Still Points in the Day: Flying

So far? So good.

Last night, I flew into New York City to join Kirk, who has been here since Monday for a conference. We’re staying here through Sunday, just the two of us, to celebrate a landmark birthday he recently had. 

My flight itinerary came on the heels of print week where I work — an intense multi-day process that involves several late nights and acute attention to detail. 

When I got through security at the airport, on the heels of that hectic week plus the bustle of moving through crowds with two bags in tow, I was exhausted. 

Thankfully, I found a quiet corner in a gate area that was not in use, where I could lean against a wall of windows and charge my depleted iPhone on the only wall outlet in the terminal that wasn’t surrounded by a zillion other tech users.

It was 30 minutes of introvert bliss. 

I’ve decided an introvert’s ideal flying experience is the one I had last night: a half-full flight at night with quiet passengers and a whole row to myself. The debut album of the Lone Bellow was my company across the air-flown miles, and I alternated between reading Susan Cain’s exceptional book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and staring off into space, thinking. 

When I arrived in New York to reunite with Kirk, I was refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to experience the city. 

I love flying — mainly because the experience gives my introversion time to breathe. 

Do you ever experience flying this way?

Still Points in the Day: Wellspring

A holy chair.

Every second Thursday of the month, Kirk and I attend a contemplative gathering at a local church called Wellspring. It’s led by ordained artist and writer Jan Richardson and her immensely talented musician husband, Garrison Doles. 

We love it so. 

It’s a very simple service held in a tiny side chapel at the local United Methodist Church. The people who attend come from a wide ecumenical background and are beginning to feel a bit like family now. Garry shares his wonderful music with us. We read scripture together. We sit in long silences together. Jan shares a beautiful reflection that ushers us through the church year. We share conversation as a group from the places we’re sitting in our pews. We break the bread of Communion. 

I love every single aspect of this service, but one of the things I love the most is the chance to let my spirit rest. 

We slink quietly into the chapel, where Garry picks softly on his guitar and others sit quietly—listening, praying, being. We slide into our usual spot in the back pew, set our things down, and settle in. 

I close my eyes and breathe deep. I can feel the settling settle over me.

Time for rest

My spirit is at peace in this place. I’m welcome here. I’m invited to notice God. I’m thankful. 

The Wellspring service is a still point for me.

Do you have a space like this that is a still point for you?

Into This Dark Night: The Invitation to You Here

Purple beauty.

This may be hard to believe, but when you are in a dark night of the senses, you don’t need to do anything. 

In fact, any activity you might do to help things along hinders the progress of this dark night. 

The temptation in this place is to stir up spiritual activity in the hopes of bringing back that feeling or confirmation we used to have that God is here and things are right with our soul. These efforts are in vain. Since the dark night is, in essence, a darkening of the senses, any effort to stir up those feelings in order to gain reassurance will prove fruitless. The senses are turned off for this season.

Another misdirected belief that can crop up in this place is that we need to cling to the spiritual disciplines so our faith won’t run aground here. There’s a belief that doing things will keep us grounded — that we need to keep our faith afloat during this dark time.

Spiritual activity isn’t the need of this season. 

The need is rest … quiet … stillness … inactivity. 

Does that strike you as odd? We’ve been talking about moving from milk to solid foods, from the mother’s breast to our own two feet. Oughtn’t that mean doing things to strengthen our limbs — like a bunch of activity to grow strong? 


Here’s how John of the Cross puts it:

“If only souls that this happens to could just be quiet, setting aside all concern about accomplishing any task — interior or exterior — and quit troubling themselves about doing anything! Soon, within that very stillness and release, they would begin to taste subtly of that inner nourishment, a nourishment so delicate that if they were purposely to try they could never taste it. This work only happens when the soul is at ease and free from care.”

The invitation to you in this place is rest. You are growing up — taking on solids and growing to stand and walk on your own two feet — but this happens at the level of the spirit, not the senses. It’s something God infuses in you. 

In short, he’s the one who grows you up. Your task is to let him. 

Let go. Rest. Be still here in this place.

Is that something you can allow yourself to do?

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?

When Do You Take a Breath?

Beauty and quiet.

Hi there, friends.

Yesterday, I invited you to consider where you find places of rest and whether you’ve found an interior posture of rest that you carry with you everywhere. 

Today I want to talk about taking much-needed breaths.

Do you have time for taking breaths?

Let’s think about this in a physical way.

Our physical breath is closely connected to the life source of our bodies — the heart, as well as the blood that pumps throughout our bodies because of the work of the heart. If we hold our breath, not allowing any breath to come in or out, our blood not only starves of oxygen, but our hearts eventually pump into overdrive and could ultimately stop beating altogether. 

We need breath. It keeps our hearts and bodies alive. It keeps ourselves sustained.

I’ve been thinking about our metaphorical need for breath for a little over a year now. It started when I began work on my master’s thesis proposal and decided to study our increasing connectivity online and how it affects our spiritual lives. I read many books about the way the internet is affecting our brains, our bodies, and our spirits. 

And I realized at the end of it all: 

We need space to breathe.

We need, in the midst of all the craziness and noise, to connect to the ground of our being. We need to breath practices to keep us alive.

This last year has been a journey of experiments, then. Of putting into motion the different ways I saw that I could personally offer spaces for breathing that keep us connected to the heartbeat of our lives and selves.

As know you, one of the primary offerings became this space at Still Forming, which became transformed into a week-daily oasis from the noise. And along the way, other places for rest and reflection — for breathing — were added too. 

This past weekend, I did a little spring cleaning and sprucing up of the oasis of Still Forming to reflect all the “breath spaces” offered here for you.

You can sign up for the once-a-week Cup of Sunday Quiet that arrives in your inbox on Sundays as an invitation to quiet and reflection and connection at least once a week. You can read about how the Look at Jesus course that launched last year is in redevelopment to become a year-long, self-paced journey into getting to know Jesus more, traveled in companionship with me. 

Lastly, I updated my bio and then gave this lovely space a brand-new tagline (see updated site banner!): 

A space for reflection. An oasis from the noise.

Now, that’s better. 

I hope that no matter where you are or how you choose to find it, you find places to rest and breathe on a regular basis. Know that I’m here to champion the much-needed oxygen such “breath times” bring into our lives and to provide time and space for that here the best way I know how.



Finding Places of Rest

Romance of moss.

I’ve been thinking about that tree image a lot — that tree that Jesus showed me I am for others. And that tree, in my mind’s eye, has a number of great big boughs and branches, each one carrying a great, big resting place on the end of its arm. 

There’s support there. Shade. Nesting space. A place to rest. 

And it’s made me wonder about you: 

Where are your places of rest? 

We can find rest in physical ways — through naps, daydreams, “nothing” times, reading, movies, gardening, cooking, lounging by the pool, and other relaxing activities we love. 

We can also find rest inside ourselves — an internal posture that creates a space for peace and goes with us everywhere. 

Do you have places of rest?

Have you found ways to access that interior peace?

His Center Holds

Trinity figures.

I love when I’m reading through the scriptures and a certain word, phrase, or sentence grabs my attention. Yesterday, and then again this morning, it happened with this short passage in Isaiah: 

God is supremely esteemed. His center holds. 

   Zion brims over with all that is just and right.

God keeps your days stable and secure —

   salvation, wisdom, and knowledge in surplus,

   and best of all, Zion’s treasure, Fear-of-God.

— Isaiah 33:5-6

That little phrase “His center holds” just keeps getting my attention. I stared at it for quite some time yesterday, just being amazed and thankful for it. This morning, I let the words turn over and over again on my tongue. 

His center holds. His center holds. 

I marvel at this way of God, especially since I’m so aware of the struggle in my own life that it has taken to hold fast to my own center, not to mention how long it took to even know what my center was. It takes great strength of character and integrity — some would call it moral fiber — to hold to one’s center. 

God’s center is so strong it always holds. 

Not only do I marvel at the difference between me and God in this, but I also feel such rest in connecting to this God whose center always holds. 

He is sure. Secure. Strong. Stable. 

We don’t have to worry about him crumbling or second-guessing who he is to himself or to us. We don’t have to worry if he can handle what we bring to him or who we are.

His center holds. What great relief that provides to me. 

How can this truth about God be a companion to you today?

Just Being Held


Today is one of those days when it feels like I’m holding concerns from many different sources in my heart, and the end result is that my heart is now dragging on the ground. It can feel a bit disorienting, like I don’t really know what happened because I thought I was fine just yesterday, but then when I stop and enumerate what I’m holding, I realize it makes a lot of sense that I’m feeling weighted down. 

I’ve had several moments of sitting with Jesus on the beach this morning through this. 

We sit on the beach head and stare out at the waves, and I try to talk to him about the heaviness of my heart. But words are insufficient, and the talking stops almost as soon as it’s started. Usually, I just end up staring back out at the waves, enumerating to myself again all those concerns and reaffirming, “Yeah. It’s there. The heaviness. For a reason.” 

Each time this morning, this cycle of talking, then stopping, then thinking leads to my just leaning into Jesus, my head against his shoulder, so that he can hold me. He puts his arm around my shoulder and pulls me close, just sitting with me and my heaviness. 

And I realize: this is what I want most of all in this place. 

I don’t want someone who will talk with me about solutions. Not right now, at least. I don’t want someone to talk with me at all, actually.

I just want presence.

And being held by Jesus as we sit on the sand and watch and listen to the waves right now? it’s just right. It’s just what I need. 

I love that we can be with Jesus — or, rather, that he can be with us — in whatever state we are. If we need to talk, he’ll talk. If we need to move, he’ll move with us. If we just need presence, he’ll sit with us. 

What do you need in your relationship with Jesus right now?

He Will Sing Over You

It says hello and good morning to you.

I have struggled with Jesus quite a lot the last few weeks. He has my heart, and he is the most beautiful, glorious vision in my life … and yet we have struggled. 

I have hard questions for him. Questions that plague my heart and soul. Questions that disrupt my days. Questions my mind can’t answer. 

My mind swims and swims, searching for answers, looking for sense, wanting to know God’s grace and truth in places that seem wanting. 

Where are you here? I ask. Where were you there?

I go round and round with him on this. I keep following the trail of questions. I notice almost imperceptible answers, and I follow them, too. 

At times, I think I have understood, and so I follow the trail back to the source of my question and begin the path again, seeing if the answer has come clear. But it still eludes me.

As much joy and life as I carry with me most days, there is a quadrant of my heart that suffers and grieves and weeps before Jesus, unable to know his heart toward me in these questions that I ask.

I’ve been weary. I’ve felt sad. 

This morning, I curled on the couch with my Bible to spend time with him. I opened to the psalms and read about his love. It is a love that never ends, I read. A love that never ends. 

And yet in these places of questions I hold, I have questioned his love. 

My mind started the litany of questions and possible answers again. I started to review them over and over again. And I felt weary. 

Eventually, I stopped.

I stopped talking and asking and positing and just laid my head against him. We were sitting on the beach, at the crest of the shoreline, shoes off, facing the waves. He sat on my right, and I just stopped talking and put my head against his shoulder. Rested my heart and mind. Rested all that work. Gave up, at least for the moment.  

And the next thing I knew, he was singing over me. 

He had his arm wrapped around my shoulder, and he sang quietly over me. It felt like being enfolded in his arms, fully safe and secure. Almost like a small child held in her mother’s arms, full of trust in her mother’s care.

And it was enough. 

In that moment, I felt his God-ness and my human-ness.

I saw that my questions mattered to him because I matter to him, but I also saw that he holds all things. Though I have been rattled, he is calm. He knows what he is doing. And if I don’t know and can’t comprehend, that is okay. He is God, and he knows.

He always knows.

What Is It About That Rest?


Earlier this week, I suggested that our true selves bring rest into our being. Even while moving around in the world or going out and about our days, being connected to and living out of our true selves brings an invigoration and joy and peace that doesn’t include exhaustion. 

I invited you to look around your life for the places you find such rest. Where is your true self cropping up in your life?

One of the readers here, Leanne, shared the following response: 

It’s really hard to find that true rest. I like that you identify the false self being what exhausts us, but where I seem to find true rest is in fleeting moments (like this morning while I was watering the newly transplanted rose and just looking around), or when I’m on retreat at a monastery. Maybe I need to just look around more.

I love the contrast of these two moments Leanne shared with us about her places of true rest: a fleeting moment of watering a transplanted rose and the more sustained experience of going on retreat to an out-of-the-way place like a monastery. 

This comment made me want to push the conversation a little deeper with all of you. Let’s look at those places we experience rest and actually consider them.

What is it about those moments and experiences of rest that bring a connection to your true self? Why does that particular kind of moment or experience bring life and ease and even joy to your life, do you think?

How Might You Cultivate Joy and Rest This Weekend?

This is how we do Sunday nights in our household: holy and creative rituals.

I’ve shared here previously that Kirk and I have begun practicing a day of rest on Sundays, at least as much as we are able. I find myself now looking forward to that day at the end of each week because I know it will invite a time of slowness and — if I’d like — even a bit of creativity into my experience each week. 

As I look ahead to this weekend, I’m anticipating putting the finishing touches on the registration process for the Look at Jesus course. (Registration will open this weekend!) This is exciting, as it means finalizing the video I’ve been planning for you that spills the beans on the course details — just one example of creativity that will inculcate joy for me this weekend. 

What might joy and/or rest look like for you this weekend?

What Are You Disciplined To?

Pink flowers.

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the choices we make and the usefulness of commitments and boundaries. Want to think along with me about this for a few minutes?

I’ve shared here before that Kirk and I have begun honoring the seventh day of each week with a day of rest. This has been so helpful to us (when we’re able to keep our commitment to it!), as it helps us slow down and attend to the rejuvenation of our bodies, minds, and spirits. It creates a natural day of connection for us. It keeps us humble and mindful that the world will not stop spinning if we don’t keep pace with it. 

Last week, we began moving toward another new commitment: keeping the hours of 9PM-9AM for quietness and togetherness in our home. 

There was a time in my life where I would have viewed these kind of commitments as rigid.

I would have viewed making and keeping an informal “rule of life” as opposed to the grace of God. I would have felt myself and my needs minimized in favor of rules and rule-keeping. 

But I don’t view it that way anymore. 

Sure, there is a way of making and keeping rules that can be rather rigid. There is a way of conducting our lives according to certain boundaries and expectations that create a sense of confinement instead of grace and freedom. 

But there is also a way of creating a lifestyle of commitment and boundaries that leads to self-care.

The day of sabbath and the 9PM-9AM quiet hours is like that for us.

These commitments also have the effect of clearly establishing our priorities and keeping us mindful of what most matters to us. Also, I’ve noticed these clear boundaries create a measure of freedom for me. They make decision-making easy. When something crops up that would require me to work and toil on a Sunday or in the hours we’ve designated for our home life, I can more easily say no. Those are times I’m no longer available. Decision-making: easy. 

What about you? Do you have certain disciplines you observe in your daily life? Do they create freedom for you? Do they make you feel caged in? Is there a way you might observe certain disciplines in a more helpful, self-caring way in your life?

More on Limits

Morning reading.

I’ve set aside today as a day of rest. It’s the first day I’ve allowed myself a full day of rest in eleven straight days — and let me tell you, it’s been a difficult morning so far, keeping this commitment. I keep wanting to write e-mails or make plans to schedule my upcoming week. I keep thinking about deadlines and how much I want to keep working in order to meet them or get ahead of the game. 

But so far this morning, even though there have been great surges of struggle to let go of work and sink into rest, I’ve been able to remain committed to what this day is about for me. I haven’t written the e-mails. I haven’t opened my notebook and planner. I’ve rested — literally gave myself permission to sleep a little bit longer — and I’ve continued to let myself actively embrace the plans I’ve made to spend quality time with a very dear friend today. 

But the struggle has gotten me thinking this morning more about the limits of our humanity.

What is at the root of that drive in us that wants to burst through our limits and not be stopped short by anything? What is it that keeps hounding at me to do more and more and more, not welcoming that still small voice in me that pipes up to say, “What is done is good and will have to be enough for now, and now I need to rest”?

I don’t know about you, but for me, the root of that striving drive and that hounding voice has a lot to do with fear. 

I fear falling short. Failure. Not being enough. I fear letting people down or creating some inadvertent catastrophe by a moment’s lack of vigilance. Plainly put, I fear whatever might happen — via circumstance or relationship — from my not being perfect or all things for all people or situations.

Can you relate to this?

I remember another season in my life when I began to recognize this tendency in me as something possibly unhealthy or other than God intends for it to be. I started seeing this drive in me as a tendency toward what I called the superhuman. It was so helpful to even call it that because then I could step back and say, “What does it mean, then, to be merely human?” 

Being human means not being God. It means having a body that can only be in one finite place at a time. It means having a brain that can only hold so much. It means having systems inside me that need nourishment and rest in order to thrive and get rejuvenated.

Being human is an invitation to grace. 

Perhaps it will help you to hear, as it helps me, that when we try to be superhuman, we’re trying to be other than what we actually are and what God made us to be. When we’re aiming for the superhuman, we’re actually trying to be what God alone can be, which is to say without flaw or failure or misstep.

When we’re trying to be superhuman, we’re more than likely trying to protect ourselves from pain or judgment or rejection or disappointment in some way. More often than not, we are acting out of a fear of what might happen if we don’t do it all, whatever “all” might be for us. 

Right now, in this moment, with what you’re facing, what do you fear will happen if you allow yourself to embrace the reality of your limits? If you played out your worst fears to their imagined conclusion, what might that look like? What is it like for you to hear that God made you human, not superhuman?

He Will Lead You Beside Still Waters

Still waters.

I think a lot about Jesus. Over the last ten years, he has become the most prominent figure in my spiritual life and connection to God. I love what Paul says about him: that Christ “gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get” (2 Corinthians 4:4). 

Isn’t that amazing? In looking at Jesus, we get to see God. 

Jesus used many metaphors to describe himself, and we could probably occupy ourselves for an entire lifetime just thinking deeply on each of those metaphors.

For today, I want us to consider the metaphor of shepherd

We have explored previously the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and what it is like for us, as sheep, to be a part of his fold. There is gentleness there, and kindness. There is provision and being seen. Jesus knows each of our names. 

Today, I want us to consider a couple lines from the very familiar Good Shepherd psalm, which says: 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

—Psalm 23:1-3

The Message version of this passage says it this way:

God, my shepherd!

I don’t need a thing.

You have bedded me down in lush meadows,

you find me quiet pools to drink from.

True to your word,

you let me catch my breath

and send me in the right direction. 

I love that image of being “bedded down in lush meadows,” don’t you? There’s such a feeling of rest and comfort, like sinking into a huge, billowy, soft bed with luxurious goose-down pillows and comforters. And the image of having quiet pools from which to drink and a chance to catch our breath — what a relief!

Life with Jesus does not mean life without danger or distress. Sheep herds get attacked by wolves. Every year, they must be sheared. They have to travel each day somewhere to get exercise and food and drink. Sometimes sheep get lost. 

But walking as a sheep in the fold that’s led by Jesus means always being cared for by him in each situation. He knows the soft meadows and still waters you need. He will lead you there. He companions with you there and stays with you as you drink and eat and rest. If you get lost, he comes after you. He knows if you are missing. 

What is it like for you to receive Jesus’ presence in your life in this way? Can you allow yourself to rest in the lush meadow and drink from the still waters he offers you today?

Imagine Jesus with You

Grainy wood.

As you sit upon that large and sturdy rock and consider the flowers growing at your feet, begin to imagine Jesus sitting with you in that scene. He may be sitting on a bench across from you or kneeling at your feet.

Can you see him? 

Don’t feel any expectation or pressure to say anything to him or to hear him say anything to you. Just get used to his presence being with you in the scene.

Sit there quietly with him for a few moments. 

And as you sit in the quiet with Jesus, consider these words he used to describe himself: 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

— Matthew 11:28-30

When we think of Jesus, many beliefs and images may come to mind. We may remember different scenes from the Gospel accounts that have taught us certain things about him. We may have a particular image in mind when we simply think his name. 

In this moment, simply consider these few words he spoke about himself. Notice the invitation to come to him and rest. Notice that he calls himself gentle and humble in heart. Notice that he says his offering to you is easy and light. 

What is it like for you to be in the presence of Jesus in this quiet moment? What is it like for you to hold these words he speaks about himself?

Consider the Flowers

Rock garden.

As you are sitting on that large and sturdy rock from yesterday’s meditation, I want to invite you to notice the small flowers springing up from the ground at the base of the rock. 

Can you see them?

Take a moment to really look at those flowers. What colors are they? Are there different kinds? What are their petals like? What about their centers? What are their stems like? What do you notice about the soil they grow from?

Sit with the image for a few moments and really notice the flowers growing below you. Then consider Jesus’ words: 

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin.

— Matthew 6:28

The flowers are quite beautiful, aren’t they? And they are beautiful simply doing what they do: growing from the ground, being gorgeous and worthy of our care and admiration without even trying. 

You are beautiful that way too. 

Can you allow yourself to receive that same care and admiration from God as you sit upon that rock, simply for existing and being who you are? 

A Place to Rest

Rock garden.

This morning, as I was talking to Jesus about this space and asking him what you most needed to receive today, I kept seeing in my mind’s eye a large rock resting off to the side of the path where Jesus and I were walking. It was the perfect rock for sitting down and taking a rest. 

Jesus kept directing my attention to the rock. He wanted me to invite you to sit down upon the rock and rest a while. 

It brought to mind a simple song of worship that I grew up singing in church. Perhaps you have heard it before. One of the lines in the song asks God to place our feet upon a rock. To me, that line has always been a request for God’s protection from harm. A rock is sturdy and cannot move. If our feet are placed upon it, then we are safe in its sturdiness, too.

Whatever may come alongside the way of the rock won’t be able to sweep us underfoot. 

Place my feet upon a rock, God.

About a year ago, I recorded that simple little worship song as a meditation for another website I maintain. I am embedding the video here so that perhaps you will find it helpful as an invitation to prayer for your own heart. Perhaps it will become a form of prayer for you as sit upon that large and sturdy rock on the side of the path where Jesus is inviting you to rest. 

Approximate run time: 2 minutes

If you’re unable to see the video, click here.

Can you imagine that large and sturdy rock on the side of the path? Will you let yourself sit down upon it? What is it like for you to receive the invitation to sit and rest here for a while?