What you need to know about conversion

What you need to know about conversion
Conversion [becoming more Christ-like in character] is a process; it is a goal, not a product we consume. And it's a bodily process, not only an emotional or intellectual one. The very cells in our body are busy changing, renewing themselves...Yet we remain recognizably ourselves. That is how conversion works, a paradox... - Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, 42 Photo used with permission of Flickr User:Karen As part of the maturing process, God allows difficulties and dark nights of the soul (see James 1:2-4 & Heb. 12:7-11). I wish I had known earlier: God doesn't allow trials (James 1:2-4) because God is displeased with me. By trials, I do not mean the natural consequences of bad choices, although God can redeem even my bad choices if I let Him. God sandpapers my soul's rough edges using trials, if I cooperate with God's Spirit(*), so I can become all God designed me to be and more loving like Christ. After decades of walking with Christ, I am learning - bit by bit - to trust in the slow work of God. Soul Stops Moment: What has been your experience of maturing in your relationship with God? What spoke to you from the Norris quote? (*) Whenever, I haven't cooperated with God, my trial lengthened. By cooperation, I mean being honest with God about my struggle but also being open to learn what He might be teaching or showing me through the trial. Ultimately, it is trusting God acts out of love not malice towards me (Romans 8). Honestly, I prefer looking back after a trial ends and seeing how I've grown (Heb. 12:11) to being in the middle. Welcome, if this is your first time here, and you liked what you read, join my e-mail list and receive my Soul Care Manifesto e-book, blog updates and other exclusive content. Linking with encouraging and gifted friends: Barbie of The Weekend Brew and Sandra of Still Saturday.

On puppies and how to walk by faith not fear

On puppies and how to walk by faith not fear
When our dog, Jubi, a hound-mix, was a puppy, we visited a nursery. Colorful flowers and shrubs overflowed from pots of various sizes. As always, his nose kissed the ground for news. When he looked up, he saw a small gray concrete bunny statute; his body shook like he just got wet as he hid behind me. His white tail drooped between his hind legs. (Photo of Jubi as an adult dog.) "It's okay, it's just a statute. No need to be afraid," my husband and I said. Jubi had never seen a gray bunny statute before. He eventually stopped shaking and slunk past the statute. I like to think our calm presence comforted him. Although, Jubi died two years ago, I often think of him when I battle fear. I don't mean the prudent fear that causes one to wear a seat belt or not text while driving. I mean the kind of fear one faces whenever one steps out of one's comfort zone. Please read the rest of my story at Jumping Tandem's Retreat blog...here's the link if you'd like to pop over and say "Hi." Thank you! See you there. I'll be writing about once-every 7 or 8 weeks there until the Jumping Tandem Retreat on May 1-3, 2015. I'm linking with these encouraging friends: Holley Gerth, Jennifer Dukes Lee,and Lyli Dunbar of Thought-Provoking Thursdays.  

What I learned in July (or books I've read or am reading)

What I learned in July (or books I've read or am reading)
I'm sharing some of my favorite summer reads and one song. Photo via Creative Commons/Flickr User: Yuri Levchenko 1. Some children's books are not just for children. I reread A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, and I was amazed at how she wove in love and sacrifice as themes into her book. For the first time, I'm reading The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I enjoy his thoughtful insights imparted through whimsical word plays. 2. I can't wait to see the documentary on The Phantom Tollbooth...here is its official trailer. 3. What happens when Jane Austen's classic Sense & Sensibility meets the 21st century? Find out in Joanna Trollope's fun beach read, Sense & Sensibility. 4. If you've ever wondered who took care of Elizabeth Bennet and her family, then you will love Longbourn, a novel by Jo Baker that invites us to imagine us how the other half lived in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. As I read about Sarah, the house maid's duties, my hands hurt. Hint: there is a surprise twist at the end...but I'm sworn to secrecy. One of my favorite quotes: "Things could change so entirely, in a heartbeat; the world could be made entirely anew, because someone was kind." - James in Longbourn, p. 56 Love that quote...I have experienced the difference kindness makes. I hope you have, too. Photo via Creative Commons Flickr User: Tim Green 5. I'm reading King's Cross (based on the book of Mark) by Timothy Keller. His words inspire and challenge me as he illuminates familiar stories in new ways. It's a deep read. "[Jesus] knows that whether we're a paralyzed man lying on a mat [Mk.2:8-12] or a struggling actor or ...[an] actor who's become a celebrity, we don't need someone who can just grant our wishes. We need someone who can go deeper that. Someone who will use his claws, lovingly and carefully, [like Aslan in C.S. Lewis' The Dawn Treader] to pierce our self-centeredness and remove the sin that enslaves us and distorts even our beautiful longings. In short, we need to be forgiven." - Timothy Keller, King's Cross, 35 [added paragraph breaks] I appreciated Keller's reminder that what I most deeply long for is Jesus himself. Nothing else will satisfy. 6. Audrey Assad's beautifully haunting song, "I Shall Not Want" pairs nicely with Keller's thoughts. Subscribers, link here to listen. This line from Assad's song pierces me: "When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want." Soul Stops Moment: What's your favorite children's book as an adult? What are you reading now? What do you think about what Keller wrote about what we really desire - beyond our apparent desires? Thanks for being here. Psst....my first monthly-ish post for Jumping Tandem's Retreat blog goes live tomorrow (July 29, 2014)....here's the link if you'd like to pop over and say "Hi." Thanks! Welcome, if this is your first time here, and you liked what you read, join my e-mail list and receive my Soul Care Manifesto e-book, blog updates and other exclusive content. Also linking with these gracious friends: Kelli of Unforced Rythms Sharing with Emily Freeman's "What I learned in July" link-up.      

On being open & unexpected gifts

On being open & unexpected gifts
Earlier, I shared how we met three river otters on the Big River, Mendocino during vacation. But river otters were not the only creatures, our family observed. After we rowed about a half hour, we heard loud prehistoric groaning or a cackling sound reverberate and break the silence of a quiet morning. It's hard to describe the sound as we'd never heard it before, resounding from a large grove of trees on the other side of the riverbank. The eerie cries pierced our ears and haunted our thoughts. Photo via CC/Flickr User: Nature Shutterbug After we watched the river otters swim, play and preen, we paddled our canoe around to return. A mile or two later, we noticed a white clump standing on a fallen tree in the river. As we paddled closer, it looked like a white feathery egg resting on its side, perched on a thin dark stick. What was it? Where was its head, if it was alive? It didn't move. When we were about 15 feet way, I noted: "It has white feathers with a black sash." Suddenly, like a Transformer, the oval grew bigger and bigger until it unfurled to reveal a head with a beak, two thin legs and two giant wings, which flapped. The lone bird flew to the top of a tree further down the river and away from our prying eyes. My heart sang at this unexpected glimpse of its beauty and majesty: Thank you, God. Later we learned the unearthly sound came from Great Blue Herons nesting. And when we studied a bird book, we learned the whitish-gray bird that flew away was also a Great Blue Heron. The feathers on the inside of its wing was a grayish pale blue. Hearing then seeing a Great Blue Heron was a surprise grace gift. We would never have seen it if we hadn't done something new: rent a canoe and paddle for three hours along the Big River. When we try something good and new, we open ourselves to potentially receive an unexpected gift. In retrospect, I realize I have received many unexpected grace gifts, when I risked and did something new, like blog, three years ago. I've made new friends and my life is richer because of those friendships. I'm learning to be open to those gentle nudges to try new things or to visit new places. It may not be all sunshine and river otters, but God in His goodness always gives His children good gifts, even the ones disguised as trials. Through blogging, I met women (such as Mia and Shelly), who battle chronic illness and cling to God in the midst of it. They unwrap the gifts of a closer relationship with God as they share their faith through their respective blogs. Or I think of how Michelle DeRusha decided to be open to God's existence and came to faith, as told in her memoir, Spiritual Misfit. Soul Stops Moment: What do you think about being open to trying something new(*) as a way to being available to receive an unexpected gift? What unexpected gift(s) have you received? Thanks for being here. (*)I'm assuming it is not only new but also something good and wholesome. Welcome, if this is your first time here, and you liked what you read, sign up for my e-mail list and receive my Soul Care Manifesto e-book, blog updates and other exclusive content. Also linking with gracious Kelli of Unforced Rythms   and Laura Boggess of Playdates with God. I'm linking with these encouraging friends: Holley Gerth, Jennifer Dukes Lee,and Lyli Dunbar of Thought-Provoking Thursdays.      

Five Minute Fridays: Bloom & Visiting O'Keeffe

Five Minute Fridays: Bloom & Visiting O'Keeffe
It's time for five minutes of unedited writing (but I correct typos) where we let our fingers fly over the keyboard with other writers. < Photo via Creative Commons/Flickr User: Bob Mical Start. In winter, my hydrangea bushes are brown stick skeletons in the ground. There is no sign of its former beauty or of the beauty that will come. Just dry sticks which I continue to water and fertilize when spring comes. So much of blooming is not just the bloom but all the preparation beforehand. The soil needs to be nutrient rich and the sun not too high overhead. It likes shade over scorching sun. And when spring or early summer comes and the bush is awash in blooms, blue, purple and then finally light green and burgundy, if not picked, I rejoice. It reminds again and again that apparent death and barrenness is not the final story for my hydrangea or for my life. God intends resurrection for all just like Jesus experienced. He comes and ignites my dead heart again and again with the life from His Spirit. Am I willing to wait through the long winter? Am I willing to prepare the soil of my heart? Am I willing to rest and be fallow, knowing a time of beauty and bloom will come? If I wait but in my waiting, I do not give up hope. I wait expectantly. For bloom, I will, even now. Stop. If you are in a winter season and nothing seems to be blooming, please don't give up. Spring will come. Prayer: Dear God, I pray for all who are in a winter season, may you encourage them with the hope that winter will not last forever (Romans 8:17-18). Please give them the hope and courage to continue to trust you as they water and prepare the soil for spring's bloom (Romans 8:28-29). Thank you for the hope you give us as we observe how flowers and seasons change. In Jesus' Name, Amen. *My monthly Tweetspeak Poetry post is on Georgia O'Keeffe, an artist renown for her large-scale flower paintings. I would love to see you there as we explore how Lake George and Alfred Stieglitz influenced her art. Thank you! Welcome, if this is your first time here, and you liked what you read, sign up for my e-mail list and receive my Soul Care Manifesto e-book, blog updates and other exclusive content. Please visit encouraging Lisa-Jo Baker, the creative mastermind behind 5 minutes of unedited writing based on a word prompt, which she picks weekly. You can link up and/or enjoy reading posts by the wonderful FMF community.