When I Do Not Know What To Pray


, ,


These past days have been very challenging to the way I pray. I have beloved ones in harm’s way, and I pray for their safety. And I am aware that thousands of others are in the same harm’s way, and I pray for them. I hold close some of those dear to my heart going through deep waters with health, economic and relationship issues. They are part of national and global systems which do not give them the support and the resources they need, so I am pressed to pray for them too. The captions on the day’s reporting don’t amuse, just depress even further. How do I pray? And I am coming up on a Big Birthday after a year of being bumped by things that slowed me down, another call to prayerfully re-imagine myself for the next stage!

I then remember an old Celtic prayer called the Caim Prayer, designed to be of use when nothing else–words, icons, intentions–don’t seem to be. The Lindisfarne Comunity of England suggests that I pray the following prayer while drawing a circle around myself, using the right index finger as I pray, symbolizing the encircling love of God:

Circle me, Lord,/ Keep comfort near/and discouragement afar./Keep peace within/ and turmoil out./ Amen.

This feels as if it could be a beginning, a centering of myself in the Mystery, finding a place to get my equilibrium, a place to stand, some equipoise. Then the community prayer book offers some alternative readings into which I can insert particular names and situations:

For the ones in the path of the hurricanes, those known to me and those unknown: Circle them, Lord./ Keep protection near/and danger afar.

For those facing the inexorable changes in the structure and systems in which they work: Circle them, Lord./Keep hope within, /keep despair without.

For the one who is navigating complicated medical procedures and diagnoses: Circle her, Lord. Keep light near,/ and darkness afar.

For the one who feels caught between a rock and a hard place: Circle him, Lord./Keep peace within/ and anxiety without.

The Eternal Triune God shield all of them on every side.

The question is raised: do these prayers work? I don’t believe that “working” is something prayers are for. The Caim Prayer is a prayer for Presence, for awareness, for hope, no matter the reality, no matter the circumstance. It focuses divine, mysterious attention on a world where the rain falls on the just and the unjust, in which we have sorrow, in which we have no permanent abiding place, in which we are waiting for the Holy One to bring all things together.

And so I keep circling my heart, and the hearts, minds and bodies of the world with this prayer, even while I send checks, make phone calls, advocate for justice, listen to stories that need to be told. Another hurricane is forming, another visit to a doctor is scheduled, another tear in the seam of the broken world needs mending. So I continue to pray, Circle…and all of your beloved ones…. Lord./ Keep us all in the circle of your care.


The Caim Prayer is found in Volume I of Celtic Daily Prayer, from the Northumbria Community. 2002, Harper Collins, Page 297.

Personal photo from an exhibit of art from central western Africa displayed at Los Angeles County Museum of Art.







Surprises on the way!


, ,


I am living in a week of surprises! Not all of them have been welcome. In trying to take an airplane flight to San Francisco on Monday, the delays and cancellation diverted us to spontaneous Plan B, which was to embark on an overnight road trip, complete with motel stay, a visit to an old Italian restaurant, and navigating traffic and road repair.

Yet, I found that there was surprising Grace in the change of plans. Despite starting out at the tail end of a holiday weekend, there was almost no traffic going our way as we started out, a welcoming inn in which to stay, a long restorative sleep to be had in comfort. And I found in the recesses of my travel bag, a mystery novel tucked away, which I began to read aloud to my husband, which diverted and kept us amused along the lengthy sojourn the next morning. We often read to each other, but rarely do we read fiction or stay in such contained quarters for so long. For me there was a welcome intimacy in the sharing of space and story.

We arrived in San Francisco on the dot of the time we were to meet beloved friends at the art museum, there to see an exhibit of the artist Edouard Munch. However, we had spare time to wander other exhibits in the newly expanded and appointed museum. The top floor had an exhibit called Sound, a title which did not sound like much art to me, until I saw the exhibit by Celeste Boursier-Mangenot, an installation of ceramic bowls in a broad pond of gently moving water. From the surrounding observation bench, I could hear the slight ting of each bowl as it nudged the one beside it, moving it a little bit forward or to the side, sending it off a new trajectory. I kept being surprised by my fascination as I sat watching, as layers of implication for the world and the way humans live in it coursed through my imagination. What if we were to be a bowl that floated in grace with others, and brought forth a song of delight and grace when we bumped into each other? Wouldn’t that be a surprise!

My surprises were still unfolding. As we entered the warm hospitality which is the hallmark of the home of our friends, I was greeted with the question,
“Are you the surprise lady?” Not quite sure of what was transpiring, I looked at my husband and my friends to discover that this evening was to be a small dinner, very early birthday celebration for me, months in the planing, threads of e-mails streaming through the internet, and memories and pieces of my life gathered from over 40 years. I had my initial beginning anxiety: would it all work? was I dressed for the occasion? and who might appear? And then as I allowed myself to savor the surprise, I prayed that I would be open to receive whatever came as the gift of this generous, extravagant offering of love. As I did the surprises poured out: memories from long ago, shared journeys, laughter, wisdom, hilarity, reflections on my presence and person, surrounded with amazing provisions and touches of charm. And, in a way, in that evening, we became the beautiful ceramic bowls floating in the same sea, touching one another gently, and making beautiful music together. It was a brief, shining moment with which I begin a birthday month and start a new year of life. Not only will I be offering grace notes to each of my companions, but I will be carrying the images with me as source of Hope and Grace.

Even as I savored the beauty and goodness, my family was awaiting medical reports and news from the latest hurricane. Friends were digging out from devastation, managing new paths forward after diagnoses that threatened, navigating situations that seem hopeless, and marching with courage and ardor for justice in the streets of our cities and towns. So I am not confused into thinking that if I just float in Grace that everything will be all right in the world. But I know deeply that I am invited to be open to surprise when it appears, to hang on to its presence firmly, and to let it be Light when I am needing Hope in the Dark!

Taking Joy!


, ,

IsLaMujeresJoyWords and sight prompting me to joy are everywhere around me! In the ear of my heart I hear the poetry of Anne Sexton:

           There is joy/ in all…

and she catalogues all the elements of her morning kitchen and spirit ritual which delight and inspire her. On my recent family trip when I had solitary moments, I too was able to take joy in where I was–the ocean view, the little Mexican icon in the garden, the cool water, the air conditioner, the fresh coffee, the fountain of live turtles who basked or swam back and forth, the ample time to listen to what i was reading, to reflect, ponder and wrestle with a writer from another location, re-framing questions I seem to be always asking. There is joy in all!

And joy came bursting in the door with each grandchild or grownup as they told their stories of adventure–underwater, around the coral reef, at the ruins, with iguanas, on the back of gold carts, or shopping for chess sets. Each person had a particular way of spinning a narrative, choosing syntax framed with gestures and facial expressions that were illuminating and delightful. And there was laughter and drama and amplification that made my heart spill over with wonder and gratitude. There is joy in all!

It has been more challenging to see the joy is all on my re-entry! There is a calendar of appointments, a list of fix-its, a catalogue of do’s and  don’ts, always hanging around each day. And then, when my “plan” is firmly in place, something intrudes, what Rumi calls a “visitor” to be welcomed–a phone call, a knock on the door, a letter of surprise. And the Plan gets jettisoned. So I have been “listening” to Fra Giovanni, 15th C. Italian artist and thinker:

The gloom of the world but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach is joy. Take Joy!  

When a neighbor needs a ride or a groceries, I can take joy in knowing she is well fed and safe. When someone needs a consultation on a knotty problem, I can take joy in knowing that all those years of education and life experience are still being put to use. When calamity or catastrophe befalls a loved one, I can take joy is knowing that there are ways for me to help and that there is Wisdom to direct me to what those ways are. There is joy in all!

Henri Nouwen tells me, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” That’s what I am choosing to do. That choice does not mean that I fail to notice the terrible grief in the world, the terror of those displaced and abused, the pain of those with unrelenting illness, the violence of arrogant and tone deaf leaders. But, a choice to Take Joy reminds me that those things are not the only realities in the world. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot put it out. (John 1).

So in this second half of the year I am committed to taking joy every day and in every way, wherever I can, so that as I work and pray for the wholeness of the world, for the healing of those who suffer, for the power to overcome injustice, malice and cruelty, I can see behind the shadows, the joy that comes with the Light that will shine and not be put out. I commit myself to looking for and celebrating the Joy that is in all…and sharing it!

I have been committed to a practice of bring grateful for a long time time now. Karl Barth tells me, “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” I am Taking Joy!









Jars of Clay



I am feeling very clay-like, earthen, limited these days, after a long period of intense focus and action on my own behalf and those of others. It is not that I can’t stop physical doing; it is more that I can’t stop “eating the bread of anxious toil,” as the Psalmist puts it. Anticipatory anxiety, worrying and carrying loads of fretting that don’t belong to me are much harder to lay down that just sitting down to rest. I am very aware of things that limit me.

My body limits me. I suppose it always has, but the older I get, the more doctor appointments I accrue, the more investment I am required to make in order to accomplish my quotidian tasks each day, the more that I am aware of those limits. I can’t reach what I used to reach, no matter how many stretching exercises I do. I can’t stay up as many hours as I used to, even if I take a nap. And I find that my glasses are critical to my ability to see and appreciate the world!

Also, my place in the classification of demographic seem to have disappeared–not a millennial, not even a Boomer, I seem to have fallen off the charts. Practically speaking, this means that the training I had, professionally and personally, often does not apply. I raised my children with one understanding of how to feed, dress and keep my children safe; those rules have all changed. I was formed as a pastor to serve in particular ways in a parish in a world that is now undergoing massive sea changes, and may be for the foreseeable future. Forms and patterns that I practiced are now seen as “old school,” read useless. I came late to technology, and presently limp along with the wise help of my technological keepers, but several times a month find myself buffaloed by terminology and functions that feel beyond my understanding. Limited indeed!

And my current exposure to the variety and complexity of the world lets me know that my story is of necessity a limited one–small when put up against the huge events and trends of history, colorless when put up next to those who have struggled against great odds and come through on the other side.

So I come back to the insight of the writer Paul, who in 2 Corinthians, as he struggles with his own limitations, reminds me that I am after all a “jar of clay,” an “earthen vessel,”  whose purpose is first to be faithful to her own location and story, and then to be the vessel or agency through which healing comes, wherever she is. I might be called, and am able, to bring water to someone thirsty for conversation or presence. I might be called, and am able, to be the patio light in which a small candle lights the way in the dark night gloom. I might be that colorful decorative planter that gives the tender shoots ample space in which to send their deep roots and thrive. All those things are with in my ken, may be within my calling. And in claiming my limits, I may be able to continue to be of use in God’s stitching up the brokenness of the world.

I could do worse than be a jar of clay.





Traveling Mercies



Travelingmercies2All summer I have been sending traveling mercies to my friends on the move. Today I pray for traveling mercies for my own moving and wandering:

I pray for peace for this anxious traveler, who worries about connections, forgotten items, anticipated glitches. Breathe your peace into my body, mind and spirit.

I pray for those who make it possible for me to travel, pilots. attendants, agents and greeters and innkeepers. May each of them have what they need to do their jobs with skill and heart.

I pray that I will embody a patient and merciful spirit with systems that have the capacity to break down, delay and confound. Help me to be one who brings compassion and tranquility to any chaotic kerfuffle that breaks out.

I pray for those I love with whom I will abide and celebrate, each with a unique and particular personality and set of needs and wants. I pray for the Spirit to make us a peaceable realm as we hang out together for these days, not just tolerating each other, but learning to love more dearly, with exciting discoveries, deep appreciation and lots of laughter and delight.

I pray that even though I will be a visiting tourist, I will also be able to see those in the area we visit with gentle and welcoming eyes and ears, that I may treat each person with respect and honor while I am given hospitality.

I pray that my heart, body and mind will be open to seeing things I have never witnessed before with curiosity and interest, with great gratitude for the variety in the  world that the Holy has made and in which we live.

I pray, most of all, that I take Joy from the Creator in each moment of living, loving, laughing, learning, trusting that the Joy of the Holy is my strength whether I am at work or at play.

I am resting in Traveling Mercies!


Prayer for a Summer Wednesday



I pray a prayer of celebration today for a joyful wedding anniversary in our family. Twenty years ago no one could have imagined or anticipated the over-arching health, love and creative children that have grown in this marriage, open and inclusive to the welfare of others. My prayer is one of deep gratitude and hope for continued shaping a life of love together.

I prayer a prayer of lament today for an unwelcome diagnosis for another in the family. No one could have imagined or anticipated this invasion into a healthy life, and even now we don’t know what it means, what it will look like, where the journey will take us. My prayer is first, that God in mercy will continue the healing toward wholeness already begun, and that each of us will know how to participate in that healing, through tears, laughter and love.

I prayer a prayer of urgent petition for peace and justice today for this country, buffeted about in division and question about where truth can be found. No one could have imagined or anticipated this liminal place in which we wake every day to new surprise, and can’t count on things that were true yesterday being the same today. My prayer is that people of great compassion and will speak truth to power, speak the truth in love, and know when to speak and when to keep silence for the healing of all people.

I pray a prayer for  an awareness Holy Presence–in me through the frustrations of technology, through the quotidian mysteries of caring for my dwelling and the people in it, through the extroversion I adopt to go out to meet people, through the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart as I listen to the One standing behind me, saying “This is the way, walk in it.”  I could not have imagined or anticipated that at this point in my life, this would be a day on which I found myself, living in light and darkness simultaneously, trying to navigate a clear path between mundane and epic concerns, living intentionally and consciously, sorting out what things have my name on them and what things to let go.

But this is the day that the Spirit has made…I pray to rejoice, to weep, to do good, love mercy and walk humbly with whomever I encounter…for God’s sake!



Wrapped in Silence


, , ,


I was encompassed in silence, a gift I chose that was offered by my church, a six hour retreat on a Saturday morning. The all-purpose room was set side for sacred use–a circle of chairs, a library of books, a table of fresh food, a labyrinth laid out, a cozy room with overstuffed chairs, tables for writing and coloring and then an empty sanctuary, with an icon of Christ surrounded by candles, awaiting to be lit in prayer.  After the opening instructions and a reading from the pastor, we spent our next hours in silence.

My routine life is not very noisy. My husband and I don’t create much sound daily as we patter through our retirement ways of being. The loudest eruption is the dog as he tries to keep us safe from post-people and squirrels. Yet there is the hum of appliances, the whoosh of delivery trucks, the ringing of phones, even ones stopped by “nomorobo!” More incessant are the chirps and hums inside me, reminding me it is time to pay a bill, put laundry in the dryer, check on the neighbor down the street. Left to my own devices, I find it hard to enter into Silence. However, dropping into the retreat on Saturday, after I was welcomed warmly by those I knew even slightly, I could rest in the container created for me by the committee–the place, the nourishment, the prompts, the opportunities. It was pure Grace!

I began by breathing, attending to my breath, checking in with my body, and then walking the labyrinth, a tool for prayer that has delighted and served me well for many years in many places. In the deliberateness of the pace, I could recognize the clutter which needed release, listen for a Word coming to me to shape the day, and then I could begin to integrate that Word with what was ahead of me.

After that walk I sat down with my journal and began to note all that was coming up and where my prayers and reflections might go throughout the hours we were in silence. I listened deeply to the sacred text with which we were introduced to the day, gave thanks that I was beloved of God and that angels attended me, even in wilderness. I did some reading in Christine Valters Paintner’s book Wisdom of the Body, which has been my teacher in this Easter and Pentecost season. I spent time in gratitude for all the joy and blessing in my life. I spent time in lament for the losses of which I am so keenly aware–in my own body and experience, in the leaving of those I love, in my anxiety for the frailty of particular persons and the world.

In the stained glass lighting of the sanctuary I felt free to pour out my heart about things unknown ahead of me, for those whose need seem far beyond my capacity to touch, for the broknen-ness of people and systems. I lighted candles for some at the very top of my awareness, even now living with pain and fear.

I was nourished with healthy food, silently companioning others when they chose to sit with me in silence for lunch. Bread for the journey!

My heart turned toward a primary ministry I have now, a group of women who have met together for 10 years. Where are we being led? Who will keep on with us? Can we let go of those who move on? And how does our aging and growing shape what we do? What are we being invited to reflect on in the year ahead?

After the hours of prayer and reflection went by, I came to a place of rest. Sitting comfortably with my eyes closed, I savored in gratitude what had been provided for me in this day. I recognized that my soul was satisfied as with a great feast by having this opportunity to be in the presence of others, yet in silence given the space, time and awareness to hear the voice of the Holy to come to me in particular–for such a time as this!

I am deeply grateful for this time in which I was able to come apart and rest with the Holy in the presence of others on the journey. Savoring. Thankful. A full heart!

Personal photo from St John’s Cathedral, Denver. (not from my home church)






Come. Holy Spirit




Come. Holy Spirit! Today we celebrate your presence in our lives, in the Church and in the world.

I pray to meet you in the depth of my heart where I am so prone to fear and anxiety, so quick to forget that I am committed to Hope, to Love, intending to believing and acting on the principle that “all will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”

I pray to let you heal me–body and spirit–of those wounds and scars that are left over from old memories, early traumas and the hurts and slights that keep popping up in the course of my daily rounds.

I pray to feel your energy surging in my recovering body, in my brain that too often forgets things these days, in my praying spirit that bogs down with the enormity and complexity of this sad world.

I pray to allow your wildness keep opening my heart to finding ways when there seems to be no way, to taking in the most unlikely ones who cross my path, to putting the resources I have to the healing of the fragments of this world where I can make a difference, however small.

I pray for the wounds of so many in so many places, with its accompanying fear that we can’t know where terror will break out next. I pray that You will keep up Your powerful attack on the minds and wills of those who are heartless, greedy and self-serving only, and transform their hearts to ones of compassion and caring. 

I pray for Your Presence in the created world, that as it struggles to survive and thrive, you will teach me how to cooperate with that healing, with Your power to give me words and actions that will preserve and respect the beauty and sustainability of Earth’s resources.

I pray for Your Wisdom for all people of faith as they wrestle to know how to be observant of their commitment to You in times and events that are muddy and messy.

I pray that You, Holy Healer, will touch the bodies and spirits and minds of those who suffer, and where there is despair, replace it with hope and peace.

And for all those areas for which I have words but can’t get them out, and for those things deep inside me for which I have no words, Spirit, turn them into creative and cogent expressions of my heart to the Holy–for what is loving. joyful, peaceful, kind and generous, and faithful in my walking and talking, singing and dancing, working and giving, hoping and living each day with imagination, energy and love.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!





Giving the Right Gifts


, , ,

for John, Dalton, Sean, Erica Lee, Ezra, Erica Brooke,  (and the March and Fall Celebrants too!)

This Eastertide season (slightly extended) this year is the most intense season of celebrations in our family: 3 anniversaries, three birthdays, a graduation, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, all in a matter of a few weeks. This year there are several banner occasions: 75th birthday and 20th anniversary and high school graduation, not to be taken lightly. And I, as the Cheerleader of Celebrations, get twisted up in giving just the right gift to each one for each occasion, the Perfect Thing!

Of course, out of my wrestling comes the realization that there is no “Perfect Thing” that can be given to each and every beloved one each and every time. Sacred text tells me that the only perfect gifts are given by God. Nevertheless, I keep trolling magazines and websites for ideas that suit the recipient, the stage of life, the need and my checkbook. There is not shortage of wonderful ideas and possibilities out there. It is not for lack of possibilities that I get stuck.

It is my ego-need where I get bogged down; I want my gifts to make the person I love respond with glee, gratitude and to be overwhelmed with this memorable and grace-filled present. No wonder I get jammed up! So it is with relief that I encounter and begin to appropriate the Jewish concept of mitzvah, giving a gift, according to some sources, for the good of someone else without expectation of reciprocity, notice or thanks. WELL! That re-frame the entire endeavor!

I have recalled many of the gifts given in Hebrew and Christian scripture: Joseph’s coat of many colors, the Queen of Sheba’s contributions to Solomon’s coffers, the expensive perfume with which Mary Magdalene anointed the feet of Jesus, the apostle Peter confronting the man who was lame from birth with these words: “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give you,” and he lifts the man up to full standing mobility. All of them are gifts that have complications in relationships, so I am not the first giver to be bemused in my giving.

What I am am being invited to do in this season of celebration and remembering is to open myself to each honoree–to see him as he really is, to listen to her conversation that gives me clues as to what she longs for, to be willing to share part of my own spirit of love and hope for him, to do what I can, and to let the results and reactions be whatever they are, no harm, no foul, no expectations—just open heart and open hand from me.

I read in 2 Corinthians that “God loves a cheerful giver,” and the corollary to that is the Holy One is able to provide me, the giver with “every blessing in abundance, so that I may always have enough of everything…” So I can go about the business of gift giving without anxiety, knowing that I will have what I need to celebrate my loved one–and others–with joy, with freedom, with trust and delight, despite the price tag, the competition with the other grandparents, the fear of rejection. It’s how I give, not what I give that makes the difference. And my heart is full of love for each and very one, with gratitude for what he and she have brought to me and our family, and with hope that what I offer will be a token of that love and gratitude for each one.

And I can give each gift with a blessing. My late friend Rabbi Sheryl Lewart in her book Blessings for Life’s Journey, gives me some words:

May you feel embraced, enfolded anew by the miracle of your being. May you find the deep purpose of your soul loved and cherished into becoming who you are meant to be… May you be a source of holiness for others, May you treasure and develop your uniqueness and be a blessing to all you meet. Amen.







Seasoning Eastertide!



I was deeply disappointed last Sunday, Easter Day, when I was felled by a vicious 5 day cold that knocked me so flat that, for my sake and the welfare of the community I could neither join a worshiping congregation, nor serve a festive dinner to my family. All the elements of Easter baskets are lying unopened in the grocery bag, the cards are unwritten, and the one lily is languishing. I became very heartened, however, when I realized that in the liturgical calendar in some traditions Eastertide is 50 days, not just One Big Day! So I have time, time to celebrate and rejoice, time to ponder the gospel accounts of the post-Resurrection accounts of Jesus life with his friends, and especially to notice where Easter is happening, where new life is springing forth, where the signs of hope and Light are evident for the fist time or recurring again.

The seasoning of Easter keeps coming day after day even in this first week after the celebration day. I have heard a story of someone completely bereft who suddenly received comfort after it seemed like there was no comfort to be had. I witnessed hope and energy take root in one who had been mired in despair for months, but who now had a sense of agency and power to keep moving toward hope. I was present when a group of friends gathered, bringing with them the predictable crises of their separate lives, and as they reflected on the love demonstrated in resurrection and the promise of new life, the joy and grace between them deepened, widened and hope was palpable, despite the incessant toll of Awful Things in the lives of our world.

So I am looking around for the Season of Easter with vigilance and scrutiny during this Eastertide, these remaining 44 days. I have already heard of a new job, a mended friendship, a lifting of dullness, an easing of conflict, and I am witnessing acts of mercy and justice all around me in the neighborhood, in the Church and in the world.

So I ask how I can contribute to this new life that we celebrated last Sunday. Paying attention is my primary practice–the the salesperson the barrista, the server, the mail carrier. Each of them is worthy of receiving the Light of Easter, even if it is just a warm and attentive exchange over business. I am also aware that there are places that need care where I must to be present–in person, by phone or by e-mail; all I have to bring is my presence and my hope. To give advice is not nearly as alive and joyful an Easter flavor as it is to show up in some way. I am also hoping to stretch out to give what the Jewish traditions calls mitzvahs, those acts of hospitality and grace in which there is no possibility of payback or reciprocity. I feel as if the seasoning in my own heart in celebrating Easter once again replenishes me for that kind of extension and effort.

My garden, blooming to beat the band, with new surprises every morning, is the tangible prompt to me to be receiving and giving the seasoning of Easter right now. Every morning I look for a new blossom! In our journey the dying is not the last word; there is new life after death. And as long as I am alive, whether or not I can get to the Big Band celebrations of Easter Day or not, I can use these days of Eastertide to take in the glory and the power of Christ’s resurrection, and then to sprinkle and spice all these gifts that new life brings–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and gentleness–while I do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with the Risen One.