The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Simple Prayers for Complicated Lives, Grace on the Go and Aurora Borealis


Simple Prayers for Complicated Lives by Jennifer M. Phillips is a wonderful collection of short prayers written by a poet, liturgist and hospital chaplain. The author includes prayers that demonstrate the presence of God in everyday chores and in great difficulties such as divorce, being assaulted or having a stillborn child. She describes her prayers as “simple expressions that lend themselves to be spoken aloud, that are connected to the venerable tradition of Christian prayer while also fresh and direct” (Seabury Books).

Grace on the Go: 101 Quick Ways to Pray by Barbara Bartocci is another fine little book that uses everyday situations and encounters as cues for prayer. The author, who writes for consumer magazines, says we can make every moment a devotional one by right intention and practice. She includes ways to pray while brushing your teeth, filling your car with gas at the pump, making eye contact with a supermarket clerk and many more situations (Morehouse).


Aurora Borealis, directed by James Burke, is a solid, cross-generational drama with just the right mix of emotion and poignancy. Duncan Shorter (Joshua Jackson) hasn’t been able to hold down a job for very long and doesn’t seem to care. No one can figure out why he has given up on life, although there are signs he has never gotten over the death of his father when he was just 8. His paternal grandparents, Ronald (Donald Sutherland) and Ruth (Louise Fletcher), live in a seniors’ apartment complex in Minneapolis. Ronald is a feisty man who has Parkinson’s disease and every sign of approaching dementia. He is overjoyed when Duncan takes a job as a handyman in the building. The two men escape the confines of the apartment for trips to a hardware store and through a park.

This coming-of-age drama revolves around the transformation that takes place as Duncan draws closer to his grandfather and starts dating Kate (Juliette Lewis), a home-care nurse. She’s a vagabond spirit who has lived in many cities. He, on the other hand, has lived all his life in Minneapolis and can’t imagine ever leaving.

One of the many remarkable things about this film is that is doesn’t flinch in its portrait of the debilitations of old age. Sutherland gives a powerful and convincing performance as Ronald, a valiant man who doesn’t want people to see him “this way.” But when Joshua really sees and hears his grandfather, he is changed, and so are we watching them. Sometimes the only demand of love is presence. Joshua learns to be there for his grandparents and in the process discovers what it means to be present in a relationship with a woman. Best of all, he comes to inhabit his own self in a new way. This movie truly is spiritual drama about the transforming powers of love (Regent Releasing, R—for language).


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February issue


Embracing diversity