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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On the River Trail, Part II of IV

It’s a given that going anywhere in this town, and by town I mean Portland proper, its minor burghs, its places of river front industry, and its great area of green-banked river channels, you’re going to be bombarded by birds of the best caliber. We’re lousy with bald eagles, osprey, and herons. And then of course you have a jambalaya of other players, all sorts of bush tits and flickers and warblers and prancers and dashers. Ask Crash, he’s a bird nerd, he’ll tell you.

So it was with an eye on the skies that we set out paddling. What we didn’t expect was to find this little guy washed up on the beach!

He was a painted box turtle, and he was supposed to be in the mellow backwaters of the island we were on. Somehow he’d gotten himself into maelstrom of Columbia. We gave him a little rest and warmth and set him back on the beach.

He charged back in to get hopelessly thrown about.

I fished him out, asked if he was sure, and set him down again.

And again he skittered into the thrash. If you want I’ll tell you that he was probably washed into some calmer waters and is happily sunning himself on a log right now.

Crash has a way with winged creatures besides birds it seems.

Speaking of birds.





How exquisite to possess a form based entirely on the principle of flight. And flair. Where you are a signifier of grace as others observe you, and an active perceiver of the miraculous yourself.

Next time On the River Trail: Flotsam and Jetsam

Run the Water

I thirst and drink and dream of water still. Blessed with an Oregon sky full of water, the rains are a regular reminder of the sacred dance. Rivers are wonderful and flow through mind and heart, inexorable drives that satisfy while they imbue, reflect, reinforce yearning for what they are flowing toward. Nothing washes over me like the ocean. So that is where we go to hike in wind and rain, to sit quietly at great window, to run out on brand new beach and dive into the surge of salt and cold that grip the body and cleanse it electrically alive.