Archive for the ‘By Nan Kuhlman’ Category

The Mystery in Our Midst

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is one of my favorite Christmas carols, so I sing it with gusto. Sometimes my “gusto” is a little overpowering. I noticed this on Christmas Eve when I saw the gentleman sitting ahead of me sticking his finger in his right ear! I just can’t help myself. The lyrics of this carol resonate with me, especially these lines: “Hail the incarnate deity / Pleased as man with men to dwell / Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

“Emmanuel” – God with us – speaks volumes about the the blessing of Jesus’s birth, with “incarnate deity” affirming his status as fully God and fully man. “Pleased as man with men to dwell” shows the willingness, the self-emptying nature of the Son who was “pleased” to take on our frail flesh so that we might participate in the love relationship that is integral to the Triune God. These short verses from a well-known hymn reveal the heart of the Divine toward humanity.

But they don’t reveal everything. And I don’t know about you, but I like to know EVERYTHING. I like to see ten miles down the road; I like to have a plan; I like to be prepared. The story of Emmanuel doesn’t tell us everything. Like why tragedy happens in our world and innocent people suffer. Like how we are supposed to go on when we lose someone or something we love and value. Like when we will see some evidence of God’s power or healing in a world that often seems hell-bent on self-destructing.

It’s hard to live with not knowing, and our human nature makes us seek certainty and permanence, only to realize that nothing in this world is certain or permanent. Nothing, except Emmanuel, the one who was pleased to live in the midst of our suffering. Somehow we must come to terms with the mystery of God never being fully revealed, though Jesus himself says that “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (NIV, John 14:9). Author Peter Rollins says, “The point is not that the mystery of God is dissipated in the Incarnation, but that this mystery is brought into the heart of the world. The mystery is in our midst. The unknowing is here dwelling among us” (The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction).

While we can’t see ten miles down the road and we can’t have a plan or be prepared for everything, we do know that within this mystery and unknowing is a Heart that is for us, one that is present in our tragedies and unbearable losses and one that is working out healing despite the world’s chaos in ways we could never fathom. That’s the heart I sing about when I sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” That’s why I must belt it out with gusto (sorry, fellow singers around me!). News of the loving Mystery dwelling with us is too good not to share loudly.

~by Nan Kuhlman

Youtube video courtesy of JakeSD19

Resistance, Beauty, and Light

christmas-lights         One of my favorite Christmas traditions is outside Christmas lights, but for a number of years, I couldn’t bring myself to go out into the cold to loop lighted strands around the bushes in front of our house. Then manufacturers developed the lighted “net” that you could just drape over your bushes so the lights were evenly spaced without quite so much work. That is, unless your bush was like one of mine, shaped like an overgrown evergreen that required a number of these nets to cover. After that overgrown evergreen bush didn’t survive a particularly hard winter a few years ago, we had a rather large space left. It was then I found my perfect solution to bringing light to the dark evenings in December: a small outdoor tree with brightly colored lights. I carry that tree out to the empty space, and in an homage to the overgrown evergreen that used to occupy this spot, I plug in the tree and bask in the glow of red, blue, and green lights.

It seems simple, this bringing of light to the dark world of winter. As I look across the street, I am cheered by the Christmas lights I see my neighbors have taken the time to put out, and I see how taking time to create a beautiful array of lights is our gift to each other. The beauty of those lights resists the darkness.

This reminds me of a story I heard from the founder of a nonprofit organization called Women International ( Zainab Salbi shared the story of her visit to a war-torn country where she met with some of the women affected to find out what supplies she could bring them to help. She suggested vitamins or other practical items, but the women she visited told her to bring them lipstick, saying something like, “When the snipers look at us through their scopes, we want them to know they are shooting at a beautiful woman.” These women resisted the darkness of their situation by recognizing their beauty and doing something that would make them feel that beauty.

So many times people think that resistance must be negative. We’ve witnessed protests and the burning of effigies. We’ve read harsh words and watched disrespectful commentary. Somewhere along the line human beings lost the idea that one of the best forms of resistance is beauty and light. When we create beauty with lights outside our homes at Christmas, we are also resisting darkness. Could we recapture the notion of resisting what troubles us by creating beauty for ourselves and for others?

The very birth of Jesus is a type of resistance. Those looking for the Messiah expected a king to march in and break the rule of Rome; God Incarnate came as baby. Others thought that the birth of a king would take place within all the trappings of wealth; the Son of God was born in a stable and placed in a manger. The Father resisted complying with human assumptions about what a king should be in order to reveal himself, his grace, his love. The Son willingly emptied himself of his glory, resisting human tendencies to take honor and glory (Philippians 2:7). The Spirit moved the hearts of the shepherds and the wise men to see the beauty of this resistance, “the Light of the World” (John 8:12), and bow before it (Matthew 2:11, Luke 2:15).

Everyone knows that light dispels darkness, but the Christmas story shows how resistance can choose the way of beauty and light. It’s not always convenient or practical, and it certainly breaks the mode of fitting in with a typical human response. The tradition of decorating with lights honors that, and our challenge is to carry that same desire to create beauty and light beyond the end of December, not just for ourselves but for our neighbors and for the world.

~by Nan Kuhlman

Grieving and the Oblong Box

an-oblong-box-courtesy-of-handes-blog  There is an obscure short story by Edgar Allan Poe called “The Oblong Box,” and recently I had my beginner composition students write a literary analysis about it. The story is told from the first-person perspective of an unnamed narrator who must travel by boat from South Carolina to New York. He’s pleased to find out that among the other passengers, there’s an old artist friend and his new wife traveling. The narrator has never met the artist’s wife, but in past conversations the artist has regaled her beauty and goodness, so the narrator is looking forward to being properly introduced. The trip is delayed a few days (due to unforeseen circumstances, says the captain), but finally the narrator boards the ship, only to find his artist friend in a foul mood, the artist’s new wife looking decidedly plain yet flirting wildly with the other men on the boat, and the pair accompanied by a large oblong box addressed to his wife’s mother in New York. The narrator assumes the large box contains a painting, a replica of “The Last Supper,” though the contrast between the new wife’s appearance and what he had been told by her artist husband has him stumped. The narrator later learns [spoiler alert] that the artist’s dead wife is in the box, and the woman pretending to be his wife is her maid. The deception was necessary because at the time of the story, passengers would refuse to sail on a ship that was transporting a dead body. After a turbulent storm sinks the ship enroute, the crew and passengers must flee to the lifeboat. The artist refuses to leave the oblong box and instead, he ties himself to it and jumps overboard with it to his death.

I find this story insightful when considering the importance of the grieving process. The artist, wracked with grief over the loss of his wife, could tell no one, not even his narrator friend, that his beloved wife had died. He could not grieve what he had lost, nor could he receive support from others as he made the slow transition back to a new normal. Few people would discount the importance of grieving when it comes to deep losses, such as the loss of a loved one. However, the nature of human life is one of change and impermanence, and it’s worth considering how important it is to handle all of life’s changes in a similar fashion.

The book of Lamentations shows us that the nation of Israel was no stranger to grief, longing for what was once good but had passed away. The first chapter and first verse in Lamentations reveal the grieving that took place over Jerusalem’s destruction: “How deserted lies the city, /once so full of people! / How like a widow is she, /who once was great among the nations!/ She who was queen among the provinces /has now become a slave” (NIV). This poem demonstrates that acknowledging something good and beautiful is gone is the first part of grieving.

Sometimes the change is for something just as good or maybe better. However, any change means that something is being left behind, even if it is just the familiar. If it is something that you don’t want to let go of, it is important to be thankful for what you had and acknowledge your loss as you let it go. This could be the loss of youth or the loss of a career, but any change, even good change, means that something is going to be different. And this difference brings uncertainty.

By allowing ourselves to grieve the change and impermanence we face as human beings, we are better equipped to handle the uncertainty that comes from learning to live with different circumstances or in some new way. We reach out to others for support and comfort until we find our new normal, and we permit God to minister to us through others. By allowing ourselves to feel and express our loss and our uncertainty, we navigate the waters of grief without tying ourselves to that oblong box and throwing ourselves overboard.

~by Nan Kuhlman

photo courtesy of Hande’s blog



What Plank?

wood plank courtesy of“So you can encourage certain student behaviors by putting in place positive consequences,” the speaker at an education conference said. “If you want to encourage students to be on time for class, schedule a quiz at the very beginning of class that is worth some points. This will encourage the behavior you want.” The speaker was a behavioral analyst, and her tips for encouraging certain student behaviors in the classroom (and discouraging other behaviors) were insightful. Her talk made me think about how we often try to control others’ behavior and choices.

This is particularly true for parents, and it’s difficult to let go of the reins as your children mature into teenagers and young adults. I would also say that it is difficult for many churches to permit the free moral agency that God has allowed humanity. When I compare a church’s response to my own response as a parent, I see a similarity in the area of misunderstanding our responsibility.

When our children are small, it is our job as parents to protect them and guide them, but as they grow up, it’s understood that parents must let their children make choices and learn to live with the consequences.The church also sometimes views its members as needing protection and firm guidance; however, the difference is that members of a church are typically adults who need to have the agency to make choices and take responsibility for those choices. When a church is operating appropriately (i.e., supporting and encouraging members), the membership will most likely have a wide representation of moral views on contemporary issues. In this atmosphere of love and support, diversity with unity is encouraged and love for all is emphasized.

Jesus addresses this issue beginning with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Though this is worthy of a much longer blog, I find it helpful to think of the first two chapters (Matthew 5 and 6) of  the Sermon on the Mount as a way of being present and properly judging my own thoughts. In other words, these scriptures help me realize when I’m off-track in my own thoughts and need to re-think my priorities.

Chapter 7 in Matthew begins Jesus’s discussion of our tendency to judge (and consequently, try to control) others. This is where we as parents and as the church tend to go astray because we fail to permit others the freedom to make lousy choices. We assume that our viewpoint is the right one, maybe the only one, not understanding that we are not omniscient. Instead, we are caught up in our own culture, class, upbringing, experiences, and a whole host of other influences.

Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3, NIV). The “plank” is our tendency to believe we have a responsibility to change others by attempting to control them. Once the plank is removed from our own eye, we understand that our primary responsibility is to control ourselves and our own thoughts, not others. Without a plank in our own eye, we “will see clearly to remove the speck from [our] brother’s eye” (Matt 7:5) by being able to see it’s not our job, but God’s. In fact, when we do strive to manipulate others, even by offering gifts or positive outcomes that they want, they can feel resentful and distance themselves from us. Matthew 7:6 says they will “turn and tear you to pieces,” rejecting even a desirable gift because of the motivation to control.

Behavior analysts like the speaker at my conference can provide insight into the way humans respond to consequences of the choices they make. While promoting positive classroom behavior is helpful, it’s important to recognize that we have a plank in our eye that we cannot see, and so does everyone else. Our responsibility is not to change or manipulate others but to surrender them to God, allowing the Father, Son, and Spirit to work wholeness and healing into all of our lives.

~by Nan Kuhlman

photo courtesy of



Playing on the Same Human Team

baseball game I wanted that job. I had been planning, preparing, and thinking about it for more than six months. Everything aligned, so it seemed. But. I. Didn’t. Get. It.

I had prayed about it, and it seemed as if it was God’s will. But. Then. It. Wasn’t. Someone with more experience and better credentials came into the process and took that job. Rather, the administration gave her that job because she was good (like me), plus she had the experience and credentials the college needed for its accreditation requirements.

Because of my disappointment, I needed to make sure that this new colleague really deserved my job, so I “creeped” on her. For those who aren’t familiar with “creeping,” that is checking out a person in an online Google search. I saw impressive credentials (that I already knew), but I also saw tweets about God and God’s goodness and faithfulness. My new colleague, my nemesis, probably also prayed for this job like I did. God said yes to her but no to me.

Some years ago, I might have thought that I didn’t get this job because a) I didn’t tithe consistently, b) I didn’t attend church regularly, c) I wasn’t spending enough time in the spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study, or d) I had some sort of unconfessed sin that prevented God from blessing me. These reasons (which may or may not be true) would make not getting the job my “fault.” This is based on a religion that uses guilt and/or fear to spur Christians to “do more for God,” yet when one looks at the outcome of such a response, it’s clear that what actually happens is that our relationship with God becomes a transaction. If I do this for you, God, you must give me that job. Entire ministries have been built on false premises like this one because the goodness of God lavishes blessings on humanity, making it appear like such a formula really works.

In this instance, though, I am thankfully not caught up in the transactional mindset. But I still wondered why the job didn’t work out until I came to the realization that asking why isn’t that helpful. Asking why is challenging reality as it is, and while I might learn something about better interviewing or better teaching demos, in this case, it seems my lack of credentials was the deciding factor. Asking why became an exercise in challenging the bigger life choices I made years ago, such as staying home with my children for sixteen years rather than pursuing a PhD. This helped me see that asking why rarely provides a satisfying answer.

So at this point, you are probably saying, “Nan, tell me the right approach when I’m faced with a situation that didn’t turn out like I hoped or expected,” and I’ll tell you this, dear reader: I don’t know. My new colleague received the blessing of a new job, and despite my best efforts, I did not. She probably prayed, I definitely prayed, and from the looks of the situation, we play on the same team and pray to the same God. Maybe you’re faced with a more serious issue, and I wish I could tell you for sure that it will turn out OK. In fact, I want more than anything to tell you that everything will turn out as you’re hoping and praying. But I can do something better than that.

I can tell you definitively that you will be OK regardless of how your situation turns out. In the midst of your grief and disappointment, you will know that you are held, that resisting the grief and disappointment only perpetuates them, and that grace is always present and abundant.

Christian mystic, philosopher, and author Simone Weil has an interesting way of putting it:

            “All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity. Grace is the only exception. Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void.” (Gravity and Grace)

I wanted a job, but another child of God landed the job. When we pray for our troops to win a battle, others are also praying for their army to win. When Ohio State’s football team plays University of Michigan, some will be praying for the Buckeyes and others will be praying equally fervently for the Wolverines. Some hope Trump will win the election; others hope Hillary will win. Some will win in these contests who don’t bother to pray at all, and some will lose who do pray. But grace will be there to fill the void, that we can count on.

~by Nan Kuhlman





Hanging on to Junk

IMG_0187It’s really summertime because I am walking again every morning. My route through our subdivision allows me to admire the bounties of summer – blue skies with puffy clouds, lush green grass on beautifully manicured lawns (not ours), lovely landscaping – and it takes me down streets that I don’t normally drive through. Since I began this practice on a regular basis about three weeks or so ago, I have walked by one home that has a pickup truck parked on the edge of the lawn near the street. Its bed is filled with junk: an old toilet, microwave, gas grill, baseball bat, to name a few items. The truck has been in the same spot for these three weeks, bed filled with junk, and there’s no sign that it will be going anywhere soon.

Three weeks is a long time to look at a truckload of junk and wonder what it means, and in my wondering I thought about the junk at my own house. It’s concealed better, that’s for sure, and I’m fairly certain none of my neighbors knows about it, though they may suspect I need to do some serious cleaning out whenever our garage door is open. Considering junk like my neighbor’s, left out in the open for rain and sun to work on (to no avail), or junk like my own, neatly stowed and stacked (yet still being junk), makes me notice how often we hang on to stuff that we know we don’t want, that doesn’t help us or serve us or enhance our lives in any way.

I also surmise that behind the beautifully manicured and landscaped homes there is junk that should be hauled away. My garage and the pickup truck parked on the other street are not the only ones who hang on to unhelpful, no longer useful things. While these things could be material goods, they could also be attitudes – judgment, discrimination – anything that seeks to make another human being separate or “other.” Despite the laundry list of differences one could come up with, our common humanity and our special, individual status as a beloved child of God unites us. Even as a church, the very body of Christ, judgments about who is right and who is wrong override our common heritage as beloved children of God. We all may be Adam’s descendants to begin with, but ultimately we are brothers and sisters with Jesus. The junk of needing to be better than someone, anyone, sits in our secret places (or sometimes not so secret places), and it takes up the space where we might know the full freedom we’re entitled to as God’s kids, in intimate fellowship with the Father, the Son (our bro), and the Holy Spirit.

What junk are you hanging on to? What’s keeping you from the freedom you have as God’s child, Jesus’s sib, the container of the Spirit?

~by Nan Kuhlman

IMG_0188P.S. Somebody is missing their teeth in our neighborhood, too. Everyone has his/her own set of troubles. 🙂

Inclusive to Feel Included

IMG_0003.JPG I have a mental list of authors I would love to have lunch with just to talk shop. Maybe you have a list of inspirational people (perhaps not authors) that you would like to have a conversation with just to hear firsthand their stories and the insights they gleaned from their experiences. My list includes nonfiction authors Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking), Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic), Anne Lamott (Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace), and Cheryl Strayed (Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things). I’m a fan of nonfiction writing, and as I read about others’ experiences, I learn from them, and sometimes I see myself in them. Even if their experience is completely different from anything I’ve known, I usually still connect with the emotion that drove their decisions.

Strayed is one author that while I’ve not experienced life as she knew it (losing her mother in her early 20s, becoming a heroin user for a period of time, having an abortion), I still can relate to the emotions that spurred her to make these choices. As a result of her experiences, Strayed offers down-to-earth insights in her nonfiction, and many fans have written her to share their favorite quotes that spoke to their hearts right at the time they needed it. Strayed compiled these “best quotes” into a new book called Brave Enough, and I recently gave this book to our daughter for her high school graduation.

Before I presented it to our daughter, I read about 75 of the 135 pages (I couldn’t help myself!), and I came across this quote from Cheryl Strayed that spoke truth to me: “You must be inclusive in order to feel yourself among the included” (49). It made me think about struggles that organized religion has faced, particularly when wrapped up in legalism. As part of a legalistic group for a number of years, I can attest to the fact that when I was quick to judge others and exclude them based on the lack of religious performance in some area, I often felt I was on the ever-turning hamster wheel of trying to earn my place in the kingdom of God, not to mention making myself worthy of God’s love. As long as I compared others (and myself) to a rigid set of rules in order to discern who was in and who was out of God’s favor, I rarely felt included, accepted, let alone liked by God.

Strayed’s wise quote helps us see that as long as we judge and exclude others, we will never feel included ourselves, and perhaps more importantly, we will never grow to realize that it wasn’t about keeping all the rules perfectly in the first place. By loving others and extending grace, we finally realize that the inclusive sense of belonging we’ve been looking for has always been available, offered freely by the Triune God.

~by Nan Kuhlman

Waiting vs. Anticipation


Jacob and Rachel courtesy of       I am waiting for something to happen right now. It’s going to be something good, something positive for our family, but it seems to be taking F-O-R-E-V-E-R to find out if what we’ve hoped and prayed for will come to fruition. You may have been in my position before – wanting to know how an important life experience will turn out and what the next step will be, but stuck in limbo-land, just waiting.

We’re in good company. Remember the story of Jacob who loved Rachel, worked seven years for her, and then accidentally married her older sister Leah? I still can’t figure out how that happened, but there wasn’t modern incandescent lighting, so I leave it at that. After Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, his father-in-law said after a week, Jacob could marry Rachel, too, but he had to work another seven years. The Bible reports that “Jacob served seven years to get Rachel but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20, NIV). Seven years (plus a week) is a long time to wait – what was Jacob’s secret to the years seeming as if they were just a few days?

I think the key is looking back at what happened to Jacob before he met Rachel and her deceptive father. In Genesis 28:10-22, Jacob has a dream where God tells him, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (NIV). Jacob affirms his acceptance of this divine blessing, saying “the Lord will be my God” (Genesis 28:22). Before he was faced with waiting, Jacob knew that God had his back and that ultimately, his best interests would be served. Why? Because this is the character of the God he worshipped.

So instead of waiting, Jacob was anticipating. He wasn’t spending his time worrying that Rachel would never be his wife, or that seven years was a long time. Jacob anticipated the outcome rather than fretting over the delay. His waiting turned into anticipation, and despite his father-in-law’s trickery, he married Rachel.

I’m trying to turn my restless waiting into expectant anticipation. I know Who has my back, and if this opportunity is not the one for me, there will be another. I can rest in the character of the God who is faithful while I wait to see the next step.

~by Nan Kuhlman

~photo courtesy of

Parenting: A Glimpse into God’s Heart

photo courtesy of

There are many reasons people intentionally become parents – the desire to create a family, to participate in raising a child, or just to experience pregnancy and birth, as well as all the other stages. I can’t remember why I wanted to become a parent, but I’m sure it was probably a combination of all those reasons and more. As our children are now grown (the youngest is 18), I look back at all those struggles of parenting, and I realize that parenting allows us to see into God’s heart and understand a little about how the Father, Son, and Spirit feel as they parent us.

When I remember those long nights, staying up with a sick child and sometimes not well myself, I see the faithfulness of God in action. Though I was far from being omniscient, especially on little sleep, I reassured my little one that he or she would get better. I was present and attentive, and though not omnipresent, my child knew I wasn’t going to leave. This same reassurance from God sometimes comes from inside us, a certain knowing that all is well despite outward circumstances, and sometimes it comes from outside us: an offhand comment from a stranger, a song on the radio, a call from a friend, a helpful article.

When I think of difficulties and bad choices my children have made, I first think of my own parents and the suffering I put them through, and then I realize how God feels when he/she watches us make choices that will only bring more difficulty. I want to save my children from this hardship, just as I’m sure God wants to save us from our foolishness, but the best learning tool is the ability to choose. Free moral agency, they call it, and it is the basis of our world. Without it, we might not have the tragedy that sometimes happens, but we also would not have profound instances of beauty, compassion, and grace. It must be worth it in God’s eyes, so I do my best to let them make their choices, good or bad. I can’t say I’m proficient yet in not offering unwanted advice, but I am working on it.

One of my favorite Bible images comes from Matthew 23:37, where Jesus says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (NIV). Jesus wants to save them, protect them, even though they continue to make bad choices. He totally gets the mother in me, yet he moves me toward being the mother I want to be, the one who knows how to let “free moral agency” do its thing.

Parenting is our opportunity to glimpse God’s heart, to feel the pain that comes when we watch loved ones suffer or make choices that we don’t agree with and know this is the same pain that God feels as he/she watches us exercise our free moral agency in less than perfect ways. As we support and parent our children through all life’s stages, we can know the Father, Son, and Spirit support and parent us perfectly, forever faithful, present, and patient.

~by Nan Kuhlman


Opposites Attract

magnets courtesy of physics.stackexchange.comIt is said that “opposites attract,” and while we notice that working well with magnets, we don’t always see that working out in marriages or other relationships where personalities and temperaments conflict and sometimes outright oppose each other. Many Christians also struggle with guilt over recurring personal problems such as anger, pride, or other behaviors that are not life-giving, believing that they have “failed” God by still struggling with a recurring issue. To me, this stems from a lack of understanding about what God expects from us, and I am willing to assert that it isn’t moral perfection. Rather, I see the problem as an inability to believe that God is willing to include us in his Triune life in spite of our imperfections.  As a result, we are quick to judge ourselves and others, and guess what? We never measure up. One aspect of this is our inability to see the validity of others’ experiences and preferences outside our own as well as a failure to develop our own ability to create unity within or without despite differences.

As an expression of “having the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16) and as proof that we have moved past milk to meatier (i.e., more challenging) practices, Christians should consider how Jesus created unity between seemingly contradictory aspects of himself. Franciscan friar Richard Rohr offers this summary of Jesus: “human yet divine, heavenly yet earthly, physical yet spiritual, a male body yet a female soul, killed yet alive, powerless yet powerful, victim yet victor, failure yet redeemer, marginalized yet central, singular yet everyone, incarnate yet cosmic, nailed yet liberated.”

This unity between paradoxical elements in our human experience is only possible by the Holy Spirit in us. This acceptance of reality as it is, whether the contradictions are within us or outside us, requires us to participate with the Spirit (even as Jesus did), and this participation is often fueled by contemplative practices like prayer and meditation. Jesus’s prayer for his followers was not that they would be morally perfect, but it was “that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11, NIV). This oneness Jesus desired for each of us is not just relationally, though that is an important component, but also within our own hearts. Jesus is the Great Unifier, and by his life we can see that the unity he desires is both with other people and within our own hearts. By resting in our acceptance by God despite our imperfections and cultivating a contemplative awareness of the unifying Spirit within, opposites can attract and open our hearts to loving acceptance of ourselves and others.

~by Nan Kuhlman

photo courtesy of

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