the sabbatical interruption ?

henri_nouwenLife is ‘a little while’, a short moment of waiting. It is to wait full of expectation. The knowledge that God will indeed fulfill the promise to renew everything, and will offer us a new heaven and a new earth, makes the waiting exciting. We can already see the beginning of the fulfillment. Nature speaks of it every spring; people speak of it whenever they smile; the sun, the moon, and the stars speak of it when they offer us light and beauty; and all of history speaks of it when amidst all devastation and chaos, men and women arise who reveal the hope that lives within them. What is my main task during my ‘little while’? I want to point to the sings of the Kingdom to come, to speak about the first rays of the day of God. I do not want to complain about this passing world but to focus on the eternal that lights up in the midst of the temporal. I yearn to create space where it can be seen and celebrated. ~ Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey

by way of an update…

I look around and I realize that I have all the fixings to get 4-5 more posts done on my series about humor. But, something is amiss. I am humorless indeed. It’s an irony not wasted on me and its own sort of humor.

I suppose when I was trying to understand humor in the first place it was to save myself from this point. But I got here anyway.

So now, strangely, I feel like I’m on a sabbatical.

I’m placed in it but didn’t choose it. The will to write feels gone, even though seeds are in my hand. 

Today, I spent the day at the Jesuit Center and found a book on Henri Nouwen in the library and it piqued my interest in him once again. 

I don’t want to have this tortured part of me that gets befuddled most Autumns and Winters but there you have it, anyhow. 

Until I get my gumption back, I’ll post the occasional pieces and bits from the scratching in the dust that I’m doing now in this arid place of the soul.

Save-the-Date: Next Trip to Narnia

Here’s what some of the previous retreat-goers said about the experience:



To learn more or sign up, join the Retreat list click HERE.




Suppose you found a place…like Narnia…a magical parallel place…

This happened to me, and the only way it makes sense to tell you about it is to tell you that the land of Narnia comes to mind.

I spotted no White Witch, but I’m certain that Aslan was on the move!

I keep going back and it keeps getting better.

I’ve tried to sketch out something of what it’s like with my words. My strings of syllables are full of adjectives and I start to gush and make a fool of myself.

These words and my intensions fall short. Maybe a photo will help, I think. No, not really.

I try to tell people about it and say “come and join me”. Several of my closest friends knew to trust me and come “in faith” and it turns out that you sort of “catch something” while you’re there that draws you back again and again.

Yes, I can say, it’ll be restful, or I can say, it’ll be refreshing, or life-changing, or amazing…and of course I sound a little crazy because I’m making such a big deal about it.

But, I hope it doesn’t seem so absurd.

When you are really thirsty, water sounds wonderful.

Yet, it’s only when you taste it that you are satisfied.

Maybe you have some kind of deeper thirst. Then come!



A “thin place” is where you see this dominion of the kingdom of God come into clearer focus.

And dominion doesn’t refer to a location per se, or sometimes at all.


There, the world as you know it grows strangely dimmer and smaller. You notice a threshold that separates heaven and earth too much. It seems much thinner.

This thin place can even be manifest in a person.

When you are near him or her, you sense something greater at work in a richer and more powerful unseen reality. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know it’s real. There is weight there.

The epitome of that is, of course, the Son of God. Jesus was the thinnest place of all when he walked among us.He is our model. 

But a thin place is a location too, right?

Yes, sometimes a you sense a thin place in a location that has been somehow, or intentionally, consecrated and set apart for apprehending the deeper realities of existence. A house of worship. A garden. A home where love abides. A bookstore. A mountain perch. A bench at the beach. Everyone has probably felt a thin place, at some point.

(If you have, let me know where in the comments section)


The retreat center were I go at least 3-5 times a year is one such thin place. If you haven’t gone to a place like this, it’s nearly impossible to convince you that being there, just being, will improve your life.

I’m left “pitching the benefits” to you, like a giddy salesgirl, because conveying the actual experience is so obtuse and ethereal.

Postcards, paper ones or verbal ones, never really share a place properly. 

I have a plan to return soon
Your story will unfold in new ways there.

I’ll be the guide. I’ll show you the grounds and acquaint you with the places for quiet reflection and rejuvenation, and provide you with some devotional reading and prayer material to guide your time, if you want the structure. I’ll get you started and you’ll have nothing else to do but enjoy yourself. 

Are you thirsty?

We’ll meet for a (provided) hot lunch at 12:30, than after we will “gather the graces” we’ve been given, and leave for home when the time seems right. It could be the half day that changes your life. The cost is a tiny $15.

Let me know if you’re interested by signing up HERE, and I’ll prepare a spot for you and send details.

To be on the update list, click HERE.

When God says “Psst.” -The follow up

Before I follow up (click here for part I), I want to say that I’ve learned that talking too much about a splendid spiritual experience is problematic:

1. There’s really no way language can encompass something mystical (an experience with the divine). It just won’t translate.

2. Sometimes the more you sort it out the more the sweet memory lifts in a puff and vaporizes. I just hate doing that to it. It’s like squeezing a kitten until you hear a pop. Bad idea.

(And the details work more like forensics too, like writing a research paper on your first kiss. By paragraph three you just regret starting to tackle the project at all. Not that I tried to do that, because that would be weird.)

I don’t pray the whole time when I go away for a prayer retreat. I have a Brother Lawrence life of faith, mostly. Integrated. That means Life is Prayer. Prayer is lived. Each breath is an exchange of that gift of life up into the atmosphere. That hope and petition… and God is everywhere, receiving it with a smile.

Sometimes when I tell people I go for a whole day to pray, I get weird looks. They think it must be work or simply beyond boring. Or worst of all…that it’s super spiritual and religious. It’s not whatsoever. It’s carnival of inner joy. I wish it for everyone.

A typical day away
So when I’m there, I turn off my phone, I walk the halls or the grounds, enjoy the paintings, sculptures, the plants, gardens, wildlife and scenery. I pray, worship, and intercede for others in the onsite chapel or in the little alcoves, prayer rooms, the library, or benches outdoors. When I get stiff I stretch and walk a bit more. I journal, write prayers, take notes and a few photos, and I read scripture or devotional books… just short bits. They have an art room, so sometimes I draw or paint. I enjoy snacks I brought and a good hearty lunch on the grounds. I make sure that nothing is done out of obligation or becomes drudgery. Sometimes I just sit there and be. Many times. I allow myself to truly relax and be myself. How life-giving it is. My heart fills up. It is truly sacred space. Somehow more fully the permission is given, the place is consecrated for pilgrims to come alive and enjoy it all, and feel loved ever deeply by our good Maker. Do you like picnics? It’s like that.

Sometimes I feel the shine of God and sometimes it seems God is thinking and being quiet next to me. We’re friends and friends can do that.

So, instead of going into everything I enjoyed and relished in the details, I’ll share a few field notes and let the rest be hidden to ponder in my heart.

• The Sacred will hush you and bring you home.

• As jars of clay filled with treasure (God within) we need rest and reconnection to be cleaned out and readied for God’s use in holy work.

• Life is short, bitter-sweet, and suffused with exquisite joy and ravaging sorrow–all that makes us more human but it takes divine healing through it to become whole. We are simply too fragile to do “being human” apart. Beside God, we need people who love God. People have God inside, and that helps.

• The birds aren’t frantic as I assumed for too long; they are alive with work. Excited to be themselves.

• Deep calls to Deep. In God’s whispers the deepest parts of ourselves are stirred yet we often mistake it for other things.

# # #

When was the last time you got away?

 If you’d like to go and you live near Reading/Lebanon, Pa, let me know. I’m always happy to go with a companion. I travel there with a friend or two, then we go off, each own our way to enjoy God or pray and then meet back up for lunch and sometimes discuss it a bit.

I also offer a guided experience there, and more info for that is here if you are interested.

When God says “Psst”

I’m getting Psst.

I feel verily drawn to the whispers and the come-away… into the abiding.

When you feel battle-weary and you put your head down, you can hear thunder in the ground.

The divine rumbles and trembles you…way deep.

into your soul.

Your own beats loosen and go syncopated.


And whatever happens, all I know is… that I need to show up.

The wild abandon is not my own.

It’s the shine of the joy and glory.


Strangely, I sense the breathlessness is from… outside.


God at my gate among the blooms.


Pay attention. Learn. Sit soon, at the feet of the One who is Other…

I hear it.



Tomorrow I’ll make a trek to a sacred place because it’s time. It’s overdue.

I’ll tell you about it, some, on the other side.

And that’s how you get psst.



Please stop for about 15 seconds, if you have them, and ask God to help me. I’d be so very grateful.

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Reflections on God [or what happened with the Jesuits, part II]

Natural Sponge (click for image attribution)

For a short bit of background you can read Part I.

Background in one sentence: On March 6th I went to my first all-day, silent, guided prayer retreat held at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, Pa.
Simply put: I’m hooked, probably for life.
I’m not sure what can rival what happens when I finally unplug, quiet down, and let God be God. This was that sort of time.

In the morning, our group gathered for a brief preparation to guide our personal prayer time. Sr. Maria McCoy shared some thoughts and gave 2 rather simple but profound analogies for God and God’s presence. As we entered an extended time of silence and prayer, these (theological, and ontological) ideas about God were to pervade our experience. And did they ever!

Spiritual Guidance Tip: To get a snatch of the experience yourself, try this: Block off 20 minutes, or more if you can, for prayer. Then, read the following 2 analogies and take them with your into your time. Talk with God about them. See what happens.

She kicked it off like this, “There was once a baby fish…”

I thought, “I don’t care who you are lady, but anybody who starts a pensive day of prayer like that is a kindred spirit!”

The rest went something like this:

There was once a baby fish, who went to his mother and said, “What is water and where is it? I’m so very thirsty, and I think if I don’t find some water soon, I will die.” Her mother said, “Water is all around you. Sometimes you can’t even notice it, because it’s so close and so real.”

God is like water and we are his fish. God is real and ever-present. There is nowhere where God is not. As we swim about, we may not be able to feel God’s presence or see the boundaries of God. We cannot see these boundaries, because God has no boundaries. God continues. God is.

And then another one something like this…

Think of an ocean sponge. Think of an ocean sponge where it is supposed to be…deep in an ocean. The sponge is surrounded by water. But, the sponge is full. Full of that same water too. The water is in, and through, and all around the sponge. You are that sponge, and God is the water. Realize that God, who is your Creator, and everywhere present, is present at the core of who you are. God is the center. God is indeed in, and through, and all around you.

So when sticking to Christian theology, God is omni-benevolent (throughly good) and omnipresent (everywhere present) I pray differently. Sometimes I act more like a dried out sponge, and I forget this basic stuff about God. I forget how this Truth* plays out.

Another amazing gift is that before I went to the retreat, I used the language of water to describe my reason for going (see that part here). I mentioned how physical and spiritual dehydration can, after a while, turn into a kind of lack of thirst–the very opposite of what is most needed. I think refreshing and retreat go together.

When was the last time you noticed your spiritual thirst?

Verses of reflection:

Eph 3:16-19 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Psalm 139:5-8 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths {hell}, a you are there.

*Truth capitalized to denote Truth as a Person (God). Found or experienced in relationship more clearly or fully than through propositional statements or systematics.