Friday Prayer, November 17, 2017

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Photo by Susanne Rowe

I’m thinking of you, friends, as we approach Thanksgiving next week. It’s a time when we feel the full emotional gamut, don’t you think?

There are kids home from college and cross–country journeys to visit grandparents. There are crazy, frenetic, expensive trips to and fro at airports. There’s the ache of loved ones who are missed at the table, and the joy (albeit cacophonous noise!) of babies who’ve been added.

There is a freshly inflicted pain we feel in broken relationships at holiday time, just as there is a deeply-seated hope and trust in God’s promise to heal all things. There is the realization this past year wasn’t at all what we’d planned on or hoped for alongside the reflection that much unexpected beauty was also harvested.

And there is this recurring challenge and perpetual prayer that God might open our eyes to the blessings buried right beneath us – the ground, the place, on which we stand right now. Maybe it’s a place we love and maybe it’s a place we don’t want to be – buried treasure’s been found even beneath feet stuck in mud.

Wherever this time of year finds you – know that with God is holding you in it, and has more good yet in store. Because that’s the beautiful God we love and serve.

I think it was Richard Rohr who said, “Choose gratitude until you are grateful.”

And we can.

Because of God.

Who is with you.

And in you.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

***

 

Loving God,

In all things, I can say thank you.

 

Not because I am comfortable,

but because I am not alone.

 

And not just companioned in this journey,

but held, loved, supported, blessed.

 

By You.

 

The One who promises

there is always, always abundance.

 

The One who soothingly says,

‘All will be well.’

 

The One who gives

enough light,

enough wisdom,

and enough peace

to embrace today

with vulnerability

and humble gratitude.

 

Your gifts come in all kinds of ways.

Please help me not to miss them.

Especially the little ones.

 

And as I am witness to your work,

still my soul long enough to pause,

and say, Thank You.

 

Through Christ, who lived gratitude

in all times….

 

Amen.

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Friday Prayer, November 10, 2017

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Photo by Susanne Rowe

 

Loving God,

Today, with your help,

I release ruminating on what I can’t control.

 

Today, with your help, I will welcome what is –

not in resignation,

but in trust.

This, too, can be an instrument in my transformation.

Life won’t always be this way.

And maybe, just maybe, I need this

in order to get where I’m going.

 

Today, rather than taking consensus

from everything and everyone around me

about what I need to do,

I will stop.

I will let myself be in that uncomfortable quiet.

I will do my deepest listening for the most important voice –

the Voice within.

And I will realize I have my answer.

 

I can choose these things today, God,

because these are your promises –

to handle what I can’t,

to use what I’d rather not endure,

to give me the exact wisdom I need for each choice.

 

So I say thanks, praise, and yes.

 

Amen.

Friday Prayer, November 3, 2017

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Tutu with my daughter, Eden (13 months at the time)

 

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Four generations – My mom, Me, Eden, and Tutu (Dad’s mom)

Last weekend, my grandmother died. “Tutu” as we called her (Hawaiian for grandmother in honor of her favorite place) was my last living grandparent. In taking her first breath in heaven, she passed down the legacy lamp for the next generation to carry.

As one of our family’s dear friends said, “she was a regal lady.” My grandmother’s energy, heart, faith and wit leave beautiful footprints. I try to place my own feet in those imprints, feeling my soles connect with the strength hers had in walking that path. And couldn’t we all use some more strength for the journey?

The timing of Tutu’s death was especially poignant for me in light of this week’s All-Saints Day. It’s a weighty, holy time. There’s something about this time of year too – how this day on which we remember the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12) and saints comes when the earth is turning in season. When it’s dying. When with one more gorgeous burst of color, the world gives it’s best display of beauty, then drops down deep to rest.

And the life that turns to death – going underground with turning leaves and colder nights – will eventually become new, unexpected life. Fresh forms of life we will anticipate with hope and tenacity.

Because 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)

I give thanks for Tutu. For my Dad. For the people who bore so much fruit during their lives, and now leave me a rich and bountiful feast to have and hold when I weary under my life’s weight. I give thanks for my saints.

And I give thanks for yours.

I shared this same prayer last year, and offer it once again as we remember and give God thanks for all the saints.

***

God  of welcome and warmth,

We’re a bit melancholy – or maybe it’s pensive – on this All Saints Day. It’s a beautiful day – this time to remember and give thanks for the saints that have graced our lives. These angels – raw, real, and devoted in their humanity – that have encouraged us, emboldened us, taught us what we needed to know to survive…

We think of parents, grandparents, partners, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, teachers, colleagues, friends – some of them did seem pretty unlikely characters to be your saints, but the more we live, the more we realize that’s pretty typical of you and your choosing.

We are grateful for these quirky, lovely individuals who have gone before us but whose light still shines, bringing warmth and illumination to our own paths. Their whispers of wisdom help us hunger for a deeper wholeness found in you. They tell us we can be saints too…

We thank you, God, for the saints of the then and the saints of the now…for the saint that you are kindling inside of us. May we remain grateful for their impact on our lives and hearts – the truth they spoke and lived, the faith they held and passed on, the love they modeled and shared.

In the name, and light, and love of Christ we pray, Amen.

Friday Prayer, October 13, 2017

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One of my challenges of late: Where is my focus?

Thoughts are powerful – especially when we tend to ruminate on the same things over and over again…..and over again (if you’re anything like me). Our thoughts seep into our bones. They become a part of us in such a physical way, affecting our perspective and how we feel. Our thoughts make a direct impact on our energy and how we engage the world (or not).

Thoughts are seeds, and they will always, always bloom – taking visible effect in our lives.

My prayer for you and for myself today is that we might let God “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). When your thoughts are in Christ, you are dwelling on what is true – and that is God’s goodness and your deep belovedness.

***

Guide of mind,

Companion of my heart…

 

Bring my thoughts back to you right now.

Ground my focus in your promises to me.

Pull the roots of my gaze deep into

the beautiful soil of who you are.

 

I’ve been stuck in other soil…

letting the seeds of thought

lie lodged in places of

anger over what’s not fair,

anxiety over what might happen,

guilt over what just happened,

fear over the free-fall.

 

Plant my monkey-mind

and all its seedlings

back in you,

where instead of dwelling on what I’m owed

I will celebrate all I have in you.

Where instead of fearing whether I am enough

I will celebrate how I am because of you.

Where instead of wondering (with a lot of hand-wringing!) about the future

I will celebrate how it rests in your hands.

 

And even as this place of

underground germination is dark,

I can be at peace,

and my heart steadfast.

 

Amen.

 

Friday prayer, October 7, 2017

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Reading Psalm 46 changed what I originally was going to post. It’s a psalm I’ve turned to time and time again during challenging times. Times of stress or anxiety or pain or lots of big, big questions.

“God is our refuge and strength,

a help always near in times of great trouble.

That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart,

when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea…” (Ps. 46:1-2 CEB)

 In ancient times, people believed mountains not only kept the dry land in place, but that they also held up the sky. Mountains “crumbling” was probably considered the worst thing that could happen. In essence, it meant everything was over and the world was collapsing in as they knew it.

This makes the assertions of the psalm all the more powerful – because God is our refuge and strength, we won’t be afraid when even the mountains crumble. Is it possible to live through your absolute worst fear, and still have a bedrock of calm beneath all the shaking above?

Horrific things have happened in the last couple weeks.

While people in the south are still wading through the deluge of devastation from the hurricanes, the massacre in Las Vegas brought another tidal wave of terror. Anger. Incredulity.

And all that happens nationally and globally does not lessen the myriad of personal ways your lives or loved ones’ lives have crumbled recently. A friend completed suicide. A member of the family was sentenced to prison. Your family was newly cracked by divorce or the agreement finalized. One of the dearest people to you died, or you passed that pivotal one-year-anniversary. You had to leave the house you loved because your job relocated or the money wasn’t there anymore. You uncovered a shocking revelation about someone you loved, and you weren’t sure what to do or who to trust. The completely unexpected happened and now you have to grapple with a reality you never, ever anticipated.

Maybe your personal greatest fears actualized before your very eyes. Groans and tears became a new language. And the landscape of life is now forever changed. When a tidal wave of loss or change comes, we’re never ready.

Whatever the Psalmist had – this ability to find safety and hope in God amidst the mountains crumbling – that’s what I want. That’s what we all need.

I once read Arthur Tappan Pierson’s description of a remarkable scientific reality. There is within the ocean a layer known as the “cushion of the sea.”

“It lies far beneath the sea’s surface that is agitated by storms and churned by wind. It is so deep that it is never stirred. When the ocean floor in these deep places is dredged of the remains of plant or animal life, [this layer] reveals evidence of having remained completely undisturbed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The peace of God is an eternal calm like the cushion of the sea. It lies so deeply within the human heart that no external difficulty or disturbance can reach it.”

True peace – knowing God as our “refuge and strength” – is a sense of stability empowering us to face the deepest loss or the most difficult transition with assurance that somehow, all will be made well – different for sure, but somehow good.

If you get a chance today, take 1 minute to read Psalm 46. To be still and know….

***

Holder of our tears, our fears, our deepest questions,

Our hearts are raw…tender to the touch, yet again.

Our souls crack.

The mountains, the sea, are one.

 

And we are trying to swim amidst the rubble.

 

O God, when and how will this world be

what you have envisioned it to be?

 

We are grasping for your hand in our struggle to

respond to the violent tragedy we’ve witnessed….

a tragedy so many in our world experience on a regular basis.

 

We pray for Las Vegas, for our nation, for the entire world.

And even as we pray, we say,

We can’t pray about this anymore!

 

And even as some say it’s ‘not the time,’ we say

it has to be!

 

So God, please show us what is ours to do,

and give us the courage and conviction to do it.

 

Keep us breathing out life in a world with so much death.

Guide our feet as we try to be people of “the way” –

your way of life, and peace, compassion and hope…

 

Hold our hand, dear God, and steady our feet,

even as we tremble at times.

 

Be our cushion of the sea.

 

Amen.

A quick announcement/gift idea

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Thank you all so much for surrounding me with such tenderness and love following my post/prayer earlier this week. Our beloved community near and far has continued to make Christ real to us each day through prayers, caring for our kids, dropping off food, running errands, and sending gift cards. Though I’ve embraced it reluctantly, God’s also provided space for writing, reading, and engaging in important confession over how much I’ve clung to control (or my semblance of it!). #dailymanna

This just arrived in the mail (Eden’s the model for my picture – thanks, sweetheart). It blessed me to write for the devotional book my family used throughout my childhood to now adult years. If you’re not familiar with the Disciplines, it’s an annual ecumenical devotional with a different author each week. The daily devotions reference a Scripture from that week’s lectionary texts and all coalesce into a theme as chosen by the author.

My devotions are for May of 2018 and focus on the theme of being “Born Anew.” They’re reflections on how God transforms us. How it is never to late to be what God calls us to be, opening ourselves to what we have not expected or experienced or even thought possible.

This can be a great Christmas gift to tuck away for only $11. With my family spread out in South Dakota, Utah, and Chicago, we all try to read this same devotional and send each other periodic texts with things that struck us or questions we have. It’s a meaningful way to spiritually grow with loved ones across the miles throughout the year.

I have a cool story to tell you next week. But for now, blessings on your hearts. Walk gently into this weekend.

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.