Creative Space: Day 6 by Jeff Tacklind

I’m both fascinated and flummoxed by inspiration.  At times it comes rushing in like a river, and other times feels bone dry.  Writers and artists have all sorts of different means of tapping into their creativity.  Some are structured and regimented, others whimsical and even superstitious.  I find myself somewhere in between. 


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Day 37: Quiet by Jeff Tacklind

“Those who love their own noise are impatient of everything else. They constantly defile the silence of the forests and the mountains and the sea. They bore through silent nature in every direction with their machines, for fear that the calm world might accuse them of their own emptiness.” Thomas Merton

We live in a noisy world, don’t we?  Noise is like the air we breathe. It is always there, like a constant buzz. It is white noise.  Soon the chatter and disruption becomes almost soothing. We don’t even realize how overstimulated our minds have become. 

Until we are quiet, even for a moment.  And in the pause the silence overwhelms us.  We fidget.  We want it to stop.

My friend, Chris, who is also our worship leader, often pauses at the end of the final song on Sunday mornings.  He waits.  He listens.  The whole church goes silent.

And you can slowly feel the stress level rise.  “What are we supposed to be doing?”  “Why the pause?”  Sometimes people will even shout out a praise or prayer.  Nothing wrong with that…but I wonder if it is sometimes just to break the awkward silence.  To bring relief by filling the ominous void of dead space.

But the space isn’t dead.  This is where we hear the still, small voice.  And if we lean in to the silence, if we persevere through our discomfort, there are all kinds of gifts and invitations that quiet brings. 

Noise allows us to divert our attention away from emotions and anxieties that are begging to be felt and heard.  When we tune them out, they don’t disappear or even fade away.  They lurk.  They find residence within us.  And they do their best to steal our attention.  They present themselves as fear, or anger, or impatience.  They cause stress and keep us from being present.

When we enter into silence, we are invited to listen to our hearts.  We become aware of all the noise, the disruptions, the worries.  And one by one, we hold them before God.  We show him ourselves.  It is painfully vulnerable, but vulnerability miraculously destroys shame.  It allows us to be seen.  To be loved.

My favorite part of Lent has become our evening services.  Chris and I get to work with John Schreiner on the structure and content. John is an orchestrator.  He curates a service.  They are beautiful, deep, thoughtful, and quiet.  The pace slows.  His piano playing is so rich.  There is room in the service to listen and hear. It is sacred space.

Every week, I find myself wrestling with some logistical or technical  issue immediately before the service starts.  I’m sweating a bit.  I’m frustrated.  But it always comes together just before we start.  As I take the microphone and begin, I feel the pace of my heart beating too fast.  As I prepare us for a time of contemplation, I am painfully aware of just how badly I need it myself. 

These services have been wonderful times of refreshment for me.  It usually takes several readings or songs before I feel God’s presence.  But when I do…everything in me breathes a sigh of relief.  That comforting presence carries with it the assurance that all shall be well.

This last Sunday, our final Lent service for the year, was probably my favorite.  As we finished communion, I went up on stage.  I paused.  And then I closed with a blessing.  And no one moved.  Seriously.  Everyone just sat there.

I had a brief moment of panic.  Maybe I wasn’t clear.  “You are dismissed.”  Still no one moved.  And it finally dawned on me…no one wants to leave.  When God’s presence falls like that, it is so moving.  I could see tears in many people’s eyes.  I could see the calm on each face.  God is here.

I love that statement of Jacob… “Surely God was here and I knew it not.”  Which is why we must pause.  Otherwise we miss it.It is why we need moments where all the sound and words have ceased.  Where we listen.  Where our hearts are seen.  By us and by God.  I’ve treasured these times where I’ve experienced the quiet presence of God in my Lenten journey this year.  To be in that presence is such a wonderful gift.

 “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)


Day 21: Being Known by Jeff Tacklind

Last night I had dinner with one of my favorite people.  His name is Father Francis and he is a Benedictine priest and lives at St. Andrews Abbey in Valyermo.  He was visiting some friends here in Laguna, and Patty and I were able to enjoy a beautiful meal with a man that is becoming a dear friend.

Afterwards Patty mentioned the deep sense of peace she felt with him.  It came out in the way he spoke.  It was a sense of calm underlying his responses, even when the subjects were points of tension or concern.  There was such a lack of defensiveness, even when handling delicate or controversial matters of faith.  And when responding to potential areas of confusion or doubt, his response was almost whimsical.  There was a lightness to him.  A playfulness.  A deep sense of joy.

We talked about the Benedictines…how they deeply value community, counsel, and respect for all persons.  They live each day in the practice of hospitality.  Often Benedictines stand at the door to the sanctuary and greet each person entering with the phrase, “Thank God you’ve come.”

Francis has lived at Valyermo for over 40 years.  He came when he was 19 and he’ll one day be buried in the cemetery at the top of their hill.  I love that spot.  It is one of the most quiet places on earth.  It is sacred ground.  Walking amongst the gravestones you feel the stability of the ones who have remained, who have grown deep roots.

True peace takes years and years to cultivate.  Edwin Friedman refers to it as non-anxious presence.  And the prerequisite for it is self-differentiation, or in simpler terms, knowing oneself.  Who you are.  Who you aren’t. 

Whenever I travel to the abbey (which is often, but not often enough) I am usually wrestling with one or the other.  Who am I?  Who am I not?  Two sides of the same coin.  What is my identity?  My identity in Christ?  What is my true vocation?  My true self?  Where am I hiding?  What are my facades?

Self-discovery is powerful and meaningful, and often humbling.  It makes us vulnerable.  It exposes our hearts.  My deepest longing is to be able to receive the love of God in that place of vulnerability, without pretense or self-protection.  I have a long way to go.

But there has been a consistent voice for the last several years when I stay at the Abbey.  I’ll be eating breakfast in silence.  Quiet and still.  Slowly waking up.  Preparing for the day ahead.  And I’ll hear the voice behind me whisper, “I know you.”

And I turn around, and there’s Father Francis.  Full of such grace and peace.  A heart warm, like a fire.  Non-anxious presence.  I can’t help but want to draw close.  To warm my own heart.

That phrase gets me every time.  It touches a deep longing.  My heart leaps.  There is such tenderness in the words.  When he says it, I hear the whisper of God’s voice.  And my own heart opens just a little bit more.  To be known is so powerful.  It is such a vulnerable gift. 

Living in that place takes faith.  I experience this peace only for brief moments.  But slowly it is starting to stick.  I’m beginning to speak more honestly.  To stand a bit straighter.  To release worry and self-criticism.  To allow myself to just be who God made me to be.  That is true self-differentiation.

Francis visited our prayer room yesterday.  What a joy to have him here.  We’re going to have him speak soon at our church, and I’ll be sure to let you all know ahead of time.  As I walked up the stairs to greet him, I was so encouraged to see so many in our church already enjoying the warmth and peace he brings. 

As I entered and gave him an embrace he held me tight and whispered, “I know you.” 


“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.”

Psalm 139:1-6

Day 20: Disorientation by Jeff Tacklind

Today, honestly, I feel empty. It feels like the sauna door has been left open too long and my heart feels tepid.  Room temperature.  It feels like I have so little to give.

Which makes me worry.  Because my self-perceived value is so tied to feeling strong.  Without emotional energy I feel vulnerable.  I risk being exposed.  I become ordinary.  Flawed. 

Because confidence is what we find attractive, right?  Neediness is not.  It takes energy to speak with authority.  It takes emotional reserves to be present and to lead.  At least it does for me.  Without energy, I’m always one step away from saying something I’ll regret.

There are days like this.  Seasons sometimes.  My week feels cluttered.  I can’t find the patterns and connections that give life its clarity and meaning.  I am bouncing between meetings and appointments and am getting to the end of the day feeling disoriented and even a little noxious.

What I need is retreat.  But sometimes retreat is a luxury I can’t afford.  There simply isn’t the space for it. I probably need better boundaries.  But often those boundaries are unrealistic.  Sometimes you just need to toughen up a bit. 

Part of the desert experience is aimlessness.  It involves wandering.  Questions remain unanswered.  Needs are met with silence.  God rarely acts in accordance with my self-interest.  There is a greater plan, I know.  But apparently it is on a need to know basis, and I don’t need to know.

One of my favorite places to turn to on days like this is to the Psalms.  There are Psalms written for every season, be it worship and praise, trust and faith, and even lament.  The theologian, Walter Bruggeman, talks about the importance of the Psalms of disorientation in his book Spirituality and the Psalms.  Psalms of disorientation are honest, raw, and ragged.  They are often Psalms of complaint.  They refuse to minimize the sufferings in life.

Bruggeman writes,

“The dominant ideology of our culture is committed to continuity and success and to the avoidance of pain, hurt, and loss. The dominant culture is also resistant to genuine newness and real surprise. It is curious but true, that surprise is as unwelcome as is loss. And our culture is organized to prevent the experience of both.”

Isn’t this true?  The work of avoidance describes so much of what robs me of my emotional energy.  And the rest of it is spent trying to control what cannot be controlled.  The desert is a place for releasing these illusions and accepting that today is what it is.  It is often the end of our rope.  And, as Dallas Willard says, that is God’s address.

And though God is often silent in these moments, He will often draw near.  He reminds me that this, too, will pass.  That my tendency to place personal value on what I do or say is unnecessary, and, in fact, a waste of time.  And that tomorrow brings with it the newness of reorientation.  Finding my way back. 

And usually that way back is a surprise.  It comes in unlooked for, in a way that I’m not anticipating.  And, as a result, I see something new.  And in the newness comes the return of hope.  Because in the desert, God gets bigger.  And somehow, through it all, so do I.


Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Day 18:  Introverted Conversations by Jeff Tacklind

So, there have been quite a few books written lately on introverts, and I, for one, want to say “thank you” to these brave authors who are navigating new waters.  Thank you for explaining that the need for quiet is not a personal rejection of others.  Thank you for clarifying that an unreturned phone call is not apathy or indifference, but instead the result of an emotionally empty fuel tank.  And thank you for advocating that there is value in letting introverts withdraw.  Because quiet is where we dive down into the deep waters.

Being both an introvert and a pastor has been challenging at times.  Although I’m wired more relational than task, I can only go for so long, socially.  I’m like Cinderella at the ball.  Come midnight, things are going to get awkward. 

Alone time is how I recharge.  Sometimes it’s surfing.  Sometimes journaling.  Usually it involves good coffee.  And, almost always, it involves some reading.  And not just one book.  I usually am reading five.  One from each of my genres…challenging, deep, inspiring, formational, and educational.  Together they form a conversation, a chorus, interacting and debating with each other.  I love it. 

So much of what I learn happens in surround sound.  And various authors and diverse voices adds a profound complexity.  There is a synergy to it.  I hear God’s voice in their harmonizing.

So here’s who I’m reading right now.

I Asked for Wonder, by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Seriously, run, don’t walk, and go buy this.  Overnight it.  I told my friend, Joey, today that if he can’t afford it, he should steal it.  This book is filled with such poetic, mystical brilliance and wisdom from one of the world’s most profound Rabbi’s.  For example,

“…Awareness of God does not come by degrees from timidity to intellectual temerity;

It is not a decision reached at the crossroads of doubt.

It comes when, drifting in the wilderness,

            having gone astray,

we suddenly behold the immutable polar star.

Out of endless anxiety,

Out of denial and despair,

The soul bursts out in speechless crying.”

See what I mean? 

Next…Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

Don’t you love her?!  If not, I’m not sure we can be friends.  I’ve read this book before, but now that I’m seriously giving writing a shot, this book has been just the reassurance and self-deprecation that I need.  Anne is fearless, hilarious, and full of her own brutally honest struggles.  She’s a gift.

We Stood Upon Stars, by Roger W. Thompson

I’ve sort of stalked this guy for years.  He was a former roommate of one of my best friends, Billy.  When he started a surf clothing brand, we all wore his South Jetty shirts.  When he built a skate park, we’d take our youth group kids up to Skate Street in Ventura.  We watched the surf films he made with Walking on Water, and now that he’s writing books, I’ve read them both.  Well, I’m in the middle of his second.  It is a book of stories that follow his travels and journeys throughout California and Montana, with a few other locals thrown in (like Baja).  Roger is a fly fisherman and a surfer.  He writes beautifully.  Every once in a while I find myself thinking, “I wish I’d written that.”

His writing is light and playful, and also poignant and true.  Like this,

“None of this would have happened if we had followed recommendations of how to move on.  This feels more like moving through.  Tunneling through grief to some secret shore that we alone will share.  We plant a flag together.  Slow walks with hands held along the water is a bond for cracks in a marriage.  And like the place where two broken pieces are joined by glue, the crack becomes the strongest point.”

By the way, he’s speaking at my church in May.  I can’t wait for you Lagunans to get to hear his voice.

Centuries of Meditation, by Thomas Traherne

The two endorsements on my copy are by C.S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers. Lewis says, “I could go on quoting from Centuries of Meditation forever.”  Not bad. 

Traherne was an Anglican country priest and a poet, not credited with his brilliant work until long after his death.  He has been compared to Whitman or Gerard Manley Hopkins.  For instance,

“You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.

Force of Nature: Mind, Body, Soul, and of course, Surfing, by Laird Hamilton

This one my wife bought for me.  It isn’t necessarily one you’d choose for spiritual depth, but then again, you might be surprised.  I’m totally enjoying it.  It covers the gamut, from eating, to exercise, to life goals and philosophies, and surfing.  Laird is such a phenomenal athlete, but also a powerful advocate for living the abundant life.  I may never have his physique or surf massive Teahupoo, but I’m loving his voice added to the conversation.  He tells Heschel and Traherne, sure, you’re smart, but can you surf?

So what are you reading?  What authors are you conversing with?  Introverted or extroverted, we need these guides and companions to push us, comfort us, and correct us.  I’d love to hear who is inspiring you?