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Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. (First Thessalonians 5:16-18a)
Paul gives this advice to the Thessalonian church, and it’s a list that transcends time; I certainly find it as useful in the 21st century as it presumably was in the first.
But how? OK, maybe I’m not literally CONTINUAL about it. But I do reach out often for a hand, a rope, a presence. And if I don’t know what to say, I fall back on a couple of short prayers that are easily memorized and repeated.
One is similar to Paul’s advice above.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 118:29, paraphrased from the NRSV)
This phrase appears in many of the Psalms and in other books of the Bible; I can imagine people throughout the ages repeating these words.
And the other is the Jesus Prayer, a traditional prayer of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
I got this one from Madeleine L’Engle, who described especially falling back on the Jesus Prayer when waking up with middle-of-the-night anxieties. I’ve read about it elsewhere since then (and even seen it on Twitter), but that was where I first heard about it.
In times of joy, anxiety, grief, or any time at all, this is where I go.
This post was triggered by my reading of the daily devotional from The Upper Room; reading this is a great daily practice and I urge you to check it out if you’re interested.
I was quite busy on Saturday. We did housework in the morning, and then I took my eldest daughter to a science class in the afternoon. It was way across town, so I waited there for her, and did some blogging and related tasks on my computer. Then we went home, ate dinner, and hung out reading and watching TV until bedtime.
But I still had more things to do today. There were a few more cleaning tasks, the grocery shopping, and preparation for our Girl Scout meeting on Monday. But I didn’t really want to do any of that, and I knew that what I really needed was a Sabbath.
However, I still felt like I needed to do the other things. So I sat around on the computer and didn’t really do anything, and felt guilty about the things I wasn’t doing. I didn’t really either take a Sabbath or get things done; all I did was worry.
Next Sunday, I’m just going to do it. I’m going to take a Sabbath. I’m going to play music and read books and dance with my daughters and not worry about stuff that I “should” be doing.