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Spiritual diary of sheltering in place: the lifeline of memories

Lynne Baab • Tuesday April 7 2020

Spiritual diary of sheltering in place: the lifeline of memories

I was one week pregnant with my older son – of course I didn’t know I was pregnant – when Dave and I took a bus from our home in Tel Aviv, Israel, up to Jerusalem to walk with other pilgrims down the Mount of Olives on a sunny Palm Sunday.

Hundreds of people gathered at Bethany, east of Jerusalem, to walk the mile or so downhill to the Garden of Gesthemane, which lies just outside the walls of Jerusalem. We heard songs and chatter in countless languages. Many pilgrims carried palm branches. It was a holy walk on a holy day.

As we descended the hill, views of Jerusalem enchanted us: the gold Dome of the Rock, the countless old buildings built of warm off-white limestone, with hills in the distance covered with green trees and modern buildings built with the same creamy stone. Jerusalem is such a beautiful city, and its beauty was so real to me that day as I pondered the amazing reality that Jesus had walked this same path, to and from his visits with his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus, who lived at Bethany. Jesus had perhaps stood on this same road when he shed tears over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44).

The ironies of Palm Sunday were very real that day, walking and singing with the other pilgrims – the crowds adoring Jesus only days before another crowd chanted for his death, perhaps the same people, perhaps different people. The day was too beautiful for the realities of Holy Week to fully penetrate my brain, and perhaps that’s the magic of Palm Sunday. The journey to the cross is still firmly in the future.

We were still living in Tel Aviv a year later, with our three-month old son, and I grieved that the complexities of parenthood kept us from returning to Bethany to join the crowd waving palm branches. The eighteen months we lived in Israel were filled with moments that I will never forget, like that first Palm Sunday. Experiencing the weekly Sabbath rhythm was one huge life-changing aspect of living in Israel, as readers of my book, Sabbath Keeping, will know. In addition, we learned so much about Judaism, the settings of many biblical stories, and what it’s like to live as a minority – Christians in a predominantly Jewish city.

By this point, I suspect that almost all of my readers are spending more time at home. Some of you are spending almost all your time at home, as Dave and I have been doing for a month now. I want to propose that this is a great time to look at memories that have shaped us, ponder the ways we have grown more into Christ’s image because of things that happened to us, and give thanks to God.

The role of memory is highlighted in many biblical passages. Because our God is with us in our daily lives, and acts in human history, the people of Israel and the early Jesus followers in the New Testament were encouraged to pay attention to what God has done and offer thanks. In this Holy Week, we remember Jesus’ journey to the cross, and we thank God for his mercy to us in sending Jesus. We can also look at the events of our own lives.

I know some friends are using this at-home time to organize photo albums. If you’re doing that, take some time each day to reflect on the way God used the events in the photos to shape you and change you. Many of us are experiencing more insomnia from the stress of these weird days. One option for those night hours is to pick a year of your life or a place you lived and look for God’s fingerprints and footsteps in that time. Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past is a lifeline.

I wrote a few months ago about the way I use imaginary worlds as places to meet Jesus when I’m awake at night. Each of my imaginary worlds has a place for thankfulness, and I’m trying to ramp up those places in these strange days when anxiety and fear seem to be my default. Spending time pondering that memorable Palm Sunday has generated many items of thankfulness.

I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
   I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work,
   and muse on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
   What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders.” (Psalm 77:11-14)

“O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
   make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
   tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
   let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
   seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done,
   his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered.” (Psalm 105:1-5)

 “I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord,
   the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has done for us,
   and the great favor to the house of Israel
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
   according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” (Isaiah 63:8)

Next post: some thoughts on Lamentations 3 for Good Friday – the lifeline of lament with Jesus. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.

I am delighted to announce the release of my midlife book in kindle format. Midlife is an unsettling time, when we need new approaches to our walk with God – sound familiar? For several months, I have been working on getting A Renewed Spirituality: Finding Fresh Paths at Midlife ready for kindle. Maybe this timing of publication is quite good, because the six spiritual paths I describe in the book as being appropriate for midlife are equally appropriate for the stressful days we are living in now. Take a look here.



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