For all of us (a prayer for pastors)

On our ecumenical block
Sunday at 8 a.m.
the Catholic bells are ringing
the Presbyterians who come early
are starting to arrive
and down the way
the Methodist church sign
asks what’s missing?

Wesley UR
Right down the street in real life.


I’ll pass them all
when I leave for church
but for now
the dog is snoozing
on the kitchen floor
a rare moment of peace
and so I’m praying

for my church
and all the others
for the pastors who are ready
and the ones in a panic
for the priests who go home
to an empty rectory
and the preachers whose kids
won’t let them nap

I pray for the Pope
because he asks everyone
pray for his health and strength
and give thanks he cares for the poor
pray that the work I do
the work so many women do
will someday be blessed by him
as I trust it is blessed by You


I need to get going
Go with me I pray
Go with all of us
to Mass on a parkway
and Eucharist in a stone church
and liturgy of the Word
and plain old worship
All for You, Holy One.


Not so much with the vulnerability (a prayer for pastors)

Great and Gracious God,

I hear the latest thing
is being vulnerable,
and I don’t mind
confessing to my flaws,
my shortcomings,
my eccentricities.

But there are times
when I am flat
when my own spirit
feels anemic
when I don’t know how
to raise the roof
when Hallelu is
a foreign language
when even punctuation
is a struggle
and my page is blank

not because I don’t know
and believe, which is different,
in You and Your glory
or the work I am striving
to do on Your behalf,
but because the things –
well, there are things.

Financial stress
Physical illness
Personal relationships
Family concerns
Vocational drama
or lack thereof
(any of these alone
and sometimes all
and even more)

And I would say:
not so much
with the vulnerability
we don’t preach that stuff
we don’t spill it all over
we don’t place that weight
on the people who gather

But I wonder
if the weight
isn’t evident

Doesn’t press down
on them as much
as on me

Doesn’t make them wonder
what they are doing wrong

And if I feel this way
maybe they need to know
that faithful people

But for that I need to confess it.

So here we are.

Help me, I pray.


For those Sundays when we’re nervous (a prayer for pastors)

O God!

I woke up and realized
my stomach was ahead of me
and my head was behind.

It’s one of those Sundays:
so many moving pieces,
Rally breakfast
(get there early),
Bible presentations
(will they come?),
Commissioning of teachers
and students
and bowling later
and stewardship videos
and Communion
and people in the hospital.

And in the midst,
a sermon
full of truth,
I hope,
but who knows?

(And if so,
who gets mad?)

My coffee doesn’t
taste right.

A mentor told me,
“I always
feel nervous
on Sundays,”
as if only an idiot
wouldn’t be,
as if a calm person
would be too flat.

For me,
it’s just nauseating.

So please, Holy One,
settle me down.
Help me look beyond
how many show up,
how smoothly things go,
if anyone responds.

Settle me down,
but stir me up
for You.

Come, labor on (a prayer for pastors)

Come, labor on!
Who dares stand idle
when families sleep on train tracks,
and little children drown,
when moms and dads fast
to get their kids a school,
when black sons and daughters
matter less to white leaders?

Come, labor on!
The work of faith is WORK.
Let’s put a shoulder into it.
Give it everything we have:
a strong mind and a good heart
and courage we pray to find.
Risk things we count on:
comfort and security,
reputation and rank.
Share what we know:
the good news of mercy,
the gospel of peace.

Come, labor on!
When it seems impossible,
when picking up trash
beside the road
seems preferable,
O God!
remind us Who
labors alongside.
Remind us how
You gave it all
in labor for us.


Go and come back

This morning my daughter took off on a plane headed to Japan for her Junior Year Abroad. She has been dreaming of this since she was the pseudonymous first Little/then Light Princess on my old blog. She started watching a Japanese cartoon with her brother and when the dubbed episodes ran out, she found the later seasons online with English subtitles. She came to love the language and began to dream of going to Japan.

Each of my children had some dream at a fairly early age. #1 Son started acting at 7 and never looked back. #2 Son followed in his brother’s footsteps but when the choice came in 8th grade between a leading role and an orchestra concert, he chose his clarinet and his path.

LP often lamented that she was not as directed as her brothers, not so clearly called to … something. She loves Japanese language and culture, but to what end?

It may not be possible to know until she spends the school year there.

LP, left, with other 5 College students on the Kakehashi Program trip, July 2014.
LP, left, with other Five College students on the Kakehashi Program trip, July 2014.

LP had her first opportunity to go to Japan last summer, for the ten day Kakehashi Program. Never one to take things for granted, she continued to work hard for this chance to study abroad. The Associated Kyoto Program is competitive. Her Dean’s List grades at Smith College, her straight As in Japanese, her (in my opinion) beautifully written essays about why she wanted to go to Japan: all these combined to make her an exceptional candidate for the program. We knew it meant everything to her and listened as she worried while waiting for the results of her application last winter, assuring her that, as kathrynzj put it, “If you don’t get in, there’s something wrong with the program, not you.”

AKP students attend class at Doshisha University in Kyoto. They live with host families, and LP received a very dear card from hers, which includes a father, a mother, a daughter her age, and a younger son. AKP classes include a language intensive and courses in Japanese history and culture, which are specifically for American students. We’re all especially happy that she got her hoped-for elective, a seminar that includes both American and Japanese students.

I am so proud of my LP, who combines wry humor and gentle manners with articulate feminism and deep faith as if those were the most natural combination in the world. The little girl who always knew what was going on socially in the classroom but never remembered her homework is now a woman and a scholar, and I am delighted to witness her launch.

The Japanese have many different ways of saying goodbye, each appropriate to different occasions or levels of formality.  Before she left, LP wrote her farewell in kanji, on our kitchen blackboard. This is the goodbye you would use in Japan if you are heading out to school or work. It translates as “I am going, but I will come back.” Eight months will go by quickly in some ways, although believe me, I write this with tears in my eyes. Eight months for her will be full of new experiences, friends and learnings. When we parted last week as she went off for a week with her dad, I wrapped her in a hug, held my hand on the back of her head and prayed for her safety and for a wonderful year.

But the correct response to her farewell, in Japanese, is nothing so emotional or lofty.

The correct response, in Japanese, is just as matter-of-fact. So today, my dear LP, I say, “行ってらっしゃい” – “Go and come back.”

On our kitchen blackboard,
On our kitchen blackboard, “Itte kimasu” – “I am going, but I will come back.”

When we cannot fix it (a prayer for pastors)

Holy One,

When we cannot fix it,
but can only love,
help us to show up
and represent on Your behalf.

When flood waters have
risen, then receded,
leaving damage and ruin,
send us both to lift and listen.

When people fall
from heights, from favor,
from grace, equip us
to show your mercy.

When little ones are lost,
their stories unthinkable,
inhuman cruelty prevailing,
help us show that You care.

When we cannot fix it,
but can only love,
help us to show up
and represent on Your behalf.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, January 2006
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, January 2006