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Come Away With Me: Expanding the Boundaries of Spiritual Retreat
By |   May 20, 2015 |   in Blog |   3 Comments

And Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.­ – Mark 6:31

I once went on retreat by accident. It was early September just before I was to start my second year of grad school. Instead of spending the summer break getting some much-needed rest, I accepted an opportunity to earn money by working full-time at my regularly part-time job. Because of my years of experience with the company, I became the “go-to girl” for covering other people’s vacations. At one point, I was actually doing 5 different jobs simultaneously! To get through this intense time, I clung to God. I prayed, usually out loud, on my drive to work and all the way home again. I was grateful for God’s sustaining power and for the additional income. But by summer’s end, I was even more exhausted than I had imagined I’d be.

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Faith and Failure – Why We Still Don’t Get It
By |   May 13, 2015 |   in Blog, Faith Through Failure |   1 Comment

By earthly standards Jesus was perhaps the most colossal failure in history. His decidedly understated birth under less than ideal circumstances to an unremarkable blue-collar family in a trailer park town (no offense intended – it was the right metaphor here!), who, along with his siblings, would always live with suspicions of his bastard mystique, under oppressive conditions, with little hope of “success”, and few options for “advancement”, all without the ear of the very population he sought to lead, didn’t position him well for anything but.

A whirlwind ministry full of strange, unexpected teachings made him a constant provocateur. His grassroots acceptance by the lowest, dirtiest, and unlikeliest of his society brought him into sharp disagreement with the top down hierarchy of his own religious milieu. And, it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to suggest even his own family misunderstood him. Perhaps they were even a little embarrassed by him.

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Faith In, Through, Despite Failure

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the real though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging
It sounds an echo in my soul,
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest round me roars,
I know the truth, it liveth,
What though the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes, the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it.
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his,
How can I keep from singing?

Robert Wadsworth Lowry

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Parking Lots, Wandering Hebrews, and Phones That Talk
By |   April 30, 2015 |   in Blog |   2 Comments

I get lost easily. Especially in parking lots. They are a desert wasteland of desperation and woe, my wilderness, and the bane of my existence. It’s funny to those who know me best, annoying and confounding to me. Many are the times I’ve lost my way in the Safeway parking lot, often in an ungodly fog of non-Sunday-school language. The average parking lot is generally well marked and designed to streamline the inflow of traffic, ease of parking, and relatively painless escape.

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Small Things Keep Us from Being Practical Atheists
By |   April 28, 2015 |   in Blog, Wisdom & Aging |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

Many years ago a friend suggested that when I couldn’t find something, I ask God to show me where it was. When she did this, she could see where it was in her mind’s eye. But I didn’t try it because she had such a “hotline to God” and well, I didn’t!

A few years ago I began hearing the same thing from people through whom God worked through regularly to heal others (in private, not on stage; my memory says it was Agnes Sanford, Bill Vaswig and Dallas Willard, but I can’t find the documentation.) The location of the item is in our mind anyway, so we simply ask God to help us locate it in our memory.

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Community in Christ, for Christ, with Christ
By |   April 8, 2015 |   in Blog |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

1.Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you? Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant, too.

2.We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’lers on the road. We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.

3.I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night time of your fear. I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.

4.I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh I’ll laugh with you. I will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through.

5.When we sing to God in heaven, we shall find such harmony, born of all we’ve known together of Christ’s love and agony.

6.Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you? Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant, too.

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What About the Other Guy?
By |   March 23, 2015 |   in Blog, Desert Spirituality |   BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT

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.

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Thirsty
By |   March 18, 2015 |   in Blog, Desert Spirituality |   3 Comments

“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.”

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Life With The Brothers
By |   March 16, 2015 |   in Blog, Free, Free Stuff |   1 Comment

“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.

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Desert Spirituality
By |   March 10, 2015 |   in Blog, Desert Spirituality |   1 Comment

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.

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