a whole world of people hoping

globeOn Mondays, I try to write personal posts. People say they like them best, although I’m not completely sure. They are hard for me. It was never what I intended, but it is intertwined with proximity. Sometimes… the biggest thing that prevents us from moving into closeness to renewal is ourselves.


I fell in a mud puddle at school last Friday. My pant legs were brown, like poop a kid pointed out, and I had to sit like that the last one and half hours of the day.

The month of March clings stubbornly to winter, the glimpses of spring small. Honestly, that is what I feel like, and it is often what I feel like. It isn’t pretty. I feel gray and cold and hard, with brown pant legs.

It’s a frozen that hurts. Like sitting in church feels like torture, because I don’t want to sing. And getting up feels impossible sometimes. There is a lot tedium in my life and lot of movement in the people around me. Being faithful feels impossible.


I read my old journals sometimes, I have never felt such persistent doubt and insecurity enfold me. They choke the life out of me. Sometimes I feel like I am battling so deeply with satan. He keeps pulling me, pulling me down. Then a little crack of sun pours in and I detect joy, but soon the gray seeps again. That is what my mind and my heart do. And it is a fight every day.

I know I have to get up. I have people that are counting on me, little people. Not getting up, is not an option, it never will be.


I realize that I have forgotten to ask God for help, because really I’m kind of mad at him, for leaving me like this so often. Even though I know it is not his fault. I crack open the tiniest piece of my heart…

it is there so clear. That is why we have to do the proximity thing. It makes us get up. It is the purpose, however small and insignificant. I know not only little people are counting on me, but there is a whole world of people hoping.


There is always a need we can meet.

I understand that is why I write proximity. It is what has kept me breathing.

All I am left to pray is scratched in my journal from a decade ago…

Summon out what I should be, somehow God. 


I want to hold this close, but it is too much a part of me right now. It’s a sensitive thing… and I wonder if others struggle with one thing that seems to continually bring them down. What is that thing that helps that gray clear for you?


Drawing Up in Proximity

171The Roosevelt Monument in Washington D.C. 

169Let us bend our hearts

to the needs of those that surround us on every side. 

170There are people and places we need to remember,

help us draw up in proximity to them Lord. 


Teach us to be humble enough to work together.

To Listen. To seek to make a difference. 

if your mad, put a monocle on it.


Summer Break + Kids = Dunder Mifflin Paper Explosion.


Here is a “mad book” Ellie made for us this summer. If we get mad we can draw whatever we want in this journal. Whatever… but she did have a suggestion. The suggestion is to draw a monocle on one of the puppies on each page. Yes reasonable, if you are mad draw a monocle on a puppy.


If you like then you wanna put a ring on it…

If your mad then you wanna put a monocle on it…


We also have a Judy Moody Not Bummer Summer Chart… to be exact

An Ellie Van Engen Mega Rare Not Bummer Summer Chart.


I took a Spiderman quiz the other day.

With SpiderMan’s great power comes what? 

a. danger         b. great responsibility    c. being famous


For some reason this coloring book quiz question struck me.

Great responsibility.

We have a great responsibility to be all that God asks us to be.

To whom much is given, much is required.


We were given a great responsibility because God designed us to be more.

I think we were gifted great power when we stepped into the grace of Christ.

Let’s pray each day to take up that power with the reverence of great responsibility.

Whether that means parenting to our fullest for the day given us, working at our jobs or placing ourselves in the proximity of renewal where we can make a difference.


For the days that great responsibility leads to mad, just put a monocle on it and move forward.

What are you going to draw a monocle on today? I’m drawing mine over the paper explosion that is my house! 

Kneeling with Giants

download (2)

Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers

Kneel is my one word for 2013. I had the opportunity to meet professor and author Gary Neal Hansen through Chad R. Allen’s blog. I was really blessed by his book. I’m so excited to introduce it to you and hear some great insight from Gary.

Reading this book was like taking a whole course in prayer and leaving with your faith inspired and challenged.

His book searches the lives of historical figures and their approach to prayer. I think it’s so easy to get into the habit of prayer being in terrible moments, or when nodding off to sleep. Really, prayer is so much more.


Gary Neal Hanson shares:  

1. Which form of prayer did you find most helpful in your own spiritual journey?

It is very hard to pick just one as most helpful, since in one way or another all have helped me.  However, when I was about 16 a Young Life leader got me to read Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God, and it shaped me deeply.  This 17th century Carmelite monk developed the discipline of remembering constantly that he was in the presence of God, and that sparked a rich and constant conversation with God inside his heart and mind. As a kid who had just come to a new relationship with Christ this was really helpful, and it laid a foundation for the rest of my prayer life.  Little did I realize Brother Lawrence’s little book was basically an excellent accessible example of the teachings of another Carmelite from a century earlier — St. Teresa of Avila.  There’s a chapter on her in my book.

2. I loved Appendix 2 practical ways to practice each form of prayer. Why do you think prayer can be such a hard form of worship for Christians?

Actually I think it is kind of strange that Christians seem to think prayer should be easy. What in life that really matters, with the potential to remake your life from the ground, up is easy? Marriage? Parenting? Work that you are really called to?  Everything weighty takes a whole lot of effort, and prayer is the most weighty thing of all.

Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking it ought to be easy by saying it is just talking to someone you love.  But it’s still counter-intuitive: when you are new to praying it can seem like the entire relationship is leaving voicemail messages for someone you’ve never even met. And it is not just talking to anyone we love.  If you’ve ever admired someone famous for years and then met them face to face you were probably tongue-tied.  In prayer we are talking to the creator and ruler of the universe. No wonder it is hard.

3. How did you choose the “giants” that corresponded with each prayer practice?

They were all people I’d met in my own spiritual journey and my work as a church historian. They had written things that helped me pray.  The crucial thing, the thing that ruled out a whole lot of other genuine giants, is this: To be in the book they had to teach or practice a particular way of praying that was different from the others included. They were either the originator of the approach, or famous for it, or a particularly fine example of it. And it had to be a way of praying that other people could try for themselves.

This ruled out a lot of people who had really interesting prayer lives. Take Hildegard von Bingen. One of the most amazing people of the Middle Ages.  She was a benedictine abbess, so she surely spent a great many hours praying the divine office. She’s not a distinctive for that approach. I dealt with the divine office in my chapter on St. Benedict who created benedictine monasticism.  She also had mystical visions, apparently sparked by migraine headaches.  That led to some fascinating writing.  However, I couldn’t say “Step one: Have a migraine headache.  Step two: Have God grant you a vision.”  It can’t be taught or practiced.

Leave a comment to win a copy of the book! What is a meaningful way you have entered into prayer?
4-up on 2013-05-17 at 13.50Bio: Gary Neal Hansen is the Associate Professor of Church History at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.  Much of his research and writing have focused on 16th century Reformed theology, especially John Calvin and the Heidelberg Catechism. He is currently working on a book (and blogging on it regularly) about movements in the history of the church that had creative approaches to community life that led to deepened discipleship and effective participation in mission.  
Find his blog at garynealhansen.com.
Connect with him there and on Facebook and on Twitter.

Praying Circles around your Children

images (2)

I won this book! It was seriously the first time I had won anything. Thank you to my writing friend Becky Doughty for hosting the giveaway!

So, I read it and now I can give it away to you!

Mark Batterson wrote the New York Times Bestselling book The Circle Maker. In this book he uses those principals to teach us how to pray for our children.


“You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent.”

Batterson’s books come from the true legend of Honi a circle maker of the Jewish Talmud who believed that God always hears.

  • circle Bible promises and pray them around your children
  • prayer is a way we fight our battles
  • irrational fears only submit to prayer
  • make prayer lists, a written record: do this in a graphic way, lunch box notes, a book of prayers
  • focus on life themes where passions and God given abilities overlap
  • pray with your child not just for your children


There is something mysterious about prayer.

The amazing thing is that we are part of something so much bigger. Your prayers circle, strengthen, surround and guide your family.


This book really reminded me of how important prayer is… something I tend to forget in the busy stretches. I would love to do a special prayer week at About Proximity in the future. If you have anything you would like to share about prayer send me a note! I’d love to have you for a guest post! This would be one of mine: 

My first summer as a camp counselor, my first week with campers, my assigned prayer partner was a guy named Kris Van Engen. (Who I would later marry.) He asked me to pray for his brother Kirk, sister-in-law Maria, and nephew Michael who were expecting a baby in a few weeks. I prayed for the baby’s safe arrival. I prayed for Nikole after her safe arrival.

The next summer, Kris was called away from camp when his brother Kirk was killed in a vehicle accident. I prayed for Nikole and Michael who had lost their Dad and for Maria. 

Of course, when I married Kris, they became my family. Sometimes I feel sad that I never met Kris’s big brother. Sometimes I wish I could have been there for his family during such a painful time. Then, I remember. In a way, I was there through those prayers. I had the blessing of knowing them and loving them through prayer before I ever knew them personally. 

We don’t exactly know what God is doing when we pray. We might not ever have the complete answers. But, we can trust he hears our voice, and loves each expression of our faith. He uses each word given to him for something greater than we can imagine. 

Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of the book!