Boredom

As a child I occasionally got bored.  I would go whining to my mother, who would give me some ideas about what to do that seldom suited me.  Nevertheless, it got me thinking and opening to what it was that I wanted to do and what it would take to get to do it.  The period of boredom let creativity and new ideas arise.

Today many of us live lives so full of work, family needs, electronic stimuli, and distractions that we never have time to be bored.  We may miss the chance to get out of the rut or off the gerbil wheel and hear a word of new direction or grace.  I remember suggesting to a clergyperson with whom I met in spiritual direction that he might want to reserve some unplanned time in his sabbatical.  Getting bored would give him time to empty out and be refilled.

Some years ago I attended a one-day centering prayer retreat, with three periods of centering prayer.  In my typical experience, I have a busy mind and return often to the sacred word I have chosen as a symbol of my intent to be open to the presence and action of God in my life.  That afternoon, in the final period of centering prayer, I wasn’t aware of that busyness.  In fact, as I reflected afterwards on the experience, I felt completely empty.  And that experience felt boring and uncomfortable.

Although I have continued to practice centering prayer, I haven’t wanted to try an extended retreat for fear I might encounter that emptiness and boredom again.  Only recently have I been enabled to see that what I received in that experience of centering prayer was “a gift of time that did not have to be filled.”  As Father Carl Arico of Contemplative Outreach told me, I was “already in God’s presence.”  I had in me “the emptiness that leads to spaciousness.”  When I experience boredom again, I will look for God’s presence and gift.

Queries:

What is your experience of boredom?

How might you find in your life that kind of emptiness that leads to spaciousness?  (Remember that it can come in moments as well as in hours and days.)

Prayer:

Set aside ten minutes.  Write or record one thing after another that concerns you until you run out of steam or out of time.  Place those concerns, literally or figuratively, in a sacred place (eg., under a rock, on a table, in your Bible), and let them go to the One who can carry them.

For further reflection:

“O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (See Isaiah 40: 3-5).

Living with Joy

Today is a beautiful, bright, sunny day. The air is crisp and cool, and the light and shadows dancing amidst the green leaves dazzle my eyes. The birds are in and out consuming the birdseed in my birdfeeder—including a brown-headed nuthatch. This day could go by, one more day in a lifetime, or it can be an opportunity for joy. I can stop and soak up the beauty of what I can see—and be in the presence of the Creator. I can take in the gift and let it run through my veins, energizing my soul and filling me with joy.

Another day I was with people who, because we felt safe in the group, dared to express their discomfort with the word faith and to ask questions. We had a wonderful conversation. It became a joyful moment of transformation. Later that day I took my car into the shop for routine maintenance. The joy came there when two service people helped me finally learn how to get spoken directions in the car to assist me in finding my destination when I travel.

Our days are often so full that what happens in the day becomes a blur and disappears into history. But to stop and look back over the day, remembering the sweet moments and the gifts that came amidst everything else, is to frame the day with joy and possibility and to give thanks and praise to the Giver of all good gifts.

My sister is a quilter. She loves to include lots of different, beautiful, and interesting fabrics. Sometimes I get to help her pick out the fabrics for the quilt. I get such pleasure out of looking at the fabrics, trying to find one that meets her needs, and then getting to let her take all the responsibility of making the selection. Later in the quilting process I help choose what fabric goes where. Each of us is being creative. When we co-create with God, joy is there.

Living with joy, when there is much that is terrible and sad, is important. It is not putting one’s head in the sand or playing pretend. It makes space and creates energy for God’s presence and action in the world. For the Christian it proclaims resurrection good news, that with God there is always hope and new life.

Queries:

What gives you joy? What helps you take time to experience joy?

What place do you see for joy in the midst of the tragic events and situations in our world?

Prayer:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits.” (Psalm 103: 1-2)

For further reflection:

“You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken. You cover it with the deep as with a garment.” (Read Psalm 104)

“A woman . . . began to bathe [Jesus’] feet with her tears. . . (See Luke 7: 36-50).