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Heartbreak and Hope...
Good morning, friends, and blessings on this fresh week…
As I mentioned in my post last week, my husband, Jeff, recently returned from a Racial Justice Pilgrimage he helped lead to Montgomery and Birmingham. As expected, it was a life-changing, impactful trip…one he and his companions will be processing and drawing from for years to come.
They experienced many historic and newly constructed places—the Selma Edmund Pettus Bridge, 16th Street Baptist Church, Civil Rights Memorial, the Birmingham Jail marker of Martin Luther King Jr., and more. But two of the most powerful visits were the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
With Barry, their tremendous local tour guide, taking them through each of these places, they not just saw, but reflected together, on the long, ongoing history from the Transatlantic Slave Trade all the way to the emergence of over-incarceration in the 20th Century (we take note that African Americans continue to be imprisoned more than five times the rate of Whites). And the Memorial for Peace and Justice, just five years old, is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to those terrorized by lynching.
Both the Legacy Museum and the Memorial for Peace and Justice were created through Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative. EJI is a nonprofit law office founded by Stevenson over thirty years ago which represents those sentenced to death in prison, challenges the inhumanity of confinement, and works to shed light on the racial bias of the criminal legal system.
With all he has faced and continues to experience, Bryan Stevenson (author of Just Mercy) is one of the most hopeful, hope-filled people on the planet. He says, “Hope is our superpower.”
As a man of faith, Stevenson also believes every person is a beloved child of God who is more than what they’ve done.
Jeff said the two primary emotions he had in returning home were feeling completely heartbroken alongside feeling hopeful. While they at first struck me as paradoxical, I’ve realized they are importantly and necessarily connected — like two blades of a pair of scissors, working together to make something new.
We have to feel the utter heartbreak as we believe a different world is possible each of us asking what is ours to do, here and now.
God is doing a new thing, and you—with your heart full of heartbreak and hope—are an integral part of it.
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I have wanted for some time now to write a prayer for one in prison ever since one of my best friends asked me to, and after hearing more about Jeff’s experience on the pilgrimage, finally did so last week. My family has been impacted by incarceration — a devastating thing that many of you have also experienced and held. And so here is a new prayer I wrote last week, alongside a few Scripture passages. It was powerful for me as I wrote to recall and remember how countless of God’s most devoted followers knew chains and prison walls too.
Regardless of the reason one of God’s children is in prison, God is there too.
A prayer for one in prison…
My God, my Companion,
Your comfort will find me in this cave.
When I hear the clang of closing doors,
sense the shadows of suspicion in voices or glances,
remind me there is no closing to my heart
or shutting out of your Spirit.
No bars or blockades can constrict your
creative work in me,
and for all the finality I hear and fear
you speak new possibility.
Help me, help me, help me, God,
to keep remembering I am more
than what others think of me,
say about me,
tell me that I am…
More than the worst thing I’ve done,
but even the best…
As the outside world beyond these windows
feels miles — and a lifetime — away,
open my eyes, God,
to the new frontiers
inside my own heart.
Within these long hours, Lord,
bring a purpose to my days.
Your pierced hands can hold this pain
with a promise to transform…
It’s part of my story which you can
stretch into something greater,
even if many more days,
even if all my days,
are here in the
heartbreak and hope.
Help me harness the deeper healing
possible in these prison walls,
believing not only I can heal,
but you plan to heal others
through my presence here.
In the loneliness, may I find friendship
with many of your closest followers who lived
in chains and prisons too.
Someday, the darkness and shadows,
the disappointment and shame,
will get swept into a greater serenity
that speaks of how
you never stopped
and believing in me.
And for today,
my heart’s feet can still walk
in full freedom,
for in you,
I will shine.
Genesis 39:20-21 * Matthew 25:36 * Revelation 21:4-5
“Behold, I am making all things new…” Rev. 21:4-5
Something that nourished me recently…
*For a while now, I’ve been using big, black sketchbooks from Blick as my journals, often taping a photo or small piece of art to the cover. Writing in these continues to help me pay attention and stay alive to my life.
*YOUR REPLENISHMENT LIST!! Many weeks ago in my reflection about rest and renewal, I asked you all what brings you replenishment when you feel depleted. Here are a few of the answers, in no particular order…
Gratitude. Listing extremely specific things of the right here, right now, changes my inner landscape.Quiet time, either doing Bible study or being nature (especially by running water). Creating felted vessels, blending the fibers all together, refreshes me. Listening to worship music on the radio. Reading the Daily Lectionary, with 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb every day for a special lift. Gardening or taking care of my indoor plants — I especially love repotting them when they need it — I can almost hear them sigh with gratitude for the extra space to stretch and grow. The lake—looking at it, getting in it, listening to it. Going for a jog outside. Walking with a friend. Reading Brian Doyle. Listening to the Wailin’ Jennies. Singing out loud by myself. Time in nature. Travel. Being with friends. Solitude. Chai. Water, water, water.
And lastly, this one from a beautiful writer friend —
For me, lately, one thing that replenishes me is ‘morning pages’ — even if they don’t happen until the afternoon—and throwing the pages away when I’m done so I can truly write my honest thoughts. I realized I had been censoring my own journals just in case my kids or grandkids would read them someday — so now I just do a clipboard and plain paper or scraps from school and enjoy the cathartic effect of writing all the things without filter.”
Ash and Starlight, plus other good things…
With you in the heartbreak and hope, and giving thanks for the healing instrument of justice you are in bringing about God’s new thing…
Love and Light,
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Monday Manna is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.