A (Near) Month of Thanks: Freedom

I love this bench.

It’s voting day in the U.S. today. (It’s surely been a long time coming!)

Kirk and I voted early on Sunday, and as we walked toward our polling place to stand in line, I thought about the gift that it is to have the voice of a vote. I thought about the places in the world where elections are fixed or votes are suppressed — or where there’s no citizen voice involved in governance at all. 

So, for today’s gratitude theme, it seemed only fitting to consider freedom

  • I’m thankful for the freedom to vote.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to vote differently than my neighbor.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to think and ask questions.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to formulate ideals.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to live a lifestyle based upon my convictions.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to worship.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom to love.
  • I’m thankful for the freedom from anxiety, fear, and judgment I find in Jesus.

What about freedom makes you thankful?

A (Near) Month of Thanks: Let's Begin with Home

Light flows in.

I’ve noticed on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook this last week, since the calendar changed to November, a lot of people are taking this month as an occasion to give thanks for something new each day.

This got me thinking about the two occasions we talked about gratitude last week in the prayer series and how helpful I’ve experienced gratitude to be for engendering an overall feeling of health and well-being in life. 

This new series here will invite us to practice gratitude throughout the rest of this month. 

Each day, I’ll post a gratitude theme, and we’ll have a chance to reflect on what aspects of that theme we are thankful to experience in our lives. I’ve turned the comments back on for this series so we can collectively experience each person’s unique thanksgivings, should you desire to share.

So, for example, home.

  • I’m thankful my home is a place of peace. 
  • I’m thankful so many elements in our home carry stories.
  • I’m thankful Solomon and Diva have found their home with us.
  • I’m thankful our home is a simple but beautiful space.
  • I’m thankful people find rest and peace and welcome in our home.

What about home makes you thankful?

Closing Thoughts on Prayer

Reaching for the sun.

Hi, friends. 

I’ve so enjoyed writing this series on prayer for you.

I’ve loved receiving emails from many of you over the last 5 weeks who said you’ve been encouraged to learn all the various forms that prayer can take. Some of you shared your faith has felt validated by this series. Some of you have shared surprise at some of the entries, asking, “Can it really be?” Others of you have shared that you felt relieved, also asking, “Can it really be?” 

This series could continue on indefinitely, if we really wanted it to. I have a list in my planner that includes even more forms that prayer can be, including:

  • Dance
  • Study
  • Lectio divina
  • Cleaning the house
  • … and more.

I think what’s important to notice here is that prayer is life. 

When the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonian church and encouraged them to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), I don’t believe he had in mind for them to kneel at their bedsides, brows furrowed, talking in concentrated verbal prayer every moment of the day to God.

I believe he intended them to learn to experience all of life as prayer.

To find connection with God in all we do. To discover the truth of our hearts in our activities. To offer those revelations to God. To consider the ways God might be speaking and inviting us to notice our hearts and his voice throughout our days. 

I’ll see you here on Monday with a new series to share. 

Much love,


Prayer Can Be ... Gratitude

My beautiful girl.

One of the components of my life for which I feel great gratitude.

On Sunday, I was in two gatherings at church where the concept of gratitude entered in.

The first was a gathering to learn about the healing work of God, led by an older Australian gentleman who has given his life to the ministry of healing in the church. He shared that gratitude is important to healing in the sense that if we don’t recognize what God has already done in our life (gratitude), it makes it harder to be open to what he can do (healing). 

Later in the day, our assistant rector spoke along similar lines at the contemplative eucharist service. He said that gratitude creates an opening in us for God. It helps us see, and then we have a greater capacity to see more. 

I know some people who keep a daily gratitude journal, just looking out upon their lives and writing in that journal each day the things for which they have to give thanks.

For myself, I find that practicing the review of the day increases gratitude in my life in a very natural way and in significant measure. When I begin to see on a regular basis that God is present and working in my life in so many ways that I might not have seen in the moment they happened, that increases my posture of gratitude toward God and toward life. 

How might gratitude become a form of prayer for you?

Prayer Can Be ... A Review of the Day

Time will tell.

I’ve written on two different occasions about something called the prayer of examen. It’s a simple, daily practice of taking 10-15 minutes at the end of each day to review the events of the day and look for evidences of God.

Sometimes we’re aware of God’s presence with us in the day, and sometimes we’re not. The prayer of examen, or review of the day, gives us a chance to acknowledge God and to find God in places previously unseen. 

When I practice a review of the day, a wide variety of moments can be called to mind:

  • Being saved from a potential car crash
  • The chance to participate in the eucharist at church
  • A text from a friend or loved one
  • An email that deeply touched me
  • That moment at the end of the day when all four of us — Kirk, me, Solomon, and Diva — pile on the bed to snuggle and make each other laugh
  • Remembering to pay a bill coming due
  • The chance to sit in quiet on my couch for a half hour, just reading and praying
  • Beautiful weather

These are evidences of God’s goodness toward me. Ways God provided for soul and body. Ways I was opened to love and grace. 

It is a chance to notice and give thanks.

Could a review of the day be helpful to you?

Prayer Can Be ... Preparing a Meal

In the kitchen.

Sometimes when I’m in the kitchen preparing dinner at the end of a work day, anticipating Kirk to walk in the door at any moment, I’m aware that the dinner preparations have become like prayer. 

I’m slicing tomatoes or pressing garlic or sauteeing onions or browning meat. I’m stirring soup or measuring broth or chopping cilantro or pouring spices. I’m squeezing lime wedges or mashing avocadoes or dicing bell peppers or shredding rotisserie chicken. 

And all along, I’m holding Kirk and our home in my heart. 

I heard a description of prayer once as “holding someone up to the light.” Not using any words or making specific petitions. Just holding them up to the light. 

Preparing a meal in our home often becomes that kind of prayer for me.

I’m holding Kirk and our home close to me, then holding them up to God. Just presenting them. Us. Our life. My heart toward him. My heart for peace reigning here. My love for the provision of sustenance in our home. My love for sharing that meal with him.

What is it like for meals to be viewed as prayer for you?

Finding God in the Daily :: Choose One Thing

Gentle beauty.

A gentle beauty.

When it comes to finding God in the daily, it’s so easy to go from zero to 60, in terms of hyper-awareness and intention. We think, God is everywhere! He can be found in everything! All that I do is weighted with significance and meaning. I must attend to this. 

And then we crash and burn. We get defeated and overwhelmed. This can happen so easily.

I’d like to encourage you to choose one thing. One thing. Through the course of this series, we explored many avenues and angles for finding God in the daily. Some of the practical methods have been:

Instead of trying all of these possibilities at once, choose one. Try it on as an intention for a week. Or a month. Allow it to become a singular method of transformation right now.

You don’t need to be in hyper-mode about all this. God is about your transformation, and that is a lifelong process. He’s in it for the long haul, and he’s about going deep with you. He’s about changing you to your core. And he can do that much more effectively through your focused partnership.

That is the heart of spiritual discipline and formation, as we’ve explored here before (see here and here): we choose something that’s within our power to do (a singular set intention) so that God can use that energy and focus to transform us from the inside in ways we can’t transform ourselves.

Choose one thing. Let it be enough. Let that one thing be your means of transformation right now.

What one thing will you choose?

Finding God in the Daily :: At Home, at Work, in Relationships

Sitting pretty.

Noticing life.

As we’ve been working through this series, I’ve been wanting to provide you with a sample list of questions you can hold in the different areas of your life to help you notice God’s activity and presence, as well as your own formation process. And so that list — broken up by categories — is below.

This is not an exhaustive list, of course, but it’s a good set to consider when you’re wanting to be intentional about noticing God in the details and how those details can contribute to your ongoing formation. 

At Home

  • In what area of your home do you experience the greatest felt presence of God? Why do you think that is? 
  • Enter each major area or room of your home and offer a prayer over the people and activities that populate that space.
  • In what ways do you experience God in your home? 
  • In what ways do you wish you experienced more of God in your home? How can that desire become a point of prayer and a place of intentionality for you?
  • Imagine Jesus’ presence with you in every activity you engage (making meals, driving in the car, cleaning the house, watching TV, engaging with those you live with, etc.) through the course of one full day. What do you notice about his presence?

At Work

  • What conflicts do you experience at work? How might these become opportunities for prayer? 
  • Do you become more or less like your true self at work? Why do you think that is?
  • How do you experience the strengths of who God made you to be in your experience of yourself at work?
  • What spirit pervades your workplace? Is it a spirit of laughter, joy, freedom, comaraderie? A spirit of fear, divisiveness, apathy? Notice the spiritual undercurrent of your workplace, and join in the spiritual battle through prayer as you work.
  • Which fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control — is least fruitful in your work life? Allow the cultivation of that particular fruit to become a point of focus between you and God.
  • Is there anyone who could use your words of encouragement today? 

In Relationships

  • Where do you experience joy and freedom in relationship right now? What dynamic allows that to be your experience in those relationships? 
  • How are the people in your life reflections of the different attributes of God?
  • Is there a pattern to the struggles you experience in relationships? How can that pattern be an entry point for growth in you? What might be God’s invitation to you in that particular struggle?
  • How can you be a reflection of the heart of God toward the people in your life right now?
  • What do you most fear in the context of relationship? Share that fear openly with God and listen for God’s words in response to you.

What questions would you add to this list? 

Finding God in the Daily :: The Daily Examen

Life hanging on.

Noticing the details.

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

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

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

So, what is the daily examen? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding God in the Daily :: When God Finds You

Dangled in light.

Dangled in light.

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

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

But sometimes it’s just about God. 

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

That’s what happened for me this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

I needed that reminder today. Do you?

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 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?

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 :: Noticing Ourselves


Noticing what’s different.

Sometimes it’s easier to notice ourselves than it is to notice God.

For instance, here are some of the things that churned through my mind this morning:

  • I need to talk to my co-worker about a transition plan. I wonder what we’ll decide to do.
  • I wish things weren’t so hard with my friend right now. My heart is really sad. 
  • It feels like Jesus has turned me out on my own. I miss what we used to share.
  • I need to see my doctor this month. I hope it’s not too late to make an appointment. 
  • That reminds me: I need to refill my prescriptions. 
  • I hope it wasn’t a mistake to schedule my haircut for the morning hours next week.
  • What are we having for dinner again tonight? 

Thoughts can churn through our minds like wildfire, leaving a burned trail of debris as they go — all of which affect our disposition and outlook, often without our notice.

Anxiety. Worry. Sadness and grief. Self-criticism. Hyper-drive.

All of these affectations settled on me this morning as my thoughts churned from one thing to the next and I moved through the motions of the day. I was barely aware of the need to stop and notice their effect on me until I walked to the kitchen like a bit of a zombie to refill my coffee and Kirk asked how I was doing.

He could tell something was up, but all I could do was shrug. “A lot on my mind,” I said. “I’ll be okay.” 

I didn’t have to be okay, though. Kirk reminded me of the value of paying attention when he offered to hear what I was holding. And after hearing it, he offered to pray with me.

What we notice in ourselves — our worries, sadnesses, anger, preoccupations, and even delirious joys — can be wide-open gateways to notice and find God. When we notice what’s going on, we can bring it to prayer and ask God to be in it with us. To teach us in it. To hold us in it. To help us know where to go with it.

What do you notice about yourself today? Can you bring that to God in prayer?

Finding God in the Daily :: An Introduction

I married a geek like me.

Hi there, friends.

It feels so good to be turning a corner and committing this space to ongoing series on topics we collectively care about.

It feels like a chance to enter places we’ve always seen and meant to visit but just couldn’t find the time. Even better than that, it feels like being given a personal invitation to visit those places, having our schedules cleared so we’re able to finally say yes, and being led by a tour guide to all the best highlights inside those places, with them telling us about each highlight and then giving us a chance to reflect and respond.

That’s my heart for the ongoing series in this space. 

First up, we’re going straight for the practical by exploring “finding God in the daily.”

Some of the questions raised inside this topic are:

  • How do we actually do this?
  • How do we cultivate a healthy spiritual life when schedules and silence are scarce? 
  • Where is God in the laundry and the dishes, in relationships and work, in stress and overwhelm?

Do you struggle to find God in daily life? What questions would you add to this list?

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.



Living a Rhythmed Life: How Have Things Changed for You?

Outside the window.

Hi, friends.

We’re at the end of our rhythmed life series today. I’ve really enjoyed walking through this process with you!

I’ve heard from a number of you along the way about decisions you’ve made as a result of this series, and I can’t tell you how much it excites me to hear how this process has helped you think through discernment questions and make decisions about how you want to live.

I’d love to give you a chance to chime in and share how this series has met you personally.

How have things changed for you? What have you learned or noticed or decided?

Living a Rhythmed Life (Online): Choosing What We Ingest

Type, type, typing away.

I’ve been looking forward to this short miniseries-within-a-series about living a rhythmed life online.

Mostly that’s because the places I’m called to work are in the online arena. These are my stomping grounds each day and the place I am called to love and serve others, and so I am continually thinking about this and learning what a healthy interaction and rhythm looks like for me in this area.

But I’ve also been looking forward to this part of the series because I know it’s something we’re all learning in the midst of this new internet era. Right? 

So, yesterday we talked about cultivating rhythms of generosity in online spaces, specifically Facebook and Twitter. Today I’d like us to think about being intentional about what we ingest. 

There. Is. Just. So. Much. To. Ingest. 

Isn’t there? 

As I mentioned yesterday, it can get quite overwhelming. And that’s one of the most adverse effects of the internet on our daily lives. There’s such an onslaught of information brought into our awareness at all times, it can totally upend us. (At least, it can upend me.)

It can upend me through the subtlety of distraction.

First I’m doing one thing, like checking my Twitter feed, and suddenly I’ve clicked over to a New York Times article, which leads me to another New York Times article, which leads me to a Google or Wikipedia search, and then I decide to go check Facebook and my email because it’s been about 15 minutes and maybe something new has happened since then, and then suddenly I can’t remember what I was trying to do in the first place.

Crash and burn. Ineffectiveness in total effect.

It can also upend me by disconnecting me from who I am and what I’m here to do.

This connects to what I said yesterday about so many voices clamoring for attention in the online space. On the one hand, the internet is amazing in that it breaks down message barriers and allows each of us to connect to people we would never otherwise be able to meet or reach, and if you’ve got a business or a social cause, that is especially incredible.

But man, it’s like the internet has made the world both vastly huge and microscopically tiny at one and the same time. Now we know everything that’s happening all around the world every second of the day — which not only makes India and Syria and Kenya feel like our next-door neighbors but also makes our minds and hearts practically explode from all the information we learn about what’s happening in all those places. 

It’s hard to hold it all, and it’s especially hard to know what to do with all that information. 

And lastly, the internet can upend me because the voices I hear in that space can affect my interior affect.

If I tune in to snarky, sarcastic banter through the blogs I read or the people I follow on Twitter, I become a bit more sharp-edged too. Or if I choose to ingest too much — subscribe to too many blogs in my feed reader, for instance — I start to feel like I’m constantly behind and a sense of obligation and dread creeps in. I feel pushed to read and read and read, just to catch up. 

And so, we need to be intentional about all this. Don’t you agree?

So, I’m going to lay out for you what living a rhythmed life in the online space has come to mean for me. I’ll tell you what my rhythms and parameters look like, and you may find these to be helpful guidelines for yourself as you work out your own relationship with the internet in your daily life. 

Here goes.

1. It means giving myself clear parameters for my online time.

Sometimes I’m just catching up on Twitter and Facebook for the relational aspect — to see what my friends and family and acquaintances are doing — and so I’m clear within myself that I’m not going to click on a bunch of links to read “extracurricular” material. Sometimes, though, I’m settling in for an hour-long spell of blog reading, so anything that catches my eye to click over and explore (bringing with it the possibility of getting lost in the internet maze) is totally OK. 

What this looks like for me: Usually my relational check-in times happen in the morning, at the end of the work day, and before bed. My open-ended blog-reading and browsing sessions only happen about once or twice a week and usually take place after dinner but before Kirk and I settle in together for the evening.

2. It means unsubscribing from lots of email newsletters.

You know how you buy something once from a company and suddenly end up on some newsletter list? Or how you care about an organization and a cause so you sign up for their email updates?

It’s really easy for me to unsubscribe to those business newsletters, but it’s been tricky for me to navigate the newsletters that come from organizations on causes I care about. I used to care about receiving all those emails, reminded each time I got one that I cared about the work represented by that organization. But I noticed over time that I hardly ever read them — and if I did read them, it was after they sat in my inbox for several weeks and I just wanted them archived already.

In regards to this, I’ve recently re-discovered the amazingness of the “unsubscribe” button. Done!  

What this looks like for me: I don’t sign up for business newsletters when I buy something. If I get added to a random list anyway, I unsubscribe immediately. When getting emails from organizations I support for causes I care about, I wait and see how I respond to the experience of getting the emails. If they sit in my inbox for a while and I only read them it in order to archive them, that means I don’t really want to be on the list — so then I unsubscribe and move on.

3. Unsubscribe from blogs and unfollow Twitter peeps. 

This one’s been historically hard for me. I’ve been reading blogs for about 6 years now, and reading them in a feed reader for about 4 1/2 of those years. There are some bloggers I’ve been following that entire length of time, and I still really love reading their stuff. But there are others, over the course of those years, whose interests slowly diverged from mine, and I read their content with less and less enthusiasm. 

There comes a point periodically where I just have to be real with myself about this and do something about it. And so I go through “spring cleaning” of paring back the subscriptions in my feed reader. I have never regretted this. Instead, it felt like relief. 

Or there could be people I followed on Twitter because I thought I wanted to hear what they have to say. Celebrities and popular bloggers and new people I find because a blogger I like recommended them usually fall into this category. I follow them, but then within a couple weeks — or sometimes a couple months or even a year — I realize I don’t really care what they have to say. Maybe their perspective grazes me, or maybe it pushes me toward becoming a person I don’t really want to become. 

Whatever the reason, I’ve gotten pretty good at tuning in to my interior responses to this and responding accordingly.

What this looks like for me: It’s hard to unsubscribe from blogs I used to love, but interests change and so I periodically do it — especially when I notice that a certain blogger’s posts keep piling up, unread, in my feed reader. It also takes a bit of a “close my eyes and just do it” kind of courage for me to unfollow people on Twitter. If they’re big-name people, I don’t sweat it so much. But when they’re just normal folks, I always feel bad. I just have to remind myself that I only have so much energy and attention to give, and I want to be purposeful about where I give it.

How do you choose what to ingest online? Have you ever needed to set parameters for yourself like this?

Living a Rhythmed Life (Online): Cultivating Generosity

Taking a moment to breathe.

I don’t normally post here on holidays, but since the theme of the July 4th holiday in the United States is freedom, I thought it made for an appropriate time to talk about the freedom to be generous. 

And specifically, the freedom to be generous online.

The seed of this practice, for me, got planted a couple months ago.

Mid-morning one day, I clicked over to Facebook to get caught up on my news feed — the usual morning check-in to see what’s been going on with friends and family since I checked in the night before.

I’ve talked before about the value of delaying this morning check-in until after I’ve spent time in the quiet, and I’m not always faithful to that spiritual practice, but on this particular day I was. I’d been up for a few hours and had spent time writing, reading, and in prayer, and I was ready to engage with the world. 

Normally when I enter into these check-in routines, I scroll and scroll and scroll, tapping or clicking on occasion to “like” or “favorite” a status update on Facebook or Twitter, but not often taking the time to comment. I’m doing it to get caught up, to add my two cents by way of my own status update, and to stop and click on a few updates that I particularly noticed or appreciated. When I do comment, which I’ve noticed has become more and more rare over the last year, it’s usually in response to people I know really well or whose updates connected with me in an unusually poignant or timely way.

But on this particular day, for a reason I still don’t completely understand, I commented on almost every single person’s update that presented itself in my Facebook feed — people close to me and people not close to me, people I talk to regularly and those I very rarely connect with at all. For about 10 minutes straight, I clicked in those little comment boxes and typed out responses to almost every single one of them — an encouraging word here, an acknowledgment there, a question maybe, a “hooray!” sometimes. 

At the end of it, I felt completely energized and overflowing with love for each one of those people.

And a few days later, the same exact thing happened when scrolling my Twitter feed. Again, I clicked and replied to many of the people showing up in my stream, even those I’d never replied to before that day, and I found myself full of energy and love as a result. 

This is unusual behavior for me, and again, I’m not exactly sure why it happened or where the energy and desire to do it came from. It felt a bit like an “encouragement sprint.” It lasted about 10 minutes, and then it was over and I felt nothing but the headiness of love.

Why don’t I do that more often? I wondered. Why do I withhold responses as a usual matter of course? Why do I keep generosity all to myself? 

I think there are several reasons.

Sometimes it’s time — I’m just doing a quick check-in and don’t have time to stop and respond. Hitting that “like” or “favorite” button is a quick and easy way to feel a pulse of connection without asking too much of me.

Sometimes it’s overwhelm. There’s far more information than I can possibly take in. So many people saying, “Check this out! Read this! Go here! Buy that!” I just can’t do it all, and so I tune it out. I scroll, passively, and in that passivity, I’m actively shutting out the noise. I say no to all that noise by scrolling silently by.

Sometimes it’s insecurity. I begin to think and then believe that people won’t want to know me. I think they won’t notice I’m there. I anticipate their judgment. And so I stay small, whispering my own updates through the bullhorn, pouring judgment on myself the whole way through.

And then sometimes it’s judgment in my own heart. There are people in my news feed I just don’t enjoy. Their comments affront my sensibilities and sense of well-being. Or I find them judgy and exclusive, so I judge and exclude them right back. I pass by their updates and, while doing so, push them out of my mind and close them out of my heart. Sometimes I even close them out of my feed completely.

But in this generosity burst? I let all of that go. I chose embrace, acceptance, and the olive branch of friendship. I believed in abundance rather than scarcity. I made room in my heart for connection and care.

And I remembered: that’s the person I want to be. 

And so I’m choosing, more and more, to cultivate generosity in my online life. When I’m tempted to just scroll on through to get caught up, I remind myself how much an encouraging word or a simple acknowledgment of response can mean to someone else, even if it’s just a quick, “Hey. I see you. I hear you. I care.”

And when I find myself getting stingy or closing up my heart online, I know it’s time to practice this in a more focused way. I know it’s time to take 10 minutes for an others-focused “encouragement sprint.” 

This practice opens me up. It connects rather than isolates. And it builds into me more of the person I really want to be: one of welcome and love. 

Can you relate to any of this?

Living a Rhythmed Life: The Gift of Dailiness

Coffee's ready.

So, I am not a person historically concerned with the dailiness of life. I’m a thinker. A writer. A mystic type. I live in the mysteries and questions of life more than the practicalities of it, and I have always been this way. 

This is not quite conducive to real life, though, is it? The dishes need to be cleaned, the laundry needs to be run and folded, and food needs to make its way into our homes, through our appliances and cookware, and eventually onto our tables and into our stomachs. 

I fought these realities for much of my childhood and young adult and even mid-adult years. 

I would rather read a book than cook dinner. I would rather work on a project than think about the grocery store or filling my car with gas. I would rather have a really great soul-deep conversation than tidy up the house. 

Who wouldn’t?

(Ha. I say that knowing full well not everyone is wired like me.)

But the rhythmed life has really changed this for me. 

Now there is a place for things to go and a reason for them to be included and to go where they go. 

For instance, I mentioned earlier in this series that I do my meal-planning and grocery shopping on Monday afternoons. I sit down at my computer and work out a dinner menu for the week, then go through the recipes and add needed ingredients to the ShopShop app on my phone, and then take off for the grocery store. (I wrote more of the nitty-gritty details of this routine in another online space here.)

I’ve found a real sense of stability and even pleasure from having a routine and time of the week for doing this. In that period of time, I’m completely focused on caring for Kirk and our home through the vehicle of food. When I walk the aisles of the store, noticing how familiar they’ve become, I feel so connected to our home. I feel aware that I am a provider of sustenance for us and that doing this for us allows Kirk to remain focused on his own work, not having to worry about how or what we’re going to eat every day of the week. 

It gives the dailiness a greater sense of purpose, a connection to something higher and important to me.

And then there’s just the joy living inside that space.

Putting away the groceries becomes a familiar puzzle of placing items where they normally go in the fridge. Cooking meals becomes a creative and rhythmed dance, with meals coming together with smoother and seamless ease the more I make our favorite meals. Washing dishes at the sink becomes a meditative time of prayer — often a time when you, the readers here, come to mind and I hold you to the light of God, especially when you’ve shared with me some of your concerns and life realities.

When it comes to the dailiness of life, I’ve learned a rhythmed life is immensely helpful for two reasons: it gives these activities a place to go (a time of day and/or week when they get my attention) and it gives them a measure of purpose. 

A place and a purpose. What gift.

How might the dailiness of your life be aided by place and purpose?