Monday, January 31, 2011

Prayer #150: "From Wonder to Comprehension"

Grand Canyon in feet. Taken January 29, 2011.

From the Grand Canyon Guide to the South Rim:

Why Grand?

Often described as Earth's greatest geological showcase, the ensemble of stunning dimensions -- the melding of depth, width, and length -- sets Grand Canyon apart. Nowhere else features such a dazzling variety of colorful rock layers, impressive buttes, and shadowed side canyons. Grand Canyon is the canyon against which all other canyons are compared. [...]
The geologic story is rich in detail and mystery. Attending a free ranger program may move you from wonder to comprehension.

Prayer #150: "From Wonder to Comprehension"

How big was the easel that held Your canvas for the world?

How much did You hem and haw, palette in hand, while billions of years passed below? When You formed the sun and moon, was it with an eye on the variable light they'd cast on Your masterpiece?

You are the only artist I've encountered whose tools move on their own. And as such, Your master work will never hang complete, for the natural world You set in motion edits, shapes, and evolves the art within.

I try my best to record each shifting view. Still, many I miss. Many more I've not even had a chance to see.

But You don't mind; You keep waving and calling me closer. For there are no ropes or lines or burglar alarms here -- simply an open invitation to press my nose against the frame until I pass into the paint itself.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Prayer #149: Good Love


His parents are good people.
She comes from good stock.
He has a good heart.
She has a good job.
He would make a good husband.
She, a good wife.
Sound good?

Prayer #149: Good Love

Lord, in our search for love --

be it through hometown busybodies
or intercontinental pursuits
or online matchmaking
or old friends re-imagined
or a pause on a park bench,
waiting for a glance --

help us remember that You
created this mysterious power
to express the spectrum of good.

So when You heap Your love upon us,
may we absorb some
and share some
and all around do good by Your gift.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Prayer #148: Heartwarm-up

Bus-stop Boxer

It's a truth universally acknowledged that a person in want of a bus will wait longer on frigid nights.

That was the case last week when I turned to ice waiting for the N4 after my voice lesson. Though it was only 7:15 pm, the evening had already soaked in cold ink for a couple hours. I tucked myself into a corner of the stop to block the wind, which helped for about four minutes.

The more often I craned my neck to see if the bus was coming, the faster I lost sensation in my digits. When the bus finally arrived, I leaped on and sat as far from the doors as possible.

When I transferred to the Metro, I passed two homeless men huddled in the entry way. One crouched next to a busted suitcase packed with his possessions. The other was laying on the concrete wrapped in city-issued blankets. Both wore old parkas, black hats, and gloves.

At first sight, I thought, "I should buy them a hot sandwich." But I didn't.

When I crossed the entryway, I thought, "Or at least a coffee." But I didn't.

When I stepped onto the escalator, I thought, "You really should stop, Julia. At least offer it to them." But I didn't.

At the bottom of the station, I thought, "Now or never. Think how bad the bus stop felt for 30 min. Now imagine 8 hours of that. Help them."

But even then, I didn't.

Instead I swiped my metro card to ride a heated train home where it took a hot meal, two sweaters, and three more degrees on the thermostat to defrost me before bed. And when I arrived back at the train station the next morning for work, I did not think to look at the corner and see if the men were still there.

What stopped me from stopping that night? Why did I let the cold reach my heart? And how can I warm up to the right thing next time?

Prayer #148: Heartwarm-up

God of white-hot light --

Heat my constricted heart, so that it expands beyond its natural boundaries and blossoms in the presence of those who need its compassion most.

Illuminate the creeping corners I refuse to examine, so that I finally confront my inadequacies and leave them to evaporate in the noonday sun.

Ignite in me a passion for social justice, so that 'Your will be done' ceases to be a rote recitation and instead becomes my clarion call for action in an unbalanced world.

You manifest as a pillar of fire to demand our attention. Demand it of me now; I wish to extinguish it no more.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Prayer #147: Table Grace

Always Say Grace And Bow Your Head Before Eating

Remember the last time I visited how we say grace before meals? Well, the topic resurfaced over winter break when Fella and I were breaking bread (or, more precisely, breaking lentil soup) at my house.

My approach: I like saying the standard Christian Bless us O Lord grace slowly before every meal -- or at least, every meal that I remember to do it, which usually comes out to just dinner.

Pros: Everyone who knows the prayer can participate. The ritual and habit allows reflection.

Cons: The prayer can become rote and meaningless. It's short, so there's a tendency to rush.

His approach: He likes saying a free-form grace, usually before dinner, that derives from spontaneous feeling and "however the Spirit moves you"-ness.

Pros: It directs your thoughts and focuses you not just on the food, but on your experiences. The continual change can command your attention.

Cons: Sometimes you might be at a loss for words. Also, not everyone can say it along with you.

In both cases, however, we agreed that the act of stopping, thinking, and expressing gratitude was important no matter the vehicle, and the point was to take it slow and take it to heart.

But that's just us. How do you feel about saying grace? Do you say it at all? If so, any particular prayer or style? If not, why? Share in the comments.

In any event, try this one on for size ...

Prayer #147: Table Grace

Bless the tree that formed this table
Bless the tools that shaped our chairs
Bless the food from field and stable
Bless the hands that coaxed it there
Bless the souls who gather here bowed
Bless our thoughts and hopes and deeds
Bless us as we make the vow now:
Honor God, the one who feeds.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Prayer #146: Epiphaninny

urban epiphany: life is around you and in you

Are you an overemotional ninny -- one who weeps with little provocation over things sad and joyous alike? Or maybe that's just me lately?

If you said yes, then perhaps we should examine our triggers for ninnyness. By the end of a VERY weepy 2010, mine included but were not limited to:

* good conversations with my mother
* thinking of things a dear friend who passed away this year would enjoy
* picturing one of my best friends as a mother when her first little guy arrives this spring
* Josh Groban's newest CD
* Love Actually ... again
* writing cards and letters to people I love
* news of people's engagements -- four in the last two weeks!
* my friends' surprise announcement that they're expecting (that one got a Miss America-style rapid hand wave in a futile effort to ward off tears)
* Josh Groban's Christmas CD
* anything involving bells, trumpets, and people singing like bells and/or trumpets
* the score of "The Polar Express" (see: people singing like trumpets)
* choral flash mobs
* hearing real Gregorian Chant at a monastery
* reading an excellent YA novel for three hours straight (not sure if it was the fine writing or the dystopian universe the author created that set me off ...)
* having Fella sitting next to me on the couch
* discussing mortgages with people I went to prom with
* accepting that Josh Groban doesn't know I exist

And yes, all of these items caused me to cry either on the Metro, while driving, in my pillow, at the kitchen table, in front of my computer, on the phone, and myriad other ridiculous places over the course of the last year.

Not always comfortable or flattering, I assure you. But being a leaky faucet brought me something unexpected -- an epiphany.

Epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning 'manifestation.' It reveals the essence or meaning of something, changes your perception, and sparks your intuition. In other words, epiphanies are little but profound earthquakes that shake up what you thought was solid and show what's hidden in the ground below.

My epiphany was that overemotional ninnyness signals a fault line. It split my naivete wide open and showed me that really loving, really mourning, really celebrating what we're put on earth to do can't help but move you. In fact, if you're not moved at least occasionally, your heart has likely fallen out of your chest. Get that checked out.

I thought I had always understood this. I mean, it's a simple enough concept, right? But it took true loss, doubt, and gratitude -- over and over and over again -- to show me how deep and wide our lives run. I didn't know how much I didn't know. And 2011 will now be a richer year for having grasped it -- tears and all.

Prayer #146: Epiphaninny

To a God who cracks me with a lightning bolt and then knocks me over with a fingertip --

Turn me into a leaky faucet. Make me the snottiest, snivelling-est sap You can think of. Leave me curled in the fetal position as I use up the entire annual output of Kleenex tissues.

But don't do it to torment. Do it to instruct. Do it so that I can't avoid what You're trying to tell me. Do it so that I can comprehend an infinitesimal fraction of what You take on every second of every day for every one of your creation.

Eventually I'll calm down, blow my nose, and splash water on my face. Then I'll walk out the front door and tell the world what You have done for me.

Even if it makes me cry.