Faith · prayer

Prayer for a Divided Country

… In the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail.

Book of Common Prayer, “For Our Country”

My heart caught in my throat when I saw the news yesterday afternoon. I couldn’t look away from those scenes I didn’t want to see.

Immediately I was back on September 11, 2001. Mid-morning that day, my brother had burst into our home saying, “Turn on the television!”

Over and over we watched planes crash into the World Trade Center. We watched chaos on the streets. Smoke. Confusion. Bodies falling. Then it would loop back again to planes hitting the towers. Our country was under attack.

I remember looking at my children watching the screen with big eyes and shooing them out of the room. Finally I shooed my brother out, too, and turned the television off.

But some things you can’t unsee.

I tried to fall asleep last night but the images of marauders scaling the wall to the Capitol Building kept playing through my mind. Their garish outfits, their over-sized flags, their fake patriotism. Ach — it was all too much.

Yesterday was a day of prayer for me. I fasted until 6 PM, praying often, especially when reminded by pangs of hunger. Around 3 PM, my words were gone, and I reached for Lancelot Andrewes to help me remember what words I should pray for my country.

In his prayer “For Our Country”, he says with, “Bless our ingathering, Make peace within our borders” — but peace doesn’t come without a cost.

Around the same time as 9/11, we had a terrible man as pastor of our church. He was divisive. He used the pulpit to bully and berate. I was called in for church discipline because, as chair of the Missions Committee, I questioned him, his motives, and his tactics. I’ll never forget sitting in his office for my “discipline” and watching him lean back in his chair and lace his fingers behind his head — the picture of pompous confidence — all the while saying untrue things. The Board of Elders sat by and said little to nothing.

Shortly after that — I think it was Palm Sunday — that pastor once again began making untrue divisive statements from the pulpit. This time the head of the elder board, a man named Zig, rose from his seat, pointed his finger at the pastor, and said, “You, sir, need to stop.”

Shouting ensued. I herded my children out of the sanctuary and into the nursery. I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t want my children to witness any of it. A sanctuary should be a sanctuary.

Zig passed away a few years ago but I thought about him a lot yesterday. He remains for me a picture of what it means to push back against a bully.

I spent time last evening intentionally reading posts of Facebook friends that I know to be Trump supporters. One by one, I prayed for them and then “snoozed” them. I ache for them, but I can’t fill my mind with their vitriol.

This morning I reached for The Preces Privitae of Lancelot Andrewes again and settled on this prayer — For Unity —

The Preces Privitae of Lancelot Andrewes, translated by F. E. Brightman

… If in anything we be otherwise minded,
to walk by the same rule whereto we have already attained:
To maintain order, decency, steadfastness…
With one mind and one mouth to glorify God.

Lord, our country is so divided. It will take a miracle to reunite us. I’m so glad You are a God who specializes in miracles. Amen.

prayer

God, I need Thee

God, I need Thee.
When morning crowds the night away
And tasks of waking seize my mind;
I need Thy poise.

God, I need Thee.
When love is hard to see
Amid the ugliness and slime,
I need Thy eyes.

God, I need Thee.
When clashes come with those
Who walk the way with me,
I need Thy smile.

God, I need Thee.
When the path to take before me lies,
I see it . . . courage flees–
I need Thy faith.

God, I need Thee.
When the day’s work is done,
Tired, discouraged, wasted,
I need Thy rest.

Howard Thurman, “Deep is the Hunger”


When I first came across this prayer/poem by Howard Thurman, I read it through multiple times. I can honestly say that I had never prayed for poise but it made so much sense. To start my day with confidence, even though it may seem daunting from the outset, seems so powerful.

Not in an I’ve-got-this way. Rather, a You’ve-got-this-therefore-I-can-do-it way.

I go back to this prayer regularly and pray for poise, for God’s eyes and smile, for faith, and for rest.

It is my prayer for 2021.

Hutchmoot · poetry

Godspeed

Taken 7:30 AM October 13, 2017

~~ Morning Prayer ~~
Thank you, God, for the beauty
Of the light upon the trees,
And though I see it every day,
Help me always see
The cloak upon the river
From the morning fog
And help me, Lord,
To always hear the mundane dialogue
Those simple common moments
That make up my day
To see,
To hear,
To taste,
Feel,
Smell —
To be present,
This I pray.
Amen


“You’re the Godspeed guy,” I said, when I finally recognized the man with whom I had been in conversation.

“That’s right,” he replied.

“That movie was life-changing for me,” I told him.

Godspeed, the movie.

Not the 2009 “intense, dramatic thriller set in the lingering light of the Alaskan midnight sun” (IMDB description).

No — I’m talking about the documentary subtitled “The Pace of Being Known.”

“Did it make you want to move to Scotland?” Matt Canlis asked, and he explained that that’s what some people got from it.

“Not at all,” I said. “It made me want to slow down.”

“Good,” he said.

Last year, after watching Matt’s film at Hutchmoot, I started taking long walks into town. My New Year’s Resolution for 2017 — to not use self-checkout at the grocery store — grew from the movie.

No, he didn’t talk about grocery stores in Godspeed. He talked about taking time to see people and the importance of community.

Then, there he was — in person.

Matt Canlis, the Godspeed guy, spoke at Hutchmoot this year. I wrote down more of his words than any other speaker.

Things like — “When God says, ‘Here I am,’ He’s always closer than you think, and in places you don’t expect Him.”

Or, “Our home is our greener grass.”

When I was at the grocery store yesterday, not using the self-checkout, waiting in line behind two other people, I marveled at the way the woman at the register knew not only me, because I go there every day, but the young man who refused the gas points — “Oh, that’s right. You walk everywhere.” — and the older man — “When are you retiring?” “The 28th.” “Of this month?!” After he nodded, she stopped counting out his change and turned to  grasp his hand in warm congratulations. “I’m so happy for you,” she said.

She was living at Godspeed, seeing the people who come through her line, and interacting with them. It’s so much better than a self-checkout.

I started a new job this week, lifeguarding for a couple of hours in the early morning before anyone at the house is awake. It was a way to help the new Aquatics Director. She was desperate for lifeguards, and I thought, I can do that.

“Lifeguarding is mind-numbing,” Philip said to me when I told him what he was doing.

He should know. I’m working a shift that he used to work as a teen. He did push-ups and walked laps around the pool to stay awake at 6AM, but that’s my time of day.

This morning, at the pool, one man struck up a conversation telling me about Native American artifacts he found in a field. After every dive, he would swim over to where I was standing to tell me a little more.

Another woman warned me that I may have to rescue her. “I haven’t swam in a while,” she said.

“That’s okay,” I told her. “I haven’t lifeguarded in a while.” We both laughed.

Lifeguarding is most definitely a Godspeed job.

My greener grass includes a pool. Not many people can say that.

Plus, the commute in the early morning is beautiful (check out the photograph at the top!).

And, I got to meet the Godspeed guy, which was one of the highlights of going to Hutchmoot.

Faith · prayer

Prayer of Confession

In the Book of Common Prayer, the morning prayer of confession begins,

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep…

I was interested to read Lancelot Andrewes note on this prayer —

We have wittingly and willingly run from Your ways like an untamed heifer

img_0672Last summer, on my walks, I often saw the cattle in a neighboring field.  Sometimes they would run up to the fence as I walked past. One liked to lower his head and shake his horns at me threateningly.img_9663 I tried to reassure him that I meant no harm. I was simply out for a walk.img_0675

My bovine friends — or not-friends — became a fixture on these walks. I would scan the field to see where they were grazing. When one escaped, I tried to encourage him to go back with his compadres, but it’s hard to encourage an 1800 pound animal and keep a safe distance. img_0504

One fall day, Bud was working in the barn across the street when he heard the screech of tires. He ran out to see a woman, wide-eyed, sitting in her stopped car in the middle of road, staring a herd of cattle thundering toward her up the road. They ran past the house, tipping the mailbox as they went and disappearing over the crest of the hill followed by men in pick-up trucks.

“I had seen them trying to load them into a trailer earlier,” Bud told me. “Must be they decided to get them to the other farm the old-fashioned cattle drive way.”

That evening, when we went for a walk, we saw the guys in the pick-ups sitting outside the pasture that had once held their steer.

“That was something else,” Bud said to them, “watching them run up the road.”

“They didn’t want to get on the trailer,” one guy said, “and broke the fence. If you see ’em, let us know.”

“You weren’t herding them?” we both asked.

“Hell, no,” the man replied.

About a dozen steer were now on the wild in Otsego County, including the one who occasionally menaced.

As best I know, they were never found — although I did hear of occasional steer-sightings.

I pictured them when I read Lancelot Andrewes words.

Breaking through the fence — wittingly and willingly.

Running from the livestock trailer — running from Your ways

Like wild cattle — like an untamed heifer

It’s quite an image.

Almost exquisite — if one can use that word for cattle.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Prayers

Every Saturday morning, I sit alone, pen poised over my journal, and attempt to write a prayer.

It is a discipline that I have not mastered. My words falter and fall flat on the page.

Then, as I pray my newly-written prayer in the days that follow, I edit, crossing out whole sections or single words, trying to form the sighs of my heart into something utterable. I know that when I can’t, the Spirit will intercede for me. (Romans 8:26)

P is for prayer.

I pulled out my journal to look at the prayers I had written during those last weeks with my mother.

On the day after she went in the hospital, this is all I had —

You, God, are amazing.
I am not.
Thank you for Your presence and Your help.
Hold me,
Help me,
Heal me and mine.

I never changed a word of it. Maybe it was all I could do to pray it. By the next Saturday, she was gone.

And I struggled.

The next time I wrote, I filled two pages with prayer words, but then crossed out and wrote over much of it. By the end of the week, I had two prayers where I had begun with one.

Prayer A —

Lord, I don’t know what to pray.

My mother is gone.

My father is so sad.

Like a small child riding the up-and-down of a carousel pony,
I need someone to hold my hand.

Will You?

Prayer B —

Almighty Father –
You set into motion the cycles through which we live
– the turning of our planet
– its orbit around the sun
– the rising and falling tides
– the four seasons
– the water cycle
– the respiration of plants
– the respiration of animals
– the breath of a human being
from first cry at birth
to last breath at death
– decomposition

Every breath — the inhale, the exhale —
is part of Your plan,
part of a cycle

So, Lord, with profound gratitude
and amazement
I will live this day
And breathe these breaths
ordained for me.

I will ride this turning planet
orbiting around the sun

And thank You.

Amen

*****

Prayer is a mystery.

Writing prayers even more so.

Faith · prayer

Resurrection Branches

OsterpostkarteI was delighted to learn that the pussywillow is waved on Palm Sunday in many Eastern and Slavic churches.

“The Pussy Willow is also our Easter symbol,” said Father Czeslaw Krysa, rector of St. Casimir’s Church in Buffalo, in a 2013 article. He said that it is “one of the most prominent Easter symbols, because of the fact out of this dry, kind of twig all of a sudden bursts forth this beautiful flower of life, and it is the first bush that blooms.”

They call them “resurrection branches.”

Reading about them reminded me of a poem/prayer that I wrote back in January.

Oh Lord
I need a pick-me-up
For I am feeling down
Outside the snow is glittering, cold,
Inside my heart is brown
And dry and brittle, mostly dead,
Like last month’s Christmas tree
Weeping prickly needles
Which need be swept by me

IMG_8480I know You can’t restore the tree
To vibrant verdant green
— Well, yes, You could
And yes, You did
When Aaron’s rod was seen
Budding,
Blossoming,
Bearing fruit
— Can You do that with me?
Of course, You can —
but would You, Lord?
Miraculously use me?

For, Lord, You know I have this fear
I’m one of the eleven
Sticks that stayed quite dead and brown
Not bearing fruit for heaven

I fear I too am dead inside —
Like Lazarus, I stink —
Roll back the stone –
Call out my name –
Pull me from this brink

Of hopelessness
Of deadfulness —
I need to be made new
Please water me
Sunshine me
And let me grow in You.

Today the rocks and stones and pussywillows are crying out “Hosanna!”

A to Z Blogging Challenge · Faith

Prayer

P is for Prayer.

Before my trip, with the Lenten season on my mind, I wrote a Collect for Laity Lodge.

To the God of Silence —

Speak to me in whispers
in gentle breezes
in birdsong
in the laughter of running water
and the tears of gentle rain.

Remind me now and again
that You are with me every moment.

Fill my heart with Your silence
and Your song

Through Jesus —
who heard Your silence in Gethsemane
and again on the cross
and who now sits at Your right hand.

Amen

 Elie Wiesel, in his foreword to the newest translation of Night, said, “[I] trusted the silence that envelops and transcends words… For despite all my attempts to articulate the unspeakable, ‘it’ is still not right.”  And later, “[Some things] need to remain between the lines.”

Night‘s awful story needs to be heard — yet it speaks as much through the silences as it does with the words. It is a powerful book.

And I found myself, during Lent, going again and again to God’s silence in Gethsemane and at Calvary.

So much is said between those lines.

God’s silence is powerful indeed.DSC03871