Contemplative prayer on the Jersey Shore

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Beth and I spent a couple of days last week down in New Jersey helping with wedding plans for Dan and his fiancee, Jill. While we were there we spent a day and half at the beach at Ocean City. (The town was founded, by the way, by four Methodist ministers, as a church camp.) It’s not my idea of being out in nature, crammed in like roasting coffee beans with umbrellas fringe to fringe like that. I think there were more people on that beach than in all of Montana where I grew up.

Of course I knew how to find peace and beauty there: I went to the beach at 6 in the morning for the sunrise, when there were only about nine people and a party of dolphins, and at midnight, when there was nobody there but stars. But I also found peace and beauty in the middle of the day, in the mad clutter of the crowd. I swam in the ocean, and even though it was spangled with shouting bathers and jet skis and para-sailers and whatnot, it was still the ocean. I could still float in it and let it hold me. I was with the dolphins, too. I was a part of Creation, and the people were, no less than the invisible fish an the diving birds and the waves in their line dance from Portugal.

And I could sit and pray. As cluttered as my view of the ocean was, I didn’t see any greater fraction of it than I usually do: even on a mountain looking over the Pacific I only see a tiny bit. So I looked at the tiny bit between the beach umbrellas, and it was the sea. Each little bit is a part of the whole. I watched the people, the splendor of God unfolding in each of them. I looked at all the different bodies, knowing that we are all one body. I took in the colors of the umbrellas—such color!—and the glory of people at play, and knew the delight of God. Even in the noise I could be quiet and listen for God. Even in the crowd’s chatter and the life guards’ whistles and the throb of speed boats and the drone of the planes dragging advertising banners, there was a deep Silence welling up in everything like an ocean, embracing us all like the sun, loving every bit of this crazy scene.

The Sanctuary is everywhere, always hidden. The Silence is never broken; all our noise is only on its surface. The Holy Presence is always here. The glory is undiminishable. You can be at peace on the mountain top or the boardwalk, the quiet room or the busy street. The sacred place is within you; go there and find it all round you.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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