Opening: 100 Days of Psalms and Prayers

Friday, June 11, 2021 (Day 11)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 11 (adapted from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
In the Lord I sheltered.
How could you say to me,
“Off to the hills like a bird!
For, look, the wicked bend back the bow,
they fix to the string their arrow to shoot
from the gloom at the upright….”

The Lord in God’s holy place,
The Lord in the heavens God’s throne—
God’s eyes behold,
God’s look probes all generations.

The Lord probes the righteous and wicked,
and the lover of havoc God utterly hates.

An Opening Word
Robert Alter begins his introduction to his translation of the Psalms saying that these texts are “the most urgently, personally present” of scripture. I sense that in a deep way, only 11 days into considering the psalms with you this summer. Today again, we see that image of sheltering-in-God. God is shelter the Psalmist says, therefore we do not have to flee to the mountain like birds, fearful when trouble comes. We can trust, even in the midst of the worst of the worst, that God is there.

Mystic Lilian Stavely also sheltered in God and in a very quiet, intimate way. One biographer said of her “Most of us, seeing a respectable lady shopping in London’s Bond Street searching, let us say for a sensible pair of new shoes, are hardly likely to suspect that we are looking at a God-intoxicated mystic, comparable in her inner nature to a St. Francis of Assisi.” I love that.

Despite her God-intoxicated mystic disposition, because of the intensity of internalized and cultural experience patriarchy, she struggled with gender, worrying that because she was a woman her very being was not “acceptable” to God. What might otherwise have been joy in the presence of God was (early on, at least) experienced as sorrow, as she felt her womanhood was a barrier to her full elation in the presence of the divine. Of course all of that breaks my heart. (Though isn’t it true that one hundred years later patriarchy, sexism, and religion are still in places, entangled?)

Later in life she grew in confidence in regards to her relationship with God and wrote a number of texts, but biographers believe she never let even her Brigadier General husband know how deeply she experienced the divine. In fact she published anonymously and her books were only just linked to her name. Her book The Prodigal Returns begins with two near-death experiences. In one case, on the way home she feels a deep urgency to tell her family, “let’s take the other train.” Then the train’s bridge collapsed, and “the other train” fell, killing hundreds. These kinds of life-saving nudges she attributes to a closeness with God, her shelter.

Prayer from the Mystics: Lilian Stavely (1878–1928)
This is our wisest and our best desire, to be a splendid lover to our Most Glorious God. Amen.

June 11, 2021

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