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Breaking Through Distractions

I burned a pot of rice the other day. The rice smelled like cigarettes. The pan took about an hour and a whole lot of Bar Keeper’s Friend to clean. Burning food is one of my wake-up calls–a pretty obvious sign that I need to start paying attention. That I am living distracted. This time, I was not distracted by anything noble. Time slipped away from me as I sat down to quickly check my email.


A while back, I burned a pot of oatmeal to a crisp because I got caught up in reading a library book that was talking about Presence. (Pause.)


I keep finding that I am easily distracted. Distracted by life. Distracted by the toys laying all over the living room floor. Distracted by my need to know things if there is something to be known. Distracted by the ever growing to-do-list. Distracted by what others think of me (or by the fact that they probably don’t think of me at all.) I am distracted by my need to define myself and to prove myself worthy. I am distracted when I look for my worth in the world around me.


Sometimes I am distracted by really good things. Important things. Like the question: “What is it exactly that I am supposed to believe about Jesus?”


When I try to figure things out, when I cannot let something rest, when I forget all about the deeper work that I am being called to, I know that I am living distracted. I am learning to recognize the symptoms.


But then what? What can I do?


I keep praying for open eyes and an open heart. It is a lot of work to live open, and sometimes it is easier to stay distracted.


I am learning to ask: “What is it that I am looking for?” Am I looking for clues to who I am? Am I looking for validation of my worth?


I am learning to remember who satisfies my soul.


God satisfies my soul in a deeper way than anything else. I’ve felt it. Experienced it. Why do I forget?


I am learning to let God define me.


I am learning to trust that God will let me know what I need to know when I need to know it.


I am learning to pray: “You are Enough.”


God is more than enough. God is everything. To glimpse God’s presence in the middle of my ordinary day is to glimpse eternity breaking through. It is participation in the Life that was and is and is to come. That Life that flows through time and connects those whose hearts hunger and long for and seek after God’s presence with us. This is Life. This satisfies. This is being awake. This is freedom.


As I exhale my prayer of “You are Enough,” it rises up out of me. I hear a whisper in return: “You are enough.”


I breathe in this Enoughness–mine and God’s–and I feel myself beginning to glimpse what it means to be whole.


“The essential religious experience is that you are being ‘known through’ more than knowing anything in particular yourself. Yet despite this difference it will feel like true knowing. . . . Such prayer, such seeing, takes away your anxiety about figuring it all out fully for yourself, or needing to be right about your formulations. At this point God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. There is Someone dancing with you, and you are not afraid of making mistakes. –” Richard Rohr, The Naked Now (That book about Presence that distracted me from my oatmeal.)





© J.L. Sanborn, 2015. All Rights Reserved.



Jessica is mom to three little-ish people and wife to a great guy. She used to do lawyer things. Now the future is wide open as she learns what it means to belong in her own feet. She writes about faith and becoming at



What Do You Belong To? A Life-or-Death Question

Jesus looked at him and loved him[1]–the earnest young man who walked away.

He looked at him–straight through him probably. Jesus saw who this man was and who he was not. He loved him. Even though he probably knew that the man couldn’t follow him. At least, not yet.

“With God nothing is impossible.”

I don’t think that we hear the end of that man’s story. Just the burning question that brought him to Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus called it the Kingdom of God. This is a here-and-now kind of kingdom. Eternal life means “the life of the ages.”

What does it take to enter into and participate in the kingdom of God?

Everything and nothing.

Everything. The cost is everything you belong to. Nothing. You don’t bring anything in with you. Just you. It is a long, hard, slow process getting down to just you.

This earnest young man could not easily leave his life–his wealth–he belonged to it.  And so he sadly walked away.

Jesus looked at him and loved him.

With God nothing is impossible.

God undoes us.

God mends us.

God is in the letting go.

It’s hard. It’s hard to let go of your belongings–the things that belong to you, the things that you belong to.

Frederick Buechner advises: “Don’t start looking in the Bible for the answers it gives. Start by listening for the questions it asks. . . ”

This story asks important questions– life-and-death questions.

What must I do?  What is keeping me from participating in God’s kingdom here and now? What is keeping me from seeing what is Real? What am I belonging to that is holding me back from God? What am I having a hard time leaving behind?

Lately, I have been learning how to belong in my feet right where I am. I am learning to belong to God. I am learning that we all belong to each other. These belongings are life-changing. Maybe we need to let go of the small belongings in our lives in order to realize and experience our true Belonging.

What are my small belongings? The ones that I need to release?

Do I belong to my roles? To my church? To my job? To my home? To the expectations of my parents? To the opinions of others?

Do I belong to the past? To mistakes that I’ve made? To slights that I’ve received? To my accomplishments?

Do I belong to my plans for the future?

Do I belong to something unknown and better that always lies just ahead–out of reach, out of sight, but coming hopefully someday? Do I belong to the time when I will finally be able to [fill in the blank]?

Do I belong to my beliefs? About who God is? About who I am? About who others are?

Am I able to walk away from these small belongings-and most of them do not seem small–if they prevent me from experiencing God, from experiencing Life in the here and now?

Jesus looks at me and loves me. He invites me to leave behind my small belongings. He invites me to come, to follow, to find out about this Life that is eternal. This Life that has been and is right now and will be.

[1] Mark 10:21 (NIV)

Just me?
Is that all you really wanted?
Not my doctrines, ideas, or words?
Not all of the amazing things I could or should be doing?
Just me?


You don’t need me to succeed?
To be stunning or fascinating?
Miraculous or right?
Just me?


Real, wide-awake life
is waiting for me to lay down the trappings,
to release all that my hands are so tightly grasping,
so I can slip though this narrow gate
that will only fit
just me.

© J.L. Sanborn, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

Jessica is mom to three little-ish people and wife to a great guy. She used to do lawyer things. Now the future is wide open as she learns what it means to belong in her own feet. She writes about faith and becoming at

This poem  arrived a while back when I was spending time with Mary and Martha’s story about receiving Jesus as their guest.  I needed the reminder today.  I also found it in Isaiah 55: “Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.”  Come.  Listen.  Live.

There is a time for busy
and doing.
But now is not that time.
Can you hear what
God has to say?
Can you hear
your heart’s reply?
Learn to recognize
the voice
that whispers
the way forward.
Know the love
that guards your soul.
The deep love holding you.
When it is time,
get up.
Attend to the tasks
that come with living.
But keep listening.
Carry that whisper,
carry that love
within you
until you can sit again.
© J.L. Sanborn, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.
Hi.  I’m Jessica and I am so thankful to take part in Janet’s blogging adventures.  I am the mother of 3 little-ish people and wife to a great guy.  I met Janet almost 2 years ago and am so thankful for that life-changing, life-giving encounter.  I used to do lawyer things, and now I get to play queen with my daughter when I’m not transporting my kids to school. I share some of my musings about faith and becoming at 


A Resurrection Story

John 11:25-26 (MSG)


“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”


I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.


Do I believe this?


A few months ago, my mom had suggested using this verse for a Lectio Divina group that we were facilitating. I glanced at the verse. Nope. Definitely not. This verse made me very, very nervous.


As soon as I nixed the verse for our group time, I knew that I needed to return and spend some extra time with it. Why was I nervous?


What in me resists these words? Maybe it is the word “believe.” Maybe it is Jesus’ I AM statement. Maybe I felt pressure to figure out the whats and abouts and hows of belief in Jesus. The pressure for everything to make sense in my head and in my heart was too much.


I read through the verse again, taking time to sit with it for a while. The phrase: “I am, right now, Resurrection and Life” resonated in my heart.


Resurrection. Life. Right now. This is happening.


Resurrection: Going from death and a dying existence to a new, waking up, Real Life. That is happening in me right now.


I used to be afraid of dying not because I was afraid of what comes after death, but because I was sure that I had not lived the life I was meant to live. God seemed distant. I felt like I was surviving rather than living, barely making it from one moment to the next. I was exhausted in soul and body. I frequently thought: “I really hope that today is not my last day, I know I’m not even close to where I am supposed to be.”


Maybe Jesus calls to the dying and the already dead in spirit: Wake Up!


I’ve felt that call.


Maybe Jesus calls to the barely living: Die to the false selves you are holding on to. Let go of the shoulds. Let go of who you think you are supposed to be. There is new life, Real Life waiting for you now.


God breathes new Life. He calls to our souls: Wake Up! Come Forth. Live.


Somehow this is all happening in me.   Maybe I shouldn’t be afraid of the hows.


Resurrection. Is that like being born again? Somehow, some of us made being born again into a decision that we make for Jesus. Like we have control in that matter. Even though Jesus said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.'” (John 3: 5-8 NIV.)


Frederick Buechner explains of these verses: “The implication seems to be that the kind of rebirth he has in mind is (a) elusive and mysterious and (b) entirely God’s doing. There’s no telling when it will happen or to whom.”[i]


I grew up at church. I was a sincere and earnest “believer” from my earliest memories. I asked Jesus to live in my heart when I was five. I still remember the moment clearly. I am thankful for my experiences and for the faith that was handed to me. But in my mid-thirties, I still needed to be born again. I even needed to die to my earlier experience and understanding of faith and God and Jesus. I needed to die to roles that I had assumed that were no longer mine to play. I have a feeling that I will need to be born again and perhaps again and again.


I don’t think I was born again when I was five. I was just learning to see with my first set of eyes. I know that it didn’t happen through a magic prayer or song. Words can’t get you there, even if they are from a sincere heart. Being born again didn’t mark the beginning of faith. I actually needed saving from the faith that I had grown into. Decisions, prayers, and faith may be part of the process of drawing us toward God, but they are not necessarily the beginning and certainly not the end of this new, waking-up, Real Life that is being born again.


This is frustrating for those of us who would like a map or a plan or some measure of control over our destinies. Can’t I just say a prayer and get on with it? What are the steps that I need to take to make this born-again thing happen?


Unlike the memory I have of asking Jesus to live in my heart, I cannot pinpoint a time and place where I was “born again.” All I know is that it is happening. Maybe we are left without a formula because–as history and religion proves–if we think there is a formula, we will try to control and manipulate it. New life emerged when I stopped clinging to the formula.


What is my part? I think it is mostly surrendering, letting go, and learning to trust. I started to experience the moreness, vastness, and nearness of God when I surrendered to my unknowingness, crying out to God “Here I am! Are you even there? I don’t know anything.”


This unknowing, unraveling, and unlearning somehow opened up my heart to a deep and rich experience of God.


New life emerged in the space created by letting go of much of my doing. I needed a time of rest, deep rest.


New life emerged as I entered into Quiet and learned how to Listen. We get to Listen! This is amazing.


Most of all, new life, Real, wide-awake life has been emerging in my heart gradually as God’s love has become real to me and I learn to trust that love.


“In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15. This isn’t a formula, but it is true. The first time that I saw this verse, I recognized my story. This is happening.


I know that getting to the point of surrender is a gift. I’m still surrendering. I’m still letting go and just starting to understand what it means to trust. I’m being remade, and I’m so very thankful. Maybe I am catching glimpses of this kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about. This is a gift that I am convinced is available to any person. (I’m not convinced of very many things.)


I know that I am a resurrection story. My story looks a little bit like these words from Isaiah 42:


I the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. . . . I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.”


This is happening. New Life is happening. Resurrection and Life are happening. Right now.


What is your resurrection story?



© J.L. Sanborn, 2015. All Rights Reserved.



Hi. I’m Jessica and I am so thankful to take part in Janet’s blogging adventures. I am the mother of 3 little-ish people and wife to a great guy. I met Janet almost 2 years ago and am so thankful for that life-changing, life-giving encounter. I used to do lawyer things, and now I get to play queen with my daughter when I’m not transporting my kids to school. I share some of my musings about faith and becoming at




[i] Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, p. 243 (Harper San Francisco 1992) .


A Baptist Discovers Lent

Growing up as a girl born Baptist, Easter was something that we celebrated with triumphant music, Easter-egg hunts, and ham. We were excited for Easter, but Easter always caught me by surprise. Maybe it snuck up on me because I never knew what day it would be falling on. I didn’t know how to look for it, except for in that brief space between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. Even then, I didn’t know what to do with that space.


I have a feeling though, that what I have been missing out on all of these years is the invitation to participate. I don’t know that I ever participated in Easter beyond waving palm branches on Palm Sunday.   We Baptists celebrated resurrection–specifically Jesus’ earthly resurrection and our future heavenly resurrection. Celebrations are good. But we were mostly celebrating something that happened a long time ago or would happen someplace other than here.


I don’t remember being invited to participate in this death and resurrection here and now.


Is that what the season of Lent is about? An invitation to participate in death and resurrection? (This is an honest not rhetorical question. This Baptist girl is still learning about rhythms and the depth of ritual.) Isn’t that what Jesus invites us to every day?


To die. To Live. To let go. To wake up. To participate in the Here-and-Now Life of the Kingdom of God.


To empty ourselves of ourselves

so we have space to receive the

Life God longs to fill us with.


Death and resurrection happen. Ashes and beauty. New life. These are happening. And we are invited to participate.


Sometimes the things that need to die are part of what we do. A few years ago, I was an attorney with three small children and huge questions about faith and vocation. Both of my roles consumed a lot of mental and emotional energy. There was little space for anything else. I knew that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, but I was afraid of letting my career go. I think God had to pry open my grasping fingers until I knew I could no longer hold onto my attorney role. It died. For now.


Space opened up. Space in my heart. Space to quiet my mind. Space to listen. New life emerged from my soul. Words started working their way into my heart and mind and out onto paper. I started to see and hear poetry. This had never happened to me before. Or if it had, I was too distracted to notice it.


Maybe it’s foolish to trade a lawyer job for poetry and words, but I don’t want to trade back. Once I felt deadish inside. I felt like I was playing an ill-fitting role. Now I feel Real. Alive. Connected to the Source of Life. Ashes and beauty are happening in me.


“New beginnings invariably come from old false things that are allowed to die.” –Richard Rohr, Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent.


This Lenten season, I am asking what else needs to go? What needs to die to make space for New Life? What is taking up unnecessary room, preventing my heart from opening fully? Some of these things are buried so deep, I can’t just drop them. But I can name them, release my grip, and trust that the Creator and Sustainer of Life will do the rest: prying these old, false things loose to make space for the new life he calls forth.


The resulting emptiness is sacred.


Maybe that is why Jesus called it “blessed.”


* * *

Sacred Empty


With empty hands
and an empty heart
I lay myself at your feet,
an exhausted, empty heap.
Empty of words.
Empty of plans.
Empty of Amazing
or Courage or
Daring Doing.
And instead of
“You should”s
And instead of
“Why aren’t you”s
You place your hand
gently on my head
and whisper
Deep into my heart:
Blessed in my sacred empty,
I rest.




© J.L. Sanborn, 2015. All Rights Reserved.


Hi. I’m Jessica and I am so thankful to take part in Janet’s blogging adventures. I am the mother of 3 little-ish people and wife to a great guy. I met Janet almost 2 years ago and am so thankful for that life-changing, life-giving encounter. I used to do lawyer things, and now I get to play queen with my daughter when I’m not transporting my kids to school. I share some of my musings about faith and becoming at






On Waking


I wonder if the power of the Scripture’s stories is not that they happened once upon a time, but that they happen. They have happened; they are happening; and they will happen. Like the story about Jesus taking the hand of the dead/sleeping girl and saying: “My child, get up!” Wake up. Wake up. Live right now. This is happening.


The western horizon gathers all of the day’s remaining color, suspending it in a breathtaking array of pink, orange, and red. I sit mesmerized as we travel across the flat Minnesota farmland offering a view of sky that I am not privileged to enjoy often.   While the sun settles beyond the western horizon every evening, this particular display is a once-in-a-lifetime event. This particular sunset will not happen again. And I get to witness it.


As the color disappears from the sky and the light disappears from my particular patch of the earth, the sky transforms into a window with a view spanning millions of miles and millions of years back. I find myself looking up at the same stars that captured Galileo, that guided travelers and sailors centuries before Jesus was born, that flickered brightly when the dinosaurs reigned. The stars show me my place in the scheme of things. Miniscule.   As Rumi said, “One brushstroke down”


The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. ~ Psalm 19:1-2.


No wonder my heart is drawn to the sky.


Reminders like these–the preciousness of a particular moment in time, the vastness of the world around me, the depth of history, and the moreness of the One who holds all these things together–call to my soul: Wake up! Wake up! Live right now.


Each day is a “precious gift, with an unspeakable mysterious value. . . . When it comes to time, the moment, the hour, and the day, one cannot replace one time period with another. Each day is unique and irreplaceable.”[1]

Sometimes I remember this, but most often I seem to get lost in the routine that becomes my way of daily life. I grow weary from lack of sleep, from trying to plan a meal that will please picky palates, from crunching on cereal spilled on the floor, from playing referee while my children bicker and harass one another, from the quick undoing of every chore I attempt to accomplish. Sometimes the cyclical sameness of my days lulls me into thinking that this is just how it is and that every day will be like today.


But last week, we removed the step-stools from the bathrooms. My baby no longer needs them. And after nine years, my closet is now emptied of its supply of baby gift-bags to recycle. I will need to buy new gift bags for the new babies I greet.


Today, my daughter’s four-year-old frame fits perfectly against mine as she snuggles in my lap. But for how long? Time marches. And we march along with it, whether we are aware of it or not.


May my finiteness always be before me, so every breath is one of thanks and grace and love–a call to my soul: Wake up! Wake up! Live right now.


And while it is easy to get lost in this circular nature of living, this repetition can also bring me to an awareness of holy: We get to repeat because we are alive. Each day has a gift for us and us for it. Eyes opened to the holiness of moments, I can find gifts in the act of washing my floor, or cleaning my closet, or in chopping vegetables for dinner.


Slicing into a beautiful, red tomato picked from my garden, my heart is drawn to the mystery of all the life-potential held in a small seed and the magic of dirt and sun and rain. These tomatoes are extra special. They remind me of who I come from. They grow from seeds I harvested from my Opa’s tomatoes, which grew from seeds he had been harvesting for longer than I have been alive. As the knife opens up the red tomato flesh and seeds spill onto my cutting board, I give thanks for my Opa who loved the dirt and tomatoes and making things grow.


Most often, when I stand at my stove making dinner, I am wondering why I have to make dinner Every Single Day for people who would be happier eating chicken patties from the freezer aisle. But when I remember that my mom also made dinner every single day and that this is what people have been doing since they discovered fire, I find my place again. We care for our loved ones; we feed them. It is holy work, feeding your loved ones. Making dinner becomes an offering of thanks-as I take my place and my turn feeding those I love. Making dinner becomes a holy call to my soul: Wake up! Wake up! Live right now.


Most mornings, I have a hard time waking up. My eyes open. I think about getting out of bed. And then I fall back to sleep for another 30 minutes or so. It takes a lot to drag my body out of bed. Sometimes, I feel like this is happening to my soul. It is catching glimpses of the Moreness that gives life and holds life together, and then it falls back to sleep. But it is waking.


My prayer for this year is: Open. There is so much that goes into that. But I pray that my eyes and mind and heart and hands would be open. Open to holy moments and the preciousness of days. Open to the call to wake up. Open to the call to Live right now.


~ Jessica


© J.L. Sanborn, 2015. All Rights Reserved.


Hi.  I’m Jessica and I am so thankful to take part in Janet’s blogging adventures.  I am the mother of 3 little-ish people and wife to a great guy.  I met Janet almost 2 years ago and am so thankful for that life-changing, life-giving encounter.  I used to do lawyer things, and now I get to play queen with my daughter when I’m not transporting my kids to school. I share some of my musings about faith and becoming at 


[1] Karl Rahner, The Mystical Way in Everday Life, p. 190.


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