Except the Lord build the house,
their labour is but lost that build it.
Except the Lord keep the city,
the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is but lost labour that ye haste to rise up early,
and so late take rest,
and eat the bread of carefulness,
for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children and the fruit of the womb
are an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord.
Like as the arrows in the hand of the giant,
even so are the young children.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them;
they shall not be ashamed
when they speak with their enemies in the gate.
The first half of this psalm has been rolling around in my head all week. It’s Easter, and in Christ we see so clearly that it is God who works and creates and builds and protects and gives…everything.
In pondering this psalm, and the wonder of Easter, I found I was composing a circle prayer in my head. The circle is a Celtic prayer form, in which you turn to face each of the four directions of the compass and pray for whatever you are (literally) facing. Here’s what bubbled up in response to this psalm and a day of paying attention to my life.
A Circle Prayer for Easter
In the morning I face east
orient my heart to the rising sun
open my arms, palms skyward,
in simple trust, receiving all
the day brings of gift, grace,
beauty, blessing, or
trial, tragedy. I kneel, bow,
forehead to the floor, exhale all
my fear into the dayspring’s arms
spread wide to embrace
In the heat of midday I face south
lift my eyes to the trees clothed in new-leaved
green gladness, their sky-reaching branches
brimming with birdsong. A crow
cuts black-winged across the bolt
of sky blue; a hummingbird hovers
inches above my head, dodges
into the lacy sleeve of an apple tree.
Head raised to heaven, I close
my eyes to see the blinding brightness
that warms my skin, seeps
through my pores, fills me
as birdsong fills the trees.
In the evening I face west
watch snow-capped mountains turn
rose and gold beneath a swirl of peach and lilac
clouds shot through with radiance, slowly fading
glory to celebrate another turn. I turn, too,
to the chopping of an onion
the simmering of soup
the feeding of my lambs
the lighting of a candle
a kindling flame of hope.
In the dark after dusk I face north
trace the curve of the Dipper’s handle
above the firs, follow the angles
of its cup, its pointing glimmers
and train my eyes on the distant pole star,
inhale the clear cold air of night
before turning to slip quietly between
the sheets and into the day’s last
best gift from my Beloved.