Tag Archives: prayer

Shiva: Death, mourning and hope in Jewish Tradition

ברוך אתה ה’ א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, דיין האמת
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, dayan ha-emet.
“Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Just Judge.”
After 4 years of trying, hoping and praying since my last loss, and 13 years in total, and finally after giving up completely, I was unexpectedly blessed with pregnancy again.

Sadly this pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 10 weeks, my 6th loss in total.

There are no funerals for miscarriages, no burials. No family get-together, no ‘sitting Shiva’ together. It is a special kind of grief, more lonely and perhaps harder to navigate than any other type of grief, because in our culture pregnancy loss is still taboo, something we still can’t quite face or discuss openly, and thus the sufferer is largely without comfort or understanding.

The traditional period of mourning in Jewish Tradition is 7 days (thus ‘Shiva’, related to the word 7). But the reality is that grief doesn’t follow a neat progression and cannot possibly be restrained within a 7 day period.

The loss of a child isn’t ‘just’ the loss of a baby right at that moment, but the loss of all the hopes and dreams – the loss of that child’s whole life – years and decades and life events that we thought was ahead of them. And even if a mother is graced with another child, this kind of loss changes you, and you always carry that little bit of sadness with you. You never ‘get over’ loss of a child.

I thought I had completely given up and resigned myself to not having any more babies, to ending my family on a loss. Now though of course, I find old wounds re-opened and longings renewed.

But for now, I mourn. 

Mourner’s kaddish
Jewish perspective on miscarriage and stillbirth
Mourning a Jewish miscarriage 
Jewish Prayer after miscarriage or stillbirth

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How to pray when life hurts?

This year seems to have been one upset, catastrophe, tragedy after another. I won’t dwell on the particulars.

But this verse came up in my daily readings and I felt an immediate identification with it:

“If the LORD be with us, why hath all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” – 1 Kings 1:13

If you know the passage, this is right at the beginning of the period of the Judges and the cycle of rebellion, punishment and repentance – old Israel was so hard of learning!

So does the cycle of suffering work the same way in the lives of believers under the new covenant? Perhaps, but not always. Illness, injury and disaster sometimes come upon people and there is no rhyme or reason or discernible explanation. (Did you ever read the book of Job?) And sometimes, as in the story of Jesus with the blind man, it isn’t the result of the sin of the man or his parents but so the glory of the Lord may be made manifest.

It is difficult to keep on trusting and obeying and praying when life is at its hardest. It is not easy to hold on to the truth that “All things work together for good to those which love God, to them which are called according to his purpose.” But it is still true even when it feels impossible.

In my daily reading from Charles Spurgeon’s ‘Chequebook of the Bank of Faith’ today, I read these words – painful but with a hint of hope:

Pruning for Fruit-Bearing

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:2)

“This is a precious promise to one who lives for fruitfulness. At first it seems to wear a sharp aspect. Must the fruitful bough be pruned? Must the knife cut even the best and most useful? No doubt it is so, for very much of our Lord’s purging work is done by means of afflictions of one kind or another. It is not the evil but the good who have the promise of tribulation in this life. But, then, the end makes more than full amends for the painful nature of the means. If we may bring forth more fruit for our Lord, we will not mind the pruning and the loss of leafage.

Still, purging is sometimes wrought by the Word apart from trial, and this takes away whatever appeared rough in the flavor of the promise. We shall by the Word be made more gracious and more useful. The Lord who has made us, in a measure, fruit-bearing, will operate upon us till we reach a far higher degree of fertility. Is not this a great joy? Truly there is more comfort in a promise of fruitfulness than if we had been warranted riches, or health, or honor.

Lord Jesus, speedily fulfill Thy gracious word to me and cause me to abound in fruit to Thy praise!”

When I do not have the strength to pray my own words, I pray Scripture (and if you dig into the psalms, it isn’t all sweetness and light – some of them are gritty and mournful) and remind myself that, no matter how bleak things look, Good is good, and it will all come right in the end.

She-Devil

It’s official, my neighbour is the She-Devil. Every morning, I am woken up by her shouting and screaming at her crying, screaming kids, until bedtime.

It’s really upsetting, to me and my children, we have got to the point where we can’t go in the garden or even have the windows open when they are home.

I believe she is a single mum. The only interaction I have had with her is her shouting in my face.

I’m afraid I’m really struggling to feel sympathy for her, and as for praying for my enemies, I’m struggling to pray anything nice!

I have tried setting a good example, speaking softly and kindly to my children in her hearing (before being in the garden just got too inpleasant) and smiling and being friendly when I saw her, but it just seems to make her madder.

It’s actually really getting me down. How would you deal with this?

Out in the cold, dark night

So here we are, almost nine weeks after moving out of our rented house, from which we were being evicted, into the brand spanking new housing association property. Minus the mold and the awful landlord and letting agents, but also minus carpets and curtains, the gardens, the fabulous view and minus the dining room, the built-in wardrobes. (We’re also still waiting for our deposit to bé returned) I could go on, but I’m trying not to dwell on the negatives.

One negative I am really struggling with though is the lack of landline phone and internet. Thank God for my mobile phone, but it is costing me almost as much to run this mobile as our only phone and internet source as it was to run broadband and wifi for the whole house before.

Nine weeks is long enough, don’t you think? If I had a choice not to use BT I would certainly vote with my feet, but of course they rely on your inability to go to anybody else for a landline.

I have been through a few traumatic events in the last few years, so in one way I’m used to it, but in another, I feel battle-worn and weary, traumatised too many times.

I’m basically middle-aged now. I thought that by now we would have a stable, comfortable home with a stable, comfortable network of friends and family around us. Nothing could bé further from the truth.

Needless to say, my health has taken a turn for the worse in the last few weeks, to the extent that – apart from a few necessary errands – I am mostly needing to lay down in bed in my room. Even sitting up is too painful, my neck feels unable to hold my head up for long.

I had a conversation on Saturday morning with a pentecostal friend, and I mentioned my ill health, so she said a prayer online which she asked me to agree to, which I did, but then she said “Now we have done ‘spiritual warfare’ and you are healed. Don’t invite back the spirit of infirmity.”

I have spent some time in pentecostal churches, so it shouldn’t have surprised me but I was taken aback. If only life were that simple!

The problem with having such a simplistic worldview is that it becomes inevitably judgemental – if you don’t get well, if your circumstances don’t improve, you must have failed in some way, failed to adequately wage spiritual warfare, had a lack of faith, spoken negative words to “invite” negativity back into your life! (Remember the ‘Secret’?)

Unfortunately, unless you want a potentially self-defeating argument, you learn to have to watch what you say around people with this kind of thinking. I feel another sense of loss that I can’t trust this friend with my true thoughts and feelings.

Anyway, our big news is that, in view of our circumstances, in view of my health, our finances, my husband’s age (over 50 now), we don’t intend to pursue adoption.

That decision comes with another terrific sense of loss and grief and guilt, but we left it too late I think. I wish we had looked into it ten years ago, but on the other hand it would not have been good to put adopted children through what we have been through in the last few years. It looks like it just wasn’t meant to bé. (Either that, or I didn’t wage enough spiritual warfare. Joke.) 😦

I dreamt last night that there were a bunch of children that weren’t mine out in the shed, out in the wet cold night, and one of them broke into the house and threatened me with a gun. Somehow I knew that they were out there, and I was more shocked that I hadn’t let them in than that this child was standing in front of me with a gun. Dreams are stupid, but I expect that’s the guilt talking. I would let you in, but I don’t think I would bé very much good for you.

Election Prayer

My battery is dying, so this will be a quick one. I just wanted to post this prayer for the election.

Abba Father,
We come into your presence on our knees,
And we acknowledge our sins and the sins of this nation – the things we have done and the things we have failed to do.
We ask for your mercy Father, for your Great Name’s sake.
Have mercy on this land and this people.
Restore us to yourself.
May your will be done in this election.
May we not get the government that we deserve, but the government that will bring glory to your name and heal this land.
In the name and for the sake of Jesus we pray,
Amen.

(c) Shoshana Sharon Tootill, 2015

My Father is the King

I thought I would share a dream. I dream a lot, but it is rare that I recall the dream, so when I do I like to look for significance. It’s probably a little silly, so you’ll have to humour me.

I dreamt that I was having trouble with money – I had lost or mislaid my bank card and when I went to the bank, I couldn’t find any ID to prove my identity or my entitlement at the bank.

I was invited into a room at the back, where there was a large table around which were seated various stuffy old men and skinny women in smart suits. I felt quite scruffy and dishevelled. I had to go through my bag to look for any papers that might prove who I was.

Then suddenly, the door to the room burst open, and somebody rushed in to say “The Owner of the bank has regained his memory!”

“Oh dear!” I said.

When asked why, I responded, “The owner of the bank is my grandfather, and last time we spoke, I was in trouble for something or other, I don’t remember exactly what it was.”

“The owner of the bank is your grandfather?” The woman to the left of me asked, astonished. “Well, why didn’t you say? Why, if you had told us, of course your privileges at the bank would be restored!”

I looked at her for a moment, wondering, and said “I suppose I had forgotten it myself.”

Who knows where these weird dreams come from? My grandfather used to tell tall tales of having come from nobility, land and money, and having had to renounce it all in order to marry a commoner. (I don’t know what my grandma would have said. Funnily enough I don’t ever remember him telling these tales when she was in the room!)

Then, on my father’s side, when my cousin traced our family tree a few years ago, he claims we go back – via Ireland and via France earlier on – to the Royal line through the wicked King John, brother of Richard the Lionheart.

I suppose the thought that we once had a better life is always in the back of my mind. So, at the moment, are money troubles of various kinds. I really did go into the bank last week only to find I had no identification.

It all swirls around in the dream and comes out as a different story.

Then this morning, I opened a book of prayers (actually “Breakthrough Prayers for Women” by K & C Richards) and the words at the beginning of the devotion today were:

“You are a daughter of the King. He has a plan and purpose for you.”

I have been feeling really rather folorn and sorry for myself the last few weeks, drifting around without any sense of plan or purpose, frustrated that my hopes and dreams seem to be thwarted at every turn.

I don’t have the energy to fight it at the moment, so I am just shrugging my shoulders and allowing myself to be blown along on the wind.

I don’t know whether there is a grand Plan and Purpose for my life. But it’s nice to think that there might be.

Circle Time

wellplannedday

We have been taking some time off from academics over the last few weeks, and just really enjoyed some much needed ‘down’ time as frustrations had been mounting with the very hot weather.

But since we live on the north Cornwall coast, all our usual haunts are at the moment extremely crowded with tourists so, I’m thinking of starting back with lessons while the schools are on holiday.

Avoiding the crowds has always been one of the lovely advantages of home education – when we used to come on holiday down here, we would come in September, when it was a little cooler, and everywhere was a little less jam-packed.

I’m thinking this year of reviving a pattern of study that worked for one of our best years of home education – 3 weeks of lessons followed by 1 week of holiday, all through the year. It sometimes needs tweaking a little, for example, so that the holidays co-incide with the relevant festivals, but on the whole it’s a good arrangement and it works out to 36 weeks which is a standard ‘school’ year. It’s nice because you know that it’s never too long until you can rest, so it gives you something to look forward to, and something to work for. So rather than 3 ‘terms’ or ‘semesters’, you might have 12 mini blocks of study and 12 breaks.

Something else I am planning to use more is ‘Circle Time’. It is something that we have always done to a greater or lesser extent, but I have not made much use of it recently. When the children were young, we always started the day with a prayer, a poem and some music (I had a box of percussion instruments at one time, but that seems to have sadly got lost in our many moves – if anybody would like to donate any kind of instruments to us, they would be very gladly received!) We also used to review memory work (like the days of the week etc.) and talk about the weather during Circle Time as well.

Most recently, we have been having a prayer and a poem every day still, but the music and the memory work has been abandoned. It has certainly been harder to get up any enthusiasm for singing with my strongest singer gone. (He has ‘graduated’ to Sixth Form College)

But I have been doing a lot of reading recently on the Charlotte Mason method, and I am inspired to revive some of the things that we did right at the beginning of our home education adventure, and Circle Time is one of them.

In fact, I didn’t realise that Circle Time was a Charlotte Mason thing at all – for me it was originally inspired by my experience at Infant School. But I am reminded that when I went to school in the early 1970s, British schools were still feeling the positive influence of Charlotte Mason’s reforms. I hasten to add that Circle Time in British schools has evolved into something quite different, so if you want to google Circle Time, you might want to include the word ‘homeschooling’.

But to get you going, if you’re interested, you might like to read Mystie’s post, which refers back to Cindy Rollins fantastic website and series which is dedicated to the concept of Circle Time, although she refers to it as Morning Time, and Morning Meeting. I rather like that, and I particularly like the concept of ordering our days (and that order being as it were a ‘liturgy’), and ordering our affections (hence the name of Cindy’s website, Ordo Amoris, ordering the affections) which of course is a very Charlotte Mason idea, grounded in Classical education and thinking.

I’m not as organised as I’d like to be, but I am planning to start ‘school’ again tomorrow, to gently and slowly get going. We have booked to go on the Christian Home Educators’ Holiday at Cefn Lea in Wales in September, so the 3 week on / 1 week off rule will need to be bent slightly to accommodate that, but hopefully by the time we come back we won’t find it too hard to get back into the swing of things again as we will only have had the 1 week off.

If you use Circle Time or Morning Time, or have any kind of morning order or ‘liturgy’, I would love to hear from you, and next time I will post some information about what we are including in our Circle Time.

Read52 Week4: Army on Its Knees

Another quick read this week, as I’m so busy at the moment:

Image

“Army on Its Knees” by Janet Munn and Stephen Court.

This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read on prayer, by any means, but I do like the metaphor (unlike Napolean’s Army which marched on its stomach, The Salvation Army ‘marches’ on its knees in prayer).

The book’s essential purpose seems to be to motivate Salvationists, by means of explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of prayer, without providing anything very much in the way of practical structures or guidelines, which is a little bit disappointing, but the chapter on fasting was very good.

I’d like to switch to fiction for next week, but I’ll also be starting the Bible in 90 Days on top of all my studies, so it may need to be another slim volume until I’ve got into the swing of all the extra reading 🙂

The Lord’s Prayer

In response to OrthodoxMom3’s post on The Lord’s Prayer, I thought I would respond by posting a transliteration of the words in Hebrew:

Avinu Sheba-Shamayim,
Yitkadesh Shimkha
Tamlikh Malkhutkha,
Ye’ase Retzonkha,
Ba-Shamayim u-va’Aretz.
Et Lechem Chu’keinu Tein Lanu Ha-Yom.
U’ma’chal Lanu Al Chovoteinu
Keshe’mechalnu Af Anu Lechayaveinu,
Ve’Al Tevienu Lidei Nisayon,
Ela Tatzileinu Min Ha-Ra.
Amen

For more information, take a look at the post on Hebrew for Christians and the UK’s Wild Olive on the significance of Hebrew prayer for Christians.

Moving On

This prayer was at the end of the book “The Grace Outpouring” and I hope it’s ok to quote it here in its entirety.

“I felt I had to share it as it seems so appropriate, it could have been written just for me:

“Father, I acknowledge the reality of who I am. I acknowledge the weakness, the sin, the mess in my life and I ask you to come and have mercy on me, just as I am, because of who Jesus is.

So with your help I take my sin, my weakness, my pain, my grief and place it all on the cross where Jesus died, so that he can carry it away and then forget it forever. I let go of these things now.

With your help I choose to let go of grudges and bitterness, and forgive all who have wounded me.

Father, would you please put the Spirit of Jesus deeply within me and begin to shape and refine me? Will you begin to do what I cannot do? Will you begin to produce within me the person you’ve always wanted me to be? Will you please begin to lead me in the paths you’ve always planned for me?

I ask this in Jesus’ name.”

Amen.”

Amen.

The last three years have been a painful process of letting go of past wounds that seemed to refuse to heal over. But I feel as though I have finally turned a corner and can move on now, able to bless those who wounded me instead of cursing them.

I really hadn’t planned for this blog to be so deeply religious, at all, but that seems to be the way that life is flowing for me right now, and instead of fighting it (inner control freak), I’m going with the flow.