James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

But wait, there’s more!

Writer Anne Lamott has been a great spiritual companion of mine—along with a few million others who enjoy her books. Her treatise on prayer, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (2012), provides a simple vocabulary to capture the varieties of prayer forms. I offer this short reflection using her construct to help us all understand a little better what life is like here at the Center and to recognize how dependent we are in order to live this mission faithfully.


This sentiment often provides the genesis of relationships with the Center. Those we serve have reached a point in their lives that requires some kind of companionship to help them through a time of crisis. We walk with them as they explore stories of grief, trauma, fractured relationships and any number of narratives—many of which would have been left untold if possible. It’s good to have someone to listen in such times. Our counselors are often an answer to prayers.

Help is certainly the easiest concept of prayer to grasp. We reach out to our god or higher power in hopes that someone is out there listening to the longing of our hearts to find a way through a difficult time. It comes naturally to most—especially to those with foxhole experience.

Help is also a verb we use regularly around here when it comes to seeking the resources we need to carry out our mission. We fundraisers on our team don’t hesitate to seek help from others as we would not be able to serve others were it not for the support of a loving community. You may have received a letter from us recently asking for help. My prayer is that it will inspire a gracious response!


Gratitude is the foundation of many of my reflections in this newsletter. It happens pretty easily each day as I look at the inspiring work of our staff who respond to requests for help in a variety of ways: from the hospitality of those who receive anyone coming through the door, to the energy provided in the daily counseling sessions. Bookkeepers, billers, administrators and all the rest care deeply about this effort.

We also experience thanksgiving from those we serve. We regularly hear the phrase “you saved my life” around here. People entrust us with their lives and as they traverse the arduous journey to hope and healing. They often arrive on the other side with hearts full of gratitude. Newfound hope gives life to gratitude.

We produce lots of thank you notes here at the Center. That’s because we have so many people who support our efforts. Prayers of gratitude for such a loving community come naturally.


There is nothing better than a moment of awe. For me, these moments of prayer/reflection/awareness aren’t as frequent as cries for help and experiences of gratitude, but they sure are profound. Just a few such moments can nourish an entire life.  Examples often happen in nature. Just ask anyone who’s scaled a mountain, been tossed by a wave or seen the brilliance of the sun rising and setting.

We also work hard here at the Center to increase awareness for each of us at the wonder of each moment. Wow helps us to work with anxious minds through simple acts of paying attention to the wonder of each breath, each sense, each second. Some spiritual writers talk about paying attention to the “everlasting now.” Each tick of each day is all that we have. Enjoy them.

I am wowed that the Center has been around for almost 50 years, doing really important work. Step back and think about all the lives transformed by this place and there is no word to capture the story better than WOW!


I stray from Lamott on this one. For some reason an important sentiment or prayer for me has been to surrender or abandon myself to the present moment. Each day brings with it joys and challenges and it seems that part of the secret to a full life is to simply say “yes” to what the day has to offer. A quote that has always inspired me comes from Dag Hammarskjold’s book, Markings. If you’ve not heard of it, the book is a collection of his journaled thoughts that was discovered and published posthumously after Dag, the secretary general of the United Nations, died is a plane crash. The quote, as I recall it: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.”

So much of what we do here is helping ourselves and others come to terms with the reality of our lives. Some of it joyful and other parts sorrowful, but all of it real. We’re big believers in resiliency.

Your help in this effort inspires gratitude, awe and affirmation for being part of such important work. Yes, you’re awesome!

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