Tag Archives: spiritual formation

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


Cease . . . Embrace

2 long days in the car with 2 adults and 3 kids. A few traffic jams. 78 Waffle House restaurants passed. And then we arrived here. P1040015

And it was all worth it.

A much (much, much, much, much) needed break. Family time. Laughter. Adventures. Discoveries. And, aaaaaaaaaah!, basking in tremendous beauties  — both big and soaring and those hidden, miniscule, beneath my feet. The beauties of breeze and bird and sea and sky. (Oh, and alligators, too. And did I mention manatees?)

It was a Sabbath of Sabbaths for me. No, not a Sunday nor a day of rule-keeping. But a family vacation. As the Brits call it, a holiday.

These were, indeed, holy-days for us. Days of rest, of play, and of being. And they remind me anew of the Sabbath-moments we all need, outside of scheduled retreats from reality and woven within the sometimes frayed fabric of everyday normality.

In The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan urges us to live within a Sabbath-attitude: “[D]o you play enough?” Continue reading

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

Woo Hoo!

Photo 1031I just wanted to share my excitement with you! The 2 newest books in my Flourishing Faith series arrived at my door this week. Woo hoo! If you’re local and would like a copy, just email me (trujillokelli@yahoo.com). If you aren’t in the Indy metro area, you can find them on amazon or through my publisher via my web site, www.flourishing-faith.com. Thank you, readers, for your support!


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


What do you want your relationship with God to be like?

[Wrong answer:] I want it to be a facade; a guilt-ladden bustle of busyness; a bunch of checked-off spiritual to-do list boxes; a set of facts I affirm; a lonely emptiness; a worn-out, passionless routine;  a low and neglected priority; a long-lost, now-distant friendship; a stuck-in-a-rut sameness; a label I wear.

flyNone of us would say this, of course! But sometimes, if we have the courage to stop and really look at our lives; we realize that our faith has become one of these. Somehow, without intentionally steering this way, we find ourselves at a spiritual place we don’t like. And we realize: This is not where I want to stay. Continue reading

A Fresh Look

I love the fresh feel of this day: a blank page, a new year, a symbolic fresh slate. Of course, it is just a normal 24-hours like any other 24-hour cycle. Yet we join to acknowledge it is “New Year’s Day.”

future lookLooking ahead into a fresh year can be hopeful and exciting. So many goals to pursue and dreams to reach for! Like a great big shiny platter overflowing with inspiration and determination, 2013 gets served up to us to relish with joy.

Yet in all the joy, determination, and goal-setting (which I “get” as an obsessive goal-setter myself), I must play Debbie Downer for a second. Because, if you’re like me, you’ve come to know that our hope isn’t some fairy-tale world of goodnesses. Because, if you’re like me, you may start to wonder on a day like today, “What heartache or tragedy or trial will befall me in 2013 . . . that I cannot even imagine now?” Not pessimism but realism forces these questions, because heartache or stress often blind-sides us. That’s part of the horror of tragedies — those who suffer often have had no time to prepare, no notion of what was coming.

Jesus offers us a big dose of this “downer” realism when he tells his followers, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). (That’s not the most seeker-sensitive message, Jesus, we may want to whisper. That’s not the most strategic slogan to brand your Way!) But there’s no hokey, slick, sparkley-toothed salesmanship around here — no “just trust Jesus more to get a problem-free life” garbage. Jesus will have none of it. That’s simply not the gospel.

As we look forward into 2013, squinting to glimpse what may take shape, we face two realities. The first: What we cannot control. Continue reading

Anchors and Alphabets

“In our confrontations with obstacles or opponents today, we would do well not to focus on the troubles lined up against us,” writes Jim Cymbala in You Were Made For More. “Instead, we need to celebrate the God who has already demonstrated his power and provision in our past. We don’t need to be fretful or anxious. We need to anchor our hearts and minds in God’s overwhelming track record.”

Expressing gratitude — the intentional expression of thanks — is that anchor. Ruth Graham expresses a similar sentiment in Fear Not Tomorrow, God Is Already There: “[O]ne thing that makes it easier for me to trust God is cultivating a habit of remembering what He has already done. I tap into that track record. Remembering is a God-given prescription.”

Have you filled that prescription? Do you actively and regularly choose to remember in gratitude what God has done and is doing in your life?

Years back, on the spur of the moment one bedtime, I came up with a thanksgiving prayer experience to share with my young children. Ironically, though it’s meant for kids, this alphabet prayer habit has woven it’s way into my own spiritual life in order to anchor my soul — as a means of taking that God-given prescription of grateful remembrance.

I describe this practice in my book for parents Faith-Filled Moments. Here’s an excerpt for you to check out . . . and try with your kids (or without!). Continue reading

Re-Envision Faith

When, recently, have you felt most alive in your relationship with God?

In Sunday morning worship? In an insightful moment during personal Bible study? During a quiet moment star-gazing on a frosty night?

There are a myriad of ways we can connect with God; the traditional spiritual disciplines, drawn from Scripture and church history, provide a great framework to help us look at some of these practices. But this is not a one-way relationship — we must always remember that God is about the business of connecting with us. As we put our souls in the proper posture to hear, to see, and to notice, we’re divinely surprised again and again. There God is! There God is in my life! In those perfectly timed Scripture verses. In those moments, those memories, those challenges, and even in that pain.

The main spiritual practice I’ve been focusing on lately is practicing God’s presence — which is a fancy way of saying making myself more aware of God’s faithful presence in my life. The discipline of noticing and of asking, over and over, Where is God in this? What might the Holy Spirit be showing me about myself or about God or about my calling or about this world?

How are you growing? Where is faith most vibrant for you? Continue reading

Re-Envision Identity

Afraid. Average. Beautiful. Cog. Creative. Cutie. Daughter. Determined. Directionless. Employee. Empty. Energetic. Enough. Enthusiastic. Exhausted. Extrovert. Failure. Fat. Fearful. Flailing. Follower. Friendly. Gifted. Hot. Incompetent. Introvert. Leader. Mother. Old. Plain. Quiet. Servant. Sexy. Short. Shy. Sister. Skinny. Small. Special. Successful. Talented. Tall. Tired. Ugly. Unimportant. Unique. Unnoticed. Valuable. Victim. Wallflower. Weak. Wife. Worker. Worn-out. Worthy. Wounded.  YOU.

From the moment of your first breath, people have spoken words into your life—words that have shaped your identity, your sense of who you are, your sense of what you’re worth.

For some, they are words spoken with profound love.

For some, they are words spoken from profound brokenness.

For some, they are words echoing in silence and absence.

And then there are the words we speak to ourselves—what we sense when we look at ourselves, when we choose how to spend our time, and even what echoes in our mind when we’re alone with God.

Sometimes these words are TRUTH, but other times they’re black-hole words, lies that suck us into darkness.

Re-envision who you can be. Peel off false labels and shrug off the heavy burdens of others’ judgments and misperceptions. Let it all fall away.

You don’t have to live up to others’ expectations, fake your way into others’ good graces, or cram yourself into others’ cookie-cutter versions of beauty or womanhood or faith. Continue reading