Archive for April, 2009

There was a very thought-provoking piece in today’s issue of Religion Dispatches , the excellent online religion magazine compiled by religion professors. The piece, written by Wendy Cadge, a religion sociologist at Brandeis University, raises very interesting – and serious – questions about the role of spirituality within our hospital system – regardless of what really happened between the nurse and patient who inspired Cadge’s piece.

Cadge, who has conducted research about spirituality among nurses, found that prayer is quite common between nurses and patients. No surprise there, for me – long-time readers of this blog remember when I prayed at my mother’s bedside during her hospital stay. Cadge mentions nursing telling her about families praying at bedsides with Bibles and Korans and of families placing medals in bed with the ill. Again, not really a surprise to me, as I have brought prayer beads to people in hospitals. But I was quite taken with the following paragraph:

“Attention to spirituality is not uncommon among nurses. A recent survey of 299 nurses working at a university hospital found that 84% think there is something spiritual about the care they provide (in comparison to 24% who think there is something religious about the care they provide). Only 4% think that promoting spirituality is at odds with the real purpose of medicine.”

This kinda got me. How could promoting spirituality – NOT PROSELYTIZING, NOT TRYING TO FORCE DEATHBED CONVERSIONS – be at odds with the purpose of medicine? Medicine’s goal is to help us heal. Spirituality’s mission is to help us heal. Duh.

Okay, Terry and I are off to Italy Saturday. I think my next blogpost will be from Torino – likely about the church where the Shroud of Turin is held.  SEE YOU IN ITALY.

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That is the last line in this excellent essay by Bono that appeared recently in the New York Times. By the time I got to the end, I had chills. I read the whole piece with awe (and envy?) at his ability to write so clearly, so intimately, so movingly. Why should I be surprised? He has written some gorgeous music over the years and shown himself to be what I would consider a “true” Christian – living seriously by the Golden Rule. Anyway, take a read. It made me think.

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Today – April 16, 2009 – The News Hour with Jim Lehrer did a long feature story on Bead For Life. Some of you may remember that I held a Bead For Life party in my home last year and between sales there and among my friends and husband’s co-workers, we raised over $1,000 for this organization that benefits Ugandan women. The founder prefers “empowerment” to “charity” and after watching the segment, I can see why. They have helped so many people rise out of poverty, and many of them have now purchased houses built by Bead For Life, paying for them with beads! You can watch the segment on the NewsHour’s website, above.

The feature was excellent and I highly recommend you watch it. Then consider holding your own Bead For Life party, or just order a bag of paper beads from them from which to make a set of prayer beads. You can read entry I wrote about an Anglican rosary I made with my Bead For Life beads here, with pictures.

I want to ask everyone’s patience over the next two weeks, as my husband and I are frantically getting ready for a month-long trip to Italy (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). My time for blogging between now and when we go may be limited, as I also have to finish up a bunch of work before we can go. Oh, and clean my house. Drat. My husband has some work in Italy and a conference and I am tagging along. Once there, I will blog from all of the places we visit – Turin (as in “The Shroud of”), Trent (as in the “The Council of”), Venice (as in “The Merchant of”), the Cinque Terra (I got nothin’ here), Florence (as in “A Room with a View” of), Siena (as in the Crayola crayon “Burnt Siena”) and, lastly, Rome (as in . . . . “There’s no place like . . . “). I will take prayer beads, use prayer beads, seek out prayer beads and otherwise just have a darned good time. I like religion, so you can bet I’ll be blogging about some great places of faith.

So if I don’t write before I get to Italy, please understand. But just you wait til I get there!!!!

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Birkat Hachama

Sunset today (April 8 ) marks the very rare celebration of a particular ritual in Judaism known as the Birkat Hachama. This is also a good description. I have been a religion reporter for 15 years now and had not heard of this ceremony – in English, “The Blessing of the Sun” – or its accompanying prayer. No wonder – it is celebrated only once every 28 years – and this year it falls on the first night of Passover. You can read a good NY Times story about the celebration here.

How this concerns us, who are interested in prayer beads, is in the prayer itself:

“Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the universe who makes the works of creation.”

It struck me that this prayer is totally in keeping with what I wrote on Monday, about praising and thanking God for the gifts and blessings we see around us everyday – all of creation.

So add this prayer to your practice today. I know I will.

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Spring is definitely here in Northern California. In my yard, the wisteria is swaying in the breeze, my lilacs are scenting the air, the California poppies are bobbing their orange heads and the yellow rose bush is just about ready to give me a couple of vasefuls of buds. For the first time since Bella died I am feeling the joy in life again.

To honor the return of this blessing to me, I want to use Holy Week for prayers of thanksgiving. The things I am grateful for are things I think we can all be grateful for – the fact that the sun is warm, that flowers are here or are coming, that we are here to experience these simple gifts.

And that puts me in mind of the beautiful, old Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts.” This is the part that really resonates with me today:

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

It will be in the valley of love and delight.

“The valley of love and delight.” What a beautiful place that sounds like. If the last month of depression and grief and sadness has taught me anything it is that it is up to me to create my own valley of love and delight – if I choose to do so. Today, I say I choose to do so.

So here are my prayers of thanksgiving for the valley of love and delight I choose to see around me. I am saying them on the Pearls of Life, also called the Wreath of Christ. If you have my book, I write about this form of Lutheran prayer beads on pages 39-41. I have blogged about my own set here, with pictures and instructions for making one. As they have no set prayers, you are free to write or compile your own. Mine are below, inspired by this week of renewal. Feel free to use them, change them to suit your own faith or needs.

On the God Pearl

Thanks be to you, O God, for all the blessings you have given me.

On the (first) Pearl of Silence

For the gift of the earth and all it contains, I thank you.

On the Baptism Pearl

I shall love the Lord with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength and with all my mind.

— adapted from Luke 10:27

On the (second) Pearl of Silence

For the gift of my family and all the love they provide, I thank you.

On the Night Pearl

Holy spirit, expressing the world,

Help me to awake this day and realize

That God is in this place. —adapted from Genesis 28:16

On the Mystery Pearls (three)

1 – God with me lying down

2 – God with me rising up

3 – God with me in each ray of light —from the Carmina Gadelica

On the Love Pearls (two)

1 – I bless you Lord, for the beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass

2 – I bless you Lord, for the taste of good food, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away.

Chief Dan George

On the (third) Pearl of Silence

For the blessing of my friends and all the support they offer me, I thank you

On the Serenity Pearl

For this is to live the life eternal: To experience our indivisible relationship with God

John, 17:3

On the (fourth) Pearl of Silence

For the gift of my abilities and all the comfort they bring me, I thank you

On the Desert Pearl

The wind is your messenger, the clouds are your chariots.

All creatures exist in you. What endless variety you are. — Psalm 104

On the (fifth) Pearl of Silence

For the love of my pets and animal friends and all the solace they bring me, I thank you.

On the Resurrection Pearl

Praise the everlasting and the holy.

Take joy in the miracle of creation,

For we live in the mystery of the unbounded.

In this marvelous world, we are alive. —- Psalm 135

On the I Pearl

Blessed are those who are aware that they dwell in you,

For they fill their days with peace. —-Psalm 84

On the (sixth) Pearl of Silence

For all the glory of your creation and all the beauty it brings me, I thank you.

On the return to the God Pearl

Thanks be to you, O God, for giving me the gift of life and all its bounties.

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p4010108Today, my baby is one year old. Yeah! And it seems, according to my publisher that this, my third child, will be the most susccessful. Double Yeah! So to celebrate, I bought my baby a little chocolate cake and – because she is my girl – a Diet Coke, and we invited a few friends from different denominations to come and celebrate.

And it has been a year! It started with a starred review in Publishers Weekly and continued with articles in several papers, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Toledo Blade, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Jackson Citizen Patriot. More recently, Beliefnet.com has featured prayer bead galleries compiled by me and will mount a “how-to” gallery this month on making an Anglican rosary. I’ve been on radio and even a podcast! I’ve had a blast.

But the best thing of all has been hearing from people who find this blog. I never thought when I started this that I would make friends – I think real friends – with people I’ve never seen and never even heard their voices. We live all across the country but we are joined not just by out use of prayer beads, but by what I believe is a real caring for each other. You know who you are, you readers who I hear from all the time. Thank you, my friends. You have made all the hard work that went into this book and this blog so worth it.

So here is my prayer for the day – the first of my own composition that I offer here:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the gifts you have given me that have helped me reach other people and find so many friends. In the coming year, please help me to find the inspiration, the purpose and the joy to do whatever may be “next” for me. I ask that you continue to keep all of us close to you and help usto see the clear path ahead. Amen.

(See why I don’t write my own prayers?)

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