Sauntering may be my new favorite word! To saunter means “to walk leisurely with no apparent aim” or “to walk along in a slow and relaxed manner” or I suppose, as in the image, “to float along with the current.” I have been sauntering for most of the summer. Now that our fall programs have resumed at church, I won’t be able to float aimlessly quite so often, but I am hoping to go along in a slow and relaxed manner.
I just finished a book of reflections that I want to recommend to you. It is called Sauntering Through Scripture: A Book of Reflections by Genevieve Glen, OSB (Liturgical Press, 2018). I first “met” Benedictine Sister Genevieve Glen in her writings that appeared in Give Us This Day over the past few years. She is a contemplative nun of the Abbey of St. Walburga in Northern Colorado. For those of you who follow my blog, you may recognize the name of this abbey. I had the opportunity to visit the Abbey of St. Walburga last year, and wrote a post on this blog shortly after that. (It is one of the most-visited posts on my blog!)
Sauntering Through Scripture is a collection of 50 reflections, many of which have previously been published in Give Us This Day. Sr. Genevieve reflects imaginatively and poetically on 34 Scripture passages and 16 psalms and traditional Catholic prayers. Her examples are relevant to our lives, sometimes poking fun at our attitudes and practices. She invites us to saunter in our reflections and be transformed through a fresh look at familiar texts.
Two of my favorite reflections are “Unzip that Tent!” based on Numbers 11:10 and Psalm 106:25, and “A Daughter of Abraham” based on Luke 13:10-13. Let me quote Sr. Genevieve Glen’s statements that resonate with me in a particular way.
The story from the Book of Numbers (11:10) is about the Israelites camped in the desert, complaining about the lack of water and food – in fact, grumbling about everything on their journey in the wilderness. God says to them: “Open up, make room, I’m bringing you more gifts, more possibilities, more riches than you could possibly imagine. But you’ve got to unzip that tent!” Sr. Genevieve concludes her reflection this way:
Grumbling and gratitude can’t coexist in the same tent or even the same desert. Love doesn’t actually mean never having to say you’re sorry, as a thousand parodies have pointed out since that unfortunate line appeared in Erich Segal’s Love Story. Love seems rather to mean always wanting to say thank you.
The Daughter of Abraham in Luke’s account (13:10-13) is the woman bent forward almost in half whom Jesus finds in the temple. The reflection is about prayer. It is especially relevant to me when I find that I don’t know what prayer is nor why I pray, let alone how to pray.
Her condition is plea enough for help. She makes no complaint. She asks for nothing at all. She simply stands there in the synagogue, on the Sabbath, where the word of God is read and expounded. It must be difficult for her to walk from home, but she comes anyway. She makes herself available to the word. (emphasis mine) That is all.
This woman bent in two teaches us something about how to pray. In one of the humorous examples in the book, Sr. Genevieve describes our intercessory prayers that provide God with a complete and detailed description of what is needed, followed by painstaking instructions as to what should be done about it:
For my mother, who has suffered for eighteen years and thirty-three seconds from severe osteoporosis and arthritis that keep her from driving a car or running a vacuum cleaner, and that four doctors have been unable to help, though she has spent a fortune on medications; that she be able to stand up straight so that she can babysit the grandchildren on Tuesdays and Thursdays while their mother is at work, we pray to the Lord.
It is humorous to me because I have found myself praying like this! In my previous post about praying about Hurricane Florence, you might notice that I was influenced by this exaggerated example. Like the woman in the synagogue, our needs and our faith are our prayer. And God hears them.