Posts Tagged ‘Pearls of Life’

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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Today is both Yom Hashoah, the day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust, we well as the 56th celebration of the annual National Day of Prayer, a holiday created by Congress in 1952. I have never marked the National Day of Prayer before partly because it seemed somehow artificial to pray because Congress says I should. And as a journalist, I have sometimes covered this day in the past and have found it hasn’t always been as inclusive as it should be. I have often marked Yom Hashoah by thinking about and praying for all those who were killed in WWII.

But how will that change unless we all make an effort to honor the true spirit of the day? In that spirit, I wanted to offer a new set of prayers for prayer beads. But on what theme? There’s an awful lot we need to pray about – the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the plight of the poor and hungry, the condition of our environment – too many, really for me to list them all here, though I try to keep them all in my prayers.

But so many truly happy threads are running through my life right now that I feel like rejoicing. A dear friend is expecting a baby after many, many years of trying. My eldest son will graduate from college next month. My youngest son has returned to college after a very trying year off. My husband and I will celebrate our tenth anniversary this month. And my mother is in good health after a scare in February. I am healthy and whole and – dare I tempt the fates? – happy.

I think, then, I must offer up prayers of thanksgiving. But I will temper my prayers of joy with one of hope – that on the next National Day of Prayer I will be praying my thanks for greater world peace, unity and prosperity than there is right now.

In that spirit – of joy, of inclusiveness, of thankfulness and of hope – I offer the following prayers drawn from Psalms 96 and 108 and from the book She Who Prays: A Woman’s Interfaith Prayer Book by Jane Richardson Jensen and Patricia Harris-Watson.

My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;
I will sing and make melody.
Wake up, my spirit; awake lute and harp;
I myself will waken the dawn. (Psalm 108)

I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. (Psalm 108)

1 – Sing to the Lord a new song;
2 – Sing to the Lord, all the earth
3 – Sing to the Lord and bless his name (Psalm 96)

Glory to you who creates,
Glory to you who sustains,
Glory to you who awakens

1 – I believe that you, O God, created humanity, female and male, in your image.
2 – I hear you, O Lord, and your call to love with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength, and with all my mind.
3 – I accept others, just as you have accepted me, in order to bring praise to you, O God.
4 – I hope to shine like the stars in the universe as I hold out the world of life to my community
5 – I am committed to growing in your knowledge and love
6 – I praise you for clothing me with yourself so that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
7 – May the Light who lightens my life today illumine all of my tomorrows.
[8 – Delight of my heart, rest in my peace; ]
[9 – Nestle into my presence.]
[10 – Amen.] (From She Who Prays: A Woman’s Interfaith Prayer Book)

And since we spent part of this week learning how to make and use the Pearls of Life, I offer this adaptation of the same set of prayers for that form of prayer beads:

Glory to you who creates,
Glory to you who sustains,
Glory to you who awakens

ON THE PEARLS OF SILENCE (say once on all six):
I praise you for clothing me with yourself so that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.

I believe that you, O God, created humanity, female and male, in your image.

I hope to shine like the stars in the universe as I hold out the world of life to my community

1 – Sing to the Lord a new song;
2 – Sing to the Lord, all the earth
3 – Sing to the Lord and bless his name

I accept others, just as you have accepted me, in order to bring praise to you, O God.

Delight of my heart, rest in my peace; nestle into my presence.

May the Light who lightens my life today illumine all of my tomorrows.

My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;
I will sing and make melody.
Wake up, my spirit; awake lute and harp;
I myself will waken the dawn

I hear you, O Lord, and your call to love with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength, and with all my mind.

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Last time we explored a single form of prayer beads, we looked at those used by Baha’is. Really, no rhyme or reason here – I just feel like exploring the Pearls of Life next.

The Pearls of Life – sometimes called The Wreath of Life – are one of the newer forms of prayer beads. They are Lutheran in origin and popped up within the last 20 years. They were created by Martin Lonnebo, a bishop in the Church of Sweden, who spent time on a trip to Greece contemplating the use and meaning of icons. You can read an interview with Lonnebo about the Pearls here.

The Pearls of Life is a smaller form of prayer beads, with a total of only 18 beads – 12 round ones and 6 oblong ones. Traditionally, it has no religious totem – no cross, crucifix or other symbol. Lonnebo has assigned each of the beads a specific symbolism, which you can read about here.

Like many of the newer forms of prayer beads, the Pearls of Life have no proscribed prayers – the user is free to assign any prayer he or she likes to any of the beads. It is a free-form prayer tool – you can sit in meditation and use it as an anchor for breathing, or you can use it more like a traditional rosary, reciting one, two or more prayers on the beads. You choose.

I recently made my first set of Pearls of Life. I am a notoriously literal person, so I went first to the synthetic pearl section of my local bead store, Baubles and Beads. But when I started to let my imagination go, I found myself in the semi-precious section, the glass section and the metal section. I came home with pearls, jasper, glass and blue lace agate beads. And for the all-important God bead, I found this great sphere of wrapped brass wire – it is hollow, sturdy, prickly, round, cool to the touch – but the metal picks up the heat of my fingers very quickly. Talk about symbolism!

In Bead One, Pray Too, there are directions for making the Pearls of Life on page 142. It is just basic bead stringing – thread a needle, string the beads, tie a knot. Just be sure and string the beads in the proper order – also on page 142 – or you can refer to the Pearls of Life website above. Here’s the set I came up with:

When you make your own set, feel free to explore the form. You don’t have to make it of round and oblong beads – you can distinguish your beads with other shapes or only with color. And if it suits you, add a charm or two. You can replace one or more of the beads with a cross, a heart, a star, a tassel, a flower – anything. See Deborah’s J.’s great set where she used a butterfly to represent the Resurrection Pearl – a fabulous idea.

Now go make some prayer beads – and send me pictures of what you come up with and what prayers you choose.

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I have been happily busy the last two weeks with my freelance work and some of it has really paid off – if not in $$$ then in notoriety. On Monday, a story I wrote for Religion News Service on the history of the religious polygamists in Texas ran in USAToday and about a week earlier, another story I wrote for RNS on protesters at the San Francisco Olympic Torch run appeared in several mid-sized papers, including the Albany Times Union and the San Antonio Express. And I am currently wrapping up a story on Christian suspense fiction for Publishers Weekly, which will run next month. In between, I went to a seminar called Re/Covering Islam at USC’s Annnenberg School of Communication and wrote the background materials for a ReligionLink “webinar” on Islam and politics. Whew!

All of which has kept me from writing as much as I want on this blog. Watch for two upcoming posts, one on the Lutheran Pearls of Life and another on a “trunk show” of the prayer beads that appear in Bead One, Pray Too that is on display through mid-May in an Ohio bead shop. Hopefully, the same trunk show will be coming soon to a bead store near you as I work to get it booked around the country.

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A couple of nights ago, “Deborah J.” left a wonderful comment on my posting about Baha’i prayer beads in which she mentioned becoming inspired by Bead One, Pray Too to make a set of “healing beads” for a friend. I emailed Deborah back and asked if she would share a picture and a description of these beads. Well, the emails have been flying back and forth for the last 24 hours, and it wasn’t long before I discovered what a thoughtful, soulful prayer bead maker Deborah J is. Here are some pictures of her work – first, the healing beads, and second, a set of Pearls of Life she made for another friend – and the story behind them both. Be sure and note that she took the ideas of the traditional prayer beads in the book and made her own unique versions of them.

First, a little about Deborah. She is in her 40s and “looks much younger, wink, wink” (meeeee tooo, Deborah!) and llives in Massachusetts. She has spent much of her working life in marketing, but is hoping to make a career change to orgnizational development. Deborah was raised a Catholic, though now she does not adhere to any one particular faith. Let me let her describe her faith: “I love learning about other religious tradtions and I always seem to find within them bits of philosophies that resonate with me. I consider myself deeply spiritual but not really religious. I truly believe that all paths lead to the same place. Right now I am exploring Yoga Nidra and perhaps it comes closest to describing my faith. I believe in a “Ground of Being” (I call it I AM) that is ever-present not only within us but is also around us and within every thing . . . My spiritual practice right now is focused on cultivating the awarness of this Presence in my every day life.

Deborah makes jewelry as a sideline and invites you to visit her at her blog, Renaissance Woman. Here’s what she had to say about these beads:

The Healing Beads:

“There was actually a method to my madness in bead selection; each bead has a meaning (for me):

-The heart is a Murano glass bead from Italy. It symbolizes love, of course, which I believe is an essential ingredient in healing. You might also be able to see the tiny spiral I made in the wire at the end of the bead. That represents the spiral of life.

-The stem is composed of size 6 white silver-lined beads and peridot seed beads. The white symbolizes the “white light” of protection and as you’ve mentioned in your book peridot is known for having great power for healing illness. I don’t know if you can see it, but I used a white bead and a peridot seed in between the weeks beads.

-The weeks beads are rose quartz, a stone of love that promotes peace, self-love, and healing.

-The cruciforms are green Swarovski crystal pearls. I like the concept of pearls as reminders that out of difficulty can come great beauty (pearls are the by-product of an “irritation” in the clam.) The pearl is green because in the yogic tradition green is associated with the heart chakra. It’s also associated with spring, renewal, growth and healing.

There are 3 sets of 7 beads – 3 representing the 3 aspects of self: body, mind, Spirit (or Soul or Essence). Seven weeks beads because as you mention in your book seven is a sacred number in many religious and mystical traditions (7 days, 7 sacraments, 7 chakras, etc.).

As I designed and strung the beads, I kept up a constant stream of prayers in my heart for my friend’sgood health and healing. I didn’t include any prayers, as I wanted her to feel free to use them in any way she likes. My hope is that they will be a tool to help her connect with the greater peace, strength and comfort that lies within her in every circumstance of life. I wrote her a letter that I’m including with the beads, that told her all of this with a diagram of the beads and their meanings.”

Pearls of Life:

“I LOVE the concepts for each of beads in the Pearls of Life. The philosophy reminds me somewhat of the Hero’s Journey. As I am going through a transition myself, that really resonated with me. The recipient has talked about going through “the ring of fire” to break through to a”core of peace”. She also talks about a butterfly in terms of transformation so when I saw the bead, it all seemed to come together.

The beads:

-God bead – beautiful carved Jade bead. It’s a hollow bead, with a lot of empty space which reminds of how God is in the “spaces between”, in matter, in between words (silence), in between space, etc. Jade symbolizes wisdom, peace, harmony, mercy and generosity.

-Pearls of Silence- faceted seed pearls. Loved the ruby color. You know my thoughts on pearls.

-I Pearl, Baptism, Mystery, Serenity – the carved wooden flower beads just jumped out at me because the recipient has an affinity for Africa. I guess you could call it an “intuitive hit”.

-Love Pearls are rose quartz symbolizing love, forgiveness and healing.

-Night Pearl is a beautiful deep blue stone with gold flecks. Seemed pretty indicative of the night to me!

-Resurrection Pearl – saw the butterfly bead and well, enough said.

I have ideas for Mother’s Day bracelets, which would be rosary bracelets made with my Mom and Mom-in-law’s birthstones. I want to make myself a “career meditation” bracelet based on the chakras to accompany Rick Jarow‘s “Anti-Career Guide” audio. I’d like to make a prayer rope out of silk cord, tied with Chinese knots and large hole beads..and well, the ideas just go on and on.”

Look to hear more from Deborah J in the future – I made her promise to continue to send me pictures and descriptions of her work.

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praying-with-beads-cover.jpgPraying With Beads: Daily Prayers for the Christian Year

By Nan Lewis Doerr and Virginia Stem Owens

Eerdmans Publishing, 2007

81 pages,


This slim book is like a prayer bead breviary – a short, concise guide to praying with the Anglican rosary on a daily basis. The book concerns itself solely with the Anglican rosary, with the bulk of the book holding a collection of prayers drawn mainly from the scripture read each Sunday in Episcopal churches. It contains a very brief introduction to prayer beads and a short description of how to use them as a prayer tool, both written by Virginia Stem Owens, a writer and an Episcopalian.


The prayers, compiled by Nan Lewis Doerr, an Episcopal rector at Church of the Redeemer in Houston, are organized around the Episcopal church calendar, beginning with prayers for Advent and Christmas before moving on to Epiphany, Lent, Easter and the season after Pentecost. Each season is introduced by a short description of the importance of the season to the church. Each day’s prayer is laid out like the daily offices of the church, with prayers for morning, noon and evening. Particularly helpful are the symbols used to show what prayers are assigned to the different beads – those for the cross are preceded by a small cross symbol, those for the invitatory bead have a small donut, the cruciforms have a kind of four-petalled flower and the weeks get a black bullet. In this, the book owes a debt to Phyllis Tickle’s series of prayer books, The Divine Hours, which has similar symbols before the different prayers of the day. Use of these symbols makes it easy for the eyes to know which prayers go with which beads without having to fully engage the mind – very important in contemplative prayer.


The book is aimed at Anglicans and other users of the Anglican rosary, but with some adjustment it could be used with a Catholic or Lutheran rosary, a set of Pearls of Life or other form of prayer beads you may have made for yourself. On the Catholic rosary, prayers assigned here to the weeks beads could be said on the decades beads and those for the cruciforms could be said on the Our Father beads. The Lutheran rosary is similar in format to the Anglican rosary and would require even less adjustment. And the total free-form nature of the Pearls of Life allows one to take any of the prayers in this book and assign them to any of its 19 beads.


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book-cover-image.jpgEvery major world religion has some tradition of counted prayer. And in all of these religions save one, these prayers are counted on beads. For Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants, prayer beads form a link between these diverse faiths and varied cultures.

My name is Kimberly Winston and I am a freelance religion reporter and author of a new book, Bead One, Pray Too: A Guide to Making and Using Prayer Beads. Among the forms of prayer beads I explore in the book are Hindu and Buddhist malas, Islamic subhas, Catholic rosaries, Anglican and Episcopal rosaries, Lutheran prayer beads, the ecumenical rosary and the Pearls of Life. The book is both practical – explaining how to make several forms of prayer beads and suggesting prayers for them – and personal – documenting my own spiritual journey with prayer beads. Bead One, Pray Too will be published in April 2008 by Morehouse Publishing.

The purpose of this blog is to begin a conversation with my readers and others who are interested in or use prayer beads of any kind. I hope we can share ideas on how to make different forms of prayer beads, either traditional or original, and on how to pray with them.

On this blog, I also plan to interview people of different religions about their prayer beads, how they use them and what they mean to their personal spirituality. We will talk to Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Neo-Pagans, including Wiccans and Druids. And while Judaism has no tradition of prayer beads, we will learn about the tzitzitTzitzit special knotted fringe on tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl – that are fingered during certain prayers. The purpose of these interviews will be to highlight the common thread that prayer beads and counted prayer represent to members of these diverse religions.

I am brand new to the world of blogging and I am sure I will make some mistakes. I ask your patience and indulgence as I find my way through the blogging world.

The book won’t be out until April 2008, but maybe we can start the conversation now. I would love to hear from anyone who makes or uses prayer beads of any form

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