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Prayer and Prairiewoods

Otis & Friends 3I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

I would like to introduce you to my friend Steve Volesky, a volunteer who helps with event planning at Prairiewoods. Here are his thoughts on prayer …

Prayer comes in many forms. There are no guidelines or rules of decorum. One just needs to focus, meditate with thoughtfulness and purpose, and feel the connection with God. It does not have to be identified with a posture or word, a place or time, a religion or faith … just a presence and understanding that God is with us. It is not a once-a-day exercise to say it is done, but a continuous affirmation of a need; even with doubts at times, that if one lives in the moment they will seek to find some comfort and understanding of spirituality. A spirituality that is provided with a gratefulness to exist.

Traveling the world, experiencing diversity of cultures, learning of Earth’s living and non-living cycles and their interdependence, studying the complexities and commonalities of living things illustrates a master plan. Often times just being in awe of nature with its beauty and catastrophic events serves as an introduction to spirituality and a connection to God: a prayer with healing and gratefulness in a busy life and existence. It is being a partner and witness to an amazing planet Earth as a biosphere and a holy place. It is a home that elicits our love, thanks, support, reverence, healing, and humility. Our environmental understanding provides our spiritual uniqueness as a miracle in the universe: a place of contemplation as prayer.

Steve VoleskyPrairiewoods is a connection to God. It is a microcosm of our planet and a refuge with a past, present, and future to continue to learn and grow. It provides a symbiotic connection and rediscovery with nature and God. Volunteering has provided this self-fulfillment. It has helped me live a grateful life in the present moment with positive emotions that connect with the goodness around me. This fulfillment is dwarfed by the authentic and collective purpose and mission of the Prairiewoods staff. They impart a spiritual awakening with the love of the earth. It is this authenticity that projects and models ecological sustainability of the planet and conservation efforts in its preservation: our preservation with a look to the future. Rachel Carson writes:

“Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.”

Beginning in the 1990s to the present, volunteering has provided me an eco-spirituality and gratefulness in living and sharing at Prairiewoods. Rachel Carson would be pleased.

—Steve Volesky, volunteer


Finding God in darkness

Otis & Friends 4I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

One such friend is Kathy Petsche, who volunteers in the office and helps plan and facilitate some programs at Prairiewoods. Kathy and I have become close after many late nights spent outside together …

I have spent countless nights sitting on the back deck waiting for the full moon to come up over the trees. Becoming intimate in terms with the moon in all of her seasons, as Barbara Brown Taylor shares in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark. I crave the shine; I crave the shadows; I crave the “light” in the darkness. Prayers have been answered, problems and challenges have been resolved, stress of the day has been lifted.

How many of you have woken up in the middle of the night at 1:13, 2:18 or 3:12 a.m.? Your eyes pop open and you look at the digital clock and see those lighted numbers staring back at you. You lie there and start to think about things—you allow thoughts to come into your mind—even though you try not to, they still do. Work, children, parents, relationships, things you need to get done but are behind on.

You lie there, perhaps tossing and turning, throwing the covers off. You try to lie on your back, arms to your side, to gain back some mind, body, and spirit peace. You just might get lucky enough that it works and you fall back to sleep. Or perhaps you don’t and can’t, so now what?

Did you ever think that the reason you woke up is because God is calling upon you?

I am 61 years old, and if I had known back then when it was happening to me I could have maybe saved myself from some rough nights. I would sometimes just give in and get up and let the dogs out. They were awake too! Many nights my neighbor lady who lived up the hill from us—I could see her back porch light on and she was up as well, letting their dog out. She could see our front porch light on and we figured out that those dogs had this all planned out so they could meet up in the still of the night and run around in the field between our houses. Now that I think of it, they knew best how to manage those hours of awakeness filled with darkness.

What do you associate the word darkness to? For me it was the absence of faith and God in my life, and I just could not summon the courage within myself to honestly seek Him out.

Kathy Petsche, volunteer and facilitator

Kathy Petsche

I wasn’t living a life of piety. It separated the beautiful sunny days where I found comfort, where I was safe in my prayers and my thoughts. Those hours from sunset to darkness, before any slice of the moon and the stars in the sky appeared, was troubling. I felt alone. Many of my close friends who were willing to talk about this time transition, especially in the fall where it is noticeably known and would say almost in a whisper, “The days are getting shorter!” I had to prepare for those shorter days, fearing so much darkness would surround me and I would be without grace in my life. Somewhere along the way many of us have been taught to be afraid of the dark.

Quoting from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book Learning to Walk in the Dark: “Our comfort or discomfort with the outer dark is a good barometer of how we feel about the inner kind.”

Darkness turns out to be as essential to our physical well-being as light. Eruptions are good news and the signal that darkness will not stay buried. If you can stand the upsetting energy, you may be allowed to watch while dark and light come back into balance. Barbara calls it Lunar Spirituality. If we can stay with the moment in which God seems most absent, the night will do the rest.

And as I learned from reading her book, I do now what she did. Nights when I can’t sleep I summon the courage to put my bathrobe on and go outside. The sky will heal me and remind me of my place in the universe.

God is calling me for some reason and I certainly don’t want to miss his presence.

—Kathy Petsche, volunteer and facilitator