By Michael Moore, pastor of Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies
I have been blogging now for about four years now. As I looked back in the archives of my current blog, I was interested to note some changes in the format of my blogging. On an earlier site, I would blog occasionally as the mood hit me and the posts covered a variety of topics. However, in 2014 I felt called to be more intentional and a rhythm developed for me.
During the process of discerning and seeking a new call my blog was a way of reaching out to the churches who were looking at me as a potential pastoral candidate. The Pastor Nominating Committee of the church I am currently serving (Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado) said that the blog played a significant role in the Committee members getting to know me as they discerned whom God was calling to be their pastor.
That was, however, not the main reason that I began blogging. From the beginning, without knowing it, I was forming some sort of a Spiritual Discipline that I didn’t have a name for at the time. This practice was transformed from random posts on topics that intrigued me to a practice of weekly Scripture study, prayer, and reflection. The constant throughout the blogs has been photography. That practice, I came to discover, was something called Visio Divina (Sacred Seeing). Through the lens of my camera I was being called to slow down and simply “see” what God has for me to discover.
These pictures had a way of working themselves into Scripture study and sermon preparation. Initially on Monday, I would sit down and begin to chew on the Scripture passages from the Revised Common Lectionary for the coming Sunday. As the week progressed, I would begin to write/reflect on the passages of Scripture. It is hard to describe how the process works, but a picture or pictures would come to mind that would tie into the passages that I had been chewing on all week.
As I sit here at Columbia in the library composing this blog, I realize that I have been talking a lot about the mechanics of what I do and very little about the spiritual practice. Funny thing is, that is often what happens when I sit down to write my blogs. I can honestly tell you that I never know where it is going to go when I begin to write. Pictures and experiences will come to my mind as I reflect on the Scripture readings and begin to write. It is almost as though God is showing me day after day how the world around us speaks to us if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear.
At some point, my wife and spiritual partner Denise encouraged me to write a nightly prayer (Evening Prayer) on my blog. What began as me posting some prayers from the Northumbria Community’s “Celtic Daily Prayer” on Facebook developed into my own Evening Prayers on my blog. These prayers are sometimes communal and sometimes very personal. They are a form of the practice established by Ignatius of Loyola called “The Prayer of Examen” or simply Examen. We learned a great deal about that practice at the class on Ignatian Spirituality which we took at Columbia. At the end of each day, I slow down and take an inventory of the day’s experiences. As I reflect on the day and what is on my mind and heart, a prayer forms. There are many nights when I literally don’t know what to write/pray. Yet, as I relax and reflect, a prayer comes to my heart.
The threefold practice of Visio Divina through photography, contemplating Scripture, and a daily Examen has encouraged me to slow down and simply be in God’s presence. The scriptural admonition to simply “be still and know that God is God” (Psalm 46:10) seems to be the cornerstone of my practice. When Denise and I hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park back home, our cameras help us to slow down and truly take in the wonder of God’s creation. Many hikers will pass by quickly as though they are in a race to get somewhere. I wonder how many of them miss out on some incredible “God moments” by rushing so quickly to get to some goal.
This practice has deepened my own study of Scripture, prayer life, and sermon preparation. It has forced me to slow down, ponder, chew, and simply be in the quiet presence of God. I spent so many years racing through my life as an Air Force Chaplain like those hikers in the park race along the trail. This has been a way for me to cultivate the quiet time with God in an intentional way.
Whether I am “nudged” to write a reflection based upon a particular experience or simply praying and reflecting on the day I have lived, I find myself taking the time to be still in God’s presence. My blogging has become a public outreach and ministry as well. The prayers, reflections, and Scripture study speak to many people around the world. It might be a new way for someone to look at a Scripture passage or it may be a prayer that speaks to their heart. I guess that shows how important even a “virtual prayer community” is to so many people.
The blog has become a public journal of my encounters with the Divine through photography, prayer, and reflection. And in the process of reflecting and sharing, other lives are touched as I seek to share life and the love of Christ with others. It has taught me that when you intentionally slow down and be still, God can and will speak to your soul.
Michael Moore is the pastor of Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado where he lives with his wife Denise and their dog Pixie. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1987, he served two small churches in northern Minnesota before going on Active duty as a US Air Force Chaplain in November 1990. He retired in 2011 as a Chaplain, Lieutenant Colonel from the Air Force and was called to serve as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. He married Denise in 2013 and they moved to Estes Park in August of 2015. He loves hiking, reading, photography, and simply communing with the Elk and other wildlife in the Rocky Mountains.
Interested in learning more about prayerful spirituality? Liturgy of the Hours led by Paul H. Lang begins April 20 – 23, 2017, at Montreat Conference Center. Learn more or register today!