Posted tagged ‘Prayer’

Post post-election words from Anne Lamott

November 20, 2016

I have passed through the initial five stages of grief: denial anger bargaining depression and acceptance. Now I am in fascination—cobra hypnosis, newly apoplectic every day by the latest. I believe I have actually keened within recent memory. At this rate, I may have a flickering tic in my eye by sundown. Also, I am doing the unconscious eating that everyone I know is doing, whole packages of Oreos for us sugar freaks, whole bags of chips for the salty-fats crowd, oat-bags of dip, whole sides of beef: no little dog is safe in the midst of our voracious appetite for numbness. I absolve everyone: It’s okay for now. We need ballast.

Because we’re all doomed. It’s hopeless.

Oh, wait, never mind.

But what do we do, what do we do?

We have to figure this out—oh wait, never mind. Figure out is not a good slogan (altho certain very tall people in your household and classrooms always insisted that this was the golden path to glory.) (I will not name names.)

Where do we start?

Well, that one I can answer. We start here, where our butts are. We get up and feed the dogs—I said feed them, not eat them.

We can say a little prayer even if we are not believers: “Help” is a great prayer. “Help me, help me, I am a completely doomed human,” is even better. When my then six-year-old son got his head stuck in the bars of a chair at the dining table of some friends we were visiting, he went unnoticed for a time, and then a tiny voice piped up and said, “I need help with me.” The friends had this calligraphied and framed for us. I say it at least once a month.

I’ll tell you a great praise prayer for the believers, and then one for the Nons.

I have a friend who is a hopeless alcoholic of the worst sort, like me, who somehow like me has put a few years between those cool refreshing beers we had with breakfast, just to get all the flies going in one direction. She went to some sort of “meeting,” and met up with a woman who had had most of her tongue removed during surgery for an aggressive oral cancer. She shared during the meeting that the cancer had returned and she needed another round of chemo. Everyone looked on in dismay, but she flipped her wrist dismissively. “Oh, I’m not worried,” she said. “God’s got it.”

God’s got it. This is so not me. I’m more of a Rube Goldberg machine of herky jerky attempts at control, domination, and, most importantly, assigning blame. But then the pain and isolation of feeling like the Wizard of Oz gets my attention and eventually, I give up. I surrender. I lay down my weapons, and breathe, maybe not like the Dalai Lama, but less like a sturgeon on a dock.

And for the Nons: a dear friend once got a call from a world-famous screenwriter, who, in the throes of grandiosity, had lost or was losing almost everything precious to him. He recounted a litany of troubles and obsessions, from the distant wife to the scary child to the lack of prospects, and then demanded that my friend gave him one good reason to stay here on this vale of tears.

My friend listened attentively, which is pretty much all we have to offer, and then said, “Mornings are nice.”

That’s a gorgeous prayer.

“i thank You God for most this amazing day:” cummings wrote, “for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”

So that’s where we start—here, now, damaged, scared, grateful, surrounded by our beloved, by sad strangers, with lots of poor people to care for, a world to save, a bracing cup of coffee, walks begging to be taken, lonely people to check in with, Oreos and Cheetos to get through, (someone’s got to do it,) a whole new day before us, that we can screw up or not. Sigh. Here we go.

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Anne Lamott’s Facebook post, because they’re wise words that I need. Maybe you do too.

Chambers of Prayer

January 23, 2015

I’m one of those people who believes in the power of prayer. “Prayer” is an interesting concept, meaning different things to different people — and taking different forms. For the most part, I’m not a formal pray-er, nor even someone who prays with words. I certainly don’t want to be telling God what to do. I’m more of an “attitude of prayer” pray-er. I can’t even say meditative. More like contemplative, or maybe I should say ruminating.

There are two definitions of ruminating: one is disciplined thinking and caring about something; the other is when an animal like a cow has already eaten something but not digested it, so she brings it up from one of her two* four stomachs to chew it more. From a chamber with one purpose to prepare it for a chamber with a different purpose. Prayer as sitting outside in the sunshine, “chewing something over” to make it more functional, while at the same time mulling, caring.

I also frequently say that I hold someone in my heart as a form of prayer. We talk about our hearts as our emotional centers, but that’s just a metaphor. In physical truth, our hearts are four-chambered organs vital to our existence. But I say it because it has shared meaning — not something I need to explain.

But this is the one I like most. Prayer as the chambered nautilus.

2015/01/img_1456.jpg

A newly hatched nautilus wears a shell divided into four small chambers. As a nautilus grows, it gains more living space by building new chambers connected to the old ones; adult shells have 30 chambers (from the Monterey Bay Aquarium website).

Here we have an ocean-dwelling creature that starts out small, with four chambers (like the human heart), but as it matures, it grows more and more of these beautiful, pearlescent chambers — separate, yet interconnected — as many as needed. A wonderful image to visualize as my form of prayer.

And so when I say that I hold someone in prayer, this is what I mean.
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* Funny how certain “facts” we’ve known forever end up to be untrue. A friend informed me that cows have four stomachs. Doesn’t change my metaphor, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

Prayer Rocks

March 1, 2010

Although our house isn’t directly on an old riverbed, much of the area surrounding us is–and our church is. There is a lot of quarrying of gravel and stone. But mostly just a lot of rocks. Simple rock, lots of granite. Everything from sand to boulders.

When I was little, I would often find “treasures” as I walked home from school or played in the streets (which were our playground). These treasures were often pieces of machines: gears, springs, screws, etc. I would pick them up and put them in my pocket, and I would carry them around with me for weeks or days until I figured out what they were. After making this determination, I would throw it out and begin my search for the next treasure. I got pretty good at doing this.

Now that I’m older, my pockets are filled with a different kind of treasure. Mostly (but not all) little rocks. These rocks are reminders to me. I’ll be making my way through the world, and I’ll reach into my pocket and feel my collection. One rock or other item will make itself known to me–sometimes in a very insistent way–and I will rub it and hold it for awhile. This is a kind of prayer. Sometimes the prayer takes on words; often it is silent meditation. Each rock in my pocket represents a person who I know or know of who needs prayer. Sometimes they know that they need prayer and have requested it. Other times, it’s just something that I have opted to do for someone. Although my rocks are mostly larger than rosary beads, I still call them my deconstructed rosary.

The difference between my prayer rocks and my childhood treasures is that I never cast off my prayers. Once I’ve added to my rock collection, it remains there. It’s gotten so that I can’t carry all of these all the time. But I have a little place where I put them. Some are with me all the time; others get attention in the morning or the evening and get carried around when I know the person is in particular need.

This crazy spiritual practice is one that adds much to my prayer life. It’s one that I’ve told a few people about, but mostly keep to myself. So if you see me and notice that my pockets seem heavy and lumpy, know that I’m praying hard that day.

This is one way that I try to live into the words of Jesus:

… “And when you pray, don’t behave like the hypocrites; they love to pray standing up in the synagogues and on street corners for people to see them. The truth is, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to God who is in that secret place, and your Abba God–who sees all that is done in secret–will reward you.

“And when you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles. They think God will hear them if they use a lot of words. Don’t imitate them. Your God knows what you need before you ask it.”
(Matthew 6:5-8, The Inclusive Bible–Priests for Equality)

Prayer Rock