Washing Dishes as Spiritual Practice

Many of us have been challenged by the writings of Brother Lawrence and his ability to connect to God in the everyday activities of the kitchen.  Here are a couple of ideas that may help all of us in doing this.

Bethel Church Sheffield, Tasmania

Bethel Chapel Sheffield, Tasmania

The first is a prayer given to me by Tim Dyer in Sheffield, Tasmania, Australia (known as the town of murals).  It was written by Marion Wilcox at a Celtic retreat held in 1998 .

At the Sink

As I froth up the water running into the sink

I froth up thoughts of you in my life God.

Keep me bubbling with the quest for honesty

the quest for growth

I don’t want to stagnate

in the scum of my own ignorance.

in the floating debris of my mistakes

I feel dirty with the things that go wrong in my days

but want to come out clean,

like the utensil I pull out of the sink right now.

Take my mistakes

and wash them down the gurgling plughole Oh God,

and let me start clean again.


This post below was sent to me by Dan Cooper in Sheffield UK.  I particularly love the reference to Jewish handwashing rituals where water is linked to God and love.  It seemed to me to express some of the same sentiments.

It was first published as Don’t eat vegetables more than 2 inches long

A couple ideas I’ve heard recently had a jolly pleasant convergence the other day, pleasant in a way that when the concepts of ‘a nice cup of tea’ and ‘a sit down’ have a get together.

On the Make Believe course we’re doing there was a bit about ‘I – thou’ relationships versus ‘I – it’ relationships. We can treat people, objects, nature, relationships as merely ‘it’, where they are nothing more than a ‘thing’. Or we can treat them as ‘thou’ – they have value, worth, are to be treated with love and respect.

The other idea is from the Richard Rohr talks we’ve been listening to recently. He mentioned a bit about being fully present in the moment (when you cook stew, just cook stew; if you have a biscuit, just have a biscuit) and how if you can accept something 100% then that can be enough to transform you.

So a couple of days ago I was doing the washing up and got to thinking about the dishwater. I always wash the cleanest things first; if there’s a pan that’s quite dirty I’ll give it a quick rinse first before immersing it in the warm, soapy water. I realised that if you treat the dishwater with respect it will reward you with a longer, more effective cleaning experience. I was having an I-thou relationship with the dishwater. I was talking with someone about this and they told me about Jewish handwashing rituals, where the water represents God and love, so you immerse your hands (which represent your actions) in God’s love.

After I’d done the washing up I made my lunch. I’ve always been one for chewing my food properly, yet I noticed that as I was chewing my mouthful I was already piling up my fork, ready to fill my mouth again as soon as I swallowed. So I decided to put my fork down after each mouthful and not pick it up again until I’d finished the last one. It was good to really savour the tastes and textures of the food, but it was also surprisingly hard work. Partly it just felt quite stop/start compared to the continuous flow I normally experience. But the main thing it showed up was my need to ‘fill’ space, my uncomfortableness with silence.


2 Responses

  1. […] Dan Cooper – Washing Dishes as Spiritual Discipline […]

  2. […] Dan Cooper – Washing Dishes as Spiritual Discipline […]

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