Love, the Riskiest of Bets

Today’s post is by Juliet Vedral

“We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.” –C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

It has never been difficult for me to say “I love you.” Maybe this is just my personality—I’m an ENFJ so that’s kind of our stock-in-trade. Maybe this is just my cultural background—I’m half-Italian and in some ways all the stereotypes of being passionate, emotive people are true. I hug my friends when I see them. I hug new friends after we’ve first met. It’s not hard for me to show love. Except when it costs me.

I am now over four months into a relationship that has gone from a casual, “why not?” set-up to serious conversations about serious, life-altering matters. I’ve discovered that the rules of dating are primarily defensive strategies, the cousins of the job interview technique. You carefully edit out the bad to highlight the good. Weaknesses are re-cast to appear as strengths, making you appear wonderfully vulnerable (but not high-maintenance or a mess). Above all, you guard your heart and do not give it away to just anyone.

But the strategies that work in dating will kill a relationship. When you realize that the other person is not “just anyone” it’s terrifying to open your heart, revealing its cracks and broken ruins, the messiness, the clutter, and the strengths that really are weaknesses. It’s terrifying to love when the price tag is your supposed emotional safety and the coordinates of your secret hideout, located somewhere behind your baggage and to the left of our carefully constructed defenses.

And it’s most terrifying to love when you’re not sure you’ll be loved back.

Since I began my two-year residency with the Shalem Institute’s Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative (YALLI), I’ve been on a journey to learn what it means to be Beloved by God. The question I’ve been asking myself nearly every day since November 2013 has been “what would my life look like if I truly embraced and knew (as far as it’s possible in this world) the love of God and lived out of that identity?”

The answer has never been one that makes me feel particularly “loved” in the sense of comfort or ease. Loving and being loved by God is a risky and unsafe endeavor. It usually involves self-denial and a choice to love and be vulnerable in situations in which I’d rather be defensive. You know, kind of exactly like Jesus, who was God’s Beloved Son. When considering love in the upside-down nature of God’s kingdom, I often feel like Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride: “I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

But it’s more likely that here in this confusing and broken world, I’m the one who needs a new definition. In God’s kingdom, love looks nothing like warm fuzziness or sentimentality, and most definitely nothing like our comfort. It looks like God descending to earth knowing exactly what it would cost and still not holding anything back. It looks like God keeping a standing appointment in the Garden, knowing full well that Adam and Eve chose knowledge of the world over knowledge of God’s love–and still calling to them. It looks like a bruised and bloodied man, taking up his cross, the very means of his own death, and carrying it while offering forgiveness and a prayer.

In God’s economy, the coffers of love are filled not through miserly saving and limited liabilities, but through spending and investing it even in places that are risky bets. Because in this world, everything is a risky bet.

And so I found myself recently wrestling with God over this issue of love, when it came to my relationship with this man. I didn’t want to love first—what if we didn’t work out? I didn’t even want to write about our relationship for fear of having any kind of record of our relationship should it end. As someone who has made a lot of unwise investments in love, I didn’t want to make another risky bet.

Which isn’t necessarily bad advice. Collective wisdom tells us to guard our hearts and to be careful in relationships, because we might get hurt. But we can get hurt in friendship. We can get hurt in our families. We can get hurt doing any small amount of living in this world. Avoiding pain is not having “life to the full.”

Yet the invitation to love kept coming. No assurances that my fears were unfounded or new reports that would show the soundness of my investment in loving this man fully. Just the invitation to trust. To experience what it is like to love in the way that God does and trust that God will not abandon me to my fears. God spends love the way that a drunk sailor whose ship has landed spends money—without any concern about running out of love. As God’s Beloved, we are called to do the same—to love extravagantly, knowing that God’s love will always be a direct deposit in our accounts. What would it look like to live a life of love every day, unconcerned with reciprocation or keeping a record of transactions, but in full obedience to the One we love?

Because isn’t that where we most encounter God? It’s not through self-protection, self-preservation, or less living. As the Beloved, Jesus didn’t hold back from loving this world because he drew from an endless source of love. The more we live and love freely, the more we can find God incarnate in the moments of joy and grief and pain and laughter.

So last week I told this man in far too many words that I wanted to love him, because he was God’s Beloved and therefore worthy of being loved well. I don’t know what will come of this relationship, but I what I do know is that I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. It turns out that despite the risk to my own comfort, God’s steadfast, unfailing love has proven to be the safest bet I could ever make. May God’s unfailing love rest upon you, even as you hope in him today.


JulietVedralJuliet Vedral is a member of the YALLI class of 2015. She is the editor of a literary magazine called The Wheelhouse Review and was recently the press secretary for Sojourners. You can follow her on Twitter.

Into Spring and Beyond

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef

Pulling in to the monastery, the snow was piled high on the abbey grounds. The walkways were cleared, as the monks had fastidiously kept the paths open for themselves and any guests who would take advantage of their hospitality. I arrived on a chilly day that began less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit—one of several guests seeking a quiet retreat. It had been a long snowy season, and this cold morning was perhaps one last, serious squeeze from old man winter.

I checked into my dormitory-style room in the abbey guesthouse, a very spartan layout, with a simple bed, a desk, and a small rug on the wood floor. Looking out the window, I was greeted with a winter view of a large snow-covered field bordered by leafless branchy trees. A few large icicles hung from the roofline. There was a small walkout balcony accessible to my second-floor room, with an area to sit outside on warmer days.

Arriving on this cold day for a brief retreat at the Benedictine Abbey, I was struck by the ongoing rhythm of the monks who live there. They go about their regular patterns of prayer and work, regardless of the season. Whether summer, fall, winter or spring—they faithfully enter the chapel space for prayers, from early morning matins to evening compline. Joining them, and settling into the rhythm of prayer, work, silence, eating and reflection was a welcome change from my normal busy family life. Sitting in the presence of these monks as they chanted the Psalms, I could feel something inside me warming to it, as a cat stretches and curls up by the fire on a wintry day.

And, as nature would benevolently have it, that kindling of inner warmth was echoed by the March sun, which woke us beautifully the next morning. By mid-afternoon, temperatures soared above 40 degrees for perhaps the first time in 2015. By late afternoon, the large icicles that had slowly formed over the previous months came crashing down. It was even warm enough for me to pull my desk chair out onto the balcony and sit (soak!) in the sunshine. And as the snow on the roof began to melt, creating a chorus of regular drips, I was reminded that every season gives way to another, and that God is with us in each one, even if our perception, or circumstances, or heart stirrings might change.

Newly nourished by these warm moments of sunshine, I walked along the melting snow-lined path to the chapel for evening vespers. I sat down quietly in the space reserved for guests. The monks, wearing their black robes, walked in at the appointed time. I wondered briefly if they had had a chance to enjoy the first glimpse of spring as I had. Either way, they did not blink or change rhythm one bit. They chanted the same Psalms, echoed the same prayers that they had been praying all winter, and would continue well into spring and beyond.


bryan1Bryan Berghoef is a pastor and writer who helps curate Shalem’s social media content and provides technical support for Shalem’s online courses. He is the author of the book, Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God, and lives with his family in Holland, Michigan. You can follow Bryan on Facebook and Twitter.

Draining the Pond

Today’s post is by Susan Robbins Etherton.

“As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

(Psalm 42:1-2)

For the past nine years, Shalem Society members have gathered together at Bon Secours Retreat Center in Marriottsville, MD, for an annual retreat. This past October was my third gathering and these are some of my reflections from that retreat.

When I arrived at Bon Secours and found my room, I was delighted to see it had a view of the pond. Through brightly colored leaves, I caught a glimpse of water shimmering below. Ah, the pond! Still water, reflecting clouds and sun, holding leaves aloft – oranges and yellows, sky blue, greyish white and dark green. I noticed the low, constant hum of machinery. I had come to expect the quiet, undercurrent of workers who care for this place. I was grateful for them; grateful for their attention and provision that allowed me and others to retreat without worry or care. Maintaining a beautiful, peaceful place like Bon Secours is always a work in progress.

As I made my way downstairs, I was excited to head outside – to greet the pond that always refreshes me. Yes, the pond was there – and yet, it was somehow different.

pond1On one side of the pond, I observed two large round tubs, bright blue plastic, like small swimming pools, full of water and leaves. On the other side of the pond, yellow caution tape festooned the walkway and a large black hose emerged from the pond, snaking over the walk and emptying out onto the grass. I looked across the pond to the footbridge – a beloved place to walk and reflect. Something like a ladder was suspended below the bridge across its entire length. More of the yellow caution tape was draped over either end of the bridge, barring entry.

I walked around to the far end of the pond. The cattails and other grasses had been leveled. The droning hum, now loud and its source clear, came from the engine of a pump. The scene began to make sense. They were draining the pond.

Confident the work would soon be over, I returned inside. The gathering room was full of loving faces and expectant energy. Greeting friends, I knew great joy and peace at this homecoming. Several days of quiet, in deeply contemplative community, awaited me and I was eager to settle into the now-familiar practice.

pond2As we moved into the second day of retreat and began the Great Silence, I headed outdoors to the pond determined to enjoy this sacred place. I found a bench facing the woods with my back to the pond and equipment. I tried to imagine the continuous, loud drone of the pump as a kind of white-noise. Only later when the pump ran out of fuel and stopped did I realize how much I missed the pure quiet of silence.

Draining the pond. Moving into a time of reflection, the image teased my spirit.

In draining the pond, the clouded water was being poured out. Fallen leaves that had clogged the pump were being cleared away. The underground systems could be viewed and checked for leaks or needed repairs. The bridge was being shored up so it could once again bear the weight of travelers.

Silent retreat is a form of draining the pond for me. I experience a clearing out of my heart space. All that has clouded, cluttered and clogged my spirit can be swept away leaving a spaciousness to consider my own underground systems. Where are the leaks that need tending? What are the broken places or areas needing reinforcement? I undergo a deep and cleansing emptying, exposing myself, broken and bare, safe and open to the tender care of Spirit and loving community.

fish_pondThe next day, the water in the pond was very low. Now attuned to the changes and process, I noticed there were fish in the pond. The large, easily seen ones had been moved but, with the pond almost empty, I could see baby fish – small orange treasures huddling together looking for safe waters. I appreciated that the workmen spent a great deal of time to safely gather these baby fish and move them to a holding pond while the base pond was repaired. I wondered what infant gifts were waiting to be noticed or discovered in me?

As I continued each day to watch the water recede, I began to see the rocks and sediment – the bedrock of the pond. Yes, there were places that needed repair, some shoring up of weak spots, but I could also see the strength of a solid and well-built foundation.

pond3Refilled with fresh water, the pond would once again be refreshing, peaceful, a place of great beauty, reflecting all of creation around it, offering itself as a place of rest.

I imagine myself cleared, unclogged and repaired. I cherish the infant possibilities I will discover. I see myself filled again with new life, Living Water. Refreshed in body and Spirit, knowing the peace that surpasses understanding, I am once again a source of love and refreshment for the world. I resurface grateful — full and free to reflect God’s unending beauty.


rsz_susanethertonSusan Robbins Etherton is a graduate of Nurturing the Call: Shalem’s Spiritual Guidance Program.  A member of Spiritual Directors International, Susan has actively engaged in the ministry of spiritual direction since 2007. She is married and the mother of two children.  Susan says, “I love God, my family, singing and nature. For fun I play around with a camera.” She is a member of the board of Shalem Institute, and be sure to look for her photographic contributions to Shalem’s daily Facebook postings.

Learning from the Mountains

Today’s post is by Leah Rampy

Forty-five minutes west of home, I drive over just the next hill and catch sight of them: the gentle layers of the Blue Ridge Mountains rise in the distance. I take a deep breath and “drop down” into the center of my being. The traffic has thinned by now and, captured by the tranquil beauty of this ancient geology, I feel my breathing slow and my shoulders relax.

I did not always love the Blue Ridge. I’m embarrassed to say that the first time a friend pointed out the distant “mountains” to me, I burst out laughing. Growing up in the Midwest, “the mountains” were the Rockies, dramatic and breath-taking! It took time and many visits before I came to appreciate the difference that an additional 320 million years had made to softening the Blue Ridge.

mountains_LeahWhat is it about these time-worn mountains that calms my body and opens my spiritual heart? Perhaps because they are among the oldest mountains on the planet, they instruct me in deep time. How can I fail to stand in awe of mountains that began forming before modern humans walked Earth? The breadth of creation simultaneously stuns me and infuses me with joy.

And yet it’s even more that these mountains offer. It’s almost as if I pause to match my breathing with theirs. I reflect on how easy it is to come into the present during our Shalem staff meetings when we gather in shared silent prayer for 30 minutes.   As a part of a spiritual community, my prayer is strengthened, sustained, and enlarged by the silence and prayer of others. And sometimes are graced to sense that our prayer is one prayer, and we are blessed with an awareness that we are truly one.

So too it is with nature, I believe. In the same way that one heart entrains to the rhythm of another’s heart, our hearts are fashioned to entrain to the rhythm of the natural world. The heartbeat of the mountains, the rivers, and the trees steady us, support our open presence, enlarge our compassion, and remind us of our unity with all of creation.

In my busy life, I too often forget that I am – that all are – woven into the amazing collective of being. I return to the life-giving trees, the verdant valley and the primeval mountains to remember to be present to our oneness. Job 12:8 reminds us: “Speak to the earth, and it will teach you.” May I become an ever-better student.


Leah_FBLeah Rampy, Shalem’s Executive Director, has a background in corporate management and leadership consulting as well as a deep passion for contemplative living and care of the Earth. She has a PhD in Curriculum from Indiana University and is a graduate of Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening; and Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups & Retreats Programs. Leah’s 5-day online leadership seminar is registering now.

Top mountain photo by Ana Rampy; inset photo by Leah Rampy

Waiting for Peace, Walking for Peace, Listening for Peace

Peace is not something far away, nor is it something that someone else has to make happen. It is already planted in my spiritual heart, a birthright, given as part of my creation in the image of God and awakened through the gift of God’s spirit in Christ.

Today’s post is by Carole Crumley. This excerpted article is part of the Patheos Public Square on Best Practices for Peace in 2015. The full post can be read at Patheos.com.

Peace I leave you. My own peace I give you. ~ Jesus (John 14: 27)

Sitting here in the post-Christmas detritus of boxes, wrapping paper, and ribbon, and with a list of things left undone, it’s hard to be peaceful. Maybe peace will come when I get my house back in order. Or maybe peace will come when I’ve done all my end-of-the-year chores. Or maybe peace will really only come as wars cease, boundaries agreeably negotiated, and all is well in the world. Perhaps when we live in balance and our commitment to Earth is renewed we will know peace. Or, as my sister says, maybe peace will finally come when she has thin thighs. In other words, never!

I yearn for peace, and I’m waiting for peace to come.

Holy scripture, however, insists that peace is here, now, already given. Peace is not something far away, nor is it something that someone else has to make happen. No one has to go and find peace and bring it back to me. It is already planted in my spiritual heart, a birthright, given as part of my creation in the image of God and awakened through the gift of God’s spirit in Christ.

With this understanding, how do I tap into that peace? How, in my own lived experience, can I realize peace? What contemplative practices will support my desire for peace and help me live from that place? Here are a few suggestions.

Sitting Meditation: Going Deeper

We cannot touch that inner quality of peace by skimming along the surface of life. We have to go deeper. One thing that assists our going deeper is a daily, dedicated time of silent prayer/meditation. We bring to this time our intention to open more fully to God’s presence and to let our silent prayer water the seeds of peace already living in our spiritual hearts.

This requires a certain amount of trust, a trust that peace is already there beneath our thoughts, fears, anxieties, and agendas. If your trust is weak, perhaps the first prayer is for an empowered sense of trust that peace is there, living in you. It is yours, a gift to be received, opened, and magnified. A simple “thank you,” or sense of gratitude, acknowledges the gift, honors the Giver and opens the door into that inner chamber of peace.

This unambiguous set-aside time allows for spaciousness to emerge. In that spaciousness, there is a taste, perhaps just a tiny sip of the sweet waters of peace. At other times, it may seem like a waterfall cascading over you or a river of peace welling up and flowing through you. Peace then flows from you out into the world. You are the peace you yearn for.

Read the full article for more.


caroleCarole Crumley, Shalem Institute’s Senior Program Director, is an Episcopal priest and a widely respected leader of ecumenical retreats, groups, and conferences. She designs and leads Shalem’s contemplative pilgrimages and directs Shalem’s Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership Program.

Peace on Earth: Contemplating the Possibility [audio]

Today’s post is an audio guided meditation by Leah Rampy. Feel free to tune in on your computer or your iPhone or other mobile device, and find a quiet place to listen. Click the orange arrow or the title above to listen.

The greeting cards arrive extolling “Peace on Earth.” They come as messengers, revealing the longings of other hearts. And for a moment, they remind me that I too long for peace to flood my soul and to encircle our fragile world. Then I consider the violence, injustice, pain and tragedies that surround us. My heart breaks for our dying oceans and all the species that have perished by our thoughtlessness. In the brokenness and chaos of our times, can we hope to live in a way that honors our longing for peace on earth?


LRampyLeah Rampy, Shalem’s Executive Director, has a background in corporate management and leadership consulting as well as a deep passion for contemplative living and care of the Earth. She has a PhD in Curriculum from Indiana University and is a graduate of Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening; and Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups & Retreats Programs.

Open and Available [audio guided meditation]

Today’s post is an audio guided meditation by Patience Robbins (from the December 10, 2014 Wednesday Noon Prayer session). Feel free to tune in on your iPhone or mobile device, and find a quiet place to listen. Click the orange arrow above to listen.

“It is a great gift to have the time and space for this quiet prayer, open and available for the Holy One within us, among us, and around us. During our time together, we will have a brief centering exercise, some prayer intentions, and a reading that will lead us into a time of silence. We will end with a closing prayer.”

Join Patience each Wednesday at noon, or tune in to past meditations.


Patience-RobbinsPatience Robbins, Director of Shalem’s Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative, is a graduate of Shalem’s Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program and has been a spiritual director for over 20 years. She was the Director of Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening Program from 2003-08 and is the author of the booklet, Parenting: A Sacred Path.

Contemplative Reawakening

This video clip is an excerpt from Cynthia Bourgeault’s talk at Shalem’s Contemplative Voices Award Benefit in November 2014.

DSC_8461“Contemplation was originally in the Greek and early patristic understandings reserved for a kind of higher or noetic knowing, knowing through the nous, the eye of the heart. Sometimes it takes the form of visionary seeing, images, but more typically it is simply a kind of luminous, situational knowingness that can’t be attributed to any outside source. It becomes part of one’s own being…

…We need to begin to claim the slowly growing collecting reservoir of noetic insight and draw on it consciously in service of the continuing evolution of humanity and the life of the planet.

Contemplative reawakening may have begun on the ground of personal healing and transformation, but it has now found its authentic wingspan in the prophetic and the collective.”

» To hear the rest of her talk, you may purchase access to view the recording.


Cynthia B photoCynthia Bourgeault is a modern day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader, who divides her time between solitude at her seaside hermitage in Maine and a demanding schedule traveling globally to teach and spread the recovery of the Christian contemplative and Wisdom path. She is the founding director of both The Contemplative Society and the Aspen Wisdom School.

Photos by Susan Etherton

Grounded in Gratitude

 Today’s post is by Savannah Kate Coffey

“Whatever comes, the great sacrament of life will remain faithful to us, blessing us always with visible signs of invisible grace.”

~John O’Donohue
The Bless the Space between Us

The days of 2014 are waning and I am venturing a guess that we all began this year somewhere else, whether in our inner lives or outer circumstances. Maybe we have physically relocated from one place to another. Maybe grief has changed us in its unwelcome and particular way. Maybe adventure has offered its hand for our enjoyment. Maybe the hours have called for quiet endurance, newfound courage, or a depth of trust we did not anticipate. Maybe love, belonging, welcome, and delicious satisfaction have surprised us as the full moon sometimes does at harvest, rising just above the horizon, golden and breathtaking. Maybe our initial resolutions for the year have been forgotten, but maybe we have pursued those intentions, evolving together through the long months.

Life has likely touched us in ways that have yet to reveal their true significance. Thanksgiving invites us to pause, consider our days, and offer a prayer of gratitude before the remaining weeks slip through our fingers in the headlong rush to January 1st–that shiny, symbolic day of beginning anew.

In my work as a hospital chaplain I see the full spectrum of human experience–birth and death, grief and celebration, days of waiting and moments of relief, heartbreak and healing. I recently had the tremendous privilege of being present with a young couple who brought their sick baby into the emergency room. What they assumed was a simple stomach virus revealed itself to be liver cancer. Their beloved son is not expected to live beyond his second birthday. Our moments together were filled with desolation, terror, and heartbreak. To my surprise they were also brimming with profound love. I will never forget the angelic boy with blonde curls sleeping peacefully upon his mother’s chest as she choked on her tears and grief. Buried beneath the pain was the pulsating presence of a mother’s indestructible love for her child, a love so real that her son could rest in her embrace. I found myself in a moment of strange and unexpected thanksgiving for the love that does not die.

What does it mean to be grateful in the midst of this untamed life? I wonder if practicing gratitude is a discipline of stability. Gratitude grounds us firmly wherever we find our feet at the moment, rooted in all the joy and disappointment of our very human lives. In expressing gratitude we say yes to life, choosing to accept again and again this gift of existence in all its beauty and terror. Gratitude is costly faithfulness, an offering of our commitment to both the gift and the Giver. In living gratefully we forgo our restless tendencies, choosing not to dissolve into our many distractions. In thanksgiving we offer ourselves as we truly are, taking our place once again at the table of life.

Gratitude leads us, through laughter and tears, to the solid ground beneath our shifting experience. May we rest there, embraced in the indestructible, pulsating heart of love.


Kate-CoffeySavannah Kate Coffey is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and Shalem’s Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program for which she now serves as adjunct staff. She lives and writes in South Carolina.

Photo by Leah Rampy


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Above the Clouds

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef.

The red seatbelt sign combined with the sense of forward thrust told me we were about to take off. I briefly set down my Kindle—along with the drama of Russian intrigue, romance, and battle as depicted in Tolstoy’s War and Peace—to gaze out the window. A cold, clear day in Washington DC. I had just arrived only a week ago, and now I was taking off again.

A microcosm, perhaps of our recent experience of moving to DC from Michigan for twenty months, and then moving back much sooner than expected.

It was my first trip back to DC since we moved this past July. It was amazing how easy it was to get back into the rhythm of city life: taking the Metro, hitting favorite coffee shops and micro-brew serving establishments, going to work in the office at Shalem, and seeing old friends and neighbors. It was a delight to be back.

In between the fun there was certainly nostalgia as well. The saddest moment was walking in our old neighborhood, wandering into the quiet neighborhood park after dark, sitting on a cold bench, and envisioning all the fun our family had there—whether playing baseball with my oldest two boys, pushing my youngest two on the swings, or getting neighborhood kids involved in a game of wiffle ball.

This week was also a busy time at Shalem as we hosted the Contemplative Voices Award benefit on Sunday featuring Cynthia Bourgeault, had a board meeting on Monday, and a full day of training for our new website on Tuesday.

By the time I got on the plane I was pretty wiped out. My mind and heart were in various places all at once. I thought of all the work I had to do, the daily realities of life I was returning to. I reveled in the joy of reconnecting—gathering with friends at the pub to talk theology, celebrating a friend’s book release with an improvisational cooking session, enjoying an amazing house concert in my old neighborhood. This busyness and joy mixed with the bittersweet sensation of feeling so at home in a place where I no longer live, and once again feeling that I was leaving too soon.

The plane sped quickly down the runway, and we were flying. It was a full flight, and I wondered about what was happening with all the other individuals seated about me in the cabin. Were they coming, or going? Filled with hope about a new venture? Regretful about something that had already passed? We all sat strapped in, facing forward, regardless of our inner state.

After reading a few more pages of War and Peace, I again looked out the window: houses, roads, and cars had grown miniscule. A few wispy clouds soon turned to a peaceful and soft down blanket upon which we floated.

We passed several states in such fashion, and as we flew in that clear, tranquil space—the bright sun shining on us, the soft white canopy over the world below us—I felt a nudge to exhale. To trust. To rest in the ambiguity. To know that distance might shift relationships, but it does not need to end them. To know that there is a larger whole that I often forget. To remember there is One who invites me to trust that this floating sphere, with its ongoing drama, is loved.

In this liminal space we flew. And I was at peace.


Bryan Berghoef is a pastor and writer who helps curate Shalem’s social media content and provides technical support for Shalem’s online courses. He lives with his family in Holland, Michigan. You can follow Bryan on Facebook and Twitter.

Image via WikiMediaCommons