Tag Archives: solitude

Be Inspired! Conversation with Julia Roller (part 2)

Be inspired! I’m excited to launch a special focus in June featuring interviews with Christian women whose stories, thoughts, ideas, and choices inspire me—and will inspire you—to love more deeply, to seek God more passionately, and to live more abundantly.

be inspired
To kick things off, we’re continuing the conversation with Julia Roller about motherhood and the spiritual life. (Click here to read part 1 – you’ll love it!). Julia’s new book Mom Seeks God honestly depicts the ups and downs—and the hidden beauties—of her journey as a mom toward experiencing God in new and different ways.

At the end of this post, read how you can easily enter a drawing to win a free signed copy of Mom Seeks God as well as a free, signed copy of my Bible study guide Awaken Your Soul!

Here’s part 2 of our conversation.

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Your book Mom Seeks God chronicles your experiences with different spiritual disciplines & practices and how they fit (or sometimes don’t) with the reality of motherhood. How has your faith-life (practices, etc.) grown and changed as a result of being a mom? What practices or disciplines seem to “work” best for you in this stage of life?

Julia Roller lowres

My faith life has changed in many ways, most of them for the better. I find that I see God more easily these days, in my children as they grow and learn, in my husband, in those around me. I feel less pressure to get everything right and more of a feeling of confidence that God can make beautiful things out of my broken and imperfect efforts.

 

The disciplines that are most dear to me right now are some of the disciplines of abstinence (of taking away rather than adding): simplicity, silence, fasting (from all kinds of things in addition to food). One of the overall things I realized after that year was that I was trying so hard to DO MORE. In order to be a better parent, to be a stronger Christian, I thought I had to add more stuff to my list—more activities, more books, more prayer, more time. No wonder I felt so exhausted all the time!

It surprised me how much I benefited from and felt close to God through the disciplines that involved doing less. As I was able to turn things off (in the practice of silence), give something up in order to increase my focus on God (fasting) and try to do one thing at a time (simplicity), I found that I was able to open up some space in my life to slow down and listen for God’s voice.

Mom Seeks God jacketWhat practices or disciplines might you recommend for other moms to try–especially those who may be new to the idea of spiritual disciplines?

Prayer is always a great place to begin. I think we often put prayer off—to a time when we have more time, when we have quiet, when we can really focus. For moms, that time may never come! I am a big fan of praying short prayers in the moment. When I tell someone I’m going to pray for them, I do it right then. When I find myself in a moment of frustration or anger, I try to take time out to pray right then. This gets easier with practice. I also encourage moms to look for that time of day that can be the best time for them to have a consistent daily time with God. For me it’s at night before bedtime; I know for many other moms, the early morning works best. I love the idea of coming before God when I am at my best and since I am a night owl, for me that time is at night, when I can reflect on my day and look forward to the next one.
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(More) On How

In response to my post “Ever Present,” my friend Renee asked a critical question: How?  How can we live each moment attentive to God’s presence? Last week I shared 22 ideas with you for being more present in life and more present to God (find ’em here). But this week we’ll look at some deeper, theological and spiritual answers that come from a book I treasure.

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red poppyThe Practice of the Presence of God is a tiny little book with a great, big, walloping impact. It explores a seemingly simple idea . . . that revolutionizes every moment. It’s the record of some of the conversations and letters of Brother Lawrence, a French monk from the 1600s. Rather than summarize his ideas in my own words, here’s a short sampling:

Brother Lawrence taught:

• “That we might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with [God], with freedom and in simplicity. That we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him in every moment.”

• “That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times.”

 In letters, Brother Lawrence explained:

• “I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard toward God . . . an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God, which often causes me joys and raptures inwardly.”

• “[W]e must accustom ourselves to a familiar, humble, affectionate conversation with Him. We must hinder our spirits’ wandering from Him upon any occasion.”

[**All quotes in the Public Domain]

What’s your reaction to this idea? What would a continual conversation with God look like in your life, in your heart? A relationship of freedom and simplicity? Addressing yourself to God in every moment?

Consider and pray . . . How might God want you to practice—make a habit of—tuning in to his presence?

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Now a bit more on Brother Lawrence. He was a monk who found he best connected with God during his daily duties – kitchen work. He experienced intimacy with God more in the context of his normal life than even the times set aside for prayer and devotions in the monks’ cells. His encouragement for believers to maintain a continual conversation of the heart with God can help us transform any – every! – moment into a sacred one!

But, let’s be honest.

stained glass prayerHe was a MONK.

He had NO KIDS!

He worked in a MONASTERY!

So how in the world can his advice fit within the context of real life? Because, let me tell you, it seems a LOT harder to have this kind of continual conversation with God in modern life than it probably was for him – at least in terms of the many distractions that assail us.

Yet Brother Lawrence offers us some insights that can yet help us navigate all that draws our attention from God. Continue reading

Freedom: Expanding Prayer

Prayer, I think, is right up there on my list as one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines. I’ve always struggled with it. I’m such a do-er that the be-ing aspect of prayer (stillness, quietness, waiting) has always been a struggle for me.

birds flying peachBut I’ve also found it easier and easier over the last few years. Not because my personality has changed or I’ve somehow just gotten better at it. Instead, it’s because my understanding of what prayer is has grown, changed, and expanded. I’ve begun to learn, a bit more each day, that prayer is a lot more expansive than the narrow, this-doesn’t-fit-me-well, version of it I’ve so often struggled with. Continue reading

Soul Pilgrimage: Meet Phileena Heuertz

As we wrap up this month’s focus on “being” and transition to a focus on “doing” for next month, I’m excited to invite you to take part in a conversation with author and ministry leader Phileena Heuertz. Through her own faith journey, Phileena’s been carving out a compelling marriage between being & doing — between the contemplative & active parts of Christian spirituality.

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phileena2Phileena, welcome! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.  

It’s a pleasure to be a part of your blog today. I’ve spent my life in social justice work among the world’s poor. I’m a member of the New Friar movement, and for nearly 20 years my husband Chris and I co-directed Word Made Flesh (WMF). During that time we served in more than 70 countries building community among victims of human trafficking, survivors of HIV and AIDS, abandoned children and child soldiers and war brides.

Chris and I founded Gravity in 2012. Gravity is for people who care about their spirituality and want to make the world a better place. My primary work is public speaking, teaching and writing on contemplative spirituality, facilitation of contemplative retreats, and spiritual direction.

I’m a member of the Red Letter Christians, featured on The Work of the People and Q Ideas and known for my theological narrative, Pilgrimage of a Soul (IVP 2010).

Pilgrimage of a Soul - phileenaYour book Pilgrimage of a Soul describes a bit of your own journey from working as a missionary among the world’s poor to a much-needed sabbatical that eventually revolutionized your faith. Can you tell my readers a bit of your story? 

Sure. I had spent many years serving among people in poverty—children and families affected by HIV and AIDS in India; women and girls enslaved in the commercial sex industry all over Southeast Asia and South America; children living on the streets in urban centers across the globe. And I thought I’d seen it all—the worse of poverty and injustice. But then my work took me to Freetown, Sierra Leone at the peak of the war over blood diamonds.

The human brutality I witnessed in Freetown was like nothing I’d ever seen. Young girls forced to watch the horrific amputation and murder of their parents, taken as “war brides” and subjected to every form of abuse—often gang-raped.

Boys as young as 5 and 6, forced to amputate the arm of their parents or be brutalized themselves, conscripted into the military or rebel army, given drugs and involuntarily compelled to carry weapons that were at times too heavy for them and forced to commit unspeakable crimes of massacre, murder and rape.

I returned from Freetown empty of answers for the world’s problems and questioning God’s goodness. This crisis of faith plunged me into a classic wrestling with God scenario in which I became very aware of my limitations and deep need for God. Continue reading

Being (Redux)

fernsThis month we’ll look at the word “be.” I’m excited about what we’ll be discussing over the next few weeks and I’ve got some great new content to share with you. But we’ll start with a re-posting of a blog entry from a year or 2 back called “Re-Learning Be-ing.”

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Perhaps the title of the post should instead be “Un-learning Do-ing.” Doing, of course, is not a bad thing. What we do is very important to God in many ways and is part of who he made us to be–and we will explore that in an upcoming month.

But in our discussion of be-ing, do-ing can be a real danger. It is dangerous when what we do entirely defines who we are. It is even more dangerous, I think, when doing becomes inextricably linked with how we “use” time–When everything must be utilitarian, practical, or some sort of accomplishment. And it can be especially dangerous when doing = contentment and goodness while non-doing = discontent and discomfort that must be avoided at all costs.

This is certainly not a personal campaign for laziness! That is not the non-doing I’m talking about. For me, this comes down to the practices and disciplines that strip away, for a moment, the protections and habits that insulate us from seeing our real state — the busynesses and myriad of to-dos that cocoon us in a spiritually static state of preoccupation.

There are many practices that help us learn to be — practices I need because they are in a sense so hard at times and thus reveal how necessary they are. Continue reading

Practice: Nature

One of the best ways we can practice the presence of God is intentionally choosing to spend time in nature. A three-hour hike can be an AMAZING way to gain soul perspective . . . God is with me.

woman walking aloneBut ya know what? Taking 30-seconds to look up at the clouds (or the stars) can ALSO make a big difference in our perspective. In our awareness: God is with me.

Pausing to smell the roses. To look at the bugs. To take a deep breath of fresh air and exhale a prayer of thanks. Choosing time in nature, from camping to walking to gardening to a brief pause outdoors, is a powerful way to practice the presence of God.

 Click here to explore more about how you can experience God through his created world.

Discipleship: Live Centered in Christ’s Love

In my last post, I offered the encouragement that in our journey of discipleship we must prioritize time for quietness, for soul-rest, for just be-ing with Jesus. Today, author Keri Wyatt Kent is here to talk a bit more about what it means to grow closer to Jesus in these ways. Keri is the author of many powerful spiritual formation books, most recently Deeply Loved: 40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus.

KeriKeri, welcome back to my blog! Many of us (including me!) are “do-ers.” We tend to approach Christian faith with a focus on action—on what we need to do in order to grow spiritually. But your newest book reminds us to, first, experience and abide in the deep love of Jesus. Why is it so important for a follower of Jesus to center herself in Jesus’ faithful presence and love?

Even if we give lip service to a “saved by grace” theology, it’s easy to fall into a “stay saved by keeping your nose clean” theology. In other words, we can think that God keeps score and requires us to keep the rules. Certainly, obedience is essential! But abiding is the only sustainable motivation for that obedience. When we know we are fully loved, obedience becomes the logical path for us to take, and the most attractive. Sin becomes less attractive. As Dallas Willard wrote in The Spirit of the Disciplines, “Jesus did invite people to follow him into that sort of life from which behavior such as loving one’s enemies will seem like the only sensible and happy thing to do.”

 The other key idea is joy. We all deeply desire to be loved. Jesus offers us love. What kind of fools are we if we reject that offer or try to earn it with little accomplishments or rule-keeping? Imagine if someone gave you a birthday present and you pulled out your wallet and tried to pay for it. That’s what we do when we try to earn God’s favor. Just take the gift and relish it with gratitude. Celebrate the relationship that you have — that he would give you such a gift. That’s what practicing his presence does.

deeplylovedWhen we think about this month’s theme of discipleship, for many of us the first things that come to mind are Bible study and prayer. Your book, Deeply Loved, invites readers to experience discipleship practices we might not think of right away, such as Sabbath rest, practicing God’s presence, silence and solitude, and Scripture meditation. Why do you think practices like these are so important for a follower of Jesus?

Growing up in a conservative tradition, people would ask me, “How’s your walk with Jesus?” It’s a pretty invasive question, if you think about it, but it was part of the culture. And I’d answer based on whether I had been consistently “doing my quiet time” — that is, reading my Bible and praying. The fruit in my life didn’t factor into my answer, just whether I’d checked off that daily practice more times than not that week. And if you think about it, even though “having a quiet time” is helpful, the emphasis was on what I did. Continue reading

Come Away With Me . . .

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? To follow him? Does it mean we need to be just like him? (Bad news: Won’t work.) Does it mean we need to do, do, do (ministry, spiritual disciplines, and so much more)? (One word: burnout.)

Of course we do aim to be more like Christ and, through the work of the Holy Spirit within us, we cultivate God-honoring character in our lives. And yes, we practice disciplines, minister to others, and model our lives after the actions and values of Jesus. But there’s another way Jesus beckons us to follow him. And this following? It blesses. It refreshes. It’s what we truly need. (And of course, Jesus knew that all along.)

blog. alone

After a time of crazy, exciting, exhausting, and intense ministry, the disciples came back to Jesus to report on all that had happened. What did he say? “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

Jesus himself made a regular habit of withdrawing for time alone: time to pray, to recalibrate, to commune with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. (For example, see Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44; and 5:16.) In these times of quiet and solitude there’s a kind of rest that’s deeper than mere physical sleep: It’s the rest our souls really need. Continue reading

Train

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word discipline? As a mom of three, I think of child-tears, frustration, time-outs (or worse), and me feeling frazzled and worn out. Discipline, if we’re honest, is not fun. Rewarding in the long run? Sure. But not exactly a word with a positive connotation.

So when I talk about spiritual disciplines? Well, the danger for you and for me is that we can bring this somewhat negative connotation into the conversation. But Scripture uses several words that are translated at “discipline.” One means to chastise, correct, or instruct (see Hebrews 12:6-7). But here’s some good news: God’s Word uses entirely different words to talk about discipline in terms of our spiritual formation. Consider this excerpt from my book, The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival:

trainersAs we look at the spiritual disciplines, we’re instead aiming for the concepts of gumnazo and askeo. Gumnazo—from which we derive the English word gymnasium—means discipline in the sense of athletic exercise and training. We’re talking about a spiritual sweat here: regular “workouts” that keep our faith in shape. This is the word Paul uses when he urges Timothy, “[T]rain yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, emphasis added). This is the same connotation the writer of Hebrews intends when he prods his readers by saying, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14, emphasis added).

Askeo means the discipline of a master craftsman who employs skill, persistent determination, and great effort to turn raw material into a piece of art. Continue reading

Meet My Friend . . . Marlena Graves

I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Marlena Graves. Marlena is a writer and mom of two. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog and is involved in Renovare. Listen in on our candid conversation about what it takes to “flourish” — and how to make it through wilderness times.

Marlena, welcome! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.

I contemplate, write, and speak about the eternal implications of our life in God. I am a lover of beauty (especially the beauty of my family and creation) and a justice seeker — trying to overcome evil with good. In addition, I seek answers to these types of questions: What does abundant life look like (John 10:10)? If God is good and we are his deeply beloved children and safe in his kingdom, how then should we live?

This month on my blog we’re exploring what we can do to spiritually flourish. For you, what practices or experiences are most helpful in keeping your faith vibrant and growing?

This is a great question. I think much of it has to do with our unique make up and bents. Here are some of the key practices and experiences that have become an integral part of who I am, allowing me to follow hard after Christ, staying right at his heels:

1. Solitude and Silence: In order to detoxify (be purified) from all that is in me that is not of Christ, I need solitude and silence. Busyness and over-stimulation keep me from seeing reality: from seeing God for who he is and myself for who I am and the world for what it is. However, solitude and silence allows me to drink deeply of the things of God. These disciplines allow me to pay attention to God. Then again, I might not like what I discover about myself in silence and solitude, but didn’t Jesus say that the truth sets us free? All throughout Scripture I notice that those closest to God spent a lot of time in solitude and silence. Of course, times of solitude and silence aren’t always a choice (Moses in the desert, David being chased by Saul). Sometimes searingly painful circumstances drive us into solitude and silence. Yet, I believe God still uses these times to form us.

2. Practicing the Presence of God: From the age of ten onward, I spent much of my time immersed in Scripture. For at least four years, from the age of ten to fourteen, I read the Bible two to three hours a day. Much of that had to do with the situation I grew up in. I was driven to God, to searching for his love and care. At the time, I didn’t realize how formational Scripture reading was; I did it because I wanted to. I did it because I needed to. As I read I thought, “Well Lord, if you did these things for those in Scripture, I see no reason why you can’t do similar things for me.” Continue reading