Creating Encounter: Pots and Pans

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My husband is the washer-upper in our house. I used to be able to do a bit now and again to help him, but at the current time am too weak. I can’t stand at the sink or repeatedly lift or wash the crockery. It’s hard for me to not be able to help him, but it is also a lesson in being grateful for him and all the ways in which he takes care of me and our home.

Washing up is hardly a creative pursuit, and like so many things in our daily routine, it is just a chore that has to be done. Even if you have a dishwasher, it needs loading and unloading. So, what does it have to do with creating encounter with God? Is he interested in us to such a degree that we can even meet him in a boring, repetitive task? I believe he is, and Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century French Carmelite monk believed this too. He said, as did his Carmelite predecessor, Teresa of Avila, that God could be found “among the pots and pans.”

Don’t think that if you had a great deal of time you would spend more of it in prayer. Get rid of that idea! God gives more in a moment than in a long period of time, for His actions are not measured by time at all… Know that even when you are in the kitchen, Our Lord is moving among the pots and pans.” – St Teresa of Avila

The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” – Brother Lawrence

It is a question of devotion, of giving every moment and action, thought and deed, over to God, all about where your heart is focussed. It is something that needs to be practised, a gradual process, and a deliberate act. Even in the act of washing dishes, we can choose to meditate on God as potter, on treasures in clay jars, on the act of cleansing and forgiveness, the washing away of sin, on baptism, and so a common chore becomes a gateway into prayer, of setting one’s mind and heart on God. And even if we are not putting in any effort with such thoughts, but simply opening the activity and the time up to God, it is made holy.

And I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard to GOD; which I may call an actual presence of GOD, or to speak better, an habitual, silent and secret conversation of the soul with GOD, which often causes me joys and rapture inwardly….” – Brother Lawrence

As we make this spiritual practise every day which Brother Lawrence called “the practice of the presence of God” (also the title of the book in which his thoughts are collated), so we work through frustrations and it becomes second nature to us. We discover a wondrous thing, which is that even Fairy Liquid can become a sacred unction, and dirty dishes the holy articles of the Tabernacle. God is indeed everywhere, and all things belong.

text © by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Pixabay

Prayer Shawls

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One of my ways of ministering is intercession. It started off with lists. Over the years I’ve tended to drop them, because whilst they mean I don’t forget anyone, they do tend to become a bit of a drone, without too much compassion behind the words. Instead I listen to what or who is on my heart and pray for one or two people at a time, though to be honest, the last few years have been so tough, there has probably been as much petition as interceding!

Crochet is a hobby of mine, when my arms are up to it, and when I discovered a book on making shawls for people whilst praying for them, it seemed like two of my favourite things had collided serendipitously. Prayer shawls seem to be more of a North American thing, but it would be lovely if they began to take off here in the UK too. There are various ways of going about it, and of course they can also be knitted (I’m far too uncoordinated to manage more than one hook).

Some people make shawls in a group, some alone. Some pray general prayers over their work and then ask God who it is going to, or wait for an opportunity to arise. They might hear of someone in need of comfort, someone grieving, or spending a lot of time in hospital, for example.  For my own practice, I ask God beforehand who the shawl is for, he and I pick a colour together, and then a pattern, which often have symbolic meanings. I pray very specifically for that person and their loved ones as I work. Because this takes some concentration, it is rather slower than making a normal piece of work, and so I am only on my fifth in about 8 years!

What’s been really interesting is the depth of the prayers when you are working like this with one person’s life specifically on your heart, and also the fact that God chooses, in some cases, people I would not have done if left to my own devices. He knows better than we do exactly who needs our prayers, and so it is good to feel that he Holy Spirit is leading the choices and entering into what might otherwise just be a hobby.

The finished articles might be less accurate than my usual work, even though everything I make tends to have wobbly edges (counting isn’t my strong point), but the recipients are always astonished that someone would do something so time-consuming and thoughtful, especially for them, and that God might have them on his heart.

One friend was diagnosed with bone cancer shortly after I had finished her shawl, but before I gave it to her. I know she has sat wrapped in it many times both at home and during treatment.  My current project, which is turning into more of a blanket than a shawl (I really should have looked more closely at the pattern), is for myself. I was extremely surprised that God wanted me to make one just for me, but although it isn’t quite finished yet, I think all those prayers have definitely helped me through a very troubled time, which also seems not quite over. Maybe without that concentrated petition, it would have been even harder.

Text and photo (me with my first prayer shawl) ©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

If you live in the US or Canada, your church may already have a prayer shawl ministry. Otherwise, this seems a good website, and there are any number of books out there with prayers and patterns.

 https://www.shawlministry.com/