I recently send a picture of my prie dieu to my priest friend with the caption, "Annie's Docking Station." But that conjures up a badly-constructed, wrapped in tin foil space ship sputtering into a landing zone instead of how I really see it.
Like many of you, my life is full. Sometimes too full. Though at other times there are stretches of inactivity where I am sure I should be signing up for the 30-day Ignatian Exercises, working at a soup kitchen, delivering tents to the homeless nearby, and maybe flying nets over to Africa to protect folks from the scourge of malaria. Those are grand ambitions. Maybe I need to start with a small goal, a teeny ambition.
Pray each day. Doesn't matter when or where. Just do it. The advantage of having a prie dieu--and for those of you who haven't come across that it is just a fancy French phrase for a kneeler used in prayer, though the translation would be "pray to God." I ordered it about a year and a half ago when I thought my prayer life needed some pumping up, some spiritual chili pepper as it were.
Here's what actually happens. I run downstairs and make tea with two bags of Earl Grey because one is too wussy; comment sarcastically to husband about the weakness of said tea bags, wondering if tea corporation is putting fewer leaves into bags. Pat wiggly Jack Russell terrier. Let dog out onto winter deck so she can punish squirrels by barking hysterically at them. Let dog in and reward her for high-pitched barking with a small bone. Trudge back upstairs. Sit in chair and decided to practice Centering Prayer. I admire Thomas Keating and wish I could emulate his serenity. Start prayer app on iPhone with the short span of ten minutes between starting gong and ending gong. Practice has shown me 15 minutes leaves me in a breathless, panicky lather. Glance at watch repeatedly while praying. Lift eyes to ceiling in hopes in inspiration. Say to God in a stagey whisper, "You SEE how hard I am trying to prepare my soul for you?" Honey?
Give up, push ending chime so I can pretend I have actually practiced this worthy prayer for ten minutes when it has only been five. Then rise and head for the prie dieu in the corner. Above is my mom's etching of Pope John 23rd which I love, including his fabulous Roman nose. To the right is a replica of the San Damiano Cross we got in Assisi. I cherish this, even though Jesus doesn't seem to be suffering greatly but has the polite look of someone waiting for a meal in a slow restaurant. Right over my kneeler is an icon of Mary holding the Christ child in a tender embrace. I pray to her for humility and help in parenting.
With a sigh I let myself down on the padded wood, place my hands together, and close my eyes, letting the stream of my anxieties and worries flow out.
I am afraid of this coming storm, God, worried about losing power and shoveling us out. Please send someone to help us. God, I am anxious about my loved ones driving during the storm, especially my son in L.I. Please protect them all and maybe sending St. Michael would be a good idea, though you will know what to do without my telling you. Dear God, help me to be more patient, quiet and less judgmental during church, please....
Like a wind which blows away to another part of the forest, all of my words scatter and I am left in the presence of God--here with me as I kneel, covering me with his strength, peace, and his love. This is why I come here, this is why I kneel at the "pray to God" place, where I recharge my batteries for the day ahead. Even if it's only a short conversation, I always leave refreshed and strengthened because God meets my messy, jumpy self right where I am.