Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Prayer Beads

I'm a fan of the UPPER ROOM and try to read the selection for each day.  The last issue had a centerfold story about "Listening and Praying with Beads."  It captured my imagination and I wanted to learn more. 

I was facing another surgery for removal of cancer on my tongue and the idea of a helpful"crutch" in the form of beads was intriguing.  The idea also reminded me of my dear father-in-law, Hugh Walker, who died way too early in 1984.  He spent years working in the Middle East (which I'm sure contributed to his early demise) and "worry beads" were usually in his pocket and often in his hand.  Oh how I wish I'd asked him more about how and why he used them so often.  The dumb, busy, younger me, just never did. Ron says he doesn't remember talking to his father about his beads. Ron's sister, Jeanne said she never asked him either.

I learned that "worry beads" probably originated in India, but were commonly used in the Middle East. In Arab cultures, just about everyone carries the beads.  During moments of worry, or contemplation, or prayer, people work the individual beads with their thumb and forefinger, strung on a string with slack, one at a time, in order to calm themselves, or in some cases, just to pass the time.  They always have either 33 beads, or 99.  For Christians, the 33 represents the 33 years of Jesus time on earth.  The 99 beads represent the 33 years multiplied by the three-in-one: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  The Catholic Rosary was introduced during the 13th century and it has 50 beads to mark repetitions of the Hail Mary and five larger beads to count Our Father's.  And no doubt, there are many more variations on the theme.

Our daughter Marja, a world class talent in all things creative, and I set out to put together a set of prayer beads.  Our online research revealed that we needed something to represent God and another something to represent the user.  In this case that was me.  Then you can add as many beads as you want to remind you of specific prayers to include:  I went through my jewelry and found some ancient treasures. 

The talisman I chose to represent ME has a unique story.  During World War II, living in Southern California (and I don't know where else in the U.S.) we had to wear ID tags.  At night, we often heard planes overhead and sirens blaring to signal a mandatory black out.  The idea was to turn off all the lights so the Japanese bombers wouldn't know they were over populated areas.  My Dad was a volunteer air raid warden, and he would have to go out in the streets during the air raids and make sure no one had their lights on.  My maternal grandfather painted the top of his outside light fixtures black, but his lights still shone down and I found it scary and appalling that he thought it was alright to cheat like that.  

I wore my silver ID tag on a chain around my neck.  It says, "Anne L. Collins, AT 2-7387"  And on the back "184 So Kauffman Ave Temple City"  It's dark, pretty beat up and the edges are wavy.  And with good reason.  One day my younger brother, Rob, and I were rough housing on the floor. (A big no-no as far as our mother was concerned) and I had him pinned good as I sat on his chest.  He yanked at the chain around my neck and it broke.  In a flash, he swallowed my ID tag. GULP! I can still remember the look of total shock and surprise on his face when he realized what had happened.  Then I went running to tell our mother.

Our doctor wanted to make sure it didn't get stuck somewhere in Rob's person, and mother was told to "watch for it."  Obviously, she found it, and it has lived in the corner of my jewelry box all these years.  Now it is on my prayer beads, representing me.

To represent God, I chose a small, silver crucifix that my mother, the three little girls, and I found in an elevator in Williamsburg, Virginia in the early 1970's.  We reported it to the desk at our hotel, but no one ever asked about it, and I have also kept it all these years.  Now, it has been put back into use for that which it was originally intended.   Nice, huh?

The rest of the beads represent the world, your blessings, your concerns, those you want to pray for,  a time for listening, and anything else you may want to include.  I particularly like the idea that there are no hard and fast rules, the possibilities are limitless and they provide structure to your prayer time.

My Prayer Beads
Update: I am blessed to report that they got all the cancer in my mouth and I do not have to face any additional treatments, beyond having my mouth checked on a regular basis.  They had planned to take cuts and check them while keeping me under sedation, in case they had to go back for more.  My mantra became "One and Done" and behold, it came to pass.  The good Doctor, the prayer beads, all my prayer pals and some divine intervention are the reasons. 
What a gift!  Thank you to all who helped.