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:

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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

 

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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

The Liminal Space of SEA AND SAND ~ Keren Hannah Pryor

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I grew up near the sea. Though far from it now, my mind sometimes wanders to the sandy beaches and the rockpools of my younger days. The ocean offers a rich retreat when you can take it, whether physically or on a flight of imagination.

Daily life in the modern world seems to have spun out of control with its endless choices and demands. The flood of entertainment and instant communication bombards us with constant distractions. All this can be left behind when you visit the ocean. The seashore has a beauty and character of its own. It reflects both simplicity and splendor.

The strong rhythm of the waves draws one into the primeval harmony of Creation – the dawn of time. The external harmony induces an inner peaceful rhythm in one’s soul. A gentle mantle of grace enfolds as you begin to settle into the simplicity of the ocean’s moods and mysteries.

Such is the peace of sea and sand. Sunlit waves sparkle and gently lap the shore. Scurrying crabs leave delicate patterns on the smooth, wave-swept sand.  Seagulls swoop and squawk. Children run and splash and laugh. Soft sand replaces hard pavement. Time slows down. Solitude envelops. The material, driving, masculine tempo of life yields and gives way to the feminine flow of beauty, spirit and heart.

In this space one can take time to be still; to feed the soul. Embraced by the beauty and splendor of God’s creativity, one can be more inwardly attentive and allow one’s natural gifts, however humble, to have creative expression. Sketching, writing, carving, photography, poetry, prayer, music!  Quietly, you can find and give voice to your own unique, inner song.

Here at the threshold, the limen, of sea and sand, of solid earth and fluidity, with all its beauty and hidden dangers, we find reflections of our lives. The peace and stillness when the moon bestows its silver light on the water’s surface; the glowing beauty of sunrise and sunset, all serve to draw the soul to deeper places of contemplation.

Then there are days, seasons, of tempestuousness. Wild, crashing waves. The salt-sprayed wind bites and brings tears to your eyes. Bundled up against its buffeting, you trudge the sand. Yet, your soul soars as you wonder at the wildness – the power and majesty of the ocean.

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With care, we are able to explore and delight in the ocean’s wonders but we cannot live for long in the depths of this water-world. We can, however, gratefully receive the sea-borne gifts washed up to our feet by the waves. The unbidden treasures of uniquely designed shells, sunbaked driftwood, glass worn smooth; each with a story and mystery of its own.

So, too, is the world of the spirit – the spiritual realm. We can explore and contemplate its depths and beauty, and receive its gifts, yet we remain grounded on the shore with its practical solidity, and with its sometimes shifting sands. We learn the designs of our Creator from the rhythms of the spirit – the need for Shabbat and His appointed times,  times of respite to draw apart from the routine demands of the ordinary and material and to turn our focus more fully upon Him and the mysteries and wonder of His Creation.

We need set apart time to be still and to meditate upon the value and blessings of the precious gifts of life He gives. And so we must do, until the day a gentle wave gathers us up and carries us into the glorious and timeless expanse of eternity – of which we now have only a glimpse.

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~Keren Hannah


* Photo credits:
Top and center: Taryn Daley Miller, Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida.
Bottom: Karen Barenschi, Cape Town, South Africa


The Liminal Space of a Woman with Child – Raynna Myers

 The Liminal Space, the threshold, the between, the there but not there yet, the carrying of a child within a woman, where the boundaries bleed into the living: this is a sacred space.
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 Somewhere between the most intimate of moments between man and woman, somewhere between sweat and light, somewhere between warmth and passion, somewhere between the moments we realize and the moments we are caught up—flesh and spirit mix; they mix again like an echo from the beginning.
Conception. In the dark of the womb; life.
Then, in the long months –  where we celebrate growth, and must, at the same time be suspended between beginning and end, which is really only another beginning –
we wait.
In the waiting there is perceptible change, like fruit edging closer to its ripening, fullness abounds—life rounding life. As every element builds from particles of joy we can’t create on our own, the realization of miracle awakens one cell at a time.
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Hints of glory instruct the mother’s heart that if what is happening within her is beyond her comprehension, then how much more will this mixture of flesh and spirit be when it emerges and a new soul is born. We wait for the appointed time with expectation threaded through with trepidation. In the truest moments, we hope for the future and wonder over the joy of all that is out of our control. We wonder, and we wait for the signal from the long night in our womb that the sun is about to rise.
Spirit and flesh have been knit, who can understand this? Yet here we are embracing it with our entire body; giving home to miracle, sharing/mixing our very life source. We cope with the greatness by attending the fragile thoughts of the reality occurring between our bones with strokes of comfort that “this is normal” and how, through the millenniums, women have gone before us.
Sometimes heaven brushes by with the thought that we were once miracle too. Or—are we still? Who can understand this? And who will come near enough to this flame of His Presence to be instructed in the way to go? To know that this is all beyond us, before we have even begun, could feel like a swift defeat—except it’s not. It’s an invitation sealed with gold written in blood on purest white. It is a welcome to the world where all is beyond us but nothing is beyond Him – the Giver of Life.
And the real miracle? He is in us. The apostle Paul said, “How great…are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Messiah in (us) you, the hope of glory”. Fearfully and wonderfully made, our souls know it very well. Yet it gets covered over by the day to day worries of this world.
As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after You.
A woman with child, no matter how long the inhabitation lasts and for every moment of it, has the gift that seems to otherwise often only come through suffering— the gift of reality, truth, rising in our soul. The eternal deep knowing that Adonai placed within man from the beginning seems to lift us higher; we become less encumbered, and how badly we need it.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:5-6)
It is all at once frightening and compelling, but anymore that seems my most adequate description of all of life: this embryonic experience we’re living is too often flattened in our thoughts, lost.
How precious to me are your thoughts,
O God How vast is the sum of them!  (Psalm 139:17)
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 Could it be true that conception could conceive something new in me? The thought could lead us somewhere wonder-filled. I will speak for myself and say there are times I have feared wonder. What if I cannot live up to the greatness?
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there is any anxious/ grievous way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting!
And we wait. And we shape. And we forget.  And the relieving news is it doesn’t matter whether we understand it all or not, the cells keep multiplying to their appointed day. The miracle is in the seed to accomplish the purposes He sent it for. In His shade we enlarge—body, soul and spirit.
This is the liminal space of the woman with child, where woman transforms into mother, and a new soul comes to dwell. The greatness baffles us. If we could just let our thoughts dwell there a little while, maybe we would hear the call to “be still and know.” The voice over the waters, over us, He is God, King and Creator of all the earth, all the universe. He is also See-er of the sparrows, and you and me.
 th-12 (1)Raynna Myers
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Writing and Photography  –  www.raynnamyers.com

imageHey! My name is Raynna and I like to go camping with my kids in a tent that is too small for 8 people [Raynna,
husband Jay and their 6 wonderful kids!] and wear them out real good so that they fall asleep in the middle of the day snuggled up to me like this. I can barely handle the preciousness so I write about it and take pictures, pray a lot and laugh when my husband tells me that I like to act like a homeless person when I’m ready to go camping again.

ENCOUNTERS in Liminal Space ~ Keren Hannah Pryor

We may consider liminal space as a threshold, that place where one is neither here nor there – the space between a starting point and a destination. It is of interest to study the encounters with liminal spaces in the lives of the Patriarchs – the fathers of our faith.

Liminal space, usually, is a place of great vulnerability; as we see when God called our father Abraham to set out from his home “…to a land you know not.” He had a starting point but not a destination. That was the risk and challenge he faced – the not knowing. However, he knew the voice of God and that provided him with courage and the faith he needed to endure the journey into the unknown.

Jacob, too, undertook an unexpected journey from his home in BeerSheva, in the Land promised to his father, Isaac, when he was forced to flee from the murderous wrath of his brother Esau. Although he knew his destination – Padan Aram, where others of Abraham’s family were settled – Jacob had little idea of what awaited him there or the dangers he might face on the way. As we know, he reached his destination safely, married his beloved wife Rachel, and her sister Leah, and worked for their father, the scheming Laban, for twenty years until God released him to return to his homeland. The challenge, on his return journey, was the need to once again face his brother Esau.

Traversing the liminal spaces of both journeys, at his most vulnerable moments, he has his greatest visions and experiences dramatic encounters with God. On his first journey we read, “Hu yifgah ba’makom. – He came upon a place” (Gen. 10:11). The Hebrew word yifgah carries a much stronger meaning: He collided with a place!  It’s a forceful encounter that stops him in his tracks. The sun is setting and he decides to rest there for the night and sleeps with a stone as his pillow.

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Here he has his dream – a glorious vision of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven and angels of God ascending and descending upon it. The Lord appears above the ladder and confirms His promises to Abraham and Isaac, saying: “The land upon which you lie, I will give to your descendants.” And, “…in your seed all the families of earth will be blessed.”  He also promises Jacob, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this Land.”

When he awakens, Jacob realizes the place is of profound importance and proclaims: “How awesome is this place – HaMakom! This is none other than the House of God; this is the gate of Heaven(Gen. 28:12-17). He names the place Bethel – house of God. It was situated on the mount of Moriah, meaning ‘God is my teacher,’ which later would be called Har Ha’Bayit, the Mount of the House (of God); the Temple Mount. Jacob now trusts that God will preserve him, provide for his needs, and would return him to his homeland.

What of his second journey – the journey home? He indeed has prospered and built for himself a large family and is the owner of many cattle and sheep. His fear, now, is the inevitable encounter with his fiery brother Esau. Is his life still in danger from Esau’s hatred and revenge? Before crossing the border, Jacob prays to God, positions his family and takes necessary precautions. The night before the meeting he has another lone encounter when “…an unknown Man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day” (Gen. 32:24). Jacob prevails and the man says, “Let me go for the day breaks!” Jacob demands a blessing and, before he disappears, the Man proclaims,

Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with man, and have prevailed.

Jacob, again, is struck with awe and names the place Peniel, “For I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.” (32:30)

He now can go forward with courage and also with a great humility that defuses any anger that may remain in his brother. Esau embraces him lovingly and they weep together. Jacob then returns safely to the land of his fathers and buys land near the town of Shechem (where the bones of his precious son, Joseph, eventually would be buried). He erects an altar there and calls it, El Elohei Yisrael, God is the God of Israel.

Jacob’s encounters, in the lonely liminal spaces of his life, have bequeathed to the generations following, and to all the world, great foundational truths of God. Firstly, the place of His House, where He has chosen to place His Name and will dwell among man forever. And, secondly, the knowledge that He is the God of Israel – the God who will work out His plan of Redemption for all mankind through the children of Israel, who have and will survive and prevail and see God’s promise to Jacob fulfilled, that “…in you and in your Seed (the Messiah) all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

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Our individual spiritual journeys and growth can only be made alone. It is a personal quest no-one else can undertake for us. We have to go it alone! From Jacob we learn, however, that when we are alone, in the darkness of a challenging situation, we can encounter the glorious reality and the profound promises of God. Knowing and trusting His Presence with us, we can be strengthened as Jacob was. We can rise up and go forward in confidence, with humble faith that we will survive and, ultimately, will overcome and prevail.

In this context, of Jacob and Israel and our spiritual journey through life, a meaningful application can be made of words spoken in 1910 by Theodore Roosevelt, during a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris.

It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;

who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions;

who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. *

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~Keren Hannah

* Quoted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his book, Lessons in Leadership, 34

The Liminal Space of Palliative Care – Karen Freeman Worstell

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I am learning the role of chaplain in a large Northwest medical center in the United Sates. It’s my second year and I am specializing in palliative care – that time and season of life after receiving a life-limiting diagnosis.

I’m discovering that it can be a time of intense beauty. A time only equalled by those moments of release when we learn to seize a moment in time, even while we let go of matter and matters that  simply are no longer as important as they once were. One could perhaps call these, “last second” moments. My father used to say, “Nothing would get done if it were not for the last second!”  I thought he was speaking of my school deadlines.

The time spent in palliative care can also be called “liminal space” time.  The “event horizon” may be near or far, but it is real and undeniable.  It is a gift, really, to have a deadline, even a Final One,  as it tends to sharpen our focus.  In some ways, living with that knowledge of the deadline helps to put fear in perspective.  What could compare, in fact, to dealing with an existential threat that is not just probable, but has an anticipated arrival?

The closer we get to the final hours of life in this world, the more acutely aware we become of the sheer veil that separates what we have come to see as existence in this world and existence in the world beyond.  It is sacred ground – a place where eternity kisses mortality and brings it through the veil.

So many times, I have stood by and felt less a chaplain than a midwife, as the soul labors to be born into the kehillah – the gathering place –  of souls.  We have no good words for it, actually, this liminal space.  It is mystery, something one experiences rather than describes.

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Perhaps these breathtaking sunsets of Autumn in the Northwest are gracious gifts; given to train our subconscious to see the beauty of the liminal space of life when it finally arrives.

My patient was surrounded by family and his pastor during his last hours. As I left his room, high up on the top floor of our hilltop hospital, the windows were lit with the alpenglow of sunset. The light slowly receded from pink to dusty lavender. Reflected gently on the first fresh snow on Mt. Hood, it passed, very slowly, steadily, from beauty to beauty.

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~Karen Freeman Worstell

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The Liminal Space of BLESSING ~ Keren Hannah Pryor

The threshold between living in a state of blessedness and one of curse is the place of awareness and choice. When we become caught up in the rushed tempo of modern life, it becomes extremely difficult to take the time to pause, to be aware, to listen attentively in order to make the right choices and gratefully to receive the blessings offered us. We need to become present and attentive enough, moment by moment, to recognize the blessings that constantly surround us.

Generally, we do recognize and celebrate the great, clear blessings, such as the birth of a baby, the wedding of loved ones, personal achievements or the success of an undertaking. These are peaks of blessing, as it were, but they do not carry us through the valleys of our daily existence. Here, we must choose to live and walk in grace and blessing or under the curse of anger and resentment. In making the choice for blessing, we awaken our capacity to receive blessing and, in turn, to bless others.

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The word ‘blessing’ in Latin is benedicere meaning, literally, good or well (bene) speaking (dictio) – speaking well or saying good things. Saying good things to, or of, someone is the most significant affirmation we can offer them. A true blessing, however, is more than a word of praise or admiration of their talents. It goes deeper; to the very heart of a person. It affirms their being beloved – they are Beloved of God and beloved in your sight. Henri Nouwen describes this blessing well:

The blessings that we gve to each other are expressions of the blessing that rests on us from all eternity. It is the deepest affirmation of our true self.

It is not enough to be chosen. We also need the ongoing blessing that allows us to hear in an ever new way that we belong to a loving God who will never leave us alone, but will remind us always that we are guided by love on every step of our lives.*

In that liminal space experienced by Yeshua, of the emergence from the mikveh of the waters of the Jordan River, representing the state of death – dying to the past and birthing into the new, He burst through into light and life and heard the voice of the Father proclaim His blessing from Heaven: “You are my Beloved Son, on you My favor rests!”

There are, essentially, only two voices speaking as we traverse our days in this world – that of Love,  Truth, and Peace, the voice of God, and that of Hatred, Lies, and Fear, the voice of the enemy of God. We choose to hear the Father of Love or the father of Lies – the voice of blessings or the voice of curses. The latter is loud, noisy, clamoring for attention and, in its forceful persistence, its lies may be easy to believe. However, it calls forth only darkness, destruction and death. The voice of blessing never forces itself and yet it constantly is there, true and deep, calling forth light and life. We are surrounded with gentle reminders of :

“…that beautiful, strong, but hidden, voice of the One who calls us by name and speaks good things about us.”**

Knowing you are chosen and a “blessed one” in the eyes of God, enables you to walk through this world and offer blessing to others. As His blessing heals our own brokenness, we can allow it to flow naturally to the brokenness in others who yearn for a reminder that they too are uniquely created, of great value, and beloved by God.

The Hebrew word for blessing is bracha  – ברכה. The Scriptures are as filled with brachot as a pomegranate is filled to bursting with its glowing seeds. One of the most powerful blessings is spoken to this day over the people of Israel by the kohanim (priests)  –  the Aaronic Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26):

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and give you peace.

Saying a blessing in recognition of the many blessings of God [YHWH – HaShem] is a deeply ingrained Jewish practice. Every Shabbat evening a husband speaks blessing over his wife and parents over their children. A hundred times a day Orthodox Jews proclaim blessing of the Holy One, blessed be He. God is blessed, for example, for His provision of bread, wine, food, fruit, for the first blossoms of Spring, for the new day, on seeing the ocean, and even, the most difficult to say, on hearing the tragic news of a death. Baruch Dayan Emet. “Blessed be the True Judge.” *** The conversations of Jewish people, whether secular or religious, are peppered with, Baruch HaShem!  “Praise God!” or, literally, “Bless the Name!”

Another Hebrew word from the same root as bracha is livroch – to kneel or bend the knee. Kneeling is a form of submission, e.g., in honor of royalty. Knights of old knelt before the king or queen to receive the status of knighthood – of service to the monarch. We too need to be in a position of yielding to our King in order to receive the blessing He desires to bestow. Kneeling also requires a cessation of movement, of walking. We need to pause in stillness, as in prayer, to receive a blessing.

Our world today is dark with the curses of war, violence, hatred and misery. It longs to hear the voice of blessing and truth. When spoken, it can bring down fortresses of falsity. We must not choose negativity, helplessness or indifference. These betray our true identity as chosen and beloved of God. Every word of truth, hope and encouragement is a blessing spoken. It has an effect and carries the possibility of healing and transformation.

Please, let us always remember the voice of the One who says, “You are My beloved.”
May we receive the tenderness and power conveyed in the love these words hold. Then, as we go forward, may we be attentively present at the threshold of every moment in order to receive its blessing and to pass on blessing to others.

 

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~Keren Hannah

Footnotes:  

  • Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Life of the Beloved, 59
  • Ibid.; 66
  • Lewis Glinert, The Joys of Hebrew, 28

The Liminal Space of THE EMPTY NEST ~ Cindy Elliott

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THE EMPTY NEST

The wholeness of a home depends much on its ability to prepare its young to leave the nest and risk trusting their own wings to take them to unknown elsewheres, where they will have to build their individual nest.*

Empty nest – that quiet vacuum of space that takes shape around your child leaving. Permeated with feelings of loss it is a threshing floor to the identity and purpose that has defined a parent for years. For two decades the core of my identity has been mom. I’m still mom but all at once my role is less defined – changing.

Viktor Frankl knew about change. Not the natural movement through seasons of life change – but a change that is painful in a way few of us have had to realize. Viktor Frankl was a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau concentration camps and he shared the following:

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

The Hebrew word for change used here, chalaph, means to sprout again, renew, change for the better. This type of change can be seen in the book of Job:

For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again (chalaph), and its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant. Job 14:7-9

The word is found also in Isaiah 40:31, where we see that it is a change that comes as we wait on the Lord:

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new (chalaph) strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

A tender shoot will grow and new life will spring up. However, we do need to allow ourselves to grieve the loss of the old in order to embrace the new. Empty nest is a time of mourning – a time of letting go. In our western society, where there is tremendous emphasis on individualism, grief reminds us that G-d created us to be a community. The work of grief is not a work to be done alone. There is a world of empty nesters standing on the same threshing floor as you find yourself.

It is good to remember that this liminal space – though a place of grief – is also a place of celebration. Sometimes the emotions that overwhelm our heart need to be turned on their head. In the context of those feelings of abandonment, psychologist Madeline Levine** tells us:

Our children’s independence is a reminder of how much we had to give and all that we have accomplished. It is a pleasure to remember that it is not a form of abandonment but an expression of a job well done – and is something to keep in mind as we move back into the center of our own lives, in ways that will make our children proud.

The rich meaning of chalaph (also translated ‘passes’) reminds us that this too will pass. As with all liminal space, we are reminded annually at the Feast of Sukkot, or Tabernacles, to embrace the shelter of your temporary and fragile sukkah and leave the bricks and mortar at home. Liminal space isn’t the place to build a house but is a passing through – a threshold to something new.

 

Kathleen Noffsinger - Roots and Wings

As parents, during years of holding them close and nudging them forward, we have spent our lives giving our children both roots and wings. Roots – providing security, nourishment, and a place in their heart that is always home. And wings – the freedom to fly the nest.

Elizabeth Stone said,

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

That makes us vulnerable but I don’t know one parent who would have it any different.

In general, I’ve found that it can help to look outside myself and see through the perspective of others. There are parents who will never experience an empty nest because their children are not able to spread their wings. Their children are not physically, mentally, or emotionally able to make it on their own. When I think of such circumstances, I can more easily view my empty nest not so much as a gift being taken from me, but rather as a gift I have cared for – will always care for – and am giving back to the Lord. There is something rewarding in the knowledge that we have cared for the daughter G-d has entrusted to me and my husband;  and, in doing so, we also have empowered her to take care of herself.

Lastly, be encouraged. We can see in what Rabbi Sacks shares, that letting go and giving your child over to G-d isn’t easy – just look to our Father Abraham:

The principle to which the entire story of Isaac, from birth to binding, is opposed is the idea that a child is the property of the father. First, Isaac’s birth is miraculous. Sarah is already post-menopausal when she conceives. In this respect the Isaac story is parallel to that of the birth of Samuel to Hannah, like Sarah also unable naturally to conceive. That is why, when he is born Hannah says,

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”

This passage is the key to understanding the message from heaven telling Abraham to stop: “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son” (the statement appears twice, in Gen. 22: 12 and 16). The test was not whether Abraham would sacrifice his son but whether he would give him over to God.

As you move through this season of empty-nesting, may you live each day to it’s fullest as a sacred gift from Heaven and may G-d bless you with His peace and His purpose.

 

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~ Cindy Lou Elliot

 

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I had run across a list of “You Know You Are An Empty Nester When…” that brought such a smile to my heart. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites**

You know you are an empty nester when you:

 

~ send them articles about people who were murdered on a deserted road in Great Britain, indicating what can happen when one moves away from home. Hey, if it can happen to a Mildred in Ravenstonedale, England, it can happen to your Miriam in Riverdale, New York.

 

~ have them on speed dial, along with their friends, the fire and police departments, local Emergency Rooms, the National Guard — and you can’t remember your own number!

 

~ call their teachers and anyone who they ever dated … just to “shmooze.” Make sure they know your daughter is still “available.” G-d only knows what will happen to her if you don’t intervene.

 

~ E-mail or when you use your key, leave little reminder notes, tips, and affirmations, such as “Life is one big tsimmis,” “Your dad and I aren’t getting any younger,” “Call so we know you’re not lying in the street somewhere,” “One sneeze could lead to double pneumonia,” “Did you know a Sukkah could be turned into a bomb shelter?”

~ slip them a few dollars when they visit, saying “Sha …” even while your husband has taken from his pension fund to pay for Medicare supplemental.

 

Footnotes:

* John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us, pg. 82
** Jewlarious, aish.com
*** Kathleen Noffsinger, Roots and Wings

The Liminal Spaces of LIFE ~ Keren Hannah Pryor

When we arrive at the limen, or threshold,  for example of a new year, we need to pause a while and catch our breath before we step out of this liminal space and fully embark on the path of the new year, ripe with its potential and challenges. There are many such spaces in our lives – daily, weekly and monthly  – and particularly as we reach major milestones.

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Psychology and physiology describe a limen as the point at which a stimulus is of sufficient intensity that it begins to produce noticeable effect; for example, the threshold of pain, or of consciousness.
In our walk with G-d, the stimulus we seek and depend on is the vision He births in us – the particular and personal word we need to hear from Him; the stimulus that will guide and direct us in the unique path He has prepared for us to walk in.  We cannot rush blindly ahead. Rather, as Shel Silverstein’s poem expressed in our Introduction to The Liminal Space,

“We will walk with a walk that is measured and slow, and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows [His directions] go.”

In general, we humans are not comfortable with this liminal experience. We like to believe we are always fully “with it” – that we have everything under control, that we are in charge of all that is happening in our lives and of what is around us. We don’t like to feel “neither fully here nor there” as we wait on direction from G-d; to see where He places the next chalk-white arrow. With a touch of grim humor, we sometimes refer to a liminal space as “a twilight zone.”

Physically, we experience the daily liminal spaces of sunrise and sunset. Twilight is the bewtixt and between light – the time we can enjoy the soft diffused light as the sun sets, the day wanes and night begins to fall. Biblically, this is the beginning of a new day. As we read in Genesis 1:5, ” And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

At twilight the rush and busy-ness of the day slows down. We can take time to consider the work of our hands, what we have accomplished and learned, as a form of preparation for the day to come. Based on Genesis 3:8, we popularly believe that this cool, twilight time of the day was when the Lord walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is a sad thing, in our modern, technological age, that too many sunrises and sunsets are overlooked and ignored. We lose their gifts of quietness, contemplation, awe at the marvels of Creation and fellowship with the Creator.

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Birth and Death are two major liminal spaces every person must traverse. We make the major move from one realm of existence to the next. A lovely verse in the Jerusalem Talmud describes:

“In death [as in birth], two worlds meet with a kiss:
the world going out and the future coming in.”

Life comes and life goes and during the interim years we do not know the reason why things happen as they do. We experience the goodness and joy and also the sorrow and pain. How can we understand the mysteries of life and death?
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev once cried out to G-d:

I do not beg You to reveal to me the secret of Your ways – I could not bear it! But show me one thing; show it to me clearly and more deeply; show me what this that is happening at this very moment means to me, what it demands of me, what You, Lord of the World, are telling me by way of it. Ah, it is not why I suffer that I wish to know, but only whether I suffer for Your sake.

We too can ask. “Lord, it is not why I live that I wish to know but whether I live for Your sake?” Every day, every moment is a gift of time. Our Father in Heaven gives us the breath of life that enables us to live each moment. When our days are lived for His sake, we sanctify them and bring eternity into them. Then, every passing moment is a liminal space – a new arrival, a fresh beginning – a  time of rich possibility to partner with G-d and to further His redemptive plan for all mankind. In the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel,

The greatest problem [with life] is not how to continue but how to exalt our existence… Eternity is not perpetual future but perpetual presence. G-d has planted in us the seed of eternal life. The World to Come is not only a hereafter but a here-now!

The Irish poet and teacher, John O Donohue (obm – z”l ) bemoaned the fact that in modern secular society the thresholds of life are not recognised or celebrated meaningfully. Key thresholds pass by withut distinction from the mundane, the everyday. When we approach our significant thresholds with reverence and attention, they will bring us more blessing than we could have imagined. This blessing brings transformation and awakens any gift the crossing has to offer. In his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, O’ Donohue describes:

Each central phase of life begins at a decisive threshold where you leave one way of being and enter another. …It is an intense frontier that divides one world of feeling and being from another. It is a dividing line between past and future. Crossing can often mean the total loss of all you enjoyed while on the other side. Usually the reason you cannot return to where you were is that you have changed; you are no longer the one who crossed over. Once a blind man crosses the threshold into vision, his life is no longer lived in the constricted mode of blindness; new vision means new pastures.

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O’ Donohue also made the very interesting observation that the word ‘threshold’ is related to the word ‘thresh’ – the separation of the grain from the husk. To cross a threshold, therefore, carries the meaning that in the crossing we leave behind the dried and outworn husks of what is no longer suitable or needed and we go forward with all the promise of the life-bearing grain.  He wrote:

The old barriers no longer confine you,
the old wounds no longer name you,
and the old fears no longer claim you.

The old patterns are transformed and the fruitful is drawn out of the past. We can press eagerly forward with new vision and inspiration as G-d ushers us forward with all the grace, peace and strength we need for the next phase of the journey.

 

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~Keren Hannah