Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Treasure Hunt Tuesday: Podcasts, Memories, and Formation

It’s Treasure Hunt Tuesday, and while I still have lots of VBS treasures on my mind from last week, I’ve also been taking in so many great podcasts recently and would love to share a few of them here in hopes the blessings can be multiplied to you as well.

“Creating space for your soul to breathe” is a tagline from Emily that captured my heart the first time I read it on her blog several years ago. Although she has now added a bit to that statement, she still includes it as part of her creative work’s mission, and I love how it still resonates with me. So the fact that she dedicated a podcast episode to dig deeper into that theme of “creating space” made my heart smile from the moment I read the title all the way through listening to the entire episode.

In this 16-minute podcast, Emily tells of finding a discounted book called The Solace of Open Spaces and how it spoke to her on a subject that has long resonated with her life and passion. There is a paradox of how we have a tendency to strive to fill empty spaces, but we actually can become more full by holding space. That’s something that definitely rings true in my life as well (with perhaps more than a slight twinge of conviction, too).

My heart echoes these words from Emily’s prayer to our Heavenly Father:

“Transform our emptiness into sacred space.
Be our patience as we trust in your slow work and simply do our next right thing in love.”


A little way I was able to create space for my soul to breathe
while also carving out time to write this week.

This episode features a conversation between Emily and author/professor James Bryan Smith. He tells about how he sometimes refers to himself as “the Forrest Gump of the Christian world” because somehow over the years he has made connections he could not have possibly orchestrated for himself with people like Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Frederick Buechner, Brennan Manning, Rich Mullins, Henri Nouwen, and more. But God has used each of them to shape his life and ministry in profound ways.

Jim (as he prefers to be called) also gives the back-story behind a key statement Emily quotes from him often:

“I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights. I live in the strong and unshakeable kingdom of God. The kingdom is not in trouble and neither am I.”

I still keep coming back to that declaration as well, and the story he tells reminds us of the power of words that portray what is true in beautiful and memorable ways.

Are you sensing a pattern here? I loved that Jim (James) and Emily both got to be on each other’s podcasts for different conversations, and I can’t help but share them both. Also note that even though this one is titled “part 2,” their first discussion on his podcast together was about 9 months earlier, so this is not actually a continuation but instead an additional separate conversation with her.

In this episode, Emily compares unmade decisions to being like toddlers at dinnertime, always demanding our attention. But our decisions and the way we make them are part of our formation process in Christ as well. What do we see as most important? How will we keep that in mind as we make decisions? How can we choose to simply do our next right thing in love?

Emily also talked about how often we want to have complete clarity before we make a decision, but she quoted Marie Forleo in saying,

“Clarity comes from engagement, not from thought.”

So many times it seems the right directions seem to be made clear only after we begin to take action. Then we finally start to sense the peace we’ve been looking for and can make any needed adjustments as we continue in motion and take the next steps. Oh how often I need to be reminded of this!

If you read my blog post from a couple of weeks ago, you know that Casey’s book, As I Recall, has already deeply impacted me, so as soon as I saw that Kent had interviewed him for his podcast, I had to check that out, too. I definitely enjoyed their conversation and appreciate how Casey talks about the role of memories in our identity and spiritual formation. He also shares a bit about his creative journey and writing process, which I was intrigued to hear as well.

(P.S. I went back to edit my earlier post to include a mention of this podcast there, too. I definitely want to remember it when I look back, and I want others interested in the book to have a link to the podcast also.)

** Speaking of memories, this week marked five and a half years since my husband’s passing, and I couldn’t help but revisit this post I wrote five years ago, at the six-month milestone… As much as part of me wants to go back and edit a few little places in the post, it seems more fitting to let you read it exactly as I shared it then:

I’m grateful for how God continues to work in us even when we’re in the middle of the mess with the struggles we face day to day. I need to remember that often in my current season as well.

“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 1:6 (HCSB)

A VBS treasure reminding us of God's presence and promises.

I’d always love to hear from you as well! What experiences, memories, words, people, or decisions have shaped or formed your life? How can you see God’s work in you through them? Are there any ways you intentionally create space for your soul to breathe? Or are there any other treasures you’ve been finding lately? Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Treasure Hunt Tuesday: VBS Memories and Encouragement

It’s Vacation Bible School week at church, and every time it comes around I can’t help but think of special memories. I always loved participating in VBS growing up, from the fun new songs each year to the crafts, snacks, lessons, and memory verse challenges.

But probably my most vivid memories from attending VBS came from one teacher in particular during my junior high years. By that time in life, our family had transitioned churches (and when you’re the preacher’s kid, you don’t have much choice about going or staying), but I was able to go back to our previous church for Bible School week each summer.

I especially remember one of the older ladies who always seemed to have so much fun (while maybe looking a little crazy) doing the actions for all the songs to the extreme. And she was probably the biggest hugger I knew, which definitely drew attention. But she was also the teacher for our junior high class, and somehow her over-the-top personality mixed with a genuineness of heart came together to provide exactly what I needed in that season of adolescence. I will always fondly remember her love and encouragement (as well as the permission to be a little crazy!) at a time I needed it more than she could have known.

So every year at VBS time I think of that special lady who now I’m sure is dancing and having a blast in heaven, and my heart is stirred in wanting to be that kind of encourager for someone else. More than any of the individual Bible lessons from those years, I learned so much of the love, joy, and grace of Christ from her smiles, laughs, and encouraging words. I never want to forget, and I pray those qualities can become contagious in my life, too.

Another reason I’m especially thinking of the importance of being that kind of encourager is that I’ve also been looking through all my pictures from the past 20-plus years over the last few weeks for another project. The images that have captured my heart the most have been from past children’s programs--from VBS, Christmas, Easter, and more.

I don’t really want to mention how old it makes me feel to see those children who were so young (and adorable!) in the pictures now graduating, getting married, and even having children of their own already. But it does make me want to remember the urgency of encouraging, loving, and teaching while we have the prime opportunities. We never know when a kind word, smile, laugh, or hug will make a bigger difference than we can imagine, but I don’t want to miss the chances God brings my way to help build up foundational encouragement for young people when they are most receptive to it.

So when I’m singing and laughing and maybe even mixing up the hand motions for our songs at VBS, I’m also praying these precious children can take in the truth of God’s love so personally--through the lessons, yes, but also through our hearts. May they see glimpses of Jesus in all of us…

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

I’d love for you to join in the discussion, too! Were you able to attend Vacation Bible School or anything similar as a child? If so, what stands out in your memories? Is there a particular activity, message, or person that comes to your mind? Who are some young people in your life that you can encourage? What might you do this week to show God’s love to them? Always feel free to leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Treasure Hunt Tuesday: As I Recall

Have you ever read a book that all of a sudden seemed perfectly timed for you? That’s the way I felt about Casey Tygrett’s recently-released treasure, As I Recall: Discovering the Place of Memories in Our Spiritual Life. Even though I finished reading it a few weeks ago, the concepts and ideas keep coming back to my mind and heart as I continue to process my own memories along my walk with Christ.

I’m hoping that sharing a little about the book here might spur you on in your own spiritual journey with your memories and maybe even encourage you to go through the book for yourself. I highly recommend it!

Throughout the book, Tygrett relates our experiences with memories to that of picking up shells along the beach. This seemed especially fitting for me since I started reading it on my recent (but already seeming like too long ago) beach vacation. Gathering shells physically made the metaphor come alive to me even more as I began to collect them figuratively along with the reading, too. Tygrett prompts us to use our senses to take in the colors, textures, shapes, and sizes of the “shells” we gather in our imagination, thinking about what we recall, what stands out to us, and why.

Tygrett beautifully weaves together storytelling from Scripture and from his own life along with a bit of neuroscience while often coming back to the shell metaphor for our memories. He encourages us to take them out and hold them in the presence of God, reengaging them with the goal of spiritual transformation. Each chapter concludes with a practice to help guide us in this pursuit as well.

Honestly I still need to go back to finish some of the practices for myself, but the ones I did make time to complete along the way helped bring certain memories to my mind I might not have been thinking of otherwise. And truly that’s why I feel like the book was perfectly timed for me to read.

Our tendency often can lean toward avoiding bringing up the past, especially when it comes to difficult emotional recollections. But Tygrett asserts,

“When it comes to our painful memories, we long for amnesia, but we need redemption and reintegration.”

When our memories are redeemed, he expounds, “Moments we have considered worthless or even harmful are suddenly given value by the God who heals--the God who lives not in calendar time with its various demands but in kairos time, which is best described as nonchronological sacredness.”

Indeed there is a sacredness to how God works in our stories and weaves them into the bigger story of His love and faithfulness. What a treasure to remember.

As much as I connected to the writing and concepts of this book from the beginning, the last few chapters bring everything together in a way that keeps stirring my heart even more passionately. As Tygrett ties in the story of Jesus from the Last Supper to the cross and resurrection and then takes us to Revelation for a glimpse of the future that informs our present and past, the message of hope and encouragement shines through with fresh reminders of purpose for all our memories.

Every memory belongs.

Every memory can be redeemed.

Future memory gives us perspective for past memories and present contingency (living in the divine “maybe” of the in-between).

And all of it matters, not just for ourselves but also for those around us.

So often God will cause our paths to cross with others who need to hear our stories. Tygrett writes, “The resolution or the redemption of the bittersweet parts of our memories comes when we take that which is difficult and disparate in our scripts and engage it with Jesus to make that bittersweetness a beautiful gift. Then we may give a gift to other loved ones who feel abandoned, graceless, and deformed…”

“We possess our memories in order that, redeemed and re-envisioned, they may become stories that merit telling.”

I long for this to be true in my life. So I want to keep bringing my shells to Jesus and let Him do His work in me.

(Some creative people at the beach gathered these shells
and provided markers for visitors to write on them.)

For more about the redemption of our memories and sharing our stories in ways that are healing to others, check out the conversation Casey had recently with Austin Gohn on Tygrett’s otherWISE podcast. It’s worth listening all the way to the end as they discuss the intersection of themes between their two recent books. (Gohn’s book is titled, A Restless Age: How Saint Augustine Helps You Make Sense of Your Twenties, and although I might be twice that age, it still resonates with me… may be coming soon on my “to be read” list!)

I also loved Casey's recent conversation with Kent Sanders on the Born to Create podcast, episode 084: Your Memories Make You Who You Are. He shares more about the role memories play in our identity and spiritual formation, helping to shape who we are. And Kent asks Casey to tell a bit about his creative journey and writing process, too, which I found very interesting as well.

I’d love for you to join in the conversation, too! What key memories, good or bad, have shaped your life? Have you seen glimpses of redemption in any of them? Is there someone you could encourage by sharing your story? Or does this stir up any special prayer requests? Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Treasure Hunt Tuesday: What I Learned This Spring

You may have heard me talk about her before, but one of the things I love about Emily P. Freeman (besides her books and podcast, of course!) is how she encourages reflection and looking back on each season before moving into the next one. She has a regular practice of doing this every three months, and I always enjoy reading her posts.

However, despite all my good intentions for more seasons than I’d like to admit, I’ve never written a “What I Learned” post of my own to join in with hers even though she always invites us to share. So for this week’s Treasure Hunt Tuesday, I’m looking back on what I’ve learned or come to know even more fully over the last three months, and I’d love for you to join me as well.

1. Writing can be a hard-fought process, but it’s good for my soul.

I’ve known this for a while, especially when it comes to journaling (even if I’m not very consistent with it), but it’s only been as I’ve pushed through trying to write here every week with you in mind that I’ve come to more of these realizations. Working to articulate and share encouragement for other people tends to help those truths stick in my mind even more (and goodness knows I need to come back to them often). It also helps bring order to my swirling, chaotic thoughts--which is probably why it takes me so long to actually write anything!

But I'm grateful for the glimpses God allows me to see of how He uses the process to shape my heart and uplift others. So I hope to keep writing in order to keep reminding myself and you of the goodness God pours into our lives “out of His fullness,” whether our current seasons or moments feel empty or full. He is always faithful.

2. Daily social media challenges are not for me.

As much as it’s good for me to write regularly, trying to publish something every day is way too much for me, at least in this season. I especially noticed this when Emily Freeman had an Instagram challenge in April with 24 daily prompts for #MyNextRightThing. I thought it was cute, especially since I love her book, love her heart, and loved the fact that the challenge started on my birthday and ended on hers. So it seemed perfect.

But guess how many days I actually posted?


I made it on Day 1, Day 2, and Day 4 before completely giving up. I loved reading so many beautiful posts other people shared but had to let myself off the hook. Who has time to find a photo and write a thoughtful caption every single day? Not me!

I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that I overthink and over-edit, plus I’m just not as creative in those directions. But instead of beating myself up over those qualities, I’m learning to be ok with how I’m wired and lean into what I can do rather than get frustrated with what I can’t manage right now. It’s a continual process, but I’m learning!

So when Hope*Writers did a similar challenge in May, I knew better than to try to participate. I simply enjoyed reading everyone else’s posts without feeling guilty or less-than for not being able to write the way they did. And it was lovely.

3. I still love going to the park.

Ok, this one I’m sure isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I think I love it more and more the older I get. Whether I’m taking a break for a quick lunch, going for a walk, sitting out to read or write, or even shooting hoops for a bit (let’s not talk about the fact I have to do it without jumping because of my bad knees…), nothing much beats having a chance to be outside in nice weather.

And bonus points if I can be out near the lake!

4. Failing to take a winter vacation is a really bad idea.

Sounds obvious enough, right? I’m not sure how this even happened. But somehow I went all the way from October until the end of April without being somewhere warm by the ocean. I felt like I was never going to make it. But thankfully views like this helped uplift my heart when I finally arrived.

(You can see more scenes from my trip in my post on Rest, Worship, and Delight as well.)

5. Bob Goff, Chris Tomlin, and Steven Curtis Chapman are a few of the people on my “don’t miss seeing them in person if they’re anywhere near you” list.

I’m so glad I was able to catch each of them this past spring… what treasures indeed!

If you’d like more encouragement or inspiration for creating your own lists, check out Emily P. Freeman’s Next Right Thing Podcast episode 84: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Reflection. (Transcripts are available as well if you prefer reading to listening.)

You can also check out her post on what she learned this spring here.

As always, I’d love to hear about your treasures or what you’ve been learning, too! Feel free to share in the comments or by sending me a message on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.