Thursday, December 20, 2018

#32 An Advent Poem

At just the right time

He knocked at the door of my “Inn.”

My life was full – bustling and suffering.

Would I relegate Him to the cave in back

Or clear a room,

Clear my whole house,

So he could birth in me,


A place where “Glory!” would sound?

Oh, the gifts that would come!

Could we, together, avoid an exile?

A death?



We would live a stranger in this world,

The death of the old life and its power would pass

And rise to new.


Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Dear Daddy - 6 June 2005

If you receive my words, hide them within yourself.
Proverbs 2:1

Dear Daddy,

I know you have so much to say to me and I don't always pursue them as fully as you offer them.  Your words.  The author of the Proverb says to "receive" your words. That is my quest, today, Daddy: to receive what you have to say to me.

Please, Daddy, place more opportunities in front of me to read, to listen.  Give me desire to go to your Word.  Help me to take in these words for your sake and mine.

I look forward to this day with you, Dad.

Love, Gina

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Grace and Gratitude

We get the teaching that we can do nothing to earn salvation, which is true, but that does not negate the responsibility of a response to God’s great gift of salvation and other related gifts:

· Forgiveness is ready but stays at the cross without the response of repentance.

·  Sanctification is a process as effective as the pursuance of it.

· Treasures in heaven are only as full as the storer’s commitment to abandon earthly treasure.

· James is clear and to the point:  Faith without works is dead.

· And even the hard gifts can only improve our perseverance and character if we respond God’s way.

Thus, grace does not exclude effort.  Yet, it is not a forced effort but a responsive one.  Gratitude is not “owing” someone, but a heart-felt response. Owing someone a response turns gift-giving into a business transaction and reduces the joy-response.  It turns heartfelt praise into duty.  And while there is nothing wrong duty, it should not come on the back of gratitude.

Gratitude is more like an echo that carries the original voice far and wide.  If an echo does not sound, it means there is something wrong with the chamber.  The main way to amend the chamber is to turn it into God’s.  The truest sense of gratitude is not just gratitude for the gift, but what it reveals about the character of God.  What the chamber seeking to reflect – itself or the voice.  Every return of favor is to extol the character of God, even in the demanding, the difficult, the discipline.

How much does the chamber of our being seek to know the most about God, seek the most of him? The hardest time to see God maybe in the difficult, but the hardest time to remember God is in plenty.

May we each desire the chambers of our heart to encompass all His gifts and echo his character to the world.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Dear Daddy - May 31, 2005

Oh, Daddy,

Don't let my heart be poisoned by negativity, by cruelty.  Please, lift me above the ashes of relationships that others have burned down.  Help me to heal.  Help me to initiate reconciliation.

I see, Daddy, why you want us to love each other; you want us to extend grace to each other.  It does not look Christ-like to be excluding others or by being unkind.  I look to you, Daddy, to help me rise above, to not be dismayed or put down or have my spirit crushed.

I want to be kind and gracious.  I want to extend You to others.  

Daddy, what will it take for someone to give their brokenness up?  When will healing begin?  Please, help!  Only You can change and heal those who need it. (and don't we all need it!)

Your devoted daughter,

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dear Daddy - May 31, 2005


Your world is so soothing.  As I sit here in the shade of a tree with birds chirping around me, I consider how perfectly you made this world.  It perfectly protects and provides.  Here on an Ohio spring day it seems so calming.  That's how vacations should be!  Here it is the third day and I am completely at rest.  That was quick!

I had been contemplating why you allow for rest.  Daddy, you rested after creation and you created eternal rest for us, so I know you are committed to rest:  a place where strife is reduced and peace reigns.

I have to admit, I was feeling guilty about going on this vacation at first.  Almost like I "shouldn't" be leaving the demands of my workplace behind.  This speaks a warning to me:  I can easily get to thinking I am way too important!  You, Daddy, are the important one.  You can use anyone to do your work.  You just use me when I make myself available, but I am not critical to the accomplishment of your ways.  

Thanks for the relief!

Love, Gina
Hebrews 4:1

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Disciplines of Life

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man, 
And skill a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which 
only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out - 
God knows what He's about!

      - V. Raymond Edman

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Letters to Daddy - May 6, 2005

Oh, Daddy,

You always show yourself faithful.  Quickly, you turned around the circumstances that were causing me to feel unsure.  Often, I want guarantees from my circumstances that I have designed, that I find to be the best.  Then you come up with guarantees that show me the most about you!  You are my guarantee!

I am grateful you showed me quickly after my request.  I know it doesn't always happen that way, but your quickness demonstrated that I am in your hands and in the right place.

When I can feel assured, then I now how much to plan, what goals to establish.  You are so good to me all the time, Daddy.  Praise to you!

Love, Gina

Monday, August 27, 2018

Dear Daddy - February 28, 2005


I need your words today!  I will soon be in a confrontation where I want to have your words;  I want to teach.  I want to influence, even if facing an attack.  Please, Daddy, give me your words and your humble Spirit.

Oh, Daddy, but what I need most is more of you!  I am finding it difficult to set aside as much time to devotion and meditation.  Claim my time for you, Daddy.  Set me apart for your use.

Is that what you want, Daddy?  For me to keep working?  Even so, I need more of you.  How else can I survive attacks or influence others, but that I have you?

So, Lord.  So, Dad, I can do this.  I can face them; I can facing losing my job, which is a secret fear of mine, because you will be working through all situations.  

Thanks, Dad!
Love, Gina

Jeremiah 1:19

Friday, August 17, 2018

Dear Daddy - February 26, 2005


You want me to resolve this right now with you, not just with another person.  While I dealt fairly with that person, you want me to give it up to you, too!  The Message says, "Don't stay angry.  Don't go to bed angry.  Don't give the devil that kind of a foothold..."

That's why you won't let me go to sleep.  I need your peace on this.  Ban the devil from tormenting me:  keep me from demanding perfection/performance from myself.

It is true, Daddy.  I need you to take over this.  Please, give my attacker peace.  Let him know I have a heart-felt forgiveness for him.  I promise I will tell him!  Give me your grace to be gentle with him and sensitive.  I want my forgiveness to be thorough.  Forgive me for not giving it more quickly.  Please, protect my attacker - no, my brother - so he can have a good sleep, a cleared mind, and grace for tomorrow.

Thanks for showing me your way, Daddy.  

Your devoted daughter, 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dear Daddy - February 26, 2005

Dear Daddy,

I want to live righteously.  A "right" life which measures up against your standards.  Right now I am measuring my strong emotions with yours.  Do any of us have the right to our feelings?  Did I have the right to be angry?  Did I do the right thing with my anger?  The answer has to be "yes" since my brother, Jesus, demonstrated so many emotions.

I admit my emotions got the best of me, though.  James 1:20 says, "A person's anger does not work the righteousness of God."  It doesn't bring about the righteousness you desire.  So, Daddy, was any of my reaction sinful?

I teach adults in a stressful situation and they often purposefully want to avoid their role in the change situation they are in.  One of my students was rude, tried to take over the class to suit his needs.  I stopped class; I took a pause. I ended class with prayer; I left.  I went back to face my attacker after I calmed down. 

As  teacher with the mantel of authority on me, I felt the need to put limits on his future behavior.  I did the right things but I question myself because of my strong emotional reaction, which I still feel in this moment, hours later.

Daddy, show me where I went wrong.  Lead me to provide teaching and leadership around this incident.  Tell me what to do.

Love, Gina

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Dear Daddy - February 25, 2005

Psalm 91


Daddy, they're hurting him!  No matter how often people restate their position, it doesn't make them right nor convincing.  Protect your good name by protecting those who bear it! Let your Truth prevail!

If it be your will for your glory, let me give a good word about that Truth.  You open the door and I will step through, but only if you make it clear by opportunity and invitation.  I will refuse to extol sin nor will I malign a Christian person's character, especially in the presence of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Honor belongs to your children; you give it to them.

Daddy, what do you want me to do?  Help me to tell the truth in love.  Help me to respond to your promptings not to react to situations.  Help me to be the best witness to the honor of your people and your glory, which covers them.

Love, Gina

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Letters to God - April 23, 2005

Genesis 1

Dear Creator,

"For purple mountains majesty,
above the fruited plain..."

I think of this phrase of America the Beautiful whenever we drive east from the central valley of California toward Tehachapi.  The Sierra Nevada arise up, deep blue above the desert floor, which at that end of the valley, is green with table grapevines, citrus and nut trees, cherry and peach trees.

Oh, Daddy, it is beautiful!  It is a wonder!  Your handicraft is beyond compare!  Thank you for making earth for us!  Thank you for giving me the eyes to see such grandeur! Last night there was lightning and thunder, fairly unusual in the desert.  
Daddy, what a reminder of your power and the complexity of your creation!  Really, Daddy, you are the greatest and I recognize that living on this earth means being blessed by the Best, blessed by you!

As I ponder your marvelous creation, I like to think how it says something about you, Father God:  that you are beautiful, a wonder, complex, powerful, life-sustaining, marvelous...There are not enough words to describe you!

Thanks for placing me in the midst of you!


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Letters to God - April 5, 2005

Psalm 51

Dear Daddy, 

You have been so good to me!  I am not forgetting what you have brought me through.  I remember how you stood close when I made sinful choices and you correct me, disciplined me and nurtured me.  Thanks for not giving up on me!  I love being your child!  I love knowing that you will not abandon me, because you never have, even when I sinned.

Daddy, what more can I do for you?  How can I get more of you?

Thanks for my husband, who has shown me more of you.  Do I look more at him?  I want to copy more of his humble, quiet behavior.  I want to be steady like you.

I recognize I have far from arrived.  Help me to stay teachable.  Reach me!  Thank you for returning the "joy of my salvation" (Ps 51:11) and that I get to "teach your way to sinners so that they will return to you."  What a joy to be at the center of your will and way.

Love, Gina

Friday, May 25, 2018

Romans 2:1-10

Key verses:  If your eyes shift their focus from yourselves to others – to judge how they are doing – you have already condemned yourselves! (1)  There is no doubt that the judgment of God will justly fall upon hypocrites who practice this. (2)  Do you take the kindness of God for granted?  Do you see His patience and tolerance as signs that He is a pushover when it comes to sin? 
There is going to come a day of judgment when God, the just judge of all the world (5) will judge all people according ot what they have done (6).  He will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. (7)

But he will pour out his anger and wrath for those who live only for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and who practice evil deeds. (8) 

The Romans Road is a rocky road.  While there is an offering of a great escape from sin, let there be no doubt, judgment will come for those who consciously and effectively sin.  There will be condemnation of wrong-doing and subsequent consequences.  Yes, let me use the word punishment.  God is kind, but He is not soft.  He is kind to allow time for people to repent, to make a real commitment to His truth but He will not ignore a life of evil.

This message is not one we are to use as a tool or device to judge others, but to judge ourselves.  We are tempted to look at the law and use it as a stick to measure others, but this chapter begins with the obvious that we are to examine ourselves.  Our harshness is often reserved for other sinners, but we are to be our own primary concern.  One author said this, “My sin looks so much worse on you.”  Here in chapter 2, it is clear that we only evaluate ourselves. For on “the day” made for judgment, it will all be made public, which includes whether our seriousness about sin applied to ourselves or others and whether we took God seriously or not.
Yet, the test for judgment will not be on the list of sins, but on those who pursue the truth God is looking for.  He is looking for the good in people:  those who persistently make it their business to do that which is  useful, pleasant, honorable  (and they get eternal life, uncorrupted, seen in the glory, honor and peace they will have).  We have to stay conscious and deliberate in doing good.  We make it our business to enact good in every part of our life.  God is noting this.  He is planning a reward for this.
Paul is trying to demonstrate how God has looked for dedication and consistency towards good.  A “slip” does not bring condemnation.  Rather, what business are we known for?  To what are we dedicated?  What is our main aim?  As we explore how to move toward the moral good which is to infiltrate our lives, let us seek how God defines this path.  This is the call of the entire New Testament, to let Jesus lead.  Beware of the business of evil, where we love and pet old behaviors and refuse the great kindness of God which calls us away from that which leads to our ruin.  Some people resist this change.  They would rather be ruined than make changes.  Don’t let that be you!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Romans 1:18, 19

God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.  They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.

I think we have taken God too lightly for too long!  Doing so not only keeps us from the greatest truth about his love for us but also the great truth about his view of sin.  He is pissed about it.  (There I said it!) If we take God seriously, we should be afraid of His anger about sin.  I can see the  dismissal of God’s place and power when we reduce sin to inconsequential definitions which minimize its impact on God and the consequences He intends for it.

The rest of this chapter lists the litany of sins which result from the character traits of “sinful” and “wicked.”  The list which follows stems from the inherent descriptions of these two words.  “Sinful” is translated in the King James as “ungodliness,” which, in the Greek, means a lack of reverence for God.  This seems to indicate a “not God” attitude, which doesn’t include God nor give credit to God and reduces God as if he isn’t looking or cares about bad behavior.  “Wicked” is translated in the King James as “unrighteousness,” which is a lifestyle of injustice – acts which violate God’s law and justice.  It is a lifestyle of deeds against humanity.

This addresses the conscious and deliberate act and lifestyle of rejecting God’s place and due honor and refusing His ways.  God lets people have their way when they choose to ignore Him.  He lets us tell ourselves the lies, which then rule in us.  That is what wickedness does.  It purports lies that cause us to deny the significance of God and his plan for us.  Refusing to worship God causes people’s lives to trivialize and fall into confusion.  They bear the weight of a life removed from truth and its covering, from God himself, and, thus, dismissed from the sanctity of life as God intended.  People exchange the truth of God for a lie that denies not only God, but their own significance and purpose.

How often we hold onto the world’s lies over God’s truth!  We can see it heightened and devolving in American culture.  Wickedness in inappropriate sexual behavior and demoralizing violence is extolled by the media, no matter what injustice it brings.  We are completely saturated a the culture which promotes wandering sexuality, enacting violence on others (read anything from the NRA and its supporters) and the absence of God in any public discourse.  The overt lies get translated to individuals in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  People, whether male or female, do not think they measure to their gender’s standards.  Social media is used to bully.  Families perpetuate violence from generation to generation.  It seems unabated.

I have to live in this culture.  I benefit from the culture.  How can I be sure I do not participate in its wickedness?  I am selective about what movies I watch and music to which I listen and by not copying any of the language associated with either.  I live out wholesome sexuality.  I do not participate in violence, including murderous threats and accusations.

These may seem obvious or simple, but how easy is it for someone to say about a shoot-em-up movie, “It’s just a movie.” Or about certain kinds of sexualized lyrics, “It’s good ole’ rock-n-roll.”  How pure are your thoughts about your marriage partner or how you live out celibacy, if single?  In light of great harm done by others against us, how easy is it to devise harm in return?

God will stand for none of it!  The rest of chapter one of Romans tells of the opportunities He gives for people of the world to see Him and, when they refuse,  lets people live their lies out, as if they are true.  He abandons them, which might be the greatest punishment of all.  That abandonment can be seen in the description of “sins” in Romans 1:25-32.  It is “normalized” culture today.  The lie has become true.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Romans 1:17

This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight.  And now we see, it begins and ends in faith.  As the Scripture declares, “The righteous will live by faith.”

So, the person in right-standing before God by trusting Him really lives.  To live by faith means to be guided by things unseen and not yet.  It means trusting God’s way instead of making our own way.

I need to reflect on my “assignment” as Paul did so as to live by faith.  I know I am called by God into a life with Christ.  I am sometimes unfocused by its broadness and context because it does mean my whole life.  Yet, I need to find ways to apply it specifically.  This includes my call to godly motherhood, which gets diffused by parenting adult children.  I am called to be a godly wife to a husband who is balanced and wonderful.  I sometimes don’t know how to offer myself to a person who is completed and stable.  For both these roles, I just want to be my best self in Christ so I can be a blessing.

Then there is that call into the world, which can become more problematic for me.  I feel like I hold answers and then I feel like I have nothing.  What is the urgent task of apostleship that Paul feels?  I used to think that it was calling others to the obedience that comes by faith.  I doubt as much as I desire to fulfill my own tasks. What do these moments mean?

Then I remember:  “Wait upon the Lord.  Be strong and of good courage.  Wait upon the Lord.”

How profound! The answer cannot be found in me.  The answer is in the Lord/on the Lord/The Lord.  The Lord of the universe has an (the) answer for me and cares about me enough to give it.  Am I willing/patient/ready enough to hear it?  That’s why we are instructed to wait, so as to develop readiness for the answer.  “Take heart,” the King James says rightly – ready the will to hear the answer.  Then Paul gives more direction in Philippians, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do as he please.”  I will let God do His work!

Amen – Make it so!

If we are to be spiritually formed
in a way that leads us to God,
we want to finally and thoroughly keep God at the center. 

What does God reveal about himself in this passage?

What does God most want for us?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Romans 1:1-7

Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will have obedience that comes by faith, bringing glory to His name.  You are among those who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ, dear friends in Rome.  God loves you dearly and has called you to be his very own people.  May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (verses 5-7)

What is obedience that comes by faith?

I assume this is to be distinguished from obedience that comes from fear of retaliation or self-serving gratification.  Obedience  out of fear might cause someone to just obey in accordance with the letter of the law, and not engage in its spirit to serve the purposes of God.  It would cause a hedging obedience - just enough to stay out of trouble - and not a heart-felt desire to please God in obedience.  Obedience for self-serving purposes would be to obey in order to justify oneself or prove oneself worthy.  The credit for obedience would be expected for the one obeying.

So, then what is obedience that comes by faith?  It would be driven by the desire to please the One who set the standard, to show Him and the standard to be righteous and worthy of obeying.  It might also be a gratitude response.  If God wants it, He can have it, whether I see the necessity of the obedience or not.  Whether it's easy or not; whatever diligence it might require of me.  God says it, so I do it! 

My personal example is one I have given many times.  I love my husband.  My husband hates onions.  So, I don't cook with onions.  In fact I love onions, but gladly deny myself cooking with them because of the request of the one I love.  In fact, because dried onions are often hidden in many products, I have to be diligent about reading labels.  I wouldn't want to ruin his meal by their addition.  I wonder if I am so diligent about God's requests so as not to accidentally offend Him?

What is your act of obedience that comes by faith?
What is a grateful response?


What is the impact of being identified as the object of God's love?  In fact,  He loved me so much that He wants to identify me as one of His and join me in the people group He has gathered together.  I see this as an opportunity to take on God's defining character trait of love.  It is so defining that it drives my identity into the people group of those who share that character trait.  Just like I might identify with my college team or my family, it provides definition for me.  It gives me a sense of belonging and pride;  it might even direct my path.

How does love become a defining character trait for you?
How do you identify with God's people?


If we are to be spiritually formed in a way that leads us
to God, we want to finally and thoroughly keep God
at the center.

What does God reveal about himself in this passage?
What does God want most for us?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Romans Road: Spiritual Formation on the Journey

The book of Romans was written by the apostle Paul and has served as the source for the core of theology for Christianity.  God was deliberate in tapping this educated man who developed a passion for Jesus Christ so that the basis of the living faith could be systematized.  It was important for consistency  in faith practices.

I would like to invite you to a different journey along the Romans Road.  I have found that when on a pilgrimage, the journey is often as significant as the destination.  While Romans offers us a theological destination, I have found it to be significant in the formation of my daily living, too.  And not just in the final declarations and summations of the faith.  The book of Romans also is rich in spiritual formation, especially when we can keep God at the center of the discussion about what He wants for us along the journey.  

Are you ready to walk with me through a formational journey through Romans?  You may be surprised.  And changed!

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Entering the Darkness

Most of us know the familiar territory where darkness prevails and we usually work to avoid it at all costs, from the extremes of addiction to keeping a good (false) attitude of the place we are in.  We avoid the darkness.  We fear it.  It is not fun.  Yet, what if, in it, we could find God? What if, in it, we could find the greatest truth of all?  God is not afraid of it.  It doesn’t surround him like it does us.

To you, the night shines bright as day. 

Darkness and light are the same to you. 

Psalm 139:12
Lord, of course, You can see through either! Both can dispense Your truth and Your presence.  What if the darkness might hold just as much truth as the light?
Places of darkness are different for each of us.  Maybe it’s the darkness of a hurt we have buried or the darkness that befalls us when we quiet ourselves from shiny, noisy or blustery practices and we have to sink into the center of who we are.  Maybe it’s the darkness of an unresolved relationship or truth about ourselves.  The list goes on, but God’s truth about each can often only be revealed in the chasm. 
And since God is there, seeing it as clearly as if by daylight, if we allow ourselves to enter with Him, He can shine the light on the truth we need.  We can stay in the darkness knowing He is there, whether resolution comes or not, knowing that He is there to comfort or guide, satisfy or use it for our good. 
I am not so afraid of quiet now or even the darkness that some would claim to be the absence of God.  I think in the end the only one refusing to be in the darkness is me.  Now I know to enter it and relish the pause it gives, the truth it shows, and the comfort it brings.

Friday, February 16, 2018

God is Already in the Place You Are Going

Full of God

Full of promise

Of change and healing

Redirection and purpose.

That’s how I got here.

Unrecognizeable by some.

Untolerated by others.

But here -

In the right place –

On good ground –

And not yet arrived.

Still climbing for heaven.

Open the window for others to see

And start their journey, too.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Guerillas of Grace by Thomas Loder

Holy One,
there is something I wanted to tell you,
but there have been errands to run,
     bills to pay,
          arrangements to make,
               meetings to attend,
                    friends to entertain,
                         washing to do...
and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you,
     and mostly I forget what I'm about,
          or why.
O God,
don't forget me, please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Eternal One,
there is something I wanted to tell you,
but my mind races with worrying and watching,
     with weighing and planning,
          with rutted slights and pothole grievances,
               with leaky dreams I keep trying to plug up;
and my attention is preoccupied
     with loneliness,
          with doubt,
               and with things I covet;
and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you,
and how to say it honestly
or how to do much of anything.
O God,
don't forget me please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Almighty One,
there is something I wanted to tell you
     but I stumble along the edge of a nameless rage,
          haunted by a hundred floating fears and...
I forget the real question is that I wanted to ask,
     and I forget to listen anyway
          because you seem unreal and far away,
and I forget what it is I have forgotten.
O God,
don't forget me please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ.
O Father in heaven,
perhaps you've already heard what I wanted to tell you.
What I wanted to ask is
     forgive me,
          heal me,
                increase my courage, please.
Renew in me a little of love and faith,
     and a sense of confidence,
          and a vision of what it might mean
               to live as though you were real,
                    and I mattered,
                         and everyone was sister and brother.
What I wanted to ask in my blundering way is
     don't give up on me,
          don't become too sad about me,
               but laugh with me
                    and try again with me,
                         and I will with you, too.
What I wanted to ask is
      for peace enough to want and work for more,
          for joy enough to share,
               and for awareness that is keen enough
to sense your presence,

The Uninvited Discipline - an Epilogue

I am ending my list of Uninvited Disciplines, although I suspicion each of us have many more.  While I do not negate the spiritual disciplines of the ancients because they have so much to teach us about finding our center, find our connection to God, I also don’t want to limit God’s opportunity to reach me in the every day activities, too.  I don’t want my day to devolve into a to-do list or skill-building which does not include a conscious effort to seek God in each.  Let the monkish practices of silence, study, prayer, service, or solitude invade daily life, for they are the tools by which our whole life can be God’s and can be centered on God.

An Uninvited Discipline - Conversation

“I said I wanted to talk.  I did not mean I wanted to listen.”   And thus, we have completely lost the meaning of conversation.  The word’s origin is from a 1500s meaning, which was “to live with.”  It was also the legal term for sexual intercourse.  Thus, conversation was to engage in a give and take, a knowing and understanding of the other.  That means it is two-sided, a dialogue, which is much more than just what I have to say.
The two skills needed for conversation are, first, deep listening (hearing what is real about the other) and, secondly, finding your voice (expressing what is real about you). Both are significant.  If I never express the real me, you’ll never know me.  If I refuse to hear you or only listen superficially, I’ll never know you.  Our relationship will never be intimate.  Face-t0-face conversation builds community in a way that text-to-talk never can.  To hear the heart takes much more than words because to develop conversation that is caring, I have to hear beyond the words and listen for the expression of the heart, which takes place in tone of voice and body language.
Whether in listening or speaking, we all need to learn to be more intentional and confident when engaging in conversation.  It takes initiative to enter deep places in which God can lead and reach us through our community conversations.  It takes courage to listen to others with whom we do not agree, to hear those we don’t understand.  It takes a surety of self to allow someone to be different than me and not have to change them to conform to my views.
Conversation becomes a personal discipline when I engage deeply and it becomes a spiritual discipline when I keep God in the center of it – when I listen for His movement, His Spirit in myself and in you.  It is a discipline because it begins with love:  the love for God which allows me to love others enough to hear them.  It allows me to love others enough to tell them the truth.  It allows me to love others without judging them by my filters, which means to see the other person through God’s eyes.  I may need help learning to listen to a difficult person or my enemy.  I may need help with my beloved family, for whether I would love them for my sake or theirs, I would miss the opportunity to love them for God’s sake.
Some of the skills needed for God-centered conversation are not new to most.  To be a good listener, we know to listen with our agenda aside, to ask for more of their story, to listen to the emotions behind the words, even to  attend to their agenda.  It is a discipline to honor and acknowledge another’s point of view.  There are other skills, though, we neglect in listening:  to pray, to be open and open to change, to be willing to hear a person all the way, to desire what God wants, to be willing to learn, to intend a good result of the conversation.
Even the skills of saying our part, our words and idea-expressions may,  at first, be obvious: tell the truth, start with “I” statements, be clear, distinguish between fact and emotion.  If there is a desire for action from another, be specific with action and timeline.  Could there be others?  I return to prayer – let’s make it the first and best action we take before the words come out of the mouth.  Ask God to lead to explain without complaining and to express results with God in mind.  Don’t minimize your story or point of view any more than the other person’s. 
An unusual or less thought about part of conversation is the silence between the words.  What is being said that the words are not telling?  What is the tone of voice, the body language saying?  What if we sat in silence with each other to give space for ideas to grow, to give space for hearts to hear.  It is a discipline to let silence speak, too.
Realize that in basic conversation (not in teaching or persuasion), we hear to know each other, identify with each other and join with each other, even when we have differences.  Community grows when we can hear another person’s heart. Conversation builds community when we can invite more to the table, more people and more ideas. 
Many of the recorded conversations of Jesus with people took place in “their” space, where he met them.  He met Peter by the lake where his livelihood was, the woman at the well where sustenance was, the Pharisees in the temple where their duty lay, the cripple at the pool in a supposed place of healing.  Jesus didn’t very often go for “neutral.”  He met people in the public square and in their homes.  People are more comfortable there. 
Jesus often did not leave them there, though. He knew how to lead them through conversation through the facts to their thoughts and opinions, to identify their deep desires, and through their crises to discussions of the sacred.  He listened.  He asked questions.  He pointed to healing.  He pointed to God.
It is truly a discipline to engage in the knowing search of another person, which is conversation’s goal.  It is a discipline to reveal our own truths and lies.  It is a greater discipline to let a healing Savior to be in the center of all conversations so that the greater community can be built. 
And what if our conversation with each other told the truth about the kind of conversation we have with the Lord of the Universe?  How well we listen to each other may indicate how well we listen to God.  How much truth we tell to each other may indicate how much truth we tell God.  How much we connect and community-build with each other may tell the greatest truth of how well we are connected with the Triune God, who is, most of all, Community.