Alyce McKenzie: My New Motto


Three occasions have arisen recently in which I have had to stand and deliver and, thank God, been able to do so. I am aware that the origins of "stand and deliver" are when English Highwaymen would stop carriages and demand that people deliver their jewels, pocket watches and valuables. It may be a dicey historical metaphor, but let's just harvest it for the concept of coming through with what is needed in a tight spot.

The first occasion was a few weeks ago. It was Easter Monday and on the first Monday morning of every month, we have a faculty meeting. I left home my usual hour and 15 minutes ahead of time to allow for traffic, but 2 wrecks on the highway made me 5 minutes late. On the way, I tried not to be anxious and comforted myself with the thought that at least I didn't have a report to give. I was in a good mood and had the thought, "If I were the one assigned to offer the opening prayer at our meeting  today, I'd offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for raising Jesus from the dead." Because I wasn't interested in the story on NPR which I had already heard, I spent my mental time writing an entire prayer in my head and even delivered it out loud as I drove along. "Dear God, You whose mercies are new every morning, we thank You this Easter Monday most especially for Your mercy and power in raising your Son our Savior Jesus Chris from the dead. We thank You for his healings, his exorcisms, his teachings, his feedings, his miracles, and his table fellowship with those others scorned. By the power and presence of Your Holy Spirit in us, remove all obstacles in our lives from following him. Fill us with the joy and purpose of living for You. Energize us anew for our vocations in Your world. Through the Presence and Power of Your Holy Spirit, Amen. "

I walked into the Benefactors Room at Bridwell  Library where we have our monthly meetings. The faculty and staff  gathered around the big table looked expectantly at me as I entered.

"Good morning, Alyce," said the Dean. "We have been  waiting for you. Are you prepared to offer our opening  prayer?"

"Absolutely !" I said, as a vague memory of being asked to take the April opening prayer slot came to mind. Of course I had been asked in January. A reminder email would have been nice.

The short form of the boy scout motto is Alzeit bereit (Be prepared). The Latin versions sound even more impressive: Es paratus (Be prepared). Omnibus paratus (In all things, prepared), and, my personal favorite,  Semper Paratus (Always prepared).

The past two Friday nights I've been in charge of getting story tellers for a coffeehouse story telling event. Union Coffee House in Dallas is a ministry to young adults and college students on Dyer Street in Dallas near the campus of Southern Methodist University. Every Friday night they have "Naked Stage," storytelling that is personal with no notes and no props.

I called people I knew were lively conversationalists and story tellers and asked them to come and share. I had never done organized this event before,  so I was a little apprehensive about how it would go. I sent a reminder email to all 6 storytellers, the number needed for the 9-11pm time slot. But just in case, I typed up and memorized a story of my own to have in mind if someone didn't show up.

The nine o'clock hour approached. People were taking their seats around the stage.  I had 5 story tellers present and accounted for, drinking their lattes while waiting to go on stage and one no-show. So guess who had to open the night? Semper paratus!

The second Friday night I had 7 storytellers lined up. "Surely I won't need to have a story in my back pocket with 7 people lined up," I thought to myself as I thought through the details of a "just in case" story on the drive to the coffee house. Five storytellers showed up. Guess who closed out the night? Semper paratus!

On Easter Sunday I sat in the choir, rehearsing in my mind the Easter sermon I would preach if all three of the pastors robed and ready to lead worship suddenly came down with laryngitis in the next 15 minutes. OK, so maybe I was taking Semper paratus a little too far. It's not Semper paranoid.

Granted, Semper paratus is not as dramatic as Semper Fidelis (always faithful or always loyal), or the shortened Semper fi, the motto of the United States Marine Corps. It's a more modest, mundane motto. But I'm making it mine. It's a reminder that, while life will hand me things I can't possibly prepare for, I can pledge to do my best to prepare for those I can anticipate. Semper paratus!

Taken with permission from Alyce's blog, "Knack for Noticing," at