Author: Tom Denham

A love letter for Momma

On a quiet afternoon when everyone else was taking a nap I taught myself to write.  I was five years old and tired of waiting for anyone to teach me.  I took a pad of paper, a pencil, my mother’s grocery list and began to copy. Momma was amused when she got up.  And she worried that her grocery list was a poor example to follow.  But it was the only handwritten thing in the house, I explained, and besides, I had improved on her handwriting.  My copy was neater and there was better spacing between words. That was my start. In elementary school, I learned to write for real.  Not only did I learn to make all the letters of the alphabet and arrange them in words, I learned how to use them like a grown-up.  I learned how to write a letter and put it in an envelope. I learned where to write the address of the person who is supposed to get the letter and where to put the return address and where to put a stamp so the post office would deliver it. I was so excited. School was a great place.  I looked forward to going there and the neat things we did. We churned milk in a bowl with an electric mixer until it changed to butter; we kept a journal of the...

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We share things like that

I started crying in the grocery store today. I didn’t let it get too far, but teared up in front of the canned fruit. After I went around the corner, I teared up again in front of the spices and then again in front of the olives. When I got to the canned vegetables, I told myself to stop thinking about her, at least until I got home. I’m not very outgoing when shopping, but have made a connection with a few people at my local Publix. I started bagging groceries when I was 15 years old and like to practice my skills to this day. I felt awkward about letting anyone take my groceries out to the car, but more than a year ago made a commitment to say yes if anyone offered. I thought it would make accepting help easier if I started in my 50s and did not wait until I was 80. After she had taken my groceries out to the car 3 or 4 times, she started coming to bag my groceries whenever she saw me. She loves animals and my wife is a veterinarian. I almost always have an animal story to tell. I know lots of sad stories, but she told me firmly that she did not want to hear any sad stories. I don’t let my wife tell me many happy...

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On My Prayer Rug – Part III

A speaker at the Islamic Center of North Fulton gave me the idea of combining physical prayer with the Lord’s Prayer when I visited a few months ago. He said the words of the opening chapter of the Quran was as important to prayer for Muslims as the Lord’s Prayer is for Christians. All praises and thanks be to Allah [God], the Lord of the worlds, the most Gracious, the most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. You alone we worship, from You alone we seek help. Guide us along the straight path – the path of those whom You favored, not of those who earned Your anger or went astray. Muslims follow a detailed protocol when they pray that includes ritual washing before prayer, the direction they face, when to stand, bow, kneel, and prostrate, hand positions, leg positions, toe positions and more. As I began practicing physical prayer, I focused on changing my posture as I prayed my way through the Lord’s Prayer in ways that reinforced what I was saying in the prayer. This is my current practice: 1.    Spread prayer rug on the floor. 2.    Stand at the end of the prayer rug. 3.    Bow while acknowledging the presence of God. 4.    Kneel and raise hands to just above shoulder height, palms forward and say, “Our Father.” 5.    Prostrate with both palms on the...

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On My Prayer Rug – Part II

I learned the Lord’s Prayer when I was a child. We did not recite it during Catholic services, but had to learn it in catechism classes (Catholic Sunday School). The Boy Scout troop that I joined at age 15 recited the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of meetings. The Southern Baptist church I joined at age 17 taught children the words, but did not say the prayer in services. Most meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous end with everyone joining hands and reciting the Lord’s Prayer as I learned when I started counseling alcoholics as a young minister. When I led worship in a Presbyterian Church for 3 years, we said the Lord’s Prayer during Sunday worship every week. Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. [For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.] Amen. When I began a practice of daily prayer a few years ago and started reviewing prayer books to help me, I found that most resources called for praying the Lord’s Prayer at morning, midday, and evening prayers. I did not understand...

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On my prayer rug – Part I

The Hebrew and Christian scriptures describe standing, bowing, kneeling, and prostrating oneself face down in prayer and worship. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! (Psalm 95: 6) Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them (Numbers 20: 6). Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” (Matthew 26:36-39). The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989). Modern Christian practice seems to have forgotten the body and limits prayer to an activity of the brain.  Worshippers in liturgical churches stand for readings from the Gospels and Roman Catholics bow and kneel during Mass, but bowing, kneeling, and prostrating oneself is not taught or practiced in...

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