How do we pray.

preciouslife

What does it mean to pray anyway?

Is it a prayer when we breathe in the scent of the baby in our arms as we close our eyes against the press of tears and think, “Thank you, thank you, thank you”?

Is it a prayer when we groan with the weight of hopes and dreams unrealized and unclear and seemingly out of reach?

Is it a prayer when we crumble to the ground, broken, and whisper, “Help. Please help me.”

Is it a prayer when we stand in awe of creation as Mary Oliver does of this grasshopper:

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Yes, all of it. It is a prayer every time you are grateful. It is a prayer when you reach out in hope. It is a prayer when you glimpse something more, deeper, wider than the here and now. Paying attention to whomever or whatever is right in front of you and to the longings of your own heart puts you in the middle of the miraculous unfolding all around us.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Is it I, Lord?

isiti

In tumultuous times, who will speak for peace, for love, for our common humanity? Who will seek to soothe rather than rile? Who will hold people close rather than shove them away? Who will model a better way? Is it you?

Please watch this lovely video and ponder in your heart how you might sow kindness where there is division, love where there is hate, hope where there is despair.

 

Here I am Lord

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard My people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear My light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them,
My hand will save
Finest bread I will provide,
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give My life to them,
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

Sow love.

sowlove

How do we bring peace to a contentious world? Perhaps the only way is to meet hate with love, anger with forgiveness, strife with peace. Please take a minute to enjoy these children singing Make Me a Channel of Your Peace:

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord.
And where there is doubt true faith in You.

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is despair in life let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness only light.
And where there’s sadness ever joy.

Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in giving to all man that we receive,
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Live abundantly.

abundantly

Jesus on the cross bore the suffering of the world, not just of those who loved him or treated him well or believed in him, but everyone throughout time. As Madeleine L’Engle describes in her book Glimpses of Grace:

For Jesus, at-one-ment was not being at one only with the glory of the stars, or the first daffodil in the spring, or a baby’s laugh. He was also at-one with all the pain and suffering that ever was, is, or will be. On the cross Jesus was at-one with the young boy with cancer, the young mother hemorrhaging, the raped girl. And perhaps the most terrible anguish came from being at-one with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, the death chambers at Belsen, the horrors of radiation in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It came from being at-one with the megalomania of the terrorist, the coldness of heart of “good” people, or even the callous arrogance of the two men in criminal court.

We can withdraw, even in our prayers, from the intensity of suffering. Jesus, on the cross, experienced it all. When I touch the small cross I wear, that, then, is the meaning of the symbol.

For you and for all. Imagine that kind of love embracing you….and your enemy….and the person you think least deserving. Everyone. God so loved the world.

 

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

heart

As 2016 heads to a close, we look  forward to a new year and turn our attention to how to make it our best year yet. In this powerful TED talk, Steve Jobs reflects on his life and offers insights into how to make these decisions so that, when you die, you will truly have lived. Chief among these is his insistence on following what you love, regardless of whether that makes sense, and even when that path goes in unpredictable or unestablished ways. He urges us not to waste time by leading someone else’s life by following their dogma or sense of what should be done, but instead to pursue our own hearts and intuition because “they somehow already know what you truly want to become.” Death, he claims, is a powerful motivator because confronting it squarely strips away the inessential and makes the vital more plain. We “are already naked,” he points out. There is nothing to lose by following your heart.

Jobs reminds us not to lose faith. Sometimes “life is going to hit you in the head with a brick,” but that is not the end of your story. Instead, failure opens up new opportunities and possibilities. Keep doing what you love. Keep following your own heart and intuition.

Keep the faith.

Open your eyes.

meanttolove

Do you have any disagreeable people in your life? People you avoid, maybe?

What if they are the ones who need love the most?

Most teachers will tell you that the child who acts out is the one most in need of love and attention. but those kids have learned to ask for it in all the wrong ways. And those children grow up, sometimes into disagreeable adults who still ask for love and attention in all the wrong ways. Maybe they have been disappointed so many times, they’ve learned to strike first, to reject you before you reject them.

Do you know anyone like that?

It’s no particular challenge to love the people who love us. But the ones who rile us, who ruffle our feathers, who are caustic and rude? That takes some serious patience and humility. But, perhaps, that is a place you are desperately needed.

Be kind.

kindness

Kindness isn’t something you ponder in your heart. It is something you do–with your hands, with your words, with your gifts. Person to person, face to face. Lift those who have fallen; feed those who are hungry; speak up for those without a voice; reach out to those who feel alone.

In her song, Hands, Jewel reminds us that even when our hands are small, they are the tools we have to help others and we must use them. That is the way we will use our lives to make a difference for the better in the lives of those around us.

When she was 18, pop singer Jewel lived in a van. One day, she walked into a store to shoplift a dress; but looking at her hands, she realized she controlled them. “I realized I was cheating myself.” Here’s a song titled ‘Hands’ with a beautiful refrain: ‘In the end, only kindness matters.”

Listen to Jewell’s beautiful song here. And, today, contemplate her words:

We will fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what’s right
Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken

Today, be kind. Look for any and every opportunity to make a difference.

 

Lead your children well.

children

None of us knows what the future holds. But we do know the values we hold dear–honesty, integrity, love, compassion, empathy, respect, tolerance. As we raise our children, we instill these values. As adults, we model these values whether we win or lose, succeed or fail, sink or swim.  Watching us, they learn, and, as they go forward into their futures, they will bring these values to their own decisions. If each of us does this, we will leave the world a better brighter place for our having been here.