Dear Friends of Penn Central
In the October 9
The Christian Century
, several first person narrative essays about Dirt were published as part of The Buechner Narrative Writing Project. The cover elicited a clear memory. This week’s Psalm (46) brought it to mind again. As I think about the things I am thankful for, I list dirt and the bounty of the earth among them.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Several years ago, Valerie Tutson shared a prayer at a National Youth Event that has never been far from my spiritual tool-kit. In it, she has a coliseum of youth and adults facing the four directions and then crouching on the ground and reaching toward the sky. Separated by layers of concrete, our prayer about and for the earth as we crouched connected me in a way that years of camping had not. Connection to the earth literally and figuratively grounds me. After reading these essays on Dirt, I returned to this prayer for a week or so as the weather allowed.
In my backyard facing East, standing with my arms outstretched – God of the rising Sun, thank you for the gift of this new day. May I use it to spread your love.
Turning to face the North, standing with hands out in front of me and palms up – God may you be my true North always directing my ways and calling me closer to you. When I stray, pull me back to you.
Turning to face the South, wrapping my arms around myself – Comforting God, may the warmth of your love so embrace me this day that I might share it with those that need it most.
Then facing West, palms down and out in front of me – At the close of the day, God of Sabbath, remind me to rest in you.
Down on knees with body folded over (as if in a ball) with hands outstretched and palms down touching the ground – Creator, Source of my being, may I live today in ways that respect the Earth and all that comes from it and all that dwell on it. Help me to BE today.
Standing up and stretching to tip-toe and reaching skyward with my head tilted up – God of all creation, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! May I be a blessing in the world today. Amen
(Often each of these positions are held for minutes as the prayer takes life of its own. When I have led it with groups, I try to hold 20-30 seconds of silence in each pose after the introductory line for participants to include prayers of their hearts that the words or action inspires.)
Get outside and pray with your face to the rising sun or your body connected to the dirt.