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The Gift of Contemplative Living

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It always amazes me how the Spirit of God provides just what we need when we need it. When I do the math, I realize that I’ve preached over 1500 sermons in my ministry Every week I find myself sitting in front of my computer wondering what I should write about. How can I make the message of Christ new? My normal response is to open my heart to the movement of the Spirit and without much delay an image or word pops into my head. A little research and a few hours later this inspiration generally looks like a sermon.

Today was not one of those days. I opened my heart and waited…and waited. Nothing! Inspiration cannot be manufactured by any amount of effort. We can only surrender to it. And that’s when it hit me. Maybe what I need to talk about is our need to be unproductive; our need to recognize that the world revolves quite nicely without our help, if we would only take time to enjoy it.

I realize this is contrary to our culture. Society’s expectation is that we must always be contributing to the common good. Multi-tasking has become a prerequisite for life. “There’s no free lunch”, as they say, and there’s good reason for this. Each of us is responsible for our own lives and all our lives are interconnected. Life doesn’t just happen to us. We participate in it and contribute to it.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

Yet, even God took time to reflect on creation. We are instructed to keep the Sabbath. This is not just a time to rest up for the next blast of workaholic activity. It’s meant to be a time of contemplation; a time to set aside our agenda and ponder life as it presents itself without judging, critiquing or analyzing. The image we might use to better understand this is that of a small child marveling at something that we’ve stopped noticing long ago, like a bug or a stone. To a child everything is a wonder and a mystery, something to pondered and celebrate.

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash.

Today I’m offering the gift of contemplative living. Take note of life without judging it. Take time to listen to others without getting caught in the trap of wanting to fix or rescue them. Just acknowledge and appreciate what they have to say. Slow down enough to actually experience the world around you. Take time to savor the food you eat. Take in the smells that fill the air you breathe. So much of life passes us by and we never live it.

Contemplative living is how we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Pondering the mystery and beauty of life is meant to be a spiritual practice. All of creation reveals the Creator. Be intentional about acknowledging and celebrating the holiness of everything. Henry Nouwen (Dutch Catholic Priest) calls this “spiritual hospitality”. Richard Rohr (Franciscan Priest and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico) calls it “a long loving look at the real.” Whatever you call it, give yourself permission to be unproductive long enough to notice that amazing things are happening all around you. They are life-giving gifts for your soul that empower your productivity. Let your inner child show you the way.

About the Author

Rev. Rick Beck is a Moravian Pastor of thirty-one years in team ministry with his wife Wendy. He is currently serving the Good Shepherd Community Church in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) where his ministry focuses on spiritual direction. Rick is part of a team that trains spiritual directors at the FCJ Christian Life Center in Calgary, AB (Canada). He also has two spiritual direction groups in his congregation and consults other congregations on this topic.

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