An Essay published in the newly released, House of Joy published by The Retreat House Spirituality Center, Richardson, Texas.
The Retreat House published four books in 2019 with essays and poems by affiliated spiritual dirctors; I have essays in each one: House of Love, House of Hope, House of Compassion and House of Joy. You can contact The Retreat House or me if you are interested in receiving copies ($10 each or all four for $30).
Sometimes God’s messages and presence seem silent, distant, abstract. Other times, they are so obvious, I must chuckle with the quiet joy that comes with deeper self-awareness.
Early this fall, I began skipping my morning prayer time and opting for prayer during exercise. That way, I could get to the office and attend to the many things piling onto my desk as the pastor of a congregation.
A week into this routine, I was up early letting out the dog. In the early morning darkness, I looked down and saw a dark blob on the floor just inside the door frame. Without my glasses it looked like a wet leaf. I tried to scoot it out with my toe and instead of brushing it outside, it jumped further into the house—a baby frog! I was not fully awake and I could not think clearly how to get it out of the house. So, I encouraged my morning-person husband, Dan, out of bed to solve the problem. He got a plastic grocery bag and when the frog jumped on it, it stuck to the plastic and he could easily take it out and release it. It would have taken two cups of coffee for me to get there.
It did not dawn on me until later why we had this little visitor that morning. Dan had just lost a promised job due to a staffing change and we were in an unexpected, frustrating situation. I remembered what I learned many years before in ministry about the meaning of FROG—Fully Rely On God. Of course! I texted Dan right away when I realized why we had a jumping visitor that morning!
Yet, I continued to pray during exercise rather taking time in morning meditation. A few days later, I was driving down the North Dallas Tollway to the office and I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up and there was a brown praying mantis hanging upside down on the inside roof of the car near the rearview mirror. “Very funny, God!” I thought to myself, “Okay! I’ll go back to praying in the morning!”
I rolled down my window and gently tried to free it from the car, but he flew to the back of the car instead. When I arrived at the office, I opened the back hatch and released him. I could not let a heavenly messenger suffocate in the Texas heat that remained well into the fall months.
A couple of days passed, yet I was still anxious about all the work I had to do. And, it was hard to admit, but I was also angry about Dan’s job loss with no severance to bridge a new job search. In a flurry of thoughts and burdens, I poured my coffee and rushed off to the fitness center to exercise and squeeze in my prayers. I got to the office and worked as much as I could and then went out to the car to go to an appointment.
Another giant green praying mantis was on the handle of my car door! I could not get in the car without seeing her and moving her. When I tried to move her along, she stayed on the door. I laughed out loud! Such persistence—such love! Such presence from creation and from God’s Spirit in and through each moment of my life. Such joy to see God’s messages to me when I pay attention and behold in creation what the Spirit reveals!
I finally went back to my morning meditation to pray persistently like a bug and to Fully Relying On God.