February 19, 2017

This Day


Matthew had some strong ideas about prayer. It is in his book that we find the Lord's Prayer, also known as "The Swiss Army Knife of Prayers." This particular prayer, according to Matthew (who should know about such things), is the Alpha and the Omega of prayers. He stresses this when he writes in Matthew 6:9-6:13, "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven....

Of late, and for obvious reasons, I've become more likely to pray than to curse. Indeed my new program is to swap a prayer for a curse whenever I find I've slipped into the cursing mode.

In a world that is accursed putting more curses into it is never a good idea. We are full up at present. No shortage of curses that I can see. Still, slipping into the cursing mode is easy to do in today's world. We're encouraged to do it by the very nature of the secular society.

Add to that my thirty year stint in New York City where the standard reaction to almost any event is either a curse that involves the middle initial of the Savior (Just what does that "H." stand for anyway?), or the invocation of unnamed males who have an affinity for crude sex only with females of the motherly persuasion, and you've got, when it comes to my ability and propensity to curse, one crude mother....

It's a bad habit and one that I am trying to break. One way is, whenever I catch myself in an angry cursing moment, to recite a prayer instead. And the goto prayer in these multiple moments is always the Lord's. It's brief. It's beautiful. I can say it at high speed and by rote.

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day...

The Lord's Prayer also has a hidden benefit. It has, at is core, one simple but profound request:

"Give. Us. This. Day."

That's it. That's the real core of all prayers. That is the one request of the Lord without which nothing else matters. That is what all our past, lost days flow towards and which all our future hoped-for days flow from. Without the gift of "This Day" the ones that have passed have no meaning and the ones that are to come have no potentiality. Both are but abstractions or, as the poet has it:

What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

Which is a fancy way of saying that without the gift of this day being given all else is lost. Secular thinkers speak of this as being "in the now" as if "being here now" was all that it took to be really alive.

I lived in that popcult fauxworld for years before escaping and, looking back, I seem to remember it not as replete with luminous headlands overlooking the sea, but as the shadowlands that loom beyond a darker border. It was neither a gift nor a curse, a burden or a blessing. It simply was and, as a result, was rather unremarkable.

That secular world originated out of nothing, out of the limited imagination of the noosphere and, with no reach beyond itself, existed closer to the Alpha than to the Omega. It had, as secular things often do, a tangle of bright, shiny deceivers clustered around it like gnats outside a privy, but when you arrived at the center it had nothing to say about tomorrow, and very little to promise about this day other than that it would be roughly similar to yesterday. There was little inscape and no escape. Its "Now" was always the same day, neither given nor taken but simply existing. It was the kind of day in which the existence of the Human and the existence of Planaria were essentially equal. I, for one, would rather ask for my day than simply arrive in it.

Which is why, when I pray the Lord's Prayer, I always pause -- at the very least -- when I come to the phrase, "Give us this day." And in that pause I remember another phrase derived from scripture, "Tomorrow is not promised."

I once knew that phrase, "Tomorrow is not promised," in a rather dry, academic, vaguely poetic manner. Now, having had my all my tomorrows removed and then miraculously restored, I understand the phrase down to the marrow of my bones. Coming into this day I always ask "Give us this day." Departing the day I find I return to the early litanies of childhood, "I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake...."

But then, so far, I do wake and I continue in my project to replace curses with prayers. I'm not very good at it yet. Still fairly shaky. Then again, as another poet tells me,

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.

What falls away is always. And is near.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.

The Lord give me (and give you) This Day.

[ UPDATE: And now, the First Lady of the United States, in Florida, February 18, 2017 .... ]

Posted by gerardvanderleun at February 19, 2017 12:51 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Would you write my sermons, please?

Posted by: Donald Sensing at January 8, 2012 11:13 AM

I don't get one a week. Alas.

Posted by: vanderleun at January 8, 2012 11:29 AM

Thank you for this and so much else, so many other truly luminous reflections. I am in a particularly difficult season in my own life, and your words are frequently my raft in these turbulent waters.
My own adventure in the coronary ward is now six years passed. But the experience changed a vague acknowledgment of mortality to real, gut level, first hand knowledge. You're never quite the same afterwords. Sometimes it's hard not to curse. It's hard to dodge the anger. It's hard to keep perspective.
Give us this day.
It really is all we have.


Posted by: jwm at January 8, 2012 12:17 PM

So very good. All of it.

I too have firmly resolved to do away with the cursing. I picked it up late in life and am bored with it now that it is a stubborn habit. Moreover, I think it muddies the Spring of Life: "can sweet water and bitter flow from the same fountain?"

Note: this resolve does not apply to time spent on the sailboat.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh at January 8, 2012 12:55 PM

Alas, indeed. The ones you do get are amazing.

Thanks for this one. I have a shamefully bad cursing habit, which I'm trying to break for my boy's benefit if not my own (he's learning to talk now, and monkey hear, monkey say...). Even just replacing a "damn" with a "bless" in my most frequently used phrase would be an improvement, and as you said the world is cursed enough already, without my demanding more.

Posted by: Julie at January 8, 2012 12:58 PM

Gerard, in the tradition of Scripture, the day that He has made begins at sundown. We are asleep while He prepares the sunrise to greet us. We are resting while He is working on our new morning.

This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!

Posted by: Joan of Argghh at January 8, 2012 12:58 PM

You're young, yet, even though you are old.

Posted by: Jewel at January 8, 2012 2:04 PM

The thing about the Lord's Prayer is that the first three petitions - the ones Jesus thought ought to be considered and uttered foremost - are the ones people are most interested in ignoring.

Hallowed by Thy name - the glory of God is supreme in our thoughts and should be our highest goal
Thy kingdom come - the full ultimate will and plan of God being finally completed should be our greatest anticipation and desire
Thy will be done - God's will not mine, should be the first and last wish of my heart and mind.

Yet we move on so swiftly to the other parts. God is first. God is last. God is our reason and our future.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at January 8, 2012 5:13 PM

The "H" stands for Holy.
That's what my dearly departed Irish Catholic mother said, so I'm stickin to it.

Posted by: Patvann at January 8, 2012 6:10 PM

Indeed, God is first and last, the alpha and the omega.

As a very smart guy who was a biblical scholar of sorts tried to tell me over and over for the last, um 20 years, that prayer is about you getting with God's program, not about His bestowing some goodies or bounty on you that you think you need.

"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"

The hardest thing for all us "free-willed" stubborn and proud humans to do is to humble ourselves and try to understand how we can do God's will every day.
It's a choice.

Trying to do God's will on earth is a mighty tough chore, but He will provide.

God be with you, Gerard Van der Luen, all the days of your life. He has preserved you for a reason, just as He has given us all "second" chances to do His work on earth.

Posted by: David at January 8, 2012 6:32 PM

One hopes that Whitney finds her way back to the words she's singing.It is her only way out of the drowning waters of drug addiction. So very sad to see what has become of her.

Posted by: Jewel at January 9, 2012 12:30 AM

"Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened." Winston Churchill

Thanks for not hurrying on.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at January 9, 2012 8:28 AM

Yes, "give us this day" is a wonderful attitude of appreciation, gratitude, and acknowledgment toward the Creator. But Christ had eternity to think of the word formula as the answer to the request, "teach us how to pray", and he gave us the, "Our Father..." prayer. I believe this prayer is the perfect blueprint we need to establish a communicative relationship with the Almighty.
Based on it, someone developed ACTS.
A-Adoration. Joyously proclaiming God's greatness, power, and glory!
C-Confession. Acknowledging our flaws, our weaknesses, past transgressions, etc.
T-Thanks. Whoa! So much to be thankful for, eh? Speak it.
S-Supplication. Specific prayer, for specific people, and situations.
God knows our needs, that we need "our daily bread", but he wants us to turn to him, in relationship. He desires it!
Just think of it! The creator of the universe, so great, so holy, so far beyond knowing, so other: and yet so personal he knows the hairs on your head and when a sparrow falls to the ground.
"Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth...(that's us, in us), as it is in Heaven."
Now it becomes all about submission.

Posted by: adagny at January 10, 2012 8:54 AM

For this day, 2013, a Prayer for World Communion Sunday.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at October 6, 2013 6:16 AM

Thank you for this post. It got me to thinking of my time so far on this Earth. I first heard this in the rooms of AA. I'm trying to find the source, give credit to the author.

Yesterday Today and Tomorrow

There are two days in every week we should not worry about, two days that should be kept free from fear and apprehension:

One of these days is Yesterday, with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed, forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed. Nor can we erase a single word we've said - yesterday is gone;

The other day we shouldn't worry about is Tomorrow, with its possible adversities, Its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow is beyond our control. Tomorrow's sun will rise either in splendour or behind a mask of clouds but it will rise. And until it does,we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn;

This leaves only one day - Today. Any person can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when we add the burdens of yesterday and tomorrow that we break down.
It is not the experience of today that drives people mad - it is the remorse of bitterness for something that happened yesterday, and the dread of what tomorrow may bring.

Let us, therefore, live one day at a time!

Posted by: chasmatic at October 6, 2013 6:30 AM

A gift. Gerard. You have it and this was another. You turned a bad day around for me just by this reminder what matters.

Don I read this someplace - sounds like the useful stuff at AA: kinda corny but memorable and like much of it, real enough to hang onto.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift thats why they call it The Present.

Posted by: ks at October 6, 2013 9:28 AM

A gift. Gerard. You have it and this was another. You turned a bad day around for me just by this reminder what matters.

Don I read this someplace - sounds like the useful stuff at AA: kinda corny but memorable and like much of it, real enough to hang onto.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift thats why they call it The Present.

Posted by: rlc2 at October 6, 2013 9:29 AM

Pax vobiscum.

Posted by: leelu at October 6, 2013 9:30 AM

Profanity is am inappropriate use of any expression on our 24/7 'painters palette', whether it is words, action or art.

...and if there is no expression to describe that hollow within the undiscovered country of our soul, then invent one (definition of art, I suppose) - which is still different than the profane.

(I use profanities also, Gerard. Sometimes, quite a bit. I'm just telling you what pops in my head when it occurs. Perhaps this is why my 'vocabulary' is ... what it is today.)

“I am not going to tell you my name, not yet at any rate.' A queer half-knowing, half-humorous look came with a green flicker into his eyes. 'For one thing it would take a long while: my name is growing all the time, and I've lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time saying anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.”

~Treebeard, The Two Towers. J.R.R. Tolkien

Posted by: John Condon at July 19, 2015 3:25 AM

"Give. Us. This. Day."


You of all people probably understand this at a deeper level than nearly anyone alive today. A perspective that allows you to see pathways invisible to most:

A peek at the unseen hand of the Maker of our world, and yet live to tell the tale.

'Time is the fire in which we burn' and is as real as it gets. Due to our fallen natures, meaning and potentiality of past and future are necessary guiding stars to mark time and distance in our journey through this paradise; so we are not crushed by the unbearable weight of the perceived "repetitive sameness" of the terrain.


I wish you wrote more Gerard, but will be content with what you offer. :)

Posted by: cond0011 at July 19, 2015 4:20 AM

Thy Will. The two-word prayer.

Posted by: at July 19, 2015 11:03 AM

Thank you for re-posting this, Gerard. I had missed it the first time around. In an oddly related way,"Give Us This Day" is also the title of a harrowingly beautiful WWII memoir by one Sidney Stewart, who survived both a Japanese P.O.W. camp and the Bataan death march.

I think the book is now out of print, but my dad (USMC) read it aloud to my brother and I when we were younger.

Posted by: Patrick at July 19, 2015 11:10 AM

"Tomorrow is not promised." Indeed. My heart attack in 1997 wasn't severe enough to ram that point home; but being told, four years later, while lying in a hospital bed unable to move, that I urgently needed aggressive chemotherapy and without it I had a couple of weeks - and if the treatment was started the build-up of tumour breakdown products might kill me faster than that - that was a wake-up call.

Now, every day is a bonus.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at July 19, 2015 3:19 PM

Not a formula, not a get-saved-quick scheme, just what Matthew (and he should know) told us. Beautiful.

Posted by: AbigailAdams at July 19, 2015 3:31 PM

What I said before, the first comment above.

Again, amplified.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at July 19, 2015 8:25 PM

Precious. First time seeing this post and I will say it came on a good day (with my thanks).

Posted by: DeAnn at July 20, 2015 9:53 AM

Amen, amen. Thanks for this; how blessed we are to have this day! And how blessed, too, to have as our First Lady someone who truly seems to understand that.

Posted by: Julie at February 19, 2017 4:32 AM

Excellent post....as always. I do wish the virulent left could learn that their vulgar, profanity-laden rants are simply tiresome, that they only appeal to others of their ilk. But then, that may be the intent, "virtue" signalling to others with no virtue. But I digress... this entry and many others on the left side of the page is one of the reasons I come here. Thanks, Gerard. You have a poetic way with words, and alas that way eludes me.

Posted by: Bill in Tennessee at February 19, 2017 5:48 AM

Beautiful and wonderful and thank you.

Posted by: Kathryn at February 19, 2017 7:14 AM

Peter Drucker said "communication is always the act of the recipient".

The line that stops me is "lead us not into temptation" - an American plea, if ever there was one.

When my mind began to fail, the Pater Noster was among the first to go missing, being replaced by the 23rd Psalm. At last: my wish to be Jewish was coming true.

A good spiritual exercise, used by Roberto Assagioli on drug addicts, to help them let go: writing your favorite prayer, ceaselessly, every day until the Will (which lies outside of consciousness) can stand again on its own.

Wish I could say I've recovered from your beating that long ago winter day. But the human heart has such a hard time letting go of betrayal...

Posted by: Dymphna Gates at February 19, 2017 10:42 AM

"Guide me now and every day in all I think and feel and do and say."

Posted by: Howard Nelson at February 19, 2017 12:05 PM

To paraphrase the magnificent apologist C.S. Lewis, at the end of our last breath it simply comes down to this:" Are we to ask God " thou will be done, or will he tell us; thou will be done?".

Posted by: julio at February 19, 2017 12:54 PM

Beautiful. Matthew 5, 6 & 7 cannot be read enough.

Your light must shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify our heavenly Father. Matthew 5:16

Gerard, your light is shining!

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at February 20, 2017 5:45 AM

I enjoyed your article. If you haven't already done so you should read the Lord's Pray as it was written in Aramaic. Joe Krill

Posted by: Joe Krill at February 20, 2017 5:56 AM