Wednesday, March 22, 2017


(written on 3/16/17 in the Sonoran Desert somewhere north of Benson)

So back into the desert again for my yearly rhythm of wilderness, solitude, silence and listening. I came again, as I do each time, with some books for reading, a hymn book, journal, and some notes to help me embark on my discipline of resting, sitting, reading, writing .... This year I came eager to get direction, insights, to be challenged, connected, encouraged and renewed and was waiting on "what would the Lord show me this year?"

            The answer ... Nothing New!

In my journal from last year, at the end of the week I wrote that I felt the Lord saying,

            "Chris, just pay attention to Me."

It was like the parent who is trying to settle down the child who is running all over the place and unable to hear their parent's voices. I jotted down a couple action points, 2-3 things I believed I should be doing in addition to just making more space to pay attention to Jesus.

Now I am hearing the same thing again - likely because I didn't really pay attention this past year to the extent He longed for me to but also, perhaps, because that is simply the central thing that I should always be focused on.  Could it not only be our central calling but even our only calling.  "Just pay attention to Me," He says, "and everything else will follow." The Lord is patient and just keeps beckoning - pay attention, sit with Me...

Is it really as simple as "pay attention to Me?" It reminds me of the disciples on the Mt. of Transfiguration when the Father said "This is my Son, listen to Him!" That's straightforward and clear! We hear in other places as well - "draw near to Me" or "remain in Me" or "seek first the Kingdom."

A simple plan - clear, focused, inviting - hard to do for hurried souls like mine. What would the year look like if my first and foremost "agenda" item and the guiding element for each day was "pay attention to Him", "abide in Him"? This is more than "devotions" of course - it is a frame of mind and heart that connects all my moments.

From Calvin Miller: "The highest kind of obedience does not come from always asking, "What will You have me to do?" but in the moment-by-moment rehearsal of our love for Christ."

Friday, March 10, 2017


As a church we are going through a mini series on Spiritual Disciplines; this weekend is on solitude. Following the service I am going on my annual trek out into the Sonoran Desert to "flee, be silent, pray always." Sounds very spiritual and committed! In preparation I though I would sit down and do a short blog on the value of solitude. I got to my blog site... embarrassing and revealing! It has been almost a year since my last post which I sent just prior to my last trip in the desert!! Good intentions of faithfully writing and also following up on what God invited me to the last time have apparently fallen by the side of the road.  I came away from the last trip with the words of God echoing in my mind,  "Chris, just pay attention to me!" Spoken with force, longing and grace. Now a year later and I am about to spend another week in the desert. Different building this time as the former place is deteriorating - the new one - still isolated looks like a luxury compared to the usual.

So what has the past year brought - what has come from His speaking to me? If measured in activity and accomplishment - I suppose it has been a full and fruitful year. If measured in depth of relationships, having a stilled and listening heart, being above all things attentive to my Lord ... I don't think I measure up too well.

It is remarkable how clearly we can sometimes hear the beckoning voice of God and how it rings so true and yet move along through the moments of our days, months, a year ... and give our best attention to everything but....!

So once again I return to the desert to let God do surgery on my life as T. Merton describes.

“Society . . . was regarded [by the Desert Fathers] as a shipwreck from which each single individual man had to swim for his life. . . . These were men who believed that to let oneself drift along, passively accepting the tenets and values of what they knew as society, was purely and simply a disaster."

That happens to me everyday as I  choose activity over intimacy, demands over longings, the urgent rather than the essential. The follow up, of course, is to the enter back into society and community and ministry and family; but re-entering renewed and reshaped and that should impact everything around me.  To this end I am seeking his heart as I let Him develop for me a "Rule of Life" in order to bring the rhythms and clarity of the desert into my everyday ordinary moments. To bring solitude into today, not just one week a year.

So may these words of Henri Nouwen mark our alone times with Jesus:

“We enter into solitude first of all to meet our Lord and to be with him and him alone. Our primary task in solitude, therefore, is not to pay undue attention to the many faces which assail us, but to keep the eyes of our mind and heart on him who is our divine savior. Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature. As we come to realize that it is not we who live, but Christ who lives in us, that he is our true self, we can slowly let our compulsions melt away and begin to experience the freedom of the children of God”

Excerpt From: Henri J. M. Nouwen. “The Way of the Heart.”