Back to School Blessing

We are in the thick of the back to school season, a time of change and turmoil and, in my house at least, heightened emotions. This blessing is for parents, some balm for your soul as you walk with your children through this threshold time. 

A Back to School Blessing for Parents

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As you meet the teachers, 
Walk the halls, 
Buy the supplies and pack the bags.
As you talk over the change in your routines, and
See your children’s eyes fill with tears or
Excitement or boredom or fear.
As you watch your children closely, 
To see how they’re doing, really doing, 
With this transition, 
May you take the time to check in
With how you’re really doing, too. 
May you be gentle with your own soul. 

May the energy and excitement
Of new routines, new friends, 
New teachers, new subjects
Breathe a spirit of newness in you, as well. 
This threshold time is not just for those in school.
May the Holy Spirit speak to you of
Change and anticipation and invitation,
And as she whispers to you
May your heart open in response.

May you know your children’s belovedness as you send them forth.
May you know your own belovedness as you send them. 
May it all be love, in the going and in the returning.
May it all be love.

A Blessing For One Who Walks With

I wrote this blessing for my spiritual community, when we were in a season of many people experiencing hard things. We were walking with each other through the pain and the fear, collectively and individually, and I wanted to bless our path. This prayer is for you, as you journey with others. May your path be blessed.

A Blessing For One Who Walks With

As you journey beside a hurting a heart,

And feel your own heart breaking with and for,

May you know love.

May you feel God’s love for you,

Wrapping around and within,

And then may you feel it flowing out,

And towards, and over.

 

May you be both a vessel and a river,

Holding love and pouring out love,

Holding mercy and pouring out mercy.

 

And may you rest when it is time to rest.

May you remember that all the work is not yours to do.

 

May you know Christ in the companioning,

Christ in the resting,

Christ in the tears,

Christ in the joy.

The Discover Brothers

My sons love The Wild Kratts. The PBS kids’ show features the real-life brothers, Chris and Martin Kratts, who start each episode introducing the kids at home to wild animals in different parts of the world. As they describe the amazing features of these animals – their ability to leap high, run fast, or fly far – they begin to imagine what it would be like to have these “creature powers” for themselves. They become more and more excited, and finally turn to each other, shout, “What if?” and become cartoons.

Declan and Ronan are so inspired by The Wild Kratts that they’ve developed their own imaginary show, The Discover Brothers. The Discover Brothers explore the outdoors, and when they get excited, they turn to each other and shout, “I wonder!” And then they, too, become cartoons. As Declan will tell you, “It’s animazing! Get it? Animated and amazing?”

Their playful sense of imagination is animazing. My Discover Brothers are silly, and funny, and wise. They have discovered the wisdom of curiosity, the way it creates life and frees us and opens us up to new possibilities. I’ve been contemplating the wisdom of an “animating phrase” this week, the power of words that can animate us, that can shake up our expectations, help us to relax our grip, and open us up to surprise. “What if” and “I wonder” are good phrases to invite into areas of resistance and pain. When you notice negative emotions rising, when you are frustrated or annoyed or bored, try inviting curiosity in as well, exploring what is beneath the emotions, and what the invitation within them might be.

My own animating phrase is, “What are you up to, God?” This playfully worded question reminds me that I don’t have everything figured it out. When I am feeling angry or just annoyed, remembering to wonder about God’s presence and God’s invitation is freeing, and helps me to harbor curiosity and an openness to surprise. These animating phrases aren’t magical, and they don’t make the hard things disappear. They simply loosen our grip, and create a little space for wonder.

I invite you to play with this idea of animating phrases this week. What words might breathe life and openness into your days?

The Gentleness of Candlelight

In his blessing "For Light," John O'Donohue writes:

When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

As a writer and as a spiritual director, my life's work is to gaze into the heart, to seek out the quiet, hidden places where God speaks. As John O'Donohue so beautifully wrote, candlelight is just the right amount of light with which to explore these interior spaces. When there is too much light, we become overwhelmed and blinded, unable to comprehend what is right in front of us. Too much light is painful. And too much darkness? Is just that - dark, lonely, and often frightening. And so I travel by candlelight, creating small, gently lit spaces in which to sit and to wonder. The gentleness of candlelight is the perfect light with which to explore our own sacred stories, our individual tales of how we experience God in our lives, the invitations we are hearing, and the ways we are responding. 

I feel self-conscious even writing those words on this second day of February 2017. The gentleness of candlelight? When our world is blazing with the intense light of the public realm?In our charged political climate, it feels like the important stories are the BIG stories: the ones unfolding on a national and global scale. Those are the stories that demand our attention and our energy, and rightly so. This feels like such a strange time to be starting a blog that focuses on our individual sacred stories. But maybe that is exactly why this is the right time to start this blog. The bright light of the world around us makes it challenging to see what is within. The big stories can drown out our own stories. We need spaces of quiet, of rest, of wonder. We need some silence if we are to hear God speak.  

I hope this blog will be that kind of space for you. I'll be posting once a week or so, sometimes with original blessings and prayers, sometimes with stories from life with my three kids who are also my best teachers, and sometimes about the way God is speaking to me through what I'm reading. May my words create room for you to explore your own sacred story. May we each find enough silence to hear the small, still voice of God. I'm looking forward to this journey with you, and I'm holding a candle to light the way.

May You Know Courage

I wrote this blessing for myself, during a particularly challenging week. It is not just for me, though. It is for you, too. I hope it will be a gift for you, for the days you need some courage. 

A Blessing for Courage

May you know that courage is not always stoic and even-keeled or brash and risky.

May you know that courage can wear different faces:

It can sneak around your shoulders as you are overwhelmed by tears.

It can steal into your heart when you think all that lives there is fear.

It can pour down your shoulders and out through your fingers, mingling with a righteous anger.

It can live in your breath as you sit with the hard things and just breathe, in…

And out…

 

I was going to write you a blessing to summon courage,

A prayer that would gird you with it like armor, but look:

Courage is already here.

 

So instead, I pray:

May your eyes be open to its presence.

May your heart be clear and spacious enough for courage to spread out, move around,

and stretch its way into showing you what it might mean to live your courage.

And when you know where your courage is leading you,

May your steps be strong and firm.

Courage is already here.