Saturday, July 9, 2016

Notre Père...

I do best when I can ease into the day. Some people can't wait to get started
each morning and literally leap out of bed ready to make something happen. I prefer a more gradual entry into existence. It helps if I have ample time for stretching and hot tea - poetry and prayer, too -  before considering being productive about anything. Yes, back in the day, there were periodic power breakfasts with movers and shakers - and a few early morning Bible study groups for men and women on the go - but those are now but a distant memory. "The King is dead: long live the King!" 

It takes me about 90 minutes to fully enter the day - including washing and dressing - and I have learned to plan accordingly. Not everyone has such luxury or privilege, I know, so it is important not to abuse this grace. Balance in action and reflection demands both intentionality and tenderness towards others and myself. After thirty five years of experimenting, I have discovered a satisfying rhythm of late morning appointments mixed with late night study, planning and writing. 

Owning my optimal life rhythm and honoring it with my calendar is a prayerful practice. It is simultaneously an accounting of my intentions for ministry and a quiet way of resisting this culture's insistence on productivity.  Back in seminary, before American living became enslaved to the alarm clock, wise teachers told me, "You already posses all the time there is - learn how to use it in ways that nourish your soul rather than complain. We are all already too busy and no one needs another burned-out minister." For decades I thought I understood this advice only to find myself careening into spiritual weariness and physical fatigue. Only in the past ten years have I come to regularly practice the rhythm that poet Theodore Roethke describes:

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

It should be clear by now that I despise being pushed into productivity in the morning. That's why I hate alarm clocks. I hate them all. They have a place and I have accommodated myself to living in the Beast by using an ethereal tone on my cell phone that beckons me beyond sleep whenever necessary. But I still abhor these necessary evils. J.R. Homes' poem gets it right for me:

The piercing ringer stabbed the heart of my rest
As he dragged me from the calm sea of dreams
Onto the rough sands of consciousness.

Little the motherly bed cradling me could do
In a pulling struggle with the ruthless ringer.
I clawed onto the rosy pillow instinctively as the duel grew.

Inevitably, he snatched me from her with shrilling power
And dictated my drunken mind to hustle the scattering feet
Towards the drenching waters of the weeping shower.

For the past week - after my tea, poetry and prayers - I have been quietly reading the French version of the Lord's Prayer. While visiting L'Arche Ottawa, there came a time in the community sharing meeting when they sang a group song, took hands and recited the Lord's Prayer.  In French. Given the diversity of abilities in this group, I heard clear words in French and sounds beyond my comprehension as well as sighs and groans too deep for human words. After we left, both Dianne and I realized that the time had come to learn this prayer that we have been saying in English all our lives in French. I haven't made a lot of progress yet, but I trust that by summer's close I will have made this part of my heart, too.

Notre Père 
Notre Père, qui es aux cieux,
Que ton nom soit sanctifié,
Que ton règne vienne,
Que ta volonté soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel. 
Donne-nous aujourd'hui notre pain de ce jour.
Pardonne-nous nos offences
Comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés.
Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,
mais délivre-nous du mal,
car c'est à toi qu'appartiennent le règne,
la puissance et la gloire, aux siècles des siècles.

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