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?

Prayer Can Be ... Silent

Morning light.

At the end of the weekly lectio that I record each week for the Cup of Sunday Quiet, I usually include a few moments to sit in silent acknowledgment of what that time has held. 

God is present. We are present.

And we just hold the acknowledgment of that for a few silent seconds.

This is prayer, too. 

In fact, these “prayers of the silences” are an often companion in the journey of my life with God right now. God is here, but we aren’t communicating in conscious, cognitive ways like I’ve been used to doing. 

It’s a strange and difficult change, but it is also okay. I sit in the silence, staring off into space, and I know God is here, just as much as I am. No effort to put things into words is needed. Just being aware of our presence in the same space is enough. It is prayer, too.

Do you ever experience these prayers of the silences?

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?

Enter a Moment of Silence


I am not going to say many words today. 

Instead, I invite you into silence. A moment of silence. Close your eyes and connect your being with the infinite being of God. Allow yourself to be in the presence of God’s infinity. No words are necessary. 

Can you be in a moment of silence today?

The Sound of Silence

Christ in the sky.

Last night, Kirk and I had the great pleasure of attending a monthly gathering here in Winter Park, called the Wellspring, led by Jan Richardson and her husband Gary, both of whom we met at a contemplative retreat they led here in town recently.

And wouldn’t you know it, but the theme of this month’s Wellspring gathering was rest. Such apt timing for what we’ve been considering here in this space this week.

After each of the Scripture readings in the service, we entered into a short time of silent reflection. And during one of those silences, I just allowed myself to take in its sound.

What was the sound of silence like? 

I could hear the occasional creak of a pew. I could hear the air conditioner’s whir. I could hear the scratch of pen against paper as Kirk jotted down a quick note next to me. I could hear my own thoughts bouncing from one place to the next, from reflection on the passage to the worries I had about my day. 

Eventually, my ears tuned to that A/C whir and joined with the image of the sky scene you see in the photo above, which I’d captured just before entering the chapel that night. And it was like my ears and mind and whole being poised, attentive to the sky’s silence for a moment, taking in the sound of clouds, the space of God’s habitation of the heavens.

The sound of clouds. Just being with God. 

What is the sound of silence right where you are? When you close your eyes and listen, what do you hear? 

Continued Thoughts on Personality and Silence

Tree and field, shadow and light.

On a previous post, I shared that I have an extroverted friend who is helping me think about God in new ways.

We’ve been continuing our dialogue on introversion and extroversion, and I’ve been learning so much from him about how an extrovert can connect to God in meaningful ways. He’s been kind to share with me, for instance, some pretty amazing examples of how he connects to God that involve group discussion, podcasts, corporate worship experiences, and even exercise. 

Isn’t it amazing that God is bigger than our own personalities? I love that. 

I also love the way two readers here, Terri and Sara, helped me think more deeply about whether silence is the place we grow and heal. They were so wise to say that something being the case for one person doesn’t necessarily mean it is the case for everyone. I think this is so true, and a good reminder for all of us.

I know that for me in particular, being the contemplative introvert that I am, it can be easy to relate to the healing, nurturing side of silence and contemplative prayer. The words of Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton, in particular, are so instructive and encouraging to me. They seem to speak my native language. 

But for someone like my extroverted friend, dialogue with other believers or experiencing the church in corporate worship can also be vastly healing and nurturing. God can be just as present and accessible in those places as he is in a hermitage or monastery or prayer closet. 

All of this has gotten me thinking about the many dimensions of God and his vast personality.

God’s being contains all of the proclivities and preferences that we as humans experience and exhibit. So no matter who we are or how we experience the world, we can find some measure of God there. 

Isn’t that kind of mind-blowing?

I love how vast God is. 

PS: Speaking of Terri, she wrote a beautiful reflection on how silence removes the usual barriers between us and our neighbors, which I found deeply edifying and helpful. Highly recommend!

The Role of Silence

Stained glass in our bedroom.

Yesterday I asked what it’s like for you to experience silence. Today I want to share with you some words about silence that I read recently and hear your perspective on them: 

Some have said silence is the first language of God. It is in silence that we grow, we heal, and we open to God. 

I’m curious: what do you think of these statements? 

When I read these statements, I can’t help but consider each statement in its own right.

First, there’s the statement that silence is the first language of God. It makes me think of how God spoke the world into being — that he used words to do so. When God speaks, he creates. So before creation, there was just God, communing with God’s self.

It makes me wonder: does the Trinity require words to commune with itself?

Perhaps there is simply an all-perfect knowing that God has with God’s self that doesn’t require words at all.

And then there’s the statement that it is in silence that we grow, heal, and open to God. What do you think about this? 

I know that, for me, it is in silence that I’m able to get in touch with what is most true inside of me. When the noise of the outside world and the noise of my own internal chatter have quieted down, I can get in tune with what is true and then offer that to God. 

But I also know that conversation brings growth and healing, too.

Prayer can certainly look like a silent opening to God without the use of any words, but it can also be a conversation. Even in normal life, in conversations with soul friends, I experience growth and healing not just in a silent sitting together, but also through our conversations. 

Or perhaps the growth and healing of those conversations actually happens in the after-moments — the moments of taking in what was spoken about, of letting it sink in deep. 

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this.

What do you think of this notion of silence being the first language of God? What is your response to the idea that silence is the place we grow, heal, and open to God?

The Experience of Silence

Thin space.

I’ve shared here before that Kirk and I have been attending a contemplative eucharist service on Sunday nights over the last few months. It’s such a refreshing place to gather in silence with other pilgrims and be present to God.

It’s a very simple service: there are some prayers we all say together, as well as a reading of the Gospel and a simple song. The rector blesses the bread and wine and invites us all to partake in the eucharist.

But other than that, there are extended periods of silence. Between each segment of the service, there is silence. Before the service begins, we gather in the silence. And when the service ends, we are asked to depart in silence. 

I wonder: do you find silence easy or difficult?

It’s so rare to find bits of quiet in daily life, isn’t it? Even when we’re alone, it’s easy not to experience silence with all the ways we can stay connected to information and conversations online. 

When I find a moment of quiet, I experience it as a blessed relief.

However, I know that for others, silence can be disconcerting and somewhat unsettling. The silence is so … silent

What about you? How is it for you to experience silence? Is silence something you value in any way?

Taking Time to Be Still

Today as I’m traveling home from several days spent with family in California, I’m reflecting on the value of silence.

One reason I love air travel is that it provides extended pockets of quiet — time to be alone with my thoughts, a good book, my journal, some of my favorite tunes. My soul becomes very still and calm and at peace when I travel, usually.

So in these extended pockets of time gathered around me today, I invite you into at least one moment of it.

Can you take a moment to be still today? When you do, where do your thoughts turn? What desires emerge? What sort of prayer emerges from your heart?

Are We Willing to Learn Silence?

This morning, as part of my devotional reading, I started making my way through a Henri Nouwen classic called Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while, as I always enjoy learning more about the desert fathers and mothers and their wisdom. Also, the book includes calligraphic renderings of the sayings on each page, and I have come to really value books that combine prayerful words and artistic meditations. Somehow the artwork invites the words on the page to sink deeper into my heart. (Thomas Merton’s Dialogues with Silence is another great example of this kind of book.)

So this morning I started reading this book on the desert fathers, and I was startled to discover the following story and its accompanying image on page 5: 

It was said about Abba Agathon that for three years he carried a pebble around in his mouth until he learned to be silent.


It was surprising enough to encounter the notion of someone carrying a pebble inside their mouth for three years. Wouldn’t it break their teeth? I imagined the pebble inside his mouth, pushed off to the side and stored next to his cheek as some kind of ongoing reminder of this discipline he’s adopted to learn silence.

But then I saw the image. 

Do you see the pebble in the image above — the way it’s placed between his lips? 

It would make talking impossible.

And that got me thinking.

If I had something sitting between my lips like that for three minutes — much less three years! — I wouldn’t be able to speak at all in that time. I would be forced to listen. 

I could see myself, for example, standing in the front room of my house in the evenings when my husband gets home, standing right next to our farm room table where we eat dinner each night as I listened to him share about his day. I could see myself standing there with a pebble between my lips, listening to him.

I would be truly listening in that moment, not reacting or having an opinion or chiming in with my own thoughts.

I can see how, over time, this kind of discipline would cultivate a posture of listening that becomes more and more second nature. I can see how it would form us into people who honor those before us as persons who have words to say worth hearing. I can see how it would create greater room for them to share their thoughts and dreams and opinions and experiences without attending to interruptions or another person’s thoughts, words, or opinions in the midst of their own sharing.

Perhaps people would begin to feel the greater worth of their personhood because they experienced our intent to truly hear them rather than have anything necessary to say or add. Perhaps they would feel the space around their personhood enlarge, giving them room to speak more honestly and openly and with a greater degree of vulnerability and truth.

What would it be like to live this way? What would it be like to quiet the urgency within us that wants to speak at every turn and have something we think needs saying? What would it be like to become people of silence instead?

Would you value becoming this sort of person?