To become more intentionally open to experience deeply and consistently God’s Presence, is perhaps the most important thing we can do during this unprecedented, liminal time of uncertainty and change.
I am excited to announce that starting on Memorial Day at 9:30 am, we will begin a new group meeting called: “Practicing Prayerful Presence.” Among other things, it will be a follow-up from Dr. Tim Bruster’s sermon series “A Healthy Spirituality for Our Time,” and is open to all. You can join us for any or all of the 9:30-10:30 meetings on Zoom, which will be ongoing each week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
What time? 9:30 am – 10:30 am.
When? Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
Why? Some of you have heard that I was a patient at St. Jude Children’s Hospital through much of the 1970s (and that I am coming up to my 50th year as a cancer survivor this November!). My call to ministry emerged from that “education” beginning in that time at St Jude where I learned through experience a lot about the power of compassion and connection, especially in difficult times.
At first it seemed I could only numb myself to get through the whirlwind of disorientation, pain, and vulnerability. Along the way, I had to learn to embody patience through the sickness and disappointments. I learned how meaningful it was to have people I didn’t even know, keeping my family and me in prayer. And eventually, with caring support of many others, I learned a lot about how to “breathe through” pain and struggles with growing trust (faith). Through that awakening and change in perspective, I began to experience healing and wholeness in all sorts of ways.
But a year later, due to other complications, the cancer returned and was spreading aggressively. I had to have more complicated surgery, more intense radiation treatment, and extended amounts of chemo. But I also realized that I had begun to learn about breathing deeply and letting go of pain and anxiety. After surgery and several months of treatment, I was too weak to go back to school that spring of 1973.
But I remember an important discovery that awakened inside me – something much more important than what I could have been taught in school. Able to wander into the back yard in the warmth of spring, I discovered through all my senses, that there was a Presence within and all around me in each moment, and I felt a wonder-filled connection to everything. While lying in the grass, noticing all the life around me, I learned that I was neither alone nor isolated. I was part of something much bigger. And I could, through a wordless, prayerful openness, experience that Mysterious Presence of Healing and Wholeness.
God didn’t waste much time using those spiritual discoveries. Within a few years of remission, God began calling me to live into my story by following that deepening faith. It didn’t magically make everything easy. But I learned that I could even discover gifts through my brokenness that could be part of a healing gift for others. I realized the core of my calling was as a kind of “ wounded healer” and felt led to be a hospital chaplain from the 1980s to 1999.
It was then that I began following more intentionally a special calling to create opportunities for “hospitality for the soul”. (Sometimes it’s been called Spiritual Direction or Spiritual Guide or the Celtic term “Anam Cara”). But, as Parker Palmer says, the soul, though strong and resilient, is also shy. If we are stuck in the busy-ness of our over-crowded agendas, we miss many of the surprise gifts God is trying to offer us. Too often, we are too busy to be present to God. And we are even too distracted to be present to our own soul.
To experience more deeply God’s Presence is perhaps the most important thing we can do during this unprecedented, liminal time of uncertainty and change. (If you are familiar with the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of the dynamic relationship of 1. Scripture, 2. Tradition, 3. Reason, and 4. Experience…we have barely scratched the surface of personal “experience” of God’s ongoing Presence. And that humble experience and soulful gratitude relates closely to the Wisdom in the Hoy Spirit.)
Over the years since the 1970s, I have discovered many spiritual practices and words that point to what I began discovering in my most vulnerable of times as a patient at St Jude. I realized through my own experiences (often in silence, solitude and nature) the transforming power of God’s Presence in a “still, small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12).
So come join us on this Memorial Day, or any other Monday, Wednesday or Friday when we will be offering shared times of sacred trust for “Practicing Prayerful Presence.”
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Len Delony
Director of Spiritual Formation