Ruth Yoder Wenger is pastor of North Bronx Mennonite Church in New York City, where she has lived for the past 45 years. Recently retired from 15 years in interfaith disaster, emotional and spiritual care (administration and training), she is happy providing full-time daycare for her first grandchild, born in January. She is a member of the Mennonite Spiritual Directors Network.
My prayer, indeed my life itself, has been transformed through daily practices which emerged as I felt distanced from God as approached through male naming and found myself nurtured and challenged instead by more feminine images and language for God, shaped particularly by two songs in Hymnal: A Worship Book: “Mothering God” #482 (lyrics by Jean Janzen, based on Julian of Norwich) and “O God, Great Womb of Wondrous Love” #155 (lyrics by Harris J. Loewen).
Along with the graces I experienced through praying these songs daily, I encountered healing of body, mind and spirit through movement and music, dancing at home alone through my household activities or walking from the subway to my office to the rhythms and lyrics of Sweet Honey in the Rock, particularly “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest … Until It Comes,” “We Are One” and “I Remember, I Believe.”
I struggled to find daily readings that supported my emerging awareness of my-life-in-God and God’s-life-in-me, drawn to the writings of Eastern spiritual teachers, but finding them not quite aligned with my own personal experiences of Jesus as the Healer who was so present to my own particular journey of healing. References to the book A Course in Miracles (published by the Foundation for Inner Peace) in a number of readings aroused my curiosity. While initially put off by its title, I was delighted and astonished to find it centered on the work of Christ in the cosmos, reinterpreting the life and teachings and presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in ways that released me from some of my inner resistance to institutional Christianity.
I have been through the 365-day course of readings three times — taking three years each time instead of one because of the density of the material, the time it took me to assimilate what intersected with my life at any particular point, and other preoccupations like work and family. Each lesson is summarized in a short, simple sentence to be applied throughout the day. This past year I set my cell phone alarm to ring on the hour, as a prompt to center my awareness and to focus on the day’s sentence in the midst of whatever busyness I might be engaged in — a way of praying without ceasing.
Alongside this practice, my daily prayer drawn from the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) which emerged from my interaction with the course, grounds me in familiar roots:
Divine and Precious Presence – Wisdom, Love, Joy:
My one true desire, my one true longing, my one true intention,
is joining my energy and mind
in your intention for me
in the present moment unfolding,
with gratitude and reverence for light shining through,
with all my heart,
with every cell of my body,
with every pathway of my thinking,
with all of my fire-power.