Spiritual Dry Spells

Desert spirituality at two o’clock in the morning

Look at pretty much any culture that existed before the use of electricity, and you’ll see that they had deep superstitions about night. Throughout the ages, it’s been a nearly universal human belief that evil forces gained potency after the sun went down. Age-old evening prayers reflect fears of death: Now I lay me down to sleep / I pray the Lord my soul to keep / and if I die before I wake / I pray the Lord my soul to take. …And an awareness of evil: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting... Read More

Six questions for conquering crazy-think and making good decisions

I don’t do suffering well. Some generous people said that they thought I handled the pulmonary embolism thing gracefully, but a) they would have retracted all of that and slowly backed away in fear if they could have heard my inner dialogue, and b) sitting in a quiet hospital room and listening to my iPod didn’t exactly make me St. Josephine Bakhita. Also, it’s usually the little trials that throw me for a loop more than the big ones: I can kind of go with the flow when major medical procedures go awry, but getting interrupted... Read More

Behind the scenes of a mid-life crisis

I think I had a mid-life crisis a few months ago. It was a weird experience, because I didn’t see it coming. Ever since my conversion I’ve had this unshakable sense of peace at the foundation of my life, a sort of root-level happiness that I never knew was possible. Yeah, things are hard, sometimes really hard, and I whine now and then (okay, a lot), but all of that stuff has to do with day to day annoyances. When you look past all that, I’m actually deeply fulfilled with this crazy existence of mine — after all, life doesn’t... Read More

“Joy is not a flag Jesus plants in us; it is a fruit he grows in us”

I received a copy of a new book while I was at the monastery this week. I planned to read it when I got home, but as soon as I glanced at the first page, I knew I’d been given something special. I ended up spending hours poring over its pages, soaking up its insights and nodding and just about saying out loud, “Finally, someone is explaining this in a way I understand!” That book is Choosing Joy by Dan Lord, and you just have to read it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dan, he was once the lead singer of a popular... Read More

A Hallmark card for God

It was Yaya‘s birthday a couple of weeks ago, and when the time came to write up a card, I froze. How could I possibly express my appreciation for all that she does for us? This was when I was bad-busy, when I’d gotten myself in over my head with so many commitments that I considered the day a success if I remembered to feed the kids lunch. So finding the right words to tell her what I wanted her to know for her birthday seemed impossible. I went down to the store, and headed for the greeting card section. I felt immediate relief as... Read More

Explore your doubts, but do so in peace

I hear from a lot of people who fear they’re losing their faith. They’ve had some doubts come to mind that they just can’t seem to get past, and they’re rattled to the core to think that their entire belief system just might be false. Since I’ve spent so much time in the spiritual desert, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I’ve spent a long time thinking and praying about how to respond to people in this difficult situation, and thought I would share my answer, which has two key parts, in case it’s... Read More

“He is not a means, and our joy is not the end”

6th-Century image of Christ from St. Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai A longtime topic of interest for me has been the concept of “spiritual dry spells,” when you can’t seem to feel God’s presence. I haven’t had a whole lot of emotional religious experiences, and when I was first in the conversion process, I had none. I felt like I was doing something wrong since so many other Christians seemed to have all these great, powerful experiences. I’ve read a lot on the topic, and probably the best analysis I’ve... Read More

"I sought but I didn’t find. Now what?"

I occasionally hear from people who say that “seek and ye shall find” didn’t work for them. They explain that they prayed, read the Bible, researched, asked Jesus to help them, opened their hearts and minds, etc. but didn’t end up any closer to belief. A commenter named Amy once summarized it eloquently in the comments to a post about doubt when she wrote: Finding faith in 5 steps didn’t work for me [referring to this post], nor did finding faith in 20 steps. I sincerely, truly tried. I prayed. I asked others to pray... Read More

"You pray before battle"

Last week I was praying about how I’m bad at praying. (I use the word “praying” loosely here; “whining in God’s general direction” would be a better term.) I was walking around as I cleaned up the kitchen after dinner, half-consciously thinking stuff like, “I dunno, I do try pray, but I always get distracted, or I forget, or I just don’t feel like it. Actually, let’s be real, it’s usually that I just don’t feel like it…” I try to “pray without ceasing,” turning... Read More

Doubt after atheism

Occasionally I’m asked if I ever have doubts about God’s existence since my conversion to Christianity from lifelong atheism. The answer isn’t a clear yes or a clear no, because I’ve found that there are different types of doubt. In my experience, here’s how it’s broken down: Three Types of Doubt 1. Doubt based on failure of imagination There is a certain type of surprisingly painful doubt that could be broadly described as “failure of imagination.” I will be honest and say that there have been moments... Read More

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