A personal post: Busy in Peace – for Diane

I have just a personal poem this week for my best friend of forty years (how can I date that? we met in pre-natal class) Diane Karr, who died on Saturday.


Busy in peace


A little rest, maybe
but cancer fatigue stole so many hours
that napping is not on your
light of the resurrection agenda.

Busy in peace, my friend.

Jesus said God’s house has many rooms
and we know that you make beauty
in every space you enter.
Then there’s the heavenly banquet –
I bet you’re already on the committee.

And surely there is the passage
about the leaves of the trees being
for the healing of nations –
I can remember you planting and tending
so many seedlings.

You said, “They’ll live after me.”
I am pretty sure that is not true.

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Prayer for the day from First Kings 19

God, we know you are not —
in the winds of Hurricane Florence,
the earthquakes of Hokkaido or Arequipa,
thirty-eight gas fires in Lawrence and Andover,
and wildfires of California.

We are sure of that.

Help us to know
your still small voice is a prophecy
that we become the rescuers of our neighbors
and of many strangers,
comforters to those who grieve new losses,
and to those whose year-old sorrows
have been denied,
rebuilders with all your children,
caretakers of your sacred groaning creation.

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“A dream is not that what you see while sleeping. It is something that does not let you sleep”. — Update from Roof for the Roofless

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Karanai Village

Dear Friends,

The Work Skills Inauguration function for the 17th batch of students was held on 23rd August 2018. It was wonderful to see a large turn out of parents. The 70 Diploma students looked bright and happy in their new College uniforms designed by Mrs. Nanda Devanesen. Dr.Fr.Xavier Alphonse was the Chief Guest. We placed a ‘Ponnadai’ on him as a special ‘welcome back’ to the position of Director of the Indian Centre for Research and Development of Community Education. (ICRDCE). Roofs Manager, Mr. Emmanuel, was the Master of Ceremonies.

During the program two themes emerged. The first one was on ‘light’. Representatives from the parents, students, staff and guests lit the traditional lamp ‘Kuthuvilakku’. It symbolized the search for light that dispels darkness through knowledge and learning. The light replaces ignorance, so that wisdom and goodness prevail. Later, the Nursing Students lit lamps with candles and took the Florence Nightingale Pledge. Here the lamps symbolized nursing care and devotion. (Florence Nightingale was known as ‘the lady with the lamp’). The Pledge and ceremony date back to 1893. The Nursing Students were ably guided by their teacher Mrs. Regini Sekar.

Fr. Xavier led a powerful interactive discussion on the values that governed successful Work Skills, such as, hard work, punctuality and respect for teachers. He also motivated the students to have dreams for themselves. He joined in with the students as they repeated this famous quote from our previous President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam. This made ‘dreams’ our second theme.

Dream, Dream and Dream

Dreams become thoughts
Thoughts become actions
Actions become life
Life that is fruitful and useful
to our self, to others,
to the family, the community
our country and humanity.

Dr. Abdul Kalam also said, “A dream is not that what you see while sleeping. It is something that does not let you sleep”.

Fr. Xavier played a video of a popular Tamil song that shared his ideas for the students. Here are a few lines from the song Ovvoru-Pookalume (Each Flower):

Let’s read the poem of life
Let’s think and dream to the height of the sky
Is there a history without failure?
Life is a battle which has to be fought
Every time the sun rises it tells us that
If there is night (darkness) there comes day (light) following it.
We should live our life with confidence
We will attain our goals one day.

The Director, Dr.Dayalan Devanesen, reminded the students of the role of his parents. His father, the Founder, Dr.Chandran Devanesen wished for excellence in education for rural India. His mother Savithri Devanesen worked as the Director of Roofs till she was 99 years old – a life of dedicated service. He said that one of his father’s dreams was to set up a Rural Community College. Fr. Xavier had made his dream a reality by helping to establish this Rural Community College and many other community colleges across India. The Director asked the students to have dreams of achievement. He said that they now have the opportunity to make their dreams and their parents dreams for them, come true. Life Skills taught them to believe in themselves and make every day at college count. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you are going to die tomorrow”. The Director added, “Learn as if you are going to live forever”. Though our bodies stop growing our brain and our mind can continue to grow as long as we live. So be a life long learner, he said.
Group photos were taken after the function. The parents stayed back to have discussions with the staff and the Coordinator Mr. Sekar .Many parents expressed how pleased they were with the remarkable change they saw in their children after the Life Skills course.

Please uphold the work of Roofs for the Roofless in your prayers.

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Storms in the United States this week

We pause in prayer for the Carolinas
as Hurricane Florence roars
to the coast line.
We ask God’s grace on
those who are evacuating,
those who should not stay behind but do,
on first responders, who do not know
what call will come,
but that it will,
and for so many who will dig out
their lives from mud and debris
and begin to rebuild.

We worry as well
about hurricanes Isaac and Helene
and where their landfall may be,
and whisper hopes
for Hawai’i where Olivia bears down,
and for Mariana and Guam
in the path of Cyclone Mangkhut.

This week in the United States
is the observance of
Suicide Prevention week,
and I think –
this is a storm always coming,
it’s path as unpredictable
as the spaghetti models of forecasters.

And this, too —
we must never evacuate
for we are all first responders.

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Reflection on James 3

The tongue is like …
a pilot light that cooks pie or burns a house …
fuse, trigger, cancer cell,

or look at all those cars with their
cylinders and carburetors,
nav systems, snow tires,
but it’s the ignition key’s turner
that makes a family vacation
or a DUI homicide.

The tongue is small, yet it can bless or damage.
There is no condom for a tongue.

The human being sees butterfly nebula
and finds quarks and gluons,

but no telescope can trace the light years
of a single word –
betrayal or compliment, lie or truth —
into it is a black hole.

And no one can separate into nano particles
a fifth grader’s first poem,
or the hurting laughter of hate radio.

With this one tongue
we sing the hymns of Isaac Watts
and we curse the Muslim making salaat,
joke about the lesbian,
whisper loud about the child’s autism,
unsay in ten minutes of gossip
a friendship of years.

Does a mouse click
on both prayer chain and porn site?
Can a teacher or a spouse or a therapist
or a pastor or a grandparent
both mock and encourage?

Yes. No. Not for long.

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Thanksgiving prayer for India

God, I pray with joy for India,
land of so many faiths
lifting lives into your presence
and weaving the traditions of many centuries
into an abundance of marigolds,
lights in all darknesses,
and the pigments of Holi,
become the colors of the rainbow.

I confess with every English word
I speak and write —
law three-seven-seven
and its reaching out from the colonizing
by people who speak like I do
to damage lives
for a hundred and fifty years.

I give thanks for its removing
and for the struggles of gay and lesbian,
transgender and bisexual people
who are Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist,
Christian, Sikh, Jain to make it so,

and pray grace on work to come –
in the spirit of my faith ancestor Thomas
who said, in time of danger,
“ Let us also go.”

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School beginning — Guest Post by Canadian Richard Bott, with the smiling faces of Eli and Griffin Groggett

Eli and Griffin Groggett went to school for the first time! Mom is Dee Ledger, UCC pastor in Bethesda, Maryland. Dad, Frank, watches his boys from the precious cloud of witnesses.

Thanks to Richard Bott for this prayer for the beginning of school. For some in the US that’s been three weeks ago, and some just yesterday, but for all beginnings and hopings and the true joy of education we give thanks. I spoke with a young man about his dreams of an education yesterday. While he is in an incarcerated setting he is working on HISET — his high school equivalency degree. Though certainly twenty years older than these twins, there was the same joy in his eyes.

across the land there are thousands
upon thousands,
upon thousands of students,
rolling out of bed this morning,
greeting the day
with the knowledge that they are
heading into a new academic year.
From the kindergartners who are going for
their first day,
to the post-grads working on dissertations,
from the new high school students,
to the new theologs,
from students excited, to students bored,
to students scared,
they are your beloved learners.
I pray for their learning and their sharing,
I pray for their hope and their safety,
I pray that this year, and all years,
they will have times of joy and wonder
and surprise about what they are learning –
about the world around them,
and about themselves.

And, Holy One?
A great “Alleluia! Thanks be!”
for all the teachers and professors,
support staff and administrators,
the people who create the places
where learning is the order of the day –
especially the ones stepping into
*their* first day!

Hold them all in your wisdom,
hold them all in your love.


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