Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
Practice of the Better
Practice of the Better

Starting Small

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Episcopal priest Becca Stevens is founder of Thistle Farms, a social enterprise run by survivors of sexual abuse, trafficking, and addiction. We share part of her story:

My mother’s example of showing love through practical means gave me the wherewithal to open a home for women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction more than twenty-five years ago in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a small house for five women. I said: “Come live free for two years with no authority living with you. Live free.” . . . I figured that’s what I would want if I were coming in off the streets or out of prison. . . . I did it because sanctuary is the most practical ideal of all.

I wasn’t interested in repackaging charity in shiny, new boxes with the latest words. I was bored by trendy cause-hawking that left me feeling disconnected. I was disillusioned by a bifurcated political system that numbs compassion. I wanted to do the work of healing from the inside out. And that begins with a safe home. . . .

From its humble beginning, Thistle Farms now has thirty global partners that employ more than 1,600 women. . . . The mission to be a global movement for women’s freedom is broad and is growing exponentially.

Rev. Stevens’s story reminds us of Jesus’ parable (Luke 13:18–19) about the kingdom of God and a mustard seed’s growth from tiny plant to large tree:

Initially, it seemed a bit ridiculous to me to think that by starting a small community, we could somehow change the world, but now, it seems more ridiculous to me to think that somehow the world will change if we don’t do something.

Now, I can see that one loving gesture is practically divine. We have to do small things and believe a big difference is coming. It’s like the miraculous drops of water that seep through mountain limestone. They gather themselves into springs that flow into creeks that merge into rivers that find their way to oceans. Our work is to envision the drops as oceans. We do our small parts and know a powerful ocean of love and compassion is downstream. Each small gesture can lead to liberation. The bravest thing we can do in this world is not cling to old ideas or fear of judgment, but step out and just do something for love’s sake. . . .

There is no secret formula to experiencing the sacred in our lives. It just takes practice and practicality. The deep truth of our lives and the fullness we are striving for don’t happen with someone giving us the code to deep knowledge. Meaning and faith are not secret things. Sometimes what we need most is to remind one another of how the divine is all around us, calling us to see and taste it for ourselves.


Becca Stevens, Practically Divine (Nashville, TN: Harper Horizon, 2021), xv–xviii.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Claudia Retter, Three Fish (details), photograph, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This week’s image appears in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: We might find ourselves swimming against the current, but we’ve made a conscious decision to practice something different in response to an inner call.

Story from Our Community:

Reflecting on ‘ways of seeing’ reminds me that, as we move out of pandemic, it will be helpful if we all try to see reality from a different perspective. We need new ways of looking at things. Weighing up traditional pros and cons, liberal vs. conservative, etc., will not bring about change. We need a third force, a third way that can amalgamate all three forces and produce a better way. —Ross P.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.