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Using Fear To Grow In Courage

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.

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My Fearless Year

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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Fear of Missing Out; How the Curiosity Culture Confuses Virtue and Vice

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.

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A For Anxiety; How Panic Attacks and Surrender Leads To a Life of Meaning

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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Sacred Pathways: Loving God According to the Way He Made You

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?

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Taking the Plunge: Saying Yes in the Ebb and Flow of the With God-Life


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.

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The Jesus Prayer: A Gift from Eastern Spirituality

“Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”


I discovered the Jesus Prayer at a time in my life when I desperately needed something to deepen my life in Christ.

After reading about the various major world religions, I rediscovered Jesus Christ while reading the Revised Standard Bible that my dear Methodist grandmother had given me for the confirmation I did not receive. I had wandered away from Christianity into rock ’n’ roll, but had come back after seeing firsthand that most of the stars who had everything I thought I wanted were really still very empty and unhappy. This led me to the Jesus at the height of the Jesus Movement. Eventually I ended up recording Jesus music with Sparrow Records, a company that has since become the largest Christian recording company in the world.

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Growing in the Garden: How The Streams Water Our Sprouts

Christian spiritual formation with children is the process by which a child learns to live their life with God. That’s right; the kid who last left his gum on your kitchen table is invited into the same life with God you are. The one who pretends to be a dog during the entire second grade, the one who sings show tunes from dawn to dusk, that one is also capable of a life walking with the God of the universe.

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O Taste & See: Meditations on Tim Lowly’s “Celebrant” and Poetry by Luci Shaw

When the editors set out to curate potential artwork for the cover of this issue, we were tasked with a bigger project than we knew. As with any issue of Conversations, we aim to connect the image on the cover to the theme of spiritual formation about which we’re asking writers to dialogue within the issue. In the case of Issue 11.1, there are galleries full of art that depict the element of water. Christocentric works. Historical paintings. Images of baptisms in rivers, or streams flowing through the Garden. We weren’t short on imagery for the topic “Streams of Living Water.” But the subtitle of this issue, that little phrase after the colon, “Celebrating the Great Traditions of the Christian Faith,” presented a bit of a conundrum in our search. That is, until we came across “Celebrant” by Tim Lowly.

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Becoming Catholic at Wheaton

I first encountered Richard Foster’s description of the six streams in my coursework in Christian Formation at Wheaton College Graduate School. As a Roman Catholic studying among evangelicals, the streams concept resonated with me. In fact, the Six Streams allowed me to articulate for the first time what was happening to me at Wheaton: my studies in a stream very different to my own not only were bringing me closer to evangelicals to appreciate and incorporate their faith perspective, but were also helping me to grow as a Catholic. Here is my story.


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