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giving thanks: mealtime prayers for every occasion

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saying grace

 

Even though I haven’t been to Mass in years, I still recite the Catholic blessing I learned in elementary school before every meal.

“Bless us, O Lord and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

It occurs to me that we humans are probably more disconnected from our food than we’ve ever been in our short history on Earth. We are more likely to consume our daily bread on the run, in a hurry, at a desk, or in a car than we are to slowly digest a slowly-prepared meal surrounded by family and friends. Often times we have no idea where the food we are eating came from, nor the name nor face of the person who prepared it. We may only give thought to the ingredients in the dish placed before us if there is either risk (e.g., allergy or religious taboo) or cachet associated with its presence.

No wonder then, that our giving of thanks before a meal is often overlooked or reserved for only the most special of occasions like, say… Thanksgiving.

I’ve attended my fair share of Thanksgiving dinners – with both my own family and with the extended family that I call my friends. Though the dishes on the table have varied according to the customs, traditions, and culinary skills of those present, there’s been one common trait among each of those Thanksgiving meals. The prayer before the meal.

At the assigned moment, heads bow, hands reach out to the persons beside you, a moment of silence ensues before someone – usually one of the eldest, but sometimes simply the bossiest – will appoint the prayer-giver for the meal. The newly knighted – depending on their experience with such matters – will either stumble for a few moments or leap to the charge. Soon, the prayer begins.

The rest of us listen, reverently. But we only half-hear the words. We are thinking of the sumptuousness of the food spread out in front of us, we are conscious of the feel of our neighbors’ hands in ours, we may briefly remember the faces of those who aren’t present but we wish were there, we may feel a subtle welling of emotion at the gravity of the moment. And then, it is done. We release our neighbors’ hands, and start our strategic jockeying for position in the buffet line.

At its most basic, the act of eating a meal is a purely physical experience. But a brief moment of reverence before consuming the first bite, can transform the act of eating into a kind of sensory meditation.

 

“Food is divine, a gift from God. With deep respect you eat, and while eating you forget everything else, because eating is prayer. It is existential prayer.” ~ Osho

 

At Thanksgiving, the before-meal prayer is a symbolic act that says, ‘this moment is special’. It reaffirms our connectedness to others, and makes us pause to think about what we are about to put into our bodies. And though most pre-Thanksgiving prayers are offered to a divine source (a fact that even my most atheist friends will let slide for Thanksgiving), mealtime prayers need not be religious, nor do they need to be reserved only for ‘special occasions’.

Here is a collection prayers, sayings, and meditations that can be said before meals:

 

Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.

 

May this food restore our strength, giving new energy to tired limbs, new thoughts to weary minds. May this drink restore our souls, giving new vision to dry spirits, new warmth to cold hearts. And once refreshed, may we give new pleasure to You, who gives us all.

“The Quaker tradition of “silent grace” before meals also works well for a dinner party with people of diverse religions and beliefs. All present join hands in a circle around the table, and are silent for half a minute or so as they collect their thoughts, meditate or pray. Then one person gently squeezes the hands of the people seated adjacent; this signal is quickly passed around the table and people then begin to eat….” from secularseasons.org

God is great, God is good.
Let us thank him for our food.
By his hands we all are fed,
Give us, Lord, our daily bread.
Amen.

 

For the meal we are about to eat,
for those that made it possible,
and for those with whom we are about to share it,
we are thankful.

We celebrate this occasion
with food from the earth.
May it fill us with fellowship
and add to our mirth.

 

What before-meal words of thanks do you give? Do you save mealtime prayers for special occasions or are they an everyday ritual?

cheers,

k

photo: A serious moment by angelina_koh, on Flickr

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balm for a tuesday – a poem from rumi

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friendship-theme-photo

 

I’m away on a working vacation this week, Dear Reader. But something told me that this poem by Rumi might be something you needed to hear as much as I did today.

If not, tuck it somewhere safe for a rainy day. 😉

 

come on sweetheart
let’s adore one another
before there is no more
of you and me

a mirror tells the truth
look at your grim face
brighten up and cast away
your bitter smile

a generous friend
gives life for a friend
let’s rise above this
animalistic behavior
and be kind to one another

spite darkens friendships
why not cast away
malice from our heart

once you think of me
dead and gone
you will make up with me
you will miss me
you may even adore me

why be a worshiper of the dead
think of me as a goner
come and make up now

since you will come
and throw kisses
at my tombstone later
why not give them to me now
this is me
that same person

i may talk too much
but my heart is silence
what else can i do
i am condemned to live this life

~rumi

 

cheers,

k

20 things mama used to (and still does) say

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I was listening to WABE the other day and the announcer asked for listeners to call in and share things that their mother always said that they still remembered. I didn’t get a chance to call in and share my memories, but in honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share them with you, Dear Reader.

Here goes…

1. It’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.

2. There is a difference between being a woman and being a lady.

3. Always be observant.

4. Your beauty may open a door, but your brain will keep it open for you.

5. The streets will always be there.

6. If you ever feel you want to try drugs or alcohol, come to me first. (yeah, my mom’s progressive as hell!)

7. Bedtime is at 9:30 pm. (progressive, yet ridiculously strict!)

8. Always take 2 quarters with you, so you can use the pay phone if he acts up on the date. (obviously before cell phones!)

9. Never go for the HMO option.

10. Real ladies keep their shoes on all night (for those of y’all who like to wear those heels you can’t walk in).

11. As long as you live under my roof, you will do what I say.

12. Never say, “I don’t know” when I ask why you did something. Say, “Because I wanted to“. You should always know why you did something.

13. Y’all called me up to the school for THIS? (when I got in trouble for saying the word ‘penis’ on camera in high school)

14. Don’t be the one who is influenced. Be the one who influences.

15. People didn’t expect much from you because I was a single parent. Just shows you that you shouldn’t worry about what people expect.

16. I got you this far. I’m done raising you. The rest is up to you.

17. I guess I have to cut the apron strings at some point.

18. Alright, queen. don’t forget I am yo’ mama! (said when we ‘argue’)

19. Aren’t you lucky to have such a beautiful muuuther!? (I am, by the way)

20. You know I always got your back. (and I got yours, mama!)

What are some things your mother used to (or still does) say?

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. We hear you, even when we’re not listening ;-).

cheers,

k

"…the universe is unfolding as it should"

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It’s crazy the things that you remember from your childhood.

When I was a kid, I spent alot of time at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother – an incurable pack rat (due to a recessive gene I’m sure I inherited) – always had these interesting things around the house that
life_lessonI’d ‘meddle’ with, keeping myself entertained for hours. One of them that I remember quite clearly was a little metal trashcan that she kept near her bedside. By itself, the trashcan was nothing remarkable, but what had me so enchanted with this dinged up little waste receptacle was the poem that was written on the side of it. While my grandmother was otherwise occupied around the house, I’d often climb into her bed and lay there with my head hanging over the edge, reading the poem over and over again, pondering the words, falling in love with the simple rhythmic quality of them as I recited them in my head, and quietly mouthing the poem’s title – which to me, seemed like it might have been some ancient incantation – Desiderata.

Of course, them were the days before the Internet, so I didn’t have any way of finding out what the word ‘Desiderata’ meant, but even as a kid, the meaning of the poem was clear to me. This was a simple set of words to live by, a way to remind oneself of what was important in life, to make sure that you didn’t forget what was really real.

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chickens aren't eagles

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Look, brother farmer. I believe that eagle laid a couple of eggs. Go get those eggs of hers, bring them down, and put them under one of your setting hens. Then, when the eggs hatch, those little eaglets won’t know who they are. They will think they are chickens, so they won’t fight back and bite you. They won’t claw you. They will be peaceful and calm because they won’t know who they are.

 – from, “The Eagle Story

Of all the fantastical things that people often wish they could do, why is it that so many people wish that they could fly? It occurs to me, that maybe most haven’t considered that flying is something of a solo activity.

A bird cannot fly if it’s carrying another bird along with it. Even when mother birds teach their young to fly, they don’t pick them up and take to the air with them. They wait until the chicks are old enough, and then they kick them out of the nest.

If there’s one thing that I’m sure of, it’s that I – and everyone else – was born with wings (not literally, of course). But despite that knowledge, I’ve often been frustrated at my failed attempts to fly as far or as high as my vision allowed me to see. Upon reflecting on some of the times when my flight was cut short, I realized why. Too often it was because I was trying to carry someone along with me who hadn’t yet gotten the hang of their own wings or learned to fly for themselves. They’d see me swoop by and yell out from their perch, “Hey, that’s cool. I wanna do that too! Can you teach me?” And in my well-intentioned naivete, I’d cry out, “Sure  thing. Just hop on my back and I’ll show you how I do it!” But soon after they’d hopped on, we’d both begin to descend rapidly, tumbling and flailing helplessly against the sky, until one of us had to separate from the other so we both wouldn’t end up hurtling to the ground below.

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your dreams are your legacy

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two generations They are telling you that you are growing older. Becoming less and less useful by the day. They – as they always have – are lying. My (now former) pastor spoke often of the rise of the so-called Davidic generation – the next flock of youth that would take up the reins from the older ones. Some would say that this new flock, this Davidic generation would render the older ones impotent, irrelevant. But where do you think the young ones get their vision? If the older ones are not there to guide the youth, where do you think they will go?

What did old Jesse say to little David that imbued him with the courage to slay a giant and become king?

What words did the elderly Jacob say to Joseph that allowed him to survive slavery and become the Pharoah’s most trusted advisor?

What family lessons, personal histories, successes, hopes, failures were passed down from generation to generation, on and on until the time when a frightened young girl named Mary became pregnant and gave birth? And those same dreams that had been whispered since David was a child came forth from her lips and settled on the ears and in the mind of this unexpected, unexplained gift – this child of hers, this bearer of light whose message would last for thousands and thousands of years.

What might you say to your own little lightbearers?

Whisper your own histories to your little ones. Turn them into bedtime stories that you tell them every night until they know them by heart:

“Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted to be a ballerina…”
“In a faraway place a long, long time ago, a little one just like you wanted to speak to the animals…”
“There was once a boy who dreamed of being President…”

For every child is the incarnation of the dreams of his father, the realization of the hopes of her mother. Your hopes, dreams, and wishes are your children’s legacy. Do not deprive them of this.

Dream big, hope huge, wish infinite. When your children grow they will become the giants you once imagined yourself to be.

cheers,

 k

the elect eleven

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elect_ladies7.JPGIn a previous post, I mentioned that a girlfriend of mine got the inspiration to start a ‘sister circle’ in 2008. She’s named the group the ‘Elect Eleven’ – so called because there are eleven of us who will meet each month for eleven months to participate in a variety of activities from book discussions, to community service, to creating financial strategies and dream boards. The purpose of the group is to provide a safe, supportive environment for us all to share our successes, fears, dreams, frustrations, ideas and insights in a way that women – especially Black women – don’t usually do, unfortunate as that is.
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