W – Welcome It All? {26 Surprising Ways to Encounter God, A-Z}

“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.”
– Rumi

welcome mat


Something good happens.

  • We welcome it.
  • We thank God.
  • We’re happy.

Something bad happens.

  • We try to make it go away.
  • We beg God to remove it.
  • We’re bothered by it.

But what if, regardless of what happens, we welcome God into it?

If it’s good, that’s easy. If it’s bad, while still working and praying to eliminate it, can we invite God to help us accept it? Just for the moment. As an opportunity to partner together. Just for what it is, subject to change.

I’ve been working on this all year. My One Word for 2016 is Welcome.


I’ve sliced it up twelve ways, taking one month to intentionally accept something different as encounters with God, things I wouldn’t ordinary welcome into my life.

It’s not been easy. But it’s been good.

Try This

What’s happening in your life, your family, your body, your work in this season? Is it easy or hard to welcome? See if any of these ways hits home to help you better accept it.

Here are the Welcome topics by month.

Learn More

* * *

What are you working to accept, or welcome, in this season of your life? Is it hard or easy? Please share in the comments.

Coming up tomorrow:

  • X – X-ray
    Have you had a spiritual x-ray?


If you’d like to receive 26 Surprising Ways by email, sign up here.

sharing at Thought-Provoking Thursday,
Thankful Thursdays, Heart Encouragement

V – Valuables and God {26 Surprising Ways to Encounter God, A-Z}

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
– Jesus (Matthew 6:21)



What do you most want to protect? What’s the first thing you’d grab in case of a fire or a flood?

Where is God in those things?

When I’ve cleaned out homes after a flood or a tornado, my heart hurts to see a family’s treasures in tatters (or missing altogether). Family Bibles soaked beyond repair; special dishes in pieces; wet pictures in cracked frames.

It makes me think about my own valuables. I’d hate to lose photos, letters, personal gifts.

But why? Because those items represent people. They are ones I love, who God has gifted into my life.

The ‘what’ matters because of the ‘who.’

Try This

Think about your own valuables. Look around the room you’re in. If you had 30 minutes to leave your home forever, what would you grab first?

Then consider the ‘who’ behind each item.

Can you see God’s provision of a person associated with your valuables? Spend a few minutes thanking him for the valuables in your life. Then share that gratitude, if possible, with those who are most valuable to you.

Learn More


* * *

What 3 things would you grab (other than people and pets!) if your house was on fire (and you safely had time)? I’d get my external hard drive with all my photos, my shadow box with Kali’s hair, and my laptop or phone (it’s a tossup). Please share in the comments.

Coming up tomorrow:

  • W – Welcome
    Can we welcome God in everything?


If you’d like to receive 26 Surprising Ways by email, sign up here.

sharing at 100 Happy Days, Christian Blogger,
 Coffee for Your Heart

Five Books I Recommend – October 2016

Once a month I give book recommendations from what I’ve read. From October’s nightstand, I recommend these two non-fiction and and three fiction books to you.



1. The Road Back to You
An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile


If you want an introduction to the Enneagram, a personality typing system, this is an enjoyable and informative book to read. My full review and why I liked it is here.

“Every number on the Enneagram teaches us something about the nature and character of the God who made us. Inside each number is a hidden gift that reveals something about God’s heart.”

2. The Road to Character
by David Brooks


I first came to enjoy David Brooks as a political analyst during this election. He writes for the New York Times. But now that I’ve read his book, I appreciate him even more for his gentle spirit in holding up high values and moral character. Each chapter in this book is the life story of a well-known leader and thinker from throughout the centuries.

“We sometimes think of saints, or of people who are living like saints, as being ethereal, living in a higher spiritual realm. But often enough they live in an even less ethereal way than the rest of us. They are more fully of this earth, more fully engaged in the dirty, practical problems of the people around them. Day and her colleagues slept in cold rooms.”


3. The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead


Excellent novel. This is the powerful story of Cora, a slave on a Georgia plantation, in the 1800s. When she receives an opportunity to escape, she leaves on a literal underground railroad, a system of tracks and tunnels beneath the ground. The story chronicles the ups and downs of how she goes and where she ends up. Excellent both in plot and in perspective and in writing.

“Their fear called after them even if no one else did. They had six hours until their disappearance was discovered and another one or two before the posses reached where they were now. But fear was already in pursuit, as it had been every day on the plantation, and it matched their pace.”

4. The One-in-a-Million Boy
by Monica Wood


Another excellent novel. This is the moving story of 104-year-old Ona and her friendship with a special 11-year-old Boy Scout, even though he dies on the third page of the book. The novel travels nicely back and forth through time as you piece the whole puzzle together. It’s a heart-wrenching story.

“You know, one meets so many people, the years pass and pass, but there are certain times, certain people— . . . They take up room. So much room.”

5. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven
by Chris Cleave


This novel is a beautifully-told story of World War 2 from the British side. It chronicles the journeys of the young socialite Mary in London, a black American student Zachary that she befriends, and Alastair, an art curator who enlists in the British army.

“And yet this is when he must write: no, in the lull between attacks when his letter would go straight out on the next available airplane. War made one do everything when one wasn’t at all ready. Dying yes, but also living.”

Reading Now

  • Underground Airlines
    by Ben H. Winters
  • Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age
    by Bob Cutillo
  • Stumbling on Happiness
    by Daniel Todd Gilbert
  • Search Inside Yourself
    by Chade-Meng Tan
  • The Great Spiritual Migration
    by Brian McLaren

* * *

What are you reading this month? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

sharing at Bookdate

U – Underground with God {26 Surprising Ways to Encounter God, A-Z}

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
– Lilla Watson



Sometimes we have to go underneath things to get grounded.

Think of the Underground Railroad. While not really underground nor a real railroad, it was an undercover system in America in the 1800s to rescue enslaved blacks in the south. Using safe people, safe routes, and safe houses, the Underground Railroad led slaves to freedom.

While we do still have people enslaved all around the world today that need physical rescues, we can also make us of Underground Railroads (of sorts) to help rescue others from spiritual slavery as well.

Perhaps you’ve felt confined in a religious tradition or trapped in an unhealthy lifestyle. Then God sets you up to meet someone in a separate context who talks of a different way. Or God sends you a book to read. You pray to him. You watch for his next signpost. You follow the safe path (possibly risky, too) to escape from shackles to freedom through God’s grace.

If God has already rescued you, you’re primed to help others find the path.

This network of guidance matters.

Sometimes we have to go against a comfortable culture to save a life.

I recently finished reading Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (I highly recommend it). It’s a fictionalized version of American in the 1800s using a literal underground railroad to free slaves.

It was a good reminder that as long as anyone is enslaved, we all are.

“Looking down over the universe of the park, she saw the town drift where it wanted, washed by sunlight on a stone bench, cooled in the shadows of the hanging tree. But they were prisoners like she was, shackled to fear.”

Try This

Where do you feel confined? Ask God to meet you in this stronghold. Ask him to show you the path to freedom. Watch for the people and the ways he’s giving you personal direction into previously unnoticed openings and passages.

Then think of areas you’ve already been rescued from. Do you know anyone left behind that could use a friendly word? Can you give guidance and encouragement to help someone else find the light that you’re living in?

Learn More

* * *

Who has God used to show you the path to freedom? When has he used you to show others? Please share in the comments.

Coming up tomorrow:

  • V – Valuables
    What do you most want to protect?


If you’d like to receive 26 Surprising Ways by email, sign up here.

sharing at Testimony Tuesday,
 Purposeful Faith

T – Tangles and God {26 Surprising Ways to Encounter God, A-Z}

“It is not the outer objects that entangle us. It is the inner clinging that entangles us.”
– Tilopa



When my daughters were young, I didn’t like combing out their tangles. They had thick hair. Tugging at the tangles hurt them. It hurt me. (We used No More Tears for years to make it easier . . . and lots of braids.)

Life sometimes feels this way, too. Tangled up. Knotted. Like a gnarled necklace that we can’t untwist.

Where is God in this mess?

Try This

Think of an area in your life that feels complicated.

Then pray about one or more of these suggestions to encounter God in the tangles.

  1. Recruit a friend.
    Getting tangles out isn’t a task to be done alone. Who has God sent your way that might be just the person to walk through this situation with you?
  2. Use some oil.
    Sometimes we have to gently massage a situation and loosen it up before it’s ready to let go of our tangles. What small step can you take today to detach from the mess and relax its grip on you?
  3. Cut it out.
    When all else fails, God may want you to just cut the tangle out. Might he be asking you to drop this conflict altogether and run fast the other way? When the tangles get too snarled, cut your losses and flee (Hebrews 12:1).

Learn More

* * *

Is there a tangle in your life right now? Can you work it out or will it need to be cut out? Please share in the comments.

Coming up tomorrow:

  • U – Underground
    Sometimes you have to go underground to save a life.


If you’d like to receive 26 Surprising Ways by email, sign up here.

Sharing at Glimpses, Small Wonder,
Good Morning, Moments of Hope

Week 3 in Review and What’s Next {26 Surprising Ways to Encounter God, A-Z}

How did God show up for you last week?

Did he surprise you somewhere you least expected?


Here are six areas we intentionally sought encounters with God.

  • Now
    Stay awake to this moment. This second of “now” is your moment of encounter with God.
  • Oddities
    Look for God’s gifts of presence and love in the odd spaces of your life. Be grateful for the peculiar and uncommon ways that he is showing up.
  • Portals
    Look for portals—openings—that God wants to reveal himself through your routine tasks. Unwrap these gifts of grace; enjoy them to the fullest.
  • Questions
    We often think God is in the answers. But sometimes we can connect with him more in the questions.
  • Raw
    Think of an area in your life where you feel raw or extra touchy. Be as compassionate to yourself as God is to you.
  • Sickness
    God has set healing in motion. It will eventually be complete. We just have to wait it out.

Use today to reflect back on the encounters you shared with God. 

Pray about how you’ll encounter God in this coming week. I’ll suggest ways from T through Y.

* * *

Where or in whom did you see God this past week? Please share in the comments.

Coming up:

  • Monday–Saturday, Encountering God from T to Y


If you’d like to receive 26 Surprising Ways by email, sign up here.

S – Sickness and God {26 Surprising Ways to Encounter God, A-Z}

“Pain is never permanent.”
– Teresa of Avila



I hate being sick. Who wants pain? No one.

Yet in our pain, we often seek God. We know he can provide comfort and healing.

When relief comes, hopefully we thank him and are grateful.

But when cures don’t come? When God doesn’t provide relief in a way we can feel?

Although hard to do, at least our emotional suffering can lessen if we’ll again respond with thankfulness for grace to live through the pain.

Because even with no tangible results in sight, we can know this:

The process for healing has begun.

God has set healing in motion. It will eventually be complete. We just have to wait it out.

Try This

There are two approaches we can take as we deal with pain, even as we make efforts to alleviate it. Each has merits in the right circumstances.

  1. Stay with the pain.
    Allow your mind to focus on the spots where you hurt. Welcome God into those areas to sit with you. Seek acceptance for the situation as it is in the moment (even as you continue to ask for mercy and healing).
  2. Distract yourself from the pain.
    When possible, also refocus on other areas of life that bring you joy. Ask God to intentionally divert your attention to things you can do or people you can pray for or just simple pleasures you can enjoy by sitting with him.

Learn More

* * *

Are you sick? How do you handle the pain? Please share in the comments.

Coming up tomorrow:

  • Week in Review


If you’d like to receive 26 Surprising Ways by email, sign up here.

R – When You Feel Raw {26 Surprising Ways to Encounter God, A-Z}

“The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.”
– Paulo Coelho



When have you felt raw? Overly sensitive. Jumpy. Thin-skinned.

I admit; with politics right now, I’m a little touchy.

Perhaps you’ve had or are in a season of feeling vulnerable, too.

  • Maybe you’ve been hurt in a relationship.
  • Or had a church experience go bad.
  • Or are questioning where God is in your circumstance.

Regardless of the reason, we all relate to times we’ve felt tender or exposed.

How can God use these times to pull us closer to him?

Try This

Think of an area in your life where you feel extra touchy.

  • How would you feel if you could see a year down the road, and know all will be well?
  • Would your current responses be different if you stripped away any defensive postures?
  • What would it take for you to feel safe again?
  • Can you be more patient with yourself as you heal?

Pray for God to sit with you in your rawness. He knows your circumstance and your heart better than you do. Be as compassionate to yourself as he is to you.

Allow his love to surround your tender emotions and strengthen you with his protection today.

Then do the same tomorrow.

Learn More

* * *

What is a touchy subject for you right now? Please share in the comments.

Coming up tomorrow:

  • S – Sickness
    Where is God in our sickness?


If you’d like to receive 26 Surprising Ways by email, sign up here.

sharing at Give Me Grace,
Spiritual Sundays, Faith ‘n Friends,
Faith Filled Friday, Grace and Truth

Q – Questions to God {26 Surprising Ways to Encounter God, A-Z}

“The best teachers show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.”
– Alexandra K. Trenfor



We often think God is only in the answers. But sometimes we can connect more with him in the questions. In the unknowns. That’s when we reach out to him with our why’s and how’s and when’s.

Try This

Have a conversation with God using just questions. How would you fill in the blanks? Try to think of questions you haven’t already asked him.

  • Why, God, is _____ ?
  • How, God,  will _____ ?
  • When, God, is _____ ?

Now look back at your questions. What do they reveal to you about what you think about God? About your relationship with him? About what you expect him to know or do?

Use this exercise as an invitation into previously unexplored areas with God.

Learn More

* * *

What question would you like to ask God? Please share in the comments.

Coming up tomorrow:

  • R – Raw
    When have you felt tender or exposed?


If you’d like to receive 26 Surprising Ways by email, sign up here.

sharing at 100 Happy Days,
 Heart Encouragement

P – Portals for God {26 Surprising Ways to Encounter God, A-Z}

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”
– E. B. White



Portals are openings. Windows. Doors. Gates.

They lead us from one space into another. They are often “thin places” where we see God enter a situation and make his presence known, even when we weren’t watching for him. 

Portals can look different for each of us at different times. Perhaps you’ve seen such openings in these ways:

  • The lyrics in a worship song you’re singing at church
  • A friend’s text that shows up just when you need it
  • A surprise gift on your front porch

Regardless of the form they take, these portals, or openings, give us a glimpse into heavenly places, leaving a lasting impression on our souls that God is truly here and now.

Try This

While we can’t necessarily create these portals, we can stay alert for them.

As you go about your routine tasks today, look for openings that God wants to reveal himself through:

  • a conversation around the dinner table
  • background music on your drive home
  • a Bible verse popping into your mind
  • formation of clouds out your window
  • children at play in your neighborhood

When you sense the opening of God’s presence, dive into the encounter. These are gifts of grace. Unwrap them and enjoy them to the fullest. 

Learn More

* * *

Where have you seen an unexpected glimpse of God lately? Please share in the comments.

Coming up tomorrow:

  • Q – Questions
    We often think of God in the answers. But what about the questions?


If you’d like to receive 26 Surprising Ways by email, sign up here.

sharing at Thought-Provoking Thursday,
Thankful Thursday,
 Christian Blogger,
 Coffee for Your Heart

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