Buy Article

Letting Go of the False Self
How the Enneagram can Help You Find the True You

Our daughter Elisa still remembers a terrifying moment in the produce section of our grocery store. She was young, too young for school, but old enough to be walking the aisles of the grocery store with Mommy. Somewhere between the lettuce and the grapefruit, she let go of my hand and wandered a few feet away. Ready to return to the security of my presence, she reached up to take my hand. Horrors! That was not  Mommy up there.

Read More Post a comment (0)
God, Where Are You? What Are You Doing?

The practices that had been so dear to her, so life giving, were dry as dust. Those specials places of connection with God, those times of receiving consolation from God were gone—dried up—and she was left wondering in a barren wasteland, lost and alone. She felt abandoned, forsaken of God, even in danger of losing her faith. As she stood before me, her despair was palpable. Here I was, a seminary student, her adult Sunday School teacher, but I did not know what to say.

Read More Post a comment (0)
Avoiding the Trapdoor in Transformation

Although it was nine years ago, that Sunday morning is still vividly etched in my memory. A few years earlier my heart had been captivated by the life-giving understanding that God’s intention was that the lives of Jesus’ followers were to be deeply transformed into the likeness of Jesus himself. Since I had been a Christian for decades and seminary trained as well, you might wonder why it took so long for me to come to this realization. But that’s a story for another time. Having discovered the Father’s intention of transformation, I had given myself over to that process with great intentionality. I read books on the topic of spiritual formation and listened to gifted teachers whose lives evidenced that deep transformation was indeed possible. I began practicing a variety of spiritual disciplines, some familiar and some new, all with the desire to see the hidden recesses of my life touched and transformed by the love and character of Christ. After the process was under way in my own life, my Sunday sermons began to focus on topics related to spiritual formation. What could be more inviting than these amazing realities? People’s hearts were stirred, hope was ignited, everything was moving along nicely—until that one Sunday morning.

Read More Post a comment (0)
Joy Changes Everything

Joy levels are like the temperature of an oven. We can choose our ingredients carefully, but the oven temperature will determine what our careful preparations will yield. Consider the effect of angry or joyful parents on family prayer and Bible reading. As joy increases so does the chance that transformation will go in a positive direction. Joy levels have huge effects on whether our efforts will be productive and lasting.

Why would a factor that powerful go unnoticed by most of the church?

Read More Post a comment (0)
Meditations on Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s ‘The Wedding Dance’

Bruegel’s images of village life in sixteenth- century Holland may seem quaint, antique, and remote, but they speak eloquently of what it means to live well and flourish in a vulnerable, uncertain world. “The Wedding Dance” depicts a crowded village street where, it seems, a whole community has gathered to celebrate.

Weddings change things for everyone: Families are reorganized, property is redistributed, and the geography of old intimacies and friendships is remapped as the community makes space for a new household. Though wedding celebrations are among the most festive in our shared life, explicit moments of hope and happiness, they are also shadowed with losses remembered and impending, with awareness of fleeting time and mortality, and with sharpened loneliness for the solitary. Bruegel recognizes this ambiguous character of human celebration in figures like that of the orange-shirted watcher who stands to the right of the dancers, hands clasped behind him, gazing at a kissing couple, or the observer in black who stands in the left foreground watching from the shadows half-turned away.

Read More Post a comment (0)
Children and Adults: Co-Pilgrims in this Life with God

We are born with open space, with the hunger to be in relationship with God. Right from the womb we search the eyes around us for connection. We cry to be held. We reach out to know that we are loved. And we are, right from the beginning. Even the fact that we came to be is proof enough that God desires for us to know him, to be loved and cared for by him. Children have a natural openness to God; Jesus said the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Children arrive slippery and screaming and ready for relationship. Their interior space has not been filled with disappointment, pain, habitual sin, or any of the other junk that clogs up our ability to seek God with a pure heart. They are seeking and connecting. The toddler who sings in her bed before she goes to sleep and as soon as she wakes up is echoing the song sung to her. The boy who gently caresses the hurt family pet is echoing the gentle caresses of God. C. S. Lewis said we know God exists because we know that there is good in the world.

Read More Post a comment (0)
Gathering Widsom: The Golden Fruit of Later Years

When the editors of Conversations Journal decided to do an issue of aging and passages, we knew we had in our own community a voice to speak wisely and well to us. In Emilie Griffin’s latest book, Green Leaves for Later Years, she shares wisdom from her seventy-five-year spiritual journey.

Read More Post a comment (2)
Get Real? At My Age?

In my early thirties, my brown-black hair began forming a silver streak across the front. Over the years, I had great fun making the most of the black-silver contrast framing my face. But a while ago, gray hair began filling in all over my head. The contrast faded. I looked old. Was that okay? I was stuck because I had vowed I would never color my hair to look younger. I’d been proud that my fingernails, toenail color, and hair color were real. I reasoned that Scripture offers positive comments about gray hair: “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life”; “the glory of youths is their strength, but the beauty of the aged is their gray hair” (Proverbs 16:31; 20:29 NRSV).

Read More Post a comment (0)
Wisdom, Silence, and Learning How to Die

Tara Owens:

So, our topic for this issue of Conversations is “Wisdom and Aging.” We have a wide readership—from lay leaders to pastors, from parents with small children to those with great-grandchildren, people who are single, and married, and divorced. They come from all the streams of Christianity.

One of the big questions many of our readers are struggling with when it comes to this topic is how to age well, how to live out their older years with grace. Other readers are asking how to find wisdom in a world that seems to require it of us at younger and younger ages.

Read More Post a comment (0)
Living Like We’re Dying: Reflections and Exercising for Wise Aging

Change can be hard, especially when we are unprepared for that change. Remember puberty, for example. So much was happening in your body, mind, and emotions. Ideally, loving adults help teens prepare for those changes in advance. Yet, as we hit our twenties and thirties, most of us are left to navigate life fairly unprepared. What do you wish someone had helped you prepare for in the season of life you are currently in? Is there someone you could mentor through a season of life you have already been through?

Read More Post a comment (0)