I got rhythm!


Genesis 8:6-22 (CEB)

After forty days, Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made. He sent out a raven, and it flew back and forth until the waters over the entire earth had dried up. Then he sent out a dove to see if the waters on all of the fertile land had subsided, but the dove found no place to set its foot. It returned to him in the ark since waters still covered the entire earth. Noah stretched out his hand, took it, and brought it back into the ark. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out from the ark again. The dove came back to him in the evening, grasping a torn olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the waters were subsiding from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent out the dove, but it didn’t come back to him again. In Noah’s six hundred first year, on the first day of the first month, the waters dried up from the earth. Noah removed the ark’s hatch and saw that the surface of the fertile land had dried up.

Noah built an altar to the Lord. He took some of the clean large animals and some of the clean birds, and placed entirely burned offerings on the altar. The Lord smelled the pleasing scent, and the Lord thought to himself, I will not curse the fertile land anymore because of human beings since the ideas of the human mind are evil from their youth. I will never again destroy every living thing as I have done.

As long as the earth exists, seedtime and harvest, cold and hot, summer and autumn, day and night will not cease.

Hmmm… so, the day after God’s Spirit reminds me that my morning reading is supposed to be devotional and I am not supposed to get distracted chasing theological squirrels up trees – this is dangled before me as if it is some kind of test!

Most writers who write about contemplative prayer eventually get around to giving advice about what to do when your mind wanders. The best ones all seem to advise that you merely acknowledge the thought and mentally store it away for attention later on. In other words, allow the intrusion – it might be important – but put it on a to-do-later list. This is easier said than done – but it is good advice!

So that’s the approach I am going to take here. Like I did yesterday, I will acknowledge the stuff but then leave it for me to address in another way outside of this blog.

So – there is stuff in this account!

First – the whole raven/dove shizzle. Noah is not the first person to star in his own Deluge Myth. The Gilgamesh Epic stars Utnapishtim who is told by the god Ea to build an ark. (Sound familiar?) To cut a long story short, his ark grounds on a mountain and he sends out successively a dove, a swallow and a raven… Noah leaves out the swallow but sends a raven and a dove in the opposite order.

Presumably this whole ancient art of using birds to determine ground conditions after flooding is lost to us, not that the internet is short of attempted explanations (look them up for yourself – none of them are very convincing!) This distracts and irritates me because I hate unexplained but seemingly significant details in stories!

Then there is stuff about Noah sacrificing one of every “clean” animal and God liking the smell of what must have been a massive fire in the middle of a huge bloodbath! If the animals went in 2by2 then the only way these species survive is if Noah sacrifices the males and all the females have become pregnant whilst on the ark… but then there is the bit that says there seven pairs which (if it wasn’t deemed controversial to say so) might suggest this is more than one tale woven together… which might also explain the raven and the dove.

Then there is the whole can of worms (well, at this point just two of them!) Which is stuff about whether Noah was a real person, was the flood localised or literally the entire world and is this a true story or (equally validly in my opinion) a story written as a vehicle for truths to be told.

It’s hard to resist getting nudged off track by all of that stuff! But – I have iron resolve (yeah, right!) – I have noted the stuff and set it aside for another time and I can now move on!

Breeeeeaaaathe!

Here’s the thing for today. I love the bit at the end where God promises Rhythm.

As long as the earth exists, seedtime and harvest, cold and hot, summer and autumn, day and night will not cease.

I think we were created with rhythms that help our lives thrive and flourish. Today I went with Lythan and Carys to see the Hockney exhibition “Spring Awakens”. There is something about the rhythm of the seasons that is fundamental. Likewise day and night. The news has focussed a lot on sleep recently and how disturbed sleep patterns are bad for us.

Technology has allowed us to discard many of these rhythms. Electric light meant we could stay up late and work overnight; refridgerated container ships blur the seasons meaning that everything we eat is always in season. (You can add your own examples!)

I’m not sure this is good for us, but it’s progress so get with the programme old man! 🙂

There’s another rhythm that I think is good for us. That is some kind of rhythm of prayer. It won’t be the same rhythm for everyone, but I do think some rhythm is helpful. My current rhythm is to pray first thing when I get up and last thing when I go to bed.

Of course there is a thin line between rhythm and habit. I’m not sure where one becomes the other, and I am not sure that habit is always a bad thing. There is a thin line between rhythm and rote. My guess is that rhythm allows for change and variety whereas “rote” doesn’t. Praying by rote doesn’t sound like a rich experience to me. But having a rhythm of prayer sounds like those words in Genesis – how we were created to be.

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