Thursday, November 20, 2008


Dear friend,

Recently, you asked me how to pray. You said you want to pray but you don't know what words you are supposed to use.

The disciples asked Jesus the same question. He gave them the Lord's Prayer (although he didn't call it that!): God in Heaven, you are all-holy. May your heavenly kingdom reign here on earth. May your will be done in all things. Give us what we need for life - bread, water, clothing, shelter. Teach us to forgive others, so that we can recognize your forgiveness of us. Keep trials and temptations away from us, but if they come anyway, deliver us from them. Help us stand up to them, and find you with us in them. Amen.

Those are the basics of prayer: Acknowledge God's holiness, state your desire for God to reign everywhere - God's love, God's justice, God's mercy - then ask God for the things you need, and what you desire for others. Recognize where you have fallen short - see your own sins and not those of others. Learn forgiveness from your own sins, for they have been forgiven. Surprise!

If you still don't know what to say, or how to say it, turn to the Psalms. There isn't anything you could think of that hasn't already been said thousands of years ago. These are prayers that let it all hang out, even hateful things, while recognizing the total reliance on God in all things at all times.

I think you are more worried that you won't get the prayers right. There is no right or wrong in prayer.
Pray with or without words.
Pray your feelings - your tears, your laughter, your despair, your joy are prayers.
Take a walk and enjoy what God has created around you.
Notice how your body feels - let it be your prayer.

Most of all, pray what is in your heart. The words don't have to be right. When you're done, fall silent for a spell. Let your heart catch up, and open itself to God, for you to see, or feel or hear. And know this, you are God's prayer for the world. Your whole life is a prayer with God.

Peace be with you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Trilogy: Out of the Depths

canoeing on a mountain
cold, deep, vast
a rock
long and side
looms just ahead
just under the water
terrifying me
we pass over safely
i can't forget the terror

the reflection
clear but not quite
there but somewhere deeper
sinking into the depths of the shallows

that sheer cliff of rock,
plunging into the pond at the shoreline
goes who knows how deep
and frightens me

(Mad Priest, if he reads this blog today, will have a field day with these! So might you.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Dear friend,
I know you remember your failures. I know it is hard to start again, to trust once again in the future, to risk that this try will succeed and not fail. This time, no words of mine about failure can possibly outdo those of Dame Julian of Norwich from her Revelations of Divine Love: Julian reminds us that while our own earthly mothers intend the best for us, sometimes they, too, fail. But Jesus is our own true Mother, and when those times of failure come - whether it is failure to love him or failure to love one another, or failure of some project on which we as as Christians or churches pinned so much hope, he never deserts us.

Julian writes, about those times when our failure makes us feel scared or angry or ashamed, "Our patient Mother does not want us to run away...His desire is that to Him for help as fast as we can...with the humility of a child, saying, 'Kind, thoughtful, dearest Mother, do be sorry for me. I have got myself into a filthy mess, and am not a bit like you. I cannot begin to put it right without your special and willing help."

Even then, Julian writes, as a good and loving Mother it may be better for us to mourn and weep a bit before consoling us - "with pity, and sympathy of course...because he loves us...And he wants us to trust his Mother-love...through thick and thin".

Dearest friend, this holds true whether it is a personal failure of the spirit or a failure of the church to manifest God's love. We must trust that Jesus means us only good, learn from what we experience, and return to him, running, as a child to its Mother.

This holds true, as well, for fear and any kind of trouble in which we may find ourselves. Peace be with you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Does Your Desire Make You Whole?

Desire to sit on a dock
reaching out into still water
with long lawns of green grass
stretching behind
and deep woods on the other side.

It's a sunny day
clear, a touch crisp
I can wrap up in wool
and dream

(Written at work, in the church office,
with afternoon sun
pouring through the window
on my back and the
side of my face.

My art for Monday in the
first week of Advent 2006.
Lois Keen)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The week that will always be remembered

On Sunday, Lewis Hamilton earned the world championship of Formula One grand prix racing, on the last corner of the last lap of the last grand prix of the season, in Brazil. He is the first person of color, and the youngest, to win that title.

Those last two laps were the worst of my life of watching Formula One racing. When Newlin told me, "He's got it!" I couldn't believe it. But it was true, and it made my Sunday.

Tonight, Barak Obama has won the presidency of the United States in the Americas. He is the first person of color, and African American, to do so. When I started watching coverage at 10 pm I was anxious. It looked way too close to me, and I was afraid. And then, at about 11 pm, as I was watching the Daily Show coverage, Jon Stewart calmly announced that Barak Obama is the next president of the United States.

I cried. I was so relieved and happy. And when I saw Jessie Jackson, crying, in unbelief of what had just happened, I started to believe it was real.

What a week. What a night. Thanks be to God, and may God bless Barak Obama.