Monthly Archives: June 2016

Child, not my child

Your children are not your children

They are the sons and the daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you, but they are not from you

and though they are with you they belong not to you.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, “On Children” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1923)

This graduation season is the first one for a child of mine. The newborn I brought home over eighteen years ago will eat, sleep, study, pray, wonder, worry, and laugh on a campus just a few miles outside of Philadelphia. On August 24th, my husband and I will take our two sons and a trunk full of college necessities to Haverford. We will unload the car and have lunch just up the street at El Limon. Good-byes will be exchanged, holiday plans briefly mentioned. With a wave, three of us will drive away and my older son will begin his college years.

For the last couple of months, people have been asking me if I’m ready for this next phase of life. Many tell me how awful it was when their own left the house. More than a few said they’d turn back the years if they could, bringing their adult children back into childhood to fill up the rooms that still seem empty without them. Others ask if I’m worried that something awful will happen to him; after all, the world is big and isn’t safe.

I’ll miss my son, and I’m sure tears will come on the drive home or soon after. I have loved his every age and stage, from the first time he opened his eyes through his whole childhood. I love the man he’s become – kind and thoughtful with a dry sense of humor and an artist’s eye. But he’s a child of God, not a personal possession to keep in a safe place. He isn’t on this earth to be my second chance or a means to my own ends: he is here to be a delight to God. He has his own life adventure just as I have mine. I wouldn’t trade the years of his childhood, but I don’t want to repeat them. There’s a whole world of adventure ahead for him that I can’t begin to imagine – his part of the sacred story of all God’s beloved children. What a blessing to be a part of it.


On Children, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Selections 1976-1988, disc 1 (Cambridge, MA, Rounder Records Corp., 1997)

Bill A’s lyrical prayer choice

Hallelujah, The Canadian Tenors (album), The Canadian Tenors (artists)

(available on iTunes)

I did my best, it wasn’t much

I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch

I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you

And even though it all went wrong

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

In all things, praise the Lord,

Every day and every night, praise the Lord,

There is no one beyond the reach and love of God

Not me, not you.



sacred songs, radio prophecy

New Sound of Silence

(Disturbed, The Sound of Silence,  Immortalized, 2015)

The metal band Disturbed recently released their version of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence. Instead of quiet despair it’s an agonizing scream raging against the many surface distractions that keep all of us from true conversation and connection. To rephrase the lyrics, only fools miss the glaring truth that withdrawal from the voices of others is a cancer that threatens communal life – individuals and groups. It’s one of the most sincere prayers I’ve heard lately.
What we say matters, how we say it matters even more. What we listen to and for matters; how we respond matters just as much. Do I look for the words of the prophets on subway walls and tenement halls, or do I notice only the glowing neon advertisements asking nothing of me but my money and passivity? With shots taking lives in nightclubs and on sidewalks, I can’t afford to turn a deaf ear.
Still, small voices guide us to truth. Prophetic warnings writ large remind us to love God and neighbor. Silence can be holy or smothering, depending on why we hold it. Silence can hold our restless, distracted souls still long enough to feel the love of God surrounding us. Silencing the cries of others through apathy is a sure road to a hell of our own making.
Music can help us hear the cries of others and the longing for true communion that lives in our very souls. Here are a few lines that move me:

Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom?
Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. (Bob Marley, Redemption Song)

One love, ya’ll.
My wandering got my ass wondering where Christ is in all this crisis.
It might feel good, it might sound a little something, but f*** the game if it don’t mean nothing.
God takes care of old folks and fools. (Public Enemy, He Got Game)

Is there anybody’s children can tell me, what is the soul of a man?
Was teaching the lawyers and the doctor that a man ain’t nothing but his mind.
I read the Bible often, I try to read it right. As far as I can understand, is nothing but a burnin’ light.
When Christ taught in the temple, the people all stood amazed, was teaching the lawyers and the doctors how to raise a man from the grave. (Bruce Cockburn, Soul of a Man)

Make your own list of songs with lines that break the sound of silence for you. I’d love to hear them…

(Simon and Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence, Best of Simon and Garfunkel)

Sing to the Lord a new song, all the earth. Psalm 96

one, many

Open our mouth and fill it with your praise, that we may be able without distraction to sing and confess that you are God, glorified in all and by all, the eternal Father, with your only begotten Son, and your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.

Open our mouth, not my mouth. It’s a wonderful truth that the Orthodox tradition has honored far better than other Christian traditions: every act of prayer or praise is always an act done in the company of others, even when done by a single person alone. How can this be?

Although I don’t think about it very often, I do nothing alone. Everyone who came before me in my family tree lives in my genes and in my upbringing. My grandfather who whistled and had a great reverence for the written word; my grandmother who kept a spotless house and a growing garden; my father whose deep faith supported my own, even without words; my mother who gave me breath and form, but knew that God authored my life. Without them and countless others long forgotten, I would not pray and praise because I would not be alive.

I can thank God for the blessings in my life, but only partially. I’m too small and limited to see the breadth of grace that holds my life. But I can add my own unique voice to the others who pray and praise. Through my words, they speak. Through their faith, I can praise my infinite God. The many speak as one, the one prays for the many. It isn’t a mathematical truth, but it’s a mystical one. I for one (and with many) am grateful for it.


For the complete prayer, click on Prayer of Saint Basil above.

Wide Asleep

Enlighten the eyes of our understanding and raise up our minds from the heavy sleep of indolence.

If Saint Basil had left off the last two words, it would be a simple request: wake me from sleep, body and mind. But he added “of indolence,” making it a whole different kind of request. It isn’t my nightly sleep that I need to leave behind, it’s the spiritual laziness that darkens my thoughts and makes me blind to the sacred life God has given me. It’s Pink Floyd’s comfortably numb existence: going through the motions, playing the game, climbing the ladder, taking meds or that second and third drink. I can live my life awake and aware on the outside all the while asleep to my true, deep self.

Leaving the heavy sleep of indolence behind has its price. Awake, I see this beautiful, broken world. I can’t reduce others to bit players in my life’s drama, props to move my story along and support my starring role. I am awake to the terrible holiness of every person, and my own part in their life’s play in God’s good creation. Life isn’t about me when I’m awake; I am about Life.

If I pray these words, God will answer my prayer. Do I want to be awake? I do, with God’s help.

For the complete prayer, click Prayer of Saint Basil above.



Incomparable Goodness

We bless you, O God, most high and Lord of mercy. You are always doing great and inscrutable things with us, glorious and wonderful, and without number. You grant us sleep for rest from our infirmities, and repose from the burdens of our much toiling flesh. We thank you, for you have not destroyed us with our sins, but have continued to love us; and though we were sunk in despair, you have raised us up to glorify your power. Therefore, we implore your incomparable goodness. Enlighten the eyes of our understanding and raise up our minds from the heavy sleep of indolence. Open our mouth and fill it with your praise, that we may be able without distraction to sing and confess that you are God, glorified in all and by all, the eternal Father, with your only begotten Son, and your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. [Daily Prayers for Orthodox Christians (Brookline, Massachusetts: The Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1986), pp. 9-10]

Therefore, we implore your incomparable goodness. Line Five

We are created by a God who loves us. Our shortcomings can’t separate us from God’s love. The worst parts of us don’t condemn us to isolation – even these God can transform, granting us compassion and teaching us to do the same for others. So we ask God for the grace and power to live our lives in such trust that our broken selves reveal God’s love and compassion. Such a serious request, asking for divine incomparable goodness to fill our hearts so full that it becomes our goodness offered to others. Such a wonderful, hopeful, blessed way to begin the day.