It has been a strange spring where I live, here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. One day, it might be 85 degrees, the next, 51. Or, we might have drought-like conditions for a time, only to be deluged with 5 straight days of cloudy skies and rain. Or at times, just the threat of rain will be enough to dampen spirits and cancel plans.

I was talking to a guy who was at our house making a service call, and, as invariably happens with people who cross our paths, talk turned to the recent weather. At the time, the past few days had been “perfect” early summer days. Mild temperatures, brilliant sunshine, no humidity.  Truly a gift. I couldn’t help but delight in the clear blue skies and sunshine, and in the glory of being outside. I even mentioned that the recent rains were a bit much for me. And he responded, “Sometimes, we need the rain.”

It was such a simple statement, and it caught me off guard.

Sometimes we do need the rain. The gift of water, of roots saturated with hope, and of the sound of raindrops on the thirsty leaves of the trees can bring an awareness of the beauty of growth and abundance. The grass grows like crazy, almost out of control. Birds and squirrels find so many sources of water, and are satisfied.

I wake this morning to heavy fog, with dew dripping off of every leaf and branch in the yard. It reminds me of a day on the beach a few years ago, the one beach day that fit into our crazy summer schedule that year. We were going to the beach, no matter what the weather. The “partly cloudy” skies at home, a couple of hours drive from the beach, did not hint at the fact that the sandy shore was socked in by a deep, heavy fog.  As we unloaded the car at the shore, we kept saying to each other, “It’ll burn off in no time.”

I’m sure you can guess the outcome of the weather that day. Not great. And yet… with a slight shift in awareness and perspective, the day became grace-filled. I sat on the sand and looked out at the very still water of the ocean, but I couldn’t see very far. At times, I could hear the low horn from a boat in the distance. Or maybe the horn came from the lighthouse; I couldn’t really be sure. I couldn’t even tell where the fog began. And yet… I listened to the invitation of God, and closed my eyes, I could feel the moisture on my skin from being inside this cloud that sits on the earth. Focusing in on this feeling shifted my awareness.

It’s like a verse that I love from the book of Sirach: “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High and covered the earth like a mist.”  It is the turn to this awareness, the awareness of the Holy Spirit blessing us with grace, and the faith that grace is touching us even when we can not see it or feel it, that allows us to open our hearts even more to the possibility of grace.

Sometimes, we need the rain. And sometimes, we need to change our perspective in order to find the gifts in a difficult situation. God is always inviting us to this, whether it be in deciding to leave a job after a long discernment, in the death of a loved one, in the hurt of a pained and difficult relationship.

When the time for silence comes, I ask you to take up your position for prayer, and then, having asked the help of the Holy Spirit, to be content and wait patiently, expectantly, lovingly, longingly. Try to realize that this all you can do for yourself. God must do the rest. See yourself as the parched ground looking upwards waiting patiently for the rain to fall. You can only wait.

– Fr Roger Schultz of Taize

Lord, send my roots rain.

seeking water

Today the first reading is from Isaiah chapter 41:

“When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them,
I the Lord of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.”

Water is such a powerful spiritual image. The story of the Samaritan woman at the well in the gospel of John, the image of a tiered fountain overflowing in the writings of spiritual masters like Origen and St Teresa of Avila, or even the image of God being as vast as the sea. What is it about water that connects us to God?

I remember once, sitting on the beach at Lake Michigan. We had rented a little cottage within walking distance to the beach, and every morning I would take my bible and go walk in the sand. Eventually, I’d find a spot to sit, and I would read some scripture passage, let it soak into my mind, and pray. I remember one particular morning filled with grace. The wind was completely still, and I sat looking at the water, the early morning sun warming my back. I was able to set my bible down in the sand, open to the passage, without the pages blowing or ruffling in the least. My gaze would rest momentarily on the early morning fishermen on the water, the gulls so far off, hovering above the still water, or the tiny grains of sand that surrounded my feet. When my eyes returned to the scripture, my bible was still open to the same page.

That day on the beach, my thirst for God was quenched. I found God in the grains of sand, in God’s creatures, in the simple act of contemplating a passage of scripture. I’d like to say that God showed up for me that day. But I think the opposite is true. I showed up for God, who is always present. I showed up, waiting, a receptacle for the grace. And God filled me with awareness, peace, and a thirst for more.