In my home and church county, the stay at home order has been extended by our governor through June 4th. As we approach that time, I'm working on projects I've been putting off even though I ought to have already had the time. Of course, one of those projects is spring cleaning and organizing. Anybody need a half broken juicer, an empty fish tank and a used drum case?
We find it natural, if a bit tiring, to do so with our belongings. But what about our time? As we approach the time that things will get back to "normal", I'd encourage us to take special care about what we stuff back into our schedule, and to find those things that had been squeezed out of it previously and put them into our schedule first.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, "In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness." Much of the Bible, too, is about sorting through our lives and weeding out what is unnecessary while wholly embracing those deep necessities of spirit that the world often deems unimportant. Let's take care to do so at home while we're stuck there and with our time and attention as the world opens up to us.
Scrabble and Jesus
We've been playing scrabble at my house. It can get ugly. My husband beat us badly with some crazy words last night. We were, however, being a little loosy goosy with the rules, allowing folks to look up whether what they THOUGHT was a word was actually a word. I learned A LOT of new words last night, a couple of my favorites:
ro: an artificial language intended to be international that rejects all existing words and roots and is based on analysis and classification of ideas
dox: to publicly identify or publish private information about (someone) especially as a form of punishment or revenge
I love new words (even if I've been beaten badly by them) because language is a powerful tool, and I'm always looking for just the right one. Have you ever been stuck for a word? I find that folks feel that way often in prayer. But the scripture tells us not to worry about that.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Romans 8:26
Even though, we know we only need let the Spirit intervene, there seems to be something cathartic about finding just the right word. I'd encourage you, occasionally as part of your spiritual disciplines to read through some prayers. I've been reading E. Lee Phillips' "Prayers for Worship" and "My Heart in My Mouth; Prayers for Our Lives" by Ted Loder. Email me your favorites to share!
Craft as Creation
“In the nineteenth century, knitting was prescribed to women as a cure for nervousness and hysteria. Many new knitters find this sort of hard to believe because, until you get good at it, knitting seems to cause those ailments. The twitch above my right eye will disappear with knitting practice.”
―Stephanie Pearl-McPhee At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much
I love crafts. But I am not what one would call crafty. I mostly try really hard and have fun with not a lot to show for it after. One of the reasons I love to craft is because it allows me to be creative, and creativity is part of who we all are.
You read that right. We all are creative. I know it because I've read my Bible. Genesis 1:27 tells us, "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Our God is a creator, making the world from nothing at all. And if we are created in God's image, then we are creators as well.
That is part of our nature that needs to be nurtured to feel healthy and whole. But creating isn't for the faint of heart. That is why Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's comments on knitting resonated with me. Art, craft, and music are so good for us, but they are so very challenging and frustrating as we learn and grow in them.
And yet, maybe that's why they are so good for us. What is more daunting that trusting in a process you don't yet understand? What is more frightening than knowing that your creation will put you in mind of your own imperfection? What is more shaking than activities that put you in connection with the creative power of God?
Yet, what could be more powerfully healing than something that taught you to trust, to be comfortable with your mistakes, connected you with the divine and gave you a nice warm sweater to boot?
No matter what you choose, knitting, crocheting, cooking and baking, drawing or coloring, painting or sculpting, writing or playing music, dancing, create for and with your creator.
Lamenting in the time of Pandemic
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” James Baldwin
I've been tearing through books during our time in quarantine. Books are the ultimate multi-tool. Books are a distraction, a time travel portal, a portrait of beauty and impossibility, and what better way to see the world when you can't leave home?
I was thankful to read James Baldwin adding one more gift of books to mind. When I read, I know I am not alone. I haven't invented any of my suffering, someone else long ago already discovered this desert land. There is great comfort in that, as well as great wisdom to be found in how to handle our struggles.
The Bible is especially good at the art of lament. Despite how often there is hope and joy in the scripture, there are also many and varied passages full of the pain and grief we are all carrying right now. For example, Lamentations 1:4...
The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to the festivals;
all her gates are desolate,
her priests groan;
her young girls grieve,
and her lot is bitter.
When you are feeling especially lonely and tired, I encourage you to go to the word of God. Your pain is not new, nor is it eternal.
Rev. Jana Quisenberry is the minister at Brightwood Christian Church. She's an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A graduate of Transylvania University in Lexington, KY and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN, She now resides in Mt. Lebanon with her husband, two children, and dog, Sookie. Pastor Jana loves the church, science fiction, and coffee.
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