A Prayer of Remeberance

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

We are honored to share a post from our former intern, Nermine, whose prayer about remembering her mother offers grace and wisdom. Her prayer seeks blessings for those living with loss, just as our prayer for the dead sought blessings for those who have died. 

It’s hard to put in words what we feel about a person who is long gone; a person who is no longer a part of our life and who never got to know what we’ve become, who we are now…They say time heals and that’s true. Our own frail human memory makes loss bearable. But do we really want to forget or is it simply inevitable?

From all that I’ve lost, all the memories I can no longer recall, all the photographs that captured a moment I don’t remember living or even how it felt being there, I know that what hurts even more than the loss is the inability to remember what we once had.

Today my mother would have been 54 years old. I sometimes think what my life would
have been like if she was still alive. I get angry sometimes that I can’t remember much.There’s nothing but emptiness; a void of something that has left without leaving me any traces to hold on to. So, I pray for me and everyone who suffered loss that we can be healed by remembrance.

Dear God,

Today I pray for remembrance of the mother.
I wish I had a little bit more time to know her better.

Help me remember her by being even just a tiny bit like her,
for everyone speaks of her strength, her honesty, her generous and loving heart.

Help me remember her by living up to her memory
and being be the best person I can be.

Help me remember her every time I feel lost or alone
and help me remember that I never really was lost or alone,
for I’ve always had support and found people who love me
even when I thought there’s nothing to love in myself.

Help me remember her by cherishing every living moment,
by keeping every memory solid,
by not taking life for granted, by loving,
by staying true to who I am and what I believe in.

Help me and all those who have lost a loved one.

Help us remember those who are gone,
even when our memories fade and there’s nothing to recall.

Help us remember them in little acts of kindness,
and by showing those who are grieving
that pain can be healed and that nothing is ever lost forever.

Help us remember them in You,
in Your boundless generosity and Your mercy
and how You always give way more than you take.

Help us remember them in Your kindness,
for despite our loss and the pain that seemed at the time intolerable,
You helped us heal.

Love and peace made their way into our hearts again
and now we know that You don’t really put us through what we can’t endure.

Help us remember with patience, with gratitude, and with faith that there’ll be another chance to see those we’ve lost, where we’ll hold on to them for all the time we couldn’t have and all the memories we wished they were a part of, and finally there will be no letting go.

Amen.

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A Prayer for the Dead

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Dear God,

They say that dead men tell no tales,
but I am not so sure.

I think, perhaps, it is only the dead that can tell us anything at all.

Through their death they show us the mirror of mortality.

They show us the flaws in our own lives.

The deaths of those we cherish tell us each the stories of our own ends,
and give us the power to rewrite them.

I believe it is every person’s last gift, to shed light on living through their dying.

Those who I morn have taught me lessons, have told me their stories, and have given me strength to change my own.

So I ask that the dead be blessed, as they have blessed me by living and dying.

Amen.

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

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And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray Matthew 6:5-6

Today is the Christian celebration of Ash Wednesday, a day that marks the beginning of the season of Lent which in turn ends in Easter. Today marks a special day, a day for a special prayer. Ash to ash, and dust to dust we pray together.

Dear God,

Today we mark the beginning and we honor the cycle.

We pray for those who are no longer here with us
and for those who are newly with us.

We pray that for all of us, praying to any and all of our Gods, that these next weeks be filled with fruitful self-reflection. We pray that they are filled with divine wisdom.

We recognize that this human life is uncertain and unpredictable, that it is also sweet and short.

We pray for the strength to be our best selves, to live lives of compassion, integrity and justice.

We pray that each day we are strengthened amazed by the fact that we are all made of stardust, and will all become stardust again.

Amen.

Like all the prayers on this site, this prayer is just a beginning, so everyone is welcome to modify it, customize it, and re-create to better fit their own journey and beliefs. If you would like to share you re-creations, we welcome you to do so in the comment section, or to submit your reworking of this prayer or your own prayer.

Praying Into The Silence

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

This lent, as I disconnect with social media in an attempt to better listen to that still small voice of God, I have heard nothing but deafening silence. The roaring silence surrounding uncertainties in my future, in the life of my friends, in my faith.

This silence has been tough. It has not been the silence of peace, but rather a soul-churning silence. It has been a silence that feels more like crawling on gravel than swimming the the deepest of oceans.

In my fumbling attempt to struggle through this time of silence, I began searching for some new prayers to say. Prayers that might help me live better in the silence of waiting. In my search, I found some prayer cards that I had taken from a special box in my grandmother’s home after she died.

FullSizeRenderI remember picking them at random.Yet now, a message is clear in the ones I chose. Saint Rita and Saint Philomena, patron saints of the impossible, Saint Michael, protector of the faith, and the Holy Mother Mary.

It seems in my blind grief I knew the deepest yearnings of my soul: to achieve the impossible, to be strong of faith, to be comforted by the brave love of a fierce mother.

So as I stumble around in this silent waiting for God’s voice, I pray these prayers. I pray for the impossible reality that is the kindom of God on this earth. I pray for faith that is strong even in silence, even in doubt. I pray for the grace to accept my path the way Mary did, even when it isn’t the path I had planned for.

I pray into the the silence, with all the faith I can muster, knowing that sometimes, it is in these moments of struggle that we see most clearly, that it is in the moments of deafening silence that we hear most clearly.

Unfulfilled Desires

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

The things I have wanted that I don’t have could fill a book. Sometimes it is hard not to look at life as a list of unfulfilled desires: the PhD program that I didn’t get into, the marriage that didn’t work out, the job I didn’t get. Sometimes it seems like my path is strewn with only what I don’t have. Given the current state of the world, I know I am not the only one who has unfulfilled desires, I am not the only one who feels the harsh sting of failure, who has done the hard work of mending a broken heart.

So today, when my head started spiral into that negative space, I pulled out my Bible and began to search for wisdom. Now, while I have several bible copies, some pristine, etched in gold, but the Bible I search through isn’t one of those. It is full of highlighted sections and notes in the margins.  It is bookmarked by prayer cards from every funeral I have ever attended, and mementos from many years of bible study. Often, this Bible simply falls open to a page, which seems as good of a place to start as any.

As it happened, today the Bible fell open to one of my favorite passages:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. –Hebrews 11:1

So there it is. The wisdom I have to share today is to simply have faith. I have to keep walking on my spiritual journey, even when things look bleak and when my hopes end up as unfulfilled desires. I have to trust that I am co-creating something beautiful and meaningful with my God, with my comrades, with my lovers, my friends, and my family.  In short, even when desires remain unfulfilled, when prayers seem unanswered, when wishes are not granted, I must have faith…for the bible tells me so.

A Prayer for Starting Over

Here is a prayer for those of us who are starting over now, or who know someone who is. Feel free to make any adjustments to the prayer as you and your faith deem necessary, and feel free to send us your prayers too!

Dear Spirit of Wisdom,

Starting over is really hard.
I had a dream, a plan, a hope, a relationship,
but not it is gone–now I must begin again to find my own way.

In these confusing times let me find wisdom,
in my faith, in those who support me, and in myself.

As I struggle to press forward,
help me find strength and perseverance.

As I am healing the wounds of loss,
let me find comfort and care.

This journey is fresh and new,
and so I pray to find some joy,
in starting over.

Amen.

The Courage to Start Over

We’re pleased to share a guest post from Aya Nejim who is a young English teacher with zeal to feed young minds and her own passion for knowledge. Aya lives in both Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Cairo, Egypt and currently pursuing her Master’s degree. Aya shares with us how starting over is all about the courage to write and rewrite your own story as you see fit.

Many of us live our lives without asking or thinking about things that make them happy, until something catastrophic happens to derail that happiness. I mean something that blocks the everyday course of action, in which we are usually robots functioning without stopping for a second to think.

Sometimes it is a loss of a friend, or even someone we don’t know; the mere saddening theme of death or loss. The notion that you know something or someone is gone and will never come back. Other times it could be something more trivial like a farewell scene in an airport or train station. It is in such moments that we actually stop for a second and start to ponder, to engage in a profound contemplation about our lives and suddenly all our dreams float to the surface. Right there, we feel as if we are floating through million clashing thoughts just like waves in a roaring ocean.

Well, for me the wakeup call was a very harsh year in which I lost almost everything; my job, my belongings, my income, almost everything, even my dad I was on the verge of losing him. He suffered from a severe heart stroke; I was alone with him in the hospital, watching him suffer while life being sucked out of him. There were moments when he didn’t recognize me or know where we were. I saw my whole life shatter in front of me, while all I could do was stand there in the middle, watching it all fall apart. My dad was my whole life.

There was a time when his heart actually stopped and I had to stand outside and watch while the doctors revive him back. I will never forget that moment in my life, I never felt so vulnerable or weak before. I started to contemplate on what meant the most to me in life and why? My dad is recovered now, but I looked around me and examined the lives of those close to me and realized I didn’t like nor want any of their lives. That was the moment I realized that I deserve better.

I wanted to start over but I was afraid. I fear it because starting over requires change and I have come to realize that I fear change more than death because I don’t know what lies ahead and thus don’t know how to act. Now I know that as much as it is scary to start over, it is also liberating and fruitful. So, I am not going to be afraid anymore to start over. If I won’t be the writer of my own story, who will? I feel I owe it to myself to be happy, to try and explore myself, to look beyond all these years that passed and re-live my life again.

Some of us are fortunate enough to realize in their moments of contemplation that they are on the right track and actually pursuing their dreams or that they are happy and content with the lives they lead. However, for some of us, tragic moments make us ponder about the “why”, the “how” of our lives. They make us wonder “what happened” to all of our dreams and what makes us keep postponing our plans. For a moment, I thought, what if tomorrow was my last day? What would I do? I could not stop thinking and that’s when I overcame my fear and decided to be free, to be alive, to start over.

The Back and Forth of Starting Over

By: Autumn Elizabeth

By some ways of looking at my life, I have spent the majority of the last few years starting over. Starting to reclaim a new spiritual path after my church refused to marry me and my partner, starting over with a new life in Europe after that unsanctioned marriage ended. But the truth is, I am not sure starting over is even possible.

Starting over spiritually has not meant giving up my lifetime of faith and starting fresh. On the contrary, starting over has led me both forward and backwards. I have rediscovered some of the beauty and radical justice buried in my Catholic heritage, and I have found deep wells of solace and a place to pray in my yoga practice. I have also kept a deep admiration for my church as they struggle to more radically embody the love of Jesus and move to embrace all types of love.

I think starting over is always about moving both backwards and forwards simultaneously. No matter how much someone hurts us, no matter how broken our hearts, none of us really forget, we keep tiny pieces of all the people we love in our hearts forever. For me, in times of heartache, starting over often looks a lot like going back to the people who knew me before my heartache, and it also often involves finding new relationships of love and support. So it seems, for me at least, that starting over is more a process of growing in wisdom and love than a process of erasing our past.

For me starting over has been a process of going back and moving forward. I am blessed to have found solace in both places. 2015 stands to be a big year for me in both directions. Looking to the future I will graduate from my master’s program, and I will celebrate entering a new decade of wisdom. Looking back, this site will turn two and my oldest friendship with turn 21. To me, this is what starting over looks like—it is the growing of new branches while my roots grow deeper too. This January, may your new year be rooted in all the blessing of your past, and all the possibilities of the future. Here’s to staring over, and to keeping all the wisdom we’ve already gained.

Hunger For Feeling

We are pleased to share another guest post from Nermine Mohamed, who previously wrote about the fear of liking loneliness too much.  Nermine is a Muslim from what she calls “the huge, crowded and contradictory city of Cairo”, and she currently lives in Germany. Today she shares with us how she hungers for deep emotional experiences and ways to express them. 

Have you ever laughed, truly laughed? The stomach-aching, tears-rolling-down the face, cannot catch your breath kind of laugh.

Have you ever cried, truly cried? Cried your whole heart out, shouted out your pain at the top of your lungs.

What about love? Have you ever felt it, taken it all in? Do you say it “I love you” whenever you feel like it, without over thinking it, without second-guessing it?

Well, I have not, but I hunger for it. I’ve never known how to voice emotions, how to truly live emotions. I have been walking on egg shells all my life, tiptoeing around feelings as if they are a beast I’m afraid to stir.

When I was 12, I lost my mum. She was sick and I was young and I was not supposed to know she was dying until she did. Sometimes people think it is best to protect their children from pain, but I wish I was given the chance to grieve, to fully experience the slipping away of someone dear, to know how precious the little time I had left with her was.

Instead, I cried for a few days and I did not want anyone to comfort me. I did not want to share my grief. And then it was all over, locked-up and thrown away.

Even now, it is not only grief and pain that I don’t allow myself to feel. I do not allow myself to be happy when I achieve something I’ve longed for. Nothing is permanent. Don’t get too excited, it might not work after all!

I’m always stuck midway; a trapeze dancer, swinging back and forth, but never falling, never jumping, never letting go.

But I’m tired of this numbness. I’m yearning, I’m aching, I’m hungry for emotions; raw, deep, acute, soul-shattering emotions. With writing that I can sometimes speak of such things, but I still hunger more.

I want the butterflies-in-my-stomach kind of excitement. I want to be able to get mad. I want to be able to cry. I want to allow myself to love insanely, uncontrollably. I want to have my heart broken, mended and broken again. I want to be able to shout out my feelings.

So, I’ll pray for myself and everyone else out there who feels the same:

May we get swept off our feet by joy, by laughter, by love. May we let go. May we allow ourselves to fall, to get bumped on the head by living every moment, every feeling and emotion to the fullest. May we always have the strength to endure pain, but may we also use it to be more caring, more loving. Finally may we have the courage to seek love, to accept it and to share it in return.

Amen.

Awakening to War

Hope of Life

“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” ― D.H. Lawrence

Today’s post again focuses on the conflict in Syria. Shaza Askar’s perceptive put a human face on the tragedy with wisdom and grace. Hopefully, this post will wake us all up to the realities of war, and guide us to work for peace.

Syria’s turmoil began with protests against the regime back in March 2011. A year and a half later it was formally declared a civil war. Three years later, the war has affected the world, even the international community has stepped in after accusations of chemical weapons use in the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013.

The human cost is high and continues to climb as fighting rages. The death toll now exceeds 130,000 and more than eight million Syrians have fled their homes, seeking refuge either in neighboring countries or other parts of their troubled country.

I was living in my home city Homs during the outbreak of the war in 2011. The beginning of the war, or let us say revolution, was frightening because no one could guess where it might take us, or what my country’s future was going to be like.

Since my family house was near the Old City of Homs, a center of action, we had a greater share of tragedies. I can clearly remember how it all started, the protests, the first confrontations between the rebels and the government army, the deployments of tanks and soldiers down the streets, and the raids on the houses.

One June morning in 2011, I awoke to find seven tanks on my block. At that point I knew, a real war had started. There was one time that my sister and I were walking home and suddenly two groups were shooting all around us, we ran like crazy for almost 200 meters to reach to our relatives’ house. We stayed there until there was a break in the battle and we could finally go home.

The scary thing about Syria is that even if you are in an area that seems calm, there are still airstrikes. There isn’t a no-fly zone in place. And there are airstrikes all around the country. So at any moment the veneer of calm can be shattered with an airstrike or with an artillery round. Consequently, civilians were indiscriminately being killed, and who is the murderer? It is an unanswerable question since there are quite a number of armies, groups, and affiliations which are fighting in my country.

I awake every morning knowing war is ravaging my country, I awake every morning knowing people in Syria will die. I awake every morning knowing being alive is a blessing.