realms of most faith traditions. Inspired by the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz, I find myself reading more widely about Sufism. I want to learn more about the Kabbalah and Jewish approaches to mysticism. I also cherish the Buddhist roots of my first meditation teacher as well as colleagues and friends. I understand that within each of these lies a reminder to live in the present moment—in the Presence of God. But many who see my brown skin would never imagine that these yearnings color my spiritual world. Thus, I want to inspire the African American women and others that I companion to open their hearts to all of the ways that God wants to connect with them in their lives. For me, silent prayer is the best and easiest way to nurture an intimate relationship with God.

During the many years of spiritual direction, both as a director and as a directee, the greatest gift given to me is the constant reminder that God is present everywhere in everything all of the time. As I sit in the Presence listening to the Spirit’s Guidance about what to say or do, I am reminded of my inextricable connection to God. I now know these actions are prayer. And when I need to pray for others, I try to join the silent prayer that God is praying in each of them.

Now praying is neither a recitation nor repetition in my mind of standard prayers, nor pleadings for things that I desire. It is more about listening than speaking; prayer is a quiet and intentional attentiveness to God whose Voice speaks softly to me all of the time. When I quiet the noise in my outer life that frequently comes from radio, television, iPods, email and websites, a well as the inner chatter, I experience the Presence. In these moments of Sacred Unity, I am at Home and am able to welcome others back Home as well. Prayer in all of its forms is the bridge to all that is God. In my contemplative life, “praying without ceasing,” allows me to bask in the loving Presence of God.’

Henri Nouwen summarizes it so eloquently in this way:

It is not easy to express the radical change that prayer represents since for many
the word prayer is associated with piety; talking to God, thinking about God;
attending morning and evening worship; going to Sunday service; saying grace
before meals; and many other things. All of these have something to do with prayer,
but prayer is the center of Christian life. It is living with God, here and now.


From Lerita Coleman Brown, “Praying without Ceasing: Basking in the Loving Presence of God,” in Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color, edited by Sherry Bryant-Johnson, Rosalie Norman-McNaney and Therese Taylor-Stinson. NY: Morehouse Publishing, 2014. Embodied Spirits: Spiritual Directors of Color tell Their Stories © 2014 Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, New York. Used by permission.

 

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