Surprise! God Has Your Best Interest at Heart

When C.S. Lewis wrote Surprised by Joy, he was clear that it was a “spiritual autobiography” designed to track his pilgrimage from atheist to deist and, finally, at long last to “the most dejected, reluctant convert in all of England.” In Christian circles, we’re fond of talking about finding God, until we realize that He has been there all along—and like C.S. Lewis, we are surprised by the joy of a love that came to us before we ever reciprocated, an unconditional love.

Growing up in a home in which mental illness and addiction seemed to be setting the agenda, it was a surprise (and a joy!) to discover that God was actually mightily involved in every detail of my life. In the midst of the chaos, He was NOT standing idly by, but was deeply involved in bringing me to Himself. He was longing to be gracious and to show me compassion!  He had His own agenda in mind for me that He would be faithful to fulfill!

In my small hometown in Northern Maine, God bent over backwards to connect me with godly mentors and opportunities to test His faithfulness. When I bought a one-way ticket to California for my first semester of college, I pictured myself taking flight and pulling up my roots in Maine. I had learned a love for teaching the Bible, so I majored in Christian Education, transferred to a small college in northeast Georgia, crammed a bachelor’s degree into three years, and began wondering where in the world my next adventure would take me.

God is full of surprises! I landed right back here in Maine, and there’s so much more to this story, so I invite you to click on over to Mary Geisen’s writing home where she has opened wide the door for me to tell my story and, in doing so, to also #TellHisStory, because, after all, every story circles back around to Him.

Let yourself be surprised by joy,

Michele Morin


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Parenting Lessons from the Ashes

Strict practitioners would not have approved of my methods, but on one long ago mid-winter Wednesday, I smeared ashes on the foreheads of my two preschoolers and myself. An offering of the hardwood that had heated our home the day before, these ashes were not “ceremonially correct” in any way, but at the time, I did not know that traditional Ash Wednesday ashes come from the remains of Palm Sunday palms. I did not even know about the forty-day season of Lent that follows Ash Wednesday.

However, I did know about sin—my own and my children’s. We were in “time out” season with one of our sons. At our wits’ end, we had exhausted Dr. Dobson, Elisabeth Elliot, and every parenting resource available in the 90’s. “Why is it so hard to be good?” our little Dobson-buster would ask, and his younger brother’s eyes would fill with tears whenever they were caught in collaborative naughtiness.

In this parenting pressure cooker, maternal apologies had become a daily occurrence. I was hoping to model repentance—while at the same time atoning for sharp words and a short fuse. “I was wrong; please forgive me,” were the words through which my sons were learning that their mother had not outgrown the struggle against sin. Ash Wednesday gives Christians an opportunity to grow in our understanding of where to take that struggle.

Maybe, like me, you come from a tradition that has not emphasized the liturgical calendar, and Ash Wednesday is just a misty concept for you. I invite you to click on over to Desiring God with me today for some thoughts on filling up that concept with some history, some spiritual practices, and some story telling from my parenting life here on this country hill.

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Wooden Cross Photo by James L.W on Unsplash

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Self-Care and the Rare Gift of Spiritual Friendship

“Hey, we have a lot in common! Maybe we should meet for coffee?”

Coming from Facebook, a place where “friendship” usually remains distant and virtual, this was startling content. Add to that a full schedule and a hard bent toward introversion, and there was every reason for me to log off, click on “unfriend,” and run like crazy. The risk of a face-to-face meeting with a total stranger is way outside my comfort zone, and yet the outcome, in this case, was a real-life friendship and a lesson in self-care.

Even with open laptops and a list of technical topics for discussion, when I meet with this particular friend, the percent of time devoted to “business” may be pretty low. Conversations meander as coffee cups are emptied and refilled.  I almost always come away from face-to-face time with friends enriched and encouraged in a way that transcends even the satisfaction that would have come from spending that time hammering away at my to-do list. We gauge the temperature of each other’s hearts, and somehow our faith is shaped in the context spiritual friendship.

A partner in prayer, another set of eyes, a companion in trouble:  these are the benefits of spiritual friendship, and today at April Yamasaki‘s writing home, I am arguing for the benefits of curating an environment that allows us to go deep in each other’s lives. Click here to keep on reading. I think you’ll agree that friendship as self-care is a refreshing way to look at the time we spend with the important people in our lives.

April Yamasaki is a fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and I’m glad to be teaming up with her today because I learned a lot from her book, Four Gifts: Seeking Self-care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. When I shared my review here, many of you expressed a need for and an interest in developing a greater mindfulness in your approach to self-care. When you hop on over to April’s place to finish this post, be sure to check out other articles that also focus on spiritual practices for healthier living for your heart, soul, mind and strength.


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I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Finding a Network of Life-Giving Friendship

The layers of life, in all their overwhelming proportions, call for a large God. The unexpected diagnosis, the many ways in which we disappoint ourselves, and the messiness of the generations all seem to come home to roost during middle age as parents depart this world and adult children come into their own. Margie Nethercott elected to manage all these complications by carefully selecting a large rock, tying it to her ankle, paddling to the middle of a lake and letting the rock pull her to the bottom.

Her plan would have been flawless except for low rainfall and high temperatures which put the water level at about neck high on a medium height middle-aged woman, leaving her tethered and stranded in the middle of the lake. Can You See Anything Now?: A Novel by Katherine James faces head-on the emptiness, weariness, insecurity, and discord of small town life in Trinity, New York where the Nethercott family and a constellation of their friends seek appropriate ways to struggle.

We all need a web of supportive friendships, and in mid-life finding our tribe can be a real challenge. How are you managing it? Have you found it at church, through small groups? Are you discovering fellowship by proactively going in search of it? Is your home a gathering place? Today, I’m pointing you to one on-line source of encouragement and fellowship:  The Perennial Gen, and I’m sharing my review of Kate James’s excellent novel there today. Click on over, and be sure to share in the comments the fellowship-building strategies that are working for you.


Many thanks to Paraclete Press for providing a copy of this book.

Rejoicing in the Glory (so very big!),


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Can You See Anything Now?: A Novel simply click on the title, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

 

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

The Search for a Church that Feels Like Home

Slightly hard of hearing in his Sunday suit and tie, the smiling usher boomed a greeting into the cold and cavernous narthex.

“You forgot to set your clocks ahead, right?”

Immediately the disjointed pieces of that chaotic Sunday morning fell into place:
The full parking lot, the strangely empty narthex–yes, we were an hour late for church, which meant we had arrived just in time for the sermon conclusion and the last amen. Wearing our awkwardness like ill-fitting choir robes, we exited as discretely as two people wearing dress shoes can manage in an echoing church entryway, and we rode in silence across town to our tiny apartment on Middle Street—an address that had become an accurate and stinging summary of our entire lives in that season.

A career change for my husband had put our workplaces over two hours apart, but we’d cheerfully split the difference and settled in neutral territory exactly half way between, telling ourselves it was temporary and a good test of our independence within this new marriage of ours. No friends, no family, no church ties anchored us in this new home base, but we were optimistic, so . . .

Let the church hunt begin!

Are you looking for "the perfect church?" Finding community can be challenging, but the rewards are worth the wait.

I’m sharing the story of that crazy season of our life together over at (in)courage today, and whether you are living in the on-ramp toward faithful church attendance or standing along the way cheering others forward, you are in a unique position to put the beauty and uniqueness of God’s love on display.  

Finding community can be a long and challenging process, but the rewards are worth the wait. Thanks for joining me, and while you are there, take a minute to browse the work of other writers in that community of faith, connection, and friendship. You can welcome them into your daily inbox by clicking here to subscribe.


If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. (e.g. esmesalon.com) I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

An Invitation to the Generative Life

Our first summer living on this country hill, the budget was tight and luxuries were few.  I had planted a garden that seemed huge to me at the time, and a friend, intending to surprise me, weeded the entire plot as a generous gift from the heart.  How could she have known that those random shoots between the green beans would have become marigolds or that the tomato plants had been interspersed with a potential forest of sunflowers?  Reading Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura explained for me the long ago disappointment and the deep sense of loss that clouded my gratitude to that well-meaning friend:  those flower seeds had been planted just for joy.  To me, they had represented hope and beauty in a world that ran almost exclusively toward practicality.

Our common lives become far too common when we fail to carve out a space for beauty.  Makoto argues effectively that when we starve our souls in pursuit of our “living,” we lose sight of our own nature as creative beings, made in the image of a Creator God who calls us to lives of fruitfulness and beauty.  Working from insights gained in his calling as an artist, the author invites his readers into the generative life, which is “fruitful, originat[es] new life, [and] . . . draws on creativity to bring into being something fresh and life giving.”

Capture

I’m sharing my review of Makoto Fujimura’s influential book over at The Perennial Gen today, and you are invited to click on over and join us there! The Perennial Gen is a space for men and women in the second half of life to cultivate frank conversation about transitions in our faith, culture, church, relationships, vocation, and bodies. Be sure to check out some of the great writing there when you visit.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope,

michele signature rose[1]

 

Life Out of Death: The Incarnation Comes in the Context of Genocide

In December, Christians delight in lifting from the gospels the most iconic moments of the Christmas story: the angelic visits, shepherds flooded in glory-light, Mary and Joseph silhouetted beside a manger. By contrast, we often glide over one particularly dark part of the narrative: the tragedy of slain baby boys in Bethlehem that followed the birth of Jesus.

The slaughter of innocent babies and toddlers is a theme we’d rather not think about—especially at Christmas time. However, loss, death, and darkness are essential parts of the nativity story and serve to underscore the broader picture of Christ’s coming to save a broken world. The darling of all holidays, celebrated with abandon by the church and retailers alike, commemorates a story that happened in the context of genocide, and this somber knowledge prepares our hearts to move beyond the manger to the cross.

Red Letter Christians

It’s a great gift to be teaming up today with Red Letter Christians in an invitation to reflect on this often overlooked passage of Scripture.  Perhaps the early darkness of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is the ideal setting in which to pause from our seasonal hoopla, and remember Holy Innocents Day, December 28th, the space in the church calendar in which, historically, believers entered into a moment of mourning for these lost children, and reflected on their theological significance to the larger Christmas story.

Thanks for joining me at Red Letter Christians today, where readers are encouraged to take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture.

 

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Photo by Simone Busatto on Unsplash