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

Tag: Monday Manna

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 

The Gears of Progress

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 ~

Here is your Monday Manna….on a Tuesday. This is a good exercise in the “good enough.” When things didn’t come together to send this out yesterday, my temptation told me to wait for the next Monday. But I’m realizing again how many standards—especially perfectionistic ones—hold us back from a lot of goodness. Because as amazingly gracious as you are to receive this, the writing of it is a healing, integrating, and needed work for my own soul. 

Maybe some of you, like me, wear a super-cape reading, “able to jump to an all-or-nothing conclusion in the blink of an eye.” In our world run by measurements and comparisons and progress, the voice of “best only” is a loud one. One I listen to much too often. 

Because while we may think that the positive trajectory for a life moves on a graph, curving nicely up and to the right, it’s not true. 

I remember reading earlier this year an idea which has really burrowed its way into my heart, and which is slowly creating some transformation. It’s the truth that progress has three gears—forward, neutral, and reverse. 

That’s right. Moving backwards is part of the progress. Or sitting tight with watchful waiting.

We have heard this before. The two-steps-forward, one-step-back adage. But do we really believe it? Do we really trust that? And progress doesn’t mean everything turns out great. It means you keep going and choose wholeness. 

I believe living each day with a posture of acceptance, reflection, and trust is always, always progress, regardless of what direction it takes you in. Everything belongs, and nothing is wasted. All experiences are honored as a part of the deal. 

I think about Queen Elizabeth, and what her courageous journey looked like. How much fortitude and deep belief it took to embrace all those “gears.” 

And how really, this is true for anyone in leadership. Or anyone who works with people. Or anyone who splashes water on their face over the sink in the morning and gazes into the mirror. 

This doesn’t mean there won’t be times we make sudden turns, or even U-turns. But it does mean those turns are all part of the map. 

You’re on the right path. 

***

A Prayer…

This prayer, from my book, Ash and Starlight, was right were my heart was this week. Remember who you are, friends, and be intentional about what you pay attention to. You’ve got this. 

When I need a fresh spirit

Holy God,

Unfurl, unclench,

release, relax

my soul this day.

Unwind the tangled thoughts

that have trapped me

in webs of worry this week.

Show me I’m not cornered

in the decisions I face.

Bring my heart, mind,

conversations, and circumstances

into alignment as I seek to

keep putting one foot in front of the other…

peeling back the layers, one at a time,

to the person you’ve made me to be,

to the pieces of you placed within me.

I want to live with integrity, Lord –

to be whole on my inside and outside

and honest about my motives.

I hunger to hold quiet courage –

to be so steady in your promises

that I stop getting caught in comparison.

I need to see myself the way you do –

beloved and cherished and

completely enough.

Please, Holy Spirit, release my fear,

ushering in its place new trust, confidence, and peace.

May I claim that spirit of power,

love and self-discipline today

as I offer my life to you and your purpose.

As I follow your beckoning,

my soul’s face will emerge,

will smile, and begin again. 

Amen.

Psalm 51:10 * 2 Corinthians 5:17 * 2 Timothy 1:7

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and put a new and right spirit within me.”

– Psalm 51:10

***

Something that nourished me recently…

Firstly, the “Justice Songs” album by Porter’s Gate. I’ve been listening to it so much recently. It’s exactly what we need right now. The third song is a really good one to run or walk to. And the last one has put my heart at rest countless times, perfect as you are going to bed. 

And then, this sunrise. I was running by the Northwestern Campus just as the sun was coming up. What was as moving to me as the sunrise itself was how countless people who were passing by—construction crews setting up for the day, college students on their way across campus, people on bikes zipping along—stopped. They walked onto the grass, paused, and watched it rise. I was struck by how this quiet, incomparable miracle happens every single day. And there is something within us that can’t but stop and bow. 

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

* A couple prayer pieces I’m loving so much—

– Traci Smith’s new prayer book for kids— Little Prayers for Everyday Life. I drew upon the one about anger the other day (actually, multiple days) with one of my kiddos who was FEELING IT. (and me)

– Written earlier this summer, but this article by our patronness, Anne Lamott, about how she prays and why. It is so, so, so good. 

– Tish Harrison Warren’s book, “Prayer in the Night.” I hope I can share more about this one in the weeks to come, but it is bringing me back all over again to the age-old question of why bad things happen when we love and are loved by a very good God. 

***

With you on the road….

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. 

What Matters

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

Good morning, friends ~ 

What matters? What really matters? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And still does. 

A PRAYER

Getting grounded in what matters to me right now. 

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

When I need to ground myself in today

Calming One,

I am stopping now.

I am resting now.

I am letting the stillness

of being with you

wash in like a wave,

while the chatter and

activity around me recede.

Thank goodness I don’t need

silence around me

in order to have quiet inside.

This moment, God –

it’s what I need and where I am.

I find myself so encumbered

by yesterdays and tomorrows

that sometimes, I leave today 

in the corner.

But today is enough.

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

a person who loves me,

a moment to breathe,

a meal on the table,

a word bringing hope,

a gleam of life outside my window.

Please help me open my hands

and receive today with gratitude,

letting past seasons fill me with appreciation,

and seasons yet to be give me hope.

But for now – 

Today. Today. Today.

I love you best when I’m present,

seeing and hearing and holding

what asks for my heartfelt attention

here and now.

You promise to hold

space for everything else.

Thank you for bringing me back, God.

Thank you for the miracle of manna.

Amen.

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

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

– Matthew 6:11

SOMETHING THAT NOURISHED ME RECENTLY…

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

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

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

A&S PLUS OTHER GOOD THINGS….

* Find Ash and Starlight here. 

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

***

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

Love and Light,

Arianne 

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