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

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Breaking Open

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A new potential toy for Simon

What do you do when you live through the same nightmare twice?

Many of you know that this happened last fall.

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.

 

Friday Prayer, February 9, 2018

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Oil canvas by Arianne Lehn

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.

***

Loving God,

As we think about Valentine’s day, we bring you our hearts…

hopeful hearts,

disappointed hearts,

confident hearts,

hearts-in-hiding,

grateful hearts,

angry hearts,

patient or “I’m so done and over with this” hearts,

restless hearts,

full or aching-with-hollowness hearts,

scarred hearts,

scared hearts,

hearts that sing and

hearts now long silent,

surprised hearts,

struggling hearts,

broken hearts,

beautiful hearts…

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.

In Jesus, Love made flesh….

Amen.

Friday Prayer, January 12, 2018

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Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

Have you heard the serpent’s whisper in your life recently?

“Did God really say…..”

As I myself struggle with trust in some areas of my life, I’ve heard this whisper from Genesis 3 when the serpent confronts Eve. Did God really say….

Sometimes, like Eve, I can respond forthrightly with what God said. But then, like Eve, the longer the whisper sits with me, the more I start to question. And it is there, that the whole swirl starts.

Doubts over whether what God told me is really best. Questions over whether I heard God right. Anxiety and fear that I’m somehow missing out on something.

When I’m facing a big choice or am living into a hard decision already made, it takes the deepest form of trust to brace myself from backpedaling.

Sometimes all I can do is say, “I trust,” “I trust,” “I trust,” with each push forward of the pedal. And the cadence carries me through the fog.

***

One Who knows me best,

 

There are times I sense more clearly

your direction.

I know what I have to do.

Those are the times I feel more

grounded…steady…focused.

 

But more often,

I’m in that inner fog

where the call and light are faint.

I struggle to remember if I heard

your voice at all,

and the cacophony of questions

becomes the tolling bell I hear –

each ring another round of

Are you sure?

Turn around!

You’re alone.

 

It is in this time,

I grip your hand, Jesus,

remembering that you, too,

were asked if you trusted.

And you proved,

again and again,

how you did.

 

Everyday is practice to trust again –

sometimes, like Samuel,

it will take many tries from you

before I realize it’s your voice.

 

So please keep speaking.

I will do my best to

settle my heart

in listening, availability, surrender…

 

“Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,

just to take Him at His Word

Just to rest upon His promise

Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

 

“Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!

Oh, for grace to trust Him more!”

 

Yes, ‘tis sweet to trust in Jesus,

Just from sin and self to cease

Just from Jesus simply taking

Life and rest, and joy and peace.”*

 

Amen.

 

* Stanzas from the hymn “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”

A quick announcement/gift idea

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Thank you all so much for surrounding me with such tenderness and love following my post/prayer earlier this week. Our beloved community near and far has continued to make Christ real to us each day through prayers, caring for our kids, dropping off food, running errands, and sending gift cards. Though I’ve embraced it reluctantly, God’s also provided space for writing, reading, and engaging in important confession over how much I’ve clung to control (or my semblance of it!). #dailymanna

This just arrived in the mail (Eden’s the model for my picture – thanks, sweetheart). It blessed me to write for the devotional book my family used throughout my childhood to now adult years. If you’re not familiar with the Disciplines, it’s an annual ecumenical devotional with a different author each week. The daily devotions reference a Scripture from that week’s lectionary texts and all coalesce into a theme as chosen by the author.

My devotions are for May of 2018 and focus on the theme of being “Born Anew.” They’re reflections on how God transforms us. How it is never to late to be what God calls us to be, opening ourselves to what we have not expected or experienced or even thought possible.

This can be a great Christmas gift to tuck away for only $11. With my family spread out in South Dakota, Utah, and Chicago, we all try to read this same devotional and send each other periodic texts with things that struck us or questions we have. It’s a meaningful way to spiritually grow with loved ones across the miles throughout the year.

I have a cool story to tell you next week. But for now, blessings on your hearts. Walk gently into this weekend.

Friday Prayer, February 24, 2017

 

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Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

Henri Nouwen reminds me we have the choice between living in the house of fear or the house of love (and 1 John says, “perfect love casts out all fear” – they don’t co-exist). I’ve been thinking lately about how confining and threatening it feels to live in fear when it comes to how we see others’ lives – particularly the good, the success, the growth they experience. I know personally that jealousy and envy have robbed me of so much joy. Comparison is a quiet, subtle thief, and it can be such a relentless companion. It slips in with opinions, especially when we feel weak and broken. We leave no space or room for this voice when we find deep security in who we are as God’s children. We are unique, and needed, and our lives are pieces of beautiful work. The world is not a zero-sum game.

***

Loving God,

You’ve created a universe of infinite blessing.

You never stop creating good.

The reserves are endless.

So why have I made such a small house for my heart?

With windows tinted by jealousy and envy?

 

I look out and see the gifts in other’s lives,

and I am angry.

It’s shameful.

And embarrassing.

But this is the view from my small house whose walls

are envy and whose foundation is fear – if they have this,

I won’t, or can’t, or will have less.

 

With your hands around mine, I hold the lie at a further distance and observe it for what it is, letting it teach me the road my heart has yet to travel,

the heart-house needing construction.

 

With patience, complete non-judgment, and relentlessly gentle love,

you never stop telling me, God,

of the freedom there is in celebration, rather than competition.

Of the ever-expanding joy!

With you, blessing has no limit.

My cup runneth over…

 

Outside the window, I see the jealousy, envy, insecurity, feeling threatened –

it turns to a dissipating mist,

and is swallowed by the rumbling storm of your voice.

You invite me outside into a strong, cleansing rain

that brings my soul to rebirth.

 

Today I will give thanks for the goodness I witness in others’ lives,

believing it all illumines a gracious God

and universe that still has goodness at its core.

 

I will mark with joy the flourishing I see.

 

With a huge exhale of relief and anticipation

I will step through the threshold of my

new house.

 

Amen.

 

* Italicized reference to Psalm 23

Friday Prayer, December 30, 2016

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Loving Creator,

You are the Creator of us, the Creator of the year before us, the Creator of the lives we hold each day.

You have called us, God, to be creators too – to grace the little space around us with beauty;

to instill peace and hope wherever we may go.

 

We pray that we will do that in a rich way this year, God.

 

As we try to get our bearings for the new year we’re also accepting Christmas as over.

The trees have long since been taken to the curb.

Decorations are put away.

Our hearts are sad after saying goodbye to family, making our way through leftovers in the refrigerator, and seeing the streets grow dimmer with fewer and fewer Christmas lights.

And yet, good Creator, you are still creating!

The exciting journey has now begun!

Trees and Christmas lights and leftovers aside,

Christ is born!

Christ is with us!

The journey is in motion, being created as we go, as we follow the One born to us.

O God, the journey can be so hard, but you have promised that you’re with us and that these waters, these rivers, this fire, will not overwhelm us.

We love you and commit to following this journey with you – not knowing where it leads, but knowing you are with us.

Give us trusting hearts.

Give us courageous hearts.

In your goodness we pray, Amen.

 

Friday Prayer, July 1, 2016

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Photo by Lori Archer Raible

Gracious God,

You bring us gifts of solace and encouragement at the close of another week.

Some of the week’s events bruised our hearts, some discouraged our hopes, some pierced us with panic, some caused us to shut down…

And so, God, it is grace – it is gift – it is life – that you embrace us with love, meeting our souls in their most tender places.

You come to us in our longing and our angst as we process the week and wonder how long we’ll face these circumstances.

When our temptation, gentle God, is to ask, “When?” or “How long?” please bring our breathing back to a centered rhythm that’s focused on the present – that’s focused on you and your goodness.

Please use all that we’ve experienced this week, Lord, to help us bloom and blossom in this present day. We are yours.

In the name of our Brother, Friend, and Savior, Jesus, Amen.

 

Illustrated Children’s Ministry Summer Launch!

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It’s been a bit quiet on my blog, here, as I’ve been hard at work for the Illustrated Children’s Ministry summer launch. Friends, I am SO excited about this.

Adam Walker Cleveland is the brain-child behind this venture. He saw a need for creative ways to approach faith, both at home and at church. He created this. Cool coloring posters, activities/questions/stories that make the Bible more accessible to families, creative energy in the church, and more…And isn’t it beautifully fitting how the launch of summer resources comes out today – right after Pentecost when we celebrate God’s Spirit blowing with fresh energy and vision across the world.

I’ve been helping write curriculum for “An Illustrated Earth: Celebrating God’s Creation.” You can download a sample lesson here.  If you’re in search of a summer Sunday School resource or VBS program, this is for you (plus, it’s next to no prep).

We’ve also created a resource called An Illustrated Earth for Families. You can use this to go along with the church resource, or it can standalone and be used by families during the summer. Summer is often a time of travel and rest, and this can be a way to share faith as family when you’re on the road.

The lessons from the church curriculum will be edited to serve as simple and easy devotions that a family can do together, and the questions will be geared for the family. There will be some additional activities in the family edition that will not be included in the curriculum. Finally, it will also include a collection of faith activity ideas for families to do throughout the summer.

I hope these resources can bless you/your family/your church as we live into summer’s rhythm and cherish God’s world (and our place in it).

 

“Weighty Trust”

(Written as today’s guest post for the “Practicing Families” blog in their Lectionary Mondays series…)

Scripture: Psalm 25:1-10
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Memory Verse
“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust.” – Psalm 25:1-2

Reflection
I was a little girl when my grandfather – “Grandpa Dick” – left for Malawi. For about a year, he worked with the Presbyterian Church of Lilongwe. When he returned, he brought back beautiful things and beautiful stories, like the African nativity set we will pull out during Advent in a week or the memories of the people he met. Though Grandpa Dick didn’t become fluent in Chichewa (one of the native languages), he learned bits and pieces. I remember him teaching me the meaning of “faith” in Chichewa was a deep form of trust. In fact, the literal meaning was “to put all of one’s weight upon something.”

Continue reading here

 

 

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