Oct 21 2011

{Day 21} Friday Florilegium

In honor of hearing Eugene Peterson speak at Seattle Pacific University Thursday evening, today’s florilegium quote is from his book, The Contemplative Pastor:

What does it mean to be a pastor? If no one asked me to do anything, what would I do?…

I can be a pastor who prays. I want to cultivate my relationship with God. I want all life to be intimate–sometimes consciously, sometime unconsciously–with the God who made, directs, and loves me. And I want to waken others to the nature and centrality of prayer. I want to be a person in this community to whom others can come without hesitation, without wonder if it is appropriate, to get direction in prayer and praying. I want to do the original work of being in deepening conversation with the God who reveals himself to me and addresses me by name. I don’t want to dispense mimeographed (!) handouts that describe God’s business; I want to witness out of my own experience. I don’t want to live as a parasite on the first-hand spiritual life of others, but to be personally involved with all my senses, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.

I know it takes time to develop a life of prayer; set-aside, disciplined, deliberate time. It isn’t accomplished on the run, nor by offering prayers from a pulpit or at a hospital bedside. I know I can’t be busy and pray at the same time. I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray. I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted or dispersed. In order to pray I have to be paying more attention to God than to what people are saying to me; to God than to my clamoring ego. Usually, for that to happen there must be a deliberate withdrawal from the noise of the day, a disciplined detachment from the insatiable self.


Oct 3 2011

{Day 3} Noticing Thankfulness

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What is a memory for which you are grateful?

Take a moment to put yourself back into the memory, see the colors, hear the sounds, feel the emotions attached to the recollection.

Be there, just for an instant, stretch your imagination back to that moment. Breathe in the thoughts and feelings.

A precious memory I have is from when I was 8 or 9.  My family was living in Kentucky, at Ft Knox. If you are familiar with the area, you know that there are many little civil war cemeteries in the most unusual places. Some are forgotten in forests or sit lonely on top of hills. My dad and I loved to go on walks or bike rides together, exploring, and we’d pour over local maps to find these hidden pieces of history.

One of these little collections of stone monuments sat on top of a hill, right above the Kentucky Fried Chicken. The tallest obelisk poked out from tall grasses and my little historian imagination would go wild every time we drove past.

The problem was getting to it.

Kentucky wasn’t a place you went treading in grass above your head. Critters of the slithering kind were often minding their own business there. But I was not deterred, pestering my dad repeatedly, until one day, he agreed and we forged our way up the steep slope and unkempt path back in time to the 19th century.

The cemetery was small, less than 10 monuments, worn with weather and years. I was thrilled. The forgottenness of the place just made it more mysterious and separate from the commercial strip below.

And that my dad was willing to take me still makes me smile. I am grateful for this, one of many wonderfully clear memories of my dad’s love.

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Three years ago, I stumbled upon Ann Voscamp’s A Holy Experience blog where she challenges her readers to count gratitudes to 1000 and beyond, small and large. Since then, thankfulness has changed my life and my relationships. When I want to enter deeply into the present moment, especially with people close to me, I count gratitudes. Alongside paying attention, it is one of the foundations of contemplative living and makes any moment a moment of  worship.

Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Journal

When we look for what we are thankful, our hearts expand, hope is near, and love over-flows. We stop consuming life and start living it, with and through the presence of God.

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Practice: Write down 5 things you are grateful for. Not what you think you should be grateful for, but the people, places, memories, sights, smells, sounds, feelings, that make your heart and mind sing, “Oh, yes, thank you God!” I’d love to hear what’s on your list.

And visit Ann’s blog for some printables to start your own list of 1000 gifts.

31 Days




Nov 29 2010

Practicing Resurrection

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My immersion in Eugene Peterson’s books continued this past week with Practicing Resurrection. Alongside Answering God, it is one of his finest, and a great introduction to the lovely way his theology of God meshes with his theology of prayer and church and intimacy and God-human relationship, using Ephesians as the starting text.

Reading the book was more like having a series of conversations about life and faith with Peterson in front of a fire on a winter’s evening, drinking hot chocolate, all the while attentively reflecting on Paul’s text.  Gentle, yet direct, encouraging, yet challenging, he shares his love for Jesus and writes of subjects close to his heart. His words spurred me on to pray for and love others, more and more.

In fact, by the end of the book, I was even more convinced that loving and praying, and pursuing a life that cultivates loving and praying (not as abstractions, but loving real people and allowing my heart to break in prayer for concrete situations) is the best way to live.  Over the next few posts, I will be sharing more about this.

The book also confirmed a little desire that has been growing in me for awhile: to memorize an entire book of the bible.  As I’ve been slowly recovering the sacredness of words this past year, my love of scripture has been rekindled. Encouraged by Ann Voscamp at A Holy Experience to create a memory book, and then catching Peterson’s own love for Ephesians, I started last week.

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Memorizing does not take much daily time–20 minutes of re-reading the verses each day is enough to let the verses sink in deeply. And, memorizing gives me permission (and that is key!) to spend a week on the same verses, rather than move to new ones each day.  The focus is now on the verses, not on the scripture reading plan!

Memorizing is also a natural partner to the ancient Christian practice of lectio divina (Latin for divine reading), a centuries old way of reading and praying scripture (here is an intro). The movements of lectio divina are often described as a meal: reading the verses is eating, meditating on them is chewing, praying them is digestion, and contemplating them is that lovely full feeling after a good meal–and the words (the Word) are now nourishing our very being. Memorizing fits well into the reading stage and is closer to what Christians would have done in earlier times.

Lectio Divina JPEG

If you are interested in making your own memory book, an example is here. Here is a lovely reflection on memorization as well as lots of suggestions.

If you’ve never memorized scripture, then start with a verse or two (and see how easy it is!)  Here is a great musical version of Philippians 4:6-7. I guarantee you will have the verses memorized by the end of the video!

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Thankful today for…

“the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us (drenched us!) in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Eph 1:3)

Scripture and the written witness of Christians centuries ago to the presence and power of Christ in their lives.

Eugene Peterson’s books and the privilege of this time to immerse myself in them.

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A wonderful thanksgiving feast with dear friends.

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Wind swept views.

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Friendship…over time and experiences and years of conversation, grateful for the knowing and the being known.

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My godson Ben.

holy experience




Jun 2 2010

Love or Longing?

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“I dream of a Love that even Time will lie down and be still for.”

When I was in my 20s, I used to say, if I marry, I won’t marry until I’m 30.  I could count on a few fingers men who had touched my heart–men who also only saw me as sister and friend.

Love–the covenant, life-long-promise kind of love–remained a distant hope.

“There is plenty of time,” friends and family would say, during seasons when I’d flail and founder, and demand a reason for my singleness.

Now I am 40, and can look back at two decades of dating experiences (less than one hand could count) and a brief engagement–infrequent, glorious and often painful forays into the realm of love and heart.  The Lord took me on a journey this past year after I caught another glimpse of this longed-for- Love, and promptly reached out with both hands and held on like one drowning, squeezing out its life.

I have felt a lot like Elijah impatiently pleading with God at the mouth of the cave.

Patiently and gently, the still small voice responded, “So you want to be married? Good, let’s take a realistic look at what you call love and what you would bring to a future marriage.” Through the verses of the old standard, Proverbs 31, God asked the tough questions: Do you have your house in some sense of order? Do you have an understanding of how you deal with stress and discouragement? Are you following My call on your heart and willing to make it a priority? What are your habits, good and bad? Are you able to nurture a relationship? Are you financially and emotionally stable?

I reeled and was silent in the face of such Love. Love that sought my best, not just for me, but for all whom I am in relationship with. Love that wasn’t interested in coddling me or worried about my reaction.  Love that would speak its peace and then still be there in the morning.  The kind of Love I longed for, but didn’t know the first thing about how to give or receive.

And then God had a heart-to-heart with me about the difference between love and longing.

Longing is that deep heart-desire for a kindred spirit, a person who knows me intimately, a person who loves me even when I’m not likable; the desire for comfort after a hard day, for a hand to hold in fear; for the kiss that curls the toes.

But the focus of longing is on me and what I desire.

Love was not in my relational earthquakes or the wind or the fire, the tumult or anxiety, the intensity or the tears.  Longing, yes, but not Love, a Love that simply loves, without demanding payment.

Now, the desire to be loved is good and wonderful, and this desire has a place in relationships, but actions rooted in this longing are not the same as love.  Love places the beloved at the center–not a desired response, not the fulfillment of my longing to be loved.

Am I giving love or longing? Am I seeking to do and give what is loving for the other person, or only what will garner a fulfillment of my longing?

It is a question that is changing how I approach all relationships.

But what do I do with the longing?

I write this only as one in the midst of asking the question.  I believe God is the only One who can bear and fulfill the full intensity of our longings–no person can be our fulfillment.  Deep friendships , family, and covenant relationships have space for the mutual sharing and fulfilling of longing—for love, intimacy, encouragement, delight.  However, I am persuaded that even then, the call is to love those in our lives first, and our longing’s fulfillment comes only as a grace-full gift.

I am practicing giving God my longings and giving others love.

holy experience

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