A Prayer for America

God of many names,

You who has endowed us with the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,
Let us remember this day that in this country there is no national religion,
There is no superior race
There is no preferable gender or orientation.

We gather holding a common value
That the glory of this country
rests first and foremost in its diversity.
Out of many ideas,
Out of many beliefs,
Out of many views,
Out of many voices,
Out of many passions,
Out of many experiences,
We are one.

Help us O God, to never forget
that we need not be alike
to live and love alike.

We ask for forgiveness this day
For our national and individual transgressions …
When we have chosen inaction or silence
in the face of injustice,
and abuse of power —
and our failure to claim our own.

We ask for forgiveness for
When we have not known our own neighbor, Fed our hungry, or equipped our future generation with Knowledge and love.

We ask for a blessing on this nation

according to our own faith and forms
And pledge our voice in support of moving closer and closer to freedom.

These and the prayers of our hearts we pray now in the silence…

In the names of those who have come before
And those who are yet to be,
In the names of all of the helpers of humankind

Amen

(“Prayer for America” by Tamara Lebak via UUA’s Prayers for Worship online)

stories change lives

In Greek, the word mythos simply means story

Some years ago I had a conversation with a man who thought that writing and editing fantasy books was a rather frivolous job for a grown woman like me. He wasn’t trying to be contentious, but he himself was a probation officer, working with troubled kids from the Indian reservation where he’d been raised. Day in, day out, he dealt in a concrete way with very concrete problems, well aware that his words and deeds could change young lives for good or ill.

I argued that certain stories are also capable of changing lives, addressing some of the same problems and issues he confronted in his daily work: problems of poverty, violence, and alienation, issues of culture, race, gender, and class…
“Stories aren’t real,” he told me shortly. “They don’t feed a kid left home in an empty house. Or keep an abusive relative at bay. Or prevent an unloved child from finding ‘family’ in the nearest gang.”

Sometimes they do, I tried to argue. The right stories, read at the right time, can be as important as shelter or food. They can help us to escape calamity, and heal us in its aftermath. He frowned, dismissing this foolishness, but his wife was more conciliatory. “Write down the names of some books,” she said. “Maybe we’ll read them.”

I wrote some titles on a scrap of paper, and the top three were by Charles de lint – for these are precisely the kind of tales that Charles tells better than anyone. The vital, necessary stories. The ones that can change and heal young lives. Stories that use the power of myth to speak truth to the human heart.

Charles de Lint creates a magical world that’s not off in a distant Neverland but here and now and accessible, formed by the “magic” of friendship, art, community, and social activism. Although most of his books have not been published specifically for adolescents and young adults, nonetheless young readers find them and embrace them with particular passion. I’ve long lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people from troubled backgrounds say that books by Charles saved them in their youth, and kept them going.

Recently I saw that parole officer again, and I asked after his work. “Gets harder every year,” he said. “Or maybe I’m just getting old.” He stopped me as I turned to go. “That writer? That Charles de Lint? My wife got me to read them books…. Sometimes I pass them to the kids.”

“Do they like them?” I asked him curiously.
“If I can get them to read, they do. I tell them: Stories are important.”
And then he looked at me and smiled.”

― Terri Windling

We need more myths.

Earth, teach me

Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.

~Ute prayer*

*Disclaimer: I am generally hesitant to post things that are attributed to indigenous peoples without some careful research and thought… I’ve found that many so-called Native American prayers, sayings, etc (as well as those from other groups) are often not actually from said group or person, and even when they are there’s the problem of translation, and then the problem of whether or not its appropriation. I had this written in an old journal, I’m not sure anymore where I heard or read it to write it down. I’m pretty sure I got this from the book Earth Prayers From Around the World ed. by Elizabeth J. Roberts and Elias Adimon, which I’ve had for years and probably wrote in that old journal for either the summer camp I was a counselor at, or the yearly Boundary Waters canoeing trip I took in high school and college. I’ve been unable to find any other information or source for it than that book.

a prayer for this world

The following is a prayer from the 1910 Prayers for the Social Awakening by Walter Rauschenbusch. This prayer is the origin for the prayer incorrecly attributed to St. Basil the Great that I posted yesterday.

O God, we thank thee for this universe, our great home; for its vastness and its riches, and for the manifoldness of the life which teems upon it and of which we are part. We praise thee for the arching sky and the blessed winds, for the driving clouds and the constellations on high. We praise thee for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills, for the trees and for the grass under our feet. We thank thee for our senses by which we can see the splendor of the morning, and hear the jubilant songs of love, and smell the breath of the springtime. Grant us, we pray thee, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thorn-bush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God.

Enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all the living things, our little brothers, to whom thou hast given this earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the Earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live not for us alone, but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve thee in their place better than we in ours.

When our use of this world is over and we make room for others, may we not leave anything ravished by our greed or spoiled by our ignorance, but may we hand on our common heritage fairer and sweeter through our use of it, undiminished in fertility and joy, that so our bodies may return in peace to the great mother who nourished them and our spirits may round the circle of a perfect life in thee.

a prayer of connection

O God, enlarge within us the sense of
fellowship with all living things,
our brothers the animals to whom thou
gavest the earth as their home in
common with us.

We remember with shame that in the past
we have exercised the high dominion
of man with ruthless cruelty
so that the voice of the earth,
which should have gone up to thee
in song, has been a groan of travail.

May we realize that they live not for
us alone but for themselves and for
thee, and that they love
the sweetness of live.

(this prayer is incorrectly attributed to St. Basil the Great, I figured that,in light of the recent encyclical of Pope Francis, it seemed apropriate–obviously, it is quite simple to adapt for gods)

Lord, the air smells good today,
straight from the mysteries
within the inner courts of God.
A grace like new clothes thrown
across the garden, free medecine for everybody.
The trees in their prayer, the birds in praise,
the first blue violets kneeling.
Whatever came from Being is caught up in being, drunkenly
forgetting the way back.

~Rumi