Sunday, December 28, 2008
"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the Lord has helped us." I Samuel 7:12
I am sitting here in my usual spot in my peaceful home with my husband and girls sleeping. As tired as I am, I have been craving this time and space to be alone after days of Christmas activity. I have always loved the week between Christmas and New Years. I love the idea of "tabula rosa", a blank slate. I love to get organized and make lists of things to accomplish in the coming months. I don't really make resolutions, but I do set goals and realistic steps to meeting them. Even more than looking forward I am challenged to reflect on the past year and all God has done in my heart and life.
In Keri Wyatt Kent's new book REST she tells about a ritual her mentor, Sibyl, practices with her family. "So sometimes on Sundays, when Sibyl and her husband, Dick, gathered their children (and often guests who were living in their home temporarily) around the table for dinner, they'd pull out a bowl with smooth stones in it. They'd read the story from I Samuel and then give each person a stone, noting that they were Ebenezer stones, meaning, "God has helped us thus far." Then they'd ask each person to answer the question, "Where has God helped us this week?" As each child and adult told their story, they would place their stone in the bowl, thereby building a little altar of remembrance to remind each other that God does help and always will help.
We are hardwired to love stories. And this simple exercise is a way to let people tell their stories. It's a way of praying without droning on, without eyes closed. It invites participation, rather than demanding stillness from restless children. It asks us to engage rather than just be quiet.
When we answer the questions, Where has God helped us? Where have you noticed Him? we are reminded of His work in our lives and how we joined in that work. We are gathering evidence, solid as stones, to confirm what we long to know: He is helping us; He is worthy of our praise."
I am a lover of ritual. I was taught as a child that much religious ritual breeds Christians just "going through the motions." I am sure that may be true in some cases, but I need the structure of going again and again to a place and repeating truths and practices that over time become more than words and actions but life blood. Just like the ritual Delaney and I have had as long as I can remember of verbalizing what we are thankful for every single night before we pray, I love this idea of dialoguing in an even more specific way how faithful our God is. I love the symbolism of the stones. I want an Ebenezer in my home.
Thank You for Your constant faithfulness. Help my life to be an altar of praise and thanksgiving to Your loving kindness as I look forward to a new year. Help me to teach my children to be able to articulate Your goodness and grace and give You glory in all things.
Posted by Monica Kaye at 8:45 PM