Aug 1st, 2012 | By Nancie Carmichael | Category: Women of Faith, Words of Wisdom
By Nancie Carmichael –
Lately I’ve been captivated by the lives and writings of the early saints. Three of them, especially, are speaking to me. I say “speaking to me” in that I am reading their writings, their biographies and I’m surprised as well as reassured to see that their writings and experiences are relevant to my own life: Saint Benedict, Brother Lawrence, and Madame Guyon.
Saint Benedict and his Rule have been around since the Sixth Century (he was the founder of the Benedictines), and people are still following his Rule in their daily life. Benedict’s Rules deal with the importance of sacred, meditative readings; of silence; of community, and service. Anything that’s been around this long demands our attention, and I’m trying to incorporate some of his principles.
I’m also re-reading Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God.” He was a monk in the 1600’s who worked in the kitchen, and decided he could do his common, ordinary chores all for the love of God. As he worked in the yard, he mused that he could even pick up a piece of straw for the love of God. Brother Lawrence said, “Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which is, to think often on God, by day, by night, in your business, and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone. You would think it rude to leave a friend alone who came to visit you; why then, must God be neglected?”
So as I worked in the yard today, I thought, I guess I will try weed-eating and putting down fresh bark mulch for the love of God! Practice the Presence, even in that. It certainly does take practice. Practice being thankful for the energy to do such things, thankful for the beautiful sunshine…practice ignoring my aching back!
I’m also reading Madame Jeanne Guyon, a French noblewoman who lived in the17th Century. Her writings are powerful and deal with prayer, the holy life, and accepting the grace of God. It is insightful to read her biography: Her brother, a leading priest in the church, didn’t like her theology about the grace of God and had her thrown into the Bastille for a few years. Yet in her writing, she doesn’t complain about it—nor wax eloquently about her brother’s betrayal. She doesn’t even describe all the losses she experienced—her children, her husband, leaving her a widow at the age of 28. All of these dramas could easily qualify her to be on Oprah and if anyone had the right to complain, she did. But no. Her writings are consumed by prayer, and the passion to help others find a simpler way to the Presence. Pay no mind. Take no heed. Be not afraid. Only trust, only pray.
In every simple, ordinary day…and some not-so-ordinary…these saints are instructing me to remember that God is indeed in everything: He is in the joyous, celebratory ones. He is in the uncertain ones, the fearful ones. And yes, He is in every common, ordinary, wonderful, sweat-filled moment.
In our time when everyone can be the star of his or her own reality show via Facebook or Twitter, maybe ordinary—Wonderful Ordinary—is getting lost. Ordinary can be quite maddening. It’s so ill-defined; so unremarkable, and somehow I find practicing the Presence of God in the ordinary moments harder than in the other extremes of the highs and lows, just because they’re so—well, ordinary. But if I look at them closer, and like Brother Lawrence, pray in those moments, doing all for the glory of God…doing it all out of love…I see that the ordinary moments are not ordinary. They are places of preparation, places of testing. They reveal our motives, our hearts, something Jesus talked about a lot.
The real truth is that it’s the ordinary that is so special. Ask a refugee: Wouldn’t an ordinary, common home-cooked meal in the family home be wonderful? Ask someone who has lost a spouse: Wouldn’t an ordinary day doing chores, or riding bikes together be extra-ordinary? Ask someone who is desperately ill: How would you like an ordinary day, free from pain?
So Lord, as I go about my wonderful, ordinary life, caring for things, doing my work, fulfilling chores and responsibilities, open my eyes to your Presence. May I listen deeply to you. May I listen deeply and reflectively to scripture. May I listen to others, to what is happening in my life. And may my eyes be opened to each beautiful ordinary moment, and see you there.
Nancie Carmichael has worked with her husband, Bill in the publishing field for many years as they published Virtue Magazine and Christian Parenting Magazine. They now own a book publishing company, Deep River Books.
Nancie and Bill have written several books together including: Lord, Bless My Child. Nancie has written and contributed to many books including Selah: Time to Stop, Think, and Step into Your Future; and her latest book, Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning.
Bill and Nancie live in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and are parents to five married children and grandparents to ten. They are excited about doing “Grandkid Camp 2012.” The theme this year is The Olympics—“Running the Race.”