Ash and Starlight

Connecting with God, each other, and ourselves in the broken and beautiful

Monday Manna – an invitation…

Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

Summer blessings to you, my friends!

I hope and pray this summer has provided space for deepest renewal in all the ways you most need! Sometimes what is supposed to be “vacation” leaves us more drained and tired than our status before. Being a student of the Spirit’s voice within you and your core needs will keep you in tune to how and where to lean in or rest. You know yourself! Trust that inner voice.

I have an invitation for you.

In the past, I offered a prayer on Fridays to close your week (sometimes and inconsistently, because #life….. ) With the coming of my book launch this fall, I will be shifting to a newsletter instead that will come directly to your mailbox on Monday mornings should you so choose. I am desiring a more personal way to connect with you and invite engagement, and believe an email message to you will nurture that in fresh ways.

My hope with this new newsletter – “Monday Manna” – is to help set your week’s tone. I know many people (myself included!) who find themselves on Sunday nights a bit anxious, heavy, apathetic, or all-around overwhelmed that come morning, the routine starts rolling full-speed ahead. And so with this weekly email newsletter, my prayer is that you can begin your week from a place of intentionality – a spirit and stance grounded in the goodness and provision of God.

The meaning of “manna” is significant to me. It’s shared in numerous faith traditions, but the story to which I hearken is in Exodus 16.  The Israelites are in the desert wilderness, walking with a promise from God but living in total uncertainty as to how and where this journey would lead. God’s daily provision to them (along with quail – eeek) was “manna.” It couldn’t be hoarded or stored up, but had to be freshly received each day. The people lived in trust that what they needed to live and continue the journey would fall like grace. And every day, it did. The manna edified them at their deepest levels because while it was food to their bodies, it also restored their daily hope. God was still providing, present, and caring for them, and the manna they collected each day was a physical reminder of that.

And so, my prayer is that “Monday Manna,” will be a channel of God’s nourishment to you through four things:

  • A short prayer and/or reflection 🙂
  • A place to channel your prayerful energy this week
  • Something that nourished me in the past week
  • Upcoming book news

You can sign up for Monday Manna here, or through the box on my website! If you were already subscribed to receive my blog posts through your email, you are currently registered for the newsletter and don’t need to do anything. And of course, should you want to unsubscribe at any point (I also hate email clutter!) there is an easy button for that!

One of my deep hopes is that you might be so gracious as to share the ways God is nourishing you! Together we will be encouraged for another week of faith, hope, and love.

A prayer for tonight’s Lights for Liberty…

Tonight, people are gathering in communities all across our world for “Lights of Liberty.” Perhaps the one thing giving me any hope in recent weeks has been witnessing the Spirit of God alive and at work through active people – people who will not tolerate this kind of treatment of migrants and refugees. Children of God who are our neighbors. Our collective family in life. 

Alongside the Lights of Liberty gatherings, I wanted to offer an option. Going to one of these collective events is not doable for everyone tonight, including my family. Yet we can all – no matter where we are – give powerful, whole-hearted witness and join the communion of saints. I know it is not the same as being together in person, but we believe and know there is more that binds us than physical presence.

Most gatherings will be around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. tonight (relatively, depending on time zone). Join in this communal light by creating some in your own home, or wherever you may be. 

Light a candle. 

Breathe and bless. Focus your mind and your heart’s attention on the world’s children detained in places lacking dignity, compassion, and basic needs. 

Here is a prayer I wrote some time ago called, “When I cry for the world,” and it is what my family will read tonight. 

When I cry for the world 

Merciful Jesus,

I cry for our world. 

I cry over broken bodies 

and broken homes 

and broken hearts.

I cry over violence 

and exclusion 

and indifference. 

I cry most of all over the children! 

Through my body and breath,

I pray for your kin-dom…

For allto have 

nourishing food and nurturing homes, 

edifying work and safe, skilled schools,

compassionate healthcare and dignified wages, 

soft beds to fall into at the day’s close…

For the children to be protected,

the elderly honored, 

and both hugged every single day…

For reparative justice,

cherished diversity,

and peaceful purity in what’s

breathed, eaten, drunk. 

I cry and I pray, 

confessing the many times 

I’ve declared what I deserve

rather than asked what I could give.

I cry and I pray, 

knowing I’m complicit in the pain 

and essential to the healing. 

I cry and I pray, 

trusting my tears mingle with your own, 

hoping this tearful river softens and shapes

the hardest canyons of injustice – 

or at least lays the groundwork.

I pray and I act, 

moving my body and resources 

toward your kin-dom vision,

trusting my skills and gifts 

carry forward the new, just world you imagine

and are always bringing.  

I remember this work is mine to do. 

“Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks 

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which 

he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which

he blesses all the world…”* 

O Jesus, have mercy 

and help me. 

Amen. 

You may choose to take a picture of your candle and text to other friends and family, or share on social media with #lightsforliberty (an instance when I actually think social media can do some great good!). 

My husband recently wrote a letter about the border crisis that will be going out to our congregation with some places to give, ways to learn, and advocacy opportunities. Near the end of his letter, he says, “our first and last job as followers of Jesus is to pray. There is power in prayer, in listening to God, in interceding for those who are suffering. And yet we must remember “thoughts and prayers” are not something we just blithely tweet after a crisis. Authentic prayer always changes us and impels us to action. As 1 John says, we are called to love not just “in word or speech, but in truth and action.” We encourage you to pray for the migrant families, for the political leaders and government agents on both sides of the border, for non-profit and religious leaders. We invite you to find ways to talk to your children about this crisis and include their voices in your prayers.”

I believe with every fiber of my being in prayer’s power. And I deeply thank you for holding hands in the circle tonight. As Glennon Doyle so often says, “we belong to each other.”  

O Lord, hear our prayer.

*Quote in my prayer is widely attributed to St. Teresa of Avila (1515–82), but not found in any of her writings according to numerous sources, so maybe written by someone else. Still, it’s beautiful. 

A beautiful book to add to your list…

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Dani Shapiro’s most recent book – one for your summer list….

With summer book lists a flyin’ here is one to add to your list. My recent book review of Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance is now available at The Christian Century. You can read it here.

This powerful book delves into some of the biggest identity questions we hold…Who am I? What (or who!) makes me who I am?

This is a book about secrets and the shock, anxiety, chaos, and grief that can come with major revelations. It is also a book about release, trust, the deepest kind of faith, and true essence.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is when Dani shares her shocking familial discovery with a rabbi friend. “You can say, ‘This is impossible, terrible,’” he tells her. “Or you can say, ‘This is beautiful, wonderful.’ You can imagine that you’re in exile. Or you can imagine that you have more than one home.” Shapiro’s journey to name home in more than one place re­flects the internal paradox faced by all people of faith. We are made of heaven and we are made of earth. The work of faith is to merge these worlds and realities, embracing them as unified rather than hierarchical.

I’m reminded through this book that while we “can never know what lies at the end of the path not taken,” we can offer ourselves to the here and now with gratitude and trust, finding ourselves at home.

Friday Prayer, May 10, 2019

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Stopping to smell the beauty at the Chicago Botanic Gardens….

The news of Rachel Held Evans’ death hit many of us very, very hard. Some amazingly beautiful pieces have been written in recent days days, all illuminating what a tremendous woman – what a matchless voice – the world will achingly miss. I never met Rachel. She also changed my life and faith trajectory in too many ways for me to name. Her words have been a companion to me for years, and that’s exactly what so many people have named. Her voice. Her words. How she changed the world because of them.

I’m preparing to lead a women’s retreat next week on the theme of “Finding Your Inner Voice.” I’ve been thinking about the power of words and the creative force in using one’s voice. This is something to which we’ve been reawakened through Rachel and her legacy.

Abraham Joshua Heschel believed, “words create worlds.” With our voices, we can call into being the world we envision. And this is, after all, the way our story started.

We are born of God’s voice and breath. Living from our inner voice is pausing to listen to what’s deepest within – and that is always a place of beauty, authenticity, and integration. Nurturing your inner voice changes your life, and in turn, the world. What’s happening ‘out there’ in the world starts with what’s happening here in our hearts. Rachel said she knew she always wanted to be a writer, and so she decided to just start writing about the things her inner heart was wrestling with – especially regarding the Bible and her faith. As she did, millions of people were set free. Her words are alive, and her voice is going to continue in this holy work.

Expressing what’s deepest within us through voice and word – whether by lips or through pen – becomes a devoted offering. We have the power to name our world as beautiful, then go about the hard, faithful work of making sure all can enjoy it that way.

My prayer for the women I lead next week and my prayer for you is to receive God’s love and fresh empowerment for living by your inner voice. The voice within you showing everything belongs.

You have some really important words to share. Rather than write a prayer today, I invite you to create your own. It can be one word, a phrase, or a whole flow of things.

Thank you for creating a beautiful world through your voice today.

 

Good Friday Prayer, April 19, 2019

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Thank you, Susanne Moorman Rowe, for sharing this beauty with me on my birthday this week!

Good Friday blessings, friends. I’ve been eating up so much Richard Rohr lately. He’s long been one of my heroes. Father Rohr has set me – along with countless others – free. It’s not an overstatement to say he has changed my life, and his latest book has been (IMHO) his best yet. I beg every one of you to read this book, or even listen to the accompanying podcasts. You will not remain the same.

On this Good Friday, I think of a couple of truths from Father Rohr that sink deep into my bones today. First, that “God loves things by becoming them.” And second, “everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end.”

My understanding of the cross and what it means is very different now than it was growing up, and through Richard Rohr, I love and appreciate it in a whole new (and much more healing, helpful) way. God incarnate in Jesus Christ embodies for me how love is the undercurrent beneath every single thing in our world.

I wish you tangible experiences today of Christ’s pervading, unconditional love. And in doing so, offer another sneak peek toward my book – launching this fall – that includes a Lenten prayer.

***

For Lent

 Redeeming One,

You came, Jesus, to show me the

best way to live and walk this path.

You let yourself feel the depth

of need surrounding you.

You kept a purity of focus.

You always, always chose love.

All with bravery and trust.

I need you, Jesus, to walk

beside me now,

helping me reflect,

confess, prepare…

This Lenten path puts before me

the questions and realizations

I so often stuff away.

With each step, I’m recognizing

barriers built through my

rote habits and unrealized prejudices,

my base-line grudges and routine neglects…

I must acknowledge compromises

that drew me further away

from my own soul and your calling.

But I’m coming back home.

Hone my desires to that

pure focus you held.

Help me fast from self-absorption,

finding my sustenance in the

rich profundity of suffering-love.

Draw my heart and feet forward

on this path that’s both total mystery

and innate to who I am in you.

A minor melody marks our cadence,

yet you tune my ears for more than that.

Resurrection is always the final number.

Help me walk, Savior Lord,

with hope amid heaviness,

ears to the ground.

I will welcome my mortality

and the potential in ashes and dust.

Amen.

 

Psalm 51:17 * Isaiah 53:4-6 * Luke 9:23-24

 

“If any want to become my followers,

let them deny themselves and take up

their cross daily and follow me…” Luke 9:23

Friday Prayer, April 5, 2019

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Thanks to my sister, Em, who captured Georgia’s spring beauty this week!

 

Spring blessings to you, friends! Welcome to the end of the week. Perhaps these recent days had some challenges for you. Maybe it was hard not to take comments you received personally. Maybe you’re getting really tired of the chronic pain that just can’t be kept in check. Maybe the kids had a tough time acclimating to routine and rhythm after spring break. Maybe you discovered you had a dead skunk underneath your deck that made your entire house smell like the plague of death. Yes, that last one did indeed happen to us this week.

Whatever the week brought, here is some encouragement for you, friends, as you begin the weekend. Spring is here, and with that comes all the promises for which we yearn. Growth and blooming, beauty and rebirth, always come. The most exquisite sights regularly appear after quiet, strenuous work below ground (often unnoticed, routinely in frigid, gray sameness).

God never ceases from creating beauty. As we witness it outside, remember God’s creating that beauty in you. It might not feel like “spring” in your soul or life. Maybe you’re grinding through the same-old that’s needed and asked of you right now. Know without a doubt, though, that spring always comes. It’s in the fabric of the world. It’s in the skin and heart and life of you. And your faithfulness right now lays a foundation of rich, nourishing soil. It will feed the fruit about to form.

I shared last week that my book, Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life, is now available for pre-order! As another little “sneak peek,” here is a prayer for springtime from the book .

For Springtime

Loving, Creator God,

Spring reminds me it’s

never too late to start over.

That there’s been quiet growth

over these long months

of winter when I saw nothing.

When I was called to believe

there was growth happening

beneath hard, cold soil.

And now? Glory!

I celebrate the loveliness

of all you’ve made.

The newness, Lord,

the freshness –

it inspires my soul!

Tulips in the front yard,

buds on the trees,

the voices of birds,

the cleansing of rain,

the comfort of sunshine…

each gift renews me,

speaking of the promise within

all those months of dormancy

and preparation.

As spring awakens my physical senses,

I ask, God, for you to awaken my inner senses.

May my mind open and blossom

to the longings you’ve placed within me…

to the steps and path that will

satisfy the desires of my heart…

to the hopes and passions

you’ve planted in every

one of your children…

May I seek what will truly fulfill them.

May I journey toward their Source.

May I be guided by your gentle and wise Spirit.

It is never too late to be

what you call me to be.

Even as it takes greatest courage

and deepest humility.

With your help, I will open myself to

what I never expected before,

never experienced before,

and never thought possible.

Amen.

Psalm 16:11 * Psalm 104:24-30 * Isaiah 55:8-9

“You show me the path of life.

In your presence there is fullness

of joy.” – Psalm 16:11

Coming October 22, 2019 – “Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life”

 

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My dream cover, thanks to Penelope Dullaghan!

Friends, Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life is now available for pre-order on both Amazon and Chalice (with more sites later on). All thanks and praise to God – the One who brought this into being amid years of grief, joy, pain, ambiguity, and the call to trust. My deepest prayer is that this book blesses and builds the beautiful threads of connection in your life – with God, with others, and with your own soul.

I cannot thank the amazing Penelope Dullaghan enough for making the cover of my book a dream come true. The story about how this cover came to be is in and of itself a testimony to the Spirit’s holy and surprising work.

My hope for you is to find in these pages a prayerful companion for your own journey. This book encompasses prayers for your inner landscape and outer rhythms. There are prayers for what you’re feeling and prayers for the year’s seasons. So many of you have prayerfully journeyed with me in the posts of this blog or in the years of congregational ministry.

These prayers can be starting spots for your own – a springboard from which you offer to God the unique thoughts and feelings you need to let loose. Or these prayers can also be a place for you to rest. I have been so thankful for the prayers of others when I myself didn’t have it in me to pray – or didn’t want to.

The book encompasses prayers for centering, confession and release, guidance and transition, waiting and struggle, comfort and strength, trust, and seasonal times of year. Each prayer offers voice to a particular place in your heart or life….“When I need perspective at the start of the day,” “When I want to numb, avoid, and block,” “When I’m in the messy middle of something,” “When I need to trust where I am is right,” “When I can’t sleep,” “When I need to know if this thing can life again,” “When I need some steadiness,” “When I’m headed to work,” and more.

Following each prayer are Scripture references connecting with the themes of the prayer. They provide nourishment and wisdom for further meditation. As God works in your beautiful heart, you will see how the experiences and emotions you want to leave behind are actually integral to who you are and are becoming. God wants your honest attention and availability more than piety and achievement.

You will be grounded in the deepest promises of which we all need the most reminding – We are loved as we are. We are not alone. We are instruments of blessing, even when we don’t realize it.

And I am praying you feel freshly empowered and equipped to approach your life with grace and curiosity. To surrender and trust amid your fears. To rejoice in your current life, even as you’re moving toward something else. You might awaken to sentiments you didn’t realize were harbored within you, and invite God to share in them. And you will say yes to the ash and the starlight in your own journey because there is no transformative power in what we deny.

I am planning some pre-order bonuses (not quite ready!). If you preorder now (which I’m learning is extremely helpful and important in forecasting a book’s worth to sellers) you can receive these bonuses when they become available (in addition to my unending gratitude!).

I am venturing into new and vulnerable territory, here. The marketing piece is one with which I am not only unfamiliar, but have also been uncomfortable. I am grateful to Anna LeBaron who put her hands on my shoulders last fall at the Ezer Collective (thank you again, Jo Saxton and Pastor Steph!!). She told me to view the publicizing as an offering to God and God’s people. If you have something you’ve created out of joyful love, and which you believe can help people, it is that which you are promoting. Not one’s self. Framing the marketing and publicizing piece in that kind of light has been just what I needed to keep stepping forward. I picture you, and that floods my heart with the love I need to keep going. Let’s spread the light and love of God in all the places we can, friends. Thank you for the ways you are a lamp and beacon.

 

#ashandstarlight, #grateful, #allmylove

 

 

Friday Thoughts and Prayer

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My view of Lake Michigan on an icy morning run 

So many people I know are living through some excruciating things. A number of them are grappling whole-heartedly with grief over death,  seeking to honor the space they need for all the emotions while simultaneously receiving the task to relearn their world. It is hard work to live with integrity and integration amid loss. The pressures to compartmentalize, ignore, or control are so real and so strong. But the person who lives in wholeness decides to scoop in everything with open arms. We can never selectively numb.

This winter has been much different than the last, and I was surprised to witness how much of Lake Michigan was frozen over on my chilly run the other day. There’s an overlook at which I love to pause on most of my runs, and in doing so that day, I noticed something. While from a distance the lake seemed like a frozen block of stillness, there was movement. In looking a bit more closely, I saw the ice formations on the lake’s surface gently swaying – not much, but a slight back and forth, responding to the nudges of the current below.

What appeared to be static and hard was actually breathing in a quiet, small way. I’m not sure how long the winter will last, but even as things look frozen and unchanged, there are breath, life, and little tiny movements keeping everything from getting stuck.

For all of you grieving a goodbye today, I bless you in your small breaths and movements. In the strong victory of the choices you will make today to do the next thing, even as your world feels frozen over. Free-flowing, strong waves eventually come, but this is not the time nor the season to really even think about it. Hibernating in the hush is where healing must begin.

This prayer is one I wrote for my forthcoming book, Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life to be published later this year by Chalice Press. There are a few Scripture references following the prayer to which you can turn for even deeper comfort and connection with the One who holds you in your grief.

When I’m grieving a goodbye

Compassionate One,

Be with me in my goodbyes.

When I’m asked to

open my hands and

release what I’ve held –

held tightly

place your peace

between the fingers.

Put your comfort in

the cracks and crevices

of my heart.

Use my falling tears

as nourishment for

this ground of grief,

bearing fruit for

a new season which

also promises sweetness.

Amen.

Matthew 5:4 * John 12:24 * Revelation 21:3-5

 

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into

the earth and dies, it remains just

a single grain; but if it dies, it

bears much fruit.” – John 12:24

What do you need to remember?

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Each of us wore one of these during the Collective Conference…

Normally I write to you at the close of a week but here we are at the threshold instead. A week ago (after turning in the book manuscript to my publisher – finally!), I attended the Ezer Collective, a dynamic conference dreamed up by Jo Saxton. She and Steph Williams O’Brien saw a great need for women to live fully into their leadership capacities and God-given gifts. They created a space in which many women were empowered for exactly that. I loved their definition of a leader – a person who is intentional with her influence.

The name of the gathering – Ezer – references the Hebrew in the Genesis account of creation. After God created man/Adam, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a “helper”(ezer) as his partner” (Gen. 2:18). The word so often translated “helper” appears numerous times throughout the Old Testament, but most of those times, ezer is describing God. It’s used when God is delivering and rescuing people. As Jo Saxton writes, “it’s a word conveying power and strength…To be named ezer is not some afterthought…not for someone deemed unable to do more than assist because of their weakness, but one who can help because they have the passion, power, and purpose to do so.” Ezer is dynamite.

For some time now, I’ve been in a season of yearning and have sought God’s wise guidance for some important discernment. I entered the Ezer weekend hoping God would bring answers to some of my questions. That God would speak some direction over my wrestling.

But on the last morning of the conference, a new, wise friend I made said, “I have a strong sense that God has already spoken, Arianne. That God is telling you to remember. And remember way back….”

And what I started to remember were times I’d felt most alive or moments I’d lept into something with God-given-courage or opportunities God had empowered me to embrace. I remembered the confidence I’d misplaced a long time ago and the voice that went quiet. I remembered all of these gifts God had given me, and in doing that, remembered the most important truth of all – the abiding love and steadiness and mercy of God, running like an undercurrent, nourishing the soil of my every step.

So one of my greatest take-aways from the Ezer Collective was God reminding me who I am. God bringing to mind a stream of memories – some from childhood, some just days before – illuming for me the light that’s been quietly and eternally burning. Isn’t it interesting that when we ask God again and again what we are supposed to do, God answers with remembrance of who we are? Of who God is?

So I leave you with some questions Ezer stirred up for me, hoping God will wash over your heart what you might need to remember. There are seven questions – maybe reflect on one each day. Grace, peace, and mercy to you, friends. And remember, remember, remember….

  • What memories of yourself do you need to sit with? 
  •  What parts of yourself do you need to say “yes” to? Maybe again? Maybe for the first time? 
  • What is one area of your life that needs fresh intentionality?
  • What is one area of insecurity you want to let go of today? 
  • Are you living out your voice, or thinking you must be an echo? 
  • What would it look like today to claim with new authority and fresh resolve the freedom that you have (and have had all along)? 
  • What do you need to remember about God? 

#ezercollective, #ezercollective2018, #josaxton

 

A peek under the hood – almost there!

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The place I’m learning to practice faithfulness….

 

The home stretch is here, dear friends! In less than two weeks, my book manuscript is due with Chalice Press! I’ve sorely missed my prayers here in this space – and my correspondence with you. But I hope to return soon.

Here is a photo of my mess desk where I’m surrounded by books, journals, and beauty out the window. I don’t always work here, but it’s a good place to squirrel away when I can.

The book writing process has not been what I envisioned  years ago when I dreamt of writing one. I don’t have hours strung together to sit down and find inspiration. Most of this book has come together in thirty-minute increments. Times when both the kids are asleep or pacified (which is becoming more and more rare). I am learning to simply keep my journal open on the counter to jot down a thought here or there when I’m in the flurry of other things. I am seeing that small scraps of time can equal enough.

I remember Tsh Oxenreider lifting up the power of “partial solutions” – this truth that we don’t (and many times can’t) get our ideal, but we can work with what we have. And many times, what we creatively compose through compromise ends up being not only enough, but beautiful.

I didn’t anticipate that the season in which I’d have a book contract, I’d have two young children, another house move, and a lot of personal upheaval, but this is where God calls and moves, my friends – in the midst of life happening in all the unexpected ways it always does.

So we learn how to grab onto the grace of what we have and to be faithful with it. We learn to be content with knowing and having what we do right now. A mantra I have been repeating to myself many months now is, “Faithfulness here…faithfulness here…

I will be back in touch, and Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Pilgrimage will hopefully be to you next summer. I will keep you posted in the editing and publishing process. Thank you for all of your encouragement and support – a form of holy manna that’s kept me fed.

And for now, faithfulness here.

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