Hello Lovely is inspiration for interiors, and sometimes the interiors extend to those beautiful spaces within the soul. Dwelling Places shares personal reflections of divine consolation, healing, and cosmic glory breaking through an ordinary day. Accompanied by recent photos of the Arizona landscape and desert, I share this heartful story with: a very humble heart, reverence, and wonder. I’m just muddling through and doing my best to see with pure eyes. I honor the journey which is yours – no matter your belief system, faith, lack of faith, or spiritual milieu.
About a week ago, on the most ordinary morning, an extraordinary uplifting communion occurred, turning the skies of my soul a most tranquil blue. Since it’s so fresh, I don’t even know what to call it. It feels like consolation.
In case you were wondering, consolation, supernatural goodness and light beaming from divine realms into earthly ones is not the norm over here.
It was a morning like all others. Sort of. I’m disciplined about starting my day in solitude and silence. I open two daily meditations in my inbox from spiritual writers I respect who share wisdom, scripture, and sweetness. Then I sit for centering prayer, which is mostly pleasant but can also be super boring and challenging when there’s a long list of chores ahead. Anyway, on this day before the meditations, I read a blog post about flying the nest. It was lovely and poignant.
Then I turned to the first meditation, and its theme centered on how we are God’s dwelling place. My heart quickly softened as I considered how the spaciousness within me is a shelter, a home. You already know my passion for home. Henri Nouwen’s thoughtfulness stirred me:
“You are the place where God chose to dwell…and the spiritual life is nothing more or less than to allow that space to exist where God can dwell, to create the space where his glory can manifest itself.”
As I contemplated the beauty of this dwelling place, I closed my eyes, crossed my hands over my heart and sort of disappeared into a blissful silent atmosphere. Before long, a song about dwellings bubbled up into consciousness. It was the first classical song I had performed in high school for a recital called “How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings” by Samuel Liddle. Maybe you know it. The lyrics are from Psalm 84.
While I had not thought of the song or psalm in many years, those notes and lyrics were anchored securely, and I began to sing it soulfully with my eyes closed.
“How lovely are thy dwellings, oh Lord of hosts. My soul longeth, yea fainteth for the courts of the Lord…Yea, the sparrow hath found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young.”
A few phrases into the song, I heard a thumping. Since I assumed I was alone in the house. I wondered whether my husband or son had returned. I paused, briefly embarrassed but heard nothing further and resumed the song.
More thumping came.
Bear in mind, your friend was in a very relaxed, contemplative state while sitting in bed in pajamas with closed eyes. My thoughts turned to the wildlife in our yard as I wondered ‘maybe my chubby squirrel is busy on the roof again.’ It wasn’t until the third thump that I turned my eyes toward our bedroom window and saw her.
A robin on the sill was tapping the pane. I met her gaze and resumed the song, never imagining she would stay. But stay she did.
Oh my lord, my heart soared. Naturally, I kept singing! After about a minute, she flew just a few feet north to a roof overhang very near the window. She lingered as the breeze ruffled her feathers, the loveliness of Psalm 84 reached her, and sanctifying tears slipped down my cheeks.
For two minutes, we were united…with only a windowpane and a few feet between our beating hearts. Nothing like this has happened before, but then again, I don’t ever sing in bed because for starters, it isn’t easy to sing well in that position! She was as captive and reverent an audience as I have encountered. She didn’t fly away in spite of my own movement. Caught up in wonder and awe, I couldn’t resist capturing a minute of the communion with my iPhone.
My heart overflowing, I retreated to the kitchen to eat breakfast, but eating while crying has never really worked for me. So I opened up the next meditation in my email, and the first sentence began with a quote from Julian of Norwich:
“Greatly ought we to rejoice that God dwells in our soul; and more greatly ought we to rejoice that our soul dwells in God. Our soul is created to be God’s dwelling place, and the dwelling of our soul is God.” (Showings)
A late 14th century spiritual writer, Julian’s words further reinforced the idea that our souls are sacred dwelling places. The messages in my world and the universe seemed to be pointing me to the notion that this dwelling place with its glory is a sacred treasure which can never be harmed and can be implicitly trusted.
The robin’s flight to me, right where I am, feels more healing and replenishing than I can say. There’s a dramatic bridge in the song where verse 10 of the psalm says ‘For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand.’
A day in Thy courts. Yes. Such a day is drenched in beauty. A day when a long buried song can rise back to life and echo through a forest! A day when a stone can somehow be rolled away and the veil becomes very thin. A day when heaven and nature harmonize so devastatingly well, the sound reverberates as one.
A day in Thy courts. Two minutes in the Presence where Perfect Peace and Perfect Love are invited to dwell. Where relationship blooms. Where holy consolation and sacred notes arrive like manna.
I finished reading the second meditation which ended with these words from Father Richard Rohr:
“The inner radiance of God started radiating at least 13.8 billion years ago. We must realize that we are the continuation of that radiance in our small segment of time on Earth…Use whatever words you want, but with this vision you will live in a fully alive and congenial universe where you can never be lonely again. ”
I added the bold to the last sentence because it’s how I experienced the words on my screen. YOU CAN NEVER BE LONELY AGAIN leaped from the email, wrapping my soul in the the warmest embrace.
Oh, friends. I’m still undone with sweetness. Because for me…well, for me these reassuring words seal what feels like consolation with an everlasting promise.
Desolation always comes. I still have all these wounds I mostly keep in the darkness. Shadowy places in my soul which have the potential to take root and cause harm when they aren’t absorbed into the light of Pure Love.
But what an earthquake when Grace meets you unexpectedly right where you are. To be found by it is to discover there is nothing to fear.
To be caught up in its flow is to see the miracle of the ordinary, of flight, of dwelling places, of the loveliness of a small bird lifting a singing soul to heaven.
How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings
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Contemplative Daily Meditations That Enrich My Journey
Inspiring Books by Contemplatives
Psalm 84: 1-12
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
12 Lord Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.
One More Thing
It was really hard to push ‘publish’ on this one because it’s so intimate, and I don’t know the rules about sharing such beauty. Sometimes after I share spiritual reflections, I’ll hear from folks who are longing to ‘be in the flow’ or feel they are somehow missing out on a layer of aliveness that I seem to be tapping into. I just want to reiterate that I don’t know anything at all. I am not special or accustomed to the clouds parting and angels singing and such drama or consolation. But I do know the difference between being IN the flow and outside of it. And I am almost always outside. So if you are at all thinking ‘dude, I need some consolation here,’ I hear you, but I don’t meditate and go deeper into contemplative Christianity seeking consolation. I don’t see any relationship between discipline of a spiritual practice and feeling the Presence. If I’m honest, I am not even sure why I keep studying! It’s deeply humiliating territory at times and mostly a lonely road. Am I pursuing something or is something pursuing me? I don’t know anything except that my desire is to see as Love sees and to get out of the way as much as possible. Thanks for reading me with such tenderness.
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Peace to you right where you are.
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