Friday, July 27, 2012

The Spiritual Practice of Staying Present

I began the week thinking about Mary Magdalene.  Let me end the week thinking about her.

My thoughts returned to her when I read this powerful post by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  This part of her post spoke to me most strongly: 

"My Bishop Allan Bjornberg once said that the Greatest spiritual practice isn’t yoga or praying the hours or living in intentional poverty although these are all beautiful in their own way. The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up.

And in some ways Mary Magdalen is like, the patron saint of just showing up.

Because showing up means being present to what is real, what is actually happening. She didn’t necessarily know what to say or what to do or even what to think….but none of that is nearly as important as the fact that she just showed up. She showed up at the cross where her teacher Jesus became a victim of our violence and terror. She looked on as the man who had set her free from her own darkness bore the evil and violence of the whole world upon himself and yet still she showed up."

I love this idea of being present as a valid spiritual practice--perhaps the most important spiritual practice.  It's been the kind of week where I've had to struggle to stay present.  We have family visiting, and part of my brain is thinking about grocery shopping, about the vacation schedule, what needs to happen next to make their visit great.  I'm still trying to accomplish work duties.  I'm trying to think forward to what needs to be done at work, what needs to be done at church, what needs to be done for my retreat coordinator duties.  I'm trying to listen to the woes of friends and to pray.

Sometimes life tells you you're not staying present.

Wednesday, my spouse was unloading groceries. He said, "How long was this milk in the car?"

I said, "I didn't buy any milk."

"I brought in a gallon of milk."

I was confused. I didn't buy milk Wednesday; no, I had bought milk the day before. "The dishwasher soap?" It was vaguely gallon jug shaped.

"I put a gallon of milk in the fridge. Warm milk."

"But I bought milk on Tuesday." Realization dawned. Oh dear. We had left the milk in the trunk. Tuesday afternoon. Overnight. Throughout a hot summer morning. Happily, it didn't explode. What an awful clean-up experience that would be.

My brave spouse took the gallon of milk outside. His scientist self could not resist finding out that it was so curdled that he could only pour out a cup.

Well, no use crying over spoiled milk.  But it is good to remember to stay present.  Sometimes the consequences will be more severe than spoiled milk.  I'd hate to be so focused on minutiae that I miss the important events--like Christ moving among us.

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