I really never know week to week if there will be a new Shabbat encouragement. Yet they seem to happen. Often something will occur earlier in the week that will prompt a message to share. I typically write it at that time, when moved by the experience, and send it on Thursday evening. Sometimes it seems there won’t be a message if nothing has inspired such thoughts by Thursday, but that rarely happens. Until this week when at least by Wednesday evening it seemed nothing was coming to mind.
Then this morning it did, and in the most “random” of ways. I was unable to find an email I had sent last evening with an attachment I had written over a year ago on a Messianic Jewish topic. At the time of that writing I was passionate about the point being made. It was only “random” that someone had requested a copy of the writing last night and it looked like I hadn’t sent it, so this morning I was looking for it. The transpiring of those facts caused me, on Thursday morning, to look for the writing, find it, and reread it. I slowed down in the quiet of the morning and took the time to read it. As I did, I surprised myself at how inspired it seemed. Did I write that? Did I feel that? It must be that at the time it was written there was a force in me that enabled me to more deeply feel and analyze on that topic than I would be able to do at the present moment. My inspiration at the time for the topic transformed my abilities to write at a level that was beyond my normal skillset. I had been inspired. And being quietly present in the moment this morning inspired me to write this Shabbat encouragement!
I was reminded of my law school days. Rather than write my papers in the library I would climb down the beautiful gorge on Cornell’s campus and be inspired by nature as I wrote. Later I would read those papers and it felt like someone else had written them. Like someone smarter than I am! I suppose it’s along the lines of artists and musicians needing muses who facilitate creativity, their presence somehow tapping into the surrounding beauty of this created world. Inspiration comes from the awe we feel when we stop to look out the window on a beautiful day, or watch a terrifying storm, walk by the ocean, or see the wonder in a child’s eyes. We allow ourselves to enter the presence of HaShem’s enveloping creativity that embraces our days just waiting for us to tap into it.
It’s hard to slow down and find quiet space, especially at this time of year. In addition to our daily routines – getting ready for work, taking care of our households, caring for others, looking for a job, tending medical needs, paying never ending bills – the holidays are upon us. And yet, at certain times of day, typically first thing in the morning (unless we have a baby or alarm clock) if we have the luxury of waking up slowly, and as we go to sleep at night, we have the opportunity for a few quiet moments. We can also carve out those times deliberately during the day if we make a point of trying, prioritizing them, knowing they can be transformative. These times are not to take the place of our prayer times, but they are different, and important.
As we just dwell in quiet moments, we allow the sometimes clutter of our lives, or at least the busy-ness, to subside enough to feel peace, to feel centered. As our minds are stilled, and our souls are calmed, even momentarily, we create the opportunity for inspiration. Then, as we look at nature, or hear beautiful music, or even experience a small thing, it can reach a place in us that we know is not from us. We know He is with us. When our lives get too filled with doing, as mine was this week until I was reminded, we miss the countless opportunities for inspiration that our Abba provides. And when we partake, how inspiring to know He is here.
It’s that time of year. After settling back into our routines from Thanksgiving we’re gearing up for the holiday happenings just around the corner. Inevitably, we will get caught up in so many wonderful choices for fellowship and feasting, not to mention shopping, and oh yes, travel. But as I sit here this morning with the vivid reminder of His awesome presence revealed when I stopped to tap into it, I am inspired to slow down and be filled with inspiration.
The word “inspiration” has an unusual history. It comes from the Latin word “ inspiratus” meaning “to breathe into”, as to draw air into the lungs, suggestive to me of the Ruach, life giving. Before this definition historically, it also was understood for its theological meaning referring to divine influence and is understood in modern times to describe influence that is not necessarily divine but still meaningful. As you light the Chanukah candles this week, after you experience every word of the prayers, I encourage you to stop to reflect on each flame. As you feel their increasing glow nightly, may you be inspired by His breath of life, the Ruach, as well as His influence as each day’s candle inspires new insights and new awe of His daily presence.