Rituals (Guest Post for Charity Singleton Craig)

In Your Own Words

I’m delighted and honored to be a guest writer at Charity Singleton Craig: Bringing Words to Life, where you can read about my personal rituals as well as some of our family rituals.

One of my rituals is memorizing parts of the Bible. Don’t miss the link in the second-to-last paragraph (on memorizing Scripture by writing the first letter of each word)!

I invite you to join me at Charity’s website and read In Your Own Words: Monica Sharman – Rituals.


Ritual Interrupted

In a tennis match, before every first serve I bounce the ball three times, look up, breathe a sigh, relax and lower my jaw, toss and serve. Before every second serve the ritual is the same, except I bounce the ball twice.

Rituals calm and comfort. They deepen my concentration. They shield me from distraction. They are guiding rails to keep me in the groove of good habits.

In my kitchen, another ritual plays about every two weeks. After one man and three boys finish the last of the last four loaves, I make four more. For kneading bread dough, I have my “Kneading Psalm,” Psalm 65.

Thou dost visit the earth, and cause it to overflow;
Thou dost greatly enrich it;
The stream of God is full of water;
Thou dost prepare their grain,
for thus Thou dost prepare the earth.
(all quotes from Psalm 65)

Very appropriate, isn’t it? This Psalm is perfect for breadmaking!

Thou hast crowned the year with Thy bounty,
And Thy paths drip with fatness.
The pastures of the wilderness drip,
And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.
The meadows are clothed with flocks,
And the valleys are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, yes, they sing.

I have mixed the ingredients. Now, kneading time has come, and I eagerly anticipate the words dancing over my tongue and between my lips. Time for the Kneading Psalm!

My hands know what to do. Under my palms and fingers I feel the goodness and richness of whole grains and oil and honey. The heels of my hands push and fold the swelling dough—this dough which came from the earth’s fatness, from a year crowned with God’s dripping bounty, from valleys which sang and rejoiced in their grain-clothes. My ritual begins, and I recite:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom . . .”

My hands continue, but my mind halts. This is not my Kneading Psalm. My routine is interrupted! This is not my Psalm 65!

Yet I submit to the One who broke the ritual. I continue:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,

(Why am I saying this? This doesn’t match what I’m doing!)

the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,

(But Lord, abundance is swelling under my hands. My pantry is full. My refrigerator is full. And I’m kneading four loaves’ worth of bread dough!)

the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
(Habakkuk 3:17-18 ESV)

The kneading is over. I cover the dough and wait for the rise. I am living in abundance. Why this Habakkuk prayer instead of my ritual Psalm 65?

And I understand.

His Word prepares. Memorization is preparation. Psalm 65 is a “now” word for the now—I live in plenty; food fills our kitchen; I am not currently suffering hardship. Yet I can and should pray the Habakkuk 3 prayer, for the same reason that learning CPR is useful only if it is learned before the emergency. I do not know what is ahead, but His Word prepares me. In my knowledge-faith timeline, what I know now will increase my faith for the future.

So I am ready. When the hardship comes, I will have already practiced the prayer.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom . . .
. . .yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”


(Originally posted Sep. 29, 2009.)

(Not) Demanding Pomegranates

On a typical Friday morning I started boiling water for oatmeal while Charles and our seven-year-old finished their Bible time by practicing memory verses. They do it out loud, so while I watched the water begin to bubble, I could hear them.

And why have you made us come up out of Egypt
to bring us to this evil place?
It is no place for grain
or figs
or vines
or pomegranates…
(Numbers 20:5)

When they practice memory verses, they say it over and over, so I heard it like a refrain. They say the words in a kind of cadence…

“It is no place for grain
or figs
or vines
or pomegranates…”

… and as I heard, I noticed. The list in this complaint was so specific. Grain, figs, vines, pomegranates. They questioned God and His goodness and faithfulness because they weren’t in a place that looked the way they wanted it to look. They were trying to dictate life. Could that be what made it an evil place?

How I have done the same when I complained to God that I was not bearing any fruit! I have tried to dictate what my fruitfulness is supposed to look like. Lord, what good am I doing for you?! I’m not discipling anyone [grain], people don’t pursue friendship with me [figs], I’m not leading any Bible studies [vines], and we haven’t been on a family short-term mission trip [pomegranates]!

Instead of demanding that God would make my life look a certain way, should I not instead look at my life the way God has made it? Shouldn’t I look for His purposes, for the way He wants to do things?

So I am not in a land good for pomegranates. But what is this land good for? Can God not bring purpose and beauty in cactus, in sage, in dust and tumbleweeds?

Father, I trust in your unfailing love and believe in your perfect plans. Help me not to make demands of you but instead to trust what you are doing, which is always better than what I can dream or imagine. May I have vision to see what You have given and respond accordingly.


This week Bonnie Gray hosts a community of those who share about the topic: “Fearless.” Click on the FaithBarista badge below to read more posts on Fearless!

The Benefit of Deficiency

My husband said that the harder something is, the more likely I am to try it. He’s right. I’ll snatch up a challenge like I would a free book or chocolate bar.

So when someone challenged the women’s retreat attendees to memorize Romans, chapter 12 in two days, my heart rate increased. I felt like I did in college, right before a tennis match against a nationally ranked player. I thrive on adrenaline and competitiveness. Memorize Romans 12 by Friday, and I’ll get a prize? I took the bait and ate it up.

The first two verses went down easy (I guess because I had previously memorized them):

I urge you, therefore, brethren, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is; that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

(Romans 12:1-2)

But after that, it got hard to swallow. Verse 3 took me by surprise. I thought I was just taking up a memory challenge, but God had another purpose.

And through the grace of God given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

(Romans 12:3)

The two days I had to memorize this chapter were the same two days I was—(this is not fun to admit)—thinking more highly of myself than I ought to think. Internally I wrestled with thoughts about someone in the Body of Christ, someone to whom God has allotted her own, individual, unique, God-given measure of faith. Why does she do things that way?! Why can’t she communicate like I do?! Things would go more smoothly if only she would …

According to the Scriptures, I was not thinking so as to have sound judgment. Arrogance is not sane.

As meditation is inherent in memorization, I began to think about this. I continued with the rest of the chapter:

And just as we have many members in one body, and all the members do not have the same function; so we, who are many, are one Body in Christ, and individually members of one another. And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly…

(Romans 12:4)

Somehow it’s supposed to help with realism and humility (not thinking more highly of myself than I ought to think) if I consider how God has gifted each of us differently.

She and I are different, just as all the members of one body are different—all the body parts don’t have the same function. An eye cannot walk. A hand cannot taste.

In the Body of Christ, one person cannot do what another can—and this is for everyone’s benefit. By God’s design and intent, it is good for me to have a lack. Many lacks. “Deficiency” is beneficial. Pride thinks I am better. Humility understands I am not.

I did reach my goal of memorizing the chapter in two days. But God had accomplished His purposes, too. He corrected me into humility and gave me a better love and appreciation for others in the Body.

On top of all that, I got a great prize . . .

monkey lamp photo

. . . to remind me that the Word of God is a light to my path.

This Thursday Bonnie Gray hosts a community of those who share about a verse containing the word “faith.” Click on the FaithBarista badge below to read more posts on faith!