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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sabbath Rest: Iris and the Prayer Shawl

Just this week I finished the summer prayer shawl I was making, so I searched about for a book of new patterns to inspire the next one I might make. In the book, Prayer Shawl Companion, the following side feature was told by Janie Rupright, out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Whether you're a textile artist or not, the story is precious:

Our pastor officiated at a funeral for a lady who had a beautiful garden filled with irises and lilies. She had loved those flowers, and it was mentioned in the service that she would be tending to them in heaven. As these words were spoken, a woman began to sob loudly. Afterward, a gentleman came up to the pastor and apologized for his wife, who had broken down. He explained that their daughter had recently given birth to premature twin girls--Iris and Lily. Iris was still in critical condition, but Lily had passed away. Our pastor gave the man and his wife, the twins' grandparents, a baby shawl that had been made by our Prayer Shawl Ministry, explaining the intent of the shawl ministry as he did. The babies' grandmother just hugged the shawl. She said that it was the color of the babies' nursery, and that they would take it to the hospital that afternoon. She was very, very touched, as were the babies' parents. The shawl remained either in or over Iris's incubator for the remainder of her hospital stay.

Iris survived, and her parents, in their thank you note, spoke of the comfort they found in that shawl they received. If you knit or crochet and have never made a prayer shawl, you don't know what a beautiful thing you're missing! Not only do you feel a sweetness as you work, but the recipient will draw upon that same source of peace and comfort when you put the shawl in his or her hands.

The same book speaks to how you can design a worship environment for yourself any time you create something for someone as a ministry. Not only do you gather your supplies, but also a scented candle, a favorite CD of meditative music, maybe a favorite drink, and a journal and pen. Begin your work time by sitting quietly for a few minutes to relax and center yourself. Light your candle, open the journal and record the date, then as you knit or crochet, pause to jot down reflections that come to you as you work. You might include these insights or prayers in a note to the recipient. If you are part of shawl being co-knit, your reflections will join the collective journal to be given to the shawl recipient. As you create the shawl, begin to visualize times you have found comfort when you were enfolded in a favorite blanket or in the arms of a person who cares for you. Pray the memories into the work, along with thoughts appropriate to the shawl--whether for peace, strength, hope, comfort, healing, etc. If the shawl is for a friend, embellish it with beads and charms that symbolize a common interest--like gardening or the sea. If the recipient is Catholic, put 10 beads on each side of the shawl so the wearer can say a few decades of the rosary.

If, on the other hand, you don't have a specific theme or person in mind as you make the shawl, then here is a beautiful breath prayer to use while making a shawl in a knit 3, pearl 3 pattern. Pray the following with each stitch group:

Know God, know Christ, know the Spirit,

Praise God, praise Christ, praise the Spirit.--Catherine Foster, Northmoro, MA

You can come up with your own breath prayers based on the patterns of the work as you knit or crochet. My hope is you'll have the opportunity to make something special for someone someday--a sketch, a piece of pottery, a wreath, a photo album...or maybe a prayer shawl. Creating something as a ministry is a wonderful gift to give to yourself!

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