A version of this post appeared in my “Monday Manna” newsletter. If you’d like to receive this directly to your inbox, subscribe here.

Good morning, friends, and a blessed New Year….

I receive such kind notes when I go long lapses without writing here, asking if I am okay. I am grateful to say things are almost always good, always hard, and always full. And while this little pocket of reflection appears less frequently than it used to, I am embracing this season for what it is, and deeply grateful for the points of connection in its flow. I remain so humbled you receive these words, friends. 

While every day calls for reflection, today especially does. Thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy brings deep stirring to my soul. I was listening to an interview recently with Lynne Twist in which she described the difference between taking a position vs. taking a stand. “When you take a position,” Twist says, “it always calls up its opposition.” I’m for thisI’m against thisUs. Them. 

Positions are important and necessary, but if we stay solely in the territory of positions, we remain stuck in polarity. “A stand,” by contrast, “is a brave, bold commitment that creates an energetic environment from which we can act,” she says. Twist described how Martin Luther King Jr. embodied taking a ‘stand,’ and how this enabled him to be such a vessel of momentous change. 

A stand is a vision for the world. A stand is fueled by love. A stand is light. A stand is God’s dream. 

It’s the sign my young daughter wrote out which has hung in our kitchen this last year. A quote from one of her favorite Clementine books…

Reflecting on the stand of King is hard for me. It makes me uncomfortable. It reveals how far I have to go in my own calling toward justice and peace-making. It convicts me with my complacency in using what I’ve been given. 

While gathered with a group of friends last week, I asked one of my dear friends about the “Beyond Diversity” training she’d done. This friend is of utmost inspiration to me, embracing racial reckoning as foundational to her faith. She is continually reading books, engaging in hard conversations, and leading others in justice work around race. 

One of the things the group did at the training, my friend said, was go through Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”

Though written over thirty years ago, this piece about racial privilege especially made rounds following George Floyd’s death. My friend’s training group looked through McIntosh’s writing together, then completed the questions to be given a score. 130 was the highest score, meaning the highest form of racial privilege. 

“I was 130,” my friend vulnerably shared. “We had to create a circle, lining up according to the number we scored,” she continued. My friend described the literal, visual color gradation of this circle, with the lightest skinned person on one end, and the person with the darkest skin at the other. The highest score was 130. The lowest score was 5. 

I asked for a copy of the scoring rubric. 

I, too, scored 130.

How am I using my 130? 

Not at all the way I should be. Not the way I need to be. 

And I’m realizing how in order to take part in the holy resistance around me, I need to overcome the unhealthy resistance within me. The genesis for this work starts as an inside job. Lest we think our inner work does not make that much of a difference, I returned this week to these words from beloved John O’Donohue, whose death anniversary we mark this month….

The spirit of a time is an incredibly subtle, yet hugely powerful force. And it is comprised of the mentality and spirit of all individuals together. Therefore, the way you look at things is not simply a private mater. Your outlook actually and concretely affects what goes on. When you give in to helplessness, you collude with despair and add to it. When you take back your power and choose to see the possibilities for healing and transformation, your creativity awakens and flows to become an active force of renewal and encouragement in the world. In this way, even in your own hidden life, you can become a powerful agent of transformation in a broken darkened world. There is a huge force field that opens when intention focuses and directs itself toward transformation.”* 

One of my deepest prayers for 2023 is for a heart, a life, a soul directed toward this transformation. A transformation that begins inside, then flows out to the world. 

Martin Luther King Jr. illumines what true transformation looks like. His engine was love. 

I’m reminded of a favorite James Finley question…

All things considered, what is the most loving thing I can do right now? 

There is nothing harder than to answer this question honestly. 

With our whole selves. 

Help me do it, friends. I’m here to help you, too. 

And most importantly, God will help us. 

***

A Prayer…

God is creating beauty in you, through you, as you begin this new year, and how exciting to anticipate what will unfold….Here is a prayer I wrote for a new discussion guide accompanying MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s new book on hope. I’ll be sharing more about this soon! In the meantime, a prayer….

Holy Author, 

Humble Artist…

From your quiet, gentle

hands come the most glorious landscapes—

the most generous stories—

creative works in which we find a home

to live in and live for. 

You hand us a pen, a paintbrush,

a ream of paper filled with space,

inviting our hands to move with yours,

joining the story…

making the story…

And so we put down our 

expectations about readiness

and our fears over standards. 

Our cravings for control 

and catharsis and closure. 

We put those down so we can take up 

faithfulness for now

and trust for today

and a pen or a paintbrush

in no need of perfect endings. 

We will open our hands and our hearts

in wide welcome, 

writing hope with our lives—

expressing your expansive ministry of grace. 

Amen. 

***

Something that nourished me recently…

Time in Minnesota with family after Christmas was a boon to the soul. I love, love, love snow. One morning was especially breathtaking while I was out on my run…every branch and pine needle dressed up with crystals. 

Through some incredible generosity from a friend of a friend, my daughter and I received tickets to see Lion King at the Cadillac Theater. I have never seen anything like it. I found myself in tears over the beauty of it all, including the moving story with themes of legacy, remembering who you are, stewarding what you’ve been entrusted with, and honoring the connectedness of all creation. I continue to fall more and more in love with live theater and the way it illumines truth and the essence of human spirit in such a matchless way. 

Star words….I‘ve written about this here in years past, but once again, I did the word retreat offered by Christine Valters Paintner, as well as receiving a word at our Star Gift Sunday at church. So this year, I have two….LIGHT and TODAY. 

***

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

* Speaking of tending to your inner life, my partner, Jeff, launched a new podcast this past week called “The Daily Edify.” Each short episode is meant to spiritually ground you and bring you into the flow of love. Listen on any podcast platform you use! 

* And speaking of taking a stand, a critical step is becoming educated and aware. Our friend, Vic Doucette, has sought to do exactly this, offering a compelling and powerful newsletter each month focused on a different area of social justice. Learn more and subscribe to the Social Justice Resource Center here

* More on the Hope discussion guide I wrote for MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s new book will come next time! Along with some other updates of things I’m working on. 

***

With you as you consider your most loving next step, and take a stand…

Love and Light,

Arianne