I'm headed on a ramble today…
I've set my phone to mark the Hours- The dawn office, morning office, midday, vespers, complines. It's something new I've started recently; a practice I am finding quite fascinating. My desire to start them actually fell somewhere around the same day or two that I sort of 'hit the wall'. I've done the Divine Hours on and off for over two years, but I've never, ever been daily disciplined enough to really pray through them. It was sparked by Ann's discussion of spiritual disciplines during her Walk With Him Wednesday memes. She's covered a lot of ground since she started doing the series. For some reason, reading last week's post made me realize that I am not spiritually disciplined at all. Oh, I know all these things. I should be reading the Bible daily. I should be doing a lot of things in that vein. And I do. But I rarely string four days together of any habit. I get gung ho about stuff, do it well, and then fizzle out.
I had been thinking about this verse (one that Jesus actually quotes to Satan while being tempted):
He humbled you,
causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither
you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on
bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3)
I realized that I was spiritually starving. I would eat just enough to live, but never enough to really 'fill up the tank', to truly be. Is it no wonder then that my defenses have failed and my wall has fallen, and depression and burnout snuck in?
On the flip side, I'm a mama of five, and quiet does not come often around here. I often let exhaustion or chores or a million other little things crowd out the time. They are pressing things but they are not needful things. I mulled it over for a while and felt like the one practice I really wanted to start cultivating, that I felt like I could do and stick with it for longer than 2.5 seconds, was fixed hour prayer. It felt pretty drastic to me. And I sort of puzzled over remembering when to pray…until I realized I could set multiple alarms on my phone. It even has a bell 'ring tone' that sounds like church bells. So now, at the appointed time, my phone calls out the Hours, and I stop. For about two minutes, I focus on the One thing needful.
Those bells have rung out now for nearly a week and a half. If there is one thing cultivating this new practice has taught me, it is the realization that I tend to live a divided life. This is the 'school day', this is when I do laundry, this is when I am a wife, this is when I am a care taker of my home, and this is when I do things that bring me closer to God. Something about that is so backwards. The Hours teach you this because- well, midday bells ring and I am diapering a child. Vespers ring and I am literally in the middle of making dinner, pot bubbling, chicken sizzling. Smack in the middle of life. Fixed hour prayer creates hard stops in the day while at the same time being smack in the middle of the flow of daily time. It's really made me realize how the physical, quotidian everyday and the heavenly dimension are interwoven with each other. It amazes me how that sudden stop will totally change my direction.
Tonight, as dinner was coming on (we sort of gently call it 'the bewitching hour'), I was rushed. Worried. Trying to figure out a recipe I hadn't tried before. Hoping that Josiah would nap until dinner was done cooking. Wondering if I had switched the laundry. Worrying about family members who are ill. Kids fussing and grumping because they don't want to clean up. Vespers rang. I'll admit I actually huffed and rolled my eyes at my phone. Whoa. That caught my attention. I sorta muttered "one thing needful" under my breath, went and grabbed my prayer book, eyed the dinner, and stopped. And prayed. It only takes the space of maybe a minute, or two? The dinner certainly didn't burn. It was still bubbling away. The interesting thing about the liturgy is that you will read (and pray) a tremendous chunk of scripture each day, a few moments at a time, every few hours. And I need to hear the Word! As I went back to making dinner, my whole outlook had changed. Things were still pressing but I was not rushing and worrying and fretting. I was at peace. I spent those twenty minutes of dinner preparation worshiping while working. I find myself hoping that more of my moments are like that- one piece, instead of two, five, ten…scattered and unmoored…