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When Paul says to “pray always” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), he can’t mean to walk around saying the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” all day.  Prayer is basically a total life stance. It is a way of being present in the world in which we are present to the Presence and present to the Presence in all things. In a certain sense, you either pray always (or almost always) or you do not pray at all.

….

Once we can learn to be present to the Presence, the things that used to bother us don’t bother us quite as much. The things that used to defeat us no longer defeat us. The things we thought we could never surrender to, we now can. Even to accept that we are not ready to accept something is still a form of this utterly grounding and accepting Presence.

from The Eternal Now

emphasis mine

“In the farthest sweeps of history, the prophet’s dream is that the knowledge of God will cover the face of the earth.”  Alton B. Pollard, III

1.

The frost has killed the summer flowers.
They hang brownish heads

from spindly stems.  The autumnal sky
is gray and looks like ice.  November

rain brought the leaves down.  They now cover
most of the ground.  But the hour

is not yet come for the feast that will usher in
the Best Holiday of them all.

I like Christmas.  I love it.
Yet I am wary as a turkey before

the slaughter and have forgotten the word
that was on my mind that night,

when I took notes about the blurring of
false boundaries, so that memories and dreams

became parts of my prayer.  That word destroyed
all categories into which everyone must fit.

I know there were natives present.
But everywhere one goes, it seems,

there are natives.   What was I thinking
that could “break barriers down”?

Is there a word that transcends all difference
and puts my feet on solid ground?

2.

I sat on the concrete wall near a pile of leaves,
raked to Third Street’s edge.  Pam’s in
her poodle skirt.  We are sisters.

And with childhood’s frolic over,
we are left to mine what’s happened since.
We must try to figure it out.
As the moon grows cold deep in the night,

watermelon vines wind themselves,
where there is nothing to wind themselves
around or to.   They look tangled and brown,
even before the birth of young melons.

Singing words may tease the senses,
and we could cackle all by ourselves,
but we won’t forget a single sparrow,
for no one flies with broken wings.

3.

I see a river, as it dives from the cliff,
feel its spray on my cheeks, my white, aging
chin. I taste the river’s sweetness.
I see a river whose shores hold the answer.

I see the sweat and the blood, as they river
on the back of a dark, black slave.
I hear the beat of a slave mother’s heart,
beneath the noonday sun.  I hear the beat

of the feet of the Cherokee brave,
running alone through the hot, green forest,
then up toward the sacred hills.  I smell
the smoke from the great chieftain’s pipe.

4.

The echo of loon-calls infiltrated
low-dragging branches.  While white patrollers
with their guns and their bloodhounds
were fighting tangled trees, their canoes fought
the waters of the swamp-jungle,
beside the alligator-shadows, where abandoned
human bones lay undisturbed, unquestioned
in the grayness of spontaneous gnarls of the maze
of the Spanish Moss.  And when the sky grew

darker and search parties turned back, the tired
runaway did not.  Having drunk deeply from the pot
lying on its side and hearing the song held safely within,
Jacob ceased from his hiding and started his
wading into the black, troubled water.
He turned north, followed a guiding star.

“There is a Presence” now, there in that swamp,
and there always has been.

5.

Distant stars now grace the darkness.
And six farmers under a quarter moon
kneel but do not speak.

By day, the sun burns through barren fields.
The old women shout,
“Dirt to mud, mud to dirt.”  The barefoot children
stomp a rain-dance.

Silence follows begging in this hell-dry penumbra,
which is not to say what the villagers now believe.

6.

A rainbow is visible through the clouds,
but the multitudes stand like sheep,
while the rain comes stroking the air.  The rain
cleans the water and the firmament.
The people don’t know, of course,
that they are sheep, forsaking what matters most:

They have forgotten to dream.
And as the pond and the lake fill with water,
small puddles form on the land,
the sheep relive their false memories.

They think they are thinking, choosing,
watching for wolves.  They “know about”
wolves, because they are sheep.
But they don’t know wolves.

The sheep bow their heads,
while raindrops fall into a small pond
in the openness of meadow. But other drops
became lodged in the trees, where they hang in
fine slivers of hope—unless, in the coldness,
they freeze—only to fall when the sun penetrates
the dense forest, sending them on a journey
to wherever it is they must go,
which is—at least, for some—

like speaking the truth in love.

7.

The other night
as music over-shadowed the meaning of what

I was trying to say, I realized that prayer is best,
when we recognize the fog and acknowledge it.

Snow swirls toward a whirling earth,
so that as you hear a leaf fall,

you need not ask about love.
Outside my window, bright leaves swayed

in the grayness of sky:   Some yellow, some red.
That evening when they floated toward us in your car,

we stopped, turned off the motor, stepped outside
into what soon became the redeeming moment.

The fog and the wind were coming
as quickly and as surely as my pain.  Then suddenly,

raindrops were all over us.   And just so you know,
that evening, as we sat awkwardly on the back of your car,

when you suggested how close we’d become,
I decided to forgive you.  And God—

who is, perhaps, saner than we like to pretend—
smiled down upon us all.

from Better with Friends

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