“Writing,” Henri Nouwen wrote, “can be a true spiritual discipline. Writing can help us to concentrate, to get in touch with the deeper stirrings of our hearts, to clarify our minds, to process confusing emotions, to reflect on our experiences, to give artistic expression to what we are living, and to store significant events in our memories. Writing can also be good for others who might read what we write.”
As glorious as the world is, it is also often broken, violent and hurting. So when we fail ourselves and wound and harm each other, let us turn our eyes to God and ask for strength to make it right. Let us find creative ways to make it better. Let us see the goodness in ourselves and share that with the world.
It takes stillness to get a true reflection, just as a camera must be held perfectly still to capture a clear image. And stillness, like quiet and like solitude, is harder and harder to find in our busy lives.
However you go about it, learning to live with gratitude is all about first being aware of the gifts and good things in our lives. And from experience, I learned that once I started keeping a list, I was nearly overwhelmed by how many daily experiences and interactions I could count as blessings. In short, we have no idea how present God is to us until we start paying attention.
The simple prayer of “Here I am” acknowledges both the speaker and the spoken to, like a child hiding in a secret place, alone and afraid that perhaps the game is over and everyone else has gone home. And so, like children content and confident that we are being cared for and watched over, we cry out: “Here I am, Lord. See me. Find me. Use me.”
We are all still trying out the freedom God has given us by placing us here, strangers in a strange land. We are not always sure what we are doing or how well we are doing it. We have this feeling that sometimes we are succeeding and sometimes we are failing. We’re not sure we are always pleasing God but perhaps have a sense, as Thomas Merton famously wrote, that in trying to please God we are doing so.
The real treasure of “Just Call Me López” remains partially hidden (but always in plain sight) throughout the book. For what we gain by reading this fable is what lies at the heart of Ignatian spirituality itself: If we pay attention to what’s going on in our own lives and hearts (even the most seemingly unbelievable moments), and if we heed the feelings and emotions that accompany these events, we come just that much closer to finding God. For God is in the details and the moments of our lives.
Just as we can observe nature as it moves and grows and reproduces, so too can we learn to look for and notice the movement of God in our lives.
Jim Rygelski’s debut novel, “Forget Us Not,” is a lesson in faith, hope and love. It’s a story about unlikely heroes stepping up in defense of truth and truth-telling. It’s a tale that reminds us that the things we think about writing off as vanishing breeds may still have some life in them yet, whether those things are small towns and their newspapers, the integrity of individuals and public servants, or even the folly of waiting for and finding one’s true love. Quaint notions? Sure. Worth pursuing? Absolutely.
What better and further proof, if we have need of that, of God’s presence and action in the world than that of an heirloom tomato just hours from being on the vine.