If you were unable to attend #TDOR services in your area, we ask that you read and reflect on this piece from Rev. Theresa I. Soto:
What is prayer? According to Wikipedia, “Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. Prayer can be a form of religious practice, may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private.” Prayer is seen as definitively religious. Prayer can be healing. Prayer can be a destination for our thoughts. There are as many ways to prayers as there are people who pray.
Beliefnet collected The Essential Prayers of World Religions. They are the Refuge Prayer from Buddhism, the Lord’s Prayer from Christianity, the Faitha from Islam, the Gayatri Mantra from Hinduism, and the Shema from Judaism.
Some people sing. Some people use prayer beads. Some color mandalas. Some pray out loud. Some pray silently.
“The Atheist Prays” by Barbara J. Pescan wrestles with the questions about praying when you are unsure if anyone is listening.
I am going to leave you with a song from Kesha’s new album.
Peace and Prayers,
Pain is hard to sit with. We always want to make it go away. What happens when we focus on the pain instead of focusing on what we will do when the pain is gone?
According to this article’ “Biblical Laments: Prayer out of Pain” lamentations are necessary for spiritual growth. What are lamentations? Here is their definition: ”
I believe the words of pain are important because they keep us grounded and allow us to feel.
In the Hebrew Bible the book of Lamentations is full of pain. Here are some words from chapter 3:
And yet, several verses later in the same chapter it is said,
Pain leads to prayer. Pain leads to finding a problem. Sitting with our pain can helps us find out where it comes from.
I will leave you with a quote from Brené Brown,
What is Focus?
Here are some of the definitions from Merriam Webster Dictionary
To close today’s devotional I will leave this prayer
Dear great lathe of heaven,
O foundry of souls,
You churning, burning cosmos which has wrought me on the infinite loom of your celestial body.
Spinning stars and indifferent stones: hear my prayer.
Do not curse me to perish with all my dreams fulfilled.
Do not afflict me with a vision so narrow and a heart so small,
That all my greatest hopes could be accomplished within a single lifetime.
Rather, bless me with an unquiet spirit.
Anoint me with impertinent oils.
Grant me dreams so great and numerous,
That I might spend the fullness of my days to realize them,
And have ample remaining to leave to my inheritors.
Holy gyre that bore me and must one day take me home,
Allow me the mercy to depart this life with unfinished business.
“Use loneliness. Its ache creates urgency to reconnect with the world.”
— Natalie Goldberg
I know a little about “merry” meeting “mess” at the holidays — and by a little I mean How much time have you got?
Four Christmases ago, a painful break-up sent me spinning into a long tango with depression. Two Christmases ago, I came down with the stomach flu. Last year, as tears streamed down my face, friends cut off my long hair in preparation for my first round of chemotherapy. And this year? Like many, I’m grieving an election that, I believe, has already damaged the hearts and bodies of our country’s most fragile people.
I haven’t soured on the holidays, however — and I will not give up on Christmas — for two reasons.
First: long before my heart was broken and I lost my hair to chemo, I learned to shape the holidays to fit into whatever-shaped hole is in my heart.
At times, this has required ingenuity and vigilance. The holidays, laden as they are with traditions and sacred cows, can pull us into programmed ruts rather than genuine wonder. To ask, What do I truly need? and How can I claim my longing for joy? can happen only when we allow ourselves to practice vulnerability and take mindful pauses.
The other reason I won’t give up on Christmas is its central message: the Holy will never give up on us, her people. In fact, from Hanukkah to Solstice, that’s the message of most winter holy days: the Holy — call it God, call it The Force, call it Love’s Impulse — will never give up on us, even when we feel like curling up in a dark room and revoking our membership in the human family.
If I believe that your love will never let us go, I imagine saying to the Great All That Is, the least I can do is be your spy on the ground. I’ll keep watch for love, for compassion, for magic, for awe; and I’ll report back regularly, just to feel close to you.
Every one of you, Sugar Plums, has a story about the holiday blues: crisis, loneliness, wanting to give up. Telling our stories helps restore our wholeness. Tell yours. While you’re at it, form a plan for the coming weeks so that on the other side of this winter, you can look back and say, “Here’s how I made it gentler on myself, and here’s where I remembered that love will show itself, again and again.”
You reveal yourself to us in myriad ways, Gentlest of Ways, and at this time of the year you remind us that you’ll never turn away from us. Whether our hearts are merry or miserable, may our longing keep turning us toward you, and toward the presence of your Love among us.
I found this video from CBS News about Puerto Rico facebook this morning, along with a plea from a friend asking how to help. Many of us feel powerless in these natural disasters. We feel too far removed and lacking in resources to help on a large scale. But there are ways to help.
There are many places to donate, which becomes confusing and reputable charities seem harder and harder to find. Here is an article from Public Radio International about how to help Puerto Rico and here is a great website that helps you navigate charities and donations. Here is the UUA Disaster Relief Fund should you want it.
Some of us also want to pray, so here is a beautiful prayer written by UUA staff member Anna Bethea and translated by Rev. Jorge Espinel of the Church of the Larger Fellowship.
A Prayer for Hurricane Recovery
The quickness of nature to tear up roads, strip trees, and collapse buildings
Doesn’t compare to the long process of survival and recovery.
Splayed electric lines, floodwaters, and landslides mark devastation,
Yet will never match the lives, dreams, and memories of precious things swept away.
Amidst the dirt and muck, families get up another day to search for clean water and food
While struggling to stay cool and communicate with loved ones,
There is time for tears and emotional release.
While watching, waiting, adjusting, surviving,
There is time for embrace, reunions, prayers.
A return to normal is hard to even imagine – months and years away.
Trauma is a time for us to center the sacred:
The core of who we are, shielded from any storm or disaster.
As we seek resources for immediate needs,
May we also tend to our own and our communities’ needs to restore hope, love, and the seeds of new life.
Oración por la Recuperación del Huracán
La velocidad con la que la naturaleza destruye carreteras, derriba árboles y tumba edificios, no se compara con el largo proceso de supervivencia y recuperación.
Líneas eléctricas derribadas, inundaciones y derrumbes son señales de la devastación pero no se comparan con las vidas, los sueños y los recuerdos de cosas valiosas que han sido arrasadas.
En medio de la basura y el fango las familias se levantan día a día a buscar agua limpia y comida, mientras se esfuerzan por permanecer en calma y comunicarse con sus seres queridos.
Hay tiempo para llorar y soltar las emociones mientras observan, esperan, se ajustan y sobreviven. Hay tiempo para abrazos, reuniones y oraciones.
Es difícil imaginarse lo que es volver a la normalidad, que puede tardar meses y años.
Los momentos de trauma son momentos para enfocarnos en lo sagrado, en la esencia de quienes somos, protegida de cualquier tormenta o desastre. Mientras buscamos recursos para solucionar las necesidades inmediatas, busquemos también maneras de ayudar a los nuestros y a nuestras comunidades a restaurar la esperanza, el amor y las semillas de una nueva vida.
May these words provide you peace, but also motivate you. May these times that we are living in not cause you distress, but allow you to rise to the occasion and be the person you want to be.