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Calm Amidst the Chaos

Chairman of the Bored

With thanks from Wesley Bros.

“God is forming us into a new people. And the place of that formation is in the small moments of today.”

-Tish Harrison Warren, The Liturgy of the Ordinary, 21.

As a youth minister whose summer camps were all cancelled due to COVID, I have found myself incredibly bored these last few months. I tend to be a workaholic so I’m not used to boredom. Thankfully with the school year starting back up, I find myself quite busy with work again. But my spiritual director encouraged me to see my periods of boredom as opportunities to meet God. In reading books, in cleaning the house, in long walks with the dog, even in extra time to watch TV. God is with us, with me. So I would try to turn these little daily habits into forms of active prayer. Preparing dinner was easiest for me because it’s one of my favorite things to do. As I chopped the vegetables and sautéed the entree, I gave thanks for where this food came from, thanks that I have a working refrigerator to preserve the food, an electric stove that simplifies the cooking. I would begin to feel the Holy Spirit rejoicing with me over the simplicity of a home cooked meal. This practice then moved into other more menial tasks of the day that I enjoy less.

Brother Lawrence was a Barefoot Carmelite monk in the 17th century, a kitchen aide for his monastery. He became famous for his method of practicing the presence of God in his everyday chores. God’s presence is always readily and abundantly near to the believer, but we must practice discipline to notice. We are quick to worry and think about the cares that bog down our minds. Yet the same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is as near as our breath. So, every moment of the day can be directed to experiencing the love of God.

This belief is expanded by 18th century theologian Jeremy Taylor, and had a profound impact on the way John Wesley understood time. Time is a holy gift from God, every moment is an opportunity to explore connection with the Divine. The mundane tasks of the day are the very place where holiness is built and expanded. Therefore, true holiness is readily available for all people, not just the religious elite who have endless hours to dedicate to focused prayer.

My prayer life has dramatically changed over my lifetime. I used to pace the living room, waving my hands and talking out loud to God as if God were sitting right there on the couch. Now I find it more difficult to have prolonged conversations with God, and instead find myself praying by writing liturgies and collects that I send to my friends as I pray for them. I find myself regularly offering up thanks in small ways for the little blessings I have begun to notice in everyday life. In my boredom these last few months, I’ve explored and challenged the nature of my loneliness (I’m an extrovert and deeply miss being with people). I’ve learned that God with me also means my connections to friends and family and congregants are deeper than seeing them regularly in person.

I’m curious to know how you’ve handled life during this COVID isolation? What does the new norm do to your prayer life? How has a change in work load (whether you have more or less to do) impact your ability to notice God’s presence that is always with you?

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