A confession: Sometimes I get distracted—OK, annoyed!—by what others are doing. Their actions seem wrong to me but others give them good feedback; or they’re not doing their part; or they’re representing Christ but treating people harshly. How can this be?! I keep wishing God would do something about them! In reality, I know I’m judging them and I really want to stop.
Recently when I was untangling myself from such thoughts, I felt like Peter talking to Jesus, saying, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:22). In that case, Jesus was giving Peter a glimpse of what his future would look like and Peter was quick to wonder what John’s future would be: “What about him?” Peter wasn’t being judgmental as I often am, but still Peter’s words resonated with me. So did Jesus’ answer: What is that to you, girl? It was as if while Jesus said this, he stood next to me, put his arm around me, and squeezed my shoulders in jest because he knows we have gone over this before. And Jesus grins. Indeed, the other person’s behavior has nothing to do with me. It is not mine to evaluate.Read More Post a comment (0)
“He supposed that even in Hell, people got an occasional sip of water, if only so they could appreciate the full horror of unrequited thirst when it set in again.” -Stephen King
In 2008 I entered a desert, a spiritual wasteland that some refer to as a Dark Night of the Soul and stayed for three years. As the spiritual darkness lingered, a few folks braved asking if I might be depressed. I had wondered that myself. The gaping hole in my relationship with “the God I knew” definitely made me unhappy.
When I asked my doctor about depression, she asked me about my life. We had never discussed to whom I was married. I said, “My husband is a pastor.” After describing how I hadn’t heard from God in a long time she replied, “Bummer. That can’t be easy as a preacher’s wife.”Read More Post a comment (1)
“The monastic life is, above all, a life of prayer.”
Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer
Several months ago, Gary Moon invited me to contribute to Conversations: Gifts From the Monastery. “Several writers will spend a week-long retreat at monasteries from various traditions; perhaps you could represent the evangelical tradition and visit a Protestant retreat house. See if it would work for you to go,” he urged, “and write an article about your experience—about the gifts you’ve received there.”
Ahhh. A silent retreat. Where do I sign up? I cannot think of a time in my life during which such an offer would not have been attractive. But the more I thought about it, with schedules and child care, I simply couldn’t pull it off. Most of us can’t get away for that kind of retreat, though many gifts admittedly await those who can. Our spiritual lives needn’t be dependent on these times, though; we can discover the rich gifts of a deep spirituality right in our own homes. I needed to learn how to care for my own soul right in the midst of my own life with the brothers… not monastic brothers, but the three active boys who share my home.Read More Post a comment (1)
Last fall, I was privileged to co-lead a retreat on the Desert Fathers and Mothers. What was especially meaningful was the retreat was held in the desert of New Mexico at a retreat center called “Ghost Ranch.” Near Abiquiu, about an hour north of Santa Fe, our group was housed at Casa del Sol, a building down the road from where Georgia O’Keeffe had her home for many years. Casa del Sol is a U-shaped building with rooms around the outside of the U; the focus of the center patio area is Pedernal, the mountain that Georgia O’Keeffe claimed God would give her if she painted it enough. We were removed enough from the main Ghost Ranch area as to feel fairly isolated, though in reality, we were a phone call away from the main ranch and help if needed. Technology was limited: no Wi-Fi and scant cell phone reception, which contributed greatly to the desert experience.Read More Post a comment (1)
The book Abandoned to God, the biography of Oswald Chambers (who wrote My Utmost for His Highest and many other books) is full of wisdom as well as being an interesting story. One of Chambers’ favorite sayings was: “Trust God and do the next thing.” He lived this whether he was starting a new training college or serving as a WW1 military chaplain to soldiers facing the Egyptian desert (many of whom would be dead by the next week). I find myself saying that phrase a lot these days in moments such as these.Read More Post a comment (3)
Jesus the Christ went right to the heart of every matter for each person and situation the Gospels record him in, often in startling ways. For example, I still am baffled by the question he asked in John 5: 5-6
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
Are you kidding me, Jesus? The guy has been lying there for THIRTY-EIGHT years as an invalid and you ask if he wants to be healed?! Yet, there must have been something in the man that Jesus saw with his heart’s eye that made him realize the man may have, in some weird way, been benefitting from his disease. Jesus never forces wellness on us. We have to be open to it as it comes with its own set of dangers and frustrations different, certainly, from those of illness and infirmity. Jesus Christ has not stopped asking those kinds of two-edged sword questions, questions that invite us into more of the life of the Kingdom of God and yet, can cause us to squirm under them.Read More Post a comment (1)
“Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our time will become.” -John O’Donohue
As I step back from the numerous and varied tributaries in the meandering river of my pursuit of meaning, I’m drawn to a few binding agents – the eggs in the dough as it were – that keep things together and unified. One can boil down all spiritual pursuits to a few, simple factors that fuse and simplify all our seeking. If I were to distill the lowest common denominators that provide the ingredients for our slow-cook, crockpot formation I would submit humility and awareness. Let’s talk about one of those.
Awareness is to spirituality what books are to writers. It is the raw material from which all change comes. Anne Lamott says it best, “Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die…And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention.”Read More Post a comment (3)
Everyone and their dog (they, usually under pseudonyms) have written on the topic of New Year’s resolutions. You know, those slurred declarations, made in a eggnog-fog sitting on the boss’s lap, that “this year will be different.” It is apparently the rage to write clever quips about them, drawing fresh insight; this, despite the fact that all those blog posts are themselves quasi-resolutions to “write 500 words a day” or some such thing. So, in order to keep expectations well and truly low, allow me to be the dog portion of this equation and add yet another.
A new year. Is it just cultural fallacy? Is it a falsity even, to assume that something magical happens at the turning of the calendar from one day to another? Can real hope come in such a demure act? Can such a simple thing add a hint of glimmer and shine to the din and shadow of a year, now passed?Read More Post a comment (0)
As we think about New Year’s resolutions, here are three hymn texts that might be useful to your spiritual formation in 2015. You could use them as part of your daily devotions, even memorizing them.
“Take, Oh, Take Me As I Am”:
Take, O take me as I am;
summon out what I shall be;
set your seal upon my heart
and live in me.
The text is by the Scottish Presbyterian pastor, John Bell (b. 1949). He writes that the text “was written for a weekly service of commitment in Iona Abbey in the late 90’s. The service takes different forms but essentially involves people being offered the opportunity in some symbolic way to affirm their commitment to Christ and/or to a specific aspect of discipleship.” Re-committing to Christ and/or to practices that help us follow him better is a good New Year’s resolution.Read More Post a comment (0)
How was Dallas Willard able to act as an informal spiritual director to so many people? Why were they able to talk with him so easily about the primary topic in spiritual direction: how they’ve been interacting with God lately or not?
For example, Dallas did this with me the first time I met him. After one of his talks, I was thanking him for writing The Spirit of the Disciplines. In my earnestness to be authentic, I spoke of not trying to ingratiate myself to him. Then he made a ridiculous suggestion, saying, “Why don’t you try not affirming anyone for a while, and see what happens?” I knew this had to be wrong because encouraging people is a good thing, so I dismissed the suggestion.Read More Post a comment (0)