Still Points in the Day: Music


Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re listening to a new song or watching a music video and you’re completely arrested by what you hear? The last time I can remember that happening was when I discovered the Civil Wars and watched their “Poison and Wine” video. (So completely heartbreaking.) 

But this past Friday, I had a chance to check out a band called the Lone Bellow and stumbled on this video: 

If you can’t see the video in your RSS feed or email browser, click here.

Oh, man. It made time stop for me. I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the screen, and I teared up, just listening to the heartache here. 

It was a moment that made me completely present. Everything else fell away and I was totally zoned in. 

Has that happened to you with music ever before? 

Still Points in the Day: Snow Moments

Snow sky and wintry tree.

Taken in Nashville, February 2012

A reader in the U.K. shared with me this week that they’re having snow. Specifically, she shared about some time she spent standing at her window, looking out on the snow, finding a still moment. 

The silent falling of white

I live in sunny Florida, where snow is in no way a seasonal possibility, and I must say I envied my friend’s quiet moment with the hush of snow falling outside her window. Those of you living in colder climes might find the grace and joy of similar moments. 

Where have you been finding still points of late? 

Prayer Can Be ... Nature

Be with God.

For some of us, prayer happens best when we’re outside. 

  • Taking a walk in the quiet outdoors
  • Hearing the back-and-forth call of birds
  • Feeling the wind or sunshine
  • Tromping through thick snow
  • Spotting a bald eagle
  • Glimpsing the sparkle of sun on lake waters
  • Wandering through thousand-year-old forests
  • Following a butterfly’s journey
  • Feeding a horse an apple
  • Laying on a blanket in the park, looking up at the sky
  • Finding a rainbow
  • Listening to the rhythmic pattern of pounding waves 

There are unending ways the natural world invites us toward God.

It teaches us God’s peace, as it continues on without worry of all that worries us. It teaches us God’s beauty, as the intricacies and creativity abound. It teaches us God’s care, as the ecosystems and cycles of life exist in perfect balance. And on and on and on.

The natural world becomes a doorway into the heart of God. 

How have you experienced nature as prayer?

Prayer Can Be ... Symbolic

My favorite wall.

I have this wall next to my desk that I call my prayer wall. Affixed to it are 5 or 6 symbolic items I’ve purchased or received as gifts over the years. 

Each one of these symbols reflects something deep and meaningful to my heart. 

One of the symbols is a cast-iron symbol of a tree. It has small sprouting buds on each branch, and the topmost branches make the form of a cross. It reminds me of resurrection — that life springs out of death. It speaks of my life’s work, which is centered around growth. It reminds me of the tree of life.

Another of the symbols is a tiny golden-bronze cross that has 12 individual stick-figures joining hands in a circle at the center of it. Their joined hands create the image of a heart between each one of them. This symbol reminds me of my heart for cooperation and my prayer for a peaceful world. 

Yet another of the symbols has a large Holy Spirit dove on it, swooning over the word “Pax,” for “peace.” It reminds me of my ongoing journey to understand and embody nonviolence.

It’s my prayer wall. 

Sometimes, when sitting at my desk, I stare at each image, letting my gaze linger on each one.

It’s a time of remembering who I am in my deepest core. It’s a time of asking God to keep cultivating in me the heart he gave me before I was born. 

Do you have any symbols that are prayer to you?

Prayer Can Be ... Photography

A mossy mop head. :)

I see a mossy mop head. Do you? 

Also, a heart.

About a year ago, a friend emailed to say she was considering an iPhone purchase and wondered how I’d liked my experience of owning one. I had owned mine for about six months at the time, and I wrote her back to say, “It’s changed my life.” 

It seems an audacious claim, I know.

But I made it in all seriousness. There were about 5 reasons I could list — quite readily — to detail why I’d found it to be true. 

And one of those 5 reasons — the most meaningful to me of them all — was the discovery of photography it brought into my life, specifically through the use of the Instagram app.

Whether you use Instagram or some other app, a “real” camera or just your handheld phone, photography can become a form of prayer in several different ways.

  • First, it makes us aware. When we have a camera in hand, we notice the details. We have an eye out for beauty. We’re present to our surroundings, looking for what speaks to us to be captured. 
  • Second, it makes us still. In the moment of taking a photograph, I find that everything slows down to zero. My breath even holds in my throat. I’m completely in tune with the moment and the object in front of my lens. Time evaporates. 
  • Third, it enlivens. On the Instagram app, the creative proess extends beyond the click of the camera. There’s an instant editing process that invites further interaction with the image and experience. Different filters lend perspective and mood. The blurring tools help accentuate intention. The photograph becomes an organism enlivened by our touch — and it’s enlivening to experience, too. 
  • Fourth, it gives us a chance for remark. When something catches my notice to be captured as a photograph, usually a short word, phrase, or line runs through my mind immediately. This becomes the photo’s caption — the way I share my heart in taking it, the way I make that image an offering.

I’ve found that photography — even my “poor man’s” version of it — heightens my love affair with beauty, stillness, perspective, and creativity. It’s a way to see and to express my heart. In a way, it’s how I tell God, “I see you here.”

Have you ever experienced photography as prayer?

Prayer Can Be ... Art Collage

Finished collage :: Intimations of Me.

My first art collage, June 2012.

In the course of a visit one time, a friend said she had something she wanted to share with me. We sat down on her comfy two-person rocker chair, and she pulled out an art collage piece she’d created.

All over the piece were images and words she’d pulled from various magazines and collected into one concentrated place. 

It was the words that arrested me the most. They spoke of realities near and dear to her heart. Realities we’d spoke often about in the years of our friendship. Realities she’d incorporated into her lifestyle and that had guided some of her biggest life decisions.

I was staring at a piece of her heart on that posterboard.

And it was holy. 

No words but three could escape my lips in that moment. “This is prayer,” I breathed.

“It is?”

My friend was surprised. She hadn’t created the collage with prayer in mind. She’d just set out to express what she cared about. 

But it was indeed a form of prayer.

When we get in touch with the most interior truths of ourselves — when we touch them, when we see them, when we say, “Yes, this is true of me” — we touch what God also sees. We touch God’s response: “Yes.”

Have you ever experienced art collage as prayer?

Prayer Can Be ... Painting

A fiery tree.

I am, quite admittedly, not much of an artist. I never have been. 

But last year, I began to experiment with paints and markers in my Moleskine, and I discovered how much the process can be prayer. 

Often, I’ll pull out my art supplies, put a blank sheet in front of me, and have no idea what I’m going to create. It often starts with nothing more than a feeling or intuition.

That feeling or intuition may be heavy — out come the dark colors, painted all over the page. It may be hopeful — out come the yellows and greens. It may include a word or a line of words. It may carry symbols or patterns.

It may feel like fiery, passionate, hope-filled growth — and so out comes the painting you see above. 

The paints teach me what my heart has to say. I discover what’s going on in there through color and brushstrokes.

And what comes out is a prayerful offering.

My heart. On the page. Offered up.

Has painting ever been prayer for you?