We set out enough glasses for all 35 women, and pitchers of cool, fresh, local water. We recalled how women in much of the world are the drawers and carriers of water. We each poured a glass, served each other, stood in a circle, and silently, safely, drank as one, quenching our thirsts. We prayed together - For what do we thirst? Many responses: safe, abundant water for all, justice, friendship, solitude, relief from pain. After each, we prayed, “And let all who thirst, come to the water.”
God leads me beside still waters. In Hebrew it’s “mai menochot,” literally “restful waters.” In the pastoral metaphor of the 23rd Psalm, waters that are still are a place to rest, and a safe place (unlike a wadi or a raging stream) to quench our thirst.
I’ve been writing the past few weeks here about a retreat on “Living Waters” that I recently led with the fabulous women of First Congregational UCC, San Jose. The first night was about still waters (followed by moving/living and deep waters.)
I shared some of these my ocean devotions on silence, stillness, thirst. And we pondered the word “still.” In early German and English, like Stille Nacht, Silent Night, still means quiet, restful. How still we see thee lie. But still is also an adverb meaning constant, persisting, I’m still standing. Words like sty, stool, stall, stable, all come from the same cognate, a place where you put something and want it “still” to be there when you get back. You “install” something like a washing machine or a minister and you likewise hope they’ll stay working with you for a while.
So still means quiet, but it also means continuous. Seems contradictory, silent and persisting. But actually they both mean go on without change or ceasing, keep on keeping on. Safe places, quiet people, still waters, still go on, with persistence, faith, trust.
We United Church of Christ folks have a motto, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma - God is Still Speaking.” Meaning God did not act only in the past – no, creation is ongoing, God just keeps keeping on. Still. Today.
We women on retreat wondered if we might also put a comma right inside this our favorite phrase. God is Still, Speaking. God is still, safe, offering rest, like those still waters. As well as active, still at it, speaking, never letting us go.
I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and at www.bluetheologytideings.blogspot.com. Our church in Pacific Grove, CA offers adult pilgrimages and youth group service trips on ocean stewardship and spirituality along Monterey Bay. Come and Sea! Bluetheology.com.