The Great Enemy of Spirituality in Our Day…

Dallas Willard once called hurry the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.
And said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from you life.”
from “Unhurrying with A Rule of Life: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”
John Mark Comer (October 27, 2019)

hurry is enemy of spiritualOn the way to a retreat in Houston, I “made the most of time” by listening to the podcast [linked above] by John Comer on our need to tame the hurry in our lives.  The message is part of a larger series on developing a rule for faithful living.  (Googling around has me seeing a book he’s just released, entitled The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World.)

As I am in the homestretch of preparing for an online course on such a “rule,” my thinking was along the lines of “let’s see what he has to say… and how it might inform my own work.”

The irony, of course, is that I was working to fill every nook and cranny of my morning… on the way to a retreat aimed at creating space and silence/stillness — room to listen to myself and neighbor and life and God.

Here, I’d pause for a promotional message or two:

Listening (I mean really taking in Comer’s words) was a perfect set-up to my coming downtime.  (Amazing how God can put something so needful in our way – even when we’re busy chasing something else!)  The retreat was all the more meaningful, more deeply embraced – as Willard’s words echoed in my heart and soul: “hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

There was plenty of other stuff that percolated and simmered in Comer’s discussion.  I loved his quoting Bill Gates–that “busy is the new stupid.”   Or more seriously, there was his citing the conclusion of Michael Zigarelli’s 5-year, worldwide study of “obstacles to [spiritual] growth”: it may be the case that (1) Christians are assimilating to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload, which leads to (2) God becoming more marginalized in Christians’ lives, which leads to (3) a deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to (4) Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to (5) more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload. And then the cycle begins again.

But, what stuck with me (beyond Willard’s words), what stood out was his reference to Ruth Haley Barton’s, “Ten Signs You’re Moving Too Fast Through Life”:

  • irritability
  • hypersensitivity
  • restlessness (when you try to rest)
  • compulsive overworking
  • emotional numbness
  • escapist behaviors (alcohol food, binge-watching)
  • disconnected from identity and calling
  • hoarding energy
  • not able to attend to human needs
  • slippage in our spiritual practice
                                                                                 –adapted from Ruth HaleyBarton,
                                                Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, pp. 104-06

Here, I can’t help but think of so many (myself included) – particularly amidst the hustle and bustle of another Christmas Season.  (Oh, how we’ve lost and neglected Advent and its call to creative waiting.)  Some of us: restless, overworking, slipping in spiritual practices.  Others: irritable, neglecting human needs, seeking escape.  The season amplifying our natural (or, rather, our unnatural) inclinations.

It has me wondering about you, dear Soul…

  • do Willard’s words make sense? do they resonate within?

  • and Barton’s “signs”: which are you experiencing?

  • what might you need to drop or let go of these days, these weeks, this month, the coming year?  (Spiritual formation, you see, is as much a matter of subtraction as it is addition!)

Introducing “Introduction to the Enneagram: An Online Study”

Invariably, as we have offered our different explorations,
we’ve heard various sentiments of regret:

“Wish we could attend, but we’re busy that weekend!,” or

“Wish it weren’t so far away!…
When are you going to do something over here?”

IFD237 Intro graphic (for blog)Now, with the capability for reliable online instruction,
we can cut through the obstacles of time and space—
reducing barriers to individuals and groups
who are interested in spiritual formation.

Through a partnership with (a ministry of the Richard and Julia Wilke Institute of Discipleship at Southwest College in Winfield, Kansas), we are excited to announce the launch of various Zoe-Life explorations (or retreat-studies) in an online format.  For over a year, now, Jim has served as the Lead Instructor of coursework related to BeADisciple’s “Certification Program in Spiritual Formation.”  This new chapter allows us to offer other dimensions of our spiritual formation work through an online interface that we trust—both for its user-friendliness and its reliability.

Among our first offerings
(to launch in January, 2020 and, again, in March, 2020)
will be a 4-week “Introduction to the Enneagram”:

In a world full of personality assessments, the Enneagram stands apart for the ways that it not only describes our behavior (and the basis of that behavior) but for the ways it prescribes practices which can help us live more resourcefully.

Join Kathy and Jim Reiter in this self-paced course (an adaptation of the 7-hour retreat/workshop they conduct via Zoe-Life Explorations)—establishing spiritual formation as a journey to resourceful, “true self” living; defining the background of the ancient personality “inventory” which is the Enneagram; providing a narrative orientation to the nine personality types; helping participants understand the results of one online assessment; and offering some sense of next steps in the journey to “true self.”

While participants must complete the course within the allotted 4-week schedule, they can engage weekly materials/assignments at their own convenience and pace.

Complementing online videos (from a recent Enneagram workshop hosted by Jim and Kathy) will be recommended [weekly] reading assignments and regular/weekly engagements of an online Discussion Board – through which insights, impressions, and questions can be shared.

Supplemental resources are strongly suggested for those enrolling in the course, but are not required—including Alice Fryling’s book, Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram and the online assessment which is the “Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scales” [WEPSS]. (Cost for the course, excluding these supplemental materials, is $65.)

If you’d like more information about this course offering
and other topics/explorations slated for release in coming months
(or if you’d like to be notified when registration
for this course is opened at BeADisciple),

contact us at

Defining “Church” Can Be a Pretty Messy Thing:      A Video Montage

[Note: This post is a bit different than previous ones – being loaded with a host of videos to view. Worth it, I believe.  Highly worth it.  But, it does have me imagining you wanting a nice cup of tea or coffee or soda – as you sit and enjoy… and ponder.]

I’ve been sending daily video links to my brother – as he’s about a rotation at work in Kuwait.  Four weeks over there, four weeks here.  I am hoping that the videos give him a sense of distraction [and humor] at the end of long days away—cutting through the space and time between us.  (And then, there are the ways that I hope some humor helps to counter the grief we are experiencing in the wake of losing our other brother, Bob, a few weeks ago.)

Videos this week had a way of centering, at first,
on worship “bloopers” or “fails”—as, e.g.:

[Yes, when all else fails, bridge the awkward moment with a “Praise God” or two!]

Further searchings had me googling for preaching “bloopers” and “fails.”  They’re out there, to be sure.  But in the mix are some which I’d hope were “fails” but have a real edge of being real… and being serious.   Here, I want to be careful.  I want to be tolerant.  I know and want to affirm that it’s different folks for different folks.  I must admit, though, that the more I engaged these videos, the more they made their way from amusing to shocking to deeply disturbing:

Surely, I hope, this last one was one church’s humorous way of asking members to silence their phones–via a video about something that never happened.  But, then, after the above, I do not know what to think….

[Here, as an aside: I’ll admit with some embarrassment and shame: the time or two I came down on my own kids, distracted (and distracting… at least to me) in worship.  Not real happy about those memories.  Not happy at all.  I pray that they’ve overcome those memories—forgiving me… and not holding them against the Faith!]

From these worship and preacher “fails” (sent earlier in the week), links migrated (here, in the last day) to some Steve Hartman human-interest stories from CBS news.  The first one I saw this last week.  It had me recalling the second one (from a couple of years ago).  I’ve always loved Steve Hartman’s stories.  I wish they could build a whole hour (at least once a week) on his kind of “news”:

Putting them together here–juxtapositioned,
I can’t help but hear a message or two:
that we need not confuse the “Church”
with particular expressions called “church,” and
that “Church” can and does breaks out beyond “churches” and congregations.

Yes, defining Church
(the ongoing “body of Christ” in this world)
can be a pretty messy pursuit, an imprecise science–
what, when there are so many imperfect expressions
that vie for the title…
and, then, there are the ways that the cosmic Christ
breaks out in most refreshing ways!

Building Sandcastles in a Mud-Pie World

holiday at the sea (fin)A young boy sat in his front yard on the edge of a sandbox—
pouring water out of a small cup, into a variety of molds
filled with sand and dirt.

It was a confusing picture.
Yes, he hummed a certain contentment.
It was a song, though, punctuated by sniffles.

I asked him how he was doing.

“I’m okay.  I’m fine… Now,” he said,
wiping his runny nose with his sleeve.
Red, swollen eyes betrayed some prior trauma.

“But, it looks like you’ve been crying.”

“My daddy scared me this morning,” he said with a slight scowl.
“He wanted to take us to a place called South Padre Island.
I told him I didn’t want to go.
I told him that there was no school today and I wanted to play.
I wanted to make mud pies.”

“Have you ever been to South Padre?
Have you ever been to a beach?,” I asked.
“Why they have lots of sand… and plenty else to do!”

“Yeah, that’s what my daddy says.
But, I don’t care.  I’m happy here.”
As he continued, his face tightened,
his brow furrowed and his lip curled:
“I told Daddy that.  I told him I didn’t care…
I threw myself down and told him that I didn’t want to go,
that he couldn’t make me go, that I wasn’t going to go!”

There was a sniffle or two as he wiped his runny nose again.

“Mommy and Daddy are inside, unpacking now…
Don’t know why they are so sad.
Don’t know why they are so mad,” he concluded.
“I couldn’t be happier!”

No, this did not really happen.
It’s a fiction, a parable I created –
inspired by words of C.S. Lewis.

But, while the story may not be real, it is true –
for the ways and signals something that is,
too often, happening around us (and within us).

In my own life, I find myself admitting and praying:

Dear God,

Forbid that I—that we—
should be satisfied with our mud pies in our slums
when a holiday at the beach is your plan and promise!

Forgive us for our lesser contentments. 

Equip us, equip me
for the joyful journey
of your higher Glory
and our true selves!

It’s a prayer and a metaphor which strike
at the heart of our mission and hopes here at Zoe-Life Explorations:
* helping folks hear an invitation to an alternative [richer] life, and
* helping them navigate the path to that life
     (including the inner resistances and inclinations
     that stand in the way on the journey)

Spiritual Formation Lessons from My Houseplants…

“Let your roots grow down into him,
and let your lives be built on him.
Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught,
and you will overflow with thankfulness.”  (Colossians 2:7)

On a recent Monday morning, I wrote this in my journal…

This morning I felt compelled to do two things before I sat down for this time.  For days, I’ve been intending to water three houseplants.  Done.  And I really had no idea what my calendar had on it for the week.  Done…

 I watered the bromeliad from the tray it sits in. In other words, I took care of the plant from the roots up.  That’s what this morning time is about – from my roots up…  The deep part of me needs this refreshing time. 

 The other activity was to help me know what to expect.  I’ve been immersed with house guests.  I hadn’t looked ahead.  And the morning time with God is, in part, looking head. 

 This morning time is both these things –
deep root watering and
preparing myself for what’s ahead.

 To soak a little more in that metaphor of being watered—from the bottom up…

  •  Watering from the bottom is the better way to tend to potted plants.  Rain tends to plants from the top down, but in an artificial environment it’s best not to do so.  Watering that way compacts the soil and restricts air the roots need.  A gentler way to water is allowing the plant to soak water up from its tray.

I need to take care of myself from my roots up. 

  • Watering from the bottom benefits the root system because the roots will grow directly toward the moisture.  If the moisture remains in the top of the pot, the roots don’t benefit from spreading out in their nutrient-packed soil.

I am better off when I’ve been stretched a bit. 

  • Bottom watering plants will keep the roots uniformly moist but it doesn’t wash out the salt and minerals that will eventually accumulate at the top.  Every so often, watering from the top is necessary to wash these away.

Every now and then, I do well with a good rinsing.

And then, after all this, I’m better prepared for what’s ahead…