Featured Article July-August 2012

Travel – Searching for the Holy

Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God.

                                                                                                            Prologue 9a

 In the Rule Benedict reminds us that God’s presence is everywhere (RB 19.1).  He also assures us that in God’s great love we are shown the way of life (Prologue 20).  The voice of God is calling to us all the time! (Prologue 19).  How can we be alert for this constant Presence.  As Benedict established a school for the Lord’s service (Prologue 45) perhaps you and I can use life as this school and be intentional about looking for God and what God is teaching us through all the experiences of life.

I have found that travel offers abundant experiences of the Holy when I take the time to notice and reflect.   When we travel you and I can bring home not just great memories and stunning photos but also experiences of God’s presence along the way by asking a couple simple questions:

Where and how is God present here?

            What might God be teaching me in what I experience in my travels?

My husband John, his mother Ruth and I took a trip several years ago to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  Wonderful memories abound but it was through Coco, the dog of our marvelous innkeepers at the Notchland Inn, that God brought insight to me.

Mostly black with touches of white and with brown legs and feet, Coco was a Bernese Mountain Dog with a lovely and engaging personality.  Coco had a meal routine.  After the main course she was allowed to visit the guests at the dinner tables.  (We were told she knew when these visits were to begin because she smelled the coffee!)  Coco would come up to each table, sit back on her hind end, raise herself up with front legs dangling before her chest, and beg for food.  Any morsel will do, thank you very much.  With wide-open mouth and dangling tongue in a huge and difficult to resist grin, she laid on the perfected “aren’t-I-cute-and-irresistible-and-don’t-you-want-to-give-me-treat” look which, of course, we all had to resist.  Loping from table to table in persistent hopefulness, never giving up, she would ask again and again for the same thing…anything edible!!  One night she even trotted to the back of the room, stood in the exact center, assumed her “beg position” and surveyed the entire room at once.  Her grinning face turned from left to right and right to left, back and forth, giving a general appeal to the whole room. We all thought she was great and would have happily shared morsels with her had an understandably sensible appeal not to do so was voiced by innkeepers Les and Ed.  Yet undeterred by the absence of response, she was cheerful and persistent in her begging.

I reflected on Coco and her begging.  We tend to think that God doesn’t want us to beg.  Yet Jesus told a parable about the need to pray always and not to lose heart (Luke 18:1-8).  A woman persistently came before the judge seeking justice until, finally, in exasperation, he granted her what she desired.  How much more, Jesus says, will God grant justice and help those who call out day and night?

“Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Luke 11:9-10

 It is okay to beg to God.  I think that God looks forward to our prayers of begging. In these prayers, many of which are deep with pain, longing or grief, God holds out the hand of love to us.  As we beg, like Coco, again and again, our soul opens to the touch of the One Creator.  The prayer is a door to God’s love. Each time God reaches yet another corner of our being.  And with each cry and with each petition, we empty ourselves and are filled a little more with the inner healing of Christ.

Benedict encourages the monastics to perform the Work of God as best as they can while away from the monastery.  Perhaps our Work of God could be to look carefully at life before us and search for God and God’s instruction in all the happenings of our life.  We could even beg to learn to do this!

I wish you blessings as our summer draws to a close.

Jane

© August 2012 The Rev. Dr. Jane A. Tomaine

See “A Tool for Looking for God in Our Experiences”

 

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