Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will come often. It is my hope that these stories and reflections will be helpful in your spiritual journey. I look forward to your thoughts, questions, or suggestions. Please leave your comments and join as a follower so I will know you were here. It is a privilege to share the journey with you.

If you wish to know more about me, spiritual direction or retreats visit my website. www.bunnycox.com. Blessings, Bunny

*See first posting in January, 2011 to learn why this blog is called "From the Big Red Chair."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Love Song for Creation

I said goodbye as I passed the sycamore this morning.  Sadness and the memory of an anthem from my youth fill my heart and rise to my throat, “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”

The majestic tree stands in glory, shining white against the barren gray of its companions. Planted by the hand of God long before I came to honor its beauty, it graces the winter woods beside the river. For more than twenty years I have watched the sycamore praise God, its arms raised towards heaven in silent prayer.  I wonder if the river gently washing the earth beyond its canopy knows today the sycamore’s voice will be silenced.  I wonder if today the river will be muddied by the tears of God that mingle with my own.

The holly and the oak are also unaware that killing machines beyond the swell march ever closer to devour them. The sycamore awoke this morning to shine in the sun and give glory to God.  In minutes it will be felled to make way for concrete poles that have no arms for glory or hearts for prayer.  

I said goodbye to the sycamore as I passed today. I felt I should stand with my friend, to offer comfort as it slipped into memory, but I couldn’t bear to watch. All I could do was say thank you, and I’m sorry.  I am so very sorry.

When will we ever learn?  When will we ever learn?


"God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars."  ~Martin Luther

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."  ~John Muir

"The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man." ~Author Unknown

  • How does my heart respond to these quotes? Do I agree? 
  • If we define the word spiritual as "connected to God," is there a place in creation that I would describe as spiritual? How would I describe it to someone who hasn't been there.  What does it teach me of God? 

The Gift of Silence

"Silence invites the healing Spirit of Hope and is like balm to a broken heart." -Bunny Cox.

 I am a friend of silence, and silence is my friend.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of that truth—like this morning.  It is quiet except for the hum of the furnace and the occasional pop and crack of the house as it recoils from the fingers of winter.  The refrigerator motor whirs in strange paradox, as it battles the furnace and works to sustain icy temperatures in the heart of my kitchen. I am reminded that silence is not the total absence of sound.

Vibrations from a family reunited for the holidays still cling to this space. They ring like a prayer bowl being struck, the reverberations growing dimmer with time, no longer discernable by the human ear.  I am once again alone in a quiet made all the more profound for having been together.  But even as I miss my children who go on to all that God has for them, this morning I embrace the silence. 

Silence hasn't always been my friend.  I was first introduced to the practice at Bon Secour Retreat Center during the first residency of The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation's Spiritual Guidance Program. I approached the experience with fear and trepidation. I knew it was coming, having been pre-warned, but that did nothing to ease my dis-ease. I was afraid of emptiness, emotions that might arise when not masked by busy-ness or deflected by sound, and most of all loneliness.  Maybe I subconsciously agreed with my house painter friend who once declared, “It just ain’t natural!” So it would seem in our noisy world. 

Tilden Edwards gently and prayerfully led us into 36-hours of silence. I entered that place without words, clinging desperately to his prediction that I would not find myself alone. I entered silence with skepticism and emerged knowing he had spoken truth.

Today, silence fills the house and sunlight slips between barren trees beyond the window as if searching for spring that hides under cover of earth. There was once another kind of winter for me when there was no green.  It was a winter of the spirit, a winter called grief.   My first born had died.  

After honoring her life and her soul, after the last casserole had been consumed, after the last note of condolence had been read, stillness descended, and I began the painful struggle to survive in the aftermath of unspeakable loss.  Words were impossible.   I couldn’t pray.  I felt as if I were sitting at the bottom of a deep well, far beyond the reach of words that were no more than dead leaves floating on the surface, unable to penetrate the depths. 

 “Where do you feel closest to God?” asked my spiritual director.

“I guess sitting on the bench in my backyard,” I replied.

 “Go sit on your bench and know that you are praying,” she said.

And so we sat on that bench, God and I.  We sat without words and watched the seasons come and go.  Sobs eventually gave way to soundless tears. Raw pain gave way to perseverance and retreated to a private, sacred place known only to me and the heart of God. And in the silence, I found healing. 
This morning I once again release my children to the grace and mercy of God and embrace the quiet of the day.  I give thanks for the gift of silence and the lessons of Shalem where I first learned that silence is neither empty nor lonely when filled with the Holy Spirit. Difficult emotions can be borne when carried on the shoulders of the Holy One, and words are the least important part of prayer.
  • Which one of these statements best describes my relationship with silence?
                Silence is like . . .
    _____a close friend
    _____someone I don’t know well, but would like to know better
    _____someone I’ve never met
    _____someone I prefer not to be around 
  • Literally every religious tradition recommends periods of silence.  Yet many of us resist spending time in silence. Why? 
  • What is my response to these statements?

    Silence is not the absence of sound.

    Words are the least important part of prayer.

Sacred Space

Sometimes spiritual wisdom comes in the strangest places. I didn’t expect to hear God’s voice when I turned on the television to indulge my HGTV addiction. I tuned in to an interviewer questioning an “expert” on his experience of helping others clear their space.   

I was relieved I had landed on a program I could relate to--something other than “House Hunters International.” It’s probably a flaw in my character, but it’s a stretch for me to sympathize too deeply with people who have had to make do with a house in Belize that didn’t have all the qualities they had hoped for in their getaway home. I admit I sometimes get sucked into the premise and wonder which of the three featured homes I might have chosen. I even temporarily share bittersweetness with couples who lament the short-comings of their chosen structure and state the rationale for their compromised choice. That is, until I think about it. They say, “It doesn’t have the fourth bedroom we really, really wanted.” Or, “The guest house is a little too close to the main building.” Or, “It doesn’t have a walk-in, climate-controlled wine pantry.” “But,” they add “It does have beautiful views of the ocean,” as if that were the consolation prize. Sometimes we all fail to recognize blessings when we see them.

I can relate to programs about messy houses and unwanted clutter--breath-stealing, life-killing, overwhelming clutter. But, in spite of my desire to do otherwise, I often view the actual act of clearing clutter as a chore rather than a blessing. Even though I rarely implement their suggestions, I cling to the advice of professional housecleaners, hoping this one will offer something beyond the expected array of plastic containers, praying that that one will say something that inspires me to actually want to do it.

I suppose I’m not unlike others, who each January winter vow to clean out every drawer and every packed closet.  I resolve to organize files and throw away papers that seem to multiply when I turn out the lights. I declare I am going to get rid of all this stuff because I want my home to be restful, peaceful, a spiritual refuge, ready to welcome anyone who might drop by unannounced. I promise to get rid of soul-killing clutter that makes it difficult to live and to move, or even to breathe.  I yearn for sanctuary, for open space. But in spite of that desire, I often do nothing to clear the clutter. I allow more to accumulate, suffocating any chance for the peace I seek.     

As the interview continued in the background, it occurred to me that we often approach our spiritual lives in the same way. We yearn for a deeper relationship with God, yet we don’t clear space for that to happen. We polish tarnished excuses with words like “other responsibilities,” or “maybe when I finish.” Thousands of reasons answer the question, “Finish what?” 

Worry, anxiety, and fear claim space in our souls, squeezing out spontaneity and joy. We pack more and more stuff into our lives and wonder why we feel unsettled. In spite of God’s promise to meet us in the open space, we act as if the blessing of even one minute stolen for Sabbath would be a sentence of solitary confinement, and silence would be like the clang of a prison door.

“So what do you notice most when you help people clear their space,” said the interviewer.
“The first thing we do is clear the room,” said the expert. “Then we look at every item, think about it, and decide if it deserves to come back in.  But, do you know what I’ve noticed most,” said the clutter-clearer. “In every home where there have been children—in every single one—it has never failed to happen--when everything is cleared, the children run into the open space--and dance.”

Precious Lord, we are grateful for the blessing of holy space, sacred space.  We yearn to dance with you.


  • What "clutter" gets in the way of the spiritual life I desire?

  • What needs to be cleared to make space for God?

  • And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27) What are my thoughts about this statement? 

  • What is my relationship with Sabbath time? Does it sound inviting or restrictive? Why?

From the Big Red Chair

“Mom, you can’t just sit in this chair and stare out the window,” she said gently.
Her hand rested on my knee, and my heart was comforted by her concern and compassion.  I nodded and placed my hand over hers, hoping the gesture spoke the words of gratitude that I could not.  Something inside me wanted to protest. I couldn’t explain. Insight was beyond my reach and my energy. I knew with a wordless “knowing”---that sitting in the big red chair, looking out the window, was exactly what I needed to do.

Perhaps the Spirit had already whispered gentle encouragement to my soul and invited me to walk the path towards healing, but that was yet to be revealed. That morning, all I could do was tell my beloved youngest daughter of my love, pray for her as she too grieved the loss of her sister, and plead for safe travel as she returned to college. I didn’t know then that the big red chair was a place of renewal and healing.

Years have passed, and the big red chair is still where I pray and write and watch the seasons reveal their wisdom.  It is the place where I examine life and sometimes ask, “What do I believe now that this has happened.”    It is the place where I learned when we walk through the valley we don’t have to be afraid of shadows.  And, most of all, it is where I discovered God does keep his promises. Even though at times I was blinded by tears,  I can look back now and see. I was never left alone. 

And so as I write from the big red chair, this is my prayer: Precious, Lord, this is another day and a chance to live and love again. I don't know what it will bring, but make me ready for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it gallantly. Help me, Lord, to live with my eyes wide open to your ever faithful signs of encouragement. May your Holy Spirit equip me and use me for your kingdom's sake. Stir my heart and open my mouth that I may speak boldly of your love. Make these words more than words, Lord, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.