Breaking Up is Hard to Do

It’s not you, it’s me.

That’s what I keep telling my blog. I don’t want it to feel bad.

But the truth is, we need to break up. It’s time for me to move out.

Writing here has felt complicated to me the last couple of years. I don’t have good words to explain that, and maybe you don’t need me to.

I started blogging here in 2008 after 20 years of not writing. I had walked away from pen and paper in order to pursue a big ministry thing I thought was my destiny, and I wanted to be my destiny, which turned out not to be my destiny at all. It’s taken me a good while to sort it, but it seems that when I started again, I put this spiritual cape over my writing shoulders, believing the only way I could be allowed to do so was under the auspices of a “call” of sorts. That the only way to legitimize a writing habit was to dress it in obedient clothes.

The truth is that writing my spiritual process has been good for me, has pushed me to areas I’d not otherwise explored, brought me to new depths in my faith that I’d been unable yet to fathom. It gave me a place to have conversations I wasn’t finding elsewhere, and I needed that. I’m exceedingly grateful for the way many of you have walked that way with me.

But it has also been bad for me, and some of you will understand that without me explaining it. It has kept me in a shallow place, has fooled me into believing something existed within me that may not have, simply because I could write about a difficult biblical text with depth and intensity or see something powerful in a passage others may have missed. It is too easy to measure a writer by the depth of a blog post, thrive on the most raw, trade in the currency of vulnerability without the protections of intimacy.

I set up an internal conflict every time I wrote in any way off the path of explicit spiritual edification. Sometimes, particular external feedback reinforced that. And I’ve found myself in the midst of a dynamic in which the end of spiritual practice was not greater joy in the presence of God, but what might make a compelling piece of writing.

And so it is my writing here has waned. I’ve taken it off-site, which has revitalized me in many, many ways, but has made it difficult to come home at night to A Different Story and its expectations, real or imagined.

I’d love it if you crossed the street with me to my new place, I can’t tell you what my writing is going to look like there, or even if I’ll write any more often. I only know that I need a new space to try. One where I can write about God if I feel like it, or about anything else if I feel like it, and in any way that seems to work at the time. Maybe I’ll even use a bad word if it’s called for.

If you’re wondering, I still love Jesus. But in my non-writing life, I talk about other things. I’d like to write about them, too.

Some of you will prefer me the way I am right here. I’m good with that. I have some work in the archives that I’m pretty proud of (and some that, honestly, really sucks). Maybe one day I’ll delete it altogether, but for now I’ll leave it sit and we can grow old here together like Miss Havisham and her wedding cake.

Thanks for your love and encouragement while, like a petulant teenager, I’ve tried to find myself. Join me?

(Note: I am not moving my RSS and email subscriptions, so you will need to resubscribe at the new place if you wish to receive updates. While that might sound like an inconvenience, it’s really for your own good.)

Letters to Me: Book Launch

Twenty-twenty hindsight is a wondrous thing.

I’m happy today to announce the launch of Letters to Me: Conversations with a Younger Selfa collaborative project in which nearly twenty authors (yes, including me)  from a wide range of backgrounds explore a significant event from young adulthood, then talk to a younger version of ourselves with compassion and wisdom about what happened next, and how it mattered. I think most of the contributors would agree: being able to have a candid conversation with our older selves at what felt like such a critical moment would have been priceless.

This book is perfect for new graduates, college students, young adults making their way into the tenuous world of independence. But even at around two-times-ish the age of the intended audience, I have to tell you I was encouraged by these stories and reminded again that even with all its crazy ups and downs and twists and turns, life has a way of working itself out, albeit unexpectedly. God still knows how to make the most difficult of our stories redemptive.

Letters to Me is available on Amazon in paperback and for your Kindle.

What some folks are saying about this book:

There is something maddeningly compelling about this book. You want to leap into its pages and shake some sense into the characters just like you’re reading a page-turning novel, except that it’s real life and if you could somehow grab them by their shoulders, you would realize you were staring yourself in the face. The talent of these storytellers is revealed in how universal their personal stories are. In their stories you will experience agony and joy, pain and healing, fall and redemption. –Adam S. McHugh, author Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

This is so needed. I’ve often wished I could go back and have a strong talking to with my younger, more idiotic self. These stories are funny, heartfelt, and important. Reading them will make you think and imagine a better life — maybe even give you the courage to live one. —Jeff Goins, author, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life

One of the most unnerving, unsettling things one can do in life is stare at themselves in the mirror – eye to eye. Letters To Me is the sacred chance to witness person after person pause their present as they stand naked in the mirror, facing everything they’ve been and everything they’ve done. To listen to what they hear in their souls, to see their past as they truly do. Oh, how I wish I’d been given this collection of stories earlier in my life. The entrance into adulthood would have been painted with so much more grace. –Lauren Lankford Dubinsky, founder of Good Women Project

(Not) The Smartest Person in the Room

It wasn’t so very long ago I made the awkward discovery I wasn’t the smartest person in the room. It’s something I can be, you know, if I frequent the right rooms. But there are only a few rooms where that works for me.

The rest of the time, I’m not it.

Turns out (luckily enough) that I don’t have to be.

I find myself in a lot of those other rooms lately, just one of the regular occupants, neither being nor needing to be particularly smart. I tend to keep my voice a little lower, have far less to say and what I do say might be muttered under my breath.

I’m liking that, more than one might expect. It relieves a lot of the pressure, and curiously enough minimizes the potential downside of really messing things up.

This week I started reading The Spirituality of Imperfection (Kurtz and Ketcham). Not far in, the authors remind of the nature of error as a simple fact of our days.

Errors, of course, are part of the game. They are part of our truth as human beings. To deny errors is to deny ourself, for to be human is to be imperfect, somehow error-prone. To be human is to ask unanswerable questions, but to persist in asking them, to be broken and ache for wholeness, to hurt and try to find a way to healing through the hurt. To be human is to embody a paradox…

We are not “everything” but neither are we “nothing.” Spirituality is discovered in the space between paradox’s extremes, for there we confront our helplessness and powerlessness, our woundedness. In seeking to understand our limitations, we seek not only an easing of our pain but an understanding of what it means to hurt and what it means to be healed. Spirituality begins with the acceptance that our fractured being, our imperfection, simply is: There is no one to “blame” for our errors–neither ourselves nor anyone nor anything else. Spirituality helps us first to see, and then to understand, and eventually to accept the imperfection that lies at the very core of our human be-ing. Spirituality accepts that “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

Here’s to letting someone else be the smartest person in the room. I’ll be in the back row, getting to know my limitations a little better. Maybe you’d like to sit in the next seat over?


Photo: Letter on Edith Wharton’s desk, taken at The Mount, Lenox, Mass.

Great Matters

Sometimes, in the shadows of the early dawn, I turn my world upside down and read the Midday office instead of Morning Lauds.

I know, I know. Makes you wonder how I cope with the ensuing hysteria, right?

Most days, I find a way. Yes, like today. (more…)

WordCandy Wednesday

Even if you’re cutting back on sweets, here’s a little midweek treat for you. (Or any other day of the week.)

This is sweetness that’s meant to share.

If you’re a blogger, check out these great reasons to blog WordCandy. If you’re not, just sidle on up to the candy counter and pick something out.

Delicious images, exquisite quotes.

Too good not to share on Facebook, Twitter, your blog or via email.

(You can even link up at Seedlings in Stone and pop this sweet button on your post.)

WordCandy Wednesday

The End of a Journey. Maybe.

If you’ve been around here with me for any length of time, you know that over the past several months I’ve been on a pilgrimage of sorts, a weekly trip to a Benedictine monastery near my home for a half hour, or an hour, depending on whether I stayed with the brothers for lunch. (I’ve written about that at a quiet little space called Making Headroom.)

My hope was to make this journey for 52 weeks, in search of a spacious, quiet place. I found it in the cool stone walls of a chapel, in the rhythm of a steady liturgy, in the quiet of a place where needless noise remained unheard, in the space that opens when one simply isn’t in a hurry to be anywhere but right here.

Right here.

I wanted to learn to find God in the quiet, so I could learn to find him in the noise.

To find him right here.

Mastered that, I have not. But I’ve learned it.

My journey has been cut short by the sad new of the closing of the Abbey for unfortunate but sound reasons of their own. But it continues on in other ways. (more…)

The Old Neighborhood

I was driving north on Lyndale Avenue. I crossed Interstate 494 running through the southern Twin Cities metro area and all of sudden I wasn’t sure I knew where I was anymore.

That’s not unusual for me, I know.

But this was my old neighborhood, and it didn’t look the same as I remembered. (more…)

My First Job

The U.S. Tax Code is a fertile animal, spawning more offspring in subtitles and sections than Abraham could have dreamed in his promised starry sky. But I’ve always been grateful, in a way: the spontaneously generating tax system put food on the table and spending money in my pocket.

My friend David Rupert is hosting a wonderful series of posts reflecting on the question, “What I Learned from My First Job.” I owe an awful lot to David as an early and constant encourager in my writing.

I’m as happy as a CPA on April 16 to be at Red Letter Believers today with my first job memories.

Stop on over — and read the growing collection while you’re there.

Funeral Clothes

I pull the blue blouse
hanging limp, lifeless
already buttoned
over my head, squeeze
the top button
through its stitched slot
thinking I’ve worn
the pale brown suit
too many times of late.

She calls me over,
reminds me
to take the small hardanger
a memory, so I don’t forget.
A tear breaks
onto her blouse, bright print
against the black,
and she squeezes my hand
too tight, saying
One by one, my friends
are going.

I undo the blue buttons,
hang the blouse limp, open
over pale brown slacks,
squeeze the sweater back
in its place,  too small,
ready for the next time.
I zip Levis, pull a sweatshirt
over my head
proving we’re all still here.

Becoming Samuel

I’ve been, these past weeks, getting to know the boy Samuel. I’ve hovered over and dipped into the early chapters of the first book of Samuel for a very long time now.

Once in a while I read the whole thing. And another day just a little bit seems to rise off the page to meet me.

Now and again I’ll even pull a commentary or read an article.

But I always end up back just chewing the text. None of the learned ones have managed to explain, at least to my satisfaction, what puzzles me most about the boy Samuel.

Samuel, the one for whom his mother ached and yearned for years. Her grief grew deeper whilst the other wife, blind in her abundance, shamed her for her emptiness ’til food tasted like sand. And small comfort, her husband, though he loved her most, failed to grasp her longing, and sought to fill her ache with richer servings on her plate. (more…)


I wait impatiently through the antiphon. I’ve never felt so eager for the pause to end before. And yet it’s not for a refusal to sit still. I simply want more than anything to be saying these words out loud.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.

— Making Headroom, Week Twenty-Two

The Sparrow Knows

In springtime, when she flew in with twigs and
brittle leaves in tow did she know?

When she lined the inside of that sprig bowl
with soft grasses and downy feathers, did she know?

When she strained to push out fragile helplessness,
all dappled in brown, did she know?

And when she settled in atop waited
for life to crack out the sides, did she know?

Did she know of the searing, consuming fire soon would fall
so close to the kindling that formed her walls?

Did she know of the smoldering wrath?

Did she know of blood that would cascade?

Did she know of life one would lose?

Did she know of loss that was yet to come?

Had she an inkling of the danger
of building nests and birthing babes
in the shadow of a blazing altar?

Or, in finding home in His dwelling place,
did she see only the refuge? (more…)

Preparation Day: 22

The words of David, angry and bewildered, and then reminded.
Psalm 22 for your Sabbath Preparation.

He has never let you down, 
      never looked the other way 
      when you were being kicked around. 
   He has never wandered off to do his own thing; 
      he has been right there, listening. 

– – –

Find some quiet contemplation in these weekend communities:

Still Saturday with Sandra King    |    Sunday with Deidra Riggs

(Thanks for stopping by today. I’m encouraged by your visit.
I’ll beg your understanding for the closed comment box
on Preparation Days. It just helps me not talk so much.)

About Preparation Day

Job | Obscurity

Job 2

Satan’s second stroll through the throne room has tightened a slip knot around my mind these last weeks and I can’t seem to chew through the rope to turn the page.

He waltzes in, following along with the angels into a place he clearly doesn’t belong, but presents himself in front of the throne nonetheless. He and God replay the episode from the first chapter on TiVo. It’s nearly word for word.

From where have you come?

From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.

Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?

Of course Satan has considered Job. The last time we talked Satan had just dragged Job out back and beat the dickens out of him. Took everything he owned, everyone he loved but his wife and a few friends. (more…)

Preparation Day: 18

The words of David, upon being rescued. Again.
Psalm 18 for your Sabbath Preparation.

Find some quiet contemplation in these weekend communities:

Still Saturday with Sandra King    |    Sunday with Deidra Riggs

(Thanks for stopping by today. I’m encouraged by your visit.
I’ll beg your pardon for the closed comment box on Preparation Days.
It just helps me not talk so much.) 

About Preparation Day

Meeting Diana

Diana Trautwein can stand flat-footed and look me in the eye.

(Not many can claim such a thing.)

In turn (defying some unwritten law of physics, or perhaps botany — science is not my subject), I tilt back my head and look up to her. (more…)

Preparation Day: 51

Grateful for David, always with the words to know my heart.
Psalm 51 for your Sabbath Preparation.

Find some quiet contemplation in these weekend communities:

Still Saturday with Sandra King    |    Sunday with Deidra Riggs

About Preparation Day

Preparation Day: Here is Your King

When Pilate heard those words, he led Jesus outside.
He sat down at the judgment seat
in the area designated Stone Court
(in Hebrew, Gabbatha).

It was the preparation day for Passover.

The hour was noon.
Pilate said to the Jews,

“Here is your king.”

from John’s Gospel, the nineteenth chapter

:: (more…)

God’s Arm Seems Longer Somehow

Holy Week, for many of us, is a particular time of reflection. Isaiah 59 is not traditionally a Lenten, Holy Week or Easter passage. But it has, in the past few years, been the touchstone to which I return to as I contemplate the state of my own heart in light of the Cross. This post, first scratched out in the early morning light of near-Easter 2009 and run here every year since, marks the place where God said, “Here and no further,” turning me back from a dark descent in His firm but tender insistence the Covenant has no loophole, that He did not end that blackest of Fridays having spent all of Jesus’ blood and now drowning in buyer’s remorse.

I read this again this morning and while I know the fierce intensity that first pushed these words out, today that doubt does not feel so close at hand. His arm seems longer, somehow, than it has in years.

Just how long is Your arm, Father? How long is long enough for me?

The question formed as I knelt beside a queen bed in a hotel squeezed between Iowa cornfields. I rose early and lingered there before joining the growing crowd of family in the breakfast nook downstairs. I flipped through thin pages looking for Isaiah 59, wanting just one thing. I felt hungrier for the sustaining words of this one short verse than for an AmericInn breakfast no matter what the ads say. (more…)


So then I walk by sound, not by sight. Movement makes its way in a sort of clunky unison, not synchronized, but together. Hinged wooden seats thump as they rise and fall, kneelers drop to the floor, robes rustle. Heavy footsteps paired with shuffling ones trace their steps from one end of the chapel to the other, the length so needfully punctuated with a simplicity of empty, yet inhabited, time. Each sound nudges me to the next thing, nearly without thought or effort.

The reading draws to its close and we join voices in the antiphon:

My sheep listen to my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.


— Making Headroom, Week Twenty-One


Teach me and I shall live.

This quiet sense of desperation sometimes meets me there in my seat, and whenever we repeat this line I remember it. I’ll die if he doesn’t teach me how to live. I’m dying in a way already, I feel that in my bones some mornings when I awake. He teaches and I look the other way. Here, reminded, I look ahead. My eyes trace the crimson stain that bleeds on the edge of the grain of that one odd brick in the wall and somehow I know he is teaching me this life even as I sit here, still, out of place, in the quiet.

Teach me and I shall live.

                                                                                — Making Headroom, Week 20


When my adult class one Sunday morning considered how one of the byproducts of living in community is that by the time we all get mixed up with one another, we see Jesus. We see maturity. We see wrestling with our own demons and we see getting through. We see grief and grace and joy and pain.*

I asked them to consider some of those marks in our community, ones that might even look like the Spirit’s fruit, like love and joy and peace and patience. Or joy. What about joy?

When you think about the kind of joy the Spirit births in our depths, who among us comes to mind? Who do you see walking around that makes you stop and say, Joy?

That was the question.

In the time a breath might take, I heard a single name. And a murmur of whole heart agreement around the table.


Of course. Jackie. She is Jesus out walking around. She is joy with legs. (more…)

Live Into This

Every time I go to the abbey lately, it seems I return to my car with a fist full of books. That “FREE BOOKS” table in the entry is still there after several weeks. Each time I see it, I’m convinced there are more books on it than the last time, despite my best efforts to clear it.

As you can imagine, this works mighty wonders for my “to read” stack.

Unrelated to that, I’m working my way through Eugene Peterson’s five “conversation” titles, and hoping one day to get to those tattered used books I keep bringing home.

But meanwhile, I’m still here, reading Eat this Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. It’s been a long read. Longer than I intended. But life sometimes has a way of getting tangled up in itself. I got a little caught up one day when he gave me permission — me! — to do exegesis: (more…)


Wine pours into a chalice somewhere behind me. It’s brief, but a sudden rush. We’re waiting here in the quiet. I notice the space again. This bread, this cup, they are prepared in our waiting. In our presence. It’s neither hasty nor efficient. It requires our presence to be what it is. Absent the community, it is but wine in a chalice. Bread on a plate. But this bread and cup, it nourishes as flesh and blood come present together.

And so we wait, present, together.

— Making Headroom, Week Nineteen


(Photo: Sandra Heska King, 
at Laity Lodge, used with permission)