Oct 7 2011

{Day 7} Friday Florilegium

God whispers love to us in every moment, if we would but listen.

Today’s Florilegium entry (What is a florilegium?) is a song by Tenth Avenue North called “Times.”  It’s lyrics capture a beautiful prayer dialogue, and give encouragement to keep listening to the still small voice.

(To listen, please click pause first on the Music for Dreaming in the column to the right >>)

I know I need You
I need to love You
I love to see You, but it’s been so long
I long to feel You
I feel this need for You
And I need to hear You, is that so wrong?

Now You pull me near You
When we’re close, I fear You
Still I’m afraid to tell You, all that I’ve done
Are You done forgiving?
Oh can You look past my pretending?
Lord, I’m so tired of defending, what I’ve become
What have I become?

I hear You say,
“My love is over. It’s underneath.
It’s inside. It’s in between.
The times you doubt Me, when you can’t feel.
The times that you question, ‘Is this for real? ‘
The times you’re broken.
The times that you mend.
The times that you hate Me, and the times that you bend.
Well, My love is over, it’s underneath.
It’s inside, it’s in between.
These times you’re healing, and when your heart breaks.
The times that you feel like you’re falling from grace.
The times you’re hurting.
The times that you heal.
The times you go hungry, and are tempted to steal.
The times of confusion, in chaos and pain.
I’m there in your sorrow, under the weight of your shame.
I’m there through your heartache.
I’m there in the storm.
My love I will keep you, by My pow’r alone.
I don’t care where you fall, where you have been.
I’ll never forsake you, My love never ends.
It never ends.”

31 Days

Friday Florilegium 1

Oct 6 2011

{Day 6} Living in the Midst


To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact , you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in a casket or a coffin…But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the perturbations of Love is Hell.— C.S. Lewis

Often when we begin to listen and pay attention to what is going on right in front of us, chaos floods our lives, swamps our schedules, and leaves us gasping for breath.

Even to ask a simple question, like from Day One of this seriesWhat do I hear in this moment?–might open us up to hearing and seeing and feeling what we’d rather not. The reason for this is that our carefully constructed walls that protect us from confusion and uncertainty and pain begin to shudder and crack with such a question. Chaos seeps in.

Questions about what we love and what we hope can bring a cascade of joy, but the same questions can bring into stark relief our heartaches and disappointment. They can lead to more questions.

We begin to ask: What do I do now?


One response to this is to simply stop paying attention. The chaos or grief or even joy is scary. It’s too much. The present moment is too much.

I will be exploring the many creative ways we erect barricades against contemplative attention as this series continues. I will also be sharing some practices from the lives of Christians who have gone before us. While they lived in different ages, their joys and struggles and griefs were not so different from our own.

But what about today? Now?

Keep listening. Keep paying attention.


Why? Because I believe the only way into a deeper connection with life, those around us, and with God (at least on our part), is through, dealing with what we hear and see and feel directly.

Jesus shows us this path by becoming one of us: The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1:14 MSG) He lived through everything that it means to be human.

Many of you who have followed my blog the past few years have read about my experiences in graduate school and the toll that it took on my love of prayer, theology, writing, even life. This past year I’ve spent with God, wrestling through the experience, what it meant (and continues to mean) as I enter my 7th year (shudder!). Everything from slowly regaining my ability to write without panic attacks to (gently and with a lot of running away) facing that I will never bear children to the overwhelming joy of becoming a photographer. In the dogged determination to walk through, rather than build barriers against, the present moment, I’ve tasted more joy than I’ve ever experienced and experienced more deeply the cherishing love of God.


Words of wisdom that have helped me are from the poet in Rainer Maria Rilke:

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Live your questions today.

I would add, Pray your questions today.

Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God,who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:34-39)

The beauty of our Lord is that he stands before the throne of God interceding for us, and he will patiently walk with us through the questions to the answers.

31 Days

have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Oct 5 2011

{Day 5} Welcoming Back Hope


For many years, I took Amtrak everywhere, rather than flying. There were many reasons for this–I enjoyed seeing the beauty of this country and crossing timezones at a slower speed. I loved getting to know fellow travelers, many from distant countries where train travel was the norm.  I also was terrified of flying, which thankfully, has been healed.

One of my favorite things about train travel was the anticipation. When I got on the train, it felt like the beginning of an adventure–new sights, sounds, and people to enjoy. Everything was interesting, everything called to my attention.

At night, sleeping on a moving train can be challenging–it is much more turbulent than a normal plane or car ride–so I would find myself staring out the window, watching the darkened landscape zip by, wondering about the souls asleep in houses tucked away just beyond the tracks.

One December, I traveled from Boston to Texas via Chicago and as I kept vigil in the dark, speeding through Western Massachusetts, I saw something beautiful: houses miles apart bejeweled with holiday lights. These farms were far from towns, major roads and even sight of each other, and I wondered why they put up lights. Certainly, their occupants no doubt enjoyed coming home to the bright splendor on dark winter nights, but in this one long lonely stretch of farmland and trees, it was a regular sight. Even random outbuildings were lit up.

Then I realized. Near as they were, they could see the passenger trains and knew we could see them, if we looked. In the time-honored tradition, that still happens in rural America, you wave at trains–and during the day those on the train wave back.

That night, every shining house was waving, hoping to be seen, giving a gift of beauty if we on the train would but look.


Contemplative living is an odd mix of both paying attention without expectation about what will be noticed, and hope that there is something and someone to notice, maybe to even receive a glimpse of the deeper Love that holds everything together.

But sometimes what beckons to be noticed is not lovely or beautiful or desired.

Sometimes what we hope for is dampened or destroyed in disappointment. And when this happens, I often ask: Why keep paying attention? Why live contemplatively–to look with and for God in the world–when all I see are disappointed hopes?


The author of Proverbs writes, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when longing is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)

Our hopes point us to the Author of All Hope, and while we live in a world where hope is often deferred, to live in hope is to live abundantly in God.

We can take our longings to the God who holds us and weeps with us, and live again in hope for how he will redeem our disappointment (and oh, yes! How wonderful is his redemption revealed in Christ.)


Yesterday, we considered how a way to find out what you love is to pay attention to what breaks your heart.

Today, I’d invite you to tenderly and gently pay attention to your disappointment in order to find your hope.

Follow the bread crumbs back to that fragile hope, to the house bejeweled with light in the darkness, and to the Love waiting there to hold and heal and cherish you.

God is waving at you in your hopes, look out the window and see.

31 Days

Oct 4 2011

{Day 4} Paying Attention to Love


In a quite absolute, final way, what you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. –Pedro Arrupe, SJ

The past three days we’ve been practicing paying attention: to what we hear, to the living creatures around us, and to thankfulness.  Continuing to expand the practice of paying attention, today I’d like for us to focus on love.

What and who are you in love with?

Write down what comes to mind off the top of your head (and heart).

When we talk about being in love with someone, often there is a romantic connotation, and certainly, infatuation can be a transient and not always life-giving experience. But in this case, I’d like to define being in love as any love that captures our hearts and spurs us on toward being more deeply present to and engaged with life.


Two young people, Jack and Jane, have captured my heart with a fierce protective love, and make me want to be the kind of person they can love and respect. I love our herb walks and our talks about the tallest skyscrapers, reading stories, and telling tales to each other.


For me, I find that places and communities can engender this kind of love. Years ago, I stood on the top of Queen Anne Hill, looking over Seattle, and realized I loved the city deeply. My two church communities–Bethany Presbyterian and St Paul’s Episcopal–worship Jesus in quite different ways, but the people of both places have captured my heart. Both churches feel like home to me, just as the city does when I’ve been gone for any amount of time.

Being in love can also be expressed in an hobby, job or vocation. We invest heart and thought and prayer energy into this love. When we do what we love, there is a sense of timelessness and flow–we get lost in the doing. As Pedro Arrupe writes, we know we are caught up in love because it gets us moving in a way that other activities don’t.

But most surprising, I have found that one of the clearest ways to find out what or who we love is to pay attention to what breaks our hearts.

One morning, many years ago, I was sitting at a cafe in downtown Seattle. It was cold and windy, with the standard misty rain blown like frozen spray against the morning commuters. I waited for my bus at a window seat, warming up with some hot chocolate, and watched everyone scurry by.

Except one older woman.

She stood on the corner across the street, head up even in the wind, Real Change Homeless Newspapers held tightly, eyes seeking out the passersby.

I watched as no one looked at her, even passed further around her than necessary.  And my heart broke because here was one of my city’s residents trying to make ends meet by selling the paper, yet up against weather and invisibility.  I was surprised at my tears in that public place. I’d known I loved the city, but God showed me that I was in love with its people–that their sorrow could break my heart. Taking her some hot chocolate and buying a paper from her, the next week I began helping out at Real Change, getting to know the Seattlites whose only life-line was to sell the paper.

I think Jesus was the woman for me that day, showing me my own heart…and his.

Practice: What or who are you in love with? What breaks your heart and how might you trace that grief back to love? Simply pay attention as you go about your day, read the paper, interact with people, complete your tasks. No need to do anything except notice. No need to change your life, add or subtract anything from your schedule. Just pay attention to the moments that love visits your heart.

31 Days

Aug 1 2011

Living Good News

Mondays are for counting thanks to 1000 and beyond


One of my church’s missionaries, Carl, told a story about the healing impact of the Gospel that he has seen through his ministry in Asia. The projects that the mission is involved in hires people from the surrounding area. During training for the jobs, they discuss values found in scripture, such as forgiveness, service, and equality, which provide the foundation for the relief work.

After one of these training sessions that focused on God seeing all people as equal, a local man shared that he started to view his relationship with his wife in a new way. In his culture and tradition, his wife would prepare his meals each day, serve him, and then leave him to eat. After he was finished, she would eat whatever was left over.

The clash of the teaching on equality and his own practice disturbed him. One evening, when his wife came to serve him dinner, he invited her to stay and share the meal. He split the food into equal parts. It was the first meal they had ever shared together.

From that point on, their relationship was transformed.

Good news. God news. Life-changing news.

It doesn’t have to be something huge, just listening and seeing, and then being obedient to what the Spirit calls us to do. And I don’t think it’s about expending a ton of energy to do “the right thing” or “what we should,” but simply allowing ourselves to be troubled and then taking the next smallest step toward a new possibility.

A step, such as eating a meal in a new way.


Seeing through the eyes of gratitude today…

401. Carl’s work with Wycliffe in Asia and that the Spirit transforms lives and relationships.

402. Wind rustling in the trees


403. Sweet peas in bloom

404. The Anne of Green Gables stories…what a delight!


405. Bees on flowers

406. Sunshine!!

407. My mom’s recovering and healing

408. Madeleine L’Engle’s wonderful book on art and faith, Walking on Water.

409. Joy


410. A place of peace


411. A furry creature–what colors God has given her!


412. The Tierra Nueva mission team. What a great experience to work alongside them! (For more photos from the Bethany Presbyterian Mission Trip, go here.)

Jul 30 2011

Creating Space for Beauty

Waterhouse roses full length best

I’ve found that experiencing beauty as a regular part of my day requires cultivating a welcoming space: physical space, such as having a special area to display something I find beautiful or art supplies at the ready for creating; space in my schedule to intentionally notice beauty, such as walking to a look-out, taking my camera on an urban hike, hand writing a letter, or sharing a meal and seeing the beauty of a friend; and mental space, where I release behaviors and thoughts which clutter my head and blind my eyes to joy, and instead look at life with a gaze of gratitude.

When I invest energy in looking with a grateful eye on all that is beautiful, small things and experiences especially, it balances me and helps me see life as a whole, not just what is painful or difficult in the moment.

When I intentionally cultivate space for daily beauty, I find that any energy invested multiplies exponentially. Beauty is nourished by beauty.


Awhile ago, I wrote about seeing a lovely cottage and garden near my apartment, and how sad I was, knowing that owning such a place is many years down the road. After pouring out my desire to God, it became clear that I had a choice: live in sadness and scarcity, looking longingly toward a future dream, or make space to be inspired by the real beauty of that garden and to cultivate a similar beauty in my own life.


Making space for beauty, or really anything, is difficult if we keep a death grip on one vision or image of what must fill the space.

Instead, if we clear the space and then let beauty breathe into it (in-spire it), what fits our particular life and situation can grow organically.


We make space for the possibility of beauty. Rather than making demands, we invite, welcome, practice hospitality.

For me, after seeing the cottage garden, inviting beauty meant taking time to clean up my balcony and simply sit, allowing a vision of beauty for that space to superimpose itself on reality.

Clearing mental space helped me feel: my hands were itching to get into dirt and to nurture growing life. I realized I didn’t want a ready-made garden, but to start from scratch.

Then, after planting the seeds, patience was necessary to nurture the space, as I waited weeks for any sign of life and then more weeks until flowers bloomed.

Now, when I look out on my balcony, I see the beauty of that cottage garden, but in a form perfect for my situation. The bees buzz, butterflies flutter, and hummingbirds greet me in the morning. A bit of Eden, four storeys up.


Gardens are all through scripture, places of growth and healing.  A garden at the beginning when all things were new, the garden of Gethesmane when tears flowed and angels soothed, a garden for the tomb when the world held its breath. Even for the resurrection, in the garden, Jesus greeted is beloved friend, and what could happen but, “She thought he was the gardener.”  So true.

And finally, finally, the end and a new beginning: a Garden around a Tree in center of the Beautiful City.

That final glorious Day will come, but the greening, growing beauty of that Day can in-spire our days now.

Clear some space, welcome Beauty, wait and see.

What is a beauty that captures your heart?

This week, clear some space, in your physical surroundings, in your schedule, and in your thoughts for this beauty to find a home.

No need to fill the space, just let it breathe.

What vision reveals itself?


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