Prayer for Health and Harmony

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Divine Father-Mother, hear our prayer for health and harmony:

May the sick be strong and well. May the injured heal. May the dying rest in confidence of immortality.

May broken relationships be mended, and may animosity give way to gratitude and discovery. Let the heavens open and the spring rain wash away all jealousy… insecurity… distrust; dissolve resentment and self-righteousness; and penetrate and cleanse the heart. May we cast off the illusion that we are alone, separate from one another or from you, Almighty God. May we see each other as we are: perfect soul to perfect soul… radiance to radiance… glory to glory.

May we experience our inner light, knowing that we shine with energy and purpose… safe and secure in the morning of Creation… no longer blind, able to find and navigate the path of satisfaction, service, and joy…. Set us on the road that guides us to our reason for becoming.

Divine Creator, God of grace, you have endowed us with the gifts, abilities, and inclinations that reveal the way of happiness and the way of peacemaking and compassion. In the practice of our dharma, we repair the fractured universe, and construct, stone by stone, your kingdom on earth. May our compass be true, our motives pure, our intuition steadfast.

May we open our minds to your guidance and entrust our prayers to the wings of angels. Our petitions bow to your wisdom: We pray, “This we seek, or something finer, truer, purer, more sublime, and dedicated to the greatest good of all creation.” Thus may we thrive in the abundance of experience, generosity, and shared delight. Thus may our endeavors take flight, yielding bliss in the pursuit as well as the achievement.

Given courage by your grace, O God, may we embrace one another in the confidence of shared recognition. All is forgiven. Undivided by religion or bias, strangers become friends, and friends and families become united: husbands, wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and the children of our children… sisters and brothers… generation to generation without end.

In our common habitat, may streams be swift and pure, lakes fresh and placid, oceans clean, their motion constant, unencumbered by the careless use of earth’s great treasures. May the winds whirl freely and the skies be clean and benign. May the trees and crops and herbs be bountiful and vigorous; and may all creation flourish, giving no cause for a sense of lack or an impulse toward greed or hoarding.

May all be granted understanding this very day that truth abides in love, innocence, kindness, and freedom from want. Patiently remind us that you share our day-to-day concerns and our great struggles. May we be aware, any time we listen for it, of the pulse and chorus of the universe, music of our souls, rhythm of our lives, and singing of our spirits.

Amen.

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Evening Prayer

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TIME AFTER TIME

Divine Protector, when the old clock’s minute hand
moves step by step toward evening, tick by tick to measure
something science claims is nonexistent—time, a concept only,
humankind’s invention;

…when the shadows lengthen and the daylight dims, the darkness
thickens and the denizens of night come out of hiding, mischief-
making elves and pixies, predators becoming bold, their timid prey
uneasy, skittering across the open places to their subterranean
retreats;

…when flying insects play a game of chicken ’round a sizzling lamp
and hunters prowl the desert, lone coyotes or a noisy pack of them,
whose triumphs are announced as if by lunatic night watchmen;

Our spirits seek your comfort then, and your protection and your
teaching. Ancient stories of the night endure across millennia; their
histories whose seeds were planted in the distant past still feed and
stimulate imaginations. Storytellers out of time have demonized the
wee hours, never mind that they arrive on schedule, never mind
that night has seasons independent of the solstice and the equinox.
For reasons of its own, night lets the lonely lay their isolation at its
door; the hopeless wrap it ‘round their flimsy frames—cold comfort
but a form of solace nonetheless. The slenderer the moon, the more
secure are the immortalized adventurers and mystics, daughters of
the sky, and those who streak in seconds to the edges of the cosmos
while we ordinary creatures merely seek oblivion—but we are given
dreams and shown the convocation of the galaxies. We hear the
music in the stratosphere’s deceptive stillness, and we watch the
dancers and the acrobats whose gleeful choreography—their
romping, gliding, flying past a billion planets in a single leap—defines
our aspirations and the freedom we possess if we would seize it
even once.

Divine Beloved, send us angels who can steer the ship that sails at
moonrise, navigating seas now smooth, now agitated, now
mysterious where ghosts and phantasms abide.

Guardian angels, spirit guides, beloved saints and bygone mentors,
teach us secrets inaccessible to sight; show us the treasures and the
perils human eyes are blind to. Be a lantern in the dark night of the
soul, when mortal bonds are unavailing.

Custodians of our repose, when we uneasily succumb to sleep,
support us, soul and body. On our own, we battle gravity until
exhaustion overtakes the sturdiest intention and we drift into the
ocean. By your watchfulness and with your strength we rise to
altitudes our own wings are unequal to, heights tantamount to bliss,
and we experience a gentle floating on a peaceful thought; we are
receptive to the wisdom that is taught only in dreams. We put aside
anxiety and fill the space with gratitude for blessings in abundance,
evidence of love and messages of grace; and as we do, we feel the
muscles’ loosening; the joints relax, the chest expands. A warm
sensation, liquid light scooped from the sun’s last pouring-out,
surrounds and fills us to the marrow till our very cells are saturated.
Thus the cleansing and the healing can begin, and the reunion with
Divinity (as if there ever were or could be separation). Thus it is that
we behold each other truly, innocent and new. Thus are we daily
born again.

Amen.

san_juan_de_la_cruz

St. John of the Cross, 16th-century Carmelite brother, Spanish poet and mystic, wrote “The Dark Night of the Soul” in 1578 or 1579. 

 

 

 

Prayer of Praise and Morning

WHAT A STREAM CAN DO

mISSISSIPPI-RIVER-HEADWATERS

Mississippi River headwaters, from Sources of the Mississippi River

Sometimes we are called to be with you—
called just when the sun is rising, first light
caught and let go at the bend in the river—
at the slow bend in the Mississippi River… .
Look at the glory that rolls in the ripples of
river. What a story they have for our ears!
“All is well,” they assure us—and they have
seen it all.
Haven’t they seen what a stream of deep
water can do, rolling on and on and on, serene
in the certainty this is its reason for being
on earth: rolling in glorious ease of divinity
from the beginning as it was created for?
They have seen what a stream can do.

We are called to walk alongside you
when we are afraid. We are called to lift our
brown wings as we have seen the
strong angels do, and fly with you.
Sometimes it seems, however long we try,
however hard, we can’t find you in the
old cities with our old eyes. Then a light like a
flame enters our vision—
Now we are not afraid.
You take our pain away, now and tomorrow,
even the agony of yesterday’s…
yesterday’s sorrow is carried away, to vanish
forever at the bend in the river.
Where we believed we were powerless,
now is revealed a perpetual current of grace.
What seemed timid there now shows its face.
Gone is our weakness. This is our hour!
Thank you, God of everything. Alleluia.
All creation, every gift we bring back to you,
who gave it in the beginning.

Sometimes we are called to sit with you—
called to sit and burn a candle in the evening,
called to give you all our old pain, to be
taken away by the Mississippi River.
See the glory in the ripples of river. What a
story they have to tell: “All is well,” they say—
Haven’t they seen it all?
Haven’t they seen what a stream can do as it rolls on
and on, calm in the certainty this is what
it was created
to do?

Sometimes we are called to receive your blessing
in the middle of an afternoon.
Sometimes we are called to lift our wings as the
angels do, and fly with you.
Sometimes you give us a glimpse of bright
places we sometimes call Heaven;
then you remind us we need not have waited—
it was there all along. It was not hidden.
You did not take it away. Did we wait too long?
You once accepted our pain—once and forever,
what was humility turned into beautiful
strength for the weariness, rest for the
feet that need not have walked on so far;
purpose and energy for adoration— what a
glorious day you have
made.

Gone is the pain of the injured;
gone the despair of affliction;
gone is the fever, strong are the sick who
yesterday lay in their beds;
all our distresses, made plain before us,
taken away by the Mississippi River.
Gone is our weakness. This is our hour!
Thank you, O God of everything.
Alleluia! Amen.

Sunrise-on-mississippi

The Great Continuum

800px-Farming_near_Klingerstown%2C_Pennsylvania

Imagine for a minute—All of us are rays of sun,
emitted without interruption, rockets blazing
from horizon to horizon, individual but never
separated, each from any other one.
We come from light, as we have always done.

In eons past, the seas erupted, mountains
rising from the deep.
The rivers ran like fountains, rain
replenishing the streams.
Microscopic living things grew roots and leaves
and seeds with wings,
and century by century,
uncounted strange and lovely creatures
ventured into being,
perfectly arranged by God, ordained by form
and purpose
for Creation’s happiness and nurture.

At sunrise, darkness runs for cover,
scattering to its mysterious retreats,
its caverns
damp and chill and inhospitable to all except
the twisted denizens of night,
and these are nothing, less than nothing…
accidents of misdirected energy…
and being powerless, illusory.
When looked upon they vanish. If their
shadows sometimes haunt my memory,
they do not worry me.

So let us rest our thought and our attention
on the glory of Creation. Let us take
no interest in the flimsy, fabricated story of
a Nothing that pretends to be
a Something. Thus do we deprive it of
illusions of reality… while
Beauty, fed and nourished by our
curious, benign awareness of it,
flourishes around us.

Even now we can pinch off some tender
flowers, rich in possibility, as thousands more
remain to give us fruit and grain at harvest,
dropping seeds whose roots and capillaries
reach into the ground.
A feast awaits them there, and rest, and
maturation, as the never-ending cycle starts
again. The seeds wait patiently, obeying
nature’s laws, and effortlessly they respond to
March’s equinox and thaw.
The crop grows sweet and bountiful, by
autumn ripe and yielding joy and
satisfaction at
the time appointed,
light becoming life as always in
the great continuum… and we
shine on.

 

 

 

Today I Didn’t Break My Arm

 

Window, tulips in vase, white lace curtains

…at the bed-and-breakfast…

Dear God,

Today I didn’t break my arm

nor did I rupture my appendix.

I got up at six a.m.

and probably will go to bed

before eleven, certainly

by midnight, at the latest.

 

I read a book—a hundred pages.

I had supper with a friend.

I didn’t grumble very much

about the pang of emptiness

I feel at times when I come home

and here I am—alone again.

Tomorrow I shall grumble less.

 

I didn’t lie. I didn’t cheat.

I didn’t steal. I did my bit

for peace. I wish I had a dog—

but that’s a problem I can fix.

There’s glass on all my windows

and a carpet on my floor.

I have a clean and pleasant kitchen

and some dishes in the cupboard.

There are those who’d miss me if I didn’t

call them every week or two.

I care about them, so I do.

 

It rained this afternoon, a pleasant

interlude before the heat.

There’s food in the refrigerator,

shoes for both my feet; and there

are blankets on the bed. And if

there isn’t money in the bank,

I’m thankful for the stuff I bought

instead.

 

Tomorrow I’ll have company.

It’s Mrs. Beaman’s day to clean,

pick up a bag of groceries,

and wash the towels and the sheets.

I’ll have an opportunity

to write a letter to a friend

who’s happy when she hears from me

but understands my tendency

to undertake too many things.

 

I have my health, and never take

such things for granted any more.

I’ve no excuses to complain

and every cause to celebrate

the sunshine, and the April storm.

 

Thank you for another day,

dear God, and let the people say:

Amen.

 

Make Me a Lantern

Loi-Krathong-Lantern-Festival-Thailand

O God, make me a lantern; may I be a light and not a shroud.
Give me a song that I might sing your Holy Name out loud,
a song of praise so clear, so crystalline, so bright with joy,
the mountains sing it to the valleys and the rivers to the sea.
O God, fill me this very day with merriment and laughter,
and may everywhere I go be better for my having been there.
Lift the heaviness from me that falls in layers, imperceptibly,
until the weight immobilizes me. Divine Beloved, set me
free from demons hiding in the bogs and caverns of my
history. Release me from this solid-seeming melancholy.
Let it rise like morning mist that settles in the river valleys
and at sunrise dissipates and drifts away upon the wind.

Father-Mother, send your angels here to keep my lantern clear
and clean. The fuel is pure. It is your sacred energy. The flame
is bright, but, God, the night is long, and in the lonely hour
before the first and bravest ray of dawn appears, I fear that
morning will forget to come, the sun will fail to rise, and if it
does, when people venture forth to go about their lives, I am
too small and insignificant to be observed amid the throng.
Then may your angels carry me upon their wings to where
the steeples, tall and proud, point to the endless sky and keep me
strong and brave and unafraid to hold my lantern high.

Dear God, I pray that all your children know what flame they carry,
be it hidden deep within or fearlessly in open sight,
its steady shining bright with promise, love, and life, uniting
all in one great congregation gathered at your feet.
Can it be possible, Almighty God? Can this phenomenon
by any name, whatever we may call it—harmony or
peace on earth—be at so great a distance or so well concealed
that even your omnipotence, all-power, is unequal to it?
Yet we pray not just for daily bread but for the coming of
your kingdom. We believe it can be done. Show us our part.

Creator, you have made us in your image, placing in our hearts
such longing for your presence to be manifest among us
that we cannot rest for wanting it. Your generosity is limitless;
abundance falls like manna from the sky. We cannot fail to shine;
our lantern light is infinite. To eyes that open, it illuminates
the path to reconciliation, where compassion waits and justice
is victorious, relationships are healed, disease deprived of energy
and violence made obsolete… a holy place where we can say,
“Thy will be done,” in perfect faith… a convocation of the saints
made new by grace… where all are safe because love reigns,
and in us burn the flames that carry it as you instruct us.

God, make me a lantern and a song, with eagerness to share
the light of heaven and the music of the stratosphere.
Strain from each pulse impurity of motive; uncontaminated
may my purpose be, O God, and bless it with such clarity
that everywhere I go is better for my having been there.

Amen.

***

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SEPIA

Love Leaps

SOMETIMES I THINK of Sister Alma Rose as being God’s Lap on Earth. She is large, brown, and solid, like the earth itself. In her presence there is comfort, capaciousness, and embrace; and when she actually hugs you, physically, you feel a tsunami of love, peace, and hope – which makes her sound like a wave-borne Christmas card, but those feelings come with wings, and the energy surge lasts at least until the next time you are hugged by Sister Alma Rose, or until you learn to treasure yourself as God and Sister Alma Rose treasure you.

Fanny

Me, Fanny McElroy

This is true for me, at least, and for everyone I know who has ever been hugged by Sister Alma Rose… though a Sister Alma Rose hug can literally leave you breathless, particularly if you are a certain height. No one, as far as I know, has ever collapsed during or after such an embrace, but I’d be lying if I said there’s never been some lightheadedness in the experience.

…All of which I put forth to explain why it is startling to see Sister Alma Rose weep. I’ve certainly known her to be angry, in brief but definitely daunting eruptions, but discovering tears on that face, which nearly always radiates the joy and serenity of a pure heart and a love-drenched soul, is… well, stunning – far more so than if James Bond, for example, were to break down sobbing when confronting Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun. One thing Sister Alma Rose and James Bond have in common – and the only thing I can think of at the moment, apart from their being larger-than-life human beings (quasi-human, in the case of James Bond) – is the sense of authority and competence they exude.

Father Dooley and his friend

Source: http://naturesperspective.com/blog/?cat=27

One October morning, unseasonably warm from a sun that seemed to still be straining summerward, Pablo and I (who were probably twelve at the time) were playing chess, dismally, I have to say, on Sister Alma Rose’s wonderful grass-green wraparound porch (a kind of metaphor for Sister Alma Rose herself, I often think). The little mutt, terrier mixed with mongrel, who had followed Pablo home from school the day before, was sleeping at our feet. Mr. Truman LaFollette had just brought out, in his silent, unobtrusive way, a pitcher of his incomparable lemonade and two big tumblers filled with ice. Sister Alma Rose was just inside the kitchen door, doing something culinary with butternut squash, I think. It was a sublimely peaceful moment, though the chess was desultory and we were ready to do something, anything, else – held in place by the sweet sunlight and the lively conversation of a pair of cardinals.

Thus bemused, we didn’t notice Father Dooley and a young woman I’d never met approaching until they were actually beside us on the porch. Mr. Truman LaFollette, with his spooky prescience, was already placing three more ice-filled tumblers on the big green table. Sister Alma Rose was right behind him. She and Father Dooley and the pretty stranger all sat down beside us at the same time, as if someone had called a meeting, although I know that they didn’t have an appointment, per se, because Sister Alma Rose had gleefully set aside the day for her “early harvest,” or it might have been her “late harvest.” I know next to nothing about butternut squash.

Father Dooley jovially introduced his companion as “Tina” and explained that they had formed a friendship through Alcoholics Anonymous and that he thought it was “a good idea” for Tina and Sister Alma Rose to meet. This surprised no one, because (a) we had known for years that Father Dooley was a recovering alcoholic, (b) Father Dooley gathers friends the way marmalade attracts bees, and (c) it’s always a good idea for anyone to become acquainted with Sister Alma Rose… nor did Pablo and I imagine for a moment that we should delicately depart and give the other three some privacy. It’s like we were part of Sister Alma Rose’s posse, you see, and people who came to visit Sister Alma Rose always seemed to understand that.

So the character of the gathering around Sister Alma Rose’s sturdy outdoor table wasn’t particularly unusual. What was extraordinary from the sitting-down moment was the vibes. To put it more elegantly, when Tina and I locked eyes there was a strange certainty – on my part and I was sure on hers as well – that we had been connected since time began. I don’t know how else to explain the electricity that flowed between us.

Tina’s story

On the surface, Tina’s background and mine could hardly have been less alike. I was born in a small, quiet town to parents who wanted me, loved and nurtured me, supported my interests, indulged my whims, and allowed my independence when it was wise to do so. Tina’s birth in an urban slum had scarcely been noticed by her alcoholic mother and heroin-addicted father. She was, almost literally, a throwaway.

Young as I was, I had visited Tina’s world, or one much like it. I’d been up close and personal with addicts and amorality and all manner of sordidness and uncompromising poverty. This is another story for another time. The important difference between Tina, at thirty, and me, at twelve, was that at the end of the day I always had a safe, cheerful dwelling to go home to. Tina, clean and sober for less than a year, had only recently found the comparative security of a shelter for the homeless.

Schooled in my family’s openness and Sister Alma Rose’s serenity and resilience, I am rarely horrified, but I was unprepared for the account of brutality I was about to hear. At Father Dooley’s invitation, Tina began her bleak narrative, but with an acceptance and a composure that seemed ever more remarkable as her story unfolded.

“I was an alcoholic by the time I was three,” she told us calmly. “I was younger than that when my father started raping me. Whenever he came around, I hid, but he found me. There was always alcohol in the house, even when there was no milk or bread. I learned very early that it dulled the pain and the fear.”

Mercifully, in my memory the details of Tina’s biography have dimmed. Trying to recall them is agonizing. I know that Tina and her siblings had lived among numerous relatives, each home more dysfunctional than the last. Her mother had routinely sold Tina’s “services” for crack cocaine. An aunt introduced her to a toxic array of street drugs.

What might have set Tina apart was an instinct to care for her younger brothers and sisters and, beginning in her early teens, for her own children. She didn’t say, but I suppose she went to school. I suppose there were ineffectual social-service interventions. Whatever the case, she learned to read and write. How she became so marvelously poised and articulate is a mystery. She spoke like Willa Cather writes. It astonished me.

At one point, I glanced at Sister Alma Rose. Her face was tranquil, but I saw the tears. She didn’t try to hide them. She didn’t even blot them with her apron. It occurred to me that she too had “recognized” Tina.

By the grace of God

When Tina could free herself and the children she protected the best she could, they became squatters, sleeping in abandoned buildings and eventually settling in a community of sorts, chronically homeless people making shift under a bridge. Worldly as I believed myself to be, I didn’t know that people actually live under bridges. Tina told us that, despite occasional attempts to roust them, the authorities pretty much looked the other way. Churches sometimes brought them food, blankets, and clothes.

An alcoholic and a drug addict, Tina managed to support her family by selling drugs. I don’t know how or where she met Craig, a thoroughly decent man who weaned her from the street and steered her to A.A. Father Dooley told us that Tina went to A.A. meetings every morning. At first, Craig drove her there directly from her job as a waitress at an all-night restaurant. At some point she got a driver’s license and a pickup truck and took charge of her transportation to work and meetings, never missing a day.

Ten months after she told us her story, Tina and Craig were married. Father Dooley says it remains “a solid marriage.

“They’re devoted to each other,” he told me not long ago.

I’ve never heard what became of Tina’s younger siblings or her children, some having been placed in foster care when Tina started rehab. It was her wish to reclaim them all, “by the grace of God.” Given her faith and determination, I’d be surprised if she didn’t succeed.

“Life throws all kinds of rubbish in your path, Fanny McElroy,” Sister Alma Rose once told me. “It puts up what looks like prison walls you can’t see over or around. Love leaps over them all.”

Country road

Walking into town

That enchanted sense of connection with Tina has never left me. As she and Father Dooley were saying their goodbyes on Sister Alma Rose’s magical grass-green porch, I took her aside. I’m not sure what words came to me, except that I “recognized” her.

“You’re an angel from Heaven,” I think I said, “or at least a very old soul. I know we’ll meet again.”

“Yes,” she said. “God is good.”

“Fanny McElroy,” I said to myself, “I believe you’re going to cry.”

It’s easy to say “God is good” when your life is rolling along like a wind-propelled tumbleweed and the worst thing you have to worry about is getting a below-average grade on a test you didn’t study for – which was pretty much the case for me when I was twelve. Coming from Tina, who had pretty much just landed on solid ground… whose yesterdays were grim and whose tomorrows were murkier than most… it was life-affirming. It was miraculous. It gave me strength and hope I would one day cling to.

“God is good indeed,” I said, with little idea of the magnificent truth of it, and walked home with Pablo and his little dog.