The times, they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan had this phrase right. Change happens all around us and in us all the time. In our world and in our circles of people, things just don’t stay the same. It is already the month of May. Perhaps you are graduating soon or have kids leaving the nest. You may have several transitions going on in your life. Maybe you are moving, finding a new job, or even getting a new pet. You may be experiencing happy changes or excruciating losses. But certainly, the times, they are a-changin’.

A few months ago, for reasons I don’t really know, I decided to write Wyndham a letter telling him things that have happened since he left this earth. It felt healing. I began by sharing something more light-hearted, but as I began recounting the changes my mouth nearly dropped open, realizing just how much has happened. The letter was long and personal, so am only including some excerpts:

Babe,

So much has happened since you left here. I miss you and think about you every day. I mainly feel deep gratitude because of the kind of man, husband, dad, and papa you were…and I got to be part of it and you as your best friend. Those last few years were so hard I know…traumatic in so many ways. But we did it with the help of God. You stayed grateful, courageous, cheerful, and faithful and amazed me with that. You were quite something and you still speak though you are gone. Now you are free and with God. I’m happy for you and so inspired by your life and death. But oh, how I miss you.

When change happens, even little things…happy and sad things….you are the one I want to tell. You are the one I want to decompress with. Pray with. Laugh with. Sometimes it takes my breath away to realize I can’t do this even though I’m happy for you. There has been a lot of crazy since you left. Go figure. So many transitions.

Very soon after…Tom Brady left the Patriots. I know you would be interested in that. He won a super bowl for Tampa Bay. The Pats and Red Sox stunk the next season, so you didn’t miss much there. They both got better though. He recently retired and unretired. Drama.

And, of all things, we had a global pandemic. For two years!! It was crazy. We couldn’t travel and had to meet virtually for church for nearly two years. Life shut down. Schools didn’t meet and people worked from home. Across the world, we were isolated. We wore masks everywhere until just a few weeks ago, over two years later. You probably have met a number of people who succumbed to Covid.

Your whole family loves you so deeply it can’t be expressed properly. Emma graduated, and began the Northeastern honors college of nursing. She wants to be a nurse practitioner and is currently studying in London. Lexi just got baptized, which was so exciting, and two others are studying the Bible. You would be so proud of all your grandchildren and of our kids..Oh, and I should tell you that Kevin and Melissa are now serving as lead evangelist and women’s ministry leader for the Boston church. So many changes. I’m sorry to tell you that your sister Jane died last February, and Aunt Emma passed a couple months ago. I feel sure you know these things, but it helps me to say them to you. Oh, and sadly, recently Russia invaded Ukraine and it’s ugly and so sad. We had some meaningful times there. Shawn updates in a prayer time every day.

Kind of a big personal change is that I retired. It was a hard decision but the right one. Oh, and I sold our house and moved to Connecticut near Kristen. Real estate has gone crazy. Kristen was my realtor. She’s a good one, no surprise there. The house I found is perfect for me. Amazingly, the house has a studio apartment in the back where Jacob lives. His was a hard transition, but he is doing ok. You would love it here across from the river. I get to walk along the Connecticut River daily with Denver, which he loves. The boats remind me of you. I know this was a good move for me. God has been good to me. I just started a small real estate rental business. Didn’t really plan on that, but the opportunity came. Crazy, I know. 

Also, I graduated before I retired. I felt your smile. I’m now working hard on my doctorate and loving it, as you know. You’ll also be happy to know that “Paul’s Window” got published. Since then, I had the opportunity to do some virtual teaching in several states and countries and was able to spread some of your ashes in Europe while teaching in person. Your encouragement stays with me. I wrote a book about wisdom I learned from you called “Wednesdays with Wyndham.”  I love the cover with you and Denver on the boat. Next was a book on caregiving. I guess life experience lessons are good to share.

I’m doing okay, as I told you I would, but I miss you every day. A lot. It makes me look forward even more to eternity. I don’t know what it will look like for us, but I know it will be special. I would love to feel your hugs and I so want you to know always how much I love you. You gave me the most amazing 45 years. Whenever I am tempted to feel really sad, I remember the incredible blessing you are in my life. I try to make you proud of me, but I know I don’t need to because you love me for me. I realize more than ever our team of equals was quite something special. Thanks for the way you made me feel so loved and respected. I’m trying to reflect Jesus as brightly as I know how…and also your legacy. I wish I could know what you are doing now. If you are resting or fellowshipping and what it is like to live outside the body. Are there fish there?  It’s another dimension I will never grasp here. I know one day this will be, in your words, a mere blip on the screen. Until then. I love you forever.

The times, they are a-changin’. Certainly, all kinds of changes are often difficult, but I believe there are many things to consider to help us navigate them well. Some of these things I have learned the hard way, but most have been through the urgings and workings of God. For a while, I have been taking notes on the topic of transitions, studying scriptures, and reading books in preparation for writing this book. I now offer it with the prayer that it will minister to and encourage you.

The book has seven chapters. The introduction and chapters include: God Is in the Transitions; Transition and Identity; Mourning Transition; Walking Through Candyland; Preparing for Transition; Raise Your Ebenezer: Marking Transitions; Transitions that Overflow; Courage for the Next Steps; Conclusion; and Appendix: Who God Says We Are.

Each chapter is followed by a different person’s transition story— men and women who share their inspiring stories of finding God in transitions. Though their circumstances and ages vary, they all navigate their challenging transitions with honesty and faith. This book would not be the same without their valuable contributions. Thank you Hannah DeSouza, Angela Christoffel, Adam Birr, Judy McCreary, Chris Condon, Alexandra Ghoman, Erika Walton Sitzberger, Amber Effner, and Pam George.

After each chapter, I also include questions and practices for further reflection and application.

I’m including below the back cover copy, along with a few very kind blurbs from early readers. The book can now be pre-ordered. Thank you for all the encouragement you have shown me with my writing. It means a great deal to me and helps me keep going.

****************

In What Now, God? Finding God in Transitions” Jeanie Shaw digs deep into our hearts and lives using biblical, personal, and contemporary examples while offering wisdom and practical advice for navigating transitions of all kinds. Exploring identity, core values, and transitional habits, she offers insights into both grieving and celebrating change. While vulnerably sharing her transition journeys, she leads us straight to the heart of God, reminding us that we are not alone. After each chapter, voices of men and women, both young and older, share ways they found God in uncertain, transitional times.

Wow, everyone please read this book. As a therapist, I am always looking for books that could be helpful for those I support. What I found was that I needed to read these pages myself. And what an inspiring read it was. Transitions can bring many hardships, hence the diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder is in the diagnostic manual. Jeanie has provided a scripture-filled, Holy Spirit-directed, practical hand up to navigate these kinds of challenging times. And she made me laugh! –Dr. Jennifer Konzen, therapist, author, researcher, professor

Jeanie does a phenomenal job of helping the reader understand that transitions are not only normal and inevitable, but also offer amazing opportunities to receive God’s love, comfort, and support. Grief is often the overlooked component of our spiritual formation, but Jeanie outlines the very intimate way that God can use our pain from transitions to form and mature us, if we are willing. By revealing the Holy Spirit’s invitation to deeper connection, this book most certainly helped me to look at transitions from a fresh perspective and embrace even the most painful transitions in life.—Curtis Reed, Oviedo, FL, Grief Recovery and Transition Coach

In this book, Jeanie has beautifully put into words what all of us have thought, felt, and experienced. She does an outstanding job of showing us how to not just let life happen to us, but instead to let life and its transitions make us into the men and women God wants us to become. This book encourages, instructs, inspires, and comforts. Thank you, Jeanie! —Geri Laing, author of A Life Worth Living, Raising Awesome Kids, and Friends and Lovers

In this wonderful book, Jeanie has invited us into her living room and shared her heart, mind, and soul with us. In doing so, she gifts us with the wisdom that comes only through experiencing heights of joy and depths of sorrow while living in the hands of our ineffable God. Her journey through transitions and the lessons she shares with the reader are life-giving.—Robert Correa, Los Angeles, CA, MDiv

An insightful and excellent writer, Jeanie invites us to walk with her through all kinds of transitions as she points us to the identity we can know in Christ when transitions tempt us to question those identities. I was encouraged, comforted, and challenged…but most of all grateful for the practical suggestions offered to help us prepare for and navigate through transitions. I’m better for having read this book.—Guillermo Adame, San Diego, CA, Financial consultant, elder, former missionary

https://www.ipibooks.com/products/what-now-god-finding-god-in-transitions

 

Dear Tom Brady, you hurt my feelings. Love, a grandmother

Dear Tom Brady,

You hurt my feelings.

I enjoy football, but to be honest, since I no longer have cable I have only watched part of one football game this season. I know this is heresy to some. However, as a long-time Patriots fan and New England resident, I shed a few tears while reading your retirement posts. And the tears weren’t only because you won’t be playing anymore.

Tom, you hurt my feelings.

I am happy for you and your family. Really. It’s the right move for your family. And I know that in the big (and even little) scheme of things sports will not follow me or anyone else to the grave or thereafter— but you still hurt my feelings.

Why?

Because over the past twenty years I routed for you, defended you through every gate, wore your jersey, and invested time and money in support of you. I bought my grandkids #12 jerseys. My husband loved watching you from his deathbed. He passed away right before you left the Pats. Our family came together and screamed and yelled during each Super Bowl. Thank you for being such a vital part of those times. And, for crying out loud, I even became a Bucs fan when you left the Pats, except for when they played the Patriots. As a grandmother, sometimes to me you were Tommy. I even had a grand-dog named Brady.

But Tom, I wasn’t acknowledged. I don’t mean “I” wasn’t acknowledged, but in your announcement our Patriots Nation, our football community that helped raise and support a goat… was dissed. I’m not angry…just hurt. I have no idea what has gone on behind the scenes but Tommy, we could use some love.

Acknowledgment matters. It’s kind. It’s humble. It’s also good business. I mean, TB12 lives in New England. So please, Tom Brady, if your feelings were hurt remember there are many of us who had nothing to do with that. Our feelings matter, too, and I know you can do better.

With love and appreciation. A grandmother

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

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

More Good News

Happy New Year dear friends. It has been quite the year, but as I look back I find so many blessings from God. Also, thank you so much for your encouraging words concerning “Wednesdays with Wyndham,” including pictures you have sent of you while reading it. I have loved those. They have warmed my soul and lifted my spirits. Thank you! 

I’ll share more on future blogs, but today I want to share some more “literary” good news.

There are now three ways to get “Wednesdays with Wyndham.” It is now available on Kindle, as well as paperback. I also received a box of books so that I can sign them and then arrange a way to get them to you. Just let me know if you would like a signed copy mailed to you, or if you are local and want to arrange a way to pick one up.  I’ll include the links for the paperback and Kindle versions.

Also, for anyone willing, Amazon reviews are quite helpful for letting more people know about the book. In fact, books don’t get much outside attention until there are numerous reviews. I would truly appreciate any reviews you wish to offer, especially encouraging ones 😊. If you go to the book on Amazon, you can write a review. My prayer is that through this book, faith can be strengthened and ignited—and hearts encouraged and fed.  

Here are the links to both the paperback and Kindle versions. Happy reading! In a future blog, I will be sharing some of my favorite books from 2020 as well as a new blog series.  

Paperback:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PLBX4XL

Kindle:

 

 

The Last Word

While “the last word” can describe a pushy eagerness to be the first and last to express an opinion, it can also be a message for another’s good, to communicate love. Sadly, the first example can be heard around us everywhere, physically and virtually.

Wyndham’s last words to me were “I love you.” Certainly, there were details of life we talked about earlier, but his last words expressed the heart of our relationship. These words are what mattered the most, to him and to me. I treasure those words. He used them daily when he could talk, but he had not been able to talk for months. So, when he somehow got these words out before he died, they were even more precious to me. While I remember so many details about his wisdom and passion for God…I remember these words the most. I carry our relationship of love with me always. His last gift to me was a diamond necklace, which he entrusted Sam to purchase. Even though he knew I am not a “jewelry person,” he wanted this remembrance so I would keep him close to my heart. And he is, always, close to my heart.

According to Jesus’ last words, He wants us to remember He loves us and will be with His sons and daughters. The fact that God’s first and last words were a blessing shows me once again the depth of His love. This moves and touches my heart.

What were Jesus’ last words? I had often thought His last words were the great commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20. But those were not His last words. His last recorded words were in the form of a blessing as He ascended to heaven.

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
(Luke 24:50-53)

Luke expounds on Jesus’ ascension in Acts as he quotes Jesus saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Was this the blessing Luke recorded? We don’t know. Jewish blessings usually invoke a gift or token of love, which the gift of His Spirit certainly is.

While we don’t know the exact words of the blessing as Jesus ascended, we know He raised His hands and blessed His disciples. We understand that they knew that He would somehow be with them through His Holy Spirit, though they did not yet understand how. And we know that they left His ascension rejoicing and praising God. That’s how God’s love affects us when we understand it.

Interestingly, the first recorded words from God to humankind were a blessing (Gen 1:22) and the last words from Jesus to humankind were a blessing. Learning from Jesus, I want my first and last words to communicate love. Because He loves, I can give love. I want my words to be a blessing to others. To communicate love.

This causes me to ask myself: What are my first words to others when I see them or greet them? What do they communicate?

What are my last words? What do they communicate?

Remembering that Jesus loves me and is with me brings me great comfort. His love allows me to show love to others.

A Jewish blessing is found in Numbers 6, describing God’s heart toward His people.

GOD spoke to Moses:

“Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the People of Israel. Say to them,
GOD bless you and keep you,
GOD smile on you and gift you,
GOD look you full in the face and make you prosper. (Numbers 6:22-26 MSG)

I love this blessing. I love the thought of God blessing me and keeping me. I thrill that He would smile on me and gift me, looking me full in the face. Amazing. God’s love touches my heart and gives me great joy. This blessing has been put to song, which has become a great encouragement to me. I pray as you listen, this encourages you as you remember God’s heart toward you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ55mDL7dA0

A Love-Hate Thing

I love “Papa’s bench,” the memorial bench I purchased that was placed at the reservoir five minutes from my house. I often walk and pray around the two-mile perimeter surrounding the lake while Denver frolics and fetches sticks from the water. I chose a bench because I wanted a place to “sit with” Wyndham. I didn’t want a cemetery; I wanted a nearby place with nature’s beauty and fishable water.

The bench went into the ground while I was visiting Kristen in Connecticut. The town employee, who has been extremely kind and thoughtful throughout the process, called to tell me it was in the ground. Hearing that I was away, he put tape across the bench so I could cut the tape and also so that no one would sit there before I did. See what I mean? He is thoughtful.

I arrived back in town the next evening right before dark. I was tired and hot after my drive home. I grabbed some scissors to cut the tape and walked down to the bench that I told you I love. I cut the tape away, sat down, and cried. Ugly cried. I talked out loud, some to God and some to Wyndham. I told God I hated the bench. I never wanted a memory bench. I wanted Wyndham. I loved it, and I hated it. All mashed up together. After a good cry and talk, I settled down on the bench. The reservoir was low, emptier that I had seen it in a long time. No wonder my town has a water ban in effect. Also, the sweltering heat from the previous few days encouraged grass to grow in the water, and I didn’t like how it looked. I didn’t like much that evening, as is likely obvious by now.

In the quiet evening, as I sat still, I began to hear what sounded like a waterfall. As I looked up, I saw water gushing into the lake. I told God…”Okay, I get it.” You see— I felt just like the low, way too empty reservoir…with ugly weeds growing to add insult to injury. And yet, God reminded me that He makes a reservoir possible by being the stream of living water. He will fill my empty reservoir—not with a slight trickling of water drops, but with a forceful gush of living water sent by His Spirit. (As I attached this picture of the outpouring water, I noticed the reflection of the shape of a cross with power lines attached. Oh ,the allegory here…God really wants me to get this message.)

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
(Jn 7:37-39)

(Interestingly, and adding even more depth to this amazing promise from Jesus, is that Jesus said this on the last day of the Feast of Sukkot, which included a water ceremony and chanted prayers pleading for rains for the harvest. Jesus was ushering in a new way of thinking.)

I must remember this new way of thinking, remembering that He continually pours love into my heart through His Spirit (Rom 5:5), like that water gushing from the source.

Somehow, my town knows when to turn on the water flow when the reservoir is low.  How much more does my God know when I need a fill-up? If my reservoir isn’t full, this also affects other people, not just me.

I’m happy to have a bench that I love and hate. I need physical reminders of memories. I think that is why there are so many celebrations recorded in the Bible, so many parables told, and stones of remembrances collected. We all need reminders.

Oh, and another little reminder from God to share. Later, I think it was the next morning, I was speaking with God about how difficult it can sometimes be to feel His presence. After all, I had talked with, lived, with, touched, and talked with Wyndham for forty-five years and now I have memories. With God, I have talked with Him for years and have His Spirit and His Word, but I have never seen Him or physically touched Him. That’s hard, and I think is why Jesus says “blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.” (Jn 20:29)  I told Him it is also hard to not know what it means to be in the spiritual state after death, and though I know Wyndham is with God, I felt a need for reassurance that all was okay. I asked Him if He could please let me know this somehow. I didn’t need to understand it, I just needed to know all was okay. This is all I said, as I did not really even know what I was asking.

After I prayed, I got up, picked up my phone, and had a message waiting from a sister in another region, Kathleen Johnson. This was her message to me. “Jeanie, in my quiet time I thought of you. As I was praying to God I had such a strong feeling that God wanted me to pass on to you that everything is all right..”

If that is not the Spirit at work, I don’t know what is. Of course, I cried in gratitude.

And now, every time I sit on the bench that I love and hate, I not only remember Wyndham, but am reminded that Jesus is my stream of living water…and Wyndham is more than all right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Were You There? A deeper look into an African American Spiritual

Were you there?

A moving African American spiritual. A daunting question.

The questions this song asks give me pause. Each verse asks if I was there when they crucified my Lord; when they nailed Him to the cross; when they pierced Him in the side; and when the sun refused to shine. These questions are followed by the phrase, “sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”

This popular spiritual has its roots in the communal slave experience, appearing in 1899 in William E. Barton’s Old Plantation Songs. The lyrics stem from the deep love and appreciation for the cross, common to the African-American slave community.

As I read or sing these lyrics I realize that of course, I wasn’t there, but this is not the point of the questions. The questions are asked so that I can go there in my heart and mind, remembering the sacrifice Jesus gave for me and consider my response to that sacrifice by the way I live today.

These questions function as an anomnesis, which from the Greek means “to remember.” Author David Bjorlin writes, “It calls the community to re-member the past to the present, to bring these historic events to bear on the now and make them part of our story…to bring the past events of Christ’s suffering and death into the present and transform us in its light.”[1]

Author James Cone, in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, tells of the centrality of the cross to the African-American community. This song, penned in days of slavery, takes on an even deeper meaning for the African-American community as it remembers the slave experience at the root. Cone writes, “In the mystery of God’s revelation, black Christians believed that just knowing that Jesus went through an experience of suffering in a manner similar to theirs gave them faith that God was with them, even in suffering on lynching trees, just as God was present with Jesus in suffering on the cross.” This allowed them to have hope in Jesus’ promise that he would be with them because of his resurrection power.[2]

As I write these words, I pause to let them sink in a bit. They are hard to write.

Were you there?

If I put myself there with Jesus, it changes my world view and the way I live each day. This is how I strive to live, though I too often fall short. Also, If I try to put myself there, in the roots of this hymn, it can change my perspective toward others.

In the memoir of African-American pastor and civil rights leader Howard Thurman entitled, With Head and Heart, Thurman recounts his meeting in India with Mahatma Gandhi. Before he and his wife left, Gandhi asked them to sing this hymn to him. Gandhi noted, “I feel this song gets to the root of the experience of the entire human race under the spread of the healing wings of suffering.”[3]

In the horrific video of the murder of George Floyd, the image of the three officers standing by while Floyd cries “I can’t breathe” haunts my soul. They were there. And they did nothing to stop it.

I pause to ask. What if I was there? Would I have done everything in my power to stop it? I’d like to think so, but since I have not done everything I can to stop racism….it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. And repent.

I think all the way back to times when I was a young girl and saw bathrooms labeled “colored” and “white” and walked quietly into my privileged restroom without a word. Why, when in high school during desegregation and I was caught in an ensuing riot did I worry much more about my own safety than ever seeking to understand the pain that my new fellow students felt by having their neighborhood school, teachers, and all they had known close their doors, to never reopen again?

Immaturity perhaps. But immaturity indoctrinated in a root system of inequality, injustice, and white privilege. I think I must tremble some more.

Before leaving Ghandhi’s tent, Thurman asked him what he thought was the greatest barrier in India to the spread of Christianity. Gandhi answered, “Christianity as it is practiced, as it has been identified with Western Culture, with Western civilization and colonialism.”[4]

Let that one sink in.

Thankfully, a final verse has since been added to the song. It asks, “Were you there when He rose up from the grave?”

How thankful I am for this verse, as Jesus provides the only true source and direction for love and unity. In The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Cones emphasize the victory in the cross as he declares, “while the lynching tree symbolized white power and ‘black death,’ the cross symbolized divine power and ‘black life’—God overcoming the power of sin and death.[5]

Though I haven’t experienced African American history, I, for one, plan to “go there” to better understand the history of systemic racism and ways this shameful past still affects my present. It will likely involve some more trembling and some speaking up.

Thanks be to God there is a way out of the power of sin through Jesus’ willingness to “go there” for me. He went there. All the way to the cross. He was there, giving His life.

I wasn’t there when He rose up from the grave, but because He did, He can now be here with us. Because of this, I can be transformed more into His image each day, holding to the hope He brings. He provides the hope for change. Desperately needed hope.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being                    transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord,           who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17-18)

I invite you to listen to the Three Mo’ Tenors’ rendition of “Were You There?” Perhaps it will touch your heart just a little deeper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhGYD1svTM4

[1] David Bjorlin, “History of Hymns: Were You There?” Discipleship Ministries: United Methodist Church, Vol 17, March 2016.

[2] James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 21-22.

[3] Howard Thurman, With Head and Heart:: The Autobiography of Howard  Thurman (NY: Harvest; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1979), 134.

[4] Thurman, 135.

[5] Cone, 18.