A response to What is Worship – Ron Skylstad

Today’s post comes from Ron Skylstad  from the Grunewald Guild.  It was first posted yesterday on the Guild blog Scriptorium 

 

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Yesterday Christine Sine posted some thoughts on her blog in a post entitled“What is Worship?” In it she talks about a blog series she hosted over the summer about worshipping God in the real world…and admits that she was a bit disappointed with the response she received from people:

Most of the posts were about traditional spiritual practices like praying and singing hymns in the midst of everyday life.  Now don’t get me wrong, I think that these are very important, but what I was really hoping for were more contributions that unpacked the ways that we can worship God through ordinary everyday acts of life like taking a shower, walking in the park and even reading the newspaper.

She goes on to discuss that we have a really difficult time thinking outside of the proverbial box, but that we need to in order to take church/worship outside the boxes of tradition we have confined them to.  ”To do so,” Christine says, “we must constantly encourage our worship leaders to become worship curators….  Unfortunately this is never easy because it means we also need to take theology outside the boxes in which we have placed it.”  She then asks to hear thoughts regarding these topics, about how we move our understanding of worship outside the church box and into the world.

Now this is something I think about and practice quite often, especially because I’m not all that musically inclined.  Granted, I was in a concert choir for 8 years and I took a guitar class, and I have a wealth of information in my brain about musical groups and the stories behind songs…but I couldn’t play guitar and sing at the same time to save my life.  I can’t keep a steady rhythm going for more than a handful of beats.  I LOVE music…but creating it is not my gift.

This serves as somewhat of a ‘wrench in the cogs’ when music is the primary medium through which worship is done in the church.  This is most likely because music is one of the only art forms the church has considered “safe,” and it’s a form in which it is fairly obvious to figure out how other people in the church body can participate (i.e. sing along).  As I said above: music is a deeply rooted and integral part of my life…but it’s not by any means my primary form of worship.

Worship for me happens during the tending of my terrariums or while doing a water change in an aquarium, or snorkeling down in the river or at the lake.  And as I do so, the lines blur between the micro and the macro…the “inside” and the “outside.”  In that way these glass boxes of plants and fish and water serve as icons of prayer for me, leaping pads into the wider world and an awareness about ecosystems and our understanding/tending of them.

 

Office Terrarium at the Grunewald Guild lovingly tended by Ron Skylstads

Worship for me is rarely accompanied by music, save the notes and melodies of pure awe, wonder and mystery that accompany such experiences.  It is a form of prayer without words, a form of prayer that focuses on being in God’s presence and saturated with the sacredness of such a resplendent creation.

Maybe the next age of worship leaders won’t be musicians or performance majors…or even be found on a stage.  Maybe they’ll be elbow-deep in a compost pile or hundreds of feet above the ground exploring canopy ecosystems or have a sweaty brow as they prepare jar upon jar of preserves to give purely as a gift to those in the neighborhood.

That would perhaps be a more true liturgy (“work of the people”) than many of us currently experience during a Sunday morning service.

Perhaps the next worships leaders–if we have eyes to see them and ears to hear then–will act more as field guides to the wild world we inhabit, pointing out the thin places of creation and helping us become aware of the bushes burning all around us.

What if churches incorporated living walls inside or outside of their buildings?  What if, near sanctuary vessels of water for people to dip their fingers into, the element was balanced by an aquarium of local fish species which served as a reminder of watershed health and our “neighbors” which aren’t, in fact, human but to whom we are still called to care for…that, as Thomas a Kempis wrote, “If thy heart were right, then every creature would be a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine.  There is no creature so small and abject, but it reflects the goodness of God.”

What if the outside properties of our churches were used to their maximum potentials?  Apiaries in the corner…bat boxes beneath the eaves…espaliered fruit trees on the outside walls…vermiculture bins near the dumpster that children help tend and turn over, and red crawlers that they get to take home to start their own at the end of VBS.  What if our worship leaders were those who set up aquaponics systems in the unused and neglected portions of church basements, composing mid-winter meals of basement grown greens and tub-raised tilapia?

What if children learned first-hand about the abundance of creation during Sunday School by collecting eggs from the church’s chicken flock, and the youth group learned about building community by delivering baskets of eggs to those in the neighborhood?  What if the next generation of church leadership and renewal learned how to worship through simply sitting on a bench in the park or training grapevines along a fence or watching bats flutter in the dusk of summer?

And what if, rather than pushing out one dogma/practice completely out of the way for another one, we were instead able to fuse a variety of formats and methods and practices together in our exploration of worship?

These may be tough questions for churches as they all require the taking of chances, the exploration of new ways and new methods, new experiences and the willingness to retell some of our stories in different ways than we have before.  They require not only thinking “outside of the box” but, perhaps in standard Matrix fashion, for us to question whether or not there is actually a box to begin with…that there even exists a division between the “sacred” and the “mundane.”

 

 

Worshipping God in the Reality of Riots – by James Prescott

Many of us watched in horror last week as riots broke out across England.

Today’s post if from James Prescott who came closer than he ever wanted to the reality of these events.

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Worshipping God in the reality of riots

 

The theme of this blog series was meant to be ‘Worshipping God in the real world’. For myself and the people of London, Manchester and other areas hit by rioting in the last week, the world has never seemed more real than it did earlier this week at the height of the rioting. I sat and watched a building in Croydon – a town not far from my own – burn to the ground live on the news, and the world never seemed more real. In that time I was feeling real fear, as rumours abounded my own town was next on the list of towns to riot – and the world appeared more real than ever before.

It often seems to happen that way. When people speak of their most life-changing moments, or the significant moments that impacted them, you’ll find they often speak of these kind of times. It’s when life is experienced at it’s most raw, and the things we often brush under the carpet in our secular consumer-led world suddenly are in the midst of us.

What happened has raised so many questions, and the reality is we don’t have all the practical solutions to the real problems in our society. But in some senses what happened was almost inevitable. In a secular consumer society, when people’s identity comes not from what they produce, or from any inherent value they have, but from what they possess, and what they consume, events like occurred on the streets of the UK this week are ultimately inevitable.

Why? Because when you make those things your god, when your identity rests on those things, then the ultimate irony is that it will produce a culture of a culture of entitlement – and it will produce a culture of have and have nots.

In this culture, when times get really tough and people don’t have the possessions they believe they are entitled to, and they lose hope that the institutions they put their faith in – government and the police for example – which either provide these services or are responsible for supplying the finance to support this kind of lifestyle, then it’s going to create an atmosphere of discontentment & disrespect which eventually is going to be sparked into life, and when that happens, looting, stealing and rioting is all so inevitable.

The tragic thing is that what has happened has still not woken people up to this idea, and the folly that lies behind it. Which leads us neatly to Jesus.

It would be easy for people to use what has happened as an excuse to attack the church & God, and the age-old question of why a God of love allows suffering rises its head again. But you only had to look at the news to know that it wasn’t God who caused this tragic set of events.

No, it was this chain of events that showed our desperate need for God, and how much we have forgotten about Him.

It shows what happens when you try to fit God into your life rather than fit your life around God. It is what happens when you make idols out of money, status, possessions and have a culture of consumerism. It shows what happened when you have a culture of Christian spectators, rather than participants.

Which brings me neatly as to a simple way to bring about change. It is very simple.

What has happened exposes the reality at the heart of our culture – it is one of greed, selfishness and entitlement. It is one which worships at the idol and religion of consumerism, which is full of sinners needing a saviour, people looking for identity and recognition, searching for a purpose.

It is the cultural equivalent of being honest with yourself and being totally honest about who you are – and that is usually a catalyst for real change, if we let it.

But it is only a catalyst for real substantive change if we respond in the way of Jesus. It is only a catalyst for change if we respond with love, if we respond with action. Because chances are, the response we get from the government won’t necessarily be that.

I was praying about this earlier in the week, prayer walking through my town whilst it was under threat of riots – which thankfully, didn’t come to my town – and I was wrestling with what it meant to for me – and all of us – respond to this, how we can make the cross bigger than this, and bring resurrection out of this cultural death.

I felt at a very deep level that I needed to be ready to be the answer to my own prayer – and that we all do – if real change is to happen. That each of us has to be willing to participate, to put ourselves out there, as communities, churches and individuals, if we are going to bring life out of this darkness, and this is the question I am still wrestling with as the first steps are taken in the restoration of these communities, in light of these events.

One of my friends wrote on Facebook during the riots “It’s times like these we are called to worship”. That is absolutely true.

It is in the times we don’t feel like worshipping, the times when we are struggling to see God or understand where He is at all, that we need to be worshipping God – and we need to be participating in worship.

It is in those times we need to be giving our all in praise of God, not just in sung worship, but in what we do.

When we participate in the resurrection of our communities, and the restoration of this world, and we play the role God has given us to remake it in the image of its creator, then we are making a sacrifice of worship, and in so doing we open people’s eyes to see the God who is there amongst them, and ultimately lead others into worship.

The resurrection shows us that death is not the end. That there is a new beginning, new life, a new day which dawns. It shows us that there is always hope.

But for that hope to become a reality, we need to take the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, and “Be the change you want to be in the world”.

As Christ’s followers, we are called to participate in the restoration and reconciliation of all things, in remaking this world back more into the image of it’s creator, bringing light from darkness, death from life. We are called not to spectate, but participate, and it is in that act of worship that the resurrection becomes a reality, and the kingdom of God becomes true in a way that we could never imagine.

That is how we in the UK must respond to this dark time – and we must all respond to the darkness that is around us, whether seen or unseen. We must not sit in judgement or condemnation, but we must respond with love and service, and we must be willing to be participants, God’s agents of reconciliation & healing, and in the midst of the darkness, be the light that points people towards a new way of doing life, that rather than creating a sense of entitlement and self-centrednes, involves & demonstrates the death of self in the service of others.

It is as we do this, that the kingdom of God becomes a living reality, and worship becomes something songs of worship, they take on more power, because in that moment they are not just songs with great lyrics, but a living reality in our lives.

What change are you going to be in the world?

Are you a participant, or a spectator?

How are you helping to make God’s kingdom a reality in the community you live in and are a part of?

How real is your worship?

Life in a two-beat rhythm – by Lynne Baab

The posts for Worshipping God in the Real World have been few and far between lately.  Hmm I wonder if that is a symptom of something?  But more of that later.  Today we have another post from Lynne Baab the author of the recently released Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World, as well as numerous other books including Sabbath Keeping and Reaching Out in a Networked World. Visit her website for articles she has written and information about her books. Lynne is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, currently a lecturer in pastoral theology in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Walking the labyrinth - Celtic retreat 2010

Walking the labyrinth - Celtic retreat 2010

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? I’ve done it maybe a dozen times, and several of those times I have had a pressing issue that I wanted to pray about. My pattern in those times is to pray my desires on the way in, then stand restfully at the center for a few moments, enjoying God’s peace. On the way out I pray in a different way, sometimes expressing my willingness for God’s desires about the issues. I might ask God to open me to unexpected answers to my prayers or I might simply thank God for the fact that the issue is now firmly in God’s hands, no longer in my own. On one occasion , which I have been pondering recently, that movement in (focused on my own desires) and the movement out (expressing my willingness for God’s future) prepared me for a major life change.

That movement in/movement out pattern can be helpful in many everyday prayer situations. One way to engage in breath prayer is to breathe out our worries and struggles into God’s presence, one at a time with each breath out. Then with each breath in, to imagine ourselves breathing in God’s peace and love.

Another way involves praying while walking. As a young mom I used to hire a high school girl to come over after school a few days a week so I could get out for a walk. I had a two-mile route. I walked through our neighborhood to a lake, then took the path along the lake toward an aqua theater. At the aqua theater, I would turn around and walk home.

In the first half of the walk, I would think about the things I was worried and preoccupied about. When I reached the lake, I imagined Jesus in the boat on the lake, and I handed him each of those worries one by one as I walked on the path beside the lake.

At the aqua theater I turned around, and my prayers changed. At that point I might simply enjoy the birds and trees and water, thanking God for the beauty of the creation. Or I might pray thankfulness prayers, focusing particularly on the gift of God’s peace that comes when we hand over all our needs. I might pray intercessory prayers for needs in the world. Whatever I prayed on the way back came from the deep sense of rest and confidence that flows out of giving our concerns to God and knowing God is capable of dealing with them.

Any back-and-forth walk can be an opportunity to pray in this way. A short walk down the hall at work to photocopy a document can be an opportunity to hand our concerns over to God on the way there, then rest in God’s peace on the way back. A bike or car trip to run an errand can function the same way with prayers about needs and concerns on the way and prayers focused on thankfulness on the way back. The primordial rhythm of our breath teaches us life in a two-beat rhythm, and we can draw on those two beats in a variety of ways in our everyday prayers. The trick is to make it a pattern or a habit, so we get used to the idea that the first half of the journey is an invitation to hand over our worries to God, and the second half is a time to rest in God’s goodness to us.

 

 

 

 

 

A moment beside the Willamette River

The posts in my series Worshipping God in the Real World have been few and far between these last couple of weeks – too many people off enjoying a break with no time to write.  However I did receive this from Lynne Baab which makes a great addition to the previous posts.

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Lynne M. Baab is the author of the recently released Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World, as well as numerous other books including Sabbath Keeping and Reaching Out in a Networked World. Visit her website  for articles she has written and information about her books. Lynne is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, currently a lecturer in pastoral theology in Dunedin, New Zealand.

river place marina Portland

I’m sitting in front of a battered orange fire hydrant, incongruously placed in a bank of flowers and grasses. Riverplace Marina, on the Willamette River, lies beyond the flowers. High freeway bridges and the low, hundred year old Hawthorne Bridge span the river, while a traffic helicopter whines overhead.

We’re on vacation in Portland, Oregon, and my husband is browsing an art gallery here at the Marina. Usually when we head out to sightsee I bring along a paperback, so I can read while he takes his time in galleries. But today I forgot the novel.

So I sit here on a curved bench, wondering if this is an invitation to worship God in the real world, to draw near to God in this slice of everyday life. Perhaps I could engage with one of the everyday spiritual disciplines I habitually practice. For example, I could sit here and list the many gifts and blessings God has given me recently: successfully winding up teaching and grading for the semester; the recent release of my latest book, Friending; on-time flights to Oregon; the family members and friends we’ll be seeing on this trip. I could list them and thank God for them.

Here’s a second option. I learned a new version of the Jesus prayer a few weeks ago, and I’ve been experimenting with using it as a breath prayer, coordinating the words with my breath. “Jesus . . . Savior . . . help me know your love . . . and make it known.” As I repeat the words, sometimes I think about all the ways God has shown love to me, and I pray that this love would sink deep inside me, that I would “know” it in every sense of the world. Sometimes I pray about the ways I feel called to make God’s love known. That breath prayer would work well in these quiet moments in the light breeze.

I could also simply focus on the data coming to my brain through my senses and try to be present to everything around me. I could study and relish the white flowers with the yellow centers right beside the fire hydrant, the pale green grasses gently swaying, the silk tree giving me shade and the feathery cedar between me and the Hawthorne Bridge. God made them all. I could listen to the traffic on the freeway bridge, trying to tease out specific trucks and busses that I can see as well as hear. God gave me very acute hearing, sometimes a gift and sometimes a challenge, and I could try to be present to the distinct sounds around me in this restful moment.

I’m sure there are other ways to worship God in this real-world, real-life moment as I sit on a curved bench with a fire hydrant, white flowers, grasses, a marina and a cluster of bridges in view. But I’ve thought of enough options. The challenge for me in this moment is two-fold:

(1) to refrain from pulling out my day planner to see if there’s something “productive” I can do with this time, and

(2) to stop listing and analyzing the options.

Just do one of them, I tell myself.

Worshipping God in the Real World – Dumpster Diving for Food Justice

This morning I came across an article on Grist magazine entitled Dumpster Diver Says Trader Joe’s Must Start Wasting Food

All in all, Americans throw out a whopping one-half of the food we produce and import. This wastefulness coexists with a devastating recession and record numbers of Americans dependent on food stamps—one in eight of us, to be exact. Our propensity to waste has now reached beyond our means to do so, and yet we keep up the bad habit even while our neighbors go hungry. Read the entire article

I was fascinated by this depiction of yet another aspect of our food chain that I tend to pay little attention to.  How much food is wasted in our communities and what can we do to change this.

I know a number of people in Christian communities around the world who supplement their food with dumpster diving but to be honest I have never really thought about the possibility of this bein a spiritual practice.  But the article this morning had me wondering: Could this be another issue that requires us to step forward in faith and make a difference?  Is the disposal of food waste as much a Christian responsibility as I think its production and consumption is? and lastly is our involvement in this issue yet another possible way that we worship God?

The film about and by  Jeremy Seifert  DIVE! will be released on DVD, iTunes, and Netflix on July 19.

 

Worshipping God in the Real World – Dodging Forks and Other Parenting Highlights by Penny Carothers

Today’s post in the series Worshipping God in the Real World is contributed by Penny Carothers.  Penny is the Social Justice Editor for the Burnside Writers Collective.  In between washing diapers and trying to make her kids laugh she is working on a book chronicling her mother’s descent into mental illness, some of which you can find on her blog.  You can also find her on twitter, and in the kitchen, on a quest to bake the perfect cake.  This post first appeared on her blog Hearing Voices under the title Dodging Forks and other Parenting Highlights

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“I’m not going to be your friend any more!”

My daughter, four, is rolling away from me, her platinum hair a tangled veil as she kicks her legs to fend off the pants I am trying to pull up her squirming legs.

“I know you’re upset that you can’t play with your Legos anymore, but it’s time to go to lunch.”  I say, hovering over her, using my superior size to push her legs into one pantleg.

She kicks harder.  Her jaw is set, her eyes hooded and dark.  “No!” she yells.

I sit back and take a breath.  I hate forcing her to do what I want.  Then I remember my old stand-by: when you want compliance, use humor.  I take her blush-pink pants and position the waistband around my head, like a hat.

“Oh, good,” I say, letting out my breath, as if in relief.  “Because I really like my new hat.”  I cup my chin and turn my head from side to side, showing it off.  “Don’t you like my new pink hat?”

Her expression shifts almost instantly.

“No!” she yells, but this time she is giggling.  She scrambles up on all fours and comes at me, grabbing for the legs that dangle on either side of my ears.  “That’s not your hat.  Those are my pants!”

While she clutches her pants to her chest I go for her socks.  “But what about my new mittens?  Don’t you like them?  Don’t they match my outfit perfectly?”  I too, am giggling now.

All of the energy Quinn was using just moments ago to defy my plans has been redirected to her smile and her laugh and her new task: putting on her clothes as fast as she can before I can steal them away.  I watched, amazed, as she dresses herself.  Moments later, she stands up, ready to go, a shy smile on her face.

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Perhaps it’s heretical to say that I think I know how God feels sometimes, but that’s what parenting has done for me.  Like God, I could use my greater strength to force compliance, but I (hope I) never will.  Like God, I see my children’s world from above and that change has shifted my perspective dramatically.  As a child, I loved my parents because they loved me.  As a parent, I love my children simply because they exist.

And my children take advantage of this, of course.  They do maddening things.  They throw forks at me when all I’m trying to do is get them to eat the food that’s good for them.  They spit on the floor when I tell them they’ve had enough TV for the day.  (At least she’s not spitting at me, I tell myself.)  By the end of the day this kind of behavior wears me down, makes me wonder if I’m doing a good job raising these little beasts.  (Does God ever feel this way? I wonder.)  But deep down I know that my parenting skills have little to do with my daughter’s outbursts.  Her reactions to my limit-setting are developmentally appropriate.  The fact that she rebels means she is growing and developing a healthy sense of self.

It stuck me one day that perhaps God sees my tantrums in just this way.

I didn’t ask to be born!  This planet sucks.  What a terrible idea!  I yell at God, when I am overcome by the state of suffering in my world, and in the world in general.  Later, when the emotions have subsided, I am disappointed by my lack of trust.  When will you stop being so bratty? I ask myself.  What are you, a teenager?

Then I look into my daughter’s scowling face as I tell her it’s time to stop painting and wash up for dinner, and I have a blaze of insight.  Well, actually… maybe I am a teenager – a spiritual teenager.  When it comes to the maturity of my faith, maybe my reactions to life are developmentally appropriate.  I have a lot of growing up to do, and besides, God doesn’t expect me to take everything in stride if for no other reason than I don’t have His perspective.  Perhaps, perhaps, He even enjoys my spunk.  After all, He loves me, unconditionally, simply because I exist.  And He knows that no matter how much I protest, getting dressed and facing the day is something I need to learn how to do.  I bet, if given the chance, He’d even stick a pair of pants on His head teach me how.

Worshipping God in the Real World – Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life

Over the last couple of weeks I have been posting guest posts on the topic Worshipping God in the Real World: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life.  I am sorry that these have been rather sporadic because of my recent travels.  However for those who like to follow along either daily or in one fell swoop here is the series so far.

Worshipping in the Real World – Parenting with Soul by Sally Collings

Welcome all Doubters by Coe Hutchison

Living the Worship Driven Life – Steve Wickham

Faith Means Doubt – Thoughts from Thomas Merton

Worshipping God in the Real World – How To Encounter God in Everyday Life – K Zhang

Worshipping in the Real World – Reclaiming the Jubilee – Christine Sine

Worshipping in the Real World – God Sightings off Campus – Theresa Froehlich

I also thought that some of you would like to review the posts from my previous series on a similar theme: What is a Spiritual Practice

Reinventing the Wheel by Mark Buhlig part of Roadtrip Project

God of the Bountiful – A Harvest Prayer by Christine Sine

The Spirituality of the Long Distance Runner by Steve Fouch – The Spamhead Blog

The Spiritual Practice of Lament by Tracy Byrd Dickerson – Nacreous Kingdom

Spiritual Practices for Sitting In Front of the Screen – Lynne Baab

Thirsting for Coffee With God – A Very Spiritual Practice by Richard Dahlstrom – Pastoral Musings from Rain City

The Spirituality of Creating by John Chandler – Some Strange Ideas

Celebrations and Parties as a Spiritual Discipline by Kathy EscobarThe Refuge

The Spirituality of Drinking (Chinese) Tea by Andy Wade

Networking as Spiritual Practice by Steve Knight,

Mothering as a Spiritual Practice by Tara MaloufRed Thread Photography

Coloring as a Spiritual Practice by Danielle Grubb ShroyerJourney Church

Being Quiet as a Spiritual Practice by Eliacín Rosario CruzMustard Seed Associates

Settling In: Reestablishing Spiritual Practices in a New Place by Ed Cyzewski, author of Coffeehouse Theology

Civil Disobedience as Spiritual Practice by Jarrod McKenna

Running as Spiritual Practice by Luis Fernando BatistaRenovatio Cafe

How to Exercise Caution When Getting Back to Exercise by Adrienne Carlson

Playing Children’s Games as Spiritual Practice by Julie Clawson

Intergenerational Friendships as Spiritual Practice by David ZimmermanInterVarsity Press

Unemployment as a Spiritual Practice by Stephen Herbert

Editing Your Life: The Spiritual Discipline of Editing by Marcus Goodyear, The High Calling

Living in Transition as Spiritual Practice by Guy Chieleski

The Spiritual Practice of Apologizing by T Freeman

Love-making as a Spiritual Practice by Mark Scandrette

Smoking the Glory of God by Jason Clark

The Spiritual Practice of Getting Honest With Myself by Jonathan Brink

Spiritual Discipline–Serving at the Pantry by Maria Henderson

Yoga and Jesus: This is a Spiritual Practice by Christina Whitehouse-Sugg

Driving as Spiritual Discipline by Reverend Mother

Between the Sheets: Sleeping as Spiritual Discipline by Teri Peterson

Brigid Walsh – Gleaning as Spiritual Practice

Bowie Snodgrass – Grief as Spiritual Practice

Thomas Turner – Engagement as Spiritual Practice

Stan Thornburg – Making Space for the Rabbi

Gary Heard – Encountering the Stranger as Spiritual Practice and GPS Navigation as Spiritual Practice

Jason Fowler – Listening for God’s Voice in Music

Sheila Hight – Birdkeeping as Spiritual Practice

Steve Taylor – Composting as Spiritual Practice

John O’Hara – Anyone Can Cook – Spirituality in the Kitchen

Bethany Stedman – crying as a spiritual practice

Christopher Heuertz – Feeling close to God in the graveyard

Gerard Kelly – twittering as a spiritual practice –

Tim Mathis – blogging as as a spiritual practice

Mary Naegeli – Writing a sermon as spiritual practice

Hannah Haui – Cultural Protocol as spiritual practice

Jamie Arpin Ricci – Pet Ownership as spiritual practice

Matt Stone – Listening to Enemies as Spiritual Practice

Dan Cooper – Washing Dishes as Spiritual Discipline

Maryellen Young – The spiritual practice of taking a shower

virtual Eucharist: Is this a spiritual practice – Christine Sine

Is Breathing a Spiritual Practice – Christine Sine

Living the Worship Driven Life by Steve Wickham

Today’s post in the series Worshipping God in the Real World is contributed by Steve Wickham (BSc, FSIA, RSP [Aust], GradDipBib&Min) an online Christian minister and freelance author maintaining three blog sites (Epitome, ex-ceed and TRIBEWORK), posting daily to service a diverse readership. You can find his nearly 3,000 published articles onEzineArticles.com

This article was first published on Epitome 

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“Then say to [Pharaoh], ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness’.”  ~Exodus 7:16 (NIV).

Worshipping God is a whole-of-life experience of faith, the spending of ourselves in love, and earnest learning in wisdom. It’s probably a whole lot more to boot.

It’s certainly not confined to Sunday church services and prayer meetings.

How do we convert the typical endeavour of worship for God at church — a comparative ‘Egypt’ by confinement of location and activity — and take such worshipful endeavour out into the world; to the comparative ‘wildernesses’ of our workplaces, homes and communities?

Freedom of Worship

If we consider ourselves free only to ‘worship’ at church — or within safe Christian boundaries — then we probably have the wrong concept for what worship is.

Worship may be any activity where we’re able to glorify God via what we do and through what meagre (or mega) portion we, of our hearts, bring.

Living like Christ, whilst we’ll often fail to meet the Saviour’s standard, is the freedom of worship.

Note that Jesus was free to worship God in his literal wilderness experience (Matthew 4:1-11). Out in the world, far beyond the Temple, he was tempted three significant times by Satan. Jesus worshipped the Father via straightforward, wise obedience. His worship, at least in this setting, was nothing about readings in church or singing Hallels.

We too are free to express our worship, not only beyond the gates of our churches, but via an amazing array of activity.

The Vast Worshipful Expanse

God has created a very big place — the universe. Yet, no matter how big things get (the universe is ever-expanding in size) it’s a scientific and a miraculous fact that smallness is equally big. Nanotechnologies and the like prove God to be unfathomable regarding the legacy of expanse, both macro and micro.

God is a limitless Lord.

We can extend God’s expansive nature to the issue of worship; to the degree of variety of worshipful activity at our fingertips.

Anything done with love in our hearts fits this Divine mould.

Where we rise to the heights of righteousness, plumb the depths of humility, reach out our arms in the width of justice, and scour the breadth of God’s wisdom, we worship; to a trillion different nuances.

As we’re unique persons, each crafted at the masterstroke of the Lord’s design, uniqueness becomes the authenticity of our worship. Nobody will worship in the world like we, perhaps, can or do.

The Mission is to Worship: Worship IS Mission

The entire world we can touch is our ‘wilderness’ and the mission of God in our mortal bodies and minds is beyond Egypt (the physical church buildings we present at each Sunday).

Not that we can’t worship in Egypt; we can worship anywhere!

To consider ourselves as pleasing God by remaining in Egypt, however, when the wilderness is the way to the Promised Land, is ludicrous.

We must extend our worship to the farthest reaches of our conscious lives, for through our worshipful ways we experience God. We should yearn after God’s Presence these ways, desiring more and more infilling of the Spirit that gives life; and that, through us, so our worship truly glorifies God.

When we take the Purpose Driven Life model, connecting both ends — worship with mission — we can finally retain the beads — fellowship, discipleship and ministry — ending with a string of beads constructed toward Christlike completeness.

Our mission is to find our worshipful purpose in all our moments.

Worshipping God in the Real World – How To Encounter God in Your Daily Life

Today’s post for the series Worshipping God in the Real World comes from  K Zhang.  She lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is also an artist, art educator, blogger and a minimalist.  Her blog  Prayer Kingdom   is about staying connect to the things of God that add value to your life, without getting stressed out from information overload.

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God is everywhere, then why do you need to encounter him?

What we are looking for is a feeling of being in the presence of God.  But the Holy Spirit is always with us, leading us and guiding us, even when we don’t feel close to God.  Our feelings can be deceiving.

Even King David, a man of God, cries out saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” – Psalm 22:1 But King David was not really forsaken by God, he was feeling far away from God.

In our relationship with God, you will feel seasons of abundance and seasons of drought.  However, this is all because your heavenly father loves your and wants you to grow and become more like Christ.  Whenever he is far from you, it is a season of testing of your faith and trust.

God promises that:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matt 7:7

When we seek to be close to God and to be in God’s presence, we can be.

My Top Three Ways of Encountering God:

1. Rejoice in the Lord

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. – Phil 4:4

Consider a father… is the father not happy when the child is happy in the world that he created for the child?  Our heavenly father created this beautiful world for us.  He is happy when we enjoy his creations.  He is happy when I am enjoying an ice cream and when I am tanning in the sun.  He is happy when I am laughing with friends and family.  He is happy when I am finding happiness in the details.

A song that I like to listen to is Today is the Day by Lincoln Brewster.  It reminds me that God has built this day especially for me.  All the joyous experiences he has planned and put in my life.

2. Praising God

One of my most favorite verses:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Phil 4:6

Whenever I give thanks, I feel closer to God because giving thanks is a form of prayer, and it is a conversation with God.  Prayer is not one session of sitting there, heads bowed, and praying.  It can be down anywhere, any time, in any situation.  I often say prayers of thanksgiving whenever I feel like it.  And I can feel God smiling down at me whenever I thank him.

3. Being Completely Honest with God

In any relationship, when you being totally honest with the person, your relationship reaches a new level of trust.  Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship with God himself.  Jesus died so that we may have a personal relationship with him.  I find that I can never feel close to God if I am hiding something from him.  Also in my life, the closest I have ever been with God is when I am crying out to him. I share with him my inner thoughts and my deepest emotions.  I share with him my sins, frustration, uncertainty, hurts, and fears.  I even share with him my doubt about him.  It is in my complete honesty that I feel the great love and forgiveness God has for me.

Other Ways I encounter God in my Daily Life:

  • Reading the Bible
  • Worship Singing/ Playing Music
  • Going to Church
  • Tithing and Trusting
  • Fellowship with Other Christians
  • Practicing Godly Characteristics like love, patience and kindness
  • Traveling, seeing God’s Kingdom
  • Making Art to Glorify God
  • Helping Others
  • Quiet Time with God

God is always with us, whether we feel like he is or not.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Worshipping in the real World – Reclaiming the Jubilee

Hackeny Street party

The season of the church calendar after Pentecost is known as ordinary time not because it is dull and boring, but because it does not have a distinct theme such as the birth, death or resurrection of Christ.  However the creative use of feasting and fasting throughout this season of the year provides wonderful opportunities for us to connect the everyday events of our lives and of our culture, to our faith in extraordinary ways.

One of the regular celebrations that the Mustard Seed Associates team hosts during this season is our annual Celtic prayer on Camano Island at the site where we are just beginning to see the establishment of the Mustard Seed Village. .  This year it will be held the weekend of August 12 – 14, our retreat.   It is our 20th celebration, an annual event that has helped us discern God’s vision for this site and move forward slowly into its fulfillment.   God’s faithfulness over these years has amazed us and this year we are planning a special celebration to dedicate the establishment of this new community which is just beginning to emerge.

Our theme for this year is Jubilee and New Beginnings and working on the programme for this retreat will be one of my major responsibilities over the next month.  Jubilee has always been a special celebration for me  and today I wanted to share one of my favourite Jubilee stories which always comes to mind as I think of Jubilee.   It harkens back to another Jubilee celebration in 2002 when Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the 50th year of her reign.

This Jubilee was celebrated throughout the British Commonwealth with jubilee parties, many of them street parties.  Chris and Ali Lawrence and the members of the Round Chapel Neighbourhood Project situated in a poor and often violent community in London however decided to host an alternative Jubilee event – an event that harkened back to a far older understanding of Jubilee as expressed in Leviticus 25.  They called it “reclaim the Jubilee”.

Outside the Round Chapel, Lower Clapton street was transformed from the media’s image of “murder mile” into a majestic setting filled with flowers, music, storytelling and food.  Children, parents and elderly people gathered to play games, dance and eat from a wonderful multicultural banquet feast – a luxurious spread of meat and vegetables provided on a shoestring budget.  Reggae, soul and Cajun music reverberated through the street and storytellers held the audience spellbound.  At one point a moment’s silence was held to remember those who had died on this stretch of road in acts of violence linked to drug dealing.  At the same time, people recommitted themselves to working together for a more peaceful and just neighborhood.  The 400 dinner guests departed reluctantly at 10pm to the sounds of “Burn” (cow punk 1970’s revival) their heads filled with memories of laughter and multiple flavors, their eyes overdosed on images of color and their minds spinning with reflections on the true meaning of a strong community.

Ali Lawrence died of cancer a few years later but the seeds that were planted through the work she and Chris planted in this and the many other celebrations they hosted in Hackney provide a wonderful and enduring glimpse into God’s jubilee which we will celebrate in its fulness together with Ali and all those who have gone before us in that wonderful kingdom Jubilee feast in God’s kingdom.