Dread Leads You Deeper

Tara encountered Christiana Peterson and her words in Grand Rapids at the 2018 Festival of Faith & Writing. She knew immediately that Christiana would be a friend to the Anam Cara community. The excerpt below can be found in Christiana’s book, Mystics & Misfits: Meeting God Through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints.

Though the chapter this comes from is called Winter (and it is currently summer), when I stumbled across this, I loved it and wanted to share. Christiana gives us a glimpse into her every day journey – one that hold the roles of mother, wife and farmer with an ache to live in deep spiritual places. Christiana explores the desire to live a life of mysticism amidst the mundane routines of the daily life.


In the middle of February, my craving for the healing warmth of soil under my fingernails saw me starting my seeds inside the house too early. Flimsy black plastic trays lined the edges of my sliding glass doors. Their roots would be long enough to need more room before the soil in my garden was warm enough to transplant them. But I didn’t care. If I could just see something grow, I could believe that spring was possible. I could believe that the tracks in the snow—ones that marked my anxiety-filled trips to feed the chickens—were melting into the dirt, providing the moisture it needed for another year of growth. I needed to see the snow melting and the sun rising.

And I did. And just as my fingers were aching to grow something tangible in the soil, life was taking root inside my body as well: I discovered I was pregnant with our third child. Even though this was unexpected, we were excited to tell the kids. We knew Neva and Jude would take to their older sibling duties with gusto.

My belly expanded into the warmth of those summer months in the sixth growing season, healing parts of me. But true healing isn’t linear; it happens in fits and starts. Sometimes the tracks in the snow melt into the earth. And sometimes the snow covers them again and more are made.

Our lives had become waves of celebration and tension. Matthew and I realized that we could map out the farm seasons not by how well the farm had done or the health of the crops but by which major drama had occurred each year. The stress of five years in such an unsettled place began to catch up with both of us. Each winter, with the shorter days and so much more time to think, we wondered whether we should keep sticking it out for another farm season. It began to feel as though there were a fifth time of year: the season of dread.

In his book Contemplative Prayer, twentieth-century Cistercian monk and mystic Thomas Merton writes of the necessity of dread—dread leads you deeper. He says of a monk who is deep in monastic prayer:

The Word of God which is his comfort is also his distress. The liturgy, which is his joy and which reveals to him the glory of God, cannot fill a heart that has not previously been humbled and emptied by dread. Alleluia is the song of the desert.

The monk who is truly a man of prayer and who seriously faces the challenge of his vocation in all its depth is by that very fact exposed to existential dread. . . . The monk confronts his own humanity and that of his world at the deepest and most central point where the void seems to open out into black despair.

As I plunged more deeply into motherhood, I wondered what dread meant for a woman—one who, with her duties, couldn’t be a monk in the practical ways of life. Maybe she was a mother and a wife, working in the naptime hours or caring for others, or maybe she was single and working outside the home. Maybe she had a loving husband who craved her body and emotional strength, or babies who needed her body to live, who needed her emotional strength to be healthy. She was tapped out, her needs forsaken not because her husband and children were at fault but because she idolized her marriage, she attached to the idea that motherhood was a calling. Instead of insisting on her need for the things that gave her life, she was afraid that her needs were the idols.

She needed to grow in her spirit. But sometimes it felt as though I didn’t have the space to feel God’s presence. The mystics seemed to dwell in places of constant search, marked by times of quietness and times of agony, periods that lead them into a deeper relationship with God. Many of them monastics and nuns, they all appear to live in extremities of solitude, silence, and prayer, where distractions are mostly internal.

Clearly they didn’t have three young children. My solitude was extreme only in its absence.

Did I take a pass on mysticism when I became a mother and not a nun? Distractions abounded, and solitude took so much energy. And what was left for myself? What was left for God?

As I reached my mid-thirties, my hormones changing in normal ways, I was overcome by my own existential dread. Not from hours spent in solitary prayer—that was hardly ever a possibility—but from anxiety and depression. Were those anxious thoughts my prayers? Was this the kind of dread that should be my friend?

Maybe. Maybe dread was the only thing that made me desperate enough to ask God for help.

(Quotes are from Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton)
“Excerpted from Christiana N. Peterson’s new book, Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints. (Herald Press, 2018) All rights reserved. Used with permission. www.HeraldPress.com

Christiana N. Peterson has written at places like Christianity Today, Christian Century, SheLoves, and Art House America about farm life, fairytales, community life, and grief. She lives with her husband and their kids in Ohio where she spends her time writing, wrangling four children, reading YA novels, leading worship, and trying to figure out how to live a mystical faith.

7 Books for Lent

This year, Lent begins on February 26. While it feels so close on the heels of Valentine’s Day, I nonetheless thought I’d give you some of my favorite suggestions for readings for this journey with the Church universal. This year, I’ll personally be leaning in with Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing by Gayle Boss (a new for me one—her Advent resource was my favorite this year), as well my standard and rich resource God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter. That said, here are a few more resources that I highly recommend.

Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit by Paula Huston

I used Huston’s book as my devotional for Lent in 2012, and I will tell you that it is both a rigorous and freeing journey through the season. Each week has a theme, and each day a reflection. I will say that I didn’t make it all the way through every reading, every practice, but the ones that I did transformed my over-scheduled life in to a place of rest and openness. (And my oven got really clean. You’ll have to read the book to understand why.)



Lent for Everyone: A Daily Devotional by N. T. Wright

Frankly, I’ll read just about anything N. T. Wright writes. This is a slight, straightforward devotional with a Scripture reading from the Lectionary (make sure you get the Year C version of this book) and a short meditation by Wright. Challenging, but simple. And it comes in Kindle version, if that’s your thing.



Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri J. M. Nouwen

“…true joy comes from letting God love me the way God wants, whether it is through illness or health, failure or success, poverty or wealth, rejection or praise. It is hard for me to say, ‘I shall gratefully accept everything, Lord, that pleases you. Let your will be done.’ But I know when I believe my Father is pure love, it will become increasingly possible to say these words from the heart.” This devotional is a compilation of Nouwen’s work, so it may read to you as a little disjointed. However, as with any dip into the writings of this wonderful teacher, you will come away with an appreciation of the downward journey and a sense that you are held by a Father who loves you.


Sacred Space for Lent by The Irish Jesuits

Sacred Space, a website maintained by a Jesuit community in Ireland, provides a place for guided prayer and meditation for thousands online. Sacred Space for Lent is a compilation of those prayers and reflections, all in the tradition of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, that will guide you through the season. If you particularly crave mental stimulation and prayer exercises for a Lenten practice, this one will be for you.

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter by Orbis Books Lewis, Chesterton, Yancey, L’Engle, Beuchner… how could you go wrong? One of the things that I like about this daily devotional is that it moves all the way through the Easter season, not stopping on Easter Sunday as many devotionals do. The readings are meaty and good, although I will say that the lack of continuity that multiple voices bring irritated this J type when I used it three or four years ago. If you like variety, and you love any of the authors mentioned above, I highly recommend this.



Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent by Richard Rohr O.F.M.

Father Rohr has been rocking my world ever since I got to interview him in 2009. This set of readings encourages the reader to encounter Scripture in often new and unexpected ways. If you’re struggling with Church in general, Rohr’s words are often refreshing and freeing. His perspective is a fresh one, and will sometimes challenge or disrupt you—which I think is one of the main themes of Lent for me: challenging the ways that I’ve let my relationship with Jesus and the Word go stale and routine.


Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton: Daily Scripture and Prayers, Together with Thomas Merton’s Own Words by Thomas Merton and Jonathan Montaldo

If you are someone who journals, this series of daily meditations, Scripture passages and questions for reflection will most likely be a great resource for you. Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk who wrote in profound ways about the necessity of the contemplative life as a movement toward wholeness in this world. And, if you’d like a voice other than Merton’s, with journaling questions, this series also has Lenten guides from the writings of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, as well as Henri Nouwen. One of the wonderful gifts of this book is it’s permissive and open approach to journal keeping: “However you write in your Lent and Easter journal, be truthful to your own experience. The question proposed for each day is only suggestive. Give your heart and mind free range… (p.3).”


So what about you? Do you have any favorite Lenten resources that I haven’t mentioned here?

Guest Post: The Journey of Grief As Pilgrimage

Christine-Valters-Paintner-I’m honored to be hosting my friend and fellow author, Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts here today on the Anam Cara blog. This is part of Christine’s virtual book tour for her latest offering, The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within. To win a copy of her book, just comment on this post, and a winner will be drawn by Friday, July 24.


My heart sank when I stepped tentatively into my mother’s room. She lay there connected to a complex web of tubes and wires, eyes shut. The thin skin on her face was sunken and bruised, her lips were raw. She had a serious pneumonia that had entered her bloodstream causing septicemia and leading to unconsciousness, kidney failure, inability to breathe without a respirator, and dangerously low blood pressure. The previous evening she had gone into cardiac arrest twice but they had resuscitated her.

I took a deep breath and I began to pray those feverish prayers of desperation as death whispered in my ear. When you suddenly hope the way you have lived your life somehow earns the right to a miracle even though you no longer even believe in miracles and deep down you know that’s not how the world works. I prayed that she would be able to go home. But as day gave way to night, I realized that the meaning of that prayer had shifted. Going home would mean something entirely different.

I spent the hours perched on the edge of my mother’s bed, rubbing hospital lotion on her arms and legs as a private act of anointing. Each stroke became its own kind of blessing.

“She can hear you,” the nurses kept assuring me, despite her not being conscious, and so I sang simple chants to her choked by tears. Words of longing would rise up in me and I would bathe her in song. I told her again and again that I loved her and that she was beautiful and I wanted more than anything for her to open her eyes again and gaze on me.

Five days after I arrived to that hospital room, my husband John and I were there alone with her, her blood pressure and heartbeat began to drop and I knew my mother and I were both at a threshold in our lives. The slowing beep of the heart monitor sounded as though it marched her toward death rather than merely recording the journey. And when the beeping became one long sound, I began to wail.


We returned to Seattle and in those November days I found more solace among trees than people with well-meaning, but often trite, advice about grief.

First, came the brilliant gold leaves of the bigleaf maple, then the orange Pacific dogwood, and finally the reds of the vine maple. Then the slow process of letting go and watching the leaves fall from the trees became a daily meditation.

Once the last leaf had surrendered its futile grip and drifted gently to the ground, I was propelled into winter. Bare branches. Days that grew shorter. The sun, when it was visible, dipped low along the horizon so even in daytime there was a darkness that lingered and pressed upon my imagination.

My mother’s death was a threshold and grief became its own kind of pilgrimage through my life. The seasons became witness to the slow unfolding of loss from the release of autumn, to the ache of winter, to spring’s renewal of possibility, and the fruitfulness of summer.

We live in a culture that worships spring and summer. In my own pilgrimage of healing I discovered the wisdom and depth of winter. I have learned to love it on its own terms – not just as a preparation and precursor for spring’s blooming – but for all the ways it calls me deeper into unknowing. Being fully awake and conscious in the dark days of winter can be challenging.

But pilgrimage thrusts us into these spaces of unknowing and mystery, that are so often uncomfortable experiences. We have all had winter seasons in our lives when what was familiar is stripped away and we have to hold grief and open ourselves to the grace of being rather than doing. Winter calls us to trust that fallowness and hibernation are essential to our own wholeness.

For me, making a pilgrimage is not about growing more certain about the world, but embracing more and more the mystery at the heart of everything. In a world where so many people are so very certain about the nature of things, especially in religious circles about who God includes and excludes, I believe unknowing calls us to a radical humility.

As we mature, we must engage with what our own mortality means for us, knowing that we one day enter what I call the Great Unknowing. The season of winter helps us to practice for this and naming these experiences as times of pilgrimage helps us to understand them as ancient journeys.

This is the gift that pilgrimage can offer, a way of connecting our experience to thousands of journeys that have been traveled before. Some for very long distances, and some just along the tender borders of the heart.

Connect with Christine further at Abbey of the Arts, and follow more of her thoughts inspired by The Soul of a Pilgrim. Don’t forget to comment below to enter to win a copy!


Embracing the Body Virtual Book Tour



The Embracing the Body Virtual Book Tour kicks off tomorrow! I’m excited to be touring around the blogs of some of my favorite writers and bloggers, sharing in interviews, original content and excerpts from the book. There will also be a few giveaways. I’ll have some Tweetables listed here, and if you’d like to enter to with an autographed copy of Embracing the Body, all you have to do is Tweet out each of the links that you see on this post, and then put your Twitter handle in the comments. A winner will be chosen at random on June 1.

I’m looking forward to “meeting” more of you around the web this week. Come back to this post each day for links to the various stops on the tour.

With excitement and love,


The Virtual Book Tour Stops:

Sunday, May 24: Body As Sign

Monday, May 25: Emily McFarlan Miller—An Interview With Tara M. Owens

Tuesday, May 26: Abbey of the Arts—Tongues of Fire: What Our Bodies Tell Us About Pentecost

Wednesday, May 27: We Awaken In Christ’s Body

Thursday, May 28: Sarah Bessey—Embracing the Body

Friday, May 29: Emily P. Freeman—The Rest of God

Help With A Headshot

So it’s getting to be that time—I’ve been sending out requests for endorsements (humbling, so very humbling) and reviewing the edits on the manuscript for Embracing the Body: Finding God In Our Flesh & Bone. I’ll have an announcement for you next week about the release date and all that will be happening around that.

In the meantime, I need your help. It’s headshot time, and I’m just not great at this process. So I’m going to admit my need, and ask you, Anam Cara Community, which headshot you like the best. Vote by number in the comments, and if you have time, let me know why you chose the one that you chose.

I’m so grateful to have such an amazing group of readers and friends, a real community of the Way. I never take it for granted.

Grace & peace to you this day.

Option # 5
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With so many thanks to allison dubois photography + graphic design.

What I’m Into (March 2014 Edition)

So, I’m back on the What I’m Into bandwagon again, given the recent resurgence in my life of things like energy and space for creativity. If you’re not a personal directee of mine, haven’t taken one of my eCourses, don’t know me in real life, follow me in Instagram or on Facebook (in which case, Hello! Nice to meet you!), you’ll be surprised to know that I’ve been hibernating away the first three months of 2014 because I’m expecting our first child, due to release in September 2014, slightly before my first book baby releases in December of this year.


To all pregnant women who have told me that they were “tired” and I nodded sympathetically, I officially apologize. Y’all, pregnancy tired is nothing. at. all. like normal tired. If you’d like to experience the bumping-into-walls-exhausted feeling I’ve enjoyed these past few months, I recommend catching the flu, not sleeping for five days and then going on an all-night bender that leaves you massively hung over (although I don’t actually recommend any of those things.) If you add that all up, you have a general approximation of what the past 14+ weeks have felt like to me, especially during the midday hours. Bring it on, second trimester energy!

All of that said, we’re thrilled, excited, freaked out and completely trusting in the One who is knitting this holy little life together in my womb as I write this. And we covet your prayers, as always.

So, with that, here’s what I was into in March (when I wasn’t zoned out on the couch):

Read & Reading:

As you might imagine, books were slow going this month, but I did make it through I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, a fascinating read that I listened to on Audible. To me, this is one of those books better heard, because you get to hear the author’s voice in the foreword, and a native Pakastani voice reading the text, which made it come more vividly alive to me. Such an education on this history of that region and the plight of young girls under the Taliban regime.

I also finished The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman for my book club. I really wanted to love it, as several of my book club members do, but I just didn’t “bond with it” as a dear friend of mine says. I loved The Dovekeepers, but one of the narrators of this book just fell flat for me, and despite the vivid depiction of events in and around New York in 1911, I wasn’t emotionally drawn in. I wonder if it’s just a book that doesn’t fit my life stage at the moment.

Now that my pregnancy is more public, I can tell you I’m reading two lovely books that I’m finding very helpful in navigating this new path before me, one recommended in a magazine I love, Brain, Child, and another given to me by my dear friend Laura Brown (whose book, Everything That Makes You Mom is pretty much the PERFECT Mother’s Day gift, especially for the mom who seems to have everything or wants nothing. You fill out the book yourself with memories of your mother and it becomes this deeply personal, lovely keepsake. Seriously, go buy it for your mom now.)

The latter is Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy by Sarah Jobe and it’s making me laugh and cry and pray and nod my head, often all at the same time. The former is A Good Birth: Finding the Positive and Profound in Your Childbirth Experience by Anne Lyerly, a secular book with a terrible subtitle that I’m nonetheless loving so much that I checked out a copy from the library so that my husband can read along with me. This one is helping me stay sane amidst the emotionally fraught waters of pregnancy, birthing and motherhood, each of which has had a sea of ink spilled on how to do “right” and “well”, which, in my experience, tends towards a kind of secular legalism and behavioral policing in which nobody really feels good about their choices. This book is the opposite of that, and makes me feel human and empowered.

I’m also working through God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter for my Lenten devotional, and I’ve got a number of great books on my nightstand that I’m starting to journey through, like Micah Boyett’s luminous Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer, which I can already recommend to you, and Notes from A Blue Bike: Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider.

Last month, I asked friends on Facebook for good fantasy fiction reads, because I love a good story, and I’m currently working through Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. It hasn’t hooked me deeply yet, but I’m only a hundred or so pages in, so I’m giving it a chance.


Mostly, I’m reading these days, both as a discipline and as a desire, but there are still a few shows that we record (mostly on the Food Network) to watch when there’s time. Shows like Beat Bobby Flay (which is new, and I’m not in love with), Worst Cooks In America (whose finale we’ll be watching with a dear friend tonight), Cutthroat Kitchen and Southern At Heart (which I’m liking more and more). We’re also still into Castle, and my husband is watching The Walking Dead (which I just can’t do). I’m about to start up the next season of Call the Midwife, which is suddenly more relevant to my life. For whatever reason, we’ve just lost interest in the other dramas that we’ve been into, and haven’t watched a single episode of either Downton Abbey or Parenthood during their recent runs. I suspect I’ll catch up at some point, but we just haven’t felt drawn in that direction. Instead, I’m catching up on back episodes of Dr. Who that I never saw (I started watching somewhere halfway through season 3) in anticipation of having to deal with a new Doctor when the show starts airing again. After a rocky start, we are really enjoying MARVEL’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which has been doing some very interesting movie/television crossover stuff with the MARVEL universe characters across the board.


Because of the aforementioned Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (whose title is very annoying to type out), we’ve been watching some of the MARVEL movies once more, including Thor, Iron Man 2, Avengers and Thor: The Dark World. I’m not embarrassed to say I’m a super-hero geek, and I’m excited for the upcoming Avengers 2 movie, as well as the next X-Men movie (so sad that the world can’t intersect). This weekend we saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theaters (only the second thing I’ve seen in theaters since the Dr. Who 50th Anniversary Special), which was a lot more interesting and complex than I thought it would be. We also caught up on Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which I didn’t adore, but liked, and Frozen, which was a great new Disney movie with an empowering plot line and a way too catchy theme song. (We also loved The LEGO Movie, which is nuanced, engaging and a brilliant story for both kids and adults.)


Things have been quiet in my house and head recently, as I’ve preferred silence (and sleep) when I can find it, but I’ve been using Spotify a lot more and have been enjoying All Sons & Daughter, The Brilliance and Noah Gundersen‘s music quite a bit. I’m also super excited that the new self-titled worship album by my friends Tim & Laurie Thornton, will be out on Palm Sunday, and I got a bit of a sneak peek of it. They have a free instrumental version here, but I’ll tell you the whole album 100% worth picking up. My favorite worship song this month is Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United.

Things I Love:

  • The annual Retreat in Daily Life was this month, and there’s nothing I love more than watching God meet people so deeply and intimately in their everyday lives. It’s such a privilege to shepherd this retreat, and this year was no exception.
  • My dear friend and mentor, Sandy Broadus, launched the Emmaus Center this month in Canada, and I couldn’t be more proud.
  • Voxing with my almost 2-year-old niece, Violet, makes my day. Nothing melts me more than when she says “Hi, T!” or “Love you.”
  • We published the next issue of Conversations Journal this month on Wisdom & Aging, and I got to interview Eugene Peterson for it. What a humbling and holy experience.
  • Studying Scripture in rabbinic style with a group of holy wanderers. The way God meets us in the text, through each other, and in study has been truly transformative and full of grace. I couldn’t ask for more, and yet God meets me every time I do.
  • Wunderlist. Pregnancy brain is a THING, and I wouldn’t be able to keep track of my life these days without this multi-platform GTD tool.

On The Blog:

Things have obviously been a little quiet around here, due to some aforementioned hibernation. But I got to announce the title and release date of Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone (well, that was in February, but who’s counting) and I’m going to be sharing the cover very soon.

In the next week or so, I’m also going to be launching a series on the Enneagram and Prayer, inspired by Leigh Kramer’s series on the Enneagram and Blogging. I’m super excited about this, as I find the Enneagram a really helpful tool in spiritual growth and use it in spiritual direction, and I’m also happy to be getting back on the horse in terms of blogging and creating here in this space.

So that’s it. That’s my March. What about you? What were you into? What did you discover this month?

Book Update: We Have A Title & A Release Date!

Friends, you’ve been with me on an arduous journey.

This book has gestated for longer than a baby elephant, and you’ve been with me, for me, praying for me and beside me in each phase of this process. What began as a twinkle became a few classes became a book proposal became a book contract became a deadline and (after missing it badly a few times) became a rough draft and finally a mansucript. That manuscript is now being refined in the capable hands of InterVarsity Press, it’s publisher, and it is working it’s way into your hands from there.

I am so grateful to you, and so excited to start spreading the great grace-filled message of the redemption of our bodies, of how good they are, of how God speaks so intimately and beautifully in and through the very stuff of our selves.

I am so grateful for my guides and helps along the way, many of whom I’ll be talking about in more detail as the release date approaches.

So, enough baiting you. We have a release date! This book will be in your hands in December 2014. That’s right—this year! I’m looking forward to getting advance copies out, running a few promotions, getting to meet some of you in person, and talking to you about what it means to live well in our bodies.

Speaking of living well in our bodies, this seemingly incorporeal thing called a “book” finally has a name. It has real words put to real paper, and a real and finite title that encapsulates what I believe to be an important and redeeming message of wholeness:

Embracing the Body:

Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone

(*whispers proudly* I love it? Don’t you love it?)

It’s going to be a long 11 months until I have this baby in my hands, but I’m excited to share bits and pieces as I can, and have you be part of the process.

In that light, I’d like to invite you to pray with me over these words, this message. Will you pray that it gets into the right hands, that it goes to the people who need it most? I don’t care if that’s 50 people or 50,000 people (my publisher would prefer the latter, I’m sure, but I just want it to bring wholeness, shalom, to those who are longing for it), but I want these words that wove themselves from God’s heart through my body and into this story to heal, to bring hope, to create more spaces for Jesus to move and the Kingdom to come. So, would you pray that? Would you pray God’s Kingdom over this book even now? Would you pray over the pages to be printed and the ink to be spilled? Would you pray over the paper and the dyes and the stamps and the envelopes? Would you pray over the words inspired by the Word, that this book would be more than just another heavy yoke on an already burdened people but instead would be freedom and life and light? Would you pray that this book would be incarnational, sacramental, a real, tangible sign of God’s goodness in the world?

Pray however you’re lead, my friends, but please pray. Big or small, I’m excited to see what God’s going to do with this project of my heart.

So what do you think? What does the title elicit in  you? What does it make you hope for? What does it make you wonder about?

Slouching Toward Lent

Epiphany has been good to me this year. Despite the darkness of winter, my world has been cloaked white and bright. The Scriptures have shimmered with the play of light and dark, and I’ve watched that Light caress its way through each reading, each page, the Presence of God so present and real that the darkness is no barrier to Him. I’ve been pondering the mysteries of light and dark in Genesis 1, and doing so with a beautiful, messy rag-tag bunch of believers in a way that feeds my soul.

I’ve been waking up with Psalm 23 on my lips: Yahweh is my shepherd; I will experience nothing as missing.

So, I’ll admit, the awareness Lent, which starts in a mere month on Wednesday, March 5 (Ash Wednesday), is still a reluctant one in my soul. I can see her—with her radiant melancholy, her holy beauty, the chains of oppression and addiction and affluenza broken around her feet, clanking like castanets as she dances—out of the corner of my eye. I’m not ready to turn my head. Not yet.

At the same time, it’s good to heed her dancing presence. It’s good to prepare, even though I’m not yet ready (when am I ever ready?) Lent is, in many ways, another season of light. It’s the light that exposes, the light that shows us ourselves truly, the light that helps us live in reality before God and others, the light that shows us our places of brokenness and leads us gently on the path to shalom.

And that’s a path I can’t walk alone—none of us can. Wholeness, shalom, is never accomplished in isolation. We need one another on this stumbling journey of faith, we need the companions who talk with us on the road, who witness with us when the stranger who spoke so wisely among us turns out to be Jesus—and vanishes, somehow, once more. Just when we thought we had a hold of Him.

In that light (see what I did there?), I thought I’d share a few Lenten resources and suggestions with you. You still have time to order most of them in time for them to arrive before March 5. If you do, I encourage you to grab a friend and go through whatever resource you’ve chosen together. Talk about it along the road. Consider what’s happening in you. Interact, chew, pontificate with others on this Calvary journey. And if you have other helps for the journey that you would like to suggest, share them with us in the comments.


God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter

If you’ve been around here awhile, you know how much I love God With Us, a guided set of readings and art for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. This year, the publishers have come out with a similar resource for Lent, with readings from authors like Lauren Winner, Richard Rohr, Kathleen Norris, Luci Shaw and others. I’m looking forward to walking through this book this year myself, and if there’s enough interest, might host a few book club type discussions of it on the blog.

Beloved: An Online Journey Into Lent & Easter

Jan Richardson is a gifted artist and writer, and I’ve taken both her online Advent and Lent retreats, much to the enrichment of my soul. Her online retreat costs $90, and includes a daily email reflection (Monday-Friday), as well as an optional (and very active) online forum if you want to interact in community with others during the retreat. Jan’s art and words are just the type of gift that make this season so very rich.

7 Books for Lent

Last year, I talked about a number of other books that are also good companions along the journey. Those recommendations still hold, so surf on over to read about resources from Richard Rohr, the Irish Jesuits and Thomas Merton, among others.

What To Give Up

I’ve also talked before about what you might consider giving up for Lent, in 13 Things To Give Up For Lent and Six Weird Things to Give Up For Lent. I’ll be writing more about that later this month, but if you want some early inspiration, click on over there.

Be: Life and the Rest of It

Finally, I’m co-leading one week of an eCourse on Lent, curated by Brandy Walker of Brandy Glows. This retreat isn’t for the super spiritual, or even for the professing Christian (although I, and many of the co-leaders, do love and profess Christ). This retreat is for the tired, the burned out, those that aren’t sure about religion any more (or ever). The focus of the time will be rest (per the title), and incorporating life-giving spiritual practices into your regular routine, accompanied by recipes and lots of self-care. The early bird cost is $87, so if your soul shouted “YES!” when you read the word “rest”, hop on over and register. I’m leading the week of Holy Week, and will be talking about spiritual direction and holy listening, among other things.

Other Stuff

Oh, and if you want to visit some of my other thoughts on Lent, you’re welcome to here and here and here.

So, what about you? Do you have a favorite Lenten resource or practice? Are you ready for Lent, or just watching her out of the corner of your eye, like me?

An Advent Announcement

I’m so excited to share this great early Christmas present I got in the mail early last week:

2013-12-08 16.31.57

I know, I know, you can’t really tell, right? I’m just holding a piece of paper in front of a Christmas tree (whose name is Tilly, by the way.)

Well, that piece of paper is the contract I signed with my new and amazing agent, Rachelle Gardner!

I’m humbled to be able to work with Rachelle, who represents a few people you might already know.

I’m really thrilled to be partnering with such a talented, thoughtful and like-spirited agent. As I finish up edits on my current project (which has a title! that I’m not going to tell you yet!), Rachelle and I are planning and dreaming and thinking about what’s coming next in the writing world for me and for Anam Cara.

In that light, I wanted to let you know about a few upcoming events in the Anam Cara world that you might be interested in:

Coming Home to the Body: A Woman’s Journey toward Contemplative Embodiment: I’m thrilled to be partnering with Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts in teaching in her online retreat, Coming Home to the Body. There’s a huge lineup of amazing teachers, and I think this is a topic we in the body of Christ desperately need to address more fully and more regularly. This will be a wonderful journey starting January 1, and what a better time to be kind to and aware of your body, when the New Year’s resolution shame-machine is ramping up to a frenzied pitch. I love how Christine describe this time: “This program is rooted in the conviction that our bodies offer us the deepest wisdom, wisdom that can guide us through the river of life. The more we deepen into the body’s wisdom the more we will find greater freedom, joy, nourishment, rest, and empowerment for exquisite self-care.  This is the dancing monk’s practice.  This is the journey into the “last unexplored wilderness.””

Christianity21: Also in January, I’ll be giving a seven-minute talk at Christianity21 in Denver (Jan 9.-11). This is going to be my first time on a big stage doing a TED-like talk, so please come out and cheer me on. That, plus the event is packed with amazing speakers, including the incomparable Phyllis Tickle. (This is a GREAT. BIG. DEAL., so please be praying even if you can’t attend.)

Book Giveaway: Finally, if you missed it, the winners from last week’s guest post and book giveaway are posted on the blog. If you get me your name and address, I’ll get you your book by Christmas.

Thanks for celebrating with me, friends! 2014 is going to be an exciting year.

Guest Post from John Blase + Book Giveaway

I’m so very honored to be hosting John Blase on the blog today. John is a sage and a mystic, a man with clay feet and a psalmist’s heart. His words got me through writing the first draft of the book (and I’m in edits now, which is why the blog has been so quiet.) More than anything, I love the way John loves, and the way he abides in God. Ever since the release of his newest book, Know When To Hold ‘Em: The High Stakes Game of Fatherhood, I’ve wanted to introduce it (and him) to you, to give it away like candy. And because of his publisher’s generosity, I get to do just that. So, enough of my words, and more of John’s. (And you can scroll to the bottom if you want to know how to win a copy of his book, but to miss the soul spilled out in between would be a poverty.)


The Message of Christmas

They were a team, two speakers taking turns at commentary. They were squeezed in- between the sounds of the season as performed by a university choir and orchestra. The man used the phrase love demands, not once but several times in the courses of his brief homilies. The woman spoke variations on that theme, like Christ will not return as a baby but as a man. After all, how could a baby demand everything?

I am a man who pays attention to words. And at least in my mind the man and woman seemed to have determined beforehand with a handshake and a wink to focus on the word demand, and to weave it in the evening as many times as they could. To me they definitely seemed in cahoots. As their commentary continued I kept thinking does love demand? Is that the message of Christmas? I am also a man who pays attention to the audience. And the audience nodded and a few even moaned yes, yes at the spoken passages of demand. But just because a crowd does something is not any indication of its goodness or rightness, even at a Christmas concert. So I kept thinking does love demand? Is that what Christmas is all about?

On my better days I am even a man who pays attention to the weather. And as I drove home after the concert it began to slowly snow. And the question I’d been thinking about became as clear as I could see in the cold night. No, I’m very sorry all you cahooters, but love does not demand.


The falling whiteness does not demand.
It simply falls, scattered.
If you choose to marvel at its beauty, fine.
But if you’re too busy, say on a phone call
with someone convinced of their importance,
well, that’s fine too.

Love, like snow, does not demand.
It simply descends, offered.
If you choose to be amazed at its falling, fine.
But if you don’t, you’re not the first.
It will melt away until it comes giving
again in a future season.




John Blase is the author of Know When To Hold ‘Em: The High Stakes Game of Fatherhood (Abingdon 2013). He is also a poet who practices the craft at www.thebeautifuldue.wordpress.com. He lives with his wife and three children in  colorful Colorado.




Book Giveaway

So, the rules are simple. I have six copies of the book to giveaway. (And if you’ve already read it, you know what a great Christmas gift it will make.) Comment on this blog post, and you’ll be entered to win. You can just say hi, or you could share a little about what these words meant to you, or what the meaning of Christmas really is, or whether or not you’re going to make your grandma’s pudding for Christmas day this year. Anything you like. Just share your words, and you’ll be entered to win. I’ll be drawing six random winners on Sunday, December 15 (Gaudete Sunday, good for joy and winning), and I’ll post their names here. I’ll also comment on your post to let you know that you’ve won, and you can send me your address via email. I’ll pop these beauties in the mail right away.

So, have at it.

Winners Announced!

Our giveaway winners are:

Josh Freeman
Billie Spiers
Jenny Wells

Please email me your full name and mailing address, and I’ll get these books to you by Christmas!