Immerse

deep dive

Today’s Word: Immerse’

as in… gathering up the courage to explore and embrace what each moment has to teach;

as in… understanding that fear is our friend, struggle is our teacher, hope is our motivation and Spirit is our strength,

as in… being immersed right here, right now, in this and every moment that we are never alone.

Ever.

Ever.

Such good news!

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Continuum

lamp treeToday’s Word: ‘continuum’ as in… between here and there, along the continuum there are Thin Places where the veil between what we would call heaven and what we know as earth is nearly transparent. It’s a place where we experience a deep sense of God’s presence in our everyday world.

Isaiah 34 is about as bleak a chapter in the bible as you can find. Keep in mind that it was written thousands of years ago and comes from a pretty limited worldview. Nevertheless, it says what it says and after reading it you may just want to steer clear of any sharp objects.

On the other end of this running-with-scissors-to-lollygagging-at-the-side-of-the-pool continuum is Isaiah 35. It’s about as hope-filled and promising a chapter as you can find. Isaiah 35 is all gladness and blossoming abundance with a beautiful highway plopped right down there in the desert. It’s a place where even idiots (Isaiah used the word “fools”) like myself can’t even manage to get lost. It’s a Holy Way complete with rest stops along the road where the short-sighted, pigheaded, flimsy and tightlipped among us can find hope. It’s a Thin Place.

Most—no, wait, let’s be honest: all of us are living somewhere in between the two edges of these very real points on this continuum; all of us living somewhere in between chapters 34 and 35. Most, if not all of us are running from our fears while at the same time running toward peace and sanity every day. We go full-tilt on our own highways which aren’t highways at all, just merely overgrown paths through our tangled forests in spite of the well-worn paths we’ve made there.

But here’s the reminder: God is God of the continuum. God is God of the in-between.

For all the edges in our lives, God is “in it with us,” walking deeply into our lives with the promise that we’ll be met right there on the continuum. These are the Thin Places where the veil between heaven and earth is nearly transparent.

Perhaps it is precisely because God is God of both edges that God is precisely the God of the Continuum, with us in the thin places.

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Thin Places

Thin Places 5

Today’s Word(s): thin places’ as in… an instance, those places, that moment where the distance between heaven and earth nearly touch.

We experience this – perhaps often, but just try to describe it! Let me give it a try.

Rooted deeply in the Celtic tradition, a “thin place” is where the veil between what we would call heaven and what we know as earth is nearly transparent. It’s a place where we experience a deep sense of God’s presence in our everyday world. A thin place then, is where, for just a brief moment, the spiritual world and the natural world intersect.

You get this, don’t you?

It’s that moment when your 6 year-old granddaughter looks at you and just says, “I love you…” or she points to herself, then makes the heart shape with your two sweet little hands, and then points to you.

It’s what you experience when you watch the sun rise over a mountain or the sunset in to the ocean.

It’s what you experience when you walk into a bakery and smell the aroma of the bread just out of the ovens.

It’s what you experience when you put that first spoonful of tomato basil soup in your mouth and it makes you sit back and close your eyes as you swallow.

It’s what you experience when you touch or are touched and you say to yourself, this is absolutely Divine.

Because it is.

There are moments when we do feel God, Spirit, the Sacred, the Divine leaning into our world, leaning into us. When that happens we feel very connected to and “in tune” with God. This is more than a cognitive, intellectual knowing. It’s an experience of what we might call spirited knowing. We say something about feeling it ‘deep inside’. This experience of a moment or a place where the physical and natural everyday world merge into a thin line is well rooted in biblical history. But it was the Celtic Christians who gave the descriptive phrase “thin place” to it.

It’s in this thin space that we might say something like “Wow”, “Whoa”, or “Amen”.

Or we’d more likely not say anything at all.

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Listen

The Conversation

Today’s Word: ‘listening’ as in… “Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond.

Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.”

So said Henri Nouwen.

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Listening

listenToday’s Word: ‘listening’ as in… it’s an art form, silly!

I experienced listening as an art form some years ago that helped me reframe how I want to listen to others. I’m convinced that if we worked at this together, beginning with ourselves – me beginning with me, etc., our relationships would thrive in ways that could make the gift of each present moment far more enriching. Listening is an art form that takes discipline and practice.

I began to understand this on a deeper level when I first met Eugene Peterson in February of 2012. I was writing a book and Eugene had agreed to talk with me about it and give me some input. He also agreed to endorse the book once it was finished and I am blessed to have had him do that. During a timeless afternoon with Eugene and his wife Jan in their home in Lakeside, Montana, I came prepared with a full page of questions. Of course Paul Gauche came with a full page of questions! We were sitting together in his beautiful-eagle’s-nest-of-an-office, and I began at the top of the page working my way down. Each question for Eugene was a launching point into places I never could have imagined. Plumbing the depths of this man’s pastoral mind and heart was amazing.

What struck me, though, was how remarkably intentional Eugene was with his responses, how purposeful he was with our conversation, how completely present he was in that moment. Here’s what I mean: As I asked him each question, Eugene sat quietly looking back at me; listening to me, almost studying me as my words floated in the air between us waiting for a place to land and then connect. He seemed to be listening long after I had finished asking a question. A couple of times I even wondered if he’d heard the question. But then, just about the time I’d feel the urge to break that rich, thick, delicious silence and repeat or rephrase my question, Eugene would gently draw in a breath and respond.

This happened again and again: I’d ask a question and Eugene, listening, would just dwell in it. Sometimes for up to a full 30 seconds or more, Eugene would savor the present moment and everything in it. He seemed to be listening not just to what I had asked, but the actual moment that we were sharing together. And then he’d respond.

What a gift. I felt so listened to. I felt so honored. I felt so heard and understood. Sitting together with Eugene in that listening space was a deeply present moment that, to this very day, has remained one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

Some questions: When have you felt really listened to? How would you describe the difference between ‘listening’ and ‘hearing’? Who does this well for you? Who could you do that for today? What part of the art form and discipline of listening would you want to more fully develop in your life?

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Silence (redux)

Today’s Word: ‘silence’ (redux) as in… “Silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything.” So said Gordon Hempton, the founder of One Square Inch of Silence.

One Square Inch of Silence is very possibly the quietest place in the United States. It is an independent research project located in the Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park, which is one of the most pristine, untouched, and ecologically diverse environments in the United States. If nothing is done to preserve and protect this quiet place from human noise intrusions, natural quiet may be non-existent in our world in the next 10 years.

Silence is a part of our human nature, which can no longer be heard by most people. Close your eyes and listen for only a few seconds to the world you live in, and you will hear this lack of true quiet, of silence. Refrigerators, air conditioning systems, and airplanes are a few of the things that have become part of the ambient sound and prevent us from listening to the natural sounds of our environment. It is our birthright to listen, quietly and undisturbed, to the natural environment and take whatever meanings we may from it. By listening to natural silence, we feel connected to the land, to our evolutionary past, and to ourselves. One Square Inch of Silence is in danger, unprotected by policies of the National Park Service, or supported by adequate laws. Our hope is that by listening to natural silence, it will help people to become true listeners to their environment, and help us protect one of the most important and endangered resources on the planet, silence.

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Silence

Paul and Nancy LeeToday’s Word: ‘silence’ as in… that moment in the conversation between you and your friend when their last verbal thought is spoken and you respond.

It seems to me that the wider that silence is – when we refrain from launching our own thoughts which so easily pour out before others have even had a chance to finish their thoughts – the more room there is for deeper thought, kinder reflection, stronger relationship, more thriving life.

Perhaps that’s why the wisdom from the Christian Scriptures is still helpful today:

Try some silence today; listen deeply, listen respectfully, listen carefully. We may be surprised at what we hear.

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