July 2009


pray

I have been reading (and enjoying) a book called The Mystic Way of Evangelism by Elaine A. Heath.  In it, she proposes that the church – in the 21st century West – is in a “dark night of the soul” and that the mystics have much to say to us as we try to navigate this season.  Though I don’t always land where she does, the book prompted me to think and challenged me once again about the power of God’s love.

Here is a poem she wrote at the end of the book that I thought was just beautiful:

I emerge from the tomb of my slumber

Loose the attachments

That bound me for so long

No one guessed at my beauty

I leave the stifling night of my confinement

Slide into the cool baptismal waters

Suspended in the breaking of the dawn

Stroke on stroke

Stroke on stroke

I glide

Suspended in mercy

Now I emerge

Now I breathe

Now I sing

Now I live

Your redemption

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repetitiveplaces

When my kids were little, we used to get out a pen, and measuring tape and open the door to the pantry.  The kids would excitedly back up against the door frame, put their heels against the wall and stand up straight.  I would then mark where the top of their head hit the frame and we would put their name and date to commemorate how much they had grown.   They used to love those days because it gave them a chance to see how much taller they had gotten since last time and I would sometimes catch them (in between measurings) opening the door themselves and trying to see where they were in relation to the past.

There is a place – a physical location – that is a “measuring frame” to me.  It is a cabin in Canada that my family has returned to year after year; it has become central to my God-story and a repetetive mile marker for each year of my life.  It is here, as a young girl, I heard the love song of The Creator as I maneuvered my paddleboard through the water under the weeping willow trees.  I felt Him in the warmth of the sun on the sand and knew echoes of His existence in the beauty I saw around me.

Each time I returned to this place, my relationship with Him was different – bigger (or smaller) – but the place became a kind of growth chart to me; a location of remembrance.

This place provides a sort of stability in my constant flux of change.  I know the smell of the place; my feet know the feel of the rough sand and the texture of the boards on the dock;  my ears know the chatter of the chipmunks to one another; my fingers know the feel of the rocky cliffs and my body knows the tingling chill of the lake water.  I know the sound of the rain and the lapping of the waves on the beach.  I know this place…it is a resting place;  it speaks the word “home” to me.

Now I bring my kids to this “repeating” place.  I watch them rub the clay from the lake all over their bodies like I did as a kid.  I watch them find summertime friends to swim out to the raft with and eat popsicles with.  They wear their bathing suits all day long and shower infrequently.

There is something to be said for locations of repetition.  They are the same – we know them – and yet we come to them a different person each year.  We are older, taller, more mature, struggling and sad or full of joy and peace.  But it is a place that though I spin and whirl through life, it remains a still center point – a place of the constant.

In this place I can rest; I can find peace; I can assess a year or a decade of my life; I can hear new whispers of God that sing in harmony with the old – all the notes find their proper place and duration.  And it is a place I can compare who I am today with who I was last year…how I see God today with how I saw Him last year.

Locations of repetition…I need them.  I think my children need them.  Like the door frame marked with the heights of our children on incramemental dates, repetition gives us a view of how much we’ve grown since the last time.  It is a place where I can mark out and measure the faithfulness of God.

FireBoy3

I have been struck over the last few weeks regarding the need or rather health of repetition and form.  Repetition and form in prayer, in spiritual practices, and even in locations.  I will be writing on this topic over the next few weeks, but as I am on vacation I will leave you with this prayer.  It is borrowed from Mother Teresa and is becoming my prayer of repetition and form for right now.  (As I fight the demons of people pleasing and wanting to be applauded!)

Deliver me, O Jesus,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire to being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the desire of being popular,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being suspected.
Amen.