PBP Week 50 – Youth Lost

This is not the post I had intended to write when I sat down yesterday.  The post that I’d already composed in my head was about Yule and the longest night of the year.  There are other things that need to be said in the wake of yesterday’s events in Connecticut.

To the ferrymen…
Ease the journey of those who have fallen,
shepherd gently the souls of the innocent,
help them cross to a place of peace.
To the comforters…
Ease the pain of those left behind,
hold them closely in your arms,
help them to see the life still left.
To the fighters…
Choose carefully your battles,
know that you will not always win,
make the progress that you can.
To all…
Mourn and grieve as you need,
and when your tears have dried,
take a stand and vow “Never again.”

This world will never be without violence or pain, but the kind of horrific scenes that unfolded yesterday do not need to be a part of anyone’s experience.  Do what you can, wherever you are, with the tools you have to prevent another child being lost to violence. Advocate for the solutions that you believe will stop this kind of mindless violence against children.  We may not agree on the best solutions or how to achieve them, but until we begin to talk earnestly and honestly about the issue, there can be no hope of ending this nightmare.


PBP Week 8 – Diversity, Division, and a Devotional

In light of the controversy at this year’s Pantheacon, I set out to write a post about diversity and defining ourselves.  I’d intended to talk about how embracing and encouraging diversity can promote spiritual growth.  Furthermore, there was a discussion to be had about who has the right to define who we are – spiritually, socially, sexually, gender-wise, and otherwise.  I think it would have been an interesting, albeit long-winded, post that would require at least one soap box and an intermission to put out the fires of illumination caused by the flamethrower.*

When I sat down to write however, I found that there were no words forthcoming.  As sometimes happens when grappling with a difficult issue, some part of my brain decided that it would strike out on its own, seize control of my hand, and put down in words what I most needed to say, what was in my heart at that moment.  So instead of a diatribe about diversity and definitions, this is my post for this week, a mediation/prayer from my pen.

This I ask of you…
Help me to be a beacon,
to illuminate the world
with hope and acceptance
in this time of gathering darkness.
Allow us to come together
with open minds and hearts
that we might someday thrive
in a world without hate and fear.
Enable us to clearly see,
to recognize our own prejudice
with the same clarity and acumen
that we see the prejudice of others.
Let us find within ourselves
the courage and determination
to resolve our conflicts
with respect for all sides.
Enable us to recognize,
above all of these things,
the unique beauty of each individual
and the shared spark of divinity within.

And that’s about all I have the energy for this week.  Be well, all.

*Some of you may have noticed that there are occasionally veiled (and outright) references to certain authors.  This is yet another one of those. More on it later, I think, to be filed under F for Flamethrower.

On Praying

A man praying at a Japanese Shintō shrine.
Image via Wikipedia

While by no means is prayer a ubiquitous form of religious expression, the saying of prayers is a common action on a multitude of spiritual paths.  Prayers of blessing are said over food and for child, prayers of healing for the ailing, prayers of forgiveness for trespasses, prayers of safe passage for the dying and dead.  Many of us mark each day with prayer, others may find prayer a part of their lives only in moments of crisis or during holy celebrations.

Whatever approach we take to prayer, most of us find ourselves confronted by the desire to pray for someone else at some point in our spiritual lives.  When faced with an urge to pray for another, most people don’t give it much thought, but simply send up their requests.  Prayer, after all, doesn’t require us to obtain the permission of the other person or to even consider their feelings regarding the matter of prayers said on their behalf.  Prayer is, after all, a communication between the practitioner and deity, not necessarily the concern of the person being prayed for. 

Or is it?  Perhaps it’s not as simple as saying “I want this for you,” so I’m going to pray for you.  What happens if what you want for a person is in direction opposition to what they want for themselves?  What if prayers to a deity other than their own is a violation of the tenets of their beliefs?  What are the consequences of acting on someone’s behalf without their consent?

I won’t pretend that I have “The Answers” TM to these questions.  It’s something I’ve struggled with over the years myself.  My thoughts on the matter at this point in my path are:

  • Obtain permission whenever possible.  Ask if the subject if it’s okay to pray on their behalf.  Address any questions or concerns that they may express.
  • If a person declines or appears uncomfortable with the offer of prayers, respect their wishes without questioning their reasons.  Do not argue or debate the point.  Find another way to be of help if you must, but respect each person’s spiritual sovereignty.
  • Be very forthright about the reasons for praying for another.  If the other person asks, tell them not only what you’re praying for on their behalf, but also to whom you are praying and for what reason.  Verify that the content of your prayers is in line with what they want. 
  • In the case of dire emergency where the person cannot respond, I will send prayers on their behalf, with a caveat of “Please answer this prayer only if it would be their will to have it said.” 
  • When the temptation strikes to assume that I know what a person needs more than they do, I refrain from praying for what I want for that person or what I think that person needs.  Instead, I will ask my own deities to give me patience and a clear head to cope with the situation.  “Open my eyes so that I may see, open my mind so that I may know, open my heart so that I may accept” is a frequent refrain in my personal prayers.

There is a certain underlying complexity in our interactions with each other and with our deities.  When faced with the question “May I pray for you?”, it pays to already know the answer, to know ourselves well enough to give an answer that upholds our own paths while respecting those of others.  The same is true when faced with the question “Will you pray for me?”   A simple prayer requires that we simply think before acting.

Path Forging – Communicating with Deity

Perhaps you’ve noticed that the Path Forging entries are becoming quite focused on Deity. The relationship between human and deity is one that is, I think, both the simplest and most complex one that any of us will ever experience. At its most basic, this relationship is one of belonging… us to our gods and our gods to us. At its most complex, the relationship can be one that is, at least for we humans, difficult to navigate.

As in all relationships, communication is the key to making things work. Communication with deity varies through history and across cultures, yet is a vital part of worship for many. Some questions regarding the subject follow:

  • Do you communicate with deity?
  • What form(s) does that communication take?
  • Is this communication formal and ritualized or more casual?
  • Is regular communication with deity important to your path?
  • Can a person communicate directly with deity or is it necessary to have a mediator such as a religious leader or spiritual guide to facilitate communications?
  • Does deity respond to your communications? What form do these responses take?
  • Who typically initiates communication? You or your deity?
  • What types of information are communicated between you and your deity?

I’ll keep my answer short and simple: yes, I communicate directly and often with multiple deities. That, I think, is enough of answer, as my primary purpose is not to share my experiences, but to spark each person to think about their own experiences and answers.

The Longest Night

Solstice quickly approaches, ushering the winter season here in the Northern Hemisphere. At the request of a friend, I share a blessing/prayer/meditation for the longest night of the year.

On this longest night of the year,
may you find warmth in the cold,
illumination in the darkness,
peace in the silent solitude,
and hope in the bleakest hours.
In the darkness of this night,
may the fire burn long in the hearth
and love burn longer in your heart.
Solstice blessings to all who pass through here upon their journeys. May life provide much of what of you want and all of what you need. ~Ais

An Election Day Prayer

My normal inclination is to avoid talking politics in my blogs, but on this presidential election night in the United States, politics is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. This election promises to make history regardless of the outcome. Instead of talking about the options available to us or the issues that have already been discussed ad naseum, I share only this prayer:

I pray that every voice be heard, that every vote be counted,
that no one be denied the opportunity to make a choice.
I pray that every candidate be kept safe,
that they be given fair chance to make their stand,
that their hearts and minds be open and clear.
I pray that the election be calm and peaceful,
that all processes are smooth,
that all ballots are fairly counted.
I pray that our new leader be fair and just,
that his eyes will be open to his country’s needs,
that his decisions be compassionate and humane.
I pray that our country will heal itself and its economy,
that it will be a shining example to the rest of the world,
that it will be peaceful and prosperous.
I pray that our planet will be positively impacted,
that it will be a safe place for children,
that there be a better future for all.

Blessed be, my friends, and don’t forget to vote today.