Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When Prayer is Common: A Guest Post

Photo by Preston Yancey
(I'm am so honored and excited to have Preston Yancey sharing in this space today. What I love most about Preston is his writing style and his honesty. I love that we both find the sacred in the mundane and experience God in cooking and food. I'm so thankful to him for crafting a post that fits perfectly in this space and speaks to me deeply during this season of life. I hope you finding it speaking to you as well.)

Mondays are slower days here. We get up and have breakfast—greek yogurt, honey, and a homemade almond coconut granola—we are three months married and we are already settled into our habits. We read together a passage of Scripture slowly. Four times between us, alternating between she and I. The ancient church called this practice lectio divina, the art of listening for God in the Scripture. We take a few minutes to share what stood out, what took our attention, and then conversation turns to the day ahead, its own sort of lectio in a way, the recitation of schedule to hear the lilts, the unease, the hoped for. We take the canvas bags on the way out, I drive her to campus, and then I head on to the grocery store. There aren’t many people that early in the morning, the fish monger is usually still just setting things out, and I ask him for the twenty third time whether or not there is any whole fresh trout and he, once more, says they only have frozen. Conversation with the cashier is always the usual exchange: a fine morning, looking forward to the weekend already, her daughter is applying to college. Back at the apartment the canvas bags are hoisted up a flight—I always try and take too much at a time, this, too, now habit—and then the contents slowly put away: the grains in a small space above the sink, the wine in the antique copper basin by the easel, the bread flour in the canister on the fridge. This is the smallest kitchen I have ever had, but it is the one I have loved the most.

Here is the end of the island where we sat and chose our future. Here the meals were planned. Here the vows recited again. Here the term papers outlined.

I’m breaking down a chicken for dinner, an adaption of Jamie Oliver’s chicken in milk. I’m thinking about how we try so much these days to justify ourselves, to justify the ordinary. The ordinary needs no justification, if we are inclined to believe the saints. All of this life is caught up into God. Not one thing in this life can ever be ordinary if in Jesus all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17) I get told often about the qualifications around my faith—I studied theology in graduate school, I write about God and our relation to God, I am part of the monolith of Christian identity in the digital age. These things seem to make people assume a good deal about how hours must be spent in prayer, in study, that the spiritual doing is done so often, so constantly. But that’s an old lie. That’s the ancient lie that whispers to us in the dark that our neighbors have something we do not and cannot. My faith is common. Just as common as yours. And that Monday morning rhythm, that slow pace and dance and movement? That’s all a prayer of a kind. It’s common prayer. It’s the ordinary doing kind of prayer. The spiritual of it shows up in the posture in which it is done. Take a moment and just breathe. Breathe deep. Are you searching for intentionality in everything you do? Stop. Just be there. Just be in the presence of God in the midst of the recitation of schedule, the school drop off, the routine chat in the grocery store. There is not one thing in this world that is secular if we believe in a God who has the hold world in God’s hands.

Maybe this is what you need to hear today: it is enough. What you are doing is enough. But it’s not enough because it has some grandiose deeper meaning or because its the sort of thing you would Instagram. It’s enough because you are enough because God is enough. Full stop. Faith is ordinary. Prayer is common. Sometimes what that means is hauling bags upstairs because you feed the ones you love. Sometimes that’s making sure to always speak to the cashier like they are a fellow human. Sometimes it is the most mundane of actions, made whole because God tangles Godself all in them. There can be no deeper meaning than that. Why on earth would we want more?

Now, about that chicken in milk, which is the best recipe for chicken I have ever made, let me tell you: it can be yours. It, along with nine other favorite recipes of mine can be yours when you preorder my new book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again, which comes out on September 30th. When you preorder, I’ll send you a copy of some of my favorite and best-tired-and-tested creations, like chocolate pavlova and a French onion soup that has seen a decade of practice and refinement. Details on that here

Preston Yancey is a lifelong Texan raised Southern Baptist who fell in love with reading saints, crossing himself, and high church spirituality. He now makes his home within the Anglican tradition. He is a writer, painter, baker, and speaker. An alumnus of Baylor University, Preston completed a masters in theology from St. Andrews University in Scotland before returning to the States. He currently lives with his wife, Hilary, in Waco, Texas, where she is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Baylor. Preorder Preston’s new book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again here. Find him on Twitter here or at his blog here.

How do you experience God in the mundane? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

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