Friday, June 25, 2021 (Day 25)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 25 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
To you, O Lord, I lift my heart
My God, in You I trust…
Turn to me and grant me grace,
for alone and afflicted am I.
The distress of my heart has grown great.
From my straights bring me out.
See my affliction and suffering and forgive all my offenses.
See my enemies who are many
and with outrageous hatred despises me.
Guard my life and safe me.
Let me not be shamed,
for I shelter in you.
May uprightness, wholeness, preserve me,
for in You do I hope.

An Opening Word
Psalm 25 is full of longing. In the midst of a life of distress, affliction, suffering, shame, and hatred, the Psalmist says to God, “I trust you” and “I lift my whole life to you.” Using the Hebrew word “nefesh” for “life,” the sense of longing is amplified: that word means not just “life” but “my essential self” or “my life-breath.” It implies a truly life-giving connection to the divine, and a whole-self dependence on God.

Today’s mystic is Brother Lawrence who brings a new tone of humility to whole-self dependence on God. He was born in what is today France and because his family was poor, he served as a soldier where he was guaranteed meals and a small stipend. He was in the military during the Thirty Years’ War, a season in European history that was violent and spread of typhus, dysentery, and bubonic plague to military-adjacent villages. Injuring his leg in battle, Brother Lawrence ended up caring for an elite advisor to the king, and self-reported feeling like “a great awkward fellow who broke everything” because of his war wound. In this dark season of his life, he had an encounter with God in the depth of winter which reminded him that life has cycles. The leafless snow covered tree would soon bud in spring: it encouraged him to hold out for his own life’s spring renewal.

He joined the Carmelite order in Paris, spending most of his time at the monastery cooking and cleaning in the kitchen, though when his war injury prevented him from even this kind of work, he became a repairer of sandals and especially endeared himself to the poor in his neighborhood who came to him for shoes. He was a man of deep peace and the other monks came to him regularly for spiritual guidance. His prayer below is emblematic of his native faith, seeing God at work in the simple tasks at hand.

Prayer from the Mystics: Brother Lawrence (1614–1691)
Lord of all
pots and pans and things,
since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawn light,
or storming heaven’s gate,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates. Amen.