Learning From a Friend

 Salzburg as viewed from the Mozartstieg in May, 1978.

Yesterday I read a blog posted by Dr. Drexel Rayford.  Drexel and I have been friends for over twenty-five years.  He has an amazing intellect, is an incredible musician, a more than capable photographer, and has faithfully served a number of churches as pastor.  Recently he began writing a blog called “Epiphany Blog” for the Epiphany Institute for Spirituality–EIS.  I highly recommend this blog to you (although it says it is written for Baptists don’t let that deter you;  it truly is ecumenical in nature).  Drexel’s blog doesn’t necessarily focus on nature but so many of the things he writes about can be applied to experiencing God in Creation.  His blog entries usually discuss prayer and the various ways we can listen to or hear God.  As I noted in my last entry at this site, that, too, is an important part of our spiritual journey.

The post I read yesterday is called “A Spiritual Tourist?”  When I read it I immediately contacted Drexel and told him that I had written a number of times about the same subject on this site, the only difference being my focus was on a particular natural location instead of the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria.  After our correspondence he asked that I send him a couple of pictures so that he could follow up on his piece by telling of my similar experience.  You can find these at http://drexelrayford.org/2013/09/25/walking-around-the-castle-walking-around-the-gap/.  I want to return the favor by sharing with you today Drexel’s original post.  Here’s what Drexel had to say:

When I first arrived in Salzburg, Austria in 1976, I wasn’t a tourist.  I had arrived in a city that was going to be my home for the next two years.  Like any tourist, though, my first view of the castle overlooking the old city overwhelmed me.  As I looked at that iconic cityscape, I drew out my camera and started taking pictures, like hundreds of thousands of others before and after me.  Those initial pictures, taken during the first two weeks of my stay in Salzburg, looked very similar to everybody else’s pictures.  As time went on, I never lost my love of that cityscape.  I returned to the bridges spanning the Salzach River countlessly, and – in the age before digital cameras – produced a couple of pounds of slides I subsequently threw away.  Because I was there over a period of time, though, because I lived in the city and moved around in it, because I wasn’t just passing through, I was able to see it’s streets, cathedrals and the fortress in a wide variety of guises.

Inside the Hohensalzburg, September, 1976.

I saw the city in snow, in fog, and in May of 1978, with a full moon rising over the mountains.  And on one particular occasion, as I went inside the castle wall, I saw beams of sunlight fanning through dust motes in a deserted passageway.  If I had only been passing through, those scenes would never have graced my eyes – or my camera lens.

Mature prayer is like living in a beautiful city and exploring the passageways day after day.  It’s that persistent, daily exploration that leads you to discoveries you would’ve missed had you just been passing through.  As you live with silent, listening prayer over a period of time, in all kinds of “weather” and circumstances, you become present in a much deeper sense.  As you live in prayer even when it isn’t all that attractive, “productive,” or especially enlightening or encouraging, you discover realities unavailable to the spiritual tourist.

So, dwell there.  Patiently live there.  Explore the silence daily, and inevitably, you’ll discover the true depths of its beauty.

Having read Drexel’s reflections I hope you will go to the Epiphany Institute for Spirituality Facebook page and “like” it so that you can receive future installations.  You won’t regret doing so.  If you’re not on Facebook you can also follow Drexel’s blog by going to www.the-eis.org.


(The pictures shown above were taken by Drexel Rayford.)