I was making the bed in the corner bedroom, listening to NPR’s coverage of the economic meltdown. It was October 2008, just before my son’s thirteenth birthday. After twenty-some years on InterVarsity staff in California, Pennsylvania, and Canada, my husband, Dan, and I had packed our family and moved to Connecticut. We were there at the behest of supporters who invited us—begged us—to help them start a firm with a completely new model for making and giving money.
We live in a fear-filled world. Much of the fuel for the generalized angst and breakneck
pace of our culture is a product of a disabling fear that lurks both in the known and unknown parts of our heart. Over time we can begin to limp through our days carrying either a numb indifference or a bone-weary anxiety. Fortunately, I’ve found a dear friend who—in the time it takes to deliver just a few precious, stuttering words—can open up a universe of heart-lifting, peace-giving, awe-inspiring, truth-revealing realities that soothingly revive my doubt-worn soul. That friend is Dieter Zander.
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Last year, I read the pronouncement of the angel Gabriel, to John’s father: “You shall have joy and gladness…” I burst into tears in the quiet dawn. Where was that promise being fulfilled in my life? Work occupies my waking hours, and if I’m not working, I’m worrying about work. But I do work; I almost never don’t work. I work three jobs, between my calling, my office (the necessary foundation undergirding that calling), and my family. I have become a zombie of sorts, with the lifeblood of joy and gladness sucked from my veins.Read More Post a comment (0)
We—you and I and the society we live in—are frantic with worry. Worry is part of our culture, an expectation of responsible people. Most of us don’t even realize we’re consumed with worry. When I asked several people to tell me about their experiences with worry, most indicated they don’t consider themselves “worriers.” Then they went on to tell me about their struggles with worry, some of them describing sleepless nights and disruptions to relationships caused by worry. A few described panic attacks and other symptoms of runaway anxiety. But almost no one wanted to be labeled a “worrier.” One reason you and I worry so much is embedded in the world around us. We are surrounded not only by reasons to worry, but also by people who want us to worry because it makes them feel better about themselves or because there is profit in fueling our fear. Whether we realize it or not, we are under pressure to conform to a self-feeding culture of worry.Read More Post a comment (0)
After one Saturday Easter vigil, we gathered with a group of friends to feast, not only with food, but hearty discussion. My husband, David, and I did what we often do to encourage folks to dig deeper and share more passionately. We asked them each to write down a question for discussion that we put into a basket. One by one, each person had to pick a question and answer it (a question could be passed to someone else, although you would then be stuck without recourse with the next question you drew). Our friend BJ picked a question, looked at it and said, “I should probably give this to someone else.” Then pausing for a bit he said, “No, I will answer it.” Slowly he read the question, “What is your greatest fear?” Mind you, BJ is a rugby-playing fearless friend who has worked with pimps and prostitutes in Times Square and gone into the Bolivian Andes dozens of times to help our poor Quechua friends. He has almost died with an emergency appendectomy and falling off cliffs there, has started ball clubs in rough neighborhoods in New York, and loves a challenge. He paused and said, “I am not really a very fearful person… but I would say, something terrible happening to one of my children.” We all took a deep breath. He paused again and said, “Or my wife dying before me and my having to do my own taxes and organize my life for myself.” We all laughed; but he was serious.Read More Post a comment (0)
I took my tinies for a walk in the fading of the day’s grace. We’ve been overworked and tired lately, still recovering from that flu going around. I had spent the day doing laundry, cleaning our home, bathing tinies, and clipping fingernails in the post-Christmas recovery. We were finding ordinary time again, and I was tired and a little dull. That night, my husband was working late, so I wrestled our three little ones into their winter gear and set out.
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I was just heading home from a conference near Washington, D.C., and landed in Dallas for a few hours, waiting for my connecting flight back home to Los Angeles. As I waited at the gate with a colleague who joined me at the conference, we reminisced about the excellent presentations and gifted speakers. During the conversation we took a “rabbit trail” about the fears people have about public speaking. He mentioned that often “public speaking” ranks at the top of people’s fears. I protested, saying that certainly couldn’t be the case.Read More Post a comment (0)
Editor’s note: When we read Rebekah Lyons’s new book, Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning, we knew that her voice was needed in this issue. Rebekah is a mom of three living a busy life in New York City who fell prey to that which she feared most—mental illness. For her, that came in the form of debilitating panic attacks and depression. As Rebekah journeyed through this dark period with God, she discovered that where her fears and desires met was actually a place of calling and purpose. What follows is the story of Rebekah’s first relapse, and her subsequent breakthrough. Afterward, Rebekah graciously agreed to talk with Conversations Journal about the things she wishes pastors and churches knew about anxiety, and the spiritual practices—the Classical Spiritual Exercises—that keep her grounded in surrender and love.
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Editor’s Note: We’ve heard about this or that stream or pathway. We’ve seen the way the traditions have different characters, ways of expressing the life of God. We’re impressed by some Christians we know who have it all together, who seem much closer to holiness than we are. We’re yearning to enter into the God-Life, to find a space that fits us in a world of sudden challenge and change.
When I held Gary Thomas’s book, Sacred Pathways, in my hands again, I remembered the person I was when I first entered the life of spiritual formation. Eager, sometimes overconfident, often full of inadequacy and shame, I saw myself as a contemplative, wanting desperately to go apart and let the Savior whisper my name. But I was afraid: afraid of my own romantic streak, my tendency to go overboard, to fall in love exquisitely and out of love just as easily, blown by winds of change and fashion. I didn’t want the spiritual life just because it was trendy. I didn’t want it for any surface reason, a new dress to be worn because it was the latest thing.
I wanted a place to rest, to enter deeply into the Life with God. I wanted the spiritual life, and I wanted to do things right. Like the young Teresa of Avila, I longed to strike a balance: not passionately shouting my love of God to the heavens, not secretly opening myself to the Holy Spirit, not on the mountaintop, not in the dark valley, always wanting the level confidence of trusting God minute by minute and day by day. I wanted Jesus near to me, yet wondered if that was possible. Were there other Christians and believers who felt the way I did? Where on Earth could I possibly fit in?Read More Post a comment (0)
The Christian spiritual journey is one that moves us with surprising opportunities, changing invitations, and new challenges. God asks us regularly to change, to grow, to step into something unexpected. What, then, encourages us to accept the Holy Spirit’s invitations toward something new? Most of us enter the Christian faith within the context of one or two of the streams of Christian spirituality. Those streams become our “home base.” Sometimes our faith community may encourage us to explore another stream. Often our faith community suggests we stay put, or sit tight, within the stream where their comfort is highest.Read More Post a comment (0)