"It was a normal rush-hour day in a New York City airport. Commuters raced down concourses to make quick connections between major incoming flights and local helicopters or business jets that would take them from one small airport to another in time for supper. Men in heavy coats swinging heavy briefcases, and women inhigh heels loaded down with cumbersome shoulder bags skidded around vendors and carts, corners and counters in a mad rush to reach gates where the doors were already closing. There wouldn't be another flight for at least an hour. They pushed and jostled, bumped and pounded their way through a jumble of people dashing down the same corridor but in the opposite direction.Suddenly, everyone heard the crash. The fruit stand teetered for a moment and then tilted the fruit baskets off the countertop to the floor. Apples and oranges rolled helter-skelter up and down the concourse. Then the girl behind the counter burst into tears, fell to her knees, and began to sweep her hands across the floor, searching for the fruit. 'What am I going to do?' she cried. 'It's all ruined. It's all bruised. I can't sell this!'One man, seeing her distress as he ran by, stopped and came back. 'Go on,' he called to the others still running ahead of him down the corridor. 'I'll catch you later.'Seeing how frantic she was, he got down on the floor with the girl and began putting apples and oranges back into baskets. And it was thn, as he watched her sweep the space with her hands, randomly, frantically, that he realized that she was blind. 'They're all ruined,' she kept saying.The man took forty dollars out of his wallet, pressed it into her hand. 'Her,' he said as he prepared to go, 'here is forty dollars to pay for the damage we've done.'The girl straightened up. She began to grope the air, looking for him now. 'Mister,' the bewildered blind girl called out to him, 'Mister, wait...' He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. 'Mister,' she said, 'are you Jesus?'"
The author of said book used this story to illustrate her point that religious tradition and liturgical practices have an integral place in the spiritual growth of believers... because living them day after day and year after year makes us into people who act, talk, do as their Lord would have... people who live a tangible "Jesus" faith.
It was the author's clear believe that repeating liturgical forms year after year, season after season... or even week after week... allowed the follower to develop an intuitive or instinctual understanding of the divine man Jesus and that would help change us from the inside out because we were consistently in a position to listen to the Holy Spirit within.
When I thought of liturgy, I always thought of highly stylized, formal church situations where each movement, every word, was prescribed ahead of time and any deviation was considered less than optimum. Or that, at least, was my experience as a young'un growing up, when I would occasionally attend a Catholic or Anglican service with one of my friends. But frankly, most of everything that occurred in those services was far beyond my understanding and most of it did not make sense. So it seemed just a lot of pointless busyness. Hence the author's insistence on the need for repetition... not just the occasional engagement.
Now, having read a bit of the background, starting to understand some of the reasons behind the traditions, I've realized that somewhere along the line, I've accepted the value and importance of traditional liturgy giving structure and form and security... while learning to see, to feel, to experience communion with the Lord - in a prescribed form not mindless/habitual repetition - it is the structure that can free the worshipper to meditate, reflect and be changed in the practice of those traditions.
I see this so clearly as I work with non-literate women here in Niger... and recently, probably because I've been paying more attention, I see this with my children as I watch God working in their lives, using this vehicle of repeated, expected and traditional practices, liturgy in both the home and the church (including a service where nothing happens in my children's maternal tongue).
I am also experiencing this directly, in my own life, particularly through this very act, a Multitude Monday tradition. Honestly, some days I sit down to write and wonder what in the world I can find for my fingers to say. But this act, this tradition, this form... this worship practice I have practiced faithfully each week for well over a year now is slowly changing my perspective. I'm seeing God's hand in so many places I never even thought to look for it before. The spirit of timidity with which I continually struggle remains, but the ability to stand firm in the Lord's strength when fearfulness attacks has grown. Contentment where I would normally critique, wanting to choose a gentle response and humility instead of standing for my rights and justice as I see it - all of these are things that I find God is changing through this habit of listing weekly the many things for which I am thankful.
this week's gratitude list
(#s 1313 - 1341)
less than a week, now
prayers of commissioning and dedication
completed script writing seminar
a few less things to do... at least every day
hours playing in the sand
being forced to plan a menu because company's coming
walking with a friend
progress on our house
experimenting with the versatility of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
dreaming about lavendar ice cream
enduring a long wait with a good book
friends returning to Niamey
celebrating a full year back since returning from furlough
books that broaden my knowledge, challenge my preconceptions - even when I don't agree or understand everything within
imagining heaven, based on Scripture
planning, dreaming for the future
little girls playing with "Littlest Pet Shoppe" characters
words spoken by our baby that remind me why we are here
getting some answers to questions and physical health issues that have lingered
understanding the reason behind traditional form and practice... and appreciating the practice all the more
watching young friends choose to follow Jesus
hearing irish flutes twitter behind a closed bedroom door
my friend Mamata successfully blending many consonants and vowels now
listening to the littles laugh their way through the movie "Cars" yet once again, scratches on the CD and all
sunsets and working at the computer by the daylight that remains as darkness comes
song and laughter from the visitors in the apartment below us
Sunday afternoon snuggles
being challenged to consider the gift that asking others for help might be...
having many volunteer to help us move... when that day comes... it is approaching fast!