Category Archives: observation

No Choice

Every child deserves to be welcomed into the world with joy. Each baby should have the basics – safety, food, clothing, shelter, engagement – provided without fuss or resentment. No child should have to offer his or her body for the use and gain of others, and no one should have to choose between death and committing murder.

Violence or violation? No child should have to choose. No adult should, either.

Vocation

We pray to the Great Spiritual Power in which we live and move and have our being. We pray that we may at all times keep our minds open to new ideas and shun dogma; that we may become ever more filled with generosity of spirit and true compassion and love for all life; that we may strive to heal the hurts that we have inflicted on nature and control our greed for material things, knowing that our actions are harming our natural world and the future of our children; that we may value each and every human being for who he is, for who she is, reaching to the spirit that is within, knowing the power of each individual to change the world.

I’ve been lucky enough to have mentors who provided guidance without insisting that I take up a particular profession or remain in their particular discipline. I had a grandfather who let me learn boy’s skills, and a father who didn’t value me less because I was a daughter. Math, languages, science, home economics – it was all encouraged if I wanted to pursue it.

Many of my friends weren’t so lucky; if they questioned the direction chosen for them, there were serious consequences. Perhaps they weren’t wished a lesser life, but they were encouraged to be who they were not rather than who they were.

In the here and now, here’s hoping we mean what we pray…

Valued

From Jane Goodall’s A Prayer For World Peace, Hong Kong: Minedition, 2015

Love, Honor, Cherish

For better, for worse

In sickness and in health

Forsaking all others

I think the vows are a pair of tickets to a music festival: the main attractions you know going in, but the rest of the acts are a mystery. Some of it will be amazing, some surprising, some disappointing. But, at the end of the day, it’s the person you came with that makes all the difference.

A World of Common Things

Pets. Untensils. Fruit. Clothes. These are the things that we touch and see and hear and taste and smell every day. Pablo Neruda wrote a whole book of odes to them: spoons, an onion, the cat, and a pair of socks. He celebrates how much they have added to his life, and how he loves them for that.

I love this collection of poems because it is clear how much he sees common things as life-enhancing objects of wonder. Not because they can make him happy in more than a fleeting sense, but because they offer a chance to express gratitude for life in a tangible way – deep, inner joy brought into words through a cat, an orange, French fries. Here’s the end of the first poem – Ode to Things:

O irrevocable

river

of things:

no one can say

that I loved

only

fish,

or the plants of the jungle and the field,

that I loved

only

those things that leap and climb, desire, and survive.

It’s not true:

many things conspired

to tell me the whole story.

Not only did they touch me,

or my hand touched them:

they were

so close

that they were a part

of my being,

they were so alive with me

that they lived half my life

and will die half my death.

Pablo Neruda (Ken Krabbenhoft, translation), Odes to Common Things, Ode to Things; New York: Bullfinch Press, 2010, p.17

Jane Goodall’s Prayer

A Prayer For World Peace, Jane Goodall and Feeroozeh Golmohammadi(illustrator), Hong Kong: Minedition, 2015

We pray, above all, for Peace throughout the world.

I happened upon it in Northshire Books a couple of months back, this illustrated prayer of Jane Goodall. These are the opening words. They come from a remarkable woman who has spent the majority of her life seeking deep knowledge about chimpanzees, adjusting her whole life to respectful observation and interaction with our evolutionary cousins. It isn’t just research, though, it’s a labor of love – meaning good things for another species and sacrificing to bring them about. And from this devotion the rest of humanity caught a glimpse of the holiness of another species; from this, all people were offered the chance to value and honor life beyond their own.

I think this is how we learn to pray for peace above all: becoming aware of the holiness of others and valuing it enough to stand up for it.

Earth Prayers

Each living thing gives its life to the beauty of all life,

and that gift is its prayer. Douglas Wood

It’s almost Earth Day, and there are many reasons to send up a prayer – environmental pain from war, industry, greed, and ignorance is cutting into the life force of our lovely little blue planet. Here’s hoping the words I say are backed up by my actions and my choices…

Creator of earth, sea, and sky, kindle the fire of your Spirit within us that we may be bold to heal and defend the earth, and pour your blessing upon all who work for the good of the planet.

God, Giver of life, Hear our prayer.

[Quoted: Douglas Wood, Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth; Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 1999]

Holy, Holy, and Holy

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 you 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. Prayer of Saint Basil

The words change, but the general gist doesn’t: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Mother, Son, and Life-giving Spirit; Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Triune. Trinity. God as community and communion, always one and always internally relational among three Persons. Who God is can’t be reduced to an abstract concept or a list of attributes: God is fluid, dancing rather than cast in stone or gold. Anyone who claims to understand the nature of God fully, even after encountering God on a Damascus road or in a dream, is practicing a particular kind of religious self-deception. God cannot be reduced to any one person’s understanding – or any one faith tradition’s creed.

My best attempt to catch a glimpse of the Mystery is an analogy. Having two sons has shaped the person I have grown into. I’m not defined by my role as mother, but I have been changed by it in ways I cannot articulate. They are both separate individuals, unique and not defined by their being sons. But there is delight in our connection, and life is richer for it.

If that is true of me, it’s true of so many others. If it’s true of so many of us, how much truer it must be of God.

Perhaps I’m better off to open myself up to the mystery rather than try to explain it…

In All and By All

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…Prayer of St. Basil

[For full prayer, click St. Basil’s Prayer: Lent 2024 above.]

How different a world this would be if we could honestly sing and confess that God is; if God were truly glorified in all and by all, would we ever raise a hand against another – much less an army?

And yet. Isn’t the presence of God in every life form, in every breath that gives life and movement? Does the sad truth that I cannot see it and celebrate it with any constancy change the sanctity of all that is, or the holiness of the creator of all things?

Distracted

Open our mouth and fill it with your praise, that we may be able without distraction to sing and confess that you are God.. St. Basil’s Prayer

I’ve never been one for keeping a frantic life pace or a packed calendar. I value the spaces in between work hours, life work, social events and community engagements. I don’t want to live a life of repeatedly catching up and inevitably crashing in an exhausted heap. I don’t want my epitaph to be she checked off all the items on her to-do list.

Unclaimed and unstructured space is necessary to restore body, mind, spirit, and heart; it widens my perspective, helping me see myself and my neighbors. It clears away the distractions of my activities and commitments, and opens the door to the place I meet God.

I don’t want to miss out on the singing and confessing because I’m too distracted by worldly cares and commitments. I don’t want to live that life.

Does anyone?

Not Interested

Indolence: the state of showing no real interest or effort. (Cambridge English Dictionary)

It’s more than mere laziness, it’s inattention and inaction due to lack of interest. It’s having zero motivation to do anything new because nothing seems worth the effort. Why expend any energy if I don’t give a damn about what I see around me?

How can anyone get to the point where nothing is worth the effort, when nothing sparks even the tiniest bit of interest? Once at that point, how can anyone find a way out of such a dreary, soul deadening place?

I see one way out every Tuesday morning: Story Time. Babies, toddlers, and their adults gather to sing a few songs and enjoy a couple of short stories. Simple words, simple tunes, and a place to enjoy them. Eyes light up, smiles and laughter dance among the gathered; the tots play and explore, but it’s their adults whose spirits are renewed.

Make no mistake: indolence crushes the soul. It’s a disease of the spirit that sucks the joy out of life and turns the world gray. Fortunately, all it takes is the eyes of a child to cure it.

…and a little child will lead them (Isaiah 11:6b)

Enlighten the eyes of our understanding, and raise up our minds from the heavy sleep of indolence. St. Basil’s Prayer [click St. Basil’s Prayer: Lent 2024 for full prayer]