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

Tag: Prayer (Page 2 of 7)

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.

Friday Prayer, March 30, 2018

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“Tree of Life” oil canvas by Arianne Braithwaite Lehn

A blessed Good Friday to each of you, my friends.

I am grateful to be writing after some long radio silence – sick kids, meaningful visits from loved ones, new baby developmental milestones that equaled wonky sleep around here, and the like (I forgot how the ability to stand up and cruise around in a crib throws things off!). I am praying this Lenten journey has been a grace-filled one for you, even if your moments to reflect have not come as often as you would have liked. It can be enough.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about death and new life. Especially today. Before being taken away for crucifixion, Jesus talks to his disciples about seeds. New life comes from a seed when it goes into the earth and “dies.” And death, as we know, comes in all kinds of forms.

The part of Jesus’ final discourse that really stood out to me this week was when he says,

Right now, I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this?’ No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’ (John 12:27-28 The Message)

Jesus said ‘yes’ to the death because he knew that particular ‘yes’ was also ‘yes’ to a whole bunch of other things.

As we hold space today for Jesus’ yes – to a cross and ultimately to new life – I am praying for you in the personal forms of death for which you are holding space right now. I pray there will be lots of room for both the death as well as the new life, because they always need each other.

You are brave.

***

Wonder Worker,

When I peered up from the hole and saw no way out,

When what was taken away gave no warning,

When I didn’t think I had the courage

(or even the energy)

to live into a life looking nothing like it did before…

 

Something was happening.

 

The thing I I thought would break me –

that did break me

is now making me.

 

Great is the mystery of faith…”

 

The pieces of life’s puzzle come together here and there,

or shockingly in a big patch at once,

and I see You,

active and good in all things.

 

Your power to redeem –

to take the most painful death and losses

and grow from them living, breathing gifts

that take my own breath away in awe.

 

Somehow this hard, hard, hard thing –

when given in earnest to you today

(and many tomorrows from now!)

becomes an open channel where

something amazing will flow.

 

A passage echoing

with a tender Voice –

 

You can trust me with all the things….

in all the things…

This too.

And yes, this.

 

Why is it, God, that

death is so demanding –

commanding space in my soul,

in my schedule,

to really lean in

to the new reality I’m asked

to embrace?

 

It took your disciples a while too.

 

I know you promise

I have as much time as I need,

and that fruit will continue to

bud and burst.

 

Amen.

Friday Prayer, February 2, 2018

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Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

Great Love and Loving One,

 

I look around me…

 

How I crave your

true and powerful and unifying

(of the deepest kind)

love.

 

More than a Valentine’s Day love….

 

I look around….

 

Seeking your gritty, steady love

that humbles itself into gracious relationship.

That lays down to listen.

 

I look…

 

Remembering again and again

how you are Love itself,

moving into any dark holes of unloving –

including my own shadow side –

bringing beams of

pure, unconditional love.

 

A love that loved me first

and loves me still….

as I am

where I am

(even if I still act like I need to earn it

every.single.day.)

 

With looking eyes

and tuned ears

and a *somewhat* open heart,

I see that your Love – that you –

really are everywhere.

 

There are all of these amazing

people who are beacons of you,

standing united in mercy and compassion,

telling the world how connected we all are

and that you are our source.

 

Our Source of Love.

 

I’m joining in.

 

Amen.

Friday Prayer, January 19, 2018

 

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Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

Let’s make room today. Let’s clear out what we’ve been using to numb or avoid or block. Let’s trust that in the quiet, open space there is healing.

And then let’s listen….

***

Patient, Gentle, God,

 

I can be so afraid of emptiness.

 

There are so many ways to stuff out

the echoes of hollowness….

fill the house with unneeded stuff,

fill the wallet with money,

fill the garages with spares of this and that,

fill the belly with more and more food,

fill the mind with whatever distractions can be found,

fill the time with busy-ness….

 

But it won’t pad the emptiness,

or fill the void.

 

Give me the courage, God, to clear this clutter!

To see in this empty space a sacredness,

a needed gift,

a place you will come and get to work.

 

Make me be alone with you

and with the things within me

I’ve been avoiding,

or not even aware of.

 

Use this open space to

bring about transformation

where your Spirit shapes my attitudes,

leads my thoughts,

guides my decisions,

covers my conversations.

 

You promise that

to be filled with your Spirit

is to be in formation –

to head toward the abundant purposefulness.

 

With your Spirit in me, I am never empty,

nor is my life.

 

Fill and form me, Loving One, today.

Remind me I have all I need in and through You,

and that there is no reason to be afraid.

 

Amen.

Friday Prayer, December 15, 2017

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Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

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

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

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

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

 

***

Warm, enveloping One,

You gather me in when

the wind of anxiety and fear whips,

when I feel my face, my heart,

tighten against the cold’s force.

 

With wide, warm arms,

you bring me into your heart

where my angst melts by

the fire of your love.

 

And it is there, as I rest and thaw

that you remind me…

 

Remind me of the unbelievable power in perseverance,

the choice to open my eyes each morning and say,

Yes, I will keep going.

And I will find joy here

and grace

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

in this brutal winter.

 

As my brittle fears drip to my feet,

you let my real self come through.

A self you love so much…

 

My path toward transformation comes through acceptance,

through affirming that I will be

gentle and forgiving toward myself

because that’s how you are with me.

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

Into the warmth I feel here.

My solace and strength in life’s winter.

 

Amen.

Not quite Friday, but here’s my prayer…

I have missed you!

I have missed this!

We welcomed our precious Simon Thomas Lehn in the wee hours of the morning on June 17th. We couldn’t be more grateful for this miracle in our household. At the same time, the transition – especially in the first couple months – was extremely exhausting and heart-wrenching.

Like his older sister, Simon has suffered from severe reflux disease and was in terrible pain because of it. All of you have done and would do whatever it takes to comfort someone you love, and so you know what this is like – the seemingly endless search from point to point with no clear “landing spot” as you seek what will bring relief and answers.

After a couple months, Simon became a different baby. Whether it was the medications finally taking effect or the shifts in my diet or the maturation of his body or some other healing gift from God’s tender hands, we don’t know. And we don’t need to know. The blessing of breathing (and sleeping!) more easily was enough.

            Until I broke my ankle!!!

Following a doctor’s appointment, I was carrying Simon out to the parking lot. amid a drizzling rain. With Simon strapped in the car seat (we know how light those things are), a loaded diaper bag, and my purse, I completely missed the curb over which I stepped, flipping my ankle and bringing all of me and what I carried forcefully to the ground.

What has long been one of my greatest fears has now actualized in what seems to be one of the worst-timed seasons. I haven’t been able to bear weight at all on my ankle, and will be transitioning to weight-bearing in a boot soon. Of course I asked the doctor about running and the answer was, “four months.”

Our friends and community of faith kicked into gear immediately. Crutches were sitting outside our front door when we returned from the ER. Dinner arrived at 5:00 p.m. that evening. Another friend came after work to help get Eden in the bath tub and to bed.

Through daily life, God is asking of me a whole new depth of surrender. I’m challenged with questions about where I really find my identity. I’m forced to sit in the stillness, the quiet, and not be able to move – HARD.

My new hashtag has become #dailymanna as I experience God’s enoughness and goodness. My only goal is to live as best I can another day. My crutches have become, in a strange way, a kind of sacrament. As I press my entire weight into these blasted crutches, hobbling around our home with four flights of stairs, I’m reminded of who is carrying the weight of my weary, worried soul.

After the accident, I lamented to a friend my incapacities and long haitus from running. She said, “I pray you can keep your gaze above the current waves to see your Savior as the one who gives power to walk on water, even if you can’t run.

And so I’m trying to fix my gaze. Lifting with my eyes the hearts of so many others whose lives have been turned upside down recently in catastrophic ways. People facing hurricanes – literally, emotionally, spiritually, all of the above.

 

***

Sustainer of my broken body

and humbled spirit,

 

When I feel overwhelmed and

want to hide,

 

When I feel trapped and

want to escape,

 

When the cleansing tears of

dependence,

loss of control,

and fear

wash me over….

 

I come back to today, today, today.

 

I open needy hands

for daily manna.

 

I look for the joy in this

because of what you are building

in me.

 

And I scrawl some more

on ever-growing list

of your faithfulness in the

path toward healing.

 

My heart can sing,

can cry,

can hold the linking arms of faith and hope

through this crucible of transformation.

Use it for good.

Use it for good.

Use it for good.

Amen.

Friday Prayer, June 2, 2017

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Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

Summer blessings, my friends. I hope and pray the earth’s greening and pending shifts in life routine are creating some breathing space in your soul.

I am now 36 weeks pregnant.  I feel it. Eden arrived at 37 1/2 weeks, and so there’s a chance this will be my temporary “signing-off” prayer for a period of time.

In the third trimester of my pregnancy with Eden, I developed severe Sacroiliac Joint pain. It completely stopped me in my tracks. And almost like clockwork, the pain descended again during this pregnancy journey at the exact same week and point. While trips to the chiropractor, yoga and “spinning babies” techniques are helping ease the pain, there was a stretch of time where I couldn’t even do the daily essentials.

I know so many of you, my friends, struggle with the burden of chronic pain. Maybe you have for years. My own pain in this last month has deepened my prayerfulness for you. How you inspire me with the brave and trusting way you walk the path everyday.

I’ve been reflecting on limitations and how I struggle within and against them. On how we can channel our breath toward the places in our bodies (or thoughts, or lives!) that pain us the most, and how that can be healing. And on how the more I can relax and breathe into my pain, rather than tense up and fight, the more centered I am in how I really want to live.

Feel my love and prayers with you in the weeks to come. How excited I am to share updates of new life soon.

 

***

 

Tender Holder

of my hurting body

and tired heart,

 

I still and settle my soul

in your hands, giving to you

the places of pain,

asking that you channel your breath through mine,

bringing balm and comfort –

even for a moment.

 

You softly tend with a

soothing Spirit to the

sharp spikes of pain, spearing their way with suddenness

and stealing my breath for a second.

 

You don’t leave me alone

to face my limitations.

You are teaching me to lean into them,

and find there a whole new depth of

sustaining grace.

 

With you, I can be whole even as I don’t feel healed.

I can rest in the cradling of your love while together we wait

for a mending of the muscles

and renewed strength in my heart.

 

This, too, will pass….

you promise.

 

And that is enough hope

to get me through today.

 

Amen.

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