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 and blessings, friends ~
If you live here in the U.S., today — Memorial Day — marks a threshold as we take our first step into summer (though school continues, at least for a couple more weeks!). I hope this day “off” brings some form of rest, remembrance, and meaningful connection for you.
As we reflect with gratitude and respect on those who have served in the military, I encourage you to read this very short article by Jemar Tisby who importantly reminds us of the different meaning Memorial Day has for our African American siblings. He highlights how Black soldiers didn’t return from fighting, but “returned fighting.” They returned (and continue to return) to a country in which they are denied freedom and must stand against the racism still riddling all sectors of our society.
As we remind ourselves again and again, we belong to each other.
And speaking of belonging to each other and connection, that’s been on my heart quite a bit. Especially the power of presence.
On multiple occasions recently, I’ve shared conversations over some pretty raw and vulnerable areas of struggle friends are facing. And what I’m coming to realize is that perhaps the two most sacred things we can say to someone are,
I remember finishing up a walk with a friend earlier this spring. We’d wandered our way amid the chilly but piercingly clear day over to the beach, her dog and his leash weaving amid my stroller and son. The walking was healing our hearts as we shared solidarity and stories over the challenges our kids were facing, and how that pain rips you open as a parent. It reminds me of a quote I heard before I even had kids, which I acknowledge is completely co-dependent, but, at times, feels profoundly true — that ‘when you become a parent, your heart starts walking outside of your body.’
As we slowed to a stop, the problems not fixed but our hearts more at peace, my dear friend asked whether my husband and I, because we are pastors, feel pressure from people to “have the answers” for fixing this stuff.
And I realized, with much clarity, that for as often as I have wished I had those answers, that is never what people have needed or wanted most.
I was reminded of a phrase used so much in seminary it became a kind of cliche. It became, though, the bedrock of any real ministry, however small, God’s done through me. And that is, focus on the ministry of presence.
“Actually,” I said, “while people may think they want an answer, what they’ve actually wanted the most was to know they weren’t alone in it. The best, the only important, thing I could give them was to be with them. And that was enough.”
It’s like a favorite children’s book my son pulls from the shelf over and over again, The Rabbit Listened. In it, little Taylor’s creation of blocks come crashing down. All the animals think they know how to help, each coming with an “answer.” But nothing they say makes Taylor feel better, until the rabbit comes…the rabbit, who doesn’t say anything, but simply sits. And listens. And gives Taylor the space to express her feelings and eventually come to a place where she is ready to build again.
Don’t you agree our scariest spirals happen when we start telling ourselves, “I’m the only one who…” or “I’m alone in this”? And if I was ever willing to bet my life on anything, it would be to tell you that is always untrue.
It can happen in the darkest and heaviest things we carry, but just as much in the seemingly shallow and trivial. Can I just say I nearly let out a ‘whoop’ when I passed a yard on my run through a meticulously manicured neighborhood of perfect spring landscaping where one house still had its crispy Christmas planters out?! I wasn’t alone!
I will bet everything I have and am on promising you are never the only one or all alone. And I will also bet everything I have and am on my belief there is someone this week who will need your ministry of presence. Who will need to hear you say, “me too,” and “I’m here.”
Be awake for it. And know their life will be changed because of you.
I’m in a period of some discernment and have been freshly reminded how patiently waiting for clarity and sitting in the discomfort of uncertainty is SO HARD. And yet…I trust this is how we move forward both whole and in the direction God wants us to go. This prayer, from Ash and Starlight, resonates right with where I’m at in this.
When I claim belief beyond what I see
You course as the ongoing Source,
the life-giving Current,
the Stream flowing beneath me at all times.
You move under every step I take,
nourishing my path (and me) with
what is most valuable and could
never be measured.
I hear your water’s gurgling song,
a melody of continual abundance
from the self-replenishing spring.
You freely give what is always generating.
There is more here than meets my eyes,
and just because I don’t see it now
doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
You never lead me to a place
without what I need.
What can I do but keep walking forward,
humble and reflective,
remembering what you’ve done before?
With joy, I will draw and drink,
readying myself for the
* Isaiah 12:3-4 * John 7:37-38 * Hebrews 11:1
“Out of the believer’s heart shall
flow rivers of living water.” – John 7:38
Something that nourished me recently…
Because I seem to be on an every-other-month rotation, here, in sending out this newsletter, there is always a lot of manna to reflect on and give thanks for. 😝💜 Working backwards….Last weekend was the annual Women Run the Cities in Minneapolis and what a tremendous experience that was — a road race celebrating and empowering women (as well as a fundraiser for “Girls On the Run”), alongside fun kids races. I ran the 10-mile with my sister-in-law and some friends and was met by an avid cheerer with a dandelion bouquet at the end.
And speaking of running….the gift of getting to visit Santa Fe for the first time earlier this month and trail running there. What a holy, beautiful part of the country the southwest is. Two of the biggest highlights for me were the Georgia O’Keefe museum (we were there for hours) and hiking Sun Mountain.
And a few more, in no particular order…
* A friend gave me this rainbow sun catcher for my birthday, we’ve hung it in our living room window, and it has brought so much joy to our whole home. Seeing little rainbows on the rug, chairs, and wall help diffuse the crabbies.
* This interview with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was truly soul-filling (and all about connection and knowing you are not alone! Listen especially at the end for the tangible practice he offers). Speaking of this brilliant man, I was so grateful for his announcement this week about social media and young people. I’ve mostly stepped away from the platforms, but that’s a topic for another day….
* And lastly, back to those planters…planting flowers (away with the Christmas decorations, LOL).
Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….
* Find Ash and Starlight here.
* TWO PIECES OF EXCITING NEWS:
~ Firstly, Ash and Starlight will soon be out as an audiobook! Though I won’t be the reader, I’m so grateful this new medium will be available — a fresh way for you to engage with the prayers. As someone who loves listening to audio devotions and prayer apps, I’m very grateful this will be available to those who prefer or need to listen instead of read.
~ Secondly, a paperback version of Ash and Starlight is forthcoming! Now is your chance to let me know of all the errors and typos you found in the first printing so we get those in before the next one. 🙂
* This beautiful, heart-touching new book by Kathleen Long Bostrom is such a winner, friends, and ALL my kids love it. Since the Baby Came is a collection of creative and thoughtful poems which name and process the dynamics of a new little one entering the family, and I can say it is just as helpful for me as a parent. Kathy’s prolific collection of work has become treasured in our home, and this one is the latest jewel to add. Get a copy and write a review!
* It was a privilege and blessing to recently lead a retreat on “Rekindling the Gift” and living from your inner voice and true self. We also had space for experiential learning with finger labyrinths, intuitive painting, lectio divina, and journaling. I’m gathering interest for whether and how to offer this virtually, in addition to groups in person. If this sounds interesting, you can send me a quick reply to this email.
As my husband ends every podcast episode he makes, “you are loved and never alone.” Remember….’me too’ and ‘I’m here.’
You are a blessing.
Love and Light,