The Cure of Souls: Speaking of Traditions

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This post is part of a series called The Cure of Souls: A Spirituality of Care and Compassion
written by Kate Wiebe. Look for her posts twice a month, and a list of them here.

“Will this be one more day where countless tasks fragment my sense of well-being?  From where can I find the stamina to meet the challenges this day, and every day?”

Through her questioning as well as her remarkable claim that we “cannot divide the spiritual from the practical,” mother and author, Sara Wenger Shenk ponders for us in her book Why Not Celebrate about how the questions above are monumental.  She asks: “Where can ordinary folk find a theology which springs from our everyday tasks and returns to invigorate us right where we are?”

Similar to spiritually practical seekers like Brother Lawrence, Shenk’s sense is that “either faith must give me food for the road on a blurred, beleaguered morning, or it might as well be stashed between two gilded book covers and set on a museum shelf to molder. If it isn’t possible to know the quickening presence of God in the everyday routine, one might as well ship religiosity off to a seminary library and leave it there.  Either God is the God of all life, or God is on the reserve shelf, available and relevant only to a sanctified elite.”

For me, these words speak profoundly, mostly because I know them to be true firsthand.  In practicing senses of God’s presence in the everyday, I discover over and over storehouses of faith, strength, hope, love, and grace, in the crises when I have needed them most.  These storehouses of faith are built up, in part, by traditions in home and church.  By imparting them to children among us, we participate in building resiliency.

Traditions create the character of place.  We all make them, even if we do not intend to make them.  They are our habitual patterns, our ways of marking holidays and special occasions, and our ways of passing on senses of who we are.  That’s the trouble with not intending to create traditions – default habits become the expressions of what’s important to us. When children are growing up in a home, the character of the home becomes the starting map for how to approach and respond to the world around them.  When done with intention, they become the practices that express safety, freedom, and thriving.

“Learning how to cultivate the presence of God throughout our daily activities can be a revolutionary discovery,” especially for folks who have felt their lives as frantic and fragmented.  Yet, Shenk assures, prayer and presence-rituals “can be like breathing, like continually feeling loved by God.”  Yes!  Living life with a continual feeling of being loved by God. How refreshing and restorative!

“With a little discipline we can learn to offer our activities, small and large, to God, doing what we would normally do, but doing it for the love of God.”  As we practice this kind of presence, we offer our lives in gratitude.  “And our children learn from our ability to give thanks that, truly, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.  That is why we celebrate, even when all is not well.”

…More tomorrow.

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