Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead…
I shall be like those who go down to the pit…
Psalm 143: 1-3, 7 NRSV
The afterlife of traumatic experience wants us to feel confused, shamed, and guilty. These remains from what happened to us take over every cell in our bodies, settling in for an extended stay while we beg for relief, mercy, safety.
Healing, in the form of trauma recovery, removes this confusion, eradicates our shame, and brings guilt back down to a usable size. Healing reforms our crushed postures into expanded ones. Healing helps us see, feel, and hear God’s mercy.
God, hear my prayer. Listen to my cry for mercy. Relieve my agony. Give me courage to heal. Amen.
“…What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” *
Fallow field. Ground still, frozen. Plowed and harrowed for future days. Covered in frost or snow. Waiting for sowing, tending, harvesting.
Dormant, but only to the unobservant. Moisture seeping, trickling down. Absorbed through minute openings in hardened ground. Causing movement beneath. Winter’s soil preparing, ripening. For springtime’s burst. Energy creating improvisations, mistakes, hidden gems, harvest, and a few weeds.
In the beginning, healing is like standing on dormant ground. Cold seeping up through soles. Life numb, standing still. Feeling like a small speck in life’s vastness. Waiting to trust the un-death of dormancy.
Healing Practice: Unseen Seeds of Hope
Keep a list today. On a small piece of paper. One you can fold up. Fit in your pocket. Carry with you for writing on. Perhaps with a stubby pencil recording the moments, even fleeting ones, in which hope settles on your heart for a second as a realization, a discovery, or an opening into what’s possible. Name these moments of unexpected joy, mercy, compassion. Gathered for sowing in future’s field.
God, witness in me this day what I cannot see. Witness the tiny seeds of healing and hope I sow in my own fallowness. Witness in me my life-force still living. Witness in me my surprise in discovering unexpected joys. Receive my thanks for what I do not know will bless me this day and tomorrow and in my own healing. Amen.
As with all liturgies, this confession and litany has a life of its own. The words printed here will shift and changevoicing the needs of each context.If you use this confession and litany in any form I ask that you attribute the work to me even if you add or modify the work. The attribution may look like: “Our Confession and Litany today is based on a litany and confession written by Jennifer Ohman-Rodriguez.”
Please also let me know you are using it. Thank you.
The assembly prays using these or similar words.
We, white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women confess to God, ourselves, and to all others.
We confess we have social privileges and advantages other women do not have.
We confess we ignore other women do not have what we have.
We confess we take for granted the gifts of these advantages.
We confess we unconsciously and consciously think we deserve what we have over what other women do not have.
We confess we buy into the view that what we have is scarce and cannot feed all women.
We confess we hoard life’s bounty and in doing so allow others to suffer.
We confess there is so much we do not know and do not see.
We confess all that we leave undone each day for the unity of all human beings.
We confess we partake in communal sins of omission.
We confess to you, God ,and to all women and in doing so ask to be released from these evils imploding within us and out into the world so that we take only what we need. Making sure all are fed. Joining in the work of bringing your love-in-action into reality for all women.
We, white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women lament to God.
We cry out and in doing so our tears follow the tears of women kept down, aside, and under in an ongoing parade of lament before God.
We wail and in doing so tell the world we create ourselves and all others in God’s image. Not in man’s. Not others’ gender norms. Not from others’ perceptions of beauty. Not in human-made values of class structure. Not in empire’s power. Not in colonialism’s tyranny. Not in racism, genderism, or faith-ism. We lament, cry, and wail and in doing so imagine who we can be and are not yet.
We lament and in doing so ask for courage and tenacity in bringing your kingdom to earth. We feel weak in the face of this work. We lament this untruth of our weakness allowing this lie to dissipate and disappear into the atmosphere. We seek then through you O, God, to manifest your goodness and love which can only be fully revealed when all of creation and all of creation’s people are seen, heard, valued, and healed.
We, white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women feel.
We feel the pings, pinches, and punches of our battered bodies.
We feel the words we have not been allowed to say screaming from our souls out into the world.
We feel compassion for ourselves and for what we have not been allowed to reveal.
We feel and embrace the heroic and lifesaving ways of our bodies.
We feel what we know, do not know, do not want to know.
We feel, holding hope for all women to heal.
We feel understanding all bodies are one. One in God.
We, white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women begin and continue healing.
We heal, transforming our pain, the pain perpetuating damage onto other women, into goodness.
We heal as a continuation of life itself.
We heal, health giving new birth to new life.
We heal, tending all new life as if raising our own beloved children.
We heal, each one of us healing so that healing becomes greater than hurting.
We heal, healing becoming a way of life, one eradicating the wounding of hiding, avoiding, and blinding the hurt of hurting.
We, white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women act.
We act by refusing to accept the story told to us from birth that we are somehow different and better than other women.
We act in ways of public compassion first feeling the sorrows and joys of all women everywhere while no longer remaining silent or still.
We act, learning day by day how to bring God’s kingdom to earth.
We act, each of us becoming justice in words, deeds, marches, votes, public service, and answering yes to where we are called to serve.
We act in prayer. Never stopping. Never ceasing. Always praying. Until all women are whole. All girls are never torn apart.
We act as love. Building love out of healing, compassion, respect, and willingness.
Together, we white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women lift up these prayers to you O, God. Trusting in your infinite mercy, grace, and spirit-filled direction. Breathing in your transformative power. Allowing its infusion to build our courage for the work to be done in us, among us, and around us. Amen.
For they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid. Mark 6:50 NRSV
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear…Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”John 20: 19 NRSVUE
After the accumulated traumatic experiences leading to Jesus’ death, the disciples felt fear (perhaps not for the first time) for their lives. The cross’ terror pounded through their bodies. Causing them to hide from the world. Live inside locked doors. Stay on guard. Peek out with wary eyes.
Jesus’ voice on the water and again in the locked room consoles the disciples. Settles their activated nervous systems. Gives them a sense of relief. The space within to see and hear what and who is truly there.
These words, “do not be afraid,” may also console us now. Remind us to breathe into our racing thoughts. Breathe into our protruding visions of what happened. The ones breaking into our everyday moments. Victimizing our survivorship. Directing our words and actions. In hurtful ways.
Yet there may be days in which these words, “do not be afraid,” just hurt. Illicit curses like WTF, Jesus! And questions such as how? How can I not be troubled or worried or afraid? Jesus’ words working not as reassurances. But as platitudes. No better than “God has a plan,” or “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.” Making our whole bodies, even our toes shout into our socks and shoes, “bullshit!”
Because we are afraid. Fear both saved our lives and brought us to this place in trauma’s afterlife. Life threatening fear still alive within us. Refusing to be calmed like the water by four words desiring peace for us.
Healing Practice: Take Heart
Breathe into your fearful heart. Just breathe into it. Allow your fears their space in your heart.
Picture yourself on your heart. Breathe into your troubled heart. Breathe deeper and wider.
Picture those who weigh heavy on your heart. Loved ones’ suffering. Joining you on your heart. Breathe into your troubled heart. Breathe deeper and wider.
Expand your breath until it dances with your fearing heart. Its wind weaving in and out of heart’s pumping action.
Keep breathing. Allowing breath’s wind to move with all who are on your heart this day. Allowing your breath to bring all of you together in one big dance.
God of troubled hearts, worried heads, and fearful bodies, show us what Jesus meant when he said, “do not be afraid.” For his disciples then. For us now. Help Jesus’ words break into our fear. Bringing us a sense of peace, momentary or otherwise. Amen.
In health and human development we often use this term: survive or thrive. An either/or term with an embedded orbit between the two. Teachers, child development specialists, medical doctors, therapists, chaplains, pastors, loved ones, and really most of us want children and all people to move beyond surviving into thriving. Because surviving can be a time of waiting, frustration, fear, feeling stuck, and powerlessness. We use terms such as survival mode, subsisting, and stagnate to describe the extreme edge of this survival spectrum and softer terms such liminal space and limbo to describe survival as more temporary.
Environmental and systemic circumstances such as racism, genderism, joblessness, poverty, lack of resources, and poor or declining health attempt to hold us in survival. The ongoing worry about safety, food, housing, income, and health overtime can become a traumatic experience adding another layer of pain onto life in survival. Any traumatic experience may also keep us securely in perpetual fight or flight, even freeze states. Surviving then becomes a form of hypervigilant maintenance. Of keeping things as stable as possible while existing always on the edge of the next bad thing happening.
If surviving continues or moves into more security toward or into thriving’s beginnings, trauma’s leftovers from the time of living close to death can create more disease, the autoimmune and inflammatory kind. Disease throws us back into surviving once again shutting down the other end of this trajectory of survive or thrive.
Surviving is not to be minimized. The experience of just surviving seems relentless and unending for most people. Yet self and other compassion asks us to hold gently the miracle of surviving. Our bodies keeping us alive again and again after possible non-survival. Desiring us to move the other way toward and into thriving.
We survive then to thrive. Surviving becomes the living basis in which to add on layers of living. Layers such as growing in deep health, relationships, possibilities, accomplishments, and resources. When we cannot move toward thriving we of course feel stuck because flow is denied.
I, like many people, overuse the word thrive. I want my sons to thrive. I want my new husband to thrive. I want all my beloveds to thrive. I want all of creation to thrive. I want to thrive. The word thrive means “to grow vigorously,” and flourish.* Yet my heart embraces the word flourish as something more than thriving. A word meaning “to grow luxuriantly.”** Flourishing, for me, extends life’s various layers of growth. Creating an out of rather than an or. Instead of survive or thrive, we build: Survive first. Move toward and into thrive leading into a time of flourishing and beyond.
How can we build from surviving? Through healing. Deep, ongoing healing leads us out of surviving, into thriving and toward flourishing. Healing creates goodness within and around. In goodness we are no longer separated from love of self and others. In healing we create more internal and external space to ensure everyone has access to healing.
How do we heal? We begin with the simple desire to heal. Just a tiny mustard seed amount desiring something else. Something replacing the suffering in us and around us with hope. Something washing away the layers of pain bit by bit until we find ourselves where we’ve always existed, encapsulated in love. Love flowing in, above, under, and around us.
Then what do we do? Without thinking we connect and reconnect. Realize we’ve been shut down and away from the world and its people. The process of healing rejoins us to ourselves, others and all that is greater than ourselves–the universe and Spirit. This connection and reconnection, in Scriptural terms, uses the word righteousness or righteous. As in I have reconnected to God. Words which have come to mean, in some traditions, following God’s rules, being obedient to these rules even if they are the rules of powerful humans and not God. For so many people, myself included, these terms feel like more trauma turning my stomach around. I remind myself in healing that there are other understandings of these words.
So, what if we substitute righteousness with healed? Here’s what happens in Psalm 92, verses 12-15 when we do. (NRSVUE)
12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
The healed flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.
They are planted in the house of God; they flourish in the places of our God.
14 In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap,
In old age the healed still produce fruit; the healed are always green and full of sap,
15 showing that the God is upright; God is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in God.
showing that God is healed and wants healing; God is my rock, and there is no un-healing in God.
There is no un-healing in God. What a thought! What a belief! God wants us to move beyond surviving. God wants us to heal. God wants us to build on survival into what is possible for ourselves, others, and all creation. And when some of us begin to move out of survival into thriving, God wants us to turn back toward those people still in survival. God wants us to connect, have compassion. Offer healing ways to all people, to all of creation. Only when we heal, connect, and ensure others will also heal can we truly flourish within ourselves and in our world. Flourishing then is an act of compassion for self and others.