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.

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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.

Breaking Open

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A new potential toy for Simon

What do you do when you live through the same nightmare twice?

Many of you know that this happened last fall.

On Easter evening two days ago, I was carrying a heavy laundry basket and turned a corner on a rug. My weak ankle gave out, and I heard a “pop” from my foot.

Yesterday’s appointment (with the same doctor I initially saw for my ankle) confirmed my worst fear. I broke my foot. She said my bone density looked fine on the X-ray, but the tendons and ligaments surrounding my foot bones were still weak from my ankle injury. They couldn’t fully support my foot bones with the weight of the ankle giving out.

I had to pull out my boot from a shelf in the garage. The friend who lent me her crutches brought them back over (still adjusted to my size).

I just sobbed.

After five months of recovery from my ankle, I’d just finished physical therapy. I’d returned to my running regimen. We got a double stroller for the kids and me to enjoy the coming spring. I’d just said to my husband last weekend, “I am so happy.”

I told family yesterday I didn’t know what was more broken….my heart or my foot. It is truly devastating. And I thought about my prayer from last Friday and how that is exactly what I am leaning into today.

I’m paged this morning through my journal for recent quotes I’d copied. About a week ago, I’d read this from Elizabeth Lesser in Oprah’s new book, The Wisdom of Sundays….

You can either break down and stay broken down and eventually shut down, or you can break open…I’m not going to waste this precious experience, this opportunity to become the best me.

To be honest friends, all I wanted to do yesterday was break down. And through the night, I lay awake, picturing what lay ahead of me. The dependence. The helplessness. The pain.

Jeff turned on “pray-as-you-go” this morning where the music was a rendition of Psalm 118 –

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” 

I remembered how my dad, who endured a cycle of continual relapse and remission with his cancer, said this in the morning for 11 years.

I thought about the immediate influx of of support I received from community yesterday – God’s presence made tangible in my midst.

And though I write with tears in my eyes, I am loosening my grip on my soul’s shards and letting them fall into the open hands of this beautiful community. This beautiful God.  How good you are. How good God is.

I once heard of an ancient rabbinic tradition where Jewish rabbis would pray the “Aleph-Bet” (or the Hebrew alphabet). The belief was that the Spirit would form from the recited alphabet the words needed when we feel unable to pray ourselves. A, B, C, D, E……

So many of you have faced and are facing terrible things and gone on to blossom. Your lives are witness to me.

So here’s to breaking open today.

And saying yes to all things.

And letting the Spirit form the prayers I need today.

 

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 9, 2018

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Oil canvas by Arianne Lehn

Continuing the “Love” theme of last week, I am re-sharing a prayer I wrote a couple years ago. However your heart feels and whatever your heart is holding, there is sacred space for that.

God always makes room for “all the things.” It’s a priceless gift to me when I often tell my own self “no room” to feel this way, think about that, hope for this, seethe about that. But as Father Richard Rohr says, “everything belongs.”

Your heart, and what it holds, belong right here. Right in God’s hands. In God’s heart.

***

Loving God,

As we think about Valentine’s day, we bring you our hearts…

hopeful hearts,

disappointed hearts,

confident hearts,

hearts-in-hiding,

grateful hearts,

angry hearts,

patient or “I’m so done and over with this” hearts,

restless hearts,

full or aching-with-hollowness hearts,

scarred hearts,

scared hearts,

hearts that sing and

hearts now long silent,

surprised hearts,

struggling hearts,

broken hearts,

beautiful hearts…

We wear our hearts as the badges of honor they are – any heart that keeps beating love in a broken world is a testimony to grace, to resurrection, to you….Somehow, God, you find a way to curl yourself into the most closed hearts…to make your way through the heart’s minefield, knowing where to step, where to heal.

We know, God, that broken, beautiful hearts are powerful – the world was changed, is changed, because of your broken, beautiful heart. And there’s beauty to be found in the pieces…

Thank you, God, for holding us in your heart. It’s where we’re safe, secure, at peace.

In Jesus, Love made flesh….

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.