The first time I met John Philip Newell he said to me: “Just be in relationship.” I haven’t forgotten it. I have often wondered about what he meant. Recently I was fortunate to hear John Phillip speak again at a Celtic Way event in Denver. And again, I heard him emphasize relationship: relationship with creation and with one another.
I am an outdoors person. Eat out or in? Out! Walk in the park or treadmill? Park! Watching spring bulbs open in succession: first the hyacinths, then daffodils, and this week tulips taking their turn makes me happy. Oh yes, I do find it easy to relate to God in natures’ brand of creation. Finding God in human relationship? Not so easy. A friend who is new to Celtic Spirituality says: “I can find God in some people and definitely animals, but bugs or rocks? I don’t think so!”
When I first began to see the hand of God in the rocks that occasionally rumble down Berthoud Pass onto the highway I asked my priest: “How do you talk to that God? What words do you use?” and he said: “the same ones.” I didn’t think so. That’s not the same god who turns red lights green and finds close-in parking places. As my relationship with God changed, I seemed to need to learn to speak to God differently.
Being in relationship (with people) can be taxing, frustrating and sometimes impossible to continue. “Just be in relationship”. How? My study group tackled the question. Each of us could share experiences of having to step back or step away from a relationship when we realized that we had to trust that God or someone else would have to intervene. Knowing, however, when that time comes is defined by a very fine line. We also remember instances when some action is surprisingly related to another seemingly unrelated action. God instances? Synchronicity?
As I have continued to ponder this question I remember the words of Kahlil Gibran in his book The Prophet: “When you pray you rise to meet in the air those who are praying at that very hour and whom save in prayer you may not meet.“ I first read them over fifty years ago. With time I have come to visualize prayer as a flow, like a broad stream with a constant, steady, powerful current into which I can place myself or others or my concerns. No words are required but will be accepted.
Now I have a new metaphor. What if creation is like a spiders’ web? Touch one hair and you change the structure of the entire web and alert the spider. Prayer touches the web. Prayer becomes the way we stay in relationship. We reach, touch, and communicate with one another through prayer. Studies have shown that prayer can lower blood pressure. It works at a significant distance. Prayer does not need to be deep meditation. It can be as simple as walking down the street and saying: “Thank you God for this beautiful day.”
Ann Dolbier is a friend and supporter of Celtic Way