Always Invited. Always Welcomed. Always Enjoyed. | Ep. 39
Welcome back to Part 2 of Karlene’s conversation with Mimi Dixon where they discuss what it means to always be invited into conversation with the Father, always welcomed into the Beloved Community of the Trinity, and always enjoyed by the one who calls you “dear, worthy one.”
Bio: Renovare’ Board of Directors, Institute Faculty, Ministry Team
Miriam (Mimi) Dixon began her ministry in 1979 serving as an associate pastor at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington. From April of 1985 to May of 2019 she served as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Golden, Colorado. She earned both her MDiv and DMin degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary. Mimi is on the Renovaré Board of Directors and teaches for the Renovaré Institute. She is faculty for Next Frontiers, a ministry to pastors in transition, and actively promotes Christian Spiritual Formation, crediting Richard Foster and Dallas Willard for their influence in her life and ministry. Mimi has authored a biography of Richard Foster’s bestselling Celebration of Discipline, which is projected for release through Barclay Press in the autumn of 2023.
Show Note Links:
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Karlene Cannon: Welcome Larger Story family to the Relational Spirituality podcast. A place where we talk about how you can belong, become, and be known. Last week, you heard the first part of my conversation with Mimi Dixon, and if you missed it, you will definitely want to go back and listen. She talked about how we all live in Alcatraz. Life in a broken world is more than hard, it’s impossible. But as we continued our conversation, Mimi began to share about with-ness. Going with Jesus into the dark places, not just so we can participate in His work, but so that He won’t be alone. It’s a big, new thought, that God enjoys us and misses out somehow if we’re not present with Him. I hope you enjoy our conversation about prayer and how we are always invited, always welcomed, and always enjoyed. Always. Every. Single. Time.
Mimi Dixon: We know that He says, dear worthy child of mine, I love you so much. Thank you. Thank you for throwing in your lot with mine. Thank you for being present to my redemptive plan. Thank you for being a welcoming, forgiving, loving presence in the lives of the people around you, especially the ones that are pretty hard to love. Thank you for being with me in this. I think he really appreciates us.
Karlene Cannon: I’m just thinking, Larry told a story of a conversation with Brennan Manning, where at the end of it, Larry asked him why he was going away on a silent retreat. Brennan said, I just think God likes it when I show up. That’s a real paradigm shift for me. I think of prayer as about me, me talking to God, I need to commune with God. Just turning that upside down and thinking that there’s something that God enjoys about my participation in His larger story that I not only get to join in that vibrating power that she talks about, I get to participate in that with God. Not only that God’s invited me to participate, but He enjoys it.
Back to the illustration of the father and his son or a mother and her child, there’s hardly anything I enjoy more than just being with my children. It makes sense when you stop and think about it. The way that I approach prayer, that God is eagerly anticipating a conversation with me, just like I anticipate conversations with my adult children. Now that’s still not part of the fabric of my imagination, if you will, and my experience necessarily. That’s a really good story and a good metaphor to think about not only being part of something bigger but also being so personal.
Mimi Dixon: That’s the whole thing. Larry would always say that it’s about relationship. It’s not about transactions, it’s not about us running out and being all productive for God and the higher our percentage of productivity is, the more favor we have from God. It’s really relational and He wants to know what hurts me. He wants to know what makes me laugh. He wants to know what I noticed today. And He wants to join in it. It’s the delight of a parent in a beloved child. It’s interesting to me that in His post-resurrection appearances, most of the time, Jesus called them children. Now, isn’t that interesting? Children, did you catch any fish? Children, come and have breakfast.
It touches me so much and it reframes everything that here is this person who has already paid an enormous deeply personal cost and journeys with us. He’s saying, remember how this ends now. Remember, all shall be well. Remember that. Hang on to it. Be confident. It means everything to Him when we join Him in His work. I think it meant everything to Jesus to look down from the cross and see the three people who loved Him most standing there. His mother, John, and Mary Magdalene, would not go away. They would not leave him alone. Ad I think, do I want to let Jesus handle what’s going on in the world by Himself? I want to do what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said. I want to be the one who, as you said, shows up. The one who’s willing to go and just be present with somebody who’s gone through something. It’s something that changes everything.
There’s a poem written by Rob Marsh. Rob is a Jesuit priest. In this poem, he describes the way His relationship with Jesus changed from thinking theologically about what Jesus accomplished on the cross for our salvation. You know, a Flat Stanley view of Jesus.
Karlene Cannon: I love that. If you don’t know who Flat Stanley is, it’s a children’s book that all my kids had to read. You actually cut Flat Stanley out and you color him and then you send him places. He goes on all these adventures. That’s a great metaphor of how often maybe we do think about God,
Mimi Dixon: This is how Rob describes it. As Jesus goes to His cross, what dies is not just a dream or a project. It is my beloved. I’m not mourning my shattered hopes, my doomed calling. I’m mourning a man I have come to love. At the start, He was all abstraction and hope and activity. But by the end, He is the man I have come to know intimately. I’ve watched His birth and held His warm weight. I’ve been there as He has grown up and been made man before me. I’ve seen His struggle and loved His laughter. I’ve gazed at Him and found Him gazing back. I’ve heard my name on His lips. I’ve been drawn into His friendship. I’ve watched Him work, suffered His hardship, wrestled with His self discovery. I’ve discovered that I need Him, and been sweetly shocked that He needs me too. Something has happened. I have fallen in love.
Karlene Cannon: Wow.
Mimi Dixon: Yep, pretty much says it all.
Karlene Cannon: That’s really beautiful.
Mimi Dixon: It means everything to be given the opportunity to accompany Him. To know how much it means to Him when we choose to be present to what He’s doing. Even when we’re afraid or even when it doesn’t feel safe. Even and especially when we know it’s going to cost us something. But when we choose to be present to Him, as He is so generously present to us, that’s the shift I’ve experienced in myself, Karlene. I’ve experienced a shift between thinking primarily, as you said so wisely a moment ago, about what I want Him to do for me, into thinking about how, in this time of great turmoil in our world, when there’s so much at stake, He is carrying and continues to carry a great burden. How could He not? And what does it mean for me to answer the call to be present to what He’s doing in my own sphere of activity, in my own existing relationships?
This is where Larry helped me so much, because that was the focus toward the end as he was straddling heaven and earth and the veil was so thin for him. What he wanted to talk about is how does this show up in our relationships, because that’s the center of the call. I’m very grateful to him for that, because it was very clarifying. When we start thinking about our call, what does God want, that’s what He wants is for us to love, to be good lovers. That’s very simple.
Karlene Cannon: Very simple and very difficult.
Mimi Dixon: Very, it requires a sacrifice.
Karlene Cannon: It requires some giving up of self, some dying to self.
Mimi Dixon: And what we consider to be, I have a right to this. I have to watch that in myself.
Karlene Cannon: That entitlement spirit that Larry always talked about.
Mimi Dixon: Exactly. He had it going and he would press into something and he wouldn’t stop until he got ahold of it. And when he did, like Julian of Norwich, he was generous and he shared it with us. And I’m so grateful.
Karlene Cannon: Yeah, I think that is one of the things I have appreciated most, especially as I’ve gotten really immersed here working in Larger Story and in Larry’s work is just the way he shared not only his internal world, but his relationship with God. He shared that with us. You said how that’s the relationship that’s most important to you. It’s the primary relationship in your life. It was for Larry and he generously welcomed us into that in a lot of ways, through his books, the conversations at breakfast, in the speaking and the various things he did. It is so helpful, like you said with Julian of Norwich to have shared that 10 hour conversation that echoes down through the centuries to give us a vision of what this invitation God has been holding out, from the beginning of time when He’s actually inviting us. I think maybe our perceptions are just way too small, our targets are smaller, our vision is small because often you hear the phrase like pray big prayers. I had a pastor who would often say, pray for things that are so big that they can only be accomplished if God is in them. I think all of that’s good and true. But what we’ve talked about today is something even grander, even more true, more real than accomplishing something big for God.
Mimi Dixon: As you say, it’s rooting our little story in God’s larger story. Our assumption is that you and I were born when we were, very intentionally. You and I have had the experiences that we’ve had in our lives that have shaped us and formed us in ways to have access to people who are struggling and hopeless. Joni Erickson Tada is one of my heroes. I just love Joni. Rachael was telling me – and she may have told you this story as well, Karlene. – She was at a prayer breakfast. She and Larry were there and she had an opportunity to help get Joni ready for her workshop. Rachael said that in the workshop, one of the first things that Joni said to this packed room of people was, when I go to heaven, I hope I can take my chair with me. Rachael said that everybody went, Oh. She said, what I’m going to do is I’m going to wheel up to Jesus in my wheelchair. She has a little control thing. I’m going to wheel up to Jesus in my wheelchair and I’m going to look up into His face and I’m going to say, thank you Jesus for this chair. And then I’m going to stand up. I’m going to put my hand, this restored whole hand, I’m going to put it on the back of the wheelchair and ask him to send it to hell. She said that chair has taught her dependence on the Lord. It has shaped her inner journey. But here’s the other thing she says. The reason I’m grateful for this chair is that I can wheel into places that able bodied people cannot walk. She’s not talking about the American disabilities, she’s talking about people who are suffering and if I walked in, they’d look at me and they’d say, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Take your platitudes and leave. She can wheel in there and they look at her and they’re going to listen to what she has to say because they know that she gets it. The things that have happened to me, I may not be in a wheelchair, but there are things that have happened to me that give me access to some people in a way that others would struggle to gain.
I think this is why Paul can say in 2 Corinthians that we can be grateful for the things that have happened to us because it can be a means of grace in somebody else’s life if I can be willing to accept and embrace the things as Peter was told by Jesus when Jesus welcomed him back with the three loves. After his three denials, He says to Peter, essentially, Peter, don’t worry about it, you’re never going to fail like this again. You don’t have to worry about it because next time you’re in a situation where you feel threatened and you’re afraid, you’re going to put out your hands and you’re going to let them take you where you don’t want to go.
I think that as followers of Jesus, very often He invites us to go some places in a relationship or whatever that we would rather not go. I show my love for Him in being willing to embrace that and to say, I’m going to trust you when you invite me into this. I’m following you into it. You’re not sending me, we’re going. I’ll be with you and you’re going to give me what I need. It’s a shift from thinking about in prayer what I want God to do for me and the people I love and for my business and for my future and my dreams. It flips around and now I’m realizing, as Julian said, that the time is short. We don’t have that long to write a love letter with our lives. This is the only chance we’re going to get. So in my mind, bring it on.
Karlene Cannon: There’s so many things about that I’d love to follow up on and what you just said, but a couple of things really struck me. When you told the story about Joni Erickson Tada. Somehow, I think I can see being grateful for the wheelchair, even though I don’t know how I would get there. But then her saying, send it to hell, that’s what made me think that’s legit. Like she’s having some sort of weird denial, some sort of, I’ve convinced myself that this is okay when it’s really there’s a real awareness and I know, if she still experiences a lot of pain, there’s a lot of suffering that never really abates in her story. That deep awareness of the tension between what is good and holy and what is, corrupt and Alcatraz, as you said earlier, in our world, and the inner certainty that the good has won. I found it really profound in that little anecdote, because it’s not just that the good wins in the future. There’s a real winning in Joni and the way that she has embraced the story and the good wins today as well as tomorrow and for eternity. So that really struck me.
I think that in what we’ve been talking about, that willingness to live in this constant reconciling of the good and the bad and inviting Jesus into that. I love when you brought up the story of Peter, because I love Peter. He’s impulsive and he’s all the things. Jesus sees something sterling in him and will not let him go and he prays for Peter, you know, Satan has asked to sift you like chaff, but I’m going to take care of you. I’m going to hold you like he says, but I pray for you that your faith will not fail. I think the idea that Jesus is praying for me – we’re talking here about praying to Him and being invited into a relationship with Him, but He’s praying for me. Just like back to the story of Abraham Lincoln, He’s reaching down and holding onto me, praying for me when I’m not even clued in to what’s really going on and He has prayed for me that my faith will not fail.
Mimi Dixon: That is so good.
Karlene Cannon: I just think that, as you’ve said a lot in this conversation, we’re on a journey. It’s a long journey and yet the time is short. I thought that was really profound. I just lose track of some of that, in the day to day in a way that Mother Teresa, on the streets of Calcutta or whatever, was unable to lose track of. She had put herself in a situation where every day she went with Jesus to go do something important
Mimi Dixon: The Trinity is a community of persons created in the image of that community. So we’re not alone. We’re not separated from God. In John 17, it says, may they be one as we are one. Mmay we be in them the way that they’re in us. There’s this mixing. It is hard when you live in Alcatraz and you hear the banging of the bars, and you’re hearing people yelling, and you know that this is not a safe environment. Nobody should ever try to make a home in a place like this. This is a wilderness. Being together makes all the difference because we call to one another in the night.
When Paul and Silas were in prison, it says that all the other prisoners were listening to them. Then there was a great earthquake and the Lord broke off all of their bonds and opened up the doors. And that’s when the Philippian jailer thought, oh no, they’re all escaping, but they didn’t escape. They didn’t escape. Now what does it look like for me in the darkness to sing in the darkness because I know that the dawn is coming and that there is a light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome.
I love what you said just a moment ago about the way that Jesus is present to us in our situation, we’re never by ourselves. We’re always accompanied and we find one another like this Larger Story community. We find one another. We read the scriptures. We receive His word to us. We communicate with Him in prayer. We listen to podcasts. We hear about a book that might be exactly what Jesus is inviting us to marinate in for a while. It might well be The Papa Prayer like we’re doing here. We’re spending time together, marinating in the name of the God who loves us, and sees us, and has breathed life into us, and who has promised to never ever leave us. We remind one another of these things, and it’s a handhold. We can keep moving forward because we’re encouraged by one another. This is not a solo journey.
Karlene Cannon: That’s a good word. I’m thinking of a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago talking about conversations that matter, like one of Larry’s terms. What makes the conversation matter is that we’re stirring up an appetite for God. I think that’s what you’re saying is that in those moments where we get lost in the chaos of Alcatraz that we’re there for each other to stir up that appetite for God again in whatever way that comes about. I love poetry, I love history. I love reading the older books from the great cloud of witnesses, if you will. I look out my window like there’s all sorts of ways that God calls to us through each other, through His creation. The still small voice in our heart. I think maybe part of what we’ve been talking about here is that a lot of times prayer feels like my burden. If you like my thing to do my obligation, or I need to do this in order to whatever. God is just more active in that Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail long before Peter knew his faith was going to be challenged. There’s a whole part of the relationship, a whole community of divine persons who are holding this relationship together. My part is just to, as Brendan Manning said, just to show up,
Mimi Dixon: Yes, and to know that you are part of something that has movement. You already know what the destination is. We may be going through a dark place. If we’re on a train, we may be going through a dark place right now. We can’t see very clearly, but He knows exactly where we are. Psalm 39 says it is not dark to Him. The darkness is as light. So He’s not surprised. He has traveled this path already. He knows exactly where we are. I may well be in a pinchy place because of some decisions I’ve made or other people have made. I may well be in that valley of the shadow of death, but He is with me, He’s guiding me, He’s protecting me, and He’s going to provide the meals that I need, the sustenance that I need, the courage I need. It makes all the difference to me.
I’ve come to view myself as a little person, a little girl. He just loves having me be with Him, so He sticks out His hand and I grab His hand and we go. I may not like some of the places that we go, but there are places we go that are stunningly beautiful. There are relationships when He says, I have a good friend, Karlene, I want you to meet her. And I say, Oh Goodie. Then we meet some of His friends and we encourage one another. It means everything to know that He’s got this, He is proven and reliable, and He knows exactly where I am at this point in my life, and He’s present. I’m not in some kind of situation where I’m unsafe and I’m at risk.
This is how Dallas Willard could say that this universe is the safest place that we could possibly be. My response to that the first time I heard it is to say, are you paying attention? This is not a safe place. This island is dangerous. You need to watch your back. But he’s communicating what we’ve been talking about in this whole conversation. He’s talking about what we have. Jesus says, when you pray, say Abba, Daddy, the one who sees me and loves me and enjoys me and leans in to hear what I did today, what I learned at school, who my friends are, who asks me when I’m drawing to tell Him about my picture. He’s interested.
Karlene Cannon: It strikes me that maybe a good thing to close on is I think something that gets talked about a lot, but a lot of us didn’t have fathers or parents who did that, who were not interested in us. Sometimes our frame of reference is a little bit warped or just missing. My story is more one of absence and neglect. There’s just not a lot filling in that landscape of what father is. What do you offer to people who may have that kind of a story where their experience of family in the Trinity is really all they’ve got, or at least the formative experience that they have.
Mimi Dixon: Thank you for that, Karlene, because you’re so right. If we haven’t had an experience like that in the human family, it is extremely difficult and there are wounds there. There’s trauma there. The only thing that I know in bringing my own experiences to the Lord is just to say, Jesus tells me to call you Abba. I don’t know what that means.I need you to re-parent me. I need you to show me what you’re like.
It’s interesting that in that prayer, Larry Crabb shows up. You have somebody who does see you. Somebody who loves the Lord and you look at him and you say, is this for real? Can I trust this? Are you trustworthy? I think this is the amazing thing in the family of God. We are all re-parented because even at our best parents don’t always get it right. We are in this space of being restored. Of having the walls rebuilt, not the walls that keep people out, a strengthening and a refreshing and a renewing and we start getting better. We start really coming to know that the one who calls us dear, worthy, the one who calls us His beloved, His child, that He is trustworthy.
When you live in Alcatraz, these are hard messages to get through, because our experience is in such a contrast to that. I think that’s where community is so important. There was a young woman in our church who came to me and said her heart was full of fear and she couldn’t read the Bible because it made her afraid. She was sure that she was going to go to hell, and she just didn’t know what to do. I said, ask. She said, ask what? Ask who? I said, ask. Just put a prayer out there and say, Jesus says to call you Daddy. I don’t experience you that way. I wonder why things have happened to me that you might have prevented. It’s hard for me to think of you that way. I said, just say, please reveal yourself to me and please reveal me, show me some of your friends who can help me learn to trust you.
We don’t take trauma lightly. We really don’t. This is a real thing. And in our world today, it’s rampant. This is where the work you’re doing is so important in Larger Story. You’re creating safe places for people to reform their image of God.
Karlene Cannon: What you just articulated echoes a lot of my story in that, I did have a father who was largely absent and so when I got to places in my life where I was starting to really grapple with, what does it mean to be a child of God and to have a heavenly father, I had a season where I was asking that question. It was in the season where my husband was reconnected with the Crabb family. He had known them as a child and I was connected with Larry for the first time. There are actually two Larrys in my life. I went to my other Larry, that’s how I talk about them. In this whole season, it was just like, okay, tell me, what is it? What does the father do? What does He do? It was in that asking, and there was some anger and other things going on there, but it wasn’t that kind of pushing and asking that, God brought these Larry’s into my life. You were able to stand in that gap for a period of time and kind of at different points. To then shape my understanding of God as Father because I had that taste, even if I didn’t have that lived experience as a child. I think that’s really a good word. It felt to me like I was like taking God by the collar, if you will, and just saying, I want to know what this means, and some of my conversations were a little bit hostile like that, but there was a real deep longing to know the fatherhood of God and a need to fill that in.
Mimi Dixon: God is not afraid of chaos. He certainly isn’t afraid of anger. He says in Isaiah, let us reason together. Tell me what’s on your mind. When you read the Psalms, right?
Karlene Cannon: Some of the imprecatory Psalms, they’re scared of God.
Mimi Dixon: God, why in the world are you letting those dirt bags be so successful and people like me who are following you to experience such traumatic events? Why? What are you doing? What’s going on? This is something that Larry would talk about. You say God wants you to be honest. He is ready for that. What He doesn’t want is for me to project some kind of holy hologram, because you can’t have a relationship with a hologram, right?
Karlene Cannon: There’s nobody there.
Mimi Dixon: He wants to get behind that. He wants to know what’s really going on in Karlene’s heart and mind. He wants to know what’s going on in mine. He invites me into that space. He welcomes it and He’s grateful for it. Because now we can get someplace together.
Karlene Cannon: I think that’s been my experience. When I’m most intense and really longing and asking, that’s when I most experience God. He’s faithful and it might not come exactly in the moment that I want, or exactly the way that I want it, but back to that persistence. If I stick with it, He always brings something or someone to bring Himself to me.
Mimi Dixon: Isn’t that wonderful? That’s what He’s like. That’s what He’s like.
Karlene Cannon: I think if you have those experiences, you do start to count on it. Larry was very good at saying this. It’s not a demand or an entitlement. I have to watch that in my heart, but if there’s an honest desire and expression of that desire and a willingness to just receive what God offers, He always offers.
Mimi Dixon: Sometimes I see it all that a little more clearly in the rear view mirror.
Karlene Cannon: True, that’s very important.
Mimi Dixon: The story is there and you begin to say, oh, in that time when I felt so, lost and disconnected, now I can see that you were there the whole time. Thank you. It’s good. Honest conversation, that’s what it’s about. It’s a real relationship and not a fake one.
Karlene Cannon: That’s right. Mimi, thank you so much for giving us so much of your time and your wisdom and your story and just letting us have a little bit of a glimpse into your heart and your relationship with the Trinity, with the one you find most important.
Mimi Dixon: Thank you, Karlene. I really appreciate the invitation. It’s been wonderful to have this conversation with you.
Karlene Cannon: I would love to talk more. Maybe we’ll do this again if you’re available, but I really do appreciate it. Larger Story family, we just thank you that you’ve hung in there and listened to our conversation and joined us as we talked about the most important relationship, the relationship that holds the whole universe together, the relationship that created all of us and everything we see and that we’re actually privileged to be a part of, invited to join and live in that community that we know is the Trinity.
Mimi Dixon: Could I offer a prayer of Julian of Norwich?
Karlene Cannon: That would be wonderful. Thank you.
Mimi Dixon: God of your goodness, give me yourself. You are enough for me and anything less that I could ask for would not do you full honor. If I ask anything that is less, I shall always lack something, but in you alone, I have everything. Amen.
Karlene Cannon: Amen. Thank you.
Mimi Dixon: Thank you very much.
Karlene Cannon: Thank you for joining us on the Relational Spirituality podcast. It is our prayer that these conversations are a blessing to you, giving you courage to keep living with the Trinity, to go with Jesus into the brokenness of the world, the brokenness of relationship, even into Alcatraz so that He doesn’t have to go alone.
I hope we’ve reminded you who you belong to and that a greater desire for Him has been stirred up in your heart. I pray that you’ve been inspired to stay the course and become the fullness of all He created you to be. I long for you to be reassured that it is safe. To be known and to go with Jesus as He knows those around you. Until next time may the Lord bless you and keep you and may His face shine upon you. Amen.