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A Prayer for the Waiting

Do you like waiting? I write about how in dealing with infertility, you are often stuck in two-week increments: two weeks to ovulation, two weeks of waiting. Repeat. Only, it isn’t always so simple either — long cycles or short cycles, closed clinics or other disruptions. For 53 months, I felt like I was endlessly waiting. Advent is celebrated as the liturgical season of waiting, waiting for Christ to come again. But waiting is exhausting. It’s even demoralizing sometimes. The following prayer does not romanticize the waiting but seeks to be open to God’s presence in the midst of it.

God who wipes our tears away, hurry up already. The weight of waiting has left me spent, unable to focus. I have no control, no reasoning can get me out of this, and scrolling often makes it worse. I want you to swoop in and zap my struggles away. I want you to lift up the lowly, now. I want you to make the world new, now.

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The author prays over her morning coffee.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

The author prays over her morning coffee.

The author prays over her morning coffee.

Holy One,

Source of all good things in this world:

Let’s be honest. It’s 2020.

You’ve seen this year happen.

In a year of pandemic, and politics,

and isolation, and exhaustion,

we feel a lot more like saying,

“How long, O Lord?”

instead of “in all things, give thanks.”

 

Give us eyes to see your wonders, O God,

even in a year like this one.

Give us hearts that overflow with gratitude

for the ways we’ve made it through.

For binge-worthy shows and new crafting skills,

for fresh pots of coffee and surprise deliveries of wine,

for fires to burn and rooms to paint,

Good Lord, we give you thanks.

For decent internet connection and love-to-hate-it Zoom,

for the ding of a text and long phone chargers,

for online shopping and unemployment checks,

Good Lord, we give you thanks.

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A Prayer for Essential Workers

“Thank you essential workers!” by spurekar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Loving God,
While some of us are in the safety of our homes,
you have called others to risk themselves and their families to keep our communities running.
We give you thanks for the doctors, the nurses, the respiratory therapists, and all working in healthcare.
We give you thanks for the store employees, factory workers, and delivery people.
We give you thanks for those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and bury the dead.
We give you thanks for the teachers working to raise up the next generation in physical and virtual classrooms.
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A Prayer for the Theatre World as Broadway Stays Dark

Creating God,

The author is photographed here in her role as Salome Musgrove in Grand Canyon University’s 2006 production of The Robber Bridegroom.

Your children are out-of-joint.

They tap dance as they stock shelves,
they sing to themselves as they apply for unemployment,
they recite monologues as they tend their sourdough starters,
the show is stopped, only going on in their hearts.

Your children are out-of-sorts.
The only lights to run are Christmas icicles along November roofs,
the only costuming is for Zoom Halloween parties,
the only makeup done is whatever can be seen above the mask,
the show is stopped, only going on in their hearts.

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A Prayer for Farmers

 

Garlic harvest from June 2019, A Place on Earth CSA farm in Turners Station, KY.

God of all Creation,
we give you thanks for those who cultivate the earth,
for those who wake before dawn and labor in the fields,
for those who care for livestock,
for those who plant and tend with care.
We pray they know they are appreciated beyond measure.

Too often, we overlook the gift of farmers
as we grow ever more distant from the processes
that bring food to our tables.
We pray that we see and know
those who do the planting, tending, and harvesting.
They are a community of sowers
on whom our survival and flourishing depend.

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A Prayer for Veterans Day

In the United States, we are approaching Veterans Day – a day set aside to remember and honor those who have served in the military. But more than simply saying “thank you,” it also offers the opportunity to turn our attention to the stories and lives of our veterans. Hold them in prayer and listen to their stories, truly seeing the child of God in your midst. They are your neighbors and are sitting in your pews. Maybe ask them to share their story with you, for it is in sharing the story that community exists, God is present, and healing may be possible.

The author (center), in her capacity as Chaplain.

God of all that was and is and is to come,

You, who bear witness to our creation and usher us home at our final moments,

we ask that you turn our ears to the cries of those we often do not hear,
to open our eyes to the stories in our midst,
to hear the stories of those called,
to hear the stories of those who answer the call.

Open our ears to the story of the seventeen-year-old

who yearns to serve in a world with honor,
who seeks an escape from the drug-riddled streets he calls home…
only to be sent to a place where the streets are riddled
with a different kind of violence, replacing one form of hate with another.

Give us the eyes to see the single mother,

yearning for a better life for her son,
who is called into harm’s way,
her son sent away to his grandparents yet once again,
in hopes that she is able to provide a better life for him,
who has more of a relationship with her son over phone video
than she does in real life,
only to hear cries of judgment for being a “bad mother.”

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I’m not praying for you.

I’m not praying for you.

“I am not praying for you,” poem copied in walnut ink.

I’m not praying for you.

I’m not praying for you.
As if your tears don’t carry the weight of your hurt,
and God is somewhere else
waiting to be paged by the righteous.
As if the mother alone in her room-
partner gone and babies asleep-
crashed into the mattress and eyes closed before she offers her thanks
is ungrateful.
As if the someone in the mass grave is any less loved
than the one with the power who put them there.

I am not praying for you.
As if my words are more connected, holier, or more well-received.
As if the right sentence- a seance of spirits or those who have “the gift”-
will unlock salvation.
Like those who have spent time in the book, in the books- wrote them.
Or the posture matters.
You will not find that heavier words
Sink in faster.

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A Review of Speaking Truth: Women Raising Their Voices in Prayer

In early March, a copy of Speaking Truth arrived at my house, and I was excited to read it. I was busy pastoring during Lent and making plans for Easter, excited for this celebratory season in the life of the church, so this collection of prayers and reflections seemed perfect.

Speaking Truth: Women Raising their Voices in Prayer was published by Abingdon Press in February 2020.

And then, a few days later, everything changed. COVID-19 quickly rewrote all our daily patterns and our expectations.

As I write this, we’ve been living in this pandemic for over three months; though stores and restaurants have reopened, cases in my community are spiking, so worship remains virtual and my family remains at home.

Three months is a long time… and yet, I can’t really remember what life was like before; this season has been an entire lifetime and a breath, both at once.

If you’re like me, you started quarantine back in March with a big stack of books and, in the midst of dread and fear and anxiety, harbored a small sliver of joy that you would finally have time to get to them.

ALL THE TIME! I thought. THERE WILL BE SO MUCH FREE TIME!!!

Then, if you’re like me, it was much harder to take advantage of that time than I anticipated. After several weeks of quarantine, the stack of books still sat on my side table, staring at me. I opened a couple early on and had a hard time focusing, reading a few sentences until I found my mind wandering to how to upload the next worship video or making a mental checklist of the parishioners I needed to call.

That was my experience with every book I tried to read… until I got to Speaking Truth.

What a breath of fresh air.

This book, published by Abingdon Press, is a follow-up to We Pray With Her, a collection of prayers written by women who sent daily prayers to Secretary Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign in 2016. Speaking Truth took that premise and expanded it, including more voices — particularly of women of color and queer clergy.

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A Prayer for Veterans Day

In the United States, we are approaching Veterans Day – a day set aside to remember and honor those who have served in the military. But more than simply saying “thank you,” it also offers the opportunity to turn our attention to the stories and lives of our veterans. Hold them in prayer and listen to their stories, truly seeing the child of God in your midst. They are your neighbors and are sitting in your pews. Maybe ask them to share their story with you, for it is in sharing the story that community exists, God is present, and healing may be possible.

The author (center), in her capacity as Chaplain.

God of all that was and is and is to come,

You, who bear witness to our creation and usher us home at our final moments,

we ask that you turn our ears to the cries of those we often do not hear,

to open our eyes to the stories in our midst,

to hear the stories of those called,

to hear the stories of those who answer the call.

 

Open our ears to the story of the seventeen-year-old

who yearns to serve in a world with honor,

who seeks an escape from the drug-riddled streets he calls home…

only to be sent to a place where the streets are riddled

with a different kind of violence, replacing one form of hate with another.

 

Give us the eyes to see the single mother,

yearning for a better life for her son,

who is called into harm’s way,

her son sent away to his grandparents yet once again,

in hopes that she is able to provide a better life for him,

who has more of a relationship with her son over phone video

than she does in real life,

only to hear cries of judgment for being a “bad mother.”

 

Give us the hearts to receive the young officer,

who, a few months after graduating from college, barely old enough to drink,

       found himself at war, commanding troops,

                  ordering young people into harm’s way.

Give us the heart to grieve with this leader

who now is writing a letter home to the parents of one of his Soldiers,

bearing the burden for the flag-draped box

that is the resting place for their son’s long trip home.

 

Lord, open our hands to the countless veterans

wearing their respective hats —

or simply wearing the cloak of service on their faces.

Open our hands to the Vietnam war veterans who never received that open hand,

and still live in the torment of war,

even though they have been told they have been “home” for decades.

They never really came home.

 

Lord, help us to hear their stories;

give us the wisdom to close our mouths and truly listen to the struggle,

for though they may be called into war-torn places,

they come home with war-torn hearts, lost and unsure.

 

Help us to be a safe haven, offering more than the mere words:

“Thank you for your service.”

Let us sit in the uncomfortable spaces of their lives for even a minute,

to dwell in the war-torn realities they never left.

 

We remember each year our veterans;

we remember the sacrifices they make…

but, Lord, call to our attention these warriors in our midst

as we seek to live and love in community each and every day.

May we see the scars in our midst,

may we listen to their stories,

and may we love and continue to welcome them home,

until our swords are turned to plowshares

and your reign of peace begins.

 

On the day we had an active shooter drill…

On Sunday, September 15, Emily’s church had the first of three active-shooter trainings in the midst of its worship services. Members and friends were told about the training in advance.

On the day we had an active shooter drill, our community awoke to thunderstorms. Rain-soaked shoes dampened our carpets, squeaked on the hardwood, and worshippers raced into the sanctuary right as the prelude was ending, just like they always do.

On the day we had an active shooter drill, our worship didn’t seem to mind. The congregation sang about laughter; the choir about loudest praises. The scripture promised that new life was coming. The preacher spoke about abandoning cynicism for hope; and those gathered seemed—mostly—to agree.

On the day we had an active shooter drill, we baptized a new believer in faith with tearful, heartfelt ritual. We gathered around God’s table to share the promise and the feast.

And then the drill got started.

We put three old words into new context: Run. Hide. Fight.

Congregants shuddered and cried in our most sacred of spaces. The pews beneath them strained and creaked, trying hard to hold all that restlessness, all that discomfort, all that weight.

At least one person grew angry, and stormed out once we finished. Another said: There’s no one that dangerous around here. Observing our mostly white congregation, I thought: We are the dangerous ones.

When it was over, a pastor acknowledged the swirling emotions, thanking all who gathered for taking time to think about such awful things. It’s easier to turn away our hearts and heads and eyes.

Together, we prayed for broken hearts, and asked for God to use them. Move us, we prayed, into action. May our sadness become compassion. May our  tiredness become advocacy. May our anger inspire us  to—finally—make a change.

Somehow, when we left, the sun was shining. Inexplicably. On the day we had an active shooter drill.