Did any of you choose a “word” for the year? Before January embraces February, I wanted to do a short reflection on this. In our faith congregation, we celebrate “Star Gift Sunday” on Epiphany. We have hundreds of words printed out on pretty cards, and each person receives one (the kids pass them out).
It is “random,” but I believe the Spirit is, of course, at work in bringing the word – and the ensuing learning/growth! – each of us needs. Like the guiding star followed by the magi, we each are gifted with a guiding word to hone and direct us in the upcoming year. A word through which we can experience God and the world with fresh intention.
To be honest, some of my words in years past have kind of ticked me off. The Epiphany after my second child was born, I got the word “caring” and I wanted to hand it right back. At the time, I felt like all I did was try and take care of people with their needs (read: I really needed a break). But in that year, I broke two bones and had some other life circumstances that required a lot of caring from others! I experienced the caring of loving people around me and with it, unexpected dimensions of my star word.
And then there was last year, when my word was tolerance. Delving more into the various meanings of the word really challenged me. One vein of understanding was the ability to endure and thrive in unfavorable conditions. Another was the willingness to hold opinions or beliefs of others with which I didn’t agree. Both of these definitions found deep resonance in my life last year.
And now this year, the word I received was hospitality. I’m eager to see what God will reveal to and within me about this word. And I want to know – what does hospitality look like to you?
I’d also love to know if you’ve chosen a word for 2020 (love the ring of that!!) and why. We have such power when approaching our lives with intention and focus, and a “simple” word can help us do that.
Here’s to growth and new insight in the months to come, and gratitude for all the ways God will be at work – stretching, shaping, comforting, and holding us.
One of my big passions is holistic spirituality – the way we are threaded together in a seamless way – body, heart, soul, mind. I experience God powerfully through my body. This is why I was so excited about and grateful for the capstone to book events for Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life this fall. Last weekend was a very special and meaningful yoga class led and created by my dear friends, Cindi Odle and Betsy Patton, which incorporated some of my loves – yoga and prayer (which aren’t two separate things, in my opinion).
As a trained Baptiste Yoga instructor, Cindi led a meditative flow class in which we used the ten sequences of Baptiste yoga to form a framework for prayer through our bodies and spirits : Integration, Awakening, Vitality, Equanimity, Grounding, Igniting, Stability, Opening, Release, Rejuvenation, and Deep Rest.
With each phase, I read a portion of a prayer from Ash and Starlight connecting with the movement of our bodies. During “Awakening” as the class did sun salutations, I read “When I need a fresh spirit.” During “Vitality” as people moved through crescent lunges, side angles, and vinyasas, I read, “When I need to breathe and live into something new.” We flowed through each phase in body and breath, and Cindi encouraged people to rest in the prayerful words, letting them center and hold our hearts.
And at the end, we laid in savasana while listening to Josh Groban’s O Holy Night. I laid on my mat with tears rolling down my face, feeling a culmination of so many steps on such a long journey. One that is not done, though a significant bookmark made. A leg and chapter that’s taught me so much and whose lessons I’m still processing.
I have been thinking so much of one of my favorite quotes by Dag Hammerskjold…the prayer I’m carrying forward in this ending and beginning…..
“For all that has been – thanks. For all that will be – yes.”
Hello, friends! Blessings in this in-between space of summer ending and autumn starting. I recently made the switch to sharing the bulk of my writing and updates through Monday Manna which I wrote about here.
With Monday Manna, I share a prayer, a place to channel your prayerful energy, something that nourished me in the last week, and some updates on book news. You can sign up through the box on my website.
I want to now share here, however, some of the most recent prayers I’ve sent through Monday Manna. May they be nourishment for you as you head into the weekend.
When I begin to feel the fears rise
and the pressures push
me toward that cursed corner –
the dark and crushing space
saying, “it all depends on me” –
help me rise.
Lift me out and above
this swirl of deceptions, God,
and remind me I am not alone,
or expected to know everything.
My eyes just need to be in the right place.
Reground my understanding
that while I am called to faithfulness
with what I have,
where I am,
the make-or-break power of my days
is beyond my skill.
Give me one reminder this week, God,
of your presence in the details….
Just enough to shake me from
this stupor of self-reliance.
I commit today’s work to you,
and thank you in advance for what you’ll
make of it.
Please make me a vessel today
of your creative, life-giving spirit.
When I feel too tired to
invent, create, or decide,
remind me all I must do
is remember the Source
to Whom I’m connected.
Can beautiful holiness
be less about that for which I strive
and more about what I allow
to make a home in me?
Plant yourself on the
shoulder of my soul.
I will open and rest
while you flow and work.
Sometimes, the work
before me feels like
a cog in the wheel
of endless turning,
Each spin presents
the déjà vu of questions…
Is there meaningful worth
Is this what I am *supposed*
to be doing?
All those haunting interrogations
surfacing a steady low-grade anxiety…
Keep me today from apathy, God,
but also protect me from despair.
Remind me of the promise and truth
that most wheels are connected to something else,
and through continued faithfulness,
what I thought was an endless wheel
brings me to a new horizon,
a fresh perspective,
and a surge of strength.
I enter the week with open hands, asking for the trust, the humility, the contentment to find holiness in all I experience.
Help me cultivate an awareness toward abundance so often disguised in forms I miss, or even reject.
I count with concern
what appears available,
looking right over what’s
under my own feet.
What’s within my own heart.
Keep me from measuring – myself or those around me – and instead, see with awe the limitless ocean of grace in which we’re all floating.
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
I cry for our world.
I cry over broken bodies
and broken homes
and broken hearts.
I cry over violence
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,
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.
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.
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)?
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.
Out for a celebratory breakfast – Pictured hands belong to Jeff 🙂
Last week, a long-held dream came to fruition. I received a contract to publish a book.
So many emotions are swirling right now. I am profoundly grateful, humbled, and in awe, really. It is a holy gift and a holy opportunity – one I’ve prayed over and worked towards for years.
With Chalice Press and the support of Young Clergy Women International (THANK YOU!), I will be publishing a book of prayers – Journeying through Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Pilgrimage. Hoping for a launch date of July next year (2019).
Like this blog, Journeying through Ash and Starlight will help us pray through the every-day inner landscapes of life, as well as specific seasonal and liturgical times of year. Life is a journey of continual progression and change – a pilgrimage deeper and closer to the true self and to God. This book will be a compilation of my prayers which I hope helps you find connection and wholeness in your own spiritual pilgrimage.
I am profoundly grateful to all of you, and to the congregations and communities that have nurtured my writing. Composing prayers began as a practice eight years ago in my early pastoral work. Each week, I wrote and emailed out a prayer incorporating the prayer requests received from the congregation. The practice followed me to our beloved congregation in Fort Wayne, and then to the creation of this blog.
The world is broken and beautiful, and a tender, strong God holds each one of us in it. I write from love and I write for love. My deepest desire with this book is to bless and encourage as many people as I can, and in doing so, bring great joy to God.
I look forward to these coming months of honing my manuscript. Things may be quiet on the blog for the next month or so as I get my head around a new game-plan (and we also move into a different house!). Be well, friends, and stay tuned for more updates soon.
On Easter evening two days ago, I was carrying a heavy laundry basket and turned a corner on a rug. My weak ankle gave out, and I heard a “pop” from my foot.
Yesterday’s appointment (with the same doctor I initially saw for my ankle) confirmed my worst fear. I broke my foot. She said my bone density looked fine on the X-ray, but the tendons and ligaments surrounding my foot bones were still weak from my ankle injury. They couldn’t fully support my foot bones with the weight of the ankle giving out.
I had to pull out my boot from a shelf in the garage. The friend who lent me her crutches brought them back over (still adjusted to my size).
I just sobbed.
After five months of recovery from my ankle, I’d just finished physical therapy. I’d returned to my running regimen. We got a double stroller for the kids and me to enjoy the coming spring. I’d just said to my husband last weekend, “I am so happy.”
I told family yesterday I didn’t know what was more broken….my heart or my foot. It is truly devastating. And I thought about my prayer from last Friday and how that is exactly what I am leaning into today.
I’m paged this morning through my journal for recent quotes I’d copied. About a week ago, I’d read this from Elizabeth Lesser in Oprah’s new book, The Wisdom of Sundays….
You can either break down and stay broken down and eventually shut down, or you can break open…I’m not going to waste this precious experience, this opportunity to become the best me.
To be honest friends, all I wanted to do yesterday was break down. And through the night, I lay awake, picturing what lay ahead of me. The dependence. The helplessness. The pain.
Jeff turned on “pray-as-you-go” this morning where the music was a rendition of Psalm 118 –
“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
I remembered how my dad, who endured a cycle of continual relapse and remission with his cancer, said this in the morning for 11 years.
I thought about the immediate influx of of support I received from community yesterday – God’s presence made tangible in my midst.
And though I write with tears in my eyes, I am loosening my grip on my soul’s shards and letting them fall into the open hands of this beautiful community. This beautiful God. How good you are. How good God is.
I once heard of an ancient rabbinic tradition where Jewish rabbis would pray the “Aleph-Bet” (or the Hebrew alphabet). The belief was that the Spirit would form from the recited alphabet the words needed when we feel unable to pray ourselves. A, B, C, D, E……
So many of you have faced and are facing terrible things and gone on to blossom. Your lives are witness to me.
So here’s to breaking open today.
And saying yes to all things.
And letting the Spirit form the prayers I need today.
Continuing the “Love” theme of last week, I am re-sharing a prayer I wrote a couple years ago. However your heart feels and whatever your heart is holding, there is sacred space for that.
God always makes room for “all the things.” It’s a priceless gift to me when I often tell my own self “no room” to feel this way, think about that, hope for this, seethe about that. But as Father Richard Rohr says, “everything belongs.”
Your heart, and what it holds, belong right here. Right in God’s hands. In God’s heart.
As we think about Valentine’s day, we bring you our hearts…
patient or “I’m so done and over with this” hearts,
full or aching-with-hollowness hearts,
hearts that sing and
hearts now long silent,
We wear our hearts as the badges of honor they are – any heart that keeps beating love in a broken world is a testimony to grace, to resurrection, to you….Somehow, God, you find a way to curl yourself into the most closed hearts…to make your way through the heart’s minefield, knowing where to step, where to heal.
We know, God, that broken, beautiful hearts are powerful – the world was changed, is changed, because of your broken, beautiful heart. And there’s beauty to be found in the pieces…
Thank you, God, for holding us in your heart. It’s where we’re safe, secure, at peace.