Tag Archives: stillness

One Small Change: One LESS Thing

Heather Caliri is a beautiful writer, and I think her One Small Change post came at the perfect time. In the midst of a week when so many of us have been sorting through our “on-fire” pasts, remembering the feelings of never being quite good enough…never quite passionate enough for God, Heather offers words of grace. I hope you love this post as much as I do.

Photo by Kevin Carden, Creation Swap
Photo by Kevin Carden, Creation Swap

I have saved the world many times. Or—at least—I have tried.

I switched to organic vegetables, I subscribed to a CSA. I tried being vegetarian for a week–and ate a double bacon cheeseburger on day seven. I made all my Christmas gifts one year. I have volunteered for hospice and signed up for high school ministry. I have grown my own tomatoes. I have built houses in Mexico and considered going on staff with a Christian organization and inquired about volunteering in a slum and sent letters and pictures to a sponsored child. I have wrapped glass bottles in cardboard boxes; I have gone without a car. I have used cloth diapers, and even dried them on the line.

You can expend a lot of effort—and feel like you’re make very little difference—this way. You can search for the perfect cause and always come away feeling empty. You might start to avoid the news headlines because they expose your helplessness every morning.

I have tried to do more many times. Believe me, I admire those who seem to do more effectively.

But lately, I have been trying a different approach.

I am trying to keep still.

I am trying to do one less thing.

It isn’t easy. My children long to do sundry lessons during the week; there’s a playgroup we could commit to on Mondays. I could join a Bible Study or go back to volunteering with hospice. There’s a book club and my husband’s soccer league, and going to church each week. There’s school, and writing, and supporting our family business. There’s making all our clothes and food from scratch to avoid supporting the Corporate Behemoth. There are all those causes I know I should be helping.

None of these things are bad. Surely the activities in your life are worthwhile, too.

But at the end of all that doing, when we meet a new friend, I will have to tell them that three Thursdays from now, we’re available from 6:30 to 8:15, as long as there’s no traffic.

The world keeps telling me there’s no way to contribute unless I’m frantic with effort. That there are so many issues to worry about; so many worthy causes. The truth is, I want to do something, dammit.

Until I sit with a new friend at coffee—the coffee I almost told her I was too busy for—and hear her say how she has spent years feeling that no one had time to be friends.

Until I find that being available at the last minute means I am able to help a friend going through a family crisis or to pinch-hit childcare for a newly single mom, or to say hello to the homeless woman we see at the library every week.

A while ago, I heard about a study that gripped me. Researchers had forty seminarians fill out a religious questionnaire, then told them they needed to go across the campus where they were to give a talk. Some of them were asked to speak about the Good Samaritan. Some of them were told they were late.

On the way to the talk, each of them passed a huddled figure who cried out in pain.

Those who were in a hurry were much more likely to pass the person in need without helping.

It helped me sympathize with the Levite and the priest on that Jericho road. How many times have I passed a person holding a cardboard sign on an off-ramp because I’m rushing? How many times have I missed the chance to help a friend because I’m not available?

Let me be clear: I don’t think being still can happen if we’re feeling crappy about the life we’re really leading right now: overfull or half-empty, busy or languorous, working for justice or just dreaming of it.

No: stillness is staying put, right where we are, and choosing to notice where we are, and who is around us. Still is choosing to not do, in order to be available.

Photo by: Elminium, Creative Commons
Photo by: Elminium, Creative Commons

Now that I’m slowing down, putting my effort into stillness, I’m much more aware of how I could be helpful. I’m paying attention to people, instead of issues. I have more time to think. To pray, before I get carried away with some new scheme. To develop a relationship, to gain trust, to have energy for the long haul.

In the lack of effort, in the time and emptiness I was working so hard to fill before, I am trying to breathe. I am trying to remember Who it is that heals, changes things, and makes all things new.

One moment of stillness a day. Or one less thing a week. One less ongoing commitment. One more hour I consent to feeling bored, or helpless, or—with practice—expectant. One more moment to be whole, just as I am. One more chance to hear my phone ring and be present, now, with someone in need.


heather caliri


Heather Caliri is a writer and mom from San Diego. Two years ago, she started saying little yeses to faith, art and life. The results were life-changing. Get her free e-book, Dancing Back to Jesus: Post-pefectionist Faith in Five Easy Verbs (http://www.heathercaliri.com/free-e-book/) on her blog, A Little Yes (http://www.heathercaliri.com).

Connect with her on Twitter or on Facebook!

Making Manifest Giveaway Winner!

random generator - making manifestI’m so excited about how many of you responded to the Making Manifest book reflection this week. I wish I could give a copy away to every single one of you.

I counted 93 commenters when I excluded Dave and I. (Literally. I wrote all of your names down on my grocery list notepad to make sure I didn’t miss anyone. I’m sure there’s a plugin for that but I don’t have the technical savvy to figure it out.)

And the Random Generator of Awesomeness has spoken. The winner is Number 85 – Abi! Congratulations! Expect an email from me soon!

If you didn’t win, I’d still urge you to go pick up a copy of this beautiful workbook from Seedbed.

If you’re doing it with a group, there are bulk discounts that you can take advantage of over there as well. It’s such a great alternative for those of us who have done the fill-in-the-blank stuff too many times and just need something different.

I’d like to leave you with this beautiful thought from the book.

” […] To come close to saying what can’t be said or being what we can’t fully be, we have to choose to set aside time to meet this becoming, to respond to God’s incarnate invitation of full awareness. We need solitude in a world that wants to visit, quiet from a world that wants idle chit-chat, and steadfastness in a world where everything’s changing and transient. We need time to gather the little pieces of ourselves that scatter. We need time to write down our little lives.

The good news: your life is already poemia — a living breathing work of words. So with a little time and practice each day your bit of energy will become worship you make, not worship made for you. […] You can best worship God by accepting your words and giving them life, by owning them, and then giving them back; or, as Romans 12:1 says, to present them as part of your reasonable sacrifice — offering your words as part of offering yourself.”

May you find solitude, quiet and so much beauty this weekend.

Making Manifest [Book Reflection & Giveaway]

pencil and paperDuring my Very Hard Year, I meet the church ladies every Thursday morning at a coffee shop.

It was dark when I drove there and dark when I left, and in between, there was a fill-in-the-blank Bible study on the book of John.

There was homework that we were supposed to be doing. There were small spaces for answering leading questions, all of it meant to guide the reader toward a deeper understanding of the Bible.

Like most studies, it was pragmatic. It was meant to help you learn, and in that learning, to grow stronger in your faith.

But it was my very hardest year. I was in the deep winter of Depression and didn’t know it yet. But what I did know was the answers to questions 1-10 in Chapter 1. After years of Sunday School and AWANA Clubs, after high school Bible study and youth group retreats and four years at Bible College, those questions were so insultingly simple that I resented them.

The questions I was battling through in my own heart during those months had to do with loneliness and sadness and feeling like God was nowhere. Like he had up and left my life.

I tried to write the complex questions in the margins and in the spaces, but there was no room for them. It was a fill-in-the-blank Bible study, and it wasn’t about the questions. It was about finding the exact right answers.


Here is what I am not saying. I am not saying that fill-in-the-blank Bible studies are bad. I am not saying that you are simple or stupid if you love them, if they speak to you, if you are being changed by one right now.

We are all in different places of learning and growing, and sometimes that word – the one you write in the small, blank space – is the word you needed to find. The one that will change everything.

What I’m saying is that during that time in my life, it was just not doing it for me, and maybe you’re there.

Maybe you’re desperately trying to interact with God or with your faith community, but it all feels dried out and stale – a very old crust instead of Bread of Life.


Making_Manifest_CoverI met Dave Harrity at the Festival of Faith and Writing last April. We’d connected online a bit, but at the conference, he handed me a postcard about his forthcoming book.

I wanted it to be available immediately, right then, because it is the book I needed so desperately that very hard winter.

It’s the one I need now.

In his introduction, he describes Making Manifest as a “28-day devotional book grounded in the acts of writing, creativity, imagination, solitude, and community building, all designed to help you ‘re-vision’ the way you understand and interact with the kingdom of God.”

It’s a totally different kind of “devotional” – a workbook filled with meditations and writing prompts. It asks that you make space for quiet. It asks that you write freely and that you pay attention to your life. That you value the words you write in the quiet space of this book, not because they are perfect, but because they are holy.

I’m not all the way through it yet. It’s meant to be a 28-day devotional, but I’m ambling. I’m taking my time with each prompt, feeling my soul get a little wider in the reading and writing.

Making Manifest doesn’t ask you to read large swaths of Scripture. Instead, it incorporates small bits and goes deep into the complex, life-giving truth about who God is. It would have been perfect for my cynical, winter-bare 24-year-old heart. The one that could not take one more fill-in-the-blank study of John. The one that could barely open the Bible without feeling inexplicably angry.

In the back of the book, there are discussion questions, workshops and exercises that allow you to use this book in a group context, and I’d like to start a group at some point. I’d like to try it in community.

I think it’s the kind of book that you can work through again and again and find it entirely different and uniquely beautiful every time.


I’m excited about this book because in the end, it was a series of writing prompts that helped me find my way back to God – not in a devotional book, but in grad school. It was hundreds of free-writes that were eventually refined into essays that turned into chapters that turned into the book I’ll publish with Convergent this fall.

But in the beginning, it was just prompts.

Just a notebook and a pen. Just me and the God I couldn’t seem to get to in the traditional, evangelical ways.

And somewhere in all of that messy cursive, something happened: I found him again. Somewhere in all of those imperfect, holy pages, He met me, and I was Found.


I’m so excited to have one copy of this beautiful workbook to give away, but really, I think it’s worth every penny. (It’s available from Seedbed here.)

You know the drill – leave a comment (Any comment! No brilliant insights necessary!), and you’ll be entered into the Random Generator of Awesomeness. I’ll announce the winner this Friday (the 10th).

In the meantime, stop by antler, Dave’s organization that’s committed to helping people engage in creativity as a devotional practice for spiritual formation. These are some seriously cool people bringing something that we desperately need to the faith conversation. Check it out!

The Daily Work of Wonder

Originally published at A Deeper Story.

photo credit: Joris_Louwes via photopin cc
photo credit: Joris_Louwes via photopin cc

“The world of dew
is the world of dew
And yet, and yet –”
~ Issa

I confess that most days, my heart is like a bratty 15-year old: arms crossed, chin raised, daring you to impress me.

I was born at the far edge of the age-group they call Generation Me…narcissistic and entitled and easily bored. I bristle at this language. I am not like that, I think. But it I’m honest, I’ll tell you that I wake up thinking about myself. I choose my acts of love or service or kindness mostly based on how much they will rock the equilibrium of my personal comfort. I am fuzzy on the line between self-care and self-absorbed.

Once I went to Bible college, and I aced my pop quiz on the Gospels and my paper on evangelicalism and my final on Theology. I’ve read the Bible, beginning and then back again. In my 29 years, I have sat through 1500 sermons – give or take – so don’t think you can tell an anecdote I haven’t heard, a statistic I don’t know.

That scripture you’re reading aloud from the podium? I’ve heard it a hundred times. Memorized it in AWANA Sparks. Earned myself a ruby-red jewel for my plastic, pinned-on crown. So I’m gonna need you to spin it new, get into the Greek of it, the etymology, the history. Surprise me with your insight.

I dare you to impress me.

We changes jobs frequently, apparently – people in this generation. That’s what the sociologists say. They say we have too great of expectations, little patience for anything that seems to lack meaning. And I haven’t changed jobs all that much, but I have been nomadic in my spirituality. I have wandered aimlessly from church to church to church, looking for something that I cannot name. Leaving when it’s not there.

I keep waiting for that one big thing that will take my breath away. That will leave me standing rooted to the spot, looking up.

In the box office, I watch movies with 150-million-dollar budgets and critique the special effects. In worship services, the music circles higher and louder, and the fog machine blasts and the lights change color, and I confuse entertainment with awe.

I have believed the lie that wonder is something that is given to me by someone else. That it is fire and flurry, the crashing of might and might, the explosion of flame. Dazzle and daring and the fluorescent spectacular.

But the truth is that none of this is wonder. Not really. There is nothing passive about true wonder. It is not dependent on bigness or limited by smallness; it is not the response to entertainment or to spectacle.

Wonder is a choice. It comes only when I choose to stay.

It’s that thing that happens when doubt and astonishment and mystery converge. It happens when I stand in one place long enough. When I stare out at the broken cattails or the winter-bare branches or a dew drop until it stops being about me. Starts being about the branch. And then about more than the branch. And then about God.

And it doesn’t always feel like epiphany or the climax of a hit movie. Sometimes it comes and goes so quickly that you almost can’t believe that it was there.

But in that moment, something in your heart reaches towards God. And for a small span of space, you believe Him to be all he says he is, and you know it is enough…and this is the true heart of worship.

And all these years, my angsty, selffocused heart has been making the wrong statement.

It’s not I dare you to impress me. Rather, it’s I will dare to be impressed. 

There is work to all this wonder. I can choose to be moved, even when it does not feel holy or wild or amazing. I can decide to stay long enough to see the whole thing ignite like a bush burning. Because God is here: in this tiny church, this broken family, this song, this wintering state…this moment.

The ground spreads wide and uneven beneath me, and all of it is holy.

The dew drop is suspended at the edge of the railing. Wonder is the choice to look closer and closer. To stay until the dew becomes a universe, and your heart lurches when you recognize the holy center: the wild love of God.

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