Ash and Starlight

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

Tag: Prayer (page 1 of 7)

A couple of prayers for Thanksgiving…..

Photo by Lori Archer Raible

Blessings to all in this week of gathering, remembering, and giving thanks. My publisher asked that I write a couple of prayers for these coming days – one for Thanksgiving, and one for the stresses of complicated family dynamics at the holidays. This time of year can really push and press on family wounds for some. If this is your reality, I am praying extra gentleness and strength over you this week.

***

Thanksgiving prayer 

Generous One,

Everything is gift (from You!),

yet we become so used to 

what we have and who we have 

that entitlement and expectation 

can film over our eyes. 

So on this Thanksgiving, 

we rub those eyes as long as it takes

to see with renewed clarity

the matchless, limitless abundance

that is your love toward us. 

God, use this marked, single day to

embed in our hearts a 

lifetime of daily praise.

Give us uplifted hearts 

holding responsibility’s weight

to serve and love 

with all we’ve been given. 

And no token-giving. 

We say Thank You, God, with all we are,

and promise to live our Thank You 

with our lives, not only our words – 

neither of which can encompass how 

much gratitude we owe you. 

Amen. 

***

When you’re struggling with family over the holidays….

Steadying God,

Settle my stressed-out soul,

my ruminating mind, 

my churning body

in this time of joining family.

For the “most wonderful time of the year”…. 

To really love them,

I must love them as they are

You tell me it is not love, otherwise. 

But the age old wounds

and present dysfunction

make me realize how tender 

those pain points still are,

and I can crumble or armor up

at the lightest touch. 

Can you help me, God,

to somehow make gentleness and grace

my guardrails this day? 

To allow space for all the things 

that have changed alongside the things

that have not?

Give me the integrity, 

the self-awareness,

the courage to be who I am,

honoring the Youwithin me – 

and each person under this roof. 

To remember as much as I can

that in joining hands and hearts

we are united with you. 

And today can be one step,

as you promise to be there 

for every next one – 

forward or backward. 

Amen. 

A prayer for boxes and a weekend recap

Photo by Lori Archer Raible

I shared this prayer in my Monday Manna newsletter today. I don’t know about you, but when I am under stress, I descend (quickly!) into black-and-white thinking. Especially about people and situations.

Last week, I saw Oprah’s Super-Soul Sunday conversation with Pema Chodron. One of the many wise things she said concerned our openness to “letting” people change. Or how we see situations. Our perceptions and beliefs about them can become so fixed and brittle (in large part due to justifiable pain). Here’s a little prayer to help us with this…. 

Humble Savior,

Help me be, see, and understand anew.

There’s a person, a place,

a question, an issue

I have put in a box.

Separateness gives the illusion

of some control,

and if I’m honest,

some superiority.

I am afraid to let

that person or that place

or that issue change

because of the change

that would ask for in me.

I’m cautious around invitations

with such ambiguous expectations.

Give me, God, the trust 

to see with innocent eyes,

to learn with a beginner’s mind,

to understand with a non-judging heart –

and really, to love even when I don’t understand.

Because showing how you were right

never seemed to be your first priority.

Rather than turn or edge back,

help me take one step closer this week

to what is other and different and hard.

Amen.

***

And then, yesterday was such a blessing to my heart – a meaningful gathering at the Winnetka Book Stall for reflection, reading, signing, and cookie eating. I was so moved by the cross-section of people who came….people from the congregation at which I first began writing prayers eight years ago all the way to beautiful new friends I’ve recently gotten to know. A tangible reminder of God’s goodness in the journey, always unfolding….Here are some pictures!

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.

Friday Prayer, May 10, 2019

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Stopping to smell the beauty at the Chicago Botanic Gardens….

The news of Rachel Held Evans’ death hit many of us very, very hard. Some amazingly beautiful pieces have been written in recent days days, all illuminating what a tremendous woman – what a matchless voice – the world will achingly miss. I never met Rachel. She also changed my life and faith trajectory in too many ways for me to name. Her words have been a companion to me for years, and that’s exactly what so many people have named. Her voice. Her words. How she changed the world because of them.

I’m preparing to lead a women’s retreat next week on the theme of “Finding Your Inner Voice.” I’ve been thinking about the power of words and the creative force in using one’s voice. This is something to which we’ve been reawakened through Rachel and her legacy.

Abraham Joshua Heschel believed, “words create worlds.” With our voices, we can call into being the world we envision. And this is, after all, the way our story started.

We are born of God’s voice and breath. Living from our inner voice is pausing to listen to what’s deepest within – and that is always a place of beauty, authenticity, and integration. Nurturing your inner voice changes your life, and in turn, the world. What’s happening ‘out there’ in the world starts with what’s happening here in our hearts. Rachel said she knew she always wanted to be a writer, and so she decided to just start writing about the things her inner heart was wrestling with – especially regarding the Bible and her faith. As she did, millions of people were set free. Her words are alive, and her voice is going to continue in this holy work.

Expressing what’s deepest within us through voice and word – whether by lips or through pen – becomes a devoted offering. We have the power to name our world as beautiful, then go about the hard, faithful work of making sure all can enjoy it that way.

My prayer for the women I lead next week and my prayer for you is to receive God’s love and fresh empowerment for living by your inner voice. The voice within you showing everything belongs.

You have some really important words to share. Rather than write a prayer today, I invite you to create your own. It can be one word, a phrase, or a whole flow of things.

Thank you for creating a beautiful world through your voice today.

 

Good Friday Prayer, April 19, 2019

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Thank you, Susanne Moorman Rowe, for sharing this beauty with me on my birthday this week!

Good Friday blessings, friends. I’ve been eating up so much Richard Rohr lately. He’s long been one of my heroes. Father Rohr has set me – along with countless others – free. It’s not an overstatement to say he has changed my life, and his latest book has been (IMHO) his best yet. I beg every one of you to read this book, or even listen to the accompanying podcasts. You will not remain the same.

On this Good Friday, I think of a couple of truths from Father Rohr that sink deep into my bones today. First, that “God loves things by becoming them.” And second, “everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end.”

My understanding of the cross and what it means is very different now than it was growing up, and through Richard Rohr, I love and appreciate it in a whole new (and much more healing, helpful) way. God incarnate in Jesus Christ embodies for me how love is the undercurrent beneath every single thing in our world.

I wish you tangible experiences today of Christ’s pervading, unconditional love. And in doing so, offer another sneak peek toward my book – launching this fall – that includes a Lenten prayer.

***

For Lent

 Redeeming One,

You came, Jesus, to show me the

best way to live and walk this path.

You let yourself feel the depth

of need surrounding you.

You kept a purity of focus.

You always, always chose love.

All with bravery and trust.

I need you, Jesus, to walk

beside me now,

helping me reflect,

confess, prepare…

This Lenten path puts before me

the questions and realizations

I so often stuff away.

With each step, I’m recognizing

barriers built through my

rote habits and unrealized prejudices,

my base-line grudges and routine neglects…

I must acknowledge compromises

that drew me further away

from my own soul and your calling.

But I’m coming back home.

Hone my desires to that

pure focus you held.

Help me fast from self-absorption,

finding my sustenance in the

rich profundity of suffering-love.

Draw my heart and feet forward

on this path that’s both total mystery

and innate to who I am in you.

A minor melody marks our cadence,

yet you tune my ears for more than that.

Resurrection is always the final number.

Help me walk, Savior Lord,

with hope amid heaviness,

ears to the ground.

I will welcome my mortality

and the potential in ashes and dust.

Amen.

 

Psalm 51:17 * Isaiah 53:4-6 * Luke 9:23-24

 

“If any want to become my followers,

let them deny themselves and take up

their cross daily and follow me…” Luke 9:23

Friday Prayer, April 5, 2019

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Thanks to my sister, Em, who captured Georgia’s spring beauty this week!

 

Spring blessings to you, friends! Welcome to the end of the week. Perhaps these recent days had some challenges for you. Maybe it was hard not to take comments you received personally. Maybe you’re getting really tired of the chronic pain that just can’t be kept in check. Maybe the kids had a tough time acclimating to routine and rhythm after spring break. Maybe you discovered you had a dead skunk underneath your deck that made your entire house smell like the plague of death. Yes, that last one did indeed happen to us this week.

Whatever the week brought, here is some encouragement for you, friends, as you begin the weekend. Spring is here, and with that comes all the promises for which we yearn. Growth and blooming, beauty and rebirth, always come. The most exquisite sights regularly appear after quiet, strenuous work below ground (often unnoticed, routinely in frigid, gray sameness).

God never ceases from creating beauty. As we witness it outside, remember God’s creating that beauty in you. It might not feel like “spring” in your soul or life. Maybe you’re grinding through the same-old that’s needed and asked of you right now. Know without a doubt, though, that spring always comes. It’s in the fabric of the world. It’s in the skin and heart and life of you. And your faithfulness right now lays a foundation of rich, nourishing soil. It will feed the fruit about to form.

I shared last week that my book, Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life, is now available for pre-order! As another little “sneak peek,” here is a prayer for springtime from the book .

For Springtime

Loving, Creator God,

Spring reminds me it’s

never too late to start over.

That there’s been quiet growth

over these long months

of winter when I saw nothing.

When I was called to believe

there was growth happening

beneath hard, cold soil.

And now? Glory!

I celebrate the loveliness

of all you’ve made.

The newness, Lord,

the freshness –

it inspires my soul!

Tulips in the front yard,

buds on the trees,

the voices of birds,

the cleansing of rain,

the comfort of sunshine…

each gift renews me,

speaking of the promise within

all those months of dormancy

and preparation.

As spring awakens my physical senses,

I ask, God, for you to awaken my inner senses.

May my mind open and blossom

to the longings you’ve placed within me…

to the steps and path that will

satisfy the desires of my heart…

to the hopes and passions

you’ve planted in every

one of your children…

May I seek what will truly fulfill them.

May I journey toward their Source.

May I be guided by your gentle and wise Spirit.

It is never too late to be

what you call me to be.

Even as it takes greatest courage

and deepest humility.

With your help, I will open myself to

what I never expected before,

never experienced before,

and never thought possible.

Amen.

Psalm 16:11 * Psalm 104:24-30 * Isaiah 55:8-9

“You show me the path of life.

In your presence there is fullness

of joy.” – Psalm 16:11

Friday Thoughts and Prayer

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My view of Lake Michigan on an icy morning run 

So many people I know are living through some excruciating things. A number of them are grappling whole-heartedly with grief over death,  seeking to honor the space they need for all the emotions while simultaneously receiving the task to relearn their world. It is hard work to live with integrity and integration amid loss. The pressures to compartmentalize, ignore, or control are so real and so strong. But the person who lives in wholeness decides to scoop in everything with open arms. We can never selectively numb.

This winter has been much different than the last, and I was surprised to witness how much of Lake Michigan was frozen over on my chilly run the other day. There’s an overlook at which I love to pause on most of my runs, and in doing so that day, I noticed something. While from a distance the lake seemed like a frozen block of stillness, there was movement. In looking a bit more closely, I saw the ice formations on the lake’s surface gently swaying – not much, but a slight back and forth, responding to the nudges of the current below.

What appeared to be static and hard was actually breathing in a quiet, small way. I’m not sure how long the winter will last, but even as things look frozen and unchanged, there are breath, life, and little tiny movements keeping everything from getting stuck.

For all of you grieving a goodbye today, I bless you in your small breaths and movements. In the strong victory of the choices you will make today to do the next thing, even as your world feels frozen over. Free-flowing, strong waves eventually come, but this is not the time nor the season to really even think about it. Hibernating in the hush is where healing must begin.

This prayer is one I wrote for my forthcoming book, Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life to be published later this year by Chalice Press. There are a few Scripture references following the prayer to which you can turn for even deeper comfort and connection with the One who holds you in your grief.

When I’m grieving a goodbye

Compassionate One,

Be with me in my goodbyes.

When I’m asked to

open my hands and

release what I’ve held –

held tightly

place your peace

between the fingers.

Put your comfort in

the cracks and crevices

of my heart.

Use my falling tears

as nourishment for

this ground of grief,

bearing fruit for

a new season which

also promises sweetness.

Amen.

Matthew 5:4 * John 12:24 * Revelation 21:3-5

 

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into

the earth and dies, it remains just

a single grain; but if it dies, it

bears much fruit.” – John 12:24

Friday Prayer, May 25, 2018

 

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Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

Think for a moment about a time in your life when everything went according to plan. 

I’ll wait for you to stop laughing….

So begins God, Improv, and the Art of Living. Thanks, MaryAnn…It’s been water to my soul in recent weeks. Changing my life, really…..Please, please read this book, friends.

Life doesn’t really go the way I’d thought it would go. Pretty often. I need look no further than my own two feet (now finally out of the aircast boot!!) to be reminded that the best approach to life is one of improvisation. Denial = misery (I’ve been there soooooooo many times). It’s painful (literally).

As I pour over this book and the dissolution of my own plans, I’ve been struck by its connection to Pentecost – the holy day we celebrated at church last Sunday. Pentecost – when the Spirit came roaring in as wind and fire – happened when everything had just gone off the rails for the disciples.

They’d faithfully followed Jesus for years, only to have him suddenly crucified. Wait! He’s back?! That was a close call! But then, he starts speaking things about empowerment and all of this “you are my messenger” stuff before poofing into the air (cue: Ascension Sunday).

It’s when the disciples are called to improvise and do something new (amid a lot of fears!) that the Holy Spirit breaks in with all her gifts, creating a path forward in the transitional time before them.

Here’s a prayer for when Plan A doesn’t happen (or B, C, D…..need I say more?)

***

Spirit of Surprise and Faithfulness,

As I encounter what I didn’t expect to face,

I need your help.

 

When life feels out of control (my control!),

unpredictable,

scary….

 

When my normal coping mechanisms

aren’t available this time around…

 

When the overarching question is,

What do I do now?

 

Your reassuring, Spirit-filled wind comes

blowing at my back,

telling me I’m not alone,

that you will fill me with

everything I need to take on what’s next

and do the things I didn’t think possible.

That you are the master Improvisor…

And I will learn too.

 

This is how you do it….

yes and yes and yes and yes….

 

Help me ride

the current of this

Pentecostal wind.

 

Use this change in plans to be a change in heart,

that I might not move forward with a dead soul,

clinging to what’s known, but no longer there…

 

Open my heart to what you will do in

this pocket of open space between

before and after.

(Even if this involves a lot of blowing around and burning)

 

Today, I say yes and yes and yes and yes…

 

Amen.

Friday Prayer, May 18, 2018

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Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

For all of us in the messy middle of something…..

 

***

Slow and Steady God,

Things have changed, and I

know they’re not done changing.

 

I’m here on your potter’s wheel

where you’re shaping my essence into

something new with your

guiding, loving hands.

 

But this messy middle time….

it’s painful, and scary, and hard.

The wheel spins and my world swirls

and all I want is to

see the end result.

 

Becoming the broken-down

lump of clay was a

hard stage too, I might add.

 

Help me, God,

to commit to the process,

not the outcome.

 

Help me embrace this messy, middle time

where I must make space

for shifts and questions.

 

Change my mantras from

clarity to exciting ambiguity,

definition to open-endedness,

known to awe-filled surprises,

timeline to trust.

 

Help me believe, Lord,

that even what seems like negative change

makes room in me and around me

for something fresh (and beautiful).

 

You hum a tune of possibility and potential as you work.

With each move of your hand, you mutter,

“good.”

“good.”

“good.”

 

And you smile.

Friday Prayer, April 20, 2018

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At the family greeting area with my parents and Jeff, just minutes before the bombs went off.

 

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This past Monday was the fifth anniversary of the Boston marathon bombing.

I ran that race on my 28thbirthday. It was an exhilarating day that ended in horror. The height of humanity’s enduring spirit sidled by the depth of humanity’s pain. I wrote about my experience here….

I haven’t seen the movies made about it. I haven’t run a race since. Someday, I will do these things….

But each year, something shifts – even soars – in my spirit as I watch the coverage and read the results. I’m taken back to the essence of the day, which is one of goodness and perseverance and overcoming. The evil that happened that day has not held victory. Every year, thousands still gather to run together. They take back the ground in the name of beautiful strength with each stride and stomp of their feet.

This year, as I read the coverage with my broken foot, I was awe-struck by the story of Sarah Sellers who finished second for women on Monday. No one knew who she was. I learned that as a senior in college, Sarah had a broken foot and didn’t run one step for a year. She has been working as a full-time nurse, and the race on Monday was only her second marathon. She didn’t even realize when she crossed the finish-line that she’d taken second place. When asked what she would do with the award money, she said she’d try to pay off her and her husband’s student loans.

Or how about this story?! Talk about tremendous.

The affirmation I hear in this and to which I keep returning is, We are overcomers. I am an overcomer…..

It can feel like we barely catch our breath from one setback before the next one surprises us.  Author Paul Coelho says, “Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.”

The overcoming rarely comes in one, big wave. It’s more like a series of cascading waves that roll in and recede. But each wave will bring us further up the shore….

 

***

Strong and Loving God,

In You,

through You,

because of You,

I am an overcomer.

 

I keep my eyes forward

that I might see the beauty

before me.

 

Thank you for

helping me trust

amid the setbacks…

for helping me see that progress

isn’t a straight line,

but a squiggly one.

 

The simple choice to try again today

is victory in your book.

 

Yours is the coaching voice

I need most,

speaking directly in my ear

as you run alongside,

stride for stride.

 

I believe in you.

I am with you.

We will overcome this together.

 

Amen.

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