Saturday, December 15, 2007

I am studying prayer in a course I am taking right now. I am also in a season of frustration and disappointment with myself, and both of these things (learning to pray and frustration), lead to striving in my relationship with God and in my prayer life.

I was out walking yesterday in a state of striving and frustration when these four words popped into my head “the peace of Christ.” I kind of had a Homer Simpson revelatory moment as all that that phrase means to me flooded over me, and gave me peace again.

It was a Homer Simpson moment because I have spoken on the peace of Christ, written about the peace of Christ, and meditated for months on Colossians 3 that talks about letting the peace of Christ rule my heart, and yet I had forgotten about all that God has done for me, and the peace he provides, which is like no other. To quote Homer, “Doh!!!” I know I am kind of making fun of this moment, and maybe I shouldn't, because it was actually really cleansing, and powerful in a very gentle Godly way. Thank God for God. As I walked along a busy suburban street, I believe he reminded me of the unconditional peace he provides.

For me, nothing compares to God's peace and all that He has done for me - all of us actually. I can do all kinds of spiritual gymnastics, and meditation prayer exercises, but why should I when peace, and so much more, is provided to me through simple faith in Jesus Christ? Some people may mock (I was watching the Colbert Report yesterday and he was mocking the Christian Republican Presidential Candidates for their “Christian” stance on some of the issues) but ultimately, I find incomparable solace in what God has done for me through Jesus Christ. He has given me peace for now, and for eternity. He has forgiven me for running away from his love, over, and over, and over again. He has provided me with freedom from the shit that I choose to engage in that robs me of His peace.

Colossians 3:15 starts with the word "Let" or "allow" or "dip into" the peace of Christ. Am I still going to pray? Yes. Continually, hopefully. Until prayer is like breathing, BUT, I need to approach God with peace, faith, love, and with the confidence that comes from all that he has done for me and provides. In the context of this verse, prayer is allowing - through faith and practice - HIS LOVE, HIS PEACE and HIS WORDS to rule my body, and the body of Christ.

learning to pray: Read Colossians 3:1-17 a few times, …maybe more. More in this in the days ahead.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Praying For Others

Lately I have been moved to pray for people. Maybe it’s because of Christmas approaching and I am thinking about all the people in my life, or maybe it’s for some other reason. Don’t really know, don’t really care. The question is how do I pray for my friends and family? What do I pray?

This may be a little too formulaic for some people, but I like to follow an outline that I think Graham Cooke came up with. Graham’s written a booklet called “Crafted Prayer,” if you are interested - – it’s brilliant (pun intended) Here's what I like to do:

1_ Think about the person you want to pray for. What are you thankful for? Thank God for them and the things that come to mind.
2_ Be silent. Be Still. Be open.
3_ What might Jesus be praying for them? Make this your prayer.
4_ What would you like to see the Holy Spirit do in their lives? How might he be praying for them? Make this your prayer.
5_ What would you like to see the Father do for them? How might he be praying for them? Make this your prayer.

learning to pray: who would you like to pray for right now? give the steps above a try.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Richard Rohr in the video series "Crisis of Faith" concerning Jesus:

I think he is saying I am willing to bear the burden of my own reality wherever it leads me. Never quite sure that it is right and that's why it's called faith. And that's why Jesus said when the Son of Man returns, will he find any faith on earth? I think Jesus really had doubts. Religion is common, it's on every street corner. Faith is very rare.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Two Questions

See if you recognize any difference in these two questions:

Question 1: What can I do to experience God?

Question 2: Where does God encounter me?

How do you feel about these questions?

Do you like one, or the other more?

What’s the difference?

Why does it matter? Does it matter?

Let me know what you think. Hit “Comments” below.

Monday, November 19, 2007

just pray

If I was to describe a place on a trail that I regularly go for walks on where you can see horses in the field with the Fraser River and Coastal Mountains rising up behind it all, it’s going to have extra feeling and meaning to you because you have been there before. If you haven’t been there and seen this lovely pastoral scene you might just shrug your shoulders and say, “sounds nice,” or worse yet you might just get bored and walk away. The best way to appreciate something, learn something, or experience something is go and see it and experience it for yourself.

The best way to learn how to pray - is to pray. When it comes to prayer, God and experience are the best teachers. As we engage ourselves in prayer, he will take us ever deeper into our hearts, and into his heart. As we pray we'll learn more and more about ourselves and about God. He will gradually teach us to pray, and transform our hearts and minds in the process.

I was reading James Finley's "merton's palace of nowhere" right on the heals of reading St. John of the Cross' "Living Flame of Love" for a course I am taking, and it hit me that I will never really understand what these guys are writing about unless I pray. They are describing places on a map that I have never been to. The little I can understand comes from my own experience with the Lord in prayer. Quite frankly the rest makes no sense at all!

Finley says that Merton once said to him:
the Church and the world do not need people to talk about prayer, think about prayer, write about prayer, nearly as much as they need people to pray.*

learning to pray: pray

* "merton's palace of nowhere" by James Finley

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Perfection in Prayer

Prayer is not about perfecting a technique. I have had a tendency to focus on technique, or get frustrated when times of prayer are cluttered with mental distractions, or dryness. The danger in naming a blog "learning to pray" is that it can give the impression that prayer is something to be perfected. Prayer is part of a dynamic relationship with a living God. God never changes, but we do, therefore the way we pray and communicate with God and the way he communicates with us is never the same.
I want it to be clear that learning to pray is part of the process of transformation, and the fruit of this process is experiencing a loving God and loving others.

I know a lot of Christians like order, and I hate to disappoint them, but in my experience with the things of Spirit, Spirit is unpredictable and messy. Learning to pray is not a linear process and for some people the unpredictability of learning to pray is going to drive them nuts. It's so important not to judge each individual prayer time. We need to stay committed to the unpredictable, unfolding, process of transformation and grace that takes place when one commits oneself to learning to pray.

The way we pray will probably change over time. The way we pray is slightly different for everyone. No two Prayers are exactly the same! Go through the Bible sometime and look at all the different ways people prayed.
Daniel got down on his knees three times a day to pray. Peter prayed on his roof at lunch time. Jesus would disappear into the wilderness to pray. Ezekiel was told to lay on his left side for 390 days and then on his right side for 40 days!!!

If you are in a good groove, stick with it, but always be open to Spirit when you pray. I have discovered that the way, or ways I pray are unfolding as I have tried to listen to Spirit and tried things from authors and people I know are mature in their faith. It takes a lot of trial and error and openness to Spirit. It takes confidence in a loving God, who, as one author said in regard to prayer, loves us most of all, perhaps, when we try and fail.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Good Story

One thing about the evangelical community is we love a good story. Heck, I love a good Kingdom story and hope to share a lot more of them here in this blog. I wish I could tell a lot of sensational stories week after week about how the heavens open up day after day and angels come and meet me as I pray, but it just wouldn’t be true.

The truth is I sit in my chair a couple of times day, and I struggle to stay present and open to God, and maybe for a few brief seconds, if I’m lucky, I know in my heart that I am in the loving presence of God. Most of the time not much happens as I pray that I am all that conscious of. The only thing I have to go on is my wife and my friends noticing that I have changed a little; that I seem to be a little more at peace, and a little happier. I have also noticed that I handle situations differently. Situations that caused me a lot of stress, or anger in the past, don’t seem to get to me as much as they used to, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Contemplative prayer has taught me to not buy the religious guilt trip any more. Whether it be over social justice, experiences of the Holy Spirit, reading my Bible more, evangelism, etc. Do miracles happen in my life, is it important to read my Bible, feed the poor, and tell others about the love of God? Yes, and in one way or the other I have been involved, or hope to be involved in all of these things in the future. Do I see evidence, and experience the Holy Spirit in my life? All the time, but I no longer cling to these experiences, and then tell other people they need to do this or that to be whole, or accepted by God. WE ARE ALL ACCEPTED AND LOVED BY GOD - PERIOD.

Prayer teaches me to let go of everything, including experience and religious guilt trips, and simply love God for who he is rather than what he can do for me. God loves me just as I am – weeds and wheat. Amazing kingdom stuff is going to happen, and is happening, but not because I force it to happen out of guilt and shame. It’s going to happen because God loves this broken world and he wants to share that love through me to whoever is open to it at any God ordained time.

I am “in the river” and good and bad stuff is happening all of the time, just like it did in the life of Jesus. Prayer teaches me how to handle it all more like him.

learning to pray: Let go of any religious guilt or shame.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

How Great Thou Art

learning to pray: On your next walk, hike, or boating trip take the words for the hymn "How Great Thou Art" with you. Here's a sample that spoke to me recently as I was standing at the base of mountain in the midst of a beautiful garden at the Cedar Springs Retreat Center in Sumas, Washington:

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

For the lyrics to the entire song go to: Turn the volume up!!! (Just kidding).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Time Off

I'm taking the next week and half off to study for my real estate exam (please pray for me!), so I won't be submitting anything new for a while. If you have anything to contribute in the meantime that has to do with learning to pray, please make a comment below. Take Care!

Let your love, GOD, shape my life with salvation, exactly as you promised. Psalm 119:41

Your love, GOD, fills the earth!
Train me to live by your counsel. Psalm 119:64

Truth from your mouth means more to me
than striking it rich in a gold mine. Psalm 119:72

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Summer Camp

A shout out to all the people who work with kids at Summer Camps and VBS’s this summer. May God be with you and bless you in all that you do.
PLEASE!!! - Let’s pray for the people who take the time to work with kids and teenagers this summer.

My wife and I went down to our favorite camp in the Northwest - Camp Firwood - last night to visit our kids, and friends, and see them in action as they led worship and did their jobs as counselors. Some of the teenage workers gave their testimonies, and on the way home I was reminded of the time when I heard the current camp director get chocked up at a camp alumni event when he began to speak of the pain in the lives of the kids he serves throughout the summer. I heard it and saw the pain first hand last night – and these were the Christian kids who were on staff! I can’t even imagine what some of the camper's stories must be.

Anyway – I want to BLESS all of you workers out there who are sharing the love of Christ with our kids this summer. In my opinion, you are on the most important mission field in the world when you serve, and love our children. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

From 24-7: Report From Germany

Ralf Neumann and some of his friends are scheming to move back to the down-trodden area of eastern Germany that saw them grow up. They want to found a monastic community that will bring reconciliation, friendship, creativity and practical aid to those in need. They are daring to dream that they can be part of the solution in an area that is rife with depression, suicide and growing Neo-Nazism. Read More...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Communion at 6000 Feet

We had been climbing for hours with little breaks here and there to enjoy the amazing scenery. Little did we know that our guides had a surprise for us. We were up so high we were at the tree line, and there was only one small bunch of trees left before the mountain continued to rise up into the sky. Our guides had us sit and wait while they went and set something up behind this last group of small trees. What was going on?

Unbeknownst to us one of the guides had carried up a large silver cross in his backpack, some bread, and some wine. Inside of the last cleft of trees at this height he was setting up a communion table on a flat log. One at a time the five of us went into this natural sanctuary made of ancient trees, ate the bread, sipped from the cup and remembered the One who loved us enough to die for us. One at a time we came out...rocked by the Holy Spirit!

Forgiveness and the incredible mercy of God was the essence of that weekend hiking trip for me. I went on the trip full of guilt and shame, and thanks to our guides, and the mercy of God I returned home feeling refreshed, cleansed, and accepted by God. I love the outdoors. That weekend I was blown away by the views of the beautiful valleys, mountains, lakes and streams, but I actually came home even more blown away by how great God is, and that he loved the world so much that he came to earth, died and rose again, to forgive sinners like me.

learning to pray: take communion, be grateful and rest in the knowledge that you are forgiven.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Walking With God in the Midst of Hell

There’s an interesting book out by a lady named Etty Hillesum. Etty was a Jewish person living in Holland during World War II. She would eventually die in Auschwitz on November 30, 1943. The book contains her diaries and letters that she wrote in the years and months just prior to her death. If you are thinking of reading this book, be aware that Etty describes her love life in quite a bit of detail. She even has an abortion at one point. Nevertheless, she had a beautiful relationship with God and depth of inner piece that few of us ever experience.

One quote that I like in particular is the following one, written a year or so before she received her orders to go to a concentration camp. Some of her friends have left already for camps, and food and travel are heavily restricted at this point:

But sometimes I feel as though a layer of ashes was being sprinkled over my heart, as if my face were withering and decaying before my eyes, and as if everything were falling apart in front of me and my heart were letting everything go. But these are brief moments; then everything falls back into place, my head clears again, and I can once more bear and stand up to this piece of history that is ours. For once you begin to walk with God, you need only keep on walking with Him and all of life becomes one long stroll such a marvelous feeling.

learning to pray: No matter what your circumstances, no matter what you have done, the peace of God is available to you right now. Simply "begin to walk with God" and "keep on walking with Him."

"Etty Hellisum: An Interrupted Life and Letters From Westerbrook"

Friday, July 20, 2007

It Takes Time

Graham Cooke tells the story about how someone once approached him and asked Graham to pray for him to receive all of Graham’s spiritual authority in one false swoop. Graham asked the guy if he was nuts, and if he wanted to die because Graham had suffered, served, and prayed for years to be where he is at in his spiritual walk today, and so have you and I. To receive all of this in one prayer session, if it was even possible, would probably kill the guy.

For some reason we want to grow quickly, but for the most part, spiritual growth is a slow, sometimes painful process. There are seasons of fast growth where God in his grace, and other factors come together, to move us more quickly into a deeper relationship with him. In general however, growth of all kinds takes time.

Ephesians 2:22, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

I have been praying at the same place in a local park for over a year now. I like to go there every Saturday morning if I can. It has been really cool to watch the plants come back to life this past year after the winter season. As spring progressed I would notice that there would be a little more growth and activity than the week before. At first there were very tiny buds on the deciduous trees and then the next week they would be a little bigger, until finally there were leaves and flowers and beautiful smells in the air – BUT – it took a long time.

Accepting that spiritual growth takes time is vital to learning to pray. Prayer is not always spring time and flowers, and it takes time to learn to pray. Sometimes spiritual growth is seemingly invisible to us as well. At times only God knows what is going on, and whether we are praying or not, we can be confident that God is at work in our lives.

The end game of our prayer life is to be more and more aware of God and his love for us, and our neighbor. Growth is a blessing, or a by-product of knowing God more deeply. If we don’t accept these facts, I’m afraid we’ll get frustrated and give up on learning to pray before we have had time to grow and mature in our love and knowledge of God.

learning to pray: Know that God loves you, and accepts you, no matter what season you are in.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pray As You Go...

Sometimes we think we are to busy to pray, but prayer can happen in little cracks of time. Here are some ideas:

Pray in the car – to do this you may have to turn the radio off. When you get into the car and close the door, take a deep breath and enjoy the silence. If you are on the way home from work, pray about your day and leave the stresses and the job in the car that way you will be more ready to give all your attention to your family, or friends when you get home. You can also turn the radio off and simply enjoy the silence. And finally, pray for the people you drive by. Pray for the people in the other cars. Pray for the people on the street. Pray for whoever else comes to mind.

Pray as you wait – I’ve spoken to a few contemplative people who don’t get bored, and rarely get impatient anymore. Why? Their practice of prayer has spilled over into their wait times, so as they wait, they pray, or are comfortable in silence. As you wait, practice your discipline of silent prayer, or pray for those around you. If you are waiting for a meeting to start, place it in God’s hands and ask for God’s will to be done.

Pray as you go – As soon as you become conscious of God, or think about prayer, center yourself in God and become fully present to the people and the situation you find yourself in. Lift those around you up to God in prayer.

Praise as you go! – “Praise the Lord oh my soul. All that is within me praise his holy name.” (Psalm 103) This is one of my favorite things to do and when I am in a foul mood I often do this intentionally and it helps to change my frame of mind. Wherever you are, think about your blessings and turn these into a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. You might find yourself praising God for all kinds of things, even seemingly little things – go for it. It’s good for your soul.

learning to pray: What's your favorite way to "pray as you go?" Comment below.

Friday, July 13, 2007

An Act of Kindess

Several years ago my brother in law (that's him in the picture - isn't he cute?) wrote his doctoral thesis on treating kids as if the were at promise instead of at risk. The core of his thesis is that if we want to raise healthy and whole kids we need to mentor them and call out the treasure in them instead of all of the potential bad stuff by labeling them at risk. It’s a great theory, one that Tim lives out in his job as a High School Principal and Dad (see and one that I thoroughly believe in.

Around the time that Tim, or Dr. Tim as we like to call him, wrote his thesis, I was a volunteer basketball coach at an elementary school at one of the poorer areas in our Province. I came to the conviction that unless we help these kids from these rough and difficult backgrounds many of them were in big trouble.

Since that time I repeatedly see, and hear, great stories about people who received an encouraging word, or an act of kindness just at the right time and it helped to change their lives for the better. My daughter’s friend, for example, has a love of photography (see, so she wrote to some of the best photographers she could find and one of them responded and has asked her to work with them on a few photo shoots this summer. Isn’t that great? Isn’t that kind of this busy, successful photographer? My daughter’s friend is so excited.

I think the thing about kindness is that we just never know. We never know when an encouraging word, or a kind act is going to make all the difference in the world to someone, and because we just never know, we need to be kind as we go out into the world.

Kindness begins with our view of God. You can’t go to a Graham Cooke conference without hearing him say, “God is the kindness person I know.” As we begin to grow in our relationship with God by learning to pray and serve others, I think we become more and more aware of the kindness of God, and this naturally spills over into our interactions with other people. I don’t know Graham all that well, but what I do know of him is that he is a man that prays, and he is one of the most generous people around. Could this be because at his core he believes in, and has experienced the kindness of God?

learning to pray: Just pray and be open to the love and grace of God. Let his kindness find you!

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Can you imagine a street hustler on a street corner saying, “Hey pal come here – do I have a deal for you!
“What is it?” you ask.
He says, “Make yourself nothing.”
You ask, “What does it cost?”
He says, “Well I’m not sure, but it cost Jesus everything.”
Our friendly street hustler probably wouldn’t have a lot of takers, would he?

The words in reference to Jesus emptying himself and or “made himself nothing” (Phil 2) have been ringing through my head this morning. As far as Jesus was concerned it had to do with being humble, and becoming a servant, even to the point of death. I think emptying ourselves and becoming nothing relate to prayer too.

In prayer we get the opportunity to empty ourselves and become nothing, to lay down our agendas and pray for, and hopefully do the will of God. In the process, if we stay at it long enough, God becomes everything. It’s not easy, it’s far from automatic, it’s contrary to what society says we should do, and it’s even the opposite of our very nature. It’s one of those things that only comes through prayer and suffering. Frankly, it’s why not a lot of books on contemplation become No. 1 bestsellers, and why contemplation is resisted, even in Christian circles.

On top of that, emptying ourselves and becoming nothing is one of those things we only come to through grace. There is no formula. It’s a gift of God and we have very little control over it. We can forgive ourselves, and let go of the things that imprison us. Then we can walk out of our cells – whatever they may be, including judgmental forms of religion, and be able to stand in the dark, and be able to just be with God. I honestly don’t entirely know what happens next, accept that I need to do what I can to keep leaving the my cell, go stand on a ledge, and stare out at the darkness, of Nothing, and simply rest in the presence of God. I think our faith, love and confidence in God grows to an incredible depth as we empty ourselves and become nothing.

Here I stand in the dark, at the edge of Nothing, with a bit of a sense of the presence and love of God. And that’s it.

learning to pray: What does becoming nothing mean to you when it comes to prayer?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Love Him...

"Love Him and I will tell you to do no more. For if you love Him, everything else will work out. I am not asking you for a tender and emotional love, but simply that you lean toward love. Put God before yourself and the world and even your evil desires will begin to be transformed." ~ Francis Fenelon, “100 Days in the Secret Place,” compiled by Gene Edwards

learning to pray: lean toward God with love.

Monday, July 9, 2007

What Time Is it?

A friend of mine asked me last night what I’ve been learning about time. He asked because he said he has had a less stressed out week this last week because he made a decision to be less concerned with time, and more focused on the task at hand, and the people he was with. Basically, he has been practicing presence, and looking at his watch less often!

Many of us tend to get caught up in, or weighed down by time. We have incredible anxiety about the future that keeps us from giving our full attention to what we are DOING RIGHT NOW. This is a stressful, even unhealthy, way to live, but most of us live this way anyway.

My wife and my two teenage daughters take a lot longer to get ready to go out than I do. Somewhere along the way I had to decide that I wasn’t going to let the time that I spent waiting for them stress me out. I can’t even tell you how I did it. Maybe it was simply a gift of patience from God, but whatever it was, it was a great stress reliever for everyone concerned.

Jesus encouraged us not to worry. He said look at the birds, and look at the lilies of the field; they don’t strive, or get stressed out, and yet God takes care of them. He goes on to say that if we seek him first all then other stuff will be taken care of. For Jesus, faith and anxiety don’t mix.* I encourage you to go outside and actually watch the birds, or stare at a flower or a tree for a while. See what insights you come up with.

Around 300 years ago, Francis Fenelon said,
“Make a habit of bringing your attention back to God on a regular basis…and you will undoubtedly find him with peace and joy.”**
For me, this is the key to overcoming my anxiety about time. When I find myself getting stressed out, it’s a sign, or an invitation even, to bring my attention back to God. If I do this often enough, the peace of Christ will rule my heart (Col. 3).

None of this means that we don’t put in a good hard day’s work. It speaks to the “how” of everyday life. My friend that I mentioned above had a very productive week, he just did it differently. By being less concerned with time he did what he had to do with a lot more inner peace.

Learning to pray: TRUSTING GOD is a huge issue for many of us, and can go very deep, even to the core of who we are, and what we believe about God. What is keeping you from trusting God with your time and your future?

*”Everything Belongs” by Richard Rohr
** “100 Days in the Secret Place,” compiled by Gene Edwards

Friday, July 6, 2007

From 24-7 Prayer: Incarnation vs. Attraction

"The guys who attacked Timothy smashed a beer bottle in his face, beat him with their fists and kicked him until he was able to break through the circle they made around him and get away." Read More...

Thursday, July 5, 2007


I have to admit I haven’t had a lot to say about learning to pray over the last week or so, and I am okay with that. More on this in a minute…

Last night we headed down to Bellingham, Washington to join our friends on the Fourth of July to blow things up! Us Canadians need to get with the program and create a holiday where we get to create copious amounts of explosions and set our lawns, and t-shirts on fire. It’s a heck of a lot of fun!

As I was getting ready this morning I was thinking about learning to pray and how I’ve just been in a quiet, peaceful place lately without a lot of spiritual fireworks going off. I guess as a result, I haven’t had the desire to write about learning to pray. I’ve thought about digging out my journals and finding some experience from the past to write about, but then I thought better of it.

"Only gradually, and with good direction, do we realize that drought means growth" - Thomas H. Green, S.J.

Being quiet and peaceful may not make for great blogging, but I have been learning that it is a fact of a life of prayer. The longer we pray - and I’m talking faithful prayer for years and years - prayer becomes less and less about the fireworks and more and more about simply being with the God who passionately loves us. Once we can simply be with God, and get beyond the need for spiritual fireworks, then we get to a place of truly loving God.

I think this is really hard for the modern North American Christian to accept, or even desire. It was kind of a surprise to me to find out as I have been pursuing a life of prayer that “the desert”, “the dry well”, and “the dark night of the soul,” was where a life of prayer was leading me. Like the rest of society I crave the drama, and the big show. I am addicted to it just like everyone else. However, I have been learning that there will come a time in my spiritual life, if I am faithful in prayer, “When the Well Runs Dry.”*

Although it isn't easy to experience, it’s okay for the "well to run dry" because it’s a time when I will grow deeper and deeper in the knowledge and love of God. It’s a time when I will finally become free of the addiction to the fireworks of life, and my passion for God and his will to be done, will grow deeper, and deeper still.

*"When the Well Runs Dry" by Thomas H. Green, S.J.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Rest In God

"I believe that we have no real access to who we really are except in God. Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are."
Richard Rohr - Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Grad '07

Well, we now have two graduates and I must say I am very proud of them both. We got to hang out with Jessica (that's her with her date in the picture above) at her banquet and during the her Grad cruise, and she handled herself with her usual class and dignity.

One of her best friends took some amazing pictures of her in her grad dress in Fort Langley, BC. To have a look go to and this is a slide show:

Sunday, July 1, 2007

C.H.Spurgeon said...


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sold Into Slavery

This mother of four from Missouri had me crying yesterday. Her inspirational story was told on The Oprah Winfrey Show of how she helped rescue seven kids from slavery in Ghana. To read more - Click Here

Paris Hilton is Free!

Paris Hilton is free! Almost two hours on CNN was dedicated to the release of Paris from jail last night. While it sounds like the time alone did her some good (I watched a little of Larry King), I have to ask, why do we care? Why do we allow ourselves to get so caught up in the drama of other people’s lives? Doesn’t getting caught up in this stuff just add to “the swirl?” Don’t we have enough problems of our own?

Now, I live in a house with two teen age girls and a wife who is a natural evangelist. We also have female boarders most of the year, so talk about the potential for drama – we’ve got it! One of the ways to escape the swirl that our lives sometime become, is to not take on the drama of other peoples lives. This doesn’t mean we don’t care – we do – but we do what we can, and we leave the rest up to God.

Again, I have to return to recovery programs on how to avoid getting caught up in the drama of other people’s lives. In recovery Sponsors deal with some of the biggest human tragedy possible. People who will do anything to get high, and in the process leave a trail of pain and human suffering; so why don’t Recovery Sponsors get burnt out?

There are several reasons why, but one of the ways sponsors avoid losing themselves in the drama of the lives of the people they sponsor is: sponsors are encouraged to never lose site of the fact that they are recovering too, and that their own recovery comes first before all else. If they get too caught up in the recovery of the people they sponsor they risk losing their own sobriety.

You could substitute the word “recovery” for the words, “relationship with God.”

Our own relationship with God has to come first before we are ready to go out and save the world. Losing our relationship with God, even in circumstances where we are helping others, means losing “the pearl of great price.” Staying aware of how we are feeling, and our connectedness to God is essential. We need to keep asking, what am I feeling? Am I feeling connected to God? Am I getting enough rest? When was the last time I had a good talk with my wife, kids, or best friend? And then not relaxing our boundries when it comes to our spiritual disciplines in favor of relieving other people’s pain, is essential too.

Through prayer and experience (doing it wrong!) we can develop a healthy detachment to the drama of others. Prayer and meditation helps us focus on your own relationship with God first, before the junk of others.
Prayer and mediation helps us to “let go” - the foundation of all true spirituality.

A final key is trusting the drama – ALL OF IT – our own, our family’s, our friend’s, the world’s, to God.

learning to pray: "Do what you can, and leave the rest up to God." - a recovery saying.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yes - I Have a Blackberry

From within reach from where I am sitting right now I have a cell phone, a land line, a fax machine and color printer, a black and white laser printer, stereo, MP3 recorder, and of course, a computer. My cell phone alone, has the internet, e-mail, calendar, games, note pad, and oh ya – a phone. Talk about plugged in and over-stimulated; I’ve got it all and it makes me wonder sometimes – if God tried to reach me, would I hear the call?

This week I wanted to talk about healthy ways to escape "the swirl" that life can become so we leave room for God. One very simple way to make room for God, to hear the “whisper” (1 Kings 19:12), is to unplug.

“The desert is a place where we are deliberately under stimulated” - Richard Rohr, “Everything Belongs.”

A while back we got a new Sports Radio station in town and I got hooked. I LOVE sports, and now I could listen 24-7 in my car, and even on the Internet at work, if I wanted too. And then there was a hockey strike. Now Vancouver, BC, CANADA, where I live is a hockey town, and this town without hockey is like Boston without the Red Sox – a lot of people were going nuts.

I began to get a little depressed. Not because I missed hockey so much, but because the end of the strike was like the proverbial dangling carrot, and the talk was so negative. Several times it looked as if the strike might end and all the fans hopes would rise, and then another deadline would pass, or promise would go unfulfilled, and everyone would be down again. Unfortunately, because of my attachment to the local team and to talk radio in general, I rode this rollercoaster of emotion along with all of the other fans.

Eventually, I just had to turn the radio off. I didn’t switch to another station, I didn’t start listening to CD’s; I just unplugged and sat in a silent car wherever I drove.

A funny thing happened. I began to pray whenever I was in the car, I began to feel better about life in general, and I began to feel more, and more at peace.

There’s a spiritual desert that people sometimes go through, I’m not talking about that here, per se, but what I am talking about is intentionally unplugging, so we can hear God and abide in his loving presence. We could go a lot deeper than this with the desert principle, but let’s leave it there for now.

learning to pray: What can you unplug?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Homeless Ballerina by Lisa Borden

I'm guessing she was three years old. She was wearing dirty grey sweat pants and a sweatshirt of similar description. I think the reason she caught my eye was the fact that there was an unlikely ...

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Cab Ride

About 2 years ago around this time of year I was driving to the Denver airport in a taxi cab. My cab driver – let’s call him Fred - started to tell me how he became a Christian back in his native African country (I can’t remember the country). A friend of his had basically gone crazy and disappeared for about a year. One day his friend showed up, cleaned up, and in sound mind. His friend had become a Christian and his sanity was restored. I’m thinking there was a lot more to it than that, but we’ll leave it at that!

His friend invited Fred to church and Fred reluctantly went. The pastor seeing Fred was pretty nervous about entering the church asked him to go and talk with him in another room. The pastor shared the Bible story of God's love and forgiveness, and eventually Fred accepted the invitation to follow Christ. The pastor encouraged Fred to silently confess every sin he could think of and said that God would forgive him on the spot. Fred said that when he was done he felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and that he’s been happy ever since! Fred said he shares his conversion story as often as he can to anyone who will listen.

I could tell story after story about people who have felt depressed, and weighed down by all the burdens they feel, who made the decision to follow Christ, and the weight was lifted off, just like it was for Fred. If you have never made the decision to follow Christ and accept God's love and fogiveness, why don't you do it now?

Even as Christians we tend to get weighed down once and a while and I think prayer can help relieve us of this weight, or whatever our individual burden might be. I for one get chronically weighed down by everyday life, and it’s one of the reasons I spend so much time praying. Through prayer I’m reminded that I am a forgiven child of God. I’m free, the burden and weight of sin is lifted off. Through prayer I simply rest in what God has done for me, and you can too.

learning to pray: My friend Jesse, the hot rod preacher, said something on Sunday that I thought was great. He said we don’t always have to experience something for it to be true, sometimes we just need to know, and that’s enough. Today KNOW that you are forgiven. KNOW that Jesus paid the price for your sin and that you are free! If you need a little further help, meditate on Romans 8:1, Colossians 3, or Psalm 103. Here’s a bit of Psalm 103 to get you started:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Tea Cup Ride

Have you ever been on a carnival ride and wanted to get off because it was making you sick? When I was 11 or 12 my sister and I were on a Tea Cup ride in Bellingham, Washington that went on, and on, and on. It started out fun, but soon made us sick. Admittedly, the Tea Cup is a very tame ride (I can hear my friends – and wife - mocking me now :), but by the time we got off the ride we were both feeling so sick we were considering sticking our fingers down our throats to try end the misery!

Have you ever felt that way about life? Have you ever said “I can’t stand the swirl that my life is right now, and I want to get off, but can’t?” I sure have. There have been times in my life when I have been so miserable, and busy, and feeling trapped, that I have asked God to let me get rich, check out, and go live in a secluded log cabin near Whistler, or a condo in Hawaii, or both! For the next few days I want to talk about escaping the “swirl” that life can sometimes be, in healthy life enhancing ways, and how to find peace through prayer, and Jesus Christ.

I want to start with some of the lessons I’ve learnt through the 12 Step Program because some of the core teachings of the program involve taking care of oneself and ending the “swirl.” Most addicts are caught in a destructive cycle that doesn’t seem to have an end, and by the time they darken the door of a 12 Step Meeting they are desperate to find a way to end the madness that their life has become.

If you are reading this right now, your life may not be at this depth of insanity, but there are things we can all learn from the 12 Steps about prayer and taking care of ourselves. I think, addict or not, and in today’s society it’s hard to find someone who isn’t addicted in some way to one thing or another, we all desperately need to practice this step.

Did you know that the 11th Step is about prayer and meditation? Here it is:
“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out.”1

The 11th Step is what people in the 12 Step Program call a “maintenance step.” In other words, you usually get to this step when you have some sobriety, although under the care and guidance of a sponsor, you can start this particular step as soon as you feel comfortable doing it.

People in the 12 steps have discovered, through the 72 years or so that the program has been around, that prayer and meditation, and improving ones conscious contact with God, are powerful ways to maintain lifesaving sobriety and transforming lives.
If it works for the addict, shouldn't it work for everyone else as well?

I’ve never met a sober addict who doesn’t practice this step to one degree, or another. For example, I have a friend in the program and his way of praying and meditating involves walking his dog for an hour or two each day. As he’s out walking he thinks about his life, monitors his feelings and thoughts, presents his problems to God, and prays for other addicts in the program. You wouldn’t have wanted to know this guy in his active addiction days, however, after years of struggle, pain, and practice, he is now one of the most humble, and wise people you could ever meet.

In a way, I think addicts who embrace this step are almost at an advantage. They have been to the bottom and they KNOW they need this step to stay and grow their relationship with God. Prayer and meditation, improving their conscious contact with God, have become almost a matter of life or death. They know that unless they do this step there is a chance that they will slip back into addiction, which literally could mean an early death, and on their way to the grave, considerable pain for themselves, and those they love. After a certain period of time, the peace and the deepening relationship with God that one experiences through this step, becomes the internal motivating factor: something the addict never wants to compromise again.

learning to pray:
what can you do today to improve your conscious contact with God?


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

return - again and again

Aren’t we humans funny creatures? God offers love, strength, and salvation, and what do we typically do? WE RUN FROM HIM. Sometimes we even run as far away as we possibly can.

I have thought about our tendency to run from God on numerous occasions - usually while I am in full flight! I was reminded recently in a Devotional from Richard Rohr where he asks, did you notice God had to close the ark to keep the animals and the humans from running away from their salvation?

Earlier this year I spoke at our church regarding Isaiah 30:15-18:
13 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.

16 You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.'
Therefore you will flee!
You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.'
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

17 A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill."

18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

This is an often quoted passage and a favorite amongst contemplative people, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” We tend to leave out the part about but you would have none of it.” I had to chuckle when I was preparing my talk for church. Here is this nice little passage about quietness and rest and then BAM - rejection! God is offering the Israelites salvation and strength, but they reject it, and he knows that they are going to “flee.”

The good news is, God knows us, and our salvation isn’t up to us. He knows our propensity to rely on our own strength instead of his, and “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you” Do we get the picture? God is NOT like some jilted lover who "goes postal” because we reject him. He is the exact opposite. God is so gracious and compassionate. He "longs" for us to return to him. We may say no to God a hundred times a day, and yet, AND YET, he still longs for us to trust him and rises in compassion as soon as we turn the slightest bit in his direction.

learning to pray: Our part is to discover and practice the prayer(s), or the spiritual disciplines that will help us to return to God again and again. It doesn't have to be something major that takes a lot of time - simply return, simply remember. The key is who God is: He is waiting with open arms, longing for us to return to him.

Monday, June 18, 2007

"Without Fault and With Great Joy"

Yesterday my wife and I drove our two daughters to summer camp where they will both be working for the summer. On the way down I began to feel really proud of them. They are awesome kids, and even though they are going to have a blast this summer, they had to make some sacrifices to work there.

Now work with me for a minute…How twisted would it have been, if as my kids were introducing themselves to their fellow staff members, I butted in and started blurting out their faults. For example, “Oh, I see you met Tracy (the name has been changed to protect the innocent - me!). She’s a great kid, but back in May 2000 she lied to me. She doesn’t really deserve to be here.” Wouldn’t that just be wrong?

Where am I going with this? Well, earlier in the day I had read this verse from the doxology in Jude 1:24:
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy
After meditating on this verse for a while, the words “without fault and with great joy” started to really hit me. I envision Jesus, who died for my sin, standing beside me, with scars in his hands and body, presenting me to the Father “without fault and with great joy.” Think about it, put yourself in this position. Jesus says to the Father
This is (put your name in here) I present her/him to you “without fault and with great joy…”


Personally, I can kind of accept and grasp the “without fault” part. I have had that grilled into me since I was a young child in Sunday school, and I am continually thankful for God’s great mercy. Without his love and forgiveness I am lost. I am in great need of his mercy and forgiveness. A lot of the time, I carry around shame for the things I have done and the way I have hurt the people who are closest to me, so the words, “without fault” are a great comfort and relief – even if I “can kind of accept it.”

However, Jesus doesn’t stop there! The words “and with great joy” are just over the top for me. In Godlike fashion his love doesn't just stop at forgiveness, he goes even further. These are the “proud papa” words; this is how I feel driving my kids to work at camp for the summer, or when they do something else great, loving, or unexpected. Like I said above, after all this time in relationship with God, I can kind of grasp that he forgives me, but to think that it gives him “great joy,” to have me in his presence, well that is almost indescribable and drives me to my knees in awe and amazement. What a great God.

learning to pray: 1_ Read and re-read Jude 1:24-25. Listen to what God has to say to you. Rest and be thankful.

Friday, June 15, 2007

SoulStream Hits the Web!

Press Release:
June 15, 2007

SoulStream is launching What a cause for real celebration! Steve Imbach who along with Jean, his wife, and Jeff and Joy Imbach, founded SoulStream in 2002 says, “Our SoulStream family is growing and with that growth we wanted to augment what we normally do to support our fellow pilgrims.”

The website is really an extension of our commitment to community. We want to provide connection for those seeking support in their contemplative journey and helpful information about SoulStream and it’s work. It is our hope that this resource may be used to encourage folks to open their lives more deeply to God’s tender love for them.

Speaking for all the partners, Jeff Imbach notes, “Many today are discovering the wonder of a relationship with God that is not focused on performance but on receiving the gift of God’s loving and healing presence.” We desire to create opportunities for people to freely encounter Jesus and live faith authentically by receiving the gift of God’s intimate presence in all of life.

This website is mainly informative in nature – introducing visitors to the SoulStream partners and support boards as well as outlining SoulStream’s mission and values. You will find brochures and applications for SoulStream courses and workshops here in addition to articles and reflections about living contemplatively. Students will benefit from the communication opportunities the website presents: messages will be posted regarding course, assignment and retreat details and students will be able to blog their responses to course content. Another feature is the SoulStream store: visitors are able to buy books written by Jeff Imbach and others.

SoulStream nurtures contemplative experience with Christ leading to inner freedom and compassionate service.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Teach Me To Abide

I have a friend who has inspired me to pray. For several years now she has gotten up very early in the morning to spend time with God. I actually don't know a lot about her prayer time, but one thing I do know is she begins each morning by asking God to "teach her to abide in Christ." I love this because I think it sets the right posture for prayer and that is to be teachable and open.

Lord TEACH me to abide in you…I’ve been doing this for years, but I still have so much to learn…teach me to rest in your loving arms.

That is basically what prayer is: opening ourselves up to the love and abiding presence of God. It can be, but isn't always, approaching God with a lot of words, an agenda, or trying to get God to do something we think is important. Richard Rohr in his book Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer says:
Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is rather, a stance. It's a way of living in the Presence, in the awareness of the Presence, and even enjoying the Presence.

If you are a parent, have you noticed that when your kids are young they can't get enough of you? This is how we need to be with God. We need to come to God like a little child. Every time the disciples start arguing over who is going to be the greatest in the Kingdom, or the subject of greatness comes up, Jesus put a little child in front of them and said, "If you want to be great in my Father's Kingdom, be like this little child." For the most part children are open and eager to learn. All they want to do is be with their parents.

learning to pray: Read Matthew 11:28-30. Do you need divine rest? Are you aware of your need for God? Have you come to an end of yourself? Jesus has promised to be there for you, all you need to do is humble yourself like a child, and return to him again, and again, and again all throughout the day. He WILL give you rest.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Danger: Don’t Pray Alone – Part 2

Last night I was thinking about the danger of praying alone and I was trying to determine if I was overstating it (see part 1 below)? Obviously, there is absolutely nothing wrong with simply praying alone and admittedly I am being a bit sensationalistic. I can and should pray alone - continuously! The point I am trying to make is concerning the “contemplative prayer journey.” One of the authors and spiritual directors I really respect is Jim Imbach (author of The River Within and more!). He has said,
“The contemplative journey is too hard and too dangerous to do alone. It’s too counter-cultural to sustain, too much of an upstream swim to make it if we have to do it on our own.”

In a way we are going off the traditional path, like I described in Part 1. When I do that in my spiritual life I need to have a guide. I need to have someone who knows the spiritual territory I am going into. When I had my hiking accident, if I had gone with someone who knew the area I was hiking, they could have warned me about the slippery rocks on the bank I was climbing down. In the very least, they could have helped me when I fell, bandaged me up and walked me to safety. In the contemplative life I am going to fall, I am going to fail, it’s a part of this journey and it is so helpful to have someone to communicate God’s grace to me and to simply let me know God’s love never changes, and it is going to be okay.

Had I had someone to bounce things off of in the early years of my contemplative journey it would have been SO helpful. Not as far as technique or anything like that, but concerning the issues of my heart. I have so many blind spots that need to be , sometimes painfully, pointed out to me if I am going to grow in the love of God. On my own I continually seem to miss the big picture.

I think the thought of finding a spiritual director first entered my mind when I was reading Father Thomas Keating’s book Open Mind, Open Heart. He repeatedly encourages his readers to join an group of fellow contemplatives, and to find a spiritual director.

learning to pray: Where do you go to find a spiritual director? If you live in B.C., Canada you can contact SoulStream (Jeff and Jim Imbach's organization) by e-mail at SoulStream will also have a website soon – Other organizations and materials that I highly recommend can be found at and

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Danger: Don’t Pray Alone – Part 1

I did something really foolish back in April 2007 – I went hiking alone, and it could have been fatal. Everybody knows you shouldn’t hike alone, and to make matters worse I went about a quarter mile off the trail to get a better look at a creek. As I was crawling down the bank I suddenly slipped and cracked my head open. When I opened my eyes I could see blood on the ground, so I grabbed a t-shirt out of my backpack and quickly wrapped it around my head to try and stop the bleeding. I could feel my upper back getting really stiff and I thought, “I better get out of here and back to the main trail.”

Thankfully, as soon as I got back to the trail I met a woman walking her dogs and she agreed to help walk me out of there. Can you imagine what she must have been thinking when she saw me? Some bloody guy coming out of the bushes asking her for help! Thank God she was there though. I was beginning to worry about getting out of there as my back continued to stiffen up, and I wasn’t sure if I was all there mentally.

We had to walk about an hour back to the parking lot. I ended up having to take an ambulance out of the park. I got 13 staples and 3 stitches in my head and another 3 stitches in my elbow. My wife and my friends continue to give me a hard time about how stupid I was to go hiking alone, let alone go off the trail. To say the least, it could have been a lot worse.

Changing gears here…I want to ask the question;
Is it just as dangerous to pursue the contemplative prayer journey alone?
Of course, the potential dangers are totally different, but I would have to say, from all I have read, this is a journey that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it IS one that should be taken with a friend, mentor, or spiritual director, if you can find one.

I have had the good fortune of finding a spiritual director and I can’t say enough about how wonderful it has been to meet with someone on a regular basis to learn how to pray from someone elses perspective, discuss what God is doing in my life, and figuring out what is keeping me from fully trusting and accepting God's love.

More later…

Monday, June 11, 2007

All Creatures of Our God and King

St. Francis of Assisi’s connection with animals and nature is the stuff of legend. Although most scholars believe St. Francis was actually quite conservative in his beliefs and practices, legend has it he would preach to birds, and once made peace with a wolf that was terrorizing his village. Legend, or not, St. Francis clearly believed that nature was a sign of God’s goodness and that it could inspire us to a deeper love and praise.

Yesterday as we sang this hymn in church it made me think of the times I have been moved to praise by; sunbeams streaming through the trees on my favorite trail, a night of cross country skiing under a full moon many years ago, and watching huge, beautiful, billowy clouds go by while I sat and prayed on my front deck. For those of you who have had similar experiences, and been humbled to the point of worship by the great outdoors, you know what I mean.

I like the humanity and grace of this hymn too; "And all ye men of tender heart, Forgiving others, take your part,...Ye who long pain and sorrow bear, Praise God and on Him cast your care!" Wow! Love it.

learning to pray: Take a moment to quiet yourself. Read this hymn slowly, prayerfully. If you sense the presence of God, stop, and rest in his presence. If a picture, or memory comes to mind that seems to be from God, stop, let the picture, or memory go and just rest in God's presence. How does this touch your life? Listen. Be thankful for what God has given.

All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!
O praise Him, O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Allelu-u-ia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
Ye clouds that sail in heav'n along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!
O praise Him, O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!
O praise Him, O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!
O praise Him, O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Public Domain
Words and Music by St. Francis of Assisi and William Henry Draper

For music see:

For more information on the life of St. Francis of Assisi:

Saturday, June 9, 2007


Experiences in contemplative prayer, and in the Spirit, are hard to translate into words. Someone said, “Stillness is the language God speaks, everything else is a bad translation." In that case, I guess what follows is a bad translation. Better go to the next blog!

Trying to express experiences in contemplative prayer is one of the reasons why mystics are sometimes accused of having their heads in the clouds and not being more practical, or down to earth. It's hard to find the words that adequately describe what goes on in our spirits and in the Spirit. That said, I want to try and relate a recent experience to you that has got me on a “stillness” kick.

I have a favorite place I like to go to pray in a local park. I love it because I can often pray there undisturbed by people for as long as I like to stay there. I say undisturbed by “people” because there is a fair share of frogs, bugs, and birds that can create quite a ruckus, especially during the spring and summer, but I digress...

Here's the head in the clouds part (it feels embarrassing to even write this, but here goes)...One day I was in the park in my favorite place, and for some reason I thought, “I am going to stand as still as this tree behind me and focus my attention on one of the trees in the distance,” so I did! Almost immediately I had an overwhelming sense of inner stillness, and being fully present to my surroundings. I could feel the stillness. I wasn’t simply and observer, I was one with it all. There was a gap in my thinking too; the continuous stream of head noise that I have going on most of the time stopped for a minute, or so.

Eventually, I turned to go, but the tall fir and cedar trees in the area caught my attention. I got caught up in their stillness for a moment, or two. I felt as though all of this, experiencing the stillness and the beauty of the trees, and my earlier experince, was a loving gift from God.

A few moments later I was back on the main trail and the verse “Be still and know that I am God” came to mind. The presence of God as this verse came to mind nearly knocked me over.

Being still - what a seemingly crazy way to get to know God, and yet, when you look back over history for thousands of years, religious teachers of all kinds have all taught the same thing: God is to be found in “quietness" and "rest.”

learning to pray: See the Stillness exercises on the right column of this blog.

Friday, June 8, 2007


Five days a week I (used to) work out in a gym. The gym is noisy, and according to my wife, who seems to have a superior sense of smell, it smells funny. On Saturdays I like to get away from the noise and the smell, and go run in the park. For some reason this particular day turned out to be a special day of expriencing God's presence.

On my way to the park I passed by a pond. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two young Canadian geese floating on the pond together. Usually seeing a pair of geese is not a big deal in this part of the world, but everything was so perfect. The way they were situated on the pond, the light, and the color; a painter couldn't have painted it any better.

After I parked and got out of the car, the overpowering silence hit me. Our house backs onto a busy road and the traffic noise is almost constant. The silence in the park was in sharp contrast to what we hear all day. The silence felt good. I tried to breathe it in, and I was so thankful to be outside on a sunny, quiet day.

I stretched a little and began to walk down the trail. The foliage was now thicker than it was the last time I was in the park. The sun's beams cascaded through the trees. What was going on? I've probably walked, or jogged in this park a hundred times and yet it all seemed so fresh, so enjoyable, like seeing snow covered mountains for the first time. The geese on the pond, the peaceful silence, the green foliage and the sun beams streaming through the trees; it was like every moment was a new experience even though I had seen it all before.

Normally, I'm in my own little world when I go jogging. On this day, everything seemed amplified for some reason. Either I was more present, or God was, or a combination of both!

As I continued jogging I noticed a quiet symphony going on. First it was the peaceful sound of the creek. Then I noticed the birds singing and the squirrels chirping as I jogged by. I thought, "God has a continuous concert of praise going on." Sometimes the sounds in the woods can be annoying, or frightening. The sounds I heard as I jogged along on this day were uplifting and gave me a further sense of peace and invited me to join creation’s choir in worship.

As I ran beside the river there were some horses and a young foal with its mother. Man, this was too much. I whispered a prayer of thanks and kept on running. Ten minutes later I was back at the car having just had an experience with God.

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water,…" Ps. 1:3

learning to pray: Next time you go for a walk or jog, try to be present to your surroundings. Presence can be accomplished in several ways using your senses. Here are a few suggestions (do each separately, in other words, only concentrate on one at a time):
- First and foremost, try to be present to your surroundings and not in your head
- Smell the air. If it smells bad – stop! If it smells good, without further judgment, or thinking let the air move through your nose and in and out of your lungs.
- Feel your breath going in and out of your lungs
- Feel the ground beneath your feet
- Look deeply at the plants. Try and absorb and be grateful for their beauty
- Look at the way the sun streams through the trees and the different shades of light it creates


As the sun set outside my window at the monastery, I pulled my chair to the window to watch it disappear beneath the coastal mountains. This was my first time at the Abbey in Mission, B.C. Despite the beautiful views, and the fact that I was in a monastery, I was feeling dry spiritually and having a tough time connecting with God.

Being a bit of a dreamer I thought I would go to the Abbey for a few days, the heavens would instantly open up, and I’d return home with a glowing face, a la Moses coming down from Mount Sinai. After 24 hours the only thing that was shining was the car parked outside my window as the sun reflected off it. As a matter of fact, just prior to my move to the window to watch the sunset, I had called my wife and complained that I didn’t know why I was there.

Out of nowhere the thought crossed my mind that maybe I was too much of a jerk to experience God’s presence. The instant I had that thought shame from the stupid stuff I had done, and probably would do in the future, washed over me. I asked God for help and wrote in my journal “God I really need your help. All of my attempts to be less of a jerk have failed.” Sounds silly, but that’s what I was thinking and feeling at the time.

As the sun was just about to disappear, I think I heard from God. He seemed to say that he loves me, and that he accepts me just the way I am. He wanted me to love myself. He also seemed to say that he had hope for me, and I was reminded that he came to die for me, and in the process gave me the hope of having new life, both now and in eternity. He seemed to encourage me to really live!

After writing this down, I felt washed. I wrote in the very last line of my journal that it wasn’t so much the words, as His presence in the room that had cleansed me of my earlier thoughts of guilt and shame. Then more doubt followed. Was this really God speaking to me?

I moved away from the window, turned on a light and sat down in another chair. I grabbed the Brennan Manning book I had brought with me, “Reflections for Ragamuffins”. Almost the very first thing I read was “If you love yourself intensely and freely, then your feelings correspond perfectly with the sentiments of Jesus.” Hmmmm. Heavenly Father, thank you for your intense, unconditional, life changing love.

Matthew 22.39

learning to pray: This may seem crazy, but ask Jesus what he thinks about you. Listen for an answer. Write down what comes to mind.