Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

One of my offerings for the SPRING issue of Seasoned with Peace is this knitted log cabin tutorial.  It is also a guided prayer meditation, a way to pray without ceasing.  Below is my essay as it appears in Seasoned with Peace, along with more detailed instructions as promised there.  Click on the links for some of the knitting how-to’s.

(Click here to order the SPRING issue of Seasoned with Peace)



Piecing for Peace — a knitted log cabin prayer tutorial

“When I was in high school a sixth grade boy named Luke taught me how to knit.  From the beginning, I found knitting to be a soothing, meditative exercise.  As I knit a project or a gift, I become increasingly calm and centered.  When done intentionally and prayerfully, the act of knitting can also bring peace and wholeness to others and to the world around us.

The ‘Knitted Log Cabin’ project is in the spirit of “Gathering up the Fragments” from the More with Less cookbook, using leftover yarn from other projects, and can be used for anything from dishcloths and potholders, to afghans, lap blankets or even scarves.  I love the beauty of pieced quilts, so when I first saw a knitted log cabin square on Purl Bee’s website, I fell in love (http://www.purlbee.com/log-cabin-washcloths/).

The technical aspects of this project are not that important.  What is important is your intention and attention.  When sitting down to knit, you must first intend it as a time of prayer.  Take a moment to say a prayer of dedication for this time.  Secondly, keep your attention on what you’re doing.  You don’t always have to be “saying” something to God, just holding the prayer in your heart as you pay very close attention to your stitching.  When other thoughts come up (and they surely will), gently and without judgment, return your attention to your knitting and your prayer.  In this way, we can pray without ceasing.

Start by knitting a small square. Try to make it as equal on all sides as possible, as this will be the foundation for the whole log cabin block.  Using all the same weight of yarn will help the finished block remain even, and allow for easier piecing with other finished blocks.  Bind off the square except for the last stitch.  Cut the yarn leaving a 4-6” tail.  I know real knitters never tie knots.  So if you are a real knitter, do whatever it is you do when changing colors.  The rest of us can tie a new color to the old color with a knot.

With the new color, pick up stitches along the side of the square and knit rows until desired thickness.  Keep track of how many rows this is so that all your ‘logs’ are the same.  You’ll soon get the feel for it and won’t need to count anymore.  No matter how thick your ‘logs’ are, after picking up the stitches, knit an odd number of rows, then bind off.

Again, leave one stitch at the end of the row that you are binding off, snip the yarn, attach a new color, and now you will be picking up stitches with the new color along the bottom edge of your original square.  Continue, knitting straight across the ends of ‘logs’, knitting your block as large or small as you like.  When you finish, count up the ‘logs’ starting in the center to be sure you have the same number on each side.  I weave in the ends on the backside as I finish each block so that it is not an overwhelming task at the end.

Here are some ideas for implementing this project:

  • You might have a list of people and/or situations to pray for when you sit down to knit.  Dedicate one color or ‘log’ of the cabin to each item. If doing a group project, come up with a list together.
  • If making a gift for someone, keep track of the colors and tell them how you prayed for them with each one.
  • If donating the project to an organization, prayers and meditations can be focused on the work of that group.

Engaging in any act in an attitude of prayer grounds us in the immediacy of God’s presence.  Knitting in particular is an activity whereby a long, wound-up ball of yarn is slowly transformed into something whole and beautiful, bringing peace to the world one stitch at a time.”





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This one comes with a major sense of accomplishment.  Many of us live lives that refuse to be quantified; we can’t often point to something at the end of the day and say, “I did that.”


It’s nice to finally be able to do that with “Two Dutch Girls – A Real Wooden Puzzle,” a piece that I’ve wanted to write for a number of years.  It’s about a puzzle, and time, and renewal.


Here’s an excerpt:


Despite having written about slowing down in my December PeaceSigns article <http://peace.mennolink.org/cgi-bin/m.pl?a=803>, I struggled to finish making all my homemade gifts, host and attend holiday gatherings, pack for our visit to California, and maintain some semblance of Advent preparation. Just at the point when I felt I might come apart at the seams, I took out this puzzle.

(For the full article, click here.)




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The Prayer of the Ox

illustration by Jean Primrose


The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath. Mark 2.27


I’ve been thinking a lot about the sabbath lately, and what it really means to stop.  Perhaps you may have guessed that from yesterday’s post.  Both in this section of Mark, as well as the 12th chapter of Matthew, Jesus confronts the legal fundamentalists (or rather they confront him) about sabbath-breaking and sabbath-keeping.


There’s a lot to be said about those passages, and many have said it better than I could anyway.  According to Jesus, it’s not about the avoidance of any kind of work at all (one could pull one’s donkey out of a hole, for example).  As I think about sabbath, the aspect of it that stands out to me the most is economic, and specifically profit.


I’ve already made the decision that I won’t work at a place of employment on the sabbath.  It was a hard decision, especially when one is not in a position to be turning down work.  And I wonder how many of my applications for employment have been turned down because of that.


That decision was made quite a while ago, and for the most part once it was made, it wasn’t hard to keep.  Making the decision was the difficult part.  Deciding that there would be one day a week that I wouldn’t profit from my work, which set the day apart from the rest of the week, that was hard.


And now it seems I’m at a new crossroads in my sabbath-thinking.  If I’ve decided that I won’t work, what does it mean for me to engage in an activity that depends upon the work of another person?  I don’t know that I’d quite say it forces them to work – but maybe it does.  I’m not ready to make a decision yet, but it is something that I’m thinking about, and considering how I might further orient my life around keeping the sabbath.


Without work on the sabbath, there is time.  Time to think, time to be.  The space that is normally consumed by our work, our errands, and all our running around, is finally left wide open.  And when I think about how much we all seem to crave more time, I think about another prayer from Prayers from the Ark, “The Prayer of the Ox”, that beast of burden:



Dear God, give me time.

Men are always so driven!

Make them understand that I can never hurry.

Give me time to eat.

Give me time to plod.

Give me time to sleep.

Give me time to think.



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The Girl You Love to Hate



She’s the girl with the perfect figure who turns the head of every man she walks by.  She’s smart and sexy, but low-maintenance and full of self-confidence.  She’s not threatened by anyone or anything.  And I really hate her.


Fortunately (or maybe sadly) she’s a character on the television show Bones.  She’s Hannah, Booth’s new girlfriend.  As any follower of the show knows, it’s Booth and Bones who are supposed to be together.  In television time (i.e., between seasons) Booth and Bones go their separate ways for a while.  When Booth reappears at the beginning of this season, he’s got this hot new girlfriend.


I’m sure there are all kinds of things going on here.  I’m sure the writers or producers or whoever want me to hate her.  Maybe there’s something “irrational” (Bones’s favorite word) about hating her.  Hannah is wonderful, Booth is happy, and Bones herself seems to be okay with it.  Maybe there’s even some sort of social or gender question about why we hate beautiful, intelligent, sexy women.  Or maybe that’s just me.


The thing is, I’m terribly jealous of her.  And I don’t like it.  It’s ugly.  And it seems so… so… irrational!  It’s not like I myself want to be with Booth in some weird fantasy where I can’t distinguish television from reality.  I want Bones to be with Booth.  So what’s my deal?


I wish I had some clear answers here.  I’m aware that these visceral reactions of jealousy are indications of my own insecurities.  And I’m well aware of what those insecurities are.  I’m just not quite sure what to do about them.  I know that just telling myself not to think or feel a certain way doesn’t work very well.  My “self” can be very stubborn.  I do, however, have a hunch that those subterranean issues are among the many things that regular practice of centering prayer chips away at over time.


For the present and immediate future, I am reminded to be more cautious in my attitude toward others in real life, and that my dislike of someone may not really be about them at all.  They just happen to be the one’s who are holding up the mirror.  When I project feelings of hate onto someone else, I have to ask what it is that I’m hating about myself.

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New Dishwasher

Last week our dishwasher died.  I went to empty it in the morning and it was full of water.  I called the property mangers who immediately came out and pronounced it D.O.A.  The report was that we’d get a new one, no sooner than Monday.

Yesterday, I came home and there was no new dishwasher.

This morning I was preparing for an important presentation in the afternoon.  And because this is the way these things usually work for me, I just knew that the new dishwasher would appear at the most critical moment.  So I did something completely uncharacteristic for me; I called the office and asked what the status was on the new dishwasher.  The kind woman on the other end of the phone said someone was just outside who would handle that and she would check with him and call me back.

A few minutes later she called and said the dishwasher was on its way this morning.  And that’s where I really had to be brave.  I asked if it would be possible to wait to install it until this afternoon when I would be gone.

You have to understand that I am a chicken.  I don’t want to upset the apple cart.  I don’t want to inconvenience anyone.  I don’t want to get in anyone’s way.  For me to assert myself in that way takes more guts than I typically have.  But I was more nervous about my presentation, giving me the gumption I needed to ask for a delay.

But of course she said it was no problem.  I don’t know what I was so afraid of.

I went to my presentation, which went perfectly fine, and made a stop by the grocery store on the way home for a rotisserie chicken.  I was starving (not having eaten a proper lunch), and had some garlic aioli that was nearing the end of its prime.  I couldn’t wait to get home and make a chicken sandwich with my homemade aioli.

Again though, because this is the way things tend to go, as I was pulling into the driveway I saw the truck with the dishwasher in the back, snug in its cardboard box – a clear sign that they had just arrived themselves.

I was so irritated.  I was in serious need of food – a garlic aioli chicken sandwich, to be precise – and I was exhausted.  I wanted to put on my most comfy, most non-public attire, plop myself down in front of a movie, and chill.

Instead, I sat in the sun room and worked.  In my non-comfy clothes.  For almost two hours.

Just as they were leaving, one of the men said that he noticed an icon of Mary that I had, but called it by an unfamiliar name.  Stupidly I asked which one.  Stupidly, that is, because we only have one icon of Mary.  Scanning the room, he found the one he was referring to.  Then he pulled out his wallet and showed me the same icon, just a different rendering.  A friend brought us the one we have from Russia.  Though I didn’t know what it was called in the Russian Orthodox tradition, I said that in the Greek Orthodox tradition this icon is known as The Virgin of Tenderness, where Mary and Jesus’ cheeks are always touching.

He said he was Catholic.  Curious about his accent, I asked where he was from.  Haiti.  Oh, my.  Did he still have family there?  Yes, but his town, St. Mark, has so far not been touched by the cholera outbreak.  But it was only a matter of time, as people were migrating to that part of the island.  His mother wants to go home, and doesn’t understand that at 89 years old, it’s not safe for her.

We chatted for a while longer, and he mentioned that he noticed we didn’t have a washer and dryer.  I thought I was busted.  The “laundry room” off the kitchen, which houses our breaker panel, along with the hot water heater and some other big metal thing, has been turned into our panty, with two enormous shelving units.

To my surprise, he started telling me about all the things people either throw away or leave when they move out.  Having a heart for things that get thrown away prematurely, my ears perked right up.  And then he told me that the next time he sees a washer and dryer that has been abandoned (a perfectly good one, mind you) that he will come knock on my door.  He even said he’d help me rearrange the shelves or install new ones if I needed them.

I’m still amazed by this sequence of events – about dreading the sudden coming of the new dishwasher (on top of which was embarrassment about the tower of dishes that had piled up), working up the nerve to call the office and tell them what I needed to happen, being irritated that it came right when I needed to relax most, connecting with another human being and affirming that I would be praying for his family and his town and that we would pray for them all at church, and finally the possibility of a washer and dryer that we couldn’t afford to buy.

Sometimes when things don’t work out, they really do.

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The Prayer of the Goat

illustration by Jean Primrose


Among the things I’ve swiped from my dad (which include, but are not limited to: a bundt pan, a glass meatloaf pan that I don’t use for meatloaf, and a big solid wood bookcase) is a book called Prayers from the Ark, written by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold and translated by Rumer Godden.


On the inside, in my dad’s handwriting, is written “from Dorothy & Ken”.  I really like that.


It looks exactly like this.


It is a collection of prayers from the perspective of various animals that may have been on the ark, including Noah himself.  On the one hand, it seems to represent prayers from different personality types.  But as I think about it more carefully, I can identify with most of them, depending on my mood and particular circumstance.


Beyond that, it reminds me to be careful about judging others, and to be respectful of their perspectives.  It also reminds me of the attributes of personalities that may be very different from my own, but no less important or meaningful.


Today, I want to share  The Prayer of the Goat, the one that most resonates with me at this point in my life:



let me live as I will!

I need a little wild freedom,

a little giddiness of heart,

the strange taste of unknown flowers.

For whom else are Your mountains?

Your snow wind?  These springs?

The sheep do not understand.

They graze and graze,

all of them, and always in the same direction,

and then eternally,

chew the cud of their insipid routine.

But I – I love to bound to the heart of it all

Your marvels,

leap Your chasms,

and, my mouth stuffed with intoxicating grasses,

quiver with an adventurer’s delight

on the summit of the world!


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Nose Hairs: A Suggestion


God, why didn’t you make nose hairs for our hearts?  I think it would have been a good idea.   Because when something gets lodged in my heart, I have such a hard time trying to get rid of it.  But if you made nose hairs for my heart, I could just pick the icky stuff right off and flick it away.  Just a suggestion.

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