Carolyn Arends ( www.CarolynArends.com) is
a recording artist, author and director of
education for Renovaré. Find more of these
columns at www.Faith Today.ca/Go WithGod.
Years ago I had the great fun of travelling across Canada with two fellow recording artists – Steve Bell and
Bob Bennett – in a concert series
dubbed The Living Room Tour.
Each night we performed in a songwriter’s round, taking turns offering
songs, backing each other up and
delighting in each other’s work.
One night during a tour stop in
Kelowna, Steve introduced a song
called “Pleasing to You.” He described the way he’d been reading
Psalm 19 during a sun-kissed morning in his home in a rural area
“The house was quiet,” he ex-
plained. “As I looked out the east-
ern window, the birds were singing,
the deer were afoot, and I even
caught a glimpse of the magnifi-
cent red fox that would sometimes
shimmer by. Soon a song began to
well up within me.”
The audience was leaning in,
transfixed by the picture Steve was
so expertly painting. I, on the other
hand, was feeling something other
than a song welling up within me.
I was thinking of my own home,
filled as it was in those days with
the joyful and not-so-joyful sounds
of my two very young and active
children. I was trying to remember
the last time I had spent even five
minutes in reflective silence.
“Steve,” I interrupted, “can I just
say … how very nice for you!” The
audience instantly caught the note
of sarcasm in my voice and erupted
in laughter. There was a swell of
(mostly feminine) cheering. Years
later, Steve would tell me that
sudden burst of perspective was
one of his favourite moments of
My own kids are teenagers now,
and though life is still busy, it’s
easier to find pockets of quiet than
it used to be. I’ve come to deeply
appreciate the critical importance
of setting apart time for prayer and
stillness. So it was with great enthusiasm I recently found myself
extolling the virtues of a contemplative life to a classroom full of
adult students while co-teaching a
summer course at Regent College.
But even as I was making the case
for the value of sustained, attentive
silence, I noticed flickers of exasperation cross more than a few
faces – young moms, harried dads,
overworked business leaders and
even exhausted ministers. I knew
instantly what they were thinking.
How very nice for you!
Is a contemplative life – a life of
loving attention to God – only
available to folks who enjoy the
luxury of expendable time?
As I review the various seasons of
my own life – most of them, to
some extent, demanding – I find
myself drawing two conclusions.
First, it really has been critically
important to find, on a regular
basis, at least some small measure
of time to spend intentionally
synching my heart with God’s. As
Richard Foster pointed out, we can
only live up to our responsibilities
when we have “response-ability”
– the capacity to respond to what-
ever life throws at us with appropri-
ate patience, wisdom and grace.
Such response-ability typically re-
quires rhythms of deep and inten-
tional connection with our Creator.
Finding the necessary time requires creativity, intentionality and
more than a little help from our
friends. But it’s possible, through
subversively simple tweaks like
getting up a bit earlier to talk over
the coming day with God, turning
the radio off to foster stillness on a
commute, or negotiating with
family or coworkers to allow for the
occasional mini-retreat from normal routines.
Second, while carving out time
for quiet contemplation has been
essential, it’s been equally important to attend to the movement of
God in even the noisiest parts of my
life. It is one (beautiful) thing to
catch a glimpse of God in a sun-drenched countryside. But it’s another (equally beautiful) thing to
find Him in a messy kitchen or a
One of the great fruits of times of
stillness, in fact, should be an increased capacity to recognize God in
the times of anything-but-stillness.
Years ago, watching the sun
come up, my friend Steve read,
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul” (Psalm 19: 7).
Tonight, working long past sunset,
I read those same words, and I
know they are true. /FT
to attend to
the movement of
God in even
parts of my
Why contemplation is not just for contemplatives
GO WITH GOD