A Brief Introduction to the Ignatian Exercises

Ignatius of Loyola wrote the Spiritual Exercises at the time of the Reformation. In a season of significant corruption in the church, Ignatius wanted to share his life-changing encounter with Jesus by praying through scripture with imaginative prayer. This prayer journey was originally designed as a 30-day retreat experience but is now more commonly prayed in daily life over 9 months. These “Ignatian” Exercises became a central spiritual practice for the Jesuits, but in recent years have taken on new life in protestant circles, becoming an interior pilgrimage rivaling the Camino.  


The retreat begins with a number of weeks of preparatory prayers focused on knowing our belovedness and then looks at our brokenness and sin in the light of God’s love. Then the remainder of the journey is praying through the gospel stories of Jesus’ birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection. On this journey, we are invited to see Jesus through the lens of his humanity, as a real person, and Jesus becomes less of an idea but a person that we deeply connect with, who we want to know, love, and serve. 


As we pray the Exercises, we begin each prayer time with the invitation to notice God looking upon us with a gaze of love. We are invited to receive that loving gaze, absorbing as much of that love as we are able. This is so important!


For Ignatius the love of God is central. Everything rests upon it. Ignatius knew it would be destructive to consider our sin if we are not thoroughly grounded in God’s personal, unconditional, relational love for us. We are invited to consider and experience why the Trinity sent Jesus into the world. “For God so loved the world…” As we pray through Jesus’ life and ministry we pray with Jesus seeing people, loving them, having compassion on them, healing, restoring, and freeing them. Why does Jesus do this? Love! How does Jesus do this? Love at the heart of everything!


Then, as we pray through Jesus’ passion, we see the love that motivated him, the love that allowed him to suffer and die for us. And in the resurrection, we experience his joy as he comes alive and goes to speak peace to and restore his friends. We experience Jesus inviting us to join him in this kind of love. Ignatiaus’ final consideration is entitled The Contemplation of Divine Love. In it, we are invited to experience the enormity and many-faceted reality of God’s love, to be overwhelmed by love, and to become “incandescent with gratitude.” Faced with this amount of overwhelming love, we are forever changed, forever invited into a love relationship with the Trinity.


As we pray through the life of Jesus, we pray with our imagination. Ignatius taught that our imagination was a great gift of God, given to us in order to pray in an intimately connected way. Jesus desires to share himself deeply with us, so he invites us to enter into his life in prayer as he inspires our imagination. So we enter the story and let the passage come alive to us. We see, hear, taste, smell, and feel what is happening in the scene.


We are invited to journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, be at his birth, and hold Jesus as a baby. We get to be with the shepherds as the angels come to them, travel with the Magi, and bring our gifts to Jesus. We flee with Jesus and his family into Egypt and experience their time as refugees. When we pray through his public ministry, we are invited to let the story come alive to us, be close to Jesus, and experience him. We want to see him, to know him, to see what moves him, to see what moves in him. We pay close attention to Jesus’ desires, what fills him with joy, the things that disturb him, the freedom and healing he wants to extend to the broken. 


We enter into all these things because, as his friend, we want to care about what he cares about and experience things from his point of view. And we discover that our experience changes us, pulls us in, has helped us fall deeper in love, deeper into friendship with him. But we are not satisfied. It makes us desire so much more, so much more of him.


Because we have become personally connected with Jesus, when we pray his passion we are not neutral observers. No! This is our friend who we know and love who is suffering. We are deeply moved. And then, in the resurrection, we rejoice with him in a personal way. Our friend that we love is alive. He is restored to us. We are filled with joy! 

What will you experience and where will God lead you as you pray with holy imagination?

By Dale Gish www.deeplybeloved.com

Enneagram & Prayer Series Back Next Week

I’ve had a few of you dear ones send a note asking if the Enneagram & Prayer series is going to continue. Thank you so much for checking in. It absolutely will, with Type Four & Prayer being posted next week on Wednesday, and I’ll hopefully be able to get back into more of a rhythm after that. Life circumstances have been full recently, so I appreciate your grace and patience as I embrace the fullness of my humanity (including being six months pregnant!) and my own limitations during this season.

Oh, and if you’d like to dive more into the journey together, to be part of a transformational community during the season of Ordinary Time, please consider joining us for the new Anam Cara eCourse that just opened its doors: The Kingdom of Ordinary Time.



I’m looking forward to experiencing more rhythm together, no matter how syncopated!


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?

For The Last Minute Lentens

Still struggling about what to do for Lent? Not sure that you’re up for this whole ashes-and-fasting thing? I’ve got a few suggestions for those of us who aren’t sure we’re into Lent this year, and if we are, we just aren’t sure what to do.


This is an eCourse by Jan Richardson, who is one of the most lovely, grace-filled and beautiful artists I know. The course will be low-demand, but high-reward, and I recommend it.


Do you need a little more rest this Lent? Today is the last day to sign up for the Be Course, which is a Lent-long exploration of what it means to rest, and to fast from things like shame, self-loathing or rejection. Each week has a recipe and a new teacher.

Daily Lectionary

Do you have a complicated relationship with Scripture? Read it anew with the Daily Lectionary delivered to your inbox. This project by Preston Yancey will go year-long, but starts on Ash Wednesday, and is completely free. Sometimes our struggles with Scripture come because we’ve been reading it through the scrim we’ve been given, and coming to the Word fresh, letting Scripture speak to Scripture, makes everything new.

A Lenten Check In

If you’d like to talk through what might be right for you this Lent, I’m offering a limited number of pay-what-you-can 30-minute slots of prayer and discernment. You could use this to decide what you want to fast from or pick up for Lent, or as a check-in midway through the season to talk about how things are going, and what God might be up to. Email me here to sign up. Regular sessions are $75, but the pay-what-you-can offer stands.

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?

I’ll Be Home For Christmas + Coming Home Synchroblog

I have a penchant for depressing Christmas music, I admit it. As the winter closes her dark wings over us, my husband and I like to turn off all the lights, ignite the (admittedly, depressingly fake) fire and listen to Christmas music that makes us ache. The tree twinkles, the house creaks in the wind, and we sit in semi-darkness, feeling the edges of ourselves.

We’re not masochists, I promise.

And I don’t think we’re alone.

There’s something about this season filled with thanksgiving and tinsel and joy and song that feels a little like homesickness to me. It’s not strident, it’s not brash, but the undercurrent of the holidays tugs at us with its longings for something more. Something we struggle to name, something about hope and about disappointment, something about desire and about loneliness, something, I would hazard a guess, about where Home really is.

I’ve had the familiar tune, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” wending its way through my thoughts and emotions since, oh, probably late September. It appeared as a snatch of a song, and it has been persistently presence—you can count on me—almost every day in some way—there’ll be snow and mistletoe—shape or form.

It takes me a while to catch on, sometimes, and that’s why God winds melodies into my story to suggest, to invite, to point me in the right direction. It happened when I first came to know Him with a hymn I’d learned during choir practice, and this year, it happened again with my Christmas earworm.

If you’d told me in August that I’d feel compelled (with joy, even) to offer a 6-week interactive online journey and retreat through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, I’d have laughed and called you crazy. This holiday season is busy, after all. There are so many things to juggle, so much pressure from consumer culture shot through with a desire to redeem the time, to find the sacred in all this mundane, to listen with my heart’s ear to the story of Christ in the world, Emmanuel, God with us.


I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.

The plaintive last line of the song called me back to myself and to what, I suspect, is going on in more than a few of us. I’d rather bury the ache with busy-ness than face it head on. The hope, the desire, the longing for more. I’d rather not risk the homesickness getting deeper, wider in me, instead I’ll cram my calendar full so I can’t feel any of the empty. I’d rather try to dress it up with decorations than press into it, let it bloom into something that might, just might, lead me closer to that which I’m longing for.

But what if the Christian calendar actually invites us to less, not more? What if coming home isn’t about the destination (the perfect turkey, the Martha Stewart tree, the ideal present wrapped flawless for everyone) but about the journey?

Here, I’m back to the depressing Christmas songs, not because they are dark, but because they acknowledge the complexity of this time of year. It’s no coincidence that the longest night of the year occurs right before Christmas itself, that within the rhythm of the seasons there’s an acknowledgement that things come with a cost, that they aren’t as they should be.

And there are treasures of darkness to be found, too (Is. 45:3, NKJV). There is something to dwelling in the hidden places in this season of flash and fanfare, letting the desire for more rise through us as we wait for the light to increase. There is something to choosing silence while the world turns up the Christmas carols, something to finding solitude when the holiday-party-merry-go-round starts spinning.

So, instead of running from Bing Crosby’s siren call, I pressed in, listening. What I heard was the call of the One who loves us most, the incarnational hope of the One who became small enough to hold. Could I trust God’s voice? Could I lean into a call and a community this Advent, finding and forming a journey together into complexity of what it means to come home?

My heart said yes, as it had been saying yes since the first strains of the song sang through it.

And that’s how Coming Home: An Online Journey Into Advent, Christmas and Epiphany was born.

It’s a risk, I know, one bigger than I’ve offered to take with this crazy community of seekers, dreamers, lovers and learners before. It seems so much larger than me, and that’s probably the way it should stay, because I can’t control God any more than I can control the winter wind. I’m excited and terrified and hopeful and full of longing. I’m wondering and nervous and brimming with the sense that the Wild One is up to something gloriously good.

“It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different—deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia


 I’m stepping into another first for this space, today—a synchroblog.

My friend, Esther Emery, has started us off with this beautiful post on her feelings about the Christmas season.

So, here’s my invitation. Below you’ll find some blog prompts on the holiday season and what it feels like to be starting it down right now. Is it scary? Hopeful? Painful? Exciting?

Write about it.

Then, at the end of your post, use the image and link below to link back to the Coming Home registration page (and there’s a $25 discount on registration until this Friday, November 15).

Once you’ve done that, add your post to the synchroblog on or before November 17.

And because I’m so grateful for your support and words, I’m going to be giving away a copy of one of my favorite Advent resources, God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, to one of the bloggers who links up before Sunday:



I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner, and announce it here on this post and on the Anam Cara Facebook community on Monday, November 18.

So, have at it. And thanks for being on the journey together.

Blog Prompts:

Does Christmas make you homesick for something more? Maybe something you’ve never had?

Is there something about the spiritual “home” that you’ve lived in that makes you feel sick (as in sick-of-home) and longing for something more?

Has the ancient church intrigued you? Is there something about the ancient practices and places that are drawing you right now?

Do the holidays already make you feel “too busy”? Have you ever felt yourself feeling like you’re too busy for the deeper things of Christmas, but can’t add one more thing to your to-do list? What would fulfill that for you?

Have you ever felt empty after Christmas, longing for more? What does the idea that Christmas starts (not ends) with the 25th and runs to Epiphany do in your heart?

Coming Home Icon:


Coming Home Link:


A Big Thank You!

Thank you SO much to all who participated in the synchroblog! It was my first, and it was great to read all of your entries. Wonderful words, all.

Using Random.org, the entry on the synchroblog that won a copy of God With Us is entry # 8, Jennifer Upton of Spiritual Glasses. Congratulations, Jennifer!

Shhh! Something New Is In the Works!


Just for my blog readers, I wanted to let you know that something new (well, lots of new things, actually, but I can’t tell you about those yet) is in the works at Anam Cara Ministries.

I’m really excited to be working on a new offering for those longing to go deeper with God.

Head on over to the Retreats & Resources page to check it out.

Oh, you want a hit?

Okay, okay. Here’s one: Retreat Curation.

(I’m SO excited!)