This Broad World in Need

It's been a rough week, hasn't it?

I love the advancements of technology for many reasons, chief among them my connection with you that's made possible because of it, but it's also quite challenging to the human heart to have access to everything going on in the world, near and far, every moment of every day. 

This past week was one of those challenging times. Right now my heart is carrying the events in Ferguson, Missouri; the death of Robin Williams; the families fleeing Iraq for their lives; the bombing and fighting escalating in Gaza and Israel; and the reality of thousands of unaccompanied children detained at the borders of the United States while trying to migrate here for safety. To name but a few.

How are we to hold it all?

The image of our Still Forming land continues to prove helpful. 

Earlier this week, for instance, as the violence in Iraq was labeled as an attempt at genocide, I found myself wondering how I wanted the United States to respond ... and that got me thinking of our Still Forming land. If our nation was real, how would we respond to any of these tragedies? What kind of leadership would be required? What would ambassadorship look like? 

It's clear to me that our land is about welcoming those tending to the inner work of their souls — those who have hit the spiritual wall and are disillusioned and confused, needing space and time to process their experiences and beliefs and who they are and who God is. Our land is filled with residents doing this work. 

It is also full of citizens who began that initial work long ago but continue to live here because 1) they know the inner work is ongoing and 2) what they gained through that initial work was so valuable, it changed the lens through which they view everything else. They live here because the values of this land accord with the found values of their own lives.

That's who lives here with us. (Welcome to each of you!)

But what about our relationship with other lands? What about our attention to needs beyond our borders?

I think this comes down to two things:


  1. Our values
  2. The response of individuals who live here


Our values have to do with our posture toward these world events. If we are people of welcome, of kindness, of honesty, of courage, then we will extend those values when faced with others in need. We will offer tenderness and compassion to those who are hurting and afraid. We will not fear speaking the truths that need to be spoken. We will esteem those who are being brave.

This is our posture toward ourselves and each other, and it is our posture toward the world. 

As far as the individual response goes, I am reminded of something I began to grasp when I studied nonviolence a number of years ago, and it's this: Activism takes all shapes and forms. We are called to different things. We, as individual people, cannot tend to every single need in the world with our one unique life, but we can tend to the specific things we are called to do, and we can do those things deeply and well.

And so I think we support and send off with blessings, prayers, and love those from our Still Forming land who are called to serve the needs in the wider world in specific and concrete ways. We trust them to take our values with them, along with their particular gifting and training and call. We herald them in their yes. We have them know we hold them as they go. We welcome them back when they return and seek to care for and learn from them in their experiences. 

Are you being called to a particular need in the broader world beyond our borders? Is there a way we can hold you and celebrate your yes as you go?              


Much love,

Being Reminded of Rest

Thank you so much for your kind responses to last week's truth-telling letter from me. I received such kindness from many of you who who not only encouraged me to take care of myself but also shared struggles with receiving the same kind of self-care and gift of rest. 

Self-care isn't always easy, is it? It isn't always easy to rest when we need it.

In the aftermath of these last few weeks, one of the greatest learnings for me seems to be how life-giving rest is. 

After I wrote last week's letter to you, for example, I went to sleep and woke only when my body woke up of its own accord. I think it was 10:30 in the morning when I opened my eyes and stretched rather luxuriously in a bed of quilts and flannel sheets so soft and warm. I padded into the kitchen and poured my mug of coffee, then sat on the couch and read one of my latest favorites for morning reading. (It's Found by Micha Boyett, in case you're curious.)

Then, after that time of rest, I set to work on my work project for about 12 hours.

The next day, I worked 15 hours. 

But then on Tuesday morning, with my project deadline looming near, I met with my peer ministry group for two hours. I saw my spiritual director that afternoon. I attended my scheduled session with my therapist the next morning. Kirk and I shared an epic conversation that rounded on three hours of nonstop sharing. 

In the midst of it all, I somehow finished editing that crash book project that included 40 pages of source notes. (Chapter 7, by itself, had 192 footnotes to check and verify!)

It's been a crazy time, work-wise, with unique projects just like this one scheduled back to back with each other. But this week retaught me that it's manageable if I incorporate rest. 

Meeting with my peer group brings me life. Spiritual direction and counseling care for the ongoing health of my soul. Sleep helps my body rest and my mind recalibrate itself. Reading in the mornings helps my soul breathe and remember itself. Conversations with Kirk feed me like bread.

Each of these moments felt like a sacred trust — trust that God would provide enough time for what needs doing and that tending to my body, mind, heart, and spirit are just as essential fuel for the work as explicit time spent getting work done. 

It's hard to trust this sometimes, especially when deadlines loom large and the work — and my inner critic — won't let up their demands. (Perhaps you can relate?) But the question that keeps facing me is: Will I treat myself as a work horse, or will I remember I am a human with limits, in need of care for my mind, heart, body, and soul?

What's more, will I believe God makes enough time? 

All week long, I thought about that sabbath command: "Six days you shall do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God" (Ex. 20:9). Given my experience of this past week, I'm wanting to tend to that seventh day of rest even more than before. But I also know we're meant to remember God's care and provision all week long, not just on Sundays. Practicing pockets of rest throughout the week can be just as important too.

Do you want to know what's uncanny to me? When I woke on the morning after my submission of that finished project, I noticed a certain buoyancy of spirit. I was tired but not depleted. I had energy to face the day. I had another project to begin, yes, but I gave myself a recovery day first. And then I was ready to start again.

Rest — whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual — is needed. It keeps us alive in more ways than one. At least, that's what I've been learning this week. 

What have you been learning?  


Much love,

Truth-Telling From Me

Somewhere in the midst of the swirl, I'm trying to find worthy words to share with you.

It's the same place I was last week, after I'd worked nearly 'round the clock for five days on an intense project and then had the chance to host my sister in our home for four days. When I got to Sunday, I was spent. I felt like my brain took a holiday. 

This week has been similar. Another client project — two, actually — and I'm pulling 12-hour days and working my way through the weekend again. 

The truth is, I've been sheepish telling you about this. After the grand threshold we crossed together in June, where I followed Christ out upon the open waters of faith into my true vocation of full-time work for Still Forming, the summer took a surprising turn back into client work. 

It's been providential, I know — a way to pay the bills for a few months in order to buy some time to keep creating — but it's been rigorous and quite disorienting. I have had to face disappointment and confusion. 

And it's landed me here: tired, without many words.

I'm thankful that today, in the place I stand, I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The extra work is almost done, and there's continued movement forward on projects like the Soul Online (thanks in no small measure to Kirk, who has turned out to be my ultimate partner in crime on this new initiative!). I'm pretty sure that next week, I'll have some fun updates to share with you on that front. 

But today, as last week, I most need rest. And I'm sending this to you in faith that somehow it's okay for me to tell this truth to you. I'm hoping that if rest is what you also need, you'll find the grace and courage to let yourself receive it. 

Thinking of you, and looking forward to a return to our regular rhythm of Sundays shared in quiet holiness together. Perhaps today, even though it looks different than usual, it still holds some of that gift.      


Much love,

It Turns Out I'm Writing This Book for Me, Too

Today I want to share that I'm discovering I'm writing our "land of welcome" book as much for me as I am for you. 

Here's what I mean. 

In my heart and mind with this book so far, it's been primarily about gift — about something I'm writing to offer you and all the inhabitants of this Still Forming land as a gift from my heart, mind, soul, and spirit about the process of transformation and how we might live inside the cycles of it within the context of our welcoming community.

So far, I've broken the book into five parts that mirror the verbs of the transformation process: 

  • Tell the Truth
  • Explore
  • Encounter
  • Share
  • Listen 

Each section, as far as I can tell, will have a few essays on what it can look like to live out that particular verb in the process. 

So this past week, after about a month of creative planning, I entered into my first official writing session for the book. (Hooray! That was a pretty exciting threshold to cross.) It happened late at night and resulted in about 850 words written — not a whole lot, admittedly, but at least 850 more words than I'd had before I wrote them.

And what surprised me was the way the book started teaching me what I'm needing to learn myself. 

I wrote content in two different sections that night. The first was part of the "tell the truth" process. I was writing from a place of memory about my first truth-telling moment and, through the writing, noticed I had repeated some variation of one particular phrase at least three times: "I'm doing just fine on my own."

This is one of the truths that emerged in my first truth-telling moment 15 years ago — an admission to myself and to God that I didn't understand my need for grace or Jesus because I seemed to be handling holiness and salvation pretty well on my own, thank you very much. I've got this, I seemed to be saying to God, so why do I need your gift? 

Funny thing, this admission. You want to know why? Because the idea that I'm doing just fine on my own still inhabits my life today. 

It's less about God now and more about people. When I noticed that phrase had cropped up at least three times in that short burst of writing, my mind flew to a more recent memory — one from just a few days earlier, in my most recent session of therapy. 

In that session, my therapist, Debbie, had helped me see that I exist this way in relationships still today. I seem instinctively conditioned to take care of myself and not ask very much from others. This has mostly to do with not trusting others with myself, not trusting they'll know how to extend care for me or that they'll even want to. Debbie is encouraging me to trust more — to be courageous enough to see my needs and desires in relationship and then to voice those needs and desires to others.

So when I was writing about that truth-telling experience from 15 years ago and noticed the "I'm doing just fine on my own" phrase is still part of my life today, this was quite a revelation. 

And it was a further revelation concerning the book, you see, because of the reason I'm writing the book. I'm writing it for our community. I'm writing it as an invitation for us to start sharing the journey together. I'm believing it's our conversation starter, our entryway into being real with other trusted pilgrims on the journey.

I need to receive the gift of this just as much as I want to offer it as a gift to you.

And here's where I've landed with all this.

Fifteen years ago, when I told God that I didn't really understand why I needed his gifts of grace and Jesus because, really, I was doing just fine on my own, I had no idea that grace and Jesus were what I most needed to receive. That admission set me on a long and winding journey that traversed many years and eventually brought me to a place of overwhelming freedom and gratitude for the two gifts I never knew I needed more than anything else in this world. 

I have a feeling this process of learning to trust and let others in might prove to be the same. 

As I wrote at the end of my writing session the other night, I wonder if one of the reasons I needed to learn grace those many years ago was so that I could learn to receive really abundant and beautiful gifts from another, namely God. I wonder if learning to receive such beautiful gifts from God has paved the way for becoming more open to receiving wonderful gifts from others, too.

Do you ever struggle to receive from others? Do you struggle to share your needs and desires with others? Me too. Hopefully through our shared land of welcome, we can learn together to receive more of this gift.   


Much love,

How Do We Know We're Ready for Transformation?

I received a letter from one of our neighbors here in Still Forming land last week in response to last week's letter that asked if I'd be willing to talk more about the transformation process. Specifically, she wondered if I might speak to the question, "How do we come to believe we are the persons to do this work?"

The question has had me thinking all week. How do we know we are the persons to do this work? 

One thing I'm noticing as I reflect on my own cycles through the transformation process over the years is the staying power of the invitation. 

It's something that won't let us go. 

When I hit upon my first truth-telling moment, it was like a moment of illumination — as though a light had come on, shining upon a truth I'd carried with me a long time but never let myself really notice, much less voice. I don't know what grace means. Why do I really need Jesus? I'm pretty good at salvation on my own. 

It was an audacious moment, being willing to admit I didn't understand grace or my need for Jesus. As someone who grew up in the Christian faith — and quite arduously committed to it, no less — how could I say those things? Grace and Jesus are pretty central to the point of the Christian faith. 

But there it was: I don't get it. 

It was the most true prayer I'd ever prayed. 

And it wouldn't let me go. I couldn't stop noticing all the ways this truth was true for me. And I couldn't stop wondering, with shaky breath and wobbly knees: Now what? 

This same staying power of the invitation has been true for other moments when the cycle of transformation has re-presented itself to me over the years. Most recently is the invitation that emerged last spring, in the middle of a session with my spiritual director. We were talking about my enduring concern for the philosophy of nonviolence when she asked a question that led to a new undoing in my life: "Where have you experienced violence?" 

I'd considered this question before, and I answered her at first with all the usual suspects — things I'd named and worked through over the years. But then came the moment of revelation, a moment of naming out loud an experience I'd had at age 16 that I'd never named for what it was. There it was: the scariest word I could ever imagine (and could barely utter) that made me a well-known statistic.

It unglued me to utter this newly realized truth. It stood in every range of my field of vision. I walked in a bit of a fog for days. My whole world seemed to upend slowly, as though I'd lost the ground beneath my feet and was turning slow-motion somersaults as I fell back toward earth. 

I enrolled myself in therapy that very same day and have been walking the truth-telling and exploring and sharing path of this part of my transformation ever since. 

I think what I would say about those moments of initiation, then — when a truth has presented itself but we don't know if we're ready — is to notice its staying power. Does it seem to have a hold on you? Do you notice it everywhere you go? Does it stray far or long from your mind? Are you wondering what's next? 

If so, it's probably time. Say it out loud. Let yourself wonder: Now what?

Do you need to voice a truth out loud? Is it time to enter into the transformation process with it? If it would help you to practice saying it out loud, you are welcome to reply and share your truth with me. I honor your courage.  


Much love,

The Difference Between an Idea and Incarnation

This week I'm thinking about ideas and how they turn out different than we expect when we put flesh to them. 

Take the book I'm writing for our Still Forming land. 

I started the process with not much more than the image of a territory in my mind and seven words that came to mind when I thought about the people living here — that they're welcoming, kind, open, brave, tender, honest, and reflective. 

I assumed the book would be broken into seven sections, one for each of those key words, with a few essays in each section reflecting on what that particular word means. 

Except as I've been working on the book, something else has emerged.

Through one of the exercises I tried to get my creative juices flowing, I was put back in touch with how transformation happens. We tell the truth. We explore. We encounter. We share. Others listen. 

I've been transfixed by this progression of verbs. And when it came time write out the central "What is it?" question about my book, those verbs of transformation helped me articulate this: 

  • This book explores what we need when we hit a spiritual wall. 

That's what it means, doesn't it? When we hit a metaphorical wall in our spiritual lives? It starts by telling the truth. This isn't working for me. I don't know if I believe this anymore. I don't know what this actually means. 

Then we enter the messy. The exploration of what's real and true. The incarnation of our real belief. 

We discover things here in this process we couldn't have imagined beforehand. We can't see our way through to the other side from the point where we begin. We have to go through the cave of exploration first. There, in the grist of darkness, we feel our way around rocks and curves, squeeze between boulders, and challenge what we're really made of.

The cave makes something of us. It shines an inner light on who we really are. In the exploring born from our truth-telling, we come face to face with encounter.

That's what this Still Forming land is all about, really. It's a place where people who are all those things — welcoming and kind, tender and brave, open and honest and reflective — will hold space for each other in the truth-telling and the caves, the encounters and whatever comes after.

Sitting here in the place of incarnation with this book, it's hard. I stare at blank pages. I feel scared. I don't know what I'm doing as I go. I type, delete. Type, delete. 

And then sometimes, while laying in bed and letting my thoughts roll around in the dark, memories and words begin to take shape, propelling me out of bed to write them down. 

It takes getting messy to make something real. But only through our willingness to enter into that messy do we experience what we could not have imagined at the entrance to the cave. Here begins the journey to the truly beautiful. 

Are there places where the idea of something feels safer than entering into the gritty incarnation of it for you? What would it be like to say out loud what it is?   


Much love,

The Hope in Our Exploring

I received a beautiful letter from one of our neighbors here in Still Forming land in response to last week's letter. In it, she affirmed from her own experience the four verbs of transformation I shared with you last week. 

If you didn't get a chance to listen to the letter (which you can still do here) or need a bit of a refresher, the four verbs of transformation are: 

  • Truth-telling
  • Explore
  • Sharing
  • Listen

Janis, our Land of Welcome neighbor, gave me permission to share a portion of her letter with you. She wrote: 

"I have been through a journey this past year of learning to tell the truth and explore what that means for me and being able to share it with someone who will listen. It is truly wonderful to be part of a community where you can share the things of your heart without feeling judged and actually feel affirmed. ... This whole year has been a time of growth, stretching, searching, truth-telling, exploring, sharing, and listening. I have been more vulnerable and open than I have ever been before. It has truly humbled and stretched me beyond what I never thought possible. I am still in this process, as we all are. I am finally feeling that I can start moving forward in my life." 

Isn't this wonderful to hear? It made my heart fill with gladness. 

The process of transformation is messy and scary, yes, and we never know quite where we'll end up on the other side of it, but the experience of sharing it in the company of others — of being seen and heard and held with presence — can make all the difference in our process. It can help us keep going.


Today, I'd like to share with you another piece of my process of working on the Land of Welcome book. It's a piece that has helped me see just how important it is for this land to exist — both for those entering into the very beginning stages of the transformation process and for those of us who crossed that threshold some time ago but want to live in this land because of the values we've claimed (or which have claimed us!) along the way. 

This story connects to the word play deck I also talked about in last week's audio letter (which, again, you can find and listen to here).

The word play deck is made up of 32 cards I created, each of which contains a word that reflects the spirit of our Land of Welcome in some way. Seven of the cards hold the core values we've been discussing the last few months: 

  • Welcoming
  • Kind
  • Reflective
  • Honest
  • Open
  • Brave
  • Tender

But concerning the remaining 25 cards in the deck, I got curious. How might they connect to these seven core values? What associations might I find if I held each remaining card up against each core value? How might those associations teach me even more about this Land of Welcome we're inhabiting here? 

So I crafted a little mind map template for myself in Microsoft Word to play with those questions. Each mini mind map had a circle in the center for the particular word in the deck I was playing with, and seven rectangular boxes fanned out from the center circle. 

I made 25 copies of this mini mind map and wrote the seven core values in the seven rectangular boxes on each one. Then I pulled a card from the deck, wrote it in the center circle of the mind map, and wrote a little note next to each rectangular box that voiced the connection I saw between the word and the related core value.

(You can see two examples of what I'm describing here and here.) 

This exercise led to some pretty beautiful discoveries. 

For instance, here's what happened when I played with the word explore in connection with our seven core values: 

  1. Welcoming: "I am willing to explore what is being presented to me as invitation." 
  2. Kind: "I will be kind and gracious to myself in the process." 
  3. Reflective: "I will take the time to reflect on these things." 
  4. Honest: "I will tell the truth about my experience and what I discover." 
  5. Open: "I am opening myself to this process and whatever may lie ahead." 
  6. Brave: "I am a brave explorer." 
  7. Tender: "This will be hard, so I will be tender with myself." 

I'm not sure if it's readily evident to you, but in my mind, these notes seem to be spoken by someone just entering the transformation process. If you find yourself in this place or have been through it before, can you see yourself speaking these words? 

I found this possibility really beautiful.

Then, when I played with the word hope, I was even more moved with conviction that our Land of Welcome needs to exist. Here's what happened when hope was held up against each of our core values: 

  1. Welcoming: "I'll enter in because I have hope to find life here."
  2. Kind: "I can believe in people again because of your kindness." 
  3. Reflective: "You help me see the silver linings."
  4. Honest: "You help me believe my truth isn't dangerous or harmful." 
  5. Open: (Channeling Emily Dickinson) "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all."
  6. Brave: "Because of the hope you all offer me, I can gather the courage to keep saying yes." 
  7. Tender: "My hope is tenuous, but that's OK."

These quotes, in my mind, are spoken yet again by someone in the scary beginning stages of truth-telling and exploring who, based on their experience of the Land of Welcome, finds the courage to keep saying yes and to keep going. 

Think about that: People will gather courage and gain hope because our land exists. Isn't that incredible? I'm so humbled and amazed.

Wherever you are in the process of transformation, dear neighbor — whether you're just beginning the process for the very first time, discovering yourself looping back for yet another layer of growth and refinement in your journey, or simply holding presence and valuing the graces and gifts this land offers to all of us — I welcome you. 

I am so glad you're here. 


Much love,

The Verbs of the Land of Welcome

Good morning!

Today I'd like to share with you about an exercise I completed as part of the Conscious Booksmith course that helped clarify for me — and hopefully will also clarify for you — more of what this Land of Welcome that we live in is all about.

To do so, I've created another audio clip for you. 

By the way, what is it like for you to receive these audio clips from me lately as part of the Sunday Quiet experience? I've heard from a number of you that it's a welcome and fun switch-up to the usual fare of a written letter, but if you haven't had a chance to give feedback on this, please feel the freedom to let me know. Do they work for you? Do you miss the letter-only version?

And, to companion the story I'm sharing with you this week, I have pictures. (Kind of like show and tell!) Here's a photo that shows a visual depiction of the card exercise I describe in the audio clip. Hopefully you can read my scribbles! And next week I'm going to build on this and tell you how a different card exercise helped me know even more why this Land of Welcome needs to exist.

Listen to this week's story here: 


        The Verbs of the Land of Welcome (14:50 minutes)


What are your thoughts on the verb progression described in the story? And what is it like for you to consider being part of this Land of Welcome? I'd love to hear from you on this — or simply feel free to share with me how you're doing. 


Much love,

A Peasant Girl, a Broom, and a Temple

I hope this letter finds you well this week. How was your week? 

On my end, I can tell you that things are really beginning to move along on the Land of Welcome project! (If you're new here, this is an ebook I've been creating for this community around the values we espouse, which are expressed here.)

This past week I started work in earnest on this project, as the coursework began for the Conscious Booksmith class I'm taking with Christine Mason Miller that is going to help me write the book. I've been working on mind maps and vision boards and worksheets that help me clarify the intended purpose of the project.

One of the surprising things that popped up — even before the coursework began — was the realization that there's going to be a companion course to go along with the book when it's released. I'm not sure why that idea didn't occur to me sooner, but now that it's found me, it makes perfect sense. If we're going to inhabit a land together, don't we need a place to gather and connect? So that part of the Land of Welcome project is now in process too.

You could say I have been busy! And it's been so much fun. 

To top it off, the image of our Still Forming land grew a bit this past week, as did my understanding of the Land of Welcome project, and I want to tell you what happened. I created an audio clip for you that tells the story. (Aren't these audio clips fun? I love the feeling it gives me of talking directly to you.) 

Listen to it here:


        A Peasant Girl, a Broom, and a Temple (17:10 minutes)


Do you feel a gathering sense of energy and excitement about our Still Forming land? I know I do. 

Thanks for being here. If you'd like to share a bit of your own life experience at the moment, I'd love to hear what's going on for you — just hit reply.


Much love,

Reflections on Our Land of Welcome

It was fun to hear back from many of you in response to last week's audio version of the Sunday Quiet letter. It appears the "bucket of shame" is quite familiar to many of us. Isn't it amazing, the prevalence and power of shame? It makes me thankful for the work Brené Brown is doing and bringing into the world.

This week's letter feels a bit like a "report from the field," as I've just completed my first week of full-time attention to the work of Still Forming. I thought it would be fun to share with you the kinds of things I have been doing and discovering. 

First up is a return to important habits and practices. 

For the first time in a long while, I'm sitting at my desk again in the mornings, opening the Scriptures and taking time for sacred reading. My little girl cat, Diva, who is so much my teacher on contemplative prayer, is quite happy about this development. Most of our mornings look like this.

I'm also returning to greater self-care. For those of you who followed along with the body series we explored on Still Forming early last year, care for the body is a rather recent development for me. I've learned it's important to have gentle and consistent practices in this area of my daily life, yet that hasn't been an easy reality for me to follow for some time now, given some of the requirements of my previous schedule. 

Thankfully, my new schedule is making it easier to incorporate good habits of self-care into my life again. That's taking the form of regular bike rides followed by stretch yoga, both of which I enjoy very much. (It also, on Thursday, included my first attempt at Pilates — and my hip flexors, in particular, are still feeling the effects of that experiment. Ouch!)

Lastly, I'm gaining an increasing clarity about the people this Still Forming land is meant to serve and invite inside its borders. 

This piece of clarity was nudged along by a conversation I had with a new friend during last weekend's training in California about the critical journey of the spiritual life, based on the work of Janet Hagberg, and how the spiritual life generally follows a number of key stages. Other classic texts have been written about this subject, all of which describe a key portion of the journey to be that of "hitting "the wall" — the point at which previous practices and answers for our faith no longer work. 

My friend and I talked about the disillusionment that follows such hitting of the wall and how little we know about what to do when it happens. Unfortunately, this is often the point when church becomes a difficult context for many, as questions and doubts feel less welcome than the certainty and faith found there.

"Those are the people Still Forming is meant to serve," I said to my friend. "The people who have hit the wall, and those who have moved beyond it." 

As I flew back home to Florida that night, that conversation lingered and increased my clarity about the "Land of Welcome" ebook I've been in the process of writing about what it means to live here in Still Forming land. All those qualities we are about here — welcome, kindness, bravery, openness, reflection, honesty, tenderness — are the gifts we need to receive when we hit upon the wall. They're also the gifts and qualities we take beyond the wall and then seek to offer others.

I'm excited to be serving such a community of people. I'm thankful that you're here. Thank you for being a part of our land of welcome. (Can't wait to have the ebook ready to give to you!)

How about you? What's going on in your world these days? How would you describe your own "report from the field"?     


Much love,

On Croaking Frogs, Shame, and Plexiglass Boxes

I've just returned from a long weekend in Southern California, where I was trained with a truly beautiful group of 15 other pilgrims on two models of group spiritual direction, and I want to share two thoughts with you before offering you a special treat this week. 

First, I want to thank you for being patient with me. Over this last month, I've been exploring and shuffling my way toward a new way of life and work. The month has included two long-distance trips, some hard news, some fearful wondering, and some unexpected right turns. 

Thank you for being patient as I have walked through this last month, which included some late-in-coming Sunday Quiet (and sometimes Monday Quiet — like today!) letters from me in the midst of it. It is my heart toward you to have these letters written and waiting for you in your inbox early each Sunday morning so that those of you who have come to expect a certain ritual in your Sunday morning routine around receiving these letters each week will not have that ritual disrupted. 

Which leads me to the second piece I want to share with you. 

Today marks the threshold over which I have crossed into a dedicated full-time focus on Still Forming. The professional path of my 15-years-long editorial career came to an end last week. And so today, on my first day back home, I'm turning my attention to you and this Still Forming land we are exploring and creating together. 

You have become my priority. I couldn't be more pleased!

Which means that going forward, it is my heart to return to the consistency you're used to experiencing with these weekly letters and check-ins we share. Thank you again for your patience with me through this transition time.    

And now for a fun tweak on this week's letter to you. 

Instead of writing it, I'm speaking it aloud! 

The audio link below includes a few stories from the long weekend retreat I just completed that, to me, demonstrate the power of grace and truth-telling and the indispensable gift of having kind, attentive, welcoming mirrors in our lives. 



Do the stories shared here meet you in some way in your own story? Feel free to hit reply and share your thoughts. 


Much love,

On Noticing and Doing

I haven't had any earth-shattering epiphanies this week that would make it easy to know what to share with you in this week's letter. Truth be told, I've been staring at this screen for a couple hours now, trying to figure out what to share, then flipping to other pages on my screen to seek out inspiration and a bit of an "aha" moment to direct my words. 

So, in the absence of epiphanies, I think I'll just share what I'm noticing and doing these days. How does that work for you instead?


  • The fear of entering this new season of being invited to actively claim my vocation has subsided. What's left in its place is excitement! I'm noticing energy and thought and inventiveness bubbling over in the creation process for various projects, and I feel like I could spend each and every day working on them. (Which is great, as that's the actual invitation right now.)
  • I've noticed a real shift in energy from my professional editorial work to the work of creations for our beloved Still Forming land. Case in point: I completed a short 30-page booklet for an editorial client earlier this week that, though short and sweet and truly fun, seemed to take much more discipline to complete than a project that size would normally require. It seems my heart has moved squarely into the capital city of our beloved Still Forming land, and editorial projects are, more and more, feeling like something requiring me to pack my bags for a short voyage across the sea to another territory. Interesting!


  • On the front burner of current projects, I'm building out an online course for spiritual directors on the subject of technology, called "The Soul Online." It's based on the workshop I offered at the SDI conference, which was actually based on my master's thesis research from three years ago, and I'm learning so much as I update the research for this new course. I think I've bookmarked about 30 new articles I've read in the last two weeks, plus purchased a number of additional books, some of which I read for my original research and some of which are new. (Here are three of them, if you're interested.) I am loving the development of this course! The subject is so interesting and complex, and I think spiritual directors, in particular, will be a group whose discussion of this topic will be particularly thoughtful and compassionate and wise.
  • You know how I've shared about the Enneagram quite a bit in these letters over the last six months? Well, the obsession continues. I'll be attending a 2-day workshop here in Florida two weekends from now, plus I just signed up for an online global summit that's happening the first week of June. On top of that, this morning I downloaded two more MP3 resources from Richard Rohr on the subject. You might say I'm hooked. But all of it continues to teach me so much and fuel my development of an audiobook about the Enneagram and its relationship to spiritual formation. So much fun!
  • On Thursday this week, I'll be traveling to Santa Barbara, California, for a mentor's training weekend connected with CenterQuest's new School of Spiritual Direction. I'm thrilled to be joining a great group of folks who are serving in the pool of mentors paired with students who enroll in the program. It should be a great weekend of training and fellowship with new friends and colleagues in a beautiful, holy space. (Note: I believe the retreat center where we're staying is wifi-free, which means next week's letter may not reach you until Monday.) (Second note: I believe there are still a few slots open for the cohort groups beginning in January 2015, so if you've experienced a call to the ministry of spiritual direction but haven't been formally trained, I would recommend CenterQuest's program to you.)
  • Starting June 9, I'm taking a book-writing course with the lovely Christine Mason Miller, called the Conscious Booksmith. It's a 6-week course that helps you plan and execute your book project(s), and since I've got three such projects in progress — the Enneagram audiobook, the "Land of Welcome" e-book I've mentioned to you before, as well as the "Way of the Heart" illustrated storybook and course I shared with you a few months ago — I look forward to being propelled further forward with each of those projects through the course. Do you have a book project in mind or in the works? Would this course help you too? I'd love to see you join us!  

So, plenty keeping me busy these days, to say the least. What about you? What are you noticing and/or doing these days? What's been on your mind and heart?  


Much love,

On the Choosing of Identities

So, I had a little bit of a revelation this week concerning you, dear reader. 

I was looking back over the language written on the sign-up page for the Cup of Sunday Quiet and being reminded that it says this weekly letter series is a space where "I share a bit of my heart and give you the chance to share back with me a bit of your own" — that it's a space where we can bring our tumblers full of our favorite beverage to a quiet corner and check in with our soul's journey at the moment. 

Now, normally I frame each letter around the deeper questions my spiritual life is presenting to me that week, and then I pose a related question at the end of the letter to you. 

But what if where I am is not where you are? What if your heart is in a completely different place than the place I wrote from? What if you are learning something wholly other? 

And so what I want to say is this: I want this Sunday letter series to be a place where you're invited to share back with me what's actually happening in your life at the moment. I want it to be a place where you are invited to share the questions your own spiritual life is posing to you at the moment, even if it has nothing to do with what I wrote. 

I guess I just want to reiterate that I would love for this weekly conversation we share to feel like a real conversation — a place where you experience someone inviting you into a deeper conversation about life and spirit and where that person then turns to you and asks, in complete welcome and sincerity, "So, how about you?"

That is my heart toward you.

As for what's been happening in my world this week, I had a bit of a breakthrough in a session with my spiritual director concerning the fear I've been facing about God's invitation for me to step more fully into my vocation as a spiritual formation practitioner.

When I came into my session with Elaine on Tuesday, I first told her about the paralyzing fear — the same fear I've been telling you about these last few weeks. 

But then I said, "And yet this is a great gift. For so long, I've been waiting and preparing and praying for the day when God would say, 'It's time. Step forward.' But because it didn't happen in the way I always thought it would, all I've been aware of is the fear." 

I told her that I've not taken much time at all to dwell inside the wonder and joy of this great gift and answer to prayer. God is inviting me to work full-time inside the vocation for which he made me? This is a miraculous moment for me! What would it be like for me to experience the joy of that? 

So I asked if we could spend some time sitting inside the beauty of what's happening, the true gift of this answered prayer. 

I told you last week that two images keep showing up when I turn my mind toward Christ in prayer. The first is the image of us sitting on a cliff's edge together, our legs dangling over the edge, my face turned toward his gentle, smiling, knowing face. The second is that image of us walking together on water, hands held between us, heading north. 

As I entered into Elaine's invitation to sit with those two images for a while, I noticed that the fear kept invading them. All the worries popped up over the water: What if it doesn't work? What if it fails? What if it doesn't provide the income we need? What if I mess it up somehow? What if I miss something? 

That's when the breakthrough moment happened.

I opened my eyes and said, "Whoa. I think this is an identity issue." 

You see, all those questions ... they're so familiar. They're the kind of questions I spent my whole growing-up life asking. They're survival questions. They're self-sufficiency questions. They're questions that betray my serious sense of over-responsibility for outcomes and making all things right. 

And yet Jesus, in inviting me to sit with him in the sunlight of that cliff's edge moment and to walk, hand in hand, with him upon the water, is inviting me deeper into my true identity — one that is not responsible for everything but instead trusts in his good heart toward me and his provision for our life. 

Which identity will I choose? 

I don't want to return to the identity of fear and over-responsibility and constant contingency plans. I worked for many years, hand in hand with Jesus already, to step away from such an identity. I have seen him demonstrate, over and over, his goodness and attentiveness and trustworthiness. 

Will I trust him yet again in this place? 

I love that my session with Elaine this week gave me space and a chance to say yes. 

What about you, dear reader? What's happening in your world right now? What questions are you asking? How are you responding? I would so love to hear about it.             


Much love,

This Faith Thing Is No Joke

I didn't send this letter to you yesterday because I was scared. 

That's what happened, plain and simple. 

I shared with you last week that I've entered into a pretty major professional transition and am being asked to exercise faith in some new ways. I told you this new season of faith is harder than other ones I've faced. 

The word "scared" shows up in my vocabulary a lot these days. That's what I keep noticing. Over and over, I'm saying that word. 

I'm also noticing that when I'm scared, I want to run and hide. 

Last week I shared with you the image of a canoe, how I saw Jesus standing before me on the water and he offered me his hand. I took his hand and stepped out of the canoe, and together we walked on water. 

But when I'm scared — and that's most of the time these days, really — all I want to do is go back to that canoe, curl up in one end of it, and cover myself completely with a blanket. 

I keep listening to that "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" song that I also shared with you last week, and I find it such a comfort. It speaks so much where I am living right now. I love having songs that are seemingly sent to companion me through a particular season, don't you?

And yet this song keeps reminding me how crazy it is to live this way — to reallylive by faith. "Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander," the song says. "Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders." 

To go beyond where our feet can wander on their own? To place no borders or rules around our trust? It's so easy to sing those words with a smile and huge yes inside our hearts. But truly living this way feels like free-falling each and every moment. It feels like dying to our own strength. If we truly mean those prayers, then we're about to learn what dependence really means.

Do we really want that?

People I love keep asking me what makes this season so scary, especially since I've been invited to walk in faith before. What makes this time feel so different?

It keeps coming down to the invitation to move further and further away from my freelance editing business and nearer and nearer my true vocation as a spiritual formation practitioner. 

Those two ventures are so very different, at least in the way I'm experiencing them right now.

In my freelance editing business, projects come to me. I then apply various skill sets to them, then send the project back to the client. I receive, complete, and return. It's a very seamless process. 

Furthermore, in the nearly 15 years I have spent doing this freelance work, every single project has come my way through no conscious effort of my own. The work has literally landed on my doorstep — or, rather, my inbox — God's provision rained down like fresh new manna for the day.

Moving deeper into my work with Still Forming feels so very different than that. All the new creations that emerge will originate from inside of me. I will intuit and build, intuit and build, trusting that what's being built will be wanted when it's ready. Then I'll spin it out into the ether to find out. 

What will happen? I don't know. 

Will the offerings be wanted? I don't know. 

Will they be needed? I don't know. 

All I have is passion and desire in my heart and a fierce sense of calling and obedience. And trust. Trust in the Jesus who calls me out upon the water, deeper than my feet have ever wandered, where my trust is invited to move beyond any existing borders. 


Yesterday morning, Kirk and I stepped over the threshold of a nearly 3-year discernment process to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church. It was a very joyous day for us, and we were so moved by the rite of kneeling in front of the bishop and receiving his hands on each of our heads as he said a prayer over us.

Part of the beauty of the day was the bishop's sermon. 

The text for this fourth Sunday after Easter was one of my favorite passages in the Gospels, taken from John 10, where Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd whose sheep know his voice and who calls his sheep by name. It's one of the most tender passages in the Gospels, and I love it. That picture of sheep moving — in trust — toward the voice of their shepherd that they've come to know so well just gets me every time. 

It reminded me to look and listen for my Jesus. 

When I picture him in my mind these days, my mind flies to one of two places. In one image, we're sitting on our favorite cliff's edge, looking over that same ocean where the canoe's been floating down below us, along the waves. We sit on that patch of grass, our legs dangling over the edge, and I look over at him to see his sure and peaceful smile — a smile that knows me. 

It erases my fears. 

In the second image, I see us, once again, walking on that water, away from the canoe and heading north. Where we're heading, I don't know. But all that matters is him beside me, his hand in mine, us walking where we're heading together. 

I will be completely lost in this new season if I don't regularly tune in to those two images. And I think what I'm learning in this new place is that faith, at least for me, right here and now, requires constant tuning in. 

Shall I take on this new project being offered to me? Let me turn to the face of my Shepherd and see what he says. 

Shall I pick this or that project to develop next for Still Forming? Let me listen for the voice of my Shepherd as we walk together atop the waves.

This is what dependence really looks like for me right now: turning to him in nearly every moment to find out what he says for me to do. I pray I can be faithful. And that turning toward him keeps erasing my fears.

How is faith showing up in your life right now? How are you experiencing it and responding to it?


Much love,

I'm Leaping

A few days before I left for the SDI conference in Santa Fe, I learned one of the primary clients I service through my freelance editorial business has decided to bring all of its freelance work in-house. In short order, I am losing a significant chunk of the monthly income I contribute to our household.

I was pretty alarmed when I learned this news, but thankfully Kirk was calmer than me. 

We've leapt into the unknown in previous seasons of our life together, but usually I've been the one carrying the strongest faith that things would work out. In truth, I've often been the one asking Kirk to leap with me! 

I think it's because of those previous leaps that Kirk remained so calm this time around. He has seen God provide again and again out of nowhere and in unexpected places over the years. Watching this happen so often has built his faith. 

I'm thankful for that, as my own sense of God's sure provision this time around has not been near as strong as it's been before.

Through this, I keep experiencing a pretty clear invitation to the deepening of my faith. It feels unlike the faith I've demonstrated previously. The stakes feel higher this time. 

I've been trying to say yes, but it's been hard. 

The image I keep coming back to is one of stepping out into thin air and having no idea if anything will emerge to catch my fall. Will God's hands catch my feet? Will he put a new stone beneath my feet I just can't see yet? 

For Kirk, this transition season has taken the form of an ocean. He speaks of pushing away from the shore and moving toward another plot of land.

Oceans and feet. The images companioning us.


A few days ago, a friend shared a YouTube clip of the "Oceans" song by Hillsong United. And actually, the full name of the song is "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)." 

Oceans and feet.

I could hardly believe the way this song showed up using the very same language we've been using through this shift in our life. It says: 

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown
Where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand


Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You will call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

It has felt immensely comforting to be reminded of Christ's presence here. That as I step into the mystery, there he'll be.

I think that's what has made the difference in continuing to move forward now: being reminded of Christ's presence here, his invitation, his initiation of everything my life's work and vocation and call have been about all along. 

It's become increasingly clear to Kirk and me that this transition is an invitation deeper into that life's work and call. Last weekend's experience at the conference, especially through the workshop I offered on technology and its role in spiritual formation, turned out to be a waymarker along that path.

And so I'm developing this.

We shall see what happens!

Here's one thing that's true, though: I couldn't walk this way without knowing Christ is here, inviting me and then walking with me. 

That's the image that showed up yesterday, in fact. As Kirk and I set out to spend the day in conversation and strategy and planning for the future, we began the day in prayer. We listened to the "Oceans" song and then sat in silent prayer together for a while, each of us tuning into the Spirit's current in this moment. 

What showed up for me was that ocean, and myself standing in wooden canoe. Jesus stood in front of me, looking me in the eyes with a smile and inviting me onto the water. 

I said yes. 

He offered me his hand, and I took it. Together, we walked on water.

Are you being invited to some new leap of faith right now? How are you responding?     


Much love,

Make Room for the Unexpected

How do I begin to tell you about these last few days? I confess I'm a bit at a loss.

I've been in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this week, participating in the annual international gathering of spiritual directors — 600 of us from six continents, all working in the vein of tending the holy in the world and the individual soul. 

The richest delight, for me and for many, was the chance to learn from Fr. Richard Rohr, who was one of the keynote speakers. He spoke on the roots of spiritual companionship in the Christian tradition and how the gift of spiritual companionship is relevant today. 

I mentioned in last week's letter that I was invited to engage in a one-on-one dialogue with Fr. Richard as part of my conference experience. The dialogue was recorded on video and will be edited and made available on YouTube for viewing. (I will be sure to share the video link once it is published!)

I'm still amazed at the gift of that opportunity.

I was quite nervous at the prospect of sharing this conversation with him, as I'm sure you can imagine. The organizers had shared with us in advance some starting points for the dialogue, but all I kept thinking was, "Why am I being given this opportunity? What do I have to contribute to such a conversation with such a man?" I had no idea what it would be like to hold up my end of the bargain. 

But once he entered the room, the nerves evaporated. If there's one word I could use to describe Fr. Richard, it's joy. He radiates. He is also immensely kind. 

And so as we sat in those two chairs, talking back and forth, the conversation just flowed. We talked about that relevancy of spiritual companionship today, how we have so many more tools for understanding the inner life now than in previous centuries and how this makes for an exciting time. We talked about the first and second half of life and what causes someone to make the transition from one to the other and what inhibits this from happening for some. We talked about Pope Francis and Barbara Brown Taylor. We talked, of course, about the Enneagram.

Before I knew it, the time was up!

Then the next day, just before his first keynote address at the conference, I was so surprised to hear my name being called from the stage with the invitation to introduce him to the gathering. What an unexpected gift! As I made my way to the stage, my mind raced with what to say, ultimately landing on a few personal anecdotes that expressed his impact on my life and demonstrated one picture of how his work has blessed so many. (Kirk was able to capture a portion of the introduction on video on the fly, which I have shared here.)

It was one more gift in my already overflowing cup.

Then I turned my attention to the workshop I'd been invited to lead on Saturday on the topic "Spiritual Formation in a Google-ized World." My preparation time included several last-minute change-ups that eventually resulted in a decision to scrap the Keynote slides I'd prepared and to completely reconfigure the room from what I'd originally planned. 

Rather than sitting in rows looking at slides, we sat in a large circle and shared a contemplative dialogue. We reflected on the Internet — the good and the bad of it — and what science and history and the various spiritual traditions have to teach us about using these new tools well in this new age. (Want the CliffsNotes version? All of them point in the exact same direction: to the need for intentionality and stillness.)  

Here on the other side of presenting that workshop twice to two different groups, I continue to be surprised by that last-minute decision to scrap the slides and foster a dialogue held in circle instead. That new context is what I liked the most about the workshop experience. And I was reminded of what I've been learning this last year: that I love fostering conditions for reflection and space-filled dialogue to happen. That's what the discernment sessions and the Look at Jesus course are meant to do. It's what I hope these weekly letters offer you as well.  

So, much happened this week that surprised me. It was a picture of the gifts and new life and energy that are given the chance to emerge when we're open to change and taking chances and saying yes. 

Is the unexpected showing up in your life in any particular way right now? What are you noticing about your response to it?        


Much love,

A Happy Easter to You

Sunday Quiet Badge.jpg

We attended the Easter sunrise service at our church this morning for the first time since we started attending our local parish a few years ago. 

It was, we discovered, a very different way to usher in the blessed resurrection event. 

The service began in near darkness, about 80 of us sitting in the dark and silence together, unlit candles in our hands, waiting. Then slowly, slowly, the scent of incense began to fill the room, wafting steadily forward from the back of the church — and with it, light. 

One main candle lit the first candle in each row, starting from the very back of the church, then the light was shared with each person down the line of each row. 

Slowly, slowly, one row forward at a time, light came in. 

Although the fullness of the service included much celebration — a brass ensemble, flowers that adorned nearly every corner and wall, and bells rung merrily by each person upon the start of the last verse of the final hymn — it was that gradual, gentle entering of light that spoke the most to me this year. 

In the Anglican Episcopal tradition, like many other Christian traditions, we spend a great deal of time honoring the dark days of Holy Week. We mark MaundyThursday with a somber service that lingers and ends in darkness and the full stripping of the altar. We include all-night vigils of prayer supported by darkness, candles, and prayer. We observe Good Friday with an abbreviated eucharist and the adoration of the cross, each of us invited to inch forward and bow, kneel, or kiss the cross that represents Christ's pain and love. Many churches offer further pilgrimage through the stations of the cross.

And then we rise on Easter Sunday in celebration. 

I love the hope of Easter Sunday. The new life it ushers in. The foundation it serves for our faith. 

And yet this year, the turn to celebration felt less close and real to me than the darker days of desolation that preceded it. Our savior's suffering, the disciples' confusion, the separation and the questions ... they felt closer, more real and accessible to me to me this year than today's turn toward celebration and awe.  

Resurrection, threshold, new life ... these things are not easy. They mark departure. Change. A new way of being that is no longer the old way. 

Jesus embarking on his public ministry at age 30. 

The Israelites leaving Egypt. 

The Israelites entering the Promised Land.

Christ burst forth from the grave.

The disciples in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost. 

All threshold moments. All times that changed the previous order of the day. All moments requiring faith. All times ushered forth through the fullness of preparation and initiation. 

Right now, I resonate with those moments just before the threshold of change and resurrection. Kirk and I keep speaking of a "shifting" — a way the ground beneath our feet seems changing, placing us on the cusp of something new that's not yet been revealed, unseen but building. 

Something's changing. We feel it. We sense it. 

But we don't know what it means or what it will bring.

I don't know what the days of my future quite hold right now, but I sense change increasingly near. I feel it drawing me deeper into our Still Forming "land of welcome," but the pathway there is unknown. 

And since it's not yet here in its fullness, I am wandering with the disciples in the Upper Room, retracing questions and circling faith, waiting for the answer my savior promised but doesn't seem one ounce clear with the information I have in my hands. 

How has this new Easter season met you in your own realities of life today? 


Much love,

PS: If you, like me, are still circling in the darker days of faith before the sunrise of the resurrection, you might find it meaningful to journey with a virtual version of the Stations of the Cross that I created for you on Facebook. You are welcome to enter in.

What Does Welcome Look Like?

On Friday and Saturday this weekend, we hosted a yard sale at our house. 

It was the first one I had ever done, and it took a lot of work — maybe four straight weekends of clearing out closets and sifting through boxes and going through cupboards and sorting through shelves — but the end result was worth it. Not only does our house feel a whole lot lighter now and the extra cash feel nice, but we discovered ourselves enjoying the very "village-y" feel of the whole experience. 

So many different kinds of people show up at a yard sale. Some are dealers, others weekend hobbyists. Some are homemakers, others just working to survive. 

And in the midst of this whole new experience, I noticed quite quickly the difference it makes to say hello. "Good morning!" or "Hello!" with a big, welcoming smile broke down barriers immediately. It elicited smiles and greetings in return. It opened up channels of friendliness. It led to chit-chat about the weather and how the morning was going. It put people at ease. Opened them up. Lowered their guard. 

"Good morning!" 


A smile. 

Such small acts, easy to give. And yet what a difference they made. 

I can't tell you the countless times I've gone in and out of places, from car to grocery aisles to checkout line to parking lot, say, without ever making eye contact or offering a smile to anyone. A vivid memory plays in my mind of the mornings I stopped at a local 7-11 before my morning commute years ago when I lived in Huntington Beach, California. Clusters of men loitered outside the store each morning, waiting for an offer of a day's work. I could feel their eyes on me the moment I stepped from my car, watching me walk from car to store and back again. 

Armor up. Make no eye contact. 

The impulse stays with me even now.

And yet this weekend, as an assortment of lives and stories made their way up our driveway over the course of the last two days, I discovered what a difference hello can make. I saw the relax that takes hold with a smile. I experienced what neighborliness can do, how it opens us up to laughter and stories.

This, I think, is one thing welcome is: a willingness to smile and say hello, to notice and acknowledge the other. 

My mind keeps drifting to Jesus and the woman at the well — how he acknowledged her and asked for a drink, how that simple request led to a real conversation about real things, how she found the freedom to ask her most pressing questions, how she eventually ran into town, unable to contain her story of the man who told her who she was.

Would I be willing to say hello and ask for a drink at the local well? Would I be open to conversation that emerged in the aftermath? 

Would you?

I hope, after this weekend yard sale experience, I will be more willing to say hello next time I meet a stranger on the way, wherever that way may be.

(This is the first in a series of reflections I'll be writing over the next few weeks about what it means to live in this Still Forming land.)

So let me ask you: 

What does welcome look like in your life right now? Do you have any stories to share? Are there any ways welcome is hard?      


Much love,

Taking Our Values to a Foreign Land

This past week, I published an article with an online magazine and discovered it afforded me an opportunity to serve as an ambassador for our nation outside its borders. 

I was invited to write a reflection piece in response to a favorite book I read recently, Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber, and it will probably be no surprise to you to learn that I chose to write the reflection through the lens of the Enneagram, enamored as I am of this helpful spiritual tool of late. 

I'd been made aware of the diversity of the magazine's readership and felt myself taking a chance by not only reviewing a book by a rather liberal female pastor, but also by choosing to write about a tool that has a weird name, is unknown to many, and frequently causes people to think it has something to do with New Age spirituality.

But I published it anyway, curious to discover how the audience would respond. 

I was surprised by the response. I did receive a lot of pushback, but the pushback had nothing really to do with the book or the Enneagram. Rather, it had everything to do with the value of personal introspection. I was baffled to discover a whole realm of people who negate the value of knowing one's self, viewing it as an activity that leads either nowhere or to narcissism. 

There'd been no expectation placed upon me to engage with those who chose to comment, but I found myself intrigued by their position — not to mention surprised by the assumptions about me made along the way — and so I chose to engage in dialogue. 

Do you want to know the truth? I felt like I was representing you, like I had traveled to another land bearing the insignia, robe, and ring of our Still Forming nation, and there were several times that our nation's list of qualities that I shared with you last week helped inform my responses to that dialogue along the way. I sought to be:     

  • Welcoming
  • Brave
  • Tender
  • Honest
  • Kind
  • Open
  • Reflective 

I can't say the experience seemed to bring any new residents to our land, but I don't even think that was its purpose. I think its purpose was to faithfully represent you and our nation's values in a foreign territory, and I hope I served you well accordingly. 

(If you'd like to read the article and the comment dialogue that ensued, you can do so here.)  

I also found myself thinking of you while out on my expedition, wondering how you may have found yourself representing our land this past week, too, in your own context. Are there ways you found yourself given a chance to be welcoming or brave, tender or honest or kind, open or reflective — either toward others or yourself or even God? 

If you're willing to share your experience of living out any of these values this past week, maybe I will select a few to share with the rest of us in next week's letter. I think the shared stories could provide a bit of encouragement and insight for all of us about how the citizens of our land embody its values in daily life. What do you think? Would you care to share a story?  

How were you invited to live out any of our nation's values this past week? 


Much love,

What It Means to Live Here

I have a business mentor, Sarah J. Bray, who helps me think through the work I do at Still Forming, and one of the reasons she's a great fit for me is because she so often challenges my way of thinking. 

Whereas I am a pretty linear left-brained thinker, she is an uber-creative right-brained thinker. Whereas I can get caught up in the one way I might be supposed to do something, she's trying on tricorn hats and revolutionary garb, speaking in metaphors about nations and flags in the ground. 

It's the metaphor lingo that makes us a great fit, though. It fits well with the way my prayer life so often works, where images show up and I'm invited to pay attention to what I see and what the image has to teach me and how God might be inviting me to respond in prayer and in life because of it. 

So, nations. She teaches me about nations. And if you remember last week's letter, my therapist, Debbie, recently got me thinking about territories and queendoms, too. 

The nation metaphor is everywhere for me these days!

This past Thursday, I received Sarah's most recent email missive about nation-building, and it asked a question that felt perfectly timed, given the image of my nation I've been holding since Debbie invited me to think of myself as its queen.

Sarah asked: "What characteristics do you want your nation to be known for?"

When I read that question, I pictured that territory I described to you last week — the lush green land surrounded by water on three sides, the people living there in different pockets of its geography, the capital city on its southern tip. 

I pictured the territory and considered the question: What characteristics do I want those who live here to be known for? When someone new moves into this land, what will they discover in their experience of their new neighbors? When the residents who live here see each other on the road or at the market, how do they greet one another? When one of them's in trouble, how do the others respond? What kind of culture is being nurtured here?

In my mind's eye, I watched people moving around inside the territory, interacting with each other, and what I saw helped me to compose this list:

  • Welcoming
  • Brave
  • Tender
  • Honest
  • Kind
  • Open
  • Reflective 

If you live in this Still Forming nation or are considering it, these are (some of) the qualities you'll discover mark this land. It is a place where you are welcomed. It's a place where people are brave in the telling of their stories and their honest truths. It's a place where we hold those stories and honest truths with tenderness. It's a place of being kind to each other. It's a place where we are open to receive what others have to say and a place we are open to God. It's a place of reflecting, of choosing to live thoughtful and examined lives. 

It's likely more qualities will get added to the list, especially if you'd like to share your own experience of being here. But I found myself wondering: What it is about these qualities that make them a part of this land? 

I think, for me, it has to do with God. The person presiding over this territory is, at her core, made for inviting people into true and deep and real encounters with God. Inviting someone into that kind of experience requires trust. It begs gentleness. It requires hospitality. It respects courage.

I hope you experience these things here. 

Are there any other aspects of your experience here that you would add to the list? 


Much love,