Text of all the Photo Prayers

Use your browser's FIND command to search this page for specific words and phrases. Click the colored links to see the individual prayers with photos. All these prayers, except as noted, were written by and are copyrighted by Danny N. Schweers. They, and the photos, may be used for any not-for-profit purpose if they are properly credited to Danny N. Schweers and, if possible, with a link to www.photoprayer.com.

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2023-12 - Connected to JesusI know the air He breathed did not stay in Palestine. It spread across the whole wide world. Even now, air He breathed is in my lungs, in my blood. I know, too, that the water in which He was baptized did not stay in the Jordan River. It flowed into the oceans around the whole wide world and has fallen as rain and snow, part of every river and every stream. That water is in every sip I drink. It is in my blood. Few say breathing air and drinking water are powerful experiences, but I do — when I bother to give them attention. (hoto of the Commodore Barry Bridge over the Delaware River with Philadelphia skyline in the background, seen from Fox Point State Park in Delaware, 25 miles south.)

2023-07 - Smart Phone CamerasWe cannot see without using our smart phones. Their cameras let us record and then share our experiences. But even as our audiences grow, the attention we get and the attention we give becomes progressively more superficial. Flit, flit, flit — only the stickiest of posts gets more than a glance. This, too, is how I pray — short, quick, fleeting prayers to the one person who has the time — or creates the time — to tenderly comprehend every precious hair on my rapidly balding head. (Photo of people looking up at Janet Echelman’s 1.8 Renwick, a fiber and colored light installation in the Grand Salon of the Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC. Many of them are looking at it with their smart phones.)

2023-06 - Open Heart SurgeryAfter open heart surgery yesterday, my friend is doing well, thank God! Even at 84, he was fit enough to qualify for the procedure, perhaps because he has been a runner and a distance walker. At the same time, I pray for all those not doing well after their surgeries, and those not even fit enough to qualify, who are running out of options. And if I thank God for the doctors, nurses, and all who support them, not forgetting the pencil pushers and bean counters who make Medicare and health insurance possible, I recognize that many do not have these professional services, imperfect as they are. And if my friend has a positive attitude, if he is embracing the future whatever it brings, if he is willing to adapt, if he continues to be charming and funny, if he is surrounded by family and friends, thank God! At the same time, I pray for all those who are not like my friend, those who are pessimists, those who avoid thinking about the future, who protest every change, who are irascible and irritating, and who have few close friends — people perhaps a bit like me. God help us to change! (Photo of hospital examination room.)

2023-05 - The Eyes SeeThe eyes see but the mind does not. It was not until much later, looking closer at this photo, that I saw that all these flags are not blowing in the same direction. While a strong east wind blows most of them to the right, a strong west wind blows one to the left. Remarkable! My eyes saw this. That is why I took the photo, even though my slow mind did not yet comprehend why. I often take photos not knowing why. I have learned to trust my rabbit eyes even when my turtle mind does not yet comprehend what my eyes are seeing. If you understand this — how the eyes can see while the mind does not yet comprehend — then you will understand me when I say that I wish I trusted my heart as much as I do my eyes. (Photo of flags at the Washington Monument in Washington, DC just before it snowed.)

2023-04 - Targeting CiviliansArmed soldiers should not target unarmed civilians. That seems clear enough to me sitting thousands of miles from conflict, but those at war soon lose such clarity. For those at war, entire populations become the enemy. During World War II, the world condemned the Luftwaffe for bombing London and other cities in England, but then, later in that war, British Bomber Command undertook the systematic bombing of German cities. The United States did the same in Japan. When civilians support their country’s war efforts, it seems they become legitimate targets for their country’s enemies. Such is the blunt logic of war. My question is, do we have to be logical? (Photo of young people playing in fire-hydrant spray at the July 4 Games, Arden, Delaware.)

2023-03 - The Best WordsMy wife’s dog waits at the front gate, her gaze fixed on the empty driveway, intently watching for the joyous moment when her mistress will return. Unlike her dog, my wife’s husband exhibits no such display of longing and devotion. He is not kneeling in prayer, again and again exhorting God to keep her safe and to bring her home swiftly. Confident in her return in her own good time, he goes about his business and pleasure. Their last words to each other were “I love you.” If something does happen to rip them asunder — as someday it must — these are the best words. They bridge all separations and divisions. (Photo of the author’s wife’s dog waiting.)

2023-02 - Fill Up On Bread“Fill up on bread! If I heard that once, I heard it a thousand times.” That is what my father said when he remembered living in New York City, one of eleven children growing up in Hell’s Kitchen and the Lower East Side during the Great Depression. If I heard my father say that once, I heard him say it a thousand times. But his is not the city I know. Mine is a city of Jamaican taxi cab drivers full of humor and wisdom. Mine is a city of helpful high-class women living in the Upper East Side with twinkles in their eyes. My city is gleaming and bright. It is forgiven. In my camera, it is redeemed. (Photo of New York City from the back seat of a yellow taxi cab.)

2023-01- Things kept going wrong but that didn’t bother us.Why did our companionship, in spite of events, continue as cheerfully as ever? Why didn’t our spirits sink? First, the Uber driver’s map app took him to the other side of Central Park from where we were actually waiting in the dark and the cold. Then, having arrived at last at our destination, we saw a sign in the window of our highly-recommended restaurant: TAKE OUT ONLY. Before we could begin to think of what to do next, six fierce fire engines arrived suddenly, closing the street, their spinning lights turning everything red around us. None of this dismayed us. Why not? Perhaps because we were simply delighted to be in each other’s company after many months apart. These distractions only increased our fellowship. Even now, I would be in such company again — whenever apps go wonky, recommendations fail, and the world is full of false alarms. (Photo of New York City Fire Department units at E. 74th Street and 2nd Avenue.)

2022-20 - Santa’s SleighLook! There is Santa’s sleigh piled high and wide! I hope there is something there for thee. Or have you developed a taste for things that won’t fit in a box — relationships of mutual love and respect, meaningful work, and hope for a significant life? Good as these are, I wish for you something better, something victorious that withstands humiliation, triviality, and irrelevance, not something achieved but something found. If I claim to have found it, I pray God will not put me to the test! (Photo of the container ship Torrente on the Delaware River at Fox Point, Delaware.)

2022-19 - Unambiguous TranslatorsTranslators eschew ambiguity. They take what is written in a foreign language and make it clear and precise even when the original is not. That is my conclusion after finding such disparate translations of Isaiah 35:8. The prophet says fools on the Way of Holiness will not get lost. Since I am often a fool, I like that translation. It makes the Way of Holiness appealing. But in other translations, the prophet says that fools will not be allowed onto that holy highway. Which is it? The verse itself must be ambiguous to produce such different translations, but translators, unlike poets, avoid ambiguity, losing the poetry. The commentary of Matthew Henry ends my frustration with these dueling translations. “Do we love God?” he asks. “Let us try ourselves by such plain questions, rather than spend time on things that may be curious and amusing, but are unprofitable.” Please click here to read the full essay (Photo of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware.)

2022-18 - Where Is God?Twice, in the second chapter of Jeremiah, the Houses of Jacob and Israel are chastised for not asking “Where is God?” It is a question of the moment, asking us to look around. It is not so much an acknowledgement that we have lost track of God as it is an exhortation to look, and to continue looking, for a living being who wants to be found. God is not some kind of refreshment we can store away to pull out when needed. We cannot store up the living water for some future time when we might need it. We cannot connect God’s grace to a spigot, a faucet that opens a reservoir we have stored up for ourselves. When we are in need, we need find God anew. Where is the spiritual water springing up now? Where is it flowing? I love the idea that we need to search, trusting that God wants to be found. (Photo of Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvania. Text based on the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 2.) ” Please click here to read the full essay.

2022-17 - Give Thanks For 100 Things Every DayGiving thanks is a cure for depression. So claims my friend. At one time in her life she became so severely depressed she was institutionalized. Then she took up the practice, every day, of giving thanks for one hundred things, listing them. No gratitude was too small or too large. If she was thankful for air or light or sound or quiet or water or food or just being alive, each was added to her gratitude list. In this way, giving thanks became a habit. She began looking forward to what was next, wondering what new pleasing thing was about to enter her life. Am I simplifying her slow cure? Am I ignoring the many people and other practices that helped? Of course! But this one practice appeals to me, me a sunny Polyanna. If anything, I am too often unreasonably optimistic and cheerful. What’s the opposite of deep depression? Is there a clinical name for it? Pathological Euphoria? Acute Polyannism? I certainly would not want to fall into that debilitating mindset. Even so, I think I will take the risk, just for one day, of giving thanks for one hundred things. Hopefully it will not put me over the edge. But when? What day? Let me pull up my calendar. Look at that! As it turns out, next Thursday is a day called Thanksgiving. What a coincidence! Thank God for coincidences! (Photo of a cornucopia on the altar at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, Wilmington, Delaware, an arrangement by Flowers by Tino.) Please click here to read the full essay.

2022-16 - Charged SkyThe sky is charged with electricity. Wires below it hum with power generated by the Conowingo Dam. The Susquehanna River has its own current, power in motion. The scene is full of power yet all is at peace. Even the tall towers, which usually loom with menace, seem stately instead. Their catenary cables hang in graceful hyperbolic curves. We leave this scene to drive home, classical music filling the car, its notes caught from the radio waves all around us. At our journey’s end, we park the car, unlock the front door, and turn on the lights. (Photo taken just downstream from Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River.)

2022-15 - Grant Me Understanding“Grant me understanding that I may live.” I love this saying, the last half of verse 144 of Psalm 119. It promises that, if we can understand, we can live. Of course, people go on breathing even when they do not understand. I know. I have been doing it for decades! But when I do not understand, I do not breathe easily. I am anxious, not even half alive. Failure, suffering, even death can come at any time, and I worry. I am hunkered down. Celebration and joy are far off, a distant vision. This verse is reassuring. Indeed, all of Psalm 119 points to joy and celebration as a result of understanding. “I will thank you with an unfeigned heart, when I have learned your righteous judgments.” “Open my eyes, that I may see…” “Your promise gives me life…” “Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path.” “My lips shall put fourth your praise…” “My tongue shall sing of your promise…” Please click here to read the rest of this essay on Psalm 119 and two who memorized it. (Photo of the author ready to go to a funeral, eyeball-to-eyeball with his dog.)

2022-14 - ChickadeeAbove I see sky and tree, chickadee. None of these need think of me, only Thee. (Photo of a chickadee in a pin oak tree.)

2022-13 - Pause The FlowAwake at 3:47am. Here’s the photo as I sit in the chair next to our bed. All black. No, there’s nothing to see but always something to say. Awake, my mind moves from one thing to another. I studied philosophy because it promised a way of pausing the flow of thought. “Life is fired at us point blank,” said a Spanish writer. I pursue photography because it too is a way of pausing the flow. (Totally black photo of the author’s bedroom at night with lots of high-ISO noise.)

2022-12 - Watermelon Rinds Thanks, Mary Brent, for the delicious watermelon wedges, such sweet tiny triangles of red bordered with wide white and heavy green. I must say, they were nicely proportioned. I should have photographed them before eating them. They could have been arranged in a graphic nine-fold mandala. Hungry, I did not think of them as photogenic. Instead, I anticipated their taste, then used my fingers and teeth. Only afterwards did the rinds cry out for a portrait. Look, now they are immortalized in pixels in cyberspace, poor testimony to your simple but elegant thoughtfulness. We all want to be recognized for great things but small gestures count as well. (Photo of nine small watermelon rinds.)

2022-11 - Machine MadeShiplap vinyl siding, lacquered steel, and tinted safety glass — let me celebrate them in image and song. It is good to praise mountains, forests, and creatures undomesticated, but let’s not lose our appreciation of the modern and machine made. Am I joking? Surely I am joking. Or am I? Others have set nature against innovation, the one sustaining; the other, wounding. I don’t buy it. There is only one God, of apples and Apples, of jaguars and Jaguars, of groves and grooves, whales and walls, volcanoes and canoes. Makes me wonder if any thing is in itself evil. Cheetahs and Cheetos? I am especially fond of the latter, sometimes not in moderation. God help me! (Photo of blue sky and shiplap siding reflected in automobile parked in an alley, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.)

2022-10 - You Never Know When or WhereYou never know when or where. That’s what I say to my photography students. (I like to think they listen to every word.) I tell them that you never know when or where you might find the best photo. Expect to be surprised is what I tell them. Have your camera near at hand. Maybe you are carrying your laundry upstairs when you notice how lovely the light is falling on your napping spouse and the wide-awake dog. Quick! Get the camera! I am not one to say everyone is always beautiful or that all moments everywhere are full of God’s grace. If they are, I don’t see it. Perhaps I am blind. I am often blind! What I do say is that we never know when beauty or grace will find us. Beauty and grace may not be everywhere always but they may be nearby soon. Will we see them if they appear? Or will we once again pass them by, we the oblivious? (Photo of alert dog and sleeping spouse.)

2022-09 - PentecostOn the Day of Pentecost, Christians celebrate the end of separation — separation from God and from each other. Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples of Jesus. We, like them, followers of God, are no longer separate from God. On this day the Holy Spirit began dwelling in every human heart that welcomes it. Just as a stinking stable in Bethlehem became the holy place of Jesus’s birth, so our souls become holy when we hear the Good News and rejoice. Pentecost is the day the disciples of Jesus recognized they were no longer separate from others, no matter what faith, race, or nationality the others claimed. We can be like the disciples. We can be filled with God’s Spirit and connect to others regardless of our differences. Beginning on Pentecost, God’s people were no longer just the tribes of Israel but all nationalities, all servants and masters, young and old, poor and rich, the primitive and the civilized, regardless of sex, race, and every other way in which we separate ourselves from one another. We do not say that there are no differences. There are many differences, but no difference should be a cause of separation. Just as nothing can separate us from God’s love for us, no difference should cut off our love for one another. We love one another just as God loves us. We forgive one another just as God forgives us. We are one in the Spirit. We are one in the Lord. Let me say it stronger. Our love for others is not dependent on them loving us. Our enemies will continue to attack us and we will continue to defend ourselves. We will be tempted to hate our enemies, to punish them when we are victorious, to celebrate their deaths. Let us be like Jesus, who forgave those who struck him, those who mocked him, those who killed him. In victory, let us be loving. In defeat, let us look to God who makes all things new, not letting hate poison our hearts. That’s the real battleground, fought with the gentlest of weapons and the softest of words. (Poppycock Tattoos and Ladder 2 at my church.)

2022-08 - Saint Javelin We have a new icon. Baby Jesus has been neatly excised from Mother Mary’s arms. Now she cradles a missile launcher in her hands. Now she bears arms against the Russian Bear, her name changed to Saint Javelin, destroyer of tanks, patroness of the Ukraine Army, her image now a favorite at tattoo parlors, the new icon decorating the arms of defiant defenders, posturing wannabes, and the honestly religious, people like us who want to do more than watch TV, donate money, and pray. I pray we will do more. Again and again my country has embraced as friends nations who were once our bitter enemies. We forgave. They forgave. We reconciled. I wonder what icon embodies that spirit? That’s the tattoo I want.(Saint Javelin artwork based on the 2012 painting “Madonna Kalashnikov” by American artist Chris Shaw.)

2022-07 - Pursue What You Love When jazz pianist Rich Harney became a Christian, he was told he had to give up playing the devil’s music. He loved that music but he loved Jesus more. What was he to do? What he did was to leave that fundamentalist church, become an Episcopalian, and play jazz for many decades. Love finds a way. It may not be a way strewn with pink cherry blossoms. It may lead to suffering and death. But since that is true of those who do not pursue what they love, I say follow your heart! Let me say it stronger, if only to see how it sounds: God is love. To pursue what you love is to be on God’s path. Well, that sounds OK but, like all succinct declarations of faith, this statement can be taken many different ways. I like that because we go in different ways. What I do not like about the statement at first glance is that it suggests that any pursuit is godly, even the most selfish, if done out of love. Shall we say that those who love money and pursue it are godly? Shall we say that those who love power over others and pursue it are godly? Shall we say that those who love only themselves are godly? Let me say this. Love is always good, even when it is for lesser things. We are all on our way, learning to set aside lesser things to love the better things. We are learning love’s hierarchy. What is best? Jesus told us that loving God and our neighbors are the best things to pursue. If I understand, this means that loving God and our neighbors benefits us even as it benefits our neighbors and makes heaven rejoice. Yes, pursuing a better thing may mean setting a lesser thing aside. To bring this short essay back to its beginning, I believe that loving God and neighbor seldom means giving up jazz, a better thing than many. (PHOTO: Elias Haslanger and his jazz quintet, Church on Monday, who play every Monday evening at the Continental Club in Austin, Texas. Elias played in a jazz tribute to Rich Harney at St. James Episcopal Church, Austin, in May, 2022.)

2022-06 - Corpse and Mirror II Even when we have the same thing to look at, you see one thing and I another. You see a brilliant artistic statement that shakes the foundation of accepted creative expression. I see a superior design for fabrics, a design rivaled by — or complemented by — those worn by the woman who stands and stares. I don’t say sublime enchantment is not in the painting, just that I do not see it. What may be there for any fool to see, this fool fails to see, even though my Philistine eyes are open. You see and I am blind. How then shall we dwell in unity, you and I, when you suspect I am mentally deficient and I suspect you of seeing things? Do you see what I am trying to say? Do you see? (Photo of a colorfully-attired woman standing in front of the painting Corpse and Mirror II by Jasper Johns, Philadelphia Museum of Art, on loan from the Chicago Museum of Art . Photo and text copyright 2022 by Danny N. Schweers.

2022-05 - The One PercentWhen critics talk about the one percent possessing over fifty percent of the world’s wealth, they may be talking about my wife and me. They may be talking about you! Neither my wife nor I meant to accumulate wealth. It just sort of found us because we worked steadily most of our lives, lived simply and saved, made good financial decisions, had parents who left us a bit of what they had accumulated, and happened to be born in a wealthy country in booming economic times. I am talking here about assets, not income. Credit Swisse says anyone with $3,200 in assets has more wealth than half the people in the world. $68,800 puts you in the top ten percent. $759,900 in assets puts you over the one percent threshold. What I find remarkable about these numbers is that we do not feel rich. Social Security and a bit other income is not always enough for my wife and I to meet our bills without dipping into our assets. We will need a new car soon and cannot do it out of our income. What do others do? That is a sobering question. (Photo of three people in January, 2010 looking at “The Wyndham Sisters” painting by John Singer Sargent, 1899, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.)

2022-04 - Out Of One, ManyThe tree trunk branches as it rises, the limbs multiplying as they divide, until an array of toothpick-thick fingers tickle the sky, each limb separate yet the whole still one tree. A single fertilized cell divides and becomes feet and arms, ears and eyes, belly and butt, the whole organism trying to survive, even flourish, as individuals we call Beatrice and Bob. And out of Adam came the multitude — families, tribes, cities, and nations. We can be, we will be, we are one as we reach toward the light. (Photo of a tree overlooking the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, New Mexico.)

2022-03 - Roadside MemorialI’ll tell you what it is. It’s that the sudden unexpected finality of her death had such a trivial cause. One minute this young woman was walking when — WHAM — the decades she thought she had were gone. Perhaps she forgot to look. Perhaps she looked but did not see. In her mind, she was on her way across the street. In reality, one of her shoes was left at the scene. Thirty-two hundred die every day in road crashes on this planet. Don’t tell me this is one of many. I’ll tell you what it is. The WALK signs still work here. The cars stop on red and go on green, thousands every day here at this one intersection, year after year. We are on our way! Somehow God is going to redeem it all, make it all right. Somehow. We do not know how. I can’t tell you how it will be, just that it will. (Photo of a descanso with Christmas decorations at Marsh and Silverside Roads, Wilmington, Delaware. An 18-year-old woman crossed into on-coming traffic here at 3:20 p.m. on Monday, September 13, 2021.)

2022-02 - Pray Without CeasingRain falling on water, I could watch it for hours! Or so I say. In reality I have never bothered to watch for more than ten minutes before moving on. Something else comes to mind that seems more urgent but is seldom better. What I do for hours is sleep. Binge watch episodes of “The Expanse”. Read long books like “The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens” or whole series of books like the Horatio Hornblower saga by C.S. Forester. Saint Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. What is that like? Like eating an entire box of Oreo cookies while watching William Wyler’s “The Best Days of Our Lives” for the 17th time? Like slowly drinking a bottle of Riesling Spätlese while reading the “Showa” graphic histories by Shigeru Mizuki? Like looking for God’s unseen hand while writing this prayer? (Photo of rain falling on Naamans Creek, Arden, Delaware.)

2022-01 - What Goes OnYoung men’s blades bite into bark. They make their marks and memorialize their conquests in the smooth skin of beech. Dates. Initials. Perhaps a heart carved around them. Meanwhile, what is going on goes its merry way escaping all confines. We count our years and want them to count, but what’s going on cannot be numbered, charted, or itemized, even in something as permanent as a tree. After seeing Jesus transfigured, Peter’s natural response was to mark the occasion by building three tabernacles. Meanwhile, Jesus went on his way to Jerusalem and Golgotha. What goes on cannot be contained. It cannot be nailed to a tree or buried in a tomb. What goes on, goes on — majestically new, triumphantly present, eternally blossoming, ..... (Photo of years carved into a beech tree near Naamans Creek, Arden, Delaware.)

2021-49 - Shadows and Reflections In this time of snow and ice, the low-slanting mid-day sun only succeeds in melting the ice where it is thinnest. Tree shadows and reflections lay in contrary directions. It is a time of uncertainty, yes, of confusion, yes, but see how it all sparkles! This is no time to hide. You, like me, are alive. We know disturbing and monumental changes may come in the days ahead. Historians have many more contentions to chronicle, millions of dead yet to tally, but the good endures. Songs are being sung. Old prophecies still ring true. The sun still shines in heaven. Let those who are able thank God for it all! (Photo of shadows and reflections in snow and water at Bombay Hook Wildlife Preserve, Delaware.)

2021-48 -- Broken And BrightI hung four delicate glass ornaments on the wreath on our front door but two soon fell to the bricks, shattering. Even broken, they are bright. No Christmas is ever perfect. Look for the moments, your labor over, the babe asleep, the unexpected visitors paying homage, the straw shining like gold, putting gold to shame. What had the shepherds heard, that they left their flocks? After angels and heaven’s glories, what is there to marvel at here, here among the livestock in nowhere Bethlehem? (Photo of broken and whole Christmas ornaments.)

2021-47 -- Look For ItWe look for it in the grand places, the national parks and legendary destinations, by the ocean’s shore and near the mountains’ peaks, along forest paths and deep in the gorge’s cut. Yes! Yes! Look! But there is no telling where you will find it. Call it the sublime, call it beauty, call it inspiration or grace, there is no telling where you will find it. Are you doing laundry or the dishes? Look! Waiting at a check-out counter? Look! Walking to your car in the parking lot? Look! It is always near at hand. Every moment is privileged, blessed, and unique. It may not be pleasant but it is always near at hand. We may not be able to see it even when we look, but we’ll never see it if we don’t. (Photo of parallel clouds above parking lot in Wilmington, Delaware.)

2021-46 Creekside DetourI thank God that checks needed to be signed for my village or I would not have found myself walking near the creek. How could I forget how much I love to stroll alongside it? Here the water is in no hurry to reach the sea and, with those checks signed, I was in no hurry to get home. I let myself amble. “Look at me!” cried the deep blue of the reflected sky. “Look at me!” shouted the fallen yellow leaves. My eyes could barely keep pace with their demands, yet there was no sense of urgency or anxiety, only pleasure as I stepped over roots and, here and there, left the path to peer over the bank. I will go back, I will. Having been, I will again. My computer screen won’t miss me. (Photo of fallen leaves and reflected trees in Naamans Creek, Arden, Delaware.)

2021-45 - Too Many Choices Given ten times as many things to choose from, we naively expect to find something ten times better. Instead, we are disappointed. Confronted with 80,000 drink choices at the local coffee shop, we are tempted to say, “Just give me a &#?@!% cup of coffee!” Search the Internet for “Too Many Choices” and we get just that. As long as we hit the “SHOW ME MORE” button, new choices appear. Is one better than the fifty we have already seen? The hundred? The authors talk of missed opportunities, decision fatigue, choice paralysis, and the escalation of expectations. I like Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon’s concept of satisficing — a joining of the words satisfy and suffice. “Don’t look at all the choices,” he says. “Stop when you find one that is pleasing, then move on to what’s next in your life.” That is a good answer but, given so many possible answers, I expected better. (Photo of a food truck on the National Mall, Washington, D.C.)

2021-44 - Ripples The child kneels at the pond’s edge. He does not yet know what he can do with his hands and fingers, but he is learning. Thrashing them back and forth, he joyfully troubles the water. Ripples spread to the farthest corners. Reflections of the sky, the clouds, grownups, even his own image morph, separate, roil and collide. What power! What delight! Our world is full of people new to power, people just learning what happens when they move their hands, who happily watch as their waves radiate out to the far corners of the world. Meanwhile, Mother Wisdom hovers over them, eager to see them learn. O Lord, let them learn quickly. We in the lifeboats, waiting to be rescued, are feeling a little seasick. (Photo of a child at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania.)

2021-43 - Indecisive MomentFolk singer Fred Neil was standing on the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal wondering which way to go. There is no plaque on the sidewalk memorializing his indecision but he did put it in song. Indifferent moments of choice bring us close to the nexus of fate. Think of Robert Frost stopping by a yellow wood. Or the samurai in Akira Kurosawa’s film “Yojimbo” throwing a stick into the air to decide which way to turn. Moments such as these show us how much we are in God’s hands. Perhaps today you or I will be blessed with such a pause in our pursuits. If so, savor it. Write a song about it. Write a poem. Make a movie. (Photo of Cafe Reggio, 119 MacDougal Street, New York City.)

2021-42 - Rock WorkWhen rock is what we have, rock is what we use. It may not be what we prefer or were trained to work but it is what we have. Stubborn, hard, durable, difficult to shape, earth-born, resistant to change, married to tradition and set in its ways, it can be neither bullied nor seduced, but it can be loved. We move our hands over the boulder, caressing it. We strike it here and there, listening to it ring. We see the line of the grain. Only then do we drill our shallow holes, insert the feather shims, and drive home the plug wedges. The pitch rises with our firm yet gentle hammer blows. We hear the strain increasing. Suddenly, with a satisfying crack, the boulder splits. Now we can build. (Photo of rock out-buildings in fog, Warslow, Peak District, England. Photo copyright 2018; text, 2021 by Danny N. Schweers.)

2021-41 - Closing TimeNearly fifty years ago, near closing time, I sat in a dimly-lit dining room four steps down from a brightly lit bar. The efficient waitress carries our empty glasses up the steps. The clocked-out cook steps down, done for the night. The telephone booth and all the chairs but ours are empty; the TV, blank. The essential condiments — salt, pepper, catsup, A1 Sauce, and sugar — sit on the table tops, ready for tomorrow’s patrons. Seventeen thousand tomorrows later, I see this photograph and have no memory of the place or why I was there. Yet no other image so clearly brings back to me my life at the time, a time when people and things seemed solid. If they now seem more tentative and changeable, they also seem more miraculous. (Photo of a dining room and bar, Austin, Texas, circa 1974.)

2021-40 - ComprehensionShort on time and overwhelmed by details, surely you have noticed how our minds resort to a mental shorthand to make sense of it all. A thing, an event, a person — the tiny particulars are blurred. Only the essence, or what we take to be the essence, remains. Only a few details survive this refining process, this distillation of experience and memory. Call the attempt to understand foolish, wonderfully naive, but certainly courageous — to stand before the flood of experience and choose between innumerable interpretations. Yet there are moments of clarity. We tell ourselves we will hold onto these brief respites and remember their lessons. We bare our souls to them. We drink in the life-giving flow. And, yes, something does endure, an abiding welling up of joy and thanksgiving. So we say something inadequate but heartfelt, something like, “Praise God!” (Photo of an old house in Milford, Pennsylvania mixing various levels of detail.)

2021-39 - Endless FlowRight now I am slowly catching up on everything I blissfully ignored while on vacation. I knew these tasks would be there when I returned. That is somehow comforting. I won’t call them my faithful friends but the things left undone are always at hand. There is an endless flow of them. I never wonder what will happen when I run out of them. Yet it is good, for a time, to blissfully ignore them, to stand above the Little Bush Kill and watch the rushing water flow over the stubborn stones as it has done since before tasks were ever imagined, the wild current eager to get to the sea, the fallen leaves along for the ride. (Photo of Bushkill Falls, Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania.)

2021-38 - Hernandez Cafe Let me explain. This is what Hernandez Cafe looks like, or did in 1976 when I drove past it, my camera held high out the car window. The camera collected light for two or three seconds between the time I opened and closed the shutter. The camera — and the image inside it — turned and shook as the car turned and my hand shook. That’s the explanation. It’s a simple explanation, but hardly satisfying. I still remember a sense of revelation when I developed this film negative. I still feel I am seeing into the hidden nature of a lonely intersection, uncovering a previously unsuspected dimension that was there the whole time, unseen. It makes me wonder what other marvels are there waiting to be found, just under the surface. If I found this surprising concerto of light hiding in the midnight streets, there is no end to what waits to be discovered. (1976 photo of Hernandez Cafe, Attayac & East 6th Streets, Austin, Texas.)

2021-37 - Hunnicutt HouseI still think of the Hunnicutt House in the early 1970s as a magical place where left-wing intellectuals and political activists shared their lives with entomology researchers and philosophy students like me. Unlike me, those others pursued their ideals single-mindedly, or so it appears to me, me the one who drifted. What a zig-zag path I’ve traveled! I can just as easily think of myself as addled or blessed. Theodore Roethke’s poem “The Waking” applies. Perhaps I learned by going where I had to go. If I felt my fate in what I could not fear, how daring I have been and continue to be. Look! I’m putting my words in front of you. For some reason I am confident you will nod and understand. Even as we speak, now becomes history. We cannot snap the shutter fast enough. (1973 photo of Nancy Folbre, now professor emeritus in economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, then posing in the Hunnicutt House, Austin, Texas, built 1872, moved 1925, demolished 1974.)

2021-36 - Few Can SeeNot everyone is given your eyes. Few if any can see what you see — the beauty, the glory of your child. Because you see what others do not, they may think you are seeing things. They will not say their vision has failed, that you can see what they cannot, that they are, in that sense, blind. But be at peace with them. Are you not like them? Do you see the beauty, the glory, of their children? Over their little ones these other parents smile, pamper, and coo, in awe of the shining beings they call their own. Do not say they are imagining things, seeing in their children things that are not there. Say rather that your eyes have failed you, or that you have not been given the vision. Some have the vision. God has blessed some, especially teachers, who can see the beauty, who can see the glory, of every child that enters into their care. How we envy them, those who can see! (Photo of a potter holding his child while wading in the river in Wimberley, Texas.)

2021-35 - Lucky To Be AliveAny male over the age of 30 is lucky to be alive. This belief of mine is untested and unverified, but most guys have an innate desire for adventure. Added to that is a need to prove to themselves that they have what it takes to be a man, an overpowering impulse to show their buddies they aren’t chicken, and a primal urge to attract female attention by outlandish displays of devil-may-care bravado. Pray for them! Pray, too, for foolish young seekers who race ahead before they see where the Spirit will lead them, who are eager to show they are true believers, who are more than ready to have their faith tested, and who hope to attract God’s attention by their dare-devil bravado. God help them! (Photo of a man diving into Saint Peter’s Quarry, Pennsylvania, June 8, 2014. Nine days later, an injured diver was airlifted to a local hospital. He was 39 years old!)

2021-34 - Buried YesterdayHe was buried yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery with music by two bands in uniform, a flag-draped horse-drawn cassion, guns firing, and full military honors. He had been serving on the island of Guam in 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and soon overran the island he defended. All of World War II he was held prisoner, for awhile in Hiroshima, but he did not die there. He came home, had children, and raised his daughter’s daughter as his own. She and thirty others were there yesterday to honor him, having flown across the continent. Today she joined us to see the sights, the monuments to greatness. His story, not the stones, is what touched me. (Photo of a woman looking east from the Lincoln Memorial towards the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.)

2021-33 - A Living StreamI like this photo of a couple walking away from the Washington Monument just after sunset. It is how my wife and I must have looked just a few seconds earlier, these two now stepping where we two stepped, where so many have stepped and will yet step. It is this stream of the living I see, a stream that gives life to the monuments and museums, to all the otherwise dead institutions we create, a stream that joins other streams that then separate and form new streams, now rushing, now meandering, now sitting quietly above a waterfall. God help us as we tumble! (Photo of a couple walking away from the Washington Monument just after sunset in Washington, D.C.)

2021-32 - In All FairnessWhy should God heal my friend and not everyone else in as much pain or worse? In particular, your friend? I cannot fairly ask God to let my friend jump ahead of your friend. And our friends, yours and mine, can we ask God to heal them ahead of those loved by others? And what of the unloved, isolated, and forgotten? Logic and reason, fairness and justice, tell us to include those others in our prayers. God is sneaky that way. We care about one person and, before you know it, we are praying for people we don't even know, have never heard of, and can only imagine. Next thing you know, we’ll be praying for our enemies! (Photo of a bumblebee on a zinnia in Arden, Delaware.)

2021-31 - Climbing Vine I saw a vine climbing a fence searching for sunlight. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson, I saw something more — call it a symbol alive with associations, links to dimensions coexistent with our own. That is a verbal representation of the experience but not a very good one. Better is this image, all in purple. I do not remember the experience being colored in deep wavelengths but somehow the photo works better painted purple. I do not pretend to know why. Let me say this: Artistic representation is often better than the real thing. Want to see the real thing? Visit me sometime. We will cross the street and walk up the Milky Way Path. You will see the real vine and fence and compare it to my representations. Maybe it will become a pilgrimage site, “the place Danny saw something more”. Dress in purple. (Photo of a vine climbing a fence, Milky Way Path, Arden, Delaware.)

2021-30 - Waking Deception Unlike Descartes, who was often deceived in dreams while sleeping, I am often deceived on waking. Having slept, I almost always awake with the optimistic feeling that I can fulfill my obligations with plenty of time left over to explore new opportunities and climb new heights. Soon, however, a sense of want replaces that feeling of plenty. The hours are few and my accomplishments fewer. That’s when I take a nap. Nothing gets done but I wake again feeling there is time aplenty, even though there is not. Perhaps a lesson is to be learned here, but what is it? (Photo of a photographer in the Painted Desert, Arizona.)

2021-29 - One Of Many “Our” is the first word of the Lord’s Prayer. That prayer goes on to say, “Give us today our daily bread.” and “Deliver us from evil.” Who is this “us” kemo sabe? It’s a word I generally do not think about. Worse, if I am praying alone, I find myself praying not for us but for me, myself, and I. If I am praying with others, my prayer is often limited to those around me. It takes an act of will for me to extend the meaning of “us” to include everyone everywhere — including you, for instance. Am I not one of many, with as much but no more claim to God’s favor as you or anyone else? Please, think of me when you pray, and all our sisters and brothers. I will try to think of you! (Photo of cooking utensils in the kitchen at Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire, England.)

2021-28 - Read A Book“Have you ever read a book?” That was the question O.K. Bowsma once asked his philosophy students. The ensuing discussion made us feel we had not, not deeply, and I still wonder what it would be like to really get to know a book, even just one book, very very well. It could take months, even years. I wonder what book it would be? My wife’s choice may surprise you — the trilogy by Mary O’Hara, beginning with “My Friend Flicka”, a book she says is not so much about horses as it is about what goes into making a marriage. What about you? What book would you choose? (Photo of the artist’s wife at Cupboardmaker’s Bookstore, Enola, Pennsylvania.)

2021-27 - Rice SpillThe jar lid was loose and, in an instant, the jar fell. Grains of rice, nearly a cupful, rained around my bare feet and scattered. “Arrrgghh!” I cried. “Stay right where you are,” said my wife, who grabbed broom and dustpan and quickly swept around my toes as I lifted first one tickled foot and then the other and then stepped out of the way. I appreciated my wife’s work but I also appreciated my wife’s appearance as she worked, the way her orange blouse and yellow broom handle were set off by the blue cabinets, the bright red stove, and the brown oak floor. Out came my smartphone to capture the moment and now, days later, my pencil is scratching across the paper as I write down these words. The meal I went on to prepare has been forgotten but this tiny crisis, soon redeemed, shall be remembered. Even in heaven they may be saying, “Do you remember when Danny foolishly lifted the rice jar by its loose lid? Didn’t that turn out well?” ESSAY: Click here to read the essay inspired by this incident. (Photo of the artist’s wife sweeping up the rice he had spilled.)

2021-26 - Storm CloudsHeavenly storm clouds in the distant sky are where we would dwell. A longing opens in our hearts as our eyes fly over and around them. Momentarily we are free. We relax. Our lungs fill with air. There just a few miles away is the habitat of angels, a refuge, an invitation we would answer. God bless those under those clouds, those in the rain, those who only see gray overhead yet imagine majesty above soaring and serene, those who have seen and have not forgotten that clouds, like humans, are not defined by their undersides. (Sunset photo at Cowtown Rodeo, Pilesgrove, New Jersey of storm clouds to the east.)

2021-25 - Cowtown Rodeo The audience at Cowtown Rodeo confounded my expectations. I expected a certain uniformity and failed to find it. By any measure including race, this horse and cow spectacle attracts all kinds — two by two but also families and groups of friends. Seeing this, I worry about my church. It is justifiably proud of its racial diversity but varies little in other ways. Most of my fellow Episcopalians are career professionals with financial assets, a fondness for social advocacy, and many candles on their birthday cakes. We say we welcome everyone and mean it, but those who actually show up are very much like those already there. Parents with children are scarce; dating couples, unheard of! There are some wonderful exceptions but, if anything, I fit in too well. Am I part of the problem? Perhaps your church is doing better. Is that because it offers sacred cow roping? (Sunset photo at Cowtown Rodeo, Pilesgrove, New Jersey.)

2021-24 - Seeing and SeekingOur eyes have minds of their own, beyond our conscious control. What appeals, what attracts, knows neither reason nor discipline. Advertisers depend on it, as do professional attention-grabbers pursuing their agendas. Even so, the process is essentially mysterious, beyond their control as well as ours. I want to say our souls, too, have minds of their own. We seek before we know what we are seeking. Our spirits turn in a moment. There is good to be found, but where? We make mistakes but then our hearts find and flood with an answering joy — pure, clean, and true. We are made whole. Everything fits. This is who we would be always, a longing to treasure, a call we would answer for the rest of our lives. (Photo of a scene that caught my eyes, a green blanket and a blue robe on a butterscotch leather sofa.)

2021-23 - Airline DisastersI confess! Lately I relax by watching episodes of “Airline Disasters” on the Smithsonian Channel. The plight of the crew and passengers is oddly calming, certainly engaging. The terrified travelers, even the pilots, take time to pray as they tumble from the sky. Few prayers are answered. Miracles happen but, with the word “disaster” in the show’s title, happy endings are not expected. Yet every show ends on a positive note. Safety inspectors analyze every accident. Improvements are made. Flying in jetliners gets safer every year. In the U.S., going by air, per mile traveled, is nine times safer than by bus, seventeen times safer than by rail, and 1,606 times safer than by car. If you are going to pray for divine protection, do so before you get behind the wheel. Who knows? I may be driving at you in a daydream, my thoughts on the nature of redemption, my mind all but detached from my eyeballs, me oblivious to the on-coming warning signs. (Photo of concentric rainbows — a “glory” — centered on an airliner’s shadow, the shadow of its contrail a straight line to the right.)

2021-22 - Mistaken IdentityOnce, in a prison exercise yard, I was mistaken for an inmate. The prisoner, about my age and height — he could have been my brother — approached me as a friend, asking what I was in for. “Just for the afternoon,” I said. “I’m just visiting.” Once the prisoner realized his mistake, he eased away, a bit embarrassed. For a moment though, in this man’s eyes, I was a fellow prisoner and a possible friend. That encounter still comforts me. I now know that even in prison I can expect to find others like me, willing to befriend me. Christians are supposed to visit those in prison. Is this the reason? To learn that they are like us, to see how little separates us from them? Should we visit corporate boardrooms as well? (Photo of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.)

2021-21 - Going Up And UpLike Mark Twain, Silicon Valley investors, bitcoin millionaires, and outrageous tweeters of delectable memes share seductive stories of quick riches and upended hierarchies. Sensational tales of sudden wealth earned in bold exciting ways stir the imaginations of modern-day risk-takers eager to make and willing to lose small fortunes. They push SPACs and NFTs. They praise cryptocurrencies and are fond of peacocking. Twain said, “There are two times in a man’s life when he should not speculate: when he can’t afford it and when he can.” Like us, Twain gave advice he himself ignored. He invested in the Paige typesetter, magnetic telegraphy, a steam pulley, and other 19th-century startups. He lost his shirt but not his sense of humor. Let us, my friends, lose neither. (Photo of a metal ladder leading up to electric and telephone wires, to Internet and fiberoptic cables. Photo copyright 2014 and text copyright 2021 by Danny N. Schweers. Prayer inspired by Richard Zacks’ article in the June 7, 2021 issue of The New Yorker.)

2021-20 - Sunshine InfusedCall me a sappy simpleton, but sunlight makes me happy. I am happy sunbathing on a secluded beach in Southern California, the sound of the waves in my ears. I am happy hopping rock to sunlit rock along the Pedernales River near the place of my baptism. I am happy reading in the sunroom, Dvořák on the stereo. Having been in the light, I like to think I am now just as happy in the shadows; that having been blessed, I will always be blessed, sunshine infused, glowing in the dark. May it be so! I’d rather die than go back to living in fear. And even if we die, as die we must, will not the light find us? (Photo of sunlight and trees in Graylyn Crest Park, New Castle County, Delaware.)

2021-19 - ExtraterrestrialsThings are not what they seem. This light pole looming over us, for example, could be an extraterrestrial being in disguise, one of many watching patiently, learning about our habits before suddenly and swiftly taking over our planet when we least expect it. That’s how we often think of aliens — sinister, hidden in plain sight, eager to dominate us, evil. Because things are not what they seem, what we imagine often reflects our fears more than our hopes. Why, I imagine this light pole could just as easily be an extraterrestrial Christian. Christianity, I imagine, has already spread across the universe at warp speed. I imagine aliens often make pilgrimages to the Holy Planet, to the birth place of Jesus, eager to see creatures made in the image of God, people inspired by the Holy Spirit, united in praise and good works. Like our own pilgrims to Jerusalem, they expect to visit a holy place of peace and good will. They visit and are troubled. (Photo of a light pole near Blue Ball Barn in Alapocas Run State Park, Delaware.)

2021-18 - Love SongsA game I sometimes play is to imagine slight changes or none at all in the lyrics of love songs so that they become hymns to God rather than to an earthly lover. “If you fall I will catch you, I’ll be waiting, time after time” and “I’ll be loving you always” and “How sweet it is to be loved by you”. The ancient Greek philosophers said it, singing in chorus cheek to cheek, that loving someone teaches us to love the best — goodness itself. No wonder lovers say, “I love everybody since I fell in love with you” and “You are the sunshine of my life.” Lovers Lane is just ahead. Our eyes are filled with love and heaven is ours. Call me a Pollyanna! (Photo of old "To Lovers Lane" sign in Arden, Delaware. Text has lines from old love songs.)

2021-17 - Bird HouseWhen I was young, trash went in the trash. Then I changed. Old, I could no longer throw away an empty pen or jar, tattered clothes or broken tools — even a used tissue  — without recognizing each object’s faithful quiet service. I would lovingly photograph each thing before it was tossed, putting the images into a huge folder called “Parting Shots”, into an art exhibit and into a book. Then there was this old bird house. Decrepit as it was, I could not throw it away. It had too much character. So I put it in an archival acrylic cube with a handsome hardwood base to honor and preserve it. When I died, I left that old thing to my perplexed relative who even now does not know where to put it. And me? I suppose you’d say I am resurrected, lovingly preserved in a house with many rooms. The Landlord, it seems, could not bear to see me thrown away. And I have many companions — perhaps, one day, you. (Photo of an old bird house with an artificial bird, Arden, Delaware.)

2021-16 - Houses, People, GodUnexpected, distinctive, full of character, idiosyncratic — those adjectives describe where I want to live and the people I want to be around. So here I am in Arden, Delaware, the more fool I, where every house is different, occupied by free thinkers, theater people, and chemical engineers. Next to our village, someone built a subdivision where every house is the same. Elitist that I am, the place gives me the willies. When did I become such a snob? Even if they are uniform, the dwellings are well built and continue to be lovingly maintained sixty-five years on. I have gotten to know some of the residents and — guess what? — they are just as quirky as my neighbors. Since we are all made by the same maker, how could it be otherwise? I will let the theologians decide, but such diversity suggests a surprising God — unexpected, distinctive, full of character, and idiosyncratic, a deity who leaves the 99 to search for the one. (Photo of red objets d'art in the front yard of a Clair Manor subdivision home, New Castle County, Delaware.)

2021-15 - Roller Skating FashionFour years ago, Marc Bain wrote that “Japan’s wild, creative Harajuku street style is dead.” Maybe so, but something like it lives on in the attire of young girls with inline skates. The two I saw yesterday were dressed in bright candy colors and contrasting layers of leggings, sweat shirts, knee and elbow pads, helmets, wrist protectors, masks, and roller blades. Who knew safety and sporting equipment could be so fashionable? Like the psychedelic rainbow dress of tie-dye hippies, this style encourages variety and personal choice. Don’t think you can keep up, not if you are old enough to vote. Instead, pray for people like me, people who have dressed the same for decades, people who have little time for play or exercise, who seldom take frivolity seriously. (Photo of two Harajuku street-style roller skaters, Delaware.)

2021-14 - Butcher Caught In The ActUnlike the movie “Fargo”, it is not the police chief who catches me in the act, it is my neighbor. It’s not a severed leg I’ve put in a wood chipper, red blood everywhere, it is the amputated limb of a budding cherry tree I am cutting to pieces by hand, pink petals everywhere. I was, and still am, a bit ashamed to be pruning a blooming tree. I should have done this in winter, when the sap was dormant. I should not have planted it so close to the power line. To my surprise, my neighbor is not aghast to catch a butcher in the act. She’s pleased, even delighted! She wants cuttings for her flower arrangements. I had forgotten she’s a florist. I hand her the shears and she leaves with an armful. Even now, days later, buds blossom in a vase on my dining room table. (Photo of budding cherry tree limb clippings in plastic yard-waste bag, Arden, Delaware.)

2021-13 - I Look Up From My WorkThe ice and wind of winter have departed. Huge tree limbs and small branches litter the yard, the rotten and the weak snapped from the heights and thrown to earth. Like a mother imposing order in a house upended by a child’s willful anarchy, my job is to clean up this mess. Again and again I kneel to reach the ground while above me the strong wood that remains aloft flowers and buds. From every tip and nodule, leaves shyly begin to show themselves. What was subdued is beginning to move. It seems delicate and vulnerable, yet at the same time unstoppable, relentless. For just a moment, I get off my knees and stand. I look up at the spreading canopy and, beyond it, the sky. And beyond the sky, something to which we are called. (Photo of trees in bloom and just leafing out, Arden, Delaware.)

2021-12  I Could Not ImagineWhen my life went to pieces, it was as though my friends formed a circle around me, held hands and prayed. I felt blessed by them and by God. Even so, I was miserable, shattered. I could not imagine all the good coming my way. I could not imagine that the stonemason of my soul was even then picking up the fragments of my life and arranging them into something better than before. Why did I feel so hopeless, so discouraged, when, in fact, so much good was coming my way? Now, at 74, I confess to fearing old age and death. But I can also say that the better part of me eagerly anticipates the impending transition, that all the good coming our way is more than we can imagine. (Photo of flagstones being laid at Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, Delaware.)

2021-11 Just WonderingWe who would dwell in wonder are never far from new conundrums to ponder. Just the other day — Saint Patrick’s Day — I stood in front of a child-size plastic brontosaurus while the MOL Glide, a container ship, steamed up-river to Philadelphia before sailing on to Halifax and Rotterdam. Most people would dismiss this temporary juxtaposition of man, empty playground, and full cargo ship as a meaningless coincidence, but we who would dwell in wonder take in the confluence of signs — the lack of children playing, the surplus of shipping — and wonder. Is my life out of balance? Too little play? Too much work? And what about you? Just wondering. (Photo of a playscape brontosaurus and the container ship MOL Glide at Fox Point State Park, Delaware.)

2021-10 Speaker CabinetsI am as surprised as you, my faithful companions. It’s landfill time! For over forty years you filled my life with music as I moved from one marriage to another and yet another, from the second largest state to the second smallest, from my early thirties to my mid-seventies. Through your speakers came sound from vinyl LPs, radio, cassette tapes, CDs, and Bluetooth. If I live another forty years, then I will simply think “play Tommy Duncan’s Time Changes Everything” and my iBrain implant will play the song unchanged since it was first recorded in 1940 in Saginaw, Texas. Once more I will hear that the dark clouds are gone and there’s blue sky again, that time changes everything — but not, apparently, the song. (Photo of the astonished author and two speaker cabinets about to be junked.)

2021-09 Finding GraceI do not say we can find wonderful everywhere, but I do say there is no telling where we may find it. Last week while walking, I found a resplendent piece of sidewalk. Take a look! Isn’t it stunning? Especially that bold river of water, now dry, that once flowed through salt? The remarkable does not appear on demand. It is like grace. We do not find grace everywhere but there is no telling where it will find us — perhaps today — perhaps in the coming hour. If there is delight to be had, will we recognize it? If there is grace to be welcomed, will we throw open the door and embrace it? I am busy with the task at hand. Even so... (Photo of road salt, sand, dirt, and gravel on the sidewalk outside an assisted-living facility.)

2021-08 Japanese Maple MathematicsOne tree with four trunks or four trees that grew up together? From one seed or four? My thoughts are unseasonably, unreasonably mathematical. Come spring, thousands of seeds will helicopter down, just as they have for decades, long before I arrived on the scene. I am slow to learn. After the seeds, red leaves will spread across the sky, grabbing the sunshine. Uncountable points of light will find their way through the shifting canopy. I will close my eyes and listen. (Photo of four Japanese maple tree trunks, Arden, Delaware.)

2021-07 Exceptional ProduceI picked a pepper convoluted in its curves, extreme in its extremities, a voluptuous vegetable. What I had in mind was not a salad but Edward Weston’s “Pepper No. 30, 1930”, a photograph that evokes sensuality and presence. I begin in imitation but inspiration soon takes hold. My hand wants a supporting role in the photo, my fingertips disturbingly similar to the pepper’s terminal protrusions. The shirt sleeve should be black; the whole surface, textured; the colors, unsaturated grays. This is not the image I had in mind. No! And all these polysyllabic words? Not what I meant to put before you! Instead, I write about artists and authors, how they follow where the spirit leads them, how they are carried forward in protest. I talk about our offspring, how we embrace our creations no matter how awkward or deformed, as any parent would. This is what we bring you. This is what we have to give. (Photo of a bell pepper and author’s hand.)

2021-06 No Mail TodayThe flag is down. The whole box is down! No mail today. What would happen, I wonder, if we did not put it back up? People do without mail all the time. The weirdos! Not us. Leaning at an angle perhaps, a slapdash fix perhaps, but the next day our mailbox is erect again, waiting for the couriers who are “stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness” as Herodotus wrote of them in 430 BC. Yes, we are part of a self-healing social organism that survives even after we do not. Yet it is our words and the thoughts behind them that endure. In the beginning was the Word. After that, the mailbox was inevitable. (Photo by guest photographer Jeffrey Rubin of a mailbox knocked down in the snow.)

2021-05 Footprints In The Snow A friend and I once trailed a thief, following his footprints in the snow as he visited one driveway after another, trying the doors of the parked cars, searching for unlocked valuables. Finally he found an unlocked van and, in it, keys. There his footprints ended. This is the world we live in. People without keys are trying the doors, hoping to find some unlocked. Knock, we are told, and it shall be opened; everyone who asks, receives; seek, and you shall find. Let us who have been welcomed, welcome others. We who have been answered, answer others. We who have found, leave clues. (Photo collage of a thief’s footprints in the snow, Arden, Delaware.)

2021-04 First Of All It is good to call on God. It is good to pray. It is good to put God first. Yes! Yes! Yes! But God is there even if we do not call, even if we do not pray, even when our priorities are a shambles. Call us misguided, sidetracked, off the rails, or lost when we put ourselves first, when we put our families and friends first, or nation first, our church first, or our beliefs. Whatever we put first, the fundamentals remain unchanged. We are loved. We are blessed. We are God’s own. (Photo of a woman glorying in creation atop Stanage Edge, Peak District National Park, England.)

2021-03 Window CoveringsThere is something contradictory — and wonderfully human — about closing and covering windows. These openings, meant to let the outside in, are often shut and covered. We don’t want the breeze. We don’t want the light. Well, maybe now and then. Certainly we want to control them. Christians talk about the breath of God inspiring us. We talk about the Light of Christ coming into the world. We talk as though we eagerly await inspiration and illumination. Then we put up curtains. Isn’t there something wonderfully human about wanting to be blessed but also wanting to be in control, wanting to moderate God’s intrusion into our lives, wanting to open and close, to cover and uncover, the windows of our souls? (Photo of curtains made by the author’s wife, the fabric artist known as The Village Knitiot.)

2021-02 Reality And RepresentationA woman poses in front of a mirror. That’s one. Her lover paints her as two-faced, geometric, abstract. That’s two. Decades later and an ocean away, a woman in blue stands before the painting, perhaps wondering about reality and representation. That’s three. More years and here we are, you and I, looking at a photograph of a woman standing in front of Pablo Picasso’s painting of Marie Therese Walter looking at herself in a mirror. That’s four. What’s five? Who’s looking at us? One theory is that we are all of us fully alive in God’s memory; that God’s picture of us is us, not like us; and, unless we are forgotten, eternal; our every moment, always. Or does God only remember our better moments? (Photo of a woman standing before Pablo Picasso’s 1932 painting, Girl Before A Mirror, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.)

2021-01 Inauguration Day Like Jimmy Carter, Joe Biden does not inspire fervor. Am I naive to think he listens to many but then chooses what is best for our country? That, because he favors no faction, none will favor him? That he will neither inflame his followers nor make his opponents howl? If we are to be fervent, let it be for the humdrum — for the rule of law, for equality under the law, and for individual rights in the face of the greater good. Let us rejoice in the many colors of our skins and in the many hues and shades of our political spectrum. Let us make real the promises of democracy. Let us make sacrifices, not sacrifice others. The discouraging say we cannot make a difference. We say we can. We say — it is a certainty. (Photo of Joe Biden at a March For Our Lives rally in Wilmington, Delaware.)

2020-52 - New Year’s EveIt’s a wonderfully optimistic idea that, by buying a new pair of specs, we can change our looks and the way the world looks; or, by buying new clothes, we will be more confident; or, by starting a new day or a new year, we can put the past behind us and make a fresh beginning. In religion, it’s the idea that we can repent, that we can get back on track, pursue again what is best, seek what is good, no matter who we are or what we have done or left undone. Does the new grow old? The fresh go stale? Our ruts deepen? We do not ask what is probable. We pursue the possible and often the impossible. Let this January be littered with our splendid failures and, who knows, something like success in September! (Photo of a window display of a shop selling eyeglasses in Burlington, Vermont.)

2020-51 - Heart Thaw My heart of snow and ice is slow to thaw, but even now this tilting planet is turning towards the sun. Christmas is upon us and once again we hear the fairy-tale story of a couple desperate for lodging and the birth of their Son, the infant toward whom shepherds and wise men turn. I turn, too, but slowly. (Photo of melting snow and ice notched by the author to look more like a heart.)

2020-50 - Electrical OutletReady and waiting, electrical outlets shyly protrude from every wall in every room in every home and office. Often hidden behind furniture, their wires hidden inside our walls, their networks cover our continents. Who can resist their promise of power even if it means smoke stacks, open-pit mining, fracking, nuclear waste, gigantic propellers, and solar farms? All it takes is a neighbor’s falling tree to plunge us into the Stone Age. Then our prayers are for quick restoration, our lives in limbo until the lights again are shining, the fridge humming, and our devices recharging. How do the Amish do without? (Photo of an electrical outlet in slanting sunlight.)

2020-49 - Me And The FishThe fish looks up at me and I look down at it, but I doubt that it looks up to me as any kind of role model, and I certainly do not look down my nose at it. If anything, I admire wild things. No clothes, no possessions, nothing put away, accepting whatever nature gives them, wholly reliant on chance or, I say, mercy and grace. We, too, are wholly reliant on you, Lord, but our dependence is often obscured by the many other things we rely on — family, community, civilization, and the ten thousand things we own. What shall we do? Throw it all to one side and live hand to mouth, never knowing what our next meal will be or where we might sleep? Would that make us more aware of your mercy and grace? No — we hold onto things and people, yet we pray anyway for that awareness — that life is tentative and precious, a blessing granted moment by moment. (Photo of fish in Lake Mead, Nevada.)

2020-48 - Jack In The Boxby guest writer and photographer Rob Gurnee, Executive Director, Delaware Lutheran Community Services.
    I was running out in the country recently and spotted a jack-in-the-box toy randomly lying in the weeds by the side of the road. It was a simple toy most everyone has played with in their lifetime, either as a child or as an adult seeking to entertain a young one. Even though I knew the puppet would pop out of the box at some point while repetitively winding the crank, it always seemed to startle and surprise me when it did and made me want to do it again and again. Finding this Sesame Street version in such an unceremonious and unexpected place saddened me a bit. Had it been lost or discarded?
    There are many things in life that manage to delight and fulfill me every time I experience them, over and over again. Watching my two sons grow up and interacting with them in new and different ways is always pure joy for me. Witnessing the goodness of my wife in all her different roles is a privilege. In my workplace, the heart to serve those in need among volunteers and staff, and the generosity of supporters, is inspiring. And God’s constant love and continuing forgiveness is humbling.
    The importance of those things that give meaning to our life, that we look forward to, that make us whole, give us joy and sustain us, can easily be lost or discarded if we do not take the time to name them and give thanks. I pray for that awareness in myself and others. May we know our blessings, feel them in our bones, and live them with gratitude in our hearts and spirit.
(Photo of a lost or discarded jack-in-the-box toy.)

2020-47 - Family and FeastsMy father grew up in poverty, one of eleven children in Hell’s Kitchen, the Lower East Side, and Canarsie. The words he heard again and again at supper were, “Fill up on bread!” He left home for a career in the U.S. Navy storing and deploying nuclear weapons. That meant his own children never went hungry, in part because my mother bought simply and in bulk at the government-subsidized commissary. Food alone is not enough to make a family happy but I remember times we were, the six of us together after a big holiday meal, all of us as stuffed as turkeys, sitting around the television watching The Wizard of Oz. Now cannot be then. We cannot re-create the past. Even so we can be grateful — and we can once again have pecan pie and watch Dorothy as she yearns to get away from home only to spend the rest of the movie trying to get back. (Photo of the author and his family circa 1962.)

2020-46 - Favorite PlacesMy favorite places to read or write are busy with conversation and movement — breakfast at Sungate Diner or lunch at Rebecca’s Cafe or Libby’s Restaurant. I sit at the counter or to one side at a small table. The staff get to know me but I try not to get to know the regulars even though I am one. I don’t want to talk. I want to enjoy my solitude in company, silence in the midst of chatter. That is how it used to be. Now, isolated by the pandemic, my new favorite spot is in my yard next to the state highway, a fence separating us. I can hear the busy people speeding by, eager to reach their destinations. I sit, only my eyes or a pencil moving across the page. I find the place calming, like sitting next to the ocean, the waves crashing, the sound of eternity. (Photo taken at the author’s newest favorite spot in his leasehold on Arden, Delaware, the fence to the right.)

2020-45 - MovedLast Friday I grudgingly put off my slippers and put on my shoes. I drove downtown and joined others in what was grandiloquently called a Walk for Justice and Peace. Afterwards, having walked, I cannot argue that there is now more justice or peace than when we started, yet the experience was surprisingly satisfying. I want to do it again next month and invite others to join us. We put our feet down, one step after another. We moved. We laid claim to the city and it welcomed us as its own. It was inspiring. We moved and were moved. (Photo of concluding prayers at a Walk for Justice and Peace, Wilmington, Delaware.) Click here to learn more about these monthly walks.

2020-44 - The Task Demands It Brother against brother is not the first story in the first book of the Bible. Cain and Able don’t make their murderous debut until chapter four. The twin-against-twin story has to wait until chapter 25 when, from birth, Jacob and Esau vie for preference, a conflict that will against all odds eventually end in peace and reconciliation. Split a piece of wood and you will see the patterns mirrored exactly left and right. You and I may prefer one hand rather than the other but, when the task demands it, we use both hands. We are that smart! Why, we have even been known, when the task demands it, to ask for a helping hand. We love to think of ourselves as self-sufficient, independent, and free, but we aren’t stupid. When there’s a ship to sail, it’s all hands on deck. (Photo of split wood.)

2020-43 - Moss and Stone Stone endures but moss is stronger. Perhaps because each stone is shaped by hand and fitted into place by an attentive mind, dry-set rock walls are lovely things, especially when clothed in green. Words are like stones, not because we hurl them at each other but because each word can be carefully chosen and fitted into place to form a paragraph, page, or prayer, one word next to the other, row upon row. I imagine a rock wall, a word carved into each stone, the whole a revelation. I imagine moss covering the rock, hiding the message, but I also imagine a caretaker who every now and then bares the surface with brush and broom, revealing the stones, revealing the words, so they might shine. Where is my brush? Where is my broom? (Photo of moss, grass, and briar growing in a dry-set rock wall beside Back Lane, Warslow, Staffordshire, England, in the Peak District. Special thanks to the Cenacle Group at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware, for choosing the photo and getting me started.)

2020-42 - Enemies EmbraceWho rejoices when blue and red crash into one another at full speed? Who delights when they see us smash each other to pieces? Who smiles at our country’s descent into suspicion, confusion, and chaos? I am as guilty as any, thinking my different-party neighbors are the unwitting dupes of manipulating scoundrels, pawns of self-serving interests and bankrupt ideologies. God help us to once again honor one another, to serve one another, and not see respect and deference as signs of weakness. In politics as in religion, the challenge is to love our enemies. Let us embrace, but not in word-to-word combat, in a mangled tangle of self-righteous anger that only pleases those who want us at odds. Let us be many, but one. (Photo of blue and red sedans after a head-on collision.)

2020-41 - Keep MovingThe freeway traffic which had been flying came to a stop. Then slowly, fitfully, we moved ahead a few feet at a time until the accident appeared, vehicles spun sideways to the now hesitant flow, one car its rear violently crushed, we no longer impatient. All I get is a quick sideways glance at a man lying on the ground trying to raise his head, the shoulders of his plaid shirt covered in blood. Someone is kneeling next to him, caring for the injured. What can one do when the ambulances have not yet arrived? One good Samaritan stands waving us on. He seems to be saying, “Keep moving. Keep moving. This doesn’t concern you. Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving.” (Photo of Interstate 95 in the Fort McHenry Tunnel under Baltimore Harbor, Maryland, the lowest point in the entire Interstate System.)

2020-40 - Pressure WashingMy favorite spiritual exercises are physical and often repetitious. This week it’s pressure washing a wooden deck and two porches, blasting away the accumulated years of mold and mildew to reveal the hidden wood beneath, the gray giving way. Maintenance tasks like these demand continual attention. Call it mindfulness. For hours my squirrel-chasing thoughts are on a leash and cannot wander far — just the discipline my over-active imagination needs. Set the pressure to 1800 psi and I am a happy man. If the world is a better place afterwards, that’s good, too! (Photo of a pressure washer’s wand blasting a wooden deck with water.)

2020-39 - Fitting In and Standing OutOdd, isn’t it, that some people try so hard to fit in while others try so hard to stand out. Then there are those who try to stand out so they can fit in, those who adopt wild hair colors, body piercings, distinctive dress, mannerisms, and language so they can fit in with the outsiders. Fitting in or standing out, it is safe to say we want it both ways. Look! I’m someone special! Look! I’m really no different! Look! I’m just like you, unlike anyone else! Look! I’m just like you except that I’m me. (Photo of a very red oakleaf hydrangea in the fall, Arden, Delaware.)

2020-38 - Sidewalk ArtA vivid pink exclamation drifts in a sea of blue-green conundrum. A feathered fish swims in an asphalt sea. A quadrilateral starshape defies the surrounding asymmetry. This is the sidewalk at my feet. Children were given chalk and the sidewalk was waiting. Our lives are like chalk. The world is like a sidewalk. We are all artists, every one of us, quick to criticize one another’s work, envious of real talent, blind to our own faults. Even so, we have been given our lives and the world is waiting. (Photo of children’s chalk artwork on an asphalt sidewalk in front of the Buzz Ware Village Center, Arden, Delaware.)

2020-37 - Full MoonWho can pity themselves while sunlight still shines on the serene face of the moon above? Who can consider themselves cursed while glorious clouds still sail across that face and share with us the sun’s reflected rays? Who can say we are lost while that glow illuminates our land? Who can see the light and not be joyful? If I wake you with my singing, put your slumbers aside, come out and join me! (Photo of the full moon and clouds.)

2020-36 - One Of Those DaysSome days, it’s a real pleasure to take on one task at a time and do it well before moving on to the next. It takes faith — neither deep nor enduring — to imagine one has enough time and has enough talent to do the job. And when something suddenly doesn’t work, doesn’t go as expected, what a pleasure it is to take time to learn, to stop long enough to wonder how others in this same situation handled the challenge. I know it doesn’t look like it, but today just might be one of those days. (Photo of the author’s wife, destroyer of yellow-jacket nests.)

2020-35 - Heaven On EarthIs heaven a golden country of ease and comfort, where the sun settles to tea and toast? The Lord’s Prayer asks that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That might mean that here and now is like heaven if God’s will is done here and now, done wherever here and now happens to be. Here and now can be beautiful, ugly, calm, or chaotic. This place is heaven if the Word becomes incarnate. Let me overstate the case, exaggerate my conclusion. Every moment, every place is on the threshold of communion. What goes on invites us forward. Heaven is at hand. The cares that keep us captive gladly surrender. We are in the company of joy and promise. (Photo of fields and a country road in Chester County, Pennsylvania near sunset.)

2020-34 - My ShoesFolk wisdom says: before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. It says: before you judge a woman, dance backwards for an hour in high heels. I have walked a thousand miles in these shoes. Now, before I trash them, what shall I say of those miles? What wisdom have I gathered? Judge less often! Appreciate more often! My journey, yours — who would have guessed? Who can explain? More than a series of detours, here we are, new shoes, a new day. What’s next, God? An easy ramble or an uphill slog? A delightful adventure or dreadful agony? Surprise me! (Parting shot of my worn-out, twice-repaired shoes.)

2020-33 - Nebulloid Bongo Land Sometimes nothing makes sense. Twice, years ago, cars ran red lights and sent me to the hospital with concussions. The second time I did not black out. I was upright, walking around, but mentally I was in Nebulloid Bongo Land, a nightmare world where thought turns itself inside out, a place without rhyme and reason. My wife asked, “How are you doing?” In a brief moment of clarity, I remember answering, “I am in no condition to tell,” a brilliant answer from one so discombobulated. Now, today, it may feel like something gigantic has run a cosmic red light and smashed our world, tumbling it over and over. Bewildered, baffled, flummoxed, dumbfounded, and stupefied — the English language is full of words describing this feeling, we have it so often. But such disturbances are temporary. We have our wits. Clarity returns. Those sowing confusion and doubt are working overtime but we can learn to ignore them. Look! The compass is no longer spinning! God is still at our side. When we are asked — “How are you doing?” — what shall we answer ?(Photograph of a mother, her two children, and a big red truck in an intersection.)

2020-32 - Murphy’s LawMurphy’s Law is silly. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” If a malevolent universe is eager to disappoint us, what’s it waiting for? If things are ready to fall apart, what’s the delay? Take yesterday — did everything that could go wrong yesterday in fact go wrong yesterday? Why not? And the day before? And the day before that? If it can all go wrong, why hasn’t it already? Let me claim this — that what goes on is delighted with us. What goes on does not say of us, “Anything that can go wrong with them, will go wrong.” It sees the bright possibilities before us, we the dearly beloved. What goes on is close at hand, full of admiration for us as we fall down and get back up again, as what has gone wrong is redeemed, as the unforgivable is forgiven. (Photograph of a firefighter, West Grove Fire Company, Chester County, Pennsylvania.)

2020-31 - Change Thinking, Change SeeingRecently, driving through Amish farming country, we winced at the repeated sight of hay bales set end to end, wrapped in long lumpy sausages of polyethylene resins. A philosopher would say our disgust is a matter of perspective, that, if we change our thinking, our perceptions will change, that once we understand the benefits of plastic wraps, they will look pleasing. See the alfalfa baled without waiting for it to dry! See the improved protein levels a year from now! See the lower spoilage rates! If that was all we thought, perhaps the sight of glistening white plastic tubes would be appealing. But we also think of the hazardous waste products in their manufacture. We wonder what happens to the plastic after the bales are unwrapped. What we think, what we see, worries us. Is there plastic wrap in our kitchen? Yes! God help us, we, the hypocrites. (Photograph of plastic-wrapped hay bales in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.)

2020-30 - Amish Farm SilosAcidification through anaerobic fermentation — that is one way of understanding the silos we so readily associate with Amish farms. Maize, sorghum, and other cereals are harvested whole, the entire plant cut into half-inch pieces that then fill air-tight silos 35-to-40 feet tall. Within two weeks, the carbohydrates ferment and acidify, making the silage more mildew resistant and more digestible by the cattle, sheep, and horses that will be kept alive through the coming winter months. Who, living for today, being in the moment, plans this far ahead? Not me! I hardly know what I will be doing an hour from now, but I can learn, can’t I? Can’t we? (Photograph of farm silos in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.)

2020-29 - Mars And The MoonThis is the farm we expect to find on Mars and the Moon — trays of plants under grow lights, their roots dangling in water optimized for nutrients and acidity, their temperature-controlled environment shielded from birds, insects, and mold; a self-contained ecosystem divorced from the land and all its vagaries of good soil and bad, dry spells and wet, pestilence and plague. How similar this is to our own protected lives while we were still in our mothers’ wombs, how unlike us in our maturity — competent adults who can adapt to any situation with cunning, team work, and humor. O Lord! Let it be so as you lead us to the ends of the Earth, to Mars and the Moon, to infinity and beyond. (Photograph of edible greens growing at Second Chances Farm, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2020-28 - Out Of InkMy pen ran out of ink! Yes, that sentence deserves an exclamation point; the event, recognition. I buy these ballpoints sixty at a time, knowing each one will vanish a few days after I start using it. I don’t know where they go or why this one, unlike all the others, stuck around. I should frame it, mount it on the wall, so it can continue with me. O Loyal Pen! O Faithful Tool! I am afraid these few words will have to do for you, along with this memorializing photo. When I die, the same will do for me, though I do not think I will die dried up and empty. I will be overflowing, ink that’s run out of pen. (Photograph of an empty ballpoint pen and the page where it ran out of ink.)

2020-27 - Get Rid Of ItPut it in the trash. Pour it down the drain. Toss it out the window. Throw it in the fire. Fling it to the ground. Feed it to the wolves. Roll it off a cliff. Raze it to the ground. Push it under a bus. Pitch it in the well. Bury it in a pit. Blast it to smithereens. Drag it to the dump. Drop it from a plane. Sink it in the ocean. Send it to the moon. Scatter it to the winds. That old grievance, that old grudge, ain’t it nearly time to give it a nudge? (Self-portrait of author at night with shovel and a blooming snowball bush.)

2020-26 - Two MinutesIn the parking lot of my church, I tried to kneel and pray for eight minutes and forty-six seconds for my country’s troubled criminal justice system. I couldn’t do it. My back couldn’t take it. I only lasted two minutes before I had to simply squat. So typical of me! My prayers are too often superficial and feeble. Friends will share with me their distress — a mother in the hospital with complications from an amputation — a wife diagnosed with breast cancer and shingles — and two minutes later I’ve forgotten all about it. So typical! All the same, I am unashamed. While I admire those who pray passionately and persistently, my trust is in the One who responds to all prayers fervent or feeble, the One who responds even before we ask, the author of justice and peace, our understanding faithful friend. (Photo of people kneeling in prayer for George Floyd and others at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, Wilmington, Delaware, on June 19, 2020.)

2020-25 - Greehouse Farming PrayerO Lord, bless our plastic-skinned regulated environments. Protect our crops against fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Teach us to properly adjust temperature, humidity, and air flow. Tutor us in drip-flow integration and condensation modalities. Endow us with Solar-Smart™ technology and vary the infrared reflectance of our greenhouse membranes. Give us stronger lighter-weight polycarbonate supports with lower structural stress. Reduce the ultra-violet deterioration of our extruded thermoplastic coverings. Increase the yield and quality of our harvest that we may better feed the world and provide for our families and workers. Lord, we are breaking new ground, adopting new-fangled methods we can have no faith in. Our trust is in you, God, Lord of every innovation. Our faith is rooted in you. (Photo of plastic-covered greenhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with dairy cow and cellphone tower.)

2020-24 - Pivot Of CalmWe stopped to let him pass, we in our bright yellow Mini-Cooper with its sporty racing stripe, he driving a working wooden farm wagon pulled by a team of four draft horses. We smiled and waved. He did the same. Around us the earth has sprung up wheat, corn, alfalfa, and tobacco. Nearby, other teams of horses and mules tilled furrows, spread manure, and baled hay. It was an idyllic moment on a Tuesday afternoon, the Amish working their fields while we, at our leisure, looked for ever-narrower roads to get lost in. There are fixed hubs around which our hectic lives revolve, pivots of calm around which we spin. Once again we have circled in close to the center. (Photo of wheat nearly ready for harvest in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.)

2020-23 - In The SpotlightFew can do what Iris McKenney does — pose confidently for hours while a battery of cameras fire at her point blank, at the same time establishing an easy rapport with the photographers, at times the whole studio full of laughter. Oh, to be as calm when we are in the spotlight, to be as comfortable in our own skin, to show ourselves to others without needing to control how we are seen. Let our triumphant being glow in the pixels of every screen! Let others see us, if they have eyes to see, people like themselves — I don’t think I am overstating it — people divinely made, heavenly crafted, God’s image incarnate. (Portrait of artist model Iris McKenney.)

2020-22 - Chasing PigeonsHaving been inspired, we imitate. Ten years ago, Kathy Buckalew and I took a day trip to Manhattan to see an exhibit of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs. Afterwards, naturally, the city sidewalks in front of our cameras were full of images like his. Kathy and I especially remember a young girl chasing pigeons for minutes on end, the very picture of freedom, playfulness, and spontaneity. Looking back, what made the moment expose itself was our expectation of delight. If we were imitating the famous French photographer, what we were mimicking was not his style or composition but his implicit faith that the world joyously reveals itself to those eager to see. Life wants us to be its playmates, even as it flies away, always a step or two ahead. (Photo of a girl chasing pigeons in Manhattan.)

2020-21 - Real Men PrayReal men pray when the bullets are flying. Real men pray while running for their lives. Afterwards, alone in the dark, real men pray they don’t pass out from the pain as they dig out the slug with the pocket knife they always carry. Yes, real men pray when they are eyeball-to-eyeball with steely-eyed death, mano a mano with eviscerating evil. Otherwise, real men are confident, wise-cracking, and worldly, at ease in a fallen world. Some day I will be a real man. In the meantime, I pray all the time! (Self-portrait of the author showing how he writes these prayers.)

2020-20 - Green BlanketToday’s photography assignment is to keep your camera ready and, as the day progresses, to watch for the appearance of a scene worth preserving, something that strikes you as profound, possibly of vast import to the nation, something like a red wheel barrow beside white chickens or the folds of a green blanket draped over an orange chair. The universe wants and deserves your attention. It loves to show off in front of an appreciative audience, you in particular. What will it reveal to you today? Don’t miss it! And, if you are quick enough, if you have kept your camera close at hand, preserve it in pixels. (Photo of a green blanket on an orange chair; with references to poems by William Carlos Williams.)

2020-19 - Bloom Shine SingEven though the sun has set, the flowers go right on blooming. See for yourself! Go out tonight with your flashlight or be like me — haul a long extension cord across the yard with a bright lamp at its end to capture the photographic evidence. And even though the sun has risen, the stars go right on shining. See for yourself! Just wait for a new moon to eclipse the sun. Suddenly the stars reappear — they have been shining all along. And even though joys and comforts flee, the voice of inspiration goes right on singing. Hear for yourself! (Photo of white bleeding heart blooms at night.)

2020-18 - Bamboo BirdsWhat makes a home a home? Each night, birds make their home in the bamboo grove behind my home and, in the morning, every morning at first light, I cannot snooze for all the joyous noise they make greeting each other and the dawn. Does the wise man shut his window to the ruckus? Does the wise man shout for silence? Scream for peace? No. The wise man lives in harmony with his neighbors. The wise man goes to bed with the birds and, like them, rises with the sun, singing! I wonder what it’s like to be wise. (Photo of bamboo at night.)

2020-17 - Trespasser's MementoAwake in the wee hours, reading Wallace Stevens’ dense enigmatic poetry, I hear clinks and clanks from the kitchen, noises quite distinct from the refrigerator’s night-time hums and thumps. Seven minutes after I set the trap, I hear it snap, then, three scuffles, then I look — empty! Seven minutes after I re-set the trap, I hear it snap again, then, more scuffles, then I look — and the mouse looks back at me, its paw caught, the trap unshakeable. As recommended on page 38 of the Mouse Trapper’s Handbook, I use a paper towel and, even though it nips my thumb, I carry the intruder out of the house and into the yard to freedom. May God be as generous to me! And, if I am to be counted wise, may I recognize God’s mercy even when I am left with a mangled paw, a memento of my trespass. (Photo of my covered left hand holding a trapped mouse.)

2020-16 - Watch For Something Wonderful“Watch for something wonderful!” Those words came to me in a dream four days ago. I woke happily expectant, believing they might be a premonition. Now I wonder, why should I have to watch for it? If it will be so wonderful, won’t it be obvious? Apparently not! Think of me as Mr. Oblivious. I often cannot see things right in front of me. Picture me in a comedy skit. Jesus returns, the universe is in convulsions, but I don’t notice. That’s me! So if voices in dreams are speaking, why choose someone so often befogged, telling them to keep their eyes peeled? I do not know, yet all the same, I am watching. It will be wonderful! (Photo of drinking glass and red plastic cup on sunlit countertop.)

2020-15 - PrologueThe spring equinox has passed, but the hesitant roots of the ferns have yet to send forth fresh shoots. The old fronds still stand, stiff, not soft, brown, not green. They are, in their wintry way, beautiful, even lyrical. I, too, am in my winter years. What is left of my hair is snowy white, and there are other signs, too many! Half the men my age will be dead in 13 years. How is it then that I feel that my life has just begun? That my many decades are only preface, only a prologue? The feeling is strong but how can it be true unless death is not the end? (Photo of dried fern fronds.)

2020-14 - Sweetgum Seed PodsDoes anyone pray for a bumper crop of sweetgum seed pods? We’ve had one this winter and spring. Nearly the size of golf balls, they look like the lethal spore of some alien life-form. Hard and spiky, treading on them is a bit like walking on large ball bearings. If it were my choice, these two trees would be cut down, but since they are my neighbors’ trees, I’ve learned to live with them, just as I’ve learned to live with my neighbors. I could be hard and spiky. My neighbors could be afraid of treading on me. Instead, I greet them affectionately, not simply to be friendly, but in hope of something better. So what if I am down on hands and knees, picking up the offending fruit scattered over my yard? The sun is shining and I need the exercise! (Photo of a sweetgum seed pod.)

2020-13 - Ambushed By DaffodilsLook at me! Look at me! cry the blossoms of the weeping cherry. I was on my way to watch morning prayer on the Internet when the flowers ambushed me with their glory. Look at me! Look at me! cry the daffodils. Even though the slow, gentle rain has bent their heads face downward, their bright petals hold my attention while the urgent tasks on my agenda go ignored. My community, my country, and the world are mobilized, each person doing their part. Look at me! Look at me! cry the hellebore and the forsythia. Yes, children, I will look. (Photo of miniature daffodils after the rain.)

2020-12 - Let Heaven DecideLet heaven decide our place in the world while we decide to be happy in it. Let us ask, what place is this? Let us ask, who are these people? Let us explore this place, trusting there are treasures to be unearthed and extraordinary companions to meet along the way, landmarks we have not yet learned to cherish and strangers who one day will be our best friends. (Photo of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware. Photo and text copyright 2020 by Danny N. Schweers. The first sentence is a paraphrase of a sentence found in John Ruskin’s slim but dense book Unto This Last, a book Mahatma Gandhi said changed him from a lawyer into a social activist.)

2020-11 - Everyone EverywhereMy hope now is that we can slow the spread of the coronavirus so our hospitals are not overwhelmed, so that everyone who needs it can get good medical care when they need it, everyone, even me. That hope comforts me until I stumble over the word everyone. Everyone? With that question, the comfort of my hope vanishes, and that’s a good thing. Everyone includes anyone anywhere facing this contagion, even those with scant medical resources, perhaps even my neighbors, unknown to me. God help them! And that’s the difficulty with prayer — it has to be about me and mine, you and yours, but also about them and theirs — everyone everywhere — or God may not listen. (Photo of a sawed off but still growing tree along Route 9 near Dutch Neck Crossroads, Delaware.)

2020-10 - Four Sunrise Photo TipsWant a good sunrise photo? Just follow these four steps. ONE: Face east. The sun on this planet never rises in the west. TWO: Shoot at dawn, not noon. This means getting up early. THREE: Find a clear view of the sky, preferably at the water’s edge. This means driving in the dark to get there early. FOUR: Have faith. The universe does not perform on cue but those who seek beauty often find it. Go out looking for the best and the best will come looking for you. (Photo of sunrise over the Delaware River at Augustine Beach Access Area, Delaware.)

2020-09 - The End Is NearThe end is near! We are all going to die! Since its beginning, Christianity has eagerly looked forward to the end, to the return of our shepherd to gather us, his often fearful sheep, together. After he was crucified, we huddled together, alarmed that we would be next. But then Jesus appeared alive and whole, telling us not to be afraid, that we are loved, that all will be redeemed. Joyous, we went out from our refuge into the world bleating the good news. Even now, when fears prey on us sheep, we pray to be full of that joy. Even in the darkest times, we testify to the light. Did I say we? Oh, let us be in that number, you and me both. (Photo of smoke from an uncontrolled fire rising through trees in western Chester County, Pennsylvania.)

2020-08 - Unseen HandSometimes everything seems perfect. Sometimes all the pieces fall into place, as though an unseen hand were guiding our hands, as though a subtle quiet power was shepherding our thoughts. Such moments are gifts, but from whom? It is as though we were musicians in an infinite orchestra, each one of us improvising our small part, somehow knowing which notes to play and when. Is this a glimpse of heaven? Are we fools to praise the conductor? (Photo of a country road in western Chester County, Pennsylvania at sunset.)

2020-07 - MississippiMy wife and I, excluded, stand on the wrong side of a frosted-glass wall. It separates us from those on the other side who are enjoying a good meal. We were turned away! Are we angry? Envious? Do we feel left out? Not at all! It is our own fault we cannot get in. We simply did not make reservations. We were enjoying the day at our own speed and did not want to be tied to a time table. God help me, my thoughts often go to extremes. I wonder how many go without, but in a big way, excluding themselves from most of life, avoiding schedules and obligations, shaking off disciplines of every kind. Should we pity them, these unfettered souls looking for a raft and their own Mississippi? (Photo of the diffused shadows of diners at a restaurant at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.)

2020-06 - PhotoshopThey took away my Kodachrome but gave me Photoshop instead. Now I can make the colors as bright and sunny as I want. The mute image now sings. The hidden is revealed. I think of Eliza Doolittle. She was a gem before Henry Higgins polished her and took all the credit, as though he were the creator. I know better. Thank you, Lord, when you give us eyes to see the amazing truth behind the ordinary appearance of things, the beloved soul behind society’s face. (Enhanced photograph of a tidal pool behind marsh grass in Prime Hook State Wildlife Management Area, Delaware.)

2020-05 - Trashed BalloonsAt the party we were alight with joy. “Thank you! Thank you!” we said. We said we’d remember the moment always and, having experienced such generosity from you, we promised generosity in return, to give ourselves to the world just as you had given yourself to us. But now the party’s over and the balloons are in the trash. We are no longer carried forward on waves of delight. Now is the past tense of joy, one foot, one day at a time. We are no longer giddy but are something that may be better, something steady. There’s a flame that endures even after the candles are blown out. (Photo of balloons in the trash on a Sunday morning, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2020-04 - Leaving The Movie TheaterThere is nothing little about the young women portrayed in Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel, Little Women. With stout hearts, the four sisters face deprivation, disappointment, and even death. I, too, am one of four siblings. My father, career military, was often absent, on tour. Unlike the March sisters, we moved often, ten cities in thirteen years. Some day I will write a long novel about it called Navy Brats. It will sell millions and find a home in the hearts of readers everywhere. But first I have to write my first best-seller, a tongue-in-cheek self-improvement book called Things Left Undone. (Photo of five women leaving the Regal Brandywine Town Center movie theater, Wilmington, Delaware after watching a screen adaptation of Little Women.)

2020-03 - Grand Central Station to Nederlander TheatreGet off the subway at Grand Central Station. There’s no time to dawdle and gawk. Hurry! We don’t want to be late! Even so, pull out your camera. Take in the crowds, the brilliant slanting afternoon sun, the city’s rapturous cacophony. And look! We made it to the theater on time! Ours are the highest seats, center stage. Oddly, others consider them undesirable, so they were available. Now we can relax. The lights go down. The music swells. Let’s enjoy the show! (Photo of pedestrians and sunshine, East 41st Street and 6th Avenue, New York City, on our way to the Nederlander Theatre.)

2020-02 - Covered With CamelsIsaiah says the whole city, not just you and me, shall rise up and shine. Even though darkness covers the earth, even though a thick darkness covers the people, Isaiah says we shall see God’s glory and we shall be radiant. Nations shall be drawn to our shining city. A multitude of camels shall cover us. Camels? If I may, let me translate. A multitude of Dodge RAM delivery trucks shall fill our streets, bringing to us the wealth of the wise, and even the truck drivers shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. Today I ordered lights to string around our house and trash bags for what’s unwanted. Amazon’s vans soon will arrive. May their drivers, like us, reflect God’s glory! (Photo of camels in downtown Austin, Texas in 1991, a feature of vacation bible school at St. David’s Episcopal Church. The text is mostly a rewording of Isaiah 60:1–6.)

2020-01 - Free Fall BounceEverything is new under the sun. Everything is just beginning. Nothing sits still. We are all in free fall, trusting we will bounce. (Photo of a mid-air boy on inflatable slide, Arden Fair, Arden, Delaware.)

2019-38 - Christmas CrecheLet the shepherds take center stage with the wise men close behind. Bring on the cattle, sheep, and camels. Call forth the angels and a star. In the middle, place the new parents, and in the manger, their newborn infant. Happy birthday, Jesus! Thanks for inviting us to the party! (Photo of shepherds, a lamb, a camel, and wise men figurines in a Christmas creche at Grace Episcopal Church, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2019-37 - The GatesThe gates are open! Let us walk through and join the others. We go out. We come back in. We go out. We come back in. We go forth into the world. We come back to what we know. We flee for our lives. We are welcome home. We see what God has prepared for us. We see what God has prepared us for. The gates are open! (Photo of the northeast gates of The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island.)

2019-36 - Mountain StormIf we were true romantics, we would not be satisfied observing the sublime forces of nature from a safe distance — we would abandon comfort to bare ourselves to the sky, fantastic in its fury. If we were true Christians, we would not sit in our easy chairs reading about the hard lives of saints — we would go forth into the storm-filled world to love and serve the Lord. Do either of these statements appeal to you? If so, you may need more adventure in your life or a break from your responsibilities. Perhaps you need a new quest, you who would be a knight. May I be your squire? (Photo of storm over Big Point Mountain, Utah, seen from Zion National Park, November, 2012.)

2019-35 - Winter's PraiseWe come alive as the nights lengthen and temperatures drop. In the fading light, we see storm clouds reflected in the water’s frozen surface but our smiles are bright. Winter invigorates us! Icy gusts slap our faces! We hurry towards dinner, drinks, and animated conversation. We come alive! Have pity, Lord, on those in tropical climes, trapped on the enervating beaches of Key West, Jamaica, and Belize, those basking in sunshine, somnambulant, dormant. Forgive them, Lord, if they envy us. (Photo of clouds and a flock of birds reflected in a frozen pond in Central Park, New York City.)

2019-34 - Make Us Wealthy!Dear God, increase our wealth! Healthy bodies and clear minds, food aplenty and comfortable shelter, good friends and reconciled families, satisfying careers and money in the bank — all these things are good. Thank you! But please, dear God, increase our wealth in those things that truly matter — faith, hope, and love. Swell our hearts with gratitude and expectation, delight in the moment and eager anticipation for the next. (Photo inside a wastewater pipe waiting to be installed at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2019-33 - Science FictionThe moon is an egg waiting to be hatched. Simple geometry is an oxymoron. Where do thoughts come from? Thoughts appear in our minds as if from nowhere. Does that make them ours? Can we claim credit? At the end of a sentence, put a period. At the end of your life, an exclamation point! Nobody thanks a machine, the virtual receptionist on the telephone when we want to speak to a living being. We thank those who could have done otherwise. Thank God! (Photo of an egg on a steel plate.)

2019-32 - Bread and VarietyNo one wants the plainest of sandwiches — two slices of unadorned supermarket bread with nothing in between, with no fillings or spreads, just machine-made monotony. Sure, if two slices is all we have and we are very, very hungry, then two slices are a feast! Otherwise, we want variety — extras from garden, pasture, orchard, and ocean. We crave diversity. Our Father, give us today our daily bread and, if it pleases you, give us the bounty of your cornucopia — or make us very, very hungry. (Photo of bread slices drying before going into turkey stuffing.)

2019-31 - Graceful ArcsI love the way grass stems, blown back and forth by the wind, sweep graceful arcs across the sand. May we, blown by the winds of change, move as gracefully. (Photo of a tuft of grass at Horseneck Beach State Reserve, Westport, Massachusetts.)

2019-30 - Possibilities Realized Those of us blessed with over-active imaginations start pursuing three, four, and more new possibilities for every old one realized. We let them slide, seeds sown in gravel, quick to sprout, soon to wither. Huey Long’s last words were, “God, don’t let me die. I have so much to do.” Foolishly, he thought more time was the answer. I’m no fool. I don’t need more time. But what do I need? A mindset coach? New strategies? Priorities? Scheduling? One thing I am sure I need — prayers. Yours will do nicely. (Photo of the Gild Hall parking lot, Arden, Delaware, using a shutter speed of one-sixth of a second.)

2019-29 - Old and NewThe old is always new and the new is always getting older. As soon as it appears, the new takes its place in time, which blesses it with character. The new is no longer what it was, but neither is the old. Both get older and, in that sense, become something other than they were. Getting older, they become something new. This is an old idea. I am not saying anything new. Or am I? (Photo of decaying graffiti on Gooseberry Island, Horseneck Beach State Reservation, Westport, Massachusetts.)

2019-28 - Take Your SeatYour place at the table is waiting. No matter who you are or what you have done, where you have been or where you are going, take your seat. Ask the server for whatever you want but eat the meal you get. Open your mouth and chew. No one else has ever been served this dish before or ever will be again. It is for you to savor, swallow, and digest. Though many find reason to complain, you shall be thankful, even joyful. Look! Here comes the server now. She is smiling! What is she carrying? Can it be? Is that really for you? (Photo of a table set at Lime Tequila Cantina, Fall River, Massachusetts.)

2019-27 - LovableGod is perfect, not a perfectionist. Or will we say creation is equal to the creator? Better to say nothing. Let us say instead that God is not only loving but lovable. Are we not commanded to love God and our neighbor? That must mean that we can love both, that both are in that sense lovable. Actually loving them is another story, but it may be as simple as finding out what is lovable about them. We may not need to change, not much at all, only open our eyes, open our minds, and open our hearts. We may need to search. In the process, we may find that we, too, are lovable. And we may find that creation is closer to perfection than we had thought. (Photo of lovable toy ducks in store window in New Hope, Pennsylvania.)

2019-26 - SpinningToo often, I identify my self with my thoughts and the brain that thinks them. Sometimes I think so hard, my world starts spinning, like when I consider a word like “soul”. Is my soul, not my brain, the center of my being? And how is it different yet connected to my heart and mind? The Bible talks of souls finding rest and refreshment, of them being downcast, disturbed, lost, and even destroyed. Are souls something God breathed into our bodies, not like air into a balloon but like meaning into a sentence? Questions like these make my brain, or my mind, or my soul, or all three, spin — and that is good. Spinning keeps gyroscopes, bicycle wheels, planets, and galaxies steady — my soul mates. (Photo of spiral staircase in the Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building, Shelburne Museum, Vermont.)

2019-25 - Not ForgottenIt does not take long to forget: dreams in seconds, names in the time it takes to hear them. I made an occasion of my baptism in the Pedernales River in part to make it memorable. Afterwards we gathered beside the river and had our picture taken, a memento. The priest, “Dutch” Stolz, had never blessed an entire river before, or waded out into waist-deep water in his clericals. I was expecting one dunking and was unprepared for three — one each for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I remember the occasion even now. My hope is more ambitious, not simply to recollect, but to dwell in the living word of God’s waters, a river never ceasing. (Photo by Bob Haslanger after my baptism in the Pedernales River, Cypress Mill Ranch, Texas, November 5, 1983.)

2019-24 - Your Shining FaceWhen you bless us, Lord, let us not be focused elsewhere. When you have kept us safe from disaster, let us rejoice even if other troubles remain. When your face shines upon us, turn our faces towards yours. When you are gracious, let us be graceful. When the glory of your countenance lights our world, let us be at peace. Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable, let our minds rest in their illumination. (Photo of storm clouds at sunset over Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Pennsylvania. Text is based on Numbers 6:24-26 and Philippians 4:8.)

2019-23 - Two Tickets To ParadiseI recently bought two tickets to Paradise — round-trip tickets for my wife and I aboard the Strasburg Rail Road, an excursion train led by Locomotive 90, a coal-burning wonder of steel and steam pulling passengers across the Amish countryside to a town called Paradise. Because I love my church with its pews and organ, because I teach at a museum with walls and art, because I read printed words in books and newspapers, I fear that I and these institutions may be like steam railroads and like the Amish — anachronistic and irrelevant in our frenzied modern society. But a little reflection and prayer remind me that everyone fears they cannot keep up. Everyone is anxious not to be left behind, as though you, God, were not lord of every change. Teach us to trust, to relax, and to enjoy the ride. (Photo of a boy admiring Locomotive 90 of the Strasburg Rail Road, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.)

2019-22 - A Friend RecognizedMy mind is too muddled to comprehend or judge between competing philosophies and systems of thought. What I can do is hold onto the main thing, which, it turns out, is not a thing at all but a person, a friend recognized and loved. My friend likes to play. My friend delights in being. My friend is unafraid. My friend welcomes and embraces. I want to be like my friend, a fit companion. (Photo of a tree in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania taken from a moving train on the Strasburg Rail Road.)

2019-21 - Eager to TellHow quickly others are bored when I tell them about my amazing and endlessly fascinating life. At the same time, they are eager to tell me all about theirs. Am I that way with you, God? Eager to tell and slow to listen? (Photo of cloud reflected in pond at Bellevue State Park, Delaware.)

2019-20 - Yankee AphorismsHave no fear of tomorrow. God is always there. Say well is good. Do well is better. Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday. It is not how long but how well we live. A friend is like a rare book of which but one copy is made. Peace flourishes where reason rules. Virtue is the only true nobility. (Photo of Yankee aphorisms on a chalk board and an 1837 American flag in restored one-room schoolhouse at Shelburne Museum, Vermont.)

2019-19 - Dig InWe are our bodies. Own them! We are our thoughts. Own them! We are our feelings. Own them! Be in the world. Embrace this life. Let us, beloved of God, discover ourselves and this place. A sense of humor helps, as does an eagerness to forgive and be forgiven. Truth uncovered is beautiful. Dig for it. Get out the shovels and wheelbarrows. Bring in back-hoes and excavators. If you work at night, bring a light. (Photo of father and son watching an excavation at Shelburne Museum, Vermont. Yes, that is a lighthouse in the background.)

2019-18 - Memento MoriWhat caught my eye in the cemetery were the amorphous islands of lichen half covering a carved gravestone, a chaotic balance of light outlines against a dark background. Then, with prolonged looking, I see a process of generation, how the lichen colonies begin with single spots that then spread. And what does the carving say? “Memento mori” — “Remember you will die.” In a few years, these words and the winged scull carved below them will be covered by lichen, themselves dead to sight. In time, even this photo that has stopped time will itself vanish, as will all memory of it. Yet hope persists. Do we not say to Death, “Remember you will die.” (Photo of lichen on gravestone in Rockingham Meetinghouse cemetery, Vermont.)

2019-17 - Miles Per HourBecause the world is round and rotates once every 24 hours, people at the equator are moving faster than one thousand miles per hour around the center of the earth. Nobody notices. We who live north and south of the equator do not go as far with each revolution of the earth, but who can tell? We see the sun, moon, and stars moving so very slowly across the sky but there are few other signs that the earth is spinning, and even fewer signs that our solar system is hurtling around the center of the Milky Way at over 500,000 miles per hour. Is it fair then to ask what else might not be obvious? Is God working in our lives at similar celestial velocities? Can we measure grace in miles per hour? (Photo of a painted steel water drain cover at a crosswalk in Ludlow, Vermont.)

2019-16 - The Ten ThousandFor every one thing we do, ten thousand things are left undone. While one pursuit rejoices in our attention, ten thousand tiny voices cry out in anger and anguish for us to hurry to them, for us to reassess our priorities in their favor, for us to be their servants. Who can serve ten thousand would-be masters whining and scratching at our back doors wanting in to be fed? One voice reaches our ears. Love floats in on a breeze and beckons us forward. Sunshine glows on the path before us. Our hearts rise up, sing, and follow. (Photo of an abandoned passenger railcar along a canal south of New Hope, Pennsylvania.)

2019-15 - Surface DesignPersonally, for me and my skin, tattoos are taboo and body-branding is verboten. As it is, my covering is a patchwork of moles, freckles, and spots; of scars, scabs, bites, wrinkles, and blotches. An added design might be an improvement — or at least a distraction from my imperfections. I do admire the ritual scars of the few men of my acquaintance raised in tribal cultures, but I will leave my face uncut. My own tribe — Episcopalians — make no such demands of the skin. We have our own rites of passage using water, oil, and a few words, rites that make no obvious change to the epidermis. What we look for are outward signs of inward change, speech and actions that show we have invited the Holy Spirit into our hearts. May it be so! (Photo of orange paint left to peel off a rusty light pole.)

2019-14 - Separation and UnityThis week’s insight, boys and girls, is that religion offers unity in the midst of separation. In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God is separating the waters, heaven from earth, stone from flesh, one creature from another. Soon Adam and Eve are separated from the garden, sent out of Eden into exile. Separated as we are from nature and one another, religion celebrates unity, that God is one, that we are with God and one another, that love binds us. Because we are separated, love is a struggle. We find it as a gift. We celebrate each person’s independence and freedom but we look for unity and peace; out of many, one; the whole more than the parts; not me, me, me and me, but us; not many random words but a meaningful story — ours. (Photo of Rock Creek Park seen through the bars of the Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C.)

2019-13 - Untethered NumbersPray, I ask you, for those who must put numbers to paper, or, because we live in an on-line on-demand multi-networked world, pray for those who enter numbers into databases and spreadsheets, especially those who must show number-based improvement month after month, year after year, or lose any hope of promotion if not their jobs. Pray for those who must make their numbers fit production targets to satisfy those above them and, eventually, satisfy us, we who demand improvement. God have mercy on a world of numbers untethered from fact, a world where holding steady is no longer acceptable, where losing ground is an institutional sin. (Photo of rusty nails and screws, and a bright red gardenia blossom.)

2019-12 - Cool BuildingHow is it that geophysicists have such faith? That they believe in a sustainable future? They have invested $41.7 million to renovate their 25-year-old 62,000-square-foot headquarters to make it a net-zero site, a building that generates as much energy as it uses and which creatively conserves water and oxygen as well. The building is cool in summer and looks cool, too! I want to see Christians have such faith, to do such works, to be such stewards of all that God has given us. We built cathedrals. Now what shall we build? (Photo of the American Geophysical Union headquarters, Washington, D.C.)

2019-11 - Competing For LightIf you believe the botanists, competition for light among plants is grim, a kind of no-holds-barred warfare. You see this competition even within a single plant or tree, the upper leaves denying light to those below them, the lower branches dying. It does not work that way with us, thank God! Humans seek light in the form of inspiration and, having been inspired, share the light. Sometimes we glow. Sometimes we shimmer and shine. There’s no telling when, but everyone can. (Photo of Virginia creeper and another plant growing along Q Street N.W. in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.)

2019-10 - Truth and JoyAt first I am delighted to discover these curving stone Beaux-Arts staircases but afterwards it only takes a moment’s research to tarnish my small but unalloyed joy. I am saddened to learn that when it was built a hundred years ago, this park was seen as part of a sinister effort to demolish a black neighborhood. Even today some see it as a symbol of Jim Crow segregation. Now I can only think of my photograph with mixed feelings. And that makes me wonder: must all truth be unvarnished? Must it always take away the shine? No wonder I turn to God, in whose hands truth purifies joy. (Photo of a black woman climbing a stone stairway at Preston Gardens Park, Baltimore, Maryland.)

2019-09 - Honoring The FlagStep into the shadow of the lowering flag. Pray that it goes up again tomorrow and that those who claim it, honor it, not with empty words and ceremony but by pursuing happiness, all the while honoring everyone else’s right to that pursuit, even when they root for the Yankees. (Photo of the flag of the United States of America being lowered at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland after the Yankees scored four runs in the top of the ninth to beat the Orioles 10 to 7.)

2019-08 - Finding The WayI would rather find my way than make it. Having only a rough roadmap, however inspired, I look for the next step. Those making their way somehow know the right direction, as though they see their goal clearly in the distance and can choose the best route. Seeing only darkly, I take many false steps and detours. I let the day come to me. Why should I seize it? I invite it in and listen to what it has to say. (Photo of Broad Dyke Wetlands Natural Area, New Castle, Delaware.)

2019-07 - Crazy DimplesThe water’s surface swiftly responds to the least stirring of a breeze. What was a faithful mirror, true and flat, becomes a pattern of crazy dimples, curved reflections fit for a funhouse. Can I be just as responsive to the wind of the Spirit? Am I not 60% water? (Photo of reflections on the surface of a holding pond at the Wilmington, Delaware wastewater treatment plant.)

2019-06 - Transfigured AlleyBecause I happen to be there and have the time, I walk for miles across the city, getting to know it step by step. So when I pass an empty alley, it seems random that I should be there at that time and place, an accident, a fluke or a blessing that I should be there at the right time to witness the sun at just the right altitude and azimuth to perfectly cast shadows and reflections in mathematically-satisfying patterns. No one else stops in admiration. No one else bothers to look. They are too busy going places to glance at this place which is, after all, just a humble alley, even if it is transfigured by the light. I look. I see. I wonder. In the right light, might we too be transfigured? (Photo of an alley at 2141 K. Street, N.W. in Washington, D.C. at 12:52 p.m. on Sunday, March 31, 2019.)

2019-05 - A Reason Sufficient For Movement How inspiring, I say, to see those with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs arriving at the door of the church. I confess to a bit of envy that they have what I so often lack, a reason sufficient for movement, a desire stronger than stasis, even though I have two good feet. Too often I am content to sit in front of the TV, entertained, or stretched out on the sofa, inert. What are you waiting for, Lord? Inspire me! What are you waiting for? For me to beg? For me to crawl? Move me off center. Inch me toward the door. (Photo of two tractor tires painted green at Brandywine River Antiques Market, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.)

2019-04 - Three StreamsAt the place in the forest where three streams converge, a retired warrior shows me the place where he hangs his hammock and reads, where he enjoys nature and his solitude. He can go all day without seeing anyone because they, like me, are so busy doing the Lord’s work or their own or foolishly pursuing some temptation. Often those three look the same and, with grace, are, merging together as God redeems the divine and the selfish and the foolish into one living stream. (Photo of rounded boulders along Perkins Run in Ardencroft, Delaware, March, 2019.)

2019-03 - Power Ranger at ChurchIf your Sundays are like mine, you stand in front of a house of worship greeting people as they enter. If your church is like mine, the Sunday before Mardi Gras is a time of carnival, a time to dress outlandishly, a time to celebrate joyfully before our Lenten fasts begin. And if your children are like those I greet, you encourage their enthusiasms, even when they are for Mighty Morphin Super Megaforce Power Rangers. That makes me think that, like you, God might be patient with us no matter what masks we may wear. (Photo of boy in Red Ranger Classic Muscle Costume and Mardi Gras beads in front of the doors to Saints Andrew and Matthew Episcopal Church, Wilmington, Delaware, March, 2019.)

2019-02 -- Hard, Cold, and SlipperyAs we struggle in a world that is often hard, cold, and slippery, the surprise of unexpected beauty in the smallest corners of Your Creation, O Lord, gives us a pause, a footing, a refreshment. Bless those who capture the artistry and elegance in everyday life to brighten our sight and lighten our hearts this day. (Photo of ice along Cherry Lane, Arden, Delaware, 2019. Photo by Danny N. Schweers, text by Christina Brennan Lee.)

2019-01 -- Good CompanyExperience has prepared us to be with others in their moments of sorrow. Grief needs company, especially companions with experience. Good, beauty, truth — let us look for these. Let us turn toward the light and, if we can, if it is within our means, let us point others toward the light. But let us remember that we, too, need guidance. We need to let others point us toward the light, for we are human. Experience has prepared others to be with us in our moments of sorrow. If we can, if it is within our means, let us accept their company, especially those with experience. (Photo of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, February, 2019, Delaware. Text based on the sermon by the Rev. David T. Andrews, Jr. given February 10, 2019 at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2018-49 -- Holy FamilyThe only nativity scene that ever moved me was the one I found at the back of an antique store. The two hand-painted figurines of Joseph and Mary ($250 each) are big — over 3-feet tall. Call them statues. Their plaster is flaking. Baby Jesus (priced at $650) looks worse and has a broken toe. They may have had the spotlight in Christmases past, but now they sit on the floor next to the abandoned teddy bears. Do they not embody the plight of unsettled families everywhere? What will become of them? What will their story be? Who will take them in? (Photo of plaster statues of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary for sale in an antique store.)

2018-48 -- Watch For MotorcyclesAdvent is that season of the church year when we eagerly watch for the unexpected and read the signs. Others, poor souls, see only dimly and their thinking is literal rather than metaphorical. But even you and I, so clear-eyed and sharp-witted, we who know that things are also signs, we must rely on the reports of others and choose between conflicting interpretations. To whom shall we turn for news and whom shall we trust to interpret its meaning? News channels abound 24/7 while analysts proliferate and pontificate. Which of them has heard the Good News? Which of them has understood God’s signs? Let us stop, look, and listen. Then let us move forward in time, not foolishly certain of ourselves, but more than willing to change direction when someone somehow makes the right path clear. (Photo of two red signs in a stand of green Phragmites australis with yellow Watch For Motorcycles stickers in their centers.)

2018-47 -- Christmas AgaveChristmas trees have nothing to do with remembering Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem. So say many pious Christians. Me, I like the Christmas Weed celebration in Claymont, Delaware, and the Christmas Agaves in Austin, Texas. In Caracas, Venezuela, I hear they go to mass on roller skates. In Catalan, Spain, they have "Pooping Logs" that spew out candies, fruit, and nuts. Sweden has giant Christmas Goats and San Fernando, Philippines has giant Christmas Lanterns. And let us not forget the Yule Log videos burning on cable TV. However we celebrate Christmas, may our festivities be merry! Let us remember God became incarnate and once again welcome God’s Spirit into our hearts.

2018-46 -- BubblesBubbles, like people, gather in communities. By joining together, bubbles lower their surface tensions. Something like this is true of people. We are not out alone for very long before we yearn for home and community. Marriage, family, village, and church, for all their obligations and disagreements, do not compromise our individuality so much as they give us a greater identity. Challenges and opportunities, pain and pleasure, are no longer mine and yours to bear and celebrate alone but are ours to experience together. Let us not aspire to be perfect spheres; instead let us joyfully join the foam. (Detail of a photo of bubbles formed as a drain pipe empties into a rivulet in Peak District National Park in England.)

2018-45 -- What Shall We Serve?God comes into the restaurants of our hearts looking like a bag lady. She does not arrive at the head of a large party promising lavish orders and big tips. She sits alone at the counter and, when she orders, says, “Bring me the chef’s special. Let the cooks do their best. Surprise me!” She has been in before and, whatever we serve, she never complains. She seems delighted with every concoction. What shall we serve her today? And what shall we charge? (Photo of a man unloading four boxes of fresh shell eggs from a US Foods truck with a photo of six busy chefs on its side.)

2018-44 -- ScroogeIn Victorian England, writers wrestled with the poverty and injustices of unfettered capitalism. John Ruskin called on each captain of industry to look after their ship and crew. His book “Unto This Last” inspired Mahatma Gandhi to become a social activist. Other writers, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, called on workers to lose their chains, to rise up violently and make property serve the state instead of individuals. And then there is Charles Dickens, who calls us to love the misguided Scrooges of the world, the money-minded who forge heavy chains that weigh down their souls. Dickens calls us to raise our cups of Christmas cheer, to pray for those whose hearts are closed, that they and we may be blessed, all of us, every one. (Photo of the Cratchit family on Christmas Day, their cups raised high. From the dress rehearsal of "Scrooge, The Musical" at Delaware Children's Theatre.)

2018-43 -- Stork Boy The boy, almost alone in the garden, sees air bubbling up from the bottom of a fountain. He does what any ten-year-old male would do — he sticks his face into the pool and tries to catch the rising bubbles in his mouth. Can he catch enough to breathe under water? That is his question. What is possible? What can I do? He is not yet set on doing anything in particular, certainly not a career, but he is keenly interested in finding his limits. God help him reach the age of thirty! (Photo of a boy with his face in a stork fountain.)

2018-42 -- Near SightedAre there near-sighted hawks, eagles, and owls? It is hard to believe they would live long after being pushed from the nest. Why then do so many people need glasses? It seems our fitness as a species does not depend on twenty-twenty vision. I started wearing glasses at age seven and probably needed them earlier, yet I have never thought being near-sighted was life threatening. I imagine tribes of hunters, many as near-sighted as me, awarding praise and promotion to those among them who could see into the distance. In that way, the tribe would prosper. Who now among us sees clearly? Let us praise them and, if we have access to a ballot box, elect them, though that assumes we, the near-sighted, can tell who those far-sighted leaders are. God help us! (Photo looking down 7th Street towards Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas, on 28 November, 1975 with signs for Dickinson Optical, Central Shoe Repair, and Travis Barber Shop.)

2018-41 -- Spinning Hoop See how this boy’s striped hoop twirls in the air, spinning backwards so that it bounces into his hands when it lands. Are we not airborne and spinning? Do we dread the earth rising up as if to claim us? We may be of the earth but the earth cannot claim us. We belong to the hands about to catch us. (Photo of a boy with a plastic hoop on North Shipley Street in Wilmington, Delaware, in front of the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew.)

2018-40 -- Patrick Star What shall I say about Patrick Star? Peter Keepnews of the New York Times describes this overweight pink starfish as “unfailingly enthusiastic, touchingly loyal, and undeterred by his limited intellect.” Patrick may be a star fish but he is not the star of the show — he is Spongebob’s sidekick. You know the role, the buddy with the odd looks and distinctive character who, for all his shortcomings, is essential to the plot and often saves the day. Again and again, people have testified that their lives turned around when they stopped trying to be the star of the show and left that to God. I say something different. I say God is our director and sometimes asks us to star even if we do not believe we are ready for the part. Hey! Did you hear that? There’s your cue! You are on! (Photo of a Patrick Star doll lost in a parking lot.)

2018-39 -- Love Lock BridgeOur love is locked into place and we have thrown away the key. Let the bonds between us be as strong as the steel in this padlock and this chain-link fence. May affection flow between us as endlessly as the traffic below us. Like that traffic, our love will ebb at times, even become a trickle at times, but God willing we will have faith to wait for its returning flood. Protect our love, Lord, from the jaws of bolt cutters and the teeth of hacksaws. Be with us in sunshine, rain, and snow. Let us grow old together, the ties that bind us rusted solid. (Photo of love locks on the pedestrian overpass south of Trenton, New Jersey, at the Interstate 295 Scenic Overlook.)

2018-38 -- Jumping RopeYes, she is jumping rope, but the real game, if you look closely, is between her and her shadow. They are seeing how far apart they can get before gravity brings them back together. She jumps up and her shadow jumps away from her, only to return. It’s not like she is trying to escape from her shadow. She is not trying to get away. She is playing with it. Carl Jung talked a lot about our spiritual shadows, how we fear them and vainly flee from them when we should instead recognize and even embrace what we fear. Maybe he should have suggested jumping rope with them! (Photo of a girl jumping rope on North Shipley Street in Wilmington, Delaware at SsAM’s Community Fun Fest.)

2018-37 -- The Next MomentThe red rusting steel stacks take on purple hues in the light of the sunset’s glow, hues like the colors of a bruise in the days after a bad fall. It is now 28 years since the last cast at Bethlehem Steel. People are still pointing fingers as if Americans in a fair fight cannot lose and cheaters must be blamed when we do. Look! Are we not alive? Is not every moment followed by another? Only God can hold them all while we must live them one by one. Look! Here comes another moment! Join me! Let’s explore it! (Photo of the rusting stacks of Bethlehem Steel from the Hoover Mason Trestle, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.)

2018-36 -- Bell RingerThis is not Quasimodo ringing the bells. This is no conclave of hooded celibate monks pulling ropes while they chant out their change ringing. Here is a woman slamming levers on a contraption of steel cables and wood. “Time to call people to church,” she says and begins pounding out a series of hymns familiar to any American church-goer, a reminder that it is Sunday morning and people are gathering for worship. It is an audible sign the church is alive and God is to be praised with the sound of voice, organ, and, yes, clanging metal. (Photo of a bell ringer at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2018-35 -- Grindstones, Stanage EdgeThis birthplace of grindstones gives birth no more. A few millstones remain here at Stanage Edge, evidence of the stonecutters’ craft. They are evidence as well of the impermanence of technology. They make me look at my computer and smart phone not as modern and clever devices but as clunky things on the threshold of history, soon obsolete junk. Why was I so eager to possess them? What made them so enticing? So cutting edge? What does impress me is that words written thousands of years ago still make sense today. The parable of the Good Samaritan still rings true. Amazing! Twenty centuries have not made it obsolete. (Photo of 18th-century grindstones abandoned where they were carved on Stanage Edge, Peak District National Park, England.)

2018-34 -- Route 13 PilgrimageWalk with me along Route 13 from Bayshore Ford to the Golden Dove Diner. Walk with me and pray. Pray and give thanks for those working and shopping at the tobacco outlets and fast food franchises, the auto auction house and the payday loan stores. Pray and give thanks for those in the state hospital, the women’s prison, and county police headquarters. Pray and give thanks for those burying our trash at the Waste Management landfill. Pray and give thanks for the stinking man asleep at the bus stop. Delaware has some of the highest pedestrian death rates in the U.S. because so many die along this road at night. Pray and give thanks for them as we walk to the Interstate 295 overpass. Here the sidewalk ends and construction demands a detour. None is to be found. Climb over the barricades with me. Then, at the diner, thank God for the meal. Leave a big tip. (Photo of construction on Route 13 at the I-295 overpass.)

2018-33 - Yew TreeShall I write an epitaph for this yew tree, its flesh so surprisingly red where it has been sawn? Shall I sing a dirge of 36 stanzas, one for each ring in its trunk? Shall I, its executioner, pray for forgiveness, me the lopper of limbs, the mower of lawns, the plucker of weeds? I am caring for the garden, a task necessarily violent, the good of the whole paramount. And so I will pray — for all those who care violently — the police and the courts, the military and its commanders. Like the yew, our flesh too is red. (Photo of a freshly-cut yew tree trunk.)

2018-32 Urban GrowthA plant thriving where it does not belong is a bad sign to those who hope for a thriving city. Growing from a crack in the sidewalk, green glorious leaves are a sign of neglect by the tenant, indifference by the owner, and inaction by local government. Why are they letting the rot spread unchecked? Why are they letting nature run wild? Nature wants all the East Coast covered by forest just as it was five hundred years ago, not a place for us humans, not in our numbers. But what if this is not a sign of neglect, of civilization’s demise? What if this plant is simply telling us a garden should be here rather than a sidewalk? Do you think the tenant, owner, or municipality will mind if we tear up the concrete and bring in some garden soil? Let’s ask! (Photo of an unidentified green plant growing in a crack in the sidewalk along North Shipley Street, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2018-31 Clean GuttersAt the storm’s peak, I go out into the deluge to clean leaves out of the gutter over our front door. This task has been on my TO DO list for weeks. Now, seeing the undiverted rainwater pour off the roof, seeing it begin to flood the entryway, seeing it threaten the cellar, I jump into action. Reveling in the rain, goaded on by the lightning and thunder, the gutter is soon clean and I am drenched to the skin. I love the experience but first I had to have a practical reason for enjoying myself, for cavorting in the storm like a young girl in a sprinkler, something a mature circumspect man does not do without losing his dignity. Please, pray for me and those like me, the self-conscious and procrastinating. (Photo of a young girl grimacing in fire-hydrant spray at the ACRA July 4th Games, Arden, Delaware.)

2018-30 Making Our BedEvery day, one of our first tasks is to make the bed. The last one up makes it! Like shaking an Etch A Sketch toy, smoothing the sheets and bed cover erases the chaos of the night’s twists and turns, a metaphor perhaps for the way our minds clear themselves of sleep and the world of dreams. If I were a dismal poet, I’d wonder if we are like wrinkles of a sheet, like dreams found in sleep, soon to be smoothed away, soon to be forgotten. When God wakes up and clears his head, what will remain of us once he’s made his bed? Fear of God is the beginning of understanding. Without love, we are nothing. But we are loved, even our wrinkles. (Photo of an unmade bed.)

2018-29 Eating MushroomsOvernight, scores of mushrooms have raised their heads in my garden. A string of summer showers called them forth — red, yellow, brown, orange, and white in as many shapes — parasols, buttons, stubs, lumps, and thumbs. Online I find a community of experts, mycophiles, who warn me not to eat the death cap, destroying angel, deadly gallerina, false morel, or poison pax. Yet something is eating my mushrooms. Whatever it is — rabbit, squirrel, mouse, fox, or cat — it is not asking the experts before eating. It is not consulting the book. It is not testing with potassium hydroxide or examining the spores under a microscope. Like Eve, it sees what is pleasing to the eye and takes a bite. (Photo of a yellow mushroom with a bite missing.)

2018-28 Empty NestThe nest is empty, the children gone. Shall we keep their rooms intact awaiting their return? Sooner than expected, they have lives of their own. Forgive us if we are slow to fill the void with a renewed sense of purpose. Forgive us if we idolize the past. Forgive us if we still treat our grown children like little kids. Give us joy in their successes and sympathy for their struggles without trying to fix them. Let us leave their problems to them and embrace our own, remembering that we were still becoming ourselves when we suddenly became parents. (Photo of an empty robin’s nest.)

2018-27 - Our Neighbor's CatFor some reason, our neighbor’s cat loves to hang out in our yard. Unlike other trespassing felines, he greets us as we approach. He rubs against our legs, marking us as his own. “What a handsome animal you are,” we tell him. We stroke his back and scratch his head. No, we do not feed him. That would make El Gato ours. Today he followed us inside our home! After inspecting the ground floor, he climbed the stairs, hopped onto our bed, curled up, and went to sleep. As signs go, this is a good one. “Get him out of here!” says my practical wife. “He might have fleas!” Next day, he was back again in our yard, glad to see us and we, him. We do not let him in. He is not ours, even if we are his. (Photo of our neighbor’s cat curled up on our bed.)

2018-26 - Give Them A Wink No one has yet made a science of cavorting in fire-hydrant spray. No rules have been set, or teams formed, or players ranked. There are no training camps, coaches, stadiums, or playoffs. No one is keeping score. Thank God for such times of unfettered play! But let me say this, though it is hard to defend: We are always free to play. Whatever the discipline, whatever the constraints, the spirit of play can enter in. Though they be deathly serious, give them a wink. Pirouette in the stinging spray. (Photo of teenage boy in fire-hydrant spray at the July 4th Games in Arden, Delaware.)

2018-25 - PossessionsAll my possessions fit in a Volkswagen Beetle when I moved from San Diego to Austin in 1970 to study philosophy, the love of wisdom. Now, 1700 miles north and east, my wife and I own a house full of possessions. We like to believe they improve our lives, that our things serve us and those we welcome, that our things do not own us or possess us, that we are not their servants. See how we ignore the stacks of things that proliferate! See how the dust bunnies accumulate! Let it all burn to the ground, our lives will be unchanged, or so we would like to believe, we who would be free, pursuers of truth, students still. (Photo of a young woman moving her possessions into a new apartment in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.)

2018-24 - Ordered LivesO let our ordered lives confess your beauty and your peace. O clothe us in our native dress, our hesitations cease. Give us the truth of your release. Let us bloom in season then slowly but gladly decrease, assured of your reason — ours the part, yours the play; ours the feet, yours the way. (Photo of daylily bloom and ferns.)

2018-23 - Gardening Tools I say the boxwood has to go, so I cut off all its branches, dig at its roots, smash it with a sledgehammer, drill it with an augur, and dig at its roots again. Still it grips the earth for dear life. Is it in agony? Is it praying to you, Lord, for deliverance? I have a vision for my yard. I spend hours wielding shears, loppers, saw, and mower. And what about you, Lord? Do you have a vision for this world? For me? And what tools are you wielding? (Photo of a battered boxwood shrub.)

2018-22 - Sign of TrustAs signs go there are few better than to have a fledgling hop onto our feet to get a better view of the world, the bird not yet able to fly, it not yet wild. It is pleasing to have one so vulnerable give us such trust, we who vigilantly guard our boundaries, we so quick to enforce our rights, we so proudly self-sufficient. If we are trusted, may we also be more trusting. (Photo of a fledgling bird on the author’s foot.)

2018-21 - Love’s PowerLove’s power cannot be harnessed. No bit will fit the mouth of Love. No saddle can straddle Love’s back. Love cannot be broken. Love cannot be tamed. Yet Love invites you to ride. Go ahead. Climb up. Love will willingly carry you. (Photo of trees and fields at sixty miles per hour. This prayer was prompted by the sermon of the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry given at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. See: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/05/20/612798691/bishop-michael-currys-royal-wedding-sermon-full-text-of-the-power-of-love )

2018-20 -- We WhoMother robin has built her nest outside our front door. She flies away every time we pass. Then, from a safe distance, she scolds us — we who sympathize because we live near highways, railroads, and pipelines; we who endure low-flying airliners and fear underground tectonic shifts; we with homes at risk of fire and flood; we with land in the crosshairs of developers and tax assessors; we who live in the trajectories of war, plague, ideology, and revolution; we who listen for God’s word; we who hope to be moved; we who have promised to follow. (Photo of homes seen from a moving train.)

2018-19 -- No Tears FallNo tears fall as I write this prayer. Others, I know, are at the cliff’s edge or have tumbled over. You hear their prayers, Lord. Their prayers are fervent, heart-felt, desperate. Not this one. Even so, I know you are listening. Let me listen as well, Lord, me with the full belly, good health, and money in the bank; me with the loving wife and my community’s respect; me with the debt-free house and yard on a sunny day in spring. For a few seconds, Lord, let me half-cock one ear in your direction. I will even turn up my hearing aid! (Photo of a man walking to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.)

2018-18 - The Way Is OpenThe way is open. If it were shut, we could accept what is as the way things are, were, and always will be. But the way is open, beckoning, full of promise. The possibilities call. O mountains, stir from thy slumber! O valleys, rise up from thy sleep! The way is open! (Photo of a bicyclist below Mam Tor, Derbyshire Peak District, England.)

2018-17 - At The EdgeSome seeds fall far from the forest, perhaps at the edge of a barren moor, perhaps in an outcropping’s cranny where young roots find water and food enough to grow, a place safe from the voracious mouths of sheep, a place of sunshine and air. Lonely it grows, perhaps stunted, but it grows. And who knows — this moor may yet be covered by trunks and branches. (Photo of a small tree growing in Cave Dale, Derbyshire Peak District, England.)

2018-16 - FeveredOur fevered society looks forward, not backward, thinking the future is bright. We are eager to get there. We race towards its promise. We will escape the past and its sad lessons, won’t we? Is not the present a moment soon forgotten? God, forgive our foolish ways! Re-clothe us in our rightful minds. Let our ordered lives confess the beauty of your peace. Cool us with the silence of eternity. (Photo of my wife’s shoes and a colossal marble foot wearing a sandal, Greek, 150 to 50 B.C., at Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire, England. The text is inspired by the hymn “Dear God and Father of Mankind” whose antique words were written by John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807-1892, an American Quaker poet and advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States.)

2018-15 - Inner CompassJust for today, I will go my own path, trusting in that internal voice, my own inner compass, regardless of the bombardment of the opinions from others. (Photo of abstract paper design. Text copyright 2018 by Maryann Younger.)

2018-14 - Where Am I?Lost. Where am I? There are tracks that mostly go around my path, but some go straight through. Will the next one crush me? I am far from home, far from those like me, far from where I had purpose, far from where I belong. How I got here, I do not know. Perhaps abandoned. Perhaps pushed. Misplaced. Or is it that I am not lost at all but instead outside my comfort zone, still capable of carrying, forced to see beyond the tracks all around me, asked to see the world in a new light, invited to a journey I never imagined and a life beyond my past experiences. (Photo by Danny Schweers of lost shopping cart in a snow storm. Text copyright 2018 by Maryann Younger)

2018-13 - The More I SeeI don’t know what to expect. Because I look, I marvel. I love surprise and find it everywhere. No need to go far. I am overwhelmed. The more I see, the more I know there is more to see. Is this not like heaven? (Photo of two mannequins in a shop window on Wisconsin Avenue, N.W. in Washington, D.C.)

2018-12 - Something Terribly ImportantThe world wants to be photographed. The world wants to be seen. It wants to be known. A camera is not required. Just open your eyes. Is the world shy? Does it like to play hide and seek? Sometimes when you least expect it, suddenly it says, “Here I am.” Drop everything else and pay attention even if, like me, you are doing Something Terribly Important. (Photo of a common plastic cup on a shiny table during a slideshow lecture about philosophy and photography.)

2018-11 - We Are OneIt helps to sit in a circle, everyone facing inwards so all can see and be seen. Then sometimes it happens. We speak in turn, each voice eager to keep the common thought alive, each one eager to hear. We understand and are understood. We continue to be ourselves even as we become a single organism, us, a new being, a new identity, out of many, one. Then we go our separate ways. Even then, it is not obvious that we are no longer one. If the new being vanishes with our mutual departures, why do we leave smiling, even happy? (Photo of Bird's Nest Fern at Longwood Gardens as its fronds unfurl — possibly Asplenium australasicum.)

2018-10 - Beneath The SkinIn theory, any product of keyboard or lens cannot connect us to the real thing. Even when the real thing is there before us, some argue its essence is impossibly distant from our infinitely fallible senses. Knowledge, they say, is not ours to possess. On the surface, what they say appears to be true. On paper, it makes sense. Superficially, they are correct, but we know better. We do connect. We do understand. We are in the world and the world is in us. We know and we are known. We see beneath the skin and, God help us, we are seen. (Photo of an onion skin.)

2018-09 - Open To The SunIn my mind, it is still Winter, by the calendar, February, yet everywhere I look bright green shoots rise upwards. Leaves open themselves to the sun. The earth awakens while I hibernate. Snow shovels lean unused against the house. Firewood lays unkindled in the hearth. Like me, they are out of sync with the season. Why is life stirring but I am not? Where is the snooze button for Spring? (Photo of daffodil shoots in February, Arden, Delaware.)

2018-08 - AnythingIs this the year? Is this the day? Probably not. There are so many years and days, they cannot all be special. Are we the nation? Am I the one? Probably not. There are so many nations and individuals, we cannot all be special. Or can we? Perhaps we are the people. Perhaps this is the year. Perhaps this is the day! Prudence asks what is probable and makes its forecast: the same old same old. Delight asks a different question — What is possible? — and gets a different answer: Anything! (Photo of three lily buds about to blossom at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania.)

2018-07 - Wrong DrawerI keep opening the wrong drawer. If you asked, I could tell you that months ago my wife moved the lids of the pots and pans from the bottom drawer to the middle drawer. Still, without thinking, I reach for the wrong drawer every time. Frustrating! How is it that I cannot change? What am I? Human? (Photo of pot lids in the right drawer.)

2018-06 - Taking PhotosTaking photos, like fishing, is a good excuse to go places. It is a better excuse, really, because it takes us everywhere. This January morning it gets me up before sunrise, out of my warm bed into a frigid wind to walk down to the Atlantic Ocean’s edge. I do not see anyone fishing, just a single dark figure gazing east. Even though it is freezing, I dip my hand into the salt water as if to receive a blessing, like dipping one’s hand in the holy water font as one enters a church. I touch something like infinity, water that stretches beyond the horizon. Millions of miles away, the sun soon rises above that horizon, my cue to go back to the hotel and breakfast, then to work inside the rest of the day, taking photos. (Photo just before sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean from Ocean Beach, Maryland.)

2018-05 - Make Us NewDo not say the world is a place of decay. Do not say the old should get out of the way. There is but one God who makes all things new: my country, my church, and us, too. (Detail of a patched and repainted wall at Jovita’s Restaurant in Austin, Texas, 2018.)

2018-04 - Jovita'sI remember Don Walser, “the unique, yodeling Texas country-music legend,” playing guitar and singing at Jovita’s. He died of diabetes. The restaurant is now boarded up, confiscated by U.S. Marshals after a heroin bust. The exterior walls are now a place for lyrical strokes of spray paint and collages of wheat-paste copy art cutouts. Something new is about to happen. What will it be? We the living cannot but wonder. If the past is prologue, the future will be beyond our control and prediction. No wonder we pray! (Detail of the wheat-paste paper cutout copy art on an exterior wall of Jovita’s Restaurant in Austin, Texas, 2018.)

2018-03 - The FutureThe day is coming and is now when printed words and images — marks on paper and leaves in books — will be mere curiosity pieces sold in antique stores alongside tribal masks and rusty signs for soda pop. The day is coming, too, when words and images on screens will suffer the same fate. Everyone will have iSight™ hardware implanted in their optic nerves, wirelessly connecting us to the virtual world. Even then, do not fear that the Word of the Lord will be lost. The Holy Spirit goes wherever inspiration is welcomed. Even now, it is at the door, knocking. (Slightly pixelated photo of a Holy Bible and Books of Common Prayer for sale alongside other objects in an antique store.)

2018-02 - CurvesGod bless those planners inspired by nature who design streets with flowing curves. Bless those who develop neighborhoods patterned like veined leaves. Bless all those whose choices will last and last, whose decisions we will live with for years. Give them resources and the courage to use them wisely. Let the underwriters be bold. Let our zoning laws bend without breaking. Let the earth rejoice in our habitation. (Photo of the Woodstream neighborhood of Marlton, New Jersey, created and developed by Chiusano Brothers, Inc. in the early 1960s.)

2018-01 - What We NeedThe resolutions, diet plans, and exercises are good, don’t get me wrong, but what we need most is enthusiasm, a word from the Greeks meaning “to be inspired by God” and that means we need to be receptive, even people like us, the most macho of guys. And what could be more dangerous than opening oneself to God’s will? We may be inspired to do better what we do best. (Photo of weight-lifting competition at Flex-On-The-Mall, Washington, D.C. with the Capitol Building in the background.)

2017-47 - New YearGod help those who cannot see ahead, who only know that winter has come, who think these long nights are the new norm. Listen! The sun will soon return. It is the first day of a new year. Now is not the time to plant but it is the time to plan your gardens and beds. Have you not seen? Even as the temperatures drop, seed catalogs arrive in the mail. Pre-order now! Spring is coming! (Photo of frost on a car windshield.)

2017-46 - Men In RedWe who keep Christ in Christmas still love the jolly fellow in the red suit and sleigh even though he bears little resemblance to Saint Nicholas, the third-century bishop who served in what is now southern Turkey. Pontius Pilate, too, dressed in red, splendid garments if we are to believe the costume designers of modern musicals. We do not love him, not Pilate. He was a self-serving political weasel, yet the man he sentenced to death asked us to forgive our enemies, those who make us see red, even to love them. A tall order! Let us embrace those words if we are to keep Christ in Christmas. (Photo of Frank Baldo as Pilate and Michael Hazuda as Jesus in the Delaware Children's Theatre’s 2016 production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”.)

2017-45 - This Land I feel at home on this dirt road a few miles east of the Pacific Ocean and just north of the Mexican border. My parents lived here. I remember Thanksgivings and Christmases here. That only begins to explain my affinity for this dry mountain place that keeps calling me back to walk among giant granite boulders under flaming skies. I think of this place as mine. This land is my land? I have no legal claim, yet this place always welcomes me and calls me its own. What then should I say to the illegals walking north on this road, walking into this land their nation lost to mine in 1848? Lord, I have no ready answer. (Photo of sunset skies over Mother Grundy Truck Trail near Jamul, California.)

2017-44 - SurroundedWe are surrounded by glory! Bicycle down Spruce Street at twilight. Stroll the sidewalks. Inch forward in your car or truck. Look out the bus window. Are we not in motion? The lights? The reflections? How can we help but feel joyous? Slow or fast, we are on our way! (Photo of a man bicycling down Spruce Street in Philadelphia at twilight.)

2017-43 - For All I KnowCourage is my fickle unfaithful friend. In his company I am eager, even daring. Often I find myself by him abandoned in a strange landscape full of fear, on the edge without a handrail. I am not one for tears and tissues. I do as my dad did — soldier on! And I do what he may not have done — my father never mentioned it — I pray. I confess to God how little I know. I confess that, for all I know, everything may turn out fine, all according to plan. For all I know, fear too might be a friend, one that shocks me awake, a friend I should not be so willing to lose. (Photo of facial tissue half-pulled from the box.)

2017-42 - WealthSo many ways to measure wealth: family and friends, income and assets, health and good looks, intelligence and skills, education and achievements, miles traveled and years remembered, victories sweet and defeats redeemed, wisdom won and apologies accepted, trespasses forgiven and sins confessed, prayers offered and thanksgivings said. If there is nothing to watch on TV tonight, we shall not complain. (Photo of lamp and television in Devonshire, England, 2004.)

2017-41 - ExercycleOh, the ignominious things we do willing with jokes and smiles to please those we love. Children take piano lessons. Husbands learn ballroom dancing. Wives camp overnight in tents. Parents climb onto exercycles and pedal. Oh, I know these are stereotypes, but they show how widespread is this behavior, this willingness to please those we love even though our bodies shudder as we say, “Yes, I’ll do that.” Lord, we love you. We want to please you. What are you asking us to do? That? Really!? (Photo of Virginia V. Henry, age 88, peddling on an exercise bike, trying it out to please us, her daughter and her son-in-law. Virginia died peacefully at age 91, with us there not asking her to do anything.)

2017-40 - Strip MallStrip mall, I shall praise thee. Suburban concrete and glæs, I shall laude thee. So convenient and sterile, I shall sing thy songe. Functional and accessible, familiar and adaptable, be there troubadours and minstrels in thy aisles? sonnets on thy shelves? and cherubim above thy ceiling tyles? If there be hope for thee, there is e’en hope for me. (Photo of a strip mall wall and window with an olde mailbox in front.)

2017-39 - TowersIf I reduce my piles of clutter from ten to six, shall I celebrate? Some will say I should not have let them rise in the first place. Praise goes to those who build lofty skyscrapers, not to those who un-stack their forgettable things. If I have cleared surfaces, taken down the layers I let build up, I do not expect praise. Even so, today I will celebrate. Four towers down and six to go! (Photo of a litter sweeper and Hudson Yards, 34th Street and 10th Avenue, New York City.)

2017-38 - Prodigal ChildCross over the bridge. Take the money and run. Spend like there’s no tomorrow. Grab the gusto. Go whole hog. A fool and his money are soon parted. It’s not my fault. To err is human. They made me do it. All things must come to an end. Hit rock bottom. Abandon all hope. Reach the end of your rope. This place is a pig’s sty. Misery loves company. Beggars can’t be choosers. Turn over a new leaf. Put the past behind you. Eat humble pie. There’s no place like home. Cross back over the bridge. Welcome home the prodigal child. The one who was lost has been found. (Photo while crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Camden, New Jersey. This is a re-telling of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, Luke 15:11-32 along with inspiration from the song “Cross Over The Bridge” written by Bennie Benjamin and George David Weiss in 1945, later a hit by Patti Page in 1954.)

2017-37 - Center CityCenter City has its charms, its quiet stretches where two friends can walk and talk. Today we visited art galleries and a museum, and ate our fill at Monk’s Cafe. We are on our way to hear live music, a jazz trio in a small private club. Oh, we understand those who stay at home. We, too, read books and watch TV. We, too, dread the traffic, parking, crowds, and crime. We are in the city anyway. Thank God for friends who pry us out of our comfortable ruts. (Photo of two friends walking down 6th Street in Center City, Philadelphia.)

2017-36 - The Gardener’s ToolsThe gardener’s tools are edged steel. Clippers and saws, mowers and shears, shovels and hoes, all are meant to cut through stem and branch or into the earth itself. Like the surgeon’s healing knife or the knight’s order-restoring sword, the gardener’s tools are made to shape a place of peace and harmony. Let our limbs be trimmed to produce more fruit. Dig us up by the roots and replant us. Let the Lamb’s Ear lie down with the Dandelion. (Photo of Felco® Pruning Shears.)

2017-35 - Sawfly LarvaeGardeners decide life and death, what is planted, what is cut back, what is pulled up by the roots, and who gets to visit and feed. When the redheaded coniferous-feeding sawfly larvae are caught defoliating my ornamental pines, there is no debate. The challenge is finding these trespassing caterpillars before they strip entire branches bare. Lord, you tell us to pray for our enemies. Are we really like them? (Photo of redheaded sawfly larvae on an ornamental Mugo Pine.)

2017-34 - On My KneesDown on my knees, the Sharpshooter® shovel in my hands, I am digging, not praying. Let political crises seethe, let armies go to the brink, my attention is on this one thing. No task is done without setting aside the others. They are left undone while we work and while we recover. Somehow the world goes on. Some say the world is better for our absence. The multitude does not even notice. Did you? (Photo of my shovel and some of the bamboo rhizomes that were spreading.)

2017-33 -- Victorious Like an ancient Greek hero holding aloft Medusa’s severed head, so I raise my trophy, the bamboo’s nexus ripped from the earth after epic struggle. I was content to let it grow but its appetite had no bounds. Out it stretched its rapacious tentacles thirty, forty, fifty feet and more. Hungry and consuming it bore beneath porch and lawn, around the foundation, even as I slept. No longer! I awoke and have conquered! The huge greedy beast, all its arms severed, has been domesticated. Thank you, Lord, for my momentary victory. Have pity on all who have in their care wild things temporarily tamed. (Photo of the author standing in front of the bound bamboo with his trophy in hand.)

2017-32 -- Florida AgainTroubles below, above, and at my sides. Don't pity me. Call me Florida. Under my rocks and stones, there is water underground. Salt and fresh, my lifeblood, it flows through my limestone bones. Along my coasts high tides rise ever higher. Hurricanes wash me clean, but then the sun returns. It is you, Lord, whom I trust. Deluge and downpour, I praise your holy name. You baptize me again and again. My banks runneth over. You renew me and I am refreshed. Is not my state enviable? (Photo of storm clouds moving over tidal marsh, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Text originally published as Photo Prayer 2016-06.)

2017-31 -- Bamboo BarrierThe bamboo would, if it could, cover all my yard with its roots and shoots, so I have installed a barrier and dug up all the spreading rhizomes tunneling underground on the wrong side. Unless contained, the bamboo would choke all other growing things. It believes it is superior to English Ivy, Japanese Honeysuckle, Norway Maple, and Chinese Privet. I won’t have it! Which makes me wonder — God, what will you have? (Photo of bamboo rhizomes in a trash can.)

2017-30 -- Trimming A HedgeIn the shelter of the hedge, other life thrives: English ivy, honeysuckle, grape, and vines I cannot name. Whole trees shoot up — mulberry, maple, and mimosa. Birds nest above; voles cavort below. I’m up on a ladder, cutting everything back. And you, good Lord, what are you up to? (Photo of my buddy the catbird in front of the hedge. Originally published in 2011.)

2017-29 -- GeneralizingPray for me that my urge to generalize might be tempered. Pray, too, for those like me who love everyone easily but find Eddie, Bill, Betty, and Isbel trying. Pray as well for those like us who are no longer alive, not forgetting those like us as yet unborn, those on other worlds, those in other dimensions, those merely imagined or who might be imagined, and those beyond our naming. Pray for them all and, if you can, for me. (Photo of partial solar eclipse with a secondary image reflected inside the lens of the sun obscured.)

2017-28 -- Pinball PathsLet us put our lives in order that we might not be distracted. Let us simplify our lives that we might dwell on the eternal. Or let us instead embrace life’s hurly-burly cacophony, fly along this day’s pinball paths, and let the Lord rack up the points. (Photo of blue bicycle rider near Times Square, New York City. A version of this prayer originally appeared as Photo Prayer 2010-11.)

2017-27 -- Me and YouI am me, and we are us. That is perfectly obvious! I'm not you, yet we are us. That is so very curious! You're not me, still we are us. The math is simply glorious! (Photo of the shadows of the author and his wife in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. A version of this prayer originally appeared as Photo Prayer 2010-03.)

2017-26 -- Centered in RealityOur lives seem to radiate outwards with us at the center, yet none of us is the center of anything except our inventive illusions. Show us reality, not as we’d like it to be nor as we fear it might be, but as you see it, dear Lord, in truth and love. (Photo of woman wading down Bouldin Creek in Austin, Texas. This originally appeared as Photo Prayer 2009-44.)

2017-25 -- The GiverWe weary of our wanting, wanting, and wanting more: more food and less weight, longer years and sharper wits, more friends and fewer enemies. For what then shall we pray? Contentment? Thankful hearts? Teach us first to love you, creator of all things, giver of all things; to see the giver behind the gift. (Photo of people cavorting in the fire hydrant spray at the ACRA July 4th Games in Arden, Delaware. This is a rewrite of Photo Prayer 2009-05 with a fresh photo.)

2007-24 -- Daddy Jesus called the Lord, "Daddy," and his disciples, friends. He told his friends to be like children before God. Children love their parents, even the most abusive. My silly, suspicious heart, how often it guards itself! But not always. (Photo of children at the Italian Festival in Wilmington, Delaware. This originally appeared as Photo Prayer 2007-24, revised in 2017.)

2017-23 -- SplinterI pull out the splinter but a small piece remains in the little finger of my left hand. For two days my left thumb worries it and my buzzing mind keeps returning to it. O let me today give as much attention to the important things and let me never dismiss the small things as unimportant. (Photo of the author’s left hand, with a splinter fragment in the smallest finger.)

2017-22 -- Philosophers Lord, make us philosophers happily embracing our ignorance, unwilling to conclude anything about people or issues based on hearsay or good reporting, on rumor or our own eye witness. O Lord, make us decisive, willing to act to the best of our knowledge, not with an assault rifle, but with open arms, even though we act in ignorance, seeing through a glass darkly. (Photo while sitting at the bar at Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C.)

2017-21 -- GleefulThose madcap boys and girls, with their slippery slide rules and curved equations, love finding flaws in their tentative theories. Nobel Prizes go to those who discover inexplicable anomalies that question the accepted scientific paradigm and to those who create better conjectures. Let us be as gleeful when experience proves us wrong. Let us rejoice in every setback. Our eyes are open. Our minds are engaged. We are alive. The universe beckons. (Photo of new grape leaves in Arden, Delaware’s community gardens.)

2017-20 -- WaitingI never wait long to wait. Soon enough, I am in line, on hold, at the light, rebooting, or waiting for my name or number to be called. Soon enough, I am waiting — for the right word or inspiration. While I wait, sometimes I pray — thanking God, praising God, or petitioning God. Then I wait for God’s answer. (Photo taken while waiting for the next train in the Washington, D.C. Metro subway system.)

2017-19 -- AppearancesHow hard we work to control how others perceive us! At a minimum, we do not want to be embarrassed, so we bathe, dress acceptably, and style our hair, if we have any. For many, that is just the start. We add beauty products and treatments, lessons in poise and elocution, voice modulation and plastic surgery. Soon there will be a Photoshop app that will make us sparkle. Just carry it in your pocket! Even then, those who love us will see us as we are and will keep on loving us anyway, some even when they are not loved back. (Photo looking south on N. 10th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With a shutter speed of 1/3 second, people, limousines, and buildings get blurred.)

2017-18 -- WafersWhat is more common than these pale unleavened machine-made wafers? They are dry, nearly tasteless. Yet, when they are put into our hands at communion, we are told they are the Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. How is something so ordinary identified with God? How is it that we of all people are asked to take and eat, we who are made from ashes? (Photo of a lay eucharistic minister's hands and her painted nails at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2017-17 -- Night TulipsEven at night, the tulips show forth their glory. Even in the dark, they dance and sing. Bring out a light and you will find them shouting their hallelujahs. So, too, when the dismal descends, may we do as well as these simple flowers. When the light finds us, let it reveal our enduring joy. (Photo of white tulips at night in the yard of an old woman, a Jew, who escaped the Nazis with her family just before World War Two.)

2017-16 -- Cross WalkWhen we use the crosswalk, we press the button and wait for the light. In prayer, too, we wait for the light, but there is no assurance of safety. That is not what we are seeking. We open ourselves to the Spirit, who leads us where it will, if we can follow the ways of love. That does not mean we walk thru traffic, or behave stupidly, oblivious to danger. It means we walk humbly with our God, to whatever cross we are asked to ascend. (Photo of two people using a crosswalk. The shutter is open for 1/3 of a second, and the camera and people are moving, making everything blur.)

2017-15 -- CommunionThe light is both blessing and promise, sufficient unto itself and yet an invitation to other landscapes of the heart’s desire. We could stay here forever, basking in the radiance, happy, contented. But if we are so blessed, we are also called. Here we receive, but we are beckoned elsewhere. So we crawl, run, or fly as we are able in a circle of infinite diameter. (Photo of a wine glass sitting on a glass table at a friend’s house on Easter Sunday.)

2017-14 -- Good FridayThe ring of fingers pointed around us closes tight. With blame we are anointed, we cannot flee or fight. The charges they are fair and true, we offer no defense other than to claim anew our own sad penitence and, in God, perfect confidence. (Composite photo of author’s pointing hand and him huddling.)

2017-13 -- There’s No TellingDon’t tell them everything is going to be great. There’s no telling what may happen, mate. That’s the adventure. With tragedy close at hand, and banana peel humor, life’s anything but bland. Instead, tell them nothing can shade the redeeming good of God, ever shining, that even in the night, they can find the light. (Ms. Kaamilah Diabate, shown here with her younger brother, is a high-school junior and was the guest preacher on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew in Wilmington, Delaware. Click here to hear her long rhyming rapping insights into what it means to be young and black in America.)

2017-12 -- In The InterimI’ve been plastered, painted, decorated, stripped, and repaired. Once brand new and admired, now I am an eyesore, but not for long. The planning department has signed off on the plans, the contractor’s hired, and the money’s in the bank. In the interim, my walls attract enigmatic poster art and indecipherable graffiti, the marks of unsettled souls. Who will correctly interpret these signs of my pending resurrection? (Photo of an artist’s poster art, and a painted-over heart, on the side of a building about to be renovated in the 300 block of Master Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.)

2017-11 - StandThere is no need to stand in anyone’s shadow. Step into the light and cast your own. (Photo of a young black woman's feet and her shadow at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, downtown Wilmington, Delaware, United States of America.)

2017-10 - Fears Talk BigOur fears talk big. They say, “Death will take everything from us, all at once or bit by bit, and nobody knows when.” My neighbor, days before he died, softly said, “Nothing is left undone.” He was not saying his life was wrapped up pretty and tidy, or that the world no longer mattered. Facing death, he was saying he was at peace and confident, that he trusted what was to come. May we do as well. (Photo of bare trees in winter at 1/3 of a second.)

2017-09 - Outside The DoorsI came here for inspiration. Instead I find the doors of the museum are closed to me and will not open for another hour. There is nothing here but freezing wind and this guy emptying the trash, working up a sweat in the cold. To my surprise, I find this as inspiring as anything on the other side of the doors and, I suspect, more pleasing to God than any of us who freeze moments in pixels and print, who write these words over breakfast and tea. (Photo of a man emptying the trash outside the doors of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

2017-08 - Torn Love Stitched“There’s going to be a scar,” the doctor says. We are so grateful. We were so afraid. We expected the worst, now we have hope. We put ourselves in the doctor’s hands. Jesus told Thomas to touch his side, there where the spear went in; to touch his hands, there where they put the nails. Long life means many scars. Only the young die unstitched. Lord! Lord! If you will not spare us, heal us! (Photo of the word “Love” drawn in pencil, photographed, printed, torn, and stitched.)

2017-07 - Musical TheaterAfter Peter finds his shadow, after Wendy and her brothers fly off with him to Neverland, as they all sing for joy in their newfound home, I find myself suddenly reflective. Why do I let the cares of the world weigh me down? For a moment they seem optional and easily shed. All I have to do is drop them. Shake them off. Let them go. Such is the power of musical theater. Like religion, poetry, and strong drink, there is no argument, only a reminder, that laughter and delight are at the heart of being. Oh, that I would remain awake to that precious truth! (Photo of the dress rehearsal of Peter Pan at the Delaware Children’s Theatre.)

2017-06 - Air In WaterOn the inside walls of my glass, tiny bubbles of air appear out of nowhere as the cold water warms to room temperature. Wondering why, I read and learn. The warmer water gets, the less air it holds. That’s the way water works. The colder water gets, the more air it holds. That is why arctic oceans teem with life. There is air in the icy water there, lots of it! That is why, if they were in charge of the earth’s thermostat, fish and other marine life would shout, “Turn it down! Turn it down!” (Photo of a glass of cold water that has warmed to room temperature, forming bubbles. Outside the window, azalea bushes.)

2017-05 - Repeated RitualChurch rituals, their repetition and regularity, the same sequences again and again, endlessly with small variations, bring us into the infinite, connect us to the ageless concerns, the world and our place in it, birth, life, and death, good and bad, heaven and hell, innocence and blame, repentance, redemption, and release, praise rising to our lips, century upon century, our glad hallelujahs rolling on and on and on and on and on ... (Photo of three girls serving as acolytes at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, downtown Wilmington, Delaware. It was one girl’s first day.)

2017-04 - Respectful AdmonitionAt a convention of young Southerners in 1889, Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederate States of America, came out of his quiet retirement to say his last public words, which included these. “The faces I see before me are those of young men; had I not known this I would not have appeared before you. Men in whose hands the destinies of our Southland lie, for love of her I break my silence to speak to you a few words of respectful admonition. The past is dead; let it bury its dead, its hopes and its aspirations. Before you lies the future, a future full of golden promise, a future of expanding national glory, before which all the world shall stand amazed. Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to take your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished -- a reunited country.” (from page 1058 of The Civil War, A Narrative, Volume Three by Shelby Foote. Photo of pottery shards of an abandoned village on the Hopi Nation’s Third Mesa.)

2017-03 - Christian MysticYves Klein, a pious Catholic, once prayed, “Let all that emerges from me be beautiful.” Why then are his paintings, like the walls behind them, unvarying in luminance, saturation, and hue? Why hang anything there at all? No surprise, Klein once did just that, had an exhibit with nothing on the walls. He was enthralled by the infinite undefinable absolute. He yearned for his art to be a gateway to the authentic liberation of spirit. Let us be charitable and say he was a mystic. And since his paintings are now worth millions, perhaps we should be less afraid to be spiritually intoxicated no matter how foolish we might look. (Photo of a woman at the National Gallery of Art looking at three paintings by Yves Klein: "Untitled Monogold" 1961, "Untitled Pink Monochrome" 1961, and "Untitled Blue Monochrome" 1960. See all the author's January 2017 photos from the National Gallery of Art.)

2017-02 - Gladness CallsHere in the museum the paths are clearly signed. Those who stray are never lost and no one’s left behind. So may it be beyond these walls, the lost are found, we move as one. Travel we where gladness calls; here on earth, God’s will be done. (Photo while entering an exhibit in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. A slow shutter speed blurs the image. See all the author's January 2017 photos from the National Gallery of Art.)

2017-01 - Tourist PhotoIn the museum, three women pose while the fourth frames the scene. It is a moment defiant, putting time in quarantine. Let our old bodies decompose and the world be what it’s been. God’s given us a covenant and the best will be again. (Photo of tourists taking photos of themselves in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. See all the author's January 2017 photos from the National Gallery of Art.)

2016-51 - Worn-Out SlippersWhen things wear out, we throw them away. There is no need for a funeral, for words about the years or words about the miles, no need to post a photo online, or even to say goodbye. There is no need to remember those who gathered the raw materials, or God who created them; the manufacturers and financiers, the shippers and retailers. They have been paid, $34.99 a pair, on sale. There is no need to say more. It is not necessary. (Photo of the author’s worn-out slippers from the series “Parting Shots”.)

2016-50 - God's BlessingWhat blessing did Mary the mother of Jesus expect when God chose her? Surely not giving birth in a stable far from home. Surely not watching that son crucified as a blasphemer and rabble rouser. All the same, Mary magnified the Lord and all generations have called her blessed. (Photo of a girl in Philadelphia standing at a bus stop with a poster behind her of Sofía Vergara.)

2016-49 - Created EqualThe architects of this cathedral spaced the columns equally and made them equal in shape and size. No, we do not see them that way, but we know not to trust our eyes or the tricks of perspective. We know distant things appear smaller but are not, not really. Listen: God made us equal in love’s perplexing geometry, an equality that cannot be seen. Yes, we are unequal in many ways, ways that make us individual, but love does not measure intelligence, culture, education, ability, wealth, talent, race or language. Love says we are equal. Those distant from us are not smaller, those near to us are not better. (Photo of the Washington National Cathedral interior aisle.)

2016-48 - On HighFrom the cathedral’s heights I see how we may look to someone seated higher. I see how it may be, the throne so far removed, we rendered microscopic, like flakes in the blizzard’s blow, or commas in a dog-eared book. But God is in no tower, nor are we at the far end of a magnifying lens. God is walking with us, talking, eating, dying, rising from the grave, and coming to take us home. (Photo taken from the seventh floor of the Washington National Cathedral looking toward Wisconsin Avenue, NW.)

2016-47 - Aggressive DrivingThe impatient pickup fills my rearview mirror as though the driver wants to push me aside. No matter how fast he drives, there is always someone blocking his way, frustrating his freedom. I pity him, this macho driver, always taking the path of most resistance. And I pity myself, for similar reasons. No matter how fast I work, there is always another task in front of me, blocking my way. I check off the items — Done! Done! Done! — but vigorous organized efficiency does not seem to be the way to get there. Please, Someone, clue me in! (Photo taken during my lunch break of two small white pumpkins resting on a faux-antique table top.)

2016-46 - FlashlightAs I walked along the lighted path last night, just as I pulled the house keys from my pocket, I heard a soft thud as something fell. What was that? Where was the small flashlight that had been in my pocket? Even though the path was lit, I could not see my unlit light, could not find it. This morning I was out again looking, raking the fallen leaves from the path. Nothing. I raked the daylilies next to the path. Nothing. On hands and knees, I combed the lilies with my fingers, hoping to find by touch the torch I had lost, expecting nothing, praying for myself and for all those who lose their light, who are on their hands and knees, fingers stretched out, searching.

2016-45 - Not MeThis thought is mine but it is not me. This body is mine but it is not me. This land and time are mine but they are not me. You cannot nail me down to specifics. That’s absurd. Yet I claim them and they claim me. These are mine and I am theirs. Even if our dance is not forever, Forever claims us as its own. (Photo of Oompa Loompas at Delaware Children's Theatre production of Willy Wonka.)

2016-44 - DifferencesDepressed, I imagine the worst, that our differences will divide us — marriages split, families broken, communities in uproar, civil wars raging in all their uncivil ways, the world at odds with itself, without compromise or understanding. Yet I know difference does not mean division. Different as they are, I see how carbon atoms unite with oxygen and hydrogen to create marvelous molecules. I see how other elements join in to form every color imaginable, even in the same living leaf. No, it is not our differences that divide us, and it is not sameness that brings us together. (Photo of a living plant with large, multicolored leaves. Can you identify it?)

2016-43 - EvidenceMy camera’s testimony is like some drunk’s. The facts are there but they are tilted and blurred. I say this is how the world looks and the people in it. We are resplendent in light! Opposing counsel objects, says such evidence is inadmissible in court, that documentary photographs should be sharp, detailed, and clearly labeled. I want to call him an old sourpuss but hold my tongue. Instead I say let the judge decide. (Photo of people at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.)

2016-42 - Ideas HappenWe say, “I had an idea,” as though such thoughts were things that happen to us. We call them ours because they arrive like gifts from the nameless source of all, the prodigal sower of inspiration who showers us with seeds. Some of them we water, fertilize, prune and pamper, our gift back to the Giver. (Photo of the bottom of a stainless steel bowl after I had popcorn in it and something popped into my head.)

2016-41 - MathematicalWe with minds mathematical see the world in dots and lines, curves and spheres, circles inside of circles. Where others see scattered points of light, we see constellations. Where others see the random inexplicable, we see the hand of God and marvel. (Photo of one round table holding seven round containers — tea for two.)

2016-40 - Green WorldThe green world beckons. A single leaf is enough to remind us of that primordial world where we were ourselves, at peace and at play, that heavenly place where bugs did not bite and we did not mind getting bitten. Let us rekindle that memory, forget where we are going, and wonder instead where we are being led. (Photo of wet weeping cherry leaves.)

2016-39 - Spider WebsThese spider webs are ugly when dry. They are like shipwrecked shreds of fiberglass insulation strewn about haphazardly. Here is no carefully crafted awe-inspiring radiating spiral. Here is no design or art, just random criss-crossing strands. Or so I thought until this morning. Now I see how these webs have caught the rain, each drop a jewel, all of it a new creation, a fairyland that promises heaven and invites exploration, as though this were the spider’s first and foremost reason for spinning, this glorious display, while catching flies is just a way to pay the rent.

2016-38 - Great Chain of BeingBetween tree and squirrel is where I place myself on the Great Chain of Being. I am often merely functional, serving without complaint, doing my job, offering support, saintly but structural. Sometimes by grace I rise higher, nearly to squirrelhood, when I let myself play like some frisky critter. The universe wants to play. It runs and hides, waiting for me to search. It jumps out and yells, “Surprise!” It scares me silly. Then we laugh and laugh. (Photo of a girl hiding during a game of hide and seek in a topiary garden. Her mother stands.)

2016-37 - Social MediaThe phone call, the text message, the email — all can be mere distractions or they can be part of something significant — a relationship that will last a lifetime, a conversation that builds community, or an honest give and take that preserves the peace. Yet, from the outside, we look silly on our phones, so oblivious to our surroundings, so focused on our thoughts, we could easily walk off a cliff or into traffic. Perhaps that’s why kneeling is the recommended way to pray. (Photo of a man and mannequins in New York City.)

2016-36 - Roseate SpoonbillPity me not. Even caged, I can strut. I am Platalea ajaja — Roseate Spoonbill. There isn’t a mudhen alive can strain marsh ooze better than I. There isn’t a peacock prouder of its plumage and stately gait. But envy me not, ye who are ordinary and drab. The last craze for feathers in women’s hats nearly finished us off. (Photo of a Roseate Spoonbill at The National Aviary.)

2016-35 - Boy Behind BarsThe boy watching the silly girls does not see me watching him. He is only ten, so he thinks the girls are goofy, thinks they mean nothing to him, and wonders why he bothers looking. As he grows, let him also mature. Let him learn new adjectives such as mysterious, baffling, and delightful. Let him learn to woo, make commitments, argue, compromise, sacrifice, and pray. Never, no never, let him lose his sense of humor. (Photo of a boy looking at girls through metal bars.)

2016-34 - JoyousWe sprout sharp and spikey but, once full blossomed, are we not glorious? Age has not yet betrayed us. Our brilliant colorful curves triumph out of the shadows. We are not yet scarred, torn, withered, or abandoned. Sunlight caresses, eyes cherish. Later, give us religion, wisdom, and consolation. Now is our fleeting victory, a foretaste of heaven. Oh, be not envious or disdainful. Can you not be joyous, too? (Close-up photo of flowers and shoots.)

2016-33 - The LatestMy wife tells me the latest: A doctor and lawyer with two small children are getting divorced. A recently-retired man faces aggressive dementia. A 59-year-old woman falls to her death at a local adventure park. I have no stories for my wife, only photos to share: A young woman sits at a train station. Workmen dressed bright orange surround a backhoe. A bridge spans the Hackensack River. How is it that the world, so in need of prayer, is also sublime? (Photo shot at 1/3 of a second from a moving train, a young woman sits at a station along the Northeast Corridor.)

2016-32 - BlurrrreddThings clear and distinct overlap and blur when photographed from a fast-moving train using slow shutter speeds. Is this a metaphor for modern life? It’s a colorful, exciting world, but we miss the details, the clarity. God help us! Gohdelups! Goodhellpppuss! (Photo shot at 1/3 of a second of signs at Harrison Station, New Jersey, one of which says, “Don’t ignore something that looks out of place. Take notice! Report it!” Another sign says, “Come. Seek.”)

2016-31 - Up The LadderUp the ladder, over the wall, the clouds and sky beckon and call to the echoing light. Our eyes take us there but where vision ends our being begins. Happy are the mountains, lush the fields. Hear the song their song imitates, the word our words celebrate. Ah, the glory, our yearnings’ desire, life’s answer, radiant redemption, healing's promise, all, everything made right. Hallelujah! (Photo of a ladder in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico.)

2016-30 - WinterWinter is coming, but you and I don’t dread it, do we? It’s not the end of the world, is it? We don’t have to build shelters underground or move to foreign countries, do we? We know winter. It’s visited before, like a demanding uncle. We know what to do. Stack firewood now. Inspect the furnace. Sort our cold-weather clothes. Plan activities with friends. Open our doors to strangers. And, while we’re at it, let’s order tulip bulbs, daffodils and crocuses. After all, spring is coming! (Photo of a breaking wave of broken ice in a parking lot.)

2016-29 - DevaluationWe are witnessing the devaluation of the evils that confront us. Now they are problems, perhaps challenges. He has a problem with drinking. She has challenging debts. And while the importance of our personal evils has shriveled, Hollywood's has inflated. Heroes are no longer sufficient. Now it takes superheroes and teams of superheroes to save our planet, the galaxy, or the ground of being itself from the red-orange fire of annihilation. Yet, in reality, it is the everyday evils we face personally that truly matter, even though confronting them is neither entertaining nor super. (Photo of storm clouds morphed into cataclysmic fireballs.)

2016-28 - Twin TumblersLast week the U.S. Attorney General said, “The answer must not be violence. The answer is never violence.” These are not the words one expects from the nation’s top law enforcer. Taken at face value, police will no longer resort to violence to keep the peace. Officers will be armed only with whistles, like referees. With violence gone from the criminal justice system, lawbreakers will willingly accept arrest and trial, will willingly accept the jury’s verdict. What a fantasy! Loretta Lynch meant nothing like this. She is no utopian idealist. Even so, imagine that you and I want to be right with our community and our country. Imagine that, when we go astray, we try to make it right. Imagine that, when we cannot make it right, we ask for forgiveness, just as we forgive those who wrong us and cannot make it right. Is this a fantasy? (Photo of two glass tumblers on the author's kitchen countertop.)

2016-27 - Upside DownIf we were purely spiritual, bending the knee would be irrelevant. But, since we are at least somewhat physical, humbling ourselves is seldom irreverent. Let us imagine God raises us up, even when we are bowed low. Let us imagine God's strong hands holding us gently, securely, gracefully, even when our world goes upside down. (Photo of people cavorting in fire hydrant spray at the Arden Community Recreation Association's July 4 Games in Delaware.)

2016-26 - UnexpectedI do not love all unexpected things. Come noon, I want lunch, and in the evening, supper; otherwise, I get cranky. Why then are some things both unanticipated and delightful? Not all surprises please. I am grateful so many do: unforeseen plays of light, unexpected journeys. (Photo of the shadow and the sunlight spread by my upheld eyeglasses onto an open book: Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer.)

2016-25 - AdmirationHow easily our gaze climbs. No height is too dizzying, no star too distant, no aspiration impossible, no possibility impractical. Unlike envy and disdain, admiration makes us no smaller. The universe unfolds before us. Tiny as we are, we take it in. Oh, to dwell on what is excellent! Oh, to climb inside our eyeballs and let them carry us aloft! (Composite photograph of something like tall buildings.)

2016-24 - Waking or Dreaming?I was just a young teen when I dreamed I woke up from a nightmare. I dreamed I got out of bed, that it was early morning and the house was quiet. I thought I was awake, walking down the hall, everything perfectly normal, when the Devil jumped me! His hot breath was in my nostrils! His incendiary claws were in my gut! That woke me, this time for real. At least I thought I was really awake, but I had my doubts. What if I was still dreaming? What if I was about to be fooled again? Is it any wonder I went on to study philosophy in graduate school, or that I trust you, God, and not my senses? (Photo of the photographer’s wife asleep on an airliner.)

2016-23 - SquirrelsAs squirrels do when chased, this one ran to a tree, around to the back, and disappeared. Still the young girl waited, hoping to see it again. Like that girl, we chase things elusive -- in writing, memorable insight; in photography, the world revealed; in conversation, mutual delight; in prayer, communion -- things that, like squirrels, sometimes come back to eat out of our hands. (Photo of a young girl hoping to see the squirrel again, Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania.)

2016-22 - Living WaterDip your hand in the living water, free for the asking, a gift, child's play. If you need a whole river, go to it and bathe. If you are pressed in by the crowd, reach out and touch the hem of God's garment. Or, if you are under authority, perhaps with others under yours, listen and hear — your Superior has given the Word. If you cannot accept it as a gift, accept it as an order. (Photo of a young boy playing in a fountain at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania.)

2016-21 - Ring NebulaEven the most ordinary things can be glorious. Just outside my mechanic's garage was an oily sheet of water. Under it glowed a round orange rust mark left behind by some junked auto part. I saw this and something more: a ring nebula floating in an interstellar cloud. If rainwater, oil and rust can appear so heavenly -- humble things momentarily radiant -- is there not hope for us? (Photo of oily water and rust outside Harvey Road Automotive, Wilmington, Delaware.) Click here to read a short essay: Humble Yet Radiant.

2016-20 - Places of PlayThe thin stream of falling water spouting from the frog's mouth is a cylindrical thing, seemingly solid, momentarily unitary, until a small child's finger causes it to cascade into chaos. This is a children's garden. The fountain is meant to be disturbed. Play is encouraged. So let our lives and our churches be places of play, joy and life, and not merely beautiful edifices where only the well-behaved may enter. (Photo of a fountain, Indoor Children's Garden, Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania.)

2016-19 - Death ValleyThree days ago in Death Valley I stood arms out and eyes closed trying to fully experience the blazing sun and the broiling wind. I moistened my fingers, touched them to the dried salt lake and brought its taste to my mouth, me, another tourist in Badwater Basin. Today I am back in a lush flowering land. My "To Do" list overflows. I am busy, busy, busy, yet I will, if but briefly, try to fully experience this time and my place in it, and, once again, be thankful. (Photo of Badwater Basin from Dante's View, Death Valley National Park.)

2016-18 - FreedomHowever much we hate graffiti, we remember the Berlin Wall. The Communist side was spotless, guarded with machine guns, while the Western side was redeemed with aerosol-sprayed symbols, words, figures, and signatures, a place where people, mostly young men not yet conformed, made their defiant marks. I would like to say the artwork was glorious, bold, and expressive. What I will say is that freedom is rarely pretty. (Photo of a bright red swash spray-painted on the white slats of a chain-link fence, American Street, Philadelphia, PA.)

2016-17 - ConfessionI confess, I keep forgetting, that love is at the heart of it. If I were to adopt a new discipline, it would be to remind myself regularly that love is what matters, that what is important is not to be patient or kind but to love. If I have love, I will be patient, I will be kind. The act is not the source of the act. The act is not the wellspring. Love bubbles up and overflows. It carries and sustains. Let me bathe in that stream! (Photo of a happy young winner and the dismayed losers at a carnival game at St. Helena's Church, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2016-16 - ExhaleNothing is required. Nothing needs to be done. Stop being useful. Exhale. Imagine you are a ruin, roof gone and windows broken, abandoned and forgotten. Imagine you are dead, cremated, and scattered. Imagine you are dust carried by the wind, filigree that settles where it will. Imagine you are powerless, completely in God's hands. Good! Now inhale. Go to work. Live! (Photo of Bancroft Mills, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2016-15 - Bancroft MillsThese mills are no longer satanic. Now abandoned, their brick and rusting steel make this park magnificent instead of merely pleasant. We are more at ease, our sense of leisure increases because this place of function, power, and utility is now a backdrop to our easy rambling among robins and ducks, rabbits and squirrels. We see what was -- two centuries of turmoil and toil -- and drink in what is -- green leaves, blue water, and yellow sun. (Photo of Bancroft Mills reflected in Brandywine Creek at Alapocas Run State Park, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2016-14 - EscapeOdd that photos of us look so little like us. Videos, verbal descriptions, wood carvings, paintings are all amusing, the figures so far from the facts. Surely that is how it is with you, Lord, that what is said of you, even these words, go comically wide, fly away screwball and careening, bouncy bouncy bouncy, while you, gloriously free, escape every adjective and noun, even these. (Photo of a Christian.)

2016-13 - SupperWhatever story you tell, include the awful truth, that you and I run and hide, equivocate and lie, while the best are arrested, tried, and often die. Whatever story you tell, include the shining truth, that the very best blames us not. Look, even now, we are invited to the table. Look, even now, our place awaits us, a feast to enjoy. (Photo of the Last Supper tableau in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Delaware Children's Theatre.)

2016-12 - UnityDiversity makes unity difficult and, when achieved, often superficial, yet my country's motto is e pluribus unum -- out of many, one. Let it be so, Lord. Let us argue, debate, criticize, and congratulate. Let us champion wisdom and laugh at pretense, especially our own. And if we allow room for the intolerant, immature, ignorant, and myopic, perhaps we will find there is a place for us as well. (Photo of the marketplace crowd in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Delaware Children's Theatre.)

2016-11 - ObedienceI see the ambitious egomaniacs and cringe. I see them climbing up, up, and up, eager for praise and obedience, the crowds at their feet. I see them rising, hand over bloody hand, up and up a mountain of razor blades. Such dedication! Such folly! We have chosen a better way, but fear it may be as bloody, the way of the cross. We hesitate. We pray. Dear Jesus! You asked to be spared. So do we. But then you obeyed. You said, "Thy will be done". So may we. (Photo of a mountain of used razor blades found behind author's medicine cabinet during renovations.)

2016-10 - PatternsIf you want, call this a happy accident, the way lights, shadows, sidewalk and steps criss and cross in this utilitarian landscape of concrete and steel. If you want, call it art, but then who is the artist? Not me, I am only a witness. If you want, say this is how grace works. We are powerless to harness it, yet grace piggy-backs on our actions and plans, slips into them, redeeming all. (Photo of sidewalk and shadows outside Bob's Discount Furniture, Wilmington, DE.)

2016-09 - Looking WestI look west towards the sea. The sun has set yet the sky still glows. Below me the foothills fall away in lovely waves of purple haze. The world seems peaceful, perfect. Oh, I know. You don't have to tell me. I know the world is neither peaceful nor perfect, yet these are the moments that call me, even though I am neither peaceful nor perfect, moments that rekindle my faith in Thee, You who knew agony and death. Hold you they could not. (Photo looking west from Mother Grundy Truck Trail near Jamul, California.)

2016-08 - Under The IceLike water flowing under ice, love finds its meandering way. It will not sit still. It cannot be dammed or channeled, but it can be followed. Today I will watch for it tenderly. I shall seek and it will find me. (Photo of gutter ice that has been partially thawed and then refrozen, fractured and rearranged, repeatedly.)

2016-07 - Coffee CupThere is something like art at the bottom of my coffee cup. It's more Pollock than Dürer, da Vinci, or Rembrandt but the technique is theirs — metalpoint — marks made by moving a stylus across a surface. Here's the photo! See how my stainless steel spoon drew lines on the ceramic as I stirred cocoa into hot milk. No, I didn't know I was making those marks. I often don't know what I am doing, what mark I am making in the world. I am stirring things up anyway, confident that God (and perhaps even you) will forgive the bad and celebrate the good. What was it the poet said? "Artists don't know what's going on, they are what's going on." (Photo of spoon marks at the bottom of the author's coffee cup.)

2016-06 - FloridaTroubles below, above, and at my sides. Don't pity me. Call me Florida. Under my rocks and stones, there is water underground. Salt and fresh, my lifeblood, it flows through my limestone bones. Along my coasts high tides rise ever higher. Hurricanes wash me clean, but then the sun returns. It is you, Lord, whom I trust. Deluge and downpour, I praise your holy name. You baptize me again and again. My banks runneth over. You renew me and I am refreshed. Is not my state enviable? (Photo of water from a spigot falling on a cast-iron griddle in my kitchen sink.)

2016-05 - DawnI don't remember if I was standing or sitting that morning when I watched the sky turn soft pastel colors. That was near the river bank, there in a flat land often flooded and therefore fertile. At that moment nothing needed to be done. Time was moving but there was no less of it. I was alone but not lonely. Were you there too, Lord? Was that you I saw, disguised as eternity? (Photo of the Susquehanna River looking toward Chesapeake Bay.)

2016-04 - Fire HydrantThankfully, the snow plow did not bury the fire hydrant closest to our house. We have only the sixteen inches to shovel. Passersby compliment us for doing our civic duty. We reply it is pure selfishness. If there's a fire, we want water. Similarly, one can do anything good selfishly. Perhaps we want others to think well of us, or we want to think well of ourselves, or we want God to think well of us. Love is not like that. Love seeks no honors. Love is simpler. If there's fire, we want water. (Photo of a fire hydrant in Arden, Delaware two days after the blizzard of January, 2016, after we shoveled the snow.)

2016-03 - Lasting ChangeThree weeks past the solstice, winter delayed finally falls. Snow again gathers on the dried stalks and again I wonder at this second flowering and at the cycle that repeats itself. Soon swallow-tail butterflies, bumblebees, and goldfinches will again perch and feast on a new round of blossom and seed. This has gone on now, for years really, ever since my wife planted the first seeds. "They are perennials," she says, as though that explains it. Perhaps it does. Perhaps lasting change is as simple as planting seeds. (Photo of snow caps on dried cone-flower stalks.)

2016-02 - InspirationInspiration runs from inspection, abhors syntax, and will not be measured. It eludes logic, grammar, and rules. Like a ghost, it evaporates as we grab it. But were not our hearts burning within us when it visited? There was joy, and an urge to follow. There was openness and freedom. Come again, Inspiration! The door is open! (Blurred photo of a small section of Jim Janknegt's 1995 painting, Winter Moonrise. See: http://www.bcartfarm.com/pp156.html)

2016-01 - Blue MoonI know what is out there. It is ordinary, yet what I see, what I photograph, looks like a blue moon hovering near a time-lapse sun that tumbles thru an ice-shard sea. Ours is no wound-up world, no predicable Rube Goldberg. Creation is ever new, as are we, as are You. (Photo at night while standing at my kitchen sink.)

2015-51 - New YearWhen utility workers make their marks, red for power, orange for data, there is little room for creativity, yet what I find looks like art. Everything in the scene I photographed was put there deliberately by different people at different times for different reasons, yet the result is an arrangement of color and texture quite beyond their plans and decisions. A new year is at hand for us. We will plan and decide. Yet something wonderful may appear quite beyond our intent. (Photo of a brick sidewalk at twilight near 37th and O Streets N.W. in Washington, D.C.)

2015-50 - ChristmasNear the sea I see a tiny red shed. It contains, or so I imagine, a magically-immense workshop where precocious elves hammer out toys for all the girls and boys. And I will get a construction set with thousands of interlocking pieces. And I will build marvelous cities, places of plenty and peace, merry metropoles where avenues echo with joy and laughter, and even the sky is pleased. Won't you join me? (Photo of a red wooden shed on the north shore of Cape Breton Island, Canada.)

2015-49 - DisplacedI know a family of Hindus stranded in Kansas. A brutal earthquake in Nepal destroyed their home and business while they were visiting here, tourists in our welcoming country. Now the four of them live temporarily with her brother in a two-bedroom apartment. Their visas have been extended temporarily. The two small children are in school. Mom and Dad have temp jobs at Target and Sears, and are paying U.S. taxes. How I admire them, their determination, their open smiles and generous souls! My prayer is that God will continue to bless them -- them and all who find themselves displaced. (Photo of a balsa-wood airplane trapped behind a window.)

2015-48 - Teddy BearsNow that she's nearly ninety, Virginia wants fewer things. Today her teddy bears (and one rabbit) go to Goodwill. They are like new, hardly touched. I doubt she'd ever named them. She raised a real chicken once, back in the Great Depression. It had a name and would hop into her lap. She still talks about seeing it served as Christmas dinner, just one of her childhood shocks. Unlike her, these toys suffered only careful care. Now they go to thrift store shelves. God willing, they will find themselves wrapped under a tree, be given names, and be loved to pieces. (Photo of stuffed animals ready to go to Goodwill.)

2015-47 - TurtlesIn one cosmology, the universe rests on the back of a turtle. In another, the one I prefer, it rests on forgiveness. How else could quarks and leptons be so closely bound? How else could atoms combine to form compounds? How else could people, even you and I, abide in unity? Is there any limit to forgiveness? No, it's forgiveness all the way down. (Photo of turtles in a classroom at St. Anne's Episcopal School, Middletown, Delaware.)

2015-46 - UnleashedI took my eyes for a walk. They were eager to be outside and, for a free hour, I let them off their leash. Off they ran, nosing around the bright fall leaves, fingering the glowing trees, touching shadowed facades. Eagerly they pursued glimpses of blue sky among the green, yellow, orange, and red of the bittersweet vines. How happy they were to go where curiosity led. How delighted were my eyes, how satisfied to be searching! What about you, my soul? Shall I unleash you? (Photo of bittersweet vine and its berries in the fall.)

2015-45 - Armed ForcesThe world knows our might. The Iron Curtain fell, the Eastern Bloc our allies now. The annoying dictatorships in Libya, Iraq, and Syria are now swamps of infighting and civil war. Our forces encircle Iran. North Korea is isolated. Our navy sails defiantly across the South China Sea. In the year ahead, we will elect a new commander in chief. Lord, have mercy upon us. (Photo of a lifeguard at Camp Arrowhead in Delaware on his lunch break splitting wood for that evening's campfire.)

2015-44 - GivingA little thought stops me cold. A bit of speculating, wondering “what if”, and soon I don’t know what to think. Just now I imagined everyone was given a billion dollars. Would everyone then be rich? Hardly! Instead, the dollar would quickly become nearly worthless. What then makes money worth anything? Lord, I know so little, yet it seems clear to me that what you give us that matters most is not money, and neither is what we have to give. (Photo of stone eagle and rising pigeon looking north from the 7th Avenue side of Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY.)

2015-43 - ImmigrantSycamore and pin oak, in this I cannot praise thee. You are not like sweetgum, maple, and cherry. October's alchemy turns them red, orange, and yellow while you are somehow satisfied with drab brown. No doubt you are glorious, for we have the same creator, but I cannot see it. My eyes go to the bright yellow Norwegian Maple. Yes, it is an invasive species, one of the most hated, one I won't let root in my own yard, yet my neighbor's tree gives me joy. (Photo of bright yellow Norwegian Maple leaves in late October, Arden, Delaware.)

2015-42 - Gathering Tiny grain of sand, hard as glass, I think of you as unattached, independent, free to follow where the wind blows and water flows, as oblivious to others as a ball bearing. How is it then that you congregate by the trillions? Inert and self-contained, what power brings you together with your fellow bits of rock? The force isn't mutual attraction, animal magnetism, or chemical bond, yet you gather with your peers in rolling dunes whose surfaces are sculpted with patterns of ridges and valleys that look all the world like God's fingerprints. (Photo of wind-sculpted sand, North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area, California.)

2015-41 - Lines in the Sand Lord, I see the lines but how shall I read between them or catch their meaning unless your spirit inspires my sight? Unless I love, how shall I understand? (Photo of wind-sculpted sand, Algodones Dunes National Wilderness Area, California.)

2015-40 - Inferno The sun's thermonuclear fusion blazes away, safely secure at the center of our solar system. Closer to us, 45 million times closer, yet miles above us, the clouds at sunset look like flames, but there is no smoke, no fire. There is no need for alarm, only awe, wonder, and thanksgiving. (Photo of sunset sky above Mother Grundy Truck Trail, San Diego County, California.)

2015-39 - Planet and Moon On vacation this week, I sent out prayer 2007-10 again.

2015-38 - Reverie Lord, how are we to read the essays of Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis, and R.W. Emerson? We start but soon fall into a reverie of contemplation. Without leaving our chair, we leave the page. We find ourselves on a footpath of wonder above a tropical ocean cove, the moonlight sparkling off the water, the soft night wrapped across our shoulders, our bare feet descending to the beach. Our souls stretch toward the far silver-edged horizon. We are here and we are there. (Photo at noon of Naaman's Creek in Harvey Mill Park, near Arden, Delaware.)

2015-37 - Digging If I push the shovel deep enough into the earth, I can easily stand on it with both feet without falling over. If I dig the foundation deep enough, a house, even a skyscraper can stand there, high, dry, and secure. When again, Lord, I find myself persisting in the same mistake, when it becomes shamefully obvious that I have dug myself into yet another hole, show me what may not be clear, that I now have the start of a foundation on which the tall and true might stand and endure. (Photo of a young woman's pink running shoes on a shovel at Camp Arrowhead, Delaware. She's digging post holes for a cabana.)

2015-36 - Labor DayMark Twain, a lazy man, extolled the virtues of idleness, made fun of the American work ethic, and celebrated the boyish impulse to skip school and sidestep work. And who is busier than we are, even on holiday? At an end-of-summer festival, I saw a young man at ease in a grassy amphitheater, savoring the late-day shade. Alone he was, though thousands were nearby, they and I refusing to waste a second of our Labor Day weekend. Lord, we would be doers of your Word. We would have our faith known by our works. Teach us to rest one day in seven. (Photo of the Moonlight Theater of the Arden Club, Arden, Delaware during the 2015 Arden Fair.)

2015-35 - Clouds, Earth, SkyI asked the clouds what I should do. "Roll along," they said, "and then be gone." I asked the hills if I should go. "Stay," they said. "Find yourself a place to grow." I asked the sky where I should linger. "Everywhere," it said, "I shall give you cover." (Photo of clouds above Mount Taylor, looking north from Interstate 40 near turnoff for Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico.)

2015-34 - STOPBecause we are free in Christ, we are no longer slaves to the Law. We can ignore the practical voices in our head that say "Be careful!" "Slow down!" "Stop!" We no longer obey. We love. We seek God's kingdom. We stop because it is better to keep the peace, to smile at the flagman who waves us down. We wait for the oncoming traffic to pass. There is no hurry. Time is God's plaything. Everything is being made right. (Flagman holding a stop sign on Harvey Road, Arden, Delaware very late at night while a crew repairs a break in a water line.)

2015-33 - ConfidenceMany have the confidence to do bold things. They rarely succeed. We rarely succeed! But some do, amazing us all, encouraging us to try again, to do something no one thinks we'll accomplish. What might that be, Lord? Inspire us! Give us confidence to try again, to take on something to take on something seemingly implausible or something utterly outlandish, perhaps something as far-fetched as learning to love our enemies. (Photo of an storefront in Madrid, New Mexico, painted with a bold but successful mix of vivid green, yellow, and red.)

2015-32 - HollywoodAfter seeing the glorious photographs, the real thing is hardly worth a second glance, not when our day is overcast and dull. The professionals caught blazing sunsets, majestic thunderstorms, and double rainbows. No pro is taking photos or writing about us. Hollywood is looking elsewhere. We, too, turn away, check our smart phones, chat with our neighbor, and look around hoping something will happen. Lord, inspire our vision, that we may see your glory in the ordinary. Make us thankful for the commonplace -- this life, this work, these people -- for our daily bread. Or, if you must, kick us in the fanny, slap us upside the head, to wake us from our slumbers. (Photo of colorful tourists at Monument Valley, Navajo lands, Arizona and Utah, backdrop for many Hollywood films.)

2015-31 - ChaosIt is better to understand the order of things than to put things in order. Let me go further and say that the process of seeing the way things are and making sense of them actually brings order to the chaos. Believing this, I am less fearful of the world's disarray. I may not understand its nyxious jimble jamble but I believe Someone does and, in the process, orders it and is making all things well.

2015-30 - TreasureYour saving grace, Lord, is sufficient, yet we are discontent. We imagine more is to be ours. We see a wall of solid rock and wonder what riches lie beneath its surface -- jewels and gems, artifacts, caverns full of gold. And so we start to tunnel, years in the dark burrowing, thinking our rewards will exceed our efforts. Bring us back to the surface, Lord, back into the sunshine, that we might love You and those around us, even those busy digging. (Detail of a cliff face on Third Mesa of the Hopi Nation, Arizona. The Anasazi ruins at the top of the cliff have yet to be excavated. The cliff's base is littered with ancient pot shards.)

2015-29 - Assurance"Help me! Help me! Help me!" Over and over the old woman wandering the halls of the nursing home pleaded for help. She was, in fact, safe, surrounded by aides, attendants, nurses, and doctors, but her mind had slipped. Why was she in this strange place? Who were these people? Why was she not at home? No assurance comforted her for long. Even now, I am sometimes like her. Unable to see I am safe, all I can think to pray is, "Help me! Help me! Help me!" (Photo of lightning strike at a volcanic plug north of Keyenta, Arizona. Agathla Peak is also known as El Capitan in Spanish and as Aghaałą́, which means "much wool" in Navaho.)

2015-28 - The Newest Thing If religion were a thing, I’d have the newest, streamlined, whiz-bang, cutting edge, eco-friendly, gender-neutral, gluten-free creed ever! Oh, I’d keep it clean and polished, and trade it in as soon as the next model was released. But religion is not a thing. Ancient, it is ever new. Unchanging, it is ever adapting. Having found it, we are ever searching. You have shown us the way, Lord. Lead us now. (Photo of Indian motorcycle and old wagon wheel in front of Hubbell Trading Post, Ganado, Arizona.)

2015-27 - ConfidenceMy guide and I were in a canyon — Plaza Blanca — when black clouds moved over us. The wind picked up. The temperature dropped. We ran. As we got to the truck, the storm broke. We had miles of dirt road and six low-water crossings before us. Soon the arroyos would be raging. Hail would cover the hills. Lightning would become our familiar companion. Through it all, I remained confident in my guide. We arrived safe and dry to dinner and our lodgings. So may it always be. Lord, give us confidence in our guides and guides worthy of our trust. (Photo of gully washer approaching Plaza Blanca canyon near Abiquiu, New Mexico.)

2015-26 - HarmonyDorothy Wordsworth and her brother William — God bless them — walked the wild hills in search of the sublime. Instead, give me scenes less pedestrian — roads, fields, and cities where our plans and tools are somehow in harmony with nature's bounty, where gentle hills and high-tension towers bow and curtsy to one another. "Please," say the daisies, "you first!" "No, no," reply the pipelines, "you!" (Photo of a roadside wire fence, a line of trees, a ripe meadow, and a forest near The Whip Tavern, Coatesville, Pennsylvania.)

2015-25 - Over The WallOur prayers go over the wall, across the barricade, and through the closed door, to those suffering and those caring for them. We remain outside the perimeter while the professionals do their work. We do ours. On the sidelines and in the waiting rooms, we pray. We say, Lord, let your radiant glorious joy penetrate every barrier and border. Be it only a momentary spark, it shall suffice. (Photo of firefighters and emergency medical technicians at the scene of a traffic accident, Harvey Road and Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, Delaware, June 23, 2015.)

2015-24 - Artists and WritersEverything moves so fast! Thank you, God, for the artists and writers who show us long-ago times and far-away places so that we might know them. Thank you for the paintings and books that connect us to people so different from us in fashion and culture, speech and habit. Send us artists now, Lord, makers of eBooks and videos, to connect us to this, our own perplexing time, so that we might find our place in it, and You. (Photo of a Latina woman gazing at the 1897 painting by Anders Zorn of Mrs. Walter Rathbone Bacon. Zorn was a Swedish artist who exhibited this painting at the Paris Salon. It now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Mrs. Bacon was the wife of the president of the B&O Southwestern Railroad.)

2015-23 - Just AskingWhen asked if a cure is realistic, I say no, even though with you, Lord, all things are possible. What then shall we pray, if we limit ourselves to our expectations? Relief from pain, fear, and all distress. Challenges met with faith, courage, and humor. An easy, graceful acceptance of what is. People around her (even us) who will be competent, loving, and patient to the end. Yes, yes, Lord, we pray for all these things, every one of them, but also, if you don't mind, a miraculous, inexplicable, logic-defying cure. (Photo of coed team competition at Flex On The Mall, Washington, D.C.)

2015-22 - Washing DishesThis task — scrubbing a frying pan — is tedious. The residue is stubborn. Have I not better things to do? But then I notice something more than the black cast iron and the creamy soap suds: an ever-changing pattern as I move the pad around the pan, something like a portal through which I glimpse I know not what. Call it a reminder that heaven is close and near at hand, that what we think of as dull is not. Remind us often, Lord! (Photo of soap suds in a frying pan being scrubbed.)

2015-21 - Beyond RedThe colors we see stop at red, but the colors themselves keep on going down down down spectrum's ladder: infra-red light, microwaves, radio waves, and super-low and extremely-low frequencies, all of them electromagnetic radiation, all of them invisible to our eyes. So much we cannot see! Will you show it to us, Lord, when we are home with thee? (Photo of night scene lit by a traffic light that turns green leaves red.)

2015-20 - TravelIf you have two feet, use them. If you have wheels, set them spinning. The train's at the station, the ship's ready to sail, the plane will soon depart. Pray to God, the Lord of corns and blisters, of flat tires and traffic jams, of train wrecks, high seas, and storms. Travel is seldom easy. Practice patience. Expect delays and detours. Look for help from strangers. (Photo of grounded airliners in Texas thunderstorm.)

2015-19 - Thorns We cannot all be flowers. Some of us are thorns. We don't attract bees and butterflies. We protect and serve. We are the guardians. Those who cross us bleed. We, Lord, were once your crown. Let those pursued find shelter behind us, and those who would harm them pain. (Photo of agave plant, Austin, Texas.)

2015-18 - Wonder A sense of wonder carries me through my times of desperation. Not knowing which way to choose, feeling trapped, I wonder about those who have been here before me. Surely I am not the first to be in this fix. How did those others fare? What way out did they find? How did they escape? Alone as I am, I am one of a multitude. Surely some of us shall succeed. Why not me? Why not all? Lord, show us your favor! (Photo of tracks in the sand.)

2015-17 - EvidenceThe camera doesn't lie. I thought those were cars and trucks in front of us, road signs and open highway. The photographic evidence suggests something else, that the world you created, Lord, never stops surprising, that there are wonders at every turn, and even straight ahead. (Long-exposure photo of Interstate 95 at twilight, driving north, approaching Wilmington, Delaware.)

2015-16 - EagerThe sun has warmed the earth and life answers the promise. Tomorrow these gaudy green shoots will be twice again as tall. Soon their leaves will open, giving praise to you, Lord, praise better than houses. O that we might be as eager to bask in your sunshine. O that we might be as eager to open our will to yours. (Photo of hosta shoots in spring.)

2015-15 - TatteredWhat made me look? And having looked, caused my eye to linger and my hand to reach for this tattered leaf to take it home with me? What makes you look at us, Lord? And having looked, causes your eye to linger, your hand to reach down and, when all hope seems past, causes you to take us home? (Photo of a tattered leaf.)

2015-14 - PlowHow should we plow a field? If the land is flat, plow in any direction, but if the land rises and falls, dips and curves, plow along the contours so the rain, after it falls, soaks in and does not run off. What if God's grace falls on us like rain? How should we plow our lives so that grace soaks in, reaching our roots? (Photo of a chair in the waiting room of the author's dentist.)

2015-13 - Pulitzer PrizeLook at this photo of people looking at photos. We arrive by the busload 362 days a year. We are quiet, even reverent, as we stand before decades of Pulitzer Prize-winning images. We see the best and the worst of life, mostly the worst: war, violent death, disaster, and war again. We think: That could be us getting killed. We think: That could be us pulling the trigger. We think: God help us! But that could also be us only observing, taking photos, posting them on the Internet, always one or two steps removed from life. We think: O God save us! (Photo inside the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The people are looking at Eddie Adams' Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of South Vietnam's national police, summarily executing a Viet Cong lieutenant who had just murdered a South Vietnamese colonel, his wife, and their six children.)

2015-12 - What We DoThere may be some Christians who think of God as a terrifying yet radiant father with flowing hair and beard who floats in the sky: remote, stern, and majestic. There are many Christians who think of God as a nearly naked young man with flowing blood and tears who hangs on a cross, who looks down with compassion, who says, "Forgive them, they know not what they do." (Photo of two men moving wires and cables from an old telephone pole to a new one.)

2015-11 - AbandonedMy Lord, my Lord, why have you abandoned us? Some of my companions have already fallen. I lean but others hold me up, they as old and frail as I. Our strength is dried up. Death is near. Yet still we declare your name. We praise you. We proclaim your righteousness to generations yet unborn. Have pity, Lord, on those who, in their good health, mock us. Forgive them, Lord, they do not know that when they see us, they see themselves. (Photo of a neglected fence. This prayer is based on Psalm 22.)

2015-10 - HumilityThere's comfort in desolation, to escape the tyranny of expectations, to embrace winter and be dormant, fevered thought abandoned. King Nebuchadnezzar's mind shut down for seven years. His hair grew long and coarse. But then his reason returned when he learned to give glory to the Ancient of Days. Oh, to be wise! to humble ourselves -- before God does it for us. (Photo of an abandoned house in winter, New Castle, Delaware, overgrown with multiflora rose and trumpet vine, with the Delaware Memorial Bridge in the background. This prayer refers to the Book of Daniel, Chapter 4.)

2015-09 - Seeing ThingsIf the process is merely mechanical, just saltwater spray and grit now dry on the sides of cars, why do I see stars falling, their seeds buried bright, earth welcoming heaven? In the parking lots I find action paintings and layered landscapes. I see forests, tidal flows, and perilous footpaths at the cliff's edge. If this winter debris is art, who is the artist? I am only the photographer catching clues, signs of the transcendent. (Photo of salt spray on a parked car in winter, Forwood Manor, New Castle County, Delaware.)

2015-08 - Not YetMemories of my murdered friends return. I remember, too, the suicides, and those dead in accidents and at birth, and my best friend, George, who died of leukemia, when we were just seven. He died and I did not, not yet, no, not yet. Oh, to plan for the decades to come and yet be satisfied with today. Oh, to trust in God, in whose care we are. (Photo of salt spray on a parked car in winter, Branmar Plaza, New Castle County, Delaware.)

2015-07 - Frozen BubblesI hear rather than see the water playing, the sound of it tumbling, of it catching air as it falls and the air giggling as it breaks free. After a hard freeze, I find places where the laughter is temporarily trapped, where the water's surface is silent and solid, the bubbles visible like some fossilized creature, nothing like you and me, no, nothing like us. (Photo of bubbles frozen in Naaman's Creek, Arden, Delaware.)

2015-06 - IslandI am an island of bright ice in the dark water. I am solid, constant, crystalline, defined, and delicate -- nothing like the transient wet around me. Proud as I am, Lord, let me not disdain the currents from which I was formed. Let me embrace the warmth of the sun when it returns to melt me. (Photo of ice in Naaman's Creek, Arden, Delaware.)

2015-05 - ShapeA useless but lyrical tree stands near the functional storefronts, sidewalks and streets. Someone shaped it — the hired landscaper, perhaps, or the wind and storm, or shall we simply say you, Lord, who shape us all, we who would be useful, we who serve to be ourselves served, we the proudly practical. Harmonize our parts, Lord. Remove the redundant. Give us grace. (Photo of a tree in snowfall, Silverside Road near Marsh Road, New Castle County, Delaware.)

2015-04 - Making TracksWe are making our marks, beautiful curves, graceful arcs, in the freshly fallen snow. Within minutes, new snow will cover our work, as if we'd never been here. Words written of our art, photos of it, even our memories, are themselves easily lost. You, Lord, are everlasting. If you remember our works, how can they vanish? If you delight in what we do, even the momentary is forever. (Photo of tire tracks in freshly fallen snow, intersection of Coventry and Westminster Drives, Holiday Hills neighborhood, New Castle County, Delaware.)

2015-03 - PilgrimIn winter I went looking for beauty. I found it in a creek, there round the cold boulders where the ice had hardened. I knelt on the rocks to see. I lay down to get even closer, stomach on stone, nose near the surface, eyes searching, finding, seeing, legs cramping, my thin fingers freezing. Lord God, may all your pilgrims be so blessed. (Photo of ice in Naaman's Creek, Arden, Delaware.)

2015-02 - Basket CaseMy wife's laundry basket doesn't belong where it is. For the moment, soon to be weeks, it sits in the middle of the floor. Shall I file a domestic complaint? Call upon authority? Say it has to move along? That it isn't wanted there? If I had, today I would not have seen how this homeless thing transfigures sunlight, the unexpected shadows and reflections, the momentary splendor. Lord, teach us to welcome those in the way and those out of place.(Photo of laundry basket shadows and reflections.)

2015-01 - Open RoadAs long as we have ten car lengths empty in front of us, we feel free, unimpeded and unfettered, our cares left behind as our cars leap ahead. Lord, we know there will be stop lights and toll booths, traffic jams and pile ups. Thank you for moments like these when every road, every possibility, seems ours to explore. (Photo inside the Fort McHenry Tunnel, Baltimore, Maryland.)

2014_53 - SelfieWe are such incomplete creatures! We want to be seen next to the famous painting, the monument, the landmark, the celebrity, the president. We want to be seen on national TV, even a humiliating episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos or America’s Most Wanted. Let us be seen next to you, Lord, arm in arm, both of us smiling, best of friends. (Photo of man taking a photo of himself next to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of Ginevra de’ Benci in the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.)

2014_52 - Wishes GrantedDon’t tell me “No”. I remember as a child, the month before Christmas, sitting on the floor, circling items in the Sears Roebuck catalog. I remember the hope, the bubbling expectation, that what was illustrated would be mine. And because someone loved me, yes, presents were under the tree. Even now, at times, that joyous hope springs up, and once again I trust that Someone loves me and will provide, that wishes will be granted, and not just at Christmas. (Tacky Santa signs and signs that say “No”, Arden, Delaware.)

2014_51 - IcewaterThe waitress sets the glass of ice water on a square white paper napkin. The black plastic straw tilts. This may not be art, she didn’t sign her work, yet the arrangement is pleasing. Like truth, joy, and love, beauty can appear anywhere, at any time, even at Stanley’s Tavern on a wet Tuesday night. I leave a big tip. (Glass of ice water at Stanley’s Tavern, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2014_50 - Good TidingsAt every Christmas pageant, young angelic heralds repeat the lines they learned. “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people.” Shepherds abiding in the fields were the first to hear the words. If shepherds listened, so might we. The tidings are good! The joy is great! (Photo of dress rehearsal, Christmas musical, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware. Prayer based on Luke 2:10.)

2014_49 - PraiseThe world gives praise. Wet weeping cherry tree leaves. Sharp-edged skyscrapers. Mimosa blooms in light and shadow. A high-flying volleyball. Waves crashing over our feet. Tire tracks at a crossroads. Blighted geometrical leaves. Rippling underwater light. People circled on a hilltop. Ships safely moored. Robed communicants at the rail. Withered leaves of hosta and maple. At every turn, the world gives praise. No wonder our photographs number in the tens of thousands! Click here to see a slideshow of these twelve images.

2014_48 - ThanksgivingOnce a year we Americans gather with family and friends to feast and palaver. We see faces familiar and new, yet some are much missed. There may be football, perhaps a parade. There may be a nap taken in the reclining chair. And even if it is not said out loud, everyone holding hands around the table, gratitude warming our hearts, knowing how time makes things tentative, how even the longest traditions can waver and change: thank you, God! …especially for Aunt Barbara’s roasted parsnips and carrots. (Photo of a fork that has speared a roasted parsnip and its sister carrot.)

2014_47 - UpstreamWe fly upstream over the river, moving fast towards the setting sun, the boat's engine roaring. Ahead is serene sky and water with a sliver of land in between. Of that, for the moment, we are free. The wind slams our faces and complains in our ears but the brightness ahead, the sense of the infinite, of open exaltation, triumphs. For the moment our senses confirm we are blessed, that the light of God has come into the world. (Photo of the Christiana River at sunset near Newport, Delaware.)

2014_46 - CurrentThe river's flow does not carry all the fish to the sea. We swim against the current. Where it goes is not what matters, but what it brings to us. (Photo of the mill race in Brandywine Park, downtown Wilmington, Delaware.)

2014_45 - EarthquakeSend down roots to grab and to hold. Tighten your grip. Don't let it slip! But even those who build on rock should be ready for it to sway. Don't say, "This ain't California!" as though you know what lies below, what tensions have increased, and are about to be released. (Photo of sunset over San Diego looking west from Crestridge Ecological Reserve, El Cajon, California.)

2014_44 - Trade CenterWhat a delight to be out on foot, camera in hand, here in the financial district. Yes, this is where the enemy attacked, where the ugly twin towers fell and thousands of people — they were beautiful — died. But right now the sun is shining, the unending war is away in other countries, and the terror alert level is a comfortable orange. Am I a fool to feel unfettered and alive? (Photo looking west on Fulton Street from Nassau Street at the new One World Trade Center, New York City, New York.)

2014_43 - Water RisingWe are called to play, to be like tumbling water, letting gravity carry us effortlessly down and round: swirling rapids, lazy meanderings, a joyful meeting with the sea. We are called to serve, to lift and to carry, like water in a lock defying gravity: canals spanning rivers, viaducts over valleys, shouldering burdens up, up, and up. (Photo of a boat's wake in the Erie Canal, New York.)

2014_42 - SpeedFull speed ahead is an option, and not always the best, not when the tide is running and rocks are near. Dead slow, stop, slow astern, and even full astern — which of these is right? A good captain will know. God have mercy on our leaders when those they serve demand flank speed and will accept nothing less. (Photo of the engine order telegraph — remote control throttle — on the navigation bridge of the cargo ship Atacama Queen, Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.)

2014_41 - FearThis safety glass wasn't bullet proof. Neither are we. We are afraid to walk the streets of Wilmington. Who can help it? Yet we are not prisoners of fear, for the thugs are mistaken. Guns are not a sure-fire way to win respect. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and not because God may shoot us. Walk with us Lord, and steady our steps. (Photo of safety glass shattered by a gunshot at a bus stop in Wilmington, Delaware. Prayer based in part on Psalm 111:10.)

2014_40 - Look BeyondPause at this image, these words, just long enough. Like you, I am learning to see, following my eyes where they lead, chasing the words as they fly, glad for your company. You needn't linger long. Look beyond these symbols and practice seeing. Look beyond these letters and practice seeking. Go now! (Photo of circles made by a lamp and its reflection, a wine glass and its reflection, and a Vintage Seltzer can.)

2014_39 - FaithIt takes faith to fly, to trust the many mechanical parts and all those fallible people who build, maintain, and pilot the winged behemoths that carry us coast to coast. Have pity, Lord, on those who look beneath the airliner's flaps and see the chaos of pistons, cables, pipes, and rivets, who tentatively take their seats. Have pity on us, too, who dare to observe our own thinking, the chaos of instinct and conjecture, and yet write and photograph, who let our thoughts take wing. (Photo of clouds and sky and, far below, the farms of the Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.)

2014_38 - MountainsNear the end of a long trek, or even a short jog around the green, level places can appear up hill when our bodies want to rest. We look with our eyes but, when they are suspect, we seek more reliable witnesses. So tell me — be truthful — aren't those mountains up ahead? (Photo of mountains east of Jamul, San Diego County, California.)

2014_37 - BoldYour servants, Lord, are bold. Birds slam into windows thinking they see open sky. Me, I'm more like a turtle that bravely sticks out its head. (Photo of a small feather found on the floor.)

2014_36Prayer can be a moment on the edge of something vast, the same sea our ancestors saw, endless, ever-changing, serene. Even though we comprehend only the smallest piece, it is enough to cleanse us, perhaps forever. (Photo of woman on cliff above the Pacific Ocean, Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, California on a calm day.)

2014_35Farm yard truths are seldom pleasant. These young sheep, born in the spring, will be slaughtered in November. Their meat will help keep the farm going for another year. Next spring, like last spring, new lambs will be born. They, like these, will never know winter. Shall we count them blessed, they who only know green fields and plenty? (Photo of young sheep in western Massachusetts in summer.)

2014_34My father served 29 years in the US Navy. The service served him well. The rigid structure, the clear hierarchy, the orders to be obeyed — was he attracted to these? See now, all around his grave, here in this military cemetery, the regimental regularity of the identical headstones is pleasing, even stately. Yet my eye soon goes to the lyrical branches of a lopsided tree, one side blown bare by the Pacific's prevailing off-shore winds, a different kind of order. (Photo of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.)

2014_33If we are meant for heights, for clouds and sky, why do we dwell in the flat places, the places below and between, and on the edge of the sea? If heaven is to be our home, that lofty hatchery, something in us needs to change. By grace, something can. (Photo of thunderclouds above Ohio from an airliner window.)

2014_32A young girl in a glamorous red dress kneels at the communion rail. We see the ordinary soles of her glittered shoes. You, Lord, see our souls. (Photo of a people taking communion.)

2014_31Even with age, I am still surprised that so few delight at the sight of me. Was I not made to be loved, not just by you, Lord, but by everyone around me? How is it that others are so self-centered? So selfish? And why am I, who was made to love you and them, so much like them and so little like you? (Photo of a dress form with a paper face.)

2014_30Every thing is a sign and every sign is a thing. This wire cable was dangling from a telephone pole. To get it out of the way, someone wrapped it round and round the base of the pole. Don't tell me that's all this is. I see music. (Photo of a steel cable wrapped around a wooden telephone pole, Claymont, Delaware.)

2014_29We discover who we are — that we like x and not y, are good at this but not that — only by exploration, by trying new things, or having them forced upon us. Who is that ringing my door bell? I don't like their looks but angels often travel in disguise. (Photo of a young man hesitating at entrance to a darkened room at the Whitney Biennial art exhibit, New York City.)

2014_28This is not her wedding day. Once again she's in a gown, but it's cotton and open at the back. A heparin lock is in her hand, an ID bracelet around her wrist. Even so, her nails are painted a festive red. If the future is as bright as her smile, she just might live forever. (Photo of my friend's hands after surgery.)

2014_27Who would guess a head that massive could be so expressive? Who would guess a mule's life could encompass joy, deep depression, a journey of many miles, and a second chance at joy? Thank you, Lord, for the storied lives you give us, even we, your humble mules. (Photo of the celebrated mule in its stall.)

2014_26A woman walks in the shade. Behind her in the distance, the city shines in the sun. By a trick of perspective, she appears twice as tall as the tallest skyscraper. That's how I imagine you see us, Lord. Small as we are, you hold us so close, we fill your eye. (Photo of a woman walking on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.)

2014_25You must love curves, Lord; so few things you create are rectilinear. You must love curves, Lord; you throw us so many. (Photo of hosta leaf in morning sun.)

2014_24Newborn foals stand, trot, and canter within hours of their birth; in twenty four, they gallop, but soon encounter fences. They are fed, groomed, and doctored, but must learn the bridle and saddle. Your bit, Lord, rests easy in our mouths. Your touch on the reins is light. (Photo of 30-day-old foal near St. Peter's, Pennsylvania.)

2014_23I could be and have been dissatisfied. Yes, there has to be other and better than this, yet I am more than simply content. This moment, these things, radiate joy. How can I help but glow? (Photo of a red glove in a blue-tiled shower stall.)

2014_22They operate this Friday, that's the plan. An unwanted growth has invaded her brain, so the doctors will take extreme measures, ordinary to them, terrifying to us. Thank you, Lord, for their courage. Give our friend courage as well as hope, that You will, in time, make all things right, and that You will, this time, make this one woman whole. (Photo of black-eyed susans from a dizzy camera.)

2014_21To prove they are independent and no longer children, young people (and, yes, you and I) do such childish things. We ignore our parents, disdain custom and all authority, foolishly risk body and soul, and double dog dare you, Lord, to do anything about it. What makes it so hard to freely, humbly, and cheerfully admit our mutual dependence? (Photo of a young woman walking against the light.)

2014_20The bread and wine were good but I wanted a wee bit more, so I had some cake and ice cream, root beer, bananas, and fudge. Not quite satisfied, I cleaned out the frig and cupboards, then ate the table and chairs, the sofa and the bed, the house and the garage. They were good, but I wanted a wee bit more, so I ate Cleveland and most of California, Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece, the Horn of Africa, the boot of Italy, and a slice of Siam. They were good, but I still want a wee bit more. Lord, may I have a taste of the moon? (Photo of a midnight moon.)

2014_19Where Love leads, shall we not follow? "Love ... in the grave has lain." Like a buried seed, Jesus sprang up green. Shall we fear to follow where Love has been? (Photo of summer flowers in Hector, New York. Prayer based on the medieval French carol, "Now the green blade riseth".)

2014_18I have buried what should have been forgiven, hoping it would be forgotten. Even if there is a stink, let those graves be opened. We fear Halloween, lumbering undead accusations. We are promised Easter, the ruined made whole. (Photo of blue sky and green plants near gray gravestone, First Presbyterian Church, Hector, New York.)

2014_17We live for moments of freedom, time to simply be here in the world with You and yours, but our schedules are tight, there's not a moment to lose, until we remember to stop, look, and listen. (Photo approaching summer thunderstorm.)

2014_16The first commandment is to love You, but what do we know of that? You have said it, given us a clue: loving You is like loving those near at hand. If we learn to do that, will we not learn to love You, too? (Photo of my neighbors in Times Square, New York City, June, 2010.)

2014_15Flimsy as shadows on a stainless steel slab, insubstantial as footprints on smooth dry cement, to be here now is enough, to be alive sufficient, yet we are promised so much more. (Photo of two people's torsos and shadows in the main gallery at the Delaware Art Museum.)

2014_14Thousands, millions, and billions of governments, corporations, businesses, and individuals exist and not one of them has swept my stairs in weeks! How long, Lord, will this go on? Where are your angels ascending and descending, brooms ablaze? (Photo of dust bunny on my stairs.)

2014_13“The blind carpenter picked up his hammer and saw." My father loved wordplay. This saying was his favorite. Writing it down brings him back, as though he were alive before me. Our Father in heaven, how will you bring us back? Will you take our scattered parts and re-member them? Will the Word play with us? (Photo of a saw cutting painted wood.)

2014_12We gathered round to pray, to keep the children from seeing, to wonder how this could happen, to resolve it never would again. The odds are against us. They are slim and we are fat. Even so... (Photo of warning cones around repair work in a parking lot.)

2014_11Even if we love our boots, we wear them in the mud. Lord, we know you love us. (Photo of my wife's muddy muck boots. Photo and prayer 2014 by Danny N. Schweers.)

2014_10Before you begin, open yourself and wait. God is no bigger than a spark. You know your lines, your movements are nearly natural, but life is neither words nor poses. Invite life in. It weighs nothing at all yet carries the world. (Photo of children about to go on stage as part of the Shakespeare Gild's Young Actors Workshop, Arden, Delaware.)

2014_09The rain is rude and shows no respect. Wind, its accomplice, is undisciplined and bad-mannered. Like You, Lord, they do what they will with no regard for our precise meticulous plans, our tender sensibilities. What are we to do? Adapt? (Photo of children in fire hydrant spray, the July 4th Games, Arden, Delaware.)

2014_08Redemption: All things will be made right. All things? How is that possible? It's beyond my imagination but not my hope. (Photo of water shoes on dock, Oswego Lake, New York.)

2014_07Reduced to wordless groans, the printed page set aside, not knowing what to pray, eyes closed, heart pleading, we wait patiently as the Spirit intercedes. No, it is not pretty, yet heaven rejoices. (Self-portrait of an often proud man. Outside, spring flowers bloom. Prayer based on Romans 8:24-28.)

2014_06Here, outside the museum, the coldest night in twenty years. Inside is Vincent van Gogh's painting, The Starry Night. Blessed are those who find beauty inside and out. (Photo of the sidewalk outside the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, in January.)

2014_05When they don't appreciate our efforts, when they take our work for granted, when we go unthanked and our resentment builds, then, Lord, remind us of you, how you give and give and give. Now, while I think to say it, and actually mean it, thank you! (Photo of cast-off casts on display at Christiana Hospital, Newark, Delaware to promote osteoporosis awareness.)

2014_04In a dream I am asked to go on stage and play the hero without knowing my lines, all of them in a foreign language. What will I say? How will I fake it? Where's the exit? God, you teach us when we are most vulnerable with the drama of dreams and, on waking, free us from fear's exaggerations, allowing us to play. (Photo of Halloween costume parade at Booths Corner Farmers Market in Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.)

2014_03Who are these we pass on the city sidewalk? We share the same space but not long enough for tea and conversation. We are all on our way. Sic transit gloria mundi! Photos preserve the moment, words hold fast the thought, but we continue on. Let us pass the time together, let us pass the peace! Walk with me awhile. (Photo of some passersby on a frigid winter evening in New York City.)

2014_02Strong sun melts the icicles. In the dark and cold, let us remember. (Photo of icicles melting.)

2014_01Can the broken cup be mended? The ceramic pieces arrive in the mail from a friend, one of many smiling in a photograph above my desk, a photo from my baptism thirty years ago. "Careful," she writes, "the pieces are sharp." So we approach neglected relationships carefully, not because they are so fragile, but because they can cut. (Photo of a cherished but broken coffee mug from the Abbey of Gethsemani.)

2013_52Who makes our flame burn brighter? Let us join them. Who lights up when we are near? Let us invite them in. Don't ask if it's equal or fair, who gives the most, or who gets the credit. See how the light shines! Revel in the truth revealed, our petty pride surrendered. (Photo of young Episcopalians lighting Advent candles.)

2013_51How we yearn sometimes for a brand new start, the page again white, all hope and no history. Repentance isn't like that. We do not write our lives in pencil; we write in black indelible ink. It's all on the page, at times bold, all caps. But our Holy Ghostwriter is beside us. Our Reader loves us. The Word is in us. (Photo of black metal patio chairs covered with white fluffy snow.)

2013_50For the cold beautiful places that we can visit briefly before returning home to warm rooms and hot chocolate, thank you! For this lovely terrifying world we get to visit briefly before you call us home, thank you! (Photo of Naamans Creek, Arden, Delaware just after a snow storm.)

2013_49Without us planning it or demanding it, or even asking or praying for it, the world is arranged just so — delightful! Let every such incarnation remind us of your spirit's mastery over the physical, even us, your sometimes willing collaborators. (Photo of sunlight reflecting off a compost pail on my kitchen counter.)

2013_48Photographers and their slinky models cavort within the halls and cells of this defunct prison, the expensive cameras and shimmering clothes in stark contrast to the decaying plaster and stone that once held Al Capone, murderers, and thieves. God grant that all prisons may one day be museums. Until then, Lord, may police, prosecutors, judges and jailers love mercy as well as justice. (Photo of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Philadelphia, PA.)

2013_47The parallel wires channel power and information, even this image and text. If all goes well, these arrive just as they were sent. Shall we arrive in heaven, just as we were sent? Or does redemption preserve, yet transform the meaning of, every scar and trespass, making us precious and good? (Starlings swirl in a chaotic river of flight above parallel wires.)

2013_46The fictional hero in the latest 366-page thriller escapes the cataclysm that kills hundreds, hundreds with untold stories, some cut off in chapter one. In our Savior's story, He dies, as must all of us, and is buried. But then he appears alive and ascends into heaven, the heaven that awaits all God's children, even us. My 87-year-old mother-in-law from Nowhere, Arkansas says, "That's no story, that's the truth." (Self portrait with fireworks overlay. Prayer after reading Michael Gruber's book, The Return.)

2013_45And when comes the fall, let us shed those bright leaves freely. Let them fly! Don't hang onto them. Send them forth into the world to whatever ground awaits them. (Photo of Oriental and Norwegian maple trees, immigrants to America.)

2013_44When everyone over us towers, how we yearn for stature! But even now, fully grown, belittling internal voices say we have not made it. Insecure, we insist we are everyone's equal and are jealous of our rights, sensitive to imagined slights. Instead, let us be in awe of those around us. They might be saints. They might be giants. (Photo of Halloween costume parade at Booths Corner Farmers Market in Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.)

2013_43My neighbor's front yard looks like paradise if I crop out the house, the telephone pole and wires, the cars driving by, the planes overhead, and my neighbor. Unlike a photograph, Love welcomes all, even my neighbor. (Photo of my neighbor's front yard with part of the house and a telephone pole still showing.)

2013_42When the spinning earth carries you into its shadow, go to bed and sleep. When darkness covers your half of the world, close your eyes and dream. Our merry-go-round planet circles a tilted axis. Be at peace. (Photo of a Rubic's globe metal puzzle toy.)

2013_41Some grab and don't let go, their lives confined by things, people, ideas, and memories. Others avoid all attachment, flee commitment, champion no truth, hold onto nothing but their freedom. Some fishermen catch and release, but even they get hungry. (Photo of bur cucumber tendrils grabbing virginia creeper leaves near Hector, New York.)

2013_40How long has this window been broken? The weather gets in, and things that creep, crawl, and flutter. Wasps and small birds have built nests. Seeds blown in take root. Who is the caretaker? Surely not me! I'm only a visitor. I've other places to be. My schedule is full. I've no talent for this. Why are the better people sleeping? (Photo of a broken greenhouse window.)

2013_39In a dream, I find myself driving too fast down a steep road at night without headlights. I have a flashlight, but it shows little of what's to come. I'm frustrated but not alarmed. My passenger trusts me, loves me, and it's only right that those trusted should also trust, should also love. Are those lights ahead? (Photo of Joe The Jeweler's storefront, Wilmington, Delaware: "We Buy Gold, Platinum, Silver, Diamonds" and paint the wet pavement blue, purple, and magenta.)

2013_38The sun, dazzling bright, cuts through the fog and burns it away, another reminder of what's possible after a restless night dancing with ghosts and unbalanced equations. Those who cannot sleep catch the first light. (Photo of sunlight, tree tops, and fog.) Click here to see a slideshow of images.

2013_37When we return home, we find an injured dove. At night I dream again of disordered papers, their binder lost. Later, a serving plate breaks and I gather the pieces. I cannot heal, recall, or mend the bird, dream, or china. If they are signs, I know not their true interpretation. What I have is prayer, others to help me pray, and the One who listens. (Photo of a broken plate with pieces missing.)

2013_36If I set my shutter speed to four-tenths of a second, falling water looks like milk — beautiful! In its way, this vision is true. You see the world, Lord, and you see us, in all the ways that are true. Open our eyes, that we may see. (Photo of water falling over rocks at Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York.)

2013_35The WALK sign says we have 20 seconds to cross the intersection, so we start. Imagine us in the middle when the impatient drivers see green and gun it! Is death, too, impatient? How many seconds do we have left? Not knowing makes some of us hurry; others, wary. You and I? Let's go now while we have the light. (Photo of a red car amid red leaves in the fall.)

2013_34Our present sufferings are as nothing, for in us God's glory will be revealed. Creation eagerly awaits. The whole of creation groans. The Spirit intervenes. Who then condemns us? No one. Who shall separate us? No one! (Photo of nails on a chair and hands moving behind, prayer based on Romans 8:18-38.)

2013_33Is it better to receive than to take? Take a guess! Take it to heart. Take the test. Take it easy! Take five! Take a hike! Take to the hills! Take me out to the ball game. Take my word for it. Take me as I am. And when I'm done, Lord, take me home. (Photo of tomato horn worm, Manduca quinquemaculata, that was allowed to live.)

2013_32The silly branch says, "I am not part of the tree." It disdains the trunk and the lower branches, and envies those higher. "Let them be cut away," it prays, "that I might have my rightful place in the sun!" God is the gardener. His saw is at hand. (Photo by a sometimes silly man of pruned trees in a wet parking lot. Prayer based on John 15:1-17.)

2013_31Coneflowers bloom night and day, sunshine and rain. To the bee, butterfly, and moth they offer odor, symmetry, and color. Then, when ripe, the ravenous goldfinches feast on the seeds. They ask one thing: to do it all again next year when their scattered seeds sprout. A plant I am not, but God willing I can learn. (Photo of coneflowers blooming at night.)

2013_30If my heart hardens, break it just so. If a shell forms, crack it with grace. Even a hammer can be wielded precisely. (Photo of a concrete paving tile cut by hand using a hammer and chisel.)

2013_29The lights go out. They may be out for hours. I grab matches, a candle, and sit down to write. The moment is perfect, just me and the page. The lights come on just as I am settled. I could turn them off and return to the page but instead I thank you Lord for the light and move to the computer. (Photo of twilight storm approaching the Buzz Ware Village Center in Arden, Delaware.)

2013_28If we are hesitant, carry us in. If we would hold back, let us feel your reassuring grip that frees us to live. (Photo of a father carrying his son into the fire hydrant's spray.)

2013_27The heavy unending rains have beaten to the ground flowers that steadfastly bloom. Our heavy footsteps tread on their bright stems yet still they blossom. What shall we say, Lord, when our hearts are heavy? Shall we say there is no song in us? (Photo of daylilies bent to the flagstones.)

2013_26Because our thumbs oppose our fingers, our hands can grip. What are we part of, good Lord, that we should bless those who oppose us? (Photo of the author's left hand.)

2013_25The quiet mystery may not be present to me now, yet I trust it is near. I have this prayer to write, a woman's pay to calculate, two committees to appoint, and other improbable problems I never dreamed would be mine. These tasks cry out, they clamor, for my reluctant attention. Still, the primary wonder is close at hand. (Photo of a sunset above Austin, Texas. Prayer inspired by Denise Levertov's poem, "Primary Wonder".)

2013_24The ever-faster changes in technology throw us into Your arms, good Lord. Again and again we're left clueless and must move forward in faith. Help us when we re-start. Help us when the attachment opens. When we're lost in the Cloud of Unknowing, You ground us. (Photo of Leo Villareal's constantly changing light installation "Multiverse" with 40,000 LEDs at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.)

2013_23We are grateful for what we don't take for granted. We didn't know what to expect after our neighbor's traumatic brain injury. Now, a week later, we find ourselves thankful for the simplest things, that he can eat, and talk, and with the help of others, walk. Teach us to appreciate the simple things in our own lives, good Lord, but please, without the trauma. (Photo of a fireman at a traffic accident where three young women were injured but later recovered.)

2013_22Maple tree seedlings by the thousand raise their green heads to catch the sun in the gutters of my house. Here is the perfect place for them to germinate and the reason I am on a ladder every spring cleaning them out. Not every seed sown sends down shoots; not every sprout takes root. I will not say it's a waste. Does not the Word of God scatter everywhere? Even the barren places are blessed. (Photo of red maple tree seed and sprout, Acer rubrum.)

2013_21Mystery delights us when we are at our best. If there is no end to learning and learning's a pleasure, then every unknown is a reason for eager anticipation, a sign of endless bright opportunities, an infinity of infinities, each of them praising Your mysterious ways. (Photo of wooden Chinese characters, graffiti, and one odd symbol on a sign in the Chinatown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.)

2013_20Meadow buttercup and ajuga bloom because each year I let them, me waiting to mow till they've gone to seed. If we rejoice in these glorious weeds, how much more, dear Lord, must you take pleasure in the smallest voice that sings in thanksgiving. (Photo of meadow buttercup and ajuga flowers, Arden, Delaware: a ground cover alternative to grass.)

2013_19You don't judge us, good Lord, by the shape of our shadows, the images made of us, or what people say. You see us as we are. Your light reveals all and redeems every imperfection we shudder to see. (Photo of the shadows of four friends and Barry Flanagan's bronze sculpture "The Drummer" at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.)

2013_18Tulips grow wild, I hear, in the Hindu Kush, Pamir, and Tien Shan mountains. Here they are cultivated in beds carefully tended, near parking lots and homes. Everywhere they are beautiful. Nowhere do they toil or spin. (Photo of tulips and laceleaf Japanese maple at Wilmington Country Club in Delaware.)

2013_17Who will say amen unless we offer praise? Who will say amen unless we offer thanks? Who will say amen unless we say please? You know before we ask. You give before we ask. You were before us, are now, and ever will be. Can we be like children and yet put away childish things? With You, all things are possible. (Photo of boy, his monkey, and his mother on a New Jersey Transit train.)

2013_16Breathing threats and murder, Saul persecuted Christians until You blinded him, good Lord, and showed him the light. Even now our enemies seek us and think themselves justified. Illuminate them, dear Lord; show them their mistakes! But if there are none, heaven help us. (Photo of medieval weapons on display at Philadelphia Museum of Art. Prayer based, in part, on Acts 9:1-20.)

2013_15In faith find a reason to work. In faith find a reason to rest. Run to reach the far off kingdom. Embrace the kingdom that's come. Struggle for justice and peace. Welcome release and pardon. Faith labors. Faith rejoices! (Photo by a free man in Paris of a working woman.)

2013_14Was water here first or was it the word? The upstart rocks, and the trees that hug them, speak our language but it isn't English. God's word goes forth. It does not return empty. (Trees along Perkins Run in Sherwood Forest, Arden, Delaware.)

2013_13They see my roots undercut, the alarming way I lean. Soon, they say, I will fall. They fear for me and see in me themselves. Yet we all hold fast to the rock of our foundations, till our raptured souls shall find rest beyond the river. (Photo: Roots of leaning tree in Sherwood Forest, Arden, Delaware.)

2013_12Wary of enthusiasm, our imaginations wither; suspicious of inspiration, our narrow lives constrict. Blessed are those who dream, who see the bright possibility and walk toward the light, who hear the far-off shouts that hail the new creation and turn up their hearing aids. (Photo: Spring flowers in a Massachusetts field.)

2013_11Eroded sandstone cliffs, the soft stone draped like cloth, the folds centuries old, we stand in awe, insignificant. Me, I see the first sheet pulled from a box of 216 two-ply tissues. All will be used ignobly, thrown away unwanted, but this one, in this light: monumental. (Photo: Sheet of facial tissue, the first pulled from a box.)

2013_10How is it I am not the gold medalist left paralyzed by the careless hit and run? The lottery winner left penniless by misplaced trust? The math genius left perplexed by the brain's hardening veins? How is it I am not more grateful for being me? (Photo: Two geese swim across abstract reflections on the Christiana River, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2013_09Our perfect geometries may need rearrangement if outside elements are to find a home. Let our circle open, our ties be reordered, to welcome strangers. They may have more to offer us than we have to offer them, but let us not be greedy. (Photo: Iron washers from an abandoned railroad in Holyoke, Massachusetts.)

2013_08How shall we find you, dear Lord? In the company of fellow seekers or on our own, unencumbered? We know what it is to pray alone. Teach us, dear Lord, to pray well with others. (Photo: Canadian geese take flight while a red-tailed hawk waits alone.)

2013_07My fireplace glows red, outside the blizzard howls. Here I sit, a bit warm.
Much of our planet is molten; most of space, freezing. Here I sit, a bit warm.
Hell sizzles, say some, while heaven's heavenly. Here I sit, a bit warm.
(Photo of a boat's metal hull in dry dock at Flanigan Brothers Boatyard in Fairton, New Jersey.)

2013_06This is not what I'd hoped for. It may be better, is better, yet even so, I am slow to rejoice. We want our prayers answered soon and to specifications. This is not how you taught us. Ask for food, you said, enough for today, and an eagerness to forgive. Then you give us so much more. (Photo of what remained after a photo shoot of ice on metal.)

2013_05Seeing where I've been, the tracks I've left behind, they'll think I'm lost, addled, and confused — again. We know how quickly they judge, for we are like them. Yet they and we can be slow to assess, careful in our logic, and wise in our conclusions. Let it be so, good Lord. (Photo of my tire tracks in the snow.)

2013_04Gossips are not liars: it's truth they trade, not slander, yet their words dwell on misfortune, weakness, and folly. Reputations slip, and mud sticks. Lead us not into temptation, good Lord, especially when the scandal is delicious. (Photo of broken egg shells.)

2013_03Canadian geese, a dozen dozen, doze in the shelter of the chemical plants. My life has been migratory; these are now my neighbors. Watch us in our sleep, dear Lord, and in our waking, guide us. (Photo of Canadian geese in the Delaware River near the refineries of Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania.)

2013_02Chocolate mice with almond ears, Hershey Kiss snouts, and cherry torsos: philosophers cannot get such gifts without thinking how candy critters differ from real creatures, and how much further removed are photographs and words. This is the philosopher's prayer: that we not confuse the imitation for the real, the symbol for the thing, the sign for the signified. (Photo of a gift: chocolate mice.)

2013_01Iron and water, usually a recipe for rust, come alive in the light. So let us, so often inert, be revived and eager this day, alert to the joy to be found in Your inspiration, our daily bread. (Photo of broken ice melted on cast iron.)

2012_52Fire in its place, water under pressure, the air conditioned, our foundation solid. Safe and ordered we would have it, yet You are the lord of firestorms, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Species go extinct, stars explode, and galaxies collide. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! (Photo of a fire starting to keep me warm.)

2012_51The teachers, the first killed, threw themselves between the gunman and their kids. We, still living, are the only ones left to continue what those teachers no longer can, to show students the bright possibilities, all that is delightful, honest and true, on earth as it is in heaven. (Voting on values to be emphasized at Reach Academy for Girls in Claymont, Delaware.)

2012_50The things themselves are simple and familiar — street lamps, fog, and trees — yet the combination brings me back with tripod and camera. Yearning and impatience will soon catch me up again. I'll have no time. But right now I am given this moment, an occasion for poetry and thanksgiving. (Pond Lane and the Arden Club's Shady Grove, Arden, Delaware.)

2012_49Common things seen in unflattering light, who will celebrate them but those who love? Give us a redeeming light and the best of lenses, perhaps then even we can see beauty in the ordinary. (Middle Fork, Taylor Creek Trail, Kolob Canyons of Zion National Park.)

2012_48 Here's the best I have. I had hoped for better but this is what I have now. Is it better than I think it is? I cannot tell. For all I know, it could just as easily be worse. Yet you, dear Lord, don't look at the gift. You embrace the giver. (Photo of Zion National Park.)

2012_47 How I yearn to be there, miles away and high above, there in the storm, sleet stinging my face, lightning crackling and exploding, me small against the peaks witness to Your majesty. (Photo of storm on Mt. Baldy and Flat Top Mountain, Utah.)

2012_46 Our footprints, fresh in the powdered sandstone, stand out clearly now, but soon they will join the cacophony of crisses, crosses, and whirls so confused no one can track us but you, dear Lord: each pattern distinct, the layering, beautiful. (Photo of footprints on the Kayenta Trail, Zion National Park.)

2012_45 Fallen leaves photographed have a kind of afterlife, their stunning colors preserved, but this is not the resurrection we are promised. We want to be remembered vividly, and to have our words passed down, but our hope is, having fallen, to rise up more alive than ever. (Photo of fallen leaves, frozen in water, thawing.)

2012_44 There is the truth and our opinion of it, fact and what we think is fact, reality and what we believe is real. There is the one and the other. We seek the one and defend the other, praise the one and confess the other, point to the one and refine the other. We grapple with the stars. A spark from you, dear Lord, is enough. (Photo of stars hung on a shed, and a ladder.)

2012_43 Horror films show evil but only as entertainment. Ignorant of their danger, the hapless soon fall prey to some insatiable soul-sucking manifestation until one clear-eyed rationalist leads the survivors to safety. We know life is no movie. We are not here to be amused. We see darkly, but we do see. Your spirit moves over us. We escape evil's snares. Our joy sings. We join hands and dance. (Photo of home-made Halloween yard art in Claymont, Delaware.)

2012_42 Can we believe our eyes? Is that a halo we see or a trick of geometry? Sometimes, suddenly, even the dullest people we know seem to shine, as though we never really knew them. Thank you, Lord, when we can see your children as they are, when love, no longer a duty, becomes a pleasure. (Photo of small tree framed by huge cloud.)

2012_41 Some people simply glow. A glance is enough and we want to follow with them, to somehow embrace their vibrant energy, their happy eagerness, their delight in life's possibilities. But let us not follow blind. Show us, good Lord, how to test the truth. Even the worst masters have faithful dogs. (Dog riding in car in Chula Vista, California.)

2012_40 The check tears free along the perforations. The sound is pleasing. I've never really listened. Did someone check and double-check the spacing of every tiny cut? And who checked the checkers? Quality is no accident, even in little things. We who see it rejoice. We who listen exclaim! (Photo of a check being torn free along perforations.)

2012_39 Jesus' disciples argued. "I'm the greatest," said one, only to be shouted down by those with contrary assessments. If they, called by You, behaved like children, shall we expect better of waitstaff and clerks, teachers and police, politicians, priests, and judges? Give us patience, dear Lord, for You are patient, but keep our expectations high, even for ourselves. (In the photo, a shadow hand reaches for a broom and dustpan.)

2012_38 Halfway down the stairs, that's when I remember. Halfway down the road, while there's still time, that's when I turn back. Halfway to the moon, my life half-over, the clock stuck at noon, now is not too late to say I love You. (Photo of a walker and his reflection in polished granite.)

2012_37 Some days I wake up thinking I can do it all, but most days are like today. I may not be going forward, Lord, but at least I'm getting less behind. We lose ground, but not hope. (Photo of what I see when I awake, a domestic landscape.)

2012_36 Those who love You gather. Joy assembles. Truth congregates. Two or three together, and You are there with us. What we are given longs to be shared. Even the least is worthy. In Your kingdom, all wear crowns. (Photo of my mother-in-law's stuffed animals.)

2012_35 The rescued pelican stares at us from the well-fed safety of its avian enclosure. When he heals, they will free him. Heal us, good Lord, and free us. (Photo of rescued pelican at the National Aviary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.)

2012_34 Our arms reach out, our fingers grasp and just as easily let go, hanging on to nothing. Our eyes rove, our minds wander, but little holds our attention long, not even You. Is it a wonder so many get lost? Yet here we are. Reach out your arms. (Photo of budding tree at Winterthur Garden, Delaware.)

2012_33 Jesus didn't write the Bible, not in Elizabethan English, Greek or Aramaic. He spoke out loud. Jesus didn't use a pen, keyboard or sophisticated voice recognition software. He spoke out loud, knowing we would hear. (Photo of used books in Baltimore, Maryland.)

2012_32 Let us show what we see: the earth triumphant shining, her praise of You unfettered. We see her joy, her celebration, her glad testimony. Hear our joy and praise as well, good Lord. How ever strongly we may be insulted and constrained, let your Holy Spirit in us show. (Photo of blue sky above Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge, Delaware.)

2012_31 How pleasant it is to lose oneself in the task at hand, busy, busy, busy, our concentration pure, focused, objective. Just as pleasant is to lose ourselves in the aimless grace of your creation, unexpected, reassuring. (Photo of melting ice cubes in a blue plastic cup. Click here to see an essay about this prayer.)

2012_30 If you love simplicity, dear Lord, why did you create the ten thousand ways to say "I love you"? We seek you in the quiet places but we you everywhere. (Video of Purple Loosestrife flowers blooming near the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware. Click here to see an essay about this prayer.)

2012_29 Truth doesn't need us minnows to be its bodyguards. The river doesn't need us shiners to protect it from other fish, nor the ocean our schooling on how to keep wet. Swim little fishies, swim if you can, out of our puddles, out of our pools. Don't be among the dammed. (Photo of the word "TRUTH" painted on a trailer near Haydenville, Massachusetts. Click here to see an essay about this prayer.)

2012_28 You, dear Lord, see us all, not a single moment forgotten, every detail vividly sharp, the colors brilliant, every act perfectly understood; all that was, remembered; all that is, embraced; all that will be, welcomed. So we imagine you and, if inspired, true. (Photo of children in fire hydrant spray at the July 4th Games in Arden, Delaware.)

2012_27 Like Hokusai's wave leaping above Mt. Fuji, troubles close at hand can appear overwhelming. May our eyes not deceive us. (Photo of a strong wind that seems to bend buildings. The prayer follows the form of Tanka poetry often illustrated by Hokusai. Photo taken with a FujiFilm Camera.)

2012_26 We seek sunshine and support. We stretch towards the light, our tendrils searching. Finding no anchor, we support one another, our woven strands stronger than any one, able to reach further. Let one filament find a firm grip, our fellows follow. (Photo of the tips of three climbing vines.)

2012_25 Everyone suffers but, please, dear Lord, send us better troubles, not these embarrassing recurring vices that merely serve to keep us humble. (Photo of a huge paperback thriller.)

2012_24 Shout your name, scream your defiance, speak your mind: God will listen. Silence your cellphone, stop your complaining, shut your mouth: God will listen. Say your prayers, send your love, seek your destiny: God will listen. (Photo of five people with laptops, one with a smartphone, in Oakland, Pennsylvania, near The University of Pittsburgh.)

2012_23 Our thoughts touch the clouds, span history's sweep, dig into truth's nature, wonder at Your majesty. Remind us what part we play, who made us, where we are going, who is traveling with us. (Photo of two very different clouds framed by trees.)

2012_22 If the light breeze was only moving air, why did we suddenly feel contentment? Why did the world seem full of promise? (Photo of brick building against blue sky and white clouds.)

2012_21 It is not enough for us to change our ways but it’s a start. We turn towards the good and seek it, delighted to find not an it but You. (Fallen leaf in spring time, wet with drizzle.)

2012_20 A revered name, stately architecture, deep learning, a long history, a spotless reputation, the best motives: none of these suffice, none will protect. It is good to say in God we trust; sometimes we do it. (Young woman, in harness, jumping on a trampoline at the Arden Fair, Delaware.)

2012_19 Who loves us as we are? Certainly not us, we who obsess over blemishes and imperfections our true friends find endearing. Teach us, good Lord, to delight in those who know us as you know us, who see us in the funhouse mirror of love where everyone is distorted to their perfect proportions. (Photo of women and scooters in front of a building wrapped in a distorted photo, Paris, France.)

2012_18 We'll do our best even if this day is not our best. One foot after another will get us there if You are with us: time and distance, nothing; You and these, everything. (People walking in front of mural at Dunkin' Donuts, 601 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.)

2012_17 Hurry, good Lord! Act Now! Don't Delay! Hear Us! If you were only waiting for us to ask, we're asking! Or are you waiting for us to act, for us to listen, for us to love others as we want you to love us, or, better yet, to love others as you do love us. (Photo of man standing in a skiff, rowing across White Point Cove, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.)

2012_16 What blessing will we give when we are next betrayed by our ravenous appetites, changing moods, deceptive reasoning, quirky technology, fallible institutions, and perplexing neighbors? On the night he was betrayed, Jesus blessed his disciples. What blessing will we give when we are next betrayed? (Photo of Ten Commandments teaching box for children.)

2012_15 We can do better. There's room for improvement. But all that's somehow superfluous, accidental. Essentially we are unchanged from start to finish, though our bodies, minds, and circumstances change remarkably. You see us as we are, good Lord, our yearning souls. Let us see each other as we are. Show us the welcoming truth. (Photo of a stranger in a hooded yellow raincoat.)

2012_14 How soon will we be antique, we who love progress? If our present age seems more honest and less formal, more worldly-wise and less parochial, is the past irrelevant? History teaches humility, that we too soon will be the past. Let history teach us, good Lord, that we might teach the future. (Photo of a soon-to-be-restored 100-year-old painting of the Trustees of New Castle Common, Delaware.)

2012_13 Take a moment and think: What happened yesterday? What should I remember? Take a moment and wonder: What might happen today? What should I pursue? Take a moment and ask: What is God up to? (Photo of budding tree against gathering clouds.)

2012_12 Are numbers real? No one's ever seen one. What about imaginary numbers, the square root of minus one? And why do so many hyper-rational scientists use irrational numbers like pi? These are deep mysteries but not to you, good Lord. You are not a number yet you are three in one. (Photo of the enigmatic 25/34 gravestone of photographers Heino Muller and Ralf Marsault in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.)

2012_11 Our thoughts cascade like prizes from a piñata: Here's one! and another! and, and, and! Appearances change as quickly: Look at this! that! these! those! Give us, good Lord, a thought we can keep. Show us, Creator, a sight we can frame. And let us not confuse the thought or the image with what's real and everlasting. (Photo of waves coming ashore on the island of Kauai, in Waimea, Hawaii.)

2012_10 Let your spirit be upon us to proclaim liberty and release, to comfort and provide. Lover of justice, call us oaks of integrity. Maker of covenants, build these ancient ruins. Faithful provider, increase our joy. (The prayer is based on Isaiah 61:1-8. The photo is of children playing in a fire hydrant's spray.)

2012_09 Should we wake each morning surprised to find ourselves alive? that neither apocalypse nor traitorous germ has taken us? Every day is an extra day, a dancing day, a joy, your gift to us, to your own true love, to us, your love, your love, if we have but eyes to see. (Photo of the photographer's eyeglasses.)

2012_08 Our lives are not shopping carts to fill with the best experiences, nor walls arrayed with diplomas and plaques, nor diaries chronicling what we did, thought and said. The sky is blue — it's beautiful — and so are you. Write that in my obituary. (Photo of girl bicycling near oil refinery, New Castle, Delaware, with some lines borrowed from the Lennon-McCartney song, "Dear Prudence".)

2012_07 If we dare God to intervene, what do we find? That we are called to dream and to act. Let us be determined but easily swayed. Let nothing deter us but the Spirit's merest whisper. Let us vigorously attack until a still small voice tells us to surrender. (Photo of cherry blossoms and stop sign in New Castle, Delaware.)

2012_06 Don't give us everything we want. Teach us to yearn and to pine, to work long hours and many years, to have the vision and pursue it, to walk when we cannot run, to crawl when we must, and, at the right times, to throw off all our cares. (Photo of a photographer's daughter eating ice cream at the Arden Fair.)

2012_05 We jump into the ring with Muhammad Ali and Mother Teresa, take the stage with Lady Gaga and Martin Luther, compare prayers with Jane Austen and Mahatma Gandhi. Are we not in good company? Answer us, dear Lord, you who expect much of those given much. ("The Last Supper" -- photo of 12+1 folded paper cards made from 70-pound Neenah Environment Tortilla cover stock, 100% post consumer fiber.)

2012_04 Above the frothing frenzy of an unfettered spiritual sea, the frozen chosen hold tight. Let us, good Lord, fear neither. Let tradition find a home in us, the living and breathing. (Photo of icicles hanging above Naaman's Creek, Arden, Delaware.)

2012_03 God is not ours, we belong to God. Truth is not ours, yet it finds us. Light is not ours, but our eyes let it in. And if we've made these borrowed words our own, we pass them on to you. (Empty bottles and Day of the Dead figures on a kitchen window sill.)

2012_02 Safety, predictability, and uneventful calm are not the same as peace. Wake us! Shake us! Don't let us sleep too long. Raise us! Restore us! If once is not enough, touch us a second time. (Photo of the Grubb family graveyard, Arden, Delaware. Prayer based on Mark 8:25; inspired by Keith Miller's 1968 book "A Second Touch"; and by "Wake Me, Shake Me," a song arranged by Al Kooper on the Blues Project "Projections" album of 1966.)

2012_01 "There's not a second to lose! It all must be done today! We can't put it off! It's up to us! No one else can help!" Spare us, good Lord, from such shrill shrieking alarms. Show us the still waters. Prepare the green pastures. Open the blue highway. (Stopped traffic in rear-view mirror.)

2011_51 Our one resolution, without being silly or reckless, is to better love the inconstant fallible things and people of this world, and to better love You, our extravagant creator. (Bartender, New Year's Eve party, Gild Hall, Arden, Delaware.)

2011_50 Our bodies not yet rigid, our minds not yet blank, we look out with eager eyes. If this time be God's gift, let's explore it. If there be reason for joy, let's find it. (Woman sledding in the Moonlight Theater, Arden, Delaware.)

2011_49 Ever since Cain offered You the fruit of the ground, people have been striving to give acceptable gifts. We know what you want: for us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with You. (Photo of airline pilots walking on a moving sidewalk at William P. Hobby Airpot in Houston, Texas in front of Gordon Huether's abstract glasswork "Over Houston." Prayer based on Genesis 4:3 and Micah 6:8.)

2011_48 They know or think they know the truth and what to do, while we wrestle with shadows and unseen verities. We admire their bold assertions and easy self-evident decisions while we, partisans of authenticity, pursue Your light. (Sculpture Garden, Museum of Modern Art, New York City.)

2011_47 Doing without is honorable, fasting disciplines our souls. Simplicity: so elegant! The free are not possessed by things, but thanksgiving calls for a feast and many friends. Mashed potatoes need gravy; responsibilities, laughter. (Every Thursday night in winter, we offer soup to three dozen friends. They bring the rest.)

2011_46 Hard times build character, yet no one prays for heartbreak or shattered dreams. The future, we know, is essentially bright and even now we see Your light. Towards it we run, or crawl, or ask to be carried. (Woman holding a chicken.)

2011_45 Jesus went where he was not honored. Our hearts, dear Lord, are cluttered places. We have known you, so we love you. You love those who prepare a place and those who make a mess. (Steel letters cut for grave markers by sculptor Phil Fisher.)

2011_44 Inquiring minds, discerning hearts, courageous wills, persevering souls, loving smiles, joyful humor, and open enduring wonder: every parent hopes their children will seek these, the best of blessings. May we, Your children, seek them as well. (Brother and sister playing chess in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.)

2011_43 - Our Calling Late Sunday afternoon with time to fish, the world looks perfect. Jesus called his disciples to be fishers of men, women, children, all, even us. Remind us, good Lord, of our calling to joy and thanksgiving. Refresh us! (Photo of fishermen on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.)

2011_42 Here comes thunder. Here comes lightning. Here comes rain. Some will get scared, some will be struck, some will get wet, even some who pray. We pray anyway. (Photo of a boat's metal hull in dry dock at Flanigan Brothers Boatyard in Fairton, New Jersey.)

2011_41 Each of our children, like everyone else's, is unique, like no one else's. Parents are not deceived though all evidence contradicts. Parents know a deeper truth: their children are lovely. They know their children even when their children don't know them, just as you, dear Father, know us. (Photo of two little angels and a mother at her limit on the Rue du Bac, Paris, France.)

2011_40 Peace surrounds the buried dead, but the truce is temporary. Three days or three millennia in their graves, they will burst forth alive and glad. The fields rejoice. The mountains shout. The earth erupts with happy laughter. (Photo of a boat's metal hull in dry dock at Flanigan Brothers Boatyard in Fairton, New Jersey.)

2011_39 When will it ever rain? When will it ever stop? If we were nomads, we'd leave the droughts and the floods, hoping to find welcome in the land just right. For now, we are here. May we, the pioneers, see it for what it is, a place of possibilities unexplored. (Young mimosa tree in the rain. We've had record rains here in Delaware while a record drought burns up Texas.)

2011_38 No one is fooled by our half-hearted efforts, yet many are fooled by those who are passionate. Let us be passionate, good Lord, and fool no one. (Scarves and a cape on display at the Arden Fair.)

2011_37 God, you leave us free. Shall we then do whatever we please? Let us do what we love! And if we mistake passion for enthusiasm, selfishness for grace, compromise for community, good teacher, we are listening. We know your voice. (Water plants in mill race, Brandywine Park, Wilmington, Delaware)

2011_36 Loving shepherd, truth embodied, mighty King, reason for praise, dangle the bait before our eyes. Word everlasting, fountain of mercy, healer of discord, fisher of us all, wait until we bite, then pull us home. (Boy who won four goldfish at the Arden Fair in Delaware. Prayer based on Stephen Marks' translation of "Youthful Shepherd", a poem attributed to Clement of Alexandria, ca. 150 - ca. 215.)

2011_35 The storm humbles us but then we stand and assess. Neighbors take in neighbors. Others arrive with chain saws and generators. Tumult throws us together. You give us fresh perspectives. (Man imitating beech tree that fell on house during Hurricane Irene.)

2011_34 With the windshield wipers off, the world appears as it really is, soft and inviting. Yes, we know, Jupiter has moons, and hydrogen atoms can fuse. Science has its glorious story, but Your creation welcomes all. (Wet windshield in Arden, Delaware.)

2011_33 We will succeed where others have failed! We will do what no one has done before! Or we will give up our tiny desire to be exceptional and look instead to the best: Your kingdom here on earth, as it is in heaven. (Wild onions and open sky at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.)

2011_32 See what is and accept it, or imagine better and pursue it. Words come easier than deeds. Patience and persistence, befriend us! When we unravel, knit us together. (Photo of balls of yarn in an easy chair.)

2011_31 Our lives overflow with questions and angels, decimals and dreams, challenges and contradictions, passwords and possibilities, peace and pixels. Who can think themselves poor when these and more are ours? (Photo of leaf shadows on sheet metal of my neighbor's trailer.)

2011_30 The liar is himself deceived and because we slip, thinks we are his. Smoke cannot understand that the Truth is solid, all one piece, forever bright, itself light. This is the way. Here is life. (Fluorescent lights, dancing camera.)

2011_29 So many things suffer when we compare what they were to what they are now. Things in memory seem better. We even remember our memory being better than it is now. Can we remember memory's tricks and value now more than then? (Clocks in downtown Wilmington, Delaware on an Art Loop night.)

2011_28 If the tree is cut down, who can replant it? You pull us up by the roots and put us in a better place. But we are not plants. We have feet, wings, and wheels, imagination, freedom, and courage. If You are near, we fear nothing. (Self-portrait with walnut tree. It had been growing where it was not wanted, in a hedge.)

2011_27 Our talented hearts have found their homes in places we visit in memory and fantasy. Today's gift is here and now: this day, these friends and strangers, and You, our constant companion. (Photo of giraffe that suddenly appeared in my front yard and decided to stay.)

2011_26 Truth wants to find us: liberating but often depressing, joy's foundation, tyrant's terror, friendship's friend, heaven's helper, faith's completion, daily bread. (Photo of holes in large leaf, Hawaii.)

2011_25 In the shelter of my hedge, other life thrives: English ivy and honeysuckle, grape and what-is-it? Whole trees shoot up — mulberry, maple, and mimosa. Birds nest above; voles cavort below. I'm up on a ladder, cutting everything back. And you, good Lord, what are you up to? (Photo of my buddy the catbird in front of the hedge.)

2011_24 My smart friends say things I don't understand, and many don't understand me. Sometimes I don't understand me, but you often do, and we each other. The devil squirms in his cage, and doesn't understand a thing. (Teenagers in the Brandywine Library, Delaware.)

2011_23 Sometimes everything goes right. For reasons we cannot fathom, we find ourselves in light. At other times, all is tedium, we fall without a fight. Aware or comfortably numb, dancing or in flight, in serenity or bedlam, we are Yours by right. (Photo of a friendly passerby who posed with my umbrella.)

2011_22 If today is average, 153,424 people will die and that's just on this planet. We won't know any of them, if today is average. A tiny few will be named in the local obituaries, strangers to us, if today is average. Let every one of them be celebrated and remembered by those who knew and loved them. And let us love those we know, just as You know and love us all, You who call us home. (Photo of walls of skulls and thigh bones, Paris Ossuary, France.)

2011_21 "The world is ending," say some. "A new age is dawning," say others. "Nothing will ever change," say those who won't. You say, "Love one another as I have loved you." The joyful follow you; their deeds speak. (Photo of "The Entombment" by Peter Paul Rubens at the Getty Museum.)

2011_20 The proud, the young, and the forgetful say they'll never fall, while the defiant get up again, singing "you're never gonna keep me down." Humbled, older, and remembering, we make no predictions. We listen for your voice. We look for the light. (Photo of house, fence, and shadows at night in Arden, Delaware, with thanks to Chumbawamba.)

2011_19 Are there weeds in God's garden? Are there spiders in His house? Must everything holy be productive or pretty? Thank you, good Lord, for loving what we have not yet learned to love, even ourselves. (Photo of lesser celandine and skunk cabbage.)

2011_18 Our smart bombs are precisely guided toward carefully selected targets. Even so, small children and their parents die. General Sherman told us: war is cruelty. He said we might as well appeal to the thunderstorm. We appeal to you, good Lord. Let justice be tempered. Let mercy be honored. (Photo of two wine glasses broken by my cat.)

2011_17 Sustain the vision you've given us of a better world and our place in it. And if our vision is flawed or merely out of date, good Lord give us and those around us patience while we reassemble our lives. (Photo taken last week of beech tree reclining on a house.)

2011_16 Decades ago I heard something like the welcoming bells of heaven ring when my nephew, hours old, died in his father's arms. Ring those bells for us, good Lord, but please, not yet. Hold us in your everlasting arms, always. (Photo of birds in a budding tree against a darkening sky.)

2011_15 Let us win respect honestly. How we dress, what we do, let them truthfully reflect who we are. If we are honored, let us be worthy. If we are envied, let it be justified. Let us deceive no one, even ourselves, that we are anything other than your children, playing dress-up. (An interior designer at church, someone we admire.)

2011_14 Even those who make the team must sometimes wait and watch as their teammates are tested. If they are bested, what shall we say? Are we not in their number? Spare us, good Lord, from the time of trial, and if we fail, remember we are yours. (Numbered rugby players for Salesianum High School, Wilmington, Delaware, in a losing game (7-24) to St. Gregory's Academy.)

2011_13 There is no end to the things we might do but few things we actually will do. Inspire us to love you, good Lord, and, since it is so similar, to love our neighbor. Then may we sleep in peace. (Photo of man and teddy bear at Delaware Children's Theatre.)

2011_12 What captures our hearts and sustains our being? Shall we not follow where love leads us? Though storms surround us and thunder shake us, our feet are set on the unpredictable path. (Photo of painted shop window at Nicki's Salon & Spa, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2011_11 Billions of galaxies, billions of planets in each galaxy, billions of us on each planet: the wonder is that any one of us can think themselves special, yet each of us is one of your favorites. (Photo of five sheets of rolled paper.)

2011_10 What do we know of doing without? Billion-dollar industries offer us food and drink, entertainments, diversions, and wonderful toys. They slide our plastic; our houses swell. We learn discipline the hard way. Unburden us now, good Lord. Teach us to travel light, to happily do without, but not without love, faith, and hope. (Photo of toy store bears.)

2011_09 It's harder to write than to read, easier to talk than to listen, but words don't count at all in that lonely place where, desperate for peace and release, we simply turn to thee. (Photo of dried salt spray on side of car.)

2011_08 Whatever we are called — Mrs., Ms., Miss, or Mister, Captain, Doctor, Maestro, Ambassador, President, Professor, Dean, Your Honor, Your Highness, Your Holiness, Little Princess, or The Cat's Meow — you, good Lord, call us by name. (Photo of the child of a beauty pageant contestant.)

2011_07 Even though we may use the wrong words, those who listen understand what we mean to say because they too have struggled with the syllables and because, like you, good Lord, they love us. (Photo of graffiti in Paris, France.)

2011_06 What we deserve and what we get are far different things. In a world full of disappointed expectations, there are moments of grace, topsy-turvy twinklings when we can truly see Your good in every thing and all people, when we are filled with joy, for we have gotten the best. (Photo of man who just climbed out of a sewer.)

2011_05 You beyond love's reach, beyond love's call — don't believe it. Love will find you. We know what you've done, and what you may do again, before you let life in. There is a need for suffering, but little suffering is needed. (Medieval knight's armor, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.)

2011_04 At some point it's not worth it to go back for what we forgot and just now remembered. But if what we forgot is worth it, we will always turn around, no matter how far we've traveled. Please remind us now, good Lord, not later. (Brightly-painted horses on a merry-go-round, Paris, France.)

2011_03 When we are tested, when challenges have no end, we long for easy days and rest. But when one uneventful day follows another, we welcome anything that pulls us out of our rut. Well, almost anything. Please, good Lord, not the tow truck. (Rescue 13 from the Claymont Fire Company, Delaware. The vehicle is wedged between two trees and is off the ground. The man recovered from his injuries.)

2011_02 When we cannot see a way out, that only means we have not yet seen. When the right way eludes us, that only means we are ignorant. If we search again, what will we find? If we ask again, what will we be given? (Sunrise through the trees in my back yard, Arden, Delaware.)

2011_01 We admire the wild things, especially their freedom from electronic entertainments and over-weight exhaustion. We know we can do without and hate it that we've grown soft and slow-witted. Teach us again to be fit and clever. Remind us again to give thanks in good times and bad, to be rich in love and good cheer, freely sharing all you share with us. (Young fox in the morning light at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.)

2010_50 We don't need Heraclitus to tell us all things change, or Plato to tell us real things don't. You, good Lord, have chosen us. You make us real. We change in a twinkling. This moment, this year, are ours. What's next? (Photo of aged "Birthday Cakes" sign painted on glass, photographed from inside Sweets To You bakery in Bellefonte, Delaware.)

2010_49 Like children who pop out of bed on Christmas day, let us awake, eager to unwrap the present. But if we cannnot, if all we find is dismal, a day like the worst of Job's, still we are yours, for you have claimed us, you who were broken, you who have gone before us, to the other side of suffering. (Photo of shattered Christmas ornament.)

2010_48 On Eden's tree an apple, for us to see, not to take.
High on a tree, Thy good son, freely offered for our sake.
Under festive Christmas trees, bright gifts received and given.
The Tree of Life is planted, before us opens heaven.
(Photo of 2002 Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.)

2010_47 Is it possible to do all this? Twenty things yet to be done and the day half over! World peace, cancer's cure, full employment and food enough — yes, we pray for all these, and the grace to end this day joyfully. (Photo of lobby at Radio City Music Hall, New York City, near Christmas.)

2010_46 If I mourn what I no longer have — such as sharp vision or thoughts — I tell myself that, instead of yearning for what I once had, I should instead be thankful I ever had it. But who can control how they feel? Thank you, good Lord, for every blessing. What's next? (Photo of Japanese maples and honeysuckle bushes.)

2010_45 If I jump into the fire or cut open a stone, strain the ocean or climb the wind, will I find my heart's desire? You make us thankful, then we can see. You give us hope, then we can hear. Hallelujah! (Photo of tree at sunset near Reversing Falls, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada .)

2010_44 The heavens declare thy glory and the firmament thy handiwork, but what do we say at 6:00 a.m., sleepy, slow, and dim? Let our prayer be the sound of the shower, coffee poured and toast buttered. Hear the prayer of our slippered feet moving toward your promise. (Photo of bright red Japanese maple tree in the fall; prayer based on Psalm 19.)

2010_43 What doesn't go in our tummies travels to the compost bin. What we don't want, we throw away. You, good Lord, have chosen us. What delicious meal will you serve today? Cut off what hinders us! Peel away what blinds! (Photo of discarded banana and apple peels, carrot tops.)

2010_42 Treat well the alien. That's what you told the tribes after Moses led them from Egypt. Lovely Norway maples -- unwanted, invasive, non-native -- turn gold against the blue. (Norway maple leaves against a dark blue sky.)

2010_41 Not everyone is easily confused. Some see only one possibility while we, who see many, appear stupid and slow witted. Give us patience, good Lord, to see your order in the chaos. (Photo of umbrella, mannequins, and Christmas lights.)

2010_40 Is there anything safe to eat, drink, or breathe? If we avoid sweets and fats, carbohydrates and meat, caffeine, alcohol, and unfiltered water, cigarettes and polluted air, will we love thee more? (Photo of two women eating what they want on Independence Day.)

2010_39 Lord, you taught us to pray a simple prayer about your name and your kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven. Lead us, deliver us, feed us. And if we do wrong by You, remember how we treat those who wrong us. (Raven who did not get fed by me.)

2010_38 Do you have a favorite grain of sand, you who have created so many? A favorite planet? galaxy? You told Abram to look toward heaven and count the stars. Though I be only one among many, the least of Abraham's adopted descendents, I am loved. (Imprint left behind by a bird that crashed into a window.)

2010_37 We imagine the worst, our troubled brains seething with visions of heaven aflame. But unless we get stuck, we wonder what others have done, others like us who by grace imagined the best, their wounded hearts searching. (High-contrast photo of winter clouds.)

2010_36 Your illumination is a gift. When it takes hold -- Yes! Yes! Yes! -- there's no question of us claiming credit or wanting a higher place. (Photo of last fall's leaf in late summer.)

2010_35 For those who never get started, fearing scorn or doubting their blessings; For those with too many enthusiasms, all of them short lived; For those struggling in a thorny place, uncertain where to turn; That they may find fertile ground, grow, blossom, and inspire others. (Photo of Stow Creek, south of Canton, New Jersey.)

2010_34 What can we expect of machines and institutions? of friends and families? of our bodies and our minds? Imperfect as they are, they and we are Yours. (Photo of woman wearing pearls and soup kettle.)

2010_33 The rocks are sufficient in their praise. You don't need our hymns and prayers, our good works and patient learning, our joyous adoration and happy fellowship, yet it is Your pleasure to welcome us. Hallelujah! (Photo of cooled lava in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.)

2010_32 I heard the crash, and then the screams. "Help me! Help me! My leg is broken!" I wasn't going to move her but then I saw the flames. After the ambulances arrived I thought to pray. You answer before we ask. (Photo of head-on car crash after the fire was extinguished.)

2010_31 What was, is, and will be: what is past, to honor it; what is real, to accept it; what is next, to pursue it. Teach us, good Lord, time's dance, You, the one who simply is. (Photo of man on cell phone ignoring death.)

2010_30 Those who lovingly work are blessed more so than those who love their work. May we, too, work with what's given. May we, like them, see the promise and accept the limitations. (Photo of water delivery man in New York City.)

2010_29 Were Andrew, Peter, James, and John really qualified to be disciples of Jesus? They were only fishermen, yet when called, they eagerly followed. May we be as eager, even if less qualified, to follow where love leads us. (Photo of girl fishing at Bellevue State Park, Delaware.)

2010_28 Wonder is not ignorance but like it. Every lesson learned deepens the mystery, every light lit reveals further infinities. Reality stretches the imagination and truth increases our love. Show us, Wise Teacher! Tell us! (Photo of bare summer trees silhouetted against thunderheads.)

2010_27 To love You is to forgive all and to be forgiven. You caress every flaw and blemish, every scar and hidden crime. We see the world alive and whole. We see your kingdom come. (Photo of leaves in sunlight in a graveyard.)

2010_26 Hooray for all that's right and good in this so promising land! Hooray for those who set the stage and those who do Your work today! May we, so ready to doubt ourselves, be counted in their number. (Photo of fireworks at Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware.)

2010_25 May every challenge make us stronger, every fall deepen our humility, every victory increase our gratitude. When our laughter returns, let it be unreserved and pure, showing forth Your kingdom. (Photo of woman in hospital.)

2010_24 The colors call, but who will interpret? My neighbor talks and finds my ear. Our enemies rail and find an echo, but not from us, God willing. (Photo of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.)

2010_23 Give us what we need, give us what we want, give us what we think we need and what we think we want, but above all give us love, for the universe we share, for friends, enemies, and You. (Photo of day lilies.)

2010_22 Face down, feet up, those around us laugh. It is funny, our careful lives up-ended, and terrifying, so little we can do. All mighty, all powerful, all loving God, make of this something good, a story worth telling years from now. (Photo from a neighbor's party years ago, with no story, yet.)

2010_21 The right way is always there, waiting at our feet. Take as many wrong turns as you want. Get yourself dizzy. The right way is always there, waiting at our feet. (Photo of frightened girl at Charles De Gaulle Airport, Paris, France.)

2010_20 Three pair of geese and their comical children (five, seven, and eleven goslings) cross the road in front of me, my truck idling, my camera clicking. What highways will we cross today? Bump, jostle, push and prod us, Lord, so that, safe and together, we may reach the welcoming waters where we belong. (Photo of two geese and eleven goslings.)

2010_19 Hard truths are truths half seen, cold logic a form of deception. Let our thinking be soft and warm, that we may walk in your sunny realms, seeing what is. (Photo of girl swinging at the 2004 Arden Fair.)

2010_18 You, good Lord, love us, and we love you, yet too often our love is a distant thing of theory and theology, of written word and tradition, even though You are closer than our skins. (Photo of people entering the Grace Building in New York City.)

2010_17 Rather than wait for the tree to fall, we take it down and plant another. When those we love die too early, the future has a hole in it. There are others to love, but there is no replacement, only redemption, which is what's best, but not what we want. (Photo of tree trimmer 50 feet up a diseased sweet gum.)

2010_16 This is not a mountain but something like a mountain. What are you like, good Lord? Elijah looked for you on the mountain. He saw hurricanes! earthquakes! volcanoes! but he found you in a whisper. (Photo of dented sheet metal.)

2010_15 O, Lord, how long shall we be divided within ourselves and from one another? If they would change, we could easily love them. If we can change, we might be happy. Yet Your love, in our hearts or outside waiting, undermines every false division. (Photo of colorful spools of thread.)

2010_14 When something goes missing, a sock, the car keys, or our joy, sooner or later we suspect others of negligence, theft, or malice. May we instead give thanks for what we've had, pray and search again, and if we find, give thanks again, and, if not, search for something better. (Photo of Bleeding Hearts in bloom.)

2010_13 When the world goes dark, when all beauty seems false and every truth seems ugly, remind us we might be wrong, that if the world is not right, it is a place of redemption. (Photo of Jackson Mill Bridge and nearby farm, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.)

2010_12 A warm spring day in Amish farming country. Everyone works except us. Twelve-year-old boys till the fields pulled by teams of six and eight. Driving home, our visitor from Texas curls up in the back seat of our car and sleeps peacefully. (Photo of Amish boy behind six horses.)

2010_11 Let us put our lives in order that we might not be distracted. Let us simplify our lives that we might dwell on the eternal. Or let us instead embrace life's hurly-burly cacophony, fly along this day's pinball paths, and let You rack up the points. (Photo of blue bicycle rider in Manhattan, New York City.)

2010_10 We welcome spring but the receding snow reveals recriminating reminders of unfinished tasks and unrealized ambitions. Inspire us to do what we start and the wisdom to start what we can do. (Photo of split rails waiting to be put in place.)

2010_09 We so want to think well of ourselves, that we are clever, smart, good-looking, successful, lovable, or simply good. We are pitiful, Lord, and they are even worse! Yet teach us to delight, not fix; to love, not condescend; to celebrate every flawed dimension. (Photo of funny snowman with hat, scarf and gloves.)

2010_08 For those who help us: their hands and brains, their sinews and synapses, every protein and enzyme, every molecule and atom, their tiny leptons, bosons, and quarks, and that multi-dimensional quantum string You pull to bring us home. (Photo of rain beading on a red car.)

2010_07 Someone somewhere will if no one here does now. That's faith. But someone does and you are someone's someone. That's not a story, that's the truth. (Photo of young man confronting a red light in a snow storm.)

2010_06 When computers crash or cars collide, when leaders slip, or markets slide, remind us who it is we trust. Then wrap us all in stardust and give us each a kiss. Send us out to play again and show us what we've missed. (Photo of the Renzetti dogs playing fetch in the snow.)

2010_05 For me and mine, for us and ours, for everyone everywhere who ever lived, or will live, or who might have lived. For all of creation, real and imagined, and never imagined, through all the conjugations of "is" to the great I AM. (Photo of light on thin ice with tiny bubbles trapped inside.)

2010_04 Are we the doctors to cure the world of its ills or a burning fever the earth will soon extinguish? If we are not that important, or even if we are, let us end this day grateful we've had our daily bread, and if we've been led into temptation, thankful You have found us again. (Photo of small wind-blown bush on a lava bed in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.)

2010_03 I am me, and we are us. That is perfectly obvious. I'm not you, yet we are us. Is that so very dangerous? You're not me, still we are us, a world to share, and our great God's love. (Photo of the Milky Way Path, Arden, Delaware.)

2010_02 You have blessed us with humor that we might laugh at ourselves yet try all the harder. When we take ourselves too seriously, put a banana peel under our feet and, when we fall, bring us to our senses. (Photo of a cold mannequin in New York City, an homage to Saul Leiter.)

2010_01 Your eye has been on us since the beginning of time and carries us beyond time's ending. Give us courage to be bold, to create what seems to slip away, to create with love. (Photo of young boys admiring someone's miniature Mesopotamian ruins at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.)

2009_49 If the unexamined life is not worth living, why do we so eagerly welcome escape? Is it possible to laugh at our mistakes, to reassess assumptions gladly, and to happily repent and apologize? Inspire us, dear Lord, as we reflect and reconsider. (Photo of onions and garlic on display at a botanical garden in Devon, England.)

2009_48 Shepherds, keep your watch. Stand before the angel of the Lord. Terror stricken, listen: A heavenly host sings praises of God and tells you what to seek. Go, see this thing that has happened. Go with all speed. (Photo of a partially-completed jigsaw puzzle. Prayer based on the Christmas story found in Luke 2:8-20.)

2009_47 Are we not sheep who belong with the herd? But when we find ourselves alone where the wild things are, who shall look over us? The creator of every tooth and claw shall restore us, You, our shepherd, who no one has tamed. (Stray sheep in Cornwall, England.)

2009_46 Water falls without ceasing; stubborn rocks grudgingly surrender; hidden tectonics delight in our song. Let us bubble and froth, let us give way in grace, while You shake continents. (Beaver Run, a tributary of Brandywine Creek, Delaware.)

2009_45 On the days we are easily offended, take back our angry words. On the days we seem to attract selfish, egotistical imbeciles, take back our fantasies of justice. Let us dwell on what is excellent. Take us back into your fold. (A clever, yapping dog in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.)

2009_44 Our lives seem to radiate outwards with us at the center, yet none of us is the center of anything except our inventive illusions. Show us reality, not as we'd like it to be nor as we fear it might be, but as you see it, dear Lord, in truth and love. (Bouldin Creek in Austin, Texas, 2006.)

2009_43 How much land does a man need to see? Last Sunday, miles from my car, exploring unfamiliar trails, I kept choosing new directions even though the sun, not waiting for me, moved towards the horizon. In the bare woods, the sunset caught me, stopped me in wonder, the sky ablaze. (The Brandywine Valley, Delaware, near Hy-Point Dairy.)

2009_42 New technology has us all atwitter. In our pockets and purses, and on our belts, 4G networks tempt our thumbs. Above our spinning lives, stationary satellites hover. Lord of the nanodrive, Lord of the noosphere, let all things praise your unchanging name. (Horse-drawn reaper still in use in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.)

2009_41 Here is a house, perfect in every way except for the lack of electricity, plumbing, and heat. Plywood covers the broken windows. Life has gone out of it, yet someone still paints it, keeps the roof in good repair, and may yet bring it back to life. (Old farm house, Woodlawn Trust, Brandywine Valley, Delaware.)

2009_40 So many things to do, why even try? Thinking of them empties me. Sleep does not refresh. I awake neck deep and inch forward. But then I think of You and suddenly or slowly burdens become again bright possibilities. You make all things new. (Photo of traffic crossing the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Bridge.)

2009_39 Bright yellow peelings from a ripe butternut squash fall in wild patterns on the cutting board's deep red. With a little re-arranging, a sea creature appears, swimming above a bed of onions, and I escape work's petty tyranny. Whatever the task at hand, remind us, Lord, to play. (Photo of butternut squash peelings and chopped onions.)

2009_38 Love comes easily if we see what's good: puppies and babies, if they are cute; children, if they are bright and playful; friends, if they are funny or listen; sometimes, even ourselves, if . . . . Good Lord, fill our hearts with a love free of ifs, not a love blind to faults, but a love that sees what yearns to be. (Photo of black Labrador puppy.)

2009_37 Heir of all things, creator of worlds, reflection of God's glory, sustainer of all things, imprint of God's being, purifier of sins, sufferer of death, pioneer of our salvation, pinnacle of our praise, how is it then that you call us sisters and brothers? (Bathers at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Prayer based on Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12)

2009_36 When they found themselves here, what did others do? Did they find someone to point the way, or move on trusting only in prayer? Some, I believe, succeeded, and may have something to teach us, that this unlikely place is where we will find ourselves close to you, our lord and maker. (Bird and sunflowers at Fox Point State Park, Delaware.)

2009_35 Even though we may again choose foolishly things that only seem good, even though we may again abandon the best for the false promise of better, even though we may lose our way again, nothing can separate us from the love of God. So let us put aside our dear familiar fears. Let us gather and rejoice! (Sunrise at Rehoboth Beach Delaware.)

2009_34 Perfectly rational people are capable of believing anything, and doubting everything. May we, the perfectly loved, act with determined confidence, and reflect in willing wonder. (Photo of boy about to jump and his older sister ready to catch him.)

2009_33 Let's celebrate! Births, birthdays, and lives now finished. First teeth, glasses, hearing aids, and dentures. A night's sleep successfully concluded. Old problems engaged again. A sentence spoken clearly and another understood. A friend who stops to talk. A God who loves us dearly. (A mother and daughter selling balloons at the Arden Fair.)

2009_32 Good Lord, teach us to love all who drive: the red-light runners and the slow pokes, the madly dashing last-minute heroes hoping to save seconds, hopelessly distracted cell-phone callers, the drunk, the stoned, and the merely oblivious, the nearly blind, and the over-confident. Teach us to see ourselves in them. (Bumper-car drivers at FunLand in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.)

2009_31 The wind of the Spirit lifts us; Christ, the string, connects us to our Father, the steady ground. How high shall we glide before we are gathered in? (Kite near thunderstorm.)

2009_30 The soft drone of sleepy cicadas, birds wake in the bamboo, call and coo. Tires hiss along the road tirelessly, and truck throttles assert their passing mastery. Jet engines push for altitude. My pen whispers across the page. (Bumblebee on a cone flower.)

2009_29 Water races down the heights and on its way carves a valley. Our lives are like that river, or like one drop with many companions, or like proud mountains, humbled by rain. How do you see us, good Lord, that you should love us? (Photo of cruise-ship tourists in old Quebec City, Canada, in rain slickers and holding umbrellas.)

2009_28 Thank God we sometimes see ourselves, each one perfect and the whole one. May we live with open hearts, however wounded. Give us an eagerness to discover new friends, and a genuine curiosity about those you commanded us to love, our many enemies. (Sunflowers near Augustine Beach, Delaware.)

2009_27 Our enemies pursue us and so does God. We, the ignorant, often cannot tell the difference. Both will teach us to recognize our faces, we who long for the fair and good. (Photo of a very hungry young fox with a gnawed ear and wounded eye at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. I had two slices of pizza in the truck but the signs said, "Don't feed the fox.")

2009_26 We ponder what is fair and good, what's best, and what we should. Not forgetting the just and right, remind us always what is easy and light. (Photo of tropical tree with yellow flowers in Waimea, Hawaii.)

2009_25 Your easy yoke, your burden of light, yet how our pride rebels at the slightest thought of servitude, we who would be free. If the only freedom is in love's service, may we serve in your house forever. (Man carrying fence panel.)

2009_24 May we serve in your house forever mowing the yard, weeding the flowers, mailing the invitations, greeting the guests, singing new songs, rejoicing! (Guests at Danny Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic.)

2009_23 Hooray for pigs and chickens, for all that's hoofed and clawed! Hooray for horses, cats and dogs, for those who entertain! All are in our humble care, and we, in turn, in yours; yet you don't call us food or pets, you call us dearest friends. (Photo of a Vietnamese pig at Marini's Produce, north of Wilmington, Delaware.)

2009_21 Knowing we must die is somehow balanced by our ignorance of its date. But when death's a sudden certainty, her claims served on us or friends, we remember your promise, and marvel at your plan. (Photo of waves coming ashore on the island of Kauai, in Waimea, Hawaii. Click here to see all 49 photos.)

2009_20 Walls do not a prison make nor the open sky a song. If love is freedom's only key, then Lord please set us free. (Photo of a maze tender at the J. Paul Getty Museum.)

2009_19 The pattern of the stars may be accidental but the spinning earth makes one star north. If our spinning lives are to have direction, give us a clear night, Lord, and your guiding light, and the good sense to look up. (Photo of flowers imitating the Big Dipper.)

2009_18 Shadows, Plato tells us, are real signs of something solid and of a defining light behind. Thank you, Lord, for open eyes for straining ears and curious minds, for accurate maps and experienced guides. (Photo of breastworks surrounding Quebec City, Canada and the shadow of the photographer's patient wife.)

2009_17 I am the dried stalk of last summer's weed in this year's spring rain. You cover me in pearls.

2009_16 People are saying, "Oh, for better times!" Ridiculous doubts trouble our thoughts, ferocious fears have escaped their cages. Be with us, Lord, who fail and fall; with those untouched, the oblivious; and with us who wander, the comical crowd. (Photo of blooming tulips.)

2009_15 Pride and false humility, fear nothing! Perfection and contempt, be at ease. Pretense and folly, forget your precious problems. We know the odds against change, but also our maker's love. Joy is in the fortress. Happy are the toppled walls. (Photo of boys playing on a cannon at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland.)

2009_14 People are saying Yogi Berra was right: “The future ain't what it used to be.” We know better, even if what we know is not how we live. The decade ahead, this coming month, this day, are unwritten, new, and want to be explored. Preserve, Good Lord, our sense of wonder. (Young boy making tracks at Fox Point State Park, Delaware. His delighted father is watching.)

2009_13 My neighbor's excuses are transparently false. Who can believe them? He does! He believes these lies he tells himself. What, then, do you think of my excuses, Lord? Am I like my neighbor? Show me! (Girl at the fishing booth at the 2008 Arden Fair.)

2009_12 Open our eyes, our ears, our hands, to receive all Your gifts: friends, family, and strangers, yearning and experience, celebrations, lessons, and regrets. Let us not miss a thing! (Late afternoon near the Brandywine River in Pennsylvania.)

2009_11 We are not constant nor pretend to be. We can be thankful and full of praise; or begging for mercy and swift release. We are at times comforted, estranged, or indifferent. We forget all about You and then remember, yet Your love for us is constant, enduring, and sweet. In whose eyes, in whose voice, will we find it today? (Photo of some early morning zydeco on a New Orleans squeeze-box in a friend's kitchen.)

2009_10 Warm sunlight and deep shadows, rippling surfaces and dancing reflections, greens, yellows, reds and blues: In the dazzling cycle of death and regeneration, comfort us in our fear and doubt, not as we give comfort to others, and not as we deserve, but in Your grace and mercy. (Photo of Perkins Run in Sherwood Forest, Arden, Delaware)

2009_09 It's not silence we need to hear inspiration's whisper, or dark to see that life-giving spark. You, good Lord, know what we need. You give all good things. You forgive all that's bad. May we, in our turn, give and forgive. (Photo of a barn being raised Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.)

2009_08 Both my sister's kidneys are working, the one she still has and the one she gave her husband. Thank you, thank you, thank you -- for the surgeons' capable hands and dedication, for all the nurses, aides, and chaplains, the health insurers and the administrators, the secretaries, janitors, regulators, cooks, launderers, and instrument sterilizers. Thank you, Lord! (Photo of a recent plumbing project by the photographer.)

2009_07 Jill runs into the barn, looking for a missing horse. All the other horses, safe in their stalls, poke out their heads, hoping for food. They know Jill's voice, even her footsteps, just as we know your voice, Gentle Keeper. Is that a cookie hidden in your pocket? Some special treat? Is it for us? (Photo of the horse stables at Bellevue State Park, Delaware. Sundancer loves to be groomed.)

2009_06 We believe we are loved, that we are part of a magnificent story that ties together the surprising universe from one edge to the other, from the beginning to the end. Caught up in that sweeping vision, may we still remember to brush our teeth. (Composite photo of my often-used toothbrush and Star Cluster NGC346 borrowed from NASA.)

2009_05 We get weary of our wanting. We want more food and less weight, longer years and sharper wits. For what then shall we pray? Contentment? Thankful hearts? Teach us first to love you, creator of all things, giver of all things; to see the giver behind the gift. (Photo of flower stalks with a second bloom of snow.)

2009_04 This moment seems ordinary enough: opening email from Donna and Mike, sitting comfortably, sipping a hot drink, surrounded by protecting walls and familiar things, we don't expect anything extraordinary yet You are with us always. (Photo of winter sky above a shopping mall.)

2009_03 Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is here, and the Lord's handiwork is everywhere to be seen. Why huddle longing for spring? Wonders await! (Bubbles caught in the ice and patterns of repeated freezing, Naamans Creek, Arden, Delaware)

2009_02 Take anything like a pencil — how it was manufactured, the trees, the people who made it, the teachers who taught them, the mothers and fathers who raised them, villages and civilizations — it is all quite beyond us, we who put our trust in You, author of galaxies.

2009_01 Somewhere towels dry in the sun and horses graze in an open field. Somewhere else a hand is on a mouse and the bright clever pixels dance. Wherever we are, Lord, show us what's good, show us what's real, and give us dreams. (Laundry in Quarryville, Pennsylvania)

2008_43 When the final credits roll -- "A LIVING GOD PRODUCTION" -- let our names be there below Doris the waitress, Gus and Ralph; below the stunt doubles, stand-ins and clowns, the hair stylists and re-recording mixers; far above the cutting room floor. (Photo of roses that have lost their petals: "The Queen Rejects Her Suitors")

2008_42 God, we've been expecting you, but we are not quite ready. The floors of our souls need sweeping. The guest towels aren't out, and the frig needs stocking. All the same, please hurry. There's room for you at this inn. (Photo of eggshells in the compost bowl waiting to go out.)

2008-41 All of us are fooled some of the time. Lord, let us not be among those fooled all of the time. Teach us wisdom and discernment, and, every once in awhile, let our guesses be inspired.

2008-40 Make a place in our turning hearts for all the gifts this day brings. In moments that seem ordinary, let us seek the extraordinary. Where we expect to find one thing, Lord, let us look for more, and be satisfied with less.

2008-39 Forgive us our debts, Lord, as we forgive our debtors. Let us remember what we owe you, and love those who owe us. Banks, corporations, small businesses, nations: let all remember our foundation in you.

2008-38 All things are redeemed in love and made new. Our grateful hearts see the world and hear heaven announced. Your kingdom is near. Here's my hand.

2008-37 For all the saints honored in procession. For all the saints known to you alone. By your grace, we too are saints. May we be bold in spirit, eager to hope, and thankful of heart!

2008-36 Bright lights and red ribbon. Twisted steel and shattered bone. Green trees and a gentle rain. We, life’s seasoned veterans, say, “How foolish!” Life’s raw recruits laugh at us, so cautious. Good Lord, redeem all our follies.

2008-35 “Be yourself,” people say, as though that were liberating. We know our treacherous hearts, our love of comfort and ease, how we pretend to be good. God, your redemption is at work in us. Your loving Spirit leads us. You teach us to live, free and unfettered.

2008-34 Holy Spirit, my companion, welcome to my world. Let me see it through your eyes, the infinite possibilities and happy limitations, and eagerly share the bounty.

2008-33 Once you catch sight of it, who can give up the pursuit? “It's an illusion!” the critics cry. A glimpse of heaven has undone us, or made us. Even now, in the simplest things, God's kingdom seems near.

2008-32 Leaves, once green, turn yellow and red. Trees tower and fall like civilizations. Black holes, those gluttonous celestial vacuum cleaners, gobble up galaxies. Even light, we are told, cannot escape. We know better. Death is not the master here.

2008-31 The good life is just outside the door, sunlit and green. In this darkened room, candles burning, we wait a bit longer. What are we waiting for? Patience, child.

2008-30 No one was maimed, paralyzed or killed, not that we can take credit for that. An unfamiliar road at night in the rain — Were we going too fast? Did our attention wander? You have our attention now, good Lord. What would you teach us?

2008-29 Psalm 149 calls the faithful to take up swords, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples. May those full of vengeance hear us, the sinful: Put away your swords. God himself has spared us. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

2008-28 Sometimes, no possibilities seem good. But even when they all appear bright and shining, we can get flummoxed. Whatever our possibilities, whenever we get perplexed, let us not forget you, Lord. Teach us to be bold.

2008-27 When we are chewed up, cast aside and adrift, then our prayers are fervent, heart-felt, desperate. Remember us in our need, good Lord, and, when all seems well, let us remember you.

2008-26 A sneeze begins and we cannot stop it. How then will we stop a war? We will pray harder, work harder, and wait patiently for the Spirit's whisper. So we tell ourselves, we who can do so little, while you, spinner of galaxies, set us free.

2008-25 We know this, that all things work together for good for those who love you, according to your purpose. Even though we do not know how to pray as we ought, we are confident, for you send the Spirit. Nothing, not even our comical ignorance, can come between us. Are we not children of your promise?

2008-24 Not prayers for glory and accomplishment, Nor hopes of power and skill, Nor fear of those things. Call and let our hearts answer. Mover of continents, move us, and welcome us home.

2008-23 We pray for miraculous signs, visible healing, immediate results, absence of fear, and the courage to act. In all our prayers, Lord, may we look for your will to be done, not ours, on earth as it is in heaven.

2008-22 Lord, give wisdom to our slippery hearts. We strive to be singled out, special, separate from the swarming multitude. Give us instead a yearning to swim with our fellow fish. School us in your love.

2008-21 Lord, teach us to love. Having taught us, remind us. Your reminders are everywhere: When we are deaf, you show us; When we are blind, you touch us. Lord, unfold our hearts.

2008-20 Lord, remind us who we are: stars in your heaven beyond counting and offspring of your promise.

2008-19 God, meet us where we are, blown about by doubt or fixed in unwavering certainty. May our neighbors find in us Your love visible and tangible. And may we see You in them.

2008-18 Lord, give us courage to yearn for what is beyond us, to see your great salvation changed from glory into glory, and to cast our crowns before you, lost in wonder, love, and praise.

2008-17 Troubled souls spoil my journey. They block my path; distract me from beauty. Am I like them? Teach us to love. Teach us all. Teach us joy. Show us the way. (Our brake pedals are depressed. So are we. Cherry blossom petals sing. So can we.)

The text of the following prayers were adapted or taken whole from worship services at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware. That is where these Photo Prayers got their start, and where they continue to be seen. The comments in parentheses are mine.

2008-16 What does the Lord require of us, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)

2008-15 All stars rejoice in your glory. Noonday splendor tells of your blessings. Your peace blows over the earth and the breath of your mouth fills all space. Your voice comes in the thunder and the wind sings of your majesty. Bend over us, Eternal Love, and bless us.

2008-14 In the first born of all creation, all things in heaven and on earth were created. In him all things hold together, things visible and invisible. In him all the fullness of God is pleased to dwell, and through him God reconciles all things. (May we be reconciled today to ourselves, to our fellow creatures, and to God.)

2008-13 How glorious is this day of new life! Come among us now, dear God, to raise us up from our fears and doubts. Touch us today with a spirit of hope. Amen. (Sometimes, even the most mundane things hold the promise of God's kingdom.)

2008-12 In every birth, blessed is the wonder. In every child, blessed is life. In every existence, blessed are the possibilities. (What's possible? Can everything, even this moment, be made well and whole?)

2008-11 O God, an ever flowing stream, flow into us today. Heal us again with your cooling waters. Refresh us with your love. Flow like a river into us today.

2008-10 Eternal God, in our times of gloom, you send your light. When we are weary and discouraged, you lift us up. Open our eyes to the joy of discovery in order that we may catch a glimpse of the possibilities you put before us. Amen.

2008-9 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became an adult, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13, verse 11)

2008-8 Day by day, dear Lord, of Thee three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, to follow thee more nearly. (We usually know when our vision is blurred, but seeing God depends little on the eyes.)

2008-7 Gracious God, grant us the fullness of your promises. Where we have been weak, grant us your strength. Where we have been confused, grant us your guidance. Where we have been distraught, grant us your comfort. Where we have been dead, grant us your life. Apart from you, O Lord, we are lacking. In and with you we can do all things. (Turning around is always an option.)

2008-6 Fasting is not the same as dieting: the focus is on the soul, not the body. But fast even a little while and you discover how close the one is to the other.

2008-5 Ever-present God, stir in us an expectancy to hear your voice. May our spirit be open to the call of your Spirit, that in listening for you we might hear you, that in searching for you we might meet you, that in meeting you we might follow you. Amen. (Others have gone before us. Others, following behind, may not find our footprints, or know our prayers. May we all trust what we cannot see or hear.)

2008-4 When clouds shadow the land, the sunlight dims. We slip into earth's shadow and call it night. Dark as it may be, we know the sun shines still.

2008-3 Water is refreshing, cleansing and life-giving. Water is dangerous, powerful and life-threatening. The waters of baptism unite us with Christ’s church and call us to ministry. In baptism we are chosen by God for loving service in the world.

2008-2 May we be faithful in our pursuit of Christ and open to discovering his truth for our lives. Where will the Spirit surprise us today and what will we learn from our encounter? May our eyes be open and our ears hear.

2008-1 We are not alone, we live in God’s world. We believe in God: who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.

2007-49 The messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire. (Text from G.F. Handel's Messiah. Except for God's mercy, no one shall stand. So become like a child and enter into heaven. But first, each your greens.)

2007-48 Jesus was born some 2,000 years ago in the humblest of places. May we welcome Christ anew into our lives each day, searching the derelict places in our souls that seem to hold no promise. (We've boarded up windows, locked the door and removed the door knob. Open the door! Open the windows! Let in the sunshine!)

2007-47 In the grace we have come to know in Jesus Christ, God has turned our sorrow into dancing, stripped away our gloom and clothed us with gladness. We can no longer remain silent; we must sing praises to God! Raise your voices and lift your hearts. Let all the earth rejoice!

2007-46 Eternal God, in our times of gloom, you send your light. When we are weary and discouraged, you lift us up. Open our eyes to the joy of discovery in order that we may catch a glimpse of the possibilities you put before us. Amen.

2007-45 Mighty God, by your power Christ was raised from death to rule this world with love. We confess that we fall into doubt and fear and fail to trust your promise of new life in Christ. Forgive our dread of dying and bolster our belief in the resurrection so that we may live our lives in joy and with hope for everlasting life in your kingdom.

2007-44 Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent revolt of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is vitality. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty. (Text from Óscar Romero, martyred archbishop of San Salvador.)

2007-43 What must we do to inherit eternal life? We must love God with our heart, mind and soul and our neighbors as ourselves. (When we think about loving our neighbors, we wonder how that might be possible when they are so different, so foreign, not like us at all, or so it seems.)

2007-42 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. Be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for yourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that you may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:10,18) (Sometimes all we want to do is curl up with a good book, ignoring others who may want their share of our attention, especially if their bowl is empty.)

2007-41 Praise be to you, O Lord, for life and for my intense desire to live; Praise be to you for the mystery of love and for my intense desire to be a lover; Praise be to you for this day and another chance to live and love. Undamn me Lord, that praise may flow more easily from me than wants, thanks more readily than complaints. Praise be to you, Lord, for life; praise be to you for another chance to live. (Text from Ted Loder's book, Guerillas of Faith.)

2007-40 Eternal God, you have called us to be members of one body. Join us with those who in all times and places have praised your name, that, with one heart and mind, we may show the unity of your church, and bring honor to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

2007-39 Open thou mine eyes and I shall see: Incline my heart and I shall desire: Order my steps and I shall walk in the ways of Thy Commandments. O Lord my God, be Thou to me a God, And beside Thee let there be none else, No other, nought else with Thee. Vouchsafe to me to worship Thee and serve Thee According to Thy commandments, in truth of spirit, In rev’rence of body, In blessing of lips, In private and public. (Text from "Open Thou Mine Eyes" by Michael Cox.)

2007-38 Here in this place new light is streaming, now is the darkness vanished away; see in this space our fears and our dreamings, brought here to you in the light of this day. Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven, light years away; here in this place the new light is shining, now is the kingdom, and now is the day. (Text from hymn "Gather Us In" by Marty Haugen.)

2007-37 Gracious God, we thank you for the glimpses of your glory, and the whispered words of your promise, which help us to continue from day to day. Help us to press onward in the journey of faith, trusting your grace for today and tomorrow, accepting the cost and joy of following Christ, our faithful guide. Amen. (Text from Flames of the Spirit by Ruth C. Duck. A spark in the dark, a hint in the hurricane, that's all we need.)

2007-36 God, full of compassion, I commit myself to you, in whom I am, and live and know. Be the goal of my pilgrimage and my rest by the way. Let my soul take refuge from the crowding turmoil of worldly thought beneath the shadow of your wings. Let my heart, this sea of restless waves, find peace in you, O God. Amen.

2007-35 Lord, we thank you for our circle of friends. In their company we feel safe, secure and content. We can rest and reflect. Give us grace, when the time is right, to venture beyond our safety and security to discover the blessings waiting for us outside our comfortable boundaries.

2007-34 Look at the world, everything all around us Look at the world and marvel every day. Look at the world: so many joys and wonders, So many miracles along our way. Praise to thee, O lord for all creation. Give us thankful hearts that we may see All the gifts we share, and every blessing, All things come of thee. (Text from John Rutter's anthem, "Look at the World." Sometimes we must first be thankful, then we can see.)

2007-33 Come, Lord Jesus, startle me with your presence, life-sustaining as water, to open my heart to praise you, to open my mind to attend you, to open my spirit to worship you, to open me to live my life as authentically and boldly as you lived yours. (Text edited from Ted Loder's book, Guerrillas of Grace.)

2007-32 Jesus said, "I say to you listen: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." Jesus said, "There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." How might God be trying to break into your life and turn everything upside down? (After you give every thing away, you still have most of what God has given you: body, mind, soul, spirit, family, friends, nation, the universe and God's love. Perhaps you gained something, too: your freedom.)

2007-31 God of all blessings and source of all life, we thank you for setting us in communities: for families who nurture our becoming, for friends who love us by choice, for companions at work who share our burdens and daily tasks, for strangers who welcome us into their midst, for people from other lands who call us to grow in understanding, and for children who lighten our moments with delight. For these, and all blessings, we give you thanks, loving God. Amen. (Photo of Habitat for Humanity volunteers with their arms in the air holding framed lumber for a wall. Arms raised in praise can, at the same time, carry weight. Text is an excerpt from "Prayer of Thanksgiving" by Vienna Cobb Anderson.)

2007-30 Mighty God, thank you for the job of this day. May we find gladness in all its toil and difficulty, its pleasure and success, and even in its failure and sorrow. We would look always away from ourselves, and behold the glory and the need of the world that we may have the will and the strength to bring the gift of gladness to others; that with them we stand to bear the burden and heat of the day and offer you the praise of work well done. Amen. (Text by Bishop Charles Lewis Slattery, early 20th century.)

2007-29 Let us seek God, to know the ways of truth and salvation. Let us learn to love God better, with heart, soul and mind. And may we learn to love your neighbors as ourselves, Or better yet, as God loves us. (When God carries us, like a father carries his daughter, our faith isn't tested. But when our neighbor wants us to carry them...)

2007-28 Feeling strong and strongly feeling. Being glad and glad of being. Care for need and needing caring. Sharing self and selfless sharing. Full of spirit, spirit filling. Will is warm and warmly willing. Giving joy, enjoy the giving. Life is love and love is living.

2007-27 Gracious God, you have made us one with all your people in heaven and earth. You have fed us with the bread of life and renewed us for your service. Help us who have shared Christ’s body and received his cup, to become his faithful disciples. May our daily living be part of the life of your kingdom and may our love be your love reaching out into the life of the world. Amen. (And who are God's people? This is like asking, "Who is my neighbor?" There are so many...)

2007-26 I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night. I have set the LORD always before me; because God is at my right hand I shall not fall. My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also shall rest in hope. Psalm 16:7-9.

2007-25 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with Jesus; but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:38-39. We want to be with Jesus but He tells us our place is at home.)

2007-24 Jesus called the Lord, "Daddy," and his disciples, friends. He told his friends to be like children before God. Children love their parents, even the worst parents. My silly, suspicious heart guards itself. Thank God it is sometimes free!

2007-23 In the beginning, O God, when the firm earth emerged from the waters of life, you saw that it was good. The fertile ground was moist, the seed was strong and earth's profusion of color and scent was born. Awaken my senses this day to the goodness that still stems from Eden. Awaken my senses to the goodness that can still spring forth in me and in all that has life. (A Celtic benediction by J. Philip Newell.)

2007-22 By God’s Spirit we were baptized into one body and chosen by God for loving service to the world. Let us sing praises to God for making us partners in mission. Let us worship God in wonder and joy!

2007-21 We gather to remember the ancient stories of revelation. We read from our ancient texts. We gather to interpret the meaning these stories reveal in our lives. We hear from our traditions. We gather to share the revelation of the risen Christ. We experience in ritual and story. The Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

2007-20 Sent from heaven, thy rays were given on great and small to shine. O light Divine! May each soul in sorrow's night see the heavenly light! Thou blessing to all creation, lead us to our salvation! All those whose feet may falter, lead unto the sacred altar! Oh shine from above, Divine Light of love! Show us the way unto our God, we pray! Thou our beacon and guide shalt be! Light Divine, we praise Thee! (Text from the choral postlude, "Heavenly Light" by Alexander Kopylov.)

2007-19 Those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed. They will rise on wings like eagles! They will run and not become weary; They will walk and not grow weak! Thanks be to God! The Lord's name be praised!

2007-18 Welcoming God, you open your arms to everyone and your joyful embrace wraps the whole creation into one circle of love. As we come together today, teach us to welcome others as joyfully as you have welcomed us. Open our eyes to see those who are waiting for an invitation and nudge us to be the welcome you promise them. Amen.

2007-17 Great is Jehovah, the Lord, for heaven and earth testify to His great pow'r! 'Tis heard in the fierce raging storm, In the torrent's loud thundering roar; 'Tis heard in the rustling of leaves in the forest, Seen in the waving of golden fields, In loveliest flowers' gaudy array, 'Tis seen in myriad stars of heaven. Fierce it sounds in the thunder's loud roll, and flames in the lightning's brightly quivering flash. Yet clearer thy throbbing heart to thee proclaims Jehovah's pow'r, The Lord God Almighty. Look thou praying to Heav'n, and hope for grace and for mercy. Great is Jehovah, the Lord!

2007-16 Out of death came life and God defeated evil. An empty cross and an empty tomb, A nail mark shown and a presence known. Out of sorrow came joy, and God sent the Spirit And filled the people with power and with peace.

2007-15 God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. From the waters of death you raise us with him and renew your gift of life within us. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (An Easter prayer from the PC(USA) Book of Common Worship.)

2007-14 Shed upon us heavenly grace, Rain and dew and gleams of glory from the brightness of thy face; that, with hearts in heaven dwelling, we on earth may fruitful be, and by angel hands be gathered, and be ever, Lord, with thee. (Christopher Wordsworth, 1872, words to Hymn 92 in the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal.)

2007-13 In every birth, blessed is the wonder. In every creation, blessed is new being. In every child, blessed is life. In every hope, blessed is the potential. In every existence, blessed are the possibilities. In every life, blessed is the love. (Opening words of the Presbyterian Church USA baptismal service.)

2007-12 We come to be given life, and made wise, to have our hearts stirred and our eyes opened wide. Let the words of our mouths and the whispering of our hearts be in harmony with God's will. (Sometimes we notice our tools are not only useful but beautiful.)

2007-11 As the light of dawn awakens earth's creatures and stirs into song the birds of the morning so may I be brought to life this day. Rising to see the light ... to hear the wind ... to smell the fragrance of what grows from the ground ... to taste its fruit and touch its textures: so may my inner senses be awakened to you, O God. (A Celtic benediction by J. Philip Newell)

2007-10 Our Lord is a great God, Who says: "I am the Alpha and the Omega;" God is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Holy, holy, holy is the Creator of heaven and earth. The whole universe is full of God's glory. (Photo of a mock orange, a coriander seed, sea salt and table salt on a black background. It looks like outer space, but is something else. Our everyday lives may look ordinary enough, but...)

2007-9 As a shepherd seeks a lost sheep, so God seeks and saves the lost. Like a woman who searches for a lost coin until it is found, so God rejoices over one soul restored to wholeness. As a father receives a returning wayward child, so God welcomes us, and lets the past be the past. Therefore let us praise God with thanksgiving that we are accepted. And let us receive and welcome one another in the name of Christ.

2007-8 As the acolyte lights the candle, we remember that Christ is the Light of the world. As the Bible is placed on the lectern, we acknowledge our dependence on God's Word in Scripture.

2007-7 O God, light of the minds that know you, life of the souls that love you, strength of the thoughts that seek you: Help us to know you that we may truly love you, to love you that we may fully serve you, whose service is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (In one of his songs, Bob Dylan tells us, "You are going to serve somebody: it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you're going to serve somebody." Yet here again we hear that serving the Lord is perfect freedom.)

2007-6 God of justice and mercy, we pray that your Spirit may enlighten our hearts and minds as we seek a deeper communion with you. Enable us to understand your Word for our lives, and grant us the courage to make your ways, our ways. Many voices clamor for our attention, may we hear your voice above the many competing sounds, and may we commit ourselves to following your guidance for the path we must walk each day. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen. (The easy path and a place of thorns. Not all sacrifices are pleasing to God. Which way is God's way?)

2007-5 Be still, my soul, and rest upon the Lord in quiet certainty. For He has come to rescue you from doubt. And now you stand in blazing glory of a risen sun that cannot set. It will forever be exactly as it is. You stand with Him within a radiance prepared for you before time was and far beyond its reach. Be still and know. And knowing, be you sure your Lord has come to you. There is no doubt that stands before His countenance, nor can conceal from you what He would have you see. The sun has risen. He has come at last. Where stands His presence there can be no past. Be still, my soul, and rest upon the Lord Who comes to keep the promise of His word. When our souls are still, sometimes we can feel the breath of God moving across the surface. When our souls are turbulent, sometimes our souls are touched by God's grace in a quarter-second flash.

2007-4 Mighty God, we pray for your blessing on the church in this place. Here may the faithful find salvation, and the careless be awakened. Here may the doubting find faith, and the anxious be encouraged. Here may the tempted find help, and the sorrowful comfort. Here may the weary find rest, and the strong be renewed. Here may the aged find consolation and the young be inspired; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. If churches seem like sad places at times, its because the people who would make them happy places cannot be found.

2007-3 In the grace we have come to know in Jesus Christ, God has turned our sorrow into dancing, stripped away our gloom and clothed us with gladness. We can no longer remain silent; we must sing praises to God! Raise your voices and lift your hearts. Let all the earth rejoice! (Text is from a call to prayer during a worship service at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware.)

2007-2 "Epiphany" is derived from a Greek word that means "appearance" or "manifestation" (and has roots in the word for dawn). This is one of the oldest religious festivals in the Christian church (second century), originating prior to the celebration of Christmas. The significance of Epiphany for the Western church was the visit of the Magi and the "manifestation" of Christ to the Gentiles; for the Eastern church it recalled the baptism of Jesus which some believe was the real moment when Jesus became the Son of God.

2007-1 In the beginning, before time, before people, before the world began, God was. Here and now among us, beside us, enlisting the people of earth for the purposes of heaven, God is. In the future, when we have turned to dust and all we know has found fulfillment, God will be. Not denying the world, but delighting in it, not condemning the world, but redeeming it, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God was, God is, God will be.

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To see essays by Danny N. Schweers, and many photos, visit his website.

Copyright 2007-2012 by Danny N. Schweers except as otherwise noted.