Lessons learned: canning and prayer

I wrote this one several summers ago, and with the onset of canning season, I have returned to it this week.  I find that each summer I can, this prayer practice becomes enhanced with various nuances.

With the renovation of our kitchen this past year, there is more space for me to invite others in to join me.  What a gift to share this prayer space and engage in faith connections around homesteading.

Prayer is not a product; it is a relationship. 

~ Daniel Wolpert, Creating a Life with God:  The Call of Ancient Prayer Practices

Spending time in the kitchen or in nature is one of my favorite forms of prayer.   In those places, God and I roll up our sleeves and get to work as we chat about life’s challenges and new insights.  We commiserate about frustrations, cry about losses, and celebrate over joys.

For a long time, I just called those opportunities “conversations” with God and assumed that I needed to meet several requirements to engage in prayer:

  • be in a quiet space
  • be focused on my time with God
  • be still in mind, body, and spirit

Needless to say, I rarely met those expectations being a working single parent.  Moreover, I sensed that I found more peace in homesteading activities than I did sitting on my couch in silence.

A couple of years ago, my spiritual director defined the relationship of prayer for me.  As I described my connection to canning and the “openness” it gives me in being closer to God, I watched the light in her face unfold.  You see, canning for me is an opportunity to turn off the world and make still everything around me.  The process takes little thought so it affords me the time to talk with God, bless the healthy food I am preparing, and lift up thoughts and prayers for others.  When I complete a canning task, or any other homesteading activity around the farm, I find that I feel centered and rooted again.

ggf.cherry jam.jul15

After describing these feelings to Katie, she looked at me and smiled gently, “My dear Cameron, you ARE praying.  It may not be on a couch in silence, but you are connecting with God.”  I thought back to my parameters:

  • Canning offered me a quiet space and place.  God and I did it together but alone in an activity that was all ours.
  • Because canning is a rote but creative process for me, I don’t have be distracted by directions, math, or language.  I can simply focus on conversing with God about the issues at hand.  My canned goodies have been baptized by salty tears and have reflected knowing smiles.  They have been privy to my deepest concerns and a few four letter words–all the while, respecting the connection and conversation that I have with my creator.
  • And most importantly, canning helped me still my heart, soul, and mind so that I could be centered on my relationship with the Creator rather than be distracted by the world

Katie was right.  Prayer is not so much about where and how it happens or if it is presented as a neatly formed confession/thanksgiving.  It is about the time spent talking and listening, quieting ourselves long enough to hear what God is saying and to feel how we are being moved or called to respond.  It can happen in the kitchen or  the garden, on a river or atop a mountain.  And sometimes, when I least expect it, it even happens on a couch in the silence of an early morning sunrise.

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