This story begins in the early part of 2013. Connie Root of The Rootin’ Tootin’ Alpacas’ Fabric & Yarn Shop outside of Houston, Missouri called me to offer prayer shawls for our families in crisis. This ministry had started as she and a few friends had helped each other pass through some difficult times in their lives by creating prayer shawls to share. From this the Rootin’ Tootin’ Prayer Shawl Circle came into existence. By March, I decided to accept her offer by inviting her and a few of the women in the Circle to attend an International Women’s Day program at the Christos House Shelter. They arrived with 25 shawls of different shades and types of yarn. After the program, the shelter residents each came forward and chose a prayer shawl to keep. Wrapping themselves in those shawls seemed to lift their spirits as they dealt with being homeless and past abuse that had brought them to this point in their lives. Then the shelter and outreach staff each selected a shawl, many of us still struggling with past experiences of abuse that can in a positive way create the empathy and sensitivity needed to do this work.
Throughout that year, I was able to pass on prayer shawls to clients with whom I worked. Whenever I would go to the R.T. Shop I would have two large totes filled with lovely shawls to go through.
One of the devastating effects of domestic abuse is that most of it happens in secret and creates deep shame and humiliation. Humiliation is an effective tool in the abuser’s arsenal to insure that the episode doesn’t become common knowledge. The person who is being victimized doesn’t want anyone to know that this is happening and is even being made to believe that it’s her fault and that she is the problem. When she courageously tells her story even to one, some of that humiliation and shame fades away because it is no longer a secret. When she comes to the shelter, she hears other women’s stories that very much parallel what she has been through. There is always some variations in the stories as the perpetrators find different ways of abusing but so much of what we hear is right out of a textbook on domestic abuse.
When she receives the shawl, she feels that “now, someone knows and understands what I have been through and feels I am worth knitting, crocheting and praying for. I can wrap myself in this shawl and feel some sense of peace in my spirit.”
God has made it very plain that he works through us to raise others up. In the human experience, that is what works the best. Our acts of kindness raises up and rescues the person we are ministering to and also raises up and rescues us. Sweetwater comes in many forms and today it is in the form of a prayer shawl.
On February 1, 2014 the Rootin’ Tootin’ Prayer Shawl Circle attended our Chocolate Festival fundraiser. Three survivors stood and shared their stories. The daughter of one of the survivors also told of her experience of having to witness her mother abused every day. As a young girl she had to take over the care of her baby brother because her mother was so distracted with surviving that she was unable to care for the child.
When the last survivor took her seat, three prayer shawl circle members were introduced and their contributions recognized by the gathering. Each Circle member held a prayer shawl. As they each draped a survivor with the shawl the room erupted in applause and cheering. One of the most powerful moments of the event unfolded as tears flowed and hearts communicated love and understanding to both the receiver and the giver. It is in these moments that the survivor begins to find their way back through the hearts of others to the place where they lost their way from abuse and betrayal.
What drives Connie and her friends to create prayer shawls, one after another? It must be the same Spirit that fired Dorcas in Acts 9 to do what she did.
Acts 9:36-42 KJV
36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
When this story took place, there were few people in the culture who were more destitute than widows. They were usually considered the neediest people in society. Having a job to buy food and other things they needed would have been very difficult. Dorcas stepped in to help fill that dire need. “Good works” is a phrase that speaks of general acts of kindness to people but “alms deeds” is more specific and has to do with acts of mercy that relieve the burdens of the poor and needy. Being “full of” refers to the fact that she was habitual in her acts of kindness. And the story goes on:
37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
The following is a good description of Dorcas’ life by Reverend Marilyn Murphree, a UMC minister on Sermon Central Website:
At her death, the tearful widows came into the room and showed Peter the clothes they were wearing that Dorcas had made for them while she was “with them.” It wasn’t just the clothes – it was her friendship and interaction in their lives. Her life had been woven into their lives. She lived among these people on a daily basis. She knew when they needed a word of encouragement as well as a new coat. She didn’t just make the clothes and send them somewhere. She was “with them.” She was willing to get involved in their life struggles as well. They were considered the least of these probably by many and were overlooked and ignored. (End of quote)
40 But Peter put them all forth,(asked them to leave the room) and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him(self) to the body said, Tabitha, (Dorcas) arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
Just as Peter’s prayer of faith restored life to Dorcas, the prayer shawl created and given in love draped on the shoulders of these survivors, caused new life to pour freely into the broken and dying. They exchanged words of encouragement and appreciation and shared in the spirit that brings humanity together to become something greater than we are as individuals.
There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, “What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?” Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.” The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed.
She came first to a beautiful mansion, knocked at the door, and said, “I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.”
They told her, “You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,” and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.
The woman said to herself, “Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?” She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people’s grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life. Brian Cavanaugh
I give you my hands to do your work.
I give you my feet to go your way.
I give you my eyes to see as you do.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you my mind that you may think in me.
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me.
I give you my heart that you may love in me
your Father and all mankind.
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me,
so that it is you, Lord Jesus,
who live and work and pray in me.
100 Prayers by the De La Salle Bros.
Imagine our communities. . .
One thought on “The Prayer Shawl”
I still have my prayer shawl. It is placed around my chair and I often find myself draping myself in it and praying for ones that I love. It was such a loving gift from these ladies at a time of uncertainy.