Tag: prayer

of then, of now, of forever

Stjohnsshadows2

it seems there’s so little time left
which means i must be selective
not must
but want
i want to be selective about how i spend the time i have left.

i want to do big little things that 
will change not the world
but my world.

near the top of The List:
to spend some time reconciling with
prayer
and poetry.

Stjohnsshadows1

it seems to me that prayer is usually a petition
made on behalf of self or someone else.
it’s a turning over (something i’m not very good at).

poetry is more of a turning out.
turning inside out.

maybe prayer is a turning inside out when there’s nowhere else to turn.

i’ve been mad at both for too long
poetry because of
that english teacher who
focused too much on the rules
(which sounded a lot like history class
with its unending string of dates)
and was too generous with her red ink.
with prayer
because i was taught
that not everybody could do it.
everybody should do it
everybody must do it
but not everybody could do it.
only men
were to speak to god.
my contribution was to be part of the
every-head-bowed-every-eye-closed gang.
i was first puzzled then angry
that i couldn’t pray by my own self.
not in front of anybody anyway.
it was okay if i prayed without moving my lips.

but now i pray throughout the day.
i pray to trees, asking for strength and wisdom.
and to the falls asking for relief and clearing.
i pray to the sky asking for a bigger vision
and to the clouds for nap time.
to the blooms i pray delight and gratitude
and to the boulders, i pray a sigh.
to the afternoon i pray a dance.
sometimes i lay out my ponderments and uncertainties
and ask for clarity and maybe a sign.
i pray to daddy asking for help with this or that.
i pray in a host of ways to a host of recipients
and i still don’t move my lips all that much.

one thing prayer and poetry have in common:
no words are necessarily required.
walking can be a prayer or a poem.
same goes for
singing 
laughing 
crying 
cooking 
and even cleaning.

with the right attitude and choices,
days can be prayers and poems.
entire lives can be prayers and poems.

Thefalls05apr15

the engineer planted flowers yesterday.
my son called.
my daughter smiled.
the sky thundered.
the trees danced.
the cats napped.
i stitched.

i rest my case.

a doorway

Iris2

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
Zora Neale Hurston

At long last, I’m reconciling with prayer. For so long, I’ve avoided thinking about it altogether, avoiding it like the plague, actually. Probably has something to do with the missionary telling the young teenage me about the man who came into her storefront church and how when she called on him to lead the prayer, he stood up and with his eyes kept open, spread his arms wide and said something like “Hey God, it’s me, James” then just started having a conversation. Having grown up in the world of men (and only select, special men, mind you) leading us in prayer “with every head bowed and every eye closed,” this story was a breath of fresh air. The missionary, however, was absolutely appalled and said she cut him off mid-prayer and asked him to leave. Banished.

Now, Sugar, you need to know that I love being a Southerner, but as a woman living in the proverbial Bible Belt, it’s dangerous to use words like “prayer” lest they confirm the stereotype (that in my case, is not true) and get the dreaded label attached to your forehead. It’s something that’s hard to wash off.

So yes, prayer and I became estranged a long, long time ago. But then one day recently, I sent a letter to prayer by way of my journal and asked Couldn’t walking be a prayer? Yes, came the answer. And Do we have to call on men to lead us in prayer? First there was a chuckle, then a sigh, and finally a No, absolutely not. Anybody can pray, anybody at all.

After a while, my intense dislike of prayer began to wane, and I came to decide that among other things, prayer is a way to give the brain a vacation . . . or at least a day off. Seems to me that prayer is paying such close attention to Small Things that you can’t help but feel Something Big.

We’re not completely There yet, prayer and I, but we’re working on it.


PRAYER IN MY BOOT

For the wind no one expected

For the boy who does not know the answer

For the graceful handle I found in a field
attached to nothing
pray it is universally applicable

For our tracks which disappear
the moment we leave them

For the face peering through the cafe window
as we sip our soup

For cheerful American classrooms sparkling
with crisp colored alphabets
happy cat posters
the cage of the guinea pig
the dog with division flying out of his tail
and the classrooms of our cousins
on the other side of the earth
how solemn they are
how gray or green or plain
how there is nothing dangling
nothing striped or polka-dotted or cheery
no self-portraits or visions of cupids
and in these rooms the students raise their hands
and learn the stories of the world

For library books in alphabetical order
and family businesses that failed
and the house with the boarded windows
and the gap in the middle of a sentence
and the envelope we keep mailing ourselves

For every hopeful morning given and given
and every future rough edge
and every afternoon
turning over in its sleep

says Naomi Shihab Nye

Amen
says me.

amen

i quit praying because
prayer represented a lack of self-reliance,
a neediness,
an inability to take care of my self and my own.

i quit praying because
i was told how to pray
and when to pray
and where to pray.

i quit praying because
i wanted to do it myself
in my own way
to my own spirit of surprises
with my eyes wide open.

well, guess what: i’ve taken up prayer again.

and even though my prayers may not
look like yours
or sound like yours
or be directed to the same god or direction as yours,
they are still prayers.

my prayers.

and on any given day
they sound like laughter
and feel like slow cloth
and taste like mom’s cubed steak
and smell like gardenias
and look like this:

prayers.jpg

because sometimes
prayers deserve pretty paper
and to be written in blood
and sealed with a big, fat, juicy kiss.

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