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.