Originally published Thursday, 12 October 2017.
She texts me before her trip to the Santa Cruz Mountains, a grove of beauty and respite where she’ll lead women in hearing the voice of God.
I am going right through your town on Friday! Do you have time for coffee?
I adore her heart, her quiet boldness in leaning with Holy Spirit, the exquisite vulnerability and strength she offers when she paints and teaches and writes.
Yes! Absolutely! I can’t wait!
It is the first time we meet in person, after reading each other’s books and texting and chatting on the phone. And ever since, I’ve wanted you to meet her too.
For our Voices series, where we share our thoughts on worship, imagination, and listening for God, here is my interview with author of A Good Way Through: My Journey with God from Disappointment into Hope, Kristen Kludt.
At the end of the interview, join in the conversation by leaving a blog comment for Kristen, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of her beautiful new book, A Good Way Through.
Here is my interview with Kristen:
- Kristen, what are some of your very favorite things to do with God? How do you fit these things into your week, your day?
My favorite thing to do with God daily is to sit on my front porch with a book, my Bible, my journal, some art supplies and a cup of tea. The ritual of drinking tea calms me and grounds me—it gives me something warm to hold in my hands as I center myself. I read a few verses and a page or two from a book. Then, I respond in some way through art. Usually I’ll write out a word or phrase from something I’ve read, then use markers or watercolors to doodle around it as a kind of meditative prayer.
The only way I can fit this into my day is by committing to spend the first 15 minutes of my sons’ afternoon nap/rest time with God. (I am a full-time stay-at-home parent.) While my one year old sleeps and my four year old plays quietly in his room, I do this first—in spite of waiting emails and dirty dishes. Otherwise I miss the chance.
About once a week, I write a letter to one of a couple of friends who live far away. I find that doing so helps me to reflect more deeply on the ways God is moving in my life. It’s become a deeply spiritual practice.
And there are the margins of my day. How can I turn my heart toward God in the in-between moments? I have a few verses that I pray throughout the day at different times. They began as a discipline and have become a habit, especially when I wake in the middle of the night.
- What obstacles distract you from getting into God’s presence—and what is your favorite way to pull yourself back?
Technology definitely distracts me. It’s easy for me to pull out my phone and scroll through social media posts in the margin moments of my days. I do it without thinking. So, I’ve set some boundaries on my phone. I keep it in the kitchen, not in my pocket. I take one day off of social media and email every week. I put away my phone by 9pm.
- How would you define God’s “voice”? Do you think it is possible for everyone to hear Him?
I do think it’s possible for everyone to hear God. I suspect that God’s “voice” sounds a little bit different to everyone. God speaks to me most often in the language of metaphor—a perfect language for a poet like me. Sometimes when I pray an image comes to my mind, and oftentimes its meaning will grow and shift over the course of weeks as I meditate on it.
I think God also speaks in convergence. Sometimes I’ll hear a similar message in multiple places: a conversation with a friend, a blog post somewhere, a verse I read, a song I hear. When I notice a repeated theme, I pay attention.
- How do you discern God’s voice over all the other noise in your life? What are some practical ways to figure out if it is His voice you are hearing—or something else?
One important piece is to regularly turn down the noise. I hear God best when I regularly take time in silence to tune my ears to the frequency at which God speaks. Interestingly, I don’t always hear God in this time of silence—sometimes it’s later in my day, in the middle of a task or a conversation, but I would have missed it if I hadn’t already turned my attention toward God.
It’s also important to take what you hear and hold it to the truths you know about God. If what you hear is unkind, unloving, or cruel (as my own self-talk too often is), it probably isn’t God talking. If what you hear is kind, loving, and full of grace, and if it aligns with what you know to be true about God from scripture, chances are it’s God’s voice. And perhaps it doesn’t always matter if good, true, loving words are “really from God” as opposed to out of my own mind—telling the voice of the Spirit from the mind of the Spirit-filled Jesus-follower is, perhaps, an unnecessary distinction. God can be subtle and speaks in many ways.
- What role does imagination play—if any—in having a conversation with God? Describe your state of mind—or your heart—when listening for God’s voice.
My imagination certainly plays a role in listening. I try to still my heart and mind, and sometimes it’s hard to do so. One of the best ways I’ve found is to imagine myself in a place with God: sitting in a meadow or by a stream. Imagining the details of such a place—the kind of place I naturally feel God’s presence—helps the distracting thoughts fall aside. I think my own imagination and God’s voice begin to intermingle in a lovely sort of communion.
What are some favorite resources—music, books, media—that you treasure and can’t help recommending to friends?
Right now The Listening Day by Paul J. Pastor is my front porch companion and Burn This As a Light, an album by Tom Wuest, is my soundtrack—simple melodies and words that riff on a Bible verse or two. Other favorites are The Artist’s Rule by Christine Valters Paintner and Night Visions (an Advent devotional) by Jan Richardson. Poems by Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, and Rainer Maria Rilke all also shape my own writing and reflection.
Thank you so much, Kristen.
Kristen Leigh Kludt is a contemplative Christian writer and spiritual guide. Her first book, A Good Way Through: My Journey with God from Disappointment into Hope, released in February. Mother to two boys, she lives, works, and plays in San Francisco’s East Bay, where her husband is a pastor. She is growing daily toward a life of integrity and love and invites others to do likewise. Read more or say hello at KristenLeighKludt.com
WIN A COPY OF A GOOD WAY THROUGH!
Enter to win a copy of Kristen’s beautiful book, A Good Way Through. To enter, simply leave a blog comment, sharing one thing Kristen said that resonated with you or influenced how you think about worshipping God. The winner (by random drawing) will be notified on Monday, October 16,
- Unfortunately, due to shipping cost restrictions, the contest is open to only U.S. residents.