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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?

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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.

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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.

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Gardens of Growth & Grace: What Veggies Have Taught Me About Flourishing

Over the past five years, my husband and I have taken up square-foot gardening in our backyard. Given that we live in a high desert, this isn’t the most cost-effective way to supply fresh veggies for our family; however, the fruit this discipline has produced in our souls is more than worth the added resources we’ve poured into these beds.

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The Grand Essentials…Old School

For the early Christians the Wisdom literature, particularly Proverbs, was the launching point for their consideration of human flourishing. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10 NIV) is the persistent theme of Proverbs. This wisdom is necessary for the practical realization of human flourishing, that is, a life lived well. Furthermore, it is a wisdom that originates in God and makes God known to us. The following selections illustrate early Christian reflections on wisdom.

Jerome (c. 347–420), the fourth-century Bible scholar best known as the translator of the Latin Vulgate, writes:

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Fully Alive in Christ
Choosing Love, Faith, and Hope

It is about 2 a.m. when my feet hit the soft grass under the bedroom window of my ranch style home. I walk down the silent street of the small Wisconsin village, walking “crosslots” through empty backyards, under the goalposts of the high school football field until I arrive at the door of a church. On Sundays I come here in my “good clothes,” but tonight I am a thirteen-year-old barefoot supplicant in cutoff s and a T-shirt. I find in the moonlit darkness of the sanctuary what I long for—a transcendent Presence that I somehow misplaced during the daylight hours of home and high school, and even church. I don’t stay long, but for a few blessed moments I feel the peace that passes understanding holding my mind and heart; I sense a love that is deeper than my knowing. I feel fully alive in those moments. Then I leave, retrace my steps, and noiselessly climb through the window and back into my own bed.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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?

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