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Crazed hatred stalks the chambers of governments; fuels killings in war zones, in classrooms and back alleys, within wombs; shreds trust in all segments of society; demoralizes familes. In desperate straits, we cry out:

Our Father who art in heaven—We seek the center-point of your silence within our shadowy depths.

Hallowed be your name— Arms outstretched, we prostrate ourselves before your inexplicable holiness. We wait.

Thy Kingdom come—We yearn for color-flushes that alone eradicate the global gutting of psyches.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven—We surrender anew to this empowerment; its multifaceted bliss stirs us.

Give us this day our daily bread—We yearn for spiritual sustenance, one day at a time, which alone fortifies our tentative steps across rocky terrains.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us—We own our violence to ourselves and to others and beg forgiveness; such energize us to forgive others and repair rifts in the social fabric. Our part does matter.

And lead us not into temptation—We beg for discipline to listen for true guidance emanating from within and without.

Deliver us from evil—We pray for discernment to avoid the allure of evil in its multiple disguises.

For Thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, both now and forevermore—We rejoice within this freshness and thrive, despite the cloying darkness that still surrounds us. We have the protection.

Amen—And so it is.

 

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Overhead, chilly breezes sniggle through lofty branches, nudging leaves onto the steaming cinder path opening before me. A junior squirrel, new to October, darts across a fallen log patterned with sworls of lichen. Only crickets impregnate the stillness. In the distance trios of red berries festoon the new growth of Missouri Honeysuckle, tangled like debris in the wake of a hurricane. And nearby, the barest suggestion of scarlet blushes the tops of burning bushes.

Breezes smart my face as I tie the hood under my chin and continue up the path. Mounds of Virginia Creeper enwrap a decades-old maple tree; their honeyed white blossoms long gone, have morphed into their next phase that resemble The Bearded Old Man, most appropriate for Halloween spooks. Brilliant pointed leaves of another shrub resemble the tunic of a court jester.

I stop. There’s something different about these woods. The colors are all off: olive, saffron, mustard, chocolate have begun to supplant summer’s bountiful greening. Insects have shredded leaves; dryness has shriveled others. It’s as if nature has been flummoxed. Stunned into inactivity

Not to grouse that seasonal dying is underway. Not to fret that drabness will be the new normal—but just for a while. Not to fear the encroaching darkness of winter. For those who can see, strange beauty awaits us.

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Cultivating stillness opens us to hushed realms that envelop our senses within fresh vistas: colors scintillate, textures surprise, harmonies thrill, sweetness soothes, and aromas vibrate. Our spirits quicken and we are exceedingly glad.

Once there, we discover, anew, the wordless swirl of Creator-Love that enlivens our next breath, that resonates within each cell in our bodies, and that swells us with bliss–perhaps similar to Adam and Eve’s experience in the Genesis story.

The challenge lies in the cultivation of this stillness. Within us lie discordant voices that seduce, that insinuate, that cajole, that clamor–activated by subtle or monstrous fears within our psyches or the world around us. The illusion of being trapped overwhelms and disembowels our spirits. We feel helpless.

But there is a way out. Recourse to wise teachers tears apart that madness, and once again, we’re invited to embrace the practice of stillness, whether experienced in prayer or a simple walk outdoors.

 

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We are reminded in 1 Kings, 19: 11-13 – “Be still and know that I am God.” Within such stillness, we’re born again, until the next upheaval and the next recourse to Creator-God.

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