Maybe Tomorrow I Will be a Mystic Mom


By Christiana N. Peterson

I am outdoors in the late afternoon and sitting cross-legged on a quilt from which I can view the garden. This spot, under the shade of a large sugar maple—the setting idyllic and agrarian—should be perfect for quiet prayer. But it’s not.

I think I am emerging from the haze of an anxiety that caught hold of me when my baby was three months old: panic attacks and mind-spiraling fears that left me feeling unbalanced and overwhelmed.

As the primary caregiver for my three children, I regard their naptimes as precious hours. During their naps I am alone and try to pull myself out of the storm. Today, however, my baby is rebelling against naptime. Swinging her in the hammock beside me has become the only way I can get her to sleep. [Read more...]

The Rothko Chapel: The Dark Before the Dawn

By Rebecca A. Spears

Rothko_Chapel_ExteriorThe few years I lived in Houston’s Menil neighborhood, right behind the University of St. Thomas, I felt like I’d been invited to live in a sacred garden, a nearly prelapsarian environment.

It is a beautiful space, near the art museum known as the Menil Collection and its park, and bordered by several streets of Craftsman-style houses.

Yet while I lived in my “Menil house,” I was forced to learn more about darkness and my faith and how it might endure. Both my daughters, in their early twenties, were in trouble. They’d become entangled in bad relationships with jealous, controlling men. They’d begun abusing drugs.

During that time, I saw my daughters less and less; they seemed to be disappearing right before my eyes. I’d invite them to the house every couple of weeks or try to meet with one or both of them for coffee. Often they’d say yes, only to cancel at the last minute or forget to show up. Or when they did show up, they’d arrive with their drugged, unpredictable partners.

On a positive note, my friends loved my new space and were happy to stop by or spend the whole day with me there. In the fall, we could walk to the Greek or Italian festivals. Or we’d visit the Menil Collection or just sit on my front porch, enjoying the view—the park, the massive live oaks, and directly across the street, the Rothko Chapel. [Read more...]

Let Me Die Like This

redWhen I die, Lord, let me go in a plane crash, spiraling down, earthward, earthward, apportioned enough time to pray but not nearly enough to forget what we’re all prone to forget: that the end comes, it rushes up to greet us, every one in flight.

What I’d pray in my downfall is: forgive, sweet Christ, forgive, and this: let me see. Let me see myself in your mirror so I may know, before the end, if I am known.

They say it’s easier to conjure faith in desperation, but I suspect the opposite is true, that all we hold in our trembling hands, when the earth charges up to embrace us for the last time, is what’s really there, what we really believe, what we really love, be it God or ourselves or our children or our comforts, or likely some combination of these, with salvation turning perhaps not on a choice so much as on the algorithm, on our hammered-out parameters of love. [Read more...]

Morning Prayer and The New York Times


Summer morning routine: a cup of Awake tea, the Opinion page of The New York Times.

What am I looking for to get my day going? Information to spark the brain? A needle to inject righteous indignation into my sleepy heart?

The flag is coming down. You know which one. I read columnist Nicholas Kristof’s “Tearing Down the Confederate Flag Is Just a Start.”

“America’s greatest shame in 2015 is not a piece of cloth. It’s that a black boy has a life expectancy five years shorter than a white boy. It’s that the net worth of the average black household in 2011 was $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to census data. It’s that almost two-thirds of black children grow up in low-income families. It’s that more than one-third of inner-city black kids suffer lead poisoning (and thus often lifelong brain impairment), mostly from old lead paint in substandard housing. More consequential than that flag is…” [Read more...]

Learning to Pray

Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything. —Abba Moses

The way up and the way down are one and the same. —Heraclitus


Trinity IconIt is six o’clock in the morning. I am on an overnight business trip to New York, alone in my hotel room. Weak streams of dawn light leak around the edges of the blackout shades on the window of my room in the Club Quarters Midtown. For the moment, I have silenced the frenetic squawking of local traffic and crime updates on New York One, because I am about to pray, and I am trying to figure out which way is East.

Part of me feels completely ridiculous, but I have committed to this, and though I have brought nary an icon with me, I stand in the middle of the hotel room floor and pray in the direction that seems to be towards Jerusalem: I cross myself and touch my fingertips to the floor, then pray the Trisagion prayers—the most rock-bottom-basic prayer in the Eastern Orthodox prayer book, called such, as the Internet notes, for its “triple invocation of God as holy”:

Glory to Thee, our God, Glory to Thee.
O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, the Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come, and abide in us, and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Good One.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. (3 times)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
All-Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy. (3 times)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Even in prayer, the lay critic in me bubbles up: All those thrice-repeated phrases, how can they not be a subtle Trinitarian dig at the overwhelmingly singular focus of the Shema, the foundational Jewish prayer from Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one…” But of course, I remember, we still believe that one too. [Read more...]