Holden Voices: Blog

Poems, stories, and reflections, written by faculty, staff, and volunteers currently serving in the Village.

TOM SMITH: Situational Awareness

July 11, 2014 at 4:15 PM

Thirty-five years ago when I was a 20-something-year-old guy living at Holden, I was asked by the village pastor to do a matins.
"Sure, I'll work on one."
About a week later I was asked if I was ready to do matins and I said, "Sure, almost ready." After the third request, I knew I'd probably have to do a matins. The invitation was not going away. Matins aren't bad, because at best they can inspire or they can start a conversation.
"Boy, that was interesting." Or, "Boy, that was interesting."
So I worked on mine and delivered it one summer morning. I'm not sure it inspired, and it didn't make the collector's edition of "Summer Matins 1978," but somebody did come up and say, "Man, that was FAST." I was inspired to make the next one faster.
Well, I wasn't even asked this time; my name just appeared on a list. Set your stopwatches.
As a wildland firefighter, I was trained to always maintain a strong situational awareness, to look for hazards, identify them and mitigate! The Holden Prayer seems written from a perspective of confidence – O Lord, this is happening, here are two hazards: untrodden paths and perils unknown (these are the known unknowns). Help us know we're cool because you are there. HAZARDS MITIGATED!
Compare that to the Lord's Prayer:
O God (up there), you're bringing on this big thing and it's your thing which sounds a lot like untrodden paths and unknown perils, maybe. So give us our daily sustenance and forgive our screw-ups (like we do to others). Deliver us, because this whole thing is all yours.
In one prayer, we're going on a great adventure which has identified hazards that we know are mitigated, if we can only believe it. The other prayer says something's coming that God already knows about—and probably is behind—but we ask for sustenance, forgiveness and deliverance, IF God wants to. This is not my most reassuring prayer.
Often it is in my dreams when I sleep, where I find answers to things. And so it was one night about fifteen years ago, I was dreaming that I was praying the Lord's Prayer in a group. The prayer flowed normally, up to the point where we say "Give us today our daily bread." But the next line was "Walk with us each day." And then the rest of the prayer continued. That line is still with me because supportive love, and hands that lead, and being fed, and forgiveness, and help come best from a God who is right beside us each day.

Tom Smith is a member of the Holden Board of Directors

The Holden Prayer:
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannon see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.