The Dandelion Days of Summer and God’s Unconditional Love


If you have allergies like I do, and like my kids do, the arrival of warm weather in New York is like a birthday party and a mildly horrific movie wrapped up into one. We love the sunshine, taking out bikes and scooters, shrugging off the coats and sweaters. We love far less the itchy, swollen eyes, stuffy noses and clogged throats, eczema, sneezing, and chemical dependency on every over-the-counter remedy in the known universe.

The other week as I tromped to the drug store in search of antihistamine eyedrops with my son (13) and younger daughter (6), I was struck by how utterly and completely themselves they both were. Deise (pronounced “Daisy”) was in ecstasy over the dandelions populating our neighbors’ lawns. She wanted to pick all of them and bring them home. She kept saying, “They’re so beautiful! Look how beautiful they are!” Daniel, however, was impressed neither by his sister’s enthusiasm nor by its objects. “They’re weeds,” he pointed out. “They’re an invasive species and they’re bad for the rest of the plants. You shouldn’t pick them.”



If you know my kids at all, these reactions typify their personalities. Deise lives in an enchanted world of play clothes and pretend. She’s been sleeping at night in a multicolored tent in our living room, surrounded by the stuffed animals that “I love so so much, even though I know they aren’t real.” I took her to her piano lesson not too long ago and the trees by her teacher’s apartment were in full bloom. She was enthralled and spent time gathering not only tree blossoms but more dandelions. She named each one of her blooms: Blossom, Berry, Cherry, Pitter, Patter, Packer, Mrs., Droopy, Goldilocks, and Bitter (because it was small). She also picked up individual petals from the ground and gave them the catch-all name “Hatchling.” She is the embodiment of joie de vivre.

(Her names reminded me of the classic children’s book Make Way for Ducklings, with its eight siblings Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack.)

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Daniel, my chess player, mathematician, and pessimist, is interested in facts, strategy, and planning for worst-case scenarios. (Also, Marvel comics.) When Daniel looks at a dandelion, he sees not “scope for the imagination,” as Anne Shirley would say, but an invasion waiting to happen. His response to dandelions is to leave them alone lest anything worse come to pass.

(Sophie (16) wasn’t with us that day, but if she had been, she would’ve had a snippet of a Broadway song and a playfully sarcastic comment for all parties. Her spiritual gift, like her father’s, is snark.)

What I felt as I watched Daniel and Deise respond so differently to the same environment, and even as I waded in to stop them squabbling over their different perceptions, was an overwhelming wash of love, acceptance, and delight in them, exactly as they both are. And I also felt God’s love for them – unconditional, perfectly knowing, perfectly celebratory of their uniqueness, gifts, and potential.


I think this is how God loves each one of us: whether we are imaginative and sunny or rational and gloomy, an Anne Shirley or an Eyore.

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Sometimes I think we are afraid that he has rankings in his head, that he prefers one type of personality or one set of talents over another, and that whoever we are is far down the list. But the truth is that God delights in each one of us exactly as we are. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that:

. . .  the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

If your insecurities are snarling at you today, spend some time meditating on this Scripture passage and letting its truth sink in. You are as beloved by God as the brightest summer bloom. You bring God joy! What could be more beautiful and freeing than that?

Imaginative Prayer and “Sticky Faith” for Kids (Book Review + Podcast link)

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I reviewed this book about a year ago, but I’m reposting because its author, Jared Boyd (also my spiritual direction teacher!), is being interviewed on a podcast with the Missio Alliance, a fellowship of churches and other organizations dedicated to the health and vitality of the North American Christianity. You can find the interview, “How Imaginative Prayer Helps Children Connect with God,” here:

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One of the main insights from the book Sticky Faith: Everyday ideas to build lasting faith in your kids, by Dr. Kara Powell and Dr. Chap Clark, is that how parents practice and talk about their faith with their kids is crucial to passing on authentic faith. If parents hope to cultivate a Christian identity in their children — one that survives the tumultuous teen and questioning young adult years when young people are “discovering who they are and making the commitments toward who they want to be” — they have to do more than just go to church, pay their tithes, and send their kids to youth group.

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The authors’ research, conducted under the auspices of the Fuller Youth Institute and Fuller Theological Seminary, concludes that “it’s never too early” to start building faith that sticks into your children. To do that, parents need to go beyond teaching Christianity primarily as a system of “do’s and don’t’s” and obedience, and instead help kids experience what it is to know and trust Christ. Practical ways to do this include: surrounding your child with a Christian community (mentors, peers, family) that will dialogue honestly about even difficult issues and doubts; using rituals and celebrations (like prayer at birthdays) to reinforce identity; focusing on character growth rather than behavior; and modeling a relationship with God.

As I read through Jared Patrick Boyd’s new book, Imaginative Prayer: A Yearlong Guide for Your Child’s Spiritual Formation, I immediately thought back to the lessons of Sticky Faith. In his introduction, Jared invites busy parents to slow down, to recognize and live out their importance as the most important influences in their children’s spiritual development. He writes:

As a father of four girls one of my greatest desires is to pass on to them a deep understanding and awareness of the experience of God. My hope is that they would feel connected to God and the story God is unfolding in their lives and in the world around them. Will they see themselves as part of God’s story? Will they feel close and connected to God as they navigate decisions that come their way and pursue risks on the horizon? Will they say yes to all that God is inviting them into?

Jared’s language and spiritual practices are steeped in the Ignatian tradition and borne of out his long experience as a contemplative practitioner, spiritual director, and teacher, as well as his pastoral ministry in the Vineyard, an association of evangelical churches explored at length in Tanya Lurhmann’s When God Talks Back. Lurhmann’s psychological and anthropological study of the Vineyard and its practices of listening and prayer leads her to conclude that connectedness to God, while full of mystery, is a learnable skill.

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Taken together, Sticky Faith and When God Talks Back (not to mention the larger backdrop of Western Christianity’s well-documented and ongoing failure to pass on faith to the younger generations) provide strong rationales for exactly the kind of imaginative prayer experience and sustained spiritual formation that Jared’s book is meant to guide parents and children through.

Over the course of a year, the book explores six theological themes: God’s Love, Loving Others, Forgiveness, Jesus is the King, The Good News of God, and The Mission of God. Each theme is divided into 7 weeks, with six weeks of imaginative prayer sessions followed by a week of review.

Each (non-review) week is further broken down into repeated sections. “Connection and Formation” introduces the theme for the week, through a theological reflection, poem, perhaps a story. Next, a “Q&A” provides a brief catechism to help children remember the theme. The “Imaginative Prayer” is the heart of each week: a guided prayer, rich with imagery, sensory information, and metaphor that invites children to enter into an experience with God that they can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. The “Q&A” is then repeated, to emphasize the theme that the child has now experienced in their own imagination. Each week concludes with reflection and devotional prompts for “For the Parent or Mentor” and a reminder for children to journal (write or draw) for twenty minutes, based on a question that will lead them to reflect on their life that week — not “just” the spiritual formation part — in light of the explored theme. The review week wraps everything up by bringing back all the creedal questions (catechism) from that section and through suggested activities and questions.

As a sometime homeschooling parent, a professional educator, and a writer of curriculum, one of the things I appreciate about Jared’s book is how thoroughly it’s planned. Each activity is nested within the credal theme for the week, which is nested within the theological theme for the section, and everything is meant to contribute to the larger goal of the intertwined spiritual development of children and parents. As an example of Jared’s attention to detail, each imaginative prayer script is timed down to a range of seconds! Jared has also created a Conversation Guide for teachers, for those churches that want to bring to book to a Sunday School classroom in partnership with parents. (It’s a supplement to, not a substitute for parental involvement.)

One of my favorite imaginative prayers in the book is Jared’s picture of Jesus coming to defeat the power of sin. He asks the child to imagine a deep cave filled with seven giant faucets, all spouting different-colored water, one faucet and color for each of the deadly sins. Together, the faucets fill a cave that is “dark and murky and smelly.” The child is asked to imagine a wheel that will turn all the faucets off. It’s too heavy – the child can’t turn it. But Jesus steps in and turns the wheel right off, and instantly the cave fills with clean air, with sweetness and light. In this and many other instances, Jared’s metaphors are concrete, vivid, and fresh, and I believe will help children — and their parents and other spiritual mentors — understand, experience, and remember abstract theological concepts in a new and “sticky” way. Jared’s focus on building a shared theological vocabulary to go with a shared experience of God also lays the groundwork for many years of faith-building conversations between parents and children, between siblings and Sunday School peers, and between each member of the family and God.

“To Steal, Kill, and Destroy”: Anxiety and Spiritual Direction

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I’m excited to share that I just had a short article published in Connections, the online publication of Spiritual Directors International, which is – quite self-explanatorily – an organized community for spiritual directors, also known as spiritual companions, or people who help other people become more aware of where and how God is present in their lives. (Hint: He’s everywhere – if we just learn to look!) SDI claims “more than 6,500 members in 42 countries around the world.”

In my article, “Facing Performance Anxiety in Spiritual Direction” (p. 7 of the newsletter), I describe a bit of what it’s like to be a new spiritual director and to feel my inner “demons” of insecurity and fear triggered by something that happens in a direction session as well as how my peer supervisors helped me get to the bottom of what was bothering me.

Here are two short snippets from the piece.Screenshot 2018-05-25 at 11.42.41 AM


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And here’s the header image the editor chose: Screenshot 2018-05-25 at 11.47.33 AM

That’s me, facing down my fears! Obviously on a day where I’m wearing fake eyelashes.

(You can find the complete article and the full edition of Connections here.)

“Faith in their hands shall snap in two”

I’ve been thinking about a line from the poem “Death Shall Have No Dominion,” by Dylan Thomas. First of all, my sense of the absurd is tickled by its presence on a site called “Funeral Helper,” where it is listed as a “popular non-religious funeral poem.” Do people at funerals actually want to hear this poem? It’s not entirely comforting. Its language is properly Biblical (which seems problematic enough for the “non-religious” set) but becomes so bleak and at times grotesque that it seems unlikely to make anyone feel better. Unless “Twisting on racks when sinews give way” is an image that warms your cockles, in which case you probably liked Fifty Shades of whatever way more than I did.

On the plus side, it’s at least honest about torture being a sucky way to die.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what “cockles” means, which I did, Google tells me they are either the ventricles of your heart, from the root word “cochlea,” which said ventricles resemble, or a shellfish that tastes delicious boiled and with a dash of white wine vinegar.

Also, they’re alive, alive o.

A bit of family lore: My husband wanted to name our son Dylan Thomas, but I objected to naming him after a hard-drinking, soul-tortured poet, however beautiful the lines he composed. Wouldn’t that be asking for trouble? So we struck that name off our list. Then, we accidentally gave him the name of a famous comedian. Which is totally fine, because most comedians are well-adjusted teetotalers, right?

But getting back to the poem, the line sticking in my head is this: “Faith in their hands shall snap in two.” It’s stuck because it’s set up echoes in my head with a passage in a book called Interior Freedom, which was written by a member of a Carmelite community with the perfectly perfect French name of Jacques Phillipe.

Jacques writes:

Desire can only be strong is what is desired is perceived as accessible, possible . . . We cannot effectively want something if we have the sense that “we’ll never make it” . . .  [But] Through hope, we know we can confidently expect everything from God . . . But for hope to be a real force in our lives, it needs a solid foundation, a bedrock of truth. That solid foundation is given by faith: we can “hope against hope” because “we know whom we have believed.” Faith makes us cling firmly to the truth handed on by Scripture,  which tells us of the goodness of God, his mercy, and his absolute faithfulness to his promises” (105).”

I can’t set my heart on something I don’t believe is possible – whether that something is a fulfilling relationship, a satisfying job, a dream home, a reconciliation with someone I care about. If I don’t believe those things will happen ever, not in a million years, then why waste time hoping? But the converse is this: Faith provides us with the assurance that we need in order to hold out hope, even in difficult circumstances. It’s not faith in any thing, but faith in a person – in God who is good and always keeps his promises. In Jesus who is the living embodiment of love, truth, and unfailing mercy towards us. Faith, as it says in Hebrews 11:1 “shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”

That’s why, when we are standing before the Risen Christ and death has been defeated once and for all, we will have no need for faith. We will have all the evidence we need, right before our eyes, that God has been making all things new, all along. The reality of everything we have hoped for will have come to pass. Faith, which has sustained us through all our years, will be obsolete, as unnecessary as a childhood blankie long loved but outgrown.

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die. 
(Death Be Not Proud, John Donne)
On that day, death will have no dominion. All of our longings will be met in the person of Christ whose body was broken for us, then made whole so that we, too, can be whole. And faith in his hands shall snap in two.
photo credit:

Easter Sunday: He is Risen Indeed



Spend some time rejoicing in and with our Risen Lord.


John 12:1-18


1) Vs. 9 says that the disciples who saw the empty tomb “saw and believed.” What have you seen as you journeyed with Jesus during Lent? How has Jesus strengthened and sustained your belief?

2) Mary Magdalene goes through a gamut of emotions: mourning over Jesus’ death, alarm and grief when she believes his body has been stolen, then the joy of recognition when Jesus speaks her name and she is able to share the news with the others. What emotions have you experienced as you have encountered Jesus during this Lent season? Which stand out to you and why? How might they be leading you to act and pray?




After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples enter a time of waiting and praying for Pentecost, for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Ask Jesus to show you what this time of waiting and praying will look like for you, then act accordingly.


“Leap of Faith” is a devotional series on the Gospel of John for the Lent season. All readings are available on the Vineyard One NYC app, along with additional resources for Bible reading, worship, and prayer (IPhone app here; Google Play app here).


Lent Day 46: The Blessings of the Week



Today is a day to review your journey with Jesus over the past week. On the day before the resurrection, spend time retracing with Jesus his journey to the cross.


Look over the week’s devotionals and/or your journal entries (Day 41, Day 42, Day 43, Day 44, Day 45). What stands out to you?  How has Jesus been present to you this week? Where do you sense Jesus inviting your attention so that you may go deeper with him?


If looking over the entire week feels too overwhelming, reflect on one or more of these themes from the week’s devotionals:

1) Through his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus’ enemies attempted to strip everything from him: his humanity, his dignity, his followers. They failed because Jesus had an unshakable certainty, given to him by the Father, in who he was and how much he was loved (Matthew 3:16-17). To what extent do you also have this certainty? What experiences have brought you such certainty or contributed to its lack? Is there any part of yourself or your past you need to bring to God for healing?

2) As you read about Jesus’ experiences, what resonates with you and why? How might Jesus be speaking to you through his path to the cross and subsequent new life?


In this time of waiting for Easter and the “joy that comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5), allow Jesus’ sorrow to enter your own heart. What is one thing that you sense brings both you and Jesus sorrow? Bring that pain to Jesus and ask him what he has to say to you about it.

“Leap of Faith” is a devotional series on the Gospel of John for the Lent season. All readings are available on the Vineyard One NYC app, along with additional resources for Bible reading, worship, and prayer (IPhone app here; Google Play app here).


Lent Day 45: “They Knew It Was The Lord”



Find a place and posture of that will support your time of prayer. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring you the joy of Christ’s resurrection.


John 21


Jesus’ return from death stimulates the hearts of his disciples. They are rejuvenated by Christ’s resurrection.

There are two scenes in John where the disciples fish with Jesus. The first (John 1:35-42) shows the amazement of ordinary men at an extraordinary man named Jesus. If we compare the first fishing scene to the one in John 21, we can see that the disciples have grown in faith and been transformed by their relationship with Christ.

1) What are some ways you have grown in Christ during this season of life?


In both fishing scenes, Jesus calls his disciples to follow him. How is Jesus calling Peter to serve? How is God calling you to serve today? As he speaks to you, answer with a “yes.”

Guest writer: Marcus Samerson


“Leap of Faith” is a devotional series on the Gospel of John for the Lent season. All readings are available on the Vineyard One NYC app, along with additional resources for Bible reading, worship, and prayer (IPhone app here; Google Play app here).


Lent Day 44: “Blessed Are Those Who Believe”



Find a place and posture of that will support your time of prayer. Ask for the grace of increased faith in Jesus.


John 20:19-31


1) Imagine how the disciples felt after Jesus was crucified. Although they knew in their heart of hearts that Jesus was the Messiah and that he would be raised from the dead, they were heartbroken. They must have been filled with doubt and even despair. They were hiding from the Jewish leaders. Then, suddenly, in their darkest hour, Jesus appeared and sent them out as the Father sent him. Their tears must have been turned into laughter, their anxiety into peace. Ask the Lord to wipe out any doubt and any fear that may be holding you back and to use you for His purposes.

2) Verse 28 is the only verse in which someone directly calls Jesus God in the Bible. When Thomas saw for himself that Jesus had come back from the dead, he had to believe. In what powerful ways has Jesus revealed himself to you? Ask him to reveal himself to you in beautiful and powerful ways this Lent and Easter.


Believe. If you are reading this reflection it is because you in some way or another have experienced God’s love. Deep down you know that Jesus is God and that he was crucified and raised from the dead. Thank Jesus for his perfect sacrifice on the cross. Ask Jesus to increase your faith in him. Ask him to allow your faith to be true (see James 2:14-26, Galatians 5:6, and Hebrews 11).

Guest writer: Abraham Aldama

“Leap of Faith” is a devotional series on the Gospel of John for the Lent season. All readings are available on the Vineyard One NYC app, along with additional resources for Bible reading, worship, and prayer (IPhone app here; Google Play app here).


Lent Day 43: “I Have Seen the Lord!”



Close your eyes and quiet your thoughts. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you seek and find Jesus in whatever way he chooses to show himself.


John 20:1-18


1) In verses 1-10, Mary Magdalene and the disciples run looking for Jesus but do not find him in the way they had expected? Do you identify with them at all? In what way? Are there any times that Jesus has shown up in your life in a way you did not expect?

2) Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic,”Rabboni!” [which means “Teacher”] (v. 16).

Mary did not recognize Jesus until he spoke her name. Then, she turned to recognize him as her teacher. Are there any times in your life where you have felt Jesus speaking your name and possibly inviting you to recognize him in a new way?


Take a few minutes to thank Jesus for all of the ways he appears in your life.

In verse 17, Jesus says, “Go instead to my brothers and tell them…” Ask Jesus what he may want you to tell others about him and to give you the opportunity to do so.

Guest writer: Erin Brehm

“Leap of Faith” is a devotional series on the Gospel of John for the Lent season. All readings are available on the Vineyard One NYC app, along with additional resources for Bible reading, worship, and prayer (IPhone app here; Google Play app here).