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

Category: Prayers (Page 1 of 8)

The Power of Pausing…

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

Peace and love to you, friends, in this Thanksgiving week ~ 

These weeks have been full since I last wrote to you, with other writing deadlines and trips and many (MANY) no-school-days for my kiddos. I’ve joked in the past that “Monday Manna” would be more appropriately titled “Monthly Manna,” but even that is a stretch! Please know I am continually humbled that you allow me into your inbox at all, and pray there is something useful God is bringing to your beautiful heart and meaningful life in some small way. 

So, here’s a little haiku I wrote…

In the PAUSE is space

where wisdom exhales, taking

power’s open hands. 

I’ve been surrounded lately with promptings to reflect on the power of pausing. There’s the famous quote you may know from Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor  Viktor Frankl—“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our responseIn our response lies our growth and our freedom..”

“Space” is another way to frame it. A little protected place. 

When we pause, we claim our power to choose a response, rather than default to react. We are claiming some ownership over what we say and do. And in doing that, much more likely to say and do what is in line with our truth. 

Even though the cultural waters in which we swim are currents of immediacy, you don’t have to swim in that lane anymore. When someone asks something of you, you can take some time before offering an answer. When someone does or says something that ignites or triggers us inside, we can claim that pause. We can settle into the shelter of that space and let wisdom “exhale” while we “take power’s open hands.” Hands which will lead us away from activation and ground us in both peace and peace-making. 

Pausing is also powerful in times of anxiety. When we pause and breathe, we recognize how, fundamentally, we are okay. It’s like what I once heard a therapist say—”if you are breathing, there is more right than wrong with you.” 

A pause can be a form of rest, or even a re-set. After I had my first child, a dear friend and mentor who’d raised four children of her own came over once a week to be with my daughter while I had an hour to myself. But alongside the reprieve this was in and itself, Sally also imparted much wisdom. She told me that when my daughter went down for a nap, I would want to do all the things. “Sit down,” Sally said. “Sit down and drink a cup of tea.” 

I still hear Sally’s voice, years later. And some days I take the time to pause and some days I don’t. But I always feel more like myself on the days I do, because pausing, I’m realizing, is prayer. 

When I take a moment, or even a few, to breathe, to sit in a chair or stand at the window, I recognize God’s presence with me. I get grounded in where I am. And I remember anew how Jesus was so profoundly good at pausing. I don’t know anyone else who slept in a boat through a storm. 

A pause is connection. Connection to God. Connection to your true heart. And from that place of connection, you can have so much confidence in choosing what you will do next. You will move through your life awake, aware, and grateful. And you will feel strong. Because you are. 

So the invitation this week as Thanksgiving approaches and families gather, is to pause. Let God’s wisdom exhale in you. Honor yourself, and the One within you, in this way. 

***

A Prayer

I recently heard November described as “All-Saints month,” which brought comfort to my heart, as well as an opening. In the past, I’d only thought about All-Saints Day (November 1), and this year, didn’t have space to reflect very much on a busy Tuesday. But embracing this entire month as an opportunity to feel and pray for the saints in our lives and the gift of resurrection felt freeing. Know that I am thinking of you as you miss saints at your own Thanksgiving tables this year….

From my book, Ash and Starlight…

 For All-Saints Day

God of welcome and warmth,

I’m a bit melancholy –

or maybe it’s pensive –

in approaching this All-Saints Day.

It’s a beautiful day –

this time to remember and give thanks

for the saints who have graced my life.

These angels –

raw, real, and devoted

in their humanity –

who have encouraged me,

emboldened me,

taught me what I needed

to know to survive…

I think of parents, grandparents,

partners, wives, husbands,

sisters, brothers,

teachers, colleagues,

neighbors, friends –

some of them did seem

pretty unlikely characters

to be your saints,

but the more I live,

the more I realize

that’s pretty typical of you

and your choosing.

I am grateful for these

quirky, lovely individuals

who have gone before me but

whose light still shines,

bringing warmth and illumination

to my own journey.

Their whispers of wisdom

help me hunger for a deeper

wholeness found in you.

They tell me I can be a saint too…

You have called me, like those before me,

to do things with a great, tidal love,

covering the ache of this world.

So I answer this calling, God, with all I am.

I bring you myself and my prayers

for all those on my heart.

I thank you, God, for the

saints of then and

the saints of now…

for the saint you are kindling inside of me.

May I remain grateful for their impact

on my life and heart –

the truth they spoke and lived,

the faith they held and passed on,

the love they modeled and shared.

Amen.

Jeremiah 1:5 * Hebrews 11-12:2 * 2 Timothy 1:5-7

“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…

let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…”

– Hebrews 12:1-2

***

Something that nourished me recently…

“Pauses” can be geographical, too. This overlook of Lake Michigan on a frequent running route is a place I make myself pause. I’m often tempted to keep jogging, peek over the railing, and roll on through. But lately, I’ve been trying to train myself to stop. Seeing these footprints in the crusty snow on a run recently was just the inspiration I needed to stop and pause. A reminder again of how we help each other learn to do this. 

Another geographical pause. My family just got back from a short trip to Saugatuck, MI. It was wonderful. And so cold. Here’s us at the top of Mt. Baldhead where my two-year-old enjoyed sliding down the 300 snow-laden steps on his bottom. His own form of a sledding, perhaps. 

***

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

One of my Wholly Writers sisters just published a BEAUTIFUL book. When the COVID shut-down first happened, Sarah Scherschligt started writing daily posts on Facebook as a way to encourage her church/community and remain connected during those early lock-down days. Every post ended with, “God Holds You.” The lock-down continued. And Sarah kept writing, every single day. For thirteen months. All of Sarah’s reflections are now compiled into an incredible book. It’s both memoir and social commentary, reflecting on faith through the pandemic, but also the social upheaval of these y ears, including the struggle for racial justice, the January 6th insurrection, and the deepening environmental crisis. This book is a companion, friends, to carry with us as look back on this time and wonder how we did it. We did it, because God held us. Get one for yourself, and then every person on your Christmas list. 

* More from amazing, amazing friends — abby mohaupt and Dr. Ted Hiebert  did a powerful event at our church on climate migration last month. My brain was spinning in listening to abby and Ted share. I urge you to listen. The event was recorded and can be viewed here. All especially timely as we look at the breaking news  from the U.N. Climate Agreement in which rich countries have agreed to pay developing nations for damage caused by global warming. So much to figure out still, of course, but this is progress after 30 years of deadlock. Also, if you are a faith leader, please consider signing this multi-faith letter for fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.  

* I’m a frequent peruser in Trader Joe’s card section, and a friend saw this before I did.  This was a fun surprise!!! 

Artist is Penelope Dullaghan

*We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga is one of my new favorite children’s books, perfect for this time of year. Otsaliheliga is used by the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. This book is written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and goes through the year—fall through summer—with celebrations and experiences. It has a full syllabary and glossary, too. My kids love this book.  

* Lastly, thank you again for all your support with the Chicago Marathon and fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association. I realized one of my favorite pictures from the whole weekend somehow didn’t copy into the last Monday Manna—my brother, sister-in-law and I after the race. One of the biggest blessings was getting to do this race with them (though they are superhuman fast, so not “with” them, in that sense, LOL). Love you, Matt and Caitlin. 

***

Wishing you all peace and power in your pauses this week. And for those in the U.S., a Thanksgiving of meaning, joy, and connection. 

Love and Light,

Arianne 

Marathons and Moulding…

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

Fresh mercies and hope to you, friends, as we start this new week ~ 

Before anything else, if you live in the path of Hurricane Ian, I have been carrying you around in my heart continually. We are all holding the heavy images, and I can only imagine how it feels for those who lived these pictures. We always belong to one another, and disasters bring that truth to the front seat it should always have. More on that below, including some places I personally donate. 

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the threads tying us together— the lasting impact we can make, even when a relationship or connection is a short season. 

This coming Sunday, October 9, I’ll be running the Chicago Marathon for the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my mom, along with my brother and sister-in-law. It’s a surreal and sacred time as the culmination of a year’s training and injury rehabilitation is now just days away. 

I’ve shared in earlier posts how this marathon encompasses a myriad of meaningful layers. My last marathon was Boston of 2013 when bombs detonated and road races changed forever. There have been devastating deaths and babies born and diagnoses and moves since I last laced up shoes for a marathon. My life is different. I am different. 

The winds of loving support from those around me have been literal wings to my (many days feeling like cement blocks) legs. I’ve been humbled to receive generous donations and vulnerable stories from many of you who have loved ones living with Alzheimer’s. Your support has been truly incredible. I’ve carried a list of names with me on nearly every run. 

It was a dark morning a couple weeks ago when I was finishing up a speed workout at our local high school track. The wind whirled with that freshly fall bite, I could see light over the tree line edging out the layers of clouds, and I was alone on the lanes. I pressed my watch and settled into my cadence. And as I came around the curve, I had flash backs in my ears, my eyes, my memory. 

I pictured my very first run in sixth-grade wearing an oversized cotton t-shirt, following my dad on his run and turning to walk back home after half a mile. 

I heard again my high school track coach, standing on the field grass with a stop watch. I thought of my cross-country teammates and the energy we shared with one another  simply through running side by side. 

I thought of my physical therapist who helped me heal from a hamstring injury earlier this year. My husband who managed a literal circus every morning so I could run early. The local pool supervisor who let me get in the diving well to aqua jog when my legs couldn’t take the pounding. My three kids who took turns on bikes or the running stroller to keep me company, all while listening to my marathon playlist (an eclectic mix of everything from Encanto and the Jackson 5 to Coldplay and Lady Gaga).

I thought of the many beautiful people who helped me get here. 

And not just marathon-here, but life-here. 

It is a true miracle, isn’t it? A marvel when we reflect on how we are who we are and are where we are because of the generosity—intentional or unknown—from those along the way? 

When I left for Taiwan after college, my home church in South Dakota sent me with a prayer quilt. Amid the patches of purple daisies and yellow swirl drops were countless knots of thin white yarn, each knot tied by the hands of a faith family member. Each knot tied with a prayer. 

I slept under that quilt those nine months in Taiwan, and I keep that quilt out now, draping it over my legs and placing my hands on the tassels. 

“We are moulded and remoulded,” writes Francois Mauriac, “by those who have loved us, and though their love may pass, we are nevertheless their work.” 

I offer this invitation for you to consider your own moulding, and the moulder you are alongside the Great Moulder.

All those years. All those holy hands…including yours. 

Again, it’s a miracle….

Thank you, dear friends, for your support and love. See you after the finish line. 

***

A Prayer…

Today’s prayer is fuel for me right now, but also, a connection to the last Monday Manna and the “gears of progress.” From my book, Ash and Starlight…

When I need to remember I’m an overcomer

Strong and Loving God,

In you,

through you,

because of you,

I am an overcomer.

Thank you for helping me trust amid setbacks…

for training me to see how progress

isn’t a straight line, but a squiggly one

marked by moments I put my hands on

my knees and gasp for breath.

I keep my eyes forward

that I might see the

promise before me.

Through my sweat today,

I’m building new strength

and skill for tomorrow.

The simple choice to try again,

to show up and do the work,

is victory in your book.

Help me find a goal that’s attainable for now,

and tomorrow, one a little further down the road.

I will be less overwhelmed that way…

And that’s how you do it –

sneaking me into believing

I can do this thing.

Yours is the coaching

voice I need most,

speaking directly in

my ear as you run alongside,

stride for stride.

I believe in you. 

I am with you. 

We will overcome

this together. 

Amen.

Psalm 121 * 2 Timothy 4:7-8 * Hebrews 12:1-2

“Let us run with perseverance the

 race that is set before us, looking

to Jesus…” – Hebrews 12:1-2

***

Something that nourished me recently…

For the first time in six years, my writing group gathered with our incredible coach, Marge Barrett, at her river home in Marine on St. Croix. The time, people, and place formed such a haven for my soul and body. I didn’t do too much writing, but I did talk and eat and savor the company of women I respect so much. And I did run. William O’Brien park provided actual fields of gold. 

I wrote some weeks ago about how threshold crossings abound right now, and a seemingly small, yet significant, one for me was the recent passing of my old lap top. This was my companion when I first met my writing group. What I typed my first book on. And so much more. Time for a new season. 

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

* Thank you, thank you, thank you again to all who have supported the Alzheimer’s Association and my training. We have raised over $6,500! My fundraising page is here. Also, a bonus challenge—if you should find yourself in Chicago on Sunday morning and play a song from my playlist when I run by, I may have a prize for you. 

* There are so many beautiful people doing beautiful work to help our siblings in need after Hurricane Ian. I personally appreciate and support PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance) and Together Rising

* More money for more important causes—a local mom in my area began March Fourth as a response to the shooting in Highland Park this summer. If you are local and want a yard sign, let me know! Learn more about this amazing advocacy group working to ban assault weapons here

This book by MaryAnn McKibben Dana. It is manna, my friends. I’ll be sharing more about it in the weeks to come. 

***

Giving thanks for your mouldedness and the ways you mould, and cheering you on in your own race…

Love and Light,

Arianne 

What Matters

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 ~ 

What matters? What really matters? 

I’ve been confronted with this question—and the challenge to answer it—in various forms and at numerous times in recent months. Perhaps one of the biggest sources posing this question is the sorting my brother and I are doing right now in my mom’s house. When my mom needed to make a swift and sudden move from her house (and our childhood home) a couple of months ago, we knew this was going to be an intense process, especially as my brother and I live hundreds of miles away and have kids in diapers. 

The time we have to go through our family home of nearly thirty years is limited. The stress of it all found me standing in my mom’s kitchen, eating my children’s bunny grahams by the fistful in pajamas at 7:00 p.m. 

Many of you know so deeply this experience. You’ve done it. You’re holding things in your hands and deciding what to keep. Is it sacrilegious to throw photos of the people you love more than anything in a dumpster?  

Does the photo matter, or the memory and people the photo represents? Sometimes it’s a yes to both. These matters of the heart can be tedious as we’re asked to sift our values out from all this chaff.  

I’m reminded of an Arthur Brooks’ article in The Atlantic a couple months ago (“The Satisfaction Trap”) which I keep returning to again and again and again. With a focus on how perpetually discontent many of us seem to be, Brooks humbly and wisely points us toward a complete reframing of what we want. Of what really matters to us. 

He describes being with some close friends at the home of a dear friend diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. As dusk settled in, his friend gathered the group to stand by a plant with tiny flowers, still closed. They stood still in silence for ten minutes. Brooks writes how all of the sudden, the flowers popped open, and the group drew in their breath with amazement. This happens, he learned, every single evening.  

It was such a moving experience of deep satisfaction that Brooks—a Harvard professor who has achieved more acclamation and awards than one could list—started making a daily item on his to-to list to, “be truly present for an ordinary occurrence.” 

It’s the marvel and the miracle of being grateful and alive right where you are, letting it shape you. It’s prioritizing presence. 

I’m beginning to wonder if this kind of living is the key to freedom. We suffer so much through our attachments and clinging, be it to people or things or plans. But what if what truly matters, what leads to the contentment and freedom God longs for in us, is planting our feet right here, opening our eyes, and receiving what’s before us as a gracious gift? What if all the the things we’ve been striving for and think we want are actually leading us further away from the vibrancy we long for? 

These questions shift my whole spirit in my mom’s house. Maybe I can let go of the stress and instead say, “thank you,” a million times with every item I touch, whether it’s stored or passed on, for the memories and moments it represents. 

I wrote a few weeks ago about a coaching summit I attended with some other Presbyterian pastors. At the close of each day, we gathered in a circle, joined hands, and chanted one of my favorite quotes from Dag Hammarskjöld. 

“For all that has been,” said the leader,

“THANKS!” we responded, taking a big step together into the circle. 

“For all that has been,” the leader continued,

“YES!” we exclaimed, raising our joined hands into the air. 

For now, this is what matters to me. Gratitude and a “yes” to the seemingly small and simple right here and now. 

This is a sacred time for many of us—Holy Week, Passover, Ramadan—all in these coming days. I personally am reflecting with amazement, confession, and hope over Jesus’ extraordinary love, and how his living out what matters changed everything.

And still does. 

A PRAYER

Getting grounded in what matters to me right now. 

From my book, Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life.

When I need to ground myself in today

Calming One,

I am stopping now.

I am resting now.

I am letting the stillness

of being with you

wash in like a wave,

while the chatter and

activity around me recede.

Thank goodness I don’t need

silence around me

in order to have quiet inside.

This moment, God –

it’s what I need and where I am.

I find myself so encumbered

by yesterdays and tomorrows

that sometimes, I leave today 

in the corner.

But today is enough.

You’re giving me the daily bread I need for now –

a person who loves me,

a moment to breathe,

a meal on the table,

a word bringing hope,

a gleam of life outside my window.

Please help me open my hands

and receive today with gratitude,

letting past seasons fill me with appreciation,

and seasons yet to be give me hope.

But for now – 

Today. Today. Today.

I love you best when I’m present,

seeing and hearing and holding

what asks for my heartfelt attention

here and now.

You promise to hold

space for everything else.

Thank you for bringing me back, God.

Thank you for the miracle of manna.

Amen.

1 Kings 17:8-16 * Matthew 6:11 * Matthew 6:34

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

– Matthew 6:11

SOMETHING THAT NOURISHED ME RECENTLY…

Giving thanks for seasons, the  memories held there, and how God brings it all together. My husband gave me this week a framed art piece he created of three maps—the Twin Cities (where he’s from), Sioux Falls, SD (where I grew up), and Chicago (where we live now).  

Trampoline joy at the neighbor’s house. Reminds me of a beloved poem by William Martin….”The Marvel of the Ordinary.” 

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

A&S PLUS OTHER GOOD THINGS….

* Find Ash and Starlight here. 

* I am a team writer and editor for Illustrated Ministry and I am very excited about these new flags being launched. 

***

Grace and peace and presence and gratitude to each of you today…. 

Love and Light,

Arianne 

A Prayer for the New Year….

Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

Welcome 2021!!! A prayer for the new year with some accompanying Scripture from Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life.

For the New Year

Gracious One,

I thank you for holding my 

hand in this fresh, new year…

Against my inclination 

and with your help,

I let go of my desire for 

more control over my life.

My hunger to know what’s coming 

and to be ready for it.

My expectations to be in charge.

Have you not taught me again and again

how the joy is in the flexibility?

How all the unexpected, 

the unwanted, the unexplained 

things coalesce to carve me into

the person I really want to be?

Even the changes I asked for,

the changes I wanted,

can cause anxiety.

Treading on this shifting soil

calls for a steadiness

beyond my own capabilities.

So I trust your hand to hold mine,

carrying me into this new land –

good but different.

You are my Birthing Mother,

always re-creating, always open to change.

You keep showing me 

while change is eternally constant,

so is your presence.

You engrain in me 

how hope is born through struggle

and the fresh start brought through

change is an invitation to grow.

Whenever something leaves,

something new comes.

Please give me the 

wisdom of soul, Loving One,

to look for it.

For a soft heart open to newness,

sensitive to others’ pain,

resilient with hope,

trusting in darkness….

this is the heart for 

which I pray this year.

Amen.

 Jeremiah 29:11 * Ezekiel 11:9 * 1 Corinthians 2:9

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the 

human heart conceived, what God has 

prepared for those who love God…” 

– 1 Corinthians 2:9 

Prayers for Advent 2020…

Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe of the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. Regarding the picture, Susanne writes, ” It was such an emotional visit that I felt like I was defiling the memorial if I took too many pictures. Something about this one, taken from a distance, felt more sacred.” EJI was founded by Bryan Stevenson.

“Hope is our superpower,” Bryan Stevenson asserted in his recent interview with Krista Tippett for Onbeing. His words stopped me. The truth of that statement flooded me with this fresh, yet unsurprising, realization. This is how we are making it right now. In this year of COVID, national disunity, and a much overdue racial reckoning, we’ve been forced to draw upon a whole new level of resilience and faith. A superpower.

Stevenson, a modern day hero in countless ways, is fueled by hope – a gritty belief in “what is unseen” which he “[waits] for with patience” (Romans 8). Speaking of things unseen, Stevenson also shared in the interview how he’d never met a lawyer before he went to law school. His vision has always been one of hope-filled belief in freedom and abundant life for all, even as the picture in his heart’s eye is painfully far from the surrounding reality.

The traditional themes, or “gifts,” of Advent are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. I’ve experienced new meaning this year as to why Hope is always the first week of Advent. It’s both the opening virtue and foundational layer for all the other gifts and experiences to come. It harkens to a woman who said a hopeful yes to what she couldn’t see with her eyes but could with her heart. I think of hope as the true definition of courage.

I have two Advent prayers to share. One I included in my most recent “Monday Manna” newsletter. The other is a prayer from my book, Ash and Starlight, which even in this Christmas season like no other, still speaks from and to the depths of my heart.

While I wish all God’s gifts for you this Advent, I especially wish you Hope. A new day is coming, and God will carry us until we get there. In the meantime, we pray one of the most ancient prayers I know. Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus…

***

A Prayer for Advent 2020 

Maranatha….

Come, Lord Jesus…

Amid my reality feeling unsustainable

but not optional…

In my questions of capacity

and burning-with-fatigue-faith….

In the standards I’ve been forced to shift

and the expectations left untouched, let alone unmet. 

Yours is the Story, Lord!

A Story which cannot be swallowed by

even the most chaotic, swirling storm 

of illness, grief, rage, fear…

Even now, musicians don masks, 

little hands light candles, 

hearts and souls unite over screens.

You are coming here….

A miracle never finished, but always unfolding,

bringing new gifts in this season

when I don’t recognize my life,

and at many times, 

myself. 

Because you come,

I will love my life. 

I will claim its gifts. 

I will hold hope 

and breathe peace

and speak joy

and listen to love. 

Maranatha…

For this world, for all I love, for me…

Amen. 

***

A Parent’s Advent Prayer (From Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life)

Dear God,

I now stop what I’m doing,

what I’m thinking,

what I’m scrambling to plan

and hustling to finish 

so that I can

be here.

Be here in the safety and warmth of your love.

This love that holds me fast and keeps me centered.

What I want to be a season of joy for my children 

so quickly becomes a season of 

increased expectations for me –

not because they expect things, 

but because I do.

It’s the pressure I put on myself to

make things perfect,

and memorable,

and happy,

and *special*.

But you came to me amidst darkness and stars –

reminding me how darkness and light 

are most beautiful together.

And in that holy, mysterious and messy night, 

you re-defined perfection,

promising me that leaning into the mystery

and laying down in loving awe

compose the most faithful response.

You tell me the best gift I can give 

my children this Christmas is

to look with love into their eyes.

To pause throughout the day 

to pray over them.

To envelop them with arms 

of fierce grace when I feel 

most angry or annoyed.

To sit in wonder for a moment (or many)

and marvel at all that shaped 

our family this year.

To give thanks

and allow tears to fall

and dreams to rise.

To take my pilgrim band 

by their hands and walk together,

deep into the heart of Bethlehem 

shining bright within our souls.

This will be more than enough,

because you’ve made a manger 

in which my heart will rest and find 

your heartbeat becoming mine.

Amen.

The invitation of anniversaries- one year of A&S…

My copy of Ash and Starlight, with a taped-in photo of opening my first boxes of the book.

Today, October 22, marks one year since Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life was born. Anniversaries are powerful days. They especially hold significant influence when our hearts and bodies pay attention to them with awareness and openness.

With an anniversary, we mark the event, but we also mark the life we’ve embodied and experienced since then. We remember the memory of that day a year ago (or more!), and we hold up our current life to the touchstone of what life held back then. We stretch our arms around new layers of that day, asking, “what does that experience mean now?”

I found out I was miraculously pregnant a few days after my final book event last December. We then entered a collective crucible in the late winter while COVID became much more than a concern in Wuhan. And as that fire rose, so too did the flames of a long overdue and necessary racial reckoning. Never would I have dreamt my current life on this day last year. Life then was book events with rooms of unmasked people and our family of four. Now it’s mothering a newborn, an active three-year-old, and a zoom kindergartner nearly exclusively within the four walls of our home. If you are a fellow HSP (highly sensitive person), perhaps your meter is off the charts too.

I wrote Ash and Starlight in the confines of my own personal crucible. Many of its prayers were penned during my most challenging seasons of surrender, loss, and questioning. The “Ash and Starlight” musical text itself came together as a commission following my father’s death. Over the course of nine years, writing prayers became a rope to hold, my steadying walking stick, on this endless life pilgrimage – a walk that’s never over, encompassing seasons where we question our ability to keep going.

Little did I know how I myself would need these prayers in the months following publication. I couldn’t forecast the fresh levels of chaos and profound reservoirs of grace which would rock and anchor me. Things have been hard. Really, really hard.

With this anniversary, I’m reflecting on the ash and starlight of this last year. In my hands, I hold the loss we’ve experienced with the world turned upside down, while simultaneously holding (literally Ergo wearing as I type this now) our “Little Miracle,” Noah. He enfleshes what I described in Ash and Starlight’s introduction…

“The poetry of Genesis [reminds us] God created us from the ash and dust of the earth, then blew divine breath into us. This same breath created the stars – what ancient people saw as “heavenly beings” filled with transcendent, pure, and powerful beauty. The illumined meaning of the poem uncovers a beautiful truth. We are made of earth and we are made of heaven. Ash and starlight woven together.”

So are our lives. Every. Single. Day.

Amid the stress, tears, and sweet spots of this time, I’m trying, however feebly, to mark this anniversary by receiving its invitation – the opportunity to ask myself, Who am I? What needs prayer here and now? And especially, the question that led to so many of the prayers in the book…What can I let go of today? I so struggle to accept the bedrock place surrender has to have in my spiritual life.

My deepest desires for all of you and for the book remain, and I pray them anew…

“I hope you feel freshly empowered and equipped to approach 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…May you awaken to sentiments you didn’t realize were harbored within you, and invite God to share in them. And, may you say yes to the ash and starlight in your own journey, because there is no transformative power in what we deny.

The world is a broken and beautiful place, and a tender, strong God holds us in it. I pray you find connection and wholeness as you run with elation or crawl on hands and knees through the dark. We will all do both.

We won’t fully reach the destination – at least, not in this life. But God will give us glimpses along the way – enough to get us up in the morning and say “yes” all over again…” (Introduction, p. 3-4)

This is my hope for all of us – for how we show up to life, to God, and to ourselves. We seep in the paradox of finding what we most need by releasing what we think we do. We say yes to the life that terrifies us. The fire keeps burning dross away, and we see the face of God revealed in our own souls. And, with courage enough for now, we “unfurl our hands in aching yes, / and clasp the holy gift, / which is this day, / which is enough. / Another chance to live, / to burn with grace.”

The final stanza of “Ash and Starlight”….

To close, a brief then/now with photos…

2019

At the book launch…

And 2020, our family now…

(Jessie Hearn Photography)

Gratitude and praise to the God who is able and good, the God who is with us and for us. Grace, peace, love, and strength to every one of you….

Amen.

‘Ears as Soil’ and a fresh prayer to the Sower….

I appreciated the privilege of guest-preaching yesterday morning (virtually!) for a dear friend’s congregation. The Lectionary Gospel Text was the Parable of the Sower from Matthew 13:1-9 (explained in vs. 18-23).

It was a meaningful, challenging text for me to pray over and ponder last week. What especially resonated with my heart in recent days was the connection between our ears and the soil to which Jesus refers – our ability/willingness to deeply listen and the various forms of resistance Jesus names. Listening actively and attentively is what will initially determine whether a seed of God’s truth and hope finds any lodging, and Jesus names this – “Let anyone with ears, listen!”

A quick overview of how I see these soils….

  • The first soil is, well, not listening much at all. In one ear and out the other. Looking compassionately at these ears (which I recognize often in myself), they just aren’t ready.
  • The second soil (rocky) appears to be “shallow” listening. We genuinely take in the transformative message Jesus offers, but it just doesn’t stick. We get exhausted or skeptical or both.
  • The third soil (thorny/sharp) can be thought of as “choked” listening. Maybe we accept what Jesus says, but we backslide into complacency when other things take front and center. I’m especially compelled by what this means for us in a time of such debilitating anxiety in our news – from COVID to racist policies to violence in my own city of Chicago making national headlines. It’s not just the lure of wealth or self-sufficiency that can choke our listening. What about all the handwringing we do over the world going to hell in a hand basket?
  • The last soil (good!) connotes what we all pray and strive for – active, deep, heartfelt listening. True listening builds on openness to being changed and transformed by what we hear. And it’s intentionally and continually giving that message continued room to grow (lots. of. work.).

We greatly miss out if we take this parable on solely an individual/personal level. The communal undertones are strong, as we we also collectively form an environment with others that builds or breaks down resistance to the Gospel’s spread.

Living out God’s message of liberation and transforming love is similarly difficult when it comes to the foundational blocks of our society. Cries for racial justice are a powerful example. There’s the hard path of white fragility, the rocky soil of fading out after a sprint of temporary attention, the thorns of sacrifices and reparations some feel are too much. Are we listening? What a call to use our ears!!

The Sower was where I drew my greatest hope in Jesus’ parable. This untamed and creative Sower is a lot like the wild nature around us. Beautiful flowers can grow in the sidewalk my kids roll over on their scooters and bike every single day. “Good soil” doesn’t have to look manicured.

The harvest of our active and deep listening may be to do some sowing ourselves, following in the footsteps of the Sower who gives freely without expectation and scatters resources without regulation. Every kind of soil is work the investment. We give ourselves to the work without getting too attached to the results. Because God cares more about our faithfulness than our success. If it were otherwise, we’d have a completely different parable and Sower.

Here is a fresh prayer inspired by this hope-filled word….

Wild and Lavish Sower, 

Your pockets overflow with redemptive seed 

which you grasp by the handful – 

scattering hundreds of hope-filled truths

in every direction, on every soil. 

You laugh with joy in the abundance of it all, 

stretching your generous hands 

toward a world hunkered down with 

questions of scarcity and skepticism. 

Make us ready for your seed, God, 

make me ready! 

Till and break and shake the 

hardened clumps in my own soul – 

the too comfortable heart 

or complacent attitude,

the rock hard opinions calcified 

over years of narrow gazing. 

Open me to change and growth.  

Cultivate courage in me to embrace

the inherent loss that will catalyze 

my best transformation. 

I want to truly see and deeply hear

what you so graciously plant…

to sprout the roots needed for

my nourishment when I become 

exhausted, bored, or overwhelmed. 

Nurture in me the staying power

to give your message room to grow, 

even as it asks for my greatest humility

(and at times, humiliation!). 

You will never stop sowing, 

nor ask for my readiness before 

tossing some seeds at me. 

And so today, 

I will slow down 

to seep in this quiet miracle – 

the potential wrapped 

in your Spirit seed 

settled in the soil of me. 

Amen. 

A prayer for this day…..

Photo by Lori Archer Raible

Wherever you are, body, heart, and mind, I am wishing you a bedrock of peace. The peace “passing understanding” which resolutely lodges itself beneath the surface of the continual change we are facing, the unraveling of what we’ve known and depended upon….

How powerfully reminded I’ve been of our interconnectedness. We live in a culture which prizes (idolizes?) individualism. And this experience of Covid-19 is not only a profound reminder, it is in many respects a calling. What does it look like to “love my neighbor” in these days? Because as many have said, we belong to each other. Your trust, empathy, and daily, faithful action are a gift with unmeasurable value.

The Illustrated Ministry team is putting together a coloring poster to help us breathe and focus in the swirl and the stress, and I wrote a short, simple prayer for it. Similar themes to Ash and Starlight, which grounds itself in surrender and courage.

Into your spacious heart 

and loving hands, dear God,  

I place my fears, 

my “what if’s,” 

my spinning world and mind…

Comfort me with the truth 

No fear is too big  

for the Great One within me. 

I am never alone.  

Calming God, bring courage. 

Tender Spirit, breathe peace. 

Gentle Jesus, be close. 

Amen. 

A couple of prayers for Thanksgiving…..

Photo by Lori Archer Raible

Blessings to all in this week of gathering, remembering, and giving thanks. My publisher asked that I write a couple of prayers for these coming days – one for Thanksgiving, and one for the stresses of complicated family dynamics at the holidays. This time of year can really push and press on family wounds for some. If this is your reality, I am praying extra gentleness and strength over you this week.

***

Thanksgiving prayer 

Generous One,

Everything is gift (from You!),

yet we become so used to 

what we have and who we have 

that entitlement and expectation 

can film over our eyes. 

So on this Thanksgiving, 

we rub those eyes as long as it takes

to see with renewed clarity

the matchless, limitless abundance

that is your love toward us. 

God, use this marked, single day to

embed in our hearts a 

lifetime of daily praise.

Give us uplifted hearts 

holding responsibility’s weight

to serve and love 

with all we’ve been given. 

And no token-giving. 

We say Thank You, God, with all we are,

and promise to live our Thank You 

with our lives, not only our words – 

neither of which can encompass how 

much gratitude we owe you. 

Amen. 

***

When you’re struggling with family over the holidays….

Steadying God,

Settle my stressed-out soul,

my ruminating mind, 

my churning body

in this time of joining family.

For the “most wonderful time of the year”…. 

To really love them,

I must love them as they are

You tell me it is not love, otherwise. 

But the age old wounds

and present dysfunction

make me realize how tender 

those pain points still are,

and I can crumble or armor up

at the lightest touch. 

Can you help me, God,

to somehow make gentleness and grace

my guardrails this day? 

To allow space for all the things 

that have changed alongside the things

that have not?

Give me the integrity, 

the self-awareness,

the courage to be who I am,

honoring the Youwithin me – 

and each person under this roof. 

To remember as much as I can

that in joining hands and hearts

we are united with you. 

And today can be one step,

as you promise to be there 

for every next one – 

forward or backward. 

Amen. 

A prayer for boxes and a weekend recap

Photo by Lori Archer Raible

I shared this prayer in my Monday Manna newsletter today. I don’t know about you, but when I am under stress, I descend (quickly!) into black-and-white thinking. Especially about people and situations.

Last week, I saw Oprah’s Super-Soul Sunday conversation with Pema Chodron. One of the many wise things she said concerned our openness to “letting” people change. Or how we see situations. Our perceptions and beliefs about them can become so fixed and brittle (in large part due to justifiable pain). Here’s a little prayer to help us with this…. 

Humble Savior,

Help me be, see, and understand anew.

There’s a person, a place,

a question, an issue

I have put in a box.

Separateness gives the illusion

of some control,

and if I’m honest,

some superiority.

I am afraid to let

that person or that place

or that issue change

because of the change

that would ask for in me.

I’m cautious around invitations

with such ambiguous expectations.

Give me, God, the trust 

to see with innocent eyes,

to learn with a beginner’s mind,

to understand with a non-judging heart –

and really, to love even when I don’t understand.

Because showing how you were right

never seemed to be your first priority.

Rather than turn or edge back,

help me take one step closer this week

to what is other and different and hard.

Amen.

***

And then, yesterday was such a blessing to my heart – a meaningful gathering at the Winnetka Book Stall for reflection, reading, signing, and cookie eating. I was so moved by the cross-section of people who came….people from the congregation at which I first began writing prayers eight years ago all the way to beautiful new friends I’ve recently gotten to know. A tangible reminder of God’s goodness in the journey, always unfolding….Here are some pictures!

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