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It’s an old joke: A guy goes to a Chinese restaurant, eats his meal, then cracks open his fortune cookie, only to read the title of this post. Ha, ha. What’s less funny is that so many of us really are trapped: by the physical limitations and illnesses that beset our bodies, or by the more invisible, but no less crippling, illnesses of our minds. What do you do when there’s no fortune cookie around for you to send out an SOS?

It’s easy to say, “Talk to someone about it.” And most of us are comfortable — or at least willing — to discuss our physical woes with a doctor or other understanding soul. Our mental woes…not so much. Why? Perhaps we don’t want to burden others. Or we think our problems are unimportant compared to the afflictions others are carrying. Or maybe we are ashamed. Mostly the last one, I think.

Having a mental illness or issue is still viewed, by many, as a personal failure, a lack of will. If you’re depressed, think a happy thought! If you’re anxious, stop worrying — it’s silly. If you can’t control your thoughts or emotions — well, cowboy up! Grow a spine! None of these responses help someone. I know that mental illnesses are hard to understand — I watch “Hoarders” sometimes just to horrify my own inner neat freak, asking myself, “Why? Why on earth would anyone DO that?” But in point of fact, some people do. What are the rest of us going to do about it? How is my reaction helpful? (Note: It isn’t.)

I’ve lost friends (plural) to depression. I wasn’t close enough to help them, or maybe I wasn’t listening. Or maybe they never reached out. But from now on, I’m going to behave like everybody out there is carrying a heavy burden, mental or physical. Because they ARE. I just can’t see it. We are, each of us, trapped in a fortune cookie factory of our making.

We have two choices: reach out to God or reach out to one another. (Make that three choices: to do both.) If you are carrying something heavy, I want you to tell me. I want to pray for you. I want to listen to you. I want to tell you that I love you, even if I don’t know you. I hope you will afford me the same comfort. Let’s help each other. God put us together for a reason.

thurmanThere are days that I feel restless and can’t settle down to work.  I start a job and drift off to something else.  I try to look something up and find myself playing Tetris on my computer, not enjoying the game but not able to focus on anything in particular, even prayer.

On these drifting days, I often turn to the prayers in the Book of Common Worship.

Yes, this book also contains the liturgy for a variety of worship services, but prayer is such an important part of our worship that the first section in the book is “Preparation for Worship,” a collection of prayers.

Perfect for these off-balance wonky days is this prayer by Howard Thurman.

Lord, open unto me

Open unto me—light for my darkness.

Open unto me—courage for my fear.

Open unto me—hope for my despair.

Open unto me—peace for my turmoil.

Open unto me—joy for my sorrow.

Open unto me—strength for my weakness.

Open unto me—wisdom for my confusion.

Open unto me—forgiveness for my sins.

Open unto me—love for my hates.

Open unto me—thy Self for my self.

Lord, Lord, open unto me! Amen.


But I also love this one by Dag Hammerskjold for its straight-forward simplicity.

Give me a pure heart—that I may see Thee,

A humble heart—that I may hear Thee,

A heart of love—that I may serve Thee

A heart of faith—that I may abide in Thee. Amen.


If you don’t have a favorite resource for these wonky off-balance days, you can find a variety of prayer resources online including:

A downloadable Book of Common Worship (Presbyterian).

The Book of Common Prayer On-Line (Anglican)

Common Prayer is a site that invites faith communities worldwide to join together in prayer.  They provide a variety of prayers each day.


Just remember, some days will always be more balanced than others.  Breathe, pray, and breathe some more.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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