Tag Archives: spirituality

What’s Saving Me: The Five Minute Journal

This week I’m over at the NEXT Church blog. This fall they’ve asked a number of leaders to respond to the question, “What is saving your ministry right now?” Here’s my offering.

What’s saving my ministry these days is a five minute journaling practice I’ve been doing each morning (and most evenings) for the past few months. I’ve tried various journaling methods off and on for years. Something about holding the pen in my hand allows me to focus my prayers in a way my monkey mind can’t do by simply sitting quietly. And now that I work from home “for myself,” I have lots of possible things vying for my attention and time. I was looking for something short and focused that could bring clarity and discernment to my day.

8Y0EDX4VP9Many of us are familiar with Julia Cameron’s morning pages, which she calls her “spiritual windshield wipers.” This practice serves the same purpose, but instead of writing stream of consciousness, I write short pithy statements. Whereas morning pages are like an epic poem, this is journaling as haiku. I adapted it from Tim Ferriss, an author and entrepreneur. He’s a little too “guru” for me, but I think he’s hit upon a good structure to get the day started with intention.

Here are the questions for the morning:

Three things for which I’m grateful:

Three things that would make this a fruitful day: These don’t have to be things I want to accomplish, but they usually are. Most of us have way more than three things on our daily to-do list, so it helps to be clear on the most essential items.

An affirmation: 
I am…
I have three kids, so “patience” shows up a lot here.

I’m curious about:
This is something I’ve added recently, thanks to Brené Brown’s work. This is often where I think about my reactions to things and wonder “What was THAT about?!” 

As for the evening practice, it is similar:

Three things to celebrate about the day:

One thing I could have done better:

Those of you who know the Ignatian examen will recognize threads of this practice in these questions. The questions are framed in terms of gratitude, and there is ample space to acknowledge the times I’ve fallen short—to see them written in my own hand, and to let those moments go—to let God absorb and hopefully transform them.

What Does ‘Spirituality’ Mean?

A photo taken on the path beside the Mississippi River, Minneapolis

A photo taken on the path beside the Mississippi River, Minneapolis

My next book is currently titled Spirituality in the Smartphone Age. Which raises the question, what is “spirituality”? When growing numbers of people say they are spiritual but not religious, what do they mean by that?

I’m working on that answer for the sake of the book.

There’s been a lot already written about the Internet/digital culture and its effect on us mentally, psychologically and relationally. What does having the whole world in your pocket mean for one’s attention span, or ability to synthesize information? Does constant connectivity make us happier, or more anxious? How does social media bring us closer and drive us apart?

I’m not interested in rehashing those writings so much as bringing them in conversation with one another. In my view, spirituality encompasses mental, psychological, and relational health—and much more. And I don’t see spirituality as a vague woo-woo concept so much as an integration of all aspects of our lives—the ways we observe and think about the world; the ways we move within it; the ties that bind and break. And for many people, spirituality means a connection to something larger than themselves, whether it’s God, a sense of mystery, the human family, or the planetary ecosystem.

I’ve found two recent definitions that are helping me home in on this. One is from Brene Brown and her book The Gifts of Imperfection:

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.

The other is from Richard Rohr and his book Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. It came to me by way of his daily email. Rohr writes about mysticism, but I think his words relate to spirituality too:

False mysticism, and we have had a lot of it, often feels too much like “my little Jesus and my little me,” and doesn’t seem to make many social, historical, corporate, or justice connections. As Pope Francis says, it is all “too self-referential.”

If authentic God experience first makes you overcome the primary split between yourself and the divine, then it should also overcome the split between yourself and the rest of creation. For some, the split is seemingly overcome in the person of Jesus; but for more and more people, union with the divine is first experienced through the Christ: in nature, in moments of pure love, silence, inner or outer music, with animals, a sense of awe, or some kind of “Brother Sun and Sister Moon” experience.

I’m interested in your definition of spirituality. Where do you resonate with the definitions above? What is missing or off-base from your experience?


Teri’s Turn: A Q&A with Teri Peterson, Co-Author of Who’s Got Time?

A couple of weeks ago we heard from Amy Fetterman, co-author of Who’s Got Time? Spirituality for a Busy Generation. Today we hear from the other half of that dynamic writing duo, Teri Peterson:
url1. What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to read this book…and it didn’t exist. Now it does!

In all seriousness–we kept looking and looking for something that would address the spiritual lives of people like us: smart, busy, X-Millennial bridge people who long for something bigger but aren’t super interested in just retreading the same institutional route and are decidedly unwilling to disengage from culture or intellect. There was lots of stuff about resourcing the spiritual journeys of teens, and lots written about how all of us young adults were entitled rejectors of everything our parents built, but nothing written to or for us, or even really for anyone trying to figure out 21st century spiritual reality. Enter one professor-mentor-turned-colleague who gave us “the look” over a glass of wine in a hotel room, and voila: a book proposal was born.

2. What does “spirituality” mean to you?
For me it’s about how we approach life. I don’t subscribe to the idea that there’s a division between sacred and secular, so I think of spirituality almost as a worldview. I’m constantly looking for the Spirit, and for what speaks to my spirit. But that all takes practice…and that practice is spirituality.

181195333. What will people gain by reading this book that they won’t get anywhere else?
An imaginative yet grounded, playful yet profound look at how to engage the world. And hopefully some ideas that spark their own imagination toward seeking a deeper relationship with God even in the midst of the crazy that can be life in the 21st century.

What they will not find is a lecture about how they’ve been praying wrong all these years, and if they would just try XYZ thing that (insert historical figure here) did, they’d be happy and rich and find world peace. Though if anyone does find that thing, we hope they’ll write to us…

4. Share one idea, quote or section in the book of which you are particularly proud.
While pajama days are probably my favorite practice in the book, I have to say that the chapter on making up rituals to mark the moments of our lives (which are often different, or differently timed, than previous generations’ moments and rituals) is some of our best work–and having actually done many of the rituals in that chapter, and others inspired by that chapter, I can say that they work. In spite of the skepticism of some of my 25-years-older friends.

If this question had been about the writing and what was the most fun part to actually figure out how to put on paper, it’d have to be researching songs in the Common Meter and singing Amazing Grace to them. Seriously…ask me to sing Amazing Grace to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” sometime. It’s awesome.

5. Dream time: where would you LOVE to see this book get covered? (Oprah’s Book Club, Colbert Report, etc.)
We clearly need to be on the Daily Show. Obviously. Though I might settle for Krista Tippett’s On Being at first. 😉

Ooh, good choice Teri! Whether you end up across the table from Jon or Krista, we will cheer you on.

Who’s Got Time? A Q&A with Amy Fetterman

18119533My friends Teri Peterson and Amy Fetterman have a new book, Who’s Got Time? Spirituality for a Busy Generation. Teri and Amy have agreed to engage a little Q&A here at the Blue Room. Teri is currently on a cruise ship with the RevGals, so this week is Amy’s turn.

1. What inspired you to write this book?

Frustration inspired us to write this book – that and a good smack upside the head by a cherished mentor! We kept looking for a book like this in bookstores, online, and found nothing but books about young adults, not for us. Nothing that met us where we are. Nothing that respected that young adults could be interested in deepening their relationship with God yet not necessarily interested in doing the same things their parents and grandparents did (because they aren’t in the same place as the previous generations).

We made the “mistake” of sharing this frustration with a mentor of ours and she just looked at us and stated the obvious we had clearly missed: we needed to write this book. She was right and so we did!

2. What does “spirituality” mean to you?

It’s being intentional about noticing God’s presence, seeking that presence, growing in that presence.

3. What will people gain by reading this book that they won’t get anywhere else?

The comfort in knowing that they are not alone in yearning for something deeper and that they can find connections to the Holy One in so many different, meaningful, and not necessarily obvious ways.

Amy Fetterman, Co-Author of Who's Got Time?

Amy Fetterman, Co-Author of Who’s Got Time?

4. Share one idea, quote or section in the book of which you are particularly proud.

Getting “Samuel L. Mother-bleeping Jackson” into print! Because seriously, that man as the voice of God is just amazing.

I am particularly proud of the chapter on encountering God in creation, because such practices were not a go-to for me. In order to write about meeting God on a hike or camping or gardening, I had to get out there and do those things. Not only did I get material for that chapter, but I also grew in the process! I’m not saying I’m up for taking on the Appalachian Trail tomorrow, but I now enjoy my walks in a more meaningful way.

5. Dream time: where would you LOVE to see this book get covered? (Oprah’s Book Club, Colbert Report, etc.)

I would love to watch Teri throw down with Colbert! I’d also love to be a special guest on Wil Wheaton’s Youtube series Tabletop – geeky young adults are right up my alley and I think they’d dig this book!


I hope Wil takes you up on the challenge, Amy!

Meanwhile, check out Who’s Got Time at Chalice Press, Amazon or your favorite online book retailer. (And maybe some brick and mortar places too!)

Five Ways to Make the Most of the 30 Days of Thankfulness


It’s November, the month of Thanksgiving, which means that folks on Facebook are celebrating the 30 Days of Thankfulness. Last week a friend me asked if I knew the origins of this practice. I don’t know where it started, but I’m touched that she would associate it with me. The 30 days is a burst of positive energy in an often snarky and cranky social media universe…



My friend Marci has decided not to participate because of the potential for bragbooking. I’m sympathetic to her concerns. My next book looks at technology and digital culture from a spiritual perspective.  As I research, I’m finding various studies suggesting that Facebook has the potential to decrease people’s happiness. One person’s gratitude is another person’s braggadocio. We end up comparing other people’s outsides to our insides, or as I saw it expressed somewhere, everyone else’s sizzle reel to our blooper reel.

But I’m not sure the answer, for me, anyway, is to sit out the practice altogether. After all—and Marci points this out herself—gratitude is a spiritual practice.

Where’s the challenge in being thankful when you’re on top of the world?  It’s considerably harder to see gratitude in ordinary life as it chugs along. And when things are downright crappy, gratitude can be transforming, the tiny candle you wrap your fingers around to keep the darkness at bay.

Social media is here to stay. People are welcome to dip in and out of it, or take long breaks, or hide the gratitude posts that make them crazy, or whatever they need to do for their own mental and spiritual health. As someone who takes tech sabbaths every week, I believe you’re under no obligation to consume social media the way other people do. But it is a part of our lives. So it seems worthwhile to practice engaging with it in ways that are hospitable to others and gracious to yourself.

So here’s how the 30-day gratitude challenge can be helpful and not an exercise in bragbooking. I offer these as someone who studies social media and digital culture, and as a pastor who has taught and practiced the Ignatian examen (a practice of gratitude and discernment) for many years.

1. Go beyond the obvious. At the women’s retreat I led this weekend, I gave them an icebreaker question to answer in small groups: “It’s just not Thanksgiving without…”  But I specifically told them, “You can’t say ‘family’ or ‘my grandkids.'” I hope this caveat invited them to share something more specific and personal.

My friend Kristen posted a great moment of thankfulness this weekend: “Hair – as a fresh ‘do can literally change you. [My hairdresser] has been a steady presence in my life since 2004 when I wandered into the salon where she worked. 9 years, 2 salons, 4 jobs (me), 5 kids (hers plus mine) and countless haircuts, highlights and hairstyles later – I’m proud to call her friend and stylist extraordinaire.”

No bragbooking there. Just a touching tribute by a fabulous, sassy gal. Kristen’s update invites me into gratitude for the folks who provide services for me and the friendships that can develop.

It also makes me consider getting highlights. Again.

2. Think small. The examen is meant to be a daily practice. And often our most grateful moment is not the biggest headline of the day, but the moment that took our breath away. Maybe you got a huge raise at work (I know, in this economy? hey, it could happen), but the breathtaking moment was the act of kindness you saw in the line at Starbucks. Gratitude can be a trickster.

3. Be specific. “I’m thankful for my health” may be true. And for someone who’s battled cancer, or recovered from an injury, that’s huge. But consider how your update sounds to a friend whose health is a source of stress, or who’s in a chronic struggle with an illness. Instead, how about a specific thing your health allowed you to enjoy today? I’m thankful that I could pick up my big kindergartner today without my back going out.

4. Violate the Zaxxon rule. At the end of every Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, the host and guests share “what’s making us happy this week.” The idea is to recommend interesting movies, TV or books to the audience. During an early episode Stephen Thompson gushed about the Zaxxon video game he’d recently purchased. Later the group realized that it wasn’t the best “what’s making me happy,” since it’s not like everyone can go out and buy a Zaxxon machine. They instituted the Zaxxon rule to keep them accountable to share stuff that other people could reasonably partake of.

When it comes to gratitude, we should violate, rather than follow, the Zaxxon rule. That cuts down on comparisons. I am grateful for the flame of color from the Japanese maple in my front yard. That’s very particular to my situation. You don’t feel bad for not having a Japanese maple in your yard, do you?

5. Confront the bragbooker. Do it publicly only if you can do it lightheartedly, otherwise in private. Is it crazy to think we could do this, in the spirit of authenticity and friendship? Maybe. I realize this is hard. But if my posts are providing a stumbling block to someone, I want to know it. We’re all works in progress, folks. We can help one another along.

Are you participating in the 30 days of gratefulness? Why or why not?


photo credit: MTSOfan via photopin cc