Ash and Starlight

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

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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



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.”*




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

Friday Prayer, January 5, 2017



Happy New Year, my friends! What’s swirling in your spirits as the new year begins? I hope you are lifting pressure from yourself. I hope you are looking in the mirror at the 2018 you and smiling. I hope you are telling yourself this will be a year of showing grace and love and lots of breathing room – to others and yourself.

 The new year gives a beckoning call to delve deeper – to get to that primal heartbeat and listen for the truest desire within its cadence. To discover – through baby steps – the life-giving rhythms that free and fuel us.

I told my husband the other day one of my intentions this year is to say, “No problem” more – and mean it. Or maybe I’ll add some variety with other good sayings I’ve heard, like “All will be well” or “Plot twist!”

As a person of rigid, “all-or-nothing,” judgmental standards, I will probably say this through gritted teeth at times. But we live and act our way into new forms of feeling and seeing.

This goes for not only what happens to me, but also what I make happen. I’ve been thinking about how I deprive myself and those around me of gifts because it wasn’t the “perfect” way I thought it should be. There is such beauty in an offering simply because it is an offering. You are giving the Spirit room to work.


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 am and 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 can keep showing me that

while change is eternally constant,

so is your presence.


You can help me know in my bones

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 change,

sensitive to others’ pain,

resilient with hope,

trusting in darkness….

this is the heart for which I pray.




Friday Prayer, December 15, 2017


Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

We are half-way through December and I wonder how your heart is faring. Winter’s taken a dramatic dive into colder temps and snow (at least in Chicagoland), and I think our inner soul landscape often feels the effect of that. The stretching hours of darkness and frigidity the earth now endures reminds me we often face the same in our hearts.

Perseverance in such conditions can be hard when we might find ourselves overwhelmed or stressed in preparing for the “happiest time of year.” If you’re feeling this way, you might read a prayer of mine from December last year.

I think about Mary and Joseph making their own journey toward Bethlehem. I’m sure it required every ounce of trust and perseverance they had. I bet that each day, they had to freshly overcome their fear and questions about what awaited them upon arrival. Their trust in God’s promise had to be bigger than the swirling apprehension or flat-out exhaustion (Mary was very pregnant!).

So, I pray you are encouraged today, my friends, as you walk a path that might be taking all scraps of strength you’ve got left. Keep your eyes on the star.



Warm, enveloping One,

You gather me in when

the wind of anxiety and fear whips,

when I feel my face, my heart,

tighten against the cold’s force.


With wide, warm arms,

you bring me into your heart

where my angst melts by

the fire of your love.


And it is there, as I rest and thaw

that you remind me…


Remind me of the unbelievable power in perseverance,

the choice to open my eyes each morning and say,

Yes, I will keep going.

And I will find joy here

and grace

and I will live with courage even when I’m uncomfortable

in this brutal winter.


As my brittle fears drip to my feet,

you let my real self come through.

A self you love so much…


My path toward transformation comes through acceptance,

through affirming that I will be

gentle and forgiving toward myself

because that’s how you are with me.

I will lean with all my weight into your ‘enoughness.’

Into the warmth I feel here.

My solace and strength in life’s winter.



Friday Prayer, December 1, 2017


Advent – this holy time of transformation and waiting and pain and trust – begins on Sunday. I wonder what you are waiting for right now….

I wonder where you, like Mary, have been asked by God to do something you don’t feel capable of doing.

I wonder where you, like Joseph, have been asked to proceed with trust in a decision when everything you initially thought crashed down – hard.

I wonder where you have longed for the end of corrupt abuses of power (#metoo has become the very air we breathe…)

I wonder where you feel the togetherness of light and dark in your own life. It’s something I find so meaningful about Advent – how Christ comes to us in darkness. When we don’t see. Don’t expect.

And so I pray that each of us will be wide-eyed, broad-hearted, and open-minded, that God might cultivate in us a deeper awareness of God’s working.


God, my Light…

I step with hope, anticipation, trust,

into this holy season of Advent.

This season of waiting and longing.


A single star overhead

is enough light to lead me through this darkness…

to shine into even the smallest crevices of my

heart and life.


I need your light, God,

to shine on this path you’ve asked me to walk.

You say I only need light for the next step,

and once I make that one, I’ll have light

for the one after that.


So I will trust you’ll show me

what is mine to do

and where is my place to walk

and how my very living

is testimony to your

transformative work.


Jesus, you are the light of the world.

Fill me and make me a lamp as I journey….


Friday Prayer, November 17, 2017


Photo by Susanne Rowe

I’m thinking of you, friends, as we approach Thanksgiving next week. It’s a time when we feel the full emotional gamut, don’t you think?

There are kids home from college and cross–country journeys to visit grandparents. There are crazy, frenetic, expensive trips to and fro at airports. There’s the ache of loved ones who are missed at the table, and the joy (albeit cacophonous noise!) of babies who’ve been added.

There is a freshly inflicted pain we feel in broken relationships at holiday time, just as there is a deeply-seated hope and trust in God’s promise to heal all things. There is the realization this past year wasn’t at all what we’d planned on or hoped for alongside the reflection that much unexpected beauty was also harvested.

And there is this recurring challenge and perpetual prayer that God might open our eyes to the blessings buried right beneath us – the ground, the place, on which we stand right now. Maybe it’s a place we love and maybe it’s a place we don’t want to be – buried treasure’s been found even beneath feet stuck in mud.

Wherever this time of year finds you – know that with God is holding you in it, and has more good yet in store. Because that’s the beautiful God we love and serve.

I think it was Richard Rohr who said, “Choose gratitude until you are grateful.”

And we can.

Because of God.

Who is with you.

And in you.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.



Loving God,

In all things, I can say thank you.


Not because I am comfortable,

but because I am not alone.


And not just companioned in this journey,

but held, loved, supported, blessed.


By You.


The One who promises

there is always, always abundance.


The One who soothingly says,

‘All will be well.’


The One who gives

enough light,

enough wisdom,

and enough peace

to embrace today

with vulnerability

and humble gratitude.


Your gifts come in all kinds of ways.

Please help me not to miss them.

Especially the little ones.


And as I am witness to your work,

still my soul long enough to pause,

and say, Thank You.


Through Christ, who lived gratitude

in all times….



Friday Prayer, November 10, 2017


Photo by Susanne Rowe


Loving God,

Today, with your help,

I release ruminating on what I can’t control.


Today, with your help, I will welcome what is –

not in resignation,

but in trust.

This, too, can be an instrument in my transformation.

Life won’t always be this way.

And maybe, just maybe, I need this

in order to get where I’m going.


Today, rather than taking consensus

from everything and everyone around me

about what I need to do,

I will stop.

I will let myself be in that uncomfortable quiet.

I will do my deepest listening for the most important voice –

the Voice within.

And I will realize I have my answer.


I can choose these things today, God,

because these are your promises –

to handle what I can’t,

to use what I’d rather not endure,

to give me the exact wisdom I need for each choice.


So I say thanks, praise, and yes.



Friday Prayer, November 3, 2017


Tutu with my daughter, Eden (13 months at the time)



Four generations – My mom, Me, Eden, and Tutu (Dad’s mom)

Last weekend, my grandmother died. “Tutu” as we called her (Hawaiian for grandmother in honor of her favorite place) was my last living grandparent. In taking her first breath in heaven, she passed down the legacy lamp for the next generation to carry.

As one of our family’s dear friends said, “she was a regal lady.” My grandmother’s energy, heart, faith and wit leave beautiful footprints. I try to place my own feet in those imprints, feeling my soles connect with the strength hers had in walking that path. And couldn’t we all use some more strength for the journey?

The timing of Tutu’s death was especially poignant for me in light of this week’s All-Saints Day. It’s a weighty, holy time. There’s something about this time of year too – how this day on which we remember the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12) and saints comes when the earth is turning in season. When it’s dying. When with one more gorgeous burst of color, the world gives it’s best display of beauty, then drops down deep to rest.

And the life that turns to death – going underground with turning leaves and colder nights – will eventually become new, unexpected life. Fresh forms of life we will anticipate with hope and tenacity.

Because unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit….. (John 12:24)

I give thanks for Tutu. For my Dad. For the people who bore so much fruit during their lives, and now leave me a rich and bountiful feast to have and hold when I weary under my life’s weight. I give thanks for my saints.

And I give thanks for yours.

I shared this same prayer last year, and offer it once again as we remember and give God thanks for all the saints.


God  of welcome and warmth,

We’re a bit melancholy – or maybe it’s pensive – on this All Saints Day. It’s a beautiful day – this time to remember and give thanks for the saints that have graced our lives. These angels – raw, real, and devoted in their humanity – that have encouraged us, emboldened us, taught us what we needed to know to survive…

We think of parents, grandparents, partners, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, teachers, colleagues, friends – some of them did seem pretty unlikely characters to be your saints, but the more we live, the more we realize that’s pretty typical of you and your choosing.

We are grateful for these quirky, lovely individuals who have gone before us but whose light still shines, bringing warmth and illumination to our own paths. Their whispers of wisdom help us hunger for a deeper wholeness found in you. They tell us we can be saints too…

We thank you, God, for the saints of the then and the saints of the now…for the saint that you are kindling inside of us. May we remain grateful for their impact on our lives and hearts – the truth they spoke and lived, the faith they held and passed on, the love they modeled and shared.

In the name, and light, and love of Christ we pray, Amen.

Friday Prayer, October 13, 2017


One of my challenges of late: Where is my focus?

Thoughts are powerful – especially when we tend to ruminate on the same things over and over again…..and over again (if you’re anything like me). Our thoughts seep into our bones. They become a part of us in such a physical way, affecting our perspective and how we feel. Our thoughts make a direct impact on our energy and how we engage the world (or not).

Thoughts are seeds, and they will always, always bloom – taking visible effect in our lives.

My prayer for you and for myself today is that we might let God “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). When your thoughts are in Christ, you are dwelling on what is true – and that is God’s goodness and your deep belovedness.


Guide of mind,

Companion of my heart…


Bring my thoughts back to you right now.

Ground my focus in your promises to me.

Pull the roots of my gaze deep into

the beautiful soil of who you are.


I’ve been stuck in other soil…

letting the seeds of thought

lie lodged in places of

anger over what’s not fair,

anxiety over what might happen,

guilt over what just happened,

fear over the free-fall.


Plant my monkey-mind

and all its seedlings

back in you,

where instead of dwelling on what I’m owed

I will celebrate all I have in you.

Where instead of fearing whether I am enough

I will celebrate how I am because of you.

Where instead of wondering (with a lot of hand-wringing!) about the future

I will celebrate how it rests in your hands.


And even as this place of

underground germination is dark,

I can be at peace,

and my heart steadfast.




Friday prayer, October 7, 2017


Reading Psalm 46 changed what I originally was going to post. It’s a psalm I’ve turned to time and time again during challenging times. Times of stress or anxiety or pain or lots of big, big questions.

“God is our refuge and strength,

a help always near in times of great trouble.

That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart,

when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea…” (Ps. 46:1-2 CEB)

 In ancient times, people believed mountains not only kept the dry land in place, but that they also held up the sky. Mountains “crumbling” was probably considered the worst thing that could happen. In essence, it meant everything was over and the world was collapsing in as they knew it.

This makes the assertions of the psalm all the more powerful – because God is our refuge and strength, we won’t be afraid when even the mountains crumble. Is it possible to live through your absolute worst fear, and still have a bedrock of calm beneath all the shaking above?

Horrific things have happened in the last couple weeks.

While people in the south are still wading through the deluge of devastation from the hurricanes, the massacre in Las Vegas brought another tidal wave of terror. Anger. Incredulity.

And all that happens nationally and globally does not lessen the myriad of personal ways your lives or loved ones’ lives have crumbled recently. A friend completed suicide. A member of the family was sentenced to prison. Your family was newly cracked by divorce or the agreement finalized. One of the dearest people to you died, or you passed that pivotal one-year-anniversary. You had to leave the house you loved because your job relocated or the money wasn’t there anymore. You uncovered a shocking revelation about someone you loved, and you weren’t sure what to do or who to trust. The completely unexpected happened and now you have to grapple with a reality you never, ever anticipated.

Maybe your personal greatest fears actualized before your very eyes. Groans and tears became a new language. And the landscape of life is now forever changed. When a tidal wave of loss or change comes, we’re never ready.

Whatever the Psalmist had – this ability to find safety and hope in God amidst the mountains crumbling – that’s what I want. That’s what we all need.

I once read Arthur Tappan Pierson’s description of a remarkable scientific reality. There is within the ocean a layer known as the “cushion of the sea.”

“It lies far beneath the sea’s surface that is agitated by storms and churned by wind. It is so deep that it is never stirred. When the ocean floor in these deep places is dredged of the remains of plant or animal life, [this layer] reveals evidence of having remained completely undisturbed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The peace of God is an eternal calm like the cushion of the sea. It lies so deeply within the human heart that no external difficulty or disturbance can reach it.”

True peace – knowing God as our “refuge and strength” – is a sense of stability empowering us to face the deepest loss or the most difficult transition with assurance that somehow, all will be made well – different for sure, but somehow good.

If you get a chance today, take 1 minute to read Psalm 46. To be still and know….


Holder of our tears, our fears, our deepest questions,

Our hearts are raw…tender to the touch, yet again.

Our souls crack.

The mountains, the sea, are one.


And we are trying to swim amidst the rubble.


O God, when and how will this world be

what you have envisioned it to be?


We are grasping for your hand in our struggle to

respond to the violent tragedy we’ve witnessed….

a tragedy so many in our world experience on a regular basis.


We pray for Las Vegas, for our nation, for the entire world.

And even as we pray, we say,

We can’t pray about this anymore!


And even as some say it’s ‘not the time,’ we say

it has to be!


So God, please show us what is ours to do,

and give us the courage and conviction to do it.


Keep us breathing out life in a world with so much death.

Guide our feet as we try to be people of “the way” –

your way of life, and peace, compassion and hope…


Hold our hand, dear God, and steady our feet,

even as we tremble at times.


Be our cushion of the sea.



A quick announcement/gift idea


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.

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