Lectio THEN (June 3, 2009)
“countless… countless… countless” and “thousands upon thousands”
These two phrases jumped right out at me this morning as I read, recalling to mind images of crows swarming and dive-bombing me, pecking me apart, and of ticks falling out of trees, latching on and sucking me dry, leaving me anemic and lifeless.
The image of the crows has been with me for a couple of months. I feel like I have to be emotionally prepared to leave the house, lest the criticism and constant pecking of the crows pull me completely apart.
The ticks are a new image. I was out in our community garden and found a tick on my shirt, then another one on my pant leg. I was so upset because I’d been wanting a garden so badly. All snowy winter long I daydreamed of having my fingers in the dirt. And now, to find out there are ticks that fall out of the trees ruined everything. I haven’t been back to the garden in weeks.
But then, as I took those images to God in prayer, the Spirit guided me toward “Yahweh sustains me.” And there was that boysenberry pie again, sitting at God’s kitchen table in a rustic cabin in the woods. And as I ate, God sat next to me with one arm gently rubbing my back – the way you would soothe and comfort a child who’s had a bad dream.
I know that I always feel better after a visit with God in the kitchen, but why is it so hard to come here? I feel so like Paul who says, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” (Romans 7.19, New Living Translation) I want to read my Bible and pray every day, but as soon as I try to set a routine, I fail miserably. My husband teases me that I only want enough structure so I have something to push against. I talked with Sister Marcy at the Francis House of Prayer about this and her solution was to pray for the desire to pray and be steeped in Scripture. Wow. That seems so simple, so simple that it would have never occurred to me. As of this writing, it was two weeks ago that she gave me that advice. Pray for the desire to pray.
As I sat with God at the kitchen table, she didn’t say anything and I was okay with that, even though there are answers I want right now. I am comforted and sustained. The nourishment fed to me by God restores me and gives me life. Maybe the crows and ticks need some boysenberry pie, too.
Lectio NOW (September 29, 2010)
“countless… countless… countless”
This past Sunday, my church worshipped with the Open Door Community, and they’ve been on my mind and in my heart ever since. I’ve also been meaning to call to sign up to help in their soup kitchen this week. I don’t know what has kept me from doing it.
It’s not surprising to me then that as I read this psalm, I’m reading from the perspective of the homeless. And as I’m reading about issues of hunger and homelessness and unemployment, the words “countless… countless… countless” are echoing those very things. Countless are the obstacles to housing, countless are the obstacle to employment, countless are the obstacles to finding the next meal.
As I continue reading from this perspective, I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of faith it would take to pray as in verse 5 “if I lie down and sleep, I shall awake, for Yahweh sustains me.” If I find a place to lay my cardboard down on the concrete, I trust you God, that no harm will come to me, and that you will sustain me.
I read again, and again. And I am doubtful that my faith could be sustained lying on that piece of cardboard. Some days I can hardly keep my faith from my cozy apartment with more food than we can eat in a month.
Turning in prayer, verse four emerges “I cry out to Yahweh; he answers from his holy mountain”. And I wait, to hear what that answer is. What answer could there possibly be? And then it comes, “you”.
In Harold Kushner’s book “When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough”, he says there is no “Answer” with a capital “A”, but there are “answers” with lower case “a’s”. Yes, the enemies are countless, there’s too many of them. They’re political, social, economic, religious, medical… and the list goes on. I can’t fix all of that – heck, I can’t fix any of it! But I can be an answer, and I can answer when I feel God nudging me, rather than hesitating, as I’ve been doing all week.
I almost didn’t go to Open Door Sunday night. I don’t know why. I just didn’t feel like going somewhere new. But I went and I’m glad I did. During the time of the service when people voice aloud prayer requests, I asked for prayer for the family of a dear friend of mine who recently committed suicide. And then a man stood up and shared his struggle with depression, and how close he feels at time to being overcome. I was deeply moved to remember him and to pray for him regularly. And then afterward, I was moved again to tell him that I would be praying for him. He said he knew that I understood because of my friend and we hugged and cried together for a moment. I have his name written down and posted so that I see it several times a day. He cries out to Yahweh, and God answers by prompting me to action and to prayer.
Is God nudging you someone, or toward someone? Will you answer, and be an answer? I know I’ve put it off too long. And now, I’m going to go make a phone call.