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

Tag: Ash and Starlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I asked for a copy of the scoring rubric. 

I, too, scored 130.

How am I using my 130? 

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

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

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

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

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

I’m reminded of a favorite James Finley question…

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

There is nothing harder than to answer this question honestly. 

With our whole selves. 

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

And most importantly, God will help us. 

***

A Prayer…

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

Holy Author, 

Humble Artist…

From your quiet, gentle

hands come the most glorious landscapes—

the most generous stories—

creative works in which we find a home

to live in and live for. 

You hand us a pen, a paintbrush,

a ream of paper filled with space,

inviting our hands to move with yours,

joining the story…

making the story…

And so we put down our 

expectations about readiness

and our fears over standards. 

Our cravings for control 

and catharsis and closure. 

We put those down so we can take up 

faithfulness for now

and trust for today

and a pen or a paintbrush

in no need of perfect endings. 

We will open our hands and our hearts

in wide welcome, 

writing hope with our lives—

expressing your expansive ministry of grace. 

Amen. 

***

Something that nourished me recently…

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

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

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

***

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

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

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

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

***

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

Love and Light,

Arianne 

Feeling our feelings this Christmas…

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

Love and peace to you, friends, as we begin this final week of Advent ~

I wonder if you, like me, finds yourself not only in a wintry landscape beyond the window pane, but also holding some swirling snowdrifts within. Some blankets of grief or loss you’re both huddled under but also trudging through, one faithful step at a time. 

I have vivid memories from this time nine years ago. My father was very ill, and my husband and I were preparing a Longest Night service at the church we pastored. Many congregations have the tradition of holding such a service — sometimes called a “Blue Christmas” service — on or around the winter solstice (December 21). The earth is tilted as far away from the sun as possible, and we experience more darkness than any other day of the year. 

These Longest Night/Blue Christmas gatherings are meant to create space for the pain we carry in “the most wonderful time of the year.” There is room for lament and tears, all held in the shelter of our earth facing the greatest of darknesses too.

Nine years ago, I was awash in sadness and questions. I did my best to focus during the service, reading the texts, lighting the candles. As we reached the end of the service, I looked down from the chancel at the small crèche set on the simple table. The manger scene held everyone we would expect. Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels. My eyes landed on the small carving of Jesus, nestled in the middle. 

Each person who came into the tiny, stained glass chapel that night had received a strip of cloth. The cloth symbolized a bandage for a wound. I told them this was a place to write something painful they were carrying this Christmas. 

I looked up from the crèche and said, “The Hope of the World is swaddled in concern and love for us. Vulnerable, painful wounds are met in Jesus Christ’s unflinching compassion for the world. You are invited to come forward as you are able and feel comfortable to place your wound in the manger.”

After a long pause, one courageous soul took steady steps to the manger, letting their tears fall as they tucked their strip by Jesus. Then one after another, more and more people came forward to place their pain in the manger. To give their loss to Jesus. To let their grief be named. 

My fingers clung to my own cloth, silent tears sliding down my nose. I realized my husband’s hand was on my shoulder. I needed to make my way to the manger, but I couldn’t do it alone. He walked alongside, standing beside me as I lay my own brokenness in a place where I wasn’t promised I would be relieved, but that I’d be seen. And held.   

We know deep down how honoring our grief is the way we will wake up on Christmas morning a little more whole. And how bearing witness to what one another are carrying is perhaps the most profound gift we could give one another this Christmas. 

I’m reminded of a story I once read from Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Walking on Water, in which she describes a beloved rabbi teaching his students. At one point, one of his students exclaimed, “My master, I love you!” 

The rabbi looked at the young student and said, “Do you know what hurts me, my son?” 

The student was confused, telling the rabbi he didn’t understand. 

“If you do not know what hurts me,” said the rabbi, “how can you truly love me?” 

 The deepest pain we feel is directly linked to our deepest love. We care for each other the way Jesus does when we know why someone hurts…who and what someone loved. 

These emotions are hard to feel. I find myself trying and failing to do this same work I’m trying to help my kids do when I tell them, “your job is to feel your feelings.” It’s much easier to distract or numb or stick something in my mouth. It takes intention, courage, and trust to say, “I am going to feel this.” 

Know you are not alone in the grief you carry. The grief journey is never over. We never move on, but we somehow move forward, one day at at time. There are other bandaged souls who will put their hand on your shoulder as you make the wounded walk together.  And awaiting you in that creche are arms which welcome every single thread of your cloth. 

***

A Prayer…

Though this prayer is titled for parents, I believe it can resonate for any and all of us carrying the caring….we put so much on ourselves to “make” Christmas be something special for those we love. Here is the invitation to receive. And to rest. 

From my book, Ash and Starlight…

 A Parent’s Advent Prayer

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.

Matthew 2:10-11 * Matthew 6:31 * Luke 2:15-20

“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this

thing that has taken place, which the Lord

has made known to us…” – Luke 2:15

***

Something that nourished me recently…

Quite a few sources lately…

* Learning two things: One, it is possible to thank our grief. And two, it is possible to grow deeper connection with someone we love, even after they have died. A friend recently told me about Anderson Cooper’s podcast, “All There Is,” in which he goes on an exploration of loss and grief while packing up his late mother’s apartment. It has taken my breath away, friends. Every single episode will stop you in your tracks, but especially before Christmas, I encourage you to listen to the final episode of the season, “You’re not alone.” In it is tremendous testimony after testimony of people naming what they’ve learned from loss. You won’t leave the listening unchanged. 

* Christmas lights. I’ve written here about the process of going through and selling my childhood home this year after my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A tradition on the culdesac I grew up on was to hang Christmas “balls.” This year, my husband made some balls for us—a connection and tangible symbol of the light which continues to shine in change. And in grief. 

Christmas balls outside our house…with a tripping hazard…

* Cloves in Oranges….A kind friend had my kids and I over to decorate oranges with cloves. It truly smells like heaven as you poke those little things in. And according to science, scents have a stronger link to our memories and emotions than any other sense. 

* Our first Christmas pageant in person since before COVID. Our family included a raven, sheep, and two angels—plus a pastor.

And then, this card given to me years ago from a friend which I keep taped above my desk and look at over and over and over….Thank you, Jewels. 

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

* Speaking of grief, remembrance, and action…I’ve been thinking about how Sandy Hook happened ten years ago last week. Please take some time on this page. Read about them, look at their faces, pray, donate, do something. Activism is a powerful form of grieving. 

A couple things to feed your soul, especially if it’s feeling tender.

* Our church is partnering to host a Longest Night service this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. led by The Many, a diverse, inclusive music collective. The service will be live-streamed with a recording available afterward on our church website. 

This devotional. If you are new to Sanctified Art, you are in for a powerful treat. I’ve been reading through it this Advent and have been deeply moved, challenged, and opened. The art, writing, and music are all stunning. 

***

With you, friends, as we walk to the manger. Deep peace to you. And a hand on the shoulder. 

Love and Light,

Arianne 

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 

It’s All A Gift…

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

Blessings and warmest of greetings to you this morning, friends! 

As I write to you now, many days out from the Chicago Marathon last Sunday, I am still absolutely overcome with gratitude. As a miner of words, it’s been pretty difficult for me to find them (thank goodness for pictures—tons are below). Running the marathon last week was one of the most incredible days I’ve experienced in a very long time, and my spirit is still riding on winds of wonder (even as I am icing my knee while typing!).  

As I wrote about in my last Monday Manna before the marathon, this whole training journey has been a profound experience of God’s faithfulness and of community—the privilege and power God’s instilled in us to support and shape one another. 

I could not have had a more tangible sense of this than I did that Sunday morning. After lacing up my shoes (and checking them twice) I pulled up Hebrews 12, my confirmation and favorite passage, one more time on my phone. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…

I handed my brother the white Alzheimer’s Association ribbon I’d filled out to pin on my back.

“For Mom,” it read in purple sharpie. 

We crossed into Grant Park and I gave parting hugs to my brother and sister-in-law as we split for our starting corrals. The energy of that crowded space was electrifying. As the loudspeaker played, “the final countdown,” I felt the cloud. My dad across the veil, with the best seat in the house. My mom, gathered with other family back in South Dakota at her assisted living complex, phones open and tracking. The countless family and friends who’d sent gifts and messages of love and promises to pray. And our precious “Team Victory” I knew would be standing on the sidelines. 

…let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely…

The last time I ran on a marathon course, it ended with a bombing. And this marathon weekend itself had been a swirl of stress with much illness in our family (who put all the fall road races during the height of viral season?!).  But the time had come. And God was with us. 

…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…

I crossed the starting line, locked into step, and the holy adventure of surprises began. As I wove through skyscrapers and brownstones, past the feather plumed U of Illinois marching band and the Chinatown signs, I was so moved by the beauty of God’s children. The beauty of our city. 

I saw my family and friends numerous times throughout the course, some whom I didn’t even know would be there. One of my best friends held the phone up for another friend on FaceTime. I got to clasp hands along the way with those I loved, receiving from them a surge of renewal. 

I closed my eyes at one point (maybe not the safest, but felt so sacred) to listen to the sound of all the pounding feet. Never once on that course was I alone. 

The winds of prayer and pumping my arms carried me down Michigan Avenue to the finish where I met another surprise. My fastest time in a marathon up to this point was ten years ago when I ran 3:21 to qualify for the Boston marathon. I didn’t know what was possible this time, so many years (and children) later. 

I crossed the line at 3:18. My husband hugged me later and said, “a minute per kid!” 

As I’ve continued to marvel with gratitude at the redemption and joy and grace of this whole experience, what keeps coming back to me is a phrase from Father Richard Rohr. 

It’s all a gift—all the time. 

Everything is a gift. And this was a gift of a lifetime.

Thank you for being a team, friends. 

And thanks, thanks, thanks be to God. 

***

A Prayer…

This prayer is grounded in gratitude, reminding us of God’s tenderness and steadfastness through all the seasons, both within us and around us. From my book, Ash and Starlight…

For Autumn time 

Gracious God,

I praise you as the

Giver and Renewer of seasons.

The earth’s rhythms

remind me of

your faithfulness…

your love….

your promises…

The sun rising each morning,

the leaves turning and dropping,

the stars peeking through

mists of morning gray,

then greeting me as

the day kisses night.

Amidst the cycle, I find

a rhythm for my soul.

I hear echoes of that

ancient and eternal place

into which you beckon me,

and I say thank you.

Oh God, how will you

show yourself to me today?

I am longing for

a closer connection,

a stronger fire,

a self-forgetting confidence

that fills me and makes me 

a whole, abundant person.

I want to find myself so full

of your loving presence

that it spills and splashes

over my life’s rim,

blessing and baptizing

every trip I make,

every meal I cook,

every task I do,

every person I meet,

every smile I share,

every worry I carry.

Thank you, God, for lifting me

over the threshold of this season.

May I watch for the stars tonight

and the sun tomorrow,

finding you in both.

Amen.

Psalm 19:1-6 * Galatians 2:20 * Colossians 3:17

“The heavens are telling the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims God’s

handiwork.” – Psalm 19:1

***

Something that nourished me recently…

Because a picture is a thousand words. Get ready to scroll…..so many pictures, bottomless gratitude….

Team Victory
More of Team Victory, including my mom in the middle
The ‘why’ is everything…
Receiving a surge of renewal from the hands of dear ones
What a crew!
This may be one of my favorite pictures from the day…
It had been a long morning. Those kids were incredible. And done. My youngest was clapping for a plane flying overhead.
My teammate in all kinds of ways.
One of my best friends in the whole world, who is also one of the most generous people I have ever met. I couldn’t love you more, Emily.
The Alz Stars team before the race began…A story behidn each
Takes my breath away…

***

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

* Marathons are channels for good in so many ways, and the money raised for charities last Sunday was astounding. Because of you, I raised $7,280, and the collective Alz Stars team at the marathon last week brought in over $600,000 to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association! Thank you, thank you, thank you again for your incredible generosity.

* A little note on the story of “Team Victory” — when my dad ran the Sioux Falls half marathon after his bone marrow transplant in 2013, he raised money and awareness for “Be the Match.” My dad coined the name “Team Victory” as a nod to many of his caring bridge posts, and how he ended them with a word about victory. Throughout my dad’s illness, our understanding of “victory” was changed and transformed. It went from a plea for remission to a posture of trust in the One who never fails us. Wholeness and healing can come even when cures do not. 

My dad, Dr. Tom Braithwaite…

***

Wishing you experiences of profound gift and grace in this week, my friends. God is with you. 

Love and Light,

Arianne 

Open Hands for the Thresholds…

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

Grace, peace, and love to you, friends ~

It’s good to be back. I’ve been anticipating returning to Monday Manna all month, but let me say, it’s been. a. month. Within a week’s span, I discovered someone had created fraudulent mail forwarding of all my mail (I hope they’re enjoying my mail-order deodorant) and opened numerous credit cards under my name. I couldn’t receive the phone calls from the credit card company fraud departments because my freshly-minted two-year-old experimented with cooking my iPhone in the microwave (it did not survive). All five members of our household succumbed to the same end of summer sickness with coughs that, as Eddie from Christmas Vacation says, “are the gift that keep on giving.” 

But here I am, and here you are, and there is so much to mark, celebrate, and grieve. Life remains fragile and tender. The theme continually rising to the surface for me this summer is thresholds. Everywhere I turn, I’m witnessing people I love experiencing major change. There are moves to new places and the start of new jobs. Marriages beginning and others being released. There are hellos to fresh friendships alongside goodbyes to relationships whose season has ended. Babies are being birthed into our arms and hearts. Pillar people in our lives died, making us relearn our worlds. Diagnoses are still being grappled with, leading us into foreign territory. Discernment and decisions are at the forefront of our minds. Important anniversaries are being felt in our bodies and souls. Yesterday marked eight years since my own dad’s heavenly birthday, and I am still learning to hold and feel this really weighty day with gentleness. Someone I dearly love just finished their prison sentence and is free for the first time in many years. We are sensing homecomings to our own selves which have been in the works for a long, long time. 

I’m experiencing so many thresholds in my own life, too. The start of school this past week was a significant one. As I sat on the small chair next to my son in a cheerful kindergarten room at the teacher meet n’ greet that first day, I felt overcome with emotion. Last year, parents couldn’t even step into the classroom at school’s start, and this week, the room was flooded with smiling parents and maskless children. They get to eat in the cafeteria this year. I wondered if the redemptive promises of God could be true, even here, even now.  I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten….(Joel 2:25). What was lost will never come back. But across this threshold is great goodness. 

For me, framing change as a threshold is both healing and empowering. In the literal sense, a threshold is the strip of ground within a doorway. It’s the place between two places. A leaving and an entering. 

I learned threshold comes from the old English word, “threscan,” or “thresh,” which refer to separating seed from a plant. It’s a harvesting time as well as the first step in creating something new—preparing that seed for its planting. The earth is embodying this very thing right now as it will soon turn to autumn. 

Some of the most profound and helpful reading I’ve done on thresholds has come from John O’Donohue (which could be said of almost anything, now that I think about it). In his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, he has a whole chapter about thresholds which will lift and lighten your entire being. 

He speaks about thresholds being not just a boundary, but a frontier, and how the great challenge and invitation is to “cross worthily.” When we are curling our toes over that edge, we will feel a lot of emotions, some which feel paradoxical to each other. O’Donohue says, “at any time you can ask yourself: at which threshold am I now standing? At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold? What gift would enable me to do it?…It is wise in your own life to be able to recognize and acknowledge the key thresholds; to take your time; to feel all the varieties of presence…to listen inward with complete attention until you hear the inner voice calling you forward. The time has come to cross.” 

This summer, we helped my mom sell my childhood home of almost three decades. My littlest child weaned. My partner and I made some big decisions. And as I sat in a session with my clergy coach, pouring out and processing all of this, she paused, looked me in the eye, and said, “I think you need a symbol or a ritual for all of this letting go, Arianne.”

For this crossing. 

As the weeks went on, the image/practice the Spirit gifted to me was that of open hands. And not just thinking about open hands, but physically opening my hands. There were moments when a flood of fear or grief or excitement would wash over me, and I would stretch my hands in front of me and unfurl my fingers. 

I wonder if this is what John O’Donohue means. That the most beautiful way we can cross our thresholds is to do so with trust, not seeing what’s ahead as a threat, but as a place of rich promise.

We open our hands knowing God will fill them. Lavishly. 

“That we are here is a huge affirmation; somehow life needed us and wanted us to be,” O’Donohue writes. “Whatever comes, the great sacrament of life will remain faithful to us, blessing us always with visible signs of invisible grace. We merely need to trust.”  

Blessings of trust and open hands to each of you, friends, in the thresholds you are crossing. 

***

A PRAYER

Sometimes, thresholds come to us with startling surprise. Other times, they are in quiet germination for a long, long, long time. This prayer from my book, Ash and Starlight, reminds me of this. And of our friend, John O’Donohue’s, calling to trust. 

When I’m breaking free

Spirit of grace and grit,

You are the Giver of freedom.

I’ve been asking for it.

For years. 

For that strength, courage,

and discipline to break free.

But I’m now realizing

that while freedom

sometimes comes in

one, glorious breakthrough

where I burst through the

bramble into a fresh clearing,

never to turn back or tread the old path,

ready to leave the darkness

of the forest behind me…

Well, that’s just not been my experience.

More often, freedom comes

through a muddy trail run where I’m

weaving and winding,

not always moving forward,

but continually progressing.

The dirt sticking to the crevices of my shoes,

the roots I knead with the soles of my feet,

the pine needles collecting in my hair,

teach me what I so wanted to leave behind

actually becomes my story.

And how with you,

there are no dead ends or pointless loops.

They are part of the journey…the story….

And I need them

When I can take in

what dim light I find

within the trees and

keep making each step

on the uneven trail,

I learn to trust. 

To trust I am not lost,

but burrowed in a womb

of life-giving mystery. 

And you say,

“You are already free. 

Now live into that truth.”

Amen. 

Psalm 118:5 * John 8:32 * 2 Corinthians 3:17 

“Jesus said, ‘You will know the truth, 

and the truth will set you free.’” – John 8:32

***

SOMETHING THAT NOURISHED ME RECENTLY…

God’s manna has been merciful and plentiful. One recent and tangible inspiration for me has been this new t-shirt from Adrianne Haslet-Davis. If you don’t know her story, check it out here. Adrianne was a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing at which she was a spectator. She has since gotten into running and created an incredible movement supporting the amputee community. Talk about transforming your pain. As I’ve experienced such lament and rage this summer over everything from Supreme Court decisions to gun madness to climate change, people like Adrianne remind me how painful thresholds can be catalysts. 

On a lighter note, sunflowers. Always sunflowers. My favorite flower. Delivered by a friend when things imploded this month. 

This mug, sent to me by my sister-in-law, who will also run the Chicago marathon with me this fall. It brought much needed laughter during a stressful time. Cheers to all who keep going. 

And lastly, this favorite Mary Oliver poem which continues to save me over and over and over again. 
***

Opening my hands in prayer with you as you cross your own thresholds….

Love and Light,

Arianne 

***

Ask where it hurts…

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 ~

I am sending you so much courage and comfort at the start of this new week. I was going to write today about thresholds, but that will wait for next time. There’s been a lot to hold recently, especially last Friday. I’m still very much processing the news from the Supreme Court, but what I will say now is this. In the vortex of emotions, I’ve been turning to the beautiful voice of Ruby Sales and her question— “where does it hurt?”

On Saturday morning, I laced up my running shoes and re-listened to an interview she did some years ago.This hero and public theologian in the Civil Rights Movement believes asking one another this question is how we break bondage, cross divides, and actually move forward. We look into the eyes of the person we struggle to understand, the choices which mar our sense of humanity, and we ask, “where does it hurt?” Where is the pain? What is driving this?

We peel back layers, one at a time, and ask if we can share some space safe enough for vulnerably seeing one another. Behind fear, behind violence, behind oppression is always, always, always pain. And redemptive anger is always about transformation, holy trust, and unshakeable love. 

As Ruby, the one who was shot at as a teenager marching in peaceful protest, said, “I love everybody. I love everybody. I love everybody in my heart.” 

When the surrounding overwhelm gets bigger my prayers/pleas get simpler. My repeated prayers-turned-mantras in these weeks have been…

“Come, Lord Jesus.” 

“Your kin-dom come.” 

In me. In God’s world. 

When I’m picking up dirty laundry in my kids’ room always sitting on the floor right next to their hamper, I look up at the poster on the wall right above it. It’s a sketch of Amanda Gorman, the inaugural poet, with an excerpt of her poem, “The Hill We Climb”—“there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” 

You’ve got the light, my friend.

You are the light. 

And God’s kin-dom is coming through you. 

Ask where it hurts. 

A PRAYER

While I often share a prayer from my book, Ash and Starlight, this week I want to share a version of the Lord’s Prayer which is opening things for me in a powerful way. While praying the Lord’s Prayer can easily become rote and routine, I’m finding it freshly meaningful in light of all we’re experiencing. This is a communal prayer we share with siblings all across the globe, not to mention the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. It’s foundationally we/us, not I/me. As you pray this, friend, your voice joins a chorus of people standing right beside you. And this prayer was one of Jesus’ gifts to us.

This version I am loving is from the First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament

From Matthew 6:9-13

“O Great Spirit, our Father from above, we honor your name as sacred and holy. 

Bring your good road to us, where the beauty of your ways in the spirit-world above is reflected in the earth below. 

Provide for us day by day—the elk, the buffalo, and the salmon. The corn, the squash, and the wild rice. All the things we need for each day. 

Release us from things we have done wrong, in the same way we release others from the things done wrong to us. 

Guide us away from the things that tempt us to stray from your good road, and set us free from the evil one and his worthless ways. Aho! May it be so!” 

SOMETHING THAT NOURISHED ME RECENTLY…

Our little family ran, strollers in tow, in the Evanston Race Against Hate on June 19, both Juneteenth and Father’s Day.  It was an incredible sight to witness and a privilege to participate in. The race honors Ricky Byrdsong, a former Northwestern Basketball coach who was shot by a white supremacist while walking in his neighborhood with his two young kids. I will share that my seven-year-old daughter was nervous about going to the race. “There might be guns there,” she said to me. And it was a painful parenting moment for me to be unable to promise her otherwise. (Speaking of miraculous manna…  the bipartisan safer communities act just signed!!! If you haven’t already signed up with everytown, they make contacting leaders and staying informed incredibly accessible. Do it here.) 

Above the hamper, as mentioned before….

A&S PLUS OTHER GOOD THINGS…

* Find Ash and Starlight here

* A partner at Illustrated Ministry and I put together an activity kit to go with Matthew Paul Turner’s latest book, I am God’s Dream. This book is a beautiful addition to Turner’s collection. I love his books so much. Download the activity kit here

* I am continuing to train for the Chicago marathon this fall for the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my mom.  I wrote about it  here.  My fundraising page is here. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or are a caregiver, I would love to know. I’m keeping a running list (no pun intended), and it’s been a powerful partner for me as I run. 

You Don’t Need to Get More Done

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 ~

Welcome to this new day and morning. A start of a new day is resurrection time—time to let Jesus bring to new life in you healing from yesterday’s hurts, peace from yesterday’s anxieties, strength from yesterday’s exhaustion, gratitude from yesterday’s disappointments… Last week had its challenges both personally and nationally, and maybe you carried a heavy heart too. I hope whatever needs healing and resurrection in you this new day and week is finding some fresh life this morning, especially in the subtle and small. 

Speaking of resurrection, it’s been a few since I last wrote here…April was both a blur and a bummer, and I, for one, am ready for a fresh month (I might add I saw a headline from yesterday saying Chicago had one day of sunshine in the last 43 days, so there’s that). 

On to today’s musings…have you had the experience where something keeps appearing in your path, over and over and over again? One of my friends describes it as, “lightning crackling on his skin.” It can take a number of times for me to awaken and notice, but I give thanks the Spirit is persistent and lovingly relentless. 

In the last few months, I’ve experienced this with an ancient text I had never read, the Tao te ching, which literally translates, The Book of the Way. It’s an ancient Chinese text, attributed to Lao-tzu, referenced as a  guide for balanced, serene, generous living.

Different books I picked up (on very divergent topics, including a running manual!) were based on it, an article I opened a journal to, a poem a mentor shared, a gift sent from a friend…It kept appearing, to the point where I started laughing aloud each time it did. It felt like God’s little smile. A, “when are you going to read this?” reminder. 

What’s especially beautiful and powerful to me in this is how the message of the Tao te ching (which I am finally reading) is one of non-striving flow, and that is exactly how it has come into my life. 

I’m awakening to how much of fear, stress, and anxiety comes from the pressure I feel to accomplish. To feel that whatever I’m doing is productive and in service to someone. To earn my keep and have something to show for myself. A writer and entrepreneur I appreciate and follow came out with coffee mugs recently saying, “Lists are my love language.” I sure relate to that. 

It is pretty unsettling when I sit still and ask, “what am I trying to prove here? To whom?” 

Because the honest truth is what my husband once said to me as we stood in the kitchen, me spinning in circles of questions and doubt—”you don’t have to do a single thing more in your life to have already done enough.” he said. 

And I would say the same to you. 

Anne Lamott, one of our patron saints for life, had a soul-nourishing interview with Kelly Corrigan last year in which she said, “the purpose of life is not to get more done.” 

So if you need this invitation/permission today like I have, here it is.

You don’t need to get more done (whatever the more is). God is celebrating beautiful you right now. Your calling is in who you are becoming, not what you are doing. 

And lastly, a nugget from the Tao te ching….

Less and less do you need to force things,

until finally you arrive at non-action. 

When nothing is done,

nothing is left undone.”  

A PRAYER

A prayer all about grace and non-striving from my book, Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life. 

When I need to rest in grace

Today, Merciful God,

I lay down my private,

clenched-hands-salvation projects.

I fall, arms wide, eyes open,

into your ocean of grace…

All because you are

trustworthy in what you say,

faithful in what you do,

loving in how you respond,

patient in what you ask.

You’ve taught me how

to take in the struggle….

to look at it,

hold it in my hands,

allow it to teach me,

and let it lead me

toward a new place

of delightful dependence on you.

A gorgeous, expansive place of

release, joy, and trust.

You’re showing me it’s not who I am

keeping me from you

and what you desire,

but who I keep saying I’m not.

So at least today,

I let go of who I am

that I might be stretched

into what I must become.

I’ll ride the waves,

knowing grace upon grace

promises good land ahead.

In the love of the Great Surfer…

Amen.

John 1:16 * Romans 6:14 * Ephesians 2:8

“For by grace you have been saved

through faith, and this is not your

own doing; it is the gift of God…”

– Ephesians 2:8

Something that nourished me recently…

A couple weeks ago, I decided I was finally going to get myself a copy of the Tao te ching, and so our little family headed to a local bookstore on independent bookseller’s day. We found my book while we were there. And I’ll give you two guesses as to what book was right next to my book. The Tao te ching. Mmm hmm. It’s real. 

Here we are with the discovery at Winnetka’s Book Stall…

This interview between Padraig O’Tuama and Krista Tippett which I have now listened to more than once. If you listen to nothing else, skip to the last portion where Padraig reads the last pages of his book. Incredibly, incredibly beautiful. But as one of my friends has said, “I could listen to Padraig O’Tuama read the phonebook and have a transcendent experience.” 

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* I shared in my last Monday Manna how I am (with hope and prayer and fingers crossed!) going to run the Chicago marathon this fall for the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my mom. I wrote about it  here.  My fundraising page is here. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, I would love to know. I’m keeping a running list (no pun intended), and carry this cloud of witnesses with me as I’m training. 

Alzheimer’s affects nearly six million people in the United States right now. It’s another major area of much disparity for our sisters and brothers of color when it comes to diagnosis and care. Your support makes a true and meaningful difference.

Thank you, thank you, thank you friends! 

* Find Ash and Starlight here

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

Love and Light,

Arianne 

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.

Death, New Life, and a Book Launch

Photo by Lori Archer Raible

Today marks what would have been my dad’s 63rd birthday, and tomorrow is the birthday of my book – dedicated to my dad.

In John 12:24, Jesus says to his disciples, “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.” 

This weekend, friends and family will gather for a book launch party at Art House North in St. Paul. We will celebrate, give thanks, and dedicate this fruit to the God who weaves all ash and starlight into beauty.

I’m reminded today of God’s power to integrate into wholeness the paradoxes of our lives. Joy and pain. Endings and beginnings. Death and New Life. The holding of this book is physical fruit from some of the most painful deaths I’ve experienced – yes, the particular and acute loss of my dad’s life, but also the surrender to a future I hadn’t planned…and in some ways, even wanted.

Surrender always feels like dying because it is. It’s giving up our striving for control. Real surrender is trusting God is still God, God is still good, and that the agency we have here and now is enough. It’s also trusting the very fabric of this world God’s so lovingly created is a cycle of continual death and resurrection. Richard Rohr was the one who helped me see resurrection wasn’t a one-time event with the cross. This is the pattern for everything in our world and in our lives.

In the introduction to Ash and Starlight, I write about being 31 weeks pregnant with our first child the day my dad died. I knelt at his feet in the living room of his home while he took his last breaths on earth.  I held his fingers with one hand and had my other hand over my pregnant belly, kicking with life. I experienced in such a tangible way the holding together of death and life, of greatest grief and grittiest hope. 

Following my dad’s death, his brother, Tim, commissioned a musical piece in remembrance – not just of my father, but of the message his life spoke. Tim asked me to write the text for the piece, and the first stanza begins this way: 

On waves where trembling feet

Sink and dance there rises

Between my toes a peace…

Where heaven and earth embrace,

Where the ash in my mouth,

The starlight in my bones,

Weave together in wholeness

The “ash and starlight” allude to the poetry of Genesis. While God created us from the ash and dust of the earth, God 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. We are made of earth and we are made of heaven – ash and starlight not separate, but woven seamlessly together. And this is true too of our lives. 

The Ash and Starlight piece would become for me a kind of grounding touchstone (later the title of my blog, and after that, the title of my book), reminding me how everything in our lives belongs – the ash and the starlight.

We live in a culture that wants categories, and often creates either/or. Bad or good. Painful or joyful. Light or Dark. But God is much more “both/and” than “either/or.” And prayer is one of the ways God helps us integrate our lives and ourselves into wholeness. It can bring together the seemingly opposite things of our lives and our own selves as we see everything we are is held in unconditional love by God. Prayer keeps us awake and alive to what’s really happening inside of us when we most want to block or numb or judge. 

I’ve been humbled by the goodness of God and God’s leading in my journey. Eight years ago when I started writing weekly e-news prayers for the congregation in Highland Park, I wasn’t thinking to myself, “Someday, this will become a book of prayers.” It was truly a case of fumbling toward faithfulness in the next thing, and then the next thing, and then the next thing. I felt God lead me to keep the prayer practice in Fort Wayne, then decide to start a blog, then  follow the nudge of a mentor who told me to try and float a book proposal to some publishers. 

This journey reminds me of one of my favorite prayers by Thomas Merton, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end, nor do I really know myself. And the fact that  I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you…And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.” 

Today, I’m claiming God’s promise to lead me by the right road – even as I often feel anxious and fearful with the ambiguity of not knowing. I am a witness of God’s wonders and working.

That is what hope is. And that is Who hope is.

Coming October 22, 2019 – “Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life”

 

Ash-and-Startlight-Cover-Final-no-cropmarks

My dream cover, thanks to Penelope Dullaghan!

Friends, Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life is now available for pre-order on both Amazon and Chalice (with more sites later on). All thanks and praise to God – the One who brought this into being amid years of grief, joy, pain, ambiguity, and the call to trust. My deepest prayer is that this book blesses and builds the beautiful threads of connection in your life – with God, with others, and with your own soul.

I cannot thank the amazing Penelope Dullaghan enough for making the cover of my book a dream come true. The story about how this cover came to be is in and of itself a testimony to the Spirit’s holy and surprising work.

My hope for you is to find in these pages a prayerful companion for your own journey. This book encompasses prayers for your inner landscape and outer rhythms. There are prayers for what you’re feeling and prayers for the year’s seasons. So many of you have prayerfully journeyed with me in the posts of this blog or in the years of congregational ministry.

These prayers can be starting spots for your own – a springboard from which you offer to God the unique thoughts and feelings you need to let loose. Or these prayers can also be a place for you to rest. I have been so thankful for the prayers of others when I myself didn’t have it in me to pray – or didn’t want to.

The book encompasses prayers for centering, confession and release, guidance and transition, waiting and struggle, comfort and strength, trust, and seasonal times of year. Each prayer offers voice to a particular place in your heart or life….“When I need perspective at the start of the day,” “When I want to numb, avoid, and block,” “When I’m in the messy middle of something,” “When I need to trust where I am is right,” “When I can’t sleep,” “When I need to know if this thing can life again,” “When I need some steadiness,” “When I’m headed to work,” and more.

Following each prayer are Scripture references connecting with the themes of the prayer. They provide nourishment and wisdom for further meditation. As God works in your beautiful heart, you will see how the experiences and emotions you want to leave behind are actually integral to who you are and are becoming. God wants your honest attention and availability more than piety and achievement.

You will be grounded in the deepest promises of which we all need the most reminding – We are loved as we are. We are not alone. We are instruments of blessing, even when we don’t realize it.

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

I am planning some pre-order bonuses (not quite ready!). If you preorder now (which I’m learning is extremely helpful and important in forecasting a book’s worth to sellers) you can receive these bonuses when they become available (in addition to my unending gratitude!).

I am venturing into new and vulnerable territory, here. The marketing piece is one with which I am not only unfamiliar, but have also been uncomfortable. I am grateful to Anna LeBaron who put her hands on my shoulders last fall at the Ezer Collective (thank you again, Jo Saxton and Pastor Steph!!). She told me to view the publicizing as an offering to God and God’s people. If you have something you’ve created out of joyful love, and which you believe can help people, it is that which you are promoting. Not one’s self. Framing the marketing and publicizing piece in that kind of light has been just what I needed to keep stepping forward. I picture you, and that floods my heart with the love I need to keep going. Let’s spread the light and love of God in all the places we can, friends. Thank you for the ways you are a lamp and beacon.

 

#ashandstarlight, #grateful, #allmylove

 

 

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