Making the Hard Decisions

Curly tail.

It's been a while since I checked in with you about the Tour de Bliss, and that's mostly because I've had my head down, working hard, hard, hard on the principles it's teaching me. 

One of the biggest principles I've been learning is the value of single-minded focus. 

Let me tell you a bit of that story and the hard decisions it's been leading me to make.

One of the exercises inside the Tour had me brainstorming for several weeks, trying to nail down the essence of my life's work. I'd written pages and pages of these brainstorms, yet I could never get to what seemed like the just-right language.

And so a couple weeks ago, while in prayer, I told Jesus I was at a loss for words about it. I brought it into the presence of Jesus and asked for his help. What is it, Jesus? Can you tell me? 

And that's when he gave me these new words: 

I create spaces for you to reflect on your life with God. 

That's it. That's what I do. That is the essence. I looked at everything I do, and that's the truth of it.

I looked at Still Forming, and I could see it so clearly: that is a space where people are invited to reflect on their lives with God for at least a moment each day -- "an oasis from the noise," I like to call it. 

I looked at my work of spiritual direction offered to people all over the globe: yet another very intentional space created for people to reflect on their lives with God. 

I looked at the Look at Jesus course I created last year: this, too, is a space created for others to reflect on God, and Jesus specifically. 

I create spaces. Spaces for you and God to connect. That is the essence of who I am and what I do. 

And suddenly, I could see it.

This work needs my all-in commitment. If that is what God and I are bulding of my life together, if that is what I want to do with the fullness of my life, then it needs my complete commitment and attention. This life's work will not become the undivided focus of my life by doing it "on the side," amidst a dozen other interests and commitments that I keep.

And so, the hard decisions. 

Since the work of my life originates primarily through the Still Forming online space, that is where I'm going to focus my online efforts.

And so I've made the hard decision to shut down my Lilies blog here, as well as my nonviolence blog over there, in order to dedicate and commit that single-minded focus to what I am called to do with my life. 

It's been hard for me even to consider this decision, especially since this Lilies space has been my online home since I started blogging in 2006. This space has seen the chronicling of many life changes in the last six years. It's a space where I've made many friends. It has also been the place I get to just "be me" -- to let down my hair and tell you the daily and the momentous things happening in my world. I've been grieving the loss of those aspects of this decision. 

But I have good news. 

I am still going to write -- both on Still Forming every weekday, as well as behind the scenes (like on my beloved vintage typewriter that hasn't gotten much use the last 6-12 months!). I'm sensing those more private writings will turn into some long-form pieces I can offer to readers of Still Forming or through some other means. I'm really looking forward to strengthening the writerly aspect of my vocational calling, actually.

And second, I've decided to offer something really special, above and beyond Still Forming, called the Cup of Sunday Quiet, that will provide at least one small avenue for sharing my heart and more personal life reflections with those who want to journey along. 

So, will you consider joining me? Will you sign up for the Cup of Sunday Quiet and join me over at Still Forming? I would love to have you continue this journey with me. 

Here's to taking chances and going all in ...

Much love,


Celebrating Six Years

The one whose hand I most want to hold.

Six years ago this morning, I awoke in a hotel room in Galway, Ireland, to the ambient sounds of talking and laughing and guitar music drifting through the open window of my room from the grassy square below, soft sounds that had carried through the night, providing a sense of kinship and rootedness in an otherwise unfamiliar place.

I ventured down to the hotel lobby a short time later, several pages of ivory stationery in tow, and sat for about an hour at a small table with a cup of tea, writing a wedding letter to the noble man who had asked me to marry him, the man of deep waters with the most honorable heart I'd ever known, the man with whom I had traveled to this ancient land to marry.

Later that morning, I sat with that man, my Kirk, as he read the letter I'd written and then presented him with my wedding gift, wrapped in a small square of red and yellow plaid cloth: his wedding band, thin and silver, handcrafted in Ireland, with the intricate design of the national Ardagh chalice lacing its circumference.

That morning, our travels to the open-air ruins of the 8th-century monastery where we would say our vows included a bus ride, a ferry ride, a taxi van ride, and a journey by pony-and-trap around the edges of Inis Mor, culminating in a longish hike up a grassy hill in our wedding clothes. At the crest of the hill, Dara, our wedding priest, greeted us with a batch of wildflowers: my handpicked bouquet. 

It was the holiest day of my life, the air so thick with heaven as we joined our lives in the thin place of that holy site. I have never looked back.

Happy anniversary, my love. My heart was always meant to be knit together with yours.

"You're Beautiful."


Sometimes in the work I do, it can be easy to use all of the solitude time of my mornings honing in on what Jesus has to say through me. I get my coffee, settle in at my desk, and pull out the Scriptures or a book of spiritual reading, opening my heart to where the Spirit is leading me to touch and speak that day in the space where he uses me to do so. 

It can be easy to turn my focus and tune my ears to what Jesus wants to say through me to others rather than hearing what he wants to say to me -- just me.

Today I took time to hear his words for me. 

After sitting at my desk for a while this morning, I took my tumbler of coffee over to the couch and curled up in the crook of it, feeling myself settle my head against the chest of Jesus and just breathe. And listen. 

And here's what I heard him say: "You're beautiful." 

I felt myself smile. It can be so easy to gloss over words like that, you know? To shake our heads and say thank you and then move on. Next! But this morning, I didn't do that. I let myself really receive those words of my Jesus over me. "You're beautiful." 

I let them be true. 

In the exploration we're doing right now at Still Forming, we're going deep into the realities of suffering. Each day, we wade in a little further. Each day, we notice some new, small aspect of it. Each day, we are invited to consider our own suffering and how we might be invited to hold it. 

It's hard work. Holy work. I feel my knees and elbows tremble most days before the prospect of forming into words some new aspect of the truth and possibilities of suffering. I'm so aware of my inadequacy. I'm so aware of this subject's ability to conduct the energy of a live wire. 

And each day, I face my doubts. What if someone is hurt through these words? What if they feel overlooked, unseen? What if they feel their hurts and wounds are minimized in some inadvertent way? What if I miss something in this? 

And so today, Jesus tells me, "You're beautiful." 

Because when holding such a tender, sacred subject as suffering is, that truth is sometimes something I need to hear, and remember.

A Small but Significant Decision


Do you remember the decision I made at the turn of the year to keep my mornings free and not make any commitments before 1PM? 

Well, some shifts in my schedule happened over this last month, and I decided, after weighing my options, to allow a standing commitment into my schedule that began at noon three days a week. The choice was mine, and it seemed like the best option of the ones I had in front of me at the time. 

What's the sacrifice of one small hour, just three days a week? I wondered. 

I've learned that it was a real sacrifice, actually.

For whatever reason, that morning commitment to remain free and in prayerful solitude until 1PM matters. Even one small hour being chiseled out of that commitment three days a week made a difference -- and one I found myself not happy with at all.

So I checked into whether I could adjust that commitment -- whether I could shift the commitment to commence at 1PM instead, which would mean committing to it four days a week instead of just three. Thankfully, there was no problem at all in making that switch. 

This was a small but significant decision, but I haven't looked back since I made it.

No regrets. Just gratitude and confidence. 

My Little Adventurer

My little adventurer.

It's been a slow, quiet Saturday morning so far.

I've been having issues with my jaw lately, so last night I took a muscle relaxer, hoping it would relax the tension and tightness that keep my teeth and jaw muscles clenched and wound up way more than they should be. 

The result? Waking at 11am from a very deep sleep. Mmmmm.

So, the morning has started slow. Thirty minutes of adjustment to the new day in bed. Then coffee. Catching up on e-mail, then Facebook, then Twitter. Kirk came home from the grocery store with a bouquet of happy yellow flowers. Then Diva followed me to my desk and crawled all over my lap, letting me pull her close and give her kisses on top of her sweet little head. 

Now I've been sitting on the couch with a fresh mug of coffee and Susannah Conway's brave and beautiful new book, and I intend to relish it for a bit right now. It's such a delicious treat to sink into the words and heart journey of one of your favorite bloggers whose journey you have been following for years, you know? As I wrote in a comment on her blog a couple weeks ago, reading this book feels like getting time with her heart, mind, and photographs in all kinds of uninterrupted space. It's like getting 100 blog posts from her instead of having to wait for the next one to be posted -- pretty blissful, if you ask me.

But in the meantime, as I've sat here on the couch with the book, I've noticed Diva moving around the house, from room to room, in somewhat uncharacteristic fashion. At one point, she wandered through the living room and then climbed into one of the bottom nooks of the built-in bookshelves in the front room, only to snake her way along the back side of it and come out the other end. 

Then she wandered over to the little step-box next to the couch and crawled on it, then jumped down and sniffed inside the magazine holder, then jumped on the arm of the couch next to me and began ruffling her nose against the pages of the book. Then, having exhausted that fascination, she jumped down again and wandered over to Solomon, who has been lounging on the couch, asleep, all morning. 

Now she's jumped up beside him and pushed her little paws underneath his, content to sit with him for a while, I guess. 

She was my little adventurer this morning for a bit, though. I like to watch her explore and play.

It's the Little Moments

She's content to sit between us.

She's content to sit between us.

Kirk got home from work not too long ago, and we're both chilling out in the bedroom for a bit, decompressing on our computers and resting as we ease into the weekend. 

Diva, true to form, snuggled herself right between us. She'll sit here contentedly for ages.

She wants to be where the love is. That's just her way.

So, This Happened Today . . .

Sometimes she stares at nothing.

A little Diva cuteness for you. 

Because sometimes she just likes to stare at nothing.

I'm pretty over the moon about something right now!

Something a group of friends and I have been dreaming about for who-knows-how-long just got pushed into yes-this-is-really-happening reality today. 

Terri, Sarah, and Lisa are coming to Florida this August to spend a too-amazing-to-hardly-believe-it week with me and Kirsten. And Kirsten's little girl, Austen. And Sarah's bringing her little boy, Simon. 

Kirsten, Sarah, and I (and another good friend of ours, Christin) shared a similar visit in 2008, but Terri was unable to join us that time around. And since then, we've all gotten to know Lisa.

Not being one to simply dream out loud about something when it can really happen in real life, Terri decided to pull us together in an e-mail convo earlier this week and then jumped on some too-cheap-to-pass-up plane tickets today once it was clear we were all wanting to do this and all had time available in August.

So, it's really happening!

This is going to be incredible. Seven full days with four beautiful soul friends, two happy little ones, and oodles and oodles of hugs, laughter, and what I'm sure will be soulful (not to mention sometimes silly) conversation. 

Is it August yet??!

Learning My Body Like I Once Learned My Heart

Curly tail.

I've been so aware while on this body journey just how "duh" I feel about all of it. And I say "duh" in the sense that I don't know anything

I think about my body, and nothing computes. I think, "I should take care of my body," or "Jesus cares about my body," and then I think, "Why? So what?" 

But then it occurred to me: The way I'm responding to my body is the same exact way I responded to my heart nearly 15 years ago. I didn't know I had a heart, much less any idea what was going on inside of it. I didn't understand why Jesus cared about it. I certainly didn't know how to care for it. 

And so I began the very slow, winding, often-feeling-backwards journey of learning about my heart. 

It took years. And it is by far the best, most precious journey I've ever taken. It's what I prize the most about my life, about my connection to Jesus, and my care for others in their own journeys. 

It took a long time, but I knew it was important. And I was content to be a beginner because I knew that's exactly what I was. (I was a quite stubborn beginner, too! No one could talk me out of what I was trying to learn.)

So here I am. Learning my body like I once learned my heart. Feeling like a complete ineptitude. Feeling like I have no bearing on this whole thing at all. But taking tiny, tiny steps. Experimenting. Wondering. 

And trying to allow myself the grace of being a beginner.

My Daily Bread

Organic in burlap.

Today I'm being reminded that Jesus is my daily bread. He gives me the food of himself, and that is what I give to others. 

I'm so aware of the difference between subsisting on him and subsisting on myself or even the "leftovers" from yesterday or the day before or last week. The difference is subtle, in the way it creeps in. But I've come to notice the difference. 

This is a morning of starting again. Of asking for his grace to cover my errors from yesterday. Of asking his grace to give others what they really need instead of what I sought to give them from myself or even the stale leftovers from another day.

It is a day of receiving his body and blood and taking it into myself, of chewing on it, savoring it, swallowing it, and letting it strengthen, fill up, and nourish me. 

Today is a new day. Today he is, again, my daily bread.

A Peek Into My World

Mmmm. The light.

Mmmm ... the light.

No big revelations to share today. Just a little peek into my world and what's bringing me joy these days ... 

  • I'm not sure there's any more beautiful light in the day than the sun in its final hour. I just had to capture this photo when I saw the light slanting through like that.
  • See that yellow mini-binder and the white-and-blue one beneath it? Those are my most-prized business assets these days. The yellow mini-binder holds all my ideas and brainstorms for each aspect of work I'm currently doing or presently dreaming up for the future. The white-and-blue folder holds my manifest and notes and exercises for the year-long Tour de Bliss
  • The stack of books in the closest corner of the photo are the ones I read each morning, along with the Scriptures -- my sacred reading for each day that's training me deeper and deeper into my calling. Henri Nouwen and Watchman Nee are my mentors right now in that training process.
  • That blue book in the far left corner of the photo? Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright. A thorough and delightful read on the person of Jesus (my favorite subject!), which is also helping me better hone and shape the future of the Look at Jesus course.
  • See that pair of glasses sitting on the desk? It's one of three pairs I purchased on Zenni Optical for a steal -- I think I got all three pairs for about $30. What?! Yes, I'm totally serious about that. 
  • That little stand-up calendar that you see there is one of two that I made at Christmas for both myself and Kirk. Each month features one of our kitties, all of them among my top favorite pics taken of the kitties last year. 

Just a few glimpses into the space I spend most of my days, doing most of my creative work, doing most of my prayer work, doing most of my reading and writing, doing most of my thinking and dreaming. 

What is your favorite space like?



"I Care About Your Body, Christianne."


Last night, as Kirk and I were settling in to listen to the day's Pray as You Go podcast, I was startled to hear the voice of Jesus cut so clearly through my thoughts. 

We were on the shoreline of the beach, picking up right where we'd last left off talking, and the sun was setting slowly against the water's horizon, the water lapping at our feet as we stood there.

"I care about your body, Christianne," he said. 

You do?

It was a statement that made me stop and pay attention. Why? I wanted to know.

I'm sure there are more reasons than one that he cares about my body, but the reason shown to me last night is that I mediate the world through my body. It's what I'm encased in and carry around everywhere as I go about my life.

Jesus showed me that he desires for me to live a long, full, vibrant, and healthy life. He has things he wants for me to do. He has life that he designed for me to live.

For him.

So, it matters what I do with my body. It matters what I feed it -- whether I feed it nutrients or dead empty things. It matters what I do with my muscles and my bones -- whether I tone and strengthen them in fitness or let them languish and become useless and heavy weight or weak, brittle things. 

I don't currently care very well for my body, as I've been sharing here this year. But Jesus does. He cares about it, and he cares how I take care of it, too. 

This may make all the difference in the world.

A Simple, Faithful Life

Yeah. She's cute.

When I was working through the weekend getaway material of the Tour de Bliss before the tour got started, I was given the opportunity to take an introductory snapshot of my work as it presently is configured. There was a wide-angle view of things I'm doing now, and then there was a chance for a close-up shot. 

The close-up shot asked me to list the things that are going great right now, followed by the question, "What is the thing I most desperately desire?" 

My answer to that question is this: 

To make a full-time living doing e-mail spiritual direction and writing.

That's it. Two things.

Nothing would make me happier in all the world than for my daily work to be composed of those two very simple components -- of meeting other people in the truth of their hearts and lives with God and of articulating the ways he has met and is meeting me in those same ways and places.

And yet I had to ask myself, "Am I not thinking big enough?" (I actually wrote that question in a big thought-bubble on the page.) Writing and e-mail spiritual direction -- that's it?

But then I thought a moment.

I looked again at those words I had written about what I most desperately desired. And I took a moment to notice what I love most about our life here in this little cottage where we live -- that it's the simple pleasures of this home and our life that I love so much. I love the quiet of the morning. I love the space for prayer and reflection and writing that each day affords me. I love being cozied up with Kirk and the kitties each night. I love simple, delicious meals. I love our little village church and its quirky character. 

The truth is, I want a simple, faithful life. 

That was a new, confident realization for me that day. A simple, faithful life: that's all I want.

A chance to hear and notice God in the lives of other people, and a chance to articulate God's work in my own life. A simple, faithful life. That's what this year on the tour is helping me clarify and create as I keep moving forward in my life's work.

Why I Need Four Hours in the Quiet Every Morning

Bible cat.

"To be effective workers, we need spiritual clarity; we need discernment concerning the condition of all who seek us out; we need quietness of mind to hear them state their case; and we need quietness of spirit so that we can sense their true condition beyond their own definitions of it. We ourselves must abide in a clear relation with the Lord, so that having inward clarity we can clearly discern the needs of others."

-- The Normal Christian Worker, p. 39

Yes. That about sums it up.

This Is Going to Be So Fun (and Amazing)


*Letting out a long, restful, contented sigh*

This has been one of those days where my calendar was full of Things To Do. I was kept pretty much on task from 10 a.m. until about 6:30 p.m., rolling from one thing to the next with a lot of focus and enjoyment.

And then I reached that still, quiet moment at the end of the day when all the things to be accomplished had been done and I could look at the rest of the evening as one long, open expanse to do with as I wanted. 

Isn't that just the best?

Today is also the official embarkation day of the Tour de Bliss. (Eeeeep!)

Since my day was so full, I had only a chance to take a passing glance at the official welcome e-mail for the tour this morning and log in briefly to check out the tour homepage.

But now, sitting here on my couch with the full evening ahead of me, a blanket draped over my lap and my travel manifest for the tour by my side, I've just had a chance to log in and take everything in with a bit more attention. 

And I have to tell you: 

This is going to be so stinkin' fun.

I mean, how many business development plans have *you* heard of that include things like a hot air balloon, a Product Patisserie, and a Room for Flying Objects? I've also heard mention of a mysterious place called the Tower of Glint. And I know there is much, much more. 

I really can't wait to dive in. I'm so blissed-out to be a part of this.

Going on the Tour with Jesus

My work. Right now.

Yesterday I wrote about a year-long digital tour I'm starting on Monday to better understand and create an approach to my life's work that makes the most sense for who I am and what Jesus is inviting me to do.

It's so important for me to remember that Jesus and I are on this tour together -- and that each conversation I have with my work and my life on the tour and each decision I make about those things are going to be made in the context of having talked with and really listened to him first. 

Right now.

I've gotten a lot of practice at this over the last year.

In fact, as I've written previously, I've learned that staying close and listening to Jesus is my very first act. It's what comes first. Any time I stray from him, I immediately become self-dependent, and then anything I do is fueled only with my measly human effort. 

The work I'm called to do is not about human effort. It's not about Christianne. It's about Jesus.

Jesus keeps affirming to me over and over that the work he's inviting me into is his. He calls people. He nudges them toward himself. He produces any fruit that emerges in their lives. I'm just a facilitator, a vessel, an opening for him to be made known and present. (And it continues to blow my mind that he would even call me to be a part of that work he's doing in the lives of others.)

So, it's me and Jesus on this Tour de Bliss. I can't wait to see what he and I discover together on it and how the experience of it will help better sculpt and form the life he's leading me to live.

Packing Up for a Tour

I remind myself often of this as I move deeper and deeper into my vocation.

My truth.

Probably about a year ago, I discovered a gal named Sarah J. Bray. She had a web design company at the time -- a service that didn't directly apply to me -- but I liked the way she thought about things and the generosity with which she shared her perspective on business and creativity with others. 

So I signed up for her e-mail list. (Something I rarely do.) 

Little did I know that soon after signing up for her e-mail list, she would shut down her blog and shut down her web design business in order to reframe and redesign her work. She offered an opportunity to sign up for a "sneaky-peekers" e-mail list to follow her through that journey -- those signed up for the list would be people with whom she'd share more of the details behind her business decision and her process of creating the new thing(s) she was going to do. 

I found her offer of a "sneaky-peekers" view of her decision and process quite intriguing and generous, so I signed up for that list too.

And so for the last six to nine months, I've been given an insider's peek at who Sarah is and what she is doing. And I've learned that I really value her perspective. So often, her willingness to put herself out there -- to simply be her quirky, unique self and to share the thinking behind the decisions she's making and to share the ups and downs of the process -- encourages the part of me that deeply believes in the value of every human person and in connecting in meaningful ways with people in this increasingly disconnected world in which we live.

First watercolor art attempt.

My heart: to provide places for

people to be seen and heard. 

Along the way, while being subscribed to her "sneaky-peekers" list, I've been doing my own thing. 

I graduated from my master's program in spiritual formation and finished my training in spiritual direction. I wrote a thesis proposal on the intersection of spirituality and digital connectivity.

In response to my thesis research, I began to write week-daily posts on Still Forming. I created -- and then offered -- my first-ever online course. I created a second online course and offered it to a small group of beautiful souls who had taken the first course. 

And I continued, in the midst of all this, to offer long-distance spiritual direction. 

Through it all, God has been confirming my calling and vocation. He has given me a pastoral heart and priestly calling. He has provided training and experience for my work as a spiritual director. And he has called me, at least for now, to work in online spaces.

Working today.

One of the pages in my vocation Filofax.

As God has been deepening and confirming my work and vocation, I have been seeking ways to more intentionally hone and focus my life and what I do. The best decision I made all year was part of that process of being intentional and faithful to the way God created me and what he's inviting me to do with my life. I've also become very careful of the things I take on, asking myself, "Is this really mine to do?"

The full thrust of this year, I'm finding, is about moving more and more fully into the work God has called me to do with my life. Stay close and present Christ, he tells me. I will bring the fruit, is another thing he says. Be faithful to what I've given you to do, he tells me. Follow the way I've made you.

And so I keep doing that.

All sorts of ideas about the sizes and shapes this can take have come along, and so I keep filing these ideas away in what I call my "vocation Filofax," adding new labeled tabs for each new idea that seems important and compelling. (The Filofax has sure gotten full at this point!)

Things I'm thinking about (thanks to @sarahjbray) ...

A page from my weekend getaway manifest.

I didn't know when I signed up for Sarah's sneaky-peekers e-mail list that what she eventually offered would be something I needed and wanted. 

But that's what happened. 

Several weeks ago, when Sarah shared her special idea for the Tour de Bliss with us sneaky-peekers, I was surprised to discover that the time was now for me to take the tour. This digital tour is particularly for those who know the work that is theirs to do and want to discover and create a way of working that makes the most sense for who they are. 

That is exactly where I am. I know the work I'm called to do, and I'm in the process of figuring out the fullness of what that can look like and the best ways to offer that to others. 

At the time she rolled it out, Sarah offered us sneaky-peekers the chance to take a weekend getaway on the Tour de Bliss. In an incredible act of generosity, she created several "excursions" for us to access for free, in order to get a feel for what the tour would be like and whether it was for us.

The photo above is one sample of the many pages just like it in my travel manifest for the tour, completed on the weekend getaway.

It wasn't hard for me to realize this tour is for me. I was energized by the exercises, and my mind filled up with all kinds of interesting questions I look forward to thinking about and answering while I'm on the tour.

So, I'm packing up. The tour departs on Monday and goes for a full year. I'm sure I'll be sharing aspects of the tour experience here with you, especially as it helps me refine the work I'm continuing to do with my life.

Thanks for being here with me in it. xo

I Am Still Peter

More moonlight through trees.

Quite a number of years ago, before I married Kirk and still lived in California, my home church offered a special meditation experience on Holy Saturday -- the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, when the disciples still mourned and sat in a daze, wondering what had just happened, grieving the loss of their Lord. 

The main sanctuary of the church was cleared of everything except six or seven stations set in different areas around the room. The lights in the room were off, except for a few candles lit here and there and some lights shining directly on the life-size wooden cross upon the stage, which was draped in red cloth. 

There was a station for confession, where you could enter a booth and confess your sins to a pastor. There was a station for holding colored glass stones in prayer and then casting them into a bowl of water, as though casting your sins away and trusting they would sink to the bottom of the ocean. There was room on the stairs of the stage, leading up to the cross, where you could kneel or bow and pray for Jesus, or pray for yourself.


There was also a station for meditating on the different figures in the passion story, learning whose reaction to Jesus was most like what your own might be. 

When I sat inside that station, I was surprised to learn that I most identified with Peter. It might make sense to you, given what I wrote recently about my shyness and shame at proclaiming the name of Jesus out loud throughout most of my life, but it was a new moment of insight for me to realize I would have done the exact same thing he'd done: in a moment of truth and persecution, I would have denied my Christ.

When you read the story of Christ's passion, it's so easy to point fingers at Peter, isn't it? That is, until you realize you are him.


And so for many years now, I have held Peter's response to Jesus with great sympathy -- and even gratitude. Jesus loved Peter to the end. He also forgave Peter and still trusted him to lead and shepherd those who followed Jesus. He also used what happened to further Peter along in his needed development. I've been thankful for the breadth of Peter's story because of what it has taught me about the way Jesus also loves me.

But more recently, I would have told you that I believed I'd finally grown past being Peter. 

For instance, a couple weeks ago, in a Sunday morning forum at my church, we were talking about the crucifixion moment. Our rector, Father Rob, asked what our response to that moment might have been if we'd been standing right there before Jesus. What did we think we would have said or done or thought or felt? 

I felt an impulse to grasp Jesus on the leg as he hung there on the cross. Just so he would feel less alone. Just so he could feel the touch of someone who loved him. Just so he could know that someone who loved him was me.

That impulse didn't strike me as very Peter-ish. And so I started to think I had changed. 

And maybe I have.

Trees lighted in dark.

But last night, do you want to know what happened? 

I slept through my alarm clock. 

The alarm clock that had been set for 2:40 a.m. The alarm clock that was set so I could wake, get dressed, and drive to my church for a prayer vigil in which I'd signed up to pray from 3-4 a.m. 

I had signed up a week ago, and I could hardly contain my excitement to participate in this event. There are many observances of Holy Week happening at my church this week, but this prayer vigil seemed like the most special offering of all. What intimacy, what silence, what "being-with-ness" it offered between us and Jesus in his final hours.

Moonlight waters.

But then I slept through my alarm. 

When I awoke at 3:45 and realized I'd missed my slot, I knew in that moment that I was still Peter. And I knew it even more when I stayed in bed the next 45 minutes, vacillating back and forth, drifting between awake and asleep, while trying to decide if I would get out of bed and drive to the church anyway.

But I chose to stay in bed. I chose sleep. Just like Peter did in the garden. 

The rule of thirds and negative space.

I felt so awful this morning at the truth of it. Such remorse. The Jesus I love -- I left him alone. Just like the disciples did. Just like everyone did. I could not even watch with him one hour

But the story doesn't end there. 

I woke at 8:30 a.m. this morning. At five minutes to 9, I decided that I was going to drive over to the church after all and participate in the vigil from 9-10 a.m.

And so I went. 

Shape and negative space.

It wasn't easy to be present to Jesus when I arrived. As glad as I was to have chosen to go, all I could feel was my shame.

When I first arrived, I sat in the far back corner of the chapel, far from the altar and the icon of Jesus. I sat there and felt my humiliation. 

But the longer I sat there, the more aware I became of my distressing need for Jesus. I wanted to confess to him. I wanted to plead before him for his forgiveness and his love. I wanted to say I was sorry. 

Jesus, forgive.

So I went up and knelt before the icon and looked into his eyes -- the eyes in which one eye seems to take in the whole world and the other seems to look right at and through you. I stared at that one eye staring back at me and repented. 

And he reminded me of these words he'd spoken to the religious leaders just days before his death in Jerusalem: 

"What do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of the father?"

They said to him, "The first." 

-- Matthew 21:28-31

It occurred to me that I was doing his will in being at the vigil after all, even if I'd arrived six hours after I'd originally committed to being there.

It occurred to me that Jesus was glad I was there.

It occurred to me that I'd lived out real repentance in this place of my story -- turning around, going in the opposite direction, choosing the true and good thing. 

I'm thankful for it.

Staying Present to the Difficulty of Holy Week

To read his word.

I've been really surprised by something this week. 

One of my freelance projects right now is a big one: proofread the entire biblical text of the New King James Version of the Bible for a publisher who is putting out a new study Bible this year. I started at Genesis and worked my way through to Esther (about 750 pages) and then, over the weekend, decided to switch to the New Testament and read through the Gospels -- mainly because my most current offering of the Look at Jesus course was getting started this week. 

What I didn't anticipate was how the reading of Matthew -- and specifically the last 10 chapters of it -- would affect me as we entered Holy Week. 

Head of Christ.

I turned to the pages of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem -- otherwise known as Palm Sunday -- on the actual day in this church year that we were celebrating Palm Sunday. It felt so surreal for the recorded history of Christ's life to align so unexpectedly and gently with my own lived life here today. 

And then, as I proceeded to read the account of that last week -- the way Jesus cleared the temple, then confronted the religious leaders who accosted him left and right; the way he sat and taught the disciples what to expect about the end of time and how to live without him there; the way Judas betrayed him in the garden and the disciples fled and then he began the long, lonely road to his death -- as I read all this on Sunday, a deep and gutteral moan began in my stomach, then moved into my chest and out my mouth.

I cried and cried and cried, tears streaming down my face and into my nose and mouth, getting everywhere. 

They crucified my Lord. They abandoned him.

He died. He was killed. He was completely alone.

Stations of the cross.

There were so many poignant moments for me as I sat and read those pages on Sunday that I decided to write them down and reflect upon them every single day this week. (I've been writing them as a series of daily posts on Still Forming this week.)

It's been such a different experience for me to sit with Holy Week in this way. I've not ever done that before. Mostly, I've observed Good Friday and Holy Saturday in intentional, meaningful ways leading up to Easter, but sitting with the full passion week of Jesus is new. 

It has made this week a rather quiet, somber, reflective place inside my heart. 

And I've realized what a good thing this is. Too often, those of us living on this side of the New Testament are quick to get to Easter. We love Easter! It's the foundation of our faith. It's the good news of Jesus made alive again and reigning forever and relieving the burden of all the earth from brokenness, sin, and death. It's the hope of our unending future with God. It's the life we get to live anew right now, here. 

But the week leading up to Easter? It was not an easy one for our Christ. I cannot imagine fully the increasing fear and burden and pain and loneliness and resistance he felt as he approached that fateful hour of his arrest leading to his imprisonment, conviction, and death. It was a week he'd been living toward his whole life. It was the final hour. The moment of truth. 

And he didn't want to go. He did, but he didn't. He was grieved at the fact of it. But he did, in the end, remain steadfast and undeterred. 

He kept being Jesus. 


Jesus asks of his closest disciples in the garden, "Could you not watch and wait with me one hour?" 

I think our attention to Holy Week -- the difficulty of it, the discomfort of it, the lack of resolution it carries when we already know the end of the story -- is a bit like our choosing to watch and wait with Jesus in the way he wished and wanted his disciples to have done. 

Will we watch and wait with him this week? Join me at Still Forming as we seek to be faithful to him in this small way.

I Am Re-Deemed


When I was in seventh grade, I walked around the indoor hallways of my junior high school clutching my three-ring binder tight to my chest, along with my hardbound textbooks, and kept my eyes on the orange-and-black-speckled carpet or gray lockers as I walked, never looking people in the eye. I couldn't have told you why that was, nor could I have found a safe place to admit that it was true, but I remember feeling something like apology for my mere existence each day that I walked those halls.

Have you ever felt this way?

The summer before that seventh-grade year, I'd attended a summer camp with my church in the Angeles National Forest about an hour or so from home. And during that week, I'd inched my way toward the re-dedication of my life to Jesus. It was the first time I'd heard that following Jesus meant inviting him into my heart and making a public profession of my faith. Though I'd always known Jesus and had been baptized in the fourth grade at my church, something about this felt different. 

On the last night of camp, I went forward in the decision for re-dedication. 

And a few weeks later, when I entered the halls of my junior high, I promptly allowed myself to become invisible. 

Light and shadows.

I remember that the theme for that summer camp week was "Fight the Good Fight." The population of the camp had been divided into four teams, and we played various competitive games throughout the week -- pool games, obstacle courses, etc.

I was on the magenta team. 

I took the magenta-colored team shirt I'd been given home with me from camp -- it had the camp theme graphic for "Fight the Good Fight" emblazed in neon yellow and orange on the front -- and I wore it often, feeling that the wearing of it was part of my public profession of faith in Jesus. 

But when I walked the hallways at school, I covered up the front of the shirt by clutching that three-ring binder and those heavy textbooks to my chest. 

Curtains in shadow and light.

Sometime in my seventh- or eighth-grade year, the youth pastor's wife at my church asked to interview me for the youth newsletter. She called me at my house and asked me many questions about myself and my faith that I can no longer remember. 

But one question, I do remember. 

"What is your favorite verse?" she asked. 

And I told her it was Matthew 5:11-12. It reads: 

"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

I was not someone who talked openly, much less boldly, about my faith with those outside my circle of friends at church, and so it is quite interesting to me that I named my favorite verse as one that speaks of being blessed through persecution. 

I was so afraid of persecution, and so I hid my faith from others outside my faith.

A spot of light.

From where I stand today, in a relationship with Jesus that has become more precious to me than I can express and living out a vocational calling that asks me to stay close and present Christ, it makes sense to me that the areas in which I carried so much shame -- in being free to be who I really am and in sharing my life of faith with others -- would be the same places Jesus would come in and heal me and then seek to use me. 

He is calling me to be visible now, and he is asking me to share him with others. 

Enamored with light.

I have felt such a greater sense of breaking open in this way over this last year. 

Really, I think the breaking open began in 1998, when I first asked God to teach me my need for grace and my need for Jesus. That's when my journey into the truth of my heart began and when my journey of healing began. That's when Jesus began to teach me about my de-formities and began to re-form my heart in truth.

Slowly, over the last fourteen years (has it really been fourteen years?!), I have seen Jesus come near and make himself known to me. I have experienced his healing touch upon my wounds in so many ways. And in that healing, he has set me free to love others with an increasing love. 

This last year, though, has been one of increasing freedom to live out loud. 

I shared the beginning of this "living out loud" journey when I took my 5-day silent retreat last May. There was a moment of recognition of lived dissonance -- of being my true self in safe places but hiding that self in circles where I didn't think my true self would be welcome. 

"I'm in love with Jesus," I told a friend right before I went on my retreat. "That's simply who I am." 

And ever since then, Jesus has been setting me free to simply live the truth of that and offer it to others. 

A quiet morning.

Last Wednesday night, Kirk and I attended a Lenten study at All Saints, where we've been making our way through Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. On that evening, we were discussing the practice of lectio divina -- a way of reading the scriptures for transformation rather than information -- and we practiced lectio divina together using a passage from Isaiah 43: 

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, 

And He who formed you, O Israel:

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name;

You are Mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.

When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,

Nor shall the flame scorch you.

For I am the Lord your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

I gave Egypt for your ransom,

Cush and Seba in your stead.

Since you were precious in My sight,

You have been honored,

And I have loved you."

We were invited to pay attention to the word or phrase that jumped out at us during the first reading of this passage, and then we walked through several more readings of the passage and were invited to interact with God in prayer regarding the word or phrase that had been given to us. 

Redeemed was the word given to me in that reading. 

In the time of reflection built into that time of reading, as I turned the word over and over on my tongue and kept tasting it, I noticed something about that word for the very first time: 

Redeemed = re-deemed

I thought of the ways the word "re-deemed" would be used. We often hear the word "deemed" used in the sense that something or someone is deemed worthy of something -- that they are accounted worthy of the grace or blessing or honor being bestowed upon them. 

When someone or something is "re-deemed," then, it would imply that a period of veering from a person or thing's original purpose had happened. A lived dissonance, perhaps, had entered in, and the "re-deeming" would only come about once a process of being reconstituted and re-formed into one's original purpose had happened. 

I have been "re-deemed," God showed me.

That seventh-grade girl who clutched her notebook and textbooks to her chest so tight, walking in shame down those hallways and hiding the truth of her love for Jesus, has been reconstitued and re-formed into the person she really is, bearing the name of Jesus. 

Thanks be to God for his grace. 

Stay Close and Present Christ

Curly tail.

A couple weeks ago, I noticed that my relationship with Jesus felt strained. Different. Distant. 

Part of this had to do with the ongoing struggle he and I faced concerning my heavy heart for the darkness in this world. The pain in my heart at the suffering and fallenness of it created quite a barrier that we struggled through for about a month. 

But even after we started to work that through, my time spent with Jesus each morning was not the same. Reading scripture was a strain. Prayer was hard-won. Determining what to write on Still Forming each day was a struggle.

And the really telling thing was that the Gospels were the last place I wanted to go in my scripture reading time. That's pretty unusual for me, given that I love reading the Gospels so much that I've created a course that invites others to read them, too. But even more than that, my resistance to reading the Gospels seemed rooted in a resistance to even spend time with Jesus.


But then in my session with Elaine last week, when I noticed the clouds up ahead and the way I start my pretzel-making in response, I noticed a really big reason why the distance was still there. 

One reason was because I'd become more concerned about the potential response of others to me than about what Jesus is calling me to do. I was worried about things like, What if they don't like it? What if they want it to be different? What if they want me to change it? Or what if they simply can't afford it? 

Cue the pretzel-making. 

And second, I was able to voice out loud in that session that I'd begun feeling really self-conscious about my relationship with Jesus.

I talk about him all the time on Still Forming -- which wasn't at all what I expected to have happen when I first began the week-daily reflections in that space last May. What if they are sick of the Jesus-talk? What if they're annoyed by my relationship with him? What if they can't relate at all to the Jesus I have come to know? 

But even more than that, I have felt so aware of the closeness of what he and I share and the way I've come to learn the ways that we relate. Sure, he may change the way he relates to me in the future, but for now it is the case that he walks and talks with me in vivid images. He has taught me the sound of his voice. He lets me see him. We have a relationship that feels as real as any relationship I have on earth. It is that textured and palpable. 

I've felt self-conscious of that lately. Almost apologetic. Sorry. Embarrassed. If others don't experience Jesus that way, then I should downplay that I do, goes the reasoning. 

And so I started to stuff him down. Push him away. Deny the reality of what we share. 

There's my girl.

That really doesn't do anyone any good. Not me. Not Jesus. Not others. 

Not to mention that's a really familiar strain of my younger years: deny the full light of who I am so that others won't feel bad. 

The girl.

Here is the truth I have come to know: Jesus has given me a deep and textured and palpable relationship with himself, and he uses the intense vibrancy of that relationship to communicate to me what he would have me communicate to others about himself. 

In other words, one reason Jesus has given me the relationship we share is so that I can clearly see and hear what he wants to say to others through me. 

That's not something to apologize for, I see now. It's something to be incredibly grateful for. It's something to keep leaning into and receiving with gladness.

Here she sits.

There came a point pretty early on in writing the week-daily posts on Still Forming that I realized the need to lean in close to Jesus and listen to what he wanted to say in that space each day. I really did feel that I was subsisting each day upon the words of Jesus. My mornings became important times of prayer and reading the scriptures and listening to Jesus as a result, and it was the reason I decided to keep my mornings free of appointments at the start of this new year in order to be completely free for the time required to spend with him each day. 

In order to know what Jesus wants to say through one of the primary places I exercise my vocation, I have to stay close to him. 

Also, for some reason still inexplicable to me, I've been carrying around a sense of a priestly calling for about a year now. It started with the image of the communion cup that emerged last February. There's been this continued sense that my calling is to present Christ to others -- in the same way a priest presents the body and blood of Christ to others in eucharist. 

Present Christ. That is what I am made to do. In an incredible story that began with a very tiny prayer for God to help me understand my need for Jesus, he has blossomed that relationship into something so precious to me that I don't have enough words or time in the world to express the fullness of it. 

All so that he would make me into someone who presents Christ to others. 

Stay close and present Christ. That is what I'm to do. And so I will, with a prayer that Jesus will help me stay faithful to him.