How to Wash the Dishes

In last week’s post, we explored what I call a kitchen sink spirituality. Can we find a worthwhile practice in the mundane task of washing the dishes? What can it teach us? We looked at three references to a spirituality of dishwashing.

There is a fourth reference I’d like to explore today.

dishesOn his website, author Jim Forest tells a story about his friend, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. One evening at a dinner party, Forest was annoyed at the pile of dishes he was stuck washing while everyone else was having a great conversation in the other room. Sensing his annoyance, Nhat Hanh told him, “You should wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” Forest was puzzled. Then his friend advised him to “wash each dish as if it were the baby Jesus.”

I’m really drawn to Nhat Hanh’s response. When I first read it, I was immediately transported to the Middle Ages, my favorite time period. Nhat Hanh may have meant to impart advice on mindfulness, but he sounds just like a medieval devotional master.

In the late Middle Ages, many devotional texts invited their readers to experience the humanity of Jesus in a new and startling way. Their goal was to foster an experience of intimacy with the savior. The Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony (14th c.), for example, asks lay Christians to imagine holding and caring for the baby Jesus:

Kiss the beautiful little feet of the infant Jesus who lies in the manger and beg his mother to let you hold him a while.

And later:

[T]he holy Virgin, following the law that had been established, left the city of Bethlehem with Joseph and the infant Jesus to go to Jerusalem, five miles distant, to present Our Lord in the temple. You go, too, in their company, and help them carry the child.

I never fail to be moved by the tenderness of this invitation. Ludolph asks his readers not just to meditate on Jesus, not just to think about him or rehearse the events in his life. He invites every person to enter into Jesus’ life. This reverses the way we usually approach Jesus. Instead of asking our Lord to help us, we help care for him. We kiss and hold and carry his infant self. For a moment, we are his mother.

I’m fascinated by the way a contemporary Buddhist monk channels this text. I doubt that Nhat Hanh meant to get medieval on us, but he did–-and together with Ludolph of Saxony, his advice helps to transform a small part of our daily life. Hold the infant Jesus a while. Wash each dish as if it were the baby Jesus.

Doing the dishes can make me so angry. I’m tired at the end of the day. I see the piles of dirty plates, not all of which will fit into the dishwasher, and I simply don’t want to wash them. But how could I be angry washing the baby Jesus? How could I refuse an invitation to take him into my arms?

I need this kind of spirituality, one in which tenderness and imagination melt away my frustration. One in which Jesus becomes startlingly present in my life. What, after all, could be more startling than suddenly seeing Jesus in your kitchen sink? It’s the jolt needed to restart and soothe my troubled heart.

If henceforth my family sees me weeping at the sink after dinner, it will be because I hold not only dishes, but also the infant savior.

Dishwashing as a spiritual discipline? Surely so. One that I practice each day. One that brings me to Jesus. One that washes me of anger even as I wash the dishes clean.

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Thank you for joining us for Friday Favorites! Each week, Prasanta Verma and I round up our favorite links related to prayer, spirituality, and writing. We hope it will enrich your life and help you to find the best the web has to offer.

Read, enjoy, and be blessed.

***

We Are Free to Learn Slow by Tasha Jun (a beautifully liberating message — we are free to move at the pace God has given us)

How to Stop Work From Taking Over Your Life by Sheridan Voysey (discover “sacred inefficiency” and why your weekend is about more than recharging for the week ahead)

A Prayer for Those Who Feel Awkward in Social Situations via Douglas Kaine McKelvey (Who me? I don’t need this prayer. *Runs and hides*)

A Rough and Ready Primer on Traditional Publishing via Andi Cumbo-Floyd (helpful info for writers wanting to go the traditional publishing route)

Novelist Cormac McCarthy’s tips on how to write a great science paper via Nature (his advice is transferable to other subjects– and, well, it’s Cormac McCarthy)

“Emergency Poet” opens literary “pharmacy” to support mental wellbeing via Keele University (literary “first aid” as a way of bringing the therapeutic benefits of poetry to the local community. “Yes” to more poetry!)

 

Kitchen Sink Spirituality

Sink. Soap. Suds. Plates. Pots. Pans. And . . . prayer?

Washing the dishes isn’t included in the big books on spiritual disciplines—not in Richard Foster’s classic Celebration of Discipline nor Adele Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, which describes a whopping 62 disciplines.

But maybe it should be.

DishesIn recent months I’ve come across no fewer than four references to people who have made doing the dishes into a discipline of sorts. Four! That can’t be a fluke. Is there something about dishwashing—other than its obvious need to be done—that recommends it to Christians today?

Let’s take a look at what people are saying about the dishes. Today we’ll explore three of the references I found. I’m saving the fourth (my favorite one) for next week.

Christine Berghoef gets poetic about dishwashing in a post at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation:

In the predictable rhythm of liquid warmth swirling through my washcloth as I swab away remnants of the day’s nourishment, the liltingly light splash of the faucet rinsing the suds, and the movement from rinse to dry rack, I am soothed. Unwound. Almost tranquilized. It forces me to pause, to ruminate over the events of the day, to be still.

In Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (IVP Books, 2013), Andy Crouch, describes the small discipline of doing the dishes as an exercise in humility. Tackling the crockery before he leaves for a speaking engagement, he says, helps him to limit “my own exercise of godlike freedom and significance” (pp. 241-242).

Finally, Tish Warren mentions dishwashing in her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary. The disciplines needed to sustain our spiritual life, Warren says, are often quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. This may be counter-intuitive, but it’s how growth occurs:

I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith—the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small—that God’s transformation takes root and grows (35-36).

I love all three of these! Each brings to the fore a different spiritual benefit of doing the dishes:

  • being still
  • being humble
  • finding Jesus in the mundane

Given my natural approach to life, I need all of these benefits. I tend to get frustrated by daily chores. As I wrote in a previous post, I believe that I should be doing something more “exalted” with my time. And that means I need a good dose of humility. It also means that I need a reminder of Jesus’ presence. He is there, even (or maybe especially) in the mundane tasks of the day. These tasks show care for my family and slow me down enough to be present in the little moments of my life.

Which means that I may need fewer mountain-top experiences and more mountains of dishes. A kitchen sink spirituality.

What about you? Where do you need to see Jesus reaching into the mess of your daily life?

 

Come on Retreat with The Contemplative Writer

A few days ago, a friend of mind wrote: “Without care of the soul, we suffer under the weight of our calling or become smothered in the banal. Spiritual rejuvenation takes many forms but it is not a luxury OR optional.”

Those words ring true to me. Soul care is not optional. It keeps us going, renews us, returns us to ourselves, and above all helps us experience the care of our Creator.

Spiritual practices help us care for our soul — fixed-hour prayer, contemplative prayer, spiritual direction, and lectio divina, for example. When we engage in one of these practices, the goal is to clear the way for God to work in us. As the author of the Cloud of Unknowing said, “In the work of contemplation, God stirs our souls. His grace is the principal worker in us.” It’s God, not us.

I find valuable resources in the contemplatives and mystics of contemplative history who tell us about these practices. And I have another resource I’d like to tell you about today.

I’ve teamed up with a soul friend to host a spiritual retreat! We’re excited to offer this to you. The retreat will take place June 5 – 7, 2020 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Here’s a brief description:

Sacred Spaces is the first annual destination retreat created and hosted by Lisa Deam, Ph.D. and Lisa Colón Delay, a top-ranked spirituality podcaster and writer. In the high desert of New Mexico, we’ll gather to recharge our soul. We’ll enjoy a time of rest, contemplation, and spiritual practices.

We’ll specifically be focusing on the practice of pilgrimage, which is experiencing a worldwide resurgence today. A highlight of the retreat will be a visit to the local pilgrimage site of Chimayo, New Mexico.

Our schedule for the retreat is spacious. We want to welcome you and provide time for you to rest, recharge, grow, and journey with friends old and new. The New Mexico landscape is an ideal place for retreat and contemplation since it has a spiritual potency of its own.

Soul care is important, so I hope you’ll prayerfully consider joining us on this retreat. If you can’t make it yourself, you can donate so that someone else can.

There are two ways to get more information on the Sacred Spaces retreat. You can sign up to get updates on the retreat’s landing page.

And you can go to EventBrite for a wealth of information and to purchase your tickets. (Note: EventBrite is down or experiencing some technical difficulties. If the link doesn’t take you there right now, please try again later!)

From now until the end of October, we have a reduced rate on tickets. It’s a really good deal — it includes the event program, pilgrimage visit, two nights lodging, and four meals. Take a look.

Please join us on a pilgrimage of the heart.

Announcement and details of Sacred Spaces Destination Retreat June 2020 from Lisa Colón DeLay on Vimeo.

Friday Favorites for Prayer and Writing

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Each week, Prasanta Verma and I round up links that really struck us and that we’d like to share with you. We hope they will add to your writing and spiritual life. Without further ado…

Prasanta’s picks —

Postmarked via Shawn Smucker and Jen Pollock Michel (it began as a Twitter conversation but developed into a series of letters between two writers, navigating the terrain of creative work and family life)

How to Write Compelling Articles That Get Read and Shared via Nicole Bianchi (5 steps to crafting compelling articles)

“Birthday Poem for Roma Cady MacPherson Wilson 2 January 2019, aetatis suae XV” via Anthony Madrid (a stunning poem in Curator Magazine)

***

Lisa’s picks —

Rhythms That Return Us to Ourselves via Marlena Graves (returning to “our senses,” or to the rhythms that once sustained and can still sustain us)

On Feeling Afraid and Finding the Edge via Kelly Chripczuk (on the subtle sway of fear)

Year of Pilgrimage – to be a pilgrim in Britain’s Green and Pleasant Land via Bess Twiston Davies (the year 2020 has been decreed the “Year of Cathedrals and Pilgrimages” by the Association of English Cathedrals. Read about the continuing popularity of the practice of pilgrimage!)

 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Thank you for joining us for Friday Favorites! Each week, Prasanta Verma and I round up our favorite links related to prayer, spirituality, and writing. We hope it will enrich your life and help you to find the best the web has to offer.

Read, enjoy, and be blessed.

***

Lisa’s picks–

Breaking My Podcast Addiction via Julia Roller (social media addiction? who…me?)

Why We Must Seek God’s Presence in the Ordinary via Catherine McNeil (an invitation to see God in the ordinary moments of our days)

8 Prayers from John Chrysostom that get right to God’s heart via Kathleen N. Hattrup (little reminders that we are always in the presence of the Father)

 

Prasanta’s picks–

Recognizing Eternal Moments in Narrative Nonfiction via Kent Meyers (a craft essay on tracking down eternal moments in our writing)

The 2019 Madeleine L’Engle Conference — Walking on Water (coming up on Saturday, November 16)

Poetry from Kristin George Bagdanov (inspiring poetry from a finalist in the Omnidawn Chapbook Contest)

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome back to Friday Favorites. Each week, Prasanta Verma and I share our favorite links on prayer, writing, and spirituality.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

***

Lisa’s picks —

Rewriting and Renaming the Silence via Cara Meredith (finding God–and oneself–in silence)

Pastoral prayer for the anniversay of 9/11 via Jill Duffield (a prayer to help us as we remember a difficult time)

Thought For the Day via Pádraig Ó Tuama  (a short and lovely audio about sleeplessness, prayer, and welcoming the dark)

***

Prasanta’s picks —

Curiosity, Creativity, Productivity: Three Pillars to Building Your Best Writing Life via Ann Kroeker (part one of a series)

The Business of Being a Spiritual Writer via Writing for Your Life and Patricia Raybon (a helpful video webinar on writers, agents, priorities, and more)

Arise, Stone via Christopher Warner (a poem in Image Journal)

 

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

*****

Daily Lectio Divina: Mother Theodora via Laura Cavanaugh (a guided lectio divina podcast featuring one of the desert mothers)

Be Still, Life: A Songlike Illustrated Invitation to Living with Presence via Brain Pickings (a book about living with wakefulness to the world)

Unexpected Friendship in a Cup of Cold Water via Dorina Lazo Gilmore (sometimes friendships can start with a simple act of [awkward] hospitality)

Neighborly Bread via Laura M. Fabrycky (this is a beautiful essay on embodied learning and kneading life)

Do I Pray for the Wrong Reasons? via Ed Cyzewski (do we sometimes pray just to get results? Thomas Merton is on the case…)

Does my life have meaning? via Parker Palmer (grappling with a big question and learning to embrace the mystery of our life)

Why Publish? Why Write? via Glynn Young (why do you want to write or publish? It’s worth asking yourself these questions along with Glynn)

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.

This week’s highlights: learning to sniff, laugh, walk, stare into space, and network…among other things.

Be blessed!

*****

How silence stopped terrifying me, and started healing me via Anna O’Neil (letting silence heal us of our deepest wounds)

His Fresh Mercy via Ray Hollenbach (sniffing out God’s new mercies each day)

The Medicine Of Laughter via Lee Blum (when freedom feels like belly laughter!)

The Poetry of Liturgy via W. David O. Taylor (poetry as a way of accessing the heart of a people)

Writers Who Walk via Jane Davis (read excerpts from writers for whom walking is part of the creative process)

On Networking: Live-Blogging Jane Friedman’s _The Business of Being a Writer_ via Yi Shun Lai (good thoughts on what networking for writers really means)

*****

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative Writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. Even a gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support can keep this website running: Support Us Today

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to this week’s Friday Favorites, where I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

As you read/listen to these posts/podcasts — be blessed. And be a blessing.

*****

Parker J. Palmer: Penetrating Illusions–On the Brink of Everything via Lisa Colón Delay (in this Spark My Muse podcast episode, Lisa interviews Parker Palmer on the art of listening, living with our shadow sides, the function of contemplation, and more)

Why God Loves Weddings, Families and Good Black Preaching via Patricia Raybon (how can the royal wedding help us move forward in healing, forgiveness, and love?)

“Just Become Yourself”: A Bad Line from a Disney Movie or the Wisest Counsel of All? via Chuck DeGroat (a spirituality of becoming, the beginning of a lifelong journey)

Concentrate! And don’t concentrate! via Simon Parke (I’m intrigued by this — we’re told to and sometimes need to focus; but when does concentration take us away from awareness?)

Befriending Silence via Kyle J. A. Small (on our need for reconciling silence in worship, communion and community, and relationships)

How to Inspire Your Writing (and Your Life) Every Day via Margarita Tartakovsky (writing is work, yes–but what sparks your heart, mind, and soul to do this work?)

*****

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative Writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. Even a gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support can keep this website running: Support Us Today