Archive for August, 2009

Old Men

I have not meant to be silent for so long. I have been busy – as I am sure we all have – with end-of-summer rituals and last-minute vacations, all of them balanced with work, work, work.

But I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and one of the things I came across, about an older man who had to defend himself, his employee and his business from a group of robbers, struck me as something we all might think about and pray on. The man, Charles Augusto, Jr., shot four robbers, all young men, who tried to rob his business and pistol ship his employee. Two of the robbers died and the other two were in serious condition, last time I checked. Mr. Augusto is being hailed as a hero, but he feels like anything but. Here’s the story, from the NY Times, and here’s the section that hit me in the gut:

“While Mr. Augusto, who was born in Yonkers to parents of Dutch, Irish, English and Italian descent, is by no means troubled financially, he described himself as a person whose life had dealt him his share of blows. About 12 years ago, his son committed suicide. Mr. Augusto called his years as a young man in the Coast Guard “the only time I had any fun in my whole life.” He said he has not been able to pay himself since January.”

and . . .

“Despite all the congratulations, Mr. Augusto said he wished that the men had left when he urged them to and that he would not have had to use the shotgun.

“I know the pain these people must feel,” he said, referring to the families of the two who were killed. “I don’t know what feels worse, now or when my only son died.””

On the same day, the Times ran another story about another man Mr. Augusto’s age whose life also didn’t turn out as he would have wanted. As a young man, Albert Perdeck was a seaman aboard the USS Bunker Hill when it was attacked by the Japanese. He survived, but many of his friends did not, and the horrors he saw that day still haunt him. He has only recently found his way to a support group for WWII veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This is the part of the story that got me:

“Mr. Perdeck sits in a small community room at Leisure Village West, surrounded by the brittle newspapers and old photographs he carries with him. “Everyone’s laughing,” he says of today’s world, voice rising again, tears coming again. “And I still smell it! I smell it now — beyond 60 years!”

You’ve seen these Al Perdecks all your life — sipping early-morning coffee, say, with buddies at McDonald’s — but less so now. Stocky, not tall, with shock-white hair and a Norman Mailer look of pugnacity. Wearing shorts, dark socks and a boxy baseball cap embroidered with the name of the ship on which he served. You’ve seen him.”

Two men of a certain age, a certain generation that does not always know how to reach out for help. I ask that today we remember these two men, and all people whose lives and work have not always brought the fruits they deserve, in our prayers and on our prayer beads. Here’s a prayer to get you started. If using prayer beads, maybe say this whole prayer on the charm before beginning your usual round of prayers.

Lord God, Father of us all,

I thank you for the lives of our elders,

I lift them up to you, Lord.

Encircle them with the light of your love.

As their world continues to diminish,

Let them feel the embrace of your everlasting arms surrounding them, upholding them;

Enable them to rest under the shadow of your wings;

Give them such an awareness of your presence

That all fear and anxiety will be driven from them

So that they may abide in your perfect peace.

I entrust them to you, Lord; love them home.

(–adapted from “A Prayer for Elderly Parents” by Patricia O. Horn in “Women’s Uncommon Prayers”)

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Today marks the 64th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, three days after the same anniversary (Aug. 6) of the bombing of Hiroshima. The bombings, the first deployment of nuclear weapons, killed more than 200,000 people – men, women and children. For more information about the religious community’s commemoration of this sad day and resources on how to observe it, go to the website of the National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Weapons Danger.

So, in today’s category of something to pray for, I suggest we remember the victims of those bombings and all other bombings, right up to present-day terror attacks and war strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. I found a prayer on the website of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program titled “A Prayer for Those Attacked by Bombs and Rockets.” I suggest we try it this week – in some form – on our prayer beads. Perhaps say the whole prayer on the first “Our Father” bead, if you are using a Catholic rosary, or the “invitatory bead” if you are using an Anglican one. If you use another form – mala, subha or something else – adapt it as you see fit. The prayer goes like this:

Eternal God,
On this day we pause to remember
The devastating power we have crafted from your creation.
We remember people attacked by bomb blast or rocket attack
In Folkestone and Guernica,
In Warsaw and Rotterdam,
In London and Coventry,
In Pearl Harbor and Wake Island,
In Hamburg and Dresden,
In Pyongyang and Hanoi,
In Baghdad and Tel Aviv,
In Oklahoma City and Bali,
In Belfast and Madrid,
In Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
In places whose names have been lost,
Whose people we have forgotten.
Hold those who have died in your love.
Strengthen those who still struggle with wounds.
Comfort family members who grieve.
Pour your Holy Spirit anew upon the human family
That the day might come when
Bombs and rockets and all weapons of war
May be beaten into implements of healing and wholeness.
Through Jesus Christ we pray.

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Okay, everybody head over the Jan Lundy’s Awake is Good blog and see what she and I and all our great readers have to say about prayer beads as an enhancement to spiritual practice. Chime in with a comment – how about your favorite prayer bead prayer?

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In the category of something worth praying for . . . .

In Monday’s New York Times, there was an article by Dan Frosch about uranium contamination in many homes in the Navajo Nation. It seems that many Navajo houses show high levels of poisonous uranium left over from the days when these Native Americans mined the element for the U.S. government. You can read the article for a better understanding than I can give you about the physical impact of the poisoning. I was struck by what the article said about the spiritual toll it has taken on the Navajo:

Ms. Lane described the difficulty of watching families, particularly elders, leaving homes they had lived in for years. She told of coming upon two old miners who died before their contaminated homes could be rebuilt. “In Navajo, a home is considered sacred,” she said. “But if the foundation or the rocks are not safe, we have to do this work.”

Later in the story, a Navajo man whose home is contaminated andwill likely be destroyed, said, “In our traditional way, a house is like your mom . . . It’s where you eat, sleep, where you’re taken care of. And when you come back from the city, you come back to your mom. It makes you feel real good.”

When we use our prayer beads this week, I suggest we pray for the people of the Navajo Nation who must lose their homes – even if it is temporary. I also suggest we remember all people, both here and abroad, who are homeless. Here is a Navajo prayer to get you going:

Today I will walk out, today everything evil will leave me,
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever,
nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.

In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.

With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.

In old age wandering on a trail of beauty,
lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty,
living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful.

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Guest Blogging

Dragonfly wings

Dragonfly wings

I am making my first appearance as a “guest blogger” this Thursday on Awake is GoodJanice Lynne Lundy‘s excellent blog on meditation, contemplation and plain old spiritual awareness. Jan is the author of Your Truest Self and is a spiritual teacher and retreat leader based in Traverse City, Mich. While much of her work is founded on Buddhism, she has an interfaith focus – something I think you all know I believe in profoundly.

Last month, Jan commented on one of my blog entries and mentioned the practice of “metta prayers,”  something I had never heard of. I asked her to explain to all of us what that was, which she did in another blog entry. Soon we were engaging in an email exchange that is culminating in me submitting something for her readers who may or may not have experience with prayer beads.

So, on Thursday, I’ll make an announcement here about my “appearance” on her blog, with a link, and I hope you will all engage in a conversation with Jan’s regular readers about how you combine contemplative prayer with beads. There will also be a giveaway of a copy of my book, so be sure and get hooked up on her blog for that!

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