Today I will spend a bit of time assembling tomorrow’s pic nic in the Denver Botanical Gardens with friends – a simple lunch of meats, cheeses, wine, tomatoes from a friend’s garden, olives and stuffed grape leaves. It will be a fun little project in what will be, today, a “Quiet Day.” A Quiet Day is a retreat day in which clergy set time aside for reflection and prayer. In my own Rule of Life, a Quiet Day means that I insert three periods of prayer and two periods of reflection into the day around simple, uncooked food and creative, life-giving acts like letter writing, gardening, creative writing and art.
Today I will assemble tomorrow’s pic nic (nibbling along the way) and make some pottery in my studio at the coop. I will make mugs so that I can enter into the meditative quality of the repetition: ball, slam, spin, throw, cut, place and then repeat for the next mug. I can make a mug in about 30 seconds. Besides, the world needs pretty mugs.
The value of a quiet day is that it provides one the opportunity to slow down the action and listen. Listen to one’s own heart. Listen to what God may be saying (though there is a lot of silence with occasional bursts of input) and re-collect what has been the content of my life so that I can ask the five questions: What is going well? What is not going well? What need I do differently? What do I want? Where is God showing up?
By separating from entertainment and other versions of “noise,” one can listen to the heart and even into the soul. At first all one hears is noise and chatter. After some meditation, one can hear one’s longings. And after a long series of silent periods one can begin to hear silence. After the silence it is possible to overhear a conversation about you, which is being had in God; and it is to that which we strive in retreat and meditation. Usually that Divine Conversation has only the standard content of how much we are loved, but occasionally there is more.
And of course, since I am assembling tomorrow’s pic nic, I will nibble on some of the warm bread, olives and cheese, and sip some of the wine. Prayer is hard work. It requires bread. And wine.