Wild Lectionary: Is This Not Prayer?

image003Proper 22(27) C
2 Timothy 1:1-14

By Christina Thomson

A while back, I listened to an On Being podcast with Krista Tippett interviewing Seane Corn. The guest, Seane, is a yogi and teacher for many, as well as the focus of a little envy on my side because of her amazing locks. In the podcast, named Yoga, Meditation in Action, she tells a personal story of a way she prays that I had not considered before: a fully embodied prayer, going through sun salutations, holding grateful and positive intentions for a loved one. In that moment, she granted me words for a feeling I had experienced many times, in many places and in many ways.

Later, I listened to Arnold Eisen with Krista Tippett. He spoke of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and discussed a well-known quote I had only heard in passing. But now it meant something profound to me. Heschel was quoted:

For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

In my 45 years as the oldest daughter in a family of 9 children, a mother of 4 children, a teacher of innumerable music students, the leader in church children’s worship, a guide working in nature therapies, gardener, fruit tree-tender, goat-milker and chicken-tender, I had noticed something moving in me… and those feelings had words…finally! I felt so much gratitude to these lovely humans for that gift.

Perhaps these feelings were to lead me to a part of myself that I needed to know, but surely they provided a glimpse into what might be a gift I could bring to the world. The question arose: What if everything we do in love and compassion is prayer? Can we make it all prayer? Can counseling my baby brother and his wife be prayer? Can listening to my grandmother talk about my ailing grandfather be prayer? Can helping to raise my siblings, raise my kiddos, and care for my non-human friends in the barn, at the birdfeeders and in the gardens be prayer?

Then I read the passage from 2 Timothy which says:

I am grateful to God-whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did-when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.

I thought about this constant praying of Paul. How would that be possible if everything could not be identified as prayer? Taking the liberty to look as Paul’s words in a literal way, I dove in.

Prayer to me during my youth was simple: fold your arms, bow your head, be silent, thoughtful, then speak aloud your gratitudes and needs to God in the name of Christ; listen and repeat many times a day. That worked for a lot of years–like 30 or so. I had no intention of making anything difficult, always trying to do things the “right” way.

Then one day, I was in my garden, watching the bumblebees sleeping in the sunflowers, and a feeling of peace, joy, and contentment washed over me. Could this be prayer?

As we watch our children grow, learning from their failings as well as their successes, our hearts expand, our eyes weep, and we know more than anything that our hearts are not just our own anymore, but theirs. Is this not prayer?

As we put our heart and soul into our work, whether it is at a local restaurant, department store, non-profit or church community, we offer our best, our love, our compassion, good intentions and energy to offer a service. Is this not prayer as well?

Participants come with me and so many other guides on forest therapy walks and come into contact with hidden, difficult, and beautiful parts of themselves. Surely this is prayer.

image005The list is endless: noticing the bluebirds that nest on my sugar maple, the joy of reunion with loved ones, the noticing of the smell of freshly-cut hay. Constant prayer is possible, yes.

And yet, when frustration and anger arise in us about our current life situations, health issues, or something we cannot control at work, can we bring ourselves back into that place of compassion and love for ourselves and others? Can we allow space for growth, even if it hurts? Prayer in that moment becomes the challenge of showing up as our best selves; with the potential of love and compassion for what we see as imperfections of those beings-human and non-that we are interacting with. And in these moments, we do our best to hold onto the realization that this time on earth we share with them is precious and fleeting.

In our attempt to honor this life, may it all be prayer.

Christy is a student of Environmental Science and Religious studies, anxious to begin her MDiv in the fall of 2020. She is a facilitator of ANFT (Association of Nature and Forest Therapy) immersions, as well as a trainer and mentor. She was born and raised in the farmlands of Indiana, where she now resides with her 4 children. She is a violinist, vocalist and teacher by training and vocation. She administers a music school in her small town through the local YMCA. Christy now lives amongst the fields of Indiana corn, wheat, soybeans and wooded lots on a small hobby farm where she has planted vegetable gardens, berries, fruit trees, and the many memories of her children’s lives. She is the founder of Wild Communion which goes live in just a few weeks, offering immersive transformative experiences while restoring relationship with the natural world.

Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in the revised common lectionary, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.




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