I don’t know about you but as for me, closing my eyes to pray or meditate isn’t an option. I feel trapped in a dark place and start scrounging around for light of my own creation or imagining. And that is sure to distract me from my intentions.
I need a visual focus, something for my eyes to “see” while I let my mind settle. Settle on whatever is to come. So that I may welcome and receive it.
Recently, I’ve begun using the minute timer, extracted from a long ago game — possibly Pictionary — where turn-taking was measured in minutes. And before I begin my days’ adventures, I let the sand run. For one solid minute I’m motionless and focused on the grains of sand, seeping through the narrows, slowly, deliberately, orderly and completely.
“My blood shed for thee.” Do I actually hear the voice that speaks that?
“Poured out for your sins.” Where did that thought come from?
Sifted, sliding, shimmering in the ambient light. A sparkle, immediately quenched with its progress. Downward. Toward its finish. Emptying. Emptying. A hollow forms as its pace quickens, hurrying to its completion.
I am neither sad nor distressed as I watch these events unfold. The work of this sand is not remarkable, simply reasonable, inevitable. The consequence of gravity pulling it toward its destination, gathering it together into its lower realm. Poured out. Completely.
“I have emptied myself completely that you might be filled fully.”
“Whatever you do, do it in my name and for my name’s sake.”
Into my day I go, full of the grace and truth that this one minute holds. One day’s worth, bolstered by the assurance of these grains of sand, slipping one by one, of which I am one. Assured by these drops of blood, one by one, by which I’m saved.
Tomorrow I will turn it over and begin again.
The deadline for the Lenten Devotional looms. The editors are EXPECTing my submission. But inspiration just won’t come. That’s the thing about inspiration…you just can’t force it. In fact, the harder I try, the less of it I seem to have.
Still, it doesn’t seem right to just sit here. Waiting. As if a lightning bolt is going to descend and write itself upon my paper in perfect insights, with perfect grammar and legible penmanship. There are plenty of sitters out there. Waiting. I am not good at either.
I need to DO something to hurry the inspiration along! I cut and paste a few verses of my chosen scripture (Song of Songs 2:8-13) onto the computer screen. A few different translations. Why not? I pour over them. Read and re-read. I take notes, look for connections, let my wander to visual imagery. I respond to the verses – in writing! – but to no avail. Everything lies flat upon the page. A day passes. Another. The deadline is mere days away.
And then suddenly a phrase enters my mind: No really, I love you. And I begin…”A man I love side-stepped death.” The scripture sends an image of lattice-work and the loved one calling. An image of the mullions on my very own windows. The lover looks in. I look out. What do I see? What would another see who stood here? Do they hear Him saying, “No really, I love you”?
The experience is powerfully crafting the writing as I wait on the images. Sitting and waiting, here I am after all. But the waiting is expectant. I am the fielder and it is the fly ball. I have heard the crack of the bat. I’ve got a line on it as it soars high in the sky. I try to gauge its descent, tending first right and then a bit left. I see it beginning to drop. I reach out my hand and open my glove wide. It is coming; I am ready to catch it.
Fielding inspiration when it falls is not easy. It takes practice and preparation. One must be ready. But sometimes the ball seems forever in the coming down. Those editors, after all, are waiting.
I type the last and hit submit. Then my friend emails to share that her dearest childhood friend had just succumbed to cancer. It was a long battle, but she still is not sure whether the departed came to know how much God loved her during her lifetime. Surely a God of mercy understands.
This is when I realize that the piece I had written was intended for a different deadline. It was meant to comfort a grieving friend and landed right on time.
My job is simply to settle under the fly ball of grace and catch inspiration as it comes down. Then, to prepare for the next. Kind of ridiculous to think I could force the ball to fall faster into my glove.
What a great name for a product, Resolve. It’s what I use on my carpets when my dog makes a mess. We have it in wide spray for “high traffic areas” and point and shoot for those smaller spots. Unfortunately, today there was much need for resolve and there wasn’t enough left in the can.
I’d like to say that this morning when I discovered the multitude of the project before me, I held my nose happily and, servant that I am, gamely took to the clean up. But no. I plopped down on the floor, rag in hand, and lamented, “there goes my devotional time.” Because that’s what this morning quiet time is reserved for. Sitting happily before my little lit Advent candle, saying prayers, reading inspirational writing and Scripture.
But this morning as I scrubbed, that became devotional time. Always with thanksgiving. Prayer never-ceasing, right? Oh, how God must feel when again and again we call on Him in the midst of our messes, piles that must be cleaned up so we can move on. With that thought, all of a sudden, my sullen demeanor turns a bit more to care and tending. This an old, old dog. Addled and wandering. He’s lost most of his senses and much of what he used to control. The process has been gradual. It wasn’t taken from him all at once.
In my care of him I have a glimpse of what befalls us all if we last. It’s really quite gracious of God to give me fair warning. I set the empty can of Resolve on the counter, in the only space available, right next to the creche. Nestled between the angels proclaiming the good news to a small family in a sodden stable.
What resolve that mother must have had. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word,” Mary said to the angel. And how many times after that time must she have resigned herself to that self same prayer? Mine sounds much more like,”Have it your way, God.”
Thus chastened, I returned to my scrubbing and, wouldn’t you know that the Resolve spray “for large traffic areas” settles invisibly on your carpet, until your add a bit of water on a rag. Then you can see it has expanded to service a broader area. Ah, my little version of a loaves and fishes moment. Imagine, if I had thought to bless before spraying!
So, there you have it: today’s devotion in the do-do. Literally.