Reflectionary

Book Review: We Pray With Her

During the 2016 presidential campaign, a group of United Methodist clergywomen offered support to candidate Hillary Clinton, a fellow Methodist, by writing devotions and prayers to encourage her. We Pray With Her: Encouragement For All Women Who Lead (Abingdon, 2018) draws on the writing of seventy women. I am delighted that their work has been gathered into this book. 

The section sections focus on Call, Struggle, Courage, Resistance, and Persistence. The devotions interrogate our assumptions about scripture (Is it possible, as Rev. Elizabeth Quick writes, that Mary wasn’t at home on the day Martha complained about needing her help in the kitchen?) and bring the voices of famous women into the conversation, from Sor Juana to Audre Lorde to Jen Hatmaker. 

And their own voices are a gift, as they write frankly about challenges they have faced as leaders and women. 

What no one tells you about leadership is that things will change and with some change comes struggle. I was utterly unprepared when my professional and personal lives began to orbit on different planes.

Rev. Dr. Theresa S. Thames

The writers are defined as young, by which the publisher means under the age of 40, and the topics skew toward that age range. The prayers speak to particular situations in the lives of women, such as leaving a baby at daycare for the first time, or in a time of relationship difficulty, or when a parent is ill. Some prayers, though, speak to all ages of women in leadership. 

A Prayer at the Time of Burnout

God of mercy, I confess I feel like I am bereft of sinew, a bag of dry bones, and my spirit in ashes. I have tried to take it all on myself. I have failed to seek sustenance. Give me courage to seek help. Help me find a moment of Sabbath today, breathe into me and revive these bones. Help me trust that you will walk with me through this land. Amen. 

Rev. Sarah Karber

This book would make a wonderful Christmas gift, for women who lead in their work, and those who aspire to lead, whether they work in ministry or some other field. My only complaint is I would have loved a full list of the writers to be included. 

I received two copies of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I am delighted to have a copy to give away. Please leave a comment to be entered into a random drawing. 

Prayers for Pastors

Storm Surge (a prayer for pastors)

In the eye of a hurricane there is quiet, for just a moment, a yellow sky.”
(Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hurricane” in “Hamilton: An American Musical”)

Holy One,
Storms surge beyond human-made barriers.

Waves break beyond their bounds,
and winds blow heavily,
destroying homes and taking lives.

We pray for the injured,
the homeless, and the bereaved.
Have mercy, Lord.

Storms surge due to human action.

Words break beyond old norms,
and arguments spin out,
distressing minds disturbing peace.

We pray for our leaders,
the reasonable, and the reckless.
Have mercy, Lord.

Storms surge in human hearts.

Wounds break open again,
and memories burn,
tears are shed,
or worse, held back.

We pray for ourselves,
our hearts, and our spirits.
Have mercy, Lord.

Amen.

matthew-100916

Prayers for Pastors

This wide world (a prayer for pastors)

Dear Jesus, 

"I am the bread of life."
“I am the bread of life.”

Growing up we remembered 

that night you were betrayed 
quarterly, in the sanctuary.
We passed the trays of cubed bread
the tiny, heavy glasses of juice,
available only to the baptized
which meant not the children.
I remember my hand pushed away
by a friend who knew better,
trying to keep me out of trouble. 
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
Once a year we remembered
all around the wide world
the other people who shared
bread and the fruit of the vine,
who shared in you in other lands,
in other languages,
but we never talked about
the mystery of real presence
or learned about -substantiation,
trans or con.
 
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
I saw the faces, gathered ’round
in my imagination, garbed like dolls
in my ‘round-the-world collection.
You were everywhere, Lord, 
known and loved everywhere;
I understood as a child.
I grew up thinking of you as that man 
who told wonderful stories, 
who loved his friends, 
who faced the authorities with courage, 
sort of a Super Rabbi Hero Friend. 
 
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
Later I remember the Lord’s Supper, 
your supper, 
by the faces of my friends, 
my teachers, my mother, 
the choir, our minister, 
in a candlelit church hall 
on Maundy Thursday, 
seated around long tables, 
luminous as we passed the bread and cup. 
 
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
I try now, Lord, to know you better,
to love your people, all people,
respecting differences, 
learning from them,
no doubt smug when I mean
to be humble. This wide world
in a child’s dreaming
has a service every hour
with little cubes of bread
and cups of juice.
 
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
I confess, I understand
why some finish the bread
and drink all the wine; 
your real and consecrated presence
deserve nothing less.
But I also confess,
in me is a child who 
remembers the story of 
baskets of leftovers,
abundance unending. 
 
“Do this is remembrance of me.”
 
I hope for the day
when we all can gather
secure in your love,
Bread of Life,
Cup of Blessing,
beautiful in the light
you shine on us,
your people, all people,
one Lord, one table,
for the whole wide world.
 
Amen.
Prayers for Pastors

When there’s nothing you can do (a prayer for pastors)

Sometimes the news comes
And there’s nothing you can do.
It’s too late, or too soon,
Or the middle of some
Slow-moving crisis
That is not yours to tend.

Sometimes they forget to tell you,
Or call late but say,
“Don’t come now.”
You lie awake.
Maybe you pray.
But there’s nothing you can *do.*

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Sometimes you are right there,
But immediate needs are bodily,
And it is not your turn to act.
Sit still. Listen.
Just be.
You can’t always act the hero.

And on those days, those nights,
When your part to play is
Spouse, Parent, Lover,
Child –
Let someone else take over.
If they offer to pray, say, “Please.”

Prayers for Pastors

From the edge of the flood (a prayer)

Princeton Junction train station, posted on Facebook by Shantanu Ballal
Princeton Junction train station, posted on Facebook by Shantanu Ballal

Holy One,

We complain about the heat,
but when the rain comes we
still kvetch about the weather —
until floods stop our words
and start our praying.

We see flooded cars, impassable walkways.
How will we get where we are going?
We are impatient for the waters to recede.
We want to get back to normal.

When things seem normal,
we can go along as if nothing
is wrong anywhere,
forgetting that everyday, everywhere,
people face the floods of life:
weeping that endures for more than a night,
grief carried over decades,
fear that health will not return,
violence that does not cease,
despair over our helplessness,
prejudice that fills every tunnel
so no one can get through safely.

From the edge of the flood we pray,
relying on your promise to Isaiah:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.

From the edge of the flood, we pray.

Prayers for Pastors

Cool us off, Lord (a prayer for pastors)

Cool us offIn the heat of the moment
when words spoken
or glances exchanged
forecast regret and pain,
cool us off, Lord.

In the heat of the season
when statuses composed
or memes shared
evoke strong responses,
cool us off, Lord.

In the heat of the day
when power outages
or overworked a/c
add to the stress,
cool us off, Lord.

In the heat of a fever
when passion threatens,
or illness compromises
and we are undone,
cool us off, Lord.

Pour down the blessed cool
of soothed spirits,
of righteous reason,
of promised peace,
of healed hearts.

Cool us off, Lord.

Lent

What I Mean to Pray

mocha_smallIt seems a little self-defeating for pastors to give up something habitual or take on something extra during Lent. My Lenten fails far out-number my Lenten successes. Even when I accomplish the goal, as in the year this confirmed mocha drinker gave up chocolate in her coffee, there are repercussions. My children begged me never to do that again. It’s hard to say how a cranky mom did much for her relationship with God or her children.

This year, when I have just layered the work for a coaching class on top of two half-time jobs and a further vocation of writing that I squeeze in where I can. Recognizing that it would not be uncomplicated, I committed to make space for writing each day.

(I hope this counts.)

The truth, however, is that 1/2 + 1/2 + a class with weekly work + family = already a lot of things even without including some basic life tasks like laundry or the things that keep me going like a little knitting here or the occasional DVRed episode of Downton Abbey or Fixer Upper for those times when I am too tired to pick up the needles in the evening.

Today I spent some time during a walk with my spouse and my dog questioning how I can be called to any more things. I was admittedly multi-tasking, squeezing in relationship time, dog time, fresh air time. Each of those things is good, but I feel like I left my thoughts scattered along our mile route, discarded on the snow like the stick our pup decides he doesn’t want after all.

Which is why it matters to make the space. When I write, I have to complete the thought. If it doesn’t feel right, I work on it until I know what I mean to say. I put it all in front of the Great Reader, until I know what I mean to pray.

*****

(Originally shared via the RevGals Weekly e-Reader. You can subscribe at the link.)