The missile alert

The missile alert wasn’t a mistake. The island had been targeted. It was real. A missile had been launched. And then it was gone, instantly.

There had been a blip on the radar, an object coming fast. And then there wasn’t. The radar tech had to look again to be sure. He tapped the side of the machine. He hit refresh. And it still wasn’t there. Had it gone into stealth mode? Was there technology they didn’t know about? Was it still coming but they couldn’t see it, had no way of seeing it?

There wasn’t time to send up a pilot to check it out. The initial estimate said 15 minutes. If it was still there, then there was only 12 left.

Should he turn the computer off and back on to reboot? He’d lose a precious two minutes that way. He had already sent the alert out to everyone. Everyone on the island who had a cell phone had been notified. The sirens had gone off. There wasn’t a distinctive wail for “missile” so the usual one for any and every imminent natural disaster was used. Tsunami, volcano, hurricane – it didn’t matter. The same sound was used because it all meant the same thing.

Stop what you were doing right now.
Grab your go bag and seek cover.
Nothing else matters.

But now he wasn’t so sure. He called the nearest radar site and asked to speak to the tech. Email wouldn’t do. He needed to hear it in the other tech’s voice, see what was happening through his eyes.

But that radar too was clear, and that tech too was confused. They ran back the recording. Yes. There had been a bogey. And then there wasn’t.

They decided to say it was a mistake, a bumped switch, human error. Nothing to see here. The truth wasn’t something they could have handled anyway.

Every town had one. Every town, village, city, named and unnamed had one, and only one. One was enough. Not all were needed – only a dozen were required at any one time. In a pinch, only one was truly necessary, but that required a great deal of focus on their part.

When the sirens went off
(for none of them had cell phones, having long ago given up that tech)
– like the Amish who waited 50 years to see if ballpoint pens were safe,
-the rest of society being their coalmine canaries,
they stopped what they were doing, the same as everyone else.

It wouldn’t do to call attention to their sacred work, their holy mission. They could never speak of what they did, never claim credit, never get fame or money for their work. It would cheapen it, tarnish it, make it less like love and more like a one night stand.

They used the only tool they had at hand, but it was the only one they needed. They prayed. They didn’t pray for anything specific, because they would never presume to tell the creator what to do.
They simply prayed to.
They prayed to the One who knew all to do what was best.

They never became anxious or upset during such emergencies, because they knew those reactions were fruitless. They put their faith in God, and God alone.

And God sent the angels,
Elohim, the Lord of hosts,
the commander of the heavenly army of angels,
the One who fights our battles for us,
yes, that God,
the God who defeated enemy armies
with hornets,
with fear,
with walls of water.

That God sent his angels who surrounded the missile, who made it cease to be, who reminded the metal Who created it, and then rendered it
into a thousand billion atoms,
a google’s worth of yes and no,
of positive and negative
and quarks
and up and down
and sideways
and that was enough.

It simply ceased to be, because they reminded it of its true nature, not as a singular weapon of war, made by men, but as many elements of nature made by God, and God alone.

What God has created,
let no man re-create,
or break apart
or make in his own image,
impressing his own will,
his own hardened, angry, violent nature upon.

Nature is not a mirror, not a plastic thing for us to mold to our will, to shape to fit our plans, and ownership is a form of slavery. These people knew this, and knew it well.
And the missile simply wasn’t there anymore.

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Inside the Kaaba

Muslims face the Kaaba five times a day in prayer, no matter where they are in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people turn towards this immense cube (which is what “Kaaba” means).

Did you know that it isn’t solid? It has a place to worship inside. The Kaaba is a mosque, a holy house. It is said to have been originally built by Adam and Eve, then restored by Abraham and Ishmael, as the very first place to worship the One God, who Muslims call Allah.

The interior is 13 m (43 feet) high, and the sides are about 10.15 m (33.3 ft) by 8.24 m (27 ft). There are no windows but there are lanterns.

241b4f20kaaba4

These are screenshots from a 3D animation of the interior.

kaaba 4

kaaba 3

This is a top-down map of it.

kaaba-plan

These are cutaway illustrations.

Kaaba inside

What is inside the Kaaba

What is inside the Kaaba

The Kaaba used to be opened twice a week for anyone to pray inside. But now it is opened just twice a year, and then for only dignitaries and exclusive guests, who enter to ceremonially clean it. The door is 2.13 m (7 feet) above ground. There is a wooden staircase on wheels that is used to reach the door.

The key is kept by one tribe. Here are pictures of the key.

k key

k key2

This is all very interesting, but I think this is the most interesting part– if you are inside the Kaaba, what direction do you pray? You are in the center of the center of worship.

The 12th century Sufi mystic and friend of the poet Rumi, Shams of Tabriz said – “The Kaaba is in the middle of the world. All faces turn toward it. See! Each is worshipping the soul of each.”

Now try this. Visualize that you are inside the Kaaba every time you pray, no matter where you are, no matter what faith tradition you practice. You are in the epicenter. You are in the eye of the storm. You are in the heart of the Creator. You are in the first holy place ever made by human hands. Hold that feeling in your heart.  You don’t have to face any direction.  Your prayers go directly to God, right where you are.

 

(Pictures and information are from Wikipedia and other online sources. All copyright belongs to the original owner. Used for educational uses only.)

Prayer bead chain

main
This is a prayer bead chain that I made. It isn’t a rosary, but it kind of is. It is a reminder to pray but there are no set prayers for it. I’m open to adding more beads to it in the future, but it is still good the way it is. It would be too heavy to make into a necklace. It is meant to be carried in a pocket so that it is ready to be used as a prayer aid whenever needed.

cross
The cross is a replica of the cross that Pope Francis wears. It is not a crucifix – rather than depicting Christ crucified, it celebrates his life and teaching by depicting him as the good shepherd, one who seeks out the lost and protects them, even willing to lay down his life for them.

heart
The next bead is a heart, as a reminder of God’s love for us, that God loved us enough to come down to earth to experience life among us.

recycled
This bead is made from broken pieces of glass that have been put together and remade into a new bead. It is a reminder that God can make something new out of our brokenness.

This bead is a chevron bead.
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It doesn’t look special until you see the sides.
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The only way you can see it is if you cut the bead and then grind away at the edges. This is a reminder that our true beauty isn’t on the surface, but is what is revealed after we are tested.

copal
This bead is made of copal. It is a reminder of the incense used in churches as “an aroma pleasing to the Lord”. Instead of making animal sacrifices, our prayers and work are what God desires.

millefiori
This millefiori bead has six pointed stars, as a reminder of the faith of Israel that told the world about the One God.

egg
This is a glass bead that I made myself many years ago. Unintentionally, it looks like an egg. It is a reminder that what I did many years ago can still be of value and needed today. It is also a reminder to use whatever talents I have to glorify God.

people
This bead is also a millefiori bead, but it has faces. Because it is made of many different canes of glass fused together, it is a reminder that the Body of Christ is made up of many people, all working together in unison to do God’s will on earth.

Prayers in Japanese

He’d always wanted to go to Japan. Many long years he studied the language, the culture. He made sure he wouldn’t be “that American”, the one who talks too loudly, too much, and always in English. That American was always asking for directions, always crossing over some invisible line, some taboo. That American made him want to say he was from Canada, or England, or anywhere else that he could pretend to be from.
He looked Swedish, with his shock of snow blonde hair and six-foot frame, but he couldn’t claim a home he’d never been to. He was descended from a long line of Swedes, but he’d only gotten the genes and not the language or the accent. Even his last name had been assimilated, Americanized to fit in. He couldn’t pretend for long. Once anyone heard his Midwestern accent or saw his passport, the jig was up.
So he blended in other ways. Learned how to not offend. Learned their habits. He always bowed lower. He always wore the right shoes, even the special bathroom slippers. It was important not to stick out any more that he had to.
He hoped that even if he couldn’t blend in physically, he could blend in culturally. Even if you look Japanese, you’ll stick out if you break the rules. He wanted to lay low as long as possible, hoping they wouldn’t notice him after long. This was the only chance to get to stay.
He wanted to see all the temples, praying at every one in the country. This was why he had to not get noticed. Going to just a few temples wouldn’t do. He had to go to every one. Maybe then he would get an answer to his prayer.
He had never spoken of it to anyone, never written it down. He didn’t want to jinx it, to have a self-fulfilling prayer. Or was it prophecy? He forgot. All he knew for sure was that it would only count if his prayer was answered through divine means. Anything else was sure not to last.

The way to the Father, Jesus reveals the Father, Praying in Jesus’ name, Another Counselor promised

The way to the father.

“Don’t let your heart be troubled. If you believe in God, then also believe in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I would have told you if it were otherwise. I am leaving to prepare a room for you. If I do this, I will return and draw you to myself, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going, and you know the way.”

His disciple Thomas said, “Lord, we have no idea where you’re going. How can we know how to get there?”

Jesus replied “I am the way as well as the truth and the life. Only those who follow my teachings will come to the Father.”

JN 14:1-6

Jesus reveals the Father.

“To know me is to also know my Father. From this point on you do know him because you’ve seen him.”

His disciple Phillip said, “Lord, show the Father to us and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus asked him, “Don’t you know me, Philip, after all this time we’ve been together? If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. How can you ask me to show you the Father? Don’t you trust that the Father is in me and I am in the Father? I don’t speak for myself. The Father who lives in me does what he wants. Trust that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. If not, believe who I am because of the works.”

JN 14:7-11

Praying in Jesus’ name

“Truly, anyone who believes in me will be able to do the same things I do. In fact, that person will do even greater works because I am returning to the Father. If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it in order for the Father to be glorified through the Son. I will do anything you ask for in my name.”

JN 14:12-14

Another counselor promised

“If you love me, honor my commandments. I will ask, and the Father will send you another Counselor to always be with you. The Counselor is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot see or know the Holy Spirit – this is why they can’t receive it. But you know the Spirit because it is in you and stays with you. I’m not abandoning you – I’m returning to you.”

JN 14:15-18

A wrap and a prayer

I started something different when I wrap my hair. I set an intention or a prayer every time I do it for a particular purpose. For instance I may wrap for people who are suffering from feeling alienated or people who are struggling with addiction. Then as the day goes on, every person who comments on my head wrap or stares at it is someone I need to pray for, someone who has that particular issue that they are struggling with. I pray silently in my heart for them, never calling attention to them.

This transforms the stares and unexpected comments from something weird into an opportunity to pray for others. This transforms wrapping from something I do for myself into something that I do for others.

Prayer in the Garden

Jesus went with his disciples to a part of the Mount of Olives called Gethsemane. He told them “Stay here while I go a little further away to pray. Pray that you will not be tempted.”

Walking a little further away, he took Peter and James and John (the sons of Zebedee) with him. He was overcome with a sense of immense sorrow and anxiety. He told them “My soul is full of sadness to the point of grief. Stay here and remain awake with me.”

He walked about a stone’s throw away from them, fell facedown on the ground, and began to pray that he would not have to undergo the upcoming trial. “Father, everything is possible for you. If it is your will, let this cup pass by me. However, it isn’t what I want, but what you want that is important.”

Returning to where the three disciples were, he found them sleeping. “Why are you asleep? Couldn’t you all stay awake for just one hour? Keep awake and pray so that temptation will not overpower you. The soul is willing, but the body is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed as before. “Father, if this cup cannot pass by me unless I drink it, let it be so because that is your will.” He returned again to where the three were and again found them sleeping because their eyes were heavy with grief. They didn’t know what to say.

He went away a third time, praying in the same way. An angel appeared before him and gave him strength. He prayed even more fervently because he was in despair, and his sweat fell like drops of blood upon the ground. Returning to his disciples, he said “Are you still sleeping? It is time to get up and go! Look, the hour has come. The Son of Man is about to be handed over to sinners. See? My betrayer is very close.”

MT 26:36-46, MK 14:32-42, LK 22:39-46