For a Lenten practice this year, I’ve decided to do nothing.
That’s a little misleading. In order to nothing, I’ll first enter my prayer room, wrap myself in a prayer shawl, and sit in a favorite chair. But then I will simply wait, allowing myself to do nothing for fifteen or twenty minutes. I will not journal or do lectio divina or pray the psalms or do centering prayer or read one of the interesting books on my shelf, good as all those are. I will simply make space, watch and wait.
I imagine it will be a bit like when I head out on a camera walk. For the first ten or fifteen minutes, my mind chatters away. Then it gradually stills, and I can see what is around me, and receive the gifts of the day.
Or perhaps it will be like this story from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, by Sister Benedicta Ward:
A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses and asked him for a word. The old man said to him, "Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything."
Since the snow keeps on snowing, and I'm not getting out for camera walks, I will go into my cell and see what comes.
Today, it is the memory of a pebbly stream catching the light in a Japanese garden, and a sunflower full of bright summer sunshine, and a porch dusted with January snowfall.
A little sunshine works wonders. Saturday the sun shone on the huddled crocus from my last post, and this was the result -- Easter eggs. Now today they are covered with snow again, so I don't know if they will actually last until Easter, but they were a nice splash of color before the snow fell.
I spent Saturday morning leading a retreat for Assembly and Assembly North, drawing together some of the themes of Lent -- being a beloved child of God, from Assembly's work with shame and healing, and Extravagant Living, Reckless Grace, the theme from Assembly North.
I provided written and sensory resources for three areas: In a Dry and Weary Land; Coming to our Senses; and All-surrounding Grace. The retreatants had an hour and a half block to spend time alone with God, praying, using their senses, reflecting.
One retreatant enthusiastically showed me his discoveries afterward. He had chosen to spend time with a dried fig leaf, gazing at it closely, drawing it and letting it speak to him about a dry and weary land. These dry fig leafs are definitely dessicated and crumpled, but they have their own sculptural beauty.
He went on to put the stem of the leaf in a small pitcher of water, where it soaked up enough liquid to soften it just enough that he could gently spread it open. The sun was streaming in the window just beside him and he discovered that the dried leaf, seen in sunlight, had a jewel-like beauty. And when held at just the right angle in the sunlight, it was full of an inner fire.
What a beautiful image of the transforming power of grace!
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"