Prayer at sunrise

Mary Kratz is a retired nurse practitioner. Since retirement she is engaged in offering spiritual direction and also volunteers in the Chaplain’s Department at a local hospital. She attends Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Mary’s reflection was submitted by the Mennonite Spiritual Directors Network.

This past summer, my husband and I were preparing to make the big move to a retirement community after having lived in the country for many years.

We had a great view to the east, and I had enjoyed many early mornings appreciating the beauty of the sunrise.

I was already grieving the loss of this great gift.

Over the years, I have practiced Centering Prayer intermittently. Years ago when I had been very regular in this spiritual practice, I had experienced inner healing and growth in my Christian walk in spite of the fact that, as Henri Nouwen noted, many times it felt as if nothing significant had happened — like I was “wasting time with God.”

We are living in a time of much political turmoil and an increasing sense of instability in our nation and around the world. Add to this the stress of selling our home, making decisions about a new “home” at the local retirement community, and packing and moving, I have once again been drawn to the practice of Centering Prayer in order to remain balanced and focused.

I am an early morning riser. One morning as I prepared for centering, I noticed the beauty of the sky and moved to the patio to enjoy it more fully. I usually close my eyes during Centering Prayer, but I couldn’t close my eyes — my spirit needed to see this beauty as it unfolded. So I just sat on the patio, eyes open, soaking in the changing colors of the horizon for a half hour or so. Just sitting quietly without any agenda — just soaking in the beauty. In the weeks that followed, I frequently found myself arriving at the very time that the colors of the sunrise were being displayed, and I honored that scene with my presence.

During this time, I discovered the term “internalizing nature” (from a devotional in Carolyn Baker’s Collapsing Consciously). She said that when we spend contemplative time in nature, we take “some or all of that time with you, back into your everyday world, and that … changes how you live.” I credit this practice with grounding and calming me, a practice which enabled me to accomplish the overwhelming task of downsizing and moving on. And I carry the memory of those sunrises within me — a reminder of those worshipful moments