Author: Gary Reimer

Meditation for Monday January 20, 2020

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?  As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like.  They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.  But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”  Luke 6

There are many people who are attracted to contemplative prayer– people who identify closely with the goals and teachings of those who have journeyed deeply in the pursuit of God.  The sales of books on finding God through contemplative prayer are increasing dramatically as whole sections are dedicated to this topic in most bookstores these days.  But what strikes me, as I meet with people for spiritual direction, is how few of these people who feel such resonance with the objectives of prayer actually spend time in the discipline of prayer.  There is a big difference between hearing Jesus’ call and responding to that call.

Granted, Jesus’ statement here is meant to apply to all his moral, ethical, social, and spiritual teachings but the principle at work is also true as it applies to our prayer.
I play flute.  I’ve read many great books over the years about how to play the flute.  Books will tell you everything you need to know about how to place your mouth properly over the mouthpiece, how to hold your fingers in order to maximize speed and agility, how to breathe properly so that as little air is wasted as possible and even how to phrase a line of music so that it will sound most pleasing.  As good as these books may be, there is nothing but the practice of playing the flute that will ever teach a person how to be at one with the instrument.  You have to get to know your own relationship and learn how to work with it before you can make music.

There were perhaps many in Jesus’ day who loved to hear the Master preach.  They loved being called to walk closer to God.  What a beautiful invitation it must have been to hear Jesus’ descriptions of the kingdom of heaven.  It fills the heart with a warm sense of welcome.  We are comforted by the knowledge that we are truly loved by a God who desires intimacy with our lives.  But, as beautiful as that invitation is, we will never live in it until we respond to the call.  It doesn’t matter how often we hear it, at some point we have to do it in order to enjoy it. Perhaps this is the same challenge Jesus put to the rich man in Matthew 19.

 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

This man desired to ‘enter life’ but stopped short of actually taking the step of commitment to fully following Jesus.

You have to go through the stage of falling asleep or daydreaming while you’re praying.
You have to go through the stage of the idea of prayer seeming like watching paint dry.
You have to go through the stage of wondering what it is you’re supposed to be expecting or experiencing.
You have to go through the stage of feeling like you’re a loser at this and that you really don’t know how to pray.

Taking time in prayer establishes the foundation of relationship with God, and leads us into an awareness of God’s presence in every minute of our day, but it is not gained easily, as the saying goes. God invites us, encouraging us to come further. The reality of the effort required is worth the prize!
Welcome to the journey of truth.

Rob and Ruth Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities

For Group Discussion:

  1. How is your ‘practice’ of prayer going these days? Where do you find freedom or discouragements?
  2. How do you relate to your struggles in prayer? What is your typical response?
  3. Take a few minutes to be reminded of times when you have experienced an intimacy with God which encouraged you on in your journey.

For Prayer: God, I desire to know you more—help me in my weakness of time and commitment. Open my heart to your invitation to enter into your love.

Meditation for Monday January 6, 2020

“I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8.

The Psalmist declares that God is with him. God is with us. How is he with us? We want to know he is with us in the most tangible ways possible. In the midst of the delights and distractions of Advent we revisit the narrative and images of the nativity – Immanuel, God with us, a baby born. In the light of his identity, that’s about as tangible as it gets.  It’s such a blessing to experience the seasonal rhythm of savoring this. And yet two millennia later we walk by faith. Jesus told his disciples that it was to their  advantage that he leave them physically so that he could send the Holy Spirit to them (John 16:7). Jesus’ parting words to his disciple were: “And be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 30:20).

As contemplatives, we affirm that in spite of God’s revelation of himself – in creation, Scripture, the incarnation – we ultimately come to him as before a mystery. By his grace he has unveiled some of these mysteries: “The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints…; the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27). In prayer we approach the mystery of God receptively and hopefully. What, by sheer grace, might he reveal to us that we didn’t apprehend before?

God being with us is a category of mystery that continually invites such an approach. Just as we realize that God himself is a mystery, so we may also be assured that he is with us continually and lovingly in ways that we can’t imagine. The practice of prayer breathes newness and vitality into stale habits of thought that we may have about a reality too wonderful for words – God with us. To open ourselves to God is most basically to open ourselves to his presence.

And in spite of our use of the word mystery, it doesn’t have to be complicated. The refrain of St. Patrick’s famous prayer employs the most humble language:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.

The simplicity and truth of these words convey an almost sacramental power. They depict what the Celtic Christians called “calm” or the “encircling.” They would imagine or even make a circle around themselves with their finger or a stick, signifying God’s protective presence. (The Psalmist at least starts the circle, the Lord before him and beside him, at his right hand!) The critical thing always in apprehending the presence of God is to know that like his love, it’s unconditional. We can’t lose God or escape his presence. The psalmists’ “I will not be shaken” anticipates some turbulence, and so always may we. In Psalm 139 the psalmist realizes that there are no spatial conditions in which God is not present (vs 9, 10). We also sin, fail and find creative ways to bring trouble on ourselves. Like Peter and many others we feel unworthy and disqualified from being in God’s presence. He not only remains with us, but continues to work in ways far beyond us toward the restoration of which St. Patrick speaks.

On his departing Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit in his place. At the start of a new year we say: “Come Holy Spirit.” He has been given to us in order that we may “understand what God has freely given us” (2 Corinthians 2:12). As at Advent, so too in each new day, the most precious thing he gives to us is his presence. We desire to know it in ever greater ways.

Imago Dei Christian Communities
Paul Woodyard

For Reflection and Prayer:
1. What are the circumstances and settings in which you seem to experience God’s presence most readily?

2. In what situations do you find it difficult to know God’s presence?

3. Can you recall a time when you’ve experienced an awakening or shift within that brought a fresh sense of the presence of God?

The following is a simple prayer exercise from “The Cry of the Deer,” a Commentary on the Hymn of St. Patrick by David Adam. As you are led you may substitute words- Your Presence is in _______; my car; my bedroom as I go to sleep; … You may also substitute whatever grace you seek from God for the word “Peace”; Your Presence is love, joy, strength.

Your Presence is in my life
Your Presence is all around me
Your Presence is Peace.

Your Presence is in my house
Your Presence is all around me
Your Presence is Peace.

Your Presence is in my work
Your Presence is all around me
Your Presence is Peace.

Meditation for Monday December 16, 2019

He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.
 Job 12:22

In the prologue of his gospel John announces, with regards to Christmas, that  “the true light that gives light to every person” has come into the world (Jn. 1:9).  It is a light that brings us hope and the promise that darkness will soon be dispelled from our lives.  We are to watch, pray and wait as we witness the effects of this light in us, and in our history.  And we are to serve its increase in the world.

But as time unfolds, we come to realize that this Divine Light has properties that are quite different from those we would normally assume.  We learn that its increase is more incremental, and not as immediate as we might expect light to be.

When a light switch is turned on in a dark room the light bulb immediately dispels the darkness, illuminating even the corners.  But the light of Christ is different.  Like yeast in the dough, it works itself slowly through all creation.  As the book of Proverbs notes, it is like “the first gleam of dawn, that shines ever brighter till the full light of day” (Prov. 4:18). If we are awake and paying attention in the early morning, we might notice how the world around us gently, almost imperceptibly, changes from dark shapes to gradually-brightening colours. Trees that looked black take on hues of green and brown. The gleam of Christ will eventually fill and ‘colour’ all things.  But before it does, the darkness must first be exposed.  Its “deep shadows” must be fully brought to light.  And this, it would seem, is what takes time.

If you have ever worked with long exposure photography you know something of the beautiful effects one can get from the slow accumulation of light.  In “old school” photography, where negative film is used, the amount of light that comes into a camera is determined by the length of time the shutter stays open.  For night photography, where your subject might be a star or a dimly lit building, you have to keep the shutter open so the light will gather onto the negative.  The longer the shutter remains open, the more light comes into the camera.  If it were left open, the light would eventually fill the whole negative and completely expose the dark parts of the film.  So it is with the light of Christ in our lives.  As we remain open, His light reaches our darkest shadows.

There is another aspect of this analogy that also applies to our spiritual life.  In order for a camera to capture a true image in a dark setting a tripod is necessary to keep it still.  If there is movement in the camera, the image produced by the light will be blurred.  For us too, the stillness we bring to our prayer allows Christ’s light to form its image more precisely in us.  It ensures that our sense of God is not blurred by lesser lights.

The general rule for photography then is that the darker it is outside, the longer the shutter needs to remain open, and the more still the camera needs to be in relationship to the light that is accumulating.  It would seem that something very similar is taking place in us as well.

The darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
1John 2:8

Rob and Ruth Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities

For Group Discussion:

  1. Spend some time in stillness inviting God to show you places of darkness or light.
  1. How have you experienced the gentle gleam of Christ in your life?
  1. How does this light bring hope and promise?

For Prayer: Illumine my heart, Jesus, and dispel the darkness I sometimes ignore or even choose. Give me patience for your slow unfolding work in me.

Meditation for Monday, December 02, 2019

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”             Matthew  13:33

Jesus is born!  God, who created all that has been made, now becomes a part of what He created.  Eternity enters the creation and begins the work of transforming all things into its own likeness.  From a source of life no larger than the size of a baby emanates a Truth so secure and so integral that all of life will eventually conform to its shape.   This ‘yeast’ of Christmas will continue to grow throughout creation until it raises all things—until Christ is ‘all in all.’  This is pretty good news for otherwise flat bread.

You can pull at bread dough all you want from the outside and you will never be able to do more than stretch it out a little.  But a tiny bit of yeast mixed into the dough starts working pretty impressively from the inside out.  It inflates the dough like a tire and eventually causes it to rise up to a full loaf.   We too, like bread, are being raised from the inside out by this wonderful motion that is leading all of creation upwards towards eternal life. Just as the yeast in the dough metabolizes the starches and sugars in the flour, so we are being transformed by the work of God in us.  No wonder we celebrate Christmas!

Like leaven deep in the hearts of men and women, the Holy Spirit is in the process of expanding outwards.  As Paul recognized, “all over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” (Col. 1:6)   We are part of an increasing yield that has been accumulating throughout history since the day Christ was born.  In this slow and most subversive way God is reclaiming His creation.

What a joy it is to celebrate at Christmas time the humble beginnings of God’s restoration of the world.  God permeates creation from the inside-out!  It’s brilliant!  As Jesus makes clear in this parable, there is a large amount of flour that needs to be raised but, without a doubt, the leaven will soon work itself throughout the entire dough.   Maranatha!

Let us rejoice that the process has surely begun.

Rob & Ruth Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities

For Group Discussion:

  1. How do you feel you are being expanded by God? What is the fruit?
  1. Consider places in your life which are still like flatbread. Where do you need leaven?
  1. What is God’s grace and truth creating in you?

For Prayer:  God, reclaim yourself in me! I rejoice in the hope and possibility of transformation and being drawn to you!

Meditation for Monday October 21, 2019

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.        
Psalm 61:2

The Presence of God is the very origin and wellspring of life itself.  It is no wonder then, that to draw near this Presence is to approach the most fertile place in existence, and to draw away from it is to move in the direction of non-growth, which ultimately leads to death.

A lot of what Jesus had to say about the kingdom of heaven had to do with how things prosper and bear good fruit because of their proximity to God.  To be close to Jesus, the true vine, is synonymous with growth, and conversely, spiritual growth in our lives is a sign that we are living in the realm of God’s kingdom.

It is possible however, for any of us to stop growing in our faith.  We find ourselves on a plateau of spirituality, assuming that this depth of relationship we experience with God is all that the Christian life has to offer.  But thankfully, the Lord has made this conclusion an uncomfortable one for us.  More often than not we feel restless in our spirits as we pine for an experience of spiritual life that is greater than the one we presently have.  And the fact that we hunger for more is the very evidence of the Spirit’s activity in us.

Before growth occurs, God often instills in us a deep desire for change.  This sets up a momentum for growth that continues to thrive long after the initial spurt.  Many saints have identified how desire for God leads not only to satisfaction, but often to an even greater experience of desire.  Hungering and thirsting for a deeper relationship with God then is a sure sign that a person is truly in spiritual direction.  It is the outreach of the soul for its next stage of maturity.  And to simply have this desire for growth is to participate with divinity.

The Jesuits begin their prayers by asking for the particular grace they wish to receive each day.  A common grace to ask for is the “desire to desire” God.  The logic here is that since it is God who first places spiritual hunger in our hearts, it is appropriate for us to desire such a desire.  The gift of longing, once received, assures the heart that it will be led to the object of its desire, simply because the divine grace is now present to seek it.

Julian of Norwich, a 14th cent. mystic, once heard a word from the Lord that helped identify this relationship to the God-granted desire within her.  In one of her many “showings,” the Lord revealed Himself to Julian saying,

 “I am the ground of thy beseeching.  If I caused you to beseech, will I not also grant you the object of your beseeching?”  

The desire by which Julian was led to seek God was also the evidence that the object of her desire was within reach.  God caused her to long for union with Him, and that longing was the God-given assurance that it would be fulfilled.

Consider the spiritual desires that you presently experience, and reflect how God has placed these within you in order to cause you to seek Him.  Our deep longings, far from revealing inadequacy, can be welcomed as a precious gift, a token of what is to come in their satisfaction.  It is the faith that we apply to longing that allows such hope to turn into certainty.

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for Jan 2006)

For Group Discussion:

  1. Is the experience of a spiritual plateau a familiar one for you?
  1. Are you aware of any spiritual longing which might be growing within you, or places of restlessness?
  1. Do you feel an invitation from God to participate with this movement to change?

For Prayer: I offer a prayer for the grace I desire in this day. I pray in faith with the longing of my heart to be closer to you. Grant me growth in my life in you.

Meditation for Monday, October 7, 2019

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!   1 John 3:1

What is your relationship like with God? We often picture Jesus as a friend, but God as a rather distant authoritarian figure, whose responses you are never quite sure of—thunder and lightning, a pillar of fire, one watching our every move. Is God someone you embrace warmly or stand bowed before in fear and awe? Maybe all of those are parts of how we perceive God, and that is bound to impact how we approach or even desire relationship with God.

Henri Nouwen speaks of icons or sacred paintings as being “created for the sole purpose of offering access, through the gate of the visible, to the mystery of the invisible.” They “are painted to lead us into the room of prayer and bring us close to the heart of God,” even offering us “a glimpse of heaven.” (Behold the Beauty of the Lord)

The Return of the Prodigal Son is an oil painting by Rembrandt. It is among the Dutch master’s final works, likely completed within two years of his death. In this picture, there are layers of detail which invite us to consider God’s posture towards us. Here he receives the prodigal back home. Spend some time absorbing the father’s expression and stance with the son who has rejected life in the family and has gone his own way. (a bigger version on-screen is helpful) Realizing his need, the son returns humbly and contritely. Does the father stand back, condemning his filth and folly? What do you notice in this rich depiction of the reunion?


As he meditates on this picture, Henri Nouwen says, ‘As the prodigal son in the embrace of the Father, I have to kneel, put my ear upon His chest & listen to the heartbeat of God’. (The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming) This is an expression of deep intimacy and welcome. Does the father not realize the self-indulgence, rejection, and failure the son represents? Yet he holds the young man close, heedless of the smell, dirt and distance which has been between them. Is this how you feel—held tightly, received, loved?

It is no accident that Ignatius of Loyola begins his Spiritual Exercises with scriptures and praying through God’s expressions of love towards us. This is the foundation of understanding and approaching God, before we even look at our own state.

God stands waiting and watching for us to come home, ready to welcome and spend time with us. Just as the prodigal rehearsed his confession, we often arrive with our list of needs and wants in hand. As we approach, our explanations are silenced. We only kneel, come close and listen to God’s heartbeat. This is prayer—being with the One who loves us more than we can imagine!

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.    Luke 15:20

Imago Dei Christian  Communities
Ruth Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Community

For Group Discussion:

  1. What is the image of God you typically ‘carry’ in your experience? Spend some time exploring where that has grown from.
  2. What particularly strikes you in this image of the father receiving the prodigal? Why?
  3. What do you desire in your relationship with God?
  4. How does this fit with your experience of prayer?

For Prayer: Help me know and realize your desire to love and embrace me as your child. Let me come in trust and surrender to be enfolded in that love. I want to be yours.

Meditation for Monday, September 16, 2019

“There remains then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.” Heb. 4:9-10

Isn’t there something odd about this exhortation—make every effort to enter God’s rest? What is the nature of such rest that requires so much effort to enter? It is apparent from the strong wording of this passage that we are called to consider the concept of a Sabbath-rest as a serious goal of our spiritual direction and to cultivate a lifestyle that will allow us to remain in it.

If nothing else this exhortation is a sober word to those who would endeavor to enter into God’s rest to not underestimate the effort it will take. There are obstacles ahead. And it seems, from what is being said here, that our ‘work’ is what is most in the way of our ‘rest.’

The ‘athletes for God’—those men and women of the past centuries (and present ones) who pursued deep relationship with God with such fruit—all seemed to have a particular insight into what they called the ‘mortification of the self’. We shy away from such concepts today, assuming them to be more related to a spirit of masochism than from God. But what inspired these otherwise pretty lucid saints to such an unpopular approach?

As we pursue our rest in God we will increasingly become aware of the commotion of our inner life. These saints recognized this acutely. And, in their efforts to still their souls, undertook the task of dying to themselves in order to live more fully in God.

To rest in God simply means to love Him in the full security of faith—to love being with Him more than anywhere else. Whenever we are able to hold our souls in His presence, not allowing ourselves to be lured away by any other desire or fear of the heart, we have surely entered the Sabbath-rest that has been prescribed for the people of God. Let us hope in anticipation of the finished work of the Spirit in us that this becomes our increasing experience.

“It is necessary before all things to obtain tranquility; it is the mother of contentment. The opportunities of practicing it are daily.” -St. Frances de Sales

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christan Communities
written for November 2004

For reflection:

 1. How do you respond to the exhortation of the text? What about the promise that precedes the exhortation?
2. If rest in God means loving him in “full security of faith,” what obstacles to rest can you identify? What effort or actions need to take place to remove these obstacles?
3.What longing do you feel for God’s loving rest beyond your normal patterns of work and rest?

For Prayer: Lord, we thank you for your promise of rest. We long for this rest, grant us a greater longing. Grant us grace today and in the days ahead to displace useless labor and anxious ways of being with time spent in your loving and restful presence. May the knowledge of your great love and complete provision for our needs grow within us. We give you thanks, Amen.

Meditation for Monday, September 2, 2019

“Samuel, Samuel”……”Speak for your servant is listening.” 1Sam. 3:10

Most Christians I know struggle with the idea of how to hear God’s voice. There are many times in life when we feel desperate to hear a word from God. What should I do? Where should I go? Who am I? Who are you? Our desire to hear from God often comes from a pressing need we have for which God’s clear direction would be the most direct remedy. But here, in the story of Samuel, we see another disposition towards hearing God’s voice—where the need that is being responded to is not ours, but God’s.

How often do we feel God tugging at our hearts with an invitation to approach Him? It might not come in the form of a complete sentence but it’s easy to know what God is communicating when we sense the gentle breeze of desire for intimacy with God pass through our hearts. Perhaps, like Samuel, we need to cultivate the simple response of being attentive to God. Here I am Lord. I heard you call. What would You like? Speak, for your servant is listening. Hearing from God, for Samuel, certainly had more to do with what God might need from him than from what he might need from God.

God does call to us, at every moment of our existence. By His very nature He pours forth speech all day long. And we are always the objects of His communication. “Doug, Doug,….Michelle, Michelle…..Janet, Janet……Greg, Greg………”

Can we hear the voice of the One who loves us, beckoning our names? We have opportunity, every time we sense God calling us, to respond with the simple act of showing up—to go as quickly as we can, find a secret place, and be attentive to the Lord. Here I am Lord. This was Samuel’s posture. And 1Sam. 3:19 says, “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and He let none of His words fall to the ground.” Samuel was a good catcher of God’s spirit.

                                “Speak Lord, for now your servant is listening.”

Imago Dei Christian Communities
Rob Des Cotes
written for Nov 10, 2004

For reflection and prayer:
1.What words or posture of heart do you associate with being attentive to God?
2.Reflect on the blessedness of being known, loved  and called by name by God.
Prayer is both an out pouring of our hearts to God in praise and need, as well as receptivity to God’s voice as illustrated by Samuel’s words above. As the fall approaches, with new regimes of activities, work and service, we no doubt seek God’s voice, direction and blessing. Perhaps there are triggers of anxiety associated with what lies ahead, as well as joy and anticipation of good things to come. In the midst of the many things that we may request of God in prayer, let’s be intentional about also spending time in inner silence with our needs and desires set aside in order to hear what God may be wishing to say to us.
Give thanks that as the Lord was with Samuel, so according to his promise, he will be with you this day and the days ahead.

Meditation for Monday June 17, 2019

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”  Mat. 5:6

Hunger and thirst–words that can easily reach a point of desperation. If these words are not satisfied we soon die. For Jesus to apply these to the longing for righteousness implies a level of need that I for one have not often experienced. I certainly agree that righteousness is something we should aspire to, and I enjoy those moments whenever I get to taste it in my own life, but something seems to be missing in me that would cause me to have such an intense desire for it. What is it that I don’t see? It’s obvious that righteousness is something that Jesus wants me to pursue more intentionally in my life-with the promise of blessing. According to Jesus, there is something that needs to be filled in my life by what this word represents for us.

Righteousness – it is a word we rarely use in our day, except in the negative connotation of ‘self-righteousness.’ What exactly does righteousness mean as it applies to you and I? I know a little from experience of the satisfaction of having behaved, or spoken from a place of righteousness. How do I know? Well, I guess because it feels so affirmed in my heart. I sense in those moments that I am exactly the way I am supposed to be, and that it is good in God’s eyes.

I also sense that righteousness is something that is particular to who I am—that there is some unique expression of righteousness that only I can fulfill. It gets worked out through the subtleties of my personality, it comes out in the tone of my voice, or in the particular way I look and respond to people. These are life expressions that each of us, original as we are, uniquely get to be. Just think of it, you have your very own niche of righteousness in the kingdom!

Lest we get carried away with the idea of being righteous though, we read in Scripture that righteousness is not something that we can create on our own. Our best attempts at it are like rags compared to the real thing that can only come from God. The righteousness that we are filled with is in fact the very spirit of Christ flashing its character in us, reflected in the uniqueness of our personality and the actions of our life. It is the grace and beauty of Christ’s life expressed within ours.
It is His righteousness, not ours. That’s why there is no credit to be had, no self-congratulation and especially, no self-righteousness. Our job is to seek to grow in our desire-to hunger and thirst for that which God offers to fill us with, and then to praise Him for the beauty of His actions within us.

The just man justices; Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is-Christ,
For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his,
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

From Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame.”

Imago Dei Christian Communities
Rob Des Cotes
written for Nov 5, 2004

For Group Discussion:
1. How would you describe the ebb and flow of your longing for righteousness? What do you perceive to be the conditions of your heart and life that would be favorable to a robust hunger for righteousness?

2. Can you describe occasions in which you’ve been aware of the graced presence of Christ bestowing his righteousness in and through you?

3. Discuss the role of  the disciplines of prayer, Scripture reading, an intentional daily awareness of Christ’s presence, as well as the practices of self-denial, humility, simplicity, and obedience in fostering a strong desire for righteousness.

For Prayer:
Our longings and desires reveal much about the state of our hearts, taking inventory of them can be very humbling! In the quiet and spaciousness of prayer, thank God for the measure of desire you have for Him and his righteousness, and ask by his grace to increase this desire to the exclusion of temporal and trivial desires that need to be set aside.

Meditation for Monday May 6, 2019

“The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat.” Psalm 19:4b-6

Most of us are familiar with the challenge of settling our hearts to be with God in prayer. As C.S. Lewis noted, this happens “the very moment you wake up. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job in the morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice.”  Then there’s the further challenge at the end of prayer to retain the sense of God’s presence as we enter our day with its demands and distractions. By God’s grace he holds us and is present to us in spite of our awareness of him being easily dissipated. In his great mercy and provision, we are also gifted to see and know him in unexpected times and places.

Contemplative author and speaker James Finley has a beautiful and helpful expression to describe such gifts:  “moments of spontaneous contemplative awakening.”  In such instances the eyes of our hearts may unexpectedly be opened to God’s presence. Finley suggests that though these experiences are usually fleeting, they are glimpses into eternal realities, and they leave an indelible mark on our hearts. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4 that “the things that are visible are temporary but the things that are invisible are eternal” (vs 18).  In moments of spontaneous contemplative awakening we may see beyond the exquisite beauty of creation and apprehend God himself.

This was the Psalmist’s experience. “The sun lives in the heavens where God has placed it.” Similarly our minds may be awakened from the “lethargy of the familiar” to sense the wonder of the rhythms of the natural order, and we see all creation as being infused with God’s presence and sustaining power (Hebrews 1:3). This kind of awakening includes seeing with new eyes the miracle and mystery of life of all kinds, especially human life: people we encounter by design or in passing, all of whom bear the image of their Creator.

Finley uses a further phrase to denote unexpected experiences of God. He describes moments in which we may encounter “a holiness in progress.” The context of this expression is an address Finley gives on the inexhaustible attributes of God, his infinite love and his eternal power to sustain all aspects of the natural world. Like the psalmist observing the motion in the heavens so we may be witness to the  glorious varieties of motion in creation. Finley describes his own such experience as seeing a large flock of geese take flight from the surface of a lake.

As contemplatives we treasure and practice stillness (“be still and know” Ps. 46:10), and there is also breathtaking stillness in nature. But we may still be reminded that the holiness we seek is not ultimately static but “in progress.” God’s purposes for us and work within us are ongoing even though it may feel otherwise sometimes. We may think of Moses’ surprise experience of the burning bush (Ex 3) as an example of “a holiness in progress.” Fire is such an evocative entity – even more so if we reflect on its place in the ancient world. The bush was not consumed by the flame, and God was explicitly present. Moses had been on the sidelines and dwelling in the obscurity of extreme wilderness, both literally and figuratively. He was not likely living with much expectation. God’s message to Moses: “I see, I know, I am present, I will be with you.” While this occasion was momentous and unique for Moses as God’s choice to rescue Israel, such experiences may be part of any humble quest to see and know God in all things.

Moments of spontaneous contemplative awakening are the seeds of a deeper walk with God and they enlarge our hearts and our view of God. Spiritual director and author Tilden Edwards quotes a beloved elderly nun he knows as saying: “Only the sky is an adequate icon for God.” May we, through the practice of prayer, cultivate our hearts to be receptive to God’s unexpected initiatives within us and to see him in all things.

“And the church is his body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with his presence.” Ephesians 1:23.

Paul Woodyard
Imago Dei Christian Community

For group discussion:

1.Can you recall/describe an experience in which you were awakened to a wonderful aspect of creation?

2.The dissipation of our sense of God following a time of prayer is natural to a degree. How do you experience this and what practices might sustain this sense of God or bring recall of his presence?

3.How do you perceive God’s “motion” or activity in your life versus the in-between times of stillness and silence?

For Prayer:

Let us welcome God’s initiative within us to awaken, in his good time, our hearts to his glory and beauty; and seek his grace to grow in the knowledge of his nearness.