About two weeks ago I decided to stop praying. For reals. I reached the point in my life where most of my prayers had turned into narcissistic lamentations about the complexity of life and of myself. And one gets terribly tired of thinking about and talking about oneself all the time. So I stopped. It was a rather relieving experience, but what more - I think God was hugely relieved too.

I didn't stop having prayer time though. I know better than this by now - you don't stop with most important spiritual practices without a danger of getting into some serious trouble. As Lauren Winner puts it in one of her books about Jewish and Christian spirituality, "The essence of the thing is doing, an action. Your faith may come and go, but your practice ought not waver. Indeed, Judaism suggests that the repeating of the practice is the best way to ensure that a doubter's faith will return." I believe she speaks truth here, not only for Jews but for Christians as well. There are times for doubting and times for silence, times when the best you can do is to shout at God (or swear, as my own darkest experiences have shown) but there are some practices that should not end. So this is what I did - I limited myself to praying Psalms. I would read Psalm 4 every night and Psalm 5 every morning (because as Eugene Peterson suggests, they are essentially an evening prayer and a morning prayer). That's all. I would not add anything to the words of the psalmist, or if I was tempted, I would cut myself off. Like I said, it was a liberating experience.

Two other things happened roughly the same time I stopped praying. I think in some mysterious way they were very much connected to this prayer fast of mine. First, I stumbled upon a book. It's quite a story in itself how I got this book but I'm not interested in telling it here - one day I just held Frederick Buechner's sermon collection Secrets in the Dark in my hands and that was that. It has turned out to be one of the most beautiful Christian books (or any books, for that matter) I have ever read in my life. These sermons are so good, so real and so hurtful I could not read more than one or two at the time, sometimes I would have to stop right in the middle of a sermon and give myself a whole day to take it in. Quite often I would well up or literally weep while reading. After two weeks I'm still not done with the book, and in a way these sermons have turned into my prayers. And I can say this - they are healing prayers.

The other thing I noticed had to do with music. For some weeks now I have been listening to Arvo Pärt's brilliant choral piece Te Deum. Almost obsessively. Hardly an evening passes when I don't listen to it. Once. Or twice. Or maybe three times... Never mind. It is heavenly music (quite literally, when women sing Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus in the very end of that piece I always think that's what heaven is going sound like). And I think this is the other way I've learned to pray now. Through music.

It's almost time for Te Deum and Psalm 4 now. It has imperceptibly turned into the best part of my day. :)


Last week dad came over to my place. We both took a day off and headed out, he took his bird watching equipment, I dusted off my camera, and we drove along the coast for the better part of the day until it got dark. The views were absolutely picturesque - now that the whole world is covered in snow and the photos are everywhere it's not a big thing. But it's something that's an essential part of any Estonians life. Estonians need snow. We need some real winter. We need some cold. Last week we had all of those things, thank heavens. :)

Bird watching
On a cliff. Breath taking.
Fifty shades of gray.
A frozen waterfall.
It was quite a sight. Tons of frozen water.
And then we ended the day in a wondrous restaurant in the Old Town with dad and brother K. It was a good day indeed.


When it comes to New Year's resolutions, generally I don't do very well. Over the years there have been a few I have been able to keep but usually not much happens. For example, let's take 2015 - I did make a promise when the year began. But, uhmm, let's just say I still don't have the driver's licence. So I didn't bother with any resolutions this year (and as I was preaching just three hours before the new year came and was generally exhausted by midnight, I didn't have energy for lofty ideas anyway). I sort of expected everything to continue without any changes.

But surprisingly enough, after the first week of January I realise that changes - non-resolutionary changes as they are - have still happened. And there's one word that keeps coming back to me when I think about this year and what has happened so far. The word is 'simplify'. I don't know if it has been a conscious or rather a subliminal choice but it seems that I have set out to simplify my life this year. I tried working myself to death last year and although that way of living certainly has its perks and pros, I doubt I could pull it off in a long run (which is a paradox in itself now that I think of it, lol). So what I've done instead is that I've thought very seriously about my priorities. After the new year's eve I was was sick in bed and isolated from the rest of the world for two days so I've had time to engage in some serious thinking business. And this is what I've come up with:

Don't try to do everything at once. Don't think you're some genius who can waltz through the PhD studies while working full time. Nah. Simplify! So after some consideration I have decided to put my studies aside for a while. I'm not flying out to Amsterdam next week. I just can't do everything and I might just as well admit it. I am prioritising my work this year. I want to visit more people. I want to give myself more time for lecture prep - Newbold's Licence teaching is coming up this summer in Riga and I need to deliver there. New Testament Greek in the Seminary as well. Do it and do it well! And take some other stuff seriously as well. Take actual days off! (That's a real struggle - last week I held a Bible study and took almost two hours to help I. with some book stuff during my free day...) Spend more quality time with friends (I have done wonderfully well on that front during the first week of this year, and I will do my best to keep it up). Visit your relatives more often. When you have your annual leave - leave the country! Accept one or two preaching invites from abroad. Go to a concert to listen to classical music - I've already chosen one concert, that's a start. And if a guy happens to show up and to show some serious interest in you, firstly, don't panic, secondly, consider it seriously, and thirdly, enjoy the thingy even if it doesn't last (i. e do everything diametrically opposite to the way you did it two months ago - and regretted it bitterly afterwards).

And man, I want to write a book! That's probably something that would make my life not simpler but a lot more stressful but I can't get it out of my head. I had such a good time at M's place last week who's one of my few friends who's actually written a book with everything that comes with it (publishers and fan mails and all:) and she was so nice and supportive when I told her about it. I really need to consider it seriously. There's a good chance I don't really have it in me but if I don't try I'll never find out. Hmm. We'll see.

But honestly, sometimes the very best use for your life and the very best you can do it to be a pillow to a friend's dog. That's also part of life, simplified life.