Gone to the River to Pray

I’m currently enrolled in seminary at The Chaplaincy Institute where I’m studying toward becoming an interfaith minister and, you guessed it, chaplain. Every month we examine a different faith, not with any hope of mastery, but with the intent to put seeds in a garden that ask for a lifetime’s tending. This month we’re working on Islam and to prepare we were invited to try the Salat, or five times a day prayer practice, in a form of our own choosing. Though many know me as Reverend Blue Sky, I’ve realized I still largely conceal my spirituality. My studies have begun a certain coming out, and having to pray five times a day certainly bolstered that. Here’s another one – I’m sharing the response paper with you.

A note on the use of the word God: before enrolling at ChI that was a word I wouldn’t have used comfortably, and I’m still working on it. But the book God is a Verb helped a lot – so, I invite you to see God as a verb. And the 99 Beautiful Names of God that Islam gives us are certainly beautiful (especially written in Arabic).


Gone To the River to Pray

The meuzzin startles me awake at 5am

calling from the Minaret

and I say no, not yet.

But I rise into first light so I can sing the sun into my sky;

so I can bow to the dawn God has given me

as the world spins into awakening.


Five times today I’ll sanctify the ground I’m standing on.

Five times today I’ll kneel and chant for the world I yearn to live in.

Five times today I’ll let myself be seen loving the Spirit of Love.

Five times today la ilaha illallah.

Five times today prayer beads will make the Divine smell of sandalwood.

Five times today I’ll remember my yearning for God is a drop in the ocean of God’s yearning for me.


In the city my prayers wonder where to land amidst the cacophony of commerce.

I take my leave into trees beside the roaring river and find


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In the forest the call comes from cerulean bloom between Cedar branches,

from the quarrel of crows, from a plunge of blessed cold,

from the dusk that rouses the symphony of bats,

from a moon that makes me wild with the desire to hunt.


I begin to forget what isn’t prayer,

I begin to bow to the ever-shifting spark.


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Five times today I trust there will be earth to kneel on, fire to carry my words, water to purify intention, air to whisper tenderness, Spirit to weave Dreams.

Five times today I get out of the way so gratitude can use my mouth to speak.


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I press my forehead to ground, thank God for the taste of dirt.

I set my heart on fire and make my love golden light.

I rinse my soul clean at river’s edge, dive in and dissolve.

I ask the first stars to carry my prayer to You.

In the night’s terrain of soft shadows and silvers I drop rose petals onto lips and close my eyes to this world.


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Five times today I drew a quivering breath on the edge of annihilation.

Five times today I was obliterated and reformed.

Five times today I pulled my chest open wide enough to say Bismallah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim.

Five times today I fell in love.


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After the Storm

When I last wrote I was bound for New York City to run the marathon, packing running shoes and a lot of misgiving. An hour after I arrived in Brooklyn, they made the announcement that the race had been cancelled. It was the right and obvious call to focus the City’s resources on the suffering multitudes and not on a run. Finish line ponchos went to people freezing without power, New York Road Runners collected and donated millions of dollars, and runners staged a donation-based marathon around Central Park. I got to help a tiny bit with CityMeals, delivering some meals to elderly New Yorkers. And without the subway to zip around visiting various friends and places of interest like I normally would, I stayed much more local. (I ran across town to visit a friend and my favorite donut shop.) One night I wandered down to the water and found a haunting Lower Manhattan still without power. Even the Statue of Liberty was in darkness. I walked along the river, up to and across the Brooklyn Bridge.



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In A New York Minute

**Edit: I feel like most of this post is what I was thinking about this event pre-Sandy. With our developing understanding of just how devastating this storm was, and continues to be, I feel like the tone and focus doesn’t quite work. After a day of contemplating not going at all, feeling abashed about the race’s demand on vital City resources, and reading a number of articles and reports from NY, I’ve decided to go still. I’ll help Citymeals deliver food on Saturday, I feel good about having helped raise lots of money for them, and I’ll hope that the marathon can be a symbol of New York’s resiliency and resolve. Please consider giving to Citymeals, not for me or a run, but for the folks in special need right now.


I love running. When I was a chubby little kid I didn’t love running, but in first grade when we could choose to run either the one mile or the two mile, I chose the two as some kind of offering to Jesus or something. I know I was the last to finish, and I don’t know for sure what my time was but it felt like it was probably around 2 days and 900 minutes.

Now I’m days away from running the New York City Marathon. There’s a chance I’ll do it faster than I ran 2 miles as a doughy lad.

After elementary school I got my growth spurt and all that baby fat stretched out and running was suddenly fun. I’ve gotten to run all sorts of ways in all sorts of places ever since: tear-assing around a track; loping out into the woods solo or in great packs; all bundled up in the rain; all naked in the rain; climbing mountains; crashing down mountains; on trail, street, sand, snow; and most favoritely, finishing into some great wild body of water.

Running 26.2 miles through the 5 boroughs, with 130 bands and 2 million people cheering and 47,000 other runners is going to be some kind of brand new awesome.

It’s also awesome that I get to run for a great charity, Citymeals. This organization delivers food to wonderful New Yorkers in need. They’ve been working overtime during this disaster, making sure folks were stocked up before Sandy hit, and even running out in the midst of it when needed (an elderly man got out of the hospital and returned home where he had nothing, so Citymeals rushed food right over to him in the midst of cyclone winds and streets becoming rivers). With power still out, they’ve been climbing hundreds of flights of stairs to bring folks food in the dark.

I’m raising $3000 for them, and with 3 days until the race we have $800 to go! I would love your help, I need your help! These sweet elderly and disabled New Yorkers need your help too. Your donation goes straight to making them meals, and it’s tax-deductible to boot. Here’s where you can give:


Thanks for reading, thanks for your support. I’ll see you on the other side of Sunday!