The Liminal Space of CREATIVITY ~ Cindy Elliott

The power stored up within man is exceedingly great, is all-encompassing, but all too often it slumbers within and does not bestir itself from its deep sleep. The command of creation, beating deep within the consciousness…proclaims: Awake ye slumberers from your sleep. Realize, actualize yourselves, your own potentialities and possibilities, and go forth to meet your G-d. The unfolding of man’s spirit that soars to the very heavens, that is the meaning of creation…Action and creation are the true distinguishing marks of authentic existence.

– Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man, 132

Bereishit barah Elokim
In the beginning, G-d created…

 If the Torah then chose to relate to man the tale of Creation, we may clearly derive one law from this manner of procedure -viz, that man is obliged to engage in creation and the renewal of the cosmos. [1]

Made in the image of a creative G-d, an expression of His ahavat olam, unending love, each of us is a creative being with an immense potential to make an impact on our world. We may not see in our clumsy expressions the creative genius and beauty of G-d, but just as our Creator, we were made to create. But unlike our Creator – we weren’t made to create alone. We were made to create in collaboration with our Abba Father.

Abraham Joshua Heschel notes [2]:

Authentic faith is more than an echo of a tradition. It is a creative situation, an event. For G-d is not always silent, and man is not always blind. In every man’s life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal.

For those of faith, intentional creativity springs from the heart of G-d, not measured by the values of the world but by the values of Heaven. Inspired not by the fame of the world, but from Heaven’s touch. It is the special work – unique to each of us – to bring into existence that which our Abba intended from the day of our conception.

Watching the dark my spirit rose in flood
On that most dearest Prelude of my delight.
The low-lying mist lifted it hood,
The October stars showed nobly in clear night,

When I return, and to real music making,
And play that Prelude, how will it happen then?
Shall I fear as I felt, a sentry hardly walking.
With a dull sense of No Man’s Land again? [3]

But, too often we ignore that touch, that stir to our hearts. We are stunted by our fears. Fears of comparison, fears of falling short of the reality of our muse, fears that our creation will be devoid of life, ridiculed, or irrelevant…a sentry hardly walking. The liminal space of creativity can be the most exhilarating and yet at times the most intimidating of all liminal spaces. Part of the problem may lie in how we understand what it means to be a creative being.

When most of us hear someone speak of a creative being – one who has left a dent on the universe, we tend to think of creative giants such as Einstein, Edison, Steve Jobs, Wernher von Braun, DaVinci, Picasso, Michelangelo, Mozart, Bach… and think that real creativity must be only on the grandest of scales. “There is no way,” we tell ourselves, “that we could come anywhere close to such artistic and intellectual brilliance.” But our Creator, creating us in His image, has given us beyond measure the potential and the talent necessary to create, to make a difference, to change everything. And we are not only creative beings but artists as well and our very lives are the medium of our art. Meister Eckhard wrote, “An artist isn’t a special kind of person; each person is a special kind of artist.”

When I was learning how to swim,
I’d look down at the water and back at him
He’d say, “Take my hand, we’ll both jump in
I’ll go, too.
That’s what he’d say and what he’d do.
“Don’t go alone I’ll walk with you
I’ll go too.” [4]

Most of our creativity reveals itself in our every day encounters – visits with friends and families, meetings with strangers, serving our families, working in our garden, study, prayer, wonder, daydreaming, reaching out to those in need, encouraging words spoken over another, a hug, a smile, a laugh, just being willing to go through a tough time with a friend, the moment of finding a solution, or even the moment of recognizing a problem. These very acts make a difference. They may be the catalyst to transforming another’s life, and they absolutely have the ability to transform our own. Abraham Heschel reminds us, ““Remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power…Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.”

Creativity doesn’t mean being taken out of everyday consciousness and concern but being intimately involved and deeply immersed in the encounters of this world. At times it is the messiest of liminal spaces but it has a huge reward. The liminal space of creativity that springs from Heaven’s heart does not take us out of this world, but it does give us Heaven’s eyes. Rav Kook believed:

Every fleeting moment we create, consciously and unconsciously, multitudes of creations beyond measure. If we would only condition ourselves to feel them, to bring them within the zone of clear comprehension, to introduce them within the framework of appropriate articulation, there would be revealed their glory and their splendor. Their effect would than become visible on all of life. [5]

To create means to step out of your comfort zone. It means to enjoy beginnings and sometimes being willing to struggle to get to the end. At times it means to do the same thing again, and again, and again. At times it means failure. It means exploring the unknown and finding great pleasure in the possibilities of a blank canvas. It means thinking at times out of the box, in the cracks, or at rock bottom. At times it means taking a risk and looking foolish to the world. Creativity means being sensitive, observant, loving, and it requires times of menucha [6].

Many have said that there is a fine line between genius and insanity – a line often walked by the creative being. Without a doubt, those of us who live a life of faith have at times been thought by the world to be touched by madness. But our faith is “the spring of our creative actions.”[7]

Created in the image of our Creator, we are invited to live our days in this immense space of possibility.

For we are G-d’s masterpiece, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which G-d prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

May you more fully understand your unique gifts and importance for the whole of creation. May you know without a doubt that you are valuable beyond measure and that the unique creative expression our Abba has placed in you heart – will not be expressed by anyone other than yourself. May you be strong and courageous to embrace our Creators desire for you as purposed from the beginning of time and may G-d’s glory be made real through you. May you live every moment intentionally for the Eternal.

Made in the image of our Creator, your capacity to create is beyond measure! Surely today, each of us could reach toward the heavens and touch the face of G-d.

~ Cindy

* photo credit: shutterstock.com

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of G-d.

– John Gillespie Magee, Jr, High Flight

 

[1]Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man,100-101
[2]Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone, 165
[3] Ivor Gurney, Bach and the Sentry
[4] Carrie Newcomer, I’ll Go Too
[5] Orot HaKodesh – Holy Lights
[6] After the six days of creation – what did the universe still lack? Menucha. Came the Sabbath, came menucha, and the universe was complete. Menucha which we render with “rest” means here much more…Tranquilty, serenity, peace, and repose. To the biblical mind menucha is the same as happiness and stillness, as peace and harmony. ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Shabbat
[7] Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Holy Dimension, 337

 

 

The Liminal Space of Engagement ~ Sarah Sanders

 

There are few things in life that can both cover and expose like finding love.

In the last year, since meeting my fiancé, I have gone through several cycles of death and rebirth. I have tussled with all the questions a precocious, conscientious, and spiritually-minded young woman would: “How do I know he’s ‘the one’?” ” Do I even believe there is one ‘the one?” “What does the Word say about this?” “When the Word seems to have gaps, what do the ‘experts’ say?” “Should I trust their interpretations and opinions?” “When I pray, what does the Father tell me?” “What questions am I not asking that I should?”

When I was a teenager, I was told to make a list of characteristics I wanted in a husband and pray for Yah [HaShem] to bring me the man of that list. I decided later that, while well intended, this was a misguided activity. Do I really know what I need in a man? At 15, can I know what I want and need at 30? I think not. I gave up on that and started praying that Yah would direct my path to the right man and that we each would be shaped into the person the other needs. As I matured and mused on finding a mate, one thing became clear.

At the end of the day, there is one prerequisite that matters most – he needs to love the Father more than he loves me. If he has that priority straight, the rest will take care of itself.

Like many young ladies, I wondered and dreamed at how my future mate and I would meet. Being highly involved in church leadership, I figured I would meet him at church. There were a few attempts at relationships with guys I served alongside, but they were short-lived and, frankly, frustrating. I discovered that while the church seems to preach an ideal image of what a Biblical or Christian relationship should look like, that image is vague in application and usually not lived out. In fact, the church, in general, sadly conforms to the same habits as the world: aimless dating based on physical attraction, relationships  rife with interpersonal issues caused by selfishness and miscommunication, immaturity, and lack of mentorship. Add to that the hazards of temptations and missteps being a condemnable sin.

I was supposed to be the most prepared person to find a suitable mate. I read numerous books, attended women-only Bible studies on the topic, promised to save myself for marriage, and committed to date only for the purpose of marriage. Still, I felt sorely underprepared. I knew what not to do (with big blaring sirens and lights!), but not what to do. In addition, my parents divorced when I was 17, contributing to a feeling of isolation and ambiguousness. I lacked not only their (healthy) model, but also their leadership. I would love to say that this sticky wicket resolved itself with time and experience, but it did not. When I met my fiancé at 29, I felt not much more prepared than my 17-, 24-, or 27-year-old selves.

When my fiancé and I met (at work!) in April of last year, the air was electric. I was disarmed. Our connection was undeniable. I soon began a recurring cycle of questions, time, prayers, exhilarations, terrors, deaths of assumptions and expectations, resurrections of dreams and hopes, doubts, confirmations, more questions, and more prayers. That was a journey in and of itself, a tedious and delicate act of Divine trust. The interplay of spiritual and physical decision-making was more complicated than I had anticipated. But, when I emerged on the other side of that true and genuine battle, I finally understood what a few key couples in my life have told me, When you know, you know.”

My fiancé and were engaged in December of last year. The last several months have been marked with a contentment I have never experienced before. My heart is happy. Happy happy. I cannot help but be bright and full of life. It is effusing from every pore in my body; my heart, my chest, my face. It is exhausting and energizing.

I feel so full, so saturated and, somehow, at the same time, emptied, flung wide open. This exhilaration carries both a deep sense of satisfaction and anchorage while also being so obviously vulnerable and fragile. It is covering and exposing. I am soothed and raw.

As our wedding day nears, I find myself alternating between a sense of being somewhere and nowhere. I am spoken for, but not yet taken, and cannot live like either. I have moved into a holding pattern that, from what I have been taught, is somehow supposed to maintain a certain status quo (purity, separateness, guardedness) while also moving forward (intimacy, unity, vulnerability). The tension exists not just in the physical sense, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Mentally and emotionally, this anticipated relational change is more than just having someone else to spend time with, consider, coordinate with, and look after. It feels more like becoming a citizen of a new country. My new country has its own learned language, non-verbal gestures, customs, expectations, and rhythm. My core identity is being acted upon and shaped, touched and accessed in a unique way, more deeply in this transition than in any other I have experienced. However, at the same time, miraculously, this new citizenship is not just happening to me, I also have a hand in defining it. In any situation, I can choose to act on, stop, or advance its creation.

As I merge with this oscillating dance, acting on and being acted upon, my familiar and usual frame of reference of “me” and “you” is morphing into “us”. Emerging out of this give and take of influence, a distinct, third entity is taking form. We.

This process is wondrous and uncomfortable. At times, I see a side of myself that I do not like, a side I did not know existed. What is this sudden burst of emotion or selfishness or immaturity? I do not like that. Is that really in me? Other times, I get a fleeting taste of what true unity must be like. It is a closeness hard to describe. And just when I think we are close, we get closer.

Close.

I cannot write about the liminal space of engagement without discussing physical intimacy. In fact, this is the part I am most excited to write about. Why? Because it is the part that has, so far, taught me the most. I have received many mixed messages about physical intimacy in my years growing up; it is shameful, beautiful, uncontrollable, painful, to be avoided, to be celebrated, embarrassing, sacred, something we do not talk about, something I should know about, something Yah created, for procreation, for recreation, carnal, a necessary evil, on and on. It is no secret that our society has a myriad of views on intimacy – even the church varies in its sentiment.

As a woman who has saved herself for marriage, finding and falling in love with my future husband has brought these mixed messages front and center. What is the difference between lust and desire? Is it as simple as a day and some vows? What does it mean that I so deeply desire something that is regarded as both a gift and a plague? What does the Bible say about it? How should I feel about it? In the face of increasing closeness and the necessity for unity, how do we protect our boundaries? How do we care for each other, embracing the real, physical part of our relationship, without overstepping our limits and hurting ourselves and our future? And how tedious is it to talk about and prepare for something you will be sanctioned to do in the future, but cannot at present?! (That is a thought in and of itself: what else in life does the Bible say we cannot do until we make a certain covenant, undergo a certain passage?)

Ultimately, what is this new intimacy and, in this liminal space, how do we learn to be intimacy-minded while not being intimate? At least, not in that way.

What I am discovering is that physical intimacy is far more than a kiss or a touch. Those elements are essential, but are accents to a greater motivation. Intimacy is an orientation. It is a posture. It is something that, through our tangible, concrete decisions, we either move towards or move away from, intentionally or unintentionally. Intimacy is in how we include our spouse, regard our spouse, and protect our spouse. It is in how we guard our relationship; how we allow somethings in and keep other things out. Intimacy is – as appropriately described in my premarital class textbook – about stewardship. We are making the choice to care for each other in the way that Yah has told us is the best, whether we want that in that moment or not. Before marriage, it is minding our physical boundaries. After marriage, it is tearing those boundaries down and not allowing them to build back up. Before marriage, it is possessing our bodies and conducting them appropriately, together, but still separate. After marriage, it is surrendering our bodies to the “we”, making them a shared space, without boundaries, without ownership.

Falling in love with my fiancé has given me a new appreciation for the spiritual intimacy that Yeshua wants to have with us, but not without its discomforting epiphanies.

The closer I come to being a bride, the more awkward it seems to seek to relate to Yeshua as my bridegroom, my husband. My brother? My friend? My shepherd? Those make sense. What do you mean Yeshua desires me and that I should desire Him? Desire Him like my fiancé? For a brief moment, I squirm at the thought, but finding the spiritual equivalent is actually not that hard. We have to remember that intimacy is an orientation. How am I including Yeshua, regarding Yeshua, and protecting my relationship with Yeshua? Thinking about the closeness I feel when I am in my fiance’s arms or when we are acting in unity on a project or issue, what am I doing to create those moments with Yeshua? Do I rely on my alone time with Him like I do my time with my fiance?

On one hand, my fiance and my relationship has caused me to feel pulled “away” from the spiritual; my time, focus, and energy are being applied more to the concrete things around me (buying a house, planning a wedding, working an extra job) that need to be done. But, on the other hand, I feel more tightly connected to my relationships with the Father and His Son. I am beginning to sense a level of intimacy that is available and possible with them that I have never known before – and I am encouraged and excited to move forward.

We need to savor and value these strategic, liminal spaces in our life journey. Truly, He has embedded lessons in every transition, in every liminal space, to awaken us to new capacities and to draw us closer to Himself.

 

 

Sarah Sanders is an educator, worship leader, and soon-to-be bride.

Born and bred in the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys being a health nut and a foodie (and wants to be more outdoorsy), but gets excited learning and experiencing just about anything. She dearly looks forward to being a wife and mother, and building, together with her fiance, a home of hospitality and worship.

 

Sarah and her fiance Shane.

 

 

  • Artwork: Israeli artist Martina Shapiro

THE QUESTION as a Liminal Space ~ Cindy Elliott

The Gift

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.

~ Denise Levertov, Sands of the Well

 In studying “master questioners,” Hall Gregersen inquired about their childhoods and found that most had “at least one adult in their lives who encouraged them to ask provocative questions.”

The Nobel laureate scientist Isidor Isaac Rabi was one such child; when he came home from school, “while other mother’s asked their kids ‘Did you learn anything today?’ [my mother] would say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’” [1]

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Matthew 7:7

A question can form a realm of creativity, a becoming, an “always in the midst of being formed,” a changing… a liminal space. Rabbi Sacks comments that “…to be without questions is not a sign of faith, but a lack of depth…questioning … so deep as to represent a sui generis -a religious phenomenon.”

We see the asking of questions modeled in our heroes of faith. Abraham asked, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” Moses asked, “What am I to do with these people?” Jeremiah asked, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” There are Job, Isaiah, King David… and Messiah Yeshua, who could be called the Greatest Questioner of all time, who in the Hebraic tradition, often answered questions with questions. Even G-d Himself has filled Scriptures with questions, inviting each one of us to join in the never ending dialogue between ourselves and our Creator.

Questions inspire, inform, stimulate, challenge… and when we ask a question ‘for the sake of Heaven’ [2] these questions lead to Truth. As Rabbi Sacks also has said, “Every question asked in reverence is the start of a journey towards G-d.”

But what has happened to the art of asking a question?

The tragedy with growing up
is not that we lose childishness
in it’s simplicity,
but that we lose childlikeness
in it’s sublimity.
~ Ravi Zacharias

As a homeschool mom I look back on my daughter’s endless asking of “what?” and “what if?” and I rejoice at her “holy curiosity.” [3]  It was my desire that my daughter would never outgrow her thirst for mysteries and the adventure of discovery; that unexpected conclusions and the delight of spontaneous learning would continue to be something fundamental to her perpetual learning as an adult. Sadly, that isn’t always the norm in our society. Too often we are rewarded for having the answer, not the question, and many of us lose that passionate wonder and curiosity of early childhood. Albert Einstein understood the need to encourage curiosity in the hearts of every age, “Curiosity is a delicate little plant which, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.” And that freedom of curiosity is often expressed as a question. Yet, too often in our society the one with too many questions is sometimes considered a nuisance.

What if I rode a beam of light across the universe?
~ Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein asked countless questions as a child and it has been said that his teachers chastised him for a being a disturbance in the classroom. His own parents – though they loved him – worried that he wasn’t quite normal. Indeed beyond normal, Albert Einstein had an unquestionable thirst for the mysteries of the universe.

Socrates who believed more in asking questions than merely conveying knowledge, was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens and sentenced to death.

In my own personal Western-influenced experience, it took me time to truly flourish in the liminal space of a question. It meant letting go of my carefully formulated dogma, my preconceptions, of having to be right or wrong, of understanding true humility; because, inherent in a question is the fact that I do not have the answer. The challenge arises to move beyond fear, and to accept that my question would undoubtably usher in new questions. Over the years, G-d has fanned the flame of curiosity and wonder in my heart and every day I am excited by new “whys” and “what ifs” of my own and to the discovery that often my questions tell me more than the answer ever will.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner tells us: “It’s not that questions lead to answers, it’s what they do to the mind and soul [that’s important].” In Genesis G-d asked Adam, “Where are you?” G-d didn’t ask this question because he didn’t know where Adam was. He asked it to awaken something in Adam.

Something I learned long ago in the liminal space of a question was that some questions have no answer – especially those that stem from deep suffering and pain. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner shares in Honey From The Rock:

The first mystery is simply that there is a Mystery. A Mystery that can never be explained or understood. Only encountered from time to time. Nothing is obvious. Everything conceals something else.

The Torah doesn’t answer every question. The Rabbis understood this from the first word of Scripture – B’reishit – In the Beginning. The Rabbis asked the question, “Why was the world created with the letter bet (ב)? [One answer they gave is…] Just as the bet is closed on all sides but open at its front we don’t know what existed before Creation nor do we know what is above or what is below.” [4] Our quest for knowledge and understanding, therefore, should be focussed on what is before and ahead of us.

There will be a time when G-d will wipe away every tear, fill every void, and answer every question. Until that time may we each have a holy curiosity that springs forth from the heart of G-d and is rooted in Truth. May each question we voice be for the sake of Heaven and may our souls throb with the wonder and awe of G-d, His Word, and His Creation.

1. Warren Berger, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, p. 67
2. Taken from an Rabbinic teaching “arguments for the sake of Heaven” or rather for the sake of G-d’s Name and Kingdom. See Pirkei Avot 5:20
3. “Never lose a holy curiosity.” ~ Albert Einstein
4. Genesis Rabbah 1:10

* photo credits
1. Copyright: andreykuzmin, 123RF Stock Photo
2. Copyright: famveldman, 123RF Stock Photo

The Liminal Space of BIRD WATCHING ~ Cindy Elliott

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When we do not believe that G-d renews the work of creation every day, then our religious practice becomes old and routine and boring.
As it say in the Psalms, “Do not cast me off when I am old.”
That is, do not let my world become old.
– Martin Buber [1]

Human beings must cherish the world, said the Baal Shem. To deprecate, to deride it was presumption. Creation, all of creation, was pervaded with dignity and purpose and embodied G-d’s meaning.
– Abraham Joshua Heschel [2]

Always an avid birdwatcher, it struck me this morning that many birds seem to make their home in liminal space. Living near the Texas shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico, I see birds who live their lives on the water’s edge. Others move between water and air. In my backyard, birds live in the air, on the ground, or where the bushes meet the trees.

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This family of wrens made their home in my bicycle helmet, blending the boundaries between humans and birds.

It also struck me that my daily habit of sitting in my den watching and listening to the birds is an every-day liminal space in time. Somehow my big overstuffed chair becomes a vessel of liminality. Every morning I sit down and when I get up – I am changed.

320954_2432363493115_2144506497_nSometimes it is the cooing of the mourning-dove that calms my thoughts and helps me rest. Other times when a painted bunting, a little ruby-throated hummingbird, a male cardinal in all his glory, or a number of other feathered friends with their bursts of color visit our feeders, I am reminded of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is G-d’s handwriting – a sacrament.

And I praise our Abba for allowing me to be a part of something so marvelous – to feel as Abraham Heschel said, “…in the rush of passing the stillness of the eternal.”

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Others times as the cooper hawk takes flight and transcends the earth to be caught up in the winds, I feel the rekindling of hopes and dreams I have pushed aside, forgotten, or given up on. Always the sweet niggun of the birds stirs a song in my own spirit. And, without exception, every day I am challenged and every day I am surprised.

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The sparrow has also found her home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young – Your altars, Lord of Host, my King and my G-d.
Psalm 84:4

Today it was a little immigrant [3] – the house sparrow – that G-d used to move me to a place of changing. As the chatter of the little sparrow blended with my prayers, an article came to mind about the Singing Stones of the Kotel [4] where the songs of the nesting birds mix with the prayers of the people. It seems swallows, house sparrows, and the common swift all consider the stones of the Western Wall the perfect place to build a home. There is a midrash drawn from Psalm 84:4 telling how the humble birds are aware of the holiness of the Temple and yearn to build their nests there. [5] And if a little bird can have such awareness – such a sensitivity to holiness – how much more should I?

How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living G-d.
The sparrow also has found her home,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my G-d.
How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You.
Psalm 84:1-4

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~ Cindy Elliott

If you enjoyed this you might also enjoy Niggun of The Birds

1. Martin Buber as recorded in This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation by Alan Lew
2. Abraham Joshua Herschel, Passion For Truth, p. 24
3. The house sparrow was first introduced from Europe. Considered by many a pest, the little songbird is one of my favorites.
4. Chabad.org
5. Rabbi natan Slifkin, Perek Shirah Natures Song, p. 229
photo credit – copyright: Ekaterina Lin, 123rf.com, sparrow on the Western Wall

The Liminal Space of Parenthood ~ Raynna Myers

PARENTHOOD is definitively a liminal space. One often entered into either flat-out knowing we have no idea what we are doing or far too confident that we do. Neither are true. 

There’s definitely a moment of initiation, but it doesn’t come with any certainty of what we are now doing or who we now are. At first the not knowing can be compensated for with the excitement of it all. Before long, however, there we are, swimming in the sea of un-knowing. 

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Some of us compensate for this with books, lots and lots of books. Ah yes, a sense of control. Some of us compensate with opting out of the cloudy landscape parenting is and choose to focus on other things that give us immediate feedback and measurable results… you know, instead of waiting the twenty or so years to find out if we have completely blown it or not.

When do you “arrive” in parenthood? Parenthood is a lot like life, in that it’s like going to school thinking you are the teacher, then finding out very quickly, you just made it to kindergarten.

But that’s not bad news.

It’s wonder-filled news actually. We begin to see things we never saw. We are looking through fresh eyes. All of a sudden, we understand for the first time how tiny and cute we once were—all of us.

That’s how it was for me. It was so weird. I’d be talking with someone I previously found “difficult”; one moment I’d be frustrated, the next moment I had these mental images of them as a baby too. That had never happened on the school playground. I had trouble seeing past my own nose in kindergarten the first time. This time though, experiencing the world with my newborn in my arms, through his eyes, the whole world has been born new. 
Startling us from our familiar mindsets has it’s costs. Some of those sets have grown skewed over the years. Even so, the question gently laid before us in a multitude of ways, in myriad pieces of light streaming in, on, and over us as we walk through the fog is, “Am I prepared to let them go?” “Am I willing to pay the cost?”.

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I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a tea cup than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.”
— Brennan Manning

In parenthood we meet ourselves, as we once were and as we now are. If that sounds tame, then I haven’t done a good enough job trying to describe it. It’s more wild than trying to fit Niagara Falls into a tea cup. It’s more wild than the highest free-fall. It’s wild like Aslan and we’re riding in the wind on his back.

If I could go back to newborn-parent me, I’d tell myself to hold on to that mane and let go for nothing. I’d say, “Feel that wind, that is your life breath, breathe deeply.” I’d tell me that if this isn’t wild then nothing is. If I could travel through time and sit down with grown-up-parent me I hope I’d sit silently and hear the sojourn song of love.

Parenthood is a passageway, and as with all rites of passage, we first die to emerge new.

And that’s not bad news.

I’m nearly 16 years into this ride and as I write this, tears fall. Tears for the goodness and tears for the wildness and tears for the hopefulness and tears for the realness. Tears fall for the thankfulness to see the world renewed six times now, never one time the same, never one time unneeded, never one time understood fully.

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 This I do know, the liminal space of parenthood generously equips us to serve those little (or big) ones experiencing the liminal space of childhood, which applies to everyone else in the world. We were all little children once.

Yeshua said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

 

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset  RAYNNA MYERS

Raynna Myers is a writer, photographer,  homeschooling mom of six and wife. Her first book, Pray, Like a Woman in Labor was published last year with a Foreword by Keren Hannah Pryor.
She writes at www.RaynnaMyers.com, from the trenches, to link arms with physical and spiritual mothers alike and anyone hungry to let Mercy lead.

The Liminal Space of AGING ~ Keren Hannah

And as long as you haven’t experienced
this: To die and so to grow,
You are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

from: The Holy Longing by Goethe*

In his blog on July 15th, pastor Brian Harris reported, “I turned 59 on Wednesday. It’s an awkward kind of a birthday, 59 – it feels like an unspecified space. When you turn 39 or 49 people joke, ‘almost 40’ or ‘almost 50’. But 59 is different. People politely say, ‘I would never have guessed it’ – as though you are about to enter territory too sad to fully acknowledge.”

As we age, a milestone birthday, or maybe every birthday, begins to feel like an “unspecified space.” When we step out into the uncharted territory of aging, and traverse its liminal spaces, the attitudes we have cultivated and the core values we have ingrained prove to be the most significant factors in carrying us through each stage. 

No surprise, that when you’re young and strong and filled with boundless energy, ready to take on all life has to offer, you believe that you will never age. Get old? Who me? Then years go by, as they unavoidably do and, one fine day, quite suddenly,  you look in the mirror and find an old person staring back at you in disbelief!  Of course it has not happened overnight, the process of aging traverses a series of thresholds, an array of liminal spaces. Each one offers the challenge of change and a variety of choices and decisions to be made. For women, the onset of menopause is called “The Change,” which somehow carries ominous overtones as something to be dreaded. Indeed, for some, it can be a total derailment, bringing in its wake hot, sweaty “flashes,” sleepless nights, confusion, and depression. Men face their form of mid-life crisis too. The experience, for each of us, is well described in Dante Alighieri’s poem:

In the middle of the journey of life,
I found myself within a dark woods,
where the straight path was lost.**

The ‘dark woods’ scenario happens, when all we have achieved and the goals we still aim for, need to be examined and evaluated and a ‘straight path’ found again. Often much needs to die before the new can begin to live. In these uncertain, liminal spaces of ageing, the decisions that are made, and the direction taken, are crucial to the next stage of life.

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When you prolong your gaze at the ‘you’ in the mirror, you may detect traces of anxiety, sorrow, and even fear, in your reflection. These are the responses of one’s ego. Human nature, basically, is comprised of two elements – the Ego and the Soul. Our perception of anything is influenced by one or the other. Aging, for understandable reasons, is unbearable to the Ego. Movie stars, and those who rely on their looks, such as the late Marilyn Monroe, commit suicide rather than see their beauty begin to diminish. To bear the unbearable, the hard shell of the Ego must be cracked open and broken to allow the Soul to shine through.Then a perceptual shift happens and the understanding comes that the “front” of the Ego is not the real you. You are a soul, a spirt, within a physical being. While your body may weaken and diminish, your spirit continues to grow stronger and more beautiful with the passage of time. When you start seeing the world from the perspective of the Soul, you discover grace.

As the apostle Paul encourages in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV),

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

From the Ego’s perspective aging certainly is not fun! It’s a reminder of impending death, from which the Ego recoils. From the Soul’s perspective, however, it is a great learning and growth opportunity. It is seeing everything with eyes of faith and grace. When you are settled and secure in your spirit, what is there to fear? With a heart filled with gratitude you learn valuable lessons:

  • You learn that faith and love deepen and grow and are stronger than any physical changes you undergo through aging – stronger, even, than death.
  • You learn that, as one ages, the qualities of understanding, empathy, compassion, and other true emotions have the opportunity to deepen and strengthen and can be expressed and shared in real and meaningful ways.
  • You learn how to relate soul to soul, appreciating the life and goodness in the other, and can bypass the defences of the Ego, which invariably raises self-centred barriers of competition, jealousy, judgmentalism and criticism.
  • You learn that you do not, and cannot, control everything in life. Tragedy happens, loss happens. Crises arise that shatter any delusion of control and substitute it, rather, with a wise and solemn understanding that only God, the Creator of all things, is in control.                                                                     

When we learn the lessons that come with age, we realize that the selfish perspective of the Ego, which causes one to make decisions based on one’s natural will and the logic of one’s cognitive mind, is altered and softened by the God inspired perspective of the spirit and the grace-filled intuitions of the heart that loves.

This affects our choices. In times of crisis, the hopelessness, pain, and fear are real and decisions need to be made. Although we do not have control, we do have choice. We are not robots. God has given us the gift of free will. He wants to bring us through the dark times into the light but He does not force His will upon us. We are free to choose darkness, fear, death and despair or light, hope, life and joy. Once we choose – to give up or to fight in our own strength, on the one hand, or, alternatively, to surrender and yield to the grace of God – He will either leave us to go our own way or He will direct us in His wisdom and lovingly strengthen us with faith and courage. 

We then can whisper, when the night is dark and we feel we have lost the straight path, “Father, Thy will be done, not mine.” The tension, worry and uncertainty will lift and melt away as He takes over. We can rest assured that He will lead us, in lovingkindness and grace, through all the changes to be faced. We can let go of any resistance to the passing of time, any fear of aging, and we can believe that a new way of grace and being will emerge. We can trust the changes, and learn and grow more fully, and gently, and beautifully through them, because we can trust the will of the One who has our lives in His hands.

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  • * Quoted in Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser, 126
  • ** Ibid., 254

The Liminal Space of PRAYER – Raynna Myers

“We can only pray the way prayer is supposed to be when we recognize that in fact the soul is always praying.
 Without stop, the soul soars and yearns for its Beloved. It is at the time of outward prayer, that the perpetual prayer of the soul reveals itself in the realm of action.
 This is prayer’s pleasure and joy, its glory and beauty. It is like a rose, opening its elegant petals towards the dew, facing the rays of the sun as they shine over it with the sun’s light.”* 

—Rabbi Abraham Issac HaKohen Kook

Wouldn’t it be a marvel to rest in this as true? How would our life look different to live like we believe this, to live as though we are part of a harmony, weaving in and out for our part, with our voice and our silence…our voice and our silence. Our rising and walking, our kneeling and washing, our cooking and cleaning, our stopping and pausing, our life and our breath—a prayer. I hunger for this.

 The liminal space of prayer is with us everywhere we go, the adventure is to become more and more aware of it. The joy is to become more and more unified with the Spirit of God in us and in this adoring world.

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He is adored. The trees praise Him, the sea roars His name, the flowers reach toward Him with earnest, the wind obeys His command. Then there is us, His crowning creation, His children frolicking or flailing in this wonderland He has given us, we, His image in the earth, breathing His gift of life—sometimes knowing it, oftentimes not.

 Sometimes, when we do know it, in moments of realization we get so excited, like Peter when Yeshua transfigured before him,

“His (Yeshua’s) face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light…then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Yeshua.”

— Matthew 17: 2,3

 How awesome it must have been and good, like Peter said,

“…Lord, it is good for us to be here…” (verse 4)

 Can you imagine? This was a wow, wow, wow moment and Peter wanted to honor it, so he offered to build. He gets corrected and instructed to stop talking and listen. Peter fell to the ground face down afraid, but Yeshua came and touched them, saying,

“Rise and have no fear.” (verse 7)

“Listen…”

“Get up and don’t be afraid.”

 We too offer to build when we should behold, we speak when it’s better to listen. It’s OK, “Don’t be afraid!”

 “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. For he himself knows our frame; he is mindful that we are but dust.”

— Psalm 103:13-14

Such comfort offered us here. Such a space created for us, an invitation graciously proposed to us, to come, to rest, to be still and know, to:

 “Cease striving and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our stronghold.    Selah.

— Psalm 46:10-11

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A story is told about an innkeeper named Aharon Shlomo who was the simplest sort of Jew, able only to pray with great difficulty, without even knowing the meaning of the Hebrew words he would pray. He was, however, very devout and had a custom of continually uttering in every situation and circumstance: “Blessed is He forever and ever!” His wife, Zlateh Rivkah, also had this habit, continually saying: “Blessed be His holy name!”. Although their hands were at work, they placed their hearts toward God by repeating these sentences.

 One day a young rabbi stayed at their inn. His name was Israel and he had been given opportunity to learn complex prayers from great rabbis. Israel, went outside, devoting himself to praying these complex meditations he had been taught when he was visited again with a word from heaven, “You are struggling with such effort…but Aharon the innkeeper and Zlateh his wife know nothing about (these kinds of prayers)…yet, their simple utterances make all the worlds tremble.”

 This experience transformed the young, and one day to be great, rabbi’s attitude toward prayer. He came to the understanding and taught that simple, childlike devotion is the key to entering the presence of one’s Father in Heaven.**

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Today, may we come like little children, may we work with our hands and put our hearts toward God through the quieting of our hearts, the choosing to be unafraid, lifting our eyes to behold and our ears to listen.

 May we know that the liminal space, the threshold, of prayer is always welcome to us, is always the realest reality, the truest true. Prayer is a continual feast before us, and a place to become clean again. May we know that we live in a world that adores Him, and join the song…with our voice and our silence. 

This is how to pray continually. Amen.

 Praising His faithfulness and Seeking Him with you today friends,

Raynna

 * Rabbi Abraham Issac HaKohen Kook, Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p.11

**Story paraphrased from The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov by Yitzhak Buxbaum, pages 27-29

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Raynna Myers is a writer, photographer, homeschooling mom of six and wife. Her first book, Pray, Like a Woman in Labor was published last year with a foreword by Keren Hannah Pryor. She writes at www.RaynnaMyers.com from the trenches to link arms with physical and spiritual mothers and anyone hungry to let Mercy lead.

The Liminal Space of DREAMS ~ Keren Hannah Pryor

Martin Luther King Jr. declared “I have a dream!” Theodore Herzl said, “If you will it, it is no dream.” The famed pop group Abba sang, “I have a dream, a song to sing.”

Dreams exist on many levels. As our brain processes the experiences of the day while we sleep we may have related dreams. Prophetic dreams, however, are God-inspired visions. The dreams of poets are conscious flights of imagination. Visionaries have idealistic dreams of a better world. Through His people Israel, God offers the world dreams of Redemption. Psalm 126:1 reads, “When God returns the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers.” This is a dream we are seeing fulfilled in our time.

Dreams and visions are woven throughout the Bible. What is the first biblical dream that comes to your mind? Maybe the dreams of young Joseph that caused his brothers to sell him as a slave? Then his being summoned from prison to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, which caused him to become the most powerful man in the then world, second only to Pharaoh himself. We see that the ruler attributed Joseph’s talent of interpretation to a Divine source for he says, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God? …Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as wise and discerning as you” (Genesis 41:38-39).

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We can remember, too, the earlier and significant dream/vision had by Joseph’s father Jacob after fleeing from his brother Esau. He encountered a place and when he slept, with a stone for his pillow, he saw a glorious ladder reaching from heaven to earth with angels ascending and descending. God stood above it and proclaimed to Jacob that He was giving him the Land, that his descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the earth, and that He would be with him and watch over him wherever he went and would bring him back to the Land. When he awoke, Jacob could only declare, “This is none other than the House of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven!”

Kohelet tells us that God …”makes everything beautiful in its time. He also has set eternity in the hearts of man” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That is the hope and the promise while we walk through our day to day journey in this world and dream our dreams. In the final accounting, all in His Kingdom, including ourselves, will be restored to its intended beauty through His grace and mercy; praise God. We anticipate and long for olam habah – the world to come; however, while we are in this world – olam hazeh, we need to face and deal with the imprefections and the often bitter hardships of the present reality. The means God has given to strengthen us, as we walk through the daily challenges we inevitably face, are His promises and the hope we derive from the “dreams and visions” of His prophets.

The wisdom of Proverbs tells us the oft quoted first half of the verse: “Where there is no vision the people perish” (KJV 29:18). This is rendered in the ESV, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint” and the second half of the verse reads: “but blessed is he who keeps the law/Torah”. Blessing and vision cannot be separated from the  Word – the teaching/Torah – of God.

What does a life wthout this vision, without dreams, look like? 

The life of a “realist,” of one who insists on only taking into account the practical reality he sees before him, becomes immersed solely in materialism. Life, with its expansive vision of further horizons, of greater depths of meaning, of dreams of beauty and glory, evades him and he becomes like a bird caged in the iron bars of grim “reality.” The shackled soul cannot soar and find the heights for which it was created.

The power of dreams and of vision sets us free from the limitations of physicality. Instead of a partial and fragmented view of life, our dreams reveal to us the wider and more accurate truth of the eternal perspective of the God-created universe.

What about “bad dreams”?

As we know, not every dream can be catagorized as “an inspired vision from God.”  The prophet Zechariah stresses, “Diviners …tell false dreams.” (10:12) How do we know if a dream is prophetic or pointless? The more our minds are focussed on God and His purposes the more our imaginations become godly and can relate to the reality of eternal life. Our dreams are then more likely to reflect the truth of the spiritual dimension of reality. When a person is solely preoccupied with personal and materialistic concerns his or her dreams cannot rise above a self-centered view of reality.

Rabbi A.I. Kook refers to an allegory of the Sages that says, “Angels bring prophetic dreams anad demons bring false dreams” (Berachot 55b).** Angels are messengers of God who work to perfect the world in accord with the will of God. True dreams will be in harmony with this purpose. Demons are unholy and operate against God’s purposes of truth and order.  False dreams will therefore reflect selfish and ungodly fantasies.

Chalom – חלום

The Hebrew word for dream is chalom. The initial letter chet – ח has the numerical value of 8 which indicates a new beginning. It’s a letter that represents life, Chai – חי, the full expression of which is love. It also begins the word for ‘stork’ chasidah. Which is maybe where the myth began that it is the stork that delivers a baby, the fruit of life and love, to its parents.

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It’s shape represents a fence, a door or a gateway. A threshold to a new area or dimension. At this liminal space of a dream or vision from the Father, we can receive clear insight into the place we have arrived at on our journey and of the path set before us in His perfect plan for our life in His service. We gain greater clarity, as explained in Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, as we “Know from whence you came and to where you are going.” The place where you will give a final accounting and where the glory of eternal life in God’s Presence awaits.

Just as God did with Jacob, He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” In our loving Shepherd’s grace and guidance we can trust our vision and press forward to our eternal destination with joyful anticipation. 

 

 

* Photo credit  “500 Years Away” #02  by Adam Ferriss.
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** Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Sapphire from the Land of Israel.

The Liminal Space of WORSHIP – Cindy Elliott

This world is full of fragile loves – love that abandons, love that fades, love that divorces, love that is self-seeking.
But the unquenchable worshipper is different. From a heart so amazed by G-d and His wonders burns a love that will not be extinguished. It survives any situation and lives through any circumstance.
It will not allow itself to be quenched, for that would heap insult on the love it lives to respond to. [1]

 

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And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. [2]

The other night I was on our patio dancing under the banner of our Abba’s love when I heard the door of our neighbor’s home open and close. There I was twirling, arms raised toward the stars, smiling into the heavens. Although I could hear the music that stirred my spirit and moved my feet, my neighbor who couldn’t probably thought I’d gone quite mad.

There are many expressions of worship (prayer, dance, song, tears, study, work, play, quiet…), but the Hebrew word for worship – שָׁחה (Shin, Chet, Heyshachah) – means “to prostrate oneself.” Worship is an attitude of the heart that has the connotation of complete surrender to one who is superior. Dr. John Garr tells us:

The Greek word for worship (proskuneo) is even more graphic, implying a level of submission to G-d that is parallel with that of a dog licking its master’s hand. [3]

We are given a potent visual of porskuneo in John 12:3 when Mary anoints Yeshua’s feet with perfume and wipes His feet with her hair.

The Hebrew word שָׁחה – Shachah (Shin, Chet, Hey) has a telling pictograph:

shachah

שׁ Shin – to consume, to destroy
ח Chet – fence, wall, to separate 
ה Hey
– to reveal

Worship is the place where walls are destroyed and we find G-d revealing Himself to us face to face.

When we realize that worship is a life that is in complete surrender to G-d, we can then see that worship isn’t confined to a moment of time, but is rather a way of living. It’s something that is woven into every thought we think, every word we speak, and every action we take. True worship consists of focusing on G-d, declaring His truths, proclaiming His deeds, celebrating His goodness, and waiting on and responding to His presence. To put it simply, worship is when one’s heart and life are bowed down to our Creator in humility and adoration. Such a life is also a life of continual transformation. Liminal space in the realm of worship is filled with G-d’s transforming presence and is one of His great gifts to us.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory [4] of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 3:18)

 However, as with other liminal spaces, this space of transformation is not always comfortable. There are times we may feel stretched to a breaking point, fragmented and forgotten. This is a time we can look to the Psalms to help us. The Psalms of laments are expressions of worship. They are honest cries from the depths of the human heart, yet they are cries that are filled with a confidence that G-d is a compassionate G-d who hears His peoples’ cries and is intimately concerned with their lives.

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my G-d;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalm 13)

Know that the chapters of Psalms shatter all barriers, they ascend higher and still higher with no interference; they prostrate themselves in supplication before the Master of all worlds, and they effect and accomplish with kindness and compassion. [5]

There is a midrash that says David compiled the Psalms for every circumstance and not only compiled them for himself, but also for all generations. I have found this to be true in my own life. The Psalms have often voiced the words I felt churning inside but couldn’t speak. In addition, the Psalms have been a further tool of worship in my life by taking me out of the depths of my own heart and up into the heart of G-d.

And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet G-d, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. (b’tachtit hahar) (Exodus 19:17)

Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our G-d and with those who are not with us here today … (Deuteronomy 29:14-15)

The phrase b’tachtit hahar is generally translated as “at the foot of the mountain.” However, the Sages understood this phrase to literally mean “underneath the mountain.” There is a beautiful midrash that comes from this understanding. The midrash brings to mind a picture: G-d holding the mountain over the peoples’ heads as a magnificent chuppah (wedding canopy) for the wedding ceremony between Himself and His people. Based on Deuteronomy 29:14-15, the Sages teach that we were also there. Today, we live in a world that forgets G-d. However, the people whose heart of worship is focused on G-d, who proclaim His works and celebrate His goodness, remember.
In such remembering, the beauty of the past under G-d’s chuppah is simultaneously made a present reality and a future hope.

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It is important to note that worship is not an easy thing. It is a conscious decision – a definite choice – that must be made again and again. The cares of this world can overwhelm us at times. During such times, it is easy for us to become more focused on ourselves and our troubles than on our Beloved. It is at such times that we are faced with the choice to either focus on our troubles or to consciously decide to step back into the liminal space of worship where the beauty and goodness of G-d overwhelms our troubles. However, this doesn’t mean that by living in the liminal space of worship, we will have no troubles whatsoever.

It is true and beautiful that G-d is moved by our worship and will at times only move in the midst of our praise. [6] However, even when our circumstances remain the same – despite living in the liminal space of worship – we can be sure that our heart is being transformed. We will see the world and our circumstances in a holy reality, in the only reality. When we give G-d His proper place in the midst of our circumstances by living in the liminal space of worship, we protect ourselves from making our circumstances an idol in our lives, from taking the place that G-d rightfully deserves.

For the believer, worship and daily living are not two separate realms. We can live every moment in the presence of our Abba. However, I offer this warning: living a life of worship may mean that others will think you are quite crazy when they don’t hear the music to which you dance.

עזי וזמרת יה ויהי-לי לישועה
Ozi ve’zimrat Ya vayehi-li le’yeshua.

The Lord is my strength and my song; and He has become my salvation.
(Psalm 118:14)

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* IIse Kleyn, oil painting – YHVH Nissi – The Lord is My Banner

1. Matt Redman, The Unquenchable Worshipper: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship, pg.18
2. This quote has been credited to Friedrich Nietzsche
3. John D. Garr, Family Worship: Making Your Home a House of G-d, pg. 91
4. The revelation of G-d is called “the glory of G-d.” To “glorify G-d” means to accurately reveal G-d’s true person. For example, Moses said to G-d, “Show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). He meant, “Show me who you really are. Reveal yourself to me.” When we receive an insight about G-d or see an accurate depiction of G-d’s person, we perceive a little bit of His glory. – from First Fruits of Zion
5. The Third Lubavitcher Rebbe
6. Without a doubt, there are times that in the midst of our praise, our Abba goes forth before us and does battle. Acts 16, 2 Chronicles 20, Psalm 50, Psalm 146, Psalm 149, etc.

The Liminal Space of FORGIVENESS – Amy Martin

 

Forgive

 

Sometimes I struggle with forgiveness.

I don’t mean struggle in the sense that I feel I’m owed something, that I want to hold a grievance over someone’s head.  I struggle with the what of forgiveness.  I struggle with the how.  What is forgiveness?  Is it forgetting? Reconciliation? Letting go?

Recently I’ve been reading a lot by the philosopher John Caputo.  I love his “Poetics of the Kingdom”, and resonate with his “weak theology”.  This theology of weakness is in contrast to the strong forces of the world that are driven by power and control.
Weak theology is the evocative call of the impossibly good, impossibly beautiful things –
the power of powerlessness, the gift of grace, of love, of mercy.
It’s the quiet, whispered call into the good.
It’s the same loving, persistent good, good, very good that was proclaimed when the beautiful was taken and formed from the deep.
It pulls us, calls us, asks us to be in this world – but not of it.

I think this is my struggle with forgiveness.

The strong forces of the world would have me think that forgiveness is something that belongs to the order of the world and the strong forces within me would like to buy into it.  In the world’s ways, everything is conditional upon being earned or owed and forgiveness in practice very often equates with reconciliation.

This is good and this makes sense.  It’s ideal in a world where everything is earned or owed and is certainly better than retaliation or vengeance.
But we live in a paradoxical reality. The strong forces of earning and owing can wind themselves like tares on the wheat of the weak forces – of those things that are unconditional gifts, those things that can’t be earned.

And I’m sure that forgiveness is an unconditional gift.

It’s an impossibly good and beautiful event that does not belong to the natural order of this world.
I’m told that forgiveness is of God’s kingdom, like grace is of His kingdom.
I’ve prayed, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
And I know that you can’t both forgive and expect to reconcile debts.

Maybe the impossibility of this unconditional gift is my struggle with forgiveness.

How do I, with one hand, reach for the eternal call of good, good, very good while holding such brokenness in the other?
How do I retain the past – an unreconciled past – affirm it, and let it go? 

Can I separate my desire for the good economy of reconciliation from the gift of forgiveness? This is what I ultimately want to do. Forgive debts.
Not repress or deny the hurt of the past but retain it as if it were crossed out, erased – there, but not anymore. 

I want to live into the call of the impossibly good things; lepers that are healed, blind that see –
debts that are forgiven, as I have forgiven my debtors.
I want to let the impossible beauty of the unconditional gifts breathe meaning into the hurt,
healing into the brokenness
and life into where I am and
where I am called to be.
I want to give away the debts owed to me, even as the debts I owe are released – and live into the eternal proclamation of good, good, very good that takes and forms the beautiful from the deep.

God help me do the impossible.

 

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Amy Martin

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The Liminal Space of Life After Loss – Jenny Lovell

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Take comfort from this in your darkest hour.
Others have plumbed the secrets of the night.
The lost Rose garden they found at last.
See, out of darkness – light.
~ Anonymous

 Remembering countless others who have also suffered loss.

Little did I know, seven and a half years ago, that I was about to enter a “Dense Fog of Grief” – a space forced on me by the sudden passing of my beloved husband, Syd.

I could hardly talk. If I did sleep at all, when I awoke the shock of his passing hit me again like a train in the night with a pain I had never experienced. Time passed slowly, but I felt I would be forever frozen in that place.

I didn’t want this unfamiliar pain and I couldn’t imagine, at the time, that this was a launching pad into a new life. Although it would be a slow journey, the transition from the numbness of grief to new found joy had indeed begun.

It was with thanks to God that I could proceed on this journey. Without the knowledge that He cares for us and ordains our every step, and that He has a purpose for our lives,  I would have gone insane. My heart went through a roller coaster of profound and memorable emotions during that time. I discovered how He speaks to us constantly through others, books, etc,. I can recall coming across “the right” articles and people at just the “right time” and that caused my soul to come alive again and to dare to dream of a new future. This was paramount in the early years. The transition of insecurity to security ~ a new uncharted Liminal Space.

Sometimes it takes a plunge into darkness to realise how beautiful God’s light can be. Darkness to light ~ a true Liminal Space

Through the ensuing years I experienced the care of my wonderful family and friends. Family members came to stay with me for a month after Syd’s passing and kept in constant contact. Others invited me over for dinner, or “tea” as we say in Australia! Friends came by or left a note stuck in my front door or under my door mat; neighbours brought food over. These acts of kindness helped steer me to a calm place.

The liminal spaces of life are filled with choices and new opportunities. On my journey through, I now choose to embrace all that is around me and that enriches my life. In the  liminal space of transition through Loss ~ one can choose to be stuck in the waiting room of grief or to step out and start to embrace a new life. It is daunting and overwhelming, but if you take one step of faith at a time into HIS irresistible future, you will be amazed at how far you’ve come and will go. I love the saying, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step!”

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One of the great Jewish spiritual teachers of the 20th century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel argues that facing death gives life meaning; that life and death are both part of a greater mystery; that by virtue of being created in no less than God’s image, we can imagine an afterlife for humanity–yet at the same time death itself is an antidote to human arrogance; and that in death we pay gratitude for the wonder and gift of our existence.*

The Liminal Space of Loss, like every liminal space, is a place of constant change; a place of moving forward, transitioning from old to new. Even if I could travel back in time to my previous safe, comfortable life, I wouldn’t fit any more, because I am not the same person. I have stepped from the darkness into light.

 

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~ Jenny Lovell

Jenny

Jenny Lives in Adelaide South Australia, near the popular beach-side suburb of Glenelg. Her passion is cooking, baking & photography. She loves spending time with her family as well as reading, listening to music, pottering in the garden, walking/running by the ocean and swimming.

* Excerpted from Heschel’s essay Death as Homecoming, published in Jewish Reflections on Death, edited by Jack Riemer

The Threshold of the Holy Struggle – Amy Martin

I want to tell you that your struggle is holy.

There are times when the things we know with our hearts and minds are at odds with our experience of the world. Nothing aligns in the neatly-aligned ways our rational mind believes it should; nothing harmonizes in the perfectly harmonized way our intuition for the whole sees that it could. We become caught, confused, tangled in the knots tied between our mind and our heart, lost somewhere between this world and the next. We’re left wondering where we are, and who we are, and why we are. We’re left by ourselves and in the dark, alone with our struggle.

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”

All through the day and deep into the night we wrestle, trying desperately to pin something down. Attempting to untie the muddled and confusing things about ourselves, about others, about the world. Why doesn’t this make sense? Why is this so difficult? If only we could answer these questions we could put things back together; we could make sense of them; we could make things whole again.

If only we could use our available but limited power to make sense of our powerlessness.

So we fumble with ourselves and what we know and what we don’t know. We wrestle with the dissonance until we finally come to the place where there are no more answers and we can’t remember the questions. We finally come to the place where our power meets our powerlessness.

“When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.”

And it hurts. The dissonance hurts. All we want is to end the confusion and conflict, yet sometimes all we find in our honest struggle for truth is more struggle. So we wrestle, all through the day and deep into the night. We struggle, tumbling, helpless and alone toward; and when we get there, we find ourselves wounded.

Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But then light comes, because the dark and the night and the struggle are only part of the experience. We open our hands and unclench our fists as the grace of day breaks into this night, just as it does every night, captivating and comforting us with the beauty and warmth of its rising light. As the day fills the darkness, gratitude fills our tired, emptied body, and we know our life was spared. We’re relieved; we’re released.

“The sun rose above him as he passed the place. He saw God’s face, and he was limping because of his hip.”

The light comes, the sun rises, but the memory of the struggle lingers. We meet this day, and every day after, standing in this tragic gap. We hold forever a piece of the dark night in the open, vulnerable place where our power first met our powerlessness. We carry a sacred reminder in the form of a holy limp.

It is a holy limp. I want to tell you that your struggle is beautiful.

It’s holy and beautiful like the very light that releases us from it;
holy and beautiful like the intersection of night and day,
of struggle and lightness of being.
It marks the places we see the very face of God.

 

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Amy Martin

Amy lives near the 45th parallel with her husband Matt, and her children; two middle schoolers, and a grade schooler. They all live with an English Shepherd and a leopard gecko. Her favorite activities include making things with her kids, building databases (really), as well as swimming in the summer, then walking on that same water in the winter, because that’s just what one does living 1/2 way between the Equator and the North Pole.

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The Liminal Space of the MEZUZAH ~ Keren Hannah Pryor

Jewish people have this custom of affixing a small box to our doorframes and entrance gates. It usually is a slim, oblong container that can be made from various materials such as plastic, wood, ceramics or metal, including pure silver or gold. I also have one carved from beautiful Jerusalem stone. They can be very simple or elaborate and decorative. Although the word mezuzah (pronounced mah-zooz-ah) originally denoted the doorpost itself, the name  now is ascribed to this container. The etymology of the word is unclear. Interestingly,  the emphasized central syllable zuz is the Hebrew word meaning move. Indeed, the mezuzah marks the place of a threshold, indicating movement from one place to another; which renders it a perfect symbol for a liminal space!

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As are most Jewish customs, that of attaching a mezuzah to the doorposts of one’s home (except the bathroom), arose from response to, and in fulfillment of, a commandment of God given in His Torah [teaching or instruction, as recorded in the first five books of the Bible].

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. …You shall write them on the doorposts [mezuzot] of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:4,9)

These words are included in the verses that comprise the Shemah (Deut. 6:4-9), which, together with verses 11-21 from chapter 11, are meticulously handwritten by a professional scribe on a small parchment scroll, called a klaf, which is housed inside the mezuzah. If the klaf can be seen, e.g., through a glass or clear plastic mezuzah, the scribe writes the letters  ש-ד-י (shindaletyod) on the outside of the rolled up scroll. The letters form the word Shaddai, a name for God; they also are an acronym for Shomer Dlatot Yisrael – Guardian of the Doors of Israel. On ceramic or metal mezuzot, just the letter shin suffices as a reminder of Who is guarding one’s door!

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Being affixed in these strategic positions, the mezuzot are the most prominent religious objects in the home and those most often seen by all the family. This applies publically as well for those of us blessed to live in the Jewish homeland of Israel. Situated at thresholds, the mezuzah is there as a quiet reminder, when one moves, often briskly, from one space to another, that life itself is a “limen” – a transition from one place to the next – from Olam HaZeh (this world) to Olam HaBa (the World to Come). In order to help us remember it is there and the truth it conveys, people often pause, however fleetingly, and touch the mezuzah with a kiss of the fingertips. This helps, in the hectic pace of our days, to constantly keep the reality in mind that we simply are passing through this life and should not lose sight of the eternal perspective and the deeper meaning of our journey.

The pause, thus, is a remembrance of the necessary connection of the physical and spiritual aspects of life. In our physical existence on earth we are bound by the limitations of space and time. We can become so focussed on our bodily, physical needs and demands that we forget the reality that we, essentially, are spiritual beings encased in physical bodies. Our spirits also need feeding and nurture in order to grow and flourish. Our spiritual food is the Word of God, the bread from Heaven our Father provided for this very purpose. The mezuzah perfectly pictures this in its form as an outer container housing  precious words of God.

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The kiss on one’s fingertips is to acknowledge, in love, the One whose idea it was to place His Word at every threshold and thereby to reassure us of His Presence. As we leave the sanctuary of our homes and go out into the uncertain world, we can trust that He is there constantly watching and is with us. We therefore pause, gratefully, to acknowledge His faithfulness with a touch and a kiss.

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A final point to ponder. The mezuzah also is a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt. The Israelite  families who were for God, and were ready to obey His will, followed the detailed commands given to Moses. They were to take a lamb into their home for four days and, on the prescribed day, when they needed to be packed and dressed for the journey, they were to slaughter the lamb and daub its blood on their doorposts. Then they were to roast the lamb, enjoy a meal together, and be ready to leave when the signal was given. The blood of the lamb on the doorframe was the sign of their obedience to God. On seeing this, the Angel of Death would pass over them. Then, at a given signal, in a mighty deliverance of God, they would all go forth across the threshold, the great liminal space, from slavery into freedom. They would cross over from the cruelty and crippling physical demands of Pharaoh to the free open space of service to their Creator. They would be free to worship their loving Redeemer, in whose image they were made.

Today, the times we  live in often are dangerous. The evidence of cruelty and evil we are witness to is heartbreaking. Now, more than ever, we need sure and constant reminders that affirm and strengthen our knowledge of who we are as beloved children of the Almighty God. We need to know that,  in our going, as we “live and move and have our being in Him,”* we can “pause” and bring blessing, including into any situation of pain and injustice. We can do this with “a touch and a kiss” in the spirit of chesed – the fiery power of our Father’s love expressed in tender, compassionate action.

 

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~Keren Hannah Pryor

  • Acts 17:28

The Liminal Space of a Child with Cancer ~ Teri Jensen

Teri and Jared

I have experienced many liminal spaces in my life. Sometimes I think those spaces are where I constantly dwell. However, one of the most difficult liminal spaces occurred when my 18-year-old son, my only child, was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Even though we know that many people, including children, battle cancer, I believe we never really grasp that it can happen to us, to our child. Because of this, we can never fully prepare ourselves for the diagnosis and when we hear the word “cancer,” a shock, a numbness, a fearful horror sets in as we try to comprehend that this really is happening. To us. Our son has cancer.

It was a life-quaking space with many small tremors rippling through and shaking our safe world. In this liminal space, we moved from ignorance to knowledge about things we never wanted to learn.

We learned a new vocabulary filled with oncological terminology. We learned about chemotherapy drugs and anti-nausea medication, and which foods our son was able to eat.

We learned a new routine revolving around the Cancer Center instead of our home. We learned to survive on little sleep: My husband spent half his day with us at the Cancer Center and half at work. My son slept on the couch while I slept on the uncomfortable love seat nearby so I could hear my son if he called in the night. I also woke every four hours to give him his anti-nausea medication.

We learned to laugh and joke when we really felt like crying. Because of this, my son’s memory of the day his hair fell out in chunks is tinged with humor. “I can’t believe you actually said that my head looked like it had been eaten by moths, Mom!” he laughs. But we also learned that when we can’t laugh, it’s OK to cry. The greatest help to me was my friend who didn’t tell me what I was supposed to feel. Instead, she laughed with me when I laughed, she cried with me when I cried, and she worried with me when I worried.

We learned about God’s loving care through the love and support of countless friends, who gave us gift certificates to a local restaurant so we wouldn’t have to worry about fixing meals; who bought our son a Tablet to distract him while he was receiving chemotherapy; who bought or made him soft hats to keep his sensitive bald head warm; who sent pictures of themselves and their families and pets wearing goofy hates to cheer him; who entered the battle with us through prayer.

Unlike some, our son successfully won his battle with cancer. He is now cancer-free! However, our time in this liminal space left us changed. Like Jacob, we now walk with a limp. We never approach our son’s followup CT Scans and appointments with the same innocence that we once had. We now know that cancer can touch us—and having touched us once, it is possible that it can return. We always breathe a sigh of relief when we are told that everything is still clear.

After the cancer battle, we moved into the new liminal space of recovery. For friends and supporters, the cancer battle is won when the treatment ends, but we have learned that for those of us at ground zero, the battle continues as we work to rebuild what cancer tore down. My husband and I learned about Caregiver Burnout–the complete exhaustion that hit as soon as the treatment ended. We learned that soldiers aren’t the only ones who can suffer from PTSD—cancer patients and their families can also suffer from this normal response to an abnormal situation. Our son has had to work to process the emotions that accompanied the reality of “my own body tried to kill me.” He has had to learn to handle nightmares and the memories that are triggered when he sees anything that reminds him of cancer. He also has to deal with friends who think he is merely being unmotivated and lazy, not understanding that it takes time to recover and rebuild a life after cancer. Thankfully, he is recovering quickly.

Research has shown that many who were diagnosed with cancer as teens often struggle throughout their lives because it hits them just as they are moving into adulthood. Many never successfully hold a job or go to college. Our son was diagnosed with cancer at just such a time. He was working at his first job and in the middle of his first semester of college. He is now doing well at his job and planning to enter college soon—major accomplishments! Cancer touched his life and damaged him in some ways, but it also has left a new courage, compassion, wisdom, and maturity in its wake.

Again, we are entering a new liminal space, one that feels as if we are in the time when Winter is leaving but Spring has not yet fully emerged. As a family, we decided we needed a new start so we risked everything to move to five beautifully forested acres in an area in Northern Michigan where we had always longed to live. We went from life in a town to an area of great natural beauty and many new opportunities. Our son has renewed hope and is eager for life. My husband went from a difficult job to a new job he loves. I am also reaching a new season in my life as I attempt to start a new Etsy store to help us with our finances. We all declare we are happier now than we’ve ever been before.

I think liminal spaces sometimes take us through life-quakes that change the whole landscape of our lives and cause us to walk with a limp. However, life always returns. With life’s return, there is a new awareness of the ones that are dear to us, a new wisdom and maturity, a new willingness to seize each moment and to dare to reach for dreams.

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~ Teri Jensen

TeriTeri, her husband Eric, son Jared, introverted dog, and six cuddly cats just moved to their new home on five enchanted forested acres in beautiful Northern Michigan. Teri writes about their lives in her WordPress blog called I Love To Go A Gardening. She is a gifted crocheter who sells handmade gifts from her Etsy store called Teric’s Treasures.

 

The Liminal Space of G-D’S SILENCE ~ Cindy Elliott

For time is but a little lower than eternity, and history is a drama in which both man and G-d have a stake. In its happenings we hear the voice as well as the silence of G-d.*

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As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, – Listen and do not hear – the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak…. I want you to pray for me – that I let Him have free hand.

These words could have come off the pages of the Psalms – but they didn’t. They came from the personal journals of Mother Teresa. We know from her personal writings she knew well the agony of the liminal space of G-d’s silence. Some have seen her words as a crisis of faith. In truth, if any Scripture more profoundly affirms a loving and beloved G-d, they would be the Psalms; yet, the Psalms also express an intense and great anguish at G-d’s seeming silence and inactivity in connection with human suffering.

Why do You hide Your face
And forget our affliction and our oppression?
For our soul has sunk down into the dust;
Our body cleaves to the earth.
Rise up, be our help,
And redeem us for the sake of Your lovingkindness.
Psalm 44:24-26

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 13:1-2

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow And my years with sighing;
My strength has failed because of my iniquity,
And my body has wasted away.
Psalm 31:9-10

We know the embrace of G-ds Love, the warmth of His Light, the gentleness of His Compassion,the  wholeness of His Shalom… So how do we make sense of the silence of a G-d who loves in view of all the suffering and evil in the world? The liminal space of G-d’s silence in the place of suffering is one of the most tortured spaces for people of faith. It is a space that can feel not only like a horrible estrangement with our Beloved, but a betrayal by Him also.

One of our gravest mistakes is to take G-d’s silence as passivity. G-d’s silence is, as Rav Kook tells us, that place “in which entire worlds are built.” G-d’s silence is often the speaking that is louder than words. It is the place where we wrestle and, as with Jacob, grab hold and say, “Abba, I will not let You go until you bless me.” Without a doubt it is the place in which we have the deepest and most intense connection with and love for G-d. It is the place we encounter G-d and we come out changed.

Another mistake is to attribute the suffering and evil of the world as caused by the silence of a G-d who says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Evil is not caused by G-d’s silence but by men who do not listen.

But why doesn’t G-d intervene? We read in the Psalms of a loving G-d who could step in but at times doesn’t. As we know and we know and we know, G-d is compassionate, loving, good… So, “Why not?” is a puzzle.

On this side of eternity there are unanswerable questions, unanswerable evils, unanswerable pains, and unanswerable sufferings. Scripture does not provide a final resolution to these questions; we face an unsolvable mystery.

However, Rabbi Abraham Heschel tells us, “…there is meaning beyond mystery. That holiness conquers absurdity. And without holiness, we will sink into absurdity.”

G-d, and not imponderable evil [or unanswerable pain and suffering], must have the last word.** And His Word to us is promise and hope:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
Revelation 21:4

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
Isaiah 60:20

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There will be a time of total revelation but for now – at times – there is no miraculous healing, no being pulled from the storm, no being plucked from the fire. Sometimes G-d’s answer to us is ‘a voice of thin silence’*** – but in that silence, we find G-d, and He has never been so close.

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6

 

Trust G-d with His silence, for out of His eternal silence has come immeasurable richness!

Out of his eternal silence G-d spoke the Word, and through this Word created… the world. In the beginning G-d spoke the land, the sea, and the sky. He spoke the sun, the moon, and the stars. He spoke plants, birds, fish, animals wild and tame. Finally, he spoke man and woman. Then, in the fullness of time, G-d’s Word, through whom all had been created, became flesh and gave power to all who believe to become the children of G-d. In all this, the Word of G-d does not break the silence of G-d, but rather unfolds the immeasurable richness of his silence. ****

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~ Cindy Elliott

Footnotes:

* Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, pg 16

** Marvin Wilson, Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage

*** In 1 Kings 19:12 we read about G-d speaking to Elijah not in the strong wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire but in the qol demamah daqah – the still thin voice. Qol is voice, demamah can be translated still or silent, daqah can be translated small or thin.

**** Henry Nouwen and Robert Durback, Seeds of Hope: a Henry Nouwen Reader

Photo Credits:

Top – rgbstock.com

MIddle – alphacoders.com