Prayer Can Be ... Symbolic

My favorite wall.

I have this wall next to my desk that I call my prayer wall. Affixed to it are 5 or 6 symbolic items I’ve purchased or received as gifts over the years. 

Each one of these symbols reflects something deep and meaningful to my heart. 

One of the symbols is a cast-iron symbol of a tree. It has small sprouting buds on each branch, and the topmost branches make the form of a cross. It reminds me of resurrection — that life springs out of death. It speaks of my life’s work, which is centered around growth. It reminds me of the tree of life.

Another of the symbols is a tiny golden-bronze cross that has 12 individual stick-figures joining hands in a circle at the center of it. Their joined hands create the image of a heart between each one of them. This symbol reminds me of my heart for cooperation and my prayer for a peaceful world. 

Yet another of the symbols has a large Holy Spirit dove on it, swooning over the word “Pax,” for “peace.” It reminds me of my ongoing journey to understand and embody nonviolence.

It’s my prayer wall. 

Sometimes, when sitting at my desk, I stare at each image, letting my gaze linger on each one.

It’s a time of remembering who I am in my deepest core. It’s a time of asking God to keep cultivating in me the heart he gave me before I was born. 

Do you have any symbols that are prayer to you?

Prayer Can Be ... Photography

A mossy mop head. :)

I see a mossy mop head. Do you? 

Also, a heart.

About a year ago, a friend emailed to say she was considering an iPhone purchase and wondered how I’d liked my experience of owning one. I had owned mine for about six months at the time, and I wrote her back to say, “It’s changed my life.” 

It seems an audacious claim, I know.

But I made it in all seriousness. There were about 5 reasons I could list — quite readily — to detail why I’d found it to be true. 

And one of those 5 reasons — the most meaningful to me of them all — was the discovery of photography it brought into my life, specifically through the use of the Instagram app.

Whether you use Instagram or some other app, a “real” camera or just your handheld phone, photography can become a form of prayer in several different ways.

  • First, it makes us aware. When we have a camera in hand, we notice the details. We have an eye out for beauty. We’re present to our surroundings, looking for what speaks to us to be captured. 
  • Second, it makes us still. In the moment of taking a photograph, I find that everything slows down to zero. My breath even holds in my throat. I’m completely in tune with the moment and the object in front of my lens. Time evaporates. 
  • Third, it enlivens. On the Instagram app, the creative proess extends beyond the click of the camera. There’s an instant editing process that invites further interaction with the image and experience. Different filters lend perspective and mood. The blurring tools help accentuate intention. The photograph becomes an organism enlivened by our touch — and it’s enlivening to experience, too. 
  • Fourth, it gives us a chance for remark. When something catches my notice to be captured as a photograph, usually a short word, phrase, or line runs through my mind immediately. This becomes the photo’s caption — the way I share my heart in taking it, the way I make that image an offering.

I’ve found that photography — even my “poor man’s” version of it — heightens my love affair with beauty, stillness, perspective, and creativity. It’s a way to see and to express my heart. In a way, it’s how I tell God, “I see you here.”

Have you ever experienced photography as prayer?

Prayer Can Be ... Art Collage

Finished collage :: Intimations of Me.

My first art collage, June 2012.

In the course of a visit one time, a friend said she had something she wanted to share with me. We sat down on her comfy two-person rocker chair, and she pulled out an art collage piece she’d created.

All over the piece were images and words she’d pulled from various magazines and collected into one concentrated place. 

It was the words that arrested me the most. They spoke of realities near and dear to her heart. Realities we’d spoke often about in the years of our friendship. Realities she’d incorporated into her lifestyle and that had guided some of her biggest life decisions.

I was staring at a piece of her heart on that posterboard.

And it was holy. 

No words but three could escape my lips in that moment. “This is prayer,” I breathed.

“It is?”

My friend was surprised. She hadn’t created the collage with prayer in mind. She’d just set out to express what she cared about. 

But it was indeed a form of prayer.

When we get in touch with the most interior truths of ourselves — when we touch them, when we see them, when we say, “Yes, this is true of me” — we touch what God also sees. We touch God’s response: “Yes.”

Have you ever experienced art collage as prayer?

Prayer Can Be ... Painting

A fiery tree.

I am, quite admittedly, not much of an artist. I never have been. 

But last year, I began to experiment with paints and markers in my Moleskine, and I discovered how much the process can be prayer. 

Often, I’ll pull out my art supplies, put a blank sheet in front of me, and have no idea what I’m going to create. It often starts with nothing more than a feeling or intuition.

That feeling or intuition may be heavy — out come the dark colors, painted all over the page. It may be hopeful — out come the yellows and greens. It may include a word or a line of words. It may carry symbols or patterns.

It may feel like fiery, passionate, hope-filled growth — and so out comes the painting you see above. 

The paints teach me what my heart has to say. I discover what’s going on in there through color and brushstrokes.

And what comes out is a prayerful offering.

My heart. On the page. Offered up.

Has painting ever been prayer 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?

Prayer Can Be ... Verbal


I can still remember my first prayer journal — the one I started in seventh grade. Its cover looked like denim jeans, complete with an image of a denim pocket with brass rivets on the front.

And it was filled with melancholy.

I spoke often of the boy I liked and how much it hurt that he liked someone else. I begged God for so many things in those written prayers: for the boy to like me, for forgiveness, for a stronger faith.

I think back on that journal and know that, in a way, I was praying. It was prayer in the best way I knew how to do it at the time. It was as honest as I could allow myself to get.

But more than anything, I was really just talking to myself. 

There was always a push and pull between what I wanted to say and what I felt I should say in that prayer journal. I was learning how to express my inner thoughts, perhaps for the first time, but I was also quite inhibited about expressing those thoughts.

Push and pull, push and pull, push and pull.

There wasn’t much room for God there. 

Instead of connecting directly with God, I scoured the Bible for answers to my prayers. I tried to understand God’s perspective on my junior high (and, eventually, high school) cries. I did the best I could to figure out God’s mind. 

But God wasn’t much there.

I felt like I was talking out loud on the page to myself and to a very stoic idea I carried in my mind of God. It pictured God with long white hair and a long white beard, a closed expression on his face as he looked at me, with him seated way up high on a massive throne.

It wasn’t encounter. It was more like fleeing for my life.

Those prayers written in that journal had more to do with me figuring out what I thought and felt about my life experiences and then judging what I thought and felt about those life experiences by what I surmised the Bible had to say about them. 

It had nothing to do with real relationship with God at all.

Verbal prayer is meant to be so much different than that. 

Verbal prayer — whether spoken or written or thought — is meant to be an experience of encounter.

We allow ourselves to see what is true in our hearts, and we allow God to see it too. We experience God seeing it with us. We engage with God about it. This is verbal prayer.

quote this passage from Henri Nouwen’s Way of the Heart often, and I will quote it again. This is the best description I’ve ever discovered of verbal prayer: 

“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.”

Here, we have conscious conversation and a knowing, real encounter with God Himself.

What is verbal prayer like for you?

Prayer Can Be ...

View from above.

In our new series exploration, we’re going to examine prayer — all the different forms it can take. 

It’s so easy to think prayer is one certain thing: sitting and talking to God. 

But prayer is and can be so much more than that. 

I’d love for this series to set you free to experience prayer as so many different things, so many different layers, so many unexpected ways of connecting to God in the midst of your everyday life, your interests, your passions, your lifestyle, your deep heart. 

Come on a journey with me these next few weeks to discover all that prayer can be. 

What are the ways you have experienced prayer?

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: One Way Contemplation Can Look

A rainy night.

When I first experienced the kind of contemplation John of the Cross talks about, I didn’t know that’s what it was. In fact, it was only in hindsight — much, much later — that I realized what I’d endured was a night of the senses in the dark night of the soul. 

All I knew at the time was that completely new revelations about myself were opening up all over the place, and all of those self-revelations caused me to shut down completely. 

I was 19. And I didn’t know which way was up anymore.

I’d grown up in the church and had a relationship with God the whole of my life. It was a meaningful relationship, too — one that guided my life. As I matured in age, I got in involved in the usual things: youth group, youth choir, discipleship groups, Bible studies, and eventually I sang on the youth worship team and discipled girls who were younger than me. I read my Bible frequently and kept a faithful prayer journal. I went to a Christian college. I dated — and then married — a Christian boy.

But then two things happened.

I read a book that, for whatever reason, made me connect with a truth in my heart that I’d never fully acknowledged before: I didn’t understand grace or my need for Jesus. And second, I enrolled myself in therapy.

Through therapy, I began to see how much of my whole existence was spent doing, doing, doing, and how at the root of all that doing was a life-arresting belief that I needed to live that way in order to survive and find love and acceptance.

It was a freefall moment for me, looking around at my entire reality and finding it all suspect. What I thought were my motivations were not my motivations at all. I didn’t know myself. I didn’t know my relation to the world around me. And I didn’t know where God fit into all of it, either.

And so I stopped. 

No leadership or discipleship activities. Very rare church attendance. My prayer journal languished, unattended, by my bedside. 

I did nothing. I just sat in the dark.

For two long years.

Those two years weren’t spent in what you’d call a “loving attentiveness toward God,” by any means. It felt more like a challenge. I was sitting down on the floor of my life, challenging God to prove that he loved me in a way that had nothing to do with all those things I’d been doing, doing, doing to earn that love. Somehow, he loved me beyond all that, but that didn’t make sense to me. And so I sat down and asked him to teach me. And I refused to get up until he did.

This was certainly more rebellious in spirit than the “loving attentiveness” St. John of the Cross encourages during such a season. And it seemed, at least from my vantage point, triggered completely by me. I’d had the self-revelations. I’d enrolled in therapy. I’d decided to sit down on the floor of my life and do nothing. 

But looking back, I eventually came to see that it was, indeed, a night of the senses initiated by God.

And it was, indeed, contemplation — albeit a very rudimentary version of it.

Because while I was sitting there doing nothing for those two long years, the root of my whole being was intently trained on God. I just kept beating against him while I sat there, asking him to give me the truth, knowledge, awareness, belief I needed to learn.

I knew I couldn’t learn it for myself. I had no idea what the learning even was or meant. I was in the dark, but I was willing to sit there and let him work whatever needed to be worked in my soul for as long as it needed to take.

And even though I thought at the time that it was happening because I’d initiated all that “doing nothing-ness,” I know now it was initiated by God. The timing for those self-revelations was ripe. My heart was ready for true awareness and honesty. It was time for me to grow up in love and truth and God.

And so God clicked it all in motion.

And I responded, and said yes.

Into This Dark Night: Existing in Contemplation

Sun pushes through.

I mentioned in the last post in this series that “doing nothing” and “just being” in the dark night of the senses becomes a form of spiritual discipline in this season, and today I’d like to talk about what that means. 

Here’s how St. John of the Cross describes the intended activity of this portion of the dark night: 

“The soul must content herself with a loving attentiveness toward God, without agitation, without effort, without the desire to taste or feel him. These urges only disquiet and distract the soul from the peaceful quietude and sweet ease inherent in the gift of contemplation being offered.”

A loving attentiveness toward God. I just love that description, don’t you? This is the soul’s only necessary activity during this time. 

John of the Cross calls this practice of applying simple, unencumbered, loving attentiveness toward God contemplation. That’s a mouthful of a concept, and it is one that has carried a couple different connotations throughout the centuries for different spiritual writers. 

For some spiritual writers, such as St. Ignatius of Loyola, contemplation referred to the use of imagination in prayer — a kind of contemplation that sat with scenes from the Scriptures or scenes given to the soul by God and noticed the details of those scenes. This kind of “praying with the imagination” became, for St. Ignatius, one way for the soul to reflect upon its posture and relation to God, which then became a gateway to conversation with God.

For another group of spiritual writers, contemplation has referred to a kind of intense, singular study of an object in order to notice — really notice — it. A common example here would be the contemplation of a single flower, staring at it for a long period of time to notice all of its intricacies and, through such intense noticing, be led into spiritual experience. The perspective regarding this type of contemplation is that by studying a single object with such continuity and faithfulness, we deepen our ability to truly see.

John of the Cross meant something quite different by the word contemplation. For him, contemplation meant being present to God without thought, study, activity, or imagination. Simply being before God.

Have you ever experienced this kind of contemplative prayer before?

Finding God in the Daily :: The Whole-Self Approach



I’ve been noticing I often find God in the dailiness of life when my whole self — body, heart, mind, and spirit — all show up in the same place. 

Take laundry, for instance. 

I’m standing at the washer/dryer, the dryer door open, and I’m pulling out all the warm, clean, colored garments. My hands go through their familiar routine of shaking out a fluffed, freshly cleaned and dried shirt, folding the arms back, then halving it top to bottom, then halving it once again. 

On the proper stack it goes: his and hers

Then jeans. Shake them out with a snap, fold them in half, then fold them in thirds. Place them on the bottom of the stacks.

Gather the socks in a pile, then sort them through for pairs. Align, fold, then on the stacks they go.

On and on it goes, each and every weekend. I know this routine by heart. I pile the stacks, swoop them in arms, then place them on the dressers. Done

It’s a zen-like pattern for my hands and arms, but also for the rest of me.

As I complete this task, I’m thinking about a conversation I had last week that just keeps lingering. It’s been there every day, lurking in the shadows, and I pushed it back and back all week. I’ll get to it, I tell myself. 

Standing there next to the utility closet, my body working through the familiar drill of cotton and blue jeans, I have the space, now, to wonder about it. To consider why it has lingered.

And then I notice: there’s shame attached to it — shame I’ve cast on myself, shame I’m sure is cast on me. Now I’m face to face with the truth of it. And so I take it to God: Here’s that familiar shame again. Why do I struggle with this? 

Deep breath. A chance to ask: Can I let go of this shame? Choose to view myself through the full, accepting gaze of God? Yes.

Laundry becomes a whole-self process. 

My body’s doing laundry. And then my heart shows up with what’s true: a conversation that’s lingered. My mind enters in with ruminations and wonderings. The heart and mind fuse at discovery: shame. My spirit talks with God.

This happens at the kitchen sink. It happens in the shower. While driving. While picking up the mail. Standing in the grocery line. Between reps on weight machines at the gym.

Our bodies do things, and we’re attentive to their activity, but we’re also attentive to the heart and mind that accompanies that space. We let all these things create an opportunity for connection with God.

How might you experience your whole self in the dailiness today? How can that be an entry place to God today for you?

The Honesty of Prayer

Knobby tree.

As I read my way through the psalms, I sometimes get caught with a wrenching in my heart at the difficult words the psalmists pray.

In this morning’s reading, for instance, I was met with several pleas in the pages of the psalms for God to annihilate enemies, to ridicule them and bring them to shame. The Message version of the Bible describes these pleas in particularly creative ways. 

These pleas make me really uncomfortable. 

Some of you know that I’ve been on a long and winding road for about four years into the heart and ethic of nonviolence. And this isn’t just a philosophic inquiry for me. It’s not something from which I stand apart and observe, criticizing history and culture in some detached and formulating way.

It’s something that wrecks me. 

I read about torture happening in Guantanamo Bay, and I break down in sobs. I read about the Iranian government tear-gassing and killing citizens nonviolently protesting the outcome of an election, and I begin weeping, only to end up on my bed in the middle of an afternoon, curled into a fetal position and drenching my pillow in tears. I watch Dead Man Walking and break down in the final scene.

When I respond this way, I’m crying for the “enemy” — the one who inflicted the torture, the governmental authorities who decreed the use of weapons and tear gas, the man who sat in the execution chair.

I weep for them. 

I long and ache and plead for their redemption.

I grieve the loss in their souls.

And so I have a hard time reading the psalms sometimes. All those prayers for God to destroy enemies in unendingly creative ways … I just can’t stomach it.

But what helps is the perspective of prayer. 

The psalms are exactly that: written prayers demonstrating the breadth of human experience offered honestly to God. When David says of his enemies, “They’ll die violent deaths; jackals will tear them limb from limb,” or when he says, “The God of the Arrow shoots! They double up in pain, fall flat on their faces in full view of the grinning crowd,” it helps to remember that I’m getting more of a picture of David in that moment than anything else. I’m getting to see the depths of his pain. I’m getting to see him at his wit’s end. I’m getting to see his heart for justice and his clamor against injustice. I’m getting to see his belief in a God who loves and saves and preserves him.

Most of all, I’m getting to see his honesty — his bare-faced, unashamed, unfiltered honesty — before God. He lets his deepest cries come up, articulated from the depths. He’s not afraid to go there with God.

Are you willing to “go there” with God in your prayer life?

What Images Do You Have of Your Life with God?

Tree of life.

By now, it’s pretty apparent that images show up in my life with God quite a lot. And even though that’s been a reality of my prayer life for, oh, about 12 years now, I never cease to be amazed by it or surprised by the images that come. 

I’ve learned that these images are pure gift.

They are given, not constructed by me. Suddenly, they’re just there.

And I’ve found them to be a real help because they illuminate truths about myself and my life with God that I would not otherwise have known.

For instance, gazing at an image can be such a layered experience. 

You can look at it from one angle, and then you can turn it around or walk to a different side of it and look at it again. You see new things from the different angles. Or you can pull back and look at the image or scene as a whole. What surrounds it? What else is happening, beyond the focal point? What sense or impulse do you have while gazing at the image?

The Eastern Orthodox Church is familiar with this practice of holding images in their lives of prayer. They regularly utilize icons to help them “see deeper” into their lives with God. The icons become a window of sorts — a window into the reality of their souls, a window into the reality of God.

Images can be a help in our prayer lives — whether given to us directly by God or utilized externally for contemplative gazing, as with an icon. I am so thankful for these images. They speak truth to me, teaching me, rather than requiring me to speak or teach myself. 

Do images play a part in your life with God at all?

What Is Your Simple Prayer?


I’ve started a daily readings process with a good friend of mine. Every morning, we receive a scripture reading (the same each day for a week), and at the end of each e-mail is a simple reflection question for the day.

After spending the week with a passage that reflects on the nature of true prayer, today’s question asked:

What is your simple prayer today?

I’ve been noticing how my simple prayer keeps changing throughout the day so far.

My first simple prayer, upon waking up this morning, was, “Meet me.” I had a hard time getting going in my day and didn’t have much strength or energy to get into the day, but the thought of being met by Jesus at my desk was a great comfort. 

Then, as I sat at my desk for a while, reading and thinking, I kept bumping up against a new prayer:

“I’m low.” 

It was a prayer of request for him to hear the truth of my experience right now.

I’ve continued to live in a season of aloneness with my life’s work, and it’s been quite acute and painful, even though Jesus has been showing me some of his purposes that he’s working through it all. Also, my schedule has changed quite a bit in the last couple weeks, and I haven’t found my center of gravity with the new adjustments. It’s left me feeling pretty discombobulated and perplexed. And then, of course, you already know about the conversations I’ve been having with myself and with God about my body this week. That is all so new and still so mystifying to me.

So, I’m low. So many changes and unanswered questions leaving me low. And my strong desire was for Jesus to know that, for him to see it. 

And now that he’s seen it, my simple prayer is that he would be with me in it. 

It’s doesn’t feel quite comfortable to sit with the lowness, the unanswered questions, the unfinished feeling of so much right now. But, taking my cue from yesterday’s post, there’s no energy around the idea of gearing up and making it all come together with some strength I simply do not have.

The invitation, instead, is to let Jesus be with me in the brokenness. To experience his presence and companionship right here. To let him know me in this low place. To let him listen to me. To let myself listen to him. To sit here together in the truth of it and see what the experience of relationship with him in this place might bring.

Right now, and probably for the rest of today, my prayer is simply, “Be with me.”

What is your simple prayer today?

What Would It Be Like for You to Walk With Him?

Every path leads somewhere.

Today I’d like to invite you to take a walk with Jesus. 

I don’t mean this literally, although you are certainly welcome to actually go walking somewhere in your neighborhood or in a park or some other place you like to visit. 

I mean it imaginatively. 

If you were to actually take a walk with Jesus, where would you want that walk to be? What would be the perfect place for just such an experience? Take a moment now and ask yourself that question. Then take another moment and imagine that place in your mind. What are the surroundings like? What are the sounds, the smells, the feel of the air like? 

Now imagine Jesus is there with you, walking beside you. What does he look like? Are there any remarkable features you notice about him — his height, his stature, his clothing, his eyes, his mouth, his hands?

What is it like when he looks at you?

As you walk, notice yourself. Do you look at him? Keep your eyes on the ground in front of you? Look ahead or away from him? Do you put your hands in your pockets, swing them freely, hold his hand?

And now I’d like to invite you to discover what the actual walk with him is like. What would you like to say to him? Can you let yourself say it? Would you rather remain quiet? Would you like to listen to him? What might you hear him saying to you?

This has been an exercise in imaginative prayer. If you practice this exercise, I would love to hear what it was like for you to connect with Jesus in this way.

Pulse Check: What Do You Need?

Step through the doorway?

Needs and wants are funny things, especially when it comes to examining the heart.

I’ve noticed so many times over the last couple years that I’m surprised by my wants and needs — that what I think I want and need isn’t what I really want or need at all, once I really quiet myself to listen.

Has this ever happened to you?

My spiritual director, Elaine, is great at helping me clarify my needs and wants — and not just the difference between them but also what is real and what is superficial assumption. There have been several times in the last few years, for instance, that I’ve come into a session with her upset or confused or fidgety about something. We talk for a while about all the conflict of thoughts and emotions I’m carrying, and then she’ll often ask one of two questions: 

What do you need in this place? 


If you could ask God for anything in this place, what would it be?

These are such amazing questions. I’ve found they so often crystallize the difference between what I think I want or need and what I really want or need.

So often when I’m struggling with something, I think that I want God to fix it — to take it away, restore peace and serenity, and just overall to clean things up. But when I really get quiet and listen to my heart’s voice in that place, often the real need or desire is different from that. My heart instead says things like: 

  • I want to know God is here. 
  • I want to know he hears my heart. 
  • I want to remember how to trust him.
  • I just want to see his eyes looking at me.

It’s been interesting for me to notice that I don’t necessarily want or need God to fix everything, but rather that I simply want to know he is there, that he sees me, that he’s not going anywhere. 

That kind of distinction just blows my mind. 

For today’s Pulse Check, I’d like to invite you to consider your own wants and needs.

Consider what’s right on the surface — if you had to answer in a quick heartbeat right now, what would you say you want or need in this very moment?

Then take a moment to go deeper. Allow yourself to ask the question again, with more intentionality: What do I really need right here in this place? 

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?

What Would You Say to Him?


Last week we talked a lot about the posture of Jesus toward you, and at the end of the week, we talked about taking Jesus up on his offer to simply be with you. We said it was the beginning, and that it was prayer. 

Did you say yes to Jesus? 

If not, the offer still stands. It always stands. 

And the very next step is conversation. 

What would you say to Jesus right now? 

As I’ve shared with you already, my conversations with Jesus happen so often on the shores of the beach lately. Could you imagine walking with Jesus on the beach, too? What does the beach look like? What are the two of you doing? 

Or perhaps another place feels more natural to you — a living room, your kitchen table, perhaps your favorite chair. 

Where can you imagine meeting Jesus? Take a moment to be with him in that place. What would you like to say to him there?

This Is the Beginning, This Is Prayer

Will we walk?

This week we’ve been talking about what Jesus has to say to you.

We heard him say that you don’t have to clean yourself up first before coming to him. We heard him say that he can handle all your truth. We learned that the main thing — the most blessed, precious thing — that he wants is simply to be with you and to know you. We explored one picture of what that kind of knowing can look like

Today, he is standing on the shoreline with this offer. 

And the offer is himself.

He is offering himself to you for a lifetime of receiving what it means to be deeply known, deeply loved, always guided, never alone. 

This is where it begins: stepping up to him on the shoreline and saying yes.

Choosing to walk with him. Choosing to let yourself be known by him. Choosing to walk in silence with him sometimes. Choosing also to listen.

This is prayer. This is the beginning. And we choose it again and again. 

Will you receive the offer of Jesus — the offer of himself, the gift of being known, and known, and known — today?