relaxI recently made time for a silent retreat. While I wasn’t able to secure a whole day, I managed to set aside five hours, undisturbed, for prayer and reflection. I even turned off my phone.

My guide was Franciscan priest and writer Richard Rohr, in the guise of his book, “Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.” Among the wealth of epiphanies I had was around what he calls the trap of personal preferences. I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to make snap judgments about whether or not I like something, from recipes to authors to music. “If we stay in the world of preference and choice,” Rohr says, “we keep ourselves as the reference point” and limit possibilities for growth in the process. Rohr wonders,

As if it matters what color I like. Who cares what I look good in? Or what movie is pleasing to me? It changes from moment to moment. No wonder people have identity crises. No wonder people have a fragile self-image; they have nothing solid to build on beyond changing opinions and feelings. 

Prayer, he suggests, creates spaciousness in our psyche, an openness that allows for new possibilities and growth.  According to Rohr, the important question isn’t whether or not we like something. The real question is, “What does this have to say to me?” What’s the gift that’s being offered?  What can I learn from this experience? How might God be present?

I wonder how often have I denied the Spirit and deprived myself of grace and discovery by dismissing the unfamiliar or off-putting or different?

God of surprises,help keep me on my toes for your grace is sneaky.  May I be open to its many guises, that I might find you in all places and people and be renewed by your love.  Amen.

Pastor Jeff

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