A Praying Mantis, a Poem, a Prayer

It was our first indoor church worship service since the pandemic lockdown in March. Like many congregations, we experienced our share of controversy over when to reopen. Our church chairperson, Gayle, knew that all too well.

As Gayle was sitting outside in front of the church, listening to the service through the open church door, she looked down and there it was: a praying mantis. Inside, Peter was preaching about praying without ceasing. Outside, with arms folded, the creature was on the sidewalk, slowly making its way toward the open door.

Gayle smiled at what she described as “some cool symbolism while I quieted myself from the intense week.”

Sometimes we need to stop and appreciate the little things to get through the big things.

We have an abundance of little things. Just start making a list and you’ll find that out.

The writer Ann Voskamp calls her book One Thousand Gifts “a dare to live fully, right where you are.” In it, she describes the emptiness in her soul and her journey to find joy again. The road sign she discovers for the journey is eucharisteo, a Greek word that means thanksgiving. In Luke 22:19, the Greek word for “he gave thanks” is eucharisteo. It envelops the Greek root word charis, which means grace, and the derivative chara, which is Greek for joy.

On a dare from a friend, Voskamp decided to compile a list of a thousand gifts — 1,000 little things for which to be grateful.

My list would include “the sound of the wind in cottonwood trees.” Or it could look like this:

Wind tickling

Shiny leaves.


Is a breeze

For cottonwood trees.

I wrote that poem many years ago and shared it recently with my neighbor who has stately, laughing cottonwood trees on her property. About a month later she showed up at my home with a beautiful wooden decorative plaque she made featuring a cottonwood tree and that poem.

It’s the little things.

The same Gayle who was blessed by the presence of the praying mantis and the message to “pray without ceasing” remembers a time when her family was going through a difficult time. She remembers praying, and she remembers the exhaustion and sense of faith fatigue that settled into her soul. Recalling those days, her voice trembles as she remembers the assurance from another person in our congregation who said, “We will pray for you when you can’t.”

A praying mantis on its way to church. A poem on a wooden plaque. A prayer when most needed. These expressions of faith, kindness and support are little things in one sense and all things in another sense.

May we give thanks in all things.

Carol Duerksen of Hillsboro, Kan., is a freelance writer and editor and on staff of Springs Forth! Faith Formation Inc., which publishes multi-age curriculum online.

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