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Extra Grace Required - Our Blog

The Mystery By Which We Live

I have a stack of wonderful books on my bedside table: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor; The Yamas & Niyamas, Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele; and Torah Yoga by Diane Bloomfield. And I have read part way through all of them. But what have I actually finished reading lately? Last week I had my nose in a cozy mystery, a story about a smart and sassy middle-aged detective, and a victim genteelly poisoned amid descriptions of nostalgic small town life: literary comfort food. Meanwhile, the books of wisdom on my bedside table gathered dust, unopened, and unfinished.

Unfortunately, my prayer life is often like my reading habits. I stick with the familiar and comfortable and then get frustrated with my own stagnant spirituality. Over the weekend my darling Aunt G sent me a beautiful quotation attributed to the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, that pushed me out of my recent prayer complacency.

"To pray is to take notice of the wonder,
To regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings,
The divine margin in all attainments.
Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live."

Thank you Rabbi Heschel for dusting off and opening my internal prayer book once again. This week I will pray and take notice of the wonder that surrounds me. I will pray with gratitude for my deep full breath, that occurs whether I notice it or not. I will pray that the recently arrived refugee family, sponsored by my church, adapts to the surprise of finding themselves in a cold climate. I will pray as I light candles set on the dinner table, marveling how such small flames can instantly add warmth to a cold room. This week I will pray for the mystery by which we live.

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