God Gave Me an Eagle

I moved to Connecticut in July. That is when I first met the goose who lived down by the river. I walk along the Connecticut River daily, and this goose brought me comfort each day. I can’t be sure, but I believe God put him there just for me. You see, he arrived the same time I did, perhaps even to the day. I am not sure. No one knew why he suddenly appeared by the dock at the river near my house or where he came from, but he loved to hang out with people there,

Years ago, I wrote a book about finding a place to belong, addressing issues of identity, loss, rejection, and grief that can often leave us feeling a bit “lost.” Throughout the book, entitled “Understanding Goose,” I inserted various anecdotal stories and facts about geese, based on the true story of a goose that had lost its mate and “adopted” my parents decades ago. Geese have a strong sense of finding their way home, and they also have a mate for life. If they lose their mate, they may “adopt” a human, as if they are looking for a place to call home. I felt like the goose was a hug from God and from Wyndham, reminding me that He knew I had lost my mate and needed a place to call home. I often thanked God for this meaningful gift, as it was comforting, a continual reminder that God was saying, “I am with you here. I know, and I know that you know.” The goose was there for my first three months of transition, and then it was gone. I heard that a woman who rescued wildlife took him to a safe place. He may have been rescued, but he was a safe place for me. I missed seeing him but knew he had served his time there, reminding me that I am never alone.

This morning, I prepared for a Zoom meeting with my doctoral advisor concerning the first chapter of my dissertation. My advisor helps me know how I am doing on my project, gives helpful input, and offers encouragement. In my talk with God beforehand, I told Him how I wished I could have a conversation like that with Him, where I could more concretely hear Him, His feedback, and His encouragement. I told Him how much I appreciate the encouragement He gives, but I felt the need to hear it more clearly from Him. I thanked Him for the goose and the way it had been a “voice of encouragement” to me. I concluded, that after three months, the goose had served its purpose. I thought to myself that it was time for me to fly, and asked God if he would give me an eagle today, for that visible encouragement. I have never seen an eagle on my walks, though through binoculars I saw this one way down the river this summer while on a boat ride.

As I neared the bank of the river, I stopped…just to check. Across the river, I noticed a large bird flying, and while I hoped it might be my answered prayer…I figured it was probably a more common bird, like a hawk. At that moment, the bird turned ninety degrees and flew directly over my head. It was clearly an eagle. I have no explanation why it turned from its path and flew over my head, except for God’s love for me and His encouragement. I could hear God telling me, “I am still with you in your transition, and it’s time to fly.” I then felt tears falling down my face and thanked God for His tender care.

  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.                (Isaiah 40:29-31)

When Life Becomes a Carnival

I often share about my lovely new town and the peaceful view of the river from my front window. I love to walk my dog through the field across the street, lingering along the shore. I stop to greet the goose that has been my friend since the time I moved here. I think God put that goose there just for me, knowing my affinity for a lone goose that lost its lifelong mate and adopted my parents years ago. This lone goose was to me like an acknowledgment hug from God, reminding me that He never forgets that I lost my mate and He is always with me. Along the way, I breathe in to capture the smell of the falling leaves and freshly cut grass on the nearby soccer fields. I enjoy meeting new people along the way. I love to watch the boats roll by, and in the evening I usually tear up with joy and gratitude as I view the sun setting behind the water. Twice I have seen an eagle on its nest. The serenity of God’s creation feeds my soul as I walk and talk with Him by the river. I count on the peace this walk with God brings me each day.

But, oh my…how quickly things can change! You see, last weekend the carnival rolled into town, across the street from my house. Literally, overnight, my view switched from sunsets and riverfronts to Ferris wheels, tilt-a-whirls, and pirate ship rides. Every time I opened my door my olfactory senses no longer processed falling leaves and freshly cut grass but instead confronted smells of foot-long hot dogs, fried marshmallow-covered-dough-filled-sugar-coated everything imaginable, cotton candy, and other undetermined scents. My new view seemed like full-fledged craziness. Lights and sounds continued into the night and then Sunday evening, it was all gone. I was reminded how in the twinkling of an eye, our surroundings can change from serenity to carnival madness and back again. However, even with the carnival’s departure, it’s not yet exactly the same. I notice remnants of craziness. The grass is now mud and the trash and commodes are yet to be collected.

Life is like this. We experience times of calm and then the big trucks come in and seemingly overnight, dump craziness in our proverbial front yards…Not in the forms of Ferris wheels and pirate ships (well, for me it actually was in this form :-)), but more often with illnesses, difficult news, family trials, disappointments, grief, conflicts, and little things like pandemics. We can have a hard time remembering what serenity looks like and face seemingly overwhelming smells of fear and doubt. Whenever the “life carnival” rolls in, I find I must stay grounded in the reality of truth. The beauty of God’s creation is true. God’s provision is real. His concern for me is real. His empathy with me is real. His promise of eternal life is real. His promise of a new heaven and new earth is real. His comfort is real. He never changes, even when my view does. The carnival, though crazy, is temporary. Even though it happens, He holds my hand as I ride the Ferris wheel. I need that since I abhor heights.

He reminds me that the river is still in the same place, it is just a bit hidden by the surrounding commotion. My identity in Christ doesn’t change with changing circumstances. I take “me” with me both to the river and to the carnival, and Jesus walks with me through both. When my identity comes from God, I can stay grounded whether at the river or in the carnival. Though the trash and commodes may linger awhile, the leaves will still fall, the grass will grow through the mud, the river will still flow, and the sun will continue to rise and set. I must simply remember, notice, and keep walking with Him as He guides me. Even when the carnival was in full force, I walked further, beyond the carnival, and eventually passed its craziness. I once again smelled the grass and saw the river. I just had to keep walking.

You may feel like your life is a carnival, where serenity has been replaced by crazy. My life over the last few years has been filled with difficult transitions that have at times “smelled” like stale foot-long hot dogs and left me spinning on tilt-a-whirls. That combination can prove challenging, believe me. However, I can stay grounded by noticing God in everything as I keep on walking past the carnival, visiting the goose, watching the eagle, speaking to passersby, and witnessing the beautiful consistency of the sunset. I stay grounded knowing that His words are true and that He gives me purpose and identity. I am confident that the peaceful river and the crazy carnival can coexist because God is with me through them all. There truly is a secret of being content. His name is Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-13 (NIV2011)
4  Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
5  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
9  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
10  I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
11  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
12  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

 

Transitions – Lots of Them

Transitions happen. Lots of them. Though I didn’t have a choice concerning the last chapter of losing Wyndham, I have certainly felt the Spirit’s urging and presence in moving forward to new chapters. Since that time, among other transitions, I sold my house of thirty-plus years, bought a new home in CT near my youngest daughter, retired from forty-seven years of full-time ministry, and began my doctorate program. While “ministering” is my lifelong lifestyle as an apprentice of Jesus that won’t change, life is different.

 

I have felt hugs from God throughout the transitions, though it has not always been easy. I find I must look for those hugs. For instance: When I put my house on the market, I felt sad. I would miss the park across the street from my house and my nearby “reservoir walk” a little over a mile away, among other things. However, the park by my old house is busier than I like, and I recently encountered a snake on the reservoir walk. Not a fan of snakes, I had postponed my walks there. God gave me a hug…with a house perfect for me in Connecticut, complete with a quiet park across the street where the gorgeous Riverwalk along the Connecticut River begins.  I pinch myself as I walk each day along the river and through town, amazed that God gave me such a beautiful, serene setting near water. I have met many new friends as I walk, many who have recently moved here, lost their husbands, and retired. This is no accident, I am sure. If this is not enough, there is a studio apartment on the property, perfect for Jacob.

The “new” park is quiet, except on one night a week when it becomes a music venue. Perfect!  And if that is not enough of a hug, as I go by the dock and dock house on the river each day, a lone goose greets me. This is particularly meaningful to me, as I wrote in one of my books about a lone goose that “adopted” my parents after losing its mate. Geese have a mate for life, and when they lose their mate they stay alone, sometimes attaching to a person for their new “mate.” Passing this lone goose each day just feels like a hug to me from God, and from Wyndham.

This past week I had the opportunity to teach on “the role of women in the church” at the European School of Missions in Switzerland. I was encouraged and inspired the current graduating class (after beginning 3 years ago) of the School of Missions and their new contributions to the churches in Europe. A few of these students I knew as preteens, so that was special.  It was wonderful to interact with the incoming class as well. It was so meaningful to be with old friends living in Europe…the Kings, LeNoans, Micha, and of course the McGuirks. It was also a treat to spend time with the Ayasses, who were there helping with their grandchildren during much of the time. It was especially inspiring to see the fruits of the love and labor of the young and “older” McGuirks in Paris, and also John and Rachel, who serve the church in Milan.

Teaching energizes me, as I feel it is a calling from God. It was meaningful and fun to teach with Joey Harris. It felt seamless, as we soon realized we had such  congruent interpretations and understandings of the topic. We taught on the subject for about ten hours, including sessions about ways to read and interpret scripture, the author’s style, presuppositions we bring to interpretation, the lenses through which we read (western culture vs. eastern culture, patriarchal culture, and our CoC and ICOC cultures), blinders to our lenses, cultures of Ephesus and Corinth, God’s parameters, transcending principles, specific verses on women in the scriptures, and essential attitudes of humility and unity. We included various group exercises and discussions throughout.

Joey taught for the next couple of days on Old Testament Survey and OT interpretation, which was all outstanding. Kudos to all the students who put their hearts and minds into days of learning in a language that is not their first one.  

My next stop for next week includes my first residency session for my doctoral program, where I meet my professors and cohort and also participate in a guided spiritual retreat. I am super excited to start and am eager to keep learning.

I have much to write about transitions; in fact, much of my research will stem from this topic. While it is good to be home, I am also grateful for so many memories from years past with Wyndham throughout Europe. It seemed fitting to leave some ashes in a river in the Alps. I include a few thoughts describing this time for me.

On the Bridge

We walked this stream before

Flowing waters toward tributaries form 

Crossing the bridge to the other side

Hands entwined, warm to warm

 

These hands hold memories

Carrying ashes, remnants of living

Now stilled by the cool hand of death

As waters below tease of life still giving

 

I stand on this bridge called hope

Connector of life and death that I know

While your ashes find life in the wind

Toward life-giving water, still sparkling below

 

Ashes give birth to life

As the river moves toward the sea

And the bridge, through the Spirit

It still connects you and me.

When Father’s Day Sneaks Up and Kicks You in the Gut

Anticipating Father’s Day is hard for me, and likely for many of you. I enjoy most holidays, but this one always gets me. I miss my husband, who was the safe, wise, and strong place for our kids (and me). I miss my dad, whose huge smile, kidney-chopper hugs, and overflowing Bible verses always made things feel okay. As I watch my grandkids on the ball fields, soccer fields, and tennis courts I picture Wyndham’s countless days of coaching and his constant encouragement for the underdog. He was a dad extraordinaire, sensing when his kids needed his words or hugs. He would so love watching their kids play (and graduate!). They were his pride and joy.

But I’m a lucky one. A blessed one. I had a father who loved me and showed me Jesus, and a husband who loved God wholeheartedly, loved me, and loved his family with a fierce and tender compassion. I guess that’s why it is hard to pass by the cards for Fathers in the stores without purchasing one, or why it’s sad to not think about what I will cook on Sunday.

Some of you never knew an earthly father, had an absent father, an abusive father, or could never measure up to a father’s dysfunctional demands. Wow. That is some kind of hard. I’m so sorry. Some of you lost dads early in your life, and some are watching your father’s health deteriorate before your eyes. It stinks. It really does.

I sometimes feel a little lost approaching this celebratory day. To be honest, I was happy last year to have virtual church on Father’s Day. It made it a little easier. When I feel a little lost in loss, for some reason I find it helpful to plan a special commemoration. I’m not sure why, but it helps me in my losses to commemorate and celebrate. Perhaps it will you, too. So, I plan to “share” a special meal (by myself, by choice) with the dads in my life. I’ll pick up a steak to eat, medium rare, in their honor…because that is what they would enjoy. I’ll probably talk to them a bit, telling them why I love and appreciate them. But then I will turn to another father, to the Father who is always there and who stays with me, even with these weird conversations. He never leaves and he always cares. This is my Father who never dies and is always the same, yesterday, today, and forever. I may detect a tear in his eye, too, because I know he hurts with me. I will thank him for my husband, for my dad, and for my son and sons-in-law who are fabulous dads.

I will then tell him what a good, good Father he is, even though I don’t always understand his goodness. I will thank him for staying with me in the storms, as my solid rock. I will thank him for holding me tightly with his mighty hand and lifting me up from the ashes. I will thank him for holding me close to his heart. I will tell him he is kind, trustworthy, generous, full of love, holy, self-sacrificing, and crazy creative with the world he fashioned. He is a good, good Father. He somehow walks with the living (me) while also walking in another dimension with my physically deceased but spiritually alive husband and dad, who I can no longer see. I believe they are as alive or perhaps more alive than I am, just in a different sphere. He is with them, and he is with me. Of course I can never fully wrap my head around this concept; it is too beautiful for me and beyond human comprehension.

Abba Father, I wish you a wonderful Father’s Day…it is your day, every day. And Wyndham and Dad, know how deeply you are loved…and always remembered. Every day.

A Big Transition…A New Chapter

A thriller, a comedy, a tragedy, poetry, a fairy tale, and a historical narrative all rolled into one. This is the book I am writing as I continue walking “jeaniesjourneys.” Thankfully, God is the author and perfecter of my life story (Heb 12:2), and we are writing this thing together. I’m starting a new chapter. A scary chapter. An exciting chapter. A sad chapter. A happy chapter. A chapter requiring faith. Lots of it.

For a while, I have known I would sell my house. It is time to downsize. Amazingly among ministers, I have been one of the few to stay in a house for a long time, over thirty years. My kids went through their elementary, middle school, and high school years based from this house. My grandchildren have visited my house as newborns and most recently the oldest as a high school graduate. They have slept over, played in the park across the street, and built their own memories. My youngest son, who spent his first twelve years in Romania, walked through the front door of this house as a member of our family in August of ‘98. It is more than a house. It is a home. At our wedding, Sam Laing, who now has his own health challenges, read this poem which now hangs on my wall. heap of living It’s authored by one of my favorite poets, Edgar Guest. I will include several stanzas:

It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home,
A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam
Afore ye really ‘preciate the things ye lef’ behind,
An’ hunger fer ’em somehow, with ’em allus on yer mind.
It don’t make any differunce how rich ye get t’ be,
How much yer chairs an’ tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain’t home t’ ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o’ wrapped round everything.

Ye’ve got t’ weep t’ make it home, ye’ve got t’ sit an’ sigh
An’ watch beside a loved one’s bed, an’ know that Death is nigh;
An’ in the stillness o’ the night t’ see Death’s angel come,
An’ close the eyes o’ her that smiled, an’ leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an’ when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an’ sanctified;
An’ tuggin’ at ye always are the pleasant memories
O’ her that was an’ is no more—ye can’t escape from these.

Ye’ve got t’ sing an’ dance fer years, ye’ve got t’ romp an’ play,
An’ learn t’ love the things ye have by usin’ ’em each day;
Even the roses ’round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they ‘come a part o’ ye, suggestin’ someone dear
Who used t’ love ’em long ago, an’ trained ’em jes’ t’ run
The way they do, so’s they would get the early mornin’ sun;
Ye’ve got t’ love each brick an’ stone from cellar up t’ dome:
It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.

Let’s just say there has been a heap of living in this home…by us, and likely by some of you who have sat at our table and in our living room. Joy and laughter have rung within these walls, as has precious time around a loved one’s bed, knowing death is nigh.

It is time for a new chapter, so I put my house on the market for showings last Tuesday. On Thursday, I sold it. my for sale sign

I have learned that home is not really a physical place, rather it is a place of rest in the deepest part of my soul; a place that only God fills. I carry home with me wherever I go. The memories of loved ones and conversations, good food and fun, arguments and conflict resolutions, soul-searching conversations and discovery, the mundane and the thrilling, sickness and health, laughter and tears….the memories are in my heart and will go with me wherever I go all the way to heaven, my ultimate home.

That said, I soon realized the stark reality that selling my home would bring. I would have to land somewhere. I prayed fervently for the best place to land… to cut expenses in preparation for my pending retirement, and to provide meaningful ways to serve and love God and people, helping as many as possible make it to heaven. To be honest, something within me questioned whether I should go to a remote place where I could tell people who did not yet know about the amazing news of Jesus. However, given the fact that I don’t know other languages and that my first priorities next to Jesus are my children and grandchildren, I knew I would stay local and contribute to remote places in other ways.

Local turned out to be about an hour and forty-three minutes from my current home. I plan to move to Connecticut, near my daughter Kristen and her family. She said it was “her turn.” While it is so hard to leave so many I love here and there are so many precious (as well as difficult) memories, I feel the Spirit’s guidance and commendation on this new chapter. Through my wonderful realtor (Kristen), I found the perfect place, ten minutes from her family, that fulfills more wishes for a home than I could imagine. Small enough to be cozy but large enough to host friends and family, full of character and charm, near water and town, and full of so many other “hugs” from God. And, to top it off, there is a studio apartment next to the house—the perfect place for Jacob. We are both excited about our new adventure.

roses in my yard

roses in my new yard, overlooking the park across the street which begins the Riverwalk.

Who knows what all will be written in this new chapter, but with God editing it I am in safe hands. I suppose the upcoming chapters will contain the various genres mentioned above, but thankfully I know how the story ends. Meanwhile, I pray that the heap of living that takes place in my new home will bring joy to many, especially to God. My friend, Susan, who is currently in Connecticut helping her son’s family as he recovers from extensive cancer surgery, rode by my new house while her son was in surgery. Just as she pulled up to my new house, she got the call that the surgery was a success. So, she named my house the “good news house.” I like that name. I think I will stick with that. Please pray for me in this transition as I move to the “good news house.”

150 Naubuc Ave

Link to the Caregivers’ Workshop recordings

Saturday was a great day, with over four hundred registered for the free caregivers’ conference. I deeply appreciate the godly wisdom and raw honesty shared by everyone.

Hopefully, I’ll post more blogs soon, but in the meantime, I will share a link to the recordings from “The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving” workshop.” In a few days, the recordings will also be up on the church website. I will share that link when it is available. You can access the recordings for the entire workshop here:

https://www.hopeworldwidema.org/sacredjourney

You can also purchase the book by the same title here:

The Sacred Journey—Finding God in Caregiving

My heart goes out to all caregivers as you travel your sacred journeys.

 

Welcoming Wednesday: The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving

This is the day to share things! Today I’m thrilled to introduce or remind you of an upcoming free virtual conference and a new book release called “The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving.”

Caregivers, as they pour out physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength, are unsung heroes. But caregivers also need care. They need encouragement, inspiration, courage, comradery, and support.

On March 13, from 11am-1pm EST, the Boston Church and HOPE MA are sponsoring a free virtual workshop, The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving.

The workshop begins with a panel featuring Roger and Marcia Lamb, Jeanie Shaw, Sam Shaw, and Rich and Lisa Fischer as they share Scriptures, insights, and practical habits that helped them find God when at times he felt far. They will discuss ways they discovered anew God’s presence as they walked this sacred caregiving journey.

Breakout classes include: Caring for children who need special care taught by Frank and Rhoda Astone and Peggy Malutinok; Caring for parents and other adults with Rich and Lisa Fischer and Danielle Petruzzi;, caring for a spouse with Carl Christenson and Chantel Cornely; Grief in caregiving with Roger and Marcia Lamb; care for the caregiver with Sam Shaw and Jeanie Shaw; resources in caregiving with Patrice Gattozzi, Anne-Mer Slebodnick, and Maureen McCartney; and financial and legal matters with Guillermo Adame.

Spread the word to caregivers and their families, neighbors, friends, and anyone who wants to become more like Jesus as they care for others.

Register now:

https://zoom.us/…/tJAud-mpqDspEtHgxsDll69i0QroLREcDcfg

And—In conjunction, my brand-new release is now offered now at IPIbook.org, also entitled The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving. This book is a collection of vulnerable, inspirational, and informational stories by caregivers who have found God’s support amid their trials.

Preorder at: https://www.ipibooks.com/products/the-sacred-journey-finding-god-in-caregiving

Monday Musings – The Home of an Orphan and a Widow

Orphans and widows are oft mentioned throughout the pages of the Bible as God teaches about justice and compassion, revealing His heart of justice and mercy.  As I began to read the Scriptures (280 concerning widows and 105 on orphans), tears welled up in my eyes. As I read, God’s love and cause/plea for justice felt overwhelming, momentarily taking my breath away. I note that foreigners are also often included in these passages of scripture.

I think these scriptures especially garner my attention because it occurred to me—my home is the home of a widow and an orphan, one who is also a foreigner. I tend to discount this because our culture is different today than in biblical times, and many governments have some kinds of provisions. However, one thing is sure. Distress, such as is mentioned in James 1:27, is real. When Wyndham was living, we often spoke of the many ways that more distress accompanied orphans than simply having no parents. Even when/if orphans find adoptive parents or parents find them, distress runs deep and wide. I resist even writing the words orphan and widow, because they are uncomfortable words, especially when describing me and my beloved son.

How much my perspective on life and the ways I view it have changed since I began my quest in trying to understand the underworld of orphans and the effect their lot in life has on their sense of loss identity, rejection, shame, and control. I guess God felt I also needed to understand widowhood, so I am learning as best I can as I live this new way of life.  After learning much this year about deeply embedded racial injustice, justice and mercy have been especially on my heart. I have since been inquiring about ways to interact with refugees in my area, and as soon as the pandemic eases should have some new opportunities for this, which I know will teach me much. I feel growth coming on, which feels exciting and a little scary. I long to live as Micah instructs. Pray for me, as I pray for you.

  He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

What and Why Are You Learning?

Do you ever find that some questions people ask you cause you to dive deeper for the answers? It has been good to reflect on questions I have been asked about why I chose to enter and continue in graduate school while in my late sixties. So, as I think through my answers, it helps me once again to reflect on important questions about why I choose to do what I do. We can find it all too easy to just do, without reflecting clearly on why we do what we do or think what we think.

Why did you decide now, to go back to school?

Longing to continually grow deeper in my walk with God and service to others, I entered seminary in 2018, when I was sixty-four years old. I was drawn to the study of spiritual formation, deeply believing that too many Christians go through motions of religion while lacking the depth and joy flowing from intimacy with God. They long for more. I longed for more. I desired to learn further ways to grow toward the image of Christ and delight in our relationship. I love to learn, and though I had read and studied my Bible for decades, I thrilled to the deeper teachings I learned through my biblical studies classes. I savored and put into practice what I learned in my spiritual formation studies.

God answered many prayers encouraging me to pursue this venture. During my studies, I was working in the ministry and providing care for my wonderful husband, who passed from a progressive neurological disease called Multiple System Atrophy in November 2019. It was an extremely difficult time. My studies, combined with daily life and suffering, not only drew me into a more intimate relationship with God but also put on my heart a desire to keep learning. I thrive best when learning new things.

I believe I am called to teach. It feels good to know my calling…. what I feel uniquely qualified for and what makes my heart sing. For over forty years, as a women’s minister, I have taught the Bible to those wishing to develop faith or to grow in their faith, helping them apply biblical teachings and principles to their daily lives. I have taught workshops in areas of spiritual growth to audiences large and small, in-person and online. I also love to teach through writing. After my first book, I thought I was done with writing, but fifteen books later, God keeps putting more on my heart.

As an older woman who has experienced many transitions in life including a loving marriage of forty-five years to caretaking and then widowhood, raising children and now enjoying adult relationships with them, grandparenting eight grandchildren, adopting a teenager from Eastern Europe, changing jobs, moving, losing parents, being held at knife-point, and being struck by lightning, my experiences are many and allow me to relate to various ages and backgrounds. At this stage of my life, I still desire to help change the world for Christ through teaching, mentoring, and writing in various settings and places. I long to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God…but I still have so much to learn. I want to see more and more women learning and teaching, as they offer such a valuable perspective.

God answered so many specific prayers as I sought His guidance about this decision to go back to school. I want to keep on learning and then do some adjunct teaching when I finish my doctorate. I’ll be about seventy years young then.

Why did you choose to study spiritual formation? What is it? How did you benefit and how can what you have learned benefit others?

Spiritual formation is the process of God working in our lives to transform us into His image. We make ourselves ready and available through spiritual disciplines for God to transform us. We learn to find spiritual rhythms of life so that we can be still enough with God and hear him. We build intimacy with Him that refreshes, directs, and fills us in every way. We can often let busyness, ego, and the noise of life keep us from truly walking with God and finding rest for our souls. Spiritual formation is holistic. We let God transform us day by day through our love for Him and our unity with His Spirit. He changes us with ever-increasing glory through our thoughts and emotions, our relationships, our intellect, our life calling, our physical health, and our stewardship. That covers a lot of areas…our whole beings.

As I keep learning, I desire to offer workshops, teaching, training, and writing that encourages others to bring these areas to Jesus, letting Him transform them all. While I have learned some excellent tools and ways of thinking, I believe these are only useful if they help me and others draw closer to God for the sake of others.

 Have you enjoyed it?  Immensely. As I learn, write, and teach I feel the pleasure of God. I thrill to learn, to be closer to God, and to serve others more effectively. I have been blessed with outstanding professors, and even though I study online, my partnerships with fellow students have led to some wonderful new friendships. As I sat by Wyndham’s side during this time I have been in school, and since he could not talk I would tell him things I was learning and read him my papers, which he enjoyed. He was proud of me for this endeavor, which means so much to me. His encouragement spurred me on, and my studies during the hardest season of my life were strangely, a sort of lifeline for me.

 If you could summarize, what are the main things you took away?

It’s good to reflect on this question. The rate of learning is so fast that at times I felt like I was drinking from this.   I realize that as I learn, I must stop to reflect and apply what I am learning to my life, otherwise it is of little value. I also realize that knowledge is helpful, but only if it makes me more Christlike, more loving.  I definitely learned how much I don’t know and how judgmental I have been. The windows of my perspective are clearer, and I have let go of the fear of questioning. The Bible can stand up to questions. I am much more equipped to know and share my core biblical and life convictions and have also better learned the thought processes of those who share some differing core convictions. I have learned from so many people, and strive to treat them with respect and personal vulnerability. I have built some solid friendships with a few classmates and a professor who has enriched me. I have read more books than I can count, and have grown from each one. Next time, I’ll begin sharing some takeaways from each class. I pray that we are all forever learners.

 

Saturday Studies, Monday Musings, and Wednesday Welcomes

My blog will take on a new format, at least for a while. As often as possible, I plan to post personal thoughts on Mondays, share blogs, profiles, and writings of others on Wednesdays, and on Saturdays share things I have been learning.

My graduate studies over the last couple of years often felt like a drink from a fire hydrant. I recently reflected back on the classes I took and some of the books I read. I won’t bore you with some of the tomes of required reading, but today will share some of my favorite books from the past year and a half.  I simply love to read and to learn. Some books I listen to while in the car, some I read on Kindle, but most books I like to hold, underline, and dog-ear the pages in such a way that I can’t even sell them to a used bookstore. It doesn’t really matter, because I hate to part with books anyway. It’s just a thing. I so “get” Paul’s desire for his books.

Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.
When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. (2 Tim 4:11-13)

I have an annoying (to me) habit of reading several books at the same time… on Audible, on Kindle, and with several always open on my coffee table. I’m not sure this is a good practice, but it happens.  If you have read some of these, I’d love to hear your favorites and what you gained from them. A few of these I have not finished, and three I wrote. 🙂 I put an asterisk by my favorites, though that was difficult. Also, I organized them under the categories of spiritual formation, personal and church growth, service, history, Bible study, suffering and heaven, women, next-generation, and writing. I find book recommendations super helpful, so feel free to send your recommendations along.

Whenever I am asked about what I have learned in my graduate studies and why I went back to school I sometimes haven’t known quite how to answer. So, in future Saturday posts, I plan to share (interview style) reasons I went back to school, and some takeaways from each of my classes. Summarizing the classes has been a helpful exercise for me, and hopefully, some of my takeaways will encourage you, too. I realize Saturday’s posts might not be your cup of tea, so if not, hopefully, some of the other days will be more encouraging for you.

Book Recommendations from 2020 and early 2021 by topics

Spiritual Formation

A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly

Celebration of Disciplines by Richard Foster

Discipline for the Inner Life by Bob and Michael Benson

Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton

Invitation to Retreat: The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God by Ruth Haley Barton

Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank Laubach

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer *

Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton *

Living God’s Word by Duvall and Hays

Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard

Prayer by Richard Foster

Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser *

Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton

Satisfy Your Soul by Bruce Demarest *

Seasons of the Soul by Bruce Demarest

Shaped by the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation by Robert Mulholland Jr.

Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster *

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton *

The Allure of Gentleness by Dallas Willard

The Art of Forgiving by Lewis Smedes *

The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

The Good and Beautiful Community by James Bryan Smith

The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith *

The Kingdom Life by Dallas Willard, Keith Meyer, and others

The Kingdom of God vol 3 by Tom A. Jones

The River Within by Jeff Imbach

The Transforming Power of Prayer by James Houston

When the Soul Listens by Jan Johnson *

With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray *

Personal and Church Growth

40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole

A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester

A Praying Life by Paul Miller

All the Feels by Elizabeth Thompson

Discipline for the Inner Life by Bob Benson Sr and Michael Benson

Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero *

Get Your Life Back by John Eldridge

God is Stranger: Finding God in Unexpected Places by Krish Kandiah

God of the Towel by Jim McGuigan *

Holy Ambition: What it Takes to Make a Difference for God by Chip Ingram

Margins: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swensen *

Self to Lose—Self to Find: A biblical approach to 9 Enneagram Types by Marilyn Vancil*

Spiritual Discipleship by Gordon Ferguson

The Call by Os Guinness *

The End of Me by Kyle Idleman *

The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

The God-Shaped Brain by Timothy Jennings

The Master Plan of Discipleship by Robert Coleman (I find this helpful every year)

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by Comer *

Think Like Jesus by George Barna

Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden

Wednesdays with Wyndham: Godly Wisdom for Everyday Life by Jeanie Shaw*

With by Skye Jethani *

Service

A Spirituality of Caregiving by Henri Nouwen

Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa *

In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen

The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving by Jeanie Shaw and Friends*

 History

Markings by Hammarskjold

Becoming by Michelle Obama *

John Wesley: Optimist of Grace by Henry Knight

John Woolman’s Journal by Ernes Rhys

Reviving the Ancient Faith by Richard Hughes

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi *

The Life of Alexander Campbell by Douglas Foster

Bible Study

Abusing Scripture: The Consequences of Misreading the Bible by Manfred Brauch

“Bema Discipleship” Podcast by Marty Solomon *

Exploring our Hebraic Heritage by Marvin Wilson *

Jesus: King of Strangers: What the Bible Really Says about Immigration by Mark Hamilton

Living God’s Word: Discovering Our Place in the Great Story of Scripture by Scott Duvall

Malestrom by Carolyn Custis James *

Misreading Scripture Through Individualist Eyes by Richards and James

Origins by Douglas Jacoby and Paul Copan (Kindle) *

Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes by Kenneth Bailey

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg *

Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by Walter Brueggemann

Searching for a Pattern: My Journey in Interpreting the Bible by John Mark Hicks *

Spirituality of the Psalms by Walter Brueggemann

The Beast that Crouches at the Door by Rabbi David Fohrman

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

The Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter *

The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi by Robby Gallaty

The IVP Bible Background Commentary (good resource)

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

Suffering and Heaven

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

All Things New by John Eldridge *

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Majors

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst

Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey *

Preparing for Heaven by Gary Black

Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb *

The Problem with Pain by C.S. Lewis

The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving by Jeanie Shaw and Friends (coming soon) *

The Scars that Shaped Me by Vaneetha Risner

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

Women (The are the most recent I’ve read, though I have a bookshelf and Kindle full of nearly a hundred books from my studies)

A Woman Called by Sara Barton *

Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles by Kathy Keller

The Bible and Gender by ICOC teachers

The View from Paul’s Window: Paul’s Teachings on Women by Jeanie Shaw *

Women in God’s Mission by Mary Lederleitner

Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal by Carroll Osbourne

Women Serving God by John Mark Hicks *

Next Gen

Faith for Exiles by David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock *

Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship by Holly Allen

Meet Generation Z by James Emery White

You Lost Me by David Kinnaman

Writing

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Style Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph Williams