Every Sunday, I look forward to reading The New York Times. I am a native New Yorker and always find interesting features and perspectives each week.
In a recent issue of the magazine section (Letters of Recommendation) I read "Candle Hour" by Julia Scott. She explained that when she was a teenager, an ice storm came through Montreal, knocking down a giant tree limb in the front yard of her house. For seven days and nights, the power was out, forcing the family to use candles for their light source.
The author concluded that no one in the family remembers what they talked about or ate during that week, but they all remember the use of candles, enabling them to read, eat and continue with daily life.
Now that she has settled in California, she started the practice of "candle hour." An hour before she goes to bed, she turns off all of her devices and lamps and lights a couple of candles, "enough to read a book or stare at the flame. I have a journal ready, but don't pressure myself to write in it. 'Candle Hour' doesn't even need to last a full hour. I sit until I feel an uncoupling from the chaos or until the candle burns all the way down or both."
She continues, "Candle Hour" has become a soul-level bulwark against so many kinds of darkness. I feel myself slipping not just out of my day, but out of time itself. I shut aside outrages and anxieties."
Always looking for new ways to connect to God, I decided to sit with a candle in silence for an hour. Sometimes I have trouble sitting still, so I planned my hour at the end of the day, 6-7 pm. I gathered some paper, a pen, a glass of water and a book I've been reading. I put away my cell phone, set the kitchen timer for an hour and began.
At first I focused on the candle flame, watching it move and sway even when the air seemed still. I took a few deep breaths, inhaling God's presence. My heart became filled with a deep peace. When I felt restless or my mind started to wander, I looked at the candle.
I worked on a poem I wrote the night before and reflected on a passage of scripture. The first time I looked at the clock, eight minutes remained in my hour. I was amazed I sat for so long. During the closing minutes God asked me a question, "To what are you holding on?" I rested in this question and knew I would spend more time in the days ahead pondering the meaning. I concluded the hour by reading a few pages from a book.
Reflections on Candle Hour
I can understand why Julia Scott maintains an occasional practice of candle hour. I felt refreshed at the end of the day and experienced new energy for the evening. My soul was renewed as if I'd been on a weekend retreat. Clarity during the hour helped edit the poem I wrote. Receiving a question from God will direct my thoughts for deeper reflection. I received so much benefit from candle hour. I am eager for another time in the days ahead.
Suggestions for Candle Hour
1. Set aside electronic devices.
2. Decide how much time you want to devote to the practice. If an hour seems too long, try thirty minutes. You know what works best. Set a timer.
3. Have something to drink close by as well as paper, pen, a book or needlework. You can also use this time to reflect on a passage of scripture.
4. Light the candle. God is here.
5. Take a deep breath.
6. Ask God to quiet your mind and open your heart.
1. How was your experience with "Candle Hour?" Were you able to let go and relax? How did God come to you?
2. Did you receive any new insights, perspectives or clarity as you sat?
3. Would you like to try "Candle Hour" again?
Prayer: God, when we light a candle we see a visible representation of your presence. We are also reminded that Jesus is the light of the world. Let us remember that as believers we carry the light of God wherever we go. Guide us as we sit with a candle to listen for your word or just rest in the peace of silence with you. Amen.