Saturday, October 29, 2011


Being a parent has got to be one of the hardest things a person does. And most I know don't think they do it well. Too many broken hearts. Words that might better have been left unsaid. Misunderstandings. Suspicion. Fear. On the other hand, I don't know many who would give it up. Or admit regret. Hard work. But worth it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Things are things. Not good. Not evil. Amoral. And when kept in perspective -- used and valued as designed -- things can help me to live well and to do well. But when valued for what they represent, those same things easily become objects of worship, obstacles to relationship, obstructions to an experience of the Divine Presence.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Some traditions tend to focus on coming to faith as an event while others present it as a process. I've sometimes wondered whether the experience of "event" or "process" has more to do with my faith personality than with my tradition or my experience of reality.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I've been challenging myself this year to live in the tension between competing desires and expectations. It's so much easier to quiet the stressors in my life by leaning one direction or the other, but I'm learning that the place of tension -- that liminal place of not quite one or the other (but both) -- is the place I need to be, the only place where I can find the balanced maturity that I seek.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I like to think of myself as a realist (rather than optimist or pessimist), but all that means is that I'm less likely to think of the glass half full or half empty than I am to suspect that I can smell the faint odor of chlorine.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I'm often distracted, not because I'm not focusing, but because I'm focusing on something other than the experience of the moment. I struggle with being present.

Monday, October 17, 2011


you be willing to
give up what you want in order to
make a difference?
As a high school student, I knew where I was going in life. I would graduate at the top of my class, enroll at a top-tier university, work at a large private law firm and eventually find a way into politics. I wanted to be well-known, well-liked and well-off (not necessarily in that order). But along the way, I had an experience that changed the course of my life. On a family trip along the Oregon Coast, I was “impressed” with a question. It was just in my head, but I knew it wasn’t from me: “Would you be willing to give up what you want in order to make a difference?” I suspected that God was the asker, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what it might mean. Whatever it meant, however, I knew it was what I really wanted, what I really needed.

Over the years, I’ve had a variety of experiences like that one – times when I’ve had a dream that provided clarity, times when I’ve heard someone say something they didn’t actually say, times when I’ve been “impressed” with a question or an insight or a new perspective, times that I’ve only recently come to recognize as mystical.

So I’m reading the mystics. Because I hope

to learn how to listen better,

to recognize the workings of God in my life and in the lives of those I love,

to better attend to the daily presence of a God who desires for me to experience the communion that brings joy, peace, love and life.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011



food for the stomach, a roof
for the rain, a window, a cup of hot coffee, a book, a fire, a friend
I have a box in the basement utility room. It’s next to the washing machine, and it’s the place for stuff I just don’t need any more. When I checked the box this weekend, there were shoes, old gloves, a shirt, three books, a toy car, a ping-pong paddle, an insulated coffee cup. When the box gets full – about once every three weeks or so – I take it to a thrift store down the street. Add it up, and I’m giving away 16 or 17 boxes of stuff. Enough to fill up a minivan floor to ceiling. Every single year. And I’m not keeping up. At least twice a year, I do a major cleaning – move out old pieces of furniture, a rug, a pile of books, dead plants, broken tools, a television or a microwave.

I’ve been challenged to consider the temptation of the material, a temptation to collect and store and value, a temptation to have and to hold that can keep me from growing closer to Christ. Augustine likens these passions for the material to a serpent we must destroy. Teresa claims that our soul – having experienced spiritual reality – is no longer able to find pleasure in anything of the earth. De Caussade says that to delight in God, “we must strip ourselves naked, renounce all desire for created things.”

And I know that they’re right. But I fear they go too far, suggesting as they do that there is something wrong with the material, that there is something wrong with human passion for created things.

I have too much. In order to live a life with room for God, I must intentionally cast off what otherwise obstructs. But the truth is that there is also much value in the material: food for the stomach, a roof for the rain, a window, a cup of hot coffee, a book, a fire, a friend. For this reason, I’m grateful to C.S. Lewis’s noticing that “the attempt is not to escape . . . . It is more modest: to reawake . . . awareness.”

Monday, October 03, 2011


the practice of mysticism – an awareness of God's reality and presence in all places, times, and situations – is easier to do when I feel like it
The washing machine started in the normal way: filled up with water, moved the clothes back and forth, stopped for the soak cycle. But when it came time to spin, it clicked into place and stopped. There was no revving of the electrical motor, no blurry whir of spinning clothes. And the water wouldn’t drain. Even now, thinking back, I can feel the tension in my stomach. The anger. I don’t have time to deal with this. Not now.

Of course, it’s not just now. I wouldn’t have time to deal with it tomorrow, either. Or the next day. Or the next. But I had to.

The machine simply wouldn’t continue. Couldn’t continue. So – frustrated though I was – I packed up the car with more than a week’s worth of dirty clothes and drove to the laundromat.

Sitting there, waiting, I thought of Brother Lawrence’s claim that “all our actions . . . [should] be little acts of communion with God.” And I realized that the practice of mysticism – an awareness of God’s reality and presence in all places, times, and situations – is easier to do when I feel like it, when I’m at peace and at rest, when I have room for the silence.

But do I ever have room? To stop? To wait? To listen? To experience?

I named that night’s realization. Called it The Lesson of the Broken Machine. Because if I don’t have time to deal with a pile of dirty clothes, a swamped utility room, and a washer that won’t spin; then I don’t have time for God. Or me. Or the people I love. But that’s OK. Because it seems that Brother Lawrence didn’t really have that time, either. He worked so that others might have that time. The difference between Brother Lawrence and me is that he invited God to be part of his work – washing pots, preparing a meal, picking up the pieces of a broken stack of dropped dishes. May God teach me to do the same. Even in a laundromat.