The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
Finding the sacred in everyday life
What prayer looks like from the outside
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Marketta Gregory never meant to be a columnist. \x34I trained to be a newspaper reporter -- one who tried to her best to be objective. I covered religion for a few years and felt like it was the best job a curious woman like me could ever have. ...
Simply Faithful
Marketta Gregory never meant to be a columnist. I trained to be a newspaper reporter -- one who tried to her best to be objective. I covered religion for a few years and felt like it was the best job a curious woman like me could ever have. Every day I got to listen as people told me about the things that were most important to them, the things that were sacred. But the newspaper industry was changing and few papers could afford to have an army of speciality reporters. So, I moved to cover the suburbs where, as luck would have it, they have plenty of religion, too. Eventually, children came into the picture. One by birth and another two months later by foster care/adoption. I struggled to chase breaking news and be home at a decent hour, so I made the move to what we journalists call the dark side: I took a job in public relations. (Don't worry. I work for a great non-profit, so it's not dark at all.) When I gave my notice at the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, the executive editor asked me to consider writing a column on a freelance basis. She didn't want the newspaper to lose touch with its religious sources, and she still wanted consistent faith coverage. I was terrified. It took me about 10 months to get back to her with a solid plan and some sample columns. And so it began, this journey of opening up my heart to strangers.
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By simplyfaithful
Sept. 10, 2013 11:07 a.m.

IMG_3998We planned our entire trip around my sisterís party, the one where the sky above her Oklahoma neighborhood explodes with color after color. The party where I knew my boys could light smoke bombs and watch their cousins set off rockets, where we could drink from red, white and blue straws and laugh until our bellies hurt.
IMG_3984My boys arenít used to firework stands dotting the roadways from June to July. They are growing up in an area thatís more heavily populated and more heavily regulated. And just this once, I wanted them to light a fuse, see it flicker and run like crazy to the sidewalk.
I wanted this little sliver of Americana for them. The Fourth of July the way I remembered it growing up.
I probably took 200 pictures that night. My husband with his first ever firework. Colt throwing tiny sacks that pop when they hit the ground. Benjamin holding sparklers with the sun setting in the background. Jessie chasing a wayward parachute.
Then, thereís the picture of Colt and Aunt Kathy holding a tiny frog and the photo of the cousins in their matching flag shirts. A snapshot for every moment I wanted to capture and savor.
When the noisy firecrackers were gone and the smoke had dissipated, when I was just about to put away the camera for the night, we brought out the paper lanterns and began to unfold them.
There in the relative quiet, we separated the walls of the lanterns and made room for the flame and the hot air that would follow. Each lantern had a person on each side, waiting for the globe to lift. Then, ever so slightly, the lantern pressed against their hands and slowly and reverently rose.
I have no idea how long we stood there watching, pointing to our distant lights, but I know Iíve thought of it often since then Ė thought of it as a visual prayer.
In the chaos and the darkness, with firework casing all around, we opened up the walls to make room for God. We were still and we waited. And then?
We removed our hands and it rose to the heavens, lighting the way.
One of my favorite pictures of all.

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