By Rev. Anna Blaedel
wherever you are, that is the place to begin.
do not long for the high mountaintop
when the valley is before you;
it is the valley that calls you now.
do not long for the sea
when you stand before the great plain;
for it is the expanse that asks your commitment.
do not call for wings
when you are asked to explore the deep, dark earth.
do not pray for solitude
when you are asked to be one of many.
for everywhere you are,
that is where you are called to be.
everywhere you are challenged,
this is where your gifts come to light.
everywhere you wonder,
this is where your qualities are tested.
be here, where you are.
be here, where you are called.
be here, where your life awaits your blessing.
be here, standing firmly on your ground,
looking widely through infinite eyes,
seeing all possibilities.
here, where you are.
-mary alice arthur
“Wherever you are, that is the place to begin.” So many of the spiritual practices that ground and nourish me do so by helping me pay attention to the present moment, the here, and the now, of where I am. Laughter. Silence. Brunch with beloveds. Music. Gathering at table. Activism. Meditation. This finch, feasting on these safflower seeds, on this front porch, on this late-summer Monday morning, during my prayer time. Of course, every “here” is different and fleeting, and connected to countless other “heres,” which are also countless “theres.” Process thinker Alfred North Whitehead wrote, “In a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times.” And this finch has flown away, and now a nuthatch has come to eat, and the minutes are slipping away, and so is summer, and the schoolbus rounds the corner to pick up the neighborhood kids, nervous and excited on the first day of school, and the bus waits for that one kid, running frantically down the block, backpack swinging wildly, trying to make it in time.
As soon as we stop to pray, the world is already becoming something new. Creation is emerging, and we are co-creating this world with every breath, every action and inaction.
Likewise, each “now” bleeds into the next, informed by the past, shaping the possibilities for the future. How we relate to the present—this always unfolding present—matters, in every sense of the word. It materializes how we are in relation with the countless others sharing each here, and each now.
Physics and poetry and imagination and prayer all teach us that we are all more deeply and profoundly interconnected than narratives of individualism and linear time and separability lead us to believe. Prayer is one way of tending to this profound intimacy of Divine and creaturely interconnection, where each here and each now and each we unfold from the theres and thens and theys that demand learning and healing, and into possible futures and worlds we can only begin to imagine…
“Prayer,” writes Henri Nouwen, “is the discipline of the moment. When we pray, we enter into the presence of God whose name is God-with-us.”
Prayer, the spiritual practice of paying attention to the here and now, cultivates intimacy with the Divine, who meets us in every here, and every now. Prayer can help us meet life as it is, and open creative possibilities for how we can meet life as it unfolds.
And so, knowing we are gathered in a cacophony of heres and nows, I invite you to share a prayer practice with me, this recorded Prayer of Examen. Please plan on allowing for 15 minutes, for this prayer practice.