About twelve years ago, I was working at a church in Kansas and it was early on a Tuesday morning. My son Luke was four years old, my son Jacob was just two. My husband was off somewhere training for an Ironman and I had to get the boys ready for preschool, get myself ready for work, and get us all out the door on time.
Mornings are nuts with toddlers and pets. Mornings can be nuts even if you don't have kids. I was frazzled and I remember distinctly that I had butter in my hair. I locked the front door and herded the boys to the car but Jake saw something on the front lawn and he wriggled out from under my grasp.
"Mom,mom,mom, mom!!" He exclaimed with sheer joy. "Look!look!look!look!" There on the lawn was a dandelion. Jake wanted to "blow on it", that was the way he said it at two- "blow on it." But I was so anxious and mad at him for slipping away and I couldn't get it out of my head that we were going to be late. So I hustled him into the car. He started to cry.
It's been twelve years and do you know what? I can't remember for the life of me what could have been so important that I had to rush. But I do remember my two year old's beautiful blond hair shining in the sun and how he wanted to blow a dandelion with me. And I remember his anguished face when I forced him to rush and we missed blowing on that dandelion.
Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants." Infants. The little ones. That early stage of childhood when you are overwhelmed by the sight of a bird in a tree or a spider in its web. That early stage of wonder and simplicity. That is when you can see God. When we get older, we become so absorbed in our busyness, in all the cares and occupations of this frantic life, that we lose the capacity to see God. We lose the gift of wonder.
But let me tell you something true.
You cannot find God by running faster or doing more.
Let me say that again.
You cannot find God by moving faster or doing more.
God can be found only by going back to that state of early wonder that you once loved. You must stop and blow on the dandelion.
St Francis is the most popular of all the saints. He is universally loved across Christian denominations. In the year 1204, Francis was a wealthy soldier on his way to war when he had a vision of God. This vision changed everything for Francis. It changed his perspective forever. He gave up life as he knew it and decided to live simply. When his father confronted him to bring him home, Francis stripped naked in front of his father, the bishop and the whole village. "Do you want my belongings? Take them! Do you want the clothes on my back? Take them!"
Francis no longer cared about stuff. He gave up his wealth and prestige in exchange for the riches of nature. Francis was rich in the songs of the birds and filled with the beauty of the flowers. He saw the animals as his friends and as icons for the beauty and majesty of God's creation. He found nature so beautiful that sometimes he would sing to the sunrise, preach to the birds, or just stand there and stare at the beauty of God's handiwork with tears streaming down his face.
I love how little kids, when you see them in the grocery store, they just stare at you, right at your face, as if there is nothing more fascinating. They don't yet have the inhibitions or preconceived notions that tell them not to stare, that it is impolite. They don't care about what they need to do next or how their stare makes you feel. They are just fascinated. That's the way that Francis was, with the whole of creation. He was fascinated.
I want you to take a moment to stop and stare with me. Just gaze on the beauty of the animals before us, the majesty of the trees, the sight of the rays of the sun. Take a moment, stop and stare. (silence)
I realized recently that there are holy moments that come to all of us every day. Most of us race around, trying to get somewhere, speeding up in our cars, rushing down hallways, calling people on the phone, hopefully NOT texting while driving but listening to the radio and getting annoyed by the nasty driver who won't let us into the line or annoyed at the traffic jam that seems to go on forever. But whether you are in the car or on foot, sometimes you are gifted with a moment when you can stop and stare at something in nature, something that God made. A sunset, a blooming flower, a drop of rain on your winshield. This is an invitation to take a Francis moment, to stop your motion and pray for the world and give thanks for the beauty that you see. Stop and stare. Pray and give thanks.
Are you a person who gets overwhelmed by the thought of praying daily? Maybe morning prayer or devotional reading is too much for you to take on and it just becomes another item on your to do list. What if you tried this instead...what if you looked for Francis moments, moments of wonder and fascination, when you can simply stop whatever you are doing and stare. Moments of being instead of doing. Moments that are totally unscheduled. Moments that are spontaneous. You never know when and where they will happen. Late at night as the rain beats down on the roof... Stepping outside as a fog lifts. Taking your dog for a walk. And you just take that moment and treat it as a gift from God and calm down, breathe and become like a small child again, full of joy and wonder.
I want you to try it this week. Let God give you Francis moments.
You cannot find God by running faster or doing more, but you can find God by acting like Francis, like a small child, who marvels at creation and stops to blow the dandelion.
- The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead