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.


Becoming Me said...

Excellent post/review. I recently read Keri's book as well and was deeply touched by the message. I'm glad I found your blog through hers.

Natalie said...

Hey Monica. Typically, I'm not a big "ritual" person. Not that I don't like them, but I tend to be too spontaneous and random to hold tight to rituals. I do however love to hear about the rituals/routines of others and learn the real meaning behind why they do them. Maybe that's part of it- if we don't know why we're doing something or don't the meaning behind a practice/ritual, we tend to just "go through the motions." I grew up going to Mass and it was just that...the motions. But now when I go to Mass, even though I don't consider myself to be Catholic any more, the liturgical proceedings and routines are really impressive. Because I think I have a better understanding of WHY I am sitting or standing or reciting a corporate prayer, etc. I appreciate the Ebenezer stones. I think that it is vey necessary for Christians to have tangible and physical and intentional means of praying to God outside of prayer itself. Happy New Year Monica. Enjoy your time with Angie.

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica, My name is Sibyl and I am that friend of Keri's. She just sent me your website and blog. I will add to the meaning of ritual because I believe that we do things with more life and passion when we know why we do them. In life at home and in ministry that are core values that shape who I am and what I do. One of those is the belief that life need agents of continuity and agents of change. The agents of continuity are those rituals that we put into our lives and to the life of our community that helps us remember who we are and to whom we belong. We usually don't take pictures of these experiences and sometimes done notice them when they get lost for whatever reason. At home they can include nighttime and morningtime rituals, prayer at meals,dad makes pancakes on Saturdays, and you fill in yours. Agents of chage are those experiences where we change the variables enough that some stress occurs and we are invited, challenged, to look at life in a new way..impacting our relationship with God, others, ourselves, and the world around us and make a new decision and then live into that new decision by new life to old agents of continuity or adopting new ones. C.S.Lewis writes, " Mere change is not growth. Growth is the synthesis of continuity and change. Without continuty there is no growth."
A Happy New Year to you. Sibyl