Can't Stop Looking At You: Friday Morning Coffee #76

I stared out across the lake. I had to focus to be able to absorb all the beauty. Sandy colored mountains sloped to the deep blue water. They were barren in the autumn chill, cut with the shades of deep crevices. It was as if giant fingers had run down their sides, pinching and pushing the earth into mesmerizing patterns of planes and angles. We’d followed them along the river, along the lake, captivated.

On our drive there the day before, we’d passed through the Cascades. The mountain pass greeted us with the first sight of snow of the season. The flakes swirled through the trees. The frozen branches looked as though they were made of glass.

I was in the kitchen now. My friend was talking about her son. She gestured to the window, to the view that continued to pull my eyes. “It’s crazy. I look at the beauty of creation—the mountains, the lakes, the sunset—but then I think about him, and it’s him I can’t take my eyes off of. I look at all this beauty, and think ‘Yes, but I just can’t stop looking at you.’”

A delicate sliver of moon glowed yellow in the night sky. But she was thinking of a tiny boy with pale hair, now fast asleep.

It came to me then, in a flood. Doesn’t that give us a beautiful picture of our Father’s love for us? I can imagine Him saying, ‘I look at all of the beauty of Creation, at all of the works of my hands, but, my child, I just can’t stop looking at you.’

Practicing the Presence of God

This is an updated and edited version of a post that appeared originally in October 2015.


“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.” - Brother Lawrence

I sometimes grow weary of the mundane. Dishes in need of washing appear day after day on my counter. The dirty laundry bin stays empty for only a few hours at most. There are bills to be paid, doctor appointments to keep, trash to be carried away week after week. No matter how hard I scrub, the shower will once again collect soap scum, the toilet bowl that mysterious water line. It’s easy to wish away the monotony of ever-accumulating chores. It’s easy to find them drudgery.

Then I remember our friend Brother Lawrence.

Brother Lawrence was a lay brother in a Carmelite monastary in 17th-century Paris. After his death, a fellow monk compiled a short book of Brother Lawrence’s letters and recorded conversations. If you have never read this delightful little book, The Practice of the Presence of God, you really must.

Brother Lawrence has been made famous by scrubbing greasy pots “for the love of God.” While serving as a lowly monastic kitchen aide, he “resolved to make the love of God the end of all his actions.” He developed a spiritual practice of remaining in constant communion with God through a continual conversation in prayer. Every act became a way to glorify God. Through his daily practice of “abiding” in God’s presence, the mundane became a place Brother Lawrence could serve God and experience His presence.

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He teaches me a simple lesson, one I need to remember when I bend over the kitchen sink or stand folding the laundry: what makes an action glorify God is not the nature of the action itself but the attitude with which we do it.

Brother Lawrence says to me, Go do life and recognize that every little piece of it is from the Lord. Everything you do can be for His glory and out of love for Him. He cares about the details and the daily menial tasks. He can meet with you in them.

In my work, my chores, my play—all those moments of normal life—God is there. Glorifying God does not require me to fill my time with a litany of explicitly “spiritual” activities. It simply requires an everyday life surrendered to Him. He is glorified in His children being fully alive. He is served as I live each moment to His glory, out of love and gratitude for Him.

There are times when a life of this continual surrender and constant attendance to God’s presence does result in a drastic life change. It may lead some of us to move somewhere we wouldn’t chose on our own. It may lead to a career change. It may lead to radical actions with our time or our money. But most often, it means “doing life” in a rather non-extraordinary way, but with the eyes of our heart on the Lord, seeking to serve Him in the everyday, seeking to walk continually in His presence, as if He were physically with us as we go through our daily tasks.

So how do we do this? How do we follow the lessons our friend Brother Lawrence taught centuries ago? What is the secret that brought Brother Lawrence to the point of meaningfully and worshipfully scrubbing pots for God?

“In order to form a habit of conversing with God continually, and referring all we do to Him; we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.”

In other words—practice. We practice keeping up a constant conversation with God as we go through the day. We practice considering how we can do the simple work before us to His glory. According to our friend, Brother Lawrence, this practice eventually makes abiding in God’s presence our default mode.

So wherever you are today, friend, remember that God is there with you, no matter how trivial it might feel. Look for Him there, practice His presence, and do all for the love of God.


"A Sliver Is Enough": Friday Morning Coffee #75

Happy Friday, everyone.

A couple months ago, we announced we were expecting our first baby. In that announcement, we shared briefly about our journey through infertility.

While we were in the trenches of it, I didn’t share much publicly. It was too soon, the pain too fresh and too raw. But I now feel ready to begin sharing more of our story with you.

Today, I am over at Elisabeth Klein’s blog in a guest post about the pain of infertility and a bit of what I learned about faith, hope, and joy in the process.

Head over to Elisabeth’s website to read “A Sliver is Enough.”

We were often told to “Just trust God’s timing.” Each time, the same response sprung to mind—and sometimes escaped my lips—What choice did I have? Like Peter, I asked, “Where else would I go?” …

All The Small Things - Everyday Disciple: Julianne

I’m excited to share Julianne’s thoughts as an Everyday Disciple with you this week.

Julianne is a writer-friend I met at Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing this year. She loves people, loves words, and loves helping other people study the Bible and apply it to their lives. I know you’ll appreciate what she has to share. You can follow Julianne on her blog www.julianneelaineclayton.com. Enjoy!


“I’m just an administrative assistant at a local church.”

That used to be my answer whenever someone asked me what I do. For the longest time, I didn’t see anything wrong with that answer. After all, it was factual.

I spend my days at a desk, answering phones, sending emails, making copies. I maintain the church database, distribute the mail, and provide support to whomever might walk through the office door or sneak their way into my inbox. There is rarely a dull moment and I stay very busy, but sometimes my tasks seem, well, small.

I grew up under the impression that in order to be faithful, I needed to do something big and extraordinary with my life - move to a foreign country, compose the next big worship song, start a movement, write a best-seller, find a cure. The faithful were on stages, under spotlights, going viral. Living my best life for God meant I needed to measure up on a larger-than-life scale. That’s what I needed to pursue and work toward.

So being an administrative assistant didn't really seem like a step in the right direction. In fact, I often saw it as a setback. It certainly wasn’t “the dream.” But God has been using my time in this particular position to work on changing my heart, my perspective, and my definition of a faithful life.

As I write, my community is dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. While our city didn’t take the biggest hit, we took a hit nonetheless, and the most significant damage for us was caused by fallen trees. What’s interesting is that many of the trees that fell appeared to be big, tall, strong and sturdy before the storm. But a tree’s strength doesn't lie in what we see. A tree’s strength is determined by what’s below the surface, by the strength of its root system.

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Some trees have very shallow, weak roots. A significant amount of rain or wind (i.e. a hurricane) will push them right over. However, a tree with a deep, resilient root system can withstand even the strongest combination of wind and rain. I see proof of this in the three well-rooted trees still standing in our front yard after the storm. The roots matter. And their strength develops in small, subtle stages.

I like to think of my job description as contributing to the church’s root system. The work that happens in a church office on Thursday might not be evident to most on Sunday, but it is important work nonetheless. The way I choose to talk to someone over the phone might not be heard around the world, but it certainly influences the individual on the other end of the line. These mundane tasks might not seem like much, but I’ve learned that they truly make a difference.

God is continually reminding me that what happens below the surface, in the often unseen or under-appreciated, matters. I’m learning that the Kingdom of God is often found in the small and unnoticed - in a mustard seed, a buried treasure, or a color copy. And maybe a faithful life is a regular, ordinary, well-rooted one. I’m finding that some of God’s most important work takes place behind-the-scenes and in the day-to-day routine. And that is good news for someone like me, who can sometimes view her work as less than.

In the movie Finding Neverland, there is a scene where Johnny Depp’s character discusses the word, “just.” He calls it a “horrible candle-snuffing word.” And I have to agree. When I use “just” to describe certain parts of my life - it’s just an email, just a database update, just sorting the mail - I downplay the Kingdom-sized work God can do through the tiniest of tasks. And I disqualify a life that is faithful even in the small, even in the seemingly insignificant, even when nobody is watching. It’s a small word that can make a big difference.

Now, when someone asks me what I do, my answer is a bit different:

“I am an administrative assistant at a local church.” 

No qualifier is needed.  It’s a reminder that small, ordinary things can make a big impact when they are faithfully rooted in Christ.

Tiny Island of Home: Friday Morning Coffee #74

I shared this brief story a few weeks ago on Twitter for a project called StoryTweeting. Each week they host brief nonfiction stories based on a prompt. It’s an effort to flood Twitter with the beauty and empathy of stories and take a break from hot takes and news cycle reactions. If you’re on Twitter, you should consider joining!

What story would you share about a “table”? Share in the comments below.


It wasn't much to look at—cheap wood, simple stain. If you leaned on the edge, the top sprang loose, careening toward your chest. It was like everything else in the house—humans and objects alike—worse for wear but still standing.

It was rare to find the chairs around that table empty. Boards and nails kept quiet witness to dreams of bright futures and hopes of new beginnings. They kept secrets of tears and stories of heartbreak. We stared into fancy cups of American tea, with special sugar crystals that dissolved into swirling patterns of golden glitter.

They learned to sew at that table. I would peer over their shoulders as they carefully guided fabric under the needle. Each of them got a dress, and all but the littlest ones helped to make their own. How proud they were to show them off.

They started a little business at that table. The kitchen bustled with entrepreneurial activity. Cookies and cinnamon rolls baked by the dozens, carefully bagged in thin cellophane for selling. How excited they were to see the money trickle in, in profit of their hard work.

Every Saturday, a group of three or four came for dinner. It was an anchor to my week. I’d spend the day cooking and present them with a feast. They would arrive in their best clothes, clean and wet-haired from the shower.

It was a moment of normalcy, a bit of family life, to sit around the dinner table together. For a brief moment, they became my children, and I, their mother, and we talked about school and friends and life goals.

My kitchen was a tiny island of a home. It was a place nearly my own, when I wasn't sharing it with rats or scorpions. It was a place they could find a whiff of freedom in an institution, designed to lock out those who had hurt them, that sometimes became a prison.

The space around that table was my refuge, and I think, at least at times, theirs as well.