Holy Interupptions


When I was in the 1st or 2nd grade I heard the mother of my friend tell all of us in her Sunday school class that prayer was simply talking to God. She went on to tell us that each morning while getting ready in the bathroom, she would talk to God. So of course, I imagined a women putting on her makeup, brushing her hair, and having a two-way conversation with God. Great right?

Few weeks later, I’m spending the night with my friend, whose mother was our Sunday school teacher. Early that morning, I hear her in the bathroom so I sneak down the hall to give a listen. Guess what I heard. A woman talking to herself. She was praying, but my little 8-year-old heart was so disappointed to think that God didn’t talk to her every morning so I could hear too!

Now I’m much older, and I’ve learned that prayer is indeed something we do much more for our own hearts than it is something we do to inform God of exactly what we need.

But what is my challenge now? Now it’s learning to see prayer as something I do continually and not something that serves as a distraction to my already full day. 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, Paul says two words in the midst of a short letter. He says we should, “Pray Continually.” What does this even mean? The only thing I do continually is breathe. Should prayer be as constant as breathing? Well the answer is yes…and no, but really yes.

Prayer should serve as continual interruption. It sits as a line of communication that is always open, always ready for us to engage with our Heavenly Father in a way that keeps us with him. Abiding with him. In his presence. I like that word, interruption. There’s some baggage there, let’s unpack it.

Last year I spent a long weekend with some Trappist Monks in the mountains of Georgia. Strange sentence, right? Let’s just say that I was in a place of my life that both allowed the margin to do such a thing and the curiosity to meet some very new and different friends.

In my time there I tried my best to observe the 7 set-in-stone prayer times throughout the day. I’d arise at 4:30am, then head back to bed while they ate breakfast, then come back at 7am for morning mass. We’d meet again for mid-day prayers at 12:15pm, gather for prayers before dinner at 5:20pm and finally compline, the last prayers of the day at 7:30pm.

In my few days with the monks I learned that prayer served as not the interruption to their lives, but as the life itself. The tasks of the day, the meals, the sleep (albeit very small quantities of it) served as the distractions to their real ambition. Prayer.

Sure, I could have walked away concerned with my own shallowness and lack of time or awareness to pray 7 times a day. Instead, I walked away with a great appreciation for the act of stopping. Our brothers and sister in Christ have called this the Divine Office, or the Daily Office for centuries. That moment when we stop, we listen, we engage, we read his Word aloud, we write what He impresses on our hearts, and we pray.

If we don’t make this Daily Office, this stop, happen; then God has a way of forcing us to. Almost 10 years ago I sat at the foot of my newborn daughters hospital bed praying for her health. It did not look good, things had been terrible. Easily the worst day of my life was watching my 5-day-old daughter stop breathing. I sat in that uncomfortable hospital rocker and prayed. I repeated the words to the song, “Mighty is the Power of the Cross.” Over and over the words to this song played in my heart.

In that moment, in that hospital room I watched my daughter struggle to make it in the world. I prayed myself to a point, where my prayers begin to change. The prayer of what the power of the cross meant for the physical well being of my daughter, began to be prayers of thankfulness for what the Cross meant to myself. Those prayers for my daughter begin to be prayers to God for what he had already done.

The interruption in my life changed me. My daughter she would recover, it would be a miracle that just a few days later we would walk out with that kid. Yes, God moved in her body, he healed her symptoms, and we are thankful. But this Father… I’m thankful for the interruption. Today I dare you to let yourself be interrupted. Learn to see the moments where you can stop, listen, and engage with a Father God that has pursued you even when you didn’t deserve it.

Praying Continually. He wants you with him always. It is my prayer that you let God interrupt you enough to remind you that he wants to know you, He wants you abiding with Him, He wants to see you changed through your knowledge of Him.

What is home anyway?

Home Again, Home Again

BY: Starr Cliff

I have a really great life. A perfect life? No. I have certainly had heartache and loss; but I know God as healer and redeemer probably better than I know him in any other way, and he has been good to oversee my pain and certainly never waste it. Bumps in the road not withstanding, I really do get way down in my gut that my life is enviable. It humbles me. A good, good man who loves me.  Healthy kids.  Never missed a meal.  A family in Oklahoma who would do anything for me.

The one “hang up” and pity-party I keep revisiting in my adulthood, in spite of a full and joy-filled life, is my kids not being able t0 experience a strong sense of “hometown.” The crazy hometown pride, here’s where I from, it defines me in so many ways, I love it in spite of it’s flaws, yes please dress me in my high school colors 20 years later, that kind of home.  They may never feel about anywhere the way I feel about Oklahoma, because they’ve never been anywhere long enough.   And yes, that’s our bad. We did it. We keep moving them around the country.  Sometimes planned and exciting, sometimes unplanned and heartbreaking, but always landing somewhere where we eventually say, “Oh.  Yeah.  We get it now.  We trust you, Lord, with our whole lives. Thank you.”

So, my kids not having a home town, it’s a small grievance in an otherwise pretty charmed life.

I think I’m finally ready to let go of that heartache.  Here’s this burden Lord, I don’t want to carry it anymore. It’s time.  Now is the time partly because, let’s face it, my kids are age 13, 11, and 9. The one-hometown-for-their-whole-life ship has sailed. It ain’t happenin’ honey.

But also because the Lord has seen fit that now is the time for him to shine a gentle but very bright spotlight on my heart, and reveal the discontent there.  In short…he moved me to a military town.  So I have been given the precious chance of watching a handful of  families be moved, uprooted, have plans changed and changed again, all at the mercy of some higher up in an office somewhere sending them off to wherever the paperwork says to go.  They do it with joy and peace. They do it accepting the heartache that comes with saying goodbye, but without bitterness. If they feel a sense of loss over “home”, it’s not in a way that steals their joy.

So, this life of never being in one place long enough to lay down roots? It’s not the script we would have written.  But it’s okay.  Better than okay.  As I give up that wish and just go ahead and try and accept with joy that I didn’t get my way, I can more clearly see all the benefits of this life we’ve lived.

A friend once told me that my kids were “well on their way to becoming unflappable.”  It makes me tear up as I realize how true that is, and that I couldn’t have given them that gift with the life I would have planned had I been in charge. They’ve earned their grit the same way we have.  I’m grateful.

And I hope for them that someday they can process whatever heartache and unfulfilled wished-for-things they encounter in their own lives, and find the beauty in it.

So, you are all my witnesses that I am fully accepting this life of ours with joy: Dallas.  Lubbock.  Georgia.  And now, Lord willing for a good long while, Tennessee. I’m glad for the lessons, love, and beauty found in all of those places.



“Home is wherever I’m with you.”  A cliche by now, but also the God’s honest truth.  Home is the place that’s safe.  Home is where you are known, loved, celebrated, and accepted.  And we’ve always, always had that.  Always will.

A Sincere Response to No

BY: Starr Cliff

Ever seen a stubborn kid throw a fit about not getting his way?  Quite a scene, right?

I can’t quote him exactly, but a few Sundays ago our pastor said something along the lines of “Our response to ‘No’ is a measure of our maturity. How we feel and act when our expectations are not met reveals our self-righteousness.”


I love when a truth about my relationship with Father God parallels so well with the relationship I have with my own children. Seeing a spiritual truth play out in my parenting helps me better grasp the truth of it in my own personal responses to God.

One of the greatest joys I experience as a mom is when my kids obey joyfully. It communicates so much about trust, and right relationship,  and contentment.

When my child can handle “no” without throwing a fit,  it makes me more likely to trust him with a “yes” down the road. I know he can be trusted in more mature situations (sleep-overs,  parties,  technology) when being told “no” to those things doesn’t leave him undone. He is viewing things with the proper, healthy perspective when not being able to have whatever that “thing” may be doesn’t leave him flailing. If I tell a kid to turn off a video game and he does it happily, great! If I tell him to turn off a video game and he pouts and panics, or even just quietly ignores me,  he’s probably on the road to giving that game an unhealthy place in his life (or in stronger terms, making that game an idol).

Likewise,  what is my response when feeling like I need to put down something in my own life? Do I sometimes quietly ignore prompts from the Father to quit doing something? To start doing something? You bet I do. Because just like my children, I don’t like no.  I think I know best.  And ignoring prompts from the Father messes with the relationship.  It’s not a severed relationship; God doesn’t stop loving me just like I don’t stop loving my children. But in both cases it makes for a petulant, unhappy child.  In my experience as a mom, unhappy petulant children can’t do much other than just be unhappy and petulant.  They miss out.  There is joy to be had, but they miss it.

There’s also a trust issue at hand, right? If my child is mature and accepts my love and care for him,  he can more readily accept my “no”. He wants what he wants,  sure,  but our relationship doesn’t become undone when he hears my “no” because he trusts that I must have a reason. He can experience disappointment while simultaneously trusting that I’m doing what’s best for him.  (Well, at least what I think best within my my limited,  human frailty and understanding. When God says “No”, I can trust in His perfection.)

I have been told “no” by God, and it’s hard.  Painful stuff.  Trust, contentment, maturity — the absence or presence of all those things are on grand display and it’s not always pretty.  The “no” that I received wasn’t a command or a nudging in a certain direction, or a decision I got to make for myself; but instead it was out of my hands and in the form of friendships that didn’t play out how I wanted, jobs I didn’t get to keep, and places I didn’t get to live.  When I see those circumstances in my life as directed by the hand of a loving, caring, perfect Father, they are still painful but not nearly as much so.  I trust him.  His plan is better than mine.

The more I seek relationship with God, the more I believe that He is the author of the story of my life, and the more I experience of His faithfulness, the more I can accept that “no” is always for my good and His glory.

Look for a purpose in the pain that “no” can bring.  It’s there.  He doesn’t waste anything.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4




BY: Starr Cliff

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. -Colossians 3:12

Some thoughts, of late, on kindness.

To “be nice” is a very different thing that showing great kindness. Excerpt from a post exploring this idea: “…kindness emerges from someone who’s confident, compassionate and comfortable with themselves…..At the root of extreme niceness, however, are feelings of inadequacy and the need to get approval and validation from others.”  So much worth for me in exploring the true intent of the energy I spend in my words and interactions with others.  More thoughts here.

People won’t always know what to do with your acts of kindness. They might mistrust your motives, or think you are being weird. That’s okay. Do kind acts anyway. Say kind words anyway.

An easy practice:  If you think something nice about someone, SAY IT. Both to them, and to others. If you think something unkind/unflattering/ugly about someone, don’t.  Don’t say it. To them or to others.

I so want to raise kind, caring children.  It starts by figuring out how to teach them to be kind to one another, and frankly, we can use some work there.  It’s always hardest to be kind to those under the same roof it seems.

I was cleaning out a file cabinet this week, and was reminded of a handwritten note I got from a hard-nosed history teacher when I was in 11th grade.  It was short but heartfelt, congratulating me on a performance in a high school play.  In retrospect, that little note really mattered to me. (Duh.  It’s been 20 years and I can still practically recite it.)  I had thought in high school that maybe I was “sorta becoming okay at this drama thing”, but that simple note made me feel like I was really good at something.  How easy would it have been for him to leave that note unwritten or those kind thoughts unshared?  WRITE THE NOTE PEOPLE.  You can’t know how it might matter to someone.


Rethinking Behavior Modification


By: Starr Cliff

It has hit me in a new way recently,  that of the four people in that photo right there,  I can only modify the behavior of exactly one of them. Me. I can shape,  nudge,  model,  correct and discipline those other three,  but ultimately it’s up to each of those human hearts how they will act and what words they will say.

I’m trying to be ever mindful of the following: When I start to feel like there is not enough gentleness in this house,  rather than trying to figure out how to make my kids lose a bad attitude… maybe I just need to spend that energy on myself. On the self-control and prayer and consistency that it takes to be gentle in the midst of harshness. When I worry my kids are being selfish,  with their time,  their energy, their stuff – maybe instead of discussions and lectures about self sacrifice, maybe they just need to see me get up off the couch and serve with a happy heart. Choose a game with them over Facebook. Read a book with them instead of watch TV. That’s so much harder for me than just having a conversation (let’s be honest, lecture) about behavior, but so much more effective.

To teach my children kindness, I must use kind words. Not lectures about being kind. To teach them gentleness, I must actually be gentle. Not nag them to stop being hard on each other. And some days that seems like an impossibility. With a day full of “that’s my spot”, “you took my glass “, “it’s my turn”……… I finally explode “ENOUGH! WE WILL NOT YELL AT EACH OTHER IN THIS HOUSE!”

Modeling behavior really is everything, isn’t it? I know, intellectually I mean, that to speak harshly and loudly to my kids when they are being disrespectful to each other makes zero sense.To rant and rail at how horrified I am at the level of disrespect in our home does not bring down the tension level. Not even a teeny bit.And yet…. Sigh.

I’m grateful that my kids are quick to forgive, and we can even laugh about those ironic outbursts later, but I’m ready for them to happen a whole lot less.

Creating a peaceful, happy home.  It really does begin and end with a peaceful, happy mama.

image (1)

NYC Christmas Day 2014