building a sacred space

Some days I don’t want to write.  And those are usually days I need to write the most.

I need to write not because I have some great profundity to offer.  No great story to share.  Some days I need to write because I need to build an altar with my words, I need these lines and loops to be laid down bare to build a sacred space, a thin place where I meet with Him betwixt and between the words.

Today the air hung hot, thick, heavy like a sauna with a broken on/off switch.  Nothing deep happened.  At all.

It was a day of catching up on email and projects that still have not sent because while my morning coffee sped me up, it left the internet languishing behind.  I am dirt streaked, sweltering and alternately contemplating starting a monastery or possibly searching out a semi-deserted island with perfect internet, 5 star gourmet calorie-less food, hammocks, white sand beaches, turquoise waters and a 24 hour spa.  Both are akin to some people’s daydreams of running away to join the circus.  And they are about as likely.

Please tell me I wasn’t the only little girl out there who thought Fraulein Maria had a good thing going for her when I was growing up.  I remember half joking in high school with a friend that we should start a protestant convent.  I really was only half joking.  We’ll see which half wins.

Deep inside of me there is something that needs to build a sacred space into the fabric and rhythm of my very ordinary daily world.  And that is one reason why I write.  I don’t just write because I enjoy the practice or want to wow you with life in Africa.  I mean seriously.  Today the main excitement was killing a massive creepy crawly mystery bug on the wall.  It looked dangerous enough.  And I do not do bugs.

I write because somehow in the writing my world makes more sense.  I write because in the choosing of my words I speak order into what feels like chaos and I carve out a thin place with language and beauty to encounter Him Who is Word and Expression and Creativity itself.  It is one way I build a sacred meeting space for Him and I.  It is a way I find joy in the mundane, the muddy, messy reality of my life.

To frame my world with words somehow gives it more meaning.  To me at least.  I scribble them everywhere.  Even my art is laden with language.  Writing is worship and offering and sanity. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about why this compulsion to weave words, to build altars, to find the thin moments of the day’s edges to position my heart for encounter.

What is this craving for the sacred?  To still and slow and find the pauses, the selahs with which we can truly stop and see.  Maybe it’s just that.  Maybe it is I am blind without them.  Blind to anything that truly matters at least.

And maybe it was I am created for.  To go on walks in the cool of the day with Him who knows me the best and loves me the most.  Just maybe there is a new call to the desert places, the wild untamed sacred spaces of grace that is echoing from heaven these days.  Maybe there is a new generation of forerunners called to a counter cultural way of encounter that finds meaning in the margins and gives expression to the heart of God in a way the current system never could. Perhaps there are those who by their very choice to embrace holy longing and mystery, story and journey;  authenticity, humility and grace threaten the status quo as they live out a heart that beats with His, searching out His Presence and the poor.  Running to the low forgotten places that still know their need and are doorways for heaven.

And maybe that desire of mine to start a monastery isn’t so far fetched after all.

So my friend, how do you weave a sacred space into the middle of a crowded day and a rushed through world?  How do you still and slow enough to truly see the things that matter most?

Might I suggest a very old monastic practice called an examen?  It is not some religious rigor or rule of navel gazing misery.  It is making time to draw away and draw in to Him so that you can be more fully present to all He is doing in the present moment all around you.

Some orders (of Ignatius) drew away twice, once at noon and then before bed to still and listen to His whisper and even their own hearts.   Their examen would include five main points: 1. Still enough to become aware of His Presence.  2.  Think back through the day with gratitude.  3.  Be aware of your own heart and emotions.  4.  Choose one happening or feature of the day and pray from there. 5. Look with Jesus toward tomorrow.