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It has just come to my attention that there were a whole slew of comments that were awaiting my approval that I had completely missed! Some of them dated back to last December! People, I am so sorry about this! I am not the most gifted person when it comes to dealing with computers and technology and I assure you this was just an oversight on my part. I thought WordPress was sending me an email each time there was a comment awaiting approval, but apparently not – or I just missed a whole heckuva lot of these emails. Anyway, some of you sent some wonderful comments about your own prayer practices, your prayer beads and the way some of the prayers and stories I’ve posted have made you feel or think. I am so sorry for the lag in sharing them.

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”)

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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.
Amen.

Guest Blogging Today

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?

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.

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!

Standing up to prejudice

Standing up to prejudice

In the category of “something to pray for” . . .

I was watching the ABC Nightly News last Thursday night when they showed a story about the terrible prejudice and violence raging between the Uighurs and the Han in China. The images were particularly awful – men and women with bloody faces, people crying. Horrible. Particularly striking was the still photo of a single Uighur woman, whose husband and brothers had been arrested and taken no one knows where, standing up to the Chinese soldiers. You can see video of this story here.

How easy it is to say, “That is terrible. But it isn’t here.” But you only had to watch the very next story to have that shoved right back in your face.

The next story was about a community swimming pool in suburban Pennsylvania that had a contract with an inner city day camp to allow its children – almost all of the African-American – to use the pool one or two days a week. When the children showed up, white people got out of the pool and made comments about how the black children might steal from them, etc. You know the kind of thing. I won’t honor them with repeating those foul ideas here. Then, in what must surely be the worst case of tin ear in a decade, a spokesperson for the swimming pool issued a statement saying because they worried that the black children might “change the complexion” of their pool, they were returning the camp’s money and canceling their contract. You can watch video of this story here.

It does happen here. Everyday. Everywhere – despite the election of the first African-American president, the nomination of the first Latina to the Supreme Court, the first whatever. Watch these two stories. Look at the faces of the Uighur woman who has endured state-sponsored racism and the little boy who was told he wasn’t good enough to swim with the white folks. Then, in the coming week,  let’s all offer this prayer for tolerance and understanding taken from the Islamic tradition:

IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE COMPASSIONATE, THE MERCIFUL, look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the controversial teachings of arrogance, divisions and hatreds which have badly infected our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; reunite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish Your purposes on earth; that, in Your good time, all nations and races may jointly serve You in justice, peace and harmony.

Metta Prayers

In response to one of my last posts, a reader named Jan Lundy sent the following nice comment:

“I so appreciate this post and the heart and candor you put into your writing. I also appreciate the prayer you’ve shared by Rabbi Rami. Yes, may we pray for all those who are suffer through the loss of a loved one. For all those who suffer. Whatever beads we use, prayer forms we use (I do metta), may our hearts be inclined toward the One within the all. May you be blessed…”

I had never heard of “metta” – at least not by that name. So I emailed Jan back and asked for an explanation and how it might be prayer bead friendly. I got such a great and informative response, I asked Jan’s permission to share with you. Here is some of what she said:

“Metta is a form of loving-kindness prayer/meditation rooted in the Buddhist tradition. It is very powerful and transformative. Because so many of the beloved Buddhist teachers today use and teach metta in an inter-spiritual way, the practice is finding its way into many hearts.”

The she provided this link for a description of metta. Then she continues:

“I wrote about my ‘discovery’ of this prayer practice in my book, Your Truest Self. If you are open to those of other traditions, you may find it quite lovely. It would work well with prayer beads…

“As for myself, I was raised in the Christian tradition, but today consider myself a truly inter-spiritual person with definite Eastern leanings. I am an Interfaith Spiritual Director trained through the Dominican Center in Grand Rapids, MI,  a blessedly, open and hospitable learning environment. I often teach “metta” in my classes there and even offer it on retreats for Christian women—if they are open to it.”

Jan included her website, her blog, and sent me this wonderful excerpt of the book:

Exerpt from Your Truest Self

©2008, Janice Lynne Lundy

On metta…..

As I am learning from Mari, openheartedness to others can only happen in proportion to how openhearted we are to ourselves. She speaks to me of gentleness, kindness, self-compassion. There is a pattern here, a strong and sturdy thread of truth that weaves through all our languaging and traditions. No matter whether we call ourselves Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Sufi —or “nothing in particular, and at the same time everything,”as Mari does—it is all the same. Our journey into thesacred begins with our relationship with ourselves and ripples out from there. What other practices can we do to keep our hearts open to others? None, until our own hearts are open to what lies within them.

Metta, from the Buddhist tradition, is one such practice for the purpose of cultivating lovingkindness for ourselves and others. We begin by directing metta—lovingkindness—to ourselves first. Sitting quietly, we can mentally repeat, slowly and steadily, the following or similar phrases: “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”1

Lovingkindness meditation consists primarily of connecting to the intention of wishing ourselves and others happiness. After a period of directing lovingkindness toward ourselves, we then bring to mind a dear one, someone in our life for whom we care deeply. We slowly repeat phrases of lovingkindness toward them:

“May you be happy.

May you be well.

May you be safe.

May you be peaceful and at ease.”

In time, we will find ourselves able to send our lovingkindness to others— friends, neutral others, difficult others, even enemies.

Finally, we direct lovingkindness to every single human being on earth. Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg tells us that this practice proceeds in a very structured way. Through repetition, with time and grace, “We open up our limits and extend our capacity for benevolence,” she says. “Through the power of this practice, we cultivate an equality of loving feeling toward ourselves and all beings.”2

I love this idea – that we have to direct the loving-kindness (the prayer) to ourselves before we can send it to another and then out to the whole world. I am going to try these prayers (“May I/you be happy,” etc) with my prayer beads. Give it a try and let me and Jan know what you think.

Thank you, Jan, for this wonderful exercise!

Meet Taffy

Many of you sent me lovely comments and prayers following my post last March about the death our beloved dog, Bella. It was very difficult to lose her and I spent a good six weeks in a pretty bad depression. But my husband and I promised ourselves that when we returned from our May vacation, we would adopt another dog.

Readers, here she is . . . . . . TAFFY!

Taffy!

Taffy!

Taffy is a 7-month-old Belgian Malinois mix we adopted from our local animal shelter about three weeks ago. She was placed in their night deposit box, probably by her owner. She had a boo-boo on her nose, which is now almost all healed. I saw her the day she was processed and that’s all she wrote, as they say.

Taffy may have been a foreclosure dog. She came to us housebroken (with a few lapses), seemingly crate trained, and knowing a few hand signals. I don’t think was abused because she seems unafraid of everyone and everything.

The day Taffy came home

The day Taffy came home

Taffy is quite a handful. I have not had a puppy since I was a teenager. We are having a mouthing issue, but it is getting better. She is showing all the signs of being a wonderful, loving companion. She sleeps through the night in her crate, she loves to go to the dog park, and her favorite toy is a plush stump with three squeaky chipmunks she can pull out and wrassle with. We both love her and she loves us.

Taffy and String Dog

Taffy and String Dog

So that’s the update! Now, when you think of me writing, picture sweet little Taffy asleep somewhere nearby. Believe me, if she isn’t a asleep, I ain’t gettin’ nuthin done.

Okay, a couple more pictures below:

Taffy loves Terry

Taffy loves Terry

Running free at the dog park

Running free at the dog park

CrownI think I missed a week in this category. It certainly wasn’t because there was a dearth of things worthy of our thoughts and prayers. Hardly. I just could not get past the media hype about Michael Jackson (you don’t really need me to make a hotlink for him, do you?) to find anything really meaningful to say there and then there’s the fact that we got a new puppy (!!!!!) and so now I am sleep deprived. Throw in a couple of deadlines . . . and anyway, those are my excuses.

But last night, lying in bed, I was catching up on some old New York Times newspapers and I came across an essay in the Sunday Styles section (always the first place I go on a Sunday because of its guilty pleasure combination of worthy writing about usually unworthy subjects). Anyway, the first thing I read in the section is the Modern Love essay. This is written each week by a different person and always has to do with the accommodations people make in their lives to find room for love – of a significant other, a child, a parent, a passion – anything. Usually, these are a good read. Once in a while they really suck. And occasionally, for me, they hit a home run. That happened last week in the June 28 issue of the paper.

In that day’s essay, “Raising a Princess Single-Handedly,” Simon Van Booy wrote about the way he and his four-year-old daughter are learning to live together as a family after the sudden death of his wife, her mother. This is a subject that hits home for me. As many of you know, I have two sons – but they are really my stepsons. I married their father after their mother died suddenly, just before Christmas. They boys were then 6 and 8. And I remember how they and their father tried to put their lives together after that lightning bolt. So when I read this piece, it really resonated as true.

I think it also struck me because today would have been my best friend’s 45th birthday. Happy Birthday, Darrell. I love you.

So this week, I ask that as we use our prayer beads, we say a round for all those who suffer the loss of a close family member or other dear loved one.  Here’s a prayer to get you started:

May we discover through pain and torment,
the strength to live with grace and humor.
May we discover through doubt and anguish,
the strength to live with dignity and holiness.
May we discover through suffering and fear,
the strength to move toward healing.
May it come to pass that we be restored to health and to vigor.
May Life grant us wellness of body, spirit, and mind.
And if this cannot be so, may we find in this transformation and passage
moments of meaning, opportunities for love
and the deep and gracious calm that comes
when we allow ourselves to move on.

– Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro (as posted on Beliefnet.com)