the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Contemplative Life

I am drawn to the contemplative life. I think I have been drawn in that direction since I was a young boy. I have always had a longing in my inner self for the presence of God. When I was just thirteen, I spent my waking moments talking to God. I talked to Him about everything.

Although we lived in a suburban community, there was a large section of woods behind our house. I would walk there for hours enjoying God's creation and talking with him about what was going on in my life. I have always been a solitary fellow. Even today, I find places to be alone in solitude with God.

My family went on a religious retreat one summer and I saw a prayer garden for the first time. It was a thicket in the woods where there was a rustic altar and some benches arranged in a semi-circle. Groups of people would come and have their vespers services there. I went a couple of times when I was alone so that I could be with God in my solitude.
Back at home, I quickly found a suitable place in my woods for a prayer garden. I located a large piece of stone and spent many afternoons carving a cross in the stone. This stone became my altar. I had no benches, but I didn't need them. I would kneel in front of my altar and pray to God, or just talk to him in regular conversational tone. I believed that He was there with me. I believed that He heard me, and that He cared for me. I wanted to devote my entire life to Him. I can't remember the time before I wanted to devote my life to Him.

I expect that if I had been raised in a devout Catholic family, I would have become a monk or at least, a priest. Instead I was raised in a Southern Baptist family, in a fundamentalist church. The paths of religious service open to me were as a missionary or a preacher.

I did spend my college years studying for the Baptist ministry. The school I attended was far more liberal in its theology than my fundamentalist roots. I quickly became disenchanted with all things religious and abandoned God and my life of devotion to Him.

Then about fifteen years ago, following a serious crisis in my world, I again felt drawn to God. After a lengthy struggle, I became an ordained Baptist minister and pastor of a small church in a rural community.
About an hour's drive away is a Trappist monastery, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit near Conyers, Georgia. Sandra, that's my wife, and I go there often. She too is drawn to the peacefulness of the monks and the quiet solitude of the public grounds. We spend our money in the Abbey Store buying trinkets, nicknacks and books.

I often wonder what life would be like if I had become a monk. At age 60, there would be no point. But instead, I shepherd my little flock and spend much of my waking moments talking to God. I live the life of a contemplative vicariously through the writings of Thomas Merton, Thomas à Kempis, Saint Benedict and Saint John of the Cross.


Blogger Bad Alice said...

Wow--you have a gift for contemplation. What a wonderful offering to God.

I would love to go to the monastery in Conyers. I have a contemplative bent, or it may just be essential laziness and I'm trying to put a good face on it! :)

10/31/2005 2:21 PM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...

If you would like to further your understanding of contemplation, read the pages I have just posted here entitled "The Practice of the Presence of God."

10/31/2005 5:12 PM  
Blogger Bad Alice said...

Where is the post you mention, The Practice of the Presence of God? I would like to read it.

11/03/2005 9:36 AM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...


If you look at my main page there is a section of the sidebar for "Links" About midway down the list is the link to your blog then the link to Jeff's blog. Below the link to Jeff's blog is a link to "practice of the presence of God" This is a short piece by a Carmelite monk in the 16th century.

11/04/2005 9:27 PM  
Blogger Bad Alice said...

Thanks! I look forward to reading this, and hopefully some of it will sink into my muddled brains. I feel as foggy as it is outside today.

11/07/2005 8:47 AM  

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