Beginning the Work Again :: How It's Different Than the First Time

Alleluia chapel.

Beams and crossbeams and structure and light.

I mentioned on Friday that I’ve been thinking about how this current turn around the formation spiral is different than the first time around. The main difference I’ve noticed is this: 

The first time, it felt like building a foundation for the first time from rubble.

This time, it feels like returning to a foundation already laid there.

When I began the process of intentional formation in 1998, I had no foundation. Well, I had the foundation of my faith, which had been a part of my life since I had conscious memory, and that certainly helped as I began the sifting process. But a lot of the “work” of that long season included the re-examination of my faith and, eventually, coming into deeper, more real communion with God. So really, my faith felt like it was busted up amidst the rubble along with the rest of my life and self-concept.

That work had so much to do with:

  1. Growing in my understanding of myself and my identity, and 
  2. Begnning to connect in a real way with God. 

The work of that long process laid a foundation, like thick, poured concrete, in my life and concept of self and relation to God. Now, I see the ongoing work of my formation to be about two different things:

  1. Building upon that laid foundation, and 
  2. Returning to the foundation as needed. 

The season I’m in now is about returning to the foundation. This is what “beginning the work again” is about for me — going back to the truths I’ve learned previously and relearning them in the parts of my soul and story that haven’t been exposed to them yet. 

The thing I love about this time through the process is that I’m here to help with the relearning. God’s here, but so am I — whereas the first time through, there wasn’t much of an “I” to speak of. It feels like a chance to practice love by coming alongside these young, unformed parts of myself and saying, “Here. Let me help you. Let me show you.” Sometimes, it’s just the chance to be there to listen and to say, “I know. I really know. I was there. I love you.”

Kind of like the way Jesus did for me the first time around, and continues to do so today.

Beginning the Work Again :: Embracing My Humanity


The light above us.

Along the lines of relearning my not-God-ness comes the embrace of my humanity, all with the aim of pointing people to God and not me.

This is where something in my head can sometimes get really messed up.

I think about how we are the body of Christ here on earth. How we are meant to be Christ to others. How we are meant to keep growing into the image of God in us. And how, for someone who is a spiritual director or just generally in ministry, this can get even more complex because so often we are the visible image of the invisible God for others. 

Cue the questions of where we end and God begins, and vice versa. 

When I stop to think about it, it’s funny that I take over-responsibility for things and people, given the metaphor of us as the body of Christ. We are each a part, not the whole. I’m an ear, or an eye. Which necessarily means I can’t be a foot or an arm or a finger. I can’t — and am not meant to — shoulder all of the concerns of the world or be Christ’s body in the world on my own. We need each other. 

Spiritual directors like to describe what’s happening in spiritual direction by using the image of three chairs: one for the directee, one for the director, and one for the unseen but very real presence of God.

I was talking with my supervisor about this picture last week, and we were talking about how often we assume those chairs to be positioned equidistant from each other, like an equilateral triangle. Sometimes I’m even tempted to believe the chairs held by me and my directee are the ones in “full color” in the picture, with God’s chair kind of greyed out, or perhaps even off in the corner, since he’s an unseen, non-audible presence in the room. 

And yet here’s what’s really true:

Spiritual direction is ultimately about the directee’s connection with God.

If anything, it’s the directee’s and God’s chairs that are meant to be “full color.” If anything, my chair is the one meant for the corner so that I don’t get in the way of what God and the directee are meant to find in one another. I’m a facilitator, but the directee and God are the main players there. They’re the reason we’ve come together in the first place.

In relationship, if I shoulder the God role, then I keep someone from receiving what God alone is meant to give them. I unwittingly make them dependent on me instead of pointing them toward the one upon whom they’re meant to depend. 

I want my life to be about this: “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message version: “I deliberately [keep] it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.” 

May you always see me pointing you to Jesus. This is the prayer of my heart. 

Beginning the Work Again :: I'm Not God

One of many.

One of many.

When I first started blogging in 2006, I chose the name “Lilies Have Dreams” for my personal blog.

It was a reference to Matthew 6:28-34, which compares us to the lilies of the field and says we need not worry — that we are important to God and that God will take care of us, even as he takes care of the lilies that line the earth. It was a reference, too, to dreaming — to living out loud, to taking risks, to standing on the precipice of my own life, which I had been slowly learning how to do (and was about to do in great measure, as I packed up my belongings and moved across the country to marry Kirk the following month).

Ultimately, it was the idea that I could be small yet valuable to God and that even in my smallness, I could dream big dreams and then, because my value was rooted in God, I could take risks. 

Learning to be a small yet beautiful and fully beloved lily of the field … that was a big part of my formation journey my first time around the formation spiral. It’s something that took many years as I identified and then began unlearning key beliefs and behaviors that showed up in my life as perfectionism, over-responsibility, scruples, phantom guilt, and what I came to call the superhuman tendency. 

It was about unlearning my need to be God.

It was one of the best things to ever happen to me.

I don’t say “unlearning my need to be God” from a place of pride but rather fear. I believed with every cell in my body that I needed to hold the world aright. I carried the responsibility for things that went wrong, even if I had nothing to do with what happened. I believed myself to be other people’s saviors, needing to know what they needed and supplying it. I wasn’t allowed to have needs myself.

Again, this wasn’t a prideful thing. It was what happened when a whole lot of mixed-up, messed-up messages tumbled around in my head and my heart at a very young age and then were given a mixed-up, messed-up interpretation through my too-young lens. I didn’t realize at the time that I was ingesting these messages or interpreting them the way I was. And I really didn’t realize the impact those messages and interpretations would have on my life as I continued to grow up and live into the world. 

God is merciful and gracious. He took me through a long unlearning.

As he did this, he took the burden of responsibility off my shoulders. I could live free. I could breathe. Even better: I could make mistakes. I felt, truly, like one of those lilies of the field, small and one of many, yet dazzling in her beauty, twirling and dancing and smiling and laughing in her utter freedom and belovedness.

I’m relearning this now.

As I continue to grow forward from my healing journey, I’m dealing with the fallout of what happened to me at 15 and 16 years old. I’m looking at the ways it damaged and messed me up. I’m feeling angry. I’m feeling sad. I’m struggling my way toward the place where forgiveness lives. 

And I’m bumping up against that old need-to-be-God proclivity again.

This means I’m struggling to let myself feel what I really feel, as I’m constantly second-guessing whether those feelings are right, correct, and perfect (since everything God does is right, correct, and perfect). It means I’m afraid to tell people they hurt and failed me, as I’m not allowed to be someone who gets hurt or needs people to hold up their end of the relationship. It means I’m afraid to take steps in any direction, for fear they’ll be the wrong steps, since I’m not allowed to do anything wrong or make mistakes.

It’s about learning to be human again. 

Just human.

Human. The thing I previously came to see as one of God’s greatest gifts to us. The not-God-ness. The imperfections in us that are so heart-achingly beautiful. The vulnerability of it all. The permission to stumble, to mess up, to learn. The ability to grow, which means the reality of not-yet-developed-ness. Not having to have all the answers. Not having to be the expert authority. 

Just human. Walking alongside. 

I’m relearning this right now.

Do you ever live inside this struggle?

Beginning the Work Again :: It's Messy in Here, and I Feel Like I'm Back in High School

Craggy heart.

Craggy, dark, and broken.

On the evening of Good Friday, I got to participate in a Stations of the Cross service at my church. At one point, when I was standing in the main aisleway of the church, maybe around the 12th or 13th station, listening to our rector share the reading for that stop along the journey, a thought flashed through my mind that surprised me.

I can’t even tell you what the actual thought was. I don’t remember it.

But it had something to do with God, and it was a way of thinking about God that felt quite old, like it was reaching its way to me across miles and miles and belonged to another age. It recalled a sense of God as imperious judge, someone closed and narrow and cold and certainly harsh and wrathful. 

And I realized: 

That’s the image I carried of God in high school. 

Suddenly I was back there again, and it was a moment of feeling myself caught on the plane of an alternate existence, my heart and mind stretched backward nearly 20 years, back to a very young and undeveloped view and experience of God and myself. 

I’ve been reconnecting with the 15- and 16-year-old version of myself in this new place, revisiting some acute memories and remembering what it was like to be me in those exact moments. I remember the scratchy, stretchy fabric of a favorite fitted blouse I used to wear then. I remember the color and texture of my living room carpet. I remember the grandfather clock that stood in our entryway and how it lit up at night. I remember how it felt to walk into my bedroom.

And now, I’m remembering how I felt about God — and what I believed God felt about me.

It was a confusing time, but I didn’t know it at the time. And now, here I am, revisiting it. 

Here’s what I’m learning: It’s messy in here. I’m finding that sometimes I can’t think straight here. I can’t feel straight, either. It’s wordless, this place, sometimes. Just a jumble of memories and impressions and fumbling for my own response. In the place words should exist, I see black boxes instead, covering up the words. Coherence becomes impossible. 

And so, right now, I’m sitting with that.

Going backward in order to go forward — returning to the broken places — means that we might find ourselves believing in old and outdated versions of God. It means that we might feel like a confused, jumbled, wordless mess. 

That’s just the way it is right now, here at the beginning.

He Still Speaks

One faith. One baptism.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

One of the most incredible pictures of union that I know is shared between Jesus and the Father.

I’m completely inspired by it. Again and again, Jesus tells his disciples, “I don’t speak any word unless the Father tells me to speak it. I don’t do any act unless prompted by the Father to do it. If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” 

So. Much. Union.

It’s like there’s absolutely no space to be found between them. The alignment Jesus shared with the Father made them a mirror image of one another. They were one and the same.

Complete integrity.

And then Jesus says the same is true of the Holy Spirit. 

On the last night of his freedom, Jesus says to his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:12-13). 

Jesus is about to die, and he has many things he still wants to say to his followers. But it’s OK, he says, because they couldn’t bear hearing those things right then anyway.

The words would have to wait. 

They’d wait until the Holy Spirit comes, when the cycle of divine union would continue — this time forever. 

If there were ever any need for believers to know that God still speaks today, I think this would be it. He still speaks, through the medium of the Holy Spirit who lives inside us, telling us everything that is true from the mouth of Jesus.

He still speaks. It’s amazing and wonderful, isn’t it?

He Washed Judas' Feet, Too

How he loves you.

This entry is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

Have you ever noticed that Judas was still in the room when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet — meaning Jesus washed his feet, too? 

It’s true. 

Judas didn’t leave the upper room until later in the evening (see John 13:30), but the footwashing event happened earlier (vv. 4-12). And the passage in John that records the footwashing event indicates Jesus washed the feet of each disciple in the room. 

Which means he washed the feet of Judas. 

Can you see Jesus kneeling on the floor before the one who would betray him — the one whose betrayal would lead to his capture that very same night and his great suffering and even his death — picking up his dusty, dirty feet and bathing them gently with water and cloth?

Can you just imagine it? The tenderness of such an act? Offered to his ultimate betrayer? 

It does a number on my concept of love. It tells me much about the capacity of Jesus to love and welcome those opposed to him — and not just to welcome them, but to assume before them the posture of a servant, willing to kneel and clean their dirty feet.


The Body Series: Eucharisteo

This is my body. This is my blood.

This is My body. This is My blood.

This post is coming a bit late in the day, due to a power outage and modem/router meltdown that happened at our house this morning and has taken most of the day to get fixed. So today’s entry will be short, but hopefully it will provide us with something substantial to chew on as we make our way into the weekend. 

How might our understanding of our bodies be influenced by our experience of the eucharist? 

A friend and I were talking about this over coffee last week, and it’s been marinating in my mind ever since.

When we take eucharist, we are taking the elements — bread and wine — into our bodies. We do this as an act of spiritual sustenance, but think also of what those elements represent: 

Christ’s body. Christ’s blood. 

His body and his life source, and we’re taking them into ourselves.

When we do this, we’re saying, in a way, that we want his blood to mingle and flow with ours. His muscles to establish themselves with our own. His eyes and ears and mouth and nose and skin and bones and flesh to meet with ours.

When we take Christ’s body and blood in the eucharist, how might that impact our bodies and/or our view of them?

The Body Series: On Matter, Existence, and Goodness

A moment of creation.

The second idea that presented itself to me when I started trying to understand God’s view of the body was matter. 

Mainly, that God encased all that he created in a body of sorts — in matter.

The sun and moon. The earth, sea, and stars. Every animal and plant. Us. 

All these things have a body. Their matter makes them a thing. It gives them literal substance. And God saw fit to not only make that substance but also to call it good.

Somehow, being a thing, having substance, is good.

Why is that? 

I like thinking about it in terms of that word substance. It’s this idea of There is something to you. I can hold something in my hands and it is really there. I can put my hands on your shoulders and look you in the eyes and see and know that you, too, are really there. 

You are there.

Your existence matters

It might ultimately come back to this idea of existence — that it is a good thing to exist. I read once that creation is what happened when the Trinity communed in the perfect love that is their essence, that the natural outflow of such communing perfection of love was creation. (We see this mirrored in humanity, where the communion of love between a man and a woman leads to creation of new life.) 

As such, what God created was good because it was an expression of the perfect love that God shared with God’s self. I can just imagine, upon creation, the Trinity exploding with joy at the beautiful things their perfect love had created. I can just see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit smiling with ecstasy: Look at what we made!

Seen in this way, all of this known world becomes cause for celebration. Everything, then, is holy. 

What do you think of these ideas? 

Pieces of Formation: Faith Foundations


What was the faith component of your early years? Was there any? 

I’ve shared in this space previously some of my formative faith foundations — of always having had a sense of the presence of Jesus near me, of being raised Catholic until I was 9 years old, of moving to a nondenominational Christian church after that. It also made a real difference to my formation to be raised by a mother whose faith was personal and real. 

Sometimes I think about the presence of Jesus I’ve always felt near to me, even from my earliest memories, and I wonder why God saw fit to give me that kind of experience of himself. I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know that the reality of this nearness I’ve experienced has deeply informed my sense of calling in the work that I do. I can see that my knowledge of Jesus and what he’s chosen to share with me of himself is meant to be shared with others. 

In that way, I hope to honor well the gift he’s given me of his nearness.

How would you describe the foundation of faith in your own life? What was your experience of God like in your early years?

Prayer Can Be ... Serving Another Person


Earlier this year, I volunteered for an event in downtown Orlando called iDignity, which provides free services once a month to help people get their paperwork so they can apply for ID cards, birth certificates, and social security cards.

You probably already know that without proper identification, it’s impossible to do certain things in society, like get hired for a job, cash a check, rent an apartment, or vote. Identification plays such a critical role in helping people become participating members of society. 

I was privileged to interact with a broad spectrum of humanity that day.

So many stories. 

A number of the people I met had just gotten out of jail, some for the second or third time. They didn’t have places to live. Some had been previously arrested in other states, and their only form of physical identification was a mug shot on file at the out-of-state jail. They were hungry and trying to scrounge money for their next meal.

I remember, still today, some of the individuals I met. A tall, quiet young man with a record. An older black woman with dark eyes and a meek smile. A young pregnant girl so thin her legs looked like they could so easily snap like twigs.

It felt like such a privilege to look into their eyes and smile. 

To accord them dignity. 

To acknowledge their common humanity with me. 

I felt like I was looking into the eyes of Christ each time someone approached me to put their name on the list for a birth certificate application.

In them was the image of God. Just like the image of God is in me. 

And so each smile, each moment of eye contact, each small conversation was an instance of prayer. As I loved them, I was loving Jesus. 

Have you ever experienced prayer as serving another person?

Into This Dark Night: A Different Sort of Darkness

May all who enter here find peace.

In the night of the senses, we learned that darkness comes because God slams the door shut on the senses. There’s a drying up of what we feel and experience of God, and it’s because he’s turned the light off.

The night of the spirit is a different sort of darkness. 

Here, the work of God in the soul is directed toward divine union — the most intimate “one-ing” the soul can ever experience. And so, to accomplish this union, God turns up the light that’s poured into the soul. 

The result is utter blindness. 

I love the way John of the Cross makes sense of this blindness in response to God’s light: 

“The brighter the light, the more blinding it is to the owl. The more directly we gaze at the sun, the more it darkens our visual faculty, depriving it and overwhelming it, because of its inherent weakness.”

God’s light is so bright that it pains and blinds our “eyes,” or soul. We can’t see. We’re putting our hands out in front of us, feeling our way forward without the help of sight to see our way.

As paradoxical as it sounds, the darkness happening here in the night of the spirit is actually light. And it is immensely painful to the soul.

Tomorrow, we’ll learn why.

Into This Dark Night: What's Also Happening Here

The trees are monsters.

In a previous post in this series, we talked about what’s happening in the night of the senses: God is growing us at the level of the spirit in our connection to him.

But there’s something else happening here too: 

We are growing in virtue and love.

Early in his description of the night of the senses, John of the Cross names seven “imperfections” that plague a beginner’s soul without her knowledge of them being imperfections. These include spiritual pride, spirtual greed, spiritual lust, spiritual anger, spiritual gluttony, and spiritual envy and laziness. 

And he says of the beginner’s journey:

“Remember when she used to seek God through those feeble, limited, and ineffectual manipulations? At every step she stumbled into a thousand ignorances and imperfections! Once the night quenches all and darkens the discursive mind, it liberates her, bestowing innumerable blessings. The soul grows vastly in virtue.” 

Before the night descends, we are inclined to think the things we do and the consolation we experience in our spiritual lives has something to do with us. We love God, yes. But we also love ourselves. And we tend to love ourselves more than we love God or our neighbors. 

The night of the senses is meant to purify us — to make our love more pure and our actions more full of true virtue. 

And so we lose sight of ourselves. And we lose sight of God.

We come face to face with our cravings for good feelings and experiences. We notice how much we want distraction. We see how much we based our self-concept and sense of okay-ness in how we were feeling and how our experiences and activities compared to those of others. 

In short, in the night of senses, stripped of all those other fetters, we begin gaining accurate self-knowledge. We start to see the truth about ourselves. 

And it’s humbling.

This affects the way we begin to relate to God.

We become more humble and respectful. Less demanding and presumptuous. Less familiar and more awe-filled. 

We begin to love God more for who he is and less for ourselves. 

And through it all, as we remain faithful to God and receptive to the truths of ourselves being revealed, we also grow in virtue. John of the Cross says that we grow in patience toward God and ourselves. We become more generous toward others, no longer looking to them as a point of comparison but as people from whom we might learn something. We become more enduring and strong as we cope with the hardships of being surrounded by darkened senses but keep persevering. 

The night of the senses accomplishes many good things, even though it doesn’t feel good — and even though we can’t perceive these good things are happening when they are.

How do you respond to this?

Into This Dark Night: Another Way Contemplation Can Look

Julian of Norwich. She inspires me.

For a long time, before I ever experienced contemplation as St. John of the Cross really meant it — as a “loving attentiveness to God” — I had heard contemplation described that way and never really understood it. It seemed strange to me. What did it mean to “just be” before God? What did it mean to put ourselves before God without any thought or image at all? 

Truthfully, it sounded odd. 

And then when I learned of the two Greek words used to describe two diverging ways to experience God in prayer — kataphatic and apophatic — the type of contemplation described by St. John of the Cross seemed even more foreign to me. 

Kataphatic prayer makes use of words and images.

The kind of imaginative prayer described by St. Ignatius of Loyola that I mentioned in a previous post is this kind of prayer. In this kind of prayer, we hold images in our minds and experience ongoing conversations with God. We’re conscious of our thoughts in prayer, and we’re able to “hear” God’s words in response to us interiorly. 

Apophatic prayer, in contrast, is wordless and formless.

It’s an experience of prayer in which the soul acknowledges that God cannot ever be fully held in the mind and actually transcends all images — and therefore the soul lets go of any impulse to relate to God in these ways. This kind of prayer is often connected to relating to God in “a cloud of unknowing” or “darkness” or “nakedness of being.” 

The first time I heard these two terms used to describe the two major categories of prayer, I had an immediate aversion to the description of apophatic prayer. I had been living in a long season of consolation where the imaginative life of prayer had become my regular means of connecting to God, and especially Jesus. My prayer life, experienced in this way, was very active and incredibly dear to me. And this way of prayer had born much fruit in my life. Love for Jesus had erupted in me, and I was irrevocably changed. 

Why would I ever want to give that up? 

Weren’t the experiences I had with Jesus in prayer more beloved and preferable — even to God — than an experience of darkness and nothingness? 

Who would want to experience that?

(I mean, really.)

So I continued on my merry way, relishing the images and word-filled conversations I had with Jesus on a regular basis, continuing to fall more and more in love with God.

Until a little over three years ago. 

One day I sat at my desk, opened the Scriptures before me, and couldn’t taste words. They didn’t seem enough. They couldn’t hold God.

I went to pray and felt an immediate aversion to the images I’d been holding in my life of prayer with God. God was so much more than any image. God was

On that first day, I sat at my desk with my eyes closed and just let myself be in the presence of God. God was this massive greatness, creating everything and upholding everything, far beyond what I could imagine or understand … and I was grateful for that.

I just wanted to be with God without having to understand God.

And so each day in that season, I came and sat with the “cloud of unknowing” that was God beyond my concepts of God. And it was truly enough — more than enough, really.

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 Everydayness of Jesus


Just some ordinary items.

Pennies lost then found. Wheat fields and trees. Mustard seeds and sparrows. Parents giving gifts to children. Friends arriving in the night. A woman petitioning her case. A homeless man hoping for bread. 

The list could go on and on.

So many of the stories Jesus told — maybe all of them? — are grounded in the grit and grind of daily life. Even the images he used to describe his very self fall into the everyday ordinary. Bread. Light. Words. 

And then he met people on the ground floor of their lives. A woman fetching water at a well. A bunch of fishermen hauling nets. Two sisters caught in conflict. Parents pleading the health of their children. A rich man hunting for meaning. 

We could keep going on like this for quite a long time. 

Jesus was grounded in the details. And I love this about him. I love that he came and experienced real life for himself, and I love that he chose to use real life for his teaching tools. He could pull a metaphor or meaningful truth out of any old thing you’d encounter in the course of a day.

What in your ordinary life could be used as a teaching tool by Jesus to teach you?

Finding God in the Daily :: The Intimacy of Always

Finished collage :: Intimations of Me.

The light shines through all of it.

This one is going to take a story to get us there. Come along for the ride?


If you’ve been reading here for some time, you know I spent this last year in a pretty intimate season of prayer with Jesus. My morning prayer times included a strong image of the two of us walking on a beach shoreline — sometimes talking, sometime stopping to face each other, sometimes sitting on the sand watching the waves, sometimes playing in the water.

Every day, as I met Jesus in that image, I held a question before him: “What do you want to say today?” 

It was a question about this online space, Still Forming. What did he want to say through me here that day? And every day, he answered. He directed my attention to his heart for you each day, and I wrote my way through almost a full year of week-daily posts by going through that process of prayer with Jesus.

But if you’ve been reading here more recently, you also know that image has changed. We no longer walk on the beach each day. Instead, he gave me a tree. And then he planted me on a cliff

And as a result, I’m learning a new way of being with Jesus. 

Instead of looking up at him through the eyes and posture of a child leaning in to listen, I see him gazing at me directly, eye to eye.

There’s so much trust in this gaze.

And it’s a disconcerting place to be. Less dependent. More mutual.

This morning, I sat on the couch and told him how different this feels. When it was me leaning in and listening, I could take myself completely out of the equation. I didn’t have to worry about diluting the purity of what Jesus wanted to say to you because I wasn’t in the mix of the decision. I just relayed what he told me to say.

But standing here in this new place, him looking me in the eyes, he’s asking me what I think. He’s inviting my voice. He wants to hear my opinion. 

And an awareness of all my “stuff” starts rising to the surface. 

“Are you sure you want my opinion here?” I ask. “Because I’m going to muddy the waters like you never will.”

He’s completely pure and completely perfect. All his ways and thoughts are right. Me? Not so much. I’ve got parts pure and murky.

And that, I’m learning, is part of the point of this new place. Who I am today — the pure and the murky — is who he wants to know, who he wants to have show up, who he wants to keep transforming.

There’s something about this last year of walking on the beach with Jesus that is and always will be precious to me. It was a beautiful, intimate time. Through it, I learned dependence in wholly new ways. Through it, I better learned his voice. 

But this new place is even more intimate. 

This is about him being more fully integrated in me. It’s less about “what Jesus says” over here and “everything else” over there, with clear lines of demarcation between the two. Instead, it’s about the whole of me showing up and us talking together about all of it. It’s about him using me in this space, even with my splotchy parts, instead of there being a clear line between him and me. 

The same can be true for you. When it comes to finding God in the daily, it’s less about a demarcation between “holy time” and “all the rest of our time.” God can — and wants to — become fused into the whole of it with you. 

Where is one of the places in your “all the rest of it” time that you can let God be with you?

Finding God in the Daily :: The All-Pervasive God


Just an ordinary moment.

To begin an exploration of finding God in the daily, I keep bumping up against the truth of an all-pervasive God. 

I keep thinking of the great, grand scope of God: the one creating cosmos and holding them together, but also, at one and the same time, having his eye on the sparrow and an always-current count of the hairs upon our heads.

God is in the grand moments, to be sure. He’s at monasteries with the praying, watchful monks. He’s in the grandeur of mountains and vistas and oceans. He’s in the unmistakable call to remarkable work that defines or uproots history.

But finding God in the daily?

It asks us: Do we believe he is in the lone, pink flower no one ever sees? Do we believe he can be found in a baby’s laugh and cry? Do we think he’s found in the pages of our planners? 

Do we really believe God pervades every minute moment in life? Is he truly an all-pervasive God?

When we set out to find God in the daily, we’re confronted with these questions.

It reminds me of something I learned early in my training as a spiritual director — that nothing brought to spiritual direction is ever too mundane, for God can be found in all of it.

An argument with a friend? A set of lost keys that led to a missed appointment? An advertisement on TV that keeps lingering for reasons we don’t know? The dailiness of life introduces a never-ending string of invitations to notice God noticing us.

Do you believe this?

Redemption Coming to Ground

The face of Christ.

I’ve been feeling the disparity between life with God and life in the world this week. 

The world is sharp and prickly. It’s loud and oppressive. It’s bent on self-elevation and pride and status and social climbing and pushing others down. 

But life with God is humble. Quiet. Unassuming. Servant-like. Poor in spirit so much of the time. 

And then this morning, I was reading Isaiah 53 — the famous chapter that describes the Messiah, Jesus, to us in all his unexpected, paradoxical, surprising glory: 

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?

Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God — a scrawny seedling,

  a scrubby plant in a parched field.

There was nothing attractive about him,

  nothing to cause us to take a second look.

He was looked down on and passed over,

  a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.

One look at him and people turned away.

  We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

— Isaiah 53:1-3

It makes so much sense that the world would respond to Jesus in this way. He wasn’t physically attractive. He didn’t possess the charisma of a power-hungry politician. He wasn’t after titles or fame or a worldwide platform of power.

He was here to speak truth. To embody love. To be with us in the realities of who we are. To bridge us to God. To offer us real life, which the world, in all its bankruptcy, never finds. 

It makes sense that even Israel rejected Jesus — Israel, who also came from unassuming, unsuspecting roots, too, and knew well that “nobody” status. Israel, who was unattractive and laughable to the nations around them. Israel, who lived by a code that didn’t make sense to the rest of the world. 

Israel, who decided, in the end, it wanted a king. 

Israel, who decided, in the end, it wanted to be like everyone else. 

Israel, who, in its own religious way, leaned upon power ploys and prestige and status, too.

This Israel “looked down on” Jesus and “thought he was scum.” And then led the parade that crucified him.

Life with God looks nothing like life in the world. It doesn’t make sense. It’s laughable sometimes. Its seeming foolishness confounds the seeming wisdom of the worldly wise. 

And yet it connects us to what is real. What is true. The actual ground of our being and existence. 

Paradoxically, it is where real life is found.

How is your life with God nonsensical through a worldly lens right now?

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?