Saturday 31 December 2022

2023 Word of the Year - Menuha

 As I embark on what will be a full 2023, I have been considering what my word for the year should be. There is much uncertainty leading into this new year as I take on a new role which will see me spending a lot more time away from home in Perth. There have been a few conversations about how this will work for our family and the need to ensure my work roles do not become all consuming.

As I have been preparing for this new role, I have been exploring the theme of "Sabbath" as an underpinning framework for the formation program I will be co-ordinating. This has led me to read to Abraham Joshua Heschel's "The Sabbath". This is a book I have had on my "to read" list for a while now. I read it in one sitting and consumed every word.

Heschel, a Jewish scholar, unveils the mystery of the Sabbath in poetic beauty. One section, in particular, caught my attention. Heschel explains the nuances of the term "menuha" and its significance to observing the Sabbath. I knew straight away that this needed to be my word of 2023. The Hebrew word "menuha" is usually translated as "rest". Heschel explains, however, that this rest is not simply the putting down of tools in order to recuperate before starting work again. The Sabbath, the menuha, itself completes the work of creation. In the first account of Creation in Genesis, the creative process is finished when menuha is formed on the seventh day. On all of the previous days God sees what is created and says it is good. On this seventh day God blesses the day and makes it holy.

This understanding opens up a new significance to finding times of rest amid the busyness of life. Without sabbath times, without menuha, my work will not be complete. There is an element of menuha that takes a step back and savours the work of the week before moving on. Menuha seems to take delight in what has been created. In the Jewish tradition this mystery is seeped with ritual and celebration. 

So, in 2023, as I make my way up and down the highway and juggle two roles, I hope to find my own ways to find menuha. It is unlikely that this will come in the form of a day each week, but I aim to find menuha times in the midst of life. Being intentional about creating menuha will somehow complete my work.

Happy New Year to you all!

Friday 11 February 2022

The Elusive Dunnart

Since our beautiful dog, Ava, died in September last year, wildlife has returned to our garden. The birds linger longer. The king skinks and blue tongues slither about with more courage. The possums seem more active at night. And, unfortunately, we have had more mice and rats. There is one little critter, however, that avoids a positive identification. This little fella only appears as the light is fading and skips along the fence and branches in our front courtyard. He is fast. He is small. He could be a small rat or a rather fat mouse. But we suspect he is a dunnart. For those not familiar, a dunnart is an Australian, nocturnal, carnivorous marsupial. It looks rather mouse-like - especially when it hops briskly past the window at dusk. It has become somewhat of a family challenge to get more than a brief glimpse of this critter to positively identify its species. 

A few days ago, I had my best sighting yet. It was a rare evening where I was the only one home. There was none of the usual background noise associated with family time and getting a meal prepared. I sat in the lounge chair closest to the front courtyard. It was quiet. It was still. The elusive dunnart appeared and, unusually, lingered a while. It sat on the fence - waiting. I sat still trying to focus on the sillhouette. Definitely a dunnart - - I think! I was reluctant to move closer, knowing I would startle it and send it hopping. It was but a moment. A moment of stillness and clarity and wonder.

This experience reminded me of my desire to live a contemplative life. I know, from experience, that when I am able to be silent and still I am more likely to see the Divine with more clarity. There is still mystery and the unknown, but for a moment we meet. It is not something that can be captured or repeated, but it beckons us to return and be still again. It is very easy to become caught up in the busyness of life and completely miss the "dunnart" living amongst us. It is when we intentionally find the space to be still and wait that we may be surprised by the presence already in our midst.

Monday 10 January 2022

I Can See Clearly Now

 Back in 2017 I attended a week long workshop with Pace e Bene on non-violence. Things were shifting and changing for me at the time. There were many great aspects to that week, but the one super significant thing I walked away with was a short story from Scripture. The five-verse narrative of Jesus healing a blind man in Mark 8 captured my attention. It became like an analogy for my current situation and has continued to speak to me since that day.

Last year, I facilitated a day retreat for the World Community for Christian Meditation in Perth. I based the day's reflections on this story and chose the theme 'I can see clearly now'. I approached the day with a little apprehension, as is often the case when I prepare for an unknown audience. The day was a delight!! About 50 people attended and participated with both contemplative intent and great enthusiasm. The day included discussion, personal reflection, immersing in the story through movement and even a bit of singing! We journeyed through the story together exploring what it means to see clearly in our faith life.

The WCCM group of Margaret River have asked me to repeat the day in the South West. The date is fast approaching and I am excited to see how a different group repsonds to this narrative. This retreat day will be held on the 5th of February at the Margaret River Uniting Church. You can see further details in the flyer below. If you would like to register you can click here. Why not make a weekend of it?! In case you haven't heard - Margaret River is a great place for a getaway.