Monday, July 28, 2014

Prayers for Peace

At church yesterday, Pastor Jonas read this prayer:


Present and active God, help us to be worthy of trust . .
     your trust . . . our neighbor’s trust

Help us to breathe in the desire for power
     and to breath out a desire for peace.

Help us to breathe in sure knowledge that we are right,
     and to breathe out knowledge that evil can lodge
          in our hearts too.

Help us to breathe in adversaries who bring out our worst selves,
       and to breathe out our best most compassionate             
           selves when we face those who do not trust us
               and whom we ourselves do not trust.

Help us to breathe in the “good” religious selves that we are
   and to breathe out a self awareness that admits
       that we can and do hide from ourselves . . . and you
               even in our prayers.

Help us to breathe in self seeking motives
      we label as pure,
          and to breathe out
                a more vulnerable love.

Help us to breathe in measured logic and calculated risk
     and to breathe out the foolishness of God which            
            passes understanding.

Help us to breath in a false sense of self-enlightenment,
     and to breathe out the knowledge that we can
          never fight evil as if it were something that arose
               totally outside of ourselves.

Help us to breathe in a love that is exclusively for       
      self and family,
            and to breathe out the love of Jesus Christ – a            
                   love for all people, everywhere.

-Adapted from a prayer by Nanci Self who adapted a prayer by Judyth Hill and Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder

Two peoples, one land,
Three faiths, one root,
One earth, one mother,
One sky, one beginning, one future, one destiny,
One broken heart,
One God.
We pray to You:
Grant us a vision of unity.
May we see the many in the one and the one in the many.
May you, Life of All the Worlds, Source of All Amazing
Help us to see clearly.
Guide us gently and firmly toward each other,
Toward peace. Amen
                                                  -- Rabbi Sheila Weinberg
Jewish Community of Amherst, Amherst, MA

Then, after church was over, I drove home, turned on my tablet, and saw this post from writer Anne Lamott:

Many mornings I check out the news as soon as I wake up, because if it turns out that the world is coming to an end that day, I am going to eat the frosting off an entire carrot cake; just for a start. Then I will move onto vats of clam dip, pots of crime brûlée, nachos, M & M's etc. Then I will max out both my credit cards.

I used to think that if the world--or I--were coming to an end, I'd start smoking again, and maybe have a cool refreshing pitcher of lime Rickeys. But that's going too far, because if the world or I was saved at the last minute, I'd be back in the old familiar nightmare. In 1986, grace swooped down like a mighty mud hen, and fished me out of that canal. I got the big prize. I can't risk losing it. 

But creme brûlée, nachos, maybe the random Buche Noel? Now you're talking.

The last two weeks have been about as grim and hopeless as any of us can remember, and yet, I have not gotten out the lobster bib and fork. The drunken Russian separatists in Ukraine with their refrigerated train cars? I mean, come on. Vonnegut could not have thought this up. Dead children children on beaches, and markets, at play, in the holy land?? Stop. 

The two hour execution in festive Arizona? Dear God.

And let's not bog down on the stuff that was already true, before Ukraine, Gaza, Arizona, like the heartbreaking scenes of young refugees at our border, the locals with their pitchforks. The people in ruins in our own families. Or the tiny problem that we have essentially destroyed the earth--I know, pick pick pick. 

Hasn't your mind just been blown lately, even if you try not to watch the news? Does it surprise you that a pretty girl's mind turns to thoughts of entire carrot cakes, and credit cards?

My friend said recently, "It's all just too Lifey. No wonder we all love TV." Her 16 year old kid has a brain tumor. "Hey, that's just great, God. Thanks a lot. This really works for me."

My brother's brand new wife has tumors of the everything. "Fabulous, God. Loving your will, Dude." 

My dog Lily's ear drum burst recently, for no apparent reason, with blood splatter on the walls on the entire house--on my sleeping grandson's pillow. Do you think I am well enough for that?
Let me go ahead and answer. I'm not. It was CSI around here; me with my bad nerves. And it burst again last night. 


Did someone here get the latest updated owner's manual? Were they handed out two weeks ago when I was getting root canal, and was kind of self-obsessed and out of it? The day before my dog's ear drum first burst? If so, is there is an index, and if so, could you look up Totally Fucking Overwhelm?

I have long since weeded out people who might respond to my condition by saying cheerfully, "God's got a perfect plan." Really? Thank you! How fun. 

There is no one left in my circle who would dare say, brightly, "Let Go and Let God," because they know I would come after them with a fork.

It's not that I don't trust God or grace or good orderly direction anymore. I do, more than ever. I trust in divine intelligence, in love energy, more than ever, no matter what things look like, or how long they take. It's just that right now cute little platitudes are not helpful. 

I'm not depressed. I'm overwhelmed by It All. I don't think I'm a drag. I kind of know what to do. I know that if I want to have loving feelings, I need to do loving things. It begins by putting your own oxygen mask on first: I try to keep the patient comfortable. I do the next right thing: left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. I think Jesus had a handle on times like these: get thirsty people water. Feed the hungry. Try not to kill anyone today. Pick up some litter in your neighborhood. Lie with your old dog under the bed and tell her what a good job she is doing with the ruptured ear drum. 

I try to quiet the drunken Russian separatists of my own mind, with their good ideas. I pray. I meditate. I rest, as a spiritual act. I spring for organic cherries. I return phone calls.

I remember the poor. I remember an image of Koko the sign-language gorilla, with the caption, "Law of the American Jungle: remain calm. Share your bananas." I remember Hushpuppy at the end of Beasts of the Southern Wild, just trying to take some food home to her daddy Wink, finally turning to face the hideous beast on the bridge, facing it down and saying, "I take care care of my own."

I take care of my own. You are my own, and I am yours--I think this is what God is saying, or trying to, over the din. We are each other's. Thee are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.
--Anne Lamott, Facebook post

I don't know how people like pastor Jonas and Anne Lamott have such insight into the human condition. They know just what to say when I need to hear it.Current events have been making me feel overwhelmed this week. Helpless.

But experiencing two such amazing prayers for peace on this Sunday, this day of rest and rejuvination, helps me start the week anew. Renewed. Hopeful. Ready to start over and find out how I can help.