A Prayer in Times of Stress

My new book is out, and the topic is . . . stress! Finding Peace: Letting Go of Stress and Worry is a new title in Little Rock Scripture Study’s Alive in the Word series. Each short book in the series explores three Scripture passages on a single theme, helping individuals or groups pray with the Word and apply it to their lives. Finding Peace is available on Amazon or at bulk rates for groups at Little Rock Scripture Study or Liturgical Press.

Below is an excerpt from Finding Peace—a prayer I wrote for stressful times. Feel free to share it with anyone who might like to have it. I wish you peace!

And speaking of peace, thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement that many of you sent my way after my rather fragile Easter blog. As Scully once said to Mulder, “I had the strength of your beliefs.” Easter in us!

 
A Prayer in Times of Stress

Lord God, you have promised
that you are never far away, even when I feel alone;
that you will never leave me, even when I feel abandoned;
that I will never be overcome, even when I feel defeated;
that there is beauty where I do not see it;
that there is music where I do not hear it;
that there is life where I do not feel it.

Whatever I am going through,
whatever the future may bring,
whatever questions I have,
whatever bad news I hear,
whatever pain comes my way,
whatever I cannot control,
be with me, my God, and this will be enough.

Whatever I lose,
whatever I have lost,
whatever is said,
whatever is done,
whatever is broken,
whatever won’t heal,
be with me, my God, and this will be enough.

Whatever decisions I struggle to make,
whatever pressure weighs down on me,
whatever I regret,
whatever I confess,
whatever I remember,
whatever I forget,
be with me, my God, and this will be enough.

Fill my restless spirit with your presence, and this will be enough.
Fill my tired mind with your peace, and this will be enough.
Fill my aching heart with your love, and this will be enough.
Amen.

Amy Ekeh
© 2019 Little Rock Scripture Study

 
 

Easter Fragility

I have a Word document called “Blog Ideas 10” on my desktop. It is 74 pages long and 27,909 words deep. I’ve used this same document to write my blogs for so long that I don’t even remember another document, though there must have been a “Blog Ideas 1,” “Blog Ideas 2,” etc. Those, apparently, are ancient history.

In “Blog Ideas 10” is a very long string of blogs—some that have been published and some that never made the cut. There are quotes and ideas and concepts I’ll never develop. There’s even a story about looking for a dime on the floor of the library that I thought was very funny, but when I tested it out with my mom, she said, “I don’t get the point.” That one went where all mediocre blogs go to die: page 72.

Today on pages one and two of “Blog Ideas 10,” there are five blogs that I have started to write to you and have stopped. Some of them were Lent themes, but Lent has come and gone. One was for the Triduum, which has also come and gone. Here are their names:

·       I Will Hug It
·       I Will Spit You Out of My Mouth
·       God Is Lover Not Protector
·       A Note to My Fellow Smelly Sheep
·       It Is My Joy to Tell You to Hope

Perhaps it is more fun for you to imagine the contents of what those blogs would have been. Perhaps I’ll finish them. But it might be a while.

For now, swirling around me is so much bad news—and at Eastertime, a time of joy. A world struggling, friends struggling, a country and a church divided, strangers in comas, people moving away, death and dying, time flying. I’m not usually one to give in to melancholy, but lately, I admit, it’s tempting.

And so this melancholy has brought me to a place where all writers stand from time to time. The place is: “Everything has already been said.” The echo through the centuries: “There is nothing new under the sun.” The downtrodden (but wise) author of Ecclesiastes developed the theme: “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun! Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us” (Ecc 1:9-10). The cycles of life and death have been established. Is there anything new to think or experience or say?

As my children sat at the Easter table dyeing eggs, my son Julian broke three of his ten eggs. “I keep dropping them,” he said. Easter eggs have been breaking for ages preceding us. Easter can be a fragile time.

Friends, family, and those of you who are strangers to me, I pray for you today. I don’t pray for your happiness or your protection. I don’t know how to pray for those things right now. But today I see in your heart the fragility of Easter, and I hold it as gently as I can, like an egg I dye with my children. As others have done for me in the ages that preceded us.

* * * * * * * * * * *

 
“Inspire in us to let go of whatever brings no life. Easter in us, Holy One.” — Jesse Manibusan  An egg dyed by the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, Meriden, CT.

“Inspire in us to let go of whatever brings no life. Easter in us, Holy One.” — Jesse Manibusan

An egg dyed by the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, Meriden, CT.

 

Why Do We Fast?

Happy Shrove Tuesday!

While we all know that the most important kind of fasting we can do during Lent (or anytime!) is to fast from hurtful behaviors such as gossip and greed, we might be wondering if there is still a place for “traditional” fasting in our spiritual lives.

Can’t the two types of fasting go together? Of course they can! Anything we do with our bodies is not meant to stop there. Fasting with our bodies—if done thoughtfully, with meaning and purpose—can change our hearts. And our changed hearts can change the world.

I hope you will enjoy my Lent article “10 Reasons to Fast This Lent” in this month’s St. Anthony Messenger, available online here. The print magazine includes some creative ideas for fasting.

And for those who are local, I hope you will join me, Sr. Virginia Herbers, and Deacon Art Miller as we team up with Peter DeMarco and the Saint Ann Choir for a One-Night Lenten Mission on March 13 in Hamden, CT. Details are below.

Lenten blessings!

OneNightLentenMission_2019_8.5x11.jpg


Ancient God, How Young You Are

I can’t remember how or when I came across this poem written in 1983 by Jim Forest, legendary peace activist, biographer, and friend of Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day.  But I found it so kind and intimate in its portrayal of the loving relationship between creature and Creator. Jim has given me permission to share the poem, which was written while he was honeymooning with his wife Nancy in France. The poem was inspired by a sculpture at Chartres Cathedral (pictured below).

Ancient God, how young you are
I know your touch
It is in that motion of
your hands on my head
that I recognize you
and remember
that first day
when you called me Adam
and your knee
was my pillow
when I first opened
my eyes.

Jim’s most recent biography is At Play in the Lion’s Den: A Memoir and Biography of Daniel Berrigan. He is currently working on an autobiography. Visit Jim and Nancy at jimandnancyforest.com. And see Jim’s collection of Adam & Eve art at flickr.com.

Pictured from left to right: The sculpture at Chartres that inspired Jim’s poem; a copy of the original, hand-written poem; Go On, Adam by Jack Baumgartner, shared with permission (visit Jack’s website here); The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo.

The Hardest Word

In 2006, I had two reconstructive hip surgeries (“triple pelvic osteotomy” for those who like to google). The first operation was a success hip-wise, but it was hard on my body. When I woke up in recovery, my pain was out of control. Over the next several days I had five or six blood transfusions, erratic heart rates, and pain. A lot of pain. I remember how lonely the pain felt, like no one else understood. I felt completely alone.

Six months later when I returned to the hospital to repeat the surgery on the other side, I remember looking into my surgeon’s eyes. He wasn’t the touchy-feely type. He wasn’t really a good listener. Not much of a talker either. But before we went into surgery he said something reassuring that—for him—probably required mustering forth and dusting off some nurturing spirit from deep within. I remember something firm, something I could hold onto, something like: “That’s not going to happen to you again. Not on my watch.” And then I told him the truth: “I trust you.”

As the anesthesia took effect and I drifted into unconsciousness, I felt deeply the reality of what I had done. Trust has no guarantees.

Trust may be the hardest thing we will ever do—harder even than love. Because trust so rarely comes with feel-good emotions. It is more often just a choice we make. But without it, we are utterly paralyzed. Without it we are so afraid, afraid of everything. This is no way to live.

Trust is not something that is cavalierly restored, once it has been broken. Sometimes it is never restored at all. But something happens when someone looks us in the eye, and from the heart, speaks restoring words—words like never again and not on my watch—and then does restoring things, like setting bones right, or listening, or being humble, or changing. Trust has no guarantees. But we are only half-alive if we never trust. Our whole human community is based on our ability to do this one hardest thing.

I pray that trust will be restored in our Church, and in the life of every person affected by the pain inflicted by and in this Body. Now we feel the cutting of the bones, the loneliness of the pain, the confusion of the aftermath. I pray for healing for every single one of us, so we can trust again, so we can be a healed, restored, strengthened, unafraid Body.

May God heal our Church and restore trust among us.

“I trust in God, I do not fear” (Ps 56:5).

A favorite picture of my husband and daughter, an image of trust.

A favorite picture of my husband and daughter, an image of trust.

Announcements:

  • Save the date for our One-Night Lenten Mission 2019! A Nor’easter got us in 2018, but we’re trying again! Hear 3 speakers and 1 wonderful choir! Wed., Mar. 13, 7:00 pm, 295 Benham St., Hamden, CT. Snow date is Mar. 15. For more information, go to amyekeh.com/lent.

  • If you’re looking for a Lenten devotional for use by yourself or with a group, why not try my 3-session book Lent: Season of Transformation? It’s a nice, neat little package of Scripture, commentary, reflection questions, and prayers. You can buy it on amazon, or purchase it at littlerockscripture.org for bulk rates!

  • Thanks for bearing with my slow blog pace! Someday when my kids are grown, I’ll miss these busy days! But for now, I’m just trying to keep up! Blessings, all!