Thursday, August 5

Wakeful Wednesday

"Where is God?"

That is the cry that I often hear from kids in detention as they look back at their lives. Or, "I feel closer to God in here than I do when I'm on the outs!"

This is rapidly followed by wondering why God is not present in their lives when they are at home but present here. I say to them, "It's not that God ever leaves you, but that here, you are slowed down enough to be awake to God's presence."

Slow Down.

Be awake.

Begin Again.

So our Wednesdays are going to be a pause where we can reflect on being spiritually awake to the presence of the Divine and when we feel the absence of the Divine in our spiritual sleepfulness.

This week, I want to share a bit about my Christmas Day. I went into the detention center to celebrate Christmas morning with the youth in detention. We proceeded through opening of presents and were getting towards the end. There was a young man who had recently come into detention so had been segregated for his first 24 hours. He came in and there were Christmas gifts for him. Gifts donated by fabulous Seattle area churches. The image I want to paint is of a big, young man! He opened his gifts.

Christmas in Detention
Christmas in Detention

One of the gifts was a little box with doo-dads like candies, a Bible, and a personal note. This big young man sat down with the note to read it and struggled with his reading. A staff person helped him out, reading the note to him. If you could see the compassion on her face!

After the note was read, he stood up and began to gather his stuff together. Then he stopped. He looked like someone had struck him hard enough to stun him. He paused and put his hand over his eyes and he sat back down. He took several moments to collect himself after receiving a gift of loving kindness in the most unexpected of places. He slowed down for a moment and was able to begin again.

Gift Box
Gift Box

This all happened at the back of the room while the rest of the room was bustling with kids and staff opening presents and sharing love, laughter, and joy. But for this one moment of stunning transformation aided by a caring staff witnessed by a heart-torn chaplain (that would be me!). By being awake to the movement of the spirit, I was able to witness a movement of grace.

Youth in Detention Receives Gift
Youth in Detention Receives Gift

To what have you been awake to this week?


  • I am so inspired by your post. I lead a monastery group that meets every Wednesday and we’ve missed the last two weeks with Christmas and New Years falling on Wednesdays. Since our study has been interrupted already, I wanted to do something a little different day. Your post reminded me that I have a song I’ve been wanting to teach them… a grandmother’s song that instructs us to ‘wake up!’ and I have another song for them to listen to… Being awake by Velma Frye… one I often listen to in the mornings. It has a nice beat to it so my prayer often becomes a dance. I am declaring today to be a Wakeful Wednesday for my group…

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