September 3rd, 2013 | No Comments »

Two weeks from today I’ll be serving a s Theme Speaker at ACU Summit. The text I was assigned is Luke 10:1-21.

I’m often asked about the early stages of preparation for classes, sermons, lectures, and presentations. For me, all preparation begins with listening. Listening, first to God, then the text, and finally to others who have reflected on both God and the text. The initial process I use is called “Lectio Divina.”  For my ACU presentation, the entire text of the sermon has come through this process.

Here’s a short video describing how to practice “Lectio Divina” yourself.

Lectio Divina from Sean Palmer on Vimeo.

July 23rd, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Lance Boley (bio after post).


Beginning a spiritual discipline can be frustratingly complicated.  First, there are so many kinds of disciplines from which to choose.  Dallas Willard speaks of the disciplines of abstinence and the disciplines of engagement.  Richard Foster breaks it down according to the inward, outward, and corporate disciplines.  Urban Holmes, not for the faint of heart, defines them in terms of apophatic vs. kataphatic and speculative vs. affective.  Sounds like a lot of fun, right?

Putting all categories aside, what if I simply want to pray more?  Which prayer form will I choose?  Mark Thibodeaux outlines four kinds of prayer:  talking at God, talking to God, listening to God, and being with God.  And if I want to swim in the contemplative prayer stream, will it be Centering Prayer, Breath Prayer, or Welcoming Prayer?

But wait.  It gets even more complicated.  Isn’t all of life spiritual anyhow and thus one big discipline full of countless disciplines every day?  Responding kindly to a hateful email is a spiritual discipline.  Practicing peace in a tense staff meeting is a spiritual discipline.  Doing church is a spiritual discipline.  So now I have formal (planned) and informal (unplanned) disciplines!

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July 18th, 2013 | 5 Comments »
I’m taking a few days for rest and reflection with my family. This week I’ll be reposting some of my favorite guest posts dealing with spiritual formation. You cannot read these and reflect on them too many times.


I find myself very unlike Jesus. You probably are too. The church I knew as a kid was wonderful. I loved it, and love it still. But I have come to believe that a failure to sufficiently understand what it means to make disciples existed in that church, and that correcting this failure could help many people take hold of blessings that God wants us to enjoy. The following story, a strong memory of mine about church one Sunday, might help explain what I mean.

I was about ten or twelve years old, attending the A&M Church of Christ, and we worshipped one particular Sunday in the large high school gym. Before the event, we invited other area churches and took out an ad in the local paper. We wanted lots of people to know that we were going to have worship in the gym on that particular Sunday. It was very well attended, and lots of people “went forward” following the sermon. I don’t remember the name of the preacher who was brought in for this event, but he made an impression on me. I remember one moment when he was discussing how terrible it would be to look across that great divide between heaven and hell and meet the eye of a hell-tormented friend I had known from life and realize that I never took the time to tell them about Jesus. The preacher was trying to impress upon us the importance of making disciples. One of the reasons my church scheduled this event was, no doubt, to make disciples.

I agree that it is important to make disciples, but I worry that my tradition never properly informed me about what a disciple is, nor how to go about making one. I knew that a disciple was a follower or student of Jesus, but I never reflected on what it really meant to be Jesus’ student. I can be a student in Mrs. Evan’s math class without ever caring a lick about math and without ever trying to be like Mrs. Evans. As a result, it took a long time for me to grasp a mature picture of what it means to be a student of Jesus. Unlike being a student of Mrs. Evans, one cannot be a student of Jesus without coming to care a great deal about what Jesus taught and who he is, nor can one be a student of Jesus without making progress in becoming like him.

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July 16th, 2013 | 4 Comments »
I’m taking a few days for rest and reflection with my family. This week I’ll be reposting some of my favorite guest posts dealing with spiritual formation. You cannot read these and reflect on them too many times.


This is guest post by my friend, Rhesa Higgins. In addition to being married to one of my college roommates, Rhesa is atrained spiritual director in Dallas, TX and the founding director of The Center for Spiritual Formation. Chad and Rhesa are raising their three amazing kids: Raemey, Ryleigh, and Caysson. Rhesa enjoys a good caramel macchiato, a great book, and the best knock-knock jokes a 6 year old can tell. You can find her blog at:


When I was in the fourth grade, I ran into an academic brick wall: fractions. Suddenly, fractions weren’t just an exercise in coloring a certain number of pizza slices out of each picture. No, now we were expected to find a common denominator in order to add and subtract them. I was lost. One afternoon, while I slogged through yet another worksheet of torture (fractions homework), my mom called me into the kitchen.

“Come help me make some cookies,” she said. The counter was covered in the necessary ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, salt, chocolate chips, baking soda and measuring cups. The mixer was there and a large bowl, as well. I didn’t hesitate to start helping her measure out ingredients and pretend there was no homework to be done.

As we worked together, we couldn’t find the ½  cup measuring cup. Mom asked me to figure out how we could use the ¼ cup instead. I did it without hesitation. She smiled. Then, she mysteriously couldn’t find the ¼ teaspoon measuring spoon either. She asked me to figure out how we could use the ½ teaspoon instead. I quickly sorted it out. She grinned again.

Later, while we ate warm cookies together, she asked me how my fractions homework was going. I sighed and complained loudly that I would never understand fractions. She laughed and pulled the measuring cups out again.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t do fractions; it was that in the abstract of a worksheet, fractions didn’t make seem important. In the concrete world of cookie baking, one of my favorite things to do with my mom, fractions were a necessary tool.

I think that for many Christians, spiritual disciplines are a lot like fractions: abstract and seemingly vague. We have a rough idea that this is what we SHOULD be doing but very little idea WHY. The phrase ‘spiritual disciplines’ is even misleading, conjuring up images of barbells, uniforms, and buzz cuts. How can those things be spiritual?

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July 9th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

I’m taking a few weeks away from work to study and rest. And I think you should too.


Jesus got a lot done without ever seeming like he was in a hurry. I find this thought both refreshing and frustrating.

Maybe you’re like me and find yourself suffocating under the pressure of accomplishments, deadlines, goals, and generally trying to reap the consumerist marrow out of life. If you know me, you know that I’m all for goals. The goals aren’t the problem. The way we oftentimes go about them is.

Maybe you want to live “the good life.” You keep chasing it but never know when you’ve found it. If so, you know that if the pursuit of having it all produces anything, it produces busy people.

But I don’t think we enjoy being busy as much as we like to pretend we do.

When I finger my way through the pages of the New Testament, I witness Jesus challenging contemporary notions of leadership and productivity. Our culture wants to get farther faster, but Jesus wanted something different. Jesus seems intent on creating wholeness and peace. He was less centered on volume of activities but meaning and purpose.

The Lord choose to be on mission rather than on pace. Sometimes events happened quickly – think the time period between the last supper to crucifixion. Sometimes they happened slowly – Lazarus died while Jesus was taking His time.

Repeatedly, Jesus shows us how to be present rather than productive. Admittedly, I’m terrible at this! But I don’t want to be. As a remedy for me – and for you – I suggest we embrace the lost spiritual discipline of slowing.

What is slowing?

Slowing is the prolonged space between and during activities.

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