A Grateful Table: Heart Prayers in the Kitchen

For those not familiar with rural living, allow me to paint a scene. I live out on what is basically a prarie here in Oregon. It boasts a tiny mom and pop market and cafe....and that's it. But if one saddles up and takes the journey (and it is a journey) into a neighboring town one can find such wonders as an ATM, a gas station, a still small (but bigger than the one in my area) market, and antique stores. So once a month or so i "go into town", and it feels i think like it might have felt to our ancestors...going into town is a real event.

Yesterday was just such an event, and a gift was found in an antique store that has been making me so happy....the perfect mixing bowl : ) I've been waiting for just the right mixing bowl for so long, a really special one...and this was it, the sweetest little Halls bowl, and blessedly affordable. I can't stop looking at it and touching its smooth soft surface. I keep baking whatever i can think of because i love using it so much (luckily the weather has been cooperating, has cooled off this weekend). It's the nicest feeling and have been so grateful for this! And it's reminded me of an old post i've been meaning to bring over, so reprinting it below. It was originally written on 3/25/08....

In his book "Maxims", Brother Lawrence writes, "Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?"--from here

"How much better and faster this is than trying to use our own limited intelligence to search for answers and proof. How much more direct and gentle this is than running off on our own path full of detours and obstacles that so often lead nowhere or, even worse, keep us spinning in circles that become deep ruts. How much easier to do it God's way with simple gratitude."--from here

Mentioned awhile back was Brother Lawrence's core and simple "heart prayer" of "Thank you, God (hmmm, mistyped as "Thank of God", like "Think of God). His grateful way of being is just such a relief. The thing is, i think its our first natural reaction really, but we sadly learn to bury it (see here). Truly, "not burying" that thank you finally is such a relief, a re-mem-ber-ing that God is in control and that He is caring for us... the chest sighs, the breath slows. A bit more about this "Thank You, God" prayer, from from here:

"The Silent 'Thank You, Father'

"Please give Him thanks with me for His great goodness which I can never sufficiently express, and for the many favors He has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. May all things praise Him. Amen." ... Brother Lawrence

The most powerful expression of practicing God's presence is The Silent 'Thank You, Father'. These three words are the very essence of the holy habit. This phrase is the secret to living on earth and in heaven in continual conversation with God. It can start us and keep us moving forward on the path of practicing God's presence -no matter what.

The Silent 'Thank You, Father', is voiced from the heart. We repeat it inwardly at all times and in all circumstances -no matter what. In this way, The Silent 'Thank You, Father' brings us into instant awareness and communion with God.

We learn from Brother Lawrence that the things necessary for the practice of the presence of God are love, humility, simplicity, and faith. Contained within the three words, 'Thank You, Father', is a complete expression of love, humility, simplicity, and faith. When silently spoken at all times and in all circumstances -no matter what, 'Thank You, Father' expresses our accord with His good pleasure, His holy will...

The Silent 'Thank You, Father' is a full expression of faith because trust in Our Lord is the very foundation of living in God's presence...

The beginning is not easy. We sometimes feel like a hypocrite....(But He will help us, and in) time, when we diligently apply ourselves, this phrase transforms our entire outlook and assures a dynamic, personal relationship with God. Sometimes, just the thought of silently saying, 'Thank You, Father' (if needed can also add 'Lord, increase my faith' ) will flood our heart with His radiant presence. We may become so aware of this sense of presence that, should we slip out of it, we automatically form the words within.

At the very least, we will recognize when something is not quite right. If we slip into a mood or a troubled frame of mind, a round of 'Thank You, Father', sometimes a vigorous round of many repetitions, will bring us back into His holy presence.

This beautiful phrase is a prayer which acts much like the classic Jesus Prayer: "Lord, Jesus Christ, Have mercy on me, a poor sinner." When we inscribe these short, yet complete, prayers into the very fiber of our being, we form a lasting and holy habit of expressing our love, humility, simplicity, and faith."

That site above is an excellent one for reflections on Brother Lawrence. For his writings themselves though, i find this translation more poetic, from here. There is also a really nice audio version of that translation, from here. And a wonderful sermon on Brother Lawrence from here.

The image above of cakemaking may seem a strange one to post with stuff on Brother Lawrence, but not really...he did after all work in a monastory kitchen. However the real reason i was drawn to this image here is that its been using my mixing bowl in this little "abbey" here that's also making me so thankful lately. For years, becuase of my injury, i have not been able to use a mixing bowl. And there's just something so archetypal about using that mixing bowl, something i deeply miss. Lately though, from a combination of the injury being calmer lately, and also finding some ergonomic tricks to mixing (putting a wet towel under the bowl so it stays in place better, mixing with hands vs a spoon when its too hard to stir, etc), ive been able to use a mixing bowl more lately. And there is just something about that, something that brings such a feeling of ancientness, and of joy.

It reminds me of my very favorite post from Home Living, one of the earliest ones there called The Mixing Bowl:

"I don't know about you, but I never just mechanically mix up something just because it must be done. There are a lot of things packed into this activity that you may not know. For one thing, I think of the women before me who may have stood at that counter and mixed up a batch of scones or pancakes. I remember the Pioneer women in the log homes or sod homes their husbands built for them. I'm stirring away, and thinking how valuable that mixing bowl must have been to the next generations. Grown children must have wanted their grandmother's mixing bowl, not just for something to use, but for the sentimental value. In using that bowl, the homemaker must have thought of the times of the life of her grandmother, and remembered some of the special occasions when she mixed up a batch of something. Pictures form in her mind of grandmother in her apron, with a contented smile, mixing up something special for her family. I think across the ages to the earliest people in history--even as far back as the women of the Bible making cakes, such as the woman of Zarepath, who made a little cake for Elijah in I Kings 17. So, it is more than just doing a job. It is a repetition of a custom from long ago. We are creating memories for our family when we use the mixing bowl, and one day someone will ask if they can have your mixing bowl...

In all the things we perceive as greatness in the world, this is one of the most cherished experiences for people of all ages. In doing this, the woman with the mixing bowl makes a statement about her life. This is her world, her time, and her freedom. She doesn't have to worry about time sheets and schedules and bosses, keeping her job, competing with someone else for better batter, or anything that takes place on "the outside" as I call it. She's not worried about losing her position if it doesn't turn out well. It is the doing of it that counts. She can think about that bowl, and if she got it at her wedding, the person that gave it to her. She can spend a few minutes quietly stirring and thinking about the people that made it possible for her to be as she is today, contentedly stirring something in the mixing bowl.

A woman who has claimed the freedom to create a cake or pudding from her own special mixing bowl, whether it is her own new one she got for her wedding, or the one passed down from her grandmother, has truly made it to the top, in life... It isn't just the act itself that is so comforting and reassurring to a home, but the end results. The enticing aroma and the final partaking of such a treat, holds a special feeling of anticipation for all members of a family, and their visitors, no matter what age. The mixing bowl transcends the so-called "generation gap" and even moreso the gap we often feel in time. In doing something that the Pilgrims, Pioneers, and Victorians did, these people that once walked the earth and have now "gone home" do not seem so foreign or so strange to us. Like you, there was once a woman in 1890 standing at her sink, glancing up at her family, with the mixing bowl in her arm. Somehow, their lives don't seem so distant from our own, when we are doing something so similar to something they did in their own generation."

I just love this!

(Image adpated from here)

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