Hands, foreheads, doorposts & gates

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (New Living Translation)
Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Last week my husband and I were on the Metro coming back from seeing a play at the Kennedy Center. As usual on a Friday night after 10, the train was jam-packed. I took an open seat on the aisle, and Chuck stood next to me. About two stops in, the lady at the window told me that she was getting off at the next stop. I leaned down to grab my purse, snagged my long necklace on the armrest, and heard the *snap* as the chain broke. As people filed in and out of the open train door, I searched between the trampling feet for the prayer box that had been at the end of the chain.

My mom gave me that small silver prayer box many, many years ago. For a long time I would write prayers on tiny scraps of paper, roll them up tight, and place them in the box. Eventually I found a long chain and attached the box. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ve probably seen me wearing it– it’s one of my favorite pieces of jewelry. About two years ago I had opened and closed that box so many times that the clasp fell off, and I had to superglue it closed. But that meant committing to a permanent prayer, one that would stand as a guide to my life. What would I choose? What short message would stay with me through the years to come? It may seem like a silly, inconsequential decision– and really it was– but I felt as if I was choosing what was to be engraved on my tombstone.

I chose a quote from Henri Nouwen, one of my favorite theologians: “When we live in the world with knowledge of God’s love, we cannot do other than bring healing, reconciliation, new life, and hope wherever we go.”

I’ve been wearing that necklace for years, and I have to admit that sometimes I didn’t think about that quote/prayer when I wore it. And I haven’t always done a great job living it out, either. As I searched for the prayer box in the crowded train, I remembered the commitment I had made as I sealed the box. I prayed that my life would exemplify God’s healing, reconciliation, new life, and hope. That Friday night on the train, as my fingers touched the cool metal box wedged in between the seat cushion and armrest, I smiled and recommitted myself to that promise.

What scripture verse, word, phrase, or quote comes to your mind when you think about a guide for your life?

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3 Responses to Hands, foreheads, doorposts & gates

  1. Dick Francis says:

    I have missed your wonderful messages…welcome back!

  2. Maureen says:

    I love that story and was getting ready to search the net for a new box. I am so glad that you found it. That’s a long quote for that little box! Miss you bunches!

  3. Cynthia Metzger Phipps says:

    I’m so glad you found your prayer box. I think the quote you chose is beautiful and sets a pretty high bar for our lives. For years, I’ve tried to guide my words and actions according to Romans 14:19 (NIRV) So let us do all we can to live in peace. And let us work hard to build each other up.

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