Category Archives: spiritual formation

defining question…

there is a question that should be asked of everyone.

your answer to this one question, if honest, reveals more than almost any other.

I ask it frequently.

I wish someone had asked me more often.

how are you and Jesus?

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Filed under abiding, complex, simple, spiritual formation

the strong, quiet mirror…

have you ever met someone who undeniably knows Jesus, who serves as a mirror, reflecting Him? knows Him to the point their countenance and demeanor were almost surreal, yet the most genuine you’d ever experienced?

Mama Maggie Gobran is one of those people.

the depth of her humility was amazing.

she loves Jesus more than anything.

the children of Cairo’s garage dumps are forever changed, on many levels, for knowing her and being the focus of her ministry. thousands of lives have been saved. thousands more need help, especially as the Coptic Christians come under increasing persecution.

she blessed us, the thousands of conference attendees listening to her. through her words and presence, she blessed us. and as she left the stage, she knelt down, face to the floor, and asked God’s blessing over us. it was difficult to have the conference continue. listening to the next speaker, a loud, charismatic pastor, an internationally recognized figure, was almost painful after the few moments of her quiet speech.

the most beautiful part of her short talk? a deep, undeniable stirring of the soul that instead of whispering, shouted loud and strong, “I want to know Jesus like she does!”

oh, that I knew Him a tenth as well! would that others would see Him in me and He is seen in her!

I hear echoes of Saint Patrick, that Christ would be before, behind, above, below, within, and without me, that He would be seen and heard.

Mama Maggie gave us these words on the value of silence:

silence your body to listen to the words
silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts
silence your thoughts to listen to your heart
silence your heart to listen to your spirit
silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit

I will sit with this insight for a long time. as a contemplative introvert, silence is not difficult. but it can easily be pushed aside. the silence, especially when seeking Christ, is where the Spirit does much teaching. it is where we especially learn to abide. what a timely reminder, so wonderfully given.

have you ever experienced someone who drew you closer to Christ, who He shone through almost palpably, reflecting Him as a beautiful mirror?

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Filed under abiding, blessing, John 15, silence, spiritual formation

paradigm shift

we all have “a-ha” moments in life. sometimes while reading, often simply in our daily living.

small paradigm shifts that bring clarity, and hopefully deeper understanding of ourselves, others, and God.

I love the “a-ha” moments that bring comfort and encouragement.

indulge me a few minutes to share one of mine:

studying the Bible is nothing new for me. I have studied formally and informally for years. in school. on my own. for a grade, a project. as part of my job and ministry, in writing curriculum, mentoring. for myself, to listen and learn.

through the years, I have read the entire text multiple times. sometimes front to back, slogging through Exodus and Numbers, wincing at the detail of Jael killing her enemy with a tent peg, rejoicing with Esther when her people are saved, sitting with the crowds and listening to Jesus. other times a chronological or book study.

so it surprises me (pleasantly so!) when I find a verse or story I’ve previously missed.

this is one of my favorites:

The Lord your God is in your midst,

   a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

   he will quiet you with his love;

he will exalt over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17)

in applying this to my own relationship with God, I am fully aware this verse is completely out of context. and while the prophet is addressing Jerusalem, the characteristics of God remain true for all His children.

the paradigm shift for me came in a new picture of God the Father. somewhere along the way, I subscribed to a picture of Him that is stern, judgmental, and basically cross. coming across this verse ripped that picture to shreds, leaving me to honestly look at who God the Father is and what our relationship might look like.

He stands in the middle of my life, ready to save.

He rejoices over me–with deep gladness.

He cares enough to help calm my internal world and immerse me in His love.

He sings with great joy over me.

the God of the universe. Creator God. Abba Father. the Mighty Warrior.

loves me.

tenderly

passionately

protectively

with abandon

just writing those words, I am again left speechless.

how do you experience God? has He encouraged you so deeply that you are left speechless?

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Filed under abiding, being, blessing, simple, spiritual formation

the outward charm…

I adore this house!

can’t you just imagine C.S. Lewis writing away, sipping his tea and reading, smoking a cigar, hosting friends, and imagining Narnia?

I picture a place of solace and rest, a retreat for the weary, the character of the house lending itself to the envisioned peace.

given the size of our town and my route to various places, this sweet cottage is a regular sighting, a continual dream running through my head.

they cannot be avoided. the house and the dreaming.

it is for sale. out of reach fiscally.

but daydreams are free.

there was an estate sale the other day, and while I am always up for a bargain, the house itself drew me. I suspect the same was true of most people that day!

stepping through the door, I expected the mustiness. by all appearances the house has been closed up for many months. but the dated decor was unexpected. the overwhelming need for updating screamed louder with each footfall. it started as a whisper, “please, help me…” the house begged. by the time the circuit of all three floors was complete, the cry for restoration was palatable. some features of the original house remained. others have been discarded along the way.

from the outside, images of C.S. Lewis dance. on the inside, the Brady Bunch.

over week later, I am still pondering the differences.

which leads me to Jesus’ words about whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27) and the state of my heart, self, masks we wear, and so much more.

so many analogies. so much conviction. where to start? for that matter, where to end?!

the recurring thoughts about this house and my heart have been about what is presented to the world versus the reality of the internal. the outward can easily show such a different picture than what is really happening. I continually ask if my heart is musty and stuck in a rut (or many ruts), if the expense of change is worth it. changes to the internal need exceptional care and a skilled hand. a qualified inspector can make all the difference, finding things the naked eye would miss.

and my heart cries, again and again, to allow only Jesus to be the one who works on my heart, the one to restore it to the original design. He is the architect, contractor, designer, and lover of my soul. with Him there are no mistakes in the blueprints, no unexpected mess.

alas, the final design will not be known in this life. the waiting here will be worth the turmoil and angst. this I know. I have seen the beauty of a soul, albeit the muted beauty of earth, and what He can do when given carte blanche. would that I could be as open to His craftsmanship! would that people see Him instead of me.

there was a grace-gift in being able to enter the house as well. the house itself is out of our reach. could we stretch and make the purchase? maybe. a big maybe. but after seeing the inside, the renovation and restoration needed, and factoring those costs, there is no way, beyond being gifted the house, that we could afford it. and that is good. someone new will move in and (hopefully) do the requisite work. having seen the inside, it remains a dream house for some imaginings. and a renewed sense of thankfulness for our own bungalow washes over me. God does His work in interesting ways, doesn’t He?

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Filed under abiding, being, dreams, life lesson, spiritual formation

days on the calendar…

It was one of those days. A date on the calendar. For most, just a date. For me, an anniversary. A painful one.

Dreams shattered.

Life swirling around despite it.

Holding to Jesus. Desperately clinging to Him.

A heart and body wounded, never to be the same.

New questions. A paradigm shift.

A fresh sensitivity inward. Someday to turn outward and hold others in a similar place.

We all have them. Quiet anniversaries. Sacred. Shared with few. Life hurts that remain quietly remembered.

Walking wounded all. Feeling so very alone.

And yet not. Others have tread these familiar paths, so new to us, so unreal.

Death of a loved one. Job loss. Diagnosis. Car accident. Miscarriage. Relationship destroyed. Betrayal. Devastating confession. And so many more.

It is good for me to remember dates like these. They remind me that we all carry heart hurts. And most often we do not know the significant dates on someone else’s calendar. They may need some extra grace, a smile, a kind word. Things that cost me so little time, such small effort. Being  Jesus’ hands and feet. Bringing some Barnabas encouragement.

More than just a date on the calendar…

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Filed under abiding, aches and lessons, being, complex, daughter-gift, life lesson, simple, spiritual formation

dark nights…

there, in the dark of night, was a quiet beep, followed shortly by another, further away. the cordless phones, unable to find their signal, were making their dilemma known.

it was terribly dark, and I was cold.

the nightlights I’d left on were dark.

it seemed the power had gone out for everyone around the lake. the clouds, like a thick blanket, covered the moon and stars. no help from outside to guide me through the cabin and quell the beeping. the furnace was out. my flashlight was missing, relocated by little fingers earlier in the day.

it was a deep, an all-encompassing dark. no amount of time to adjust seemed to help me see a thing. furnishings around the cabin were suddenly potential tripping hazards. I could not see the island across the water. or the far shore.

it was dark. plain and simple.

it drew me back to conversations about spiritual dark nights.

I generally enjoy night. the quiet. the thinking and processing time while others sleep. I find it peaceful and it feeds this introverted soul. the spiritual dark night seems, in the middle of the questioning of God, a similar time of rest, allowing Him to do His mighty work.

but I realized anew last night how dark the dark can be. everyday objects suddenly became obstacles, potential dangers.

how like our faith-journey!

when there are no street lights, no moon or stars, when the nightlight is gone, and no welcoming glow comes from a single house, it is truly dark.

in our spiritual lives, dark times come. God feels far away. everyday objects and routines can become obstacles. what we thought we knew is challenged on new levels. things that are supposed to “work” now seem useless.

there are no silhouettes to guide us. the familiar is suddenly frightening. what will happen in the dark? will we stumble and fall, breaking a bone in the process? or will a stubbed toe be the extent of injury? is it possible come through the dark unscathed? does some sort of “flashlight” exist to help relieve the angst?

how amazing that God, unlike the moon, does not abandon us in our hour of need. He is still there, more powerful than any flashlight.

after tucking the phones, with their twin beeps, under a blanket and pillows and closing the door, I went to find a flashlight, returning to bed in the very quiet and very dark night.

the call for help I’d expected came. more like a scream. because she talks in her sleep, we waited to see how real the need was before venturing back into the cold and dark. “Mommy! I can’t see! Mommy! Help me! Mommy!”

her own volume was so loud she could not hear my voice, calling to her as I made my way (with the flashlight!) to her bedside. picking her up, I felt the great tension in her and the release of it when she knew safety and love had rescued her. as I settled her between us, she snuggled in, safe in her daddy’s embrace, no longer caring that she could not see. it was a new experience for her, this blindness in the dark.

the parallel of her experience and my own spiritual life is not lost. how I kick and scream for God, afraid of the dark that surrounds me. all the while, He offers words of comfort. in my panic, He wants to calm me, to embrace me. but I am too busy fighting the dark (and often Him) to know.

how do you experience the dark, whether natural or spiritual?

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Filed under abiding, being, John 15, spiritual formation

introverted parenting…

my friend Sarah, from blessings like winged horses, and I are guest posting today over at introverted church. we are both introverts, mothers, writers, and we had a lot of fun writing together.

being an introvert can be challenging. being an introverted parent even more so.

what we found in working on our post, was how very deep the implications for introverts in parenting can run. and we are learning to approach parenting as a spiritual discipline, interacting with God throughout the day on a conscious level. listening and talking to Him.

the journey continues…

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Filed under abiding, being, daughter-gift, spiritual formation