You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘prayer’ category.

It happened in a neighborhood much like yours. My friends — two of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever known — had their home attacked by hatred. Let me set the scene: On their lawn, these friends have placed two signs. One says “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in three languages. The other simply states, “Black Lives Matter.” Lately, a cowardly Someone planted a third sign in their yard. This one was different. Scrawled on poster board were ugly, racist things. My friends were called “America haters” and instructed to “get a job.” (May I also mention that my friends are two of the hardest working folks you might ever meet?)

I spent a long time feeling sad, knowing how I might react to such a thing — with despair, anger and fear. But then I knew just how my friends were going to react to it — with compassion and resilient grace. And I realized: Hate has no chance. None at all.

Hate has no home here.
It scrabbles in crannies,
finding footholds in fearful dark places.
It squints in ignorance, afraid of light
that will certainly kill it, sure as any germ.
Though we long to burn it, let us refrain.
Instead, stand in loving audacity,
face forward into the abyss
that is, after all, only smoke:
quickly dispelled by the ongoing breath
of all who know our God.

Whole oceans of grief
threaten to consume us.
Pass sadness into every hand;
let us drink it and know
why it cannot still be served.
Waves lash relentlessly:
names pile painfully
on the sand. Say them.
Words repeated will
beat the drum for justice.
Sure, the tide will roar,
as it does, afraid of change
when surely it knows
all things must change.
Open your eyes to color,
its beauty and importance.
The shore will not erode —
not if we hold hands.

I worry about writing about racism. How good, how honest is my anger and grief? Racism is not, after all, part of my lived experience. Nor is it someone else’s job to educate me on this subject. It is my own. However, in the glaring light of continued, brutal racism in this country, it is up to me to do something. But what? There are resources abundantly available. In the meantime, let’s begin with the easiest thing of all: de-colonizing our bookshelves.

As a child my shelves were full
of children like me and not like me,
from as far off as China, as near
as next door. My vision narrowed
as I grew and neglected to prune.
It is time, and a task we all can do:
Examine the color of your books:
Whose life are you reading —
only your own? The one you know?
Learn to read someone else’s
and share what you find there.
Soak up what’s in the pages,
sound out the consonants
of someone else’s journey.
For every book that comforts,
choose one that does not.
Self-teach a whole new vision.
Start at page one.

Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” This quote finds its echo in Emily Dickinson’s poem “Not in Vain” (one of my favorites): “If I can stop one heart from breaking,/ I shall not live in vain:/ If I can ease one life the aching,/ or cool one pain,/ or help one fainting robin/ unto his next again,/ I shall not live in vain.”

We may not be able to do great things now. But we can do small things that require great love: wearing a facemask, not for ourselves, but for others. Giving up small pleasures like drinking in bars or going to concerts, not because we are afraid, but because we are concerned about those who are vulnerable. Small things. Big results.

Let us take a turn at small things:
the flat of a hand signing acceptance;
the sigh of small voices that soften,
somehow, a bellow; the breath
that says, simply, “yes.”
To return a robin to the nest
is greater than, and will go further,
than any act of anger. Our times require
saints, not soldiers, and sainthood is accrued
one small gesture at a time.

[Note: The following is a collaboration between Krissy Mosley of Visionarie Kindness and Lori Strawn of Praypower4Today. Krissy’s words are in bold; Lori’s in regular type.]

In the deep dark depths
where lost things go
Outside, at the bottom of ourselves
three steps down before the sidewalk begins
where the heartbeats are faster against the pavement
I found among the roots
and angled shoots a stone
that mended the spot in my soul
where once a wall stood.
I took it.
palpitations rapid, helpless hearts are fallen
stricken — what will it be now?
to hope in vain
to pray and never get an answer
blow by blow, wave after wave,

Though all falls to rubble,
though my spine is plucked
like the pith of an orange,
but suddenly through this gush of disaster
long before I stepped outside to wonder
long before the aromatic taste of morning 

I will not fail. Faith, like all
final things, falters, falls,
loses footing, fades, then
surges, sure as the sun
we’ve been circling since
long before our tragedies
were named.
Hope’s on the scene
plunging out the dark-dank air
pressing fear into faith:
second wind’s arising.

 

Some feel the squish and yield
beneath their fingers and feel
possibilities emerge: a pot,
a tray, an urn. Others watch
the wheel spin with a kind of
lonely terror. Some make
masterpieces, others works
of humble worth. All are adequate.
We need not feel a need to craft
that which we cannot, with energy,
conceive. Make only what you can.
Leave the final mold to the Master.
Accept the lump before you as something
that may be, with love, of service, recalling this:
it takes the kiln’s killing heat to render us unbreakable.

We are all dragging crosses
of one weight or another.
If yours is light, look for
the burdened and take an end.
Try not to shift your cargo
onto the shoulders of another.
Just because you do not see
backs bending with exertion
does not mean great weight
is not borne. If you cry out
and no one hears, remember:
the universe has ears.
Your wail will be recorded
in the nature of the wind,
in storms, in the distress
of newly shorn grass.
It will echo down to the
atoms of loam and clay.
The biosphere must change.
Those who will not bend
will find themselves waking,
as if from sleep, to a world
they only dimly know, a place
where touch leaves ripples,
even in air, and hearts can leap
like fish across whole oceans.

We’re an upbeat crowd around here, but we’re also realistic. So when I heard about David Kessler, an expert on grief, explaining that we ought not to “pole vault” over our pain, I was intrigued. What is pole vaulting in this sense? It’s a coping mechanism. It’s putting on a happy face, determining to see only the positive, while inside you very real, deep (and even dark) emotions swirl and rise.

Perhaps you think, “I have no reason to grieve; no one I know personally has died.” Or “I’m not on the front lines; I have no right to complain.” True, but these times are not like any we’ve lived through before. It’s natural to be sad. Or frightened. Or hurt. And it’s natural — healthy — to express these feelings and work through them.

Dealing with what you’re feeling isn’t easy. But repressing your emotions will only buy time…sooner or later, you have to face pain. But maybe — just maybe — if we all walk through it together, it won’t be so hard?

The morass rises despite our blindness.
I see daily the faces of those who confront it:
the masks leave marks; their eyes hold
a lonely road I fear to tread.
The enormity of my blessings begs me
to be still, but my heart heeds no logic.
Loss laps at our feet. What bridge across,
we must built ourselves out of tag ends
of empathy and empty toilet paper tubes.
It isn’t much. Call across the chasm
as loud as you can, and you will
hear an Easter sound: God weeps
with us. The hard way through
demands much, but it does not ask
that we go alone.

On Tuesday, Auntie Ruth wrote about wearing a Grace Mask so we can all travel in grace.  I thought of her today when I was listening to The Happiness Lab.  If you aren’t familiar with this pod cast, check it out here.  Psychologist Dr. Laurie Santos teaches a Yale class on how to deal with stress and anxiety.  And the best part?  She shows you how take action.

Stress and anxiety?  Sounds like life today, doesn’t it?   We are worried for our families, our jobs, our neighborhoods and, let’s be honest, for ourselves as well.

One of the things that Santos recommends for dealing with stressful times, including life right here and now, is meditation.  And the meditation that she recommended sounded an awful lot like meditative prayer.

Here is how it works.  Note: I am adapting this slightly to make it more prayerful.

  1. Sit comfortably.  It doesn’t matter how you sit or where you sit.  Just get comfortable.
  2. Picture someone you are worried about and that you care about.  I’ve been worried about my Dad so he’ll be the example I use.
  3. You can think this next part or say it aloud.  “Lord, keep Dad safe.  Help him be happy.  Help him be healthy.”
  4. Breathe deeply and exhale.
  5. Now go on to another person.  “Lord, keep our Pastor safe.  Help him be happy. Help him be healthy.”
  6. Again, breathe deeply and exhale.
  7. You can pray for as many people as you’d like but remember before you wrap things up to take the time for self care.  Pray for yourself.  “Lord, keep me safe.  Help me be happy.  Help me be healthy.”

I know it sounds goofy but scientists have found that mediation lowers stress.  You’ll sleep better.  You’ll function better.  And who couldn’t stand to be a little happier?

–SueBE

 

Today marks an auspicious occasion: The first (I hope of many) poetic collaborations between Krissy Mosley (of Visionarie Kindness) and me! Let me tell you a bit about Krissy. See, I write poems; Krissy creates wordscapes. You see her poems. You smell them. You taste them. They take you from the low rumbling of words mumbled in a darkened room to the soaring heights of a gospel anthem. Please do check out her blog!

A word of explanation: Krissy’s words are in bold, mine in italic. You can read the poems separately, or as one, which I believe is the way they were always meant to be.

We taste hope just as the first lizard of the morning sticks out her tongue 
You’d not notice.
It takes, as they say, an eye.

to catch the beauty of the blue-winged dragonfly
Still, spring cannot be contained;
it bursts into bud: daffodils nodding,
blonde and careless, trees shaking down

three-doors down, in a small caddis, vagrant-vacant lot dripping with hunger 
petals, unseasonal flurries. New grass
pokes shyly from the lawn, and smells,
cut, just as it did last summer.

Hope has no fairy tales with rewarding endings 
We are not the same, shaken
as only the most microscopic
menaces can make us. Yet.
Hopes lives in the lives of shattered things 
Nothing can impede the rush to Easter.
The stone rolls away, light as an egg.
destined for rapture, of better things
What lies inside is awaiting us.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

%d bloggers like this: