A Prayer for Children

©Ina J. Hughs

We pray for children
who put chocolate fingers everywhere,
who like to be tickled,
who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants,
who sneak Popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who’ve never squeaked across the floor in new sneakers,
who never “counted potatoes,”
who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

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Till earth receive her rest

New lyrics for "Amazing Grace," inspired by Luke 18:9-14

by Ken Sehested

Kyrie, kyrie, eleison
Let mercy magnify
May all my days reflect thy praise
And earth and heav’n reply

Let nothing justify my way
Save grace, unmeasured still
Let every hour reflect thy power
And life with love instill

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Days of hysteria, promise of hilaria

Response to a presidential debate

by Ken Sehested

There is a certain pathology in our current season,
electoral follies punctuated by fresh tales of human
fury and nature’s duress—the combination exaggerated
if not unique. All the more reason to be reminded:

There is a life beneath, above, on the other side of this
present madness, a brightness excelling all expectation,
but not necessarily the one imagined, a surprise ending
beyond the sadness, a gladness for which we can only

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Grayed days and clouded sighs

Note to a friend

by Ken Sehested

A note from a dear friend—hospital-bound, IV-fed, on New Year’s Eve and in the isolation ward, no less—
accompanied by a gray landscape photo from her window, inspired an impromptu poem
which captures my emotions in the haggard season in which we live.

The colorless days spur us to stir memory’s store

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Most ordinary of days

A prose poem for "Ordinary Time"

by Ken Sehested

There are, to be sure, moments of high drama in the work of holy obedience:
      marches to be made, confrontations to be staged, dangers to be endured,
      corruption to be exposed, trips made to distant or unfamiliar places,
      occasional rackets to be raised, maybe even jail cells to be filled.

On rare occasions, the whole world is watching.

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Lamentations’ call to arms

A poem inspired by the book of Lamentations (especially chapter three)

by Ken Sehested

Turn off (what passes for) the news.
Boycott the season’s electoral charades.
Don’t give in to Pokémon’s promise of
“augmented reality.” Attend instead to
unmitigated reality: bloodied, stricken
and strewn. Offer grief the hearing it
demands, the voice it obliges, and
the risk it assumes.

When not even Wendell Berry’s “peace
of wild things” will suffice—the wilderness
itself being salted and assaulted—turn to
the Lamentator’s naked confession for
uttering the heart’s howling confusion
amid terror’s ambush.

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Prayers while throwing stuff

Pondering grief from Baghdad to Baton Rouge, Medina to Minneapolis, Dhaka to Dallas (and points in between)

by Ken Sehested

We each pray for different
reasons in different seasons,
too often steady-headed,
manners-minded, when
indelicacy is now needed
        —prayers while throwing
        stuff against the wall—

whether in rapture or in rage,
banging against the cage of
knock-off propriety,
boorish pleasantries,
self-referencing piety
when it is precisely this
self-bordered life
that must be breached
if blood-soaked streets
are to stand a chance
in the light of
Judgment Day’s inquest,
crippled heart recoiling
from what it fears,
jaundiced against all
it cannot control,
cheered by death’s leer
and sacred call to arms—
        lest justice be denied!—
but brutal arms they be,
assaulting arms, separating
tissue from bone,
breath from lung,
hands from caress,
babies from breasts,
words from truth,
hopes from healing,
vision from revealing
the ties that bind
        but do not strangle,
the lover’s reach which
        does not entangle,
the wing that shadows
        but never wrangles.

Dare to rave within
Heaven’s hearing!
Scorch the roof of your
mouth with incantation.
Hurl your disquieted heart
at every tranquil caution.
Risk unpleasantry in the
company of angels.
Demand a hearing with
the Most High.
Journey with Job into
the whirlwind’s gale.
Demand an answer:

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This Is My Song

New lyrics to an old song

by Ken Sehested

O Truth Untamed, all boundaries bow before You
All borders bend according to your Word
O grant that every bitter heart be harbored
In sheltered cove, with Mercy’s flag unfurled
Hearken and haste, Desire of every nation
Refresh the heart of hope too long deferred.

Let every mountain call to meadowed valley
And every stream, to ocean grand and wide
Let fertile ground announce the new creation
When all shall come, ’cross every great divide
O bell of liberty ring out for freedom
Break every slaver’s chain, with hope confide

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My Country, ‘Tis of Thee

Alternate lyrics

My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

We are a people free, joining in liberty our many throngs.
Through much diversity, grant solidarity,
Turning from enmity in joyful song.

Guiding us in the past, God’s hand has held us fast, God’s pow’r we feel.
May righteousness be claimed, true justice be sustained;
Spirit, with us remain, Christ’s love reveal.

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Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi

Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world (John 1:29)

by Ken Sehested

Does the Lamb of God truly take away
the sins of the world? The question is
more than a forensic exercise. The
question brings us to a momentous
fork in the road.

§ If so, then how can we who affirm this
conviction fail to live into its consequences—
promised though not yet prospered—of
withdrawing from and standing against
the logic of retaliation and every
bloodletting endeavor. It is not
                JUST WAR.
                    It is
                 just war.

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