Reflections of Curt Gardner’s Book, God just is
Yesterday, I was making pizza dough, for me and my eldest son, David, who was coming round later for his tea. I hadn’t made this for ages but have come to enjoy the process. Usually, I start the dough off about 2 o’clock and pizzas will be on the lap for 7ish. But yesterday, I started at 5. Then, shock! I found I didn’t have any flour in the cans. Luckily, there was some barleycorn left over in a bag. I was feeling quite anxious, tensing about getting the pizzas ready in time, when, something happened. I told myself I was making these pizzas for me and my son out of love…and let something go. Whoosh! From then on, it came back again, the pleasure and fun it is, all covered in flour and olive oil. ‘How do you like your pizza, son?’ ‘It’s the pizza of all the colours’, he replied. It was and it made us both smile.
So, what does this have to do with Curt Gardner’s book? Well, everything for me and probably not so much for you. And that’s the whole point. Each of us is different and finding our own way to God or the Great Spirit (I’m reading the ‘Feathered Friends’ story, in readiness for children’s meeting in a couple of week’s time, so I’m well into the Great Spirit). He writes, that’s Curt, not me, ‘for that instant…if you focus on what you are doing, the ‘I’…disappears…and the activity becomes simply [making pizza]…and you find yourself at the point when you just are.’(Pp 91-2)
And this was how it felt for me. I was aware of each moment of kneading and spreading the toppings on and the pleasure I was having from wearing my ‘Grumpy Old Man’ pizza-defence apron.
I had been a little dubious when a friend from Quaker Life urged us (or challenged us?) to buy this remarkable book for the insights shared by the author. Was it a marketing ploy? I found myself buying it anyway for my meeting, just in case, and settled down to read it. The writer’s way has been along a mainly Christian path while also taking in Eastern Orthodox beliefs. Yet, he’s clear that other spiritual disciplines are open to us from other sources if we seek them out. Find what works for you. It was interesting to note that I didn’t have the heebeegeebees about Ignatian visualisation practices. The opposite being the case for me as they involve stories. He quotes Advices and Queries 7, ‘Are you open to new light from whatever source it may come?’ The light may shine on you from unexpected places.
What I found was this. There is a lifetime’s experience of finding and then trialling many forms of silent worship here while bringing up a family, working full time, travelling and entering into retirement. That’s what I hadn’t realised. How much we change over a lifetime. We’re not the same people at 20 as we are at 50 or 80 in terms of our needs and awareness of God.
I experienced a beautiful moment while riding on the 68 bus reading a bit of his book. I won’t say which bit but I just thought and felt, ‘Is that what it is…? Yes.’ And felt a sense of peace and love. You might say I heard my breath. It was lovely and I’d like some more, please, God, when you’re ready. I hope you’ll find me waiting. But I do need to practise and for that I need to explore what practices work best for me at this stage of my life.
The ‘Quaker Life marketing guy’ got it spot on. Above all, I thank Curt Gardner for taking the time and trouble to record and pass on his experiences of a lifetime’s waiting quietly, practising techniques he has found helpful, being gentle with himself and with others and putting his learning at the service of the Society of Friends and beyond.