Category Archives: Prose & Poetry

Sleepless in Suburbia

Another night of staring at the ceiling
the television button illuminating the room to show the shadows and heaps of laundry waiting to be folded
silent peepers not helping,
as the hum of speeding late night drivers on the parkway filters through the woods
12:45am

The sheet is wrinkled
The pillow is damp
My legs twitch and itch
as a heat rash begins as air bubbles churn through my empty stomach

I should have made a list.
What did I forget? What do I want to forget?
You can do it. Don’t think.

Concentrate on breathing
In and out
What phone calls need to be made tomorrow?
How am I going to make all these deadlines?
There is no balance. All is out of whack.
Control is an illusion.
Did I put the casserole I made in the freezer
or is it rotting on the kitchen counter?
Why did I say, “Yes”?
Things done and left undone
Let it be.

Breathe.
In and out
Scratch.
Toss.
Turn.
Throw off the blanket.
Maybe a drink
Maybe some Tylenol
Now hives. Time for the Zyrtek
1:30am

Creaking down the hall touching each floorboard that is not tacked tight
The glow of the dishwasher ‘done’ light illuminates the kitchen.
Water drunk. Drugs taken.
Make a list? Triage tomorrow?
Instead, sit in front of the glow of Cities and Knights
One game, two
2:15am

Don’t bump into the luggage in the hall
Toe joints crack
Same wrinkled sheets
Lay back
A steady pattern of breathing from the next pillow
Lay still
Things done and left undone
Let it be.

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A Prayer for Mothers

My mother, Trinette (b. 1926)

Mother’s Day will soon be here. I am not a big fan of “Hallmark Holidays,” although this one began out of a different tradition. According to “Mothers Day Central” (yes, there is a website called this), celebrating mothers can be traced back to Egyptian, Roman and Greek eras in history.

A later incarnation of a holiday to honor Motherhood came from Europe. It fell on the fourth Sunday Lent (the 40 days of fasting preceding Easter Sunday). Early Christians initially used the day to honor the church in which they were baptized, which they knew as their “Mother Church.” This place of worship would be decorated with jewels, flowers and other offerings. Today we often call this “Mothering Sunday” in the High Anglo tradition.

The first North American Mother’s Day was conceptualized with Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. Despite having penned The Battle Hymn of the Republic 12 years earlier, Howe had become so distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War that she called on Mother’s to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of their Sons killing the Sons of other Mothers. She called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood through a Mother’s Proclamation.

In 1907, Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948), a Philadelphia schoolteacher, began a movement to set up a national Mother’s Day in honor of her mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis. She solicited the help of hundreds of legislators and prominent businessmen to create a special day to honor mothers. The first Mother’s Day observance was a church service honoring Anna’s mother. Anna handed out her mother’s favorite flowers, the white incarnations, on the occasion as they represent sweetness, purity, and patience. Anna’s hard work finally paid off in the year 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as a national holiday in honor of mothers.

Mother’s Day can be a difficult day for many. For those who never knew their mothers. For those who cannot have children. For those who had abusive mothers. For those whose mothers have recently died. This year, I will have “one less mother,” as my mother-in-law passed away 8 days ago. My own mother is not the person who she once was, having lost much of her memory and skill of years gone by. I’m a mother of two children who have left the nest, so I won’t be seeing them this Sunday. (I hope they call – hint, hint, if either of you read this).

I offer this prayer, which perhaps can pertain to all of us – who are children of God, the mother and father of us all:

A Prayer for Mothers by Rick Morley

On this day when we remember our mothers, let us offer our prayers to Jesus, the son of Mary.

Because on this earth we are all sons and daughters of Eve, let us pray for the whole world and the church universal, that we might behold each other as brothers and sisters. Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

As Rebecca gave birth to Jacob, and in so doing she gave birth to a whole nation, let us pray for our own nation, and for all in authority. Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

As Rachel’s son Joseph was mistreated, beaten, and wrongly jailed, we pray for all in this world who are in trouble of any kind. We pray for the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, and the victims of war and all who live in terror’s wake. Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

As Hannah, the mother of Samuel, went to the House of the Lord to pray with earnest integrity, we earnestly pray for those in this community, and especially those celebrating their birthdays this week  . . . Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

As Naomi took Ruth into her home, we pray for those who act as surrogate, spiritual mothers. We pray with gratitude for all those who give the gift of love and nurturing. Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

As Elizabeth gave birth in old age, and as she saw her son John the Baptist carried off to persecution, we pray for all those who are sick, those who are suffering, and those with any need, especially. . . Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

And, as the Blessed Virgin Mary stood by the cross and watched her son die, we pray for the dead and the dying. Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

Lord Jesus, who wishes to gather your people as a mother hen gathers together her brood, we offer to you our prayers. Accept our gratitude for all who mother, bless all who mother, and give all mothers your comfort and strength. And help all of us, brothers and sisters, to be your family on earth, as we shall be in Heaven. Amen.

Rick Morely is an Episcopal Priest and the rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. He blogs at A Garden Path.

Oscar Romero

This week we celebrate the anniversary of the assassination of Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador. On March 24, 1980 he was gunned down while saying Mass in a hospital chapel during that country’s civil war. Once a lightning-rod for criticism because of his support for liberation theology, Archbishop Romero today is seen as a champion of human rights.

President Barack Obama will visit his tomb during his visit to El Salvador this week, a gesture that some say is U.S. recognition of the slain human rights activist’s cause. Romero spoke out against repression by the U.S.-backed Salvadoran army during the Central American country’s 12-year civil war in which at least 75,000 people died. The government and leftist guerrillas reached a peace treaty in 1992. “It’s historic,” said Congresswoman Lorena Pena, a former guerrilla fighter with the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a rebel group-turned-political party. “It’s a recognition of our pastor who was killed for fighting for justice, for democracy and human rights.” (Washington Post, March 19)

I often like to share the Prayer of Oscar Romero when I speak at events focused on Christian formation. To me, his words resonate the role that we have as Christian educators in our world today:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,

It is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction

Of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying

that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about,

we plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted,

knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation.

In realizing that. This enables us to do something,

And to do it very well. It may be incomplete,

But it is a beginning, a step along the way,

An opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference

Between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Amen.

Marked by Ashes

by Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)

Marked by Ashes

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.

This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

For over thirty years now, Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) has combined the best of critical scholarship with love for the local church in service to the kingdom of God. Now a professor emeritus of Old Testament studies at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, Brueggemann has authored over seventy books. Taken from his Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), pp. 27-28.

This, Too, Is Heaven

It’s snowing here again in Connecticut. We seem to have had a major storm every week for the past five (is it five?) weeks. Yesterday I went to fill the bird feeders, and had a hard time tramping in the snow that went past my knees. I fell over a couple of times. Of course, not having have boots on could have attributed to this. Later in the day, Shadow (our cat, who has found a nice perch at the window to watch the squirrels and birds close-up), flipped out. Not knowing what spooked her, we looked up to see a deer climbing the pile of snow at the window to feed. Guess we should get a salt lick.

Every day I get a meditation from Inward, Outward. Today’s was especially appropriate as I look out my office window with more white stuff coming down from the sky.

Henry David Thoreau‘s, “This, Too, Is Heaven

Every winter the liquid and trembling surface of the pond, which was so sensitive to every breath, and reflected every light and shadow, becomes solid to the depth of a foot or a foot and a half…and it is not to be distinguished from any level field. Like the marmots in the surrounding hills, it closes its eyelids and becomes dormant for three months or more.

Standing on the snow-covered plain, as if in a pasture amid the hills, I cut my way first through a foot of snow, and then a foot of ice, and open a window under my feet, where, kneeling to drink, I look down into the quiet parlor of the fishes, pervaded by a softened light as through a window of ground glass, with its bright sanded floor the same as in summer; there a perennial waveless serenity reigns as in the amber twilight sky, corresponding to the cool and even temperament of the inhabitants. Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.

Source: Walden