The Power of a PAUSE

God and I have a history.

Over 35 years ago I decided that I wanted to follow Jesus in a tiny, little church in Southwestern Ohio. I'm quite certain that at eight years old, I didn't understand how my faith would be sustained as I continued to grow deeper roots. Jesus had captured my heart and I knew I wanted to give my life to following Him. I'm also quite certain that I don't fully understand all it means to give my life to Him today. Yet, I absolutely know that I do!

I tend to think in questions. The ones swirling around my mind now include:
What does it look like to fully give my life to Jesus?
What is required of me to follow hard after Him?
How can I best reveal God to this world I live in?

Jesus kept it pretty simple when he responded to a group of Pharisees. Here's how the encounter went... (Matthew 22:35-40)

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Loving God and loving others. That seems pretty straightforward, and it is. But living it, living it can be a bit more difficult.

There is a verse that has sustained me. Actually, a few weeks ago when I was teaching a course on The Good and Beautiful God based on the book by James Bryan Smith -- I noticed something NEW about this verse. It may seem rather inconsequential to you, but for me it was as if God was whispering in my ear.

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

This time as I read this passage, I noticed the comma. Be still, {PAUSE} and know that I am God. In that moment and even now, I smile as I better understand the power of a punctuation mark and am reminded to PAUSE.

I have a natural tendency to get ahead of myself and overcomplicate things. So, today and probably for the rest of my life, God and I will return to this life verse as He reminds me of the POWER of a PAUSE.


We've likely encountered a few detour signs along our way. We've been headed down the road and then realize the route we've chosen to follow to the intended destination is no longer an option.

I'm curious -- what's your normal response to detours?

I'd guess somewhere between annoyed by the inconvenience to enthusiastic about the potential for discovery.

In my case... I'm a girl who might be called the queen of spontaneous contingency plans. I've been known to go around the detour sign traveling a bit farther done the road to see if in deed the route is impassible - believing that I can surely find a route that is more expedient or at least adventurous. You know the kind -- I'm the one you see making my way around the detour sign in hopes of using my instincts and gut to find my way. You see in my mind I know where I want to go and I think I know the best way to get there.

Not only does this way of thinking hold true related to my road trips, I must admit I tend to carry this thinking over to my life and faith. My first instinct is to embrace the possibility of a new discovery or grand adventure -- at least for a few miles. The problem arises when the detour is taking longer than I expected and I'm not sure we are making in progress.

These past several months have been filled with what I would call "detours", unexpected twists and turns. I've found myself in the midst of watching and waiting alongside some of the people I love the most. It seemed we were headed down one road then some unexpected detour sign popped up that has taken us through diagnoses, pathology reports, loss, anxiety, depression, uncertainty and incredible difficulties.

Everything in me wants to find a short cut or secret passage that takes the pain and difficulty away. Everything in me wants to either fix it or at least carry some of the weight.

I know I can't fix it. I know that my ability to ease the pain and carry their weight is limited at best. So, I'm asking God to do all the things he does best. To be with the ones I love, to soothe their fears, to give them courage and endurance, to pour out His peace, and to provide healing.

In the midst of these detours -- here's what I can do. I can walk alongside the ones I love. I can look for God along the road. I can laugh and cry -- sometimes at the very same time. And I can trust that God is with us "in the detour" -- doing all the things he does best.

And I can continue on believing in WHO God created each of these women to be - they are strong and courageous -- and they are tenderhearted toward God, eager to hear and respond to God as he whispers in their ear.

If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
Ecclesiastes 4:10

Extra Care and Unexpected Provision: Paths Part 5

I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD , the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you- the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121

Staying in the journey and on the path hasn't been easy -- especially this summer. There is no shortage of distractions, hindrances, and difficulties that propel me toward exhaustion, retreat and at times surrender.

On this day, even though the covering of the trees guarded the path from the scorching heat of the sun, things threatened to thwart my desire and resolve to keep traveling. Luckily before I headed down the path I made a quick stop at my car just in case there was anything I might need. I grabbed a light jacket and noticed the bug spray had been left in the car by my husband. I threw both in my bag and headed off. Little did I know the bug spray would provide enough protection that I'd be able to stay on the journey.

I don't think my husband intentionally left the bug spray in the car for me. Yet, in some sense this momento became a gift reminding me I can trust God to watch over me and provide what I need when I most need it. And often he chooses to include others in his provision and care, even without our knowledge.

On that day, thankfully I was able to keep going {without the company of mosquitoes}.

Paths You Can't Go Over: Part 4

Just ahead I notice the path goes under the road. There is a large circular opening, filled with darkness. I wasn't sure of where I was or where the tunnel would lead. As I slowly edged closer, I noticed the path outside the tunnel was well worn from the rushing water and from the footprints of other hikers. Many had stood in this place.

I wanted to head in, to make my way through. But, it was too dark and I could not see where it ended or what might be lurking inside. As I stood there, something deep inside of me knew I needed to make my way through this tunnel. The darkness was overwhelming and the unknown paralyzed me.

I edged closer to the opening and peaked inside, hesitantly yet longing to make my way through the darkness I caught a glimpse of the other end. Way out in the distance I could see a ray of light as the angle of the sun made it's way into the darkness. Although I could not see what was between the beginning and the end, there was hope as the lush, vibrant forest called me forward. At the other end there was a new land.

I wanted to run, to abandon my fears and hesitation and make my way through the darkness.

I couldn't, I was not ready.

Something inside me knew, I would return to this place but for now I did not possess what I needed to make my way through this darkness.

I turned to retrace my steps and find another way back to the retreat center, I tried a different strategy. I began to climb up the steep hill and walk along the roadway. Thinking I would be able to get my bearings and figure out where I was and what was on the other side of tunnel.

Ironically, as I made my way to the top of the hill and planted my feet on the paved road that thousands had traveled, I realized I was literally in the borderland between a local high school and Fatima Retreat Center. I stood on the roadway and looked below to see the opening of the tunnel -- then made my way to the other side of the road. There was too much growth, there was no way to make my way down to the other side of the tunnel. I stood there for awhile surveying my options, considering alternative plans. There really were none.

I will be back -- life will bring me back and when I do I will not return alone. You see after years of doing the hard things alone, I'm learning I need others to walk alongside me -- in the good times and in the bad times-- to celebrate life's joys and to grieve life's disappointments and losses.

Together, we will come back -- we will bring along a flashlight and we will make our way through.

My journey on that day came to an end... to see what was beyond the barrier of the road and hill -- I know I will have to make my way through the darkness.

I walked away sad yet more determined to return and face what lies ahead, beyond the borderland, through the darkness. I know I'll need light for the path and a friend or two for the journey.

Friends come and friends go,but a true friend sticks by you like family. .
Proverbs 18:24

Diverging Paths: Part 3

I come upon two paths at the bottom of the hill. A well-trodden path with a strong, solid footing converges with a dangerous trench that has been carved out from the summer storms and water runoff. The trench is now mostly dry with only hints of the surge of water that has edged away the defining boundary between safe and dangerous.

I am struck by the proximity between these two very different paths -- how easy it would be to wander off the path and slip into the trench. The edge of the path has been eroding -- it is jagged, weakened -- if you were to walk to close your foot would likely slip and you would find that you have fallen into the trench.

In some ways following the unpredictable, potentially dangerous path is inviting and seems adventurous-- to traverse the worn, ragged dry creek bed -- but I sense the danger and it feels ominous. This two paths are really diverging paths.

di-verge (verb)

1. to move, lie, or extend in different directions from a common point; branch off.
2. to differ in opinion, charater, form, etc; deviate.
3. to turn aside or deviate, as from a path, pratice, or plan.

I know I must keep to the well-trodden path.

1 My child,never forget the things I have taught you.
Store my commands in your heart.
2 If you do this, you will live many years,
and your life will be satisfying.
3 Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart.
4 Then you will find favor with both God and people,
and you will earn a good reputation.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:1-6

The Message paraphrase of the Bible puts it this way...

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.

Just in case you are wondering how to do this... today for me, it is simply remembering to take one step at a time!

Paths with Purpose: Part 2

Further down the path I begin to ascend walking upon exposed roots. These roots provide almost perfectly spaced stairs allowing my feet to find secure footing as I inch my way up the hill. This is new territory and I am unsure what I may find at the summit. This is definitely different terrain.

I've almost reached the end of this path, but notice a yellow item off to the left. My eyes are drawn to this object. This misplaced item. My curiousity gets the best of me and I make my way off the path to explore. As I reach down to move the leaves and debris I discover it is a girl's lacrosse ball. Why is it here? How did it get here?

I continue up the path still wondering about this lost ball. As I come to the opening at the top of the hill, peeking out from the cover of the trees and path, I realized this ball is evidence of a missed goal attempt. Just to the left of the opening and up a few more yards is a girl's lacrosse field.

How odd? I have just finished a season of being an assistant coach for our high school girl's lacrosse team. For any of you who have either played, watched or coached a sport -- it seems all those missed shots, missed goals, missed tackles, all speak to the deficit of a player or team. Those times a team doesn't score, when a team can't defend well... those mishaps and mistakes lead to disappointment that we would rather forget.

Life has a way of creating the path that lies before us. I am learning that I don't control the elevation changes of the path I must follow or the kind of footing I will have to endure. I am also learning that life, just like lacrosse and any other sport is filled with mishaps, mistakes, and disappointments.

But today, I am especially struck by the idea that what is required of me (and us) is to LIVE the life we have and to PLAY the game that we are in to the best of our ability. To offer all of ourselves to what we encounter and experience. AND to trust that those missed shots, difficult situations and disappointments will be used in someway down the path.

This missed shot likely happened 3 - 6 months before my walk. This ball had been lost and likely forgotton by the team, probably even replaced by now. It had been passed by many who had walked this same trail. But this day, for this moment... in some way for me was a reminder that nothing is lost or forgotten. That everything in our journey has purpose and value, somewhere, somehow, for someone.

A Day Away: Paths Part 1

Yesterday I spent the morning participating in a silent retreat at Fatima Retreat Center in Indianapolis. The grounds were fantastic... in the midst of the urban landscape I found 13 acres of wooded wonder. After a quick introduction and overview of the options available to us, I quickly headed out to see what was beyond the paved parking lot. Not sure where to begin I found a path that lead me away from the structure and confinement of the buildings and the other people.

The birds were singing -- they too had found this sanctuary a midst the concrete and pavement of the city. Their own secret place! As I walked along the path I came to a "T" -- my first decision. Which way should I go?

Up the path to the left or down the path to the right. I chose left -- making my way up the path. To the right of the path I discovered a gorge, a natural path carved through the hills. Years of rain and run off created this natural path cascading down and through the hills. At some points I could see the the source and path by which the water came while at other points there was no indication of the origin of the water. What was the source of this type of current -- causing the earth to erode?

Although my curiosity called for more exploration -- I kept thinking how could that be? If we look long enough or search hard enough isn't it possible to find the cause / the source? Can't we find the reason -- and if we can find the reason or cause -- then surely there is a solution.

As I continued on my journey, the evidence of the water and run off could not be mistaken. Although the various source of this power eluded me. Yet, when I looked closer and began to notice the path and the rich, depth of the landscape I was no longer compelled to seek out the source of the erosion.

The sides of the ravine displayed exposed roots, stretching into the rich soil, holding some trees in place. Gripping the sides, clinging to the earth's stability. Enormous boulders were left behind in the now almost dry creek. Tree trunks that had lost their footing were strewn throughout the path -- left, wedged between standing trees, pushed up against the steep ascent of the banks.

Today it was dry so everything seemed to be sturdy and strong. No pressure or current to fight against, just a trickling sounds of the flow of a slight stream. A pause. A respite from the spring and summer rains -- allowing the roots of the trees to dig deeper into the earth, adjusting their footing, resting, strengthing. Preparing for what lies ahead.

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. GOD

found in Jeremiah 31:25

Today I rest and receive.
Today I take hold of those things I know.
Today I adjust my feet and dig deeper into the strength and stability of my God.

Walking the Path Before Us

On my birthday back in January my mind and heart was anticipating what was ahead. If you look back to that post -- you'll see the questions that were swirling around:

Who do I want to be?
What do I dream will come true?
How do I want to be remembered?
How will I spend my time and energy?
What mark do I want to leave on the world?

I set out with two things on my heart:

I wanted to laugh more and enjoy the journey. (I can be a bit too serious!) AND

I wanted to celebrate those I love by pointing out the unique contributions they make in the world!

Funny, how I thought I would set out to accomplish these things. I'd make plans and begin working toward intentional acts of celebration and find moments where laughter came freely. In response to follow scripture the scripture:

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

So much for planning and arranging intentional acts -- what has transpired is being responsive and present in what life brings my way each day. Although some of the things I thought I would accomplish haven't come to pass -- I have adapted and adjusted to what life has brought my way. In the midst of some of the unexpected turns and twists, I've found opportunities to celebrate some of the people I love the most -- AND I've laughed with great abandon many times. So, I will attempt to set out daily, watching for God and doing my best to be present!

The Making of a Life

I've been wondering lately about what makes a life. Sure, it is the memories we make along the way with our families and our friends. It's the decisions we make and the promises we keep. This year I've officiated both weddings and funerals. I've stood beside a bride and groom -- and felt the anticipation and excitement of what lies ahead as they begin their journey as a married couple. I've also stood beside a casket of a dear aunt -- and felt the sadness at the loss of a treasured woman.

A wedding is a time and ceremony set aside for making vows and commitments in front of friends and family filled with anticipation and joy surrounding the possibilities of this union. A funeral, on the other hand, is a time and ceremony set aside for remembering and commemorating the life of a loved one. Funerals propel our hearts and minds to consider the life that has been lived. To look back and review the past often with a new perspective that helps us discern what we value most. In some ways, our feelings surrounding the loss of a loved one helps us define what is truly important. We hear people say things like: I wish I had done more of.... OR I wish I had done less of... These phrases are clues to what we value and what we deem as important.

So, I am wondering how our lives would be different if we took the time to look forward (like we do at a wedding) 10, 20 or 50 years and declared what we want to be true of our life when our friends and family gather to remember and commemorate our life.

What stories will be shared of who you were?
When others describe you what words will they use?
What will the world be missing when you are gone?

The Making of Life happens whether we are intentional or not -- it is happening right now. Make it the BEST LIFE you possibly can.

Perspective - through the eyes of children

Yesterday, I spent an hour fishing with a "little" friend of mine. What I thought was just an opporunity to visit with my friend, Maggy and her mom was so much more. Off we went headed down the hill to a neighborhood pond with fishing poles and worms in hand. Luckily, Maggy's mom had all the tools we needed included a pair of gloves so we didn't have to touch the fish. She told us that it was best for the fish... but I am not convinced it was really more for me than the fish.

We tossed our lines in the water and literally in a minute or two we had our first bite. Wow! As we "wooed" the fish in -- calling them toward the bait, we giggled and told stories. We "screamed" as the fish flopped around wanting to be put back in their warm, murky water. We giggled like little girls. Maybe that was the point... laughing, giggling, and for me "acting" like these were the first fish I had ever seen or caught.

As I drove home, I smiled realizing that many things that had held wonder and laughter when I was a little girl... well unfortunately I now missed way too often because I am busy and productive. I forgot what it was like the first time I touched a wiggly, sticky worm. I forget to just enjoy the moment and savor the experiences of living!

Thanks Maggy for this fishing outing and allowing me to see the world through your eyes!

SABBATH - Before or After?

I've always thought of resting after expending energy -- as a replenishment for what I had just experienced or endured. So, if I took a run then I'd rest once I had finished my run. Or if I had been really busy finishing up a project, I'd work really hard for an extended period of time THEN I'd rest and recooperate. And to some degree that is still true -- however...

I've been learning both from looking at SABBATH over the last several months and practicing SABBATH for the past couple of years -- that it really is more about a rhythm that prepares my heart, soul, and body for what lies ahead. When I am rested and my soul is replenished through time with God I am in a much better place to live well in whatever circumstance I find myself in.

Let me be very practical -- and literal. We've been facing some difficult family situations that are requiring a lot of emotional and physical energy. My point is this... if I were to have walked into this new challenge already spent and exhausted in body and soul, I would have very little if anything to give. I'd be trying to squeeze out compassion and care from a depleted place. So, I am thankful I've been learning to practice SABBATH and have been experiencing the richness of a soul connected to God. I am thankful God is sustaining us all and providing in small and tangible ways. I am thankful I have a family to love and care for. I know I have to continue to practice SABBATH both before and after -- really in the midst of living this life!

SABBATH: Play Week 4

Adulthood is mostly about getting things done. Past a certain age, our existence is consumed by obligation. So one of the first things to die in adults in playfulness.

Remember how much fun you had playing children's board games? This week take time to play. Even if it's just for an hour or half hour. Start slow. Find a park swing or read a fun magazine, or treat yourself to ice cream, or some other forbidden treat you haven't had since childhood.

Just do something for no purpose except to enjoy, spending time producing nothing but adrenaline, laughter and memories.

SABBATH: Attentiveness Week 3

The devil distracts. God interrupts. And for some reason, we fall prey to the one and grow oblivious to the other.

Brother Lawrence found the most simple device for reversing this. In his small, wise book, The Practice of the Presence of God, he speaks about a companionship with Jesus that is without boundary--not in time, or place, or circumstance. Anywhere, everywhere, in anything, you can be with God. God wishes it and invites it and is present and available right now for it. The only thing missing is us.

How aware are you, right now, that Jesus is with you? Why don't you greet him, out lout or, if that's awkward, in your heart? A discipline of becoming present with God in season and out, in church and away, in crisis and routine, in ecstasy and heartache, in thrill and tedium.

Throughout your day, just keep saying hello.

SABBATH: Right Sizing God WEEK 2 (part 1)

This week we're stopping to set our heart right as we "right size" God.
The root idea of Sabbath – all living things thrive only by an ample measure of stillness. Stillness like rest, requires a settling of the heart, a calming of the spirit. Sabbath keeping requires two orientations.
1. One is God-ward.
2. The other is time-ward.

To keep Sabbath well--both as a day and attitude--we have to think clearly about God and freshly about time. We likely, at some, level, need to change our minds about both.

Unless we trust God's sovereignty, we won't dare risk Sabbath. And unless we receive time as abundance and gift, not as rations and burden, we'll never develop a capacity to savor Sabbath.

The first orientation for good Sabbath-keeping, the God ward one, takes practice, mostly through thankfulness. Thankfulness invites and acknowledges the presence of God until you are utterly convinced of his goodness and sovereignty, until he's bigger, and you find your rest in him alone. Acts 3-4 tell the story of Peter and John in Jerusalem. They perform a miracle and Peter seized the opportunity to preach, which lands them in trouble with the Jewish high council. They are ordered them "to speak no longer to anyone in this name." On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. Then they raised their voices together in prayers to God. The prayer begins with this:"Sovereign Lord," And it moves from there into naming and recounting the height and depth and weight of his sovereignty: God made all, rules all, and overrules all that stands in his way. These men practice the sovereignty of God. They rehearse the reality of God's overarching, under girding might. As they grow, God starts to look bigger. And only then, as a kind of addendum or footnote, do they pray about the problem they have.

A Question for YOU?

Are you in the midst of a situation where, as you pray, you find yourself putting your problem first? If so, you're starting where you should end. You're rehearsing the problem, making it seem larger than it is, when what you need to do is rehearse God's greatness and bigness. Then the problem shrinks to its right portion.

Try This Practice:

Today when you pray, start with God. Recite what he has done. Proclaim who he is. And after you have been with Jesus long enough, and he is seen in his right size, then make your petition known.

Post by: Dana Randall, co-leader for the Women of Grace course, REST of GOD

SABBATH: Right Sizing Time WEEK 2 (part 2)

The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. Proverbs 11:24

"That's the irony; those who sanctify time and who give time away--who treat time as a gift and not possession--have time in abundance. Contrariwise, those who guard every minute, resent every interruption, ration every moment, never have enough. They're always late, always behind, always scrambling, always driven."
Mark Buchanan from his book, THE REST OF GOD.

Try this Practice:

Try this for a week, giving the gift of yourself first to God and then to others. Be generous with your time. Enter each day with a deep resolve to give your time away, even at times seemingly to squander it,for the sake of purposes beyond your own. Don't just give your time,but yourself--your attention, your affection, the gift of your curiosity and inquisitiveness. See how much time you really have.

Post by Dana Randall, co-leader Women of Grace course on The REST OF GOD

SABBATH - restoring your soul by restoring sabbath WEEK 1


a time set aside for rest and restoration

Sabbath invites us to STOP. In that ceasing, fresh possibilities abound. We can shut our eyes, if we choose—this is one of Sabbath’s gifts, to relax without guilt. But there is also time enough to open our eyes, to learn again Jesus’ command to watch and pray. Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God

Sabbath is a a day or time period set aside for feasting, resting, worshiping, and play. But it is also a posture of the heart and practice we can choose to partake in.

Let's start with the heart. When we say sabbath is a posture of the heart, we mean it is a heart that is restful in the midst of the ups and downs of life while being attentive to the presence of God and others.

When we say practice, we mean sabbath is siezing opportunities throughout your day to slow down, stop working or focusing on accomplishing. It is both intentionally setting time aside in your day to experience sabbath while paying attention to your surroundings. Here's an example: A sabbath practice may simply include pausing long enough to eat lunch seated a table. While your eating, take time to notice the appearance, aroma, and taste of your lunch. This slower pace provides rest and restoration to a meal as opposed to the often frantic pace we keep when we attempt to squeeze lunch into a few minutes while rushing to the next thing. Then take a few moments to be grateful to God for the amazing texture and taste he created fr our pleasure and nourishment.

When we say day or period of time, we mean an entire day or several hours set aside to stop working and to remember and connect with God the creator of all.

Try This Practice:
Take a step or should I say seat, and begin to practice SABBATH. Here's a suggestion to get you started:

Each day this week, set aside 5 minutes with two things in mind:
1) Cease from that which is necessary
2) Embrace that which gives life

Once this week, set aside 4 hours to observe SABBATH by AVOIDING those things we would individually classify as work and PURSUE those things that give life.

As you enjoy sabbath, you might consider the words found in this verse.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

When did you last spend time either resting, worshipping, feasting, playing, or simply sitting still?

Do you sense your soul is longing for sabbath?

Love without Fear!

Katie, a young friend of mine, wrote these three words on a ceramic plate she designed...
Love without Fear

I wonder about the combination of these three words.

I wonder about the power of loving and living this way.

Our longing to experience this type of love, this way of life is planted deep within our souls. Although we will never fully experience it on earth -- we sometimes within some relationships, catch a glimpse of the power and beauty of this way of loving. And for a moment see and experience the depth of God's love for us.

I think I caught a glimpse early this year as I spent a few days at the beach celebrating a dear friend's 45th birthday.

She gathered a handful of friends to celebrate the gift of life and the power of love. It looked a little like this:

Conversations flowing with ease
Laughter, free and spontaneous
Joy expressed around a dining room table
Gratitude for the gift of girlfriends

All these moments combined conveyed a bit of God's love and delight

Love without Fear!

How have you experienced this type of love?

Journaling & Devotional Reading #3

Using the devotional reading outline below, read and respond the following verse:

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from the old.
Psalm 25:4-6 TNIV

Enjoy spending time with God as you savor the words of this Psalm.

Journaling & Devotional Reading #2

Read the following passage using the Lectio Divina practice noted above.

Here's a quick reminder to follow:

1. SILENCIO: Begin by quieting your heart and allowing yourself to become aware of God's presence.

2. LECTIO: Read the passage of scripture slowly and out loud. Listening for a word or phrase. Write down the word or phrase that stands out to you.

3. MEDITATIO: Read the passage a second time out loud, linger and listen for any places you sense God inviting you to explore.

4. ORATIO: Ask yourself, why this phrase or word? What might you need to explore. Ask God to open your eyes to more.

5. CONTEMPLATIO: Contemplate as you rest and wait with God allowing the words to sink deeply into your heart. Take some time to write down what you sense God is prompting in you and journal your thoughts and prayers.

Answer me quickly, O LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
Psalm 143:7-10

Enjoy meeting with God in this passage and the pages of your journal.

Journaling & Devotional Reading #1

Journaling is a way of connecting with God as you become more aware and attentive to Him. Consider these words as you explore journaling as a spiritual practice:

OPEN my eyes so I can see what YOU show me of YOUR miracle-wonders.
Psalm 119:18 The Message

There are lots of different approaches to journaling. But remember our purposes are about cultivating a deeper relationship with God as we grow to know him more.

Join me over the next several weeks as we take a look at a variety of ways of journaling and prompts to begin our writing. So, let's begin.

Our first step into journaling connects our writing to a portion of scripture.

Lectio Divina

In this journal practice, you'll be reading a portion of scripture as a way to enter into journaling. Think in terms of attending to Scripture not necessarily studying scripture. Sometimes we refer to this type of reading as "devotional reading" or "lectio divina". Essentially, reading and reflecting on scripture in this way invites us into God's presence to listen for his word to us at this particular moment in time. As we engage with God, we'll be recording and reflecting on our experience in our journal. Ready?

Grab a journal and a pen. Or you can record your thoughts here in the comments section below.

1. SILENCIO: Begin by quieting your heart. Slow down and consciously come into God's presence. You can do this with a simple prayer and a few deep breaths.

2. LECTIO: Read the passage of scripture. Read it slowly and out loud (if possible), take your time, linger over words or phrases. If a particular word or phrase stands out to you, stop and attend to what God is saying to you. Write down the word or phrase that stands out to you.

We'll be reading Matthew 11:27-30 (THE MESSAGE)

27Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

28"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. 29Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

3. MEDITATIO: Read the passage a second time out loud. Linger awhile. Soak in the words and images that come to mind. Listen for any invitation you sense God inviting you to explore or discover.

4. ORATIO: Take this time to respond and pray as you read the passage a third time. Now, dialogue with God as you journal. Begin by writing down the word or phrase that stands out to you. As you respond you might explore your feelings or thoughts you're experiencing? Invite God to open your eyes and ears in deeper ways. Talk to God as you journal about what you are thinking and/or feeling.

5. CONTEMPLATIO: Contemplate as you rest and wait with God. Give yourself time for the words to sink deeply into your heart. Maybe you need to get real about something that you are experiencing today. Do that! You may need to bring something to God and hand it over to him. If so, do that! Likely, we all need to surrender or lay down the fears, concerns, and circumstances that weigh us down. Take some time to write down what you sense God is prompting in you.

Would love to hear your thoughts as you explore this way of journaling...

Journaling: A Way of Watching God at Work

Does the idea of journaling sound sweet or just give you sweaty palms?


Open my eyes
so I can see what you show me
of your miracle-wonders.
Psalm 119:18 The Message

Journaling is a way of;

  • paying attention to our lives,
  • reflecting on God's presence and guidance, and
  • creating an ongoing record of our soul's journey into God.
How To:
"There is no right way to journal. You don't need to journal every day or even every week. Find a rhythm of journaling that suits your phase and stage of life. If writing isn't your thing, make a journal of photos or drawings or articles. Assign key words or thoughts or themes to the entries. If you don't write well, remember that you don't need to write beautifully or use complete sentences. Journaling is a way for you to be with God and your thoughts, not an exercise in language arts. Tell the truth to God and to yourself as best you can. Review what you write on a regular basis. As you do, you will begin to recognize life themes, desires, frustration and patterns of interaction. These insights become matters for dialogue with God." Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

An Example
I am embarrassed to tell you that a few days ago I wanted to journal and I couldn't find my current journal. I searched a few of my favorite places and came up empty handed. I walked away sad and couldn't bear the idea of starting a new journal because I wanted to pick up where I had left off. I've learned over the years that one of the places where God and I do the best work on changing me is when I spend time journaling. Sometimes I start writing as a continuation of some scripture I've been reading or studying. Sometimes I just need to write down what I've been thinking so I don't forget. Regardless of where I begin and my reasons for journaling, I always find God moving and realigning the pieces of my heart and soul.

Making It Your Own
There are so many ways to journal. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Read magazines, newspapers, articles, or books -- cut out or record anything that touches you. Paste clippings in your journal. Use them to prompt your prayers.
  2. Read a selected passage of scripture and keep a record of your observations. This is not a Bible study but rather a means to connect to God. (you could use the acronym SOAP -- Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer)
  3. If you enjoy art, create a collage journal by expressing your thoughts and feelings to God through pictures, textures, and colors.
  4. Keep a prayer journal by recording your prayers and thoughts.
  5. Keep a gratitude journal by recording daily a list.
  6. Divide your journal into sections. You might consider: your journey with God, events of the day/week, prayers for the world, prayers for those you love, desires of your heart.
  7. Just write and/or record what is going on in your life and heart. Please record your unedited thoughts, feelings, and reactions -- and be willing to wait on God to respond to your heart.
  8. Just start writing something, somewhere.

ideas adapted from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Where We Are

I love the beach. Everything about it. The smell of the salty air. The soothing sounds of the surf. The softness of the sand. The respite I experience while meandering around the shore. Although my soul feels peace and deeply connected with God while I'm there, I must fight against the idea that there is external positional peace.

My peace doesn't come from where I am. Gerald Locklin pens these words in his poem WHERE WE ARE... "there is always the anticipation of the change, the chance that what is wrong is the result of where you are." His words elude to the false belief that what is wrong or right in our lives is dependent on the external environment as opposed to the internal landscape of our soul.

Each morning, we awaken and step into our day. Some days feel safely within our control. We march in with our to do list and schedules confident at the end of the day we will have accomplished much. Other days are more loosely held with options and time for wandering a bit. Some days we step toward the day with anticipation welcoming what will transpire. Other days we are unsure of how we can endure.

Luci Shaw in her book, THE CRIME OF LIVING CAUTIOUSLY, says this "... every conversation, every action, every reaction to individuals and dealings in the hours that lie before us will be unique-- never before experienced in quite the same way and therefore unpredictable. The unexpected lurking around the bend. We may well need to take a deep breath before we plunge into what God has planned for us."

Life is risky. Life is exhilarating. Life is a discovery.

We don't know what we'll be facing today or tomorrow. That's true. Yet, I take comfort and find courage in the story told in the Old Testament book of Joshua. This story encourages us to forge ahead into new territory trusting as we follow God's lead we will know which way to go. He beckons us to follow!

you are to move out from your positions and follow. don't be afraid, I know you've never been this way before. Trust me and follow me, then you'll know which way to go.

my translation
Joshua 3:3-4

I'm guessing it's not so much where we are -- but who we are following.

Here's to... following along and forging ahead into new territory.

Journaling-- helping to see more clearly.

Mindy Caliguire speaks to the use of journaling as a key spiritual practice. In this video, Mindy speaks to the benefits of journaling as a means of solving problems.

For me, journaling is one way I check in with the state of my soul. It helps me take stock of where I am, what I am thinking, what I am feeling, and reminds me of where I want to be headed and mostly of who I want to be. Often, I begin by brining my thoughts and feelings to the surface -- then begin inviting God to shine a light on what and where he would like for me to focus my attention. Sometimes my entry finishes with an "aha moment" where I clearly see something and sometimes my entry finishes with a prayer that simply says... Lord, help me... Either way I know I've been with God as he reminds me that he cares about me and understands the very things I wonder about.

Want to know more about journaling? Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana will be hosting a morning retreat on journaling with Mindy Caliguire on Saturday, March 6th. Want to come? Register @

A Canary and Your Soul

What does a canary have to do with the health of your soul?

Great question. One of the earliest systems for coal miners to detect poisonous gas included these little creatures. The system was rather low-tech and not very animal friendly, sorry. Keep in mind, canaries are very sensitive to carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases that can be found in a mine.

Here's how it worked. Coal miners would take a caged canary into the mine with them. As long as the air quality was good, the canary would chirp and sing all day long. However, when hazardous gases were present, the canary would begin to have trouble breathing and start to sway awkwardly on their perch. This abnormal behavior was a warning for the coal miner to leave the pit.

Again, what's this have to do with my soul?

A canary was used as a warning signal that the coal miner was in danger.

So, here's the connection. What warning signal can you point to that indicates something is not quite right in your soul?

Is it your tone? Attitude? Frustration level?
Have you increased your activity level and busyness allowing for very little if any margin?
Have you withdrawn from others? Are you isolating?
Do you avoid eye-contact?
Do you talk non-stop?
Do you fall silent?
Is your impulse control low?
Are you doing things that are potential harmful to you or others?

Likely, there is something you can put your finger on that says... oops my soul is heading for trouble. What is it?

Being aware is the first step in being attentive to your soul. Finding a way to monitor the state of your soul is crucial to sustaining health.

So, what's your canary?

Me? I know when I'm headed down a path that is unhealthy... I divert my attention and find that I've stopped looking into the eyes of the others.

16,425 days and counting... my lifetime so far.

Today, I've been around 16,425 days(not counting leap years).

Besides being the beginning of a new decade and now it's my birthday... I'm in one of those pondering moods where my mind wanders around asking questions.

Who do I want to be?
What do I dream will come true?
How do I want to be remembered?
How will I spend my time and energy?
What mark do I want to leave on the world?

For now, I am thinking two things...

I want to laugh more and enjoy the journey. (I can be a bit too serious!) AND

I want to celebrate those I love by pointing out the unique contributions they make in the world!

Hopefully, along the way people might notice a bit of Jesus in me.

What are you hoping for in the days to ahead?

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

Straightening the hallway closet....

Well, today is the day. I am digging into the hallway closet. The one that gathers all the things that we don't want to carry upstairs to our bedrooms or downstairs to the basement. Those things that we are not quite sure can be thrown away. Those things that we just can't quite let go of.

As I sorted through the contents, I found evidence of our life. Pictures I had be given by my mother of family members from earlier decades. Mementos of my childhood. I found more recent items from our summer outings watching Calvin, our oldest son, as he pitched in a summer collegiate baseball league. I found hats and gloves we had rushed to put on to play in the snow a few weeks ago. All of these items reminded me of snapshots of our combined life as the Gunter family.

I also found a bag full items that needed to be thrown away as well as things that we've outgrown. As I sorted through the contents, I was able to gather the cookbooks that had accumulated in the kitchen back on the shelf, combine all the school supplies in one basket, organize the family games, and get rid of those items we no longer need.

As I finished my project, it reminded me of my soul and my journey with God over the past decade. Here's what I learned... several years ago I literally dug into the hallway closet and pulled everything out -- sorting through the contents that had collected over close to 10 years. I found all kinds of things that had been accumulating over the years. I spent several days sorting through things, reorganizing, figuring out what we need and what we didn't need.

This closet project mirrored what was happening in my own life and soul. Maybe it was because I was midway through my 30s or maybe it was because my soul was crying out for some much needed attention. Either way, over the course of several years I have been sorting through those items that I've been holding on to. As I uncover a thought, a belief, or a behavior -- I simply (okay it is not simply at all) ask is this true and do I still need to hold on to it.

I think we all gather thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors along the way. Often mindlessly we haphazardly put them in our mind or heart giving little attention to their real value or worth. We grow accustom to the clutter and confusion these items bring to our life. They are comfortable because they are familiar.

The first attempt to declutter a closet or area of your life is messy and will take time and energy, but it is worth it. You'll likely need a trusted friend or two -- possibly a counselor-- and surely God to help you go beyond the surface to the deeper levels of your soul. As you begin, remember to ask yourself what have I been holding on to and more importantly why am I hanging on to these things.

Here's your encouragement. After some deep cleaning, the next time you approach the closet to straighten, many items will be gone all together and others will have found a place and just need some readjusting. Progress has been and is being made... be sure of it.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus....

Philippians 1:8

Let's live with intention as we walk into a new decade.

It begins by being willing to open the door and take a real assessment of the condition of your closet (aka soul).


good morning! thanks god for the beauty surrounding us. nice choice of blue sky this morning with the compliment of the orange sunrise and wispy clouds. nicely done and thanks!

Opening To God

Through prayer, scripture reading, worship and other spiritual disciplines, ordinary humans who seek to know God and his desires are opening themselves to the story of God being carried forward in and through them.

As we step into 2010...

How will you live with intention?

Will you set aside time to be with God, to listen to his heart, to respond to his promptings?

Will you invite others into your journey with God, encouraging them along the way?

For me, I picked up a daily devotional by Philip Yancey called Grace Notes. I am planning to begin my days with a short reading from this book.

I am counting on God to have much to say and much to do in and through ordinary people, just like you and me, these next ten years!

So, what's your intention this year?