“The noun torah comes from a verb, yarah, that means to throw something, a javelin, say, so that it hits its mark. The word that hits its mark is torah… As we prepare to pray, to answer the words God addresses to us, we learn that all of God’s words have this characteristic: they are torah and we are the target.”I sit on the sofa in a circle of lamplight. Night presses on the windowpanes. Cold seeps through them. But the heat rattles in the registers, and I am cozy under a fleece blanket. The house is quiet. Everyone else is asleep. The stars have aligned tonight and given me a moment of silence, alone in asleeping house in the dark of a midwinter night. My Bible lies open on my lap. I am praying through the Psalms again, morning and (when I can manage it) night. Tonight I read Psalm 11:
—Eugene Peterson, Answering God
In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”On the one hand, the poetry moves me—the image of the bird and the bow, the arrow on the loose, the destroyed foundations. On the other hand, the reality of the image hits a little closer to home than I would like. These past six months I have been writing a memoir about my postpartum year with twins, a year marked by the darkest days I have ever known. Revisiting that dark time has been healing, of course, a chance to make sense of my experience, to see how God has redeemed it. But it also raises a lot of questions, questions for which I don’t have answers, questions like the Psalmist’s in this psalm: if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? In the darkness of my postpartum experience, I felt like the foundations of my life, of my self were being eroded and destroyed. And what do you do when you are no longer the person you’ve always believed yourself to be, when your faith—and therefore your identity—is shaken and you’re clinging to it by your fingernails and you know there’s a wicked something-or-other out there with a bow and an arrow trained on your grasping fingers? Wrapped in my blanket, I shiver a little. But I am not ready to go to bed. The silence is rich, alive somehow, the circle of lamplight comforting, though I know the darkness presses at the edge of my sight. I flip through the pages of my Bible and stop at John 10. I’m not sure why, really, but I think the Good Shepherd story might cheer me, might remind me whose I am, and send that bow-wielder back to the dark from whence he came. I read the Good Shepherd story. It’s a wonderful story, really, but so familiar as to cease to amaze. A pity, that. But I keep reading, past the space break in my Bible with its bold heading to show that we’re moving on to a new topic. Only we aren’t. Jesus is still talking about sheep. He says,
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”And suddenly, I am weeping. I read those words again and again, like a woman dying of thirst who has stumbled upon a spring. But this spring is inside of me, and I didn’t even know it was there. The tears keep coming, and I don’t even know why I’m crying. Something in those words released something in me, and it’s flowing down my cheeks. Later, I will talk about this with my spiritual director, and she will help me see that these words touched a deep place of fear in me, the fear in which I lived during my postpartum darkness, the fear that I would cease to be, that I would never see my children again. These words of Jesus promise that life is forever, that I will never perish, that my children will never perish, that nothing and no one can snatch us from the hand of God. And I will say that I know that, that I have even written words to that effect before, many times. I will say I don’t know why this time they got through my intellectual filters and stabbed me right in my heart. But for now, sitting on the sofa in a circle of quiet, I have yet to think those thoughts. I only know that Jesus’ words have stirred something deep in me, and though I don’t understand why, I also know that these are healing tears, tears of release and return and redemption. And I am grateful. Grateful for the words. Grateful for the tears. Grateful for God’s grace that would prompt me to read a familiar passage again and speak through it words I didn’t even know I needed to hear. “Prayer,” Eugene Peterson says, “begins in the senses, in the body.” If that is so, then this night, I am praying as truly as I know how. Post and photos by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, general misfit, mother of four, and author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year.
- Take care of the earth - especially the soil. No life flourishes without healthy soil.
- Take care of the people
- Share the surplus:
Several months ago I felt that I needed to give up internet, especially email and facebook on my Sabbath day. Then when doing a mini-series on Sabbath keeping at church after reading Gift of Rest by Sen. Lieberman, I realized that I needed to add phone calls to that. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid phone calls, emergencies and such but overall I recommend this type of fast. It is not easy. I can think of lots of reasons each week to go online but do my best to avoid it. I shared the commitment with my congregations, adding of course that if they were on the phone and said a spouse was having a heart attack or something like that I would surely pick up and make the visit. I have been amazed at my colleagues and parishioners who respect this fast, even my boss:)And on the MSA blog my husband Tom has suggested embracing a new discipline of daily laughter. Ann Voskamp also has a great idea for a family repentance box which she posted a couple of years ago. If you are like me and looking for disciplines that help us to focus outwardly on the challenges our world faces you might like to consider these resources. I have focused on two challenges I am passionate about - climate change and poverty. The Oil Lamp has shared several helpful links to sites that suggest ways to incorporate a carbon fast into your Lenten practices. I particularly enjoyed this link recommended by Archbishop Thabo Magkoba, convenor of the Anglican Environmental Network in South Africa: A Carbon Fast for Lent. They also have some good basic suggestions for a carbon fast here. Earth Ministry's LeAnne Beres wrote this helpful article about taking a Carbon fast a couple of years ago which includes links to other great resources. You might also like to check out these resources for praying for the vulnerable and hungry during Lent. The ELCA has a great World Hunger Lenten Series available – lots of good information and suggestions. They go for a $3/day diet – probably more doable today then the $2/day we have always attempted. Bread for the World always produces wonderful resources that challenge us to face the issues of hunger. This year they have worked in collaboration with Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement to develop a series of Lenten activities around the theme of Maternal and Child Nutrition in the 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. Check out what is be available here Episcopal Relief and Development has chosen the alleviation of hunger for the theme of their Lenten Meditations this year too. They are available in both English and Spanish and can be downloaded for free. And please keep contributing your own suggestions for Lenten practices that help bring faith and life together.
One Final Celebration of Light Before Lent
Christ as a light, illumine and guide us. Christ as a shield, overshadow and cover us. Christ be under us, Christ be over us. Christ be beside us, on left and on right. Christ be before us, Christ be behind us. Christ be within us, Christ be without us. Christ as a light, illumine and guide us
In Scripture and in our own personal experience, we know that silence can actually communicate a lot. Sitting silently holding the hand of someone who is dying can communicate comfort. Standing in silence after a long hike up a mountain may say something about the breathtaking effort it took to get there as well as about the breathtaking beauty of the 360-degree view. (40)She goes on to explain that there is no place so silence that it is completely without sound. In silence we are able to listen beyond everyday sounds for God. This was the phrase that really attracted my attention this morning. What are the sounds beyond the everyday noises that are the sounds of God? Once we have stilled the distractions of busyness, conversation, music and traffic what remains? These in some ways are the sounds of God. The sound of breathing which is the breath of God passing into and out of our bodies filling us with life and love and energy. The sound of our heartbeat pumping the life blood of Christ into every cell and fibre of our being, renewing, restoring and refreshing our bodies so that we can do and be all that God intends. Even the sound of those little unconscious movements of hands and feet, of muscles flexing and tendons stretching, that remind me I am alive, a miracle of God's creativity and expression. These this morning are the sounds of God for me. The sounds that shout aloud in the place of sheer silence reminding me that God will never leave nor forsake me. What are the sounds of God for you this morning?
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