In the early morning, of this fairyland I live in, the air is brimming with sound. The roosters remind me I live in rural America but the other bird songs are still so newborn to me that it persists to feel as my first morning here, like the stuff of dreams.
In a reverie it feels like I’m enclosed by tropical forest and its reverberations. The bright blue wing of stellar jays help with that. The wonder sweeps me into a euphoria some days. For two and a half years I’ve been walking through, standing in, and peering into it all—trying to see. Much of the seeing I wanted I had to wait for, still with plentiful more to come.
Seeing is not only something that happens from without us, but from within us as well. For instance, having never lived in such an aged or moist forest, I was entirely unaccustomed to moss draping around me or ferns swimming at my feet. There were no memories nor resources within me to place what I was beholding. It was like a whole new shelf needed to be built within my intellect. Later I would realize I didn’t need a new shelf, but that I did need help (a lot of help) recognizing the one that was already built in.
At first, all I could see was “moss everywhere!” and “ferns without number!”. With time I began to notice the consistency of the side of the tree the moss grew on in relation to the sun, I began to see distinctions in the ferns and learn their names. All of this will be for no good if I do not also retain something of my first seeing as well, the wonder that quickened my pulse and widened my pupils. Yet awe, understanding, and time altogether have brought a gift: a deepening of my gaze.
I recognized recently a likeness in my own “early morning” of learning the Bible, The Hebrew Scriptures, what many of us know as ‘the Old Testament‘. I did not even know its original name of Tanach, a word derived as an acronym from the first Hebrew letters of its three parts: Torah (the five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (the prophets), and Ketuvim (the writings)—sounds like Tä-‘Näk.
Another day perhaps I could tell you how reading much of the Torah with understanding felt as unknown to me as these woods I’ve been transplanted in. But, as a poetry loving girl, learning the writings, Ketuvim, (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes) felt like finding the foundations of my native-tongue. When it came to the Song of Songs, something in me has often wanted to sing and weep simultaneously, sometimes not understanding why. So, I would just keep reading, and sometimes the tears really do lead to song.
Imagine my delight when I learned that a renowned sage of old, Rabbi Akiva, once said, “All the songs of Scripture are holy, but the Song of Songs is holy of holies.” I felt those words in my bones. It was like that knowing I would look for in the woods and couldn’t find, except this time I could. One of my heroes, Richard Wurmbrand, founder of The Voice of the Martyrs, would often quote the Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim). One day, I found this from him,
“Solomon’s Song belongs to those who have made the greatest renunciation of all: the renunciation of self. For them, only the Beloved counts.” ~Richard Wurmbrand, The Midnight Bride
This coming from him is no lightweight matter. His adult life was thoroughly intertwined and built upon serving the suffering body of Messiah, those souls who bring whole new meaning to the sweet sounding phrase, “I have decided to follow Jesus”. For them, following Yeshua, can mean following Him into physical death and if not that, at the least ostracism from their community and often their direct and dearest family.
To consider that one acquainted with seeing and being with this kind of people would say that this holy-of-holies kind of writing belongs to them and those like them, well, it all at once stings and causes my imagination to become stirred and dawned upon as making the most sense. It causes my gaze to deepen. It has lit a quest in my heart.
Some of the first lines of the literal text of the Song reads: “May He kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for Your love is better than wine.” (Song 1:2) Take in the translation of this text, with me, by one well acquainted with these woods of words, Rashi: “Communicate Your innermost wisdom to me again in loving closeness, for Your love is dearer to me than all earthly delights.”
To find words like these and keep my feet on the ground! A reminder that these words “belong” to those who know about the renunciation of self helps. This idea is something I used to look on romantically…to travel to some far-off country and live dangerously. I was childish. When I became a mother, I finally realized I didn’t have to travel anywhere to learn sacrifice. It would have been even better if I had learned it earlier than that, when I became a wife. That seeing would come in time and continues to come, as I learn to be more child-like and less childish.
I welcomed a new year of life recently and I felt the real passage in time. I saw myself standing at a crossroads in all of this wonder we call life and I saw how often I want to sing and weep simultaneously, rarely fully understanding why. So, sometimes, I just stand. Sometimes I go outside, I unplug, and I return again to the Song of Songs—for all that I don’t understand, it speaks.
It takes me into a place of awe. Sometimes, I can simply stop and remember what it is like to stand in the wildness of the forest. I can hear the bird song-filled air of early morning calling me to hush. I can hear the river. I can hear The Song.
The land my family lives on now had long been neglected before we got here. Many years ago a dedicated gardener was its occupant. Much of our time has been spent in recovery, uncovering a little bit of her handiwork each day. It has been such a privilege and neat way to get to spend our time here. The labor of recovery has given the gift of space for thought and prayer. Daily we are surrounded by the knowing that we walk in the steps of one who came before and are invited into a mission of restoration.
I have a deep respect for the before-we-came-along things, the ancient things, language, people, place. I’ve always been drawn to quiet prayerful places, known I wanted to understand… uncover… peer deeper. This physical outdoor practice has given me a medium for this desire. Some years ago I realized that my desire to understand prayer better may be well served by understanding Adonai’s people’s way—much of which has been preserved from ancient times.
It was something of a discipline for quite awhile, it took a lot of time, a lot of effort to wrap my mind around the ways and expressions of it all. And then, I just let myself walk away from it for several months. I used prayer books that were more familiar to me, my way of thinking. I went back to entirely just writing out my own letters to the Eternal One. Nothing wrong with that.
Yet, part of me wondered if I was “giving up” or was I taking a break? I wondered, did I need this break? Or, was I just not disciplined? I didn’t know if I had “gotten” what I needed from the time trying so hard to learn what was unknown to me, ways and paths that were unfamiliar? But, I just let it be. I was in that place again, where there were no memories nor resources within me to place what I was beholding. It was like a whole new shelf needed to be built within my intellect. In time, I would realize I didn’t need a new shelf, but that I did need help (a lot of help) recognizing the one that was already built in.
Time came and I picked up the prayer books again and I listened to the teachers and many who have gone before me. I was surprised that the way I see pollen in the byways of the air like highways that were made for them now and the way I can see the wood sorrel grow in the dappled shade of the western trillium canopying over their green goodness…so too in prayer had my gaze deepened. How, I wondered? Why does what used to seem heavy feel lighter, what seemed foggy seem clearer? Why did what I did not know the name of now have a name on my tongue? I contemplated.
“Oh!”, one day I exclaimed. Awe, understanding, and time altogether had brought a gift: a deepening of my gaze. That which I wondered if it had been wasted?? I now knew it had not been. What I worried was my lack of discipline I knew now was need, the need for space to grow. The shelf I thought I needed a master craftsman to come build I realized had already been fashioned and secured.
Stories that I thought were impossible (at best) and possibly unnecessary (at worst), are coming true, and my soul is glad.
There is a passage in the book of Ephesians that says, we are the artistry of the Eternal One, that we have been created through Messiah Yeshua for good actions in this world, that He has prepared for us to do. It’s in the midst of this letter that the breath of our Creator speaks of faithfulness and it says that faithfulness is not “of ourselves”, but that rather, it is “the gift of God”.
I read that and I think that is what I have been discovering through all of these things I’m trying to write about tonight. As I work in the woods surrounding my house and I find places that the owner and builders who came before me have shaped and carved out beautiful places in (like the water garden in the woods we found!) I am uncovering a faithfulness that is ‘not of myself’ but that I am certainly getting to benefit from.
I have not planted the many flowers that are coming to bloom here this Spring, it is a gift. I did not know all the names of the vegetation growing in the woods or all the names of the prayers written by the children of Israel in the wilderness, it is a gift. It speaks to me of faithfulness, it teaches me that faithfulness is a thing that I can come to with eyes of wonder and full of questions. I am learning that with time, we can learn and gain understanding and knowledge, built on a foundation of awe, we can become wise.
“Teach us to count our days…”
“Oh!” I whisper to my soul, “be patient in faithfulness”.
“Ah”, I lift my eyes as though I can hear Jeremiah express the Lord’s very heart,
“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls…” (Jeremiah 6:16a)
Prayers of worship begin to burst the banks of my heart,
“Surely His salvation is near to those who stand in awe of Him,
That glory may dwell in our land.
Lovingkindness and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth springs from the earth,
And righteousness looks down from heaven.” (Psalm 85: 9-11)
Instruction fills my ears,
“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, Who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn
And to the quarry from which you were dug.” (Isaiah 51:1)
“Communicate Your innermost wisdom to me again in loving closeness,
for Your love is dearer to me than all earthly delights.”
Yes! Let Him kiss us with the kisses of His mouth. Yes, only the Beloved counts, and in Him is
e v e r y t h i n g.
May you grow in the deepening gaze of faithfulness and may you know the Faithful One’s eye is on the sparrow and also on you.
Hello! I’m glad you are here. And, I’m glad to be here too. I’m grateful for a space to process out loud the things I am learning and growing in, I’m grateful for kind traveling companions to share it with. I’ve been following MrJayMyers around for a little over 21 years now and homeschooling our six-pack along the way. This is where I share our adventures and grow as a writer and photographer. Seriously, thanks for being here, thanks for sharing my work, thanks for being.
I’ve written a book to serve as a companion in prayer in your own adventures, Pray, Like a Woman in Labor, it is available on amazon.
This particular series I’m in the midst of is all about faithfulness and it begins here with this original title: The Faithfulness Writings Begin… I’d love it if you join me in the journey.
ALSO: if you subscribe I’ll send you a download of my new booklet, Grow Gently, available in print soon!
P.S. For those of you following along with my progress on that ((thank you!)) we are so close! Hoping for about one more week to receiving our last proof copy and being able to offer it in print!