Beginning the Work Again :: Jesus There

Splash of color.

How lovely are you.

“Be watchful—the grace of God appears suddenly. It comes without warning to an open heart. Sweep out the stable of your existence and the King will gladly enter.” 


I’m sitting cross-legged on my couch. It’s this past Saturday morning, around 8 a.m. 

I take a deep breath in. Let a deep breath out. I close my eyes, then breathe in, then out. I find a still place in the center of myself where I know God lives. 

Thinking of this still place inside of me, I turn my eyes to the right, where sits a used copy of Joyce Rupp’s The Cup of Our Life that arrived a few days ago. On the cover is the drawing of a cup held between two hands. I pick up the book. Read the first few pages again — the story of Joyce’s encounter of cup as spiritual metaphor.

I set the book down and return to that still place. Eyes closed. Breathing in. Breathing out. The image of a cup in the center of my being, filled with God. 

A few moments later, overcome with stories of my life, seen as a panorama, I get up off the couch. Walk over to my desk. Pull my vintage typewriter off the small side chair and onto the surface of the desk. I sit down and scroll a sheet of paper into its feed. 

I reach for my earbuds, folded up in the corner of my desk. I untangle them. Plug them into my iPhone and place them in my ears. Pull up the music app and scroll to Eustace the Dragon, then tap “White as Snow” and make sure it’s set to play on repeat. 

Turning my attention to the typewriter, I type the date. Hit return. Then indent. Start typing the first paragraph of the panoramic view I saw inside my head. 

After one paragraph typed, I stop. Cross my arms, folded, on the desk and listen to the song playing on repeat in my ears. Eyes closed.

I become aware of his presence. Jesus. He’s just behind my shoulder. 

I’m inside my memory — that memory, the one that feels like running full-out into a thick black wall and then wrenching myself away, black and blue, bruised. 

And there Jesus is. Right behind my shoulder in that memory. 

Inside the memory, I turn my head back a bit to look at him. The memory is still happening, like a video playing inside my mind, every moment of it happening right there in front of me — in front of us — and what I notice is him. 


This. This is my moment of deepest shame and humiliation. This. Right here. 

And there Jesus is, with me. Calm. Strong. Radiating peace. 

The first thing I notice is his presence with me. Solid. Fully there and attentive. With-ness

The next thing I notice is that while he is fully present to me and my consciousness of him, he is also fully aware of what is happening inside that memory. He sees it happening, and he doesn’t flinch.

He sees it happening. And he doesn’t flinch.

What grace washes over me. In the moment of my deepest shame and humiliation, he sees it and doesn’t flinch. He sees it and doesn’t flinch.

For the first time in 19 years, I see it, too, and do not flinch. 

It’s a miracle. Happening inside me and before my very eyes. 

I become aware of the truth: Who I am, the reality of me in the eyes of Jesus, is deeper than this memory. I am more than this moment of shame. 

This? This is healing. 

This? I’m reminded of what I’ve learned so viscerally before: This is how forgiveness becomes possible.

And I realize in that moment that if I can find this truth in the place of my deepest shame, then so can others. Hope floods me.

This is not the first time I have experienced Jesus with me inside my memories. It is not the first time he has healed me in such a way. 

At other times, I have asked him the question we all long to ask: Why did you let this happen? You were there. Why didn’t you intervene? Sometimes I’ve asked this question in anger. In hurt. 

He has always answered.

The answers, too, are a healing.

I notice that I don’t feel angry this time, seeing him there with me, not moving to stop the events. The feeling of his presence was so strong and peaceful and full of his attentiveness to me that I could feel no anger. Only gratitude. 

I did ask the question, though. Quietly.

I don’t know if he’s done answering the question yet — why he let it happen, why he didn’t intervene, why he allowed aspects of my story to collect the way they did. But here’s one impression I had that is feeling very true: If that memory happened for the sole reason that I would land here, experiencing the potent presence of Jesus in the way I did right then, that maybe is enough. 

He is my greatest treasure. He is the most beautiful one of all.

“How lovely … how lovely are you.

“How lovely … how lovely your voice, your face.”

—Eustace the Dragon, “A Song for Sparrows”

Beginning the Work Again :: What I Didn't Know Then


My life now. 

Dear Christianne,

When you started your formation journey at age 19, you had no idea that’s what you were doing. All you knew was that you suddenly saw things — about yourself, the world around you, and even God — you couldn’t see before and that the vista of your whole world was changing. 

You had blow-your-mind, whoa-dang moments about all this for quite a while. And you often felt like the ground was being pulled out from underneath your feet. You had no idea what you were doing, and you didn’t have any guidebooks or teachers to help you.

But you were also quite stubborn and stuck to what you knew: that you needed to walk this path.

I’m proud of you for that stubbornness. 

What you didn’t know then was that it would take so long. This is one reason your stubbornness was a good thing. It took you two years into the journey to find Jesus. It took another four years beyond that to really settle into your sense of belovedness. It took you nearly a decade to forgive some things.

If you knew it would take so long, would you still have walked the path? We’ll never know, and it doesn’t really matter. Because you did walk the path. And now you wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

That’s another thing you didn’t know then. You didn’t know that “yes” you uttered would lead to what would become the most precious thing in your life. Now you wouldn’t change the journey for anything. Wrapped up inside the whole of it — the difficult truths, the healing moments, the growth, and of course Jesus — is everything you are today. 

You didn’t know it would change your life. Because of that journey you took, you began to care about other people’s journeys. You wanted them to experience grace and belovedness too. You wanted them to meet the Jesus you’d met. You wanted them to take the formation journey, even though it’s one of the most messy, complicated things a person can try to do. You wanted to walk beside them while they struck out on the path.

And so you eventually left your full-time job as an editor — the work you thought was the end-all, be-all of a career life when you were 19 years old! — in order to be trained to do this work responsibly and well. You took four formal years to get trained, and you’re still equipping yourself every day. You eventually started this website as an invitation and a safe place to begin. You now write and teach and offer spiritual direction, undergirded by a life of prayer; these things are your vocation.

The formation journey that you didn’t even know was a formation journey at the time you began it changed your whole entire future. 

Right now, you’re facing some hard truths and revisiting the process again. And more than anything, I want to remind you about what I just said about your formation journey having become the most precious thing in your life. I want you to remember that. Because right now, you can’t imagine ever feeling that way about what you’re walking through.

You will. Someday you will hold it close, just like you hold all the other parts of this journey close, and say you can’t imagine life without it.



Beginning the Work Again :: The Practice of Self-Compassion

Always welcome.

Practicing the invitation of self to self.

While I was attending that international gathering of spiritual directors last week, I had a chance to spend about an hour one evening with the woman who served as my supervisor while I was an intern spiritual director several years back. 

During that hour, I shared with her my present journey. 

That conversation was such an impactful one for me, as it helped me take a couple steps forward on this current healing journey. And this week, I’d like to unpack those steps — as well as some other observations that came throughout the week and as a result of the conference content — with you here, in the trust, again, that if you’re going through an intentional formation process in your own life, you’ll find these learnings helpful too. 

First, I’ll share that the conference theme was compassion. 

When I first learned this was the case, I was ecstatic. The person in me who has come to care deeply about issues of peace and nonviolence the last four years couldn’t wait to learn some new perspectives on this topic. I signed up for workshops like, “A Spirituality of Welcome: Compassion in a Troubled World,” “Forgiveness as the Restoration of Love, Justice, and Power,” and “From Enemy to Friend: The Inner Work of Peacemaking.” I couldn’t wait to load up my mind and heart with more resources in order to further equip my feet to keep walking this path of compassion, nonviolence, and peace.

But when I registered for the conference, I didn’t know that by the time I reached St. Paul for the gathering several months later, I would primarily need to experience the conference theme through the lens of self-compassion more than anything else. 

Embracing self-compassion in this new place, I’ve been finding, is hard.

And when I met with Kay for that hour-long conversation we shared in the lobby one night, I told her so. “The first time I went through my intentional formation,” I told her, “I was fierce about it. Stubborn. Not one person could talk me out of it. I sat down and determinedly told God I wasn’t going to get up until I learned what I needed to learn.” I walked a journey that has unfolded for 15 years, and the continuous unfolding of this story I’ve lived is precious to me.

I couldn’t seem to access the same kind of fierceness and solidarity toward this new part of my journey. Yes, I am doing the things I know I should be doing. Yes, I am committed to walking the process. But my heart hasn’t been fully in it. 

More than anything, I’ve resented this new turn in my journey. 

I looked at Kay that night in the lobby and said, “I don’t know how to be fierce about this. I don’t know how to muster up the fierceness. I don’t know how to get firmly on the side of this part of my story. I don’t know how to stop pushing it away, just wishing it wasn’t there.” 

And then, through the course of that conversation, I found help in doing so. 

It came about — not surprisingly — through an image. When I look into my mind’s eye at the time in my life I’m revisiting through this new part of my journey, I can see myself so clearly. Fifteen years old. Long, curly brown hair. Thin. Wearing comfortable 26-inch 501 jeans and a scratchy, dark blue fitted blouse. White canvas shoes. A quiet way of inhabiting my life. 

I can see her. Me.

In that moment in time, I see that 15-year-old me walking into my bedroom. It’s the afternoon hours, and I’ve recently returned home from a day of high school. I’m walking into the room as if to put something—my journal, I think—down on my nightstand, or perhaps I’m coming to retrieve it. Whatever the case, I seem to be entering the room with purposefulness, and yet I can see a loneliness there. Like the girl that I was had carefully curled up inside herself but was careful not to let anyone see.

In my conversation with Kay in the conference lobby this past Friday night, I began to wonder: What if I just spent time seeing that 15-year-old me? Really seeing her? What if I sat inside that bedroom, propped up on the bed, back against the wall, waiting quietly for her return every day? Being present to her whenever she was there, even if that presence included no words at all for a really long time?

Perhaps that 15-year-old me could experience the presence of my 34-year-old self being present and a friend to her in a way she’d not yet experienced in her whole life. What might that be like? 

And I saw how the fierceness could, through that process, grow. 

Staring at that 15-year-old image of myself carries the potential to help me fall in love with her. To grow fierce and protective of her. To fight for her. To fight on her behalf.

This is self-compassion, I think. A willingness to be present to ourselves in friendship. A friendship that grows fierce.

Are there ways you might need to receive self-compassion in your own journey? Are there ways you practice self-compassion already in your life?

We Serve Because He First Served Us

We worship the Christ.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

We’ve talked a lot about foot-washing in this Holy Week series. 

About how Jesus washed Judas’ feet. And how Peter didn’t understand the foot-washing and protested it at first until Jesus gently helped him receive it. And how a woman, overcome with love for Jesus, washed his feet, too, with her tears and expensive oil and her hair.

There was a whole lot of foot-washing going on in those last days of Jesus. 

And then Jesus tells them: You do this, too

He washes their feet and then says to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:12-15). 

I think the timing is important. 

It’s important that he waited three years to wash their feet. It’s important that he washed their feet before asking them to follow his example. In other words, they received fromJesus before being asked to respond on behalf ofJesus to others. 

I think about this in terms of healing. Going back to the woman who washed his feet with her tears, she did this in response to what she’d received from Jesus in a very personal way. Her foot-washing flowed out of her experience of being loved by him. She received, and the natural outflow for her was to give. 

In the same way, the disciples had received much from Jesus in those three years that preceded this event. They had received his time. His presence. His teaching. His guidance. His attention. His friendship. Even his correction.

And then, as a type of culmination, he washed their feet. 

And then said: You do this, too

They were to love and serve others out of the experience of having been loved and served by Jesus first. It’s like John also wrote in one of his letters: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). 

I’m not so sure we can love well if we haven’t allowed ourselves to receive love first.

Love strengthens us. It roots us. It establishes us and gives us confidence and a sense of self and worthiness. Then, from that place, we love with greater freedom. We serve freely because we have experienced being served by the one who loves us fully.

When Healing Leads to Washing His Feet With Oil and Tears

Light on the Master.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

John’s gospel tells us that six days before the Passover that would signal the death of Jesus, he ate dinner at Lazarus’ house and that, while there, Mary took a flask of expensive oil and washed his feet with the oil and her hair (John 12:1-7). 

Judas said the oil was worth three hundred denarii. 

In Luke’s account of what happened, we learn that Mary “stood at his feet weeping” and then washed his feet with both the oil and her tears. We also learn she had been forgiven much by Jesus. Luke refers to “what manner of woman this is” and says she was known as “a sinner” (Luke 7:36-50). The people around him were astounded at her actions and wanted him to watch out for a woman of her caliber of sinfulness touching him.

And yet there he was, defending her.

And there she was, weeping at his feet. Wiping them with her tears and her hair. Pouring upon them some very costly oil. 

I think this happens when we experience profound love. At least, I know that’s the response I have. I can’t help but cry at the feet of Jesus for what I’ve received — and continue to receive — from him.

In my life, I’ve been through some intense seasons of pain followed, eventually, by the experience of being healed. Every single instance of healing happened in the presence of Jesus. It came through an encounter with his love, which is infinite. Patient. Full of embrace. There on the floor with us.

When we, in our deepest experiences of brokenness, are loved like that, we fall at his feet in worship. We feel utter amazement, awe, and thankfulness. We want to love him in return. He becomes the most beautiful vision we have ever known. 

And we want to give him everything. 

Even our tears. Even the most costly thing we have.

The Body Series: Grace and Truth in the Body

Suffused with grace.

All he does is suffused with grace.

A great deal of my journey into love had to do with learning grace. I just didn’t “get” grace. Why did I need it, really? Oh, yes. I’m a sinner from birth and all of us fall short of the glory of God. We all need it. 

But truthfully? 

That didn’t mean anything to me.

I wasn’t in touch with my “sin nature,” nor was I quite in touch with my actual sins when I committed them. And I most certainly wasn’t in touch with my belovedness. 

And so during that dark season when I sat down on the ground of my life and decided I wouldn’t get up until I understood God’s love for me, it had a lot to do with learning grace. 

Do you want to know what I learned about grace? 

It meant not having to perform. It meant being accepted exactly as I am. It meant not having to watch my every single move to the left or right, constantly gauging whether it was the exact right move. It meant the world wouldn’t fall apart if I didn’t hold it — and myself — together. It meant being allowed to be flawed and still being completely loved.

It was a revelation. God’s grace covered all my “sins” — which, strictly translated, means “missing the mark,” like when you’re shooting an arrow at a bull’s eye target. I didn’t have to hit that perfectly round and narrow mark with every single move. If I “missed,” God’s grace covered the miss.

God freed me from my perfectionism. That’s what God’s grace did for me.

My prayer today.

Don’t ever deprive me of your truth. Not ever.

The reason I share this with you is because of something one reader, Katy, shared in response to yesterday’s post. She wrote: 

I think that I became more in-tune with my body when I became more in-tune with my emotions … I started paying a lot of attention to how my emotions were affecting my physical health, and how my physical health was affecting my emotions. Now I know that being sad or mad or stressed can give me stomach issues, and that eating low-sugar, high protein meals helps with my anxiety. The better I eat and the more I exercise, the better my mental state.

I read these words and thought, I need to understand that better

And the reason I need to understand it better is because my experience of increased emotional health led to gaining weight, to the point of being overweight for the first time in my life. Was I not as emotionally healthy as I thought I was? Did I miss a right turn somewhere? 

I think, for me, this has something to do with growing into a greater balance of grace and truth. 

One of my absolute favorite passages in the Scriptures is John 1:14, which says of Jesus that he was the “fullness of grace and truth.” In his being, he held them both in fullness of measure and perfection.

Grace. Truth. Together.

Sometimes I think the ongoing journey of spiritual formation can be summed up by saying it’s about growing into the fullness of grace and truth together. When I encountered my need to understand grace because the idea of it bounced off me like a ball against a wall, I was way far over on the truth side of things. I know now that I was pretty much like a Pharisee. 

And so I started to learn grace. And once I found it, I bathed in it. Soaked in it. Relished its amazing gift. Fell so in love with Jesus. Bowed down in gratitude. 

To the point where grace showed up in my treatment of my body. I savored rich foods in ways I never had before. I celebrated a lot. I welcomed the enjoyment of a good meal the way I was learning to welcome myself and those around me in full acceptance in the presence of God. 

Just like we can fill up on truth to the exclusion of grace, I think we can do the same with grace: fill ourselves up on grace to the exclusion of truth. 

But Jesus is the fullness of both. And that is perfection and glory and beauty and perhaps the real definition of love. 

On my body journey right now, I’m in the process of pulling truth back into the mix — while keeping grace alive. 

How might you describe your own body journey in the context of grace and truth?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Growth

Crawling the wall.

Last night, when I was awake in bed for a couple hours and couldn’t sleep, I listened to the first couple chapters of Richard Rohr’s latest book, Falling Upward, on audio. 

The book is very, very good. Its central premise is that the tools we use to build the first half of our lives are not the tools that will work in its second half.

This got me thinking about growth.

To me, our capacity to grow is one of the most interesting things God built into the created order. And so today, I thought we could reflect on the ways we’ve grown over the course of our lives and how that growth causes us to give thanks. 

When it comes to the growth I’ve experienced in my life, I give thanks for the following: 

  • I’m thankful for the ways my family upbringing shaped the listener and peacemaker in me.
  • I’m thankful for the difficult experiences I sustained in grade school that later shaped my connection to Jesus. 
  • I’m thankful for the way pain in my life has made me a more sensitive being.
  • I’m thankful for a solid foundation of faith that paved the way for its deepening when I became a young adult.
  • I’m thankful God brought me to the end of myself when I was 19, even though it terrified me.
  • I’m thankful Jesus sat with me in the dark for two years, growing my trust in his patience and faithfulness toward me.
  • I’m thankful God has opened the doors of my heart to greater honesty and tenderness.
  • I’m thankful for the way my divorce experience helped me learn to receive grace.
  • I’m thankful I’ve become a person accustomed to taking risks. 
  • I’m thankful for the relationships in my life that have helped me settle into an identity of being loved.
  • I’m thankful for the stripping seasons in my life the grace God has given me to say yes to them.
  • I’m thankful for the ways God has given me a greater and greater heart of love.

When you look at the growth in your own life, what makes you thankful?

Prayer Can Be ... Tears

Uh oh ... the watercolors make an appearance for a third time today.

Sometimes you’re in a place where all you can do is cry. 

Those tears are prayer. 

I love the way Psalm 56 describes our tears in the sight of God: 

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

—Psalm 56:8, NLT

I have all these images in mind of what those bottles of tears look like in God’s storehouse. Maybe one is a vial. Maybe another a mason jar full. Maybe another the size of an old glass milk bottle. Maybe another a bottle of wine. 

I suspect that no matter the volume of our tears, God finds bottles of suitable size to hold every single one of them. How could he not?

Have tears ever been prayer for you? Is it helpful to know that they are?

Prayer Can Be ... Receiving Love

All we have to do is say yes.

Do you know what it’s like to receive love? 

Like, really receive it? 

I have a close friend who teaches me a lot about this.

There have been a number of special times when we’ve been visiting each other where, before our time together ends, we sit together on the couch, our heads on each other’s shoulders, just being together in silence. 

In those moments, I can literally feel her receiving my love. Her eyes are closed, and she’s just sitting there, letting me be with her in a vulnerable moment. 

Her receiving my love in those moments?

That’s prayer. 

How do I know this? Because my own heart toward her is full to bursting with the same heart God has toward her: love, acceptance, enjoyment, welcome, delight. When she allows herself to receive those things from me, she’s also receiving them from God.

What is it like for you to receive love? Can you consider that experience the equivalent of receiving God’s love for you?

Into This Dark Night: When the Time for Weaning Draws Nigh

She likes boxes.

I used to think the passage in Hebrews 12 was really cruel — you know, the one that says God disciplines his children and chastens those he loves. I would read that and think, “What?” It sounded more mean than a good thing. 

But then I read the Message version of that passage about a year ago, and it adjusted my perspective a great deal. Here’s a small portion of how it goes: 

“God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves.”

— Hebrews 12:7-8

The whole passage (vv. 4-11) is worth a read, but it was that word training that changed my understanding of that passage and the analogy of God as parent. Training implies a way to go. A way to be directed that’s for our good. A way we’re meant to be. And God is seeking to direct us there. 

It made such a difference for me to hear it in the context of an irresponsible parent, too: someone who leaves their child to fend for herself. What’s loving about that? A child doesn’t know the world, doesn’t have knowledge or experience or wisdom to navigate her way through. And an unloving parent is one who doesn’t care, who leaves her to figure it out on her own, who opens the door to the big, wide world and says, “Have at it.”

The loving parent is the one who takes an active role in teaching, guiding, sharing, correcting, interpreting, and being with. The loving parent is the one who knows where the child needs to go — sees ahead of her to the necessary steps of her development — and walks her through those steps when the time is right. A loving parent helps a child through her growth with the wisdom and knowledge she doesn’t yet have for herself.

That’s similar to what’s happening when the night of sense descends. 

John of the Cross describes it this way: 

As the baby grows, the mother gradually caresses it less. She begins to hide her tender love. She sets the child down on its own two feet. This is to help the baby let go of its childish ways and experience more significant things.

As we discussed in yesterday’s post, the sweet time spent at the mother’s breast is right for a time. Its sweetness is as it should be, and the mother feels such delight in giving and sharing that time with her child.

But we’re not meant to be infants at the breast all our lives.

There comes a time when, for our own best interest, we must be set down on the ground in order to discover our limbs and muscles. There comes a time when we, for our own best good, must learn to eat more than our mother’s sweet milk. There comes a time when it’s right and good for us to learn to motor ourselves around. 

It isn’t a lack of love on the mother’s part that brings that separation. It’s her love and maturity to move us along in our next necessary growth.

That’s what the night of the senses is about: a new period of our necessary growth.

Into This Dark Night: A Musical Companion, Part 2

Moonlight mystique.

On Monday we’ll dive into the particulars of the dark night of the soul and start to chew on the meat of this series.

But until then, I want to share one more song for you to carry with you. 

It’s written and sung by a sweet friend of mine (whose mom also happens to be one of my most very dear friends), and when I heard it for the first time yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of you — you who visit this space and may be walking through your own dark night. 

It’s based on the Good Shepherd psalm — such a familiar psalm to most of us, but until yesterday not one I would ever have thought to connect to the dark night of the soul. But through this song, I’m realizing that psalm is a perfect companion for those walking through just such a season.

And here’s why: 

  • It speaks of a mindfulness of the Lord’s presence … perhaps the most essential reminder for someone walking through a season when God feels so utterly absent. 
  • It speaks of not being in want … something that feels foreign and completely untrue to someone struggling through a dark night and yet worth clinging to as a truth, even in all its utter paradox.
  • It speaks of having no fear because God is there … again, such an essential reminder for someone who has a really hard time believing that is true.
  • And the final refrain of the song, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all of my days” … it rings over and over like the continuous refrain of someone clutching a most precious truth that feels so far away from being real.

Wanting More .mp3

I hope this song blesses you as much as it blessed me. 



Finding God in the Daily :: The Daily Examen

Life hanging on.

Noticing the details.

Have you heard of the daily examen before? I’ve written about it once before, and it’s a centuries-old practice that maybe you have read about or practiced previously. 

It’s a perfect addition to this series about finding God in the daily. 

In fact, I’d say it’s the most practical, direct way to find God in the daily, so if you’re looking for one simple handle to get started, I’d recommend starting here.

So, what is the daily examen? 

It’s a simple 15-minute practice you incorporate into the end of each day that involves 1) a mental review of the day in order to 2) discover God’s presence in ways seen and unseen. 

  • You look back over what happened that day.
  • You ask, “How was God present in ways I noticed or didn’t notice at the time?”

Anything that lent itself to light, to goodness, to joy, to kindness, to generosity, to gratitude — in essence, to life — can become markers for you of God’s presence in your day. Consequently, anything that moved you toward darkness, death, despair, gloom, anger, bitterness, fear, or trembling can become entryways for you to converse with God and invite him closer into those situations, seeking his wisdom or aid.

Practicing the daily examen blew my mind when I first began doing it.

I could hardly believe the number of places I came to see God’s presence each day in retrospect, and this led to a heightened awareness of his presence with me all the time. Even in situations that were hard or stressful, I came to see his saving presence — giving me the self-control to not snap at someone, saving me from a near-accident on the road, and so on.

It also increased my sense of gratitude as an overall posture toward life — being more thankful and wonder-struck at life, rather than pessimistic or closed.

And, in the end, it helped me be responsible for the events of my days, specifically in noticing the way I received the events that happened when they happened and how I responded to them in the moment. The daily examen provides a place to notice the details in the dailiness of our lives and converse openly with God about who we are becoming as we respond to them.

* Special note: Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook has the best list of questions I’ve found on the daily examen. These can be great jumping-off points for this daily practice, too: 

  • For what moment today am I most grateful? For what moment today am I least grateful? 
  • When did I give and receive the most love today? When did I give and receive the least love today? 
  • What was the most life-giving part of my day? What was the most life-thwarting part of my day? 
  • When today did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, others, and myself? When today did I have the least sense of connection?
  • Where was I aware of living out of the fruit of the Spirit? Where was there an absence of the fruit of the Spirit?

Finding God in the Daily :: When God Finds You

Dangled in light.

Dangled in light.

In my experience, finding God in the daily has so much to do with mindfulness. Paying attention. Allowing present moments to be markers for us — showing us ourselves and perhaps becoming teachers to us, too, and inviting our whole selves to show up in the ordinary moments.

That’s the part of finding God in the daily that invites our part. Our intention. Our activity and presence.

But sometimes it’s just about God. 

Sometimes we can let go of the searching and just let God find us as we are. 

That’s what happened for me this morning.

I’ve been in a funky place the last several days, perhaps even a week. Carrying around a heavy feeling of sadness that sometimes spirals into a hole of emptiness inside. I look up and realize so many things feel futile and meaningless.

But then I’ll spend time with Jesus and get reconnected to Life. I’ll meet with my spiritual director and feel a vitality of purpose and engagement. I’ll feel hope and strength and courage surge through me.

Only to find myself on the couch later, once again facing down the emptiness. 

When I woke this morning with the sadness and emptiness cloaking me yet again, I asked Kirk for a hug and then he offered to pray with me. Through that time of prayer, the invitation emerged to just be in the love of God right now without having to understand this up-and-down roller coaster ride of feelings or know what to do or where to go with them. 

Just be in the love of God. Accepted and loved.

I needed that reminder today. Do you?

What Is the Breathing Room of God for You?

Gorgeous sunset.

Without quite expecting it to happen, we’ve been focusing this week on rest and “breath spaces” and the resting place of God. In yesterday’s post, I shared that I stumbled on a passage in the psalms during my morning reading that invites us to consider God as one who always provides us with breathing room

This morning, I read yet another psalm that said the same thing: 

God, the one and only — I’ll wait as long as he says.

Everything I need comes from him,

  so why not?

He’s solid rock under my feet,

breathing room for my soul,

An impregnable castle:

  I’m set for life.

— Psalm 62:1-2

It just keeps getting my attention, this idea of God as one who provides breathing room for us. 

What does that mean to you, I wonder? 

For me, it means having the open invitation to be honest. It means having space to just be with God — not having to say anything, not having to do something. It means finding a place of rest, especially when everything else in and around me is clamoring for activity. It means peace. 

I think about Henri Nouwen’s concept of “prayer of the heart” in connection with this. I’ve quoted this favorite section of his book Way of the Heart a few times before, but it never loses its impact for me. He says: 

“To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you.”

— The Way of the Heart, p. 73

As I’ve shared before, this idea of descending with the mind into the heart and standing before the face of the Lord, all-seeing, before us brings me such a sense of peace. There are no secrets here. There is no shame. There’s no need to justify or prove anything. There’s just full and exposed being in truth

And while that has the potential to sound terrifying, I’ve found it to be a very calming, healing experience. 

What is it like for you to consider receiving the “breathing room” of God?

God as Your Resting Place

Current view.

We’ve been talking about rest and “breath spaces” this week — seeing the need for them to stay grounded and healthy and self-reflective about our lives — and this morning, I read a beautiful related passage in the course of my morning time in the Scriptures: 

You’ve always given me breathing room,
   a place to get away from it all,
A lifetime pass to your safe-house,
   an open invitation as your guest.
You’ve always taken me seriously, God,
   made me welcome among those who know and love you.

— Psalm 61:3-5

God, the provider of our safe-house. God, one who gives us breathing room. God, one who takes us seriously. God, one who makes us welcome. 

Is this your experience of God? Would you like it to be?

He Delights in You

Hanging moss.

The last couple days, I’ve been camped out in a single verse from Psalm 44: 

We didn’t fight for this land;

   we didn’t work for it — it was a gift!

You gave it, smiling as you gave it,

   delighting as you gave it.

— Psalm 44:3

I keep meditating on this verse in the context of my tree. I mentioned yesterday that I experience these images from Jesus as a gift, and this image of being a great oak tree planted on a jutting cliff, where birds come and find nest in its branches is certainly that. 

So in this psalm, I find resonance. I didn’t fight for this place I’ve been planted. I didn’t work for it at all. It was a gift! Jesus accorded me this identity as a tree, and he led me to the place of my planting. 

And then the psalm says that he gave it, smiling as he gave it, delighting as he gave it. 


I’ve learned that Jesus loves doing what he does in our lives. He loves being present. He loves spending time with us. He loves hearing what we have to say — he really listens. He smiles!

And he loves doing the work only he can do in us: the work of excavation, of restoration, of building up, of leading, and of planting. 

He delights in us and in the ever-new realities he is making of our lives. 

Do you feel connected to the delight of Jesus in you?

All That Happens Is ... Perfect?

Patch of light.

I Promise

Has not the Architect, Love, built your heart

in a glorious manner,

with so much care that it is meant to break

if love ever ceases to know all that happens

is perfect?

And where does anything love has ever known

go, when your eye and hand can no longer

be warmed by its body? 

So vast a room your soul, every universe can

fit into it.

Anything you once called beautiful, anything

that ever

gave you comfort waits to unite with your

arms again. I promise.

— Hafiz

dear friend of mine included this poem in the weekly inspiration e-mail she sent out this morning, and thinking on it has gobbled up my morning.

It speaks of the very things I fiercely believe:

  • that our hearts are, indeed, built in a glorious manner
  • that they break when we cease to know the perfection of love
  • that the shattered pieces of the love we once knew inhabit whole universes of secret rooms inside of us
  • that the heart waits, even yearns, to be rediscovered and to heal and to be made whole and connected with our full selves once again

There is a bit of a sticking point in this poem, though. It says that the heart, in the way it was made, “is meant to break if love ever ceases to know all that happens is perfect.”

This implies that everything that happens is, indeed, perfect … even if it doesn’t feel that way. 

I’ve wrestled at various times, for various reasons, with this idea that everything that happens is perfect. I know wounding. I know pain. I know the imperfection of love, for sure. I know this world is pretty fantastically, grievously broken.

So, how can all that happens be, somehow, perfect? Is this poet speaking true?

I think this has to do with believing — trusting — that something greater than the pain is present even in the midst of our being grazed by it. It’s the idea that something holds all things together and has a greater, grander scope than we can see in the midst of our wounded, pain-filled realities.

This is a hard idea. I know.

And when we are in the midst of pain, this idea is the last thing we want to hear.

But here is something true.

I have come out on the other side of hell — several times, actually —  and have discovered, on the other side of it, a perfect love that casts out the fear that doubt implanted. I have discovered a more perfect love that encompasses and heals those painful, disturbing wounds. I have discovered Someone faithful and capable to hold all things, even the most painful realities I have known, in his hands. 

And incredible as it may sound, I have become thankful for the pain. 

It is only because of encounter with the perfect and intimate love of Jesus that I can say today that I am thankful for it. The perfect love of Jesus makes everything — even seeming darkness — beautiful in its time.

But I won’t pretend. This is a really hard idea to hold. It’s one I still wrestle with, in various forms, today.

Here’s a possibility, though, in the midst of the struggle. Perhaps the more we feel the pain and grope in seeming darkness toward the light of love, the more overwhelming and sweet that light will be once we find ourselves inside of it. 

I know, for myself, that the measure of my love for Jesus is inextricably tied to the very personal ways in which he has met me in my distresses. 

What is your response right now to this idea that everything — perhaps all things — are just as they’re meant to be?

It Requires Safety

Come and enter in.

Yesterday I wrote about one aspect of the good news of Jesus — that he is about the work of restoring our broken places. I so love that about him. 

But as a dear person recently reminded me, the thought of going back into those broken places is scary. Even turning around on the road to see them there behind us is hard. It can jab us with such sharp pain, just knowing those potholes and drop-offs and broken-up pieces of cement are there, can’t it? 

And the thought of going back into them, even to receive something as wondrous as healing? Terrifying. 

This is why getting to know — really know — the person of Jesus is so paramount first. 

I could not have allowed Jesus to visit those tender and difficult particulars of my life, much less excavate them and begin an in-depth reconstruction project, if I hadn’t first learned to trust him.

That’s just sanity, right? 

But the good news is that he is indeed trustworthy. It takes time to learn this for ourselves — to let the person of Jesus beecome known as real and concerned with us specifically. It takes time to learn what he is like, how he really sees us, how he converses with us, and how he holds us together.

Once that foundation of trust and safety is laid, perhaps we’ll be ready to let him heal us in the deepest of ways. I’ve come to know there is nothing better in all of life than this.

Do you want to get to know this trustworthy Jesus?

This Is Good News

Point of decision.

There are many things we could say about the “good news” of Jesus. There are layers and layers of this good news that bring us into a life we’ve never imagined for ourselves or even realized we needed like our own next breath. 

But today I want to focus on just one aspect of that good news. 

John the Baptist, when telling the people to prepare themselves for God-in-the-flesh who was coming to earth among them, said: 

Every ditch will be filled in,

Every bump smoothed out,

The detours straightened out,

All the ruts paved over.

— Luke 3:5

I have experienced this good news of Jesus. 

When I began to know Jesus in a real and intimate way, I could look back on the terrain of my life and see ruts and jagged edges and huge ditches and potholes littered throughout the whole of it. My life’s history was pockmarked with brokenness. 

I was broken, and so was my history.

In my life with Jesus, he has been about the work of filling in those ditches, of smoothing those sharp edges, of filling in all of those potholes. He has been smoothing and filling the back road of my life. 

And do you know what he’s been filling it with? Himself. 

Do you have ditches and potholes and detours and drop-off edges in your own life’s history? Do you want to experience the good news that Jesus brings to you and those places? 

He Loves You


Yesterday we talked about the connection between loneliness and belovedness. Today I want to invite you deeper into a truth I’m sure you’ve heard many times before: 

God loves you. 

I don’t know about you, but that truth didn’t mean anything to me for a really long time. Two-thirds of my life, in fact, was lived without any meaningful experience of that phrase. I heard it, I believed that I believed it, but in reality, it just bounced right off me. 

I’ve learned that the experience of God’s love is essentially connected to the experience of ourselves.

What I mean is, if we aren’t in touch with ourselves, we can’t experience love. Because the part of us that experiences love — the real us, the deep-down us — isn’t there. It’s out to lunch. It’s on vacation. It’s in the avoidance spiral. It’s completely disconnected. Turned off. Shut down.

Being in touch with the truth of ourselves is essential to our experience of God. I would say it’s the essential first step to connecting in a real way to God at all.

Have you experienced God’s love for you in a real and true way? Do you want to?